It is so easy to paralyze yourself with expectations of what you should be doing…that you end up doing nothing.
“I should workout five times a week for at least 30 minutes…but that’s overwhelming, so I won’t work out at all.”
“I should eat healthier…but I don’t know where to start so I will just keep eating unhealthy food.”
We’ve all been there.
But I want to call out this “all or nothing” mindset for what it is: BS.
Who says that it’s not worth doing unless you do it well? Okay, well maybe a lot of people would say that—but I’d like to suggest that there are far more options available to us when we are trying to do something that will improve our quality of life.
When we take a small step forward, that still counts. We’re gaining momentum. And at the very least we are way ahead of those who didn’t do anything at all.
Let’s take a look at four common areas that we tend to get stuck in.
First of all, exercise should be about moving your body.
Most experts agree that, regarding weight maintenance or loss, your food intake is more important than exercise.
So can we agree that exercise is about your body feeling strong and good? Because we don’t get another body if this one wears out.
Yes, we want to have a healthy heart and increase our muscle mass to fight our slowing metabolism as we age. But there are no exercise police who will step in and call you out for “not doing enough.”
The key is to start with what you can do and expand from there.
- Can you walk around the block after dinner every day this week?
- Can you take the stairs at work each morning?
- Can you ride that exercise bike that’s gathering dust while you watch TV?
- Can you stretch for 10 minutes before bed?
- Can you meet a buddy for a big walk each Saturday, just to help you remember how good it feels to be outside in the fresh air?
- Can you take a strength training class at your local community center?
Each of these suggestions is a great starting point.
The goal is to enjoy what you are doing. If it’s not a tedious thing, it’s easier to keep increasing the frequency and intensity.
When we weigh ourselves down with the burden of having to do an intense cardio workout, we shrink back from wanting to do anything at all. The pressure is too much.
Flip this mindset around by asking yourself: What do I want to do today to get my body moving? Something IS better than nothing. I promise you.
When we are trying to make healthier choices with food, put the scale away while you tinker with your eating habits. It is too easy to gain a couple of pounds due to water retention, and then feel like we have wasted our effort. It would be like renovating your house, and with each small change you check in with your realtor to see if your house has increased in value.
Assess before, mid-point and after. Your short and medium term goal should be to put GOOD food into your body, then to make small changes regarding the amount of that food.
This past year I have done a lot of tinkering with my nutrition (namely, realizing that my body hates gluten). I was eating mostly vegetarian before, and it turns out that my body needs lots of protein. Who knew?
I have since realized that different metabolic types respond to different nutrition strategies. People like me who react easily to sugar often do better on a Paleo-type diet. Those who can handle a little bit of sugar and some grain-based carbs may do well on a Mediterranean diet. And if your metabolism burns slowly (i.e., a healthy muffin for breakfast can sustain you until lunch and salads fill you up), a vegan-style diet may work best for you.
It’s a huge step forward when we start paying attention to what food makes our body feel better.
How about trying to figure out what type of breakfast makes you feel the fullest and gives you the most energy? That is so much less daunting than telling yourself you have to lose 15 lbs.
Or, you may want to experiment to see if your body is okay with gluten. Or, you may want to see what happens if you add more protein to your diet. How about trying to replace simple carbs with veggies?
Again, it’s not “I must only eat food that is on this strict ________ diet.”
It’s about figuring out what food makes your body feel at its best. And that’s a slow learning process. But it forces you to step outside of the black and white mindset about your food intake.
Flip this mindset around by asking yourself: I wonder what food is the best fuel for my body?
Hobbies nourish our soul.
It’s the stolen moments, doing something that we love, that can sustain us through the chaos of everyday life.
Whether it’s reading, DIY projects, a special activity outdoors, or learning a new skill—you don’t have to wait for several hours of spare time.
How can you sneak it in? Is there a way for you to steal 10 or 15 minutes, a few days a week, to pursue your passion?
Perhaps you could get ready for bed 20 minutes early, to sneak in a bit of reading time?
Or is there a project you could do while the rest of the family is watching a Netflix show?
You get the idea.
Waiting for large blocks of time is the Never Never plan. A few minutes of indulgence in your favorite hobby is good for your spirit. Don’t overcomplicate it.
Flip this mindset around by asking yourself: Where in my week can I squeeze in some time to pursue my passions? How would it feel to be able to devote some time to an activity that I love?
I’ve written before about creative ways of finding time to connect with friends.
Part of what sustains a friendship is the opportunity to connect between visits. Maybe your schedules have been clashing over the past month, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out.
My favorite friendship practice is to send a quick text or email on my phone to a buddy, instead of scrolling through social media. You can’t tell me that you don’t have a minute or two while waiting in a store line-up or waiting for your kid to finish soccer practice.
Won’t that little, “Hey, how is your day going?” message to your buddy feel so much better than checking your Facebook newsfeed? It’s the small gestures that can add up a lot in your friendship. It’s not necessary to save up all the love for when you finally manage to meet face to face.
Flip this mindset around by asking yourself: What small ways can I connect with my friends between our face-to-face visits?
Productivity expert David Allen encourages his readers to break through task overwhelm by determining the next tangible step. I firmly believe that this strategy is the key to breaking through the paralysis that comes from believing we need to do it all (and do it perfectly).
What is your true motive? What are you really trying to accomplish?
If your true motive with exercise is to help your body feel stronger, then 10 minutes of extra movement a day is a great start.
And if you catch yourself feeling that it’s not worth doing until you can do it perfectly…remember to call BS on that mindset. It’s only causing you to miss out on little glimpses of a better life.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Please make sure that you consult with a doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Pssst…want more tips for taking better care of yourself? Grab your free Secondhand Therapy eBook, Start Investing in Your Emotional Wellbeing: 25 Practical Tips for Moving Past Survival Mode. Just enter your info below…