This blog has been written by James St Pierre, Owner and Personal Trainer here at Unique Results.
I had a great conversation with one of our brilliant members last week around habits, lifestyle and the conflicting approaches of ‘abstinence’ vs ‘moderation’. It was really impactful for me (and hopefully them) and I wanted to share with you some of the main points of the discussion as I know it will be of help to many of you – or may at least resonate with some of your challenges.
Most of us can probably place ourselves in one of the following 4 groups. I’ll use a box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers as an example (as I can be quite partial to them if the mood takes me) – For the record, I often act like a type 2.
1.You have no problem just avoiding them totally (substitute with any food you may be partial too if the fingers don’t do it for you) and will only indulge very occasionally – say, once a month or less in a controlled, moderate way.
2.You generally may have them once a week (or more frequently) and once the box is open you always eat the entire contents.
3.You can have them in the cupboard at home and a box could last you for a long time as you can quite happily just have 1 or 2 at a time and may go days (or even weeks) between having them.
4.You just have to totally abstain because you know once you start down the path of regular consumption it becomes a habit that you find difficult to control so for you its easier to just say “I’m not going to eat ANY of those for the next 8-12+ weeks” – maybe in extreme circumstances EVER.
You can see how these 4 are different types of ‘behaviours’ – NOT 4 DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE.
We all have the power to change our behaviours and habits would approach healthy eating and exercise in different ways. You could broadly call the approaches either an ‘abstinence approach’ or a ‘moderate approach’. Or when relating to exercise and training ‘all or nothing’ or ‘moderation’. When the all or nothing person joins a gym they want to go 5-6 days a week and work as hard as they can. They leave the gym sweating and sore. This is often paired with an extreme ‘abstinence’ approach to diet.
In my experience this is simply not sustainable and often leads to burnout, injury and relapse. They will often end up in worse shape than they were in when they started as they are unable to train due to injury and totally fall off the wagon with their eating. A more moderate approach would be to commit to 3-5 exercise sessions each week across a range of modalities including a bit of strength, some cardio and some stretching and mobility work paired with a more sensible approach to eating. This is what we would recommend for our members and the types of people we tend to attract (and who read our stuff).
This all ties into one of our training principles – CONSISTENCY BEATS INTENSITY. It’s far better to train at 60-80% intensity for 52 weeks a year than hit every session at 100%, get injured and keep having to take weeks (or months) off and then relapsing. How does this relate to the title of this piece? “4 biscuits, 0 biscuits or 2 biscuits – you decide.” Well, the member I was talking to is very aware of their behaviours and also the patterns/habits they follow.
Each time they go to the biscuit barrel at work they told me that they always take 4 biscuits at a time. We went on to discuss the abstinence approach – just stop eating biscuits all together, the moderation approach – maybe change the habit to 2 biscuits at a time (1/2 the calories) or potentially sticking to 4 (not changing that behaviour). The important part of this conversation wasn’t for me to TELL the member what to do but to have a discussion, lay out a few options and let the individual come up with their own solution and plan to start moving things in the right direction.
You see, our principle of Consistency over Intensity doesn’t just apply to training but every aspect of life and lifestyle. Any change you make needs to be sustainable. For most, saying you’re never going to eat a biscuit or chocolate bar again is unrealistic and therefore not sustainable. If you would like any help with any aspect of your training or eating habits please speak to one of our coaches or send me a message personally.
Yours in health,