The question hit my inbox and I could only shake my head.
I’m pretty worried right now. Every time I want to enjoy eating out, being social, or even the holidays, all the diet plans I try just stress me out. How do I make this work without losing my mind?
The question was fair but frustrating, and only because he was one of 100 people to ask almost the same question.
I could only wonder and regret, “How the did we get to this point?”
This “point” is a place where the most commonly held belief is that fitness and nutrition are black and white. “Healthy eating” and most “diet plans” are experienced as an overwhelming and depressing shade of stressful perfection, oftentimes created by popular diet books. Ask most people, and they believe the most effective diet and training plan consists of two primary concepts:
- You can’t indulge and still look great
- You must train or exercise all the time to be fit, look great, and be healthy.
The healthiest diet plans and most effective nutrition strategies focus are not about superfoods, scapegoats, or supplements. Rather, if there’s one reality that we see in research (from Atkins to The Zone), consistency, sustainability, and patience are the foundations of a good plan and prevent diet failure. And when done right, any diet and fitness plan should be built to withstand desserts, days off, and daiquiris. (Yeah, I said daiquiris. I guess “drinks” would have been a little manlier.)
This applies year-round, but it is especially important during the holiday season where many people that have worked hard throughout the year are worried about blowing it all in a couple of weeks.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
The same can be said for people that weren’t so healthy throughout the year. You can start the process of undoing your struggles by shifting your mindset towards something new; an approach that might just knock over the first domino to better health and put an end to the yearly struggle.
Hit Refresh: What Healthy Diet Plans Should Look Like
Let’s take a step back from goals like fat loss, healthy eating, and body transformation. Start by ditching whatever inflexible mindset you have about what it takes to look and feel good. That doesn’t mean you should say, “screw it” and not worry about your behaviors and actions.
But it does mean you should understand the context of what it means to be healthy, and how seemingly good behaviors can become obsessive and dangerous, and most importantly deceive you into believing you must follow certain “extreme” measures to be fit.
Before you start any plan, here’s a checklist that matters more than any weight-loss promise:
Healthy is enjoying your life.
Healthy is finding the right situations to eat the foods you love.
Healthy is not worrying if you miss a day you planned to exercise, especially if it’s because you’re doing something better with your time.
Born Fitness, was built on the principle of balance, honesty, and keeping it real so you don’t waste your time or risk your health in an attempt to become better. I don’t care if you’re a professional bodybuilder or a recreational couch surfer — we all need balance.
How will I eat during the holidays or a night out? However I please. And I recommend you try something similar.
Your goal is to separate what it takes to change your body from what sounds helpful but isn’t needed. It can be as simple as a two-step filter:
- Add the good
- Remove the bad, and that includes the rigidity of diets you can’t stand (you hear me, diets that say you can’t eat at night) and workouts that aren’t fun.
Do your best to train hard, passionately, and relentlessly. But if you miss days don’t sweat it.
Your job is to prioritize your health but not be perfect with it, especially during the holidays. The people you spend time with and the memories you make count more than any one workout.
That’s not an excuse or a lack of commitment to your fitness. Anyone who suggests that is only spreading the venom of their own insecurities and fears. If they choose to stay strict it can be perfectly healthy… if it’s their choice. But that doesn’t mean it has to be yours.
Instead, focus a mindset that helps you establish balance and peace of mind. Ultimately, it will probably lead to more consistency, better workouts, and improved diet compliance. That’s what happens when you have freedom and don’t need to stress the small things.
If you need a place to start, find an area that’s tough for you — such as eating carbs — and follow a more realistic approach.
Your workouts and eating habits should be a priority, but not always the top priority. Use your judgment about what’s important and enjoy.
Your body wouldn’t have it any other way.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and the author of You Can’t Screw This Up. He is the founder of Born Fitness, and the co-founder of Arnold’s Pump Club (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Pen Name Consulting. An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was previously the Chief Nutrition Officer for Ladder, the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to The Huffington Post, Bornstein is “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and E! News.