Why Your Fitness and Nutrition Routines Should be Totally Average
If you’re on a fitness journey and feel like you’re getting nowhere, or you’re just starting out and totally overwhelmed, let me give you some advice based on my nearly 3 years of experience:
Strive for average.
I understand that may seem like the opposite of good advice. You want to be extraordinary, no? You want to kick ass and take names. You want results. You want your progress to be impressive as hell. No way your average Joe is gonna accomplish all that. No, you’ve gotta shine bright. Be perfect. Do it all. Yes. Yes, and that’s exactly what you’ll do…until you epically belly-flop, decide the high-dive just wasn’t meant for you, and give up altogether.
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Inconsistent perfection ain’t got shit on consistent imperfection, and I’ll tell you why. Perfection isn’t sustainable long term. Losing weight and/or building muscle takes time, and by focusing on perfection you’re only setting yourself up to fail and keeping yourself farther from your goals. No matter how good your intentions are, you will “slip up” – only you’re not actually slipping up at all! Living and enjoying your life while working on your fitness goals is an absolute must, not a mistake.
You cannot, in sound mind, choose to be consistently perfect. I mean, listen to yourself. You must think your shit don’t stink if you honest-to-goodness believe you will nail everything 100% of the time. Or maybe you’re a robot and don’t shit? In which case, you’ve got abs of steel already so you probably wouldn’t be here reading this.
With a little reflection, it becomes pretty easy to accept that perfection is just not gonna happen. Then why is it so difficult for us to entertain the notion that we could possibly be imperfect and successful? Not only do we need to accept the idea that we are, in fact, imperfect, but also that it’s downright necessary. Imperfection is where learning, growth, and balance happen. It’s the only way to live, fitness journey or not.
Go forth on your quest to improve your physical and mental wellbeing knowing there will be overindulgences and missed workouts. There will be days you half-ass your training and don’t hit your nutritional goals. THAT’S OKAY. It’s so okay I shouldn’t even have to give you that sort of reassurance. It’s freaking normal. No one is perfect, no matter what impression you get off social media. Just because so-and-so on Instagram is faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound in her 30 second workout video doesn’t mean she isn’t tits deep in a bucket of ice cream or taking a damn nap right now. So chill. That being said, please note – and this part is important – it may be normal, but it’s not the norm. There is a difference. While it’s completely normal and expected that you’ll overindulge and skip workouts from time to time, if it becomes your normal daily routine, you’ll cheat yourself out of progress and results.
Now that I’ve hopefully inspired you to lower your bar and strive for imperfection (participation trophies for everyone!), let’s discuss how to distinguish between normal vs the norm. And to do this, I’ll be keeping with the theme, and stressing the importance of averages.
On New Year’s Eve, I got a grand total of 2,855 steps for the day. Holy shit, right? My daily step goal is 8,000. So…yeah. I could’ve let myself be discouraged. I could’ve hit the treadmill for a quick lil walk. But I was taking a rest day and had been sitting on my computer prepping for and passing an exam so, in any event, it was time well spent. And you know what, when I did my end-of-month check in and did the math, my average daily steps for the entire month of December was still over 8,000/day. And not because the other 30 days were at or over 8,000, either. Some days I was quite a bit over, some days I was a little over, some days I was quite a bit under, some days I was a little under. And it all came out in the wash. It balanced out. It averaged.
Stop looking at your journey in terms of just TODAY and start looking at the big picture. That goes for days you totally crushed your goals, and days you feel totally defeated. One day, meal, or workout will not make or break you, your goals, or your journey. Instead of convincing yourself you’re a dipshit because you just ate your weight in M&Ms, think to yourself, well this may not have been the most goal-supporting choice, but I’ve done awesome the rest of day/week/month/etc. Instead of throwing in the towel after one evening out, get back to what you know you need to do and say to yourself, I am so proud of myself for prioritizing my health over the last couple days after having a few too many drinks/treats the other night.
We tend to put a lot of weight and attention on weaknesses and setbacks – what we can’t do or did “wrong” – rather than give ourselves some damn credit for our strengths and all the things we do “right.” And when you’re doing things “right” with consistency, the “wrong” stuff simply fades into the background. There’s no reason to give it so much of your energy. If it’s a struggle for you to break free of the negativity, keep a record of your days and goals. Track your successes and short-comings and watch them average out with time, grace, and consistency.
A gigantic, greasy, cheesy, fatty meal will not ruin your progress, gains, figure, or body UNLESS YOU LET IT by eating a gigantic, greasy, cheesy, fatty meal every meal for the rest of the day, week, month, or year afterward. It’s what you do consistently that matters.
I have tracked macros for the last year and a half and I can’t tell you how many completely berzerk meals, days, and weekends I’ve had in that time frame. Sometimes I can’t or don’t track them, but I usually do even if it means guessing and estimating numbers. Why? Because I love looking at my averages. Seeing how I’ve done over the week or month as a whole rather than zeroing in on the ONE meal or day when I happened to eat like a total asshole usually makes me realize I’m actually not an asshole at all. Sure, maybe I’m over calories or under protein by a bit, but looking at the averages over time rather than one stand-alone day, it’s never anything to get my panties in a twist about. Because I’ve already accepted that perfection is a pipedream and I have enough fitness journey experience to know ups and downs are inevitable. All that really matters is the overall trend, created by my average performance over the long haul, not this one relatively tiny moment in time.
