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How to ditch the ‘all or nothing’ approach and stay consistent

It’s Monday morning. Motivation is soaring, I’m off to the gym with a green smoothie in hand, and back at home the fridge is stocked to the brim with a week’s worth of chicken and broccoli lunches. Come at me, Summer body!

It’s Wednesday. I’ve been good on Monday and Tuesday, let’s not stuff it up now at the work morning tea, but wow those homemade muffins look good. Must. Not. Give. In. Don’t mind me, I’ll just be here enjoying my tin of tuna.

It’s Friday night. Wine, damn I forgot about wine. Doesn’t fit into the calorie budget. Soda water it is. Ah, but what about the cheese, glorious brie! Okay, maybe just one slice. Stuff it, seeing as we’re blowing today’s budget anyway, wine time it is. I deserve a cheat day after being so good this week.

Saturday. Wow I blew it last night, may as well enjoy the weekend and start over on Monday.

And so, the wheel turns. Overly restrictive, overindulgence, feelings of guilt. Repeat.

Sometimes the novelty and rigidity of a new diet or exercise regime can seem exciting and motivating, however this quickly wears off when faced with the challenges of reality. Inevitably, we deviate from this strict regime and then feel like we have no self-control, have utterly failed, and must start over next week.

Have you ever stopped to think that maybe it’s not you that’s failing, but the approach that’s failing you? You may have the best intentions, but the ‘all or nothing’ approach, as attractive and motivating as it seems, is not sustainable and will ultimately work against your goals.

Life is unpredictable, and so we need to be flexible. For example, you planned an hour session at the gym, but unexpectedly must drive the kids somewhere. You feel disappointed and decide you may as well skip the gym. It’s like throwing your entire wallet away when you only had to pay $20 for something. A half hour gym session is better than none.

There are many reasons for the food choices that we make and the habits that we have built up over time. Rigid meal plans and regimes don’t help us address old habits and build new ones. They don’t consider days when you’ve hit the wall and can’t bear the thought of cooking, a night out for your best mates’ birthday, your family movie and pizza nights on a Friday, or when a colleague unexpectantly brings in freshly baked brownies. But this is life, and food is a big part of it. Not just for sustenance, but for celebration, tradition, culture and enjoyment.

The perfection ideal is killing your goals. If a particular diet is not helping you be consistent, it’s not the right fit for you. Ditch the all or nothing approach and start a journey of building healthy habits to last a lifetime.

How do I get started?

Get thinking

Mindful eating is a skill that starts with an awareness of the how, when, where, and why of our eating. Have a think about your motivation for eating healthier or exercising. Is it something temporary like a special occasion or a specific number? Or is it something more sustainable such as your values?  By understanding our motivations and having an awareness of our eating habits, we can begin to make changes appropriately. See this article for tips on how to practice mindful eating.

Get real

Set small, achievable and realistic goals that fit into your lifestyle. Focus on achieving these one at a time, and when it becomes easy move onto another goal. Being able to stick to your new habit will be encouraging and build your confidence going forward.

Ideas include:

  • Packing a lunch for work every day
  • Including a protein rich food with breakfast
  • Having half a plate of vegetables at dinner
  • Go to one gym class a week
  • Eating 2 pieces of fruit each day

Get positive

Have you ever seen a kid – who’s not allowed sugary foods – go to a birthday party? When we restrict foods that we like, we tend to obsess over them. Rather than thinking of all the foods you need to cut out, set goals around the foods you would like to add in!

Get planning

Ditching rigidity doesn’t mean ditching organisation! Make a plan that will assist you in achieving your goal. If things don’t go to plan, stay calm, navigate the situation and do the best you can. See our guide to meal planning to get started.

Ditch food morals

Food is just a mixture of different chemical compounds. There are no moral attachments to food and therefore you are neither bad nor good for eating a certain food. If this is something that you feel you have trouble with, try eating foods that you deem ‘bad’ with foods deemed ‘good’, such as chocolate with strawberries or honey with Greek yoghurt.

Ditch justification

“I’ve earnt my dessert today, after all that walking around at the mall!” You are an adult and you can eat whatever you like, whenever you choose. Take ownership of your choices, have a moment to decide if you really want it, and then enjoy your food. You don’t need to justify why you are eating anything. Ever.

Ditch perfectionism

Find your middle ground, a way that you can keep eating for the rest of your life and is enjoyable. No need for on and off again dieting or ‘cheat days’. It’s not about perfection, it’s about making the nutritious choice most of the time, enjoying the freedom of knowing that you can eat whatever you like, and still be consistent with your goals.

See a professional

There is a lot of information out there. Whether it be Google, your mum’s friend or someone you follow on Instagram, its overwhelming… and often inaccurate. The dietitians at the Healthy Eating Clinic are passionate about supporting clients with evidence based and personalized nutrition advice to help build lifelong healthy habits.

If you’re looking for more help with staying consistent or support in implementing strategies, need some extra inspiration, or would like some individualised advice on healthy eating, book in with one of the experienced dietitians at The Healthy Eating Clinic or call us on 6174 4663.