Ditch the All or Nothing Approach to Health: How to Make Gradual Changes for Long-Term Success

Apr 13, 2023

It’s time for ‘the talk’. Not the one you’re probably thinking – get your head out of the gutter ;). Let’s talk about a common approach to getting and staying healthy that just doesn’t work: the all or nothing approach. You know the one – it’s where you go from eating junk food and never exercising to suddenly eating only kale and working out six days a week. And while it may work for a few days or even a week, eventually it becomes unsustainable and you end up right back where you started.

So with summer fast approaching and wanting to get swimsuit ready as fast as possible, let’s ditch that approach (that history has shown us doesn’t work) and figure out a new one that doesn’t have you hating life.

Here it is:

Instead of going from 0 to 100 overnight, let’s go from 0 to 1 and then 1 to 2 and so on. While it won’t have you dropping 10 lbs in 10 days, it’s a gradual approach that’s sustainable and effective in the long-term AND leaves you able to enjoy life.

Think of it this way – you’re patient with your kids when they’re learning new skills, right? You don’t expect them to speak full sentences as soon as they utter the word “momma” or write a novel once they pick up a crayon. They learn little by little, but before you know it they’re the next prodigy (as far as you’re concerned anyways).

Just the same as you give them time to learn, grow and change, we must be patient with ourselves when we’re trying to make healthy changes. If beating yourself up worked, it would have worked by now.

What does this look like in practice?

It means starting small, with one healthy habit at a time. Maybe that’s drinking more water or going for a 10-minute walk each day. Once you’ve mastered that, add another healthy habit, like eating an extra serving of veggies or doing a 20-minute workout a few times a week.

The key is to not overwhelm yourself with too much change at once (remember, 0 to 100 doesn’t work for long). It’s much easier to stick to a few small changes than to try to overhaul your entire lifestyle in one go. Plus, these small changes are more likely to become permanent habits, which is what we want for long-term health.

And remind yourself that progress isn’t always linear. There will be days when you miss or skip habits and that’s okay! It’s life and happens to us all, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s not the day or two that we miss, instead it’s letting them turn into a string of months where we miss. So instead, focus on making the next day a non-negotiable. Like James Clear says, DON’T MISS TWICE. Living a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination (corny, I know… but there really isn’t a finish line here).

Another thing to keep in mind is that getting healthy shouldn’t be a chore. Find activities you actually enjoy, whether that’s going for a hike, trying a new workout class, or cooking a healthy meal with friends. When you enjoy what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like a chore and you’re more likely to stick with it.

And finally, don’t forget to celebrate your wins along the way. Maybe that’s fitting into a pair of pants that were too tight before or running your first full mile after having your baby a few years ago. Whatever it is, take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate your progress. Not only is it a great motivator to keep going, but keeping those wins in mind will help build your confidence that you can, in fact, live the healthy life you want!

Convinced yet?

Let’s ditch the all or nothing approach and embrace a more sustainable, gradual approach to getting and staying healthy. Start small, be patient with yourself, and enjoy the journey. Summer is coming and you’ve got plenty of time to get those healthy habits in place so you feel ‘swimsuit ready’. Remember, progress, not perfection.

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