TikTok has yielded many health and fitness trends over the years, but none have been as rampant or consistent as those who share #75Hard transformational photo montages on the platform. There are many elements of the trend that seem promising for those who are looking to take hold of their physical health — there’s just a 10-week commitment and potential dietary flexibility for those who have a hard time following trendier elimination diets like the Low FODMAP program or Whole30. But all is not as it seems, health experts say.
The 75 Hard Challenge is by no means a new concept. There are more than one billion impressions on TikTok alone for #75Hard, but people have coined the “challenge” term more recently as a way to share their journey while attempting the 75 Hard program that was first launched in 2019.
The creator, Andy Frisella — an author, motivational speaker and owner of a supplement brand that isn’t explicitly tied to 75 Hard — calls the program a “mental toughness program” while promising the program focuses on more than just a diet or special fitness plan. “75 Hard is the only program that can permanently change your life,” the program’s site reads, adding: “… From your way of thinking to the level of discipline you approach every single task in front of you with.”
Rather than focus on a particular set of dietary rules and as well as a strict workout plan, the program’s tentpoles allow individuals to stick to any routine or diet of their choosing, alongside a few other key daily practices. But a majority of the tasks that the 74 Hard asks you to do on a daily basis may not be contributing to your health in the end — fitness experts have long noted that the grueling pace of workouts isn’t sustainable, and diets can be overly restrictive.
And the photo-sharing aspect that the 75 Hard Challenge revolves around is particularly damaging, setting challengers up to potentially develop negative associations with body image in the long run. Read on to hear more about the program’s rules — and the hazards to avoid should you decide to participate.
Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on any diet, we invite you gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture. You should always speak to your doctor about starting a new diet or fitness program to ensure it’s safe for you.
What is the 75 Hard Challenge?
Despite what you may have seen on social feeds, not all elements of the 75 Hard Challenge focus on changing your eating habits or exercising more. There are components of the 75 Hard program that its founder says is designed to improve your mood and to increase overall wellness through hydration, specifically. Many fans of the program have indicated they are initially attracted to its setup largely due to the fact that individuals will get to choose diets and workouts they may already know and prefer: “I developed 75 Hard to run in-line with your current diet program, no matter what it is,” Frisella writes. “I developed it to run in-line with your current diet program, no matter what it is.”
There are six major guidelines that make up the 75 Hard Challenge, which is designed to be followed for 75 days, or about 10 weeks, without any obvious alterations. They are as follows:
- Maintain a steady diet of your choice. The program notes that the diet shouldn’t be designed around emotional benefits or weight maintenance, but explicitly asks individuals to consider one that will knowingly prompt weight loss of any kind. And total adherence is expected: Frisella’s materials about the program make it clear that moderation isn’t a goal, given that “cheat meals” are prohibited.
- Eliminate all alcohol. You won’t be allowed to drink alcoholic beverages while completing the challenge, rather focusing on better hydration practices for physical strength and health.
- Drink a gallon of water each day. This guideline isn’t horribly far off base for what many men and women should aim for, depending on their activity level. But in most cases, it may be a bit excessive.
- Complete two workout sessions daily, both of which are at least 45 minutes long. At least one of the workouts should be completed outdoors, despite Frisella not indicating why this is necessary.
- Read 10 pages of a book. Many of the testimonials listed on the 75 Hard program page indicate that most people choose to read self-help or motivational titles while completing the challenge.
- Take a daily “progress” photo of your body.
As you’ve likely noticed based on captions on social media, the key sticking point about the program is total adherence to these guidelines on a daily basis. Slip up and forget to read? Didn’t make it to the gym? Then you’ll need to start all over again, at day 1, even if you are weeks into the program — as social users have highlighted in the past.
Is the 75 Hard Challenge healthy?
There are several reasons why a majority of health experts — including dietitians and fitness pros within the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Nutrition Lab — don’t recommend signing up for the 75 Hard Challenge as is. Many of the practices highlighted in the 75 Hard program will not set you up to maintain a healthy standard of nutrition and physical activity needed to maintain any of the weight loss you may see, should you successfully complete the program.
Some of its tenets also push people to develop harmful tendencies and obsessive habits, including disordered eating and body dysmorphia, given the stress that the program places on body image during its intense 75-day run. The fact that these drastic lifestyle changes are specifically limited to just 10 weeks alone may already be setting you up for failure, explains TJ Mocci, LMFT, a therapist specializing in eating disorder treatment and a clinical director at Octave, a digital mental health service provider.
“What happens after the short-term window when you’re no longer on that diet? Most people go back to their old habits, and this can create a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting, which can affect your metabolism, your physical health and your mental health,” Mocci tells Good Housekeeping. “I’m all for examining your relationship with food and your body, but this practice has to be attainable, sustainable — and often limiting yourself to a certain window is counterproductive to making it sustainable.”
If you’re thinking of giving the 75 Hard Challenge a try, think about adopting some of its best principles first — and to steer clear of strict rules that may cause you physical and mental harm after the challenge is done. Adapting some of the program’s principles into your own lifestyle can be more helpful than following all five of its rules blindly.
