I signed up for Joe Wick’s (aka The Body Coach’s) 90 Day SSS Plan (SSS = Shift, Shape, Sustain) last 22nd July 2016 and wanted to report back on my findings so far.
The 90 Day SSS Plan works like this: You pay your money, fill out of a survey, record your weight and body measurements with a tape measure, and take a few photographs of your mostly naked body (that you then keep in a secret folder on your computer). You send back the survey, measurements, and pictures back to Body Coach HQ and within a few days you get a nutrition and exercise plan that is tailored for you. The plan is divided into 3 cycles. I’ve just finished cycle 1.
Quick summary of my history and why I’m doing this
For most of my younger life I was slightly overweight and not at all athletic.
During college and graduate school I decided I wanted to experience what it felt like to be “fit” so took up running and changed my diet (I remember lots of salads and egg white omelettes!). The weight came off but I didn’t know when to stop, and a kidney infection pushed me over the edge. I weighed less than 90lbs, developed osteopenia (low bone density), and realised my “fitness goals” had become totally skewed!
Eventually I abandoned the low fat bullshit, embraced avocados, and (controversially) started eating meat and fish (after having been a vegetarian since the age of 12). I joined CrossFit to get my strength back. Instead of cooking only “healthy recipes” I started learned about cuisines and cooking for true pleasure, while still sticking to my guns about eating “real food, mostly plants”. I also got a boyfriend and developed a gin and tonic habit. And suddenly I found myself back where I started! Well, not totally. I’m certainly I’m stronger than I was but, well, I’ll let my fitbit body fat chart tell the tale!
I guess my life has always been a series of dietary changes in an attempt to “do the right thing” for myself and the planet but when you also struggle with weight issues it can leave you with totally no clue as to what the right answer is! But if you have a look at The Body Coach’s Instagram feed, it’s easy to think “hey, THIS GUY has the answers! Take my money and show me the way!”
A few things sold me on this… a few people who’s opinions I rate are also fans of Joe Wick’s books and recipes. The plan seems solid: it isn’t supposed to be a quick fix but a slow steady change designed to help you get super fit and STAY super fit. The food is designed around exercise, so that you eat the right macronutrients at the same time to optimise fat burn without losing muscle at the same time (so, science-based?). The plan places a strong emphasis on exercise, tasty food, and critically VEGETABLES. I also think Joe Wicks is a likeable character, kind of a nerd, not ridiculously ripped or muscular, and with good taste in food.
90 Days SSS Cycle 1 in Review
The basic principles of the cycle are this: do a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout 4-5 times per week. After your workout, eat a high protein, high carb meal. All other meals are reduced in carbohydrates and emphasise proteins and healthy fats. Recipes are given with the plan with ingredient quantities tailored to my macronutrient requirements.
I stuck with the meals pretty well and used CrossFit as my workout (not quite the same but I was told this was acceptable). There were a few instances where I went off plan (holidays and such) but I just added a few extra days onto the 30 days to account for the interruptions (this is apparently a done thing).
Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s how I faired at the end of cycle 1:
I lost a total of 1.2kg and 6 inches. I was initially discouraged by these numbers. I can’t say I felt much change at the end of cycle 1 and had hoped for more, especially given the amazing transformations I’ve witnessed on Instagram. However, I’ve been able to put it into perspective. Progress is progress and not all positive change can be measured in weights and inches.
Here are a few highs and lows of cycle 1, in no particular order:
- I liked the recipes, especially the protein pancakes, piri piri meatballs, and the guilt free fry-up became a weekend staple.
- The results! Lost 1.2 kg and 6 inches total. Not exactly a huge transformation but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
- The plan calls for 3-5 days of HIIT training but you can stick to your own training if you want. I did CrossFit 5 days per week. I have wondered if HIIT is more effective for fat loss, but the fact is, I enjoy CrossFit way more so it stays!
- The plan calls for pre- and post-workout supplements, namely BCAA’s (branched chain amino acid supplements) and protein powder. I’ve been taking both though not sure if it makes a difference. The BCAA’s taste vile at first, like drinking chemicals, but oddly the taste buds get used to it. They allegedly give your body “the best chance to torch fat whilst retaining and potentially gaining muscle mass”. Still not sure if I buy it. Here’s a read on the Many Benefits of BCAAs.
