How many of you often say to yourselves or to those around you phrases like “I’m going to start next week (or when this class is over, or when things aren’t so busy at home, or when my kids get a little older or when I’m done having babies) so for now I’ll just eat whatever I want and not exercise at all”. Maybe you say “What’s the point of exercising or eating healthy today if I can’t the rest of the week?” How many of you jump into a hardcore 5-6 days per week workout program, go on a diet or meal prep an entire week’s worth of meals, and then hit a life obstacle as we always do after a few weeks (or if you’re lucky, months) and decide well I can’t do this all week or I didn’t do it last week, so why keep going? And then you’re back to “I’ll just start next month or when things calm down again”.
While this is definitely not a new way of thinking, it’s something I’ve been noticing a lot lately. While it’s great to want to make changes, and you definitely can’t make big changes during a stressful or busy time, this way of thinking is what creates the “Yo-Yo” pattern. Most people that I come across who struggle with their weight are not “lazy over-eaters” as many people would believe (even about themselves in some cases). But the common theme is that they all are constantly stopping and starting a diet or workout plan.
It’s society’s pressure to be perfect that instigates this, and all the hundreds of “fad” diets and workouts out there just add to it. They all encourage you to push, push, push, no excuses. This leads us to not want to start something unless we can be perfect at it, and then feel like a failure when life stops the plan in its tracks. And then the vicious cycle of starting, losing, stopping, gaining is continued. Aside from the fact that you’re literally spending your life dieting, gaining, and feeling bad about yourself when you could be enjoying and living life more fully, happily, and healthfully, you’re also severely damaging your metabolism. By the time my clients have come to me, they’ve tried every fad diet and workout out there, and they all worked for a while, and now nothing works and they feel defeated. So we then have to try to fix their metabolism and their self esteem.
If this all sounds familiar to you, know that you are not alone. We have ALL been there! It’s an extremely easy trap to fall into, so don’t beat yourself up!
Here are some tips to help get you out of this All of Nothing pattern!
- Avoid fad diets and workout plans. Anything that requires you to exercise a certain amount of times per week, stick to a rigid menu, limits your foods or restricts your quantities is a fad. If they tell you to eat an unreasonably low amount of calories, if the plan leaves you starving, or tells you not to work out, it is a fad. Avoid these at all costs.
- Make small changes and build on them gradually. Instead of overhauling your whole diet and workout all at once, choose 1 small change to make at a time and gradually add new changes over time.
- Do what you can, when you can. During a particularly busy or stressful time in your life, just do what you can. On a slower week, go grocery shopping and organize your snacks and plan some meals for the week. If the next week is busier and you know you can only do on-the-go meals and snacks, just commit to making a healthy choice when able. For ex: choose a salad or grilled chicken sandwich at a fast food chain instead of cheeseburger and fries, and a greek yogurt from Wawa instead of a candy bar, etc. Then if the next week is better, go back to planning ahead, if not then keep going with your healthy on-the-go options. If you can’t work out one week, but you can go for a short walk on your lunch break, then just do that instead of thinking that a walk won’t get you the toning or cardio you are used to so you might as well do nothing. Another time I notice the all or nothing mindset is with meal prep. You don’t need to spend all day in the kitchen cooking 7 days worth of dinners for the week in order to be prepared. You can just make a plan, grocery shop, and organize the food to be ready to go during the week so that you just have to throw it together each night.
- Remind yourself that these small changes are NOT pointless! Yes, these small changes may have less dramatic results. But if you tell yourself that you won’t do anything for the next month, that time will still pass and you’ll be no further along, and you may even be worse off. But if you spend that month doing whatever small changes you can, when you can then you’ll be in a better position to kick it up a notch when you’re ready to. They’ll also help keep you from slipping backwards during your busy and stressful times. For instance, if you are really consistent in eating healthy and exercising for a month, and let’s say you lose 5 pounds as a result, but then the next month gets busy and you don’t do anything because you feel it’s pointless, I promise you’ll gain the 5 pounds back and maybe even more. But if you just do what you can, when you can, it will minimize this setback. Also remind yourself that by just doing a little bit of what you can, when you can, you will keep food and exercise from being an added stress to whatever you’re dealing with. If you forget it all together, you’ll feel sluggish and guilty, which just adds to your stress.
- Forgive yourself. Everyone has time periods in their lives when things get too busy, or you have a major life change, or even a minor life change. We are human, and it’s only natural to not be able to keep up with your healthy habits.
Give yourself a break and forgive yourself! Do what you can, know that you’re doing your best in every aspect of your life, and move forward. You’ll get back to your normal healthy habits, I promise!
- Love yourself and your body! The pressure to be perfect is all too real in this society. Just know that you don’t have to look like a VS Angel or a fitness model that you follow on Instagram in order to be healthy and happy. Not looking like them does not make you “fat” or unhealthy. You do not have to workout hardcore 6-7 days per week or stick to a strict diet plan in order to be healthy or happy. We are all different. We all need different things and have different priorities and values. We all come in different sizes and shapes. And we are all beautiful for just being ourselves!