Posted in Lifestyle change, Strength Training, Wellness Coaching

All or Nothing Leads to… Nothing

I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Always have been since I was a small child. It runs so deep, it’s like an infinite onion:  every time I think I’ve peeled off a layer, there’s another one lurking underneath.

All or nothing thinking leads to perfectionism, and the crippling anxiety and shame that comes with it.

“If I can’t do it perfectly, then I shouldn’t do it at all.”

“If I can’t win, I don’t want to play.”

“If I fail, then I’m worthless.”

Shockingly, this mindset has not served me well, especially in my relationship to food and my body.

I have used food to fix how I feel since I was a little girl, and weight gain followed closely behind. Around age 8, my mother put me on my first diet. Today I know she did what she thought was right; she didn’t know she was setting me up for decades of obsession with food and weight. But from that point on, my life revolved around going on and falling off  diets.

The key word is “diet.” I had the same conception that most people had when they heard that term, especially back in the eighties and nineties when I was a kid. A “diet” had two key components:

  1. Extreme restriction of some kind, whether it be calories, fat, etc.
  2. Short-term. A diet was something you eventually “went off” when you hit your goal weight and life became a magical utopia free of problems with food or body image

Even when notions of “diet” within our culture gradually shifted to more sensible concepts of “lifestyle change,” my all or nothing mindset persisted.

Here are just a few examples of my most significant weight loss efforts over the years:

When I was 14, I went on an extreme calorie-restricted diet where I only ate 1000-1200 calories a day. I lost 30 pounds in a summer. It was my first “successful” attempt at weight loss. I was inundated with compliments and congratulations. A year later I had regained all of it plus more, in addition to an even heavier load of shame.

In my mid-twenties, I did the Atkins diet. I only allowed myself 20 grams of carbohydrate per day. I lost 40-50 pounds in a few months. Less than a year later, it was all back plus more.

Around 2011, I did a 3 week cleanse where I took supplements that cost hundreds of dollars and only ate vegetables, a few fruits, organic chicken and fish, and a bit of healthy oil. I lost 20 pounds in that 3 weeks, and about 20 additional pounds as I tried to maintain that level of “clean eating” and gradually incorporate a bit of “normal” food. I kept it off a bit longer this time, but two years later it was all back.

Clearly, there’s a pattern here. I would start a restrictive program and get quick short-term results. But eventually, the boredom and pain of extreme restriction overwhelmed me, and I would have “slips” where I ate “bad” food. The shame and fear led to even more “slips,” then to full-on binges, then to the all or nothing mind’s darkest place: “What’s the point? I’m worthless. I can’t do this. This is always where I wind up. Let’s eat.”

This was the baggage I brought with me to Ludus Magnus.

I want to be clear: when I first came to Matt Wenning for training, he only gave me one direction regarding my diet: eat more protein. That was it.

Then my all or nothing brain grabbed that simple instruction and turned it into “dont eat any sugar or carbohydrates again, ever.”

Neat trick, right?  

So I took my struggling, out of shape body that was already adjusting to strength training twice a week, and threw the stress of extreme dietary restriction on top of it. Because more is always better, right?

Wrong. Within two weeks, I was physically ill and an emotional wreck. Stuck on the couch, too nauseous and fatigued to train or even go to work. When I’m that sick, all I want is Reed’s Ginger Beer. With over 30 grams of real ginger in each bottle, it is wonderfully soothing to a troubled stomach. But I remember crying to a dear friend that I couldn’t have it  because I wasn’t “allowed” to eat sugar anymore.

My friend was concerned, and pointed out my extreme thinking. She also suggested that maybe I wasn’t ready for strength training. Her heart was in the right place. She was right about the thinking, but wrong about the training.

In my gut, I knew that I had to do the training. As hard as it was, it felt right. I can’t explain why, it just did

I had hit a bottom with all or nothing living. Training with Matt at Ludus Magnus was too big an adjustment; I could not totally change my diet at the same time. I had to choose between my old way of doing things, and the training. 

I chose the training, and I drank the damn Reed’s. My stomach felt much better.

If you are ready to try a new way and let go of old ideas that aren’t working for you, please leave a comment below, send me an email, or give me a call! Let’s have a conversation about it!

2 thoughts on “All or Nothing Leads to… Nothing

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