Picture this: it's January 1. Everyone has vowed to eat better, get fit, lose weight, eat better, and has taken steps to make those goals happen. Everything is shiny and new and everyone is excited over their new meal plans and exercise goals. It’s all glitter and rainbows and sunshine and stuff. And then the end of January nears. What was once all glittery and ah-mazing is now dreadful. Most people are left feeling burnt out and reverting to old habits and then beating themselves up about their “failure” and it becomes a never ending cycle. It’s another 30 day challenge here and 30 day challenge there with no real consistency in between. It’s either all green juice and salads or french fries and doughnuts (mmm doughnuts). Basically, you go hard or go home. And you end up burnt out.
[a life without gluten-free tres leches cake is not life]
The “go hard or go home” model is based on adhering to something strictly for a given period of time (whether this is formalized or not) and then the expectation is that you go off the rails when it ends. You go from one extreme to the other and miss all of the important stuff in the middle. And this isn’t necessarily the fault of the individual. Most diet challenges or “new year, new you” (which I hate and this explains why) plans fail to actually teach anyone about anything...other than what it’s like to live without wine and cheese and ice cream (I’ll save you the trouble and tell you that it sucks). But but but strict rules and guidelines make it easy, you say. Well, I'd challenge you to forget easy and take the road less traveled and actually learn a thing or twelve about how to make changes in a sustainable, non-neurotic, cake inclusive fashion. (P.S. I'm not just talking trash on 30 day or whatever challenges. I've done them. They have value. But there are better ways.)
Several challenges, hardcore crash diets, etc. claim to "educate" their participants on things but fail to see that education through. Being chained to a list of forbidden foods is not fostering education, it’s fostering blind compliance. Navigating a nutrition program or plan that works for you is about making choices - your choices. Having someone tell you “eat this, not that” doesn’t facilitate the learning process that, in my opinion, is absolutely critical to being able to approach nutrition in a sane way the other 335 days a year when you’re not doing a 30 day challenge. I get it - extremes and rules are easy. But what happens when you start to hate those rules?
It’s easy to be super compliant and stoked on life when something is new. Novel stimuli tend to make us humans really excited. But what happens when 3 weeks down the road, you’re feeling less than excited? If you’re white knuckling your way through a plan that you loathe, you’re going to be miserable at that 3 week mark. If you’re armed with knowledge about how food works, the science behind nutrition (if it says “detox” or “cleanse”, run the eff away), and the knowledge of your own personal experience - you can adjust accordingly. Because making nutritional changes does not have to suck.
[this has no relevance but hey, kegs are fun]
So that’s cool and all, but how does one actually reach that dreaded period when things start to lose their luster and navigate through it successfully?
1. Set yourself up for success: I’ve talked (written?) this topic into the ground but suffice it to say, setting yourself to be successful ensures that you are, well, successful. For all things meal planning and prepping and such, check this out. 2. Face the fact that nothing changes if nothing changes: If you go into a program with the thought of “yeah, that sounds so totally awesome, BUT here all the reasons why that doesn’t work for me…” you’re not going to win. Sorry, but you’re not. If you want results you’ve never had, be prepared to do stuff you haven’t done. AND BE OKAY WITH IT. Use common sense (like don’t eat 1200kcals of kale and call it a meal plan) and listen to your body, but accept the fact that in order to change, you have to change. 3. See the big picture: Minutia and details are cool and all but focusing on the big pictures makes things easier. Worrying and stressing and obsessing about the details of a diet when you don’t have the basics down is a bit like worrying about if your toes should be angled out 3 more degrees when you’re not even squatting to depth. Build the foundation, worry about the details when they’re relevant.