How to overcome the ‘all or nothing’ mindset, when it comes to dieting!
The phrase ‘all or nothing’ mindset refers to when we may be going on a diet or new eating plan, and try to be 100% all for it, and to strive for perfection. The minute you struggle or ‘slip up’, then you decide to give up and revert to old habits, with that saying ‘I will start again next week’… this leads to a cycle of constantly doing too much all at once, and then stopping when it gets too hard and restrictive (which is often the case with many diets!).
Instead, how can you move past this all or nothing mentally and focus on making long term changes? Read on to find out our top tips to help with this;
Focus on consistency.
Forget about strict days and cheat days. Instead, focus on making better overall eating choices on a day-to-day basis. The search for perfection will only bring you frustration, anxiety, and demotivation. Avoid phrases like “I must always do this”, “I can never eat that” or “I must not have more than this”, as they can put unnecessary pressure on you. Instead, you are aiming to get slowly better over time and be more consistent with the new habits you are trying to put in place (1).
Being kind to yourself.
Try not to beat yourself up over a temporary lapse or diversion from your plan – these are a part of life and are perfectly ok. It’s how you choose to move on from this and learn from these for the future, which determines more consistency going forwards. The changes you are making are not meant to be temporary, these are long term changes you are working on and they will take time, and it is not easy. Remind yourself that there will be some easier and some harder days, but they will all be important on your journey.
Work on moderation and not exclusion
Changing the way you eat does not mean that you have to eliminate all types of food from your diet. If you don’t enjoy what you eat to some degree, you will never feel satisfied, and you will give up. Find ways to add ingredients you love, into what you eat on a day-to-day basis. For example, if you like cheese, put it in a salad in moderate amounts. If you like chocolate, allow yourself a little of what you fancy, eating it slowly and mindfully to increase the pleasure and satisfaction. There should be no foods off limits except those you don’t like or may be allergic to!
Set realistic expectations and goals.
If you set unrealistic expectations about your weight loss and progress, you’re only setting yourself up to feel worse and giving up eventually. Losing weight will change some aspects of your life, but weight loss is so much more than just a change on the number on the scales. The benefits can include increased energy, better sleep, increased strength, better health markers and so much more.
Set small goals in realistic and achievable time frames. Getting them, little by little, will help you build confidence and be more consistent (2).
Practice mindful eating
Be present in the moment when you are eating, rather than rushing meal times and not savouring your food. You will be better able to listen to your hunger and fullness signals, which will help prevent overeating and encourage an overall more balanced relationship with food (3).
Adapt the 80/20 strategy
Accept that you are going to stick with your healthy habits 80% of the time, whether it be eating healthy, exercising, your bedtime routine… This allows you to give yourself some flexibility 20% of the time (4). If you are going to a birthday party, you can have a piece of cake even if you are in the process of losing weight, if one day you feel like going for a coffee with a friend instead of going to the gym, that is also ok and part of building a realistic lifestyle. Avoiding these situations is only going to get you back into that all or nothing mindset.
Don’t forget, working on and overcoming the ‘all or nothing’ mindset, takes time and practice. So, learn to celebrate the progress (no matter how small it may seem), be patient and kind to yourself as well as realistic, when it comes to making changes that will prioritise your overall health and wellbeing in the long term instead of short term, unsustainable changes.
- Gorin, A. A., Phelan, S., Wing, R. R. & Hill, J. O., 2003. Promoting long-term weight control: does dieting consistency matter?. International Journal of Obesity, Volumen 28.
- Linde, J. A. y otros, 2012. Are Unrealistic Weight Loss Goals Associated with Outcomes for Overweight Women?. Obesity Research, 12(3).
- Monroe, J. T., 2015. Mindful Eating: Principles and Practice. Nutrition Review, 9(3), pp. 217-220.
- Koch, R., 2017. The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less:. 4 ed. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.