The Problem with Go Big or Go Home

A useful tool and not a bad frame of mind to employ, there’s one stipulation with go big or go home.


Skydiving. Eating a large pizza in one sitting. Testing out a new bench press PR. Taking a leap of faith with your career. Asking that person you like out. Go big or go home, right?

How many times have you used the phrase “go big or go home” to encourage yourself to be bold? Or to:

  • Pump yourself up.
  • Drive yourself to finally do something you’ve been yearning for.
  • Kick fears or doubts to the curb and go all the way.
  • Do whatever you’re doing to the absolute fullest.
  • Push past self-imposed limitations.
  • Boost your confidence.
  • Or maybe justify a daring choice or action.

If you can’t place a quantitative value on the number of times you’ve uttered or emphatically declared the saying, that’s to be expected! Go big or go home is befitting for numerous situations and circumstances. It’s an emboldening, highly motivating phrase. One that was on a regular rotation in my vocabulary. But now, only on rare occasions do I use go big or go home.

With a (mostly) positive connotation, it’s a useful tool and certainly not a bad frame of mind to employ, but there’s one stipulation with go big or go home.

If taken to heart, it’s extreme.

And extremism is all around us. To name a few examples:

  • Trying to lose weight for an event like a wedding or spring break
  • Skipping a meal to make up for accidentally eating *and enjoying* a whole plate of cookies
  • Fervently working out in anticipation for a night out
  • Trying to eat better, “falling off track”, and committing to start again Monday
  • Promising trendy diets that cause constant yo-yoing (the cycle of losing weight, gaining some back, losing s’more, gaining s’more)
  • Dubbing any food that’s not the pinnacle of health as “being bad, treating yourself, or cheating”

While there’s nothing wrong with trying to lose weight for an event – having a set date that serves as an end goal to work towards can be incredibly motivating – applying this extreme, all-or-nothing approach to your health can be detrimental. Not only can this mentality disrupt your hormones and metabolism (so how your body processes and utilizes food), but it’s a mindset that favors failure more than it does success. What often happens once that date comes and goes or the willpower starts to fade is the weight that was lost comes back (sometimes with vengeance, too). What’s revealed when that occurs is that the actions taken to lose weight were merely for the event or time being and not conducted in a manner that creates realistic, sustainable weight loss habits.

To be blunt, the fitness and nutrition industry can be elitist and intimidating at times. There’s an abundance of all-or-nothing, go big or go home mentalities. And those attitudes very much contribute to the overwhelmingly pompous, almost cult-like vibe that the health industry as a whole has been known to give off.

What’s almost always lacking though is reality; it’s what the industry regularly glazes over or leaves completely unacknowledged.

Comfort food happens.

Unexpected rest days happen.

Life happens.

A truly balanced and healthy life is not found through reliance on a strict, regimented schedule or set of rules with unreasonably high expectations. Schedules change. Priorities change. You change.

For instance, I used to compete in bikini (bodybuilding) competitions, which required an astronomical amount of discipline. My workout split was set in stone, it was uncompromising; a steady rotation of shoulders, legs, back, arms, and glutes with a rest day that was eventually, very reluctantly incorporated in on Sunday’s. If I was traveling on a leg day, I had to finish my work out before leaving – even if that meant waking up at 3, 4, or 5 in the morning. It had to get done, no exceptions. If I was sick and probably (definitely) should’ve rested, I’d suck it up and workout. If I was feeling stressed or burnt out and likely would’ve benefitted from a less stringent, strenuous workout? Needless to say, that didn’t matter – my physical body was prioritized far above my mental and emotional wellbeing. If I wasn’t bleeding, dying, or on fire, I’d make it to the gym one way or another.

But if for some unearthly reason I couldn’t workout, I’d immediately jump to conclusions like “my muscles are deflating” or “I feel fluffy and doughy” or “that puts me even more behind where I should and want to be, oh my gosh I’m SO behind” among countless other irrational, dizzying thoughts that did nothing but induce unwarranted panic and stress.

As if that ONE single workout was really going to make that much of a difference. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t. It’s the accumulation of consistent choices and actions that truly make a difference.) It’s alarming and absurd how consuming an all-or-nothing mentality can become. But in some ways, I still do embrace a go big or go home outlook; it empowers me to work towards and one day achieve what it is I hope to accomplish.

That expression doesn’t apply to my health anymore, though. Over the years, I’ve mindfully been working to listen to my body better and allow how I’m feeling to influence the intensity and type of activity I do as well as shape how my overall day is carried out. Sometimes that means swapping out a leg day for a full body day, turning a regular lift into a quick core or fun HIIT workout, or taking a step back and doing a cardio only day with some stretching or yoga. However it looks is o k a y – as long as it’s centered on what feels best for me and my mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing on that particular day.

Because conscious choices rooted in self-awareness like that will impact your health and happiness far greater than just muscling through with an all-or-nothing, bulldog mentality.

The ability to adapt and change encompasses the core of what “being healthy” is really all about.

It’s about:

  • Managing your stressors
  • Shaking up your habitual routines
  • Setting aside some wiggle room
  • Heightening your self-awareness
  • Freeing yourself of guilt and unrealistic expectations
  • Prioritizing your emotional, mental, and physical health equally
  • Granting yourself permission to do what genuinely makes you happy
  • Giving yourself flexibility, forgiveness, and grace
  • Listening to your body

And so much more than exercise and food.

With diverse backgrounds, needs, goals, desires, and hardships, every person’s definition of “healthy” is going to be different; that’s to be expected and welcomed! But with that, you can’t expect your life to look like someone else’s or assume what works for that person on Instagram will work for you in the same way. These big names in the health and fitness industry and social media accounts that have amassed large following – it’s okay to turn to them for guidance or use them as a resource. But they’re not meant to be fully depended on where their word is taken as gospel, mimicked exactly in a monkey see, monkey do fashion, or idolized.

Your life and your health are just that – yours and not anyone else’s. So yearn for your future self; strive to be the BEST version of yourself that you can be. Maybe that includes a fraction of the go big or go home mindset, and maybe it doesn’t. Whatever you do or don’t do, just ensure that it enhances your quality of life, is enjoyable and attainable, and works for YOU.

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