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Perfection vs. Progress: Making Fitness Permanent

Cartoon fitness woman doing dumbbell curlsHow many times have you started a strict diet, gotten through a week, maybe two, maybe even more, and finally just said FORGET IT, I can’t do this forever, and given up completely? Perhaps you or the plan you chose laid out strict rules that you were supposed to follow at all times.

Maybe all you could think about was just eating some potato chips or pancakes, and you felt that you had to choose: continue on your diet and forgo those things forever, or just give up the diet. Many approach their diets with this “all or nothing” attitude and end up giving up altogether.

But this time, don’t think of it as an all or nothing. You do not have to have perfect eating and adhere to a certain strict lifestyle for the rest of your life. That’s unrealistic for just about everyone, and setting yourself up with unrealistic expectations will only lead to failure. This is not about perfection, this is about progress.

What is Progress?

Any movement in a forward direction is progress, but when it comes to adhering to a healthy diet, I try to aim for healthy eating 80-90% of the time, and the other 10-20% I allow myself “fun” food if I want, or I leave myself that much room for error in case I have a bad night or weekend.

If I know ahead of time that I can always start over, no matter how bad it was, and if I know ahead of time that my eating won’t always be perfect, or I might miss a workout here and there, there’s not so much pressure and fear of failure. I don’t care what anyone says, even the fittest people out there fall off the wagon from time to time.

Maybe you’ve dined out with one of them and watched them eat something that is “forbidden” for yourself and thought “No fair!”. What you’re not seeing is that for their other 20 meals a week, they’re adhering to their plan and sticking to good nutrition.

Why do we overeat? The answer will surprise you-read here.

The Secret to Progress

The secret is simple…change your lifestyle from eating unhealthy, high calorie foods the MAJORITY of the time, and make it the MINORITY, and vice versa. Do your best and at your own pace.

You may have to work up to 90% healthy and 10% not, in baby-steps. You can keep a visual of this by keeping a food journal, or even making yourself a chart.

Mark the chart every time you eat a healthy meal, then at the end of the week, add it up and see if it’s in the majority or the minority. Aim higher the next week until you’ve got it at consistent healthy eating.

This will give you a chance to adjust, to visualize what you are doing, to learn what foods you like and can’t stomach forever, and most importantly, it takes the pressure off.

Learn From Mistakes

Don’t hide from your failures, learn from them so that you are continually prepared for any situation. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What went wrong?
  • How do you feel about it now?
  • What would you change for next time?
  • What strategy could you use to tackle the same situation if it came up again?
  • Is it that big of a deal?

Reframe your mindset: mistakes are an invaluable learning tool if we allow them to be.

See how a positive attitude can make a huge difference in your success.

Wipe the Slate Clean

When you do get off course, don’t waste time and energy beating yourself up for it. Learn from what happened, and just move on without looking back. Many of us are so scared of failure that messing up makes us afraid to keep trying, and makes us question ourselves.

But this is exactly the point where those who do succeed make the decision to keep going anyways, no matter how many times they find themselves here. Those who fail choose to give up, and use their one mistake as an excuse. After all, true success is just choosing to never give up, no matter how many times you fail.

  • Jonathan Parker

    Pretty much on point regarding living a healthy lifestyle.

    Maybe worded a little differently, but the key to my ability to continue everyday trying my best at eating healthy and exercising is to not judge my efforts on a measurement (weight, waste size, etc). I feel that as long as I continue on the healthy path the body will naturally follow. Each persona physiology is diffferent, so although you may look at a poster and want those washboard abs, your body may not havee the ability to look like a poster. But, that doesn’t mean your abs aren’t ripped or that you are lean and muscular.

    Just be consistant with your approach – think and live healthy the best you can. Those “days” will happen – as stated above don’t fret. Actually a little cheat is good for the system – muscle confusion in exercise; some food confusion in your diet. Don’t make exercise a chore – consider it as important to you daily activity as work. Do some research on foods and have some fun trying new healthy foods. Maybe you eat white rice – take a look at brown rice, or couscous. Maybe you like baked potatoes – try a sweet potato. Snack with fruits (you’ll get your sugar naturally); look at the good fats like avocados and nuts and incorporate them into your diet. A bad diet can sabotage all of your fitness efforts.

    • Deanna Schober

      Excellent way of putting it Jonathan.

  • Anika

    by ” not eating clean 10 percent of the time” do you mean 10 percent of your daily calorie alottment?

    • Deanna Schober

      That’s not exactly what I meant but you could probably look at it that way. Let’s say you eat 30 meals a week, then 10% of that would be 3 meals. If you made out a daily chart and marked it every time you ate a healthy meal, then at the end of the week your goal would be for 80-90% of your chart to be marked. Hope that makes sense :)

  • Anika

    oh wow. that is definitely fewer cheats than i currently indulge in. thanks for the pointer.

  • Natash

    Couldn’t agree more. I think most people want quick results and thats where the problem kicks in. People can’t develop a habit overnight. They need to develop it at a slow and steady pace. Healthy eating is just like that, you need to start eliminating the junkies one by one from your grocery list. The more you eat healthy food, more you will like it. Results can be slow, but will definitely stay .

  • Vix- Miss Fitness Life

    90/10% is such a great tip.

    Without 90/10% Its so easy to look at one mistake and then throw the whole plan out of window- you know when you mess up on a Friday and “wait until Monday” to get back on track.

    Thanks for sharing.