Nutrition: Adopting a More Flexible Mindset

Tips to help find long-term successes

Are you someone who is either all in or all out when it comes to nutrition? Do you find yourself thinking “I’m going to start eating ‘good’ on Monday so I might as well eat all the ‘bad’ foods now,” or “after the holiday, I’ll start over?”

If this sounds familiar to you, I urge you to begin to shift away from this way of thinking. This type of fixed mindset – the good or bad, all or nothing, win or lose – can be negative, unhealthy and detrimental to long-term success. Instead, try to shift your thinking to be more flexible. Nutrition and exercise are not simply good or bad; we don’t just win or lose. Our routines and habits around nutrition and exercise do not need to be perfect.  In fact, overly strict nutrition and exercise regiments (which can be difficult to follow) can come with some serious trade-offs including limiting social interactions, damaging existing relationships and developing an unhealthy association with exercise and food.

HOW TO THINK WITH A FLEXIBLE MINDSET AND WHY IT WILL CREATE LONG-TERM SUCCESS

Foods are not entirely all good or all bad for you; they simply land on a continuum from the very best choice to the very worst choice.  With food, you have the freedom to make choices that are just a little bit better, just a little bit worse, etc.

Each day we make many choices that impact our health, and all we need to do is begin to make choices that are just a little bit better than what we would normally make. Here are some things to consider:

  • Look to make small, manageable changes. Over time your choices will continue improve and you will build confidence in your ability to make better choices.
  • Making sweeping changes usually do not last.
    • If you have a coffee every morning with 3 creams and 4 sugars, and you choose to change this to 1 cream and 2 sugars—have you made a better choice? Absolutely. Would a black coffee be the best available choice here? Potentially, but it’s not always realistic for someone to go from 3 creams and 4 sugars to drinking their coffee black every day. This small success should be celebrated! In time the choice to further reduce the additional cream and sugars will be a smaller, more manageable, and most importantly, a more successful one.
    • If you currently buy lunch every day, is it smart to try and pack a healthier lunch each day? Probably not. This would require a huge change to your routine in which would include additional shopping, daily preparation, daily packing, etc. Instead try packing lunch one or two days per week. It doesn’t even have to be healthier than what you would normally purchase. The idea is that you are choosing to simply pack a lunch instead of eating out. In time you can begin to add another day of packing lunch and you may even notice you feel better and have more energy on days that you bring your lunch.
  • Avoid the “on/off” or “pause” buttons.
    • Do not wait to make the next better choice.
    • Do not wait for tomorrow or Monday or after the holidays.
    • Allow yourself to have a bad meal or bad day, but don’t be derailed by them. This thinking can sabotage many weeks/months of better decision making; and if you are prone to a fixed mindset, it can take you out of the game completely.

A flexible mindset will allow you to find much more quantifiable success, feeling much better about yourself and seeing that this way of thinking and acting is more sustainable.

By not striving for perfection, and instead viewing each day as a series of decisions, you can look to make slightly better decisions more often, and you’ll begin to make better choices a habit. You will feel more successful, and this feeling will translate to confidence.

 

Blog content from Ryan McClean, Senior Health & Wellness Director