When I first started my intuitive eating journey the thing that scared me the most was living (and accepting) the grey area. The grey area is the part of the journey where I had to completely let go of all rules, thoughts, and beliefs around food and movement. I had to allow my body to tell me what it needed, and I had to give myself permission to try something new.
This is not easy and for someone who thrives on structure, it felt like my whole world was flipped upside down. To better understand the grey area let’s talk about the impact all-or-nothing thinking can have on your intuitive eating journey.
All-or-nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion that refers to thinking in extremes (think very black or white, leaving very little room for that grey area I talked about). You are either a success or a disappointment. Your performance was great or terrible. If you are not perfect, then you are a failure. This form of cognitive distortion, which is an assumption we make based on minimal evidence, can disrupt our attempts to change a behavior (which is exactly what we are doing on our intuitive eating journeys) and accomplishes nothing in the process.
For example, if you have decided that you need to work out x times a week to be “healthy” then you will feel like a failure every time this isn’t accomplished. You might even reach the point where you say “F**k this, what’s the point” and stop exercising all together. This is a prime example of the all-or-nothing mentality and will greatly impact your relationship with movement. It’s either x workouts a week or what’s the point of doing anything. 0 or 100%. End of discussion.
Now let’s approach this same situation from the grey area. You might still have decided that x workouts a week is your goal, and that’s perfectly fine, but we now want to try and avoid thinking in negative, absolute terms. So instead of thinking you’re a failure for not meeting the goal you had set for yourself, think of what you have accomplished this week and how the workouts made you feel. Think about everything else you had going on in your life. Think about the ways you may have moved your body that might not be viewed as traditional exercise (Ex: did you walk to work? Chase your kids around the back yard? Stand all day while teaching? Take the stairs?) I also suggest finding your why when it comes to movement. Your why is the reason you choose to move your body and it’s powerful enough to help you re-evaluate your goals and beliefs around the topic.
So how can you make sure you leave the all-or-nothing thinking in the past? You recognize and celebrate your strengths, understand that setbacks happen, and find something positive about the situation. Lean into that grey space and learn how to get comfortable with the flexibility and freedom that comes with it. Want even more tips on finding balance within the grey space? Read my post titled How to Balance Healthy Eating With a Lifestyle You Love.