Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes: Boot Camp vs Club Med

Bootcamp or Club MedDo you find yourself oscillating between two extremes when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes? Being super hard on yourself in order to eat perfectly, then completely letting yourself go and eating whatever is there? Or exercising obsessively for a few days…and unable to get off the sofa the next few days?

I call these two extremes Boot Camp vs. Club Med.

When we’re in Boot Camp mode, we expect everything to be hard

Boot Camp mode sounds like:

If it isn’t hard, I’m not doing it right

I have to deprive myself

I am never good enough

I have to eat/exercise perfectly otherwise I am flawed

No pain, no gain

Only by criticising myself can I move forward

The problem with Boot Camp is that it isn’t very pleasant to be there. So when we can’t take it any longer, we swing over to the other extreme and go into Club Med mode.

Club Med mode sounds like:

It shouldn’t be so hard

I don’t feel like making an effort

I deserve a treat

Who cares if I don’t achieve my health goal – I just want to feel good right now

I don’t want to make any decisions – someone else should decide for me

It feels comfortable right here even if I’m not moving forward

Do you recognize yourself in these extremes – perhaps more in one than the other?

Boot Camp mode helps us step out of our comfort zone and move towards our health goals…but it is often motivated by fear and is tough to keep up in the long-term.

Club Med mode feels good in the short term and keeps us safely ensconced in our comfort zone…but doesn’t move us any closer to our health goals.

So is there a third mode that is more effective to making change?

I call the in-between mode Yoga Retreat mode. In Yoga Retreat mode, you push yourself past your comfort zone and you do it from a place of love and wanting what is best for you.

You realize that a certain amount of discomfort is necessary for moving forward in life…but that this doesn’t have to be extreme and painful (Boot Camp) or something to avoid altogether (Club Med). You start becoming a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable. You realize that the discomfort of a craving or a workout won’t kill you and can actually move you towards the person you want to be.

You notice that you don’t need to live in extreme control and willpower – you can actually trust your body to make the best decisions for you. You don’t have to throw away the chocolate because you think you lack willpower (Boot Camp) or let yourself go and eat the whole bar (Club Med). In Yoga Retreat mode, when you eat chocolate, you do so mindfully, savouring every bite and taking true pleasure in the experience.

Yoga Retreat mode is motivated by self-compassion even when there are set-backs – even when you forget to eat mindfully 10 times and remember once. Instead of an attitude of “I already ate two cookies – what the hell, I’ll just finish the packet”, Yoga Retreat mode is about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, reminding yourself why you are doing this and taking action towards your goal.

Yoga Retreat mode is about loving yourself into change.

It is motivated by a desire to live more fully instead of a fear of never being good enough (Boot Camp) or a fear of stepping out of your comfort zone (Club Med).

I know that for a long time, I swung between the two extremes (spending more time in Club Med mode) and that it is only by applying the principles of Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating that I was able to create a much healthier relationship with food and find exercise I actually enjoy instead of having it feel like punishment.

Can you relate to this? Which camp do you find yourself in most of the time?

Healthy Eating Away from Home

Eating out and still eating healthy

It is summer and between travelling and going out, there seem to be more occasions to eat out, wouldn’t you say? Healthy eating away from home doesn’t have to be complicated, unhealthy or boring though. Below are my three main guidelines for eating in restaurants or while traveling and still eating healthy, plus a few additional tips.

Guideline 1: If it is a special occasion, enjoy it and enjoy the company

If you are eating well at least 80% of the time, you have room for indulgence – especially since being with people you love and having a great time is just as important for your health as what you eat. Remember that 80% is perfection.

So if it is your birthday or a special occasion, focus on enjoyment more than on eating healthy. There is no point in having a salad and feeling frustrated. Remember that this is a way of life, not a diet.

Guideline 2: If it is not a special occasion, always make the healthiest choice possible in the context you are in

Cultivate the habit of always choosing the most healthy (or least unhealthy) choice available. Don’t let yourself off the hook just because there isn’t anything you would classify as really ‘healthy’. There is always a ‘healthier’ option and this can actually end up making a big difference in the long run, especially if you eat out a lot.

I find this is especially important in places like airports where healthy choices are quite limited. Choosing nuts or a banana over chips or a chocolate bar is often an option though!

Guideline 3: Always choose the highest quality version of a food you can find and afford

When traveling, instead of obsessing about WHAT you eat, focus instead on eating the best quality possible, regardless of whether you are eating cake or bacon or bread.

