Dieting dilemmas: All-or-nothing mindset

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Kayla

For as long as I’ve worked as a dietitian, it amazes me how much all-or-nothing thinking impacts a person’s self-confidence and feeds the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.

According to Professor Google, “all-or-nothing thinking” refers to thinking in extremes—something is right or wrong, good or bad. Classic dieting mentality, right?

In this post, we’ll examine all-or-nothing thinking including how we get there—the Dieter’s Dilemma. You’ll also learn strategies to manage this black-and-white, “either-or” type of thinking. So, let’s get to it!

🙋‍♀️ Raise your hand if the following sounds familiar…

“I’m good all week, then the weekend comes.”

“I blew it, so I might as well.”

“I shouldn’t eat [insert forbidden food here]. It’s so bad for me.”

“I’m starting fresh on Monday.”

This all-or-nothing mentality is linked to negative thinking, anxiety, and poor mood. Research proves it!

This binary way of thinking about food is heavily influenced by the illustration below—the Dieter’s Dilemma.

Does this cycle look familiar? Perhaps you can pinpoint which box(es) you’re currently in or between.

Too often, we seek rigid meal plans or strict diets to tell us how to eat which only feeds the all-or-nothing, “I did good” or “today was a bad day” mindset.

Maybe you recognize this inner dialogue as thoughts like, “I should do that” or “I can’t finish anything, so I won’t start anything.”

So what can you do? How do you fix your all-or-nothing mindset, so you can start seeing real progress? Below are a few tips.

Awareness of thyself

Self-awareness is recognizing your thoughts, actions, and emotions and how they align with your personal values and aspirations.

Self-awareness involves focusing on the present moment and aligning what you do with what you desire. This is especially important when it comes to manifesting weight loss.

For instance, you value your health yet choose most meals from a drive-thru menu and neglect sleep and exercise. I’m sorry, but you have mismatched priorities, my friend.

Furthermore, the simple awareness of knowing which section of the Dieter’s Dilemma you’re most prone to helps recognize and redirect your actions. Awareness is step number one for making any change!

Preparation precedes confidence

Inherently we want to “do good” and “be good.” So while your confidence might be shaky, preparation helps increase your odds of success and staying the course.

For example, you want to model healthy eating for your family, so you take 20 minutes each week to plan meals and make a grocery list.

Super duper nervous about an upcoming presentation? You prepare and rehearse to up your confidence, right?

Developing healthy habits is no different – meal prepping, scheduling exercise, and setting a bedtime. These preparation methods help set you up for success!

Own it

Taking personal responsibility is defeating only if you let it be. If you’re not where you want to be, it’s OK. Really! Fess up, take charge, and bulldoze in the direction you want to go.

When you take ownership of your current circumstance, it means that you have the power to CHANGE your future outcomes. But you’ll have to put in the work.

Simply signing up for a new weight loss program or purchasing a gym membership won’t garnish the results you want unless YOU put in the effort.

Show up, own it, reap the rewards, and repeat.

Words from the Wise

“When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing.” 


When I start working with clients, a phrase I often hear is, “I just need to get control of my eating.” Red flag! 🚩

If this sounds like you, then what you really need to work on is balance and learning to trust yourself again. I’ve come to realize that the opposite of all-or-nothing thinking is self-trust.

Somewhere along the line, our inner wisdom for hunger and happiness is diluted with “shoulds,” wants, and the next best thing. Reclaiming self-trust is a skill that involves patience and practice.

It’s not easy work, that’s for sure. And, if you’re wrestling with getting back into a healthy routine after weight loss surgery, apply today to learn more about 1:1 and group coaching opportunities.

Yours truly,

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Helping women after bariatric surgery lose weight without eating “perfect.” Learn how to balance blood sugar & optimize your “tool” today! Apply to learn more!

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