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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jill King

Weight Loss: Thinking on a Continuum

A little more, a little less. Rather than all or nothing.

Have you ever wondered:

Why are some people more successful than others?

There are a few more obvious patterns. Successful people...

  • Think proactively. They anticipate, plan, strategize—and take responsibility.

  • Break the chain of events that lead to and reinforce problem behaviors. Then they put new links in place.

  • Use mental toughness strategies to stay focused, and re-focus when needed.

There are many factors in success. Almost all of them can be learned and changed (aside from one-in-a-zillion events like being hit by lightning or winning the lottery).

A primary success factor: Thinking on a continuum.

Research on change shows that folks who struggle with change (such as changing eating habits) often have one key element in common: all-or-nothing thinking.

In all-or-nothing thinking, the world and choices are either perfect or awful. If nobody can be perfect, all-or-nothing thinkers spend a lot of time feeling awful.

All-or-nothing thinking

Here are some examples of all-or-nothing thinking.

All X is good. All Y is bad.

"You can't possibly get fat by eating ____."

"All carbs are evil."

If some is good, way more must be better.

"If 1800 calories helps me lose fat, then 800—or 0—calories must be awesome."

"If eating vegetables is good, then I should just live on nothing but celery."

If I make a tiny mistake, everything is ruined.

"Oh no! I got to bed too late last night! My recovery will be trashed!"

"Oh no! I forgot to do my foam rolling! I've wasted my entire workout!"

Any deviation from my plan—no matter how minor—is a disaster.

"I have to be on a plane all day when I'm scheduled to do weights! I can feel my muscles dissolving into goo!"

"I got called into a meeting just before lunch! Now I have to go too long without eating! I'm freaking out!"

If it's not perfect, it sucks.

"My squat is terrible. I can't go as far down as the video shows. Why bother?"

"I can only do 5 (or 10, or 20) pushups. I'm a weakling."

If I make a tiny mistake, I might as well keep going, because what's the point?

"I ate one cookie. Well, I might as well finish the bag now."

"I ate too much at Saturday breakfast. Well, I might as well just keep on over-eating for the whole weekend."

I have to completely fix everything at once… and immediately.

"Today, I'm going to get up at 5 am and run, make all organic meals, quit smoking, add 10 lb to my pullups, and finally call my mother."

All-or-nothing thinking is not only illogical and unrealistic, it actively harms you. It holds you back from making true progress.

The continuum

Nearly everything in life and coaching falls on a continuum.

For example:

Don’t swing… just "nudge".

Sustainable body transformation, and deep health, won’t last among wild swings from extreme ends of the continuum.

Rather, focus on moving one "notch" towards slightly better, more positive thoughts and choices.

Celebrate your wins, no matter how small.

To make it easier, you could keep a record of each day's one thing, so that you can see your progress every day.

Key Takeaway Question:

What one small thing are you going to do today to be a little better?

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