Wellness Wednesday: Dichotomous Thinking & the Art of Kaizen
With very few exceptions, food the relationship we have with food is the longest standing relationship that many of us will have- as it is a part of our lives from the day that we are born until the day that we die. Much like any relationship, the one that we have with food is far from simple, and it is this underlying complexity and its subsequent difficulties that make it so hard to change our ingrained behaviors regarding food. To successfully do so, we must go ‘back to the beginning’ and re-wire the very way we think about food.
When my clients aren’t successful in achieving their nutrition goals, my first response is to ask them ‘Why”? Time and time again, I hear differing versions of the same theme: they let one nutritional slip-up turn into another, which quickly turned into days, weeks and even months. Usually, when I probe further about why one small slip up led to falling off a nutritional cliff, I again see a commonality- the belief that once there was one small slip up, there was no recovery, so it would make no difference if they continued down a less-than-stellar nutritional path. This pattern of thought is better known as ‘dichotomous’ or ‘black and white’ thinking and is one of the most important things to distance yourself from if you want to persevere in your long-term nutrition goals. You’d never trip while hiking and say, ‘Well, guess I’m no good at that… might as well throw myself off the next cliff I come to’, so why would you allow one small action to influence the larger whole of your life? Yes, it’s an extreme and silly analogy, but you get the picture. The “all-or-nothing’ mentality can easily make a mountain into a molehill. In a nutritional context, this can often spell ruin for many an auspicious start to a healthy change. How do we combat this type of thinking? We do it with kaizen.
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that literally means, ‘change is good’ and focuses on the idea of continual improvement. In practice, kaizen can be thought of as getting a tiny bit better every day or more simply as just persistence. The beauty of the principle of kaizen is that you are never at a point of “failure”- never. Think about that for a minute. No more fails, just for the simple fact that with the kaizen mindset, it is always the moment that you can choose to do better, be better and move forward towards your goal. In summary- change your mindset, change the game. So the next time you do something that isn’t in line with your nutrition goals, don’t treat it as a failure and give up. See the action for what it is-data. Learn from it, accept it and move forward towards your goals.