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Woman says she was hospitalised after attempting ‘75 Hard’ challenge

‘Even walking to the bathroom was so much energy to exert,’ she says of her symptoms

Amber Raiken
New York
Thursday 27 July 2023 05:56 BST

Related: What to know about the 75 hard challenge

A woman has said she was hospitalised after attempting the viral “75 Hard” social media challenge, which involves drinking a gallon of water a day.

Michelle Fairburn, who’s based in Canada, shared a video to TikTok on Monday about the challenge, which was first started by YouTuber Andy Frisella. In addition to drinking a gallon of water a day for 75 days, the other tasks in the challenge include following a structured diet with no alcohol or “cheat meals,” two 45-minute workouts a day, reading 10 pages a day, and taking a daily progress photo, according to Frisella’s website.

In her TikTok video, Fairburn started off by explaining that she thought she had water poisoning, which can occur after you drink “more than three to four litres of water in a few hours,” according to Heathline. The outlet also notes that potential symptoms can include head pain, nausea or vomiting, and drowsiness and fatigue.

After noting that water poisoning is “so real,” Fairburn described some of her symptoms, which she said included weak muscles, lack of appetite, nausea, and being “on the toilet all morning”. She then encouraged viewers to “listen to [their] bodies,” before opening up about her expeirence with the “75 Hard” challenge.

“I’m doing the 75 Hard, so I’m drinking an excessive amount of water,” she said, before noting that she was on her 12th day of the challenge. “I don’t know what to do.”

She also indicated that all she’d eaten that day was bread, since she was trying to “put sodium back” into her body. Fairburn also said that she didn’t want to “fail ‘75 hard,’” but that the amount of water she’d been drinking everyday was concerning her.

“I can push myself through the workouts, I can. I’ll just do slow workouts, but the water is terrifying me. I cannot drink another gallon of water today,” she said. “I’ve challenged myself to do this, and I don’t want to fail myself.”

In a follow up video, she revealed that she had just left the doctor, and was being sent to the hospital. She went on to explain that she had “severe sodium deficiency,” and that her doctors told her the condition “could be fatal”. She then described what her treatment plan at the hospital was going to be.

“I’m going to the hospital and they’re going to check everything, and apparently they can raise my sodium gradually,” she said, before noting that she’s still going to continue the social media challenge. However, she said that her doctors told her that she has to “drink less than half a litre of water a day”.

The real estate agent went on to share a third video, which began with her defending her decision to do the “75 Hard” challenge, after people in the comments claimed that the challenge was “toxic”. She said that she was doing much better, before confirming that she’ll be following her doctor’s orders of drinking 32 ounces of water a day or less.

The TikToker then recalled some of her early symptoms, such as “restless legs,” which she said she’d experienced before so hadn’t been concerned about. Although she expected to go to the bathroom a lot, with all the water she was drinking, she said the symptom that had concerned her was feeling “really weak”.

“Even walking to the bathroom was so much energy to exert,” she said.

She proceeded to describe her symptoms in another video, continuing: “I had this band of fire that was getting increasingly bad in my abdomen and lower back…I kept thinking I was going to vomit, I never actually did vomit. My skin was so sensitive to touch, headache, fever, and just feeling like crap.”

The TikTok user said that when she got to her doctor, she discovered her “blood pressure was really low” and her “reflexes were high,” before learning that these were indicators of a sodium deficiency.

She said her doctor hadn’t conducted any blood tests, but had “assumed [she] had a sodium deficiency” based on her symptoms, and told her: “You need to go to the hospital, this is indicative of an extremely low sodium level, which could be fatal.”

However, according to Fairburn, after she’d gotten her blood drawn at the hospital, results showed that she “actually had normal levels of everything”. Although she said she didn’t figure out what was causing her symptoms, she noted that her doctor had told her to drink no more than 32 ounces of water a day. She also said that she was feeling “okay”.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “a condition where sodium levels in your blood are lower than normal” is known as hyponatremia. The health agency also specifies that, “in many cases, too much water in your body dilutes sodium levels”.

In the comments of Fairburn’s videos, viewers have continued to express concerns about the “75 Hard” challenge, with many claiming that it isn’t safe.

“Maybe, just maybe, considering I’ve seen about five videos of people going to the hospital for this challenge, that maybe it’s not a good challenge,” one person wrote.

“These water challenges are so dangerous!” a second added. “Most people only need one to two litres of water per day.”

In a video posted on Tuesday, Fairborn encouraged her followers to “always listen to your body” and not to take the challenges “too seriously”.

“These challenges are not for everybody, and don’t take it too seriously. And pivot when you need to pivot, stop when you need to stop,” she said. “Obviously you’re not a failure if you’ve been in the hospital and you need to stop something.”

The Independent has contacted Fairburn and Frisella for comment.

Meanwhile, experts have also weighed in on the social media challenge, with global Nike trainer Lauren Schramm telling The New York Post last month that she’s “strongly opposed to this type of program”.

“[It] pushes the boundaries of safety for the majority of the population and does not promote healthy levels of movement, diet and rest,” she said, before noting that the “75 Hard” challenge “does not seem realistic for the average person”.

Schramm also argued that the program promotes the idea that fitness, health and wellness are all or nothing” rather than “balancing acts”.

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