I remember the look on my Sergeant’s face when I sat down in front of her, snacking on a Kit Kat. Her jaw dropped and she sort of half-smiled in a combination of shock and joy. It’s as if I had just told her I was pregnant. I stopped chewing, not knowing what I had done to elicit such a reaction.
“Hi”, I said hoping to break the tension.
“You don’t eat that stuff….do you?” she said.
“Um…sometimes.” I replied. This did nothing to satisfy her astonishment and curiosity.
“I thought you were supposed to be some kind of health nut.” She said in disbelief.
I don’t know how or even if the term “Health Nut” is accurately defined, but I told her that the term most definitely did not apply to me. I explained that I train very hard, I don’t skip workouts, and that I eat balanced and healthy diet 90% of the time. “Health Nut” just sounds irrational. It sounds like someone who jumps on fad diets or fad workouts, only to abandon them for the next internet craze. Any progress they see yo-yo’s up and down, and they are never satisfied with how they look. I don’t want to be one of those people, and neither should anyone else. My lifestyle is healthy and sustainable. I enjoy my training, I enjoy the foods that I eat. The fact that I’m lean and muscular is just a side effect of healthy habits and consistency.
My protein comes from eggs, beef, chicken, fish, lean dairy, and whey. My carbs come from oatmeal, wholegrain bread, rice, potatoes, and a sports drink post-workout. I usually eat 2 fruits and 2 vegetables every day. My fats show up incidentally in my meals. I eat meals like this 5 times a day, seven days a week. That’s 35 healthy meals every week. I don’t drink alcohol or soda. I don’t snack between meals or at night. This system is pretty bulletproof, and it will take more than the occasional Kit Kat to shut it down.
I disagree with those in the fitness industry that would say having that Kit Kat, or “cheating” as they call it, would only encourage me to eat more unhealthy food. First off, I despise the term “cheating” when it comes to diet. That term implies guilt. Guilt is not healthy. Feeling guilty can boost your anxiety, which might cause you to overcompensate, or quit altogether. You cannot “cheat” on a diet, because you should not have any intimate or emotional connection with the food that you eat. Food is just food. It is not a loving partner who has sworn to be faithful to you, so relax! Second, there are plenty of studies that show dietary compliance can improve when the subjects are allowed the occasional treat. You trained hard all week and ate 35 healthy meals? Go ahead, share an ice cream cone with your toddler. Have tea and baked goods with your grandmother.
Diet and exercise should be the mechanisms we use to live long, meaningful lives. If you’re starving yourself, choking down foods you hate, feeling guilty, or skipping out precious moments with the ones you love, you need to re-evaluate your lifestyle. Those habits aren’t healthy or sustainable. Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey today, think about what it would be like to train and eat with 90% consistency for the rest of your life. No crash diets before vacation. No taking the summer off because you “like to be active outside”. No jumping from fad to fad.
Constant and steady effort is the key to constant and steady improvement. Take control of your habits, and you need not deprive yourself of small rewards.