Behaviour Change
10 mins read

Compromise not sacrifice

Woman smiling as she trains at the gym
Written by
Katy Harkness
Published on
December 2, 2022

Why the idea of sacrifice is sabotaging your weight loss and fitness goals

If the idea of sacrifice is sabotaging your weight loss and fitness goals, then I have 5 tips to help you to compromise rather than sacrifice and be successful in achieving your goals.

When it comes to diet, nutrition and training most people think about a life of sacrifice. Of giving up their favourite foods. Being restricted on how much they can eat. Of spending hours in the gym doing things they do not enjoy. Of not having a life.

And this notion and mentality will ruin your efforts.

An unhelpful and counter-productive media and marketing narrative means people think about what they will have to give up to achieve their goals.

Think about what we have been fed by so-called experts, popular media, TV, film and advertising.

  • ‘No pain, no gain’
  • ‘No carbs before Marbs’ (thanks TOWIE for that absolutely gem!)
  • Food being given points, labelled as ‘Syns’ and being good or bad.
  • Having to exercise to earn a ‘treat’.

I could go on, but I want to quickly get to my point.  


And so horribly binary that if we ‘stray’, well it has all gone to sh*t and we may as well just give it all up. What gets me even more wound-up about this narrative of sacrifice when it comes to diet and nutrition is that it is counter productive.  

‘Sacrifice’ rarely gets you to your goal, usually fat loss, for the long term because it is unsustainable

If you have dodgy morals creating a business model that works short term and enables you to foist blame on the individual for ‘failing’ and therefore sell them another quick fix that they’ll fail with again, then that business model is evil genius. This unfortunately is de rigour in the industry.

Well, I’m neither evil. Nor a genius.

BUT I do know that sacrifice is not the way to succeed long-term.  And I want people to succeed vs their goals long-term.  

And be self-sufficient.  

"I want to help you succeed forever – in the nicest possible way, I don’t want to work with you forever, but I want the outcome of us working together to be your long-term success."

So, why sacrifice does not work?

I’m going to use the analogy of your diet as it is something I think many will recognise in themselves.

It is hard to be in a large calorie deficit. The mental and physical effort takes its toll.  It is hard to stick to.  

Because you are under-fuelling your body to the extent that that small thing called survival kicks in, and your body encourages you to fuel.  

And when you do ‘fall off the wagon’ you are likely to overeat (there is no wagon by the way). I’m sure you’ve heard the voice in your head go ‘Well, I’ve ballsed that up, I’ve failed, I may as well just have that ‘insert food of your choice’ and I’ll start again next week.’

You haven’t failed.  You have had a natural reaction to an over-restriction and sacrifice.

When we sacrifice and restrict too much, we understandably flop the other way. Because it is hard to stick to an extreme it is easy to go beyond your unrealistic extreme. Now this is where the human psyche gets interesting. Let’s use calories to demonstrate.  

If you went over your target calories a bit, you’d still be in a calorie deficit and would still lose fat. But when you flop regularly because you have over-restricted your calories you find that over a week or month you are not in a calorie deficit and therefore you don’t lose fat.  

You might actually be in a calorie surplus gain fat.

Sacrifice isn’t real life

It is also exhausting being in a constant cycle of over-restriction and then flipping to over-indulgence. Especially if you then beat yourself up about over-indulgence.  And let’s be honest this is a normal and somewhat inevitable side effect of over-restriction. And that sacrifice mentality doesn’t work with the realities of daily life.  

You cannot control what food is available to you all the time.  There is such a thing as having a life – parties, celebrations, eating out, needing to grab stuff on the run, holidays.  

Leading a monastic food life is a fallacy.

The only successful way to lose fat and keep it off is to enjoy and live your life whilst doing it

So, some tips from Play Fitness and Coaching to do just that.

1. Use our Calorie Calculator here to work out your approximate calories for fat loss.

Have a sensible deficit of 15-20% off your maintenance calories if you want to lose fat.  A deficit of 500 calories equates to 450g fat loss.

Personally, I wouldn’t operate in more than a deficit of 500 calories per day/ 3,500 per week.  


So, you aren’t over-restricting and miserable because that is more likely to you not achieving your goal.  It might take you longer to achieve your goal BUT you are more likely to maintain your fat loss because you have factored it into the realities of your life.

2. Calorie cycle to allow you live and enjoy your life realistically

Think about your calories across the week.  There will be some days where being a smidge more restrictive is achievable – you aren’t busy and on the go so energy requirements won’t be as high, you are more in control of your access to food, you naturally aren’t as hungry. And there will be days when you will naturally consume more – dinner out, parties, on holiday, more active.

So, cycle your calories so across the week they sit near your weekly target.

Example of weekly calorie cycle
Example of weekly calories cycle.

You can plan in advance, track to keep on top of, or go with the flow – whatever works best for you.

3. Increase your energy out when you need

If you are beyond where you would like to be in terms of your energy in (calories) for a day or across the week, don’t stress and chuck in the towel, increase your energy out – go for a walk, take the kids to the park, get off the bus a stop early, do star jumps whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.

4. Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’

You can have your cake and eat it.  Remember life is for living and enjoying.  If you aren’t over-restricting and are calorie cycling, you can include those foods you love that you may have labelled ‘treats’ in the past.  These aren’t ‘treats to be earned’ but foods you enjoy that can be accommodated in your diet and weekly calories.

I always have room for some dark chocolate with a cuppa.

5. Remember the trend over time not the last 24 hours.

The bigger picture is magic… look at things in relation to the longer-term trend not the last 24 hours as bumps on the journey are inevitable.  If over the last week/ month you have been in a calorie deficit you will lose fat.  A 24-hour hiccup is not a reason to give up.


Sacrifice will not help you towards your goals.  You need to live realistically within your daily life in order for any changes you make to be sustainable.

If you want to chat about how I can coach, you to compromise and not sacrifice then get in touch. I helped Lucy do just that and you can read what she had to say here.

My tips on being consistent are a complementary blog to this – click here.

About Katy Harkness

Katy founded PLAY Fitness & Coaching after she made changes in her life, which saw her lose over 20kg and become the fittest she has ever been.

As Katy became more interested in health and fitness, the algorithms shared more and more misinformation.

Becoming frustrated with unrealistic goals and standards being set, that are often not healthy, Katy left the advertising industry where she had a successful 20+ year career, to help create the change she wanted to see in the health and fitness industry and to support people to make the sustainable, long term changes they wanted to see in their own lives.

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