How many times have you been doing “good” with your nutrition throughout the week and then a small bump in the road (or what you think is a small bump in the road), comes along? Let’s say that a small bump comes in the form of a cookie. You eat one cookie and think to yourself, “Well, I just messed up my entire diet, so I might as well keep going.” Then, that one cookie turns into the entire box of cookies. This is the trap of the “all or nothing” mindset, and this thought process can seriously hinder our progress.


The “All or Nothing” Mode

When we’re in “all or nothing” mode, it’s difficult for us to rationalize or assess a situation for what it truly is. Instead, we view the situation as absolute and tend to generalize one instance to our entire being. This mindset took hold of me a few years back when I first started on my nutrition and fitness journey. I was unable to grasp the concept of still being able to care about the food that I put into my body and exercising in a way that I loved while having it be a part of my lifestyle. To me, getting “fit” was an “on” or “off” thing. Can you relate? I was either hitting the gym every single day, not eating a single “off-limits” food, and following my plan to a “T” or I was completely self-sabotaging. There was no in-between. There was no eating one cookie without eating the entire box. There was no skipping the gym on an undesignated rest day without skipping the next few days after.


Getting Away From the Mindset

Discovering flexible dieting was the beginning of the end to my “all or nothing” mindset. Once I realized the power of understanding how to make the foods that would normally de-rail my progress work toward my goals, my outlook was forever changed. The deeper I dove into flexible nutrition and understanding the amount of food my body truly needed, the more I began to realize that I could eat the foods I loved and craved, while still seeing the progress I desired.

Another practice that helped me immensely was starting to identify my use of certain phrases such as “can’t”, “always”, and “completely ruined”. These are phrases common to the “all or nothing” way of thinking. Some common sentences that came out of my mouth were, “I always have to make it to the gym.” “That slice of pizza completely ruined my diet.” Pinpointing these phrases and the self-sabotaging actions that followed after I told myself these things, helped bring awareness to my language around certain situations to be able to change it.

After pinpointing these phrases, I would counter them with a more rational thought. Instead of thinking that one slice of pizza “completely ruined” my diet, I would think a more positive and logical thought, such as, “That pizza was delicious and still fit into my goals.” Even if the slice of pizza didn’t fit into my goals, I would stop and pause before acting negatively toward myself. Rather than taking things to the extreme and eating three more slices of pizza, I would say to myself, “Sure, I ate a few hundred more calories than expected, but a few hundred calories will affect me much less than a few thousand. That slice was satisfying.” I would always remind myself that eating an entire pizza because I had one slice or missing the gym for the rest of the week because I missed one day, is like accidentally popping one tire and then slashing the rest – completely irrational.


You’re Not Alone!

If you struggle with “all or nothing” thinking, know that you are not alone, my friend. Implementing these practices and creating awareness around your self-talk can truly make a difference. Also, you have to understand that you’ll be eating and moving your body for the rest of your life. It’s best to make peace with the way you view food and fitness early in your journey, rather than later!


Yours in health and happiness,
Coach Kar