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How To Ditch All-Or-Nothing Thinking On Your Health Journey

Updated: Jun 25, 2022

Monday: This week it will be different! ⁣

I wake up, do my perfect morning routine, follow my detailed nutrition plan, crush my workout and read my personal development book before bed.⁣

Thursday: I’ve fallen off track.

I missed a workout, didn’t picked up my book again, caved and ate ice-cream after dinner and feel like a failure.⁣ Screw it, I’ll just try again next week.

Does this sound familiar? If you’re nodding your head yes, I promise you are not alone.⁣

The vicious cycle of trying to be perfect and falling short every time. It leaves you frustrated, disappointed and holds you back from actually making progress towards your goals. Well friend, it’s time to exit the all-or-nothing loop and in this blog I’m going to share with you how.

The All or Nothing Mindset

All-or-nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion. With this mindset you see things in black and white. It’s either good or bad. You’re either succeeding or failing. You’re either perfect or terrible. All-or-nothing thinking prevents us from growing, adapting and generally enjoying anything that isn't perfect. The problem with this is that perfection only exists in the mind, not real life. So we’re constantly chasing a reality that is unattainable.

All-or-nothing thinking leads to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. It’s a trap we’ve created in our own mind, but the good news is, you can break free from it and change your thought patterns over time. We can’t always control what thoughts pop up in our head, but we are responsible for what thoughts we believe and act on. Bringing awareness to the dialogue happening in your mind is the first step.

Let’s do a little self-diagnosis. What side do you fall on right now?

“All In” Mentality Symptoms

  • burnout, exhaustion, anxiety

  • restriction, strict rules, lack of flexibility

  • narrow focus, missing out on other things

  • ignoring feelings, checking off boxes

  • underlying fear of falling off, extreme pressure and negative self talk

  • identity and worth wrapped up in perfect behaviors + results

“All Out” Mentality Symptoms

  • tired, depressed, low motivation

  • lack of routine and structure

  • self sabotaging, procrastination

  • the fear of failure keeps you from trying

  • your feelings are leading all of your actions

  • frustration and negative self talk

  • vague goals

Most individuals struggling with perfectionism bounce back and forth between the two mentalities. As you can see, neither is a fun place to be in. We want to work towards a different mentality. The gray zone.

Perfectionists hate the idea of the gray zone, because it’s not perfect. It can be a bit messy. But, by accepting imperfection and learning different ways to reframe your outlook, you’ll see the true beauty of this balanced approach to life. It’s a sustainable place to live in and leaves you feeling calm and energized.

How to Get Out Of the “All In” Mindset

First to clarify, there is nothing wrong with going “all in” on something and giving it your best effort. I actually encourage you to approach everything you do in life this way. The problem with the “all in” mindset I’m referring to in this blog post, is that giving it your best effort turns into a demand for perfect effort. This mindset doesn’t allow for mistakes or imperfections, both of which simply can’t be avoided in life if we're growing.

Mistakes are true catalysts for our growth if we utilize them as learning opportunities. Failure is needed to succeed and shouldn’t be feared. If you are resonating with the “All In” symptoms listed above, here are some tips on how to move closer to the gray zone.

Step 1: Revisit Your Why

Is your “why” behind your health journey tied to self-worth? A lot of times as women we feel like we aren’t good enough the way we are, so we have to change to avoid judgment and feelings of shame. Approaching change from this place of desperation never feels good. We always want to approach things from a place of love, not fear.

Are you showing up because you want to take care of your body and improve your quality of life or are you pursuing certain actions because you want to feel more attractive, worthy and popular? The motives are very different and will affect how you feel and act on a daily basis.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good and feel comfortable in your skin – we are only human! But as perfectionists living in a world that preaches unrealistic standards of beauty, our views of ourselves can be distorted.

Have you ever found an old picture of yourself from the past and thought you looked amazing only to remember at that time in your life you thought you weren’t pretty or thin enough? Really take some time to think about why you are doing the things you are doing. If you notice a lot of fear popping up, I encourage you to do the deeper work of learning to accept all versions of yourself. This self acceptance will allow you to approach your journey in a healthier, balanced way with less stress.

