One question nutrition coaching clients or lifestyle challenge participants ask when they come to their review assessments is “How do I keep these results coming now?” My answer is always to maintain the changes they’ve implemented at least 80% of the time. And that is inevitably received with a look that says “You crazy, how can you tell me to have treats?!”
That sort of mindset, however, is precisely what derails good progress. Yes, attempting to be “strict” all the time, to having “perfect” nutrition is the reason you lack progress.
You are able to maintain perfect for a while. You cut out certain foods, constantly worry about making mistakes and worse, you even change many of your social behaviours. Until you eventually have a social outing where there simply aren’t any food choices that make it onto your perfect foods list. You have two options: stay
hungry hangry or eat something. In your mind, staying hangry is keeping your nutrition “perfect,” and eating something means (even though it’s one occasion in weeks) you’re out of control.
Although that’s just an example, what typically happens is “I can’t stay strict so I’m just going to go all out and I’ll clean up tomorrow.” Sounds a bit like a crack addict, doesn’t it?
When you change from trying to be perfect to being good enough with your nutrition, lots changes. You feel more in control of what you’re eating. You know that you’ve eaten really well for the past few days, so having a piece or two of the birthday cake is okay. You are happy to have the side salad instead of fries because you had a work function in the week where you enjoyed some savoury treats.
Perfect is impossible. More importantly, feeling that you’ve not achieved your perfect is destructive. Work towards “most of the time.”
Good enough and most of the time are relative to your goals and needs, and just what they mean is ultimately up to your definition. I’ve always advocated the 80/20 approach. It gives you direction on what “most of the time” is and it’s sustainable.
You’ll get better results from the method you follow 80% of the time than the method you quit.