Good/bad. Right/wrong. Right/Left. On/off. Yes/no. Happy/Sad.

We love our absolutes. We want to be sure. We want to be all in. We want to be right. We want to be dedicated –  24/7/365.  As if.

In reality though, most of life is nuanced. Our decisions usually take into account many factors. Our actions are reasoned in less absolute terms. But I’ve worked with many people who want to stick to the two-choice approach in two specific areas of their life: diet and exercise.

It looks like this:

  • They are following their preferred diet – or they’re entirely off the rails. (Backed up with a grin and the exclamation – “If I’m gonna go off, might as well go big!”  Really?)
  • They’re dedicated to their gym/yoga/swim/fitness routine, or doing nothing at all. (“I’ll get back to exercising after the holiday/weekend/winter/first quarter/crazy month.”)

Stop it. Please. You’re wrecking your health (and your spirit) with this on again/off again approach. You’re setting a bad example for those who look to you. You’re ignoring the basic premise that something is better than nothing – yet this absolutely applies in the case of your health, fitness and well-being. And maybe, by adopting an approach with more choices, you may stop failing at far-reaching resolutions and over-demanding promises you make to yourself. You may just find yourself steadily, consistently, positively moving towards where you want to be.

We have this conversation frequently with our clients. We ask them to try an approach to their diet and exercise that is better for their body, and easier on their mind and spirit. It works so well that I put it on our wall: 

There are lots of slogans and catchy phrases that apply from time to time. But this one really speaks to the nuances of our life. This gives us options beyond yes/no and on/off, and prompts us to be a bit more introspective into our choices and daily habits. This approach expands the conversation. 

Awareness of the nuances has an immediate effect on our choices and a profound effect over time. The greatest is that the All Or Nothing crazy train stays permanently parked at the station, and your body, mind and spirit become better balanced. Your wave of well-being goes from this:

To this:

Ouch to ahhhh.  Which do you think your body would do better with? And your mind? I can tell you with certainty what your body likes. And I would bet your mind would also be happy to do without the guilt/grind cycle.

Now it looks like this:

  • you can have a few fries instead of all of them (although that always remains an option if they are the very best fries in the world and you may never get to have them again),
  • you can do some bodyweight exercises or some mobility work in the living room on snow days when your class is cancelled – before turning on Netflix,
  • your aching back (or shoulder, or neck, or whatever) can be considered in more helpful terms, allowing you to make the connections between what you do and how it feels.

Life is nuanced. Choices are many. Language matters. And when it comes to your diet and exercise, nothing beats consistency.

Where would you be if you applied this approach to some of your daily habits?


*Hat tip to the Original Strength crew for their use of good/better/best as a way for people to deepen their relationship with their fitness.

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