most of us think we should be "eating better"
You are either on or off. You think you should be dieting, or at least eating better (whatever the difference is). You think you should be in better shape. You want to be in better shape. You want to clean things up.
And then, the evening comes around. Or the weekend. After a draining week, you are powerless to help yourself and find yourself eating foods you said you wouldn't be. And this cycle keeps repeating.
Sure, a few weeks at a time, you seem to be holding it together. And then, you lose it for a few weeks. You really lose it!
Why are we caught up in this cycle? How do we break out of it? Should we break out of it? What are we missing?
a few reasons
There are quite a few reasons why this happens. I've written about them multiple times in this blog. Quickly summarising them below. Feel free to skip this section if you are a regular reader.
- Your life is one piece. A shitty day at work where you are drained might mean you make poor choices when you come home. Decision fatigue hits.
- You think that a magical diet that you haven't tried is the key. It is not. For long-term sustainability, you have to eat according to your tastes and culture and location. You need to make better choices, construct a better plate. The answer is not the diet you haven't yet tried. The answer is understanding the ups and downs of our day and our lives.
- curveballs abound. Nothing is straightforward or linear. Good problems happen. Terrible problems happen. It becomes hard to stick to the plan while in the midst of all of this.
- Results stall. You plateau. You get bored. Someone else is seeing better results. You want it all now.
are we doomed in this vicious cycle?
Absolutely not. It will certainly seem that way. Until it doesn't.
You need to find a method that works for you. And here's the key. You need to find multiple methods, not just one.
Don't get too attached to it. It is not something to get a tattoo of. Or to stand and yell from the rooftops about.
It is a tool in your toolbox. Accumulate a few of these. One is too little. Five might be too many.
building a toolbox
You need multiple tools. The right one for the right season and occasion. Let's build one! Before we start, let's make sure we are in agreement on the fundamentals.
- eat vegetables
- drink more water
- eat enough protein
- don't eat too much junk - sugar, oily stuff, empty calories
- sleep well
- exercise regularly
Tool #1: On/Off
Find a method that works. For some of us, turning a switch on for a few weeks works. Especially in January. Great, that's tool #1.
A reasonable amount of time to be fully switched on is 4-12 weeks. Anything less won't produce results. Anything more might find you searching for your sanity.
The Daily9, for example, is about trying to turn things on for 8 weeks, as we've found that to be the sweet spot for significant results. And it is a challenging duration for one to overcome a few obstacles along the way and learn a few lessons.
A binary approach is useful at certain points of time. But the drawback of a binary approach is fatigue. So, part of this toolbox will need to be a week of unwinding. Not a week of undoing all the good work you've done. But a week where you can be relaxed about things - have the beer you've been craving, the ice-cream you've not had. But if you are drinking a case a day or eating a pint a night, we got issues. Maybe the duration was too much.
8 weeks on, 1 week off.
Tool #2: The 5/2
5 days of the week, things are on point. And for 2 days of the week, you just relax.
Simple. Repeatable. For many weeks.
If you are not happy with the results, the 5/2 can be tweaked to a 6/1.
How much do you relax? What's too much? What's too little? Ah, those are the hard questions.
Tool #3: The minimal DOs
Sometimes, eating vegetables can be hard. Or exercising regularly. Some of us find some things easy. Some of us find those very things impossible but other things easy.
Do the minimum.
For example, on vacation, I switch to this tool. My DOs become
- sleep. a lot.
- start the morning with some activity. spend a good chunk of the day walking.
and that's it!
let's chart out a year
It all comes down to you developing better routines for yourself. And understanding where things are in your life, and which tool to use at which point of time.
For example, let's chart out a year.
- January and Feb: Daily9 or the equivalent i.e. fully on.
- 1 week off.
- March: 5-on-2-off
- check "results". If happy, continue with 5/2. Else, switch to 6/1.
- April-June 23: 5/2 or 6/1
- last week of June: 1 week off
- July and August: Fully on.
- 1 week off
- rest of September and October: 5/2
- November: 6/1
- Dec 1 to Dec 20: fully on
- Dec 21 onwards: chill!
These are not the only tools. You need to figure out what tools work for you - intermittent fasting, walking, swimming, pranayama, yoga, badminton, the Warrior Diet, the Parillo method, whatever.
Find your tools. Create your toolbox.
Chart out your year.
Tweak. Tinker. Iterate.
You need to measure a lot more than your bodyweight as the goal. It is not all about your waistline.
Finding the "just right" in everything is key. Including this dieting thing.