For the past two years I have started to pay close attention to what motivates individuals in regards to food, fitness and making progress. And more often than not, it is not really the gray area. I see individuals motivated by, what I would consider, a more extreme approach that emphasizes the all in all or nothing. By extreme I mean the following.
The Whole 30. The 21 Day Sugar Detox. Strict clean eating.
Six pack abs. Flat stomachs. Bugling biceps. Tight buns.
People who are incredibly strong. Top athletes.
Workouts that drive you into the ground.
#nodaysoff #pukie #shredded #nopainnogain
There does not seem to be a whole lot of excitement is finding a balance or simply being moderate. And I have been there before. We want to see and be the extraordinary. We want to see the rock solid bodies made in the gym and the abs that are made in the kitchen. It is much more common to see an Instagram account with thousand of follows for someone who is magazine ready shape, then someone who keeps their shirt on all the time. Why don’t we like to see the person who has some curves to their body, who eats bread on occasion and works out a few days a week?
Is moderation boring?
Is extreme healthy?
Is moderation overrated?
Does the ordinary motivate people?
Can moderation even make us successful?
And from my perspective, moderation is the most critical component to your success, but it is hard to come by in the public eye. I get that we like to see the most successful people in their physique and sport, but rather than looking at what they look like or how they perform, I encourage you to be motivated by their drive, dedication and mental focus. Not to achieve a shredded body or turn into a freak of nature athlete, but to find balance and a way of eating and working out that you can do consistency. Ask yourself the following.
Does your eating feel effortless?
Can you see yourself eating this way forever?
Do your workouts enhance your life?
Are you able to stick to them on a regular basis, not skipping because you feel exhausted and overtrained?
Is the way you are eating and working out helping you reach your goals?
When choosing extremes, for most people, it is hard to reach their goals because extremes are hard to maintain. When was the last time you lost weight eating less? When was the last time you were able to stick to 6 hour long workouts a week? Or even worse, combining an extreme eat less, exercise more approach. (Check out this post for more information on detriments of the eat less, exercise more approach, here.)
I had a client tell me “I am not very good at moderation so I have to go all out.” That comment alone begs the question.
Why? Why can’t we be moderate?
We are scared that if we relax a little we will lose everything we have worked so hard for. Sometimes it is easier to avoid pasta and ice cream completely than have a few bites. It is easier to keep yummy foods out of the house, then have a reasonable portion. So we just say forget it all together and avoid those foods completely until we are faced with them outside of our well controlled environment. Will we moderate or indulge completely? Being deprived does not feel good, but being super stuffed and bloated doesn’t really feel good either.
Is it possible to find a common ground? Moderation is the more challenging approach. Avoid bread and sugar for weeks? Easy! Allow yourself to have one or two small indulgences once or twice a day without going overboard. Not so easy. I challenge you to find the common ground for yourself and it all begins with practice. Can you buy one of those mini Ben and Jerry’s ice cream containers and have a bite a day?
My boyfriend does that and it use to drive me crazy. How can he just have a bite or two and put in back in the freezer and make this damn thing last 2-3 weeks?!? Half a pint! 2-3 weeks! I could never do that! Or could I? So I did. Shhh! Don’t tell but I snuck a bite of ice cream for a few days. And you know what? I was able to stick to those 1-2 bites. A couple amazing things happened. I enjoyed each bite completely and it took some of the power away. Next time you go out to dinner and are craving dessert, get it! Have 3-4 bites and then stop at that. Can you do it? Moderation is difficult, but you CAN get better at it, it just takes a little practice.
We think being sore is the only indicator of a good workout. When my clients come in a couple days after a training session and say they were not sore, I say, “Good.” I reply this way because being sore can indicate that you challenged yourself in the appropriate amount, or it can mean you overdid it, did not recover properly, and pushed too much, too soon. None of those things are beneficial to you. Appropriate intensity and challenges are good for you. Being sore for a entire week, not so much.
We think our workouts need to drive us into the ground to be an effective workout. As a former athlete, I had an especially tough time with this concept. As an athlete you train to be able to endure the toughest matches, where your brain and body are being challenged at the highest level. You are training for a purpose. Post college I sought out running as my primary form of exercise and didn’t feel like I was getting a good workout unless I ran 3-4 miles. It was not fun, it hurt my body and my appetite was out of control.
When I joined a CrossFit gym, I loved it because it reminded me of my glory days. But you do not have to train THAT hard to the results and benefits of everyday health. I got to a point where I had to take weeks off at a time because my body simply could not recover. Mentally I couldn’t shake working out and not being gasping for air. Lessening my intensity has been one of the best things that has happened to my workouts. I am able to workout more consistently because I do not have to take as much time off. My body feels better and my hunger and cravings are under better control. I have found the balance and therefore I can practice the same way of working out and eating, week in, week out.
How I see it.
Moderation is the middle ground, but moderation is admirable. In fact, I think moderation is underrated. It is as challenging, if not more, as taking the extreme because finding moderation is finding a balance for lifelong health. And thinking about it in that length of time is a bit intimidating. What? I have to do this for life? Yes, yes you do. So get to practice, take some action, and find your motivation in challenging yourself to finding that lifelong approach. Because one you do, it is beyond worthwhile. And remember, everything in moderation, even moderation.