Every year, most of us gather together a few times in the fall and winter to utterly gorge ourselves on the food and drink that sane health professionals beg us to avoid. We eat pot-luck dinners with family, stay too late at parties with coworkers, and then go to brunches with friends; never missing an opportunity for one more drink, one more scoop, or one more slice. Most of my clients confess these meals to me like I’m wearing a white collar instead of a hoodie. The guilt on their faces makes it seem like they train to atone for these festive dinners. But when I ask them to tell me about the experience instead of the calories, they light up with joy. Why on Earth would anyone feel guilty about something they enjoyed that much which caused no one else harm? To me, it is clear that the guilt over the meal you shared with the people you love is not a reason to flog it out on a treadmill. Sharing a meal with someone you love is a reason live. Living with Dan John for 6 weeks this Summer, I learned a lot about coaching. I learned a lot about writing but even more about living. When most people think about Dan John’s contributions to the world of fitness, they think about the Goblet Squat. They think about Never Let Go and his new magnum opus, Intervention. But my best times with Dan have involved food. At Dan’s house, every workout is simply a prelude to a shared meal. From the famous “meatfests” with the guys from Gym Jones, to Dan Martin’s sammies after Coyote Point, to Practice Thanksgiving. These are full-on Thanksgiving dinners in the middle of the year that Dan puts on for no other reason than because he can invite way too many people and they’ll probably show up. I don’t think Dan has ever turned down an opportunity to dine with someone when the alternative was dining alone and the true measure of Dan’s contribution to his community is the size of the turkey he has to buy for Practice Thanksgiving.
Like Dan, I spend most of my days eating in moderation. I’ve tried lots of different easting styles, but I mostly train the habit of eating like an adult. I also lift heavy, a habit that gives me a lot of buffer in the buffet line. Sure, you can’t out-run a bad diet, but lifting your bodyweight over your head does give you a tremendous head start. These habits are the two that I try to impart on my clients interested in maintaining their bodies while living their lives, but I try not to overlook the most important factor in a healthy lifestyle: why are you trying to stay healthy? If all you want is a six-pack, sadly I can get you there. Thankfully, I’ve never met someone who has no other priorities than leanness.
One of the great cliches in health and fitness that is bandied about this time of year is Oscar Wilde’s “everything in moderation, including moderation!” And while it’s true that I live by that quote, there’s another Wilde quote that I prefer to remember during the holidays: “The supreme vice is shallowness.” Learn the habits of eating and moving. Get on the path to where you want to be and start enjoying the journey. And most importantly once you’re moving forward, take the time that you would be feeling guilty about eating the food you love with the people you love and be thankful you have both. You have all year to put down the fork and no one goes to their grave wishing they were hotter.