Avoiding Extreme Measures

How many of you have heard a friend say (or you yourself have muttered these words), “I am not eating anything but broccoli and chicken for the next two weeks; I need to drop 10 pounds before this vacation!”? Now, how many of you have seen this plan actually executed and work?

Extreme measures rarely work, are not sustainable, and are never the healthy way to achieve results. As a personal trainer, I encounter countless women and men who have gone to great extremes to lose weight. Some of my clients have restricted their diets to less than 900 calories per day; others have eaten only veggies for days on end while others have gone to the dangerous length of binging and purging. Whatever the method, it hasn’t proven to be a good one, and ultimately, these individuals arrive back at square one asking the age-old question: “What can I do to get the weight off and keep it off?”

The answer is balance.

Healthy living, weight loss, and/or reaching your peak fitness level is a marathon, not a sprint—a war not a battle. You will have great weeks. You will have weeks that set you back. The best way to view your progress is by looking at it not on a weekly basis, but by a monthly or quarterly basis. If you are making true progress, you will see results over a 30-day (minimum) period. Whether that means the majority of your meals over a given month were clean, you lost actual inches, or you were able to run faster or lift more than before—that is a real way to measure success. A longer period of time with which to measure results allows for the minor setbacks and doesn’t cause us give up when we make one minor mistake.

Extreme measures rarely work, are not sustainable, and are never the healthy way to achieve results.

In fact, balance is a critical component to just about any holistic approach to well being. It applies to the amount you work versus play and the time spent alone versus with others. And with balance comes self-forgiveness. We are all so hard on ourselves. But why? Do we think at the end of our lives when we look back on what we accomplished we will feel deep satisfaction that we lost those last ten pounds or squeezed into a size two? Likely not.

Plan ahead.

An equally important part of maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle is planning. The number one reason I get off track when it comes to healthy eating or workouts is poor planning. It takes discipline to sit down at the beginning of the week and plan out those moments where you can “win” and those that you may have to make concessions (i.e. skipping a workout to enjoy a night out with friends indulging in celebratory drinks and birthday cake). The point is to avoid having to take extreme measures but rather find a way to live your beautiful life while still accomplishing your goals.

You may be thinking, “That’s all well and good but how do I do achieve balance as a practical application?” One specific example comes to mind: I entertain a lot for my day job and this particular day I took clients golfing. We were to have both lunch and dinner at the course and the menu included burgers, hot dogs, chips, candy bars, and plenty of beer and cocktails. I knew there would be a limited selection of healthy options, so I packed a bag of healthy snacks! Halfway through the round I pulled out a bag of apple slices and almonds. Not too long after that, I noshed on some sweet potato wedges and deli meat. The best part about it was the reaction I got from my clients. Packing my own snacks on the golf course was a conversation starter—they actually got quite a kick out of it and had plenty of jokes for the rest of the day. However, I was able to enjoy a day out with clients without wrecking my goals for the week all because I took 15 minutes on Sunday evening to look ahead at my week and plan out some wins.

Some of you may think this is extreme: bringing one’s own snacks to the golf course. But I assure you, I needed a “win” early in the week because the latter part of the week involved a pizza party. I think it goes without saying that no one brings snacks to a pizza party! Some other examples of planning ahead include scheduling your workouts for the week so that nothing pops up and derails your exercise goals (put them in your calendar and consider it an appointment with yourself), spending an hour or two one night/week making healthy foods that will last for a few meals and can be easily transported for busy days (think grassfed ground beef with taco seasoning and sautéed peppers or quinoa mixed with peanut butter and bananas), or even just finding ways to get at least 7 hours of sleep most nights of the week (turn off the reality TV; your body runs better when it’s rested).

Extreme measures are not a long-term solution. If you want to find a way to achieve stable yet long lasting results, I encourage you to figure out just how you can achieve balance in your own life. Balance in action is different for everyone; spend time figuring out what works for you because, I assure you, it’s worth it.

Amanda Schlegel