I talk about consistency a lot on this blog and there’s a good reason for it. Many of us, if we’re totally honest with ourselves, know what we need to do to make our lives healthier and happier – but what we lack is knowing how to stay consistent.
It’s one of the most common obstacles my clients face and in the first session of my Consistent Momentum Program last week (woohoo), it came up as a unanimous struggle.
So many of my clients over the years have said the same, and it’s not surprising considering what the diet industry teaches us about being healthy. Among other harmful lessons, dieting can teach us to adopt an ‘all or nothing’ approach to health whereby we’re either 100% in or completely out e.g. ‘This Friday night has ruined my diet, I’ll enjoy the weekend and start again on Monday’.
It might feel like the solution is to be in the ‘all’ category, however, it’s the middle ground that provides the foundations for consistency. The magic middle which lets you eat in a way that satisfies your cravings and supports your health goals 7 days a week – no ‘cheating’ or over restriction, but a lifestyle that lets you live a full life and get out of the unhealthy flux of all or nothing.
So, how do we get to the magic middle ground? Here are my 3 top tips for overcoming ‘all or nothing’ thinking and creating some consistency:
Tip 1: Don’t deny yourself
I wrote a blog post earlier this year about food guilt that resonated with a lot of my clients. It was all about how to enjoy your favourite foods without feeling bad about it or punishing yourself. In it, I talked about how important it is to really enjoy your food mindfully in order to satisfy your cravings without feeling guilty.
Mindful eating can also help us slow down, appreciate the nutrients that we’re fueling our bodies with and make sure we’re not triggering any unnecessary stress response that can encourage fat storage while we’re eating. So, next time you’re looking for a sweet after-dinner treat, instead of denying yourself and putting more power into that craving, choose to eat it mindfully and savour it.
Tip 2: Introduce changes gradually
I’ve said it before but I’ll happily say it again and again; gradual changes are the key to making truly sustainable changes that you can be consistent with. When we rush into uncomfortable changes, we’re bound to meet resistance – and if you don’t already know how harmful resistance can be to our health goals then check this out.
The best thing you can do when looking to eventually make a big change to your diet or lifestyle is by chunking it down into smaller, more specific goals that you can work on. For example, if you eventually want to give up sugar, start by trying to switch out your 11 o’clock biscuits for a healthy, lower sugar option, like these delicious chocolate and coconut energy balls! When we start creating gradual changes, our bodies and minds are far less likely to resist the unfamiliar and we’re much more able to create consistency one step at a time.
Tip 3: Remove the moral value from food
When we think that ‘we’ve been good’ we give ourselves the licence to be bad and so we follow a strict diet during the week and then go all out at the weekend, and then at the weekend the moment we think that ‘we’ve been bad’ we say “Oh, what the hell, I’ve ruined my diet with chips, I’ll just eat whatever I want and start again on Monday”. Sound familiar? It’s called ‘moral licensing’ and the ‘what-the-hell’ effect (yes, that’s its real name).
The gist is that when we place a moral value on our food, it also translates to a moral label we place on ourselves. When we remove the ‘good’ ‘bad’ labels from the food we eat, we’re able to make choices about our diet based on what the food can do for us, rather than what it reflects on us.
Be mindful about how you speak to yourself and try to review the dialogue that labels your food and yourself ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Health is a spectrum so instead of thinking about cutting out ‘bad’ food, consider how you could make your choices healthier or more supportive of your health goals so you can create change consistently.
Don’t try to be perfect! One of the biggest reasons why we fall into ‘all or nothing’ thinking is that we try to be perfect with our healthy habits but in the real world, nobody’s perfect. Try to be mindful with your choices, make small gradual changes and remember to talk to yourself with kindness and compassion.
If you need a hand creating healthy habits that stick or you’re looking for some support with consistency, then get in touch for your free consultation with me today. Let’s make healthy work for you!