The All or Nothing Mindset

Posted in Medical Care & Treatment, Prevention and Treatments on

In daily living, it is so easy to get overwhelmed 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.”

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, but life does not need to be about perfection, it’s a journey.

Who says that it’s not worth doing unless you do it well? Okay, well maybe a lot of people would say that—but there are far more options available to us when we are trying to do something in stages, smaller steps, 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 two common health areas that we tend to get stuck in, but keep in mind these principles could also apply to other domains of life, such as hobbies, recreation, friendships, or skills development, education interests, job seeking, etc.

#1. Exercise

First of all, exercise should be about moving your body, making you feel good and enjoying it. Exercise can also refresh and enliven your mind and mood…

Yes, we want to have a healthy heart and increase our muscle mass to fight our slowing metabolism as we age, but we don’t need to all aspire to becoming a tri-athlete either (all or nothing). 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 want to do.

  • 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 training class at your local gym or private exercise where you don’t have to join a gym?
  • Do you enjoy dancing, yoga, pilates, swimming, bike riding, jogging or perhaps just gardening?
  • What about power walking, bush walking, or just walking your dog each morning or night?

Each of these suggestions is a great starting point. The goal is to ENJOY what you’re doing, if it’s not a tedious thing you’ll keep it up.  It’s important not to think of exercise as needing to join expensive gyms or pay a private fitness instructor– exercise can be free, like a walk (or jog) in the park or along a beach.  It’s about setting YOUR goals.

The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines offer useful guidance for all ages:

When we weigh ourselves down with the burden of having to do an intense cardio workout, or run a marathon, 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 and feeling good? Something IS better than nothing. I promise you.

#2. Food

When we are trying to make healthier choices with food, it’s important to set achievable goals to help you tinker with your eating habits – not throw out everything you like (including treats) for strict diets and food you don’t enjoy. Your short and medium term goal should be to put GOOD food into your body, then make small changes regarding the amount and type of that food.

It’s a huge step forward when we start paying attention to what food makes our body feel better, and energises us, versus what foods that don’t. It’s not about removing the foods you like, or the style of the diet, it’s about making the best healthy choices, and healthy food need not be expensive food.  Experiment with what type of breakfast makes you feel the fullest and gives you the most sustaining energy.  That is so much less daunting than telling yourself you have to lose (or gain) 15 lbs.

You may want to see what happens if you try replacing simple carbohydrates (sugary foods) with more veggies and low GI* foods? Or consider more plant-based food over animal-based foods? – recent research shows that eating more plant protein increases your longevity:

It’s about figuring out what food makes your body feel at its best, and what benefits YOU want to achieve from your diet. It’s learning process. But it encourages you to step outside of the ‘all or nothing’ mindset about your food intake, without necessarily needing to burden yourself with the perfect daily diet always.

Flip this mindset around by asking yourself: I wonder what food is the best fuel for my body just for today?

People living with HIV should aim to eat a well-balanced varied diet, the same as the general population, avoiding too much fat, sugar and salt, and choose a variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups.  The 5 food groups include: breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, meat & alternatives, and dairy & alternatives:

Try to choose fresh, unprocessed foods. Although many foods may be processed (for convenience), look for wholefood ingredients within them. Read food labels when you shop, and this will help you learn about your diet.

Choose healthy fats, known as unsaturated fats, in moderation. These include nuts, vegetable oils, and avocado. Unsaturated fats increase the level of HDL (good) cholesterol, and decrease the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol and other blood fats which affect heart health.

Unhealthy fats, known as Saturated fats, are found in meat, dairy, butter, cream, margarine, coconut and palm oil. These fats can increase your total cholesterol level in your body. Trans-fats which are found in most ‘junk’ foods and fried foods are also unhealthy fats and cause your total cholesterol to increase as well, and increase your risk of heart disease.

* Foods and drinks with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) keep you fuller for longer and are usually higher in fibre (which helps with the absorption of excess cholesterol and creates a healthy digestion).

– Low GI foods include wholegrain breads & cereals, pasta, sweet potato, dairy, most fruits

– High GI foods are processed foods such as white bread, high sugar cereals, confectionary and all sugar

It is important to stay properly hydrated every day. Dieticians/Nutritionist recommend at least 2 litres of water a day to promote hydration (crucial for all cells in the body), better circulation and overall good health. Drinking water also promotes irrigation or flushing of the kidneys.

Reference: Dietary information kindly provided by Jenny McDonald, Consultant HIV Dietician, APD

Your Challenge

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).

If you catch yourself feeling that it’s not worth doing until you can do it perfectly…remember that’s the all or nothing mindset! It’s only causing you to miss out on little glimpses of a better life.

Source:  Adapted from an original article by Jill Dahl, Founder, Secondhand Therapy.

Jill Dahl is the founder of Secondhand Therapy. She is on a mission to empower people to make courageous decisions, especially when it comes to prioritizing their wellbeing.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Please make sure that you consult with a doctor or other professional health-care specialist before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

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