- The Body Coach’s Instagram feed can be dispiriting when your progress is not as dramatic as the other “Lean Winners”. Where I used to read his feed for motivation, I’ve now stopped because it can really get me down!
- I made the mistake of weighing myself obsessively at first, despite all of the advise to “stay off the sad step”. I’ve now stashed away the scales only to emerge at the end of each cycle! Definitely recommended for morale’s sake!
- “Prep like a boss” is one of the mantras of this plan, and it’s totally true. You really need to meal plan a week ahead and get your shopping to make it doable. Otherwise it’s way too easy to just “wing it”. It’s all the more challenging if you live with a partner (and I can imagine if you have kids). Lots of people seem to plan and even cook loads of their weekly meals over the weekend. Do whatever it takes!
- I’ve heard many people say that there is so much food on the plan that it’s hard to eat it all! I guess I’m used to eating so many vegetables. I personally found myself frequently hungry and tired.
- Damn this is slow going! But then again, my journey isn’t as drastic as many others. My diet was already pretty good (aside from the gin and tonics) and I’d already been doing some form of exercise for years. Also, this isn’t supposed to be a quick fix. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my results aren’t as dramatic as others on the plan.
- Protein pancakes are awesome!
- I’m a little confused as to why it’s OK to drink whole milk with your coffee, but the plan is full of low fat yoghurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, etc. I’ll stick with it for the sake of the plan but when this is done I’m going back to the full fat stuff! (But perhaps eat it more strategically now that I know when to eat fat relative to training!)
- Laying off alcohol for over a month (and beyond) has been a huge victory of the plan. I wasn’t a daily drinker but definitely had more than my share at the weekends which I’m sure contributed to the body fat gains as highlighted above (alcohol is, after all, calorie without nutrition, and its the first stuff the body burns, hence slowing the fat-burning process). I’ve enjoyed breaking this routine and developing new routines at the weekend. I feel better, sleep better, am more productive, and enjoy my workouts more. I also have clarity in what I’m doing. I don’t plan to go total teetotaller but I want to make my routine as it is now more the status quo for the long haul, even beyond the plan. These are one of the unseen benefits of the plan, and is way more valuable than any improvement a number can tell you.
Things I am now focusing on for Cycle 2…
Fuck the physical changes. When I reflect on who I’ve been in the past, I get so peeved at myself because never once was I ever happy with where I was. I alway thought I was too fat, not strong enough, not fast enough, etc. I never stopped and enjoyed myself for who I was. I’m going into this next phase with the basic assumption that Monica right now is actually OK. This is a new Monica (dubbed Monica 4.0) and all other iterations in the past are, well, previous versions that obviously had bugs, if not there would be no need for a redesign. In that light, I’m going to practice at just enjoying who I am in the present, and see everything else I do as an experiment to see what I can do.
About this whole getting “lean” business…
There are a few things I’d like to achieve that are right now just a bit out of my reach. For example, I’d like to do a long distance footpath which would require me to carry a pack for many days up and down hills and mountains. At present I could have a go and get pretty far but I think my body would suffer. I want to enjoy, not endure! But I really don’t think getting super lean would really help me achieve that. That’s more field training and determination! And yet at the beginning of this plan I was continually distracted by silly vanity goals, which is why I signed up in first place. But as it’s progressed I realise that my goals are changing.
The plan so far has been useful in helping me put it all into perspective. I now know the hard work it takes to be a “super leanie” (particularly as I head into my late 30s – I didn’t even touch on that point!). Ironically, this plan is helping me become less concerned with being “lean”, and more focused on just being happy, healthy, and comfortable in my own skin. I’d love to come out of this plan with zero concern for vanity goals, and zero hang-ups about where I was before. I want to be motivated by what I do (CrossFit, cycling, climbing mountains, taking pictures, writing, etc) and not how I look. Most importantly, I want to feel that life is for living and sharing great experiences with fellow awesomists! Having a beach bod would be a bonus but, I mean, I never go to the beach. I’d rather be on a mountain!
I’m already a couple weeks into cycle 2. I will update this post at the end of the cycle. Stay tuned!
Are you doing the 90 Day SSS plan or are curious about it and have questions? I’d love to hear your feedback and questions in the comments area below!