Is the all or nothing mindset good or bad?

Now this one really got me thinking. The ‘all or nothing’ mindset reflects the extremes of behaviour and is normally associated with people who are perfectionists and think that if they are doing something it needs to be done properly or not at all. I can see the logic in this mindset, after all, who achieved anything by going about it in a half-arsed manner?

I have heard this so many times from people and I can see their point to an extent, but when you have decided that you are going to make a long-term change to your diet and exercise regime, this is not really the way to go.

YOU WILL NOT ALWAYS BE PERFECT! There is no such thing as perfection: “it has to be 110%”, “it has to be perfect”, “there is no room for error”.....with this mentality, one minor blip can easily derail you completely. A missed workout or a missed meal, maybe eating off plan could do it.

People who want their diet to be ‘perfect’ will typically, in my experience, eat bland, tasteless food during the week then ‘break’ at the weekend because the diet was too restrictive to be sustainable and the calorie levels are well below what they should be. This combination will almost always result in failure and the more extreme the diet is the less time it will take for the wheels to fall-off and the bigger the rebound tends to be. This mindset is the biggest reason behind yo-yo dieting.

At this point, I should point out that there is a difference if the goal is short term, for example for a photoshoot or bodybuilding competition; in the short term you should know that that is short term and is serving a purpose and you intend to revert back to a diet that you are able to maintain in relatively short order. (Whether this is a healthy thing to do regularly (to the extreme) is worthy of another article.)

The main reason why the ‘all or nothing’ approach to diet and exercise is a bad one is that when it breaks (and it will) it goes against the key to any success in these areas and that is consistency, because without consistency there are no results.

How to combat this:

Try not to live at the extremes of diet and exercise long-term. Sure, try them out (read into the consequences of doing so first) but if you try to ‘live’ there, that is where problems will be.

Be present when you start to feel these feelings coming along and pull back by:

1. Creating a Grateful log. List all the things in life that you are grateful for. This will give you perspective.

2. Have a mantra - ‘Train hard fight easy’ always reminds me of my time in the Marines which reminds me that no matter what is happening now, I’ve been through worse. It basically reminds me of who I am and tells me to sort myself out.

3. Get rid of absolutes in your language, ‘I always do this’ and ‘I will never be able to do this’ are examples of this. Nothing is ever as bad as you think.

4. Have a good reason why you are doing it? Your why needs to be strong to drive you through this kind of destructive thinking.

5. Plan and maintain a sustainable diet and exercise plan, planned around the foods and exercise you enjoy. Do not deprive yourself of your favourite foods, try to work them into your plan, if you don’t it could end in tears and frustration.

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