I recently received a really amazing, vulnerable message from a friend about her nutrition habits. The result was a beautiful discussion that tackled emotional eating, how to strike a balance when you come from an "all or nothing" mentality, and how to be more mindful and graceful with yourself in terms of nutrition and fitness.
If you are someone who feels held back by similar thoughts, or who has experienced burnout, whether in terms of career, fitness or nutrition, you may find these words helpful.
"Any quick tips for binge eating? I will be doing so well and then one day, I have a bad lunch and it ALLLL goes downhill to the point of me eating a half a pint of ice cream and stuffing my face all day until I’m literally in pain. It sounds ridiculous but it’s unfortunately what I do and what I’ve done for years! I don’t get it. I don’t even want the food, I just think to myself “well I’ve done so so badly today why not just eat as much as you can.” Ugh. We are so harsh."
This hurts my heart. Because I know this life all too well. While I personally have not struggled with binge eating per se, I empathize with the mentality that entraps us into these types of situations. I struggled with my own eating disorder during my late teens/early 20's. Withholding food, obsessively controlling my intake, punishing myself with fitness to work off anything I deemed as over-indulgent. It's a dark place.
The "all-or-nothing" mentality bled into my fitness as well. I think for me personally it stems from anxiety. I would work myself up into thinking that if I wasn't prepared to have the toughest, hardest workout of my life, then it wasn't worth going to the gym at all. I couldn't just be okay with showing up and moving for movement's sake. Before becoming a trainer, I would talk myself out of a perfectly good workout opportunity because of this faulty logic. "I don't have enough time for a full hour-plus workout", "what if my stomach gets upset?", or the ever-frustrating "I am not having a skinny day. I don't want to be seen this way." Guh.
I feel for that girl, who let perfect be the enemy of good.
It was a form of self-sabotage.
So what do we do? How do we break this cycle?
THREE STRATEGIES: Giving ourselves permission to be 80% instead of 100%, practicing mindfulness, and educating ourselves on the science behind nutrition and fitness (by reading or hiring a coach!)
Strategy 1: Aiming for 80
I think change comes by first giving yourself grace and removing yourself from the damaging “all or nothing” mentality. If you're reading this and shaking your head "yes" to anything so far, then you already know that people like us tend to go all in, full force, no holds. Which can be great in terms of following a passion, a new workout plan etc. UNTIL IT’S NOT. I believe if we can approach things with a mix (like baking!), half a cup of fiery passion and half a cup of chill, we would be more successful in the long run. To avoid burnout.
Sometimes we need to burn just a little less hot on a regular basis to find that happy medium. Be okay with 80%, knowing that 100% is not sustainable.
I think it also helps to remove the emotion we assign to things. If we avoid assigning deep emotion to the extreme highs then we can avoid the ever-inevitable dark lows.
Try to avoid over celebrating a loss on the scale, or a "good day of eating". This helps make a sudden increase on the scale or eating a cookie at work WAY less debilitating.
Using myself as an example, I have come a LONG WAY from that girl who used food and fitness (or lackthereof) as a form of punishment or control. The change happened for me when I became a trainer, and learned how to effectively eat and train for the results I desired. The judgement eventually fell away. I admittedly still get tripped up in the case of workout intensity. I tend to get totally invested in a new workout plan and crush five to six days a week of really intense training for anywhere from 1 - 3 weeks. But my body eventually (obviously!) gets tired, sore, maybe even hurt. IT ISN'T SUSTAINABLE. As a result, I lose focus, slump off and miss workouts.
I was robbing myself of the progress I could have been making had I just laid back a little. So now I try to focus on realizing that some weeks I may nail 5 workouts and other weeks I may nail 3. The point is that it ALL matters toward my long term goal of fitness. And by pulling back with each workout, even though that’s tough for me to do, enables me to get BETTER results in the long run. Does that make sense?
Half cup passion, half cup chill.
This applies directly to nutrition too. We can easily self sabotage. We can think, I was so perfect all day and now I just had this donut at the office and my life has gone to shit and I should just eat an entire birthday cake. This way of thinking can feel like a prison. But! If we can separate that one donut from the rest of everything else; if we can remind ourselves to not let today’s donut tarnish tomorrow’s menu; if we can have that empowerment over our choices, THAT is the goal. That is where we succeed. Remembering today has NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on your ability to nail tomorrow. Or even in the rest of today!
If any of this has sounded like you, you may be asking, now what? How do I start self-healing?
Strategy 2: Creating Mindfulness
In terms of nutrition, journaling is such a great habit! I recommend this to all of my nutrition clients as a first step. And this is especially important if you struggle with any type of emotional eating. It creates an awareness without any qualification. Committing to this habit ultimately can lead to seeing nutrition as an opportunity to fuel your one, most precious body.
Start by simply recording what you eat, and how those things make you feel throughout the week. Use this diary to help navigate your choices for the following day, or week. Remember that there are no distinct good choices or bad choices. Trends may appear for you, that help educate you on choices that are best for YOUR body. Foods or meals that make you feel energized, powerful, healthy! These are foods or meals that you should take note of, denoting with a star.
Strategy 3: Knowledge is Power!
The next step in self-healing is to educate yourself. My first recommendation is to hire a coach (life coach, nutrition coach, fitness coach) who will help you establish healthy, sustainable habits and lovingly hold you accountable. Having an expert tailor a plan to you and give you the confidence you need along the way can be so beneficial. I am linked to some wonderful coaches who have strengths in these areas, so please don't hesitate to ask! And if you'd like to know more about working together with me one on one, please inquire here.
Investing in a few great books is another amazing approach! I recommend "Fat Loss Happens on Monday" by Josh Hillis and Dan John, "Lean Habits For Lifelong Weight Loss: Mastering 4 Core Eating Behaviors to Stay Slim Forever" by Georgie Fear and "The New Rules of Lifting" series by Lou Schuler and the special edition geared toward women. All of these books do a beautiful job of blending science and habit change in order to achieve your goals.
At the end of the day, I believe we can switch from self-sabotage to self-healing by first sharing our experiences with a trusted friend or coach, educating ourselves on the science behind fitness and food, and adding a "half cup of chill" to our daily recipe to achieve confidence in our choices with less effort and more joy!
If you are interested in working together to create a balanced plan that elevates your life, please don't hesitate to reach out to me! I would love to help you live the life you dream!