A great example of averages is calorie cycling, which is something I’ve practiced for a while now. It may sound fancy or intimidating, but it’s just eating fewer calories some days and more calories other days and averaging it over time to hit a goal number for a timeframe. Typically it’s weekly, but in November and December I actually zoomed out further and set daily calorie goals based on my month’s worth of numbers to allow for more treats and drinks on the holidays. I successfully hit my average daily calorie and weight-loss goals while eating 2,500-3,000 calories on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. Cool, right? But I digress…
For instance, if you want to eat 2,000 calories per day, but find yourself really struggling to stay under 2,000 on Friday nights when you routinely have a bigger, more calorie dense dinner and some drinks, why not borrow a few hundred calories from the other days of the week? If you think you need 2,500 calories on Fridays, simply decrease Sunday through Thursday to 1,900 calories per day and tada! Eat, drink, and be merry! 2,000 calories per day for 7 days equals a total of 14,000 calories per week. 1,900 calories per day for 5 days, 2,400 calories on 1 day, and 2,000 calories on 1 day equals the same total of 14,000 calories per week. It all comes out in the wash.
Same goes for protein goals. I mean, I wouldn’t condone eating a measly 10 grams of protein per day for 6 days straight and then cramming the better part of 1,000 grams of protein on the 7th day, so you’ve gotta have a bit of self-awareness. Also, 1,000 grams of protein is 4,000 calories all by itself. But, you get the drift. Don’t get all pissy because you were 5 grams or even 20 grams short yesterday. I bet there are days here and there when you’re 5-15g over! Instead of seeing yourself as coming up short, know that it will all work out in the end so long as you’re consistently close-ish. Look at your goals and intentions the Captain Barbosa way, as guidelines rather than rules, and you’ll find yourself hitting them and coming from a place of positivity much more often, I promise.
When you’re looking at any goal, it’s important not to base your progress or effort by focusing on one day and one day alone, whether it’s a “good” day or a “bad” one. Totally killed it today and hit all your goals and numbers? AWESOME, way to go! But like, keep going. One great day is not gonna get you where you want to go. Went way over your calories today? AWESOME, bet it was fun. But like, keep going. Weigh in at a loss? AWESOME! But like, keep going. Miss your workout today? AWESOME, hope your body appreciated the rest. But like, keep going. How you continue moving forward in the many days to come is what matters, so don’t fret and worry over one day.
An all-or-nothing mindset is just bogus. And not in a Bill & Ted’s journey kinda way. The pity-party won’t serve you, but your next choice can. And the one after that. And the one after that. So long as you are making more choices that serve you than not, you will progress. Trust me.
I had donuts yesterday, unplanned, after I’d already eaten breakfast, and not really because I wanted to. I mean, I always want donuts (duh), but I wasn’t hungry, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to eat a lot of food the rest of the day and hit my numbers without working around the calories and macros contained in those doughy little circles of happiness.
So anyway, I ate the delicious donuts. Did I say “fuck it” and eat the cookies staring at me on the counter and the BBQ potato chips I know are in the pantry? No. I ate my healthy, meal-prepped lunch, lighter calorie/high protein snacks, and a balanced dinner. Was I over carbs and under protein? Yes, but sometimes I’m under carbs and over protein, so who cares? I got close, and as it turns out, close doesn’t only count in horseshoes and hand grenades, folks. Did I say “fuck it” and sit on my ass during my daughter’s naptime rather than do my workout? No. Mondays are leg days, so I did leg day. I woke up this morning feeling happy, healthy, and strong, and even saw a slight drop in the scale compared to yesterday’s weigh-in after a higher calorie-cycled weekend.
My weight, I’ll have you know, had nothing to do with being or feeling healthy, happy, and strong – it’s simply an observation. Had I eaten another doughnut, the cookies, the chips, gone out and grabbed a cheeseburger and fries, then eaten a jar of cookie butter I’d probably would’ve felt gross, bloated, and disappointed by the time I went to bed…and the scale probably would’ve reflected all the extra food and sodium the next morning.
Only getting 2 workouts in for the week when your goal is 4 may seem discouraging, however, maybe you got 4 in the 2 weeks prior to that and got a bonus 5th workout during the following week. 2+4+4+5=15. 15 total workouts divided by 4 weeks = 3.75 workouts per week. Still a pretty damn good month if you ask me. Don’t focus on one sub-par week and decide you’re a terrible person who will never reach your goals. Give yourself some damn credit, and a healthy dose of grace.
Strive to be average in your methods, and to raise your awareness of your effort and averages over time, and you’ll get closer to your goals faster than you could ever imagine. Not because the results are immediate and drastic, but because you’ll truly enjoy the process and time will fly. You won’t be miserable, looking for a quick payout to reward your suffering. You’ll be living life on your terms, on your schedule, happily trucking along and witnessing your mind and body change in desirable ways.
Follow me on Instagram to see my fitness journey, where and how I started, and my daily food & diaries (spoiler alert: there’s always dessert. And quite a bit of pizza…).
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