When it comes to making changes to our diets in the pursuit of health or fitness goals, we’re often cautioned against taking things to extremes.
At face value, this advice is pretty sound.
Most of us don’t want to feel like our efforts aren’t worth the results.
Most of us don’t want to put so much attention and energy towards our eating habits that doing so detracts from our quality of life in other ways.
However, there’s some nuance to the idea of “extreme” that’s rarely considered when exploring what eating habits we might want to try.
There might even be some benefit to taking things to the extreme.
First of all, “extreme” is subjective.
Some of us count calories.
Some of us avoid certain foods or ingredients.
Some of us limit carbohydrates.
Some of us limit fats.
Some of us eat once a day.
Some of us snack all day.
There are countless approaches we might take to align our eating habits with our goals.
Every single one of these approaches might seem extreme or unsustainable to some.
Yet every single one of these approaches is also implemented by countless others.
What somebody else considers extreme, you might find works really well for you.
The same can be said about what is or isn’t “sustainable”.
So long as you’re getting adequate essential nutrients like protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals, the only eating habits that are unsustainable are those that you won’t stick to.
Only you can determine what eating habits best align with your needs, your preferences, and your goals.
If you end up settling on something that somebody else thinks is extreme or unsustainable, that’s fine.
You’re not them.
Nobody can tell you what’s extreme.
That said, most of us probably won’t end up with eating habits too far from the norm.
We’ll find a nice “middle ground” between not caring at all about what we eat and being obsessively vigilant about every single bite.
You’ll never know, however, what you are or are not willing to do for the long run until you actually find the things that you are or are not willing to do.
Also, when we’re just getting started improving our eating habits, small changes might not produce the kinds of noticeable outcomes that help keep us motivated.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m a big fan of taking small steps in most contexts, but that doesn’t mean that making major changes doesn’t have its own advantages.
Making major changes can yield major results – fast – which can help us stay on the path, knowing that we’re making progress.
Once we’ve built momentum with an approach that we know we might not sustain in the long run – something we’d never know until we tried it – we can start to dial back our efforts until we reach a sweet spot in which we’re putting in enough effort to make progress yet not so much effort that we’re miserable.
Finally, life’s way too short to eat in a way that somebody else told you.
What’s more extreme than eating a certain way just because somebody else thinks you should?
What’s more extreme than eating in a way that you know isn’t right for you?
What’s more extreme than not doing what works best for you to spend your short time on this rock looking and feeling your best?
Taking things to the extreme – depending on how you, personally, define “extreme” – might not be a good long-term approach.
However, these are reasons that you might at least spend some time at the edges of what you’d consider reasonable.
Once you know what “extreme” looks like for you, you’ll have an idea what normal looks like for you.
You might find that what you once thought was extreme maybe isn’t so bad.
You might find that what you once thought was extreme is totally worth it.
Some of us might have to go to greater lengths than others to look and feel our best.
That’s the nature of the beast.
Don’t let anybody else dictate what steps are or are not worth taking to reach your health and fitness goals.
If your efforts are driven by self-love and compassion, you’ll eventually wind up where you need to be.
It might not be a direct route, and you’ll probably try some things that you come to find aren’t right for you.
Maybe you’ll find some of the things you try to be too “extreme”.
Maybe you’ll find they’re not “extreme” enough.
That’s totally up to you.
This is your diet.
This is your body.
This is your life.
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
Don’t be afraid to take missteps.
You’re worth taking the effort to find exactly what works for you.
There’s nothing extreme about that.
You’ve got this.