On Sunday, like many Americans, I was preparing to watch the Super Bowl with friends and was stuffing my face with chips and queso. Having done my meal planning that morning, I mentioned to my friends that all the grocery circulars were filled with sales on things like Doritos, corn dogs, and other delightful “football foods.” I speculated that this was probably the weekend where everyone who jumped on the Healthy Resolutions wagon on January 1 fell off of said wagon. The real question is, how many of you got back on after the halftime show ended?
Like clockwork, I can predict when I’ll start to see people’s, “new year, new me” updates on social media.
“Day #4 of P90x!”
“Day 12 of clean eating. Go kale!”
“Day #19 of zero sugar!” ———> side rant: I HATE when people say something has no sugar when it actually does. You can’t post a recipe or a picture of your breakfast that uses bananas and say it doesn’t have sugar. Blueberries? Sugar. Honey? Sugar. Just because it’s not artificially made doesn’t mean there’s no sugar in it. I know you mean no added sugar, but you’d be surprised how many people who are trying to learn about nutrition from scratch never pick up on that one. Rant over. Also side rant, fruit is not the devil just because it has sugar. Ok, I’m done.
Anyway, I spend most of January seeing all these people posting about their new routine and how awesome it is, then I turn around a month later and realize the gym looks like this:
(actual footage of a recent trip to my gym)
Where did you guys go? Part of me wants to post online: “Day #3,657 of working out an average to above average amount and eating mostly healthy foods,” but I’m not sure how many of you would get annoyed with me.
The truth is, imperfection isn’t sexy. It doesn’t produce dramatic results overnight. It won’t give you the ripped, stick-thin look of a fitness model who consists solely on boiled chicken breasts and steamed veggies. And it doesn’t provide very exciting talking points when everyone else is talking about the “new plan” they’re on and commiserating about all the foods they’re “not allowed” to eat.
Me? I can literally see that extra glass of wine and pizza slice in the thin layer above where my six-pack should be. I often plan to work out 6 days a week and only make it 4 or 5. Or I go planning to run sprints and end up walking on an incline. Sometimes I have a salad sitting in my mini fridge at work, but instead go out with a co-worker to the place where they have the really good bread and olive oil dipping plate. But most of the time I get it right. Most of the time, I put healthy foods on my plate and drag myself out of bed at 4:45 AM to get to the gym. And despite not being perfect in my efforts, I’m actually pretty psyched when beach & swimsuit season comes around.
Turns out, making the right choices most of the time is the key to being consistent. You never have to get back on the wagon if you never give up in the first place. Too often, the thought is “Perfection or bust!”, “Go big or go home!”, “Pain is your fat leaving the body!”- – (or some weird variation of those “motivational” images on Pinterest). And that is just a recipe for burnout. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be consistent and make good choices most of the time than constantly be swinging from one extreme to the other.
My recent move into the world of plant-based eating is a perfect example of this. As many of you know, last summer, I decided to cut back on meat and mostly plant-based. Like many people, I became obsessed with “getting it right” and found myself suddenly cold-turkey vegan. I became grouchy, defeated, and didn’t feel my best anymore. Then I caved and ate a giant cheeseburger. Extremes are almost never sustainable in the long term and I really wanted my efforts to stick around. Once I eased my way back into the world of “mostly” plant-based, things got a lot easier. I gave myself a break and ended up being able to stay consistent as a result.
I guess the point of all this is that it really doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For something to be sustainable in the long term, your efforts need to be consistent, not perfect. You really can give yourself a break without calling it “cheating” and hop back into making healthy choices the next day. And for those who have abandoned my gym already? I hope to see you back in there soon (just not on my favorite treadmill).
What are your thoughts? Do you feel like you have to go “all-in” to make something work?