Getting Rid of the Gamblers Mentality May Help Your Health and Fitness Goals

Dan Cadmus

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When you think of a gambling problem, you likely picture that typical scene in countless movies. The 4 am sights and sounds of a casino — some poor soul sweating buckets at a slot machine, trying to recover what they’ve lost.

We usually look at that person with pity or judgment. Unfortunately, it’s a story with an all too familiar ending. The more desperate someone gets, the riskier their behavior becomes. More times than not, they end up in even more debt.

This concept is pretty easy to grasp. There’s a reason casinos are so extravagant. Yet when applied to other areas of life, something seems to get lost in translation. Particularly with weight loss and fitness goals.

If you find yourself stuck in the purgatory of getting back on track, changing how you view the process might make all the difference.

I’ll Just Make It up in the Gym Tomorrow.

Listen. Eventually, life’s going to happen. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned gym rat, no one is 100% perfect all the time. To expect that level of adherence to any diet or fitness plan is unrealistic. Some cheats are planned, others are unexpected, but slipups are inevitable.

When I speak about recovering from a cheat day or binge episode, I usually emphasize the other end of the spectrum, avoiding that all-or-nothing mentality. The slippery slope where one bad day turns into two, then a week, etc.

This article deals with the opposite approach. Feeling the need to overcompensate for poor choices over the weekend, to undo the damage you may have done, and “get it back” — the gambler’s mentality.

If training every day and eating a particular diet is the norm for you, getting right back to that routine is the best course of action. The problem occurs when you take things to the extreme, excessive measures to make up for a few bad decisions.

These extremes become a form of self-punishment: multi-day fasting, excessive cardio, extreme calorie restriction. They all have their place in niche situations but should never be used to punish yourself or atone for your dieting sins.

When I look back on my time stuck in that cycle, it led to three main issues.

1. An unhealthy relationship with food.

Food is a unique vice for the simple fact that it’s unavoidable. Whether you like it or not, you have to eat. Extreme over restriction fostered a strange love-hate relationship with food. Almost drug-like.

Changing how I viewed slipups eliminated that guilt and anxiety. Accept that it happened, forgive yourself, and continue right where you left off. No overcompensation.

2. I stopped enjoying training/exercise.

Eventually, I used exercise as a punishment so frequently that my love for the gym quickly turned to hate. It became a chore I had to get done, like mowing the lawn or any other mundane task.

If we were all forced to mow the lawn every single day, most of us would give up within a week.

3. It fuels the all-or-nothing mentality.

I repeated the binge/restrict cycle so many times that I found myself avoiding the inevitable punishment. Finally, it got to the point where every cheat day became a cheat week, sometimes longer. That slippery slope can be dangerous.

When getting back on track means a two-day fast and endless hill sprints, staying away from the train altogether seems like a far better option.

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It took several months to realize I was essentially on a giant hamster wheel, putting in a ton of work without progressing towards my goals. What good is all that effort and time if it doesn’t yield results?

The key is sustainability. Getting lost on that hamster wheel is anything but sustainable. There’s a big difference between switching things up to push past a weight-loss stall and punishing yourself for veering off course.

Nowadays, I try to think of nutrition and fitness as an overall accumulation of miles driven. Not a set trip with starting and stopping points. If you drive 100 miles in the right direction, getting lost for 10 of them doesn’t undo the progress you’ve already made.

It may be hard to see it at the time, but you’re far better off taking the slow and steady approach, something you know you’ll stick with. One bad day, bad week or even a bad month doesn’t warrant punishing yourself. I promise you that.

If you veer off course, don’t panic! Instead, get right back to what got you here in the first place. A week from now, that detour will be a distant memory.

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Health Coach. Nutrition, mental health, and self-improvement. Dropped 180lbs and changed my life for the better. Inspired to help others do the same.

East Meadow, NY
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