I like to write about mindset for weight loss. I feel that this is an overlooked area. One mindset shift that is really important is losing the all or nothing attitude.
What is the all or nothing mindset?
I just want to make sure you understand what I mean by an all or nothing mindset. Generally it means trying to be perfect. And if you can’t be perfect you might as well give up, right?
Many popular eating plans push this mindset. With just about every diet there are restrictions like not eating fruit, measuring and weighing everything you eat so you can be sure you are getting the right amount of calories or macronutrients, or only eating at certain times of the day. This is the “all” part.
But what happens when you go to a friend’s house for dinner and eat too much of the wrong foods at the wrong time? For many women this is the “nothing” part. They feel that they have failed and might as well give up.
It can happen with exercise, too. Many women get a gym membership and start going on a regular basis. Until something happens that throws the schedule off and they miss a day. They give up because it didn’t work for them.
What is wrong with this attitude?
The problem with the all or nothing attitude is that you expect yourself to be perfect and if you are not, then you have failed. All or nothing often leads to binge eating, or overindulgence and it definitely leads to stress.
Most women with an all or nothing attitude don’t have long term success. You can only be perfect for so long. Food is classified as good or bad, with no room for a middle ground.
Workouts are also classified as good or bad. You had to slow down in your HIIT class, or you missed a workout because you were feeling sick. Does this mean you failed and should give up?
I learned a lesson the hard way about all or nothing for workouts. I decided one summer, when my boys were still too young to leave for very long, that I would run 30 minutes every day rather than trying to fit in longer runs when my husband was home. At some point this became a streak. I had run consistently for about 40 days. I was loving the short runs and I was getting faster. It was great. Then on one run I started to feel a twinge. I had to keep up my streak, so I kept running and I ran the next day because I didn’t want to break my streak. I ended up with a chronic hamstring injury because I didn’t want to break my streak. I didn’t want to fail.
Many women have the same mindset when it comes to weight loss. They don’t want to break their diet, or their streak of healthy eating. While this won’t lead to an injury, it can lead to binging.
Try for pretty good
Instead of trying for perfection, try for pretty good. If you allow yourself to eat something that is not according to the plan or you allow yourself to take a rest from exercise when you need to you will be more likely to have success meeting your goals.
For some women that might mean stop weighing and measuring everything they eat. Or it might mean allowing yourself a small piece of chocolate with your morning coffee (or putting cream in the coffee).
It doesn’t mean living off of celery and carrot sticks for a week before going to a party so you can indulge (and still feel guilty).
Make slow changes
All or nothing also fails because the changes can be too much to handle. Many women find it hard to go all in, at least for very long. A better approach is to make smaller changes and build on them. So maybe start by adding a little exercise, then adding a little more, and then maybe add a small change to your diet.
Break it into small pieces
Sometimes getting started with weight loss is hard because of this all or nothing attitude. But if you break it into small pieces, they seem to be more doable. Instead of going from I never work out to I’ll go to the gym 6 times next week, maybe start by making an appointment with a fitness advisor at the gym to see what the options are. Then add a fitness class to your schedule, then show up for the class, etc.
Be honest with yourself
While some women aim for perfection and fail, other women lie to themselves about how well they are eating or how much they are exercising. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be something.
When trying to lose weight, an all or nothing attitude usually doesn’t work. It is hard to be perfect all the time and this means that even a small lapse is considered a failure.