One big mistake that’s made in nutrition coaching & in one’s nutrition journey is mistaking the two terms: restriction & sacrifice.
Now, they may seem pretty similar to you currently, but hopefully after reading this blog article, you’re going to have a bit more clar-e-ty on the subject.
Our mission is to bring healthy & sustainable nutrition to EDUCATE & HELP you reach your goals.
Part of that includes allowing & providing freedom and space to include foods that you know and love, food that brings you comfort, food that satisfies emotions, food that shows & spreads love.
But it likely needs some finetuning & adjustments. Maybe you need to limit & reduce the number of days. Maybe you need some structure around your heavier drinking days. That ties in sacrifice, the moderated removal of what you want and substituting with what you need in order to achieve desired results...while of course staying healthy & free.
Restriction, on the other hand, is the absolute removal of what you want to ONLY include what you need. Sure, it works. It works MUCH quicker than sacrifice, but it suuuuuure doesn’t last & in most cases, it’s far from healthy—physically, mentally, and emotionally. So it’s something we want to avoid almost at all costs if we want to achieve real & lasting results.
When it’s laid out in front of you, I’m sure you see the clearer difference. Makes sense, yes?
SO let’s dive in deeper on what these two terms mean & why they apply to you. Most importantly, we’ll get into how to apply these differences to your own nutrition so you CAN enjoy some food freedom without going off the deep end.
Fad diets ONLY work in the short term because they don’t allow for these things.
In fact, any diet—whether it’s a fad diet or not—will fail if it doesn’t include non-negotiables from the start. You could follow that diet/program for 2 years but the second you lose the accountability or that oomph, you’re going to gravitate to old, missed habits LIKE those non-negotiables. From my experience, both personally AND professionally with hundreds of clients, the longer the restriction, the worse the binge.
AND that’s the problem. It’s the restriction, the abstaining, and the removal of these foods all together.
If you’re an OG, long-term follower, you know my opinions on true absolute restriction. It just doesn’t work. If you were a How I Met Your Mother fan, there’s an episode where Barney flat out tells Robin they can’t be together. Lily, Robin’s best friend, pointed at that anytime Robin is told “you can’t do _____” she immediately wants to do it....and it goes so far as when she’s told she’s allergic to shellfish (which she never cared about in the first place), she immediately has to have it.
We’re all Robin.
We are all rebellious people in nature.
So when you’re told, “you can’t eat ________(pizza, alcohol, sweets, sugar, carbs, meat, etc.)”, your body starts wanting it.
And likely will want it until that craving is satisfied.
When it comes to your nutrition, restriction—meaning the alllllll out removal of something—is not effective long term.
Here are some things often “restricted” in a diet—that often leads to failure:
Socializing (avoiding other humans is a depravity)
Freedom (130% all in with no reprieves is a form of restriction)
Have you removed any...or all...of these at some point in your dieting history? Keep reading.
Just because you shouldn’t be removing things all together does NOT mean it’s just a free-for-all frenzy at the donut shop.
Sacrifice is going to always be required.
Go back to middle school civics class and the lesson on “opportunity cost”.
Everything has a price & a cost.
Sacrifice is deciding which cost is worth the reward?
If you’re reading this, you likely have sommmmmme form of a nutrition goal. That could be weight loss or gain. It could be building a healthier relationship with food. It could be improving biofeedback. It could be getting your cycle back for TTC (trying to conceive). It could be feeling better. It could be just learning how to properly fuel your body.
To achieve those things, you’re going to have to LIMIT (not remove) the habits, routines & practices that are hurting the progress of your goals.
Want to lose weight? You might have to dedicate 400 calories per week to alcohol as opposed to your usual 1000 calories. Notice the difference. You’re not abstaining from alcohol all together. You’re ACTUALLY practicing moderation (did anyone teach you what that looks like up until now???).
