One of my mentors once gave me a visual description of this all or nothing as a pendulum. Picture pulling the pendulum way up as high as it will go. Now let it go and watch it swing wildly way up the other side. It takes a long time to settle down at the center.
This is what we do to ourselves when we attempt to restrict, diet, or do anything in the extreme. We start pulling that pendulum upward, upward, and upward. “Alright”, we say to ourselves, “it is time to get SERIOUS”. So we get out the notebook or the phone app and we start tracking every piece of food that goes in. We look up the 17 day diet or the South Beach diet or the Paleo diet and we stock up on nothing but nuts and leaves and steak. Then we decide upon a six day a week workout plan, one hour of cardio a day, and we set up the column in the notebook or the app to track calories out.
Here’s the problem. Day one. Told myself I wouldn’t eat ANY carbs. Was absolutely starving by lunch and the thought of salad with tuna on it made me want to slap someone. So I got mac and cheese and bread. And a cookie. Fine, forget day one. I’m not working out after a crap day like that. I’ll start again tomorrow. Commence a night of eating every carb in sight. I might not get to eat them again. Ever.
Day two. Oh my God I might not ever get to eat carbs again! I better stop and get a bagel at Panera and start this tomorrow.
Day three. Let the pendulum go. It flings itself up the other side. I don’t want to live a life of restriction!!! What kind of life is that, anyway? We were meant to enjoy food! I’ll just live with being this size. I don’t even care anymore. Stop taking my only treats. I like this stuff. I don’t know why I try. I hate this. Why do I struggle with this? What is wrong? What’s happening?
Believe it or not, this is very common. We all go through this. It is a natural reaction to pulling the pendulum up way too high; of attempting to change everything at once. I understand the reasoning. If I can do all this at once, I can return to the life I know. But with that thinking, we always end up where we started.
The only way to move forward is to lift the pendulum gently.
When you lift the pendulum gently, and think about making a small change or a small step forward, you minimize the chance of the all out rebellion or the wild swing to the other side. It’s more peaceful. It’s calmer. It’s slower. But it is how to move forward.
Pick one small step. If your mind rebels and wants this all done RIGHT NOW, tell it to hush. You’re trying to get something done. Do your one small step. Actually succeed at it. Sit with how that feels. Pretty good, huh? Yes indeed.
Now, while maintaining that sweet little change you just made, pick another one. If your mind rebels and wants this all done RIGHT NOW, tell it to hush again. Then do your small step. Succeed. Then commit to it. Can you stick with it? Can you make it part of your life forever? If not, it was too big. Go smaller.
Imagine doing one small, doable step a week for a year then committing to the change. Can you imagine how different your life would be on January 28, 2014? Close your eyes for a moment and just imagine it. Imagine YOU with fifty two successes under your belt. A huge lesson learned about how to make incremental changes that last.
Now just for a second, imagine one year from now, having gone through the torment of the pendulum over and over without getting anywhere. Still stuck, still trying to figure it out. You do not have to live that way! Give up the pendulum. Let go of all or nothing thinking.
Here’s how. First own it. Say to yourself or write in your journal, “I see that I’ve believed the lie of all or nothing thinking.” Then turn around! “I come out of agreement with the LIE of all or nothing thinking. I am willing to go through the work required to make these changes.”
Then take your first small step. You’re on your way to freedom.