Many years ago a young, naive and over-enthusiastic Josh, wanted to get in the shape of his life. He did what most teenage boys would do. He followed a bro split from some juiced up bodybuilder from the Men’s Health magazine. He did the chicken and broccoli thing, he gave up sugar and gave up any semblance of flavour in his food.
The only problem was; it took him ten years until he finally got into the shape he wanted. Why is that you may ask? He was obsessed with being perfect. Every time he caved into some cheesecake or missed a workout, he’d start again next Monday. These small slip-ups meant he never got anywhere.
We have this black and white way of thinking in life. We neglect the grey. If you can get anything out this; realise progress happens in the grey areas of life.
Just because you’ve eaten a piece of chocolate, doesn’t mean you’ve ruined your diet. Not hitting 10,00 steps doesn’t mean you screwed up. (10,000 steps is an arbitrary number and is meaningless, something il write about soon)
Life is not a straight line. Life is a journey, with lots of unknown turns and bumps. It’s those unknown turns and bumps, which makes life exciting.
If I could give anyone one piece of advice when starting their fitness journey. It’d be to focus on progress, not perfection. Not just fitness, this is for anything.
- Dry January
- 30-day cold shower challenge
- Insert any 30-day challenge here
- Learning a language
- Writing a novel
You will miss workouts, you will mess up on your nutrition, you will have days where you want to jack it all in. But that’s the point of doing what you aim to do. It’s supposed to be a challenge, otherwise, you’d be doing it anyway.
Al these small little blips are just feedback telling you, what you’re doing isn’t working and you need to make an adjustment. It’s not telling you to quit.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole lifeAnne Lamott
I’m not one for inspirational quotes. But this is very true. Aiming for perfection will keep you prisoner. Prisoner from achieving whatever you thought was possible. It’s an excuse to never start, you probably know that.
Anything is better than where you are now
The problem is, people look at those with years of experience and think that’s where they need to be. You only need to be one step ahead of where you were when you started.
If you’ve never exercised in your life. One workout a week is better than no workouts a week. But most of you will try and workout everyday, eat clean and try run ten miles everyday.
Every time I’ve had a new client and discussed what they want. When we create a plan together, they usually look surprised when they realise we only make one small change at a time.
And there are the times I get emails because they’ve eaten more calories than what they had available. That’s, not a reason to be upset. If you’ve been close to your target most of the time and one day you go over, it’s gonna make no difference. Remember if you’ve overeaten most of your life, even a small mistake is better than what you were doing before.
The reason a lot of people never lose weight or keep it off is that they are trying to be perfect. Once you have a little slip-up, you’ll feel like a failure and revert to old habits. Perfectionism is linked to all kinds of issues. (1)
Next time you overeat, miss a workout or have a crap workout. Don’t get upset. See it as feedback, not failure. You’ll look back and be grateful it happened. Usually, it’s our failures, that leads us on to the best things. I wrote an article “I love failure and how it can improve your life“.
I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a fat kid, who failed their A-levels twice. I hate to know where I’d be if I was a slim kid who got great grades, probably not doing this. Now I get to write to you, study what I love and lift weights for a living.
Final thoughts on why you need to focus on progress and not perfection
Learning French, getting in shape, web-design, becoming a black-belt in Karate. I was awful at all these.
I look back at when I started and have a giggle about it. If I never started, I would have been far worse off. Time would have passed regardless.
Start now, you will be awful. Give it time, you’ll be a little less awful. You’ll then be alright ish. You’ll eventually get good. Sooner or later it’ll feel natural. Then everyone will say: “How did you get so good at doing X.”
This is my final plea. No matter how difficult something seems. If it is something you value, do it.
I always say, no matter what you do, you were better than you were before.
Josh is a Registered Associate Nutritionist, with the Association for Nutrition (AFN). He completed his degree in Nutrition at the University of Roehampton in 2021. He passed with a First Class with Honours.
Josh is also a tutor for up-and-coming Personal Trainers, where he teaches a Level 4 Advanced Nutrition course. This is for Personal Trainers looking to upskill their nutrition knowledge. This is done at Norfolk Health & Fitness.