The fall was an exciting time for me, I was starting a new job in a different field and I was equally nervous and excited. As the job was remote, a month in I had yet to meet any of my colleagues in person. But that was about to change, I was headed to the home office to finally meet the non-virtual versions of my new coworkers. As I began to pack my carry-on the night before my flight, I got a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror in my bedroom and I was shocked by what I saw. The vision I had of myself did not match the version reflected. I realized that I had gained weight over the years and it had managed to creep up on me without my realizing it.
During my meetings that week, I couldn't stop thinking about my appearance and how others might see me. I was self-conscious about introducing myself to new people and felt more nervous than ever before while giving presentations. As I lay in my hotel room one night, trying to come up with a solution to change, I stumbled upon a TikTok video featuring a very fit man talking about a challenge called "The Hard 75." It seemed like an intense challenge, with five tasks to complete every day for 75 days: drinking a gallon of water, committing to a diet, abstaining from alcohol, no cheat days, reading 10 pages of a non-fiction book, taking a daily progress picture, and completing two 45-minute workouts, one that had to be outside. It seemed impossible, but the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became.
I’ve tried countless diets and workout routines before, but nothing seemed to work for me. I would always tell myself I would "start on Monday," but then the day would come and go without any action taken. Or I would start something, only to lose motivation after a few days. The idea of committing to a set of tasks for 75 days appealed to me because it was a specific, finite goal. I like making lists and crossing things off, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. So, I decided to start the challenge the day I flew home. I didn't want to make any more promises to myself about starting in the future. I was ready to jump right in and give it my all.
The first task on the list was drinking a gallon of water daily. I thought this would be easy since I already carried a reusable water bottle with me everywhere. However, I quickly realized I didn't drink as much water as I thought. The first two weeks were a struggle as I found myself chugging water before bed just to meet the daily goal. I eventually learned to spread my water intake throughout the day to avoid feeling like I was pounding beers in college trying to catch up. Overall, this had a positive impact that I think will stay with me, and I absolutely think I can see a difference in my skin.
The second challenge was diet. This is always my Achilles heel because I love all food, so staying on a strict diet has never worked for me. I decided to take a more relaxed approach and set some specific guidelines for myself. I committed to not eating fast food or ordering delivery, and I downloaded two apps to help me stay on track. The first was a meal planning app that offered meal plans for various diets and created a shopping list for me based on my chosen meals. I had all my groceries delivered for the first month to avoid temptation at the store. The second app was a calorie tracker that allowed me to enter everything I ate and automatically calculated my macros and tracked my weight loss. This was a simple and easy way to hold myself accountable. I work in tech and enjoy data, so this was a bonus. I did cheat on the food and alcohol once on Christmas, but that was the only time.
The third challenge was to read 10 pages of a non-fiction book every day. Reading isn't a problem for me; I love books and read every day. The non-fiction aspect stumped me because I hate self-help and business books. They always seem self-serving to me, with rich and successful people telling you how you can be just like them if you only follow their advice. However, I didn't give up and found a way to make the challenge work for me. Since I had recently transitioned from sales to marketing, I Googled the list of the top 10 books about marketing and started working my way through them. Some of them were cheesy with repetitive content, but others were great and taught me a lot more than I expected. Reading these books helped me transition into my new role and changed my opinion on non-fiction books. I also learned that being negative and judgmental isn't productive and hope to carry this attitude forward and be more open-minded.
The fourth challenge was to take a daily progress picture. I didn't do it because I didn't want to see myself as I was at the time. Looking back, I regret not taking the pictures. I think I was afraid that I wouldn't see a difference or that I would quit, and the pictures would be a depressing reminder of my failure. However, I learned that sometimes we learn the most when we do things that scare us or that we don't want to do. Just because we are afraid of something doesn't mean we should avoid it.
Finally, number five. My weakness is exercise. Immediately I knew I couldn’t commit to two 45-minute workouts (one outside) every day. I didn’t want to set myself up for failure, so I made an adjustment, started calling it “The Medium 75” and committed to one workout every day. A hidden benefit of my health insurance is a free one-year membership to Apple Fitness + (it’s common, and they don’t advertise it, so if you get your health insurance through your employer you should check and see if you get it. They offer the same for Peloton as well). I have an Apple Watch and it syncs with your TV and tracks all your activity, it also adds it to the calorie tracker program I used and as mentioned, I love data, so it was a perfect solution for me. It also shares your info with friends, so I found a workout buddy to help push me. (Thanks Drew!)
The first few days of the challenge were the hardest, but Apple Fitness + had a 15-day beginner program that walked me through some intro workouts in different categories like HIIT, strength, yoga, core, and dance. I mostly did HIIT workouts with weights because they were fun and felt like the most efficient way to exercise. I did mix it up a bit depending on how I was feeling that day and added in some yoga and dance routines. On those days, I also did a 5-minute core or 10-minute strength workout. As time went on, the workouts got easier and I felt stronger. My body also moves much better than it did when I started. I even got into the meditations, which I was terrible at in the beginning because I couldn't sit still. However, I learned to appreciate the time spent meditating and it has become an important part of my routine.
I'm now on day 80 and I haven't quit yet. Upon reflection, I don't think the point of this challenge was just to make it through 75 days, but to build healthy habits that I can sustain in the long term. I now look forward to my daily workouts and don't see any reason to stop. I have switched back to reading fiction books, but I do think I will indulge in non-fiction more often and am glad I read books that I never would have opened before. My confidence has also been restored but differently. It's not just about how I look, but how I feel. I feel accomplished and capable of hard things, and I don't want to lose that feeling again. I'm glad I found something that worked for me. We're all programmed differently and respond to different triggers and rewards, so this plan may not work for everyone. It's important to keep searching for something that works for you. As they say, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the right one.
Katharine Wheeler is the author of "There is no Cloud" and "Cloud Judgement". Kat has a long history in the AV industry, where she worked in sales for 18 years before transitioning into product marketing. She has a passion for technology that began at a young age when she received her first computer, a Commodore64. In her free time, Kat enjoys practicing yoga, playing poker, following sports, and exploring new places - she has visited 46 states and lived in 6. In the future, Kat hopes to one day settle down and own a dog, as well as become the first woman to win the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Diane Clement is a 40 something whipper snapper who believes that the key to staying young is to have kids late in life. She hasn't slept in 36 months.