This month’s theme is all about how to stay on track, and this week we’re starting with your mindset or approach to healthy eating because it is the absolute foundation of sustainable change.
Are you stuck in all or nothing thinking when it comes to food?
You might be an all or nothing eater if:
- You can go super hard at a strict diet or cleanse for a few weeks, but then have one “bad” weekend and totally spiral for the next few weeks. (If you need help spotting a bad diet, find tips here)
- You often think “well I’ve already ruined today so I might as well have XYZ” if you had a meal or treat that wasn’t on the plan
- You feel super guilty or shame-y after stress eating, feel like you’re totally incompetent, which just makes it harder to get back on track
- You feel like you need to cut out all the things to be successful
- You have a history of getting on and off the diet rollercoaster for the last 5-10 years
Consistency is the least sexy tenet of healthy eating (right next to getting enough fibre) but it is THE most important piece of both getting to your goal, and then being able to sustain that change. Once you figure out how eating well 80-90% of the time works for you, your body will thank you! Making space for that fun 10-20% and being able to tame the mindset dragons that want you to be stricter is essential for you to be on track long term. I see clients struggle with this most when it comes to digestive health, weight loss, and health conditions like Diabetes or high cholesterol. All of these need you to nail the 80% consistently, instead of switching on and off between 100% all in and 100% off the wagon when you get burnt out.
3 Strategies To Get More Flexible In Your Mindset (and stay on track)
The key here is to start practicing flexibility regularly to vent the pressure of being “on track” so you don’t feel deprived, practice moderation so you ping pong between extremes less often, teach your brain you can have control around food, and actually enjoy life while working your way to a healthier you.
1. Planned Treats
Whether you’ve been strict in the past because you’ve been on an elimination diet for your gut or a weight loss diet, your brain has learned that it doesn’t know when good stuff is coming again so it’s going to push you to eat more (volume and frequency) treats through persistent cravings. This is where we faceplant “off” our healthy eating plan.
Even if you’re working on a specific diet or way of eating, I want you to plan for at least 1-2 treats a week. Make sure they feel good physically (ie they don’t hurt your gut or give you heartburn) and they are something you love (no eating stale Timbits from the office kitchen – make it good!). Your brain will fill the checkbox that looks for delicious comfort from food, and the more you do it the more it will trust that you’re not going to dive back into something super strict. You should see cravings soften, and feel more control over how much and how often.
2. Eating out: Choose your “thing”
For clients who need to practice more balance vs being hardcore “on” an eating plan (or hardcore “off”) I love trying this out for a few months. When you go out to eat – choose one delicious, not necessarily healthy “thing” you’d love. That might be a dessert to split with hubby, fries on the side, or you’re ordering a lighter salad but having a fun appetizer or a few cocktails with it. Balancing part of the meal while still allowing it to be “imperfect” by having something just for enjoyment is a great way to teach your brain to be more flexible without going off the deep end.
3. Next Meal Rule
If you’re the kind of person who responds to falling “off” with either spiralling because you’ve ruined the day OR deciding you’ll need to start a restrictive diet Monday (after a weekend full of treats and bingeing) this one is for you.
Anytime you feel like you’ve gone off track, big or small, remind yourself that one meal/treat/binge is not going to make or break you (and is innately human – we’re not perfect). Then, make a plan for how to make the next meal healthy-ish. Do you need to order a delicious, healthy and filling bowl from Chopped Leaf for dinner? Stop by the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken and bagged salad? Put in a grocery order? Decide that you’re making eggs and avo toast for breakfast in the morning? Making a plan shifts your thinking from the sky is falling to just normal in the moment problem solving. It keeps you from going too strict because your falls scare you into feeling like you need it, or spiralling for days or weeks out of shame and guilt.
Bonus: Get Honest About Negative Self Talk
We had a great chat about this inside our Conquer Your Cravings group last week and I didn’t want you to miss out.
When you fall off, overeat, go off plan….what do you say to yourself? For a lot of clients, it’s pretty heavy.
- I can’t do this. I’m broken. I have no self control.
- I’ll NEVER be able to xyz (lose weight, repair my gut, get my blood sugars under control etc)
- You’re so gross! How could you eat all that
- You always do this, why don’t you have any self control? Motivation?
- You’re so weak and lazy.
And the list goes on. But pretty heavy words, am I right?
If you engage in this kind of self talk – I want you to imagine saying it to a friend. Someone you care about and know is a worthy human no matter what mistakes they make. Do you think they would find your words kind? Motivating? Or would they feel worse, shamed, ready to spiral?
It is totally okay if you currently do this (our inner criticism has kept us safe in many ways) but it is also your responsibility to break the habit so it doesn’t keep pulling you into that shame spiral.
So next time you “fall off” I want you to write down and then say out loud the things you’re thinking about yourself. After that, next to each sentence write down how you’d reframe that for a friend – now say that out loud. Repeat every time until it becomes softer, easier, and less heavy. Remember breaking up with all or nothing eating is a process, not an overnight switch.
Next week we’ll talk all about accountability – where to find it, how to cultivate it, and why it’s so key in the research for change in eating habits! As always, if you have any topics you’d love to see us cover please email us and we’ll add it to the list of ideas. Your input and engagement really helps me and is so appreciated.
Need some help getting your meals for the week balanced and prepared? If you’d like to receive our free Meal Planning Getting Started Guide AND get in on our weekly emails about all things nutrition so you can get clarity and confidence on what you’re eating, join us here!