This means reading labels, choosing organic and local whenever possible and above all, food that was grown or raised in the best conditions possible. A good question to ask yourself is: If this food could tell a story, what story would it tell?

This is actually a guideline I try to stick to whenever I choose food. As Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating states, “Eating quality food is perhaps the most powerful and foolproof nutritional strategy we can choose.”

If you stick to these three basic guidelines, you should be covered for most eating out occasions. Below are a few additional tips to help out:

Stop eating when you are full

We tend to associate an empty plate with being full, but if you listen to your body’s signals, you might actually feel full before that.

Be clear with your waiter if you need to avoid certain ingredients

Tell your waiter this is a serious food allergy so that you are taken seriously. You can provide a list of ingredients you need to avoid and this can even be translated into the local language.

When I was travelling in countries like China and Japan, I asked at the first hotel we stayed in for the staff to write for me “I don’t eat meat, fish or chicken” on a paper which I kept with me and showed at restaurants where the staff didn’t speak English. This always brought a few sniggers from the staff but at least I had a meal I could eat!

Research restaurants in advance

Most restaurants have their menus posted on their website. For vegetarian or healthier options which often also cater to food allergies, try www.happycow.com.

Pick the right type of cuisine

If you are avoiding gluten and dairy for example, Asian restaurants have more choice than Italian restaurants.

Construct your custom meal

Most restaurants are more flexible than we expect. Pick a few ingredients from the menu and construct your own dish. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes to an order – such as vegetables with steak instead of fries. You can always take inspiration from Meg Ryan ordering food in the movie When Harry Met Sally!

When traveling, bring some of your own food that you can snack on or eat when there aren’t a lot of options

Good choices include raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, fruit and healthier crackers.

If you need to, don’t hesitate to bring your own ingredients

For example, if you are intolerant to gluten, bring your own gluten-free crackers and have them with the hotel breakfast instead of bread.

Avoid sauces, dressings, and dips

They are usually laden with hidden sugars, unhealthy oils or preservatives. Ask for olive oil and lemon instead of dressing or ask for them on the side and add just a little instead of having a salad drowning in unhealthy sauce.

If you are eating at a friend’s or at a potluck, offer to bring something healthy that you can eat

Examples include humus with vegetable sticks, a lentil salad or my secret ingredient chocolate pie for dessert.

I would love to hear from you – how do you eat out and still eat healthy?

Is ____ healthy?

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Here is a frequent question I get asked: “Is ____ healthy?” where the blank can be anything from milk to green tea to rice crackers to yoghurt.

A perfectly legitimate question. That’s very difficult to answer.

Because it depends.

It depends on what your definition of healthy is.

It depends on how often you consume the food or drink in question.

It depends on the greater context of the rest of your diet because 80% is perfection.

It even depends on the brand as ingredients can vary greatly.

And most of all it depends on you and your bio-individuality. Because no one diet works for everyone and one person’s panacea is another person’s poison. And in the end, the greatest – and only – authority on what works for you is learning to listen to your body’s wisdom.

The health coaching I do is about helping you connect with your inner wisdom to find the food and lifestyle choices that nourish you best. Because the only truly honest answer to the question “Is ____ healthy?” will always be “It depends…”

Imperfectly perfect

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I wouldn’t consider myself a perfectionist in many things but when it comes to healthy habits, I had an ‘all or nothing’ approach. I would eat ‘perfectly’ for a few days, then give in to some cake at a friend’s house. After that, a little voice of sabotage would tell me – you’ve already had cake, why not also have some pizza and cookies, too, since today is clearly NOT a healthy day?

Ah, that little voice of sabotage! Constantly reminding me of how imperfect I am.

It used to win, until I came across this Chinese saying:

80% is perfection

What a radical shift in perspective! I discovered that when you release the need to be perfect, you can have that piece of cake if you really want to – and then go back to healthier eating. You can exercise a little less for a few days because you are busy, and then return to your usual routine. All of a sudden, you have space to be imperfect, and by creating this for yourself, healthy living becomes more enjoyable – and more achievable in the long-term.

♥ You move from perfectionism, which isn’t actually possible in the real world, to realism.

♥ You move from a deprivation mindset into an abundance mindset.

♥ You realize that it isn’t what you do occasionally that counts – it’s what you do most of the time.

♥ You learn to listen more to your body and honor it’s need to occasionally veer off the health track without judgement. Occasional lapses become an enjoyable treat rather than a guilty indulgence.

♥ Most importantly, by not listening to that little voice of sabotage in your head, you stop giving yourself excuses to give up on healthier habits.