Stop with the Boom and Bust

by | Jun 3, 2021 | Blog, Growth Mindset., Healthy Eating


Stop with the health “boom and bust.” You know the ping-pong game I am talking about—the frustrating swing between giving health your “all” and saying “fork it,” giving up, and giving health your “nothing.”

When you “exercise boom” you commit to unrealistic workouts and you end up burned out, injured, and/or overwhelmed. This leads to “busting” and doing nothing. When you “food boom” you give your diet extreme attention and deprive yourself of everything, only to burn out on deprivation and say “screw it.” I am sure you have experienced one of those “screw-it” moments. I know I have. That mindset simply leads to binging on unaware choices.

Really what I am referring to is a binge-and-purge cycle of awareness. This “awareness” can be directed at any health habit—sleep cycle, water, alcohol, sugar, food, exercise, etc.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing that today should be a carbon copy of yesterday, that your health habits should be totally standardized, that every day of your life should be “health perfect.” Not only would a health Groundhog Day be boring, it is in itself unrealistic, and thus somewhat ironically an example of a “boom” goal.

I have days where I am more on my horse than others. I vacillate in my level of awareness. I am human. You will have days where you are more aware. You are human. We are all human, and with being human comes a constant need to recalibrate, to find our balance.

The trick is to make your pendulum swings smaller—to trend positive so that you are vacillating in a healthier paradigm.

Sure, I swing, but my pendulum doesn’t swing as aggressively as it once did. What current Kathleen considers an “awesome health day” is different than what past Kathleen would define as an A+ day. What I consider a less-than-ideal day is different. My “boom” is more consistent and exists at a higher level on the health continuum. My “busts” are softer and more controlled. I work out 4-6 days per week vs 1-3 days per week. I have treats 1-3 days per week vs daily.

We all toggle slightly. Aim for your swings to be smaller and in a different paradigm.

Basically, stop with the “perfect” and work to be consistently good, or consistently better.

Stop with the pendulum swing of “on” and “off” an eating regimen. Stop with the all-or-nothing exercise plan. Find something you can do consistently, or at least daily “ish.”

I stole the motto of daily “ish” from Dan Harris, the author of 10% Happier. Love him! Dan’s point—which is mine as well—is that the healthy choice should be the norm and the digression should be the anomaly. To make the healthy choice the norm doesn’t mean making the habit “perfect”—it just means doing it more regularly than not doing it

How do you escape the “boom and bust” cycle?

Get the basics down before you add complexity!!

Get going! You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to get great! Tweak as you go. Standardize before you optimize.

Most of us don’t need complexity. Most of us need to learn how to follow the basics consistently.

Your workout plan doesn’t need to have a perfectly balanced chest vs arms vs legs day for you to get started. Just go for a walk. Then go for a walk tomorrow.

Another way to frame it would be, stop trying to “optimize the margins before you create a strong base.” Learn the basics of nutrition. Drink water. Eat vegetables. Cut out sugar. Do those consistently first. Learn the basics of movement. Walk daily. Stretch. Breathe.

A quick client story on the problems inherent to optimizing your health margins before you have optimized your base. I will call the client Mary.

Mary came in one day concerned about how she was cooking her carrots. She thought she should always eat carrots raw because cooking them increased their score on the glycemic index. The problem was, eating cooked rather than raw carrots was not why Mary had gained weight. She had gained weight from French fries, large portions, and wine.

The conclusion we came to was that she needed to worry about the fries, portion sizes, and wine before she wasted too much energy on the carrots.

Don’t “mow the lawn when the house is on fire.” Don’t get focused on the stuff that does not matter.

Be realistic!

Fork “perfect”! Be realistic. The boom-and-bust cycle is typically a biproduct of unrealistic, unstainable goals—goals based on other people’s realities and social media expectations. Remember, what you see on social media is not the “truth.” You are comparing other people’s done-up, “makeup-ed” face to your internal critic. Know you. Create goals based on your body and your life. Create your goals based on your financial, energy, and time realities.

Create an individualized plan

There is no one perfect way of eating or moving—there is only what works for YOU. Sure, there are principles one should follow, but the key is to tailor the principles to your life realities, your genetics, your exercise and injury history, and your goals.

Your mission is to find what you can do daily “ish” for the rest of your life; make your pendulum swing smaller and within a higher paradigm of health!!

When deciding on your mix, make sure to create a recipe that complements your personality, habits, generics, food preferences, etc.

Let me give you three examples of food “mixes”: my mom’s mix, my mix, and a client’s mix. All plans are “right,” but their recipe for success would not work for me and my recipe would not work for them.

My mom is more moderate in everything she does. For better or worse, I tend to be more extreme in all things—I like rules.

As a result, my mom would NOT follow a diet that says, “You can have X but not Y.” Her way of eating flows out of her personality.

She has shortbread in the house (her “love it”) because she can have a bite every few days.

Having it in the house gives her comfort; she knows she “can” so she doesn’t “rebel” and have millions of cookies. She lives by a more “Mediterranean” diet—all things in moderation with a focus on healthy fats and vegetables.

I require a “no chocolate in the house,” slightly more hard-nosed approach to my health. I like more hard rules. No pop. No fried foods, etc.

My client—let’s call him Patrick—is a foodie. He loves cooking and LOVES ice cream. For years he has been booming and busting. He would deprive himself and lose weight. Then he would have that “life is not worth living like this” screw-it moment and binge. Recently not only has he has lost a considerable amount of weight, but he has found a way to enjoy the process. He has started making time for sports that he loves, he has leaned in to finding recipes that are yummy and healthy AND has intentionally fit ice cream into his plan. He has re-framed his journey as something fun that he gets to do vs something forced on him. That agency—that hero’s mindset—has made health a challenge that he can lean into.

Anyway, the point is, Patrick would say that one reason he has finally lost weight is that he has found a way to eat ice cream regularly. He has some in the house and he allows himself one small bowl on days he plays 2 hours of tennis. He knows himself and feels this plan is realistic. He loves ice cream—that is his “love it” food. In the past he would boom and bust. He would either diet—and thus have no ice cream and feel deprived—or be off his regimen and have an entire tub a night. Now he doesn’t have to “bust” because he knows one day in the near future he will get a small bowl of something he loves.

None of the above “recipes” are inherently right or wrong; they work relative to our unique personalities.

Also, know that the eating and exercise plan that works for you will change as you evolve—you need different eating styles for different seasons of your life.

I was a vegetarian in my twenties. Currently, I live by what I call “The Power of 3.”

Concluding thoughts

Thrive in your own lane. Figure out what works for you … or at least the you of today! Don’t aim for perfect. Aim for consistency. Make your pendulum swings smaller. Trend positive. Vacillate in a healthier paradigm.