I would feel great. Things would be going well. But then, I would start over-thinking and over-analyzing everything and the stress and anxiety would return. The stress would swell up within me and it felt as if a violent tornado swept across my brain; damaging, destroying, and uprooting everything in its path. Once it’s gone and the dust settles, everything is in shambles and the only thing left is unidentifiable catastrophic damage.
Rebuilding will be a long, arduous task.
Let’s rewind and start back from the beginning.
When I began breaking free from my binge eating and other obsessive eating habits, I knew I had to just let go. I had to stop obsessing over every tiny detail when it came to what I ate, when I ate, and even how I approached my workouts.
It was so much easier said than done, but I was at a point where there was nothing else to do. This was my final resort.
The stress from obsessing over nutrition and following the perfect workout routine was taking its toll. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t doing these things because I loved my body (the complete opposite, in fact) and I wasn’t making progress with my physical appearance (trying to lose the excess fat I accumulated from binge eating).
In fact, I believe that the (unnecessary) stress we cause ourselves from obsessing over the minuscule details of our nutrition and fitness regimen is worse than relaxing and taking a more moderate approach.
Unfortunately I don’t have any research studies to back this up (but Alan Aragon wrote a terrific article about “clean eating” that discusses this topic), but based on personal experience and from working with clients, I believe this to be true.
We’re well aware of the negative effects from too much stress and, let’s face it, stress is inevitable and can come in many forms. So why add more stress with crazy diets or overly exhausting workout routines when you can get great, if not even better, results from something significantly less stressful?
It’s time to let go.
Why You Need to Let Go
If your nutrition (or diet) or workout routine is causing you too much stress, or if you waste too much time just thinking about those things, you need to let go.
- You need to purge your life from unnecessary stress and frustration.
- You need to simplify, regain your sanity, and get on a sustainable and fun (yes, a health and fitness routine can, and should be, fun) path to achieving your goals.
Remember, your health and fitness regimen should enhance your life — not dominate it.
How to Let Go
As I mentioned, letting go is easier said than done. Remember, we don’t develop these obsessive habits over night so it’s unrealistic to expect to break free from them over night.
Here are some ideas I’ve used to let go, and they may work for you too:
Look at the BIG Picture.
Years ago, at the peak of my disordered eating habits, I wouldn’t allow myself to eat a childhood favorite sandwich — a good ole PB and J. After all, there were carbs. And gluten! Peanuts aren’t really nuts; they’re legumes, and their healthiness is highly debated. And jelly is loaded with sugar.
Just the thought of making a simple PB and J would give me anxiety, and if I did give into the sweet temptation of this childhood classic, I’d feel guilty the whole time I ate it, and even for hours afterward.
Gluten, and carbs, and peanuts. Oh my!
But once I began the slow process of letting go, I’d think about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich once again and ask myself: “What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if I eat (and enjoy!) a PB and J?”
In the interest of full disclosure: I generally use whole wheat bread or bread from a local baker, natural peanut butter, and all natural jelly (Stonewall Kitchen jellies are my absolute favorite). But in the picture below I had an old loaf of Ezekiel.
And I’d think about it for a moment and couldn’t come up with anything other than, “It may not be super healthy, and maybe it will cause me to gain fat.” That’s all I could come up with, and even that was stretch. After all, eating a sandwich won’t make me instantly gain fat.
And then I realized how (incredibly) silly I was being. I was causing myself anxiety for absolutely no reason. So I let go.
I stopped stressing, unnecessarily, over something so insignificant. I told myself that if I really wanted a PB and J that I would eat one, absolutely guilt free. And do you know what happened when I did this?
I thoroughly enjoyed my dang sandwich. I didn’t gain fat. I didn’t experience anything negative from the carb-gluten-sugar-peanut combination.
The only thing that happened was this: a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I was free from the ridiculous obsessive-habits that had formed an ever tightening noose around my neck as a result of following other diets and crazy nutrition rules.
I could breathe again. And the more I let go of other minuscule details with my nutrition and workouts, the better I felt. The more I actually enjoyed my food and training sessions.
So now it’s your turn — what can you let go of?
What do you over-analyze and what causes you unnecessary stress? To help the letting go process, you can do what I did. Ask yourself, “What is the absolute worst thing that can happen?” You’ll likely realize this worse-case-scenario is, in fact, not really that bad. It may even be very unlikely to even occur.
Letting go begins with focusing on one small thing at a time. That’s it — just one thing.
Too often when we set our sights on a particular goal, we try to do too many things at once.
For example — lose body fat. When determined to slim down most people focus on too much: changing their diet, including certain foods while eliminating others, strength training several days per week, doing cardio on off days, and other things as well.
You can easily see how this creates anxiety. That’s why the solution is to focus on one thing, and one thing only, for a period of time.
For example, if your goal is to lose body fat, focus on one thing for 30 days or so, and nothing else. You could choose one of the following:
- Eat more protein: research has shown that eating around 0.6 – 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight can aide in fat loss. Every day, hit this target.
- Make it a priority to do something physical, every day. For example, you can set up your schedule to strength train three days per week (this is a great sample routine) and go for a walk on non-lifting days.
If your goal is fat loss, choose just one of the above to focus on, exclusively, for 30 days. Don’t worry about anything else. Just do that one thing, consistently, without fail.
Does this, “Just focus on one thing for 30 days” sound too simple, or even stupid, to be effective?
I understand why you might think that, but if you need to just let go in order to rid your life of unnecessary stress, then you need to put this to the test and see for yourself. The bare essentials are often times the most effective thing you can do.
You have nothing to lose, except unnecessary anxiety.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have a craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.