Combatting All-or-Nothing Thoughts

In my current line of work, I focus on helping others observe the environments they’re in and how we can engineer them to fit our goals better. However, this can be SO difficult when our environments (especially right now) are inundated with diet programs preying on vulnerable minds.

In the last two weeks of December, I see more and more people “turn in” their hats for the year and throw their healthy habits out the window to, “hit it hard” in the new year.
I’m not against setting goals for a new year, in fact I do it at least three to four times a year! Each new season represents a time for me to reflect on my goals with my husband and adjust them to fit my current needs. I am, however, against feeling as though your only option is to take on a trendy diet to lose weight / be healthier etc (which can be two very different things).

Food is Fifty Shades of Grey.

If there is one trend I saw boiling up more and more in 2019, it was the anti-diet approach amongst many individuals and health care providers. There will always be fad diets, always new 30-Day books released and individuals working pyramid schemes to sell you their diet teas and drinks. Try what you want, but the most sustainable way to work on your health is NOT all-or-nothing approaches IMO.

All-or-nothing thoughts get us stuck thinking that there is only a way to be “good” or “bad” with no in between grey. It then traps us into believe that when we eat “good” foods we’re doing good but when we eat “bad” foods we’re being bad. Same with working out or not! This is actually why “diets” can work temporarily because our brains like binary choices. This is a “yes” food and this is a “no” food which some people can sustain for a while.

The problem is after the “diet” or 30-Day Fix or Detox is over, we’re past binary yes/no choices. Now we’re still faced with our current issues with food, movement, etc. We still get stuck back in thinking we’re doing good/bad which puts a negative slant on almost all our choices. It leaves us with giving up, giving in, and feeling more miserable than before.

Guess what? Sometimes these diets, detoxes and cleanses do work for some people and sometimes they transition it into something that will work for their entire lifetime (maybe). All-or-nothing thoughts make us compare ourselves to these success stories. We think, “if she/he can do it, why can’t I? What’s wrong with me?” My answer, there is NOTHING wrong with you. There IS something wrong with our society’s pressure to be thin to fit in and to not accept those who don’t fit our stupid standards.


So now that I’ve rambled on explaining why all-or-nothing doesn’t work, let me remind you that having all-or-nothing thoughts is NORMAL. We’re human and it’s incredibly common to think this way. So here are some gentle ways to start changing your thoughts:

  • Instead of, this is bad for me….
    • This food does not have as much nutrition as others, but it’s okay to have balance with my intake and I am not a bad person for wanting or choosing it.
  • Instead of, this is good for me…
    • This food provides my body with nutrients and fuel that I can recognize it needs right now. 
  • Instead of, I screwed up I might as well wait till January 1st to start over…
    • I don’t feel great about how this went, I could use help diving deeper into that and instead of beating myself up I will try to do some self-care today and move on with my life.

Those are just a few ways to start combatting the all-or-nothing thoughts. By the way, these creep into more than just our food/weight/movement choices. Some of us think, “I either clean the whole house or nothing at all” or “Christmas has to go perfectly, or I have failed.” The fact is, this unhelpful thinking style can be found in many facets of life. 

If you’re still unsure where to begin, you’re in luck! I’m hosting a ten-day New Years group focusing on SKILL POWER not WILL POWER. Is ten-days long enough to form a new habit that sticks forever and ever? Nope, but it is a way for you to start off your New Years without a trendy/fad diet and build up/upon the habits you’d like to work on in a gentler way.  

10 Days of skill power not will power.png

To join the group, simply click HERE! You’ll get an email with all the details and you’ll be invited to join my private Facebook group as well. Guess what? It’s FREE! Having issues? Email me to join at <>.



  • jessi

    December 19, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    I love these ideas – food is much more gray than black and white!

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