I notice a common theme amongst my ladies who are just starting the switch from a super rigid diet plan to one of a more balanced approach, or as I call it, #middlepathmindset.
THEY ARE SCARED.
And reasonably so! For so long they were told specifically what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat and what’s off limits. It’s no wonder they can’t trust their own intuition and choices around food and I totally get it! As I’ve mentioned in other articles of mine, I remember going to a trainer in college and he only let me have 5 foods. 5. After I started eating again, I’ll never forget I went to the grocery store for the first time and felt so overwhelmed and panicked because there was so much food to choose from! I looked at the aisles as if they were huge dinosaurs that were extinct for years and they were just now resurfacing. If you’re struggling with this now, I totally feel you.
Which is why I am doing THIS.
After living in the all or nothing mentality for so long, the mere fact there were so many choices to choose from other than dry toast and egg whites was incredibly anxiety provoking.
That’s why THIS OR THAT doesn’t work. Meaning, THIS being super rigid, doubled down with food fear, living off diet cokes, gym and sugar vs. THAT of full on binge mode, eating whatever we want because of food FOMO, desserts galore and then either purging or going back to restrictive mode. It’s exhausting.
Here’s an illustration that I created to help you see how this looks exactly.
I like to view it as a numbers game to help this approach settle in our minds a bit. As you can see, 1 is starving, 10 binging and 5 being the middle path. Then, I have some small arrows of ebbs and flows on either side of the middle path.
Life and food is an ebb/flow isn’t it? That’s why that GRAY area is so important. Think of it this way, if we’re a 1, then we’re likely going to be a 10 right? We jump from one extreme to the other. Example: have you ever been so hungry you rush home or hit a local drive-thru and eat so fast because you were starving? Then you feel sick because you ate too fast, too much and then you feel like crap about yourself right?
This is exactly why the all or nothing approach never works. Any time we restrict, stay rigid and starving, we will absolutely boomerang to the other extreme. However, when we can stay in the constant ebb/flow and finding our own “middle path” along the way, the flux is less extreme.
WHEN WE RESTRICT, WE BINGE, WHICH LEADS TO INCREASED ANXIETY, FEAR, SHAME AND FRUSTRATION. RINSE AND REPEAT.
This is the solution for consistency in our food, exercise and lifestyle changes. Listen, I get it, not every day is going to be unicorns and rainbows and balanced out to perfection. That doesn’t exist either, but if we can stay within those parameters as much as possible, we’re less likely to have so many highs and lows in life. Plus, it’s such a better way of living and we feel increased joy, happiness, and peace.
Here’s the thing, I think many of us feel in order to be deemed “good” or “in line” we think we have to live in this tiny little box with little wiggle room and lead way. Because, if god forbid we have any lead way, game over, we’ve failed. If we creep outside that line just a tiny bit, then forget it, the diet is off and we’re done.
Rigidity isn’t the solution. Balance is. Let me tell you why…..
- Staying stern and firm with our food 24/7 is downright exhausting and boring. I know I keep going back to the sustainability factor but it’s true! We have to look at it as a see-saw analogy for instance. Let’s say we eat super clean M-F, then come Sat and Sun we full on binge and go hog wild. How is that balance? How is that even sustainable? And most importantly, do we even really feel that good about ourselves after we “cheat?” We justify the meals as “re-feeding” or necessary and view the gorge fest as a necessity and luxury. To me, that’s far from sustainable because our heads aren’t even in the right spot when we engage in those behaviors. For the majority of us, we’re just trying to get healthy, have a good looking body, feel confident and look good naked. We’re not trying to compete in shows, diet down to 4% body fat or out beat the next fitness competitor, we just want to look and feel GOOD.
- The “middle path” approach is long-lasting and keeps us healthy! I truly believe, when we find that happy medium of food, mindset and fitness, life begins to get a bit easier. After struggling for 10 + years it wasn’t until I slowly began to relinquish the control of food, did my life start to feel less heavy and overwhelming. I felt happy! Let me ask you this, if you were to lose 10 pounds today, what would that change? Okay, maybe your clothes might fit a little better, maybe you might feel lighter, or whatever. BUT-what does that change about you internally? If we think we will be happy ONCE we get to that weight, boy are we mistaken. To be candid, the leaner I was, the more unhappy I became. If we can’t be happy with how we are 10 pounds heavier than the loss of the next 10 pounds won’t stick. I get when we might feel gross or kinda yuck when we gain weight, but what’s the flip side of that? If we constantly try to hate on our body and stand in the mirror bashing it on a daily basis do you really think we will be that much happier a few pounds less? I often tell my clients who are looking to lose weight to do this: get out a sheet of paper and write down 10 reasons why you want to exercise or eat better and you can’t say, “to lose weight” nope, doesn’t count. See what comes up for you.
- This approach applies to exercise too. Let me tell you right now, if your only reason to exercise is to burn calories, you will get burned out in no time. That WHY is far from enjoyable and what if you had a bad day with your significant other, are you going to exercise to burn calories? I call that avoidance. I had to throw in the exercise piece because this whole “middle path” approach applies to this as well. Do I encourage hard work and dedication with exercise for results? Absolutely, but we don’t need to stay in one extreme for long periods of time. Same goes with staying sedentary. That’s not a balanced way to live and we will either get burned out and injured with excess or we will gain weight and have health problems if we sit all day. Make it your mission to implement some “gray” behaviors in your life. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and crush it every day, because I think for many of us who are just starting out the mere task of movement can feel a bit overwhelming. Set yourself up for success and try just walking for 20 minutes the first week, then start to add a little more, maybe 5% each week. If you’re training 7+ days a week and dread going to the gym due to major fatigue and burn out, scale it back a notch. Maybe you just do 30 minutes of cardio versus the 45 you force yourself to do. Or maybe you eat that piece of chocolate on a Wednesday rather than on your Saturday “cheat day.” You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much better you’ll feel with these small adjustments. Coming from a cardio-junkie, when I began to incorporate the “middle path” approach, the exercise began to feel enjoyable, fun and my body loved every minute of it.
Here’s a prime example that you will be OKAY!
On the left is a pic of me in 2010-I was still restricting to some degree, over-exercising and my life was chaotic. Even though I was pretty healthy at this point, I was still using exercise as a way to purge my food.
On the right is a pic of me in 2016-I was not restricting whatsoever, I ate balanced, took care of myself, managed my stress-levels more appropriately and was exercising 1/4 of what I did before. Did I overeat sometimes? Yes. Did I indulge in foods that weren’t always the healthiest? Of course, it’s life and I wanted it to be enjoyable.
As you can see, even with me cutting my exercise to less than half of what I was used to doing, managing my eating a bit better and definitely not being as obsessive, everything just took care of itself.
As you can see, I didn’t gain 30 pounds and I was a SO much happier. And there you have it, a more balanced approach is far from lazy, it’s the sane and sustainable way to live. Hence why my weight has stayed the same for 4+ years and not yo-yo’d from one extreme to the other. Start applying some of these tools on a regular basis and you might be pleasantly surprised. 🙂