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All Or Nothing Thinking Prevents Weight Loss

I can’t tell you how many times I ordered diet coke and cheesecake (or something else indulgent) at a restaurant, and someone at the table would remark, “Why drink diet coke? If you’re going to eat cheesecake, you might as well drink the real thing!” Do you have this all or nothing mentality, too?

That’s when someone thinks, “If you’re going to eat something that’s ‘not so healthy’, then you might as well just ‘blow it”.

It’s the same mentality that encourages us to keep starting another strict, unrealistic diet…only to fall off the wagon when we can’t stick to all the rules.

Or that tempts you, when you eat something you “weren’t supposed to eat” to continue to eat that way out of guilt and shame…until Monday. Or possibly longer, such as until you decide to start your next “diet”.

I used to think that way. Back when I was in the midst of my eating disorder. But, no more.

Do You Have All or Nothing Thinking?

Realize that the calories from one cookie – or even one slice of cheesecake doesn’t “pack on the pounds.” Even if it IS a big slice of cheesecake.

If you have this all-or-nothing mentality, it’s the follow-up action that actually does you in.

If you eat a cookie, or a few more, do you ever say, “Well, I ate that one cookie, so I might as well eat the whole bag?

I used to say that. I felt that, “I’m going to eat them all eventually. I might as well eat them all now so it no longer haunts me.”

See? It’s not the cookie or the cheesecake that’s the problem. It’s the way that you talk to yourself about that cookie or cheesecake that’s the problem.

How to Eliminate All or Nothing Thinking

If you experience all-or-nothing thinking, you can change the way you think. To help break the pattern, start practicing some mindful eating strategies like these:

1. Leave a small piece of some food on your plate every time.

 Do you know that just 10 extra calories a day adds up to an extra pound at the end of the year? Get in the habit of feeling comfortable about leaving something small on your plate. That way when they serve you a HUGE portion when dining out, you’re more comfortable leaving food behind.

2. Dispose of waste right away

If it makes you uncomfortable to leave food on your plate, quickly take the plate to the kitchen and dispose of the food. Scrape the remains into the trash or rinse off your plate. Whew, that relieves the stress of seeing the leftover food. Overtime, it should get easier to just sit with the food on your plate.

3. Change the way you talk to yourself

Were you just thinking, “Oh no, I can’t waste food!”? Realize that the food is either wasted or it’s waisted (pile onto your waist). Which one looks and feels better?

Stop telling yourself (and others) that you are “bad” because you ate too much. Perhaps you didn’t make the decisions you planned, but that doesn’t make you a “bad” person.

4. Eat your pleasers, skip your teasers

When you give yourself permission to eat the foods you love, it's easier to avoid some of the other foods. I can never stress this enough. It’s important to identify which foods really please you (your “pleasers”) – and which foods you eat simply because they are there (your “teasers”).

I used to have problems controlling myself around all types of cookies until I realized which ones are my absolute favs. And, then gave myself permission to enjoy them every now and again. Now I’m not tempted by store bought cookies. I wait for the very best freshly made cookies.

5. Practice doing something half-way – and be ok with it

Perfectionism is strongly stressed in all aspects of our life – and highly respected. Yet realize that being perfect in one way is often unattainable – at least without really messing up other aspects of your life.

We only have time for so much. When you try to be perfect at your job, you usually end up with a less than fulfilling personal life. Same thing with food – perfectionism is unhealthy.

When you can’t reach the unattainable perfect eating style or body shape, perfectionism makes you feel like a failure. Which often lead to “blowing it”. For example, I love French fries, but I leave behind the cold, shriveled, and burnt pieces – because I’ve acknowledged that they don’t satisfy me.

I know someone who removes some of the fluffy insides when he eat bagels because he really likes the outer crispy side.

And, this is a new one…a friend sent me this picture of a doughnut she enjoyed this morning. Instead of eating the usual “half”, she chopped off the bottom and enjoyed the half she likes the best – the part with the frosting. interesting! Hey, whatever works for you.

The point is…healthy eating isn’t about an all-or-nothing. That diet mentality doesn’t help you. Success is about having a healthy attitude about eating. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.


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