For some people a healthy lifestyle can seem not only less appealing but also less possible because of the sacrifices that are required. How on earth can I achieve what I want and still be able to party with my friends, enjoy an active social life, and not have to give up all the things I enjoy like sugar, wine, and sleeping in?!
Here’s something to keep in mind — If those things truly nurture you and give you happiness they too are included in your picture of health. There is much more to health than just giving your body what it needs. Body, mind, and soul are all equally important and require fulfillment. If something you want hinders one area of health but enhances another then you are left with asking yourself this question, “Is it a net positive?”. If not, ask yourself if you can moderate it so that it is?
Maybe drinking a second cocktail on a Wednesday just because it’s happy hour isn’t helpful at all to any part of your health. But perhaps you’re out with an old friend, at your old stomping grounds, sharing fond memories and the bartender remembers your guys’ order from back in the day. In my opinion it would be rude not to indulge!
It’s about BALANCE. We overuse words until they lose meaning but balance literally means to evenly apply something for the sake of maintaining a desired state. It is possible to enjoy things and not over do them. It is possible to be health minded AND have fun. Moderation is seldom considered. If it is, its usually considered negatively as a sort of disciplined deprivation rather than a way to optimize the things you enjoy. Moderation is a difficult idea because we have the mindset that if some is good than more must be better. When you unchain yourself from this mindset it is easier to increase the return you get from coffee, alcohol, partying, sleeping in, etc.
How do you know your limits? Initially you want to pull way back on these things. Abstaining helps you to start with a clean slate so that you may more easily see what effects you and how. Abstaining also often promotes a healthy respect for things, but abstain knowing that it’s a temporary phase in your health process. Then add things in slowly and be calculative with how you make them meaningful — Am I having this coffee because it’s been weeks and I really want it or am I having it because today it makes perfect sense to improve my cognition and performance with caffeine? Then watch to see when returns start to diminish. Maybe you can drink coffee once in a while but if you drink it every day the enhancement it was good for starts to wear off and now it just brings you up to a normal baseline level of energy. Maybe if you keep pushing it and continue drinking it daily you become jittery, high strung, agitated when you have it, and completely lethargic without it. That’s when you know you’ve tried to squeeze more out of something than it’s able to give.
If this is where you’re at you can drop your caffeine intake, abstain or titrate down, and watch how quickly and assuredly you become re-sensitized to the positives of it. It’s like that with almost everything, folks! Even if something doesn’t give you stark negatives it’s positives still become less potent over time the more prevalent it is in your life.
If you want to get the most benefit out of things without having too many of the detriments you need to watch yourself closely and objectively. You need to practice withholding. A nice rule of thumb is that when something is at its peak that’s generally when you need to start backing away from it.
Take a workout program for example. You switch from high rep circuit training to low rep strength training and at first it feels brutal. You’re sore and it takes a lot out of you. After a couple weeks it starts to become more doable. After 5 or 6 weeks you see your strength go up, your muscles grow, and your performance is on point. This, my friends, is when it’s time to start phasing into a different exercise program. You’ve already achieved the high point of this one and the likelihood that it’ll keep giving you benefits without detriment is now lower. Same goes for partying with your friends or enjoying highly palatable desserts.
People may assume that because I promote health that I don’t do any of the fun stuff. On the contrary, I’m as hedonic as they come. I’m simply learning how to hack all the things I love in order to get the absolute most I can out of them. It’s possible and you can do it too!