Balancing structure & enjoyment

Team cookie or team donut?

Being a nutrition coach, I hear things regularly from clients feeling that they “failed” or they “cheated” by eating _______ (insert favorite food here) and they have to “get back on the wagon” (cringe. My least favorite saying) because they had a date night, wedding, etc. You get my point.

But here’s the thing.

Life is not always going to be structured. I mean, sure, you could live a life where you literally never leave the house, only eating your cooked foods with zero deviation or enjoyment whatsoever. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to live my life that way. Nonetheless, you are going to have celebrations in your life – and that’s a constant. Every year: your birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving (a holiday literally surrounded by food), weddings, there are always going to be these types of events. That’s not including date nights with your significant other, family nights, and well – just the regular old nights that maybe you just don’t feel like being super strict or you want to enjoy a night of eating something you don’t normally eat.. and guess what? THAT’S OKAY.

As I have always said, there is a time and place for being strict/rigid.. for example: weightlifting meets (cutting weight for a weight class), preparing for some type of competition or event, trying to hit a specific goal that you have been working towards, or simply for the matter of practicing discipline. I do feel that there should always be a time where you practice discipline, and not give in to cravings (otherwise how else would you learn how to say no to things when you need to?) BUT – and there is a big but – it is so incredibly important to learn when and how to be flexible and enjoy your favorite foods in moderation.

Over the last few years that I’ve been tracking macros off and on, I truly believe that the reason I have been able to balance discipline with flexibility is because I’ve learned when to loosen the reigns, and when to pull them back in. Do I track my macros every single day with absolutely zero deviation? No. Do I turn down a Hurts Donut every now and then? Also, no. The key? In my opinion, is that I don’t eat one donut that then turns into an entire box of donuts, that turns into a week of “falling off the wagon” *cringe*. I’m sure this comes with practice (just like anything in life) but the ability to have control and understanding that one donut, or one meal, isn’t going to ruin your progress, is so important.

Now, if you’re someone who physically can’t do this – and when you eat the donut/meal/whatever it is, you find yourself obsessing over it, trying to compensate the next day, or do an extra workout… I highly suggest that you seek professional help or perhaps choose to not track macros at all if it brings you constant stress/anxiety like that. I don’t want any of my clients (or anyone reading this) to live a life like that, because it truly isn’t worth it. Life is much too short for that. So in this case, what I’m writing doesn’t apply to that end of the spectrum.

However, I think if this is something that you want to be able to do long term – live a healthy lifestyle – the first thing is to accept that it’s not always going to be perfect. Nothing ever is! When you get the opportunity to celebrate someone’s wedding, birthday, or maybe just the love between you and your spouse, you should celebrate THAT. Not the food, not use it as an excuse to go absolutely overboard and eat everything in sight, but enjoy what you want to enjoy, and move forward. The more you are able to practice this, the more you will be able to relax around events like those in the future; because let’s face it, there are going to be plenty!

Last night, we had a family date night/bowling adventure and ended it off with some Hurts Donuts. I’ll be DAMNED if I ever sat out on something like that just because it didn’t “fit my macros”. Sure, if I would have known the week prior and I REALLY wanted to try to “fit one in” beforehand I could have attempted, and again, there may be a time or place for that – but not always. Austin and I got a box of 6, along with the whole family, and we broke them up into little bits so we could try a bunch of different ones. It was almost like I had a big multi-flavored donut, and it was SO WORTH IT. Delicious, sugary, and not something that I eat often. Did I get a stomach ache in the middle of the night? Yup. But did I wake up today with guilt/shame or trying to eat less to make up for my over-consumption of calories last night? Hell no. I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that one night of sugary consumption isn’t going to change my body composition. It literally has taken me 5 years to get to where I am now, and it’s not going to just magically go down the tubes because I had some donuts last night.

I think oftentimes living this, living with Austin, and seeing how he doesn’t even think twice about nights like that – has done wonders for my mental health. So I hope that by sharing these types of things with you guys, it will help someone who may be struggling with the same thoughts. At the beginning of my journey, I definitely struggled more with this because I felt as though I was going backward every time I had one of those nights with donuts, foods I don’t usually eat, etc. But after time, I realized that it’s the long term consistency over the years that gets you to where you want to be; not the one night of donuts you indulged in!

So if you have one of those nights – maybe indulged a little more than you wanted to, or had a few too many donuts… RELAX. Bump up your water intake, get back to your regular meals, and remember that it’s okay to enjoy these things now and then!

Have a great Sunday!