The Les Mills 21-Day Challenge: What Comes Next?


You just finished the Les Mills 21-Day Challenge.


You might be feeling a little lost and confused about your next steps.

You don’t want to go back to the way you used to eat, but you’re not sure how to move forward.

“Do I eat carbs now?  How much and what kind and when?  Is fruit bad?  Do I have to keep eating 5 times a day?


How you eat after completing a strict nutrition program can have huge implications for your metabolism and long-term success.

Fitness and figure competitors are infamous for gaining back as much as 15-20 pounds in a rapid period of time – a couple days in some cases – after dieting down to single-digit body fat for shows.

Over time, yo-yo dieting (rapid weight gain and loss) can lead to metabolic damage that may take years to correct.

There is a way to ease into a new way of eating that’s more sustainable, but still allows you to continue getting leaner over time.

In this video, I share some of my best strategies for transitioning out of the 21-Day Challenge and into an every day fat loss lifestyle.

As you’ll see, this video is for our GRIT athletes at my gym here in North Carolina, but I’m sharing it for anyone else out there who needs a little help and guidance when day 22 rolls around.



If you’re not familiar with the Les Mills 21-Day Challenge, here it is in a (raw, unsalted) nutshell:

  • No dairy.
  • No grains.
  • No sugar.
  • No starch.
  • No skipping meals.
  • Eat 5-6 times a day with every meal including a palm-sized portion of protein, two handfuls of non-starchy vegetables, and a thumb-sized portion of fat.


The Les Mills 21-Day Challenge is called a CHALLENGE for a reason:

It is designed to reset the metabolism and develop healthier eating habits.

More on the Les Mills 21-Day Challenge HERE.

Some of you who’ve read this blog for a while may be thinking, “YOU did a strict Paleo diet!?  Isn’t that the kind of thing you’re always railing against?”

Yes, yes it is:)

I do write pretty loudly and fairly often about my hatred for all the detox and cleanse diet programs out there – or for ANY “diet” program really.

Whether the program consists of drinking putrid green juices or removing all sugar for a certain period of time or going strict Paleo – it makes no difference.

They are all short-term programs that require a great deal of effort, and they usually have disastrous consequences for the metabolism (it slows – in the case of a low-calorie juice detox) and the mindset (creating fear around food, especially the diets that eliminate or drastically reduce macronutrients or certain food groups, i.e. carbohydrates).

Most of the women I coach don’t WANT a quick-fix, strict diet plan they can follow for a few weeks to drop weight fast.

In fact, they come to me because programs like that have ruined their metabolism and/or given them an unhealthy relationship with food, right down to fearing entire food groups.

There is value in practicing a different approach to food – even one that’s far outside your comfort zone like this was for me – as long as you go into it with the right mindset and expectations.

Here are 3 mindset shifts to take your nutrition plan from strict to livable:

1. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect to work.

The Les Mills 21-Day Challenge is limited to 21 days, and even that is difficult for most people.

Most of our members cheated at least once during the 21 Days, and so did I!

That’s right:

I did not follow the Challenge to the letter.  I had my usual weekly cheat meal and added starchy carbs pre-workout (usually sweet potatoes or blueberries) on days I taught and trained BODYCOMBAT®.

I know my body and I know I can’t speak in complete sentences when I teach without any starchy carbs.

It was still a valuable experience that gave me positive results, even if it wasn’t perfect.

“All or nothing” is a scary place to be, where you swing between all-in, white-knuckled perfection and adherence, to total defeat and self-loathing.

Your fat loss results AND your mindset will be far better off if you stick to your plan 80% of the time, and give yourself that 20% of space to play with: Experiment. Enjoy. Breathe a little.


2. Find {JOY} in the Process

If you aren’t enjoying the process and you’re suffering through workouts and how you’re “supposed” to eat, you’re in for a long, miserable haul.

Notice how much energy you have now?  How thick and shiny your hair is?  How much better your skin looks?  How your stomach feels less puffy and bloated after eating?  How you’re sleeping better?

Aren’t all of those things wonderful?!?

Like I said in the video above, fat loss is completely unpredictable and never a straight line.

Not EVERY nutrition approach will work for you long term.

For example: while I liked the results of staying on the 21 Day Challenge over the period of a week or two, I don’t like what it does to me mentally over the long term.

Fear of carbs started to creep in and I was starting to obsess about food – not a place I care to spend time any more.  Right now, I’m happier and get great results following an IIFYM (“If It Fits Your Macros”) approach to eating, so that’s what I’ve gone back to because I love it!

The key is to find the elements of each nutrition approach that work for you, that you can do easily every day without feeling like you’re on a diet and missing out on life.


3. Your Results Do Not Define You 

Approach nutrition and exercise programs like a researcher conducting experiments and gathering data.

The research subject is YOU, your own mind and body.

Let go of expectations and outcomes.  If it doesn’t work, okay cool! Then now you know!

You learn from every failed experiment.

Did you gain a pound? That’s actually not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean you’re fat, weak, or need to get yourself on a stricter diet ASAP.  It’s just data that tells you something you did didn’t work for you.

Try something new.  See what happens.  Do more of what works.  Toss what doesn’t.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.


I have not failed.  I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison


A nutrition plan is only as good as it is DOABLE – and you need to create one that works in the real world for the rest of your life.  Begin the process of learning what works – or doesn’t work – for you, and remember that the best plan is the one you build for yourself.  Or as a wise man once said:


Like all nutrition programs, the 21-Day Challenge may not be suitable for everyone.  Consult your physician or another licensed healthcare professional before beginning this or any nutrition program.

1 Comment on The Les Mills 21-Day Challenge: What Comes Next?

  1. THANK YOU Leslie Ann!! What an awesome video, my husband and I are on day 18 and I’m starting to think about day 22! You’re easy to follow guidelines are just what I needed to know how to bring back some of the things we’ve been missing these past few weeks. I’ve learned a lot – and know I’ve definitely changed the way I will be eating (and feeding my family) from now on. Thanks again!

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