Why Black & White Thinking Has You Feeling Grey

Clarity. We all love it. We all crave it. I hear it all the time from my clients: -

"What's the best exercise to lose weight from my glutes?"

"What's the best food to eat at breakfast?'

"Carbs are bad"

"Protein is good"

"Chocolate is bad"

People want a clear answer. Black or white. Good or bad. Dirty or clean. 

Unfortunately life (and fitness and nutrition) is not simple. Far from it. It has nuance, context and, ultimately, grey areas aplenty. 

Unfortunately this means that 90% of the time the answer to any questions people pose me is "it depends". Without knowing the specific context it is extremely difficult to give any definitive answers.

Let's look at some examples.

Client: "Chocolate is bad right?"

Me: "Well..... I would be inclined to agree for the most part, but.... What type of chocolate? How much are you eating? What are your goals? How often are you eating it? Do you feel guilty when eating it?"

Client: "1 square of dark chocolate 2 times per week. My goal is to increase muscle mass and the dark chocolate helps keep my cravings for milk chocolate at bay"

As you can see from the scenario given above, eating chocolate is not necessarily a bad thing. It is always context specific.

So the point of this post is to urge you to re-assess how you view your training and nutrition. I'm urging you to stop thinking in binaries and to start assessing everything on a continuum. Nothing is inherently good or bad. I want you to see things along a continuum, ranging from 'less optimal' to 'more optimal'.


Less Optimal.png


Here are some examples of this type of thinking in action: -

Example A: -

Client: "Is eating ketchup with all my meals bad?"

Me: "Well given your goal is fat loss, I would suggest this is less than optimal given you are adding unnecessary calories to your meals. However, if you account for these calories then there is no reason why you can't have a little if you feel it helps make your meals more palatable"

Example B: -

Client: "I bought some protein powder like you recommended, but I got whey protein concentrate instead of whey protein isolate.... Is that bad?"

Me: "Well whey protein isolate would have been optimal as the goal was to get you the fastest digesting protein possible. However, whey protein concentrate is the next best thing so don't sweat it, the difference is marginal"

Thinking in terms of continuums, rather than binaries is important to remove feelings of guilt from decisions people would ordinarily consider 'bad'. The example below is something I observe a lot with clients: -

Client: "I ate out on Friday night and had a couple of drinks. Saturday morning I woke up a bit hung-over so skipped breakfast and missed my planned training session"

Rather than having one 'less optimal' meal and moving on, clients dwell on it, feel guilty and let it affect the next day, and sometimes the whole week can spiral out of control as a result of one meal. I observe clients getting angry and frustrated at themselves for 'messing up' or 'failing'. However, instead of viewing the meal as 'bad', we can re-frame it as 'less optimal'. Even most seemingly bad meals have some merits! 

So, try to re-frame your thinking away from binaries. This is far too simplistic. There are too many grey areas. Start to view everything on a continuum. The more optimal everything is, the faster you get to your result.