Step 2: Reframe Your Timeline and Shift Your Focus

I often see people in the “all-in” mentality when they want to get quick results. There is a pressure either coming from within or from external sources that’s making them feel rushed to change. Maybe it’s an upcoming event, poor body image, or a coping mechanism for something else going on in their life that is triggering this anxious mindset. Going from 0-100 overnight will burn you out. If this is you, I suggest looking at your health goals as a lifelong journey instead of a means to an end. Focus on finding joy in your daily habits versus chasing the results. Would you still do the things you’re doing if results weren’t guaranteed?

A prime example of this is with weight loss. If you give yourself 1 month to lose 10 pounds the journey’s not going to be enjoyable or sustainable. You’ll gain the weight right back (maybe even more) because you’ve damaged your metabolism from extreme dieting and overexercising. However, if you give yourself 1 year to lose 10 pounds and instead focus on tiny shifts, the journey will be more enjoyable and sustainable. The chances of maintaining your weight loss are much higher because you’ve actually created a lifestyle.

Practice patience. A bowling ball starts off slow and then picks up speed, the same should happen with your health journey.

Step 3: Redefine Your Definition of Consistency + Invite Grace Into The Picture

Instead of viewing consistency as doing things ALL the time, view it as doing things the MAJORITY of the time. It’s easy to get caught up in checking off daily boxes, but what happens when you don’t check off a box? This is why I’m not a fan of programs like the 75 Hard Challenge that make you start over when you skip a day. Just because you missed one workout on the plan, does not take away from the other 50 workouts you have already done. ⁠⁣Just because you had one meal that wasn't very nutritious, doesn't mean you have to fast the next day. Invite grace into the picture and focus on executing on your habits most of the time.

When we’re in this “all-in” mindset we’re so zoomed in on nutrition, fitness and our body. Zoom out. If it won’t matter in 10 years, let it go. You should be able to go on vacation and enjoy an ice cream cone, take a break from the gym if you’re feeling under the weather, and pick back up your meditation practice if you fell off without guilt and shame. Remember you do not have to be perfect to make progress.

Step 4: Listen to Your Body and Slow Down

When we are doing allll the things we’re often full of anxiety and ignoring the signals our body is giving us. You do not have to speed through life. Take some time to stop and smell the roses. Your mind, body and soul is constantly communicating with you. Maybe you need more rest, more food, a weekend vacation away from work. Tune in to what your body needs, it’s much smarter than you.

Step 5: Expand Your Circle

If we’re laser focused on our health goals - whether that’s healing from an illness, losing weight, regulating your period, building strength in the gym - it can easily consume our life and we can quickly get out of balance. It’s important to keep living your life outside of your goal. If you drop hanging out with all of your friends to get a six pack in the gym so you can post cute bikini pics on instagram, well when you come back from the gym those friendships might not be the same. There is certainly power in focusing when it comes to building momentum and making progress in an area, but know the sacrifices you’re making and realize when healthy focus has become an unhealthy obsession.

How to Get Out of “All-Out” Mentality

This side of the coin is not a fun place to live in either. It's a place where you feel idle, discouraged and defeated. Maybe you’ve tried so many times to lose weight or stay consistent with your healthy habits, but keep failing off, so you decide to just give up completely and embrace just doing nothing.

There is a difference between having a season of intentional relaxation vs being in a continuous rut. If you are resonating with the “All-Out” symptoms listed above, here are some tips on how to move closer to the gray zone.

Step 1: Remember Your Why

Oftentimes when we’re in a slump, we forget why taking care of ourselves even matters. It’s really easy to play the victim card and stay stuck, but we’re only hurting ourselves. If you’re struggling with the motivation to get going, you need to revisit why it’s important to take action in the first place.

What will happen if you don’t prioritize your health and well being? What positive things will come from you making this a priority? Do a little dreaming and reflect on how this area of your life impacts yourself and everyone around you. When you’re digging deep to find your why, again, make sure your motive for change is coming from a place of wanting to love and take care of your body rather than force it to change. Write your “why” down on paper and stick it on your mirror so you see it every morning!

Step 2: Remember Failure is Never The End

If you’ve made progress and then lost it, welcome to the club. It happens and you are not doomed. Failure is not the end and is necessary for growth and success. If you feel like a failure, ask yourself what your definition of success is or has been in the past. Is it a perfect body? A number on the scale? Is this truly your definition of success or someone else's you’ve adopted?

