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January 13, 2012

My Very Unsexy Eating Strategy

There is nothing sexy about a sustainable eating plan. It’s boring. It’s always the same. It’s moderate. There’s no thrill of the up-and-down. And many times it is equated with being “easy.”

Which, of course, is my point. By definition, a sustainable approach IS easy. It helps you maintain your physique without much effort, while slowly implementing small, manageable changes over time to help you improve, while not driving you batty trying to stick with.

Jade said last week, “Most people would rather be LOOKING for something to do rather than DOING something.” Sad, but true. Many times we get so focused on how we need to change up our nutrition or training, and what big changes we will make, that we fail to see one simple truth: consistent implementation of small changes leads to long-term success.  <—- That’s it! [very unsexy]

I tattled on myself this week on Facebook by posting this photo:

In fact, I was caught red-handed getting a sugar-free (stevia sweetened :)) fro-yo on a TUESDAY AFTERNOON!! Oh, the shame! lol! BUT, I have to say, I am glad I did because it brought up a few insights for me, which, of course I want to share with you:

1) I sometimes eat fro-yo on non-cheat days.

Or bacon. Or cheese. Or peanut butter. Or other preemptive cheats. In fact, I usually do this 2-3x per week. And then I STILL have a balls-out cheat on Sunday nights. I do this because after years of the deprivation-and-binge cycle, I know that if I restrict my eating too much, I will inevitably overindulge. This approach makes it EASIER for me to keep my nutrition clean the rest of the time. Self-control is an exhaustible resource. I have yet to meet more than a handful of competitors or models who are able to literally eat clean 100% of the time. Most go through an “on season” and an “off season.” I did for years. I don’t anymore, and I will never again. I am in “mid-season” year round :)

I see many coaches reprimanding clients for being “noncompliant” and I agree, if I have a competitor who is getting on stage at a specific date, some things just need to be on point. But, the fact remains, so long as I have the mentality that the program I am following is short-term or there is a point at which I will be done with it, I cannot implement a sustainable approach. Self-control and will-power can be harnessed for short amounts of time (i.e. a show prep), but unless behavioral habits are formed, will-power and self-control inevitably crumble. You will need to find your unique approach, whether it is preemptive cheats or something else. I know it is not perfect nor will it give me ripped abs year round, but it works to keep me lean and keep me sane. I also know that for me, the alternative of depriving-and-binging is a whole lot worse: no matter how tight the tight periods were, the loose periods were always runaway trains. NOT WORTH IT.

I will not reprimand clients for being noncompliant and tell them they are bad little dieters. Instead, I will urge them to take responsibility for their choices, not play the victim, discover their unique fat loss formula and encourage the learning process.

2) There is nothing inspired about perfection.

Perfection is a myth, and if someone appears “perfect,” chances are they are not challenging themselves and are simply staying in the safe zone to be able to control everything around them. A few people commented on my photo that they were glad I showed my human side. I love that, because honestly, I feel it is a huge disservice to the JillFit readers, my clients and most importantly, TO MYSELF, to put on a facade of perfection. It would be a lie. And I think that if many fitness pros are honest with themselves, they can see that upholding the appearance of perfect eating all the time (“In fact, it’s easy for me!”) is one big, fat lie. A ripped physique or a beautiful body is enviable, certainly. It can be an effective motivator hanging on a fridge. But on the day-to-day level, someone who is relatable, effs up sometimes and is still able to experience success is a whole lot more inspiring IMHO :) Here’s to mistakes, missteps and lessons learned!

3) I can still strive to do better.

Even though I don’t equate “comfortable” with “lazy slob,” if I am honest, I do want to eat a little cleaner. But I know now what I did not know years ago, and that is that I WILL NOT sacrifice my sanity, my self-esteem and my happiness in order to attain a slightly tighter body, beating myself up for every misstep along the way. The truth is, I AM comfortable. And that’s a good place to be, because it means that it is honestly effortless to eat and train the way I do, and I am lucky to be able to stay fairly lean doing just that. And because it is easy, I can slowly implement one new behavior to get me out of my comfort zone slightly and then adopt that long-term. Gone are the days of “starting on Monday”–instead now, I dive in, learn on the fly and correct as I go. Every moment is an opportunity for learning what works. “Starting on Monday” is the hallmark of an all-or-nothing approach. And finally and most importantly, I don’t use negative self-talk (“I suck at this!”) to pretend to encourage myself or scare myself into compliance. I try to be gentle on myself, but still keep myself accountable. If I mess-up, then I make sure the next meal is tight.

4) Implementing balance takes conscious effort.

And it does not happen overnight. It took me years to find balance, and I am still working on it. When I say that it takes conscious effort, I mean that you cannot sit around telling yourself the same old story and expecting a different outcome. You have to THINK about things differently. And then you have to think those new thoughts often :)

Here are some suggestions for new self-talk that have worked for me:

  • I want to find an eating strategy that I can do long-term
  • I want to work to find my unique fat loss formula, knowing it should not take every ounce of will-power to do
  • I will give myself the benefit of the doubt
  • I will appreciate how far I have come
  • I know that if a plan is too difficult, I need to break it up into attainable steps
  • I don’t want to be obsessed with food anymore, so I will relax
  • I will give up the expectation of perfection
  • My mess-ups help me learn, grow and relate to others’ experiences
  • There is no time table of when I need to arrive at a certain body fat % or size
  • I can implement small changes slowly to reach my goals, all the while, maintaining my sanity
  • All I can expect for myself is that I will do my best, and “my best” might be different from day to day, and that’s just fine

Simply going through these affirmations daily is a start. Even if you never do anything with them. Simply reading them back to yourself is helpful. So throw yourself a bone, understand that you don’t have to perfect to be worthy and that ultimately, a sustainable approach is what will work in the end: balance, perspective, moderation=happy.

Good luck! Love, Jill oxox

It’s been 4 years since this post and I’m still going strong #moderation365, same size clothes and a ton less stress. I teach every single insight and tool I used in my 4-Week Food Obsession Boot Camp course. It’s open for enrollment for a limited time, here!

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