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The "I'll Start Again Monday" Cycle

Swapping it out for something more sustainable.


Woman lying down and looking defeated.
"Start again Monday" mindset can be exhausting.

"I'll start again Monday."


How many times have you said this to yourself? I know I have many times, and it’s something I hear often from my clients (at least at first!). It's a common refrain in diet culture, but it carries with it a heavy burden of all-or-nothing thinking that can keep us stuck in a cycle of inconsistency and frustration. Let’s explore the pitfalls of the "I'll start again Monday" mindset, and look at a few more sustainable approaches to achieving our goals.


The All-or-Nothing Trap


The phrase "I'll start again Monday" is often used as a way to justify overindulging during the week.


NOTE - this is not the same as indulging in something that’s worthwhile to us. Here, we’re talking about more of a free-fall into something mindless and ultimately forgettable and not worthwhile. Not sure how to tell the difference?


We lose sight of the impact of a seemingly insignificant shift or choice. The only thing that feels like it can make a difference is a big overhaul rather than asking “what’s the next best thing I can do?”. It's a mentality that says, "I feel like I messed up today, so I might as well KEEP ON indulging until Monday when I can start fresh." This all-or-nothing thinking can be incredibly detrimental to our progress because it perpetuates a cycle of inconsistency and an approach that’s really the opposite of intuitive eating. We start not trusting ourselves and the decisions we make.


The Problem with "Starting Over"


Another issue with the "I'll start again Monday" mentality is that it encourages the idea of "starting over" every week. When we view our journey as a series of fresh starts, we fail to recognize the progress we've made along the way. It's as if all our previous efforts are erased, and we're back at square one each Monday.


It's essential to remember that progress almost never comes in a straight line. It's normal to have setbacks along the way, and these setbacks don’t negate the progress we’ve made nor do they indicate how much progress we’ll make in the future. Embracing a more continuous approach to our goals allows us to acknowledge the big wins, as well as the small, and keep moving forward.


The 80% Solution


Instead of fixating on giving 100% effort on Mondays, let's shift our focus to giving 80% effort Mon-Sun. Here's how we can apply this 80% solution to our lives:

  • Progress (and consistency) Over Perfection: Understand that consistency is actually a better strategy than perfection. Studies show it’s more successful for reaching our goals. It's okay to have days when we don't eat a vegetable or we skip our workout. What matters is that we keep going, making healthier choices most of the time.

  • Set Realistic Goals: Avoid setting overly ambitious goals that require an unsustainable level of effort. Instead, set achievable goals that can fit manageably into our daily lives.

  • Mindful Eating: Focus on mindful eating rather than dieting. Listen to our body's hunger and fullness cues and make choices that nourish us, both physically and emotionally.This means enjoying treats too. Not sure where to start with mindful eating?

  • Prioritize Self-Care: Make time for self-care activities that help reduce stress and improve our overall well-being.

  • Seek Support: Consider enlisting the support of a friend, family member, or coach who can help keep us accountable and provide encouragement along the way.


The Benefits of the 80% Approach

  • Sustainable Progress: By focusing on consistency over perfection, we’re more likely to stick with our over the long term.

  • Reduced Stress: The all-or-nothing mentality can be incredibly stressful. When we allow ourselves flexibility, we experience less anxiety and guilt and actually enjoy more freedom than we did when we were more regimented.

  • Improved Relationship with Food: Mindful eating and balanced choices promote a healthier relationship with food, free from the constraints of rigid diets.

  • Positive Self-Image: Breaking free from the "I'll start again Monday" cycle can lead to a more positive self-image and increased self-esteem and self trust.


Conclusion


I heard this described really well during a spin class once. The instructor talked about not needing to try and peddle up a steep hill the whole class, but just to make sure we’re avoding going downhill or spending too much time on a flat road. Even a little uphill makes a difference. Hope that made sense - maybe just to my spin friends ;)


What I like about this approach is it’s ACTION based. It’s hard to just decide we’re going to change our mindsets, and if you’ve worked with me before, you know I think sometimes mindsets can be overrated. To tell ourselves to stop having a certain mindset is like telling ourselves to stop thinking about anything. It’s a great way to start thinking about that very thing, right?


The "I'll start again Monday" mentality is diet culture residue and it relies on us not embracing how much the smallest of positive choices can add up. Instead of falling into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking, consider adopting the 80% approach. Remember that progress is not about perfection; it's about consistency, as well as being honest and compassionate with ourselves.


We cover “Start Again Monday” thinking and other mindset loops in the second lesson of Eat Food on Purpose. Start today and get on the path to your best habits yet.


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