Is your "all or nothing" mindset sabotaging you from a healthy and happy relationship with food?
In my accountability group this month we've been talking about why it's so hard to make healthy a default LIFESTYLE instead of an all or nothing yo-yo cycle.
I'm super passionate about helping women create a positive and healthy relationship with food and their bodies instead of feeling trapped in an on again/off again cycle of self sabotage, so I knew I needed to write more about this!
This is a topic that's close to my heart because I've always been an all or nothing person. It goes hand in hand with perfectionism! I lived with the false belief that if I didn't go "all in" or achieve instant success with something new, I was a failure. There was no middle ground.
This applied to school, finding a job, and also with my body and eating habits!
In college I gained the typical 15-20 pounds, then lost it by senior year through running and replacing Taco Bell with Lean Cuisines. For the next several years I lived in fear that I'd gain back all the weight if I wasn't perfect with my nutrition or if I missed a workout. I would put myself on very strict exercise and eating plans, feel guilty if I went to my friend's wedding and overindulged. I was addicted to stepping on the scale every time I used the bathroom ... and then I'd use the number to determine how I felt about myself that day even though I only ever fluctuated 5-8 pounds.
I was either ON or OFF when it came to the "healthy wagon," and I'd do short term fitness challenges with Tone It Up or the 21 Day Fix. I'd spend the weekend before I started eating all the foods I wasn't "allowed" to have while on the plan, and then once I finished the challenge I'd go right back to my old ways and undo all my results.
YES this was happening even as I became a health and wellness coach!!
Luckily I realized that living in the grip of extremes and basing my self worth on my weight or eating habits was neither healthy nor something I want to teach my clients, and since then I've been able to find a true balance with my eating and exercise patterns.
I've figured out what fits ME and my body, not what society or a fitness instructor tells me I should do. I love finding new healthy recipes to try, but I also give myself some space to indulge in foods that feed my soul, guilt free. And yes I still run challenges and accountability groups, but now my focus is on teaching women habits that they can take with them into the rest of their life (as well as the mindset changes that need to happen in order to change our habits!), not just how to lose 10 pounds as fast as possible.
Signs that you have an "all or nothing" mindset
From where I see it, there are two broad types of women who deal with this type of limiting belief.
1. The Queen of Extreme
When you try something new or pursue a goal, you want to go all in and completely overhaul our entire life ... but that's a surefire way to burn out!
You decide to cut out sugar, go on a restrictive detox, lose 10 pounds, start loving yourself more, be a better (girlfriend/wife/mother/friend), spring clean your ENTIRE home, and you're full of energy and rocking it for 2, maybe 3 days until "life happens" and you give up or get distracted.
Then you feel like a complete failure, and hold yourself back from taking any sort of positive action in your life because you've burned your sense of self trust and you're afraid you're destined to fail again.
2. The Weekend YOLO-er
You do great during the week, but then on the weekends/work trips/etc it's like your alter-ego takes possession of your body and you lose all connection to your original motivation. You throw all your healthy habits out the window, experience intense regret or guilt come Monday, and it takes you 2-3 days to get "back on track." Rinse and repeat. Then you don't know why the scale never seems to budge and feel frustrated and defeated.
It breaks my heart when I hear strong, smart, and talented women saying things like "I know that food is going to be a lifelong struggle for me."
Wait, what??? That's a pretty heavy sentence to place on yourself!
First of all, let's get clear on what we really mean when we use the word STRUGGLE. I'm not a huge fan of this word because it's easy to get comfy in a victim mode.
Here's the truth: YOU get to define your struggle.
And you get to decide whether or not you're going to let something hold you mentally or emotionally captive your entire life.
This kind of struggle around our bodies and relationship to food is entirely emotional. It feels physical because food and eating behaviors are tangible things, but food is not the enemy. When you make food an enemy that needs to be restricted or controlled, that's when eating disorders (or disordered patterns around food) arise.
When you realize that the struggle is actually in how you feel and the stories you're telling yourself about who you are, you can liberate yourself with one split second mindset shift.
- What if you didn't have to struggle with food, weight, or your body image?
- What if you didn't have to constantly feel chained to this mysterious "wagon" you keep falling on and off from?
