How you ruin your efforts by “pausing” your exercise and good eating for a week.

Do you recognise this thing I was told the other day?

I’m just going to put my diet and exercise on pause while I’m on holiday… I’ll get right back on it when I get back…

I’ve heard variations of it so many times over the years and I wonder if there is a fundamental flaw in the thinking there…

First of all, I want to state clearly that I am not some diet/exercise Nazi, insisting that you must never miss a training session, or that if you dare let a single chocolate pass your lips you are doomed to a life of obesity. But instead, I’m thinking that the stark, binary world of being “good” or being “bad” helps no one. Instead, I want you to start thinking of things as more of a spectrum.

What do I mean by “binary”?

Binary thinking
I prefer more than just 2 options…

By binary, I mean when people think in a very black or white, off or on way. For example, when someone is either “on” their diet, or “off” it. Or when someone is “in training” for something or “not in training”. It is when people are being “good”, but then decide to be “bad” when it’s the weekend/holiday/Christmas etc. It is when there are only 2 possible answers.

Can you think of examples in your life when you have thought in binary, black or white ways?

Personally, I find this practice to be very restrictive, difficult to live with and hell on my mental well being.

What do I mean by a “spectrum”?

A number line is a classic spectrum

A classic example of a spectrum is the scale of 1-10. There are far more possible “shades of grey” than a simple yes/no or black/white response.

For example, instead of either being “off/on” a diet or exercise routine, we can dial our efforts up or down a bit, depending on the situation we find ourselves. So, if we are in the run up to a big event (eg – a wedding, holiday, competition etc), then we can “dial up” our efforts to 8, 9, or 10 out of 10.

In practice, this can mean we exercise more often, harder and we make more sacrifices to make sure we get it done.

But if we are at the wedding, holiday or just after the competition, instead of switching off all effort entirely and reverting right back to our old ways, we can just “dial down” our effort to 4,5 or 6 out of 10.

In practice, this can mean we still exercise, but not as often, or as hard and maybe we don’t bust a gut making sure it’s the best we can possibly do.

This spectrum way of thinking, and being able to dial up/down effort gives us so many more possible answers. It gives us so much more control over our lives. And importantly, it means we are not having to always deal with wildly changing behaviours.

Now I love a good “take home message”…so here is mine to you:

Next time you think about “pausing” your good exercise and good eating habits, try to just “dial them down” a notch instead. I think you will find it easier to cope, easier to get back into the good habits again afterwards and generally less of an emotional roller coaster.

What next?

If what I’ve written here resonates with you at all, I’m going to ask you a few favours: