Two and a half years ago, I hired a coach to teach me how to eat.
The year before I'd run my second Boston Marathon. I was Crossfitting and jumping on my Peloton 4-5 days per week, and after doing the Whole 30 diet in January several years prior we were pretty strictly what I call “Paleo plus wine.” In other words, I had what I would consider a pretty healthy diet- mostly cooking at home and eating minimal starches and sugar. After a miscarriage in late 2020, I did my annual Whole 30 diet in 2021 as a reset and at the end of that month, though I was back at my normal weight, my body just didn't look the same. I'd somehow started following a girl named Lauren on Instagram who was a nurse full time and would do body building competitions. She was always talking about something called “tracking macros” and while I was interested, I just didn't think it applied to me.
I didn't want to be a body builder, I just want to be able to wear a crop top once in a while and not feel the pull to trade in my bikinis for a one piece. In short, I didn't want her body so I didn't think she could help me.
Well, one day in early 2020, Lauren posted a before and after of one of the clients she was macro coaching on the side. The before was the client 3 months before her pregnancy (after having worked with Lauren for a year) and the after was 3 months postpartum. The girl in the before photo was my goal body. She wasn't a body builder. And the coolest thing was that in her after, she pretty much looked the same.
Lauren is the first person I've ever hired from social media. I messaged her, we sent a few emails back and forth, and I hired her. I literally remember saying to Bobby, “I can't believe I'm paying someone $3k per year to tell me how to eat.” But I did. And I still pay her happily. Why? Because I am 100% confident that I get better results with her than without her.
I've thought about firing her a few times. You know, it's that stuff that creeps in when you're smart. It's the “I get it now,” the “I could just maintain this on my own and be fine,” the “It can't be that hard.” But if I'm honest, really honest, with myself, I know it's not true.
So back to the point of this blog post- my break.
I've been logging my weight, water, exercise, and food daily, and sending Lauren that log along with weekly progress photos for 2.5 years. Through holidays, vacations, my entire pregnancy, and postpartum. And two weeks ago, I told her I was burnt out and that I wouldn't be tracking or sending her anything for at least a week, maybe two. Non-negotiable. I was feeling like I needed a REAL break from everything- including my diet. And it was the best thing I've ever done.
I'm sharing this because I learned so many lessons from that break that I think are applicable to universal goal achievement- financial progress included.
Here were the most impactful to me:
Having a Defined Start and Finish Was Crucial
I had multiple options when it came to defining my break with Lauren. The hardest thing was to say, “I'll be back to tracking next Wednesday, and if I'm not ready, I'll reach out to you to let you know why and when I'll be back.” It would have been SO much easier to tell her I'd be back when I'm “ready” and either keep paying her until I came back or fired her and said I'd rehire her. But we both know that if I did that, I would still be on that break instead of back on track and making progress again now.
Building Habits Means Breaks Don't Undo Progress
For 2.5 years, I've eaten something like 140 grams of protein and drank around 200 ounces of water a day. I've weighed out a LOT of 5 ounce glasses of red wine to the point I can pretty much eyeball the portion. So, even though I wasn't weighing out my food and following my plan for that week or so, I knew what “on track” looked like. I know I didn't hit my protein and probably ate too much fat on most of the days I didn't track, but I also know that because of the knowledge about how I typically eat and what that looks like, I didn't go off the rails either. Not only did I have the confidence that I could safely make smart choices, I didn't WANT to go crazy. Remember, this isn't about my coach- it's about my results. Sure, I could have eaten the share size bag of peanut butter M&Ms sitting next to my bed, but why? Tuning out and going crazy would only have made things harder when I got back to it. It's me against me. So yes, I had the extra glass of wine and thoroughly enjoyed having ribeye for dinner and then breakfast and a snack, but I didn't abandon everything I'd learned about what worked. That would just be stupid.
Systems Are Everything
I'm going to be talking a lot more about systems in the coming months because frankly, the systems I put in place around my money are what allowed me to retire Bobby and are the sole reason we can live on a single income with zero financial stress. But good systems are SO important in every area of your life you're serious about making progress in. Knowing I have to weigh myself every morning changes what I eat at night. Knowing I have to check in with Lauren every week with a picture and all of my numbers logged changes how I operate all week. Sure, she'd never know if I fudged the numbers, but I'd make less progress. During my break, I really realized how important it was to have the accountability, especially when life is chaotic and there are a million things vying for my attention.
So how does this apply to your money?
Achieving financial goals is an endurance sport, one it's easy to get burned out from if you go too hard or if you never reset and reevaluate your goals and priorities. It's really difficult to continue to do all the right things all the time, especially if your priorities shift and the goal you're looking at changes or becomes less important.
If your number one priority is truly to retire in 5 years, it might be easier to save a high percentage of income and stick to a strict budget to get there. The payoff is important and close. But if other things become more important or you're 15 years out, it's much harder to keep going. It's really nice during those times to have someone on your side who can help you understand the implications of scaling back or who can support you through taking a break.
It's not easy to be disciplined enough to keep investing when the market is down when you're already off track on your goal achievement. To continue to try to save and cut back even when expenses that are out of your control pop up or when you feel like you just want to go a little crazy and make some memories or splurge a little bit. If you're working with someone for financial support, the best advice I can give is be honest with them. Communicate. The clients who tell me what they want to do EVEN if they think I'll think it's crazy or EVEN if it's off plan end up far better off than those who hide what they're doing and tell me after out of guilt. Support is everything. And if you're not working with anyone, I'd encourage you to really identify the habits that have gotten you the most financial progress over the years. Know them. Really understand what impact they have on what you've built. And when you take a break, keep them top of mind. If you've tried and tried on your own and really haven't made progress, maybe it's time to get serious and hire someone. Time is money. Literally.
Here's to making progress in the second half of the year- with breaks, if needed.