Take everything you think you know about diet and exercise and ignore it for just a moment. Can you do that?
Forget about calories. Forget about diets. Forget about trends. Forget about good and bad foods. Forget about healthy fats and lean proteins. Forget about the best method of exercise to get results that you read about yesterday. Or how many minutes you need to work. Or what exercises are supposedly the best for a flat stomach. Erase it all for just a moment.
What if you could just take a moment here to start with a clean slate, a fresh start? No matter what choices you have been making with food, no matter if you have or have not been getting your workouts in, you can always start fresh, right here, right now. Not tomorrow or when you are less busy, but now.
Old habits are rooted deep within us. And in order to break those habits we have to relearn ways of eating, exercising, and most importantly thinking about these components all together.
Regained weight, failed attempts at goals, binging on your last meal, missed workouts, messing up yet again, are all self perceived failures that are actually your own unique collection of lessons and information that you can pull and learn from.
The key is you have to change something, anything. Yet as humans we are kind of funny. We tend to fall into old habits and do the same thing over and over and expect the outcome to be different.
In the eating and exercise world it looks like this.
Trying a super strict diet. Falling off plan. Not caring. Eating whatever, whenever. Get fed up with body and choices. Try a strict diet again.
Thinking you have to do more and more with exercise and workout everyday only to fall off the wagon, take a break for weeks or months and then start again trying to do more and more exercise.
Researching more and more information about diet plans and exercise but never actually doing them.
Losing and gaining the same 10 plus pounds over and over again.
Feeling gross about our food choices, then just eating more pizza.
Feeling gross about our bodies and how they feel but never doing anything about it.
Talking about all the weight you need to lose but never following through.
These are all invaluable lessons (in disguise because we learn what doesn’t work) but we will never learn if we never have the courage to step outside what we are currently doing, and do something different.
But where do we start? How do we do something different when the same crappy eating and exercise tactics are pushed in our face day in and day out?
Today I want to share with you my favorite pieces of unconventional advice that I hope will broaden your perspective around eating and exercise and help you break the cycle you are currently in, if you are feeling stuck, feeling unmotivated or feel like you have tried everything.
Expose yourself to the food you fear.
Or the food that you think you shouldn’t eat. Think about it. What happens when I tell you not to think about a purple giraffe?
You think about a purple giraffe. What happens when you tell yourself to not eat chocolate? You probably think about eating chocolate.
This isn’t just some odd coincidence, there is actually a term for it in psychology called The Ironic Rebound which essentially says that the more you push away a though, the more likely you are to think about.
Alternatively, giving yourself permission to think a certain thought, or think about a certain food, reduces your chances of acting on it.
This is part of the many reasons of why diets are so ineffective from a psychological standpoint. When we forbid or remove certain foods from our diets, chances are we crave and want them more.
So the solution I propose is to allow yourself to be exposed to the off limit foods you have set for yourself. Things like bacon, butter, chocolate, bread, etc. There is a caveat though and that is portion control.
Allow yourself to have a small piece of something, lets say a peanut butter cup or a piece of bacon, and practice. Practice like you would other skills in life and practice again even if you end up overeating one day.
I use to forbid chocolate (my favorite indulgence) and now I eat 1-2 pieces a day and never overdo it. And when the holidays come around with all the pretty candies I could care less. I actually turned down chocolate the other day when it years past I wouldn’t have been able to say no because I had felt so deprived from it.
Do something and do something you like (or tolerate).
For exercise there are certain methods that will deliver better results than others and if you ask me, weight lifting is your golden ticket above everything else. Any person who crosses my path with exercise questions will get the run down of the benefits of resistance training.
I am a firm believer, however, that if you can’t dig deep into your soul to find a way to enjoy it, you won’t stick with it. If you hate all movement find something you can tolerate a few times a week. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Getting off you bum and being active whether dancing, walking, swimming, yoga, even gardening is moving and moving is better than sitting.
If you enjoy it and you feel happy and healthy with your body, keep doing it. If not explore other options.
Don’t count (minutes, macros, calories).
What if you went through a day and didn’t count anything? The time you worked out. The calories you ate. The macronutrients you consumed. Sure it works for some people, but again, the point of this whole post, if what you are doing is not working, try something different.
I had a new client ask me if a half hour session was even worth it. I told her that 30 minutes of pushing yourself is better than 120 minutes of not. Counting the time on the clock does not always indicate a better workout.
Speaking of counting. Counting calories is necessarily accurate is not always that accurate.
Precision Nutrition shares some great insight on an article I will link here about why. Calories on food labels are averages not exacts and can often be higher or lower. We don’t always absorb all calories the same. The calorie load can be change by how you cook your food. We all absorb calories differently. And honestly, we are not all so great with portion size. Whenever I measure out a cup of pasta it makes me sad and I usually add a little bit more and call it a freebie in my head.
Identify your biggest struggle.
Again, erase all the rules about food and start by identifying your biggest challenge. What gets in the way of doing what you know you need to do?
Do you skip meals during the day and overeat at night? Focus on starting your day with breakfast and having go to snacks during the day.
Is it hard for you to get up in the morning for your workout because of your Netflix marathon the night before? Limit yourself to one episode.
Do you make poor choices at home because you stock your cupboards with foods that don’t make you feel great? Make a grocery list of healthy choices.
Focus on that one set back alone before changing everything all at once. Once you have conquered that challenge you can then move on to your next obstacle.
You don’t need to try to do everything perfectly, just a couple things really well.
This is not your normal advice but I hope it has give you a greater perspective than the diets, rules, and cookie cutter advice you get everyday.