7 How-to Steps to Break Up with Diets and Over-Exercise (for good)

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Breakup Heart 1 | 7 How-To Steps To Break Up With Diets And Over-Exercise (For Good)

“I know WHAT to do…I just don’t KNOW HOW to do it.”

Said most people when trying to CHANGE a habit of any sort.

To “lose weight” for instance, you generally know WHAT you need to to:

Eat more veggies, exercise most days, drink water, avoid sugar and hydrogenated fats.

But it’s sooooooo laborious doing that EVERY DAY (heck, you don’t live in a bubble!).

Trying to pass your calculus test?

You may know WHAT to do (study)—but HOW to do it (actually understanding and ‘getting’ the problems)? Another story (at least in my case).

Or you say, “I want to improve my energy.”

You KNOW you should sleep more than 5-6 hours…but HOW to actually find the time in your day to do so?! You’re feeling pretty darn stuck!

There is an abundance of books, e-books, articles, podcasts and blog posts that tell us all about WHAT to do when it comes to a number of topics (wight loss , weight gain, getting rich quick, etc.)…but, the HOW is often left to a few summary sentences at the end of a chapter –only leaving you hanging with a laundry list of tasks and “to dos” (and very little insight in HOW to make it happen and genuinely change your current habits and mindset).

Is it possible to not live bound to rules, templates, tasks and to-dos?

You betcha!

One of the million dollar questions I am often asked is:

“HOW do I get over the thoughts?! Stop the thoughts?! (i.e. the thoughts or obsessions over food, fitness, your body, diet and eating disorder rules, your inner critic).

While you may have all the knowledge in the world around WHAT to do (like “follow a meal plan”, “just eat”, “just eat more”, “just don’t binge”, “just exercise normally or do something different”)…the HOW of actually doing all these things is the tricky part (the follow through).

You WANT to change…but you don’t know HOW to physically and mentally get yourself to stop your habits, get out of routine or rut, turn off the thoughts.

Unfortunately there is NO ONE clear-cut answer.

However, there IS freedom.

I NEVER thought the voices or the habits or rut would go away—thought that I was bound to that all-controlling voice (forever more).

The voice that constantly nagged:

  • “You ate 400 calories for breakfast, 300 for lunch, so you only have 200 left for dinner.”
  • “You worked out for 7 hours yesterday, so you MUST workout that same amount today (or more).”
  • “Ugh, look at your thighs-they are touching.”
  • “No one likes you.”
  • “You’re hopeless.”
  • “You’ll always struggle with this.”
  • “If you want to eat this morning, you must do at least 300 crunches before even thinking about putting anything into your mouth.”

Counselors, nutritionists, doctors, coaches and trainers gave me plans to follow. They told me, “If you JUST do this, then you will get better.” They told me the number of calories to consume.”


(Crickets, crickets).

No one had an answer!

Until now…

Last week we talked about 5 Steps (5 “whats”) to kicking your obsessive exercise and food thoughts.

Today we are talking HOWS!

7-HOW-TO’s for Breaking Up with the Diet Mentality & Exercise Slavery (for good)
“In order to try to overcome that voice and the thoughts and behaviours that consumed my mind and my time, I…”

  • Read every self-help and recovery book on the market
  • Dreamt about and made countless plans in my head and on paper
  • Thought a heck of a whole lot about changing…

But (MORE crickets, crickets), “tomorrow” never came.

The real secret to the “How” behind overcoming unending thoughts about food, exercise or your body-image get-ups?

Do the opposite.

Embody a different body and mind. Who is healthy you?! The girl you ASPIRE to be—inside and out. Physically, mentally and emotionally. What decisions does she make daily (for self-care, self-love, self-respect, health)? How does she spend her time? When a negative thought comes to mind, how does she handle it (“I hate my body in this bikini”)? REMEMBER, this is the mind and body of the healthy YOU you want to be…not how you currently see yourself, treat yourself or actions you take today, but the mindset and actions of the girl you are working towards. Begin to see yourself as being her today! (Even if you don’t feel like you’re ‘there’ yet). Ask yourself: “What would healthy me do/think like?” when faced with negative voices, choices around food and fitness, body image woes. Speak OUT LOUD (in the affirmative) if need be! So as we think, therefore we become! For instance, say you want to gain or lose “about 10 pounds.” Instead of telling yourself you have “so far too go” or “you’re so ugly right now”, picture yourself already making big progress towards those goals. Visualize what healthy you is doing to make big things happen, and continue that progess!


Athlete’s mindset. By shifting my mindset to thinking of my eating and self-care as “fuel” for my body, the more I began to loosen my grip and tight reigns on my dieting mentality and ways. An athlete fuels his or her body to perform, get better, feel better, recover better. While I was at it, I also began to really learn about food and nutrition—what it did for my body. Prior to recovery, I thought I knew ALL ABOUT nutrition (I knew the calories in every food—labeled and unlabeled; I knew ALL the dieting rules and latest fads; I studied fluffy fitness and health magazines like my bible)…but I really did not know health or nutrition. As I began to learn things like:

  • Healthy fats (like avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut oil) improve digestion, enhance skin health and integrity, help balance your blood sugar and help you not think about food all day
  • Carbs are actually lean muscle builders (not just evil ‘fat storers’ like the obesity movement has us scared out of our minds believing)
  • Crystal Light was the culprit making me feel nauseas, bloated, lightheaded, dizzy, and have episodes of blurred vision
  • Eating morenot less—actually fired up my metabolism and began to shape some lean muscle on my frame

…I had a light bulb moment! The “athlete’s mindset” is one of both self-care and inquiry—continually on the lookout to improve (their game, performance), the athlete wants what is BEST for themselves. Seek true knowledge and ask yourself: “How am I nourishing myself today?” (Note: A few helpful resources you should read or check out on Audible: “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig; “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf, AND my future book—in the works and coming soon).


