Clean Eating: I Made it 4.5 Days into a 30-Day Meal Plan

Fitness inspiration seems to be just as common as cats and nail art on Instagram. I follow a few exercise trainers for their tips and tricks though one in particular, @EmilySkye30DayShred, stood out for me. I don’t know much about her since she’s Australian, but apparently she’s a model/trainer who helps people lose weight the right way — eating clean and working out. She advertises a 30 Day Ab Shred program that includes a gluten-free meal plan (for both meat eaters and vegetarians) exercise regimen, grocery lists and access to workout videos and an online forum to interact with other people doing her plan. I decided to buy it (on sale) after seeing relatable before and after pictures.

It’s really taboo for me to say I’d like to be an “After” picture. I stand at 5’1 and weigh 117 and any time I’ve said anything food or exercise related to someone it’s always met with “You don’t need to do that.” I fall into the normal category on the BMI chart for my height and weight. However, I carry extra baggage around my stomach and thighs. Because I’m three apples tall, any weight gain is noticeable and my clothes become tight and uncomfortable quickly. I’m fine with my weight, I’m not looking to lose pounds, I’m looking to tone up.

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Emily Skye’s promotional image for the 30 Day Ab Shred program

I told myself Alexis, you are going to do this and finally be successful at clean eating and exercising! But after four and a half days on Emily’s program I quit. Here’s what happened:

You have to prepare every day’s meals in advance, there’s no getting around it. Unless you don’t have a job. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (except the rice cake snack) all require cooking or blending. I have to be at my job before 7 AM most mornings and there is no time for cooking and blending, and I absolutely hated coming home from an 11 hour day at work to cook dinner and then cook more after that. Today I learned that I don’t enjoy cooking.

Cost is another factor. My grocery bill for the food on her list came to $140. For one person. For one week. And that’s not even organic. The total for the list was $200 after I had to buy protein powder and a few bulk items at Costco. I don’t know how much this list costs Australians who’ve done her plan, but please share, because I need to know if fresh food is just really high priced or just inaccessible to Americans.

Did you know that the UN (via their food and agriculture organization) has ranked the US #2 among the fattest developed nations? 31.8% of our population is considered obese, Mexico recently unseated us as #1 by a mere 1%.  No wonder it’s an epidemic, we can’t afford to eat fresh! After this, I won’t judge the contents of another person’s cart ever again. I was able to afford my fresh and healthy food, but everything non-essential I was planning on buying that week went out the window.

 Storage is another con. You can’t cook the meals and store them as-is, some ingredients need to be separated until they’re ready to eat, so I was going to work with four or five tupperware containers plus my reusable water bottles. I have my own little fridge in my office so I was able to store everything. But in a shared fridge? Yikes.

 A few of the recipes are vague and the portions sizes are larger than what the recipe dictates. There is also no nutritional information provided and several ingredients on her list I had to skip because they just weren’t available; raw honey and a pumpkin being the most memorable. Some of the recipes were exotic. I wasn’t a fan of the quinoa breakfast bowls which didn’t turn smooth and creamy like the directions said it would and the green smoothie came out like green water. The plan also relies heavily on coconut oil, eggs and spinach, so if you don’t like one or all of those things then it probably isn’t for you.

The green smoothie
The green smoothie

Other cons include the workout videos and forum. To gain access to the forum you need Facebook credentials, which isn’t advertised and it’s something I don’t have so I can’t use a presumably useful tool. Emily also advertises workout videos but her “videos” are actually just clips of her giving instruction on how to do each move correctly. Helpful, yes, but I can’t workout to 30 second clips while reading the routine on paper. She posts follow-along videos on Instagram, but those are sped-up and also 15 seconds.

On to the Pros!

 Of the recipes I made in my 4.5 days, I repeated a few because they were so good. I was full until each meal, and I didn’t have any cravings for junk or sweets or snacks. I’m a serial snacker so this was a big deal.

 Emily makes it as easy as possible to follow her plan; grocery lists are broken down by week, meals are already planned out per day as are the workouts. Her workouts are calisthenic-based and can be performed at home or at the gym. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do her workouts (because I was cooking!) but for shits and giggles I followed along to one of her Instagram workout posts in my PJs before bed and found them to be surprisingly hard — in a good way. I definitely see trimming up if you stick to them.

My conclusion is that Emily’s program isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. If your lifestyle allows for the adjustments that need to be made to follow her plan then the pros outweigh the cons immensely. While I couldn’t complete the challenge, I am going to be adding some of the recipes to my regular diet and I will be doing her workouts when I can. I can commit to that much.

