100% for a few weeks and then the wheels come off
Most attempts (at eating better or getting fitter) fail because of a lack of balance. As a beginner, you think only an all-out, no-holds-barred approach works. While brute force has its place, the issue with brute force is it drains you at a rapid pace and if you don't move on to a better approach sooner rather than later, you will run out of gas. And get distracted/irritated/annoyed and give up.
But finding balance, taking it at a sustainable pace, thinking long-term is ridiculously hard concepts to wrap our heads around for a newbie. Because our mindset when we are there is just screwing with us.
We are saddled by our previous unsuccessful attempts.
Our identity is confused as "I am someone who cannot get fit".
We are stumbling in the dark and think there's a secret club that's not letting us in, and so want to just break through this by giving it 110%.
If giving it 100% fails, how will a sustainable approach work?
How can eating the same foods as I normally eat work, rather than trying out a keto/paleo diet?!?!?!
As part of this failed approach, another reason it drives us insane is an attempt to keep each day perfect. Let's say you are meeting your childhood buddy after ages. Should you have a couple of beers with him? Or it is your kid's birthday - should you eat cake?
OF COURSE, YOU SHOULD!
struggling to find balance
Are you struggling to find this balance? Do you oscillate between a few 100% weeks and then falling off the wagon? Do you have so many failed attempts that it is not funny at all and you are getting angry with yourself?
Well, this is for you. Let me put out some spoilers before we even go ahead.
You can get to your goals by being 80% compliant 100% of the time, or 100% compliant 80% of the time.
You can get to your goals by doing things you enjoy, for the most part.
You can get to your goals by eating how you like to eat, how your culture eats, based on local foods.
You are not missing a secret diet.
You are missing two key ingredients - thinking long-term and consistency.
You are missing balance.
but if that leads to eating leftover cake the next day, and meeting up for beers the 7 nights he's in town, well, that's stupid.
How do we find this balance? it is elusive.
but that beer can be a slippery slope
Let's go back to that beer, or the birthday cake.
The issue is if we are drinking beer daily with our buddy coz they are in town only this week, and so we are chilling daily and taking a break from our plan.
The issue is if we are eating leftover cake the next day, and the day after that because we cannot allow the cake to go to waste.
Life is fun and life will get in the way.
Life is hard and will force you to make difficult choices. To beer, or not to beer? It is hard. When do you say yes, and when do you say no?
finding balance in imbalance
First, let's be clear about this. You know what to do. If not, let's sort that out first. If it sounds too complicated, that's not the solution, at least when we are starting off.
We want to do most things right on most days. Let's keep that really simple.
eating a lot of vegetables.
drinking enough water.
being active i.e. going on a walk for an hour.
sleeping well i.e. 7-9 hours.
not eating junk foods.
Don't think about trying to do all of them right every day. Let's say 'a lot of vegetables' can be tweaked to 'eat 3 cups of vegetables'. If I am eating 3+ cups of vegetables daily, and I go one day without eating vegetables, that's fine. You think those missing vegetables are the key and are going to stall your progress? Nope.
Likewise, if you are not eating cake daily and have it every weekend, of course, that's fine. In fact, what's life without cake, or beer, or whatever your pleasure is?
Most days should resemble you checking off those 5 boxes.
Most weeks are made up of days like that.
And most months are made up of weeks like that.
There will be a few days here and there where the plan is off. Like cake on your kid's birthday.
There might be a week where the plan is off. Like a vacation with your buddies where you drink a lot more than you should.
When you get 5 days on either side of that birthday party right, it is rather simple to do what you need to do in that party i.e. eat cake and have a great time.
When you get 5 weeks on either side of that vacation right, well, you get the idea.
A bonus tip. Even on that vacation, it is possible to not get 0/5 i.e. you can still get your veggies, water, and sleep. And possibly get some walking or light exercise in during the first half of the day as you are getting over the previous night.
Find balance in imbalance.
Think long-term. Think consistency.