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All or Nothing

·         “Well, I have blown my diet. I may as well eat the whole thing”.

·         “I wouldn’t mind having a little chocolate here and there, but if I had any in the house, I would eat all of it in one night”.

·         “I will start my diet after the holidays”.


Those are eating examples of all or nothing thinking.  Here are some from other areas:

·         I made a mistake. The project is ruined and cannot be fixed.

·         I was a failure because I didn’t get a A

·         I always do that.

With all or nothing thinking, there is no middle ground and once the perfect outcome is not met, no other outcome matters and we feel as though we may as well completely give up.  A complete failure where we gave up is better than trying hard and getting to a medium outcome.


Most of us have this problem to some extent.  Some of us will be faced with food spreads in the next few weeks.  Here are some tips to avoid all or nothing thinking that might be helpful during this time, in the future with food or other things that have nothing to do with food.


·         Nobody else is grading us and we shouldn’t be grading ourselves, especially not with a pass/fail.  We are just moving forward and learning.

·         Try to hear yourself saying “always” or “never” in harmful ways to yourself and kindly realize that those are probably not true. 

·         Allow yourself to answer a question more fully and honestly about your “failed” intentions.  For example: You wanted to stay away from desserts at the Christmas party but had a piece of cake.  Instead of coming away saying “I wasn’t going to have any dessert, but did”, you could more fully answer by saying “I had a piece of cake which wasn’t my plan, but often times in the past I have had two”.

·         Give yourself some space to restart.  Even if we do eat nearly half of the buffet, elbowing others out of the way hitting the cupcake display before the dinner starts.  Big deal.  You get a redo.


One of the biggest (but most difficult) ways to overcome all or nothing thinking is to stop talking to yourself in a negative way.  Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend.  Imagine if you talked to a friend the way you talked to yourself.  You would no longer have friends.  I know I call myself names I would never, never call my friends.  I would never say to my friends “You always tell yourself you are going to skip dessert and then you have it every time.”  However, I tell myself that.


Let’s get rid of phrases like “I am on a diet” or “I am off my diet”.  They leave no room for living our lives and figuring everything out as we go.  I don’t mean that for an excuse to eat whatever you want, whenever you want even if you know it is not good for your body, but maybe we should listen more to our bodies, eat less foods that comes out of factories and follow diets that we can follow for life.


Dec 18, 2023

In my case, I build this big wall against the things I’m trying to stay away from that once I allow something to climb over the wall, then the entire wall comes down. Instead of saying the wall can still be in place, I make that one failure equal the destruction of all will power. I need to rethink the rules. Great article

Replying to

Wow. What an incredible way to put it. I have that picture in my head. Thanks.


Yes! I have often thought that one bite of something has just ruined my day - then days - then weeks. This is a great article to help me remember if I trip - I don't stop walking.

Replying to

I want to put "If I trip - I don't stop walking" on the website. I guess I would need to add -lksclark to make sure and credit you.

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