Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked with people on achieving their health and fitness goals through many different domains – primarily different forms of exercise, mindset training/goal setting, and nutrition coaching. There are many common roadblocks that come up with these, the most popular being the “all or nothing” mindset. In any area of life, consistency is key for results. But, being consistently imperfect is ok. In fact, it’s more than ok! It’s how most of us live, and it needs to be acceptable. Not being perfect or 100% consistent with your nutrition habits doesn’t mean that we need to abandon all of our efforts and self sabotage.
There’s this wonderful article written by Precision Nutrition where they analyze 1 million data points across a chunk of their clientele with similar goals (in this case, weight loss) and cross-checked their results with how relatively consistent they were with their nutrition habits. It’s a great article, and you should definitely take a look here.
HOW TO CHANGE YOUR NUTRITION HABITS
What they found was that depending on where you’re starting from, almost ANY effort at all leads to relative positive change. This is important to remember. Precision Nutrition works with their clients like we do – starting small with the simplest and easiest to change nutrition habits, nailing it down and refining it so that it is achievable to implement them into our busy day to day lives. Repeating this process and adding layers over a period of time, and you’ve accumulated many healthy habits without seemingly that much effort, but have completely changed your big picture nutrition game altogether by focusing on the little pieces, one at a time. The key is to start small, and work your way up. It’s ok to be imperfect with this process, too.
What does “imperfect nutrition” look like? Maybe you’re trying to add more veggies, so you work to make the habit of adding a handful of vegetables to each meal. Let’s say you do that… half the time. Let’s also say that you have the goal to drink less alcohol, and currently you have 1-3 drinks regularly. Let’s pretend that 100% consistent with this habit is no alcohol whatsoever. If you go 2-3 days/week of not drinking, that would be 50% or less consistency. How much progress can you see from that? Well, given what Precision Nutrition has seen, people in this category wind up losing between 5-6% of their total body weight.
AIMING FOR BETTER
As with anything, the more consistent you are, the more results that you’ll see. Let’s now say that you’re trying to make a few more small changes, like eating a lean protein (chicken, beef, etc), along with a glass of water (no calories) and a handful of veggies in each meal. Let’s say that you’re trying to also avoid snacking. And you nail this… 1-2 out of 3 meals each day, which is about 60% consistency with your goal habits. You might feel like every day breakfast gets away from you because you don’t wake up early enough and don’t feel like making anything besides a poptart, and Saturday/Sunday mornings are all over the place. You might find this surprising, but MOST people working on their nutrition find themselves in this range. You might not feel like you’re doing enough and the thoughts of “what’s the point” might be going through your head.
Something is always better than nothing, and you don’t need to be “perfect”. I put that in quotations, because it’s not real. Who said that perfect was better? We know that there are few guarantees in life, one of them being that things will change. That’s just how it is! Under those circumstances… what’s perfect? Is “perfect” never changing? We’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking for better. What was at one point 0% , and is now 50% or less, IS better. 60% is better. 100% today is 100% today, and 60% today doesn’t take away from the efforts of yesterday. It also doesn’t stop the obstacles that’ll come up tomorrow, so we have to just keep working and aim for better.
When contemplating giving up entirely, or trying to decide what the point is of all of this discomfort and effort, focus on what you ARE doing, not what you’re NOT doing. Are you eating 1-2 meals per day that are in line with your goal nutrition habits? Rock on. That’s it! End of conversation. Now, can we improve on that and turn that into 2-3 meals per day, or even 1 day per week that’s all 3 meals and the other days are 1-2? Yes. Is that better? Definitely.
What doesn’t matter?
Perfect, winning, or getting 100%.
What will bring us results?