Other examples include
Sacrificing Friday Happy Hour to get to the gym for an hour BEFORE meeting up with your friends (and maybe bringing a protein shake to replenish some fuel before you start drinking)
Sacrificing weekend splurges & binges to instead drink moderately & in a more manageable fashion to account for both liquid calories & the food calories that comes with it
Sacrificing 10-20 minutes to make a homecooked dinner as opposed to ordering out
Sacrificing a burger and fries to get a burger & brussels sprouts
Sacrificing some time to plan your day ahead of time
Sacrificing PART of your weekend to plan for the week ahead & prepare either the food you’re going to eat or at least what you’re going to eat
Sacrificing time & energy to track calories coming from treats & drinks d
Sacrificing 10-15 minutes to properly warm up, cool down, or stretch
Sacrificing 10 minutes of scroll-time on your phone to journal, walk, or breathe intentionally.
The basics include pain & reward. How much pain does staying how you are (with your current habits) outweigh the pain & sacrifice to elicit desired results?
Let’s dive into some of the “how” we’re going to apply.
At this point, you’re supposed to make some sacrifices by removing some things just a little but not too much.
Okay...great Clare...that’s really helpful. I’m now describing every little fitspo you find on the internet.
By NOW you should know me better.
So what the heck are you supposed to do?
Two words: flexible dieting
In flexible dieting, you plan to include some non-negotiables in a reasonable & structured manner. How much? Juuuuuuust enough to keep you satisfied but also still able to see results.
Flexible dieting isn’t an IIFYM *if it fits your macros* slump fest, fitting cheeseburgers and twinkies ONLY, removing all veggies (HEY that’s a restriction!), and tanking your health.
Flexible dieting, and the basis of sacrifice/moderation/balance (all those fancy words), means you find a way to include both so that you can preserve your sanity & actually make that lifestyle change you’re wanting to make without sacrificing results.
I share these statistics often because they’re very powerful.
If you “mess up” and go completely over ONE day out of the year, that is 0.2% of your entire year.
Now if you mess up one day each month, that’s 12 days out of 365 days in the year. We’re up to a whopping 3% of your year.
Adding in holidays that are typically accompanied by lots of food—4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, & a birthday/anniversary—we’re only adding 4-5 days (16-17 total “off days). Now we’re up to 4% of your entire year that’s messed up.
Do those 16 days out of 365 *again just FOUR PERCENT* realllllllllllllyyyyyy ruin your diet & your results? Absolutely not.
It’s when Thanksgiving & Christmas becomes entire weeks because you’ve allowed yourself some freedom & your body is not ready to give up all that food.
If each of those holidays & special days now become 7 days each that are full of binging behavior & neglect towards your restrictive nutrition plan, you’re now up to 40 days...and up to 10% of your entire year.
Now factor in all those other days you have binges simply because you’re on an unsustainable restrictive plan.
Stress after a bad day of work
A work happy hour
Your period each month
Someone else’s birthday
Heck you’re even letting the Lunar Year become an excuse to eat you’re that restricted.
NOW imagine that you never needed these days to enjoy food & have crazy & heavy binges.
Instead, you included those foods you realistically will never truly get away from...usually alcohol, pizza & wings, & sweets...frequently in a controlled fashion. The choice is yours every single day if you want to include them. Recently, I somehow came to having 3 opened bottles of wine. I’m not throwing them away???? SO, I fit a little glass in each day within my nutrition plan. No wine craving & no restriction! The sacrifice is giving up some carbs & fats in my day to account for my wine.
See the difference??
Hold on, we’re almost there.
Now before you go about flexible dieting & whatnot, as with ANY change that needs to be made, first we need to become aware of (1) what needs changing and (2) what’s problematic & preventing us from seeing results.
You do this with an “audit”...
No not an IRS audit, BUT kind of along the same lines.
In this “lifestyle audit”, you’re going to go through preferably a week, but a minimum of two days (one during the week & one on the weekend) and record & write down every habit & routine you have.
You’re going to separate this into 4 categories:
Miscellaneous (likely a lot of routine-things)
When you go through a habit, jot it down in the appropriate category.