Getting exercise and eating healthier are always great ideas — but not all diets and workouts are equally beneficial for you. Working on choosing a diet or a new lifestyle (think: vegetarian or vegan diets) with personalized insight from a dietitian or your doctor is often how people work to manage their weight successfully. There are plenty of rich, wholesome and redeeming diet programs that aren’t focused on harsh restrictions or eliminations and likely can help you lose weight, too. Following a fad diet for 10 weeks isn’t the only way you can successfully lose weight if you choose to complete the 75 Hard Challenge.
The same can be said for workout routines; starting a daily exercise regimen that’s tailored to your own specific background and needs is safest, rather than adopting a pre-set workout plan that may be floating under #75Hard tagged content on social media. While vigorous exercise is key for strength, getting started is easier than you may realize — you can work on walking your way to better health, completing free cardio routines at home, or using lightweight gear to train at your own pace.
The key is choosing a routine that won’t gas you out within the challenge’s 75 day period: You’ll want to choose workouts that you can maintain long after the challenge is over, and ones that won’t injure you if exercise isn’t something that you are already doing on your own. Using your own take on the 75 Hard Challenge to get more active in a small way would be a huge win for most, even if you don’t sign up for a gym membership in the process.
If you like the idea of making new changes over a specific 10-week period of time, ask for your doctor’s help in creating a realistic schedule that acknowledges any pre-existing health conditions, Mocci recommends. “Whether that’s your exercise routine or your diet plan, you can make small changes and give yourself grace when you don’t follow an otherwise strict routine — it’s way more empowering to do that.”
While there’s a lot of concern around the 75 Hard Challenge as it stands, working to drink more water and spend more time reading are two positive takeaways that anyone would benefit from. Recent data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that a majority of American adults have trouble drinking enough water to stay properly hydrated. Drinking a gallon of water each and every day may be excessive for most, and shouldn’t be attempted overnight, mostly if you have established with your doctor that you aren’t getting enough water.
But there’s a good chance, regardless of activity levels, you could stand to benefit from drinking more water regularly — especially if you’re consistently reaching for sugary, alcoholic or caffeinated beverages exclusively. Working on your specific hydration goals is one of the best takeaways from the 75 Hard Challenge we’ve seen thus far.
Plus, if you stick with the reading aspect of the 75 Hard Challenge, you’ll have finished 750 pages within 10 weeks, something anyone who is working to sharpen their mind will be ecstatic about.
Potential side effects
Even if you don’t end up “failing” the challenge out of exasperation, dietary habits required by the 75 Hard Challenge may prove to be too much for you. And you may physically injure yourself if you push yourself too far in doing two 45-minute workouts each day. But the worst aspect of the 75 Hard Challenge may be its most recognizable requirement: taking a photo of yourself each and every day.
“Comparison is the absolute worst thing we can do for our mental health; it creates a false construct of perfection and exacerbates our inner critic,” Mocci explains, adding that many of her patients consider perfectly healthy weights as discouraging as they aim to maintain current physiques they earned in compromising situations. “Having a visual representation of our inner critical thoughts, or a platform to project those thoughts on — such as before or after photos — just creates and exacerbates a negative relationship with our bodies, instead of working to improve how we interact, speak to, or take care of our bodies.”
Your physical body shape isn’t one of the readily available markers that care providers can use to measure whether or not your health is improving. Some who adopt solid workout routines and healthy diets may not see visible changes in their body from day to day, despite reaping plenty of other health benefits. Putting that much stock into a practice that likely feeds into a social media montage is likely to disappoint you and set you up for worse interactions down the road.
“There’s so much comparison that goes into [social media], feeding negative thinking about ourselves; ‘I should do more,’ or the classic ‘I’m not good enough,'” she adds.
Ultimately, there are major concerns about the sustainability of potential weight loss or other health improvements for those who complete a strict adaptation of the 10-week program. Successfully maintaining a diet over a 10-week period can be done, but choosing to follow an elimination diet that requires the total omission of a particular food group is risky. If challengers resume their previous lifestyle and diet after the challenge is done, it’s likely that weight regain will follow.
“Elimination diets can be super harmful because they take us back to the age-old, maladaptive behavior of viewing all food as good versus bad,” Mocci says. “[Elimination diets] potentially sets ourselves up to fail; and then when we do fail, we inherently feel guilty because we couldn’t stick to the ‘good’ foods, so to speak… Too much or too little of one thing can ultimately lead to an unhealthy relationship with that thing or other foods.”
Zee Krstic is a health editor for Good Housekeeping, where he covers health and nutrition news, decodes diet and fitness trends and reviews the best products in the wellness aisle. Prior to joining GH in 2019, Zee fostered a nutrition background as an editor at Cooking Light and is continually developing his grasp of holistic health through collaboration with leading academic experts and clinical care providers. He has written about food and dining for Time, among other publications.
Nutrition Lab Director
Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.