Do you see yourself as anti-diet but still believe you’d be more comfortable in a smaller body? Do you have physique goals or weight goals for your lifting sport, but you know that traditional strategies (macro counting, food plans, bulking and cutting cycles, etc.) don’t work for you in a sustainable, healthy way? The ladies at Balance 365 are a safe space to explore these issues without extreme dieting, fads or self harm. This episode is a great example of the kinds of work you can do that do not contribute to the cycles of harm induced by dietary restriction and inevitable rebounding.
Jen presents two main areas that folks need to “get honest with themselves” about that can prevent intentional weight changes. The first one is a real doozy–avoidance. Throughout the conversation, she provides many practical examples of how we might use avoidance in ways that can keep us stuck and prevent the mindset growth necessary to make lasting changes in our eating behaviors. These include avoiding the scale and never weighing ourselves, avoiding nutrition data or serving sizes, and avoiding monitoring our alcohol consumption.
Jen gives an example from her own life as she was healing from years of extreme dieting that she refused to weigh herself, saying “weight is just a number.” However, when faced with what could have been a low-pressure situation, adding herself to a large scale with her family, she found herself to be high anxiety about it. This moment helped her realize that to be truly neutral about her weight meant that weighing herself needs to be something that has no value attached to it, and she decided to learn to weigh herself without judgment.
The power of this story and the concept of avoidance is in noticing how our assumptions and judgments are attached to the observations of facts that could be neutral. Our weight is just a number and it measures how much gravity is pulling on our bodies. The force of gravity doesn’t change regardless of whether or not we measure it. Whether we track or not, what we eat is what we eat. The facts are what they are. So the trouble with avoidance is not in the measurement but in our beliefs about those measurements.
The second area of “lies we tell ourselves” that they touch upon in this episode is obligation–the idea that if we look at something, we have to do something about it. This one really hit home for me, as I’m very much a Type A, go-getter, always-having-a-to-do-list self-improvement kind of person. But what if I notice something and learn to just ACCEPT it about myself, my life, my eating or my training? What would change if I make the observation and decide I’m not going to work on it? Honestly, just considering it gives me such a sense of relief! I don’t have to constantly be trying to improve my perceived shortcomings. I know I have perfectionist tendencies and that they don’t always serve me well. It can add to my stress load to always be working on self-improvement. Of course, that’s also part of what drives me in fitness and nutrition! I ENJOY working on these things, but the happy place needs to be a place of balance, not obligatory constant focus on change. Tying this back into body composition change, we can set boundaries on which areas of our lives we choose to change and which ones we choose to be as they are. Maybe it’s not now, maybe it’s not ever, but noticing that we can decide which changes we want to make and which ones we don’t keeps us in the driver’s seat and avoids the all-or-nothing swings and panicked reactions that come from diet culture.
Let me be more concrete about how changing our mindsets can result in reaching our goals. In these examples, we have two types of “truths” that in their absence can result in self-sabotaging behaviors. Avoidance can prevent us from gathering data and considering that data in nonjudgmental ways. If we never honestly observe a situation and assess it without judgement, we can’t have clarity about the changes we may choose to make. If we think we’re “eating really healthy” but fail to accept without shame that how we eat maintains our body in its current composition, we aren’t truly making an informed decision about potential future changes. Likewise, (and this is the tie-in with obligation) without that honest assessment, we aren’t really making the decision to accept the outcomes when we choose NOT to change something. In either case, we’re empowering ourselves and making a true, informed decision–to act or not act based on the data and our personal values–and not letting emotional swings guide what we do.
These tools helps folks shift from perfectionism towards consistency, and I think they’re essential to developing more consistent motivations around eating and weight management. To my fellow gym bros who are sick of failing at being a macro-counting robot, I hope you are open to this sort of alternative version of “doing the work” of physique change. There are skills we can learn that allow us to continue to work towards our goals in more healthful, balanced ways, defined by our own boundaries and values. I loved this episode of B365, and I hope you take the time to listen to it, too!
What role does avoidance or obligation play in your eating behaviors? Are these mindsets you’re open to working on? Are there areas you’re willing to accept instead of adjusting? I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below or find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook and join the conversation over there!