I make it a habit to ask people who sign up for my newsletter what their #1 struggle is with nutrition, exercise, mindset, etc. This is important for me because it gives me insight into what JillFit gals are working to improve and how I can help. The answer I get the most is this:
“I want to find balance with my eating and exercise. I feel like I am caught up in the all-or-nothing pattern of doing really well during the week and then blowing it all on the weekend, just to start the cycle again the next week.”
I did this for years. I couldn’t WAIT until 5pm Friday night, because then I could stop trying so darn hard and let myself “enjoy” the weekend with food and booze. Only to feel like crap by Sunday night–bloated and guilty, but also resolved to try again this week and be even more strict and have even more willpower and DEFINITELY NOT blow it next weekend! … I get it. I’ve been there.
So how did I yank myself out of this pattern? Ironically, the answer was being LESS hard on myself and throwing myself a bone.
You don’t believe me now :) and that’s ok. When I was in that place, I wouldn’t have believed being less strict would help either. Because, obviously if I gave up being so hard on myself I would surely end up eating even more crap, right! How could I possibly control myself without the guilt there to provide the mental check I need?? Who knows what would happen?? I would blow up, right!?
Once again, not the case. You don’t believe me, but that’s ok! But today, I want to give you something to think about. You don’t need to do anything–just keep an open mind.
In order to reorient yourself around food and exercise in a new way, it’s important to forget what you know. Things you may have been good at before you may need to relearn. Things that used to be easy but are now difficult need reacquaintance.
I’ve had many competitors approach me and say, “I was able to diet with no cheating during my first competition prep, but my second, I just couldn’t stick to the diet so I quit. And now, I tell myself I will start a show diet on Monday and I just can’t seem to do it. Help!”
I want you to dare to start at the beginning. Go back and practice the basics. Even if you are a seasoned professional competitor, fitness model or trainer, you may have lost your way in the fat loss process at some point and may need to bring it back to zero. How?
Start with an EASIER plan than you think you can handle.
What does that mean? It means don’t expect perfection and instead reacquaint yourself with simple basics. If you feel like ideally you need 5-6 servings of veggies per day, let’s start with 2 and master eating 2 servings a day. If you are giving yourself 1 cheat meal a week or 2 preemptive cheats, let’s double that. Take what you think you should be doing and make it EASIER.
Ask not, “What plan should I do?” But instead ask, “What plan is so easy that I can’t possibly fail?”
Maybe you need to give yourself a small cheat daily, like a couple squares of chocolate? Do it. Why? Because doing the opposite–forcing deprivation on yourself–leads to bigger and more cheating later with way worse crap.
So write down the easiest plan you can think of–one you can follow effortlessly. And only once you practice it for a while, ask, “What one switch can I make?” Maybe instead of a nightly cheat, you back it off to every other day. Then you practice that until that’s easy. Then implement another change, and so on. Slow, progressive, methodical. I promise that allowing yourself a small amount of self-compassion will actually work to keep you MORE compliant in the long run, and thus more successful.
Besides, what’s the rush? If I have to choose between a fast crash diet and slow, sustained results, I would choose the latter every time. And this is literally what’s going on in our dieting culture. People are choosing fast weight loss that comes right back on (and more!) over a patient, sustainable approach. I do understand why. Of course I do.
But the reality is that the faster it comes off, the faster it goes back on. And the more we deprived we feel, the less sustainable the plan will be.
So it’s time to stop getting random plans from coaches, starting them only to give up on them later. Instead, let’s buckle down for the long haul. Get strategic. Get systematic. Choose 1 thing to change at a time only. And don’t stress if it seems too easy. Because the harder, stricter, guiltier way is not working :) Start with simple; go back and be a beginner. Relearn and then improve for the long haul.
Related: “Jill, should I compete again?”