So you have the perfect plan in hand. You know what exercises to do on what day and what meals to eat at what time and this new plan is THE ONE that will help you finally drop the weight. You’ve made a commitment to yourself that you’ll follow the plan to a tee and anything outside of perfection is unacceptable behavior. You’re so excited and can’t wait to dive into it.
You’re ready, this is your moment, this is your time.
You start your plan and the first week goes amazingly well. You can’t believe how well you did and you know in your heart that you’re on the right track; more importantly, the scale has started to move downward. Week two goes just as well, and then week three shows up.
You wake up with a headache and can’t do your pre selected workout in the morning, so you promise to do it at night. On your way home, the traffic is so bad that you don’t get in till 11 pm and the last thing on your mind is exercise. Then you wake up feeling like you’ve failed. The next day, you wake up feeling better but you’re too tired to workout and then you slip on the meal plan.
What seemed to be like the perfect plan feels like it’s falling apart. To make sure you’re still doing okay, you weigh yourself before your normal weigh in day and find out that you gained a pound. And that’s when things really start to fall apart.
This used to be me. I remember a time when I actually used to weigh myself everyday and write a letter to myself after my weigh in to explain why I gained or lost weight. It was a weight loss tip that I found on iVillage.com, and it sounded like it had a scientific basis.
Along with this practice, I worked out everyday and I had my meals planned weeks in advance. I was losing the weight steadily, and then as I explained above, life happened and then it all fell apart. Some of those letters to myself were quite heart wrenching; I agonized over a gain of 0.5 lbs and celebrated losses like it was Christmas.
But it got old really quickly and here’s why: I was engaged in all or nothing thinking.
The problem with all or nothing thinking is that it gives you only two choices – all or nothing. There’s no room for imperfection, no room for humanity, and of course no room for the curveballs that life throws your way. And when you live like this for long enough, you start to pile up the nothings and eventually convince yourself that you can’t achieve your goal.
You start to let the “nothings” define you. It get’s worse when your all or nothing thinking drives you to focus on the goal and not the process. Here’s why this type of thinking can be so bad for you:
It Doesn’t Give You the Opportunities to Learn
When you’re focused on sticking to a particular plan, you don’t let life’s little accidents teach you lessons that can help you make it better. Instead, you’re fixated on doing things exactly as they’re laid out, and this fixation can make you miss opportunities to make the plan better.
It Makes an Already Emotional Journey even Harder
Losing weight starts with eating fewer calories than you burn, but it’s so much more than that. The decision to lose weight usually starts from you seeing a reflection of yourself that you don’t like or being given notice by your loved one or your doctor that you need to do something about your weight if not for how you look but for your health.
This can be very emotional and it can be a tough pill to swallow. When you do decide to lose the weight, using an all or nothing approach can take this already emotional journey to indescribable heights. Missteps become amplified to full blown failures, and teachable moments become proof that you can’t do it and might result in you giving up altogether.
It Usually Results in Paralysis when All You Need to Do is Take One Step
Some of us start with only a few kilograms to lose, while some of us have the enormous task of losing almost half our body weight. The things that you need to do to lose the weight, regardless of how little or how much, can become very overwhelming very quickly.
Think about it: To lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. This means that you need to eat fewer calories i.e. evaluate your diet to identify what you’re eating right now and then pick out the things that you want to cut out of your diet to make it clean enough to help with weight loss.
Then you’re faced with the question of what a clean diet is and if you don’t have access to a trainer or a coach you have the tough job of navigating the maze of the internet or the weight loss section of the bookstore to find the most reputable information.
Then you’re confronted with conflicting information and everyone who knows about your goal chipping in with advice or ideas on programs you should be doing. All of this before you’ve decided on the cuts to make to your diet or how you need to be moving to burn more calories.
Oh let’s not forget that weight loss has a behavioral component to it so you still need to figure out what behaviors to change and the order in which to initiate change to get the most results fast. Then there’s the fact that you need to move more.
This can be very overwhelming, and it can be worse with all or nothing thinking. Imagine trying to take on all of this at once? It’s like taking on a full time job and my guess is that you already have one of those and family or friends who rely on you to be there for them.
All or nothing thinking here won’t serve you because if you try to do it all at once you might get so overwhelmed that you end up doing nothing and don’t take a single step towards your goal.
So What Do You Do Instead?
Well rather than make this article super long and tackle that I’ll hold off on that till next time. I don’t mean to leave you hanging but if you already engage in all or nothing thinking, I don’t want to add to it by giving you so much to deal with today.
So rather than try to tackle the problem and the solution in one week, let’s focus on the problem. Let’s start practicing letting go of all or nothing thinking by taking it one at a time.
This week, if this article spoke to you, I want you to take one action – Answer these two questions:
- How are you engaging in all or nothing thinking when it comes to your weight loss goals?
- How do you think this helps or hurts you.
You know I love to hear your answers, so if you’re feeling up to it please send me a message. I hold you in the highest regard, so you can be sure that your answers will be confidential.