5 Steps to Banish All or Nothing Thinking

Lose Weight and Avoid All or Nothing Thinking

woman with candy
All or nothing thinking makes weight loss even harder than it already is. Image: © [2009] Jupiterimages Corporation

All or nothing thinking can negatively affect your weight-loss efforts in ways you don't even realize. For some, the idea of either doing things to "perfection" or not at all may even keep them from losing weight altogether. This article will help you understand the connection between weight-loss difficulties and this mind frame and provide steps on how to lose weight and avoid all or nothing thinking.

Step One: Get a Life (Change)!

The first way to avoid all or nothing thinking is to shake the idea that losing weight is something you do "right" just temporarily and then the work is done. The fact is, most people who successfully lose weight -- and more importantly, keep that weight off -- make healthy, permanent lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise, consciously practicing portion control and finding ways to prevent emotional eating.

If you look at your weight-loss efforts as something you're only doing "for now," those new, healthy changes won't be permanent. But if you try to do too much too soon, the changes will last only days. Small, gradual changes are what will work. And seeing the big picture -- that little slip-ups don't count, but long-term changes do -- helps keep things in perspective.

Step Two: Give In Now and Then

Severely limiting your food intake or completely cutting out your favorite foods sets you up for a binge.

That ever-present sense of deprivation not only makes overeating a risk, it also makes life downright miserable. Temptation becomes much less powerful when you know it is fleeting and can be quelled with less than you think. So, allow yourself a small portion of something "bad" that you really love now and again instead of telling yourself it's off-limits for good.

While this can be daunting at first, you will become accustomed to satisfying your craving with a small treat and you'll learn when to say "when" and in turn feel more confident in your weight-loss efforts.

Step Three: Stop Saying the "D Word"

D for diet, that is. Following a strict diet naturally lends itself to giving into all or nothing thinking: You're either "on your diet" or you've "blown your diet" and if you've done the latter ... well, you might as well quit altogether and eat whatever you want, right? That kind of "black and white" thinking can make your weight-loss efforts much more difficult and may even prevent you from losing weight at all.

Few of us can stick to a diet plan that restricts entire food groups or relies on one type of food -- such as freeze-dried, pre-prepared meals -- as its mainstay. (Honestly, how long do you really think you will be able to eat those for each meal?) Believe me, I've been there: Go on a diet that requires you to eat foods you don't like and you will eventually dread every meal. Find the middle ground: Somewhere between following that overly-strict diet and eating everything you want, there is a point at which you can be both happy and healthy.

Step Four: Forgive Yourself

So, you decided to follow that "give in" step last night and allow yourself a cookie. But before bed you enjoyed a few more. And then this morning ... you polished off the package for breakfast. Does that mean it’s time to go off the rails the rest of the day just because you blew it this morning? No way!

Not allowing yourself to make mistakes is the worst mistake you can make. Here's some food for thought: All or nothing thinking is a way to let yourself off the hook. Subconsciously you think: "Oh, now I've screwed up. Glad I don't have to bother anymore!" ... for some of us, quitting something just because we didn't do it perfectly is an easy escape route.

There's an old saying: "No matter how far you've gone down the wrong path, it's never too late to turn back." and that is true in every aspect of life. So don't think just because you made less-than-ideal choices today, you can't start over tomorrow. It sounds trite, but every day truly is a new beginning. You can't erase last night's binge, but you can aim for a much healthier today!

Step 5: Celebrate Small Victories

Reward yourself for the small challenges you surmount. Acknowledging your achievements -- no matter how insignificant they seem -- with non-food rewards will help you stay motivated throughout your weight-loss journey. Yes, brown bagging a healthy lunch four days in a row instead of getting fast food is a victory. Doing an exercise video a just twice this week is a triumph if you didn't do it at all last week. Rewards don't have to cost a dime -- they can be as simple as allowing yourself time to read a chapter of a favorite author or enjoying a long bath.

Take it easy on yourself as you learn how to be a new, improved, healthier you. After all, you're only human ... a soon-to-be much lighter human!

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