Reaching your health and fitness goals is actually nothing like your bootcamp class. It’s not about perfect attendance, balls-to-the-wall effort, or even pushing through when you just don’t have it in you anymore.
Of course, that sort of discipline is definitely needed MOST of the time, but there’s good reason to cut yourself some slack once in a while.
I know, weird.
But there are a few reasons why skipping that workout or diving head first into that “cheat” meal will actually do you more good than harm.
Let’s use The Rock as an example. If you follow him on Instagram, you know that “cheat” meals are regular part of his routine. The reason that works so well for him is threefold.
The occasional indulging on 8 slices of sourdough French Toast topped with apple pie is good for you emotionally, mentally, and physiologically.
Physiological Benefits to being Imperfect
There is a theory in nutrition science that the body has a predetermined equilibrium point — a point at which your body is most comfortable and one it will always strive to maintain. Despite putting yourself in a caloric deficit (for fat loss) or surplus (for muscle gain), your body will always try to return to the point of equilibrium.
So let’s say that you want to get super lean and therefore put yourself in a caloric deficit. You will drop body fat and progress really well, but after some period of time (it’s different for everyone), your body will start adapting and fighting back to get back to its equilibrium point.
BUT, what happens if you throw in a “cheat” meal and your body gets a big, sudden influx of calories? Well, if the timing is right, you’ll actually keep your metabolism on its toes and have it continue to run at 100%. So cheat meals can actually support your body’s fat loss efforts, if prescribed appropriately.
Same thing applies for exercise and movement. Let’s say that you commit to walking 10,000 steps every day. You will likely start to lose weight, until your body adapts to that level of movement. Then, it burns less calories doing the same thing it used to. So what do you do? Maybe you move less once in a while, or switch up your exercise routine for something a little higher intensity.
Mental Benefits to being Imperfect
There are also real mental benefits to being imperfect. No matter how determined and disciplined you are to reaching your goals, there is a point that you are going to burn out. That’s not a sign of mental weakness, it’s just a reality.
Allowing yourself to have “cheat” meals, untracked meals, or take some time away from exercise is actually the perfect fix to preventing burnout. The key, though, is to allow yourself those indulgences before burnout truly sets in. Once it does, it’s much harder to bounce back.
Even in our work as nutrition coaches, we monitor how are clients are doing from a mental standpoint and once we predict that some level of burnout is setting in, we prescribe diet breaks, exercise breaks, or even just switch up the protocol to keep things fun and exciting.
Our goal is never to find the perfect way of eating for your goals, but the most sustainable one. And your mindset will determine a lot of that.
Emotional Benefits to being Imperfect
Having goals is great, right? In fact, it’s people who have plans and are determined to reach them who make the world go around.
Of course, if your goal is to lose body fat, or increase performance, or just live a healthier life, there needs to be some level of sacrifice.
Maybe you can’t have all the glasses of wine that your friends are having.
Maybe you can’t stay out super late on Friday nights because you have an early training session the next day.
Those sacrifices are worth it and are what allow you to progress, but life isn’t all about trying to achieve the next thing. Life is about living too.
So yes, maybe in your off-season you can have more nights-out-for-the-books, and on your vacation you can eat to your heart’s desire. Allowing yourself that “deviation” from your goals is what actually helps you achieve them over the longterm.
The key with using “imperfection” to your advantage is being able to differentiate whether it’s the right thing to do for your body, or if you’re just needing to muster up a little more discipline. Otherwise, work with a coach who will know exactly how to build a protocol that will work for you, but also allow you to enjoy the journey.
Have questions or want to work one-on-one with a coach? Schedule a free introductory call here.