Too often getting in shape lies in the extremes — it’s all or nothing.
Long-lasting results lie somewhere in the middle. But you need to know when to step up your game, and when to go easy on yourself.
It’s Not Poison, I Promise
Parenting is hard.
There are times when you have to push your kids to do things they don’t want to do, whether it be homework, brushing their teeth, or eating something they usually like but, for whatever reason, are currently acting like you’re feeding them poisoned fish hooks.
Other times you have to be careful not to push too hard.
It drives me crazy when I see parents screaming at their kids at a sporting event because their 8 year old isn’t performing like a collegiate athlete.
It’s a bit more nuanced than that, but this isn’t a parenting blog. This is about diet and exercise.
When to Challenge
This part is simple: You should almost always be challenging yourself somewhat. You can’t improve if you won’t step outside your comfort zone.
However, just like it’s not realistic for a parent to expect their kid to play baseball like a pro, you can’t expect perfection.
You can scream at yourself all you want, but it won’t make you all of a sudden more capable of going from zero exercise to an hour every day.
(It also won’t make you like mushrooms.)
So if you haven’t done anything in awhile in regard to fitness and nutrition, pick one thing to improve upon and get after it. Just make sure you also know when to relax a little.
When to Chill
Just like a parent can’t allow their kid to not brush their teeth, you shouldn’t allow your health to deteriorate by not learning to eat well and stay active.
That said, you’re never gonna get it all right all the time, so quit beating yourself up over it when you mess up.
If you find yourself OFF the wagon more often than ON, don’t freak out… chill out. Take a step back and reassess. Whatever you chose to challenge yourself was probably too much to take on at once.
Find a way to make it easier and keep going.
On the other hand, if you stray from your diet occasionally, or miss a workout every now and then, that’s not falling off the wagon, that’s called being human.
When that happens, the way you take it easy on yourself is by refusing to feel guilty. Don’t prescribe extra workouts or cut extra calories tomorrow.
Refocus on your current plan and move on.
The hardest part about this advice is trusting that you have it in you to take on a challenge.
But life has its own way of making things more difficult. You’ll get sick, family emergencies will take priority, or you’ll enter a busy season in your career.
Because of this, you have to be ready to make adjustments.
Challenging yourself and taking it easy will come in waves. When your current plan gets too tough, trust yourself and know that you aren’t a failure when you have to relax your efforts a bit.
Then when life slows back down, just step it up again with a bigger challenge.
Whatever you do, don’t fall back into the extremes of thinking it’s all or nothing. Trust that living in the middle ground is exactly what you need most of the time.
For more info on this topic, check out these related articles:
How Long Does it Take to Get in Shape, and Why 90% Effort is More than Enough.