Like pretty much everyone who has worked in the health and fitness industry, I have set up and marketed 12-week, 8-week, and many other time-bound transformation challenges. As I learned more and more about mindset and the psychology of behaviour change, the more I realised that the '12-week challenge' model is heavily flawed.
I still see people signing up for 90-day transformations, 8-week summer body shreds, 21-day challenges, 9-day detoxes. Perhaps more and more every year! The fitness industry is a growing business, more people than ever are attempting to take control of their health. Unfortunately, much of the 'help' out there is focused around getting the biggest aesthetic change possible in a short space of time, no matter the long-term cost.
Of course, there are some great challenges out there. Ones which focus on making sustainable habit changes rather than getting extreme results. But these are few and far between. This list of reasons not to do a 12-week challenge is only relevant to the majority. If you find the one you are considering doesn't come into these categories then that's probably one of the good ones!
If you are thinking of going down that road, here are some possible downsides to consider:
A 12-Week Challenge is Often Unsustainable
The first thing I noticed was that most of these challenges, shreds, and transformations are built on extreme workout programmes and unsustainable diets. This way of doing things has been shown over and over again not to work long-term. The statistics show that 95% of dieters end up back where they started, or worse. Personally, I would rather my family, friends and clients were empowered to maintain their results for life. Would you be happy if you got great results in three months but couldn't keep them? Or would you rather become fitter and healthier more slowly and steadily, and keep it up for life?
Your gym or trainer might not be worrying about the sustainability factor. If they get you results in 12 weeks then they have done their job. You wanted results? Boom, you got 'em. And what they got is a great before/after photo to use in their marketing for the next cohort of challengers. It doesn't matter to them where you are another 12 weeks after finishing.
A 12-Week Challenge is Usually Unenjoyable
Unless you are an unusual type of sadist (hey, I'm not judging), you probably don't enjoy putting yourself through the abject misery of dieting and hours on the dreadmill. If you do enjoy it, great, more power to you! But for the vast majority of us, that doesn't come under the heading 'what I love to do with my time'. For me, life is about enjoying my food, not being overly restrictive, and not spending two hours a day in the gym. Don't get me wrong, some days I would love to spend two hours in the gym, but I don't want that to be a daily necessity!
One 12-week challenge that I am familiar with involved an hour of cardio every morning, an hour of weights every evening, and a criminally restrictive diet plan. I mean that literally, as there was no dietitian tailoring these plans so as far as I can tell it was outside the professional scope of the PTs administering the plan. There were almost zero carbs on this diet too, and although that might be suitable for some people it is not appropriate for most...and there's no point making yourself that miserable in the quest for happiness. A bit of sacrifice here and there sure, but that just makes no sense.
A 12-Week Challenge Can Even Be Dangerous
Not only is there a 95% chance of losing all the results that you worked hard for, but there is also a 35% chance of becoming a pathological dieter and a 25% chance of developing a full eating disorder. Putting yourself through the severe deprivation that these challenges and diets often require is likely to play havoc with the way you view health and fitness.
A 12-week challenge also encourages the already-pervasive desires of the general population for a 'quick fix'. The shorter the time-frame advertised the worse this effect. This in itself is a problematic belief to encourage, because the human body just doesn't work that way! And when 95% of people undoubtedly fail to maintain the results they fall back into a pit of self-loathing. That's if they stick until the end, of course. They blame themselves for lack of willpower, lack of motivation, rather than learning that maybe these programmes aren't the right route to be going down.
Read more: Staying Healthy As A Parent
Look, I get it. I've been there. I wanted it to be faster, I wanted to get the promised results sooner rather than later. I bought into the 12-week challenge mentality, and I even went on to perpetuate it as a trainer myself! We are wired to want stuff quickly, we are wired to want shortcuts. It's built into us from years of evolution, we want to find the path of least resistance. Millennia ago this would have helped us survive, but now it just makes us easy targets.
Please remember, there are great programmes out there which have time-frames (like this one, obviously...). There are courses and programmes delivered over four weeks, eight weeks, twelve weeks. The trick is working out which are sustainable, enjoyable, and safe! Find out the content of each programme, and judge for yourself whether it's suitable for you. Everyone is different, so what's right for someone else may not be right for you.
Just do your due diligence, and choose your path wisely.
PS: Fancy a free sample of my book, 'Family Fit'? You can now get hold of the preface and first five chapters as a free download! Just click here.
PPS: Don't forget to join my FREE lifestyle support group on Facebook!