Downside of being a fitness coach: every time I see someone I know at a restaurant, they look at my plate and mentally give me a compliance grade.

I understand this doesn’t equate to having an investment property in Syria or having a eggplant sized cyst on my forehead in the big scheme of world problems, but it always is a challenging comeback I have to craft.

“It is my [insert occasion here] day.”
“I worked out for 3 hours today!”
“You caught me. Don’t tell anyone.”

However, let me be blunt. I am eating a big plate of nachos and/or fries because they taste good at the moment, and I want to eat them. I do not have a secret hate myself complex with huge variations of compliance that oscillate between Olympic prep and hot dog eating contests. Most of the time, it is because it is a Saturday, and I am having dinner with my girlfriend.

Food is not radioactive, and 99% of food is not “bad” for you (trans fats, I’m looking at you). Sun is a good thing, but 8 hours a day in the sun is not. Running is a good thing, but not if you do it to the point where you have feet that look like meat loaf left in the car and have to reintroduce yourself to your own children.

The mantra everyone whips out is “everything in moderation”. I am actually not a fan of this concept. I think if you are going to do something, do it HUGE and then deal with the consequences.

People on diets, workout programs and even work projects fail for a couple reasons:

  1. The pain is not severe enough to make a change.
  2. They are so fixated on perfection that the goal is unachievable.
  3. The “break” is so unsatisfying that it gives you a glimpse of how much better it would be to do something more pleasurable.
  4. They are incessantly fine tuning and looking for shortcuts instead of doing the real work required.
  5. They just don’t want to (see #1).

So, forget the everything in moderation mantra on the micro level. Having one chip or one little bite of your favorite meal is not satisfying. It creates cravings. This is what most people view as moderation, and it is a terrible way to go. If you are going to eat bad, do it big. Have a whole meal that you enjoy. You have to be willing to then go the other way and exercise or diet big to make up for it. For every day that you are very full, you should have a day that is very hungry. That is moderation, too.

I am not suggesting that you whip yourself back and forth violently from day to day. However, if you focus more on a week or month at a time instead of by the day or hour, you are more likely to achieve your goals because YOU WILL STICK WITH IT.

Try this technique: take a piece of paper or a wall calendar and put a check mark on the days you eat too much or exercise too little. Put a zero on the days you eat normal and maybe get a workout in. Put a minus on the days you eat light and exercise intensely. At the end of the week, count up the marks. If you are trying to lose weight, you better be in the negative area. If you are trying to maintain, stay at zero. If you are in the plus area, well…

My standard reply when someone gives me that judgmental, eyebrow raised look when measuring the height of my nachos is, “Yep. Awful food, but I am willing to pay for it later.”

Bonus: enjoy this video.