Healthy is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Leading a healthy life is a marathon, not a sprint. I learned this lesson the hard way. Every time I'd discover a new philosophy, I'd buy all the books and read all the blogs, and drastically change my life accordingly.
(Just ask my mom, she always had to text me before visits home to find out what my latest and greatest dietary restrictions were.)
It was a great way to experiment, but it was also an exhausting cycle of strict adherence for a period of time, followed by a major crash, followed by hating myself and feeling guilty for not being "strong enough" to stay on course. Then I'd search for the next diet to try.
Surely it was the diet’s fault, right?
This went on for years for every diet from vegan to paleo and everything in-between. I was also working what felt like a million hours a week at Goldman Sachs at the time, so I would also heavily blame work and my schedule.
I was convinced that if it was my job to be healthy, I could actually stick to it. So I decided to test this theory by quitting my corporate finance job to become a personal trainer.
I actually got the idea after attending a wellness seminar where I didn't learn a thing. I already knew AND practiced everything the instructor was teaching. I was ready to go all in on my healthy lifestyle, and was excited that my job would finally help support it.
At first being a personal trainer was amazing.
It was easy to prep all my food, make healthy choices, AND I got to wear yoga pants all day. Score. But then I got busy, and had no time again. I was also working with busy moms and professionals, and it became painfully obvious how unrealistic it was to suggest changing everything at once.
I'd take into account their schedule, likes and dislikes, and short and long term goals into my recommendations. The extreme suggestions always sounded, well, extreme. Unrealistic. Not sustainable. Unhelpful.
I finally realized that healthy is a marathon, not a sprint.
I also started digging further into the science of nutrition and exercise, and realized that most fads extrapolate data, cherry pick studies, or rely on weak experiments.
(For example, most diet research relies on memory recall to record participant data... do you remember how many grams of protein you ate last Tuesday for dinner? Or even what you ate for that matter??)
After many years of extremes (both as a participant and as an observing professional), here's what I've learned about being healthy for the long haul...
You don't have change everything to still be healthy.
Most people underestimate the power of small changes. You do not need to overhaul everything in your life in order to be worthy of the title of "healthy". Little actions ADD UP, especially as it pertains to weight loss. Start by ditching the sugar in your coffee, or eliminating soda from your diet. You don't need to change all the things to still be making healthy choices.
Find a diet you can stick to for life.
Going extreme for a short period of time can be beneficial for experimenting (curious about the no dairy train? Try it! See how you feel. See if you miss it! I decided I love half and half too much...). A diet isn't something you do only for an 8 week challenge, it's for life, so find YOUR version of what this looks like.
Do workouts you enjoy (at least most of the time).
Sometimes a workout can feel like a slog no matter what, but as with diets, it's not just just for an 8 week challenge, ideally it's for life. Find movement you enjoy, and ditch the kind you don't like (for me that's Soulcycle, or any spin class... I just don't really enjoy it). You also don't have to stick to only one thing for life, so experiment here too!
"Perfectly balanced" doesn't really exist.
Different weeks, or different phases of your life will require different levels of attention. Sometimes this means you miss workouts, eat take out a lot, or skimp on sleep. This is normal! Don't sweat it when you have an off period, focus on small actions you can do today (like drink a glass of water), and don't worry about not always being "balanced", it's not real for anyone anyway!
Focus on healthy habits, not the the scale.
This is the single greatest tool for getting anything you want when you really tap into it. It's easy to focus on the end goal (let's say lose 20 pounds), but overlook the day to day steps it will take to get there (eating a good breakfast, getting in movement, drinking less soda, etc). The actual habits aren't sexy or instagram worthy, but consistent daily action is what will get you there. Focus on what you can do today to get you closer to your goals (fitness related or not!)