Turn failure into motivation. Get excited about the opportunity to try again knowing you have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. We are always moving forward with new information, never backwards. This time around you can approach your goals with more wisdom and a different mindset.

It took me multiple attempts and failures at trying different diets over the course of 5 years to finally understand how to listen to my body and fuel it in a balanced, intuitive way for optimal health. Don’t give up.

Step 3: Just Start Now

Procrastination is one of the biggest roadblock to progress. There are many reasons we procrastinate on doing things. Maybe we don't feel like doing something, maybe we’re scared we’ll fail, maybe we’re embarrassed, maybe we’re “too busy” or “too tired”. Only you know your excuses.

A lot of times I see people procrastinating and waiting to start until after vacation, once things slow down in their life, when they feel more “ready”, but these are all lies your mind tells you to keep you comfortable. Yes, it’s ideal to want to start things when conditions are “perfect”, but remember they never are. If you’re waiting until Monday, the first of the month or once you turn a certain age, I encourage you to drop that perspective on time. Every moment is a chance to take different actions that will get you different results. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

The actions you start to take don’t have to be giant. Start with baby steps. What is one small shift you can make to climb out of the whole? Maybe it’s putting on workout clothes, buying fresh fruit at the store, or placing a water bottle by your nightstand to drink first thing in the morning. You don’t have to have it all figured out right away, but you do have to start. If you’re struggling, get support! Hire a coach, lean on a friend, organize your life in a way that will keep you encouraged and accountable when you aren’t feeling motivated.

Step 4: Learn Self-Discipline and How to Manage Your Emotions

Feelings and emotions shouldn’t always be acted on. Our emotions come from our thoughts and our thoughts aren’t always true. There is a component of self-discipline when it comes to staying healthy and stewarding the body God gave you.

You might not feel like taking your kids to school every day, but you do it anyway because you are a responsible parent. The same goes for taking care of your body and mind. Choosing healthy foods, setting boundaries around screen time, saying no to overcrowding your plate and working out might not be easy choices that we feel like doing, but the reward down the road will be worth it. This concept is called delayed gratification. Shifting your habits isn’t always a walk in the park at first. Overtime though these things should become second nature and things you enjoy.

A lot of my clients struggle with knowing when to be disciplined and when to allow grace. Here are some definitions to help you if you are stuck:

  • A reason is a cause or explanation for why we did something or something happened. For example - you didn’t workout because you broke your leg, felt sick or got stuck in a meeting and got home super late.

  • An excuse is a type of reason that aims to justify why we did something or something happened. Excuses are used to avoid personal responsibility and shift blame off of ourselves. For example - you didn’t workout because you didn’t feel like driving to the gym, your favorite tv show was on or your accountability partner canceled on you.

I truly believe that if we take time to sit in silence and tune into our heart we will know if our minds are feeding us excuses or valid reasons for our behavior.

Step 5: Focus on Your Wins

One of the biggest reasons we don’t want to start up again when we’re in the “all-or-nothing” mentality is because we only focus on the things that we’re doing wrong or that aren’t working. Where focus goes, energy flows. If you deliberately look for the positives in each day you will find them. Beating yourself up for not being perfect, will not get you to your goals any faster and is a sure way to feel defeated.

We need to learn how to be our biggest cheerleaders instead of constantly criticizing ourselves. If you mess up, you are learning and it’s not the end of the world. There are a lot of positive ways you are growing that need to be celebrated. No action is too small to clap for. Did you drink water first thing this morning? Did you add a vegetable to your dinner? Did you go for a walk? Great job! You might not have drank your full gallon of water or ate 4 servings of veggies or completed a strength workout, but you took action. Something is better than nothing. Aim for progress over perfection.

To Summarize

Living in the “all-or-nothing” mindset robs us of enjoying our health journey’s. You’ll notice the advice given for each side contradicts one another. If you’re “all-out” you need a sprinkle of focus and discipline and if you’re “all-in” you need to be a little bit kinder to yourself and allow more grace. Whichever side you fall on there are always small shifts you can make to move closer to the gray zone.

You’ll know you’re living in the gray zone when your mood feels calmer, you feel more balanced, you’re not dwelling on mistakes, and you’re celebrating effort and progress. This is the sweet spot and I’d love for you to experience it! If you’re having trouble making these shifts on your own.

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