Inner strength. Get rid of the mirrors. Stop looking at them. Mirrors force us to do nothing more than size ourselves up and down—especially in the gym, in our tanks, tight stretch pants and bared skin. You may not be able to physically take the mirrors down in your conventional gym, but I encourage you to find ways to move that are more inward focused, rather than outward focused. For me personally, finding CrossFit was LIBERATING for this. No mirrors in the gym or body measures as the “benchmarks” for “fitness gains”, fitness instead became about strength and performance—first and foremost from within. How much could I add to my backsquat this month? How could I push myself to new limits within that 4-5 minute time frame? At the end of 30 days, instead of focusing on the number on a scale or body fat measure, how much more confident could I feel from having worked on—and ‘gotten’ my first pull-up or handstand pushup? LOADS! Find what moves you to truly improve your fitness—and your mindset—from the inside out. Be it CrossFit, bootcamp, yoga, spinning, weight lifting, walking or hiking in nature, rock climbing, horseback riding, paddle boarding, and beyond, find what moves you! Check out this video CrossFit created a few years ago, highlighting a few women who found the same “a ha” moment: there’s beauty in strength.

Throw it out. Out of sight, eventually becomes out of mind—and a new habit. ONE “HOW” (for helping your mind get over the pulls and tugs of certain disordered eating patterns, exercise addictions, binges or other habits) involves removing the major stressors. If it’s binging on boxed kid cereal every night or drinking Crystal Light like a fish (I did this!), make it one-step harder to actually carry these actions out. If it’s running yourself into the ground on the treadmill or stepping your life away on the Stair Master, replace those activities with another (see Inner strength point above). This is more of a preventative measure for helping you find more and more freedom from the chains and behaviors that currently bind you.

Write your own self-help book.
Check out your book shelf or Amazon order history (way guilty here). How many self-help books do you have in there? In my recovery, I had A LOT. To this day, I still LOVE to learn from other people’s insights and experiences in multiple areas—health, fitness, business, self-development (a la Brene Brown anyone?). In fact, some of my greatest lessons and thoughts have been shaped by the various insights and experiences of others! Think about some important, influential lessons you’ve learned from books, podcasts, videos, blog posts or magazine articles. What comes to mind? What insights stand out for you? NOW, imagine this…YOU are writing a ‘self-help’ book, or an article/blog post, or broadcasting your podcast live… what insights would you want to share for someone struggling with the same things around food, their body or fitness? Make a list for yourself if you will. For this “how”, you are not really writing a self-help book (although you could), but shifting your mind to begin thinking about the ‘slight edge’ secrets you know in your heart could be KEY to breaking up with the diet mentality. This “how” first came to fruition for me when I started my first-ever blog back in 2011, during my last inpatient treatment. I began to shift my mindset to view my daily struggles as lessons I could learn from, and as I was forced to face the fears and insecurities that came up for me when I was plated a bagel every Wednesday morning for instance, or confined to “couch rest” for three months during an intensive weight restoration, I was also forced to process these fears and insecurities in a new way—I did so through writing about it. Pretend YOU are the author of your story (and the story of ending the war with diets and exercise). What lessons have these struggles taught you thus far (about yourself, your life, your health)? How would you coach a friend or other sufferer to overcome it? Reflect. Make some bullet points. Let these insights seek deeply into your mind and your soul.


Pick your team. Unlike elementary school recess—when you had to wait to be picked to make the team, YOU get to choose who you put on your team (your support team, that is). “Getting there”, “getting over it” is not something you have to fight alone (nor should you). And instead of seeing your team or helpers as formalities (people you have to see because it’s part of the recovery process, or people you need because you’re such a failure and need accountability), see them instead as the inside ‘men’ (and women) for rallying you on towards success. I’ve had various teammates throughout my life and in my recovery. My ‘all-star’ team for recovery in particular included: A counselor whom I really connected with (someone who got me—not just a professional who was licensed to do that therapy thing), a nutritionist who had a more holistic philosophy and actually listened (didn’t just give me a food guide pyramid or meal plan and say “here!”), my church community—whom I could be real and authentic with, a few genuine friends (my confidants), my CrossFit community and coach, and of course, my amazing family! It took me about 14 years of trying to recover before I realized the power in actually recruiting a team that I WORKED WELL WITH (not just individuals who I had to see). In fact, this reason alone is the reason I formed Thrive—to offer those struggling (with food, fitness, their bodies or simply the quest for greater purpose and passion-filled living) support in “getting there.” Pick your team! And while you’re at it: Share honestly. If you can’t be honest with others AND more importantly, yourself, you will only continue to stay stuck or going through the motions.


Let it go. Release, prayer and faith were the FOUNDATION of overcoming the diet mentality for me. In seeking truth and hope through something greater than myself, freedom was one. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not harm you…plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). Word.







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