5 Ways All-or-Nothing Thinking is Destroying Your Diet

You strive for perfection every day—in your career, as a parent, and concerning your health and appearance. While setting the bar high can help keep you accountable, it can also lead to burnout and goal fatigue. Sometimes things don’t turn out how we’d planned; a little thing called life gets in the way (imagine that!)

This strive for perfection goes hand-in-hand with an “all-or-nothing” mentality. This narrow way of thinking can be incredibly damaging to your mental health and decrease the likelihood of reaching your goals.

Picture this: you wake up early to go for a run and make a healthy breakfast. You are feeling good! But during your commute, you get caught in traffic and end up late for work. There is one problem after another when you get to work, and you skip lunch to catch up. By the time 3 pm rolls around, you head to the break room and consume a donut (ok, two donuts.) By 4 pm, you’re starving again (hello, sugar crash), so you decide to get takeout for dinner.

By the time you get home, you’re feeling sluggish and stressed; it was one heck of a day, and to top it all off, you made terrible food choices. Feeling defeated over blowing your calorie budget, you give in to the bottle of wine in the fridge that is calling your name. The wine pairs perfectly with some delicious cheese; before you know it, you’ve polished off the entire bottle.

You tell yourself, “You’ll start over tomorrow.”

All-or-nothing thinking can be spoiling your chance of success. Here are five ways that it hinders your progress.

1) You keep Starting over

By adopting this way of thinking, you ruin your progress every single time—so what if you over-indulged at lunch? It doesn’t mean that your diet is ruined, nor does it erase the success you’ve made up until that point.

Promising yourself that you will start again tomorrow does more damage than that extra cupcake you had at lunch. Instead of accepting the small slip-up and moving on, you throw in the towel because of one mistake, damaging your self-esteem.

Commit to your goal and know that every meal is another chance to make a healthy choice.

2) It’s not sustainable

You will not be in control of every situation all the time; circumstances will interfere with your diet—celebratory drinks with co-workers or a decadent cake for your friend’s birthday. By allowing your strict regimen to dictate every facet of your life, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Think of your favorite actor who got super shredded for his latest action movie. For months, he existed on lean protein and veggies, which gave him that insanely ripped appearance. Once filming for the movie wrapped up, he eased up on the strict dieting to enjoy pizza and beer with the film crew. Even people who are paid to be fit know that it’s unrealistic to attain that level of perfection all the time.

Swearing off the little pleasures that life has to offer will only make you miserable and lead you back to the drawing board.

3) It’s Stressing you out

Every time you see yourself as a failure, you put yourself through unnecessary emotional turmoil. It affects your mood, your sleep—your well-being.

The process of overeating and then overcompensating by drastically restricting calories can put your body through the wringer. Trying to burn calories by suffering through a physically taxing workout will only increase the cortisol in your body.

Everyone knows that stress is damaging (hello, cortisol!) This article explains the link between stress and weight gain.

4) You eat too much

The all-or-nothing mentality seems to be ubiquitous with eating more calories. You’re so laser-focused on following your program/ diet plan that you forget to cut yourself some slack. The forbidden foods become even more alluring when you repeatedly deny yourself the small pleasures.

What ends up happening is you give in to that craving. Instead of enjoying it and moving on, you feel weak and ashamed. Then a little indulgence becomes a huge overindulgence—one cupcake turns into four!

5) diet fatigue

By adopting an extreme attitude regarding diet and nutrition, you’re more likely to feel burnt out when you have a setback. If you’re miserable and continually feeling like you’re failing, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your goals and how attainable they are. Weight loss is challenging, there is no denying that, but if every day is a struggle, it may be time to make some changes.

You’ve heard, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” and there is some truth to that statement. By slightly increasing your calorie budget or easing up on your workout’s intensity, you may be pleasantly surprised by the changes you see.

moving forward

So if you can take anything from this article, let it be to ease up on yourself. Ditch the all-or-nothing mentality; it’s not helping you. In fact, it’s hindering your ability to be consistent.

Weight loss is achievable, but it shouldn’t feel like a punishment. While consistency is critical, it’s also vital to your health and well-being to be flexible.

You don’t have to be perfect to be successful!

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