- What if healthy eating wasn't just a temporary diet or plan, but your lifestyle?
- What if you could intentionally indulge in your favorite treats for pleasure, without completely freaking out, going down a binge, or feeling guilty?
- What if you could achieve and maintain your body's natural healthy weight without feeling constantly obsessed about food?
I don't have a magical answer or solution to escaping the all or nothing mindset, but as a recovering perfectionist I can definitely relate and I do have a few thoughts to share based on my personal experience combined with my work as a wellness coach over the past three years.
How to ditch the "all or nothing" struggle around food and healthy living
Make a decision to change
We are not victims. We can change anything we want! If you don't want to struggle with food anymore…then make the decision to stop.
You CAN reach your health and wellness goals without giving up your fave foods, you just might have to change your habits.
Here are some questions to help you pull yourself out of struggle mode and empower you to be a leader in your own life:
+ Who do you want to be? How do you want to feel?
+ What's NOT working?
+ Where will you be in a year if you don't make a change?
+ What's the BEST case scenario?
Get clear on your WHY
What's motivating you? What drives you to get out of bed in the morning? What pisses you off? If you feel like you're struggling with something, it means that it matters to you. Why does being healthy and happy matter? Dig deeper than the superficial reasons.
+ Whose lives will change when you can love and accept yourself for who you are?
+ What will you be able to do when you're full of vibrant energy, and aren't constantly obsessing about your weight or your body image?
Give yourself a destination to move toward!
A lot of times we hold ourselves back even if we really want to change, just because the struggle is COMFY for us! It's what we know.
Just because you've never been able to lose the weight, or stick to a healthy eating plan without falling off the wagon, doesn't mean you can't.
+ How do you want to feel in your body and in your relationship with food?
Re-write the stories you're telling yourself
Our realities are based on the beliefs and stories we're telling ourselves. As long as you keep telling yourself "food and weight will be a lifelong struggle for me" guess what? It will!
But if you start telling yourself things like "I am a woman who uses food as fuel to nourish my body because I love myself," guess what? Even if you don't believe yourself at first, you'll slowly start to shift your behaviors to line up with that new story.
+ What habits or beliefs do you want to release?
+ What habits or beliefs will you have to replace them with?
+ What will you have to change in order to become the person you want to be?
Give yourself an easy win to build your confidence back up
It's important to build confidence in yourself so you can trust that you're a woman of integrity who will follow through on your goals.
+ What can you do TODAY to make yourself feel proud?
It doesn't have to be food or exercise related. When you experience success in one area of life, it will boost your confidence overall. Woohoo!
Pick ONE focus at a time, then build on that!
A lot of times we make things way too complicated. When we try to change everything at once, obviously we're going to feel overwhelmed.
Embrace the baby step.
Embrace being a beginner, even if it's awkward and gives you uncomfy freshman flashbacks.
Embrace the process.
+ What is something you can do TODAY to move forward one step?
HAVE EPIC SELF COMPASSION AND PATIENCE
These kind of deep changes take time!! Just because you aren't where you want to be yet doesn't mean that you're a failure.
Whenever we are going through change, even good change, we are going to bring up a lot of our old insecurities and patterns to the surface b/c deep down we're afraid of change. You are going to swing back and forth and "fall off the wagon" over and over along your journey.
This is not a sign that you're failing or that you aren't good enough. It's a sign that you are GROWING and changing and evolving.
Next time you're around unhealthy food options that you'd rather not eat because you know they'll make you feel like crap, remind yourself how you want to feel. Remind yourself WHY choosing healthy options matters. Remind yourself that you can TRUST yourself to indulge mindfully, then stop. You just have to build your own self confidence and trust in yourself, one day at a time, and keep course correcting!
Obviously this is all easier said than done.
Which is why we need support! Do you have a friend you can enlist to be your accountability buddy? Do you need a coach? A therapist? A supportive community?
I know you're strong, smart, and capable of anything. Don't isolate yourself or feel like you're struggling alone because I can guarantee almost every single woman I've ever met is dealing (or has dealt with) some sort of food or body image related insecurity.
If you'd like to chat more and get a customized plan of action, click here to book a complimentary consult with me! I've got your back girl, and I want to see you thrive :)