Sometimes you attend a Seder dinner and sample all 12 kinds of unleavened cookies in solidarity with the Israelites. Sometimes you opt for the lobster roll and chips in lieu of the salad once you learn your Oyster Bar dinner is being expensed. Sometimes you spend a winter weekend in beautiful New Hampshire with access to unlimited cupcakes, mayonnaise and red wine, stuff yourself silly and then roll your way to the fireplace to capture what I can only imagine is a 1980s propaganda poster for Mormonism.
Sometimes all those things happen in the course of a single week. Sometimes you awake on Friday morning to find your favorite skinny jeans don’t fit. And sometimes you have to break free from a familiar sentence structure and just stand up and say it:
Hi, I’m Anne, and I have a moderation problem.
I feel like a fraud: I’ve been touting the merits of moderation in this space for well over a year. Don’t believe me? I have the MLA-style bibliography to prove it.
“As (I would have said Winston Churchill, not google says Petronius) once said: Moderation in all things, including moderation. That, and always eat two lobsters at the seafood buffet.”
Source: ‘New York City Weight Loss.’ Web. 31 Jan. 2012.
“I’ve said before and I’ll say again: Just like you have to make some sacrifices in your life to be a great runner, you also sometimes have to make sacrifices in your running to have a great life. Moderation in all things, including moderation.”
Source: ‘We Can’t All Win Trophies, Baltimore.’ Web. 4 Feb. 2013.
“As I always say, moderation in all things. Except crepe cake.”
Source: ‘Marathon Weight Gain.’ Web. 14 Nov. 2012.
(But seriously, MLA, do we really still need to write “Web” in our citations of online information? Might be worth revisiting. Just saying.)
I know deep down inside that moderation is paramount when it comes to healthy eating as well as running, and I preach its merits every time a friend asks me how she, too, can turn her unhealthy life around. “Portion control,” I say. “Calculated caloric intake.” “Picking a running schedule and sticking to it.”
Every word of that’s true, but when it comes to my actual life, maintaining moderation is still a struggle. Every. Single. Day. I wake up each morning with the best of dietary intentions: oatmeal for breakfast, a homemade lunch, a reasonable dinner with friends, topping it all off with at least 30 minutes of exercise and 7 hours of sleep. But then a co-worker leaves cookies in the kitchen, or my reasonable dinner turns into alcohol-fueled karaoke, or I forgo my Friday morning 4-miler to sit at my laptop in a towel and write this blog post. I mean, hypothetically, on that last point.
It’s time we all admit it: maintaining a healthy lifestyle every day is HARD work. And it never stops being hard work. Losing 30 pounds in 2011 was difficult, but working every day to maintain my new weight two years out when all I really want is another co-worker cookie is a constant battle. There’s a reason two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese: it’s easier than maintaining perpetual moderation, especially when there appears to be sugar lurking around every corner.
But while repeatedly falling off the wagon can be frustrating, the wonderful thing about signing on to be healthy for life – not just from now until beach season like some fad-diets would suggest – is that you can always get back on. I used to go on flash diets, mess up one night with a late night slice, and then throw in the towel and revert to my old ways. But when you’re thinking long term (i.e. forever), it’s a lot easier to forgive yourself for your occasional (alright, frequent) nutritional indiscretion, because you know the next day is always a new day. You can’t maintain weight loss by ordering a basket of fries at every post-workout brunch, but you also can’t harbor guilt for days on end every time you slip up and do.
I recently found myself forgetting this key ingredient in weight maintenance – self-forgiveness – but an old family friend sent me an email to set me straight. He wrote:
“Heed your own advice: ‘All things in moderation, including moderation.’ Don’t be afraid to get in touch with your inner slacker every once in a while. And never forget that while the early bird gets the worm, it’s the second mouse who gets the cheese.”
Thanks, Vaughan. I may have skipped my morning run – meaning I already slipped up and it’s not even 9 a.m. – but at least I didn’t get crushed up death. And when it comes to a lifetime of fitness, every small victory is one worth celebrating.
Happy Easter, everyone! How are you planning to maintain moderation this holiday weekend? (“Poorly” would be the answer I’m looking for.)