Let me start by saying that if you’ve mastered the art of not caring what people think, congratulations. It’s a skill most people work on their whole lives. And some don’t even realize they’re side-stepping their dreams or apologetically defending their primal lifestyle until someone points it out.
Caring what other people think of us is normal. It’s a natural human response, kind of like salivating when you see a thick ribeye sizzling on the grill. We all want to be accepted (and not rejected) by our peers and loved ones, so of course we care what they think of us.
The past 19+ months have provided us with more than a few challenges, but they’ve also allowed us to reflect on what’s working in our lives and what could use a major overhaul.
An unexpected benefit of all the cancelled happy hours, closed gyms, and remote offices is that it automatically created boundaries for our personal and professional lives. Too exhausted to go out on Friday night? No problem, the bar isn’t open. Don’t feel like going to spin class? Yoga at home sounds better anyway. Have trouble telling co-workers “No” in person? Being off site makes it easier to say you “Have a conflict.”
If you’re wondering if you’re a perfectionist, I’d say there’s a good chance you are. Or at least have perfectionist tendencies. I know I do. After all, who doesn’t want to be perfect? Who doesn’t want to be the one who gets the gold stars, the big wins, and the admiration?
Perfectionism is one of those traits people typically see as a positive, but underneath it is often self-defeating thoughts and emotions, low self-esteem, stress, and chronic anxiety, which actually make it harder to achieve your goals. And, if I’m being honest here, it makes it harder to function in general.
As a health coach, I see this all the time, and I know what it feels like. The procrastination, the all-or-nothing thinking, the unrealistic standards. My clients get so wrapped up in trying to “get it right,” that it defeats the whole purpose of working with someone to get their health on track in the first place.
Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term orthorexia (“right appetite”) more than two decades ago to describe what happens when health-conscious diets go too far. Although it still hasn’t been accepted as an official medical diagnosis, orthorexia nervosa is a proposed eating disorder that involves an extreme obsession with eating a “correct” diet. People with orthorexia nervosa strive to eat only foods they consider healthy and strictly avoid foods they deem to be unhealthy or impure. Their obsession with eating a healthy diet takes over their lives, eventually impairing their mental, social, and even physical well-being. The topic of orthorexia is controversial within health circles. On the surface, it can be hard to distinguish between folks who are simply health-conscious and those who have crossed the line into disordered eating. Any diet—even relatively mainstream ones like Mediterranean or paleo—could veer into orthorexia depending on the individual. People who raise concerns about orthorexia often get accused of “fit-shaming.” Then the straw man arguments begin: “Oh, so I guess it’s healthier just to eat Twinkies and Big Macs, then?” No, obviously not. Orthorexia starts with food rules or following diets, but it’s much more than that. To be clear: Wanting to be healthy is not orthorexic. Neither is believing that some foods are healthier or more nutritious than others. Cutting out certain foods, tracking macronutrients, or following a specific diet is not inherently problematic. However, those behaviors can be stepping stones to orthorexia, so this is a conversation we need to be willing to have. What is Orthorexia Nervosa? Orthorexia nervosa is a preoccupation with healthy eating that ultimately interferes with health and well-being. The first stage involves setting rules and restrictions around what foods you will and will not eat. Specific rules vary from person to person. An individual might avoid gluten, food additives, GMOs, dairy, animal products, nightshades, sugar, artificial sweeteners, grains, or whatever they deem to be unhealthy. Before you get defensive, understand that food rules are only step one. They are necessary but not sufficient for developing orthorexia nervosa. Many people follow set diets or restrict certain food groups without developing orthorexia. Diet behaviors don’t cross the line into orthorexia nervosa until they start to interfere with quality of life. Definition of Orthorexia Nervosa Eating disorders and other mental health disorders each have a set of diagnostic criteria. These are like checklists that help doctors and therapists decide when a particular diagnosis is warranted. Currently, orthorexia nervosa is not recognized as an eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). That means there are no agreed-upon diagnostic criteria. Nevertheless, researchers and practitioners need to be able to differentiate an ardent healthy-eating enthusiast from someone who has crossed the line into disordered eating. Experts have proposed various ways of defining orthorexia nervosa. While the specifics deviate somewhat, they share common features: Behaviors: Obsessive preoccupation with eating only foods one deems “healthy.” Strict avoidance of foods deemed “unhealthy.” Negative effect on mental health or well-being: Behaviors and/or thoughts … Continue reading “Orthorexia: Where to Draw the Line Between Healthy Eating and Obsession?”
