Written by: Jennifer Broxterman, MSc, RD
Founder of NutritionRx
How do you break the habit of perfectionist, all-or-nothing thinking?
You know what I’m talking about – when you have the BEST of intentions to eat healthier, exercise more, start meditating, quit smoking, run a 5k, or take on some other action to improve your health, so you research and design the perfect plan to put into action, and after hitting your first roadblock, all of those great intentions fall to the wayside and you’re right back at square one.
May I introduce one of my favorite health concepts to help break the perfectionist, all-or-nothing approach, which is the HEALTH SPENDING ACCOUNT MINDSET.
I want you to think about your health choices like a “Health Spending Account”, much like money in a bank account.
Positive choices ADD to the Health Spending Account.
- eating more veggies
- being physically active
- getting enough sleep
- drinking lots of water
- eating lean protein sources
- eating slowly and mindfully
- using positive stress reduction techniques
- batch cooking and meal planning ahead
Less than ideal choices SUBTRACT from the Health Spending Account (without be labelled as “bad”).
- eating heavily processed foods
- missing a workout
- not getting enough sleep
- spending too much time on social media, and not taking care of important priorities
- binge watching Netflix for 5 hours without moving from the couch
- having a few too many alcoholic beverages at the end of the work week
- picking up take-out for dinner, again
Just like with money, it’s not ‘bad’ to spend a bit from your bank account, but ideally to become wealthy, you want to earn more than you spend, CONSISTENTLY!
Same goes for our health. There is absolutely no need to be perfect all of the time (just like it’s unrealistic to never spend a penny that you earn). You just have to consistently save more than you spend to be in good financial health.
If you want to spend $50 on some new clothes (i.e. eat a couple of cookies after dinner), go for it, and do it mindfully and with enjoyment! But just like spending $50 on something fun for yourself, it doesn’t mean you have to drain the bank account by $500 or even $5000, just because you’ve dipped into your savings.
And just like with fun expenditures, if you find yourself consistently overspending, you have the option to either cut back a bit, or work a bit more overtime to earn more money (i.e. put more effort into other positive habits that support you, like packing a healthy lunch for tomorrow, or go for a walk after dessert), to find the balance over the week, vs. focusing on being totally perfect or a total failure.
To think of this in more practical terms:
- It’s better to eat just 2-3 cookies if you’re craving them, vs. the entire box
- It’s better to go for a 5-10 minute walk around the block, vs. not at all
- It’s better to do 10 pushups at home, vs. skipping the gym completely
- It’s better to stop after watching 3 TV episodes in a row, vs. watching the entire season in one sitting
- It’s better to go to bed 15 minutes earlier, even if you’re only getting 6 hours/night
- It’s better to meal plan for 1 healthy meal each week, vs. having no plan at all
- It’s better to buy a bagged salad to be the side for your take-out dinner, vs. not eating a single vegetable at all
- It’s better to meditate for 1 minute (or 30 seconds, or take 3 deep/calming breaths), vs. not at all
- It’s better to get out for 1 run, or lift weights only once, vs. nothing at all that month
Every time you take even the smallest positive step to nurture and care for your health, it’s like chucking a handful of change into the Health Piggy Bank, even if it is only 25 cents at a time (i.e. taking 3 deep breaths, drinking 1 glass of water). Sometimes, you can throw in a bit more, sometimes less, but the point is to keep contributing to your Health Spending Account faster than you withdraw, and never forgetting that every one of those little positive choices DO ADD UP over the long-run.
I find my nutrition clients love this mindset, and it really helps to shift “all or nothing” thinking to a more balanced approach.
Hope that helps, wherever you may be on your own health journey!
Jennifer Broxterman, MSc, RD