Alexis Oliver
Alexis has been writing on and off since she was a kid. Her first submission was to Highlights Magazine, and though they passed on her in-depth analysis of falling leaves in winter, she continued to be a loyal reader. She is most passionate about animals, conservation, and trying to convince her county to allow backyard chickens. Alexis currently works full time in Hospitality and lives outside of Pittsburgh with her boyfriend and three cats.
  • JulaiOhMy

    Ha, oh man. Clean eating is really, really good but only if it’s simple and you don’t have to think it out like this. Thinking about your food ALL THE DAMN TIME is not sustainable whether it’s M&Ms or a “grilled chicken breast the size of a deck of cards.”

    • AlexisO

      The recipes I picked out were the most simple of all of them so if she did them in order for a reason then I fucked it up. The main picture is her “Simple Mexi Bowl” which is rice, beans, salsa, avocado and cottage cheese (the cottage cheese sounds gross on it but it works) and I’ve already made that dish like 5 times.

      • JulaiOhMy

        There are some good ones I do from the Blogilates girl–she has a flourless crust pizza that I make a lot. It also has cottage cheese. WHERE IS THIS COTTAGE?

    • Lex_Discipulus

      I hate that “deck of cards” nonsense.

      Who is happy with a “deck of cards” worth of chicken? I want my chicken fried up and the size of my head damn it!

      • JulaiOhMy

        The thing is, which deck? Gin rummy deck? Cards Against Humanity deck? (I’ll take that one.)

  • Jen Pink

    That green smoothie looks diiissssguuusssstiiiing.

    • AlexisO

      Haha! It wasn’t great however the green WATER could’ve been user error. Plus, I don’t have a juicer, I have a Ninja or an immersion blender – neither got the chunks out!

      • Blahblee

        We need to start a fund to get you a juicer. They are amazing but fucking expensive.

      • Lex_Discipulus

        I got mine at macy’s when they were having a sale PLUS i used me “registry completion” discount.

        Love that baby to death.

        Also my bff and I are going to make hard cider with the apples in my yard and with the help of that juicer.

        • Firinn Asch

          JUICERS! I got a vitamix at costco when there was a two for a lower price deal. My boss got one, and bought me one and he took 50 bucks out of my paycheck until it was paid off. I love having it, and mine has “paid for itself” (though i’m not sure how real that expression is.) you can make hot soups in it, too.

  • botenana

    I’m glad you talked frankly about the cost aspect. This has been a HUGE issue for the Viking and I as we switch our eating habits.

    What kills me is the line of thinking that goes “The initial investment is high, yes, but think of it as a lifestyle change, an investment for your health.” Or the comparison of “It costs just as much as you spend already eating out”. I dislike the assumption that I’m eating out all the time.

    And where do these people eat out at? $140 for one person is about 6.60 a meal. Currently, we’re rocking a budget of 10/per day spread across two or four people depending on the week. I’d KILL to have twenty per person per day.

    • AlexisO

      It truly is a lifestyle change to do this type of diet and unless I quit my job then it’s unsustainable. The time and the cost were too much – plus some of the fruits and vegetables I bought started going bad before I got to use them so there’s money in the trash right there.

      I hope people stop talking at us thinking all we do is eat McDonald’s and lay on the couch watching Netflix. I’d love to have my entire diet consist of fresh food but it’s not affordable. I think this also touches on wages v. cost of living in America and how it hasn’t kept up.

  • Mel

    I agree with many of your points. It certainly is a big life style change- if you don’t like cooking or work long hours then you will struggle. Fortunately neither apply to me (just a 30 hour week and I love cooking). I have been on the program for about 4 months with great results- better in this time than 2 years at the gym! In regards to the cost, believe me, food is equally expensive here in Australia but if you can possibly re work your budget the benefits in increased energy, skin glow and all round health is well worth the extra. Plus don’t forget you are no longer buying treats, coffee, alcohol, lunches at work, takeaways etc. Many of the recipes were good- many were terrible. But Emily has never professed to being a chef. Nutritionally, the menu while repetitive, is quality. Its funny how Americans love pumpkin yet you don’t have fresh? I couldn’t imagine pumpkin in a can! I bought a couple of Aussie cook books- Theresa Cutter ( Simply Delicious)& Sarah Wilson (Simpilicious ) once I had made the menu more than enough times. These, combined with Emily’s workouts are more than enough for me- probably for a year of fitness & eating at least. In closing, I think Emily’s plan is not for the feint hearted- if you want great results, you need to work hard for them- but you do need to plan & prep. Edit to add- you really don’t need the facebook forums either- its mainly just chat between members and actually was quite spammy in my newsfeed with mindless posting of kittens and subjects off topic so I deleted. I’ve never been someone who needed others help in being accountable/motivated to exercise etc it was actually annoying at times with girls wining about sugar withdrawals and posting desserts!