I’d hear it from trusted friends and family, leaders and coaches all the time: “everything in moderation.” And I couldn’t help but think to myself, “c’mon, everything?” I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to limit themselves in any capacity. Why shouldn’t I, for example, go after the lifestyle I wanted with any mind frame but moderation, since it would restrict my experiences and growth? Hadn’t I also been encouraged to live life to its absolute fullest?
I honestly believed that if I restrained myself from eating the most delicious food all the time, or partying with friends at every opportunity, or imbibing the finest of cocktails that mixologists had to offer, that I wasn’t doing my duty to myself by going out into the world and really living. For years, I plunged into my life headlong—or at least, that’s what I thought I had been doing. In fact, I had been careening through life without any semblance of direction and discipline.
Living my life without the framework of even sensible moderation, I had actually been limiting myself from real growth, the way I falsely believed moderation would have done in the first place. Here’s how I learned how to set goals for myself, and prioritized living a healthy, happy, and balanced life over a hedonistic free-for-all: fun at the moment, but ultimately unsatisfying.
Working for More than a Weekend
After some idealistic, party-filled days at college, I entered the workforce to start—as the kids say—adulting. After just a few months of a steady grind, I started losing focus. I felt myself losing my ambition, my motivation, and just struggling to keep my eyes open as I would stare blankly at a screen for what seemed like hours on end.
I woke up later, would rush to work unkempt, then would rush out of the office as quickly as possible, while feeling that I hadn’t accomplished much during the day. I’d constantly be texting or messaging friends about meetups or parties, as if I could carry the college days with me into the next stage of my life.
And that was just the weekdays—as soon as I clocked out on Fridays, my personal party was on. I drank constantly, I smoked constantly, and I ate constantly, without hardly a moment of reprieve. My body (and my mind) bore the brunt of the deluge of drinks, but so did my wallet. I was burning through an extensive amount of cash, and I couldn’t keep it up. Thankfully, I got a wake-up call from an unexpected place.
A Flu Shot of Reality
It came down to this: after a routine check-up, that was anything but routine, my doctor told me that if I didn’t want to be put on a regimen of high blood pressure medication, I’d need to make some changes. I needed to lay off the alcohol, poor quality food, and exercise more. He projected that I’d need to lose about twenty-five pounds. The number terrified me and seemed absolutely impossible.
At the time, I only exercised once a week or so (if that). I settled into a defeatist attitude and just kept eating and drinking like I had been—-until I got a horrible case of the flu. Within just a couple of weeks, I had shed the first 10 pounds, because my appetite had decreased so severely. It was like a slap in the face, and a fairly literal gut-punch. It was clearly my own overeating and drinking that had caused my health issues. I started hydrating much more regularly as I got over the illness, and only ate foods that wouldn’t turn my stomach.
As I started making some visible changes, one of my closest friends had the courage to tell me that they felt relieved; they’d recognized some signs that had been worrying them, and had been concerned about the long term effects I was going to suffer. That was the last straw for me, and (after I got totally over my bad flu) I was ready to make some lifelong changes.
Pursuit of Happiness
I decided that I wasn’t going to stop doing all the things that I’d loved, but that I was going to enjoy those things in a far healthier way that would lead to more lasting happiness. Spending more time with my friends was at the top of the list. Instead of long nights of binge drinking, I started working out on weekend mornings, then meeting up with friends afterward for bunches, washed down with just a tasty cocktail or two.
The good food, good atmosphere, and good (moderately numbered) drinks helped me relax and recharge with good people. I was having fun without tearing my body apart. At these brunches, I also spoke to friends about how much I was benefitting from the exercise in the mornings, and even convinced a few of my friends to join me for some early morning pickup basketball games. After those, the brunches felt even more satisfying—an earned meal and drink combo make them all the more delicious.
Appetite for Life
As a teen, I’d always struggled with putting weight on—I could eat and eat, shoveling food in, without ever seeing it stick to my naturally skinny frame. As I got older, this strategy just stopped working for me. I was working a desk job, not working out at all, and drinking too much after work instead of going for a run or hike. In short, my nutrition was way off. I’d chug a protein shake in lieu of eating a pizza one night out of the week, and I’d think I’d done enough.
Well, after my “great flu debacle of 2017,” I realized that I had to make some critical changes to my diet. Working out was great, but working out alone is never enough to start changing your body. To get the results that I wanted, I’d have to treat everything that I put into my body as potential fuel, and not just a placeholder for “fun.” I had to learn to moderate. I consulted a nutritionist, and we worked together to design a program that I could follow in the long-term.
The key with moderation—which is absolutely the philosophy of champions—is consistency. When I consistently follow the guidelines I’ve set for myself, including all of the “fun” that I have built into my program, I stay healthy, happy, and fulfilled. I’m living more now than I ever have, and moderation is the framework that made it happen.