Find any list of tips on how to be healthy or fit and you’re more than likely to see at least one pointer regarding the all-or-nothing mentality. In general, it is depicted in the flat tire scenario: if a car gets a flat tire, might as well slash all the tires. Don’t even bother thinking about trying to find a spare tire and continue driving, let alone call Triple A, right?
What on Earth does a car with a flat tire have to do with fitness? Well, in the health and fitness realm, one of the most common fallacies committed is counter-regulatory eating, otherwise overeating even more after an unplanned (over)consumption of any food that the individual may deem as “bad” or “unhealthy”. Someone may feel guilty of giving into cravings, whether conscious or subconscious, by consuming a serving of Oreos. However, the person quickly throws in the towel and decides to polish off the entire package of Oreos with the intentions of starting all over again the next day. This mentality can also be applied to exercise, such as taking an extended amount of time off the gym just after an unexpected rest day. Others may even feel compelled to get back on track in a week, in a month, or for how ever long they please. I won’t elaborate more on this subject, as I believe this Instagram post by Sohee Lee sums it up phenomenally.
With that being said, the key to eliminating this mentality is flexibility. Now, I’ve re-iterated myself so many times throughout my blogging experience that I should learn to be more flexible in my lifestyle. I’ll admit that I’ve slacked in that arena SO badly that I can take any comment that calls me a hypocrite for pursuing any ambition you have. But, to justify, flexibility has been an ambition of great reluctance for me. It’s not entirely because of my extremist mentality, but it’s also due to the fact that I deal with moments of uncertainty very poorly. I always need a backup plan, a layout, or just some form of analytical information, usually where I can see numbers.
Come to think of it, I have a pretty horrible relationship with numbers. Anything numerical, whether it be point-based or percentage-based grades, the weight on a scale, transactions in a banking statement, a ranking, quantity of followers, or even just the sight of a clock, induces stress for me. Fortunately, they don’t always stress me out, but a lot of them, especially grades, tend to signify whether or not I will feel happy at a given time. If I receive a grade lower than expected, I feel as if my world is shattering and that I have nothing to live for. No surprise that I felt the same way if I saw a heavier-than-desired number on the scale. It’s an inexplicable sensation of mine that even I cannot fully analyze.
Rigidity has also negatively impacted my current relationships and my ability to cultivate more relationships. While some credit me for abiding to a plan, I know the downsides far too well. Constantly passing on new events and opportunities to meet other people because they don’t fit into my personal schedule always bums me out, but I know that I’ll only dread attending these events since I’ll panic about not sticking to my set routine. For example, I love working out too much to skip an extra session, and I almost feel like I’m dishonoring myself if I do so.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram for this past year, you’ll notice that I’ve been incorporating a LOT more heavily processed and refined vegan foods into my weekly diet. It started off as enjoying as many refined dishes and treats as I wanted on a single day, not giving a fly about calories, ingredients, or macronutrients at all. The rest of the week, I ate so healthily that I basically could have been a rabbit. However, this routine perpetuated me to hold this negative mindset towards food in which I’d hesitate with daily treats during the week, and then throw everything out the window on a Friday or Saturday by going crazy and stuffing in as much junk food as I could, even if I felt sick afterwards. I wouldn’t say that I developed a binge-and-restrict cycle because I still maintained rationale–listening to hunger cues and all, but I knew that there was a much healthier means of sticking to a healthy lifestyle while enjoying the soul foods I ever so love. Low and behold, flexibility came into play.
Ever since breaking up with this habit, I forced myself to have at least one treat or not-so-nutrient-dense food daily. Even a fat scoop of peanut butter, a handful of granola, or a single slice of bread served as a way for me to conquer my fears of being flexible. I still had scheduled “cheat days” if I had a specific event such as a vegan potluck, a birthday party, Vegan Street Fair, VegFest L.A., or even just a random day where I felt like indulging in slightly more refined than usual.
There were days where I’d eat quite a hearty amount of food (i.e. hummus on sourdough, vegan cheese, dark chocolate) that didn’t align with my meal prepped diet and swear on my life that I’d put on water and/or sodium-based weight the next morning. Upon stepping on the scale out of panic, I’d either maintain or even lose weight, which brought a huge sense of relief (obviously there were some days where I’d gain weight and feel a bit more discouraged). In the back of my mind, I learned not to care so much about what I gained physically, but more so mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. My irrational fear of spontaneity has been holding me back from really enjoying life, especially trying new opportunities.
Not going to lie, I have a ways to go. I can afford to skip an extra day at the gym for a morning club event or put off sleep for a later time to talk to my loved ones. I can afford to put my meal-prepped salad aside and enjoy food at a party or potluck, even if the options won’t be as healthy. As self-conscious as I’d feel in these situations, I know I’ll eventually adapt to focusing on other aspects not pertaining to my health and fitness routine. Breadsticks with a salad doesn’t make my meal unhealthy, just as a bowl of carrots next to a barrel of fried vegan chicken doesn’t make my meal healthy. We’re all on our own paths and ways of living.
Still, the level of flexibility in my lifestyle is a lot more elevated than it was even last year. I feel much more in-tune with my cues while incorporating moderate treats into my daily diet rather than a week of deprivation with one day of crazy overeating. On top of that, my worries about deviating from my routine have faded quite drastically from before, as I can count on myself to hop right back on the wagon because I love fitness too dearly to steer off completely.
Aside from that, as a Food Science student, I need to taste-test our recipes, anyways. Spicy homemade noodles, anyone?
Just a quick little side note, I’ll be attending Eat Drink Vegan this Saturday! It’s going to be one of my “splurge-on-anything-because-who-cares-about-hitting-macros-and-micros” sort of days. I CANNOT be more stoked for it. Be sure to look out for the Instagram recap as well as the blog recap for all the fun photos of vendors, friends, and epic vegan food coming your way! Get excited–let’s just say that you’ll see quite a lot of donuts, sushi, pizza, and some other crazy delicious goodies as well!