It’s an age-old saying, one that my mother says to me almost every time we have a conversation about anything, especially nutrition and exercise: “everything in moderation.” I often argue with her about this saying, my rebuttals falling along the lines of “Moderation is for those with no self-control” or “That’s a cop out for staying insanely motivated.” For a long time, I believed my viewpoint to be the “right” one—how am I ever going to get where I want to be if I’m not always perfect?
Over time, however, I have begun to realize the value of my mother’s favorite statement. Constantly trying to have a perfect diet and workout regimen is extremely difficult physically, mentally and emotionally. After so many days of trying to be perfect, I stopped enjoying little things: days off, cheat meals, etc. Attempting diet perfection caused me to binge on bad foods and feel terrible for doing it afterwards.
This was especially true around the holidays. Of course, great food is available at copious amounts around the holidays and visiting family and friends often conflicts with getting to the gym every day. Last Thanksgiving, after exhibiting great portion control during my first meal, I went through the rest of the day constantly eating cookies or my grandma’s pumpkin pie (she makes the best in the world, bar none). By the evening, I felt lethargic and terrible about myself—because I did my best to stay perfect for so long, I over-indulged throughout the whole day. I promptly visited the gym and sprinted on the treadmill for an hour that night. I realized that my approach to diet, exercise and body image was not working.
So I changed. I do not expect absolute perfection from my diet or exercise anymore. Don’t get me wrong—these two things are some of the most important aspects of my life, and I put everything I have into them each and every day.
However, to combat the huge binge meals that I once indulged in, I allow myself to indulge in small portions multiple times per week. I have one or two Oreos (Double Stuf, of course) after dinner a few nights a week. I go out to eat. I have one routine off day but allow myself to miss the gym once or twice a month if scheduling issues occur. And guess what? It’s okay.
The takeaway from this article, especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, is to allow yourself some flexibility in your diet and exercise routine. Sure, a couple days of eating everything in sight is not necessarily the most optimal thing but if you have been working hard each and every day, it will not kill you—I promise.
Enjoy the holidays, eat delicious food and cherish the time you get to spend with friends and family. Those are the important things in life and experiences that you only get to have every so often. Moderation is key—expecting complete perfection can hurt you more than it can help you if you go about it incorrectly, like I did. Even though it won’t be as good as my grandma’s, eat a big piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and enjoy yourself!