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April 16, 2014

Regaining Your Common Sense: Why Doing LESS Leads to a Leaner Physique

I used to think that the people who thought about food the most were the leanest.

I thought, it’s the people who aren’t conscious about food that end up eating everything in sight, unable to stop themselves.

I have to tell you–I am changing my tune on that. I think there’s a bell-shaped curve when it comes to conscientiousness around food.

In the last week alone, I received several emails from women with very similar stories: fairly lean and fit, expressing their need to lose 5 lbs and looking for tools to stop being so obsessed with food. I also fielded several questions on Twitter from people asking things like, “which is better: oat bran or oatmeal?” and “whey protein or rice protein at night?” and, “should my post-workout carb be berries or a banana?”

All perfectly acceptable and interesting questions. All completely justified inquiries.


I can’t help but wonder if all these tiny stresses and inquiries and questions and constant anxiety about every bite of food that passes our lips adds up to one humongous stress that keeps us from ever getting results??

I wonder if all these minute stresses and the constant fear of messing up every second a) matters all that much when it comes down to actual sustainable results, and b) if the constant questioning and second-guessing and stressing is doing more harm than good?

I call this “Indecision Plateau” where you continue NOT getting results simply because you are THINKING ABOUT IT ALL WAY TOO HARD.

Want to know how I answer questions like these now?

I say: Do what will be sustainable first and foremost. What TASTES better to you: oat bran or oats? (the difference between the two is 30 cals and 2g of carb … WTF?)

I say: What will make you stress THE LEAST?

I say: What will be the most effortless path for you long-term?

I say: What do you actually enjoy?

I say: What if you actually just had the food you are so scared of having? Couldn’t you teach yourself how to build a better relationship with it, expose yourself to it, and move through the stress into ease?

I say: Could having a small bite of chocolate earlier in the day–though not perfect–keep you from eating more and worse crap later?

I say: Can you trust YOURSELF to not blow up the second you turn the anxiety mode off?

Aaaaaaah! This stuff is so freaking tough! I get that! And yet, when you take away all the justifications and what-if’s and stress about making a mistake every second, doesn’t it just come down to a choice? To learn and grow and give yourself the benefit of the doubt?


Jade turned me onto this insight, and this is exactly how I now see nutrition now:

“Before a man studies Zen, to him mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after he gets an insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master, mountains to him are not mountains and waters are not waters; but after this when he really attains to the abode of rest, mountains are once more mountains and waters are waters.”  (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 24)

What does that mean?

It means, FIRST, before you really become interested in nutrition–maybe when you were younger–you don’t think about it, you just eat how you eat, and you don’t care to learn more. THEN, maybe you get a small insight or something catches your attention. At this point, your interest is piqued and you begin to look further. You learn some of the science and get excited about all the ways food affects your body and physique. At this point, it can become confusing because there are seemingly so many rules and moving parts that there’s an anxiety about it. Almost TOO MUCH consciousness, to the point that you may not even be able to get results. There’s a paralysis. THEN FINALLY, at some point, you take the chance. You take the risk to trust yourself a little more, and to just do your best and stay mindful but give up the need to be perfect, and all of a sudden … ahhhhhhh … liberation from the stress and anxiety about every single choice you make with your nutrition.

You take the long-view.

You realize that the difference between oat bran vs. oatmeal actually makes ZERO difference in your physique, and the only thing that really matters when choosing is: which one are you more likely to eat regularly?

You do your best.

You consider the YOU in the process. You actually ask: What can I see myself doing forever?

So could expecting less of yourself actually help you get faster, better results?

I think it can.

Why? Because imagine the mental space now available to you when you aren’t stressing about every tiny decision. Imagine focusing on 2-3 KEY behaviors that are the MOST IMPACTFUL for you. Imagine letting the rest of the chips fall and being okay with that. Could you?

I know what you’re thinking! “But Jill! I can’t let up my vigilance because it what keeps me on point!” (you may or may not use the word ‘vigilance’ ;))

Nope. It’s not what keeps you on point. Because YOU EAT THE SAME whether you stress the hell out or just do your best. The OUTCOME is the same. You still binge, you still think about calories and macros and cardio minutes constantly. You’re still miserable and obsessed. The relentless vigilance keeps you from achieving real, sustainable change.


Because focus is finite. And not all nutritional decisions carry the same weight.

Whether to eat brown or white rice is not nearly as important as getting at least 20g of lean protein at each meal in terms of impact overall. And yet, we give each consideration the same amount of mental space. Which often keeps us occupied and curious, but not achieving.

So how do you start this process?

Identify your 2-3 Daily Nutritional Commitments:

I don’t like to call these “rules” because that makes it feel like a job. And when I feel like it’s my job, it’s not effortless anymore!

“Daily nutritional commitments” are 2-3 high-impact, low effort behaviors that you’ll do every day without fail. These are actions that, for you, if implemented consistently, leaves you very little wiggle room to “mess up” or ”blow it.”  Why? Because they are behaviors that limit feelings of deprivation. They help us feel more satisfied and satiated. Thus, we don’t ever reach the point of needing to overindulge. Yours will be different than mine, because you are different  You need to take into account your unique metabolism, personal preferences and psychological sensitivities.

Mine? Here:

  1. Eat one huge big ass salad (#BAS) every day, either at home or when dining out.
  2. Eat protein at every meal.
  3. Always keep a preemptive cheat (like a protein bar) in my purse.

That’s it. That’s all I commit to daily. It’s effortless and automatic and keeps me from ever getting into too much trouble.

And you know what? It feels good to let the rest of the chips fall and not have to stress over them! And ironically, when I give myself permission to NOT stress over every tiny nutritional consideration, it leaves me MORE mental space for things like: mindfulness, surfing the craving waves, reminding myself to have an abundance mindset around food so I don’t get “Food FOMO,” and actually HAVING THE WILLPOWER HANDY TO RESIST IN THOSE MOMENTS OF TEMPTATION.

Your ability to succeed is directly proportional to the amount of mental energy at your disposal. And guess what conserves mental energy? Not stressing about every single little nutritional choice.

Last Sunday, I ate a pack of bacon, a #BAS and a bottle of wine. That was it. Was it super fat-loss-friendly? No. Am I getting shredded because of it? Nope. But you know what, I don’t want to stress about it. And I don’t want to beat myself up over it. Do I eat like that every day? No way. But a day like that doesn’t make or break my physique.

My current physique is a result of my choices up until this point–all of them. Not last night’s binge. And my future physique rests on my future choices–all of them, collectively. Not the one time I drink a bottle of wine and skipped my workout.

Stressing over every single little nutritional consideration is keeping you from getting results. It is. It keeps you in a holding pattern where you never feel like you are “doing the right thing for your body.” Instead, could you trust the process? Do your best? Work to discover your 2-3 most impactful behaviors and just do those? That’s it. Focus there, and let your stress take a breather. Make that shit EASY on yourself! I guarantee it will be worth it :)

Let me know what you think on the JillFit Facebook page! Ox, Jill

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