Your meals, snacks, hunger, cravings, gym sessions (or lack thereof), etc. go into our first category. The thoughts you think to yourself & ways you sooth & practice self-care & process emotions go into the second. If you wake up, look in the mirror & immediately call yourself fat, that goes on the list. The people you see & spend time with & what you guys do go into that 3rd category. Brushing your teeth, getting dressed, washing your face, driving to work, etc. goes into that 4th category.
Then you assess it all.
What habits are in there that you need for your health? (Example: veggies, tracking, pre-planning, meal prep, going to the gym, taking vitamins)
What about those habits that you need for your sanity? (Example: glass of wine, alcohol in general, a nightly sweet treat, weekends socializing)
Which ones simply aren’t serving you? (Example: the time spent scrolling on your phone when you could be at the gym or sleeping, drinking 10 beers as opposed to a more realistic 2-3 over the weekends)
Which habits are missing? (Example: you’re not going to the gym, you’re too strict, the negative thoughts you think to yourself)
Which ones do you need to do even if you don’t like it? (Example: driving to work, going to the gym, meal prepping, eating veggies, limiting alcohol to see results, getting to bed at a reasonable time)
Then you start tying it all into your schedule & routine.
Obviously, you start with the habits that you need to do regardless like going to work, brushing your teeth, etc. Then you add in those habits you need for your health. Remove the habits (and set ways to hold yourself accountable for this) that aren’t needed (and hey replace them with ones that you maybe need OR WANT to do). This builds the foundation. Then we start 1-2x/day sprinkling in the things we want to do. That includes all the habits you need for your sanity. One beauty behind macro- & calorie-counting is using them to allow freedom. In this structure, you can fit whatever you want in your nutrition plan, aligning those numbers, and still be on track to seeing results.
You may find that you need to create a physical schedule to start. THIS is something I highly recommend. YES it sounds like a lot of work...but building new habits require making it stupidly simple & easy for you to follow along.
The 5th is going to tie in a lot of the sacrifice category. These are things that have to be in there and guess what. It might just suck for a little bit. But that’s where our opportunity cost comes into play & where you’re going to want to give up when motivation subsides. Not everyone likes eating vegetables. Not everyone likes going to the gym. This is where you’re likely going to need more structure & accountability. Search Jordan Syatt’s theory on willful suffering.
Do I likkkkkeeee Ironman training most of the time? Nope. It interferes with my schedule. It is requiring me to eat more & be more structured. But I choose to do it to reach my goal.
A lot of you likely don’t like meal prepping. Now first, there are ways to likely make it more enjoyable *seriously you can make really goooooood foods ahead of time*. But ultimately if NOT meal prepping leads to poor habits that don’t serve you & prevent you from seeing results, which sacrifice are you willing to make? Not seeing results so you don’t have to meal prep? OR making the time to meal prep so you can be more accountable during the week?
A lot of life is going through the motions...but you’ve been led to believe nutrition & food is the anomaly. There’s a lot of going through the motions & getting out of that short term reward routine. YES eating a ton of fried chicken feels good in the moment...but what about future you?
SO many people struggle with this concept. Probably the BIGGEST misconception working with a Clar-e-ty Nutrition Coach is that we’re going to make you go to your best friend’s birthday celebration at your favorite restaurant & mandate you order a measly salad while everyone else gets wings & beer.
If you HAVE worked with us, you’re likely cracking up. In fact, in mannnyyyy of my 1:1 coaching clients, I mandate these free moments in one’s day.
Order a salad IF YOU WANT A SALAD.
But not if that’s going to lead to a fuck it moment where you inhale 5000 calories down the road.
The Clar-e-ty solution? Order that salad WITH your wings & beer. BOOM: veggies (yay!) & happiness (yay!). The sacrifice? Money (going to pay more for the salad & maybe some room in your stomach for extra beer).
If this is something you struggle with, know you're not alone. This is a topic we work with endlessly with clients. Having a PLAN & ACCOUNTABILITY is most effective. Apply here for a consult call for 1:1 coaching to work on building flexibility & removing all the restrictions you've put on your life.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.