If you are like thousands of other Americans who care about their health, you probably made some type of goal this past January to improve your diet or start exercising more.  All too often these eager goals get ditched and forgotten by the time March hits.  The reason is simple and I call it “The Pendulum Swing.”  Read on if you are interested in learning how you can not only set but achieve effective goals to improve your health.

The Pendulum Swing

Part of my job as a nutrition therapist is helping my clients set realistic yet productive goals and effective limits. This is an area that most people struggle with. Why? They fall victim to the pendulum swing.

By nature, a pendulum will swing equally from left to right. Imagine that the pendulum depicted here represents your eating patterns. At the start of a new year, eating may fall way to the left of center (overly-restrictive) as a way to compensate from the holiday season (overly-indulgent). Examples of overly-restrictive eating patterns include: no more sugar, no eating after 7:00, 60 minutes of cardio six days a week. They are harsh, strict, and pretty much impossible to maintain. Ultimately the laws of physics take over, swinging you way over to over-indulgence.  Suddenly you find yourself eating a third brownie despite being stuffed and realize you haven’t exercised in the past two weeks. In an effort to steer yourself back on course the overly-restrictive eating patterns begin again, fueling a cycle of never-ending pendulum swings. Overly restrictive rules are not the answer, they are a set-up. You aren’t failing; your goals and rules are failing you!

The ultimate goal is to establish some “just right” limits that are neither overly restrictive nor overly indulgent. It’s often a compromise between perfection (no more candy!) and giving up (ah to heck with it, I’ll take my M&Ms in the jumbo bag and start over next Monday!). Finding these just right goals and limits takes practice, especially if you’re used to operating in extremes.

To help you get started, here is an example:

  • Overly-Restrictive: No more ice cream, I simply cannot keep it in the house without eating the entire gallon.
  • Overly-Indulgent: It’s been a tough week and I deserve some ice cream, I’ll pick up a couple of gallons since they’re on sale.
  • Just Right: I’ve had a hankering for ice cream for the past couple of days. I’m going to order a single scoop at my favorite ice cream shop after dinner. That way I can satisfy my sweet tooth without the risk of over-doing it.

Take the Challenge
Are there any pendulum swings in your life? If yes, identify one you’d like to work on. Write out a specific action plan that will help you establish “Just Right” limits.

If you are interested in more practical nutrition tips, delicious recipes, and simple health solutions check out my blog and subscribe to my newsletter.  Or for a free 20 minute consultation, send me an email at marci@marciRD.com

Marci E. Anderson MS, RD, cPT

Nutrition Therapist, Speaker, and Certified Personal Trainer