The health and fitness world is full of rules, from things you should “never”eat to exercises you “must” do everyday, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and fall into the all too familiar all-or-nothing cycle of eating clean and nailing every workout, to mindlessly snacking on junk food and giving 50% at the gym. It’s hard to find the right balance but it’s possible, and it starts with your frame of mind.
When we put our eating and exercise choices on a pedestal of rules, we end up creating ideals to fall from. We learn from a young age that rules are hard and fast and if you break them you are in trouble. A healthy and balanced lifestyle is just the opposite. You’ll have days where you cook all your meals and get in an extra 10 minutes of circuits because you are on fire! Then you’ll have a day where your breakfast is coffee and the thought of stepping foot on a treadmill is too exhausting. They key is having the same attitude about yourself and your abilities to lead a healthful life no matter what kind of day you’re experiencing.When we put our eating and exercise choices on a pedestal of rules, we end up creating ideals to fall from Click To Tweet
Say you have a rule of not eating french fries, but you give in to temptation while out with friends and have one from a shared basket. Despite that you’ve eaten smart all week and ordered healthfully that night, you’ve broken a rule! Your head tells you you’ve done something wrong. You feel bad about yourself. You doubt your ability to make good choices so you say, “F it” and stuff more fries down without enjoying them because you’re doing something you shouldn’t.
Another scenario goes like this: you have a rule to workout at least one weekend day, but two weekends in a row you have a work trip and an out of town wedding and don’t end up getting one in. You’ve gotten 45 minutes of exercise in the last 5 weekends in a row, but you broke your golden rule and feel like you failed. You skip the gym Monday because you already broke your rule, what’s another day?
This is why I don’t like rules! They can make you feel trapped, like a failure, and put you in that all-or-nothing mentality. I understand why people make these rules to follow, we need guidance especially when creating new habits and breaking old ones, but why not create a more welcoming head space to do so?
Instead of listing rules, come up with guidelines. Write out the qualities you strive for in your idea of a healthy lifestyle; energetic, active, relaxed, and balanced eater are a few examples. Now, instead of creating rules to follow to get there, draft some guidelines of what you prefer you do, that put you in action; I like to exercise 5 days a week, I prefer not to drink alcohol on weeknights, I avoid ordering red meat when dining out, etc.
By viewing these actions as guidelines you allow yourself the occasional divergence without feeling you’ve jumped off a cliff. Maybe you typically don’t order a burger when eating out, but the restaurant you go to is famous for their burger and you’ve craved one all week. This isn’t usually what you do, it’s not under your guidelines, but you eat one for dinner and go back to your healthy habits at your next meal. No harm no foul. You didn’t break a rule and don’t need to punish yourself.
Seeing your healthy habits as a lifestyle and not a set of rules will allow for the ebb and flow of life. One of my favorite quotes to tell clients is, “one workout won’t make you fit and one burger won’t make you fat.” It’s your small, everyday choices that make the biggest impact and by letting your guidelines guide them instead of hard rules, you may find it easier to make these choices since you’re free to do what you want.
If you’d like outside guidance in creating your healthy lifestyle guidelines and making them habits, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to work with you!