A Series of Small Compromises
Musings on Long-Term Weight Loss Maintenance
I rarely have a chance to spend time with my remote coaching clients in person, and it’s always a treat when it happens. Last Saturday, I was in DC, and able to grab coffee with my client, Sarah (whose Client Spotlight from her wedding prep is coming soon!).
It was delightful, and as we walked back to my hotel and chatted about nutrition, fitness, mindset, and balance, we landed on a particular topic that made me joke:
“I feel a blog post brewing!”
We laughed, but it wasn’t an empty threat – now I’m writing the blog post!
We were discussing the concept of eating decisions, and how many eating decisions we are faced with every day. She mentioned changes that she had made in her lifestyle to allow for 10 pounds of weight loss (to an athletic 120 pounds at 5’3″), and she used a word in a very interesting way: compromises.
“Like the other day, for example,” she said. “I had a bad day. Prior to this experience, I would have had a huge dinner that night to make myself feel better. But that day, I had a small dinner, and then allowed myself to have dessert. It was a compromise.”
People often think that, in order to be healthy, the path is an all-or-nothing ticket. You’re either completely “on track,” or you’re “off the rails.” But, as Sarah said, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I almost applauded as we walked, because I absolutely love when clients land on an interesting phrase to describe a nuanced experience.
As I told her, “That is what long-term weight loss maintenance really is. It’s a series of small compromises, made over and over and over again. It’s not perfect, but it’s not what you would have done.”
In my experience of maintaining my significant weight loss (I lost about 30% of my body weight in 2010), that is the essence of my eating. I don’t follow a specific diet – I’m not vegan, I’m not Paleo, and I’m not completely sugar-free.
Is my eating more self-disciplined than is typical? Absolutely. But in a fitness and nutrition landscape that is dominated by a tone of asceticism and righteous self-denial, the word “compromise” can carry negative connotations.
But “compromise” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Let’s say that you order Chinese, and worry that you’re “off plan” because it’s not “clean eating.”
Here’s what I would suggest as a mindset shift: It’s not that you’re compromising your nutritional principles. Maybe you’re just compromising with the “old you” – the one who would have ordered Chinese for two, and eaten both.
Compromise goes in both directions. It’s not just a downhill, slippery slide back into old habits. Sometimes, it’s just meeting yourself in the middle… but better than before.