HOW TO TACKLE ALL OR NOTHING THINKING

Habits & Sustainability

Posted on September 25, 2023
Posted on September 25, 2023

In my coaching experience, all or nothing thinking rarely gets us to the “all”. We *can* go all and keep it up for a day or two, maybe a week or two if we’re really on it, but then we crash and burn and “fall off the wagon” because – of course we do – the rules that come with food perfectionism never really fit our lives, do they? 

As I write this, I’m in the midst of a beautiful-but-often-overwhelming postpartum period, and let me tell ya: if I was waiting for/depending on perfection around my nutrition to make a move toward my post-pregnancy goals, I wouldn’t be doing much of anything at all. 

Instead, I’ve had to fully embrace my new-baby reality: I just don’t have time to do it perfectly, even if I wanted to. But I *do* want to do something, because my healing, my energy and the quality of the life I can produce for my little guy depend on it. If that sounds familiar (baby excluded, maybe), maybe ‘all or something’ is a better fit?

ALL OR SOMETHING

Food perfectionism – the ‘all or nothing’ thinking that often comes with a dieting mindset – is the enemy of consistency. And we know by now that there is nothing more important to those nutrition goals than being able to stay consistent with what you *CAN* do. And ‘everything’ is probably not it. 

Insert ‘all or something’: a nutrition system rooted in the belief that our food decisions lay on a continuum; some food choices align really well with our goals, and some less so, and more often than not, most of them lie somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

That middle ground is where ‘something’ lives.

‘All or something’ is a quick and easy reframe to help us focus on making better – not perfect – choices. We can use this system to consider where on the continuum the majority of our choices currently lie and choose, within whatever our capacity can manage, to move toward our goals, even just one or two steps. 

 

SETTING MINIMUMS

We know how to do perfect – it’s all the diet industry has ever told us – but how do we do ‘something’? For me, and for many of our clients, we use minimums to put ‘something’ into action.

Minimums are tangible goals we set for our daily intake that are big enough to move the needle for us but small enough to still get done when life throws us a curveball or our day turns into total shitshow. 

They could be small versions of the bigger strategies we’re ultimately aiming for, like a minimum of one glass of water at every meal instead of a mandatory 3 litres, or just the single most important of the ones we currently have going, like holding on to our protein goal but dropping our other macro targets when we can’t maintain it all. 

In any case, minimums are there to give us a small bit of structure to continue the momentum we’ve been working on while acknowledging what is realistic for us on the good days and the bad ones, too. 

As an example, here are some of the minimums I have set for myself right now:

 

🍌100g + protein daily to help with my body’s continued healing, energy and the body recomposition that will result in the return of my once-baseline strength when I start lifting again.

🍌Fruits and veggies with every meal (without any pressure on what or how much – sometimes that is 300g of broccoli with lunch, and sometimes that is 5 grapes at the end of dinner).

🍌Hydration: 3 litres of water and electrolyte balance on point to keep my energy up and breastfeeding train rolling. 

And that is it. Nothing more. 

HERE’S THE SECRET

The diet industry will never tell you this, but ‘something’ is often enough to get you to the end goal, too. We miiight not get there quite as quickly as a more perfectionist strategy, but the fact that we can actually maintain this one often makes up for that potential speed and then some. 

Here is what I want you to take away from all of this, friend: there is so much room between the ‘all’ and the ‘nothing’. It’s the place where our goals can happen alongside a life full of adventure & belly laughs or a dizzying period of busyness. And the place where they stay, long after you’re done focusing on them, too. 

And so, with the three minimums above, I’ve been taking the advice we so often give clients: taking time for an inventory of what nutrition habits matter to my goal and what my current capacity looks like, and adjusting my expectations for what is possible in strategy and outcome in the current reality of my life.

And when I get sucked back into the false promises of food perfectionism? I’ll use this reframe to scale it back and allow myself to work – step by step – in the right direction. 

I’m in it for the long haul and I want my results to stick around… and because of that? I’m only committed to better.  

PS: If using minimums seems like a strategy that sounds like it could work for you, we’re offering you our 3-2-1 Flexible Habit System (the same one we use with our clients!) for free! Our 3-2-1 Flexible Habit System will help you set the minimums that are most meaningful ot you, and you can get it right here.

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