One thing I like to do at the end of every year is look back on how I spent the last 12 months. This past year was like no other. There were a lot of surprises. A lot of reasons goals were more difficult to achieve. A lot of forces in play.
It’s possibly more important to reflect on this year than any other year. My reflection practice follows loosely the same structure every year. I’ll go through my usual practice of asking myself tough questions about my successes and failures — and to be brutally honest with my replies. But this year, there’s another layer.
The overtone is, what did I overcome?
Now, this exercise must be done with some dedicated effort. A passing read through the questions while nodding only to forget about them in twenty minutes won’t get the job done. Discuss them with a friend, spouse, or loved one to make them real. Write them down on a piece of paper, or type your answers out. However you pay special attention to this exercise, give careful, thoughtful answers. This is about resolutions, but even more than that, this is about dialogue. Open, honest dialogue between your multiple selves, between the person that should be doing this or would rather be accomplishing that, and the person who does neither but desperately wants to. The resolutions will come, but expect it to take a little work. Let’s get to it…
Ever heard the quote, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work?” Originally said by NBA all-star, Kevin Durant, this is a perfect example of utilizing a growth mindset — meaning your success can be cultivated by your efforts. When you operate from the opposite perspective (called a fixed mindset) you believe your talents and abilities are predetermined. Either you’re good at something or you’re not. End of story. Maybe you believe you’ll always have a layer of fluff around your middle because you never stick with anything. Or you avoid working out because everyone in your family is uncoordinated. Or you’re “so intelligent” but can’t seem to figure out how the heck to lose those last ten pounds. If that’s you, congratulations, you have a fixed mindset. When you start viewing things through a more optimistic lens, you move into growth mindset territory. And that’s where the magic really happens. Let’s Define Growth Mindset You can’t talk about this term without acknowledging the famous Stanford University psychologist who coined it. Decades ago, Carol Dweck published research that kind of changed the world. In the study, Dweck and one of her colleagues gave puzzles to 400 fifth graders. After completing the first puzzle, the children were either praised for their effort or praised for their intelligence. The group who was praised with statements like “you must have worked so hard!” ended up choosing a more demanding puzzle next time around than the ones who were told “you must be so smart!” Years later, Dweck and other researchers tested the theory again, following 373 seventh graders to find out whether or not mindset could predict their grades over the course of two years. In this study, they taught one group about the brain and how intelligence can be developed, while the other group had no intervention. As you might expect, students who adopted a growth mindset were more motivated and got better grades than their fixed-minded counterparts. Students with a growth mindset not only believed that their abilities could improve through effort and persistence, they actually made it happen. Examples of a Growth Mindset I’d like to get better at this Mistakes help me learn This has been a challenge, but I’m working on it I haven’t figured out how to do this yet This might take some time Dweck’s research proved that changing a key belief about yourself can make a big difference. But clearly, it’s not just students who can benefit from this concept. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadellauses growth mindset tactics with his management teams to create an environment of constant learning… Michael Jordan (who was initially cut from his high school basketball team and was passed up during the first two NBA draft picks) used it to persevere and become uber-famous… I use it in my own health coaching practice to help my clients overcome their previous, self-described failures… And you can too. You just need the right tools to shift your mindset. So, What Causes a Fixed … Continue reading “Having a Growth Mindset Can Be a Game-Changer for Your Health”