The 75 Hard Challenge Perpetuates The Myth That Punishing Yourself Is The Key To Happiness

The programme has been questioned by some health experts, who are worried it encourages a disordered relationship with food

Woman training

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

In the past few months, I’ve seen countless videos of TikTok users trying out the ’75 Hard Challenge’. In fact, it's taken over all my social media feeds.

What is the 75 Hard Challenge?

The viral workout programme, or rather lifestyle change - that encourages sobriety, healthy eating, two workouts per day and 10 pages of reading - is all anyone’s talking about as wellness-obsessed Gen-Zers (and millennials, let’s be honest) attempt to create healthier habits.... for 75 days that is.

But ‘hard’ is in the title for a reason, and for those of us that still want to experience some semblance of joy in our lives as we hurdle toward middle agedness, it’s just not appealing to force suffering on ourselves for 75 straight days. The intensity and restrictive nature of 75 Hard has also been questioned by health experts, some worried that it encourages disordered relationships with food and exercise by promoting the idea of no rest or breaks from diet plans.

Because, and this is the key concern, part of the 75 Hard Challenge is taking 'before and after pictures' - essentially, turning what could be a positive programme intended to improve mental health into yet another diet and exercise fad that's all about how you look, or how much you weigh. In actual fact, those kind of programmes perpetuate the idea that punishing yourself is the key to a happy life (a dangerous mindset to get into) and pile on pressure to adhere to strict rules to avoid feeling like a failure.

With that in mind, a new challenge has been born: the 75 Soft Challenge.

What is the 75 Soft Challenge?

As per the converse name, 75 Soft is a version of the 75 Hard challenge that is intended to be more sustainable and kinder to the body and mind. It includes only four rules, as opposed to the five rules of 75 Hard (the one missing being to ‘take a progress picture’).

It's become so popular there's been a spike in people searching for 'the 75 Soft challenge' on Google - the latest trending challenge everyone wants to try.

What are the 75 Soft Challenge rules?

Eat well and only drink on social occasions.

Train for 45 minutes every day for 75 days, with one day a week for active recovery.

Drink three litres of water a day.

Read 10 pages of any book a day.

Who started the 75 Soft Challenge?

On TikTok, the 75 Soft Challenge as followed today was brought about by Stephen Gallagher (@StephenGFitness) but a version if was originally created in 2019 by lifestyle blog The Pohhu Experience.

What is the difference between the 75 Soft Challenge and the 75 Hard Challenge?

As opposed to 75 Hard, which dictates that partakers must take before and after pictures and restart their programme from day one if they deviate from the rules, 75 Soft takes a much more sustainable approach. ‘It’s for people who don’t have time for two workouts a day,’ Stephen said on TikTok, adding in the comments that ‘consistency is key, you don’t need two workouts a day to see results.’

The difference in intensity also allows for more people to take part, not simply people who are time poor but also those who need, for their own mental wellbeing, to avoid restrictive workout challenges. Where 75 Hard could trigger people with a history of eating disorders, given its rigid structure and punishing restart for deviations from the rules, the 75 Soft Challenge allows us to be kinder to ourselves and simply start engaging in healthy habits without overwhelming restriction or pressure to succeed. Ultimately, what the existence of 75 Soft proves is that 75 Hard isn't for everyone.

And you don’t have to follow Stephen’s exact rules either, you can incorporate any healthy habits into the challenge – like journaling or spending time on a personal hobby – to make it more suitable to your lifestyle. At some point, you might even forget your doing the 75 Soft Challenge and just have it become your normal life, that’s all one can hope for when it comes to sustaining a healthy lifestyle.

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