When it comes to fitness and health, in particular focusing on weight loss, it is so common to see the all or nothing approach used. We are constantly marketed extreme fad diets and quick fixes that require an extremely strict approach that is unsustainable and requires a complete lifestyle overhaul. If you use the phrases “I’ll start on Monday”, “I’m cutting out ‘x’ food for ‘x’ amount of days”, “I will start again next week” then you could be an offender of the all or nothing approach. The issue with this mindset is it means you are either ALL IN or ALL OUT and as soon as something isn’t perfect or 100% on track you throw in the towel and start all over again in weeks or months’ time. Being 100% perfect and on track 100% of the time is completely unsustainable and unrealistic. So, lets shift this thought process and focus on balance and doing the best we can over perfection.
If you missed a workout or had a bar of chocolate that does not mean this week is a write off and to throw in the towel. You have not ruined your progress by not being 100% perfect. We commonly see clients who slip up slightly then binge and overeat with the mentality that they will start fresh tomorrow. This binge is what will impact your progress not the tiny slip up that triggered it. So how do we shift from the all or nothing mindset to a more balanced approach?
- Stop Categorising Food as Good or Bad: Labelling a food as ‘bad’ is automatically attaching a level of guilt if you are to consume this food. It is setting yourself up for failure by knowing you can never have that food without feeling guilty or as if you have fallen off the wagon. This can then trigger the all or nothing mentality and lead to the overeating followed by deprivation cycle. Instead, think of it as a sometimes food and if you consume it, enjoy and move on. Thinking of food as fuel rather than good or bad will lead to a better relationship with your nutrition and overall lifestyle.
- Stop the Cheat Day Mindset: If you want to enjoy a pizza and a glass of wine or go out for a nice dinner with friends don’t consider it a “cheat” meal. The word ‘cheat’ alone implies that you are doing something wrong and again attaches guilt to the meal. It can lead to binges and trying to eat as much as you possibly can before getting back into diet mode. Your diet should be balanced enough that you don’t feel deprived and as though you have to “cheat” on your goals.
- Stop Aiming for Perfection: Think 80% whole foods, 20% soul foods. This means if you want to have a few squares of chocolate at night or a take-out meal once a week go for it. Think big picture, if you’re fuelling yourself with wholesome foods 80-90% of your time that’s amazing. Allowing yourself a glass of wine here and there will mean you are much less likely to drink a whole bottle in one go because you aren’t depriving yourself.
- Ditch the Fad Diets or Food Rules: Don’t attach any rules to how you should be eating. Nourish your body don’t punish it. Find an enjoyable and realistic way of eating that you can maintain long term!
- Exercise in a Way that is Enjoyable: If you hate running don’t run, replace it with something you actually enjoy and can stick to. We want to make exercise a part of our lifestyle not something we dread.
- Eat Foods you Enjoy and Fit Your Lifestyle: Get creative with your food and get the family involved. Maybe try a new recipe each week and get creative in the kitchen. If you are enjoying the foods, you are eating the chances of maintaining a healthy lifestyle will be some much higher.
- Be Aware of your Thoughts: If you feel yourself start to slip into the all or nothing mindset take note and try to flip your thoughts. For example, switch “I had a burger out and ruined all of my progress, I may as well eat whatever I want and start fresh Monday” to “I really enjoyed that meal out and am ready to fuel my body with nutrient dense, whole foods for the rest of the day”.