Overcoming The “All-Or-Nothing” Mentality

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We’re in the midst of a tough time on the nutrition and exercise front.

The parties are everywhere.

The chocolate, the gingerbread, the candy canes…perhaps even the wine, cocktails or beer.

‘Tis the season, right?

Hopefully you haven’t decided to throw in the towel and get back on track in 2019.

That’s something I refer to as the New Year’s Fallacy.

Are you planning to “go on a diet” soon?

But not now, of course, because it’s THE HOLIDAYS.

Technically, you already ARE on a diet, even if it’s not a diet that keeps you healthy or gets you the results you want.

We nutrition people define DIET as what someone eats on a daily basis.

I’m well aware that most people have a different idea.

And there are times when there may be a need to follow a specific dietary prescription, like a gluten-free diet for celiacs, a dairy-free diet for the lactose intolerant, or a low-sugar diet for diabetics.

There’s also this diet:

In my Online Coaching practice, I’ve tried to get away from the idea of “diet” altogether.

Losing the “diet” word gets rid of all those nasty connotations:

* The idea of starving yourself.

* Supplementing with questionable products labelled “natural” (a meaningless term) so that you can fit into a certain outfit in a pre-prescribed amount of weeks.

* The notion that you need to give up all sorts of perfectly-good foods, like dairy, meat, grains, beans or corn to healthy (you don’t!).

If you want to be successful with losing weight and keeping it off, the most important thing to do is drop the “All-Or-Nothing” mentality.

Many people hold themselves back by adhering to this philosophy.

If they’re not 100% committed to doing every step perfectly, they don’t bother at all.

Success with nutrition and exercise suffers when you follow that concept.

Expecting yourself to do everything perfectly will only disappoint you and leave you feeling like a failure.grass-cutting-all-or-nothing-mentality

No one wants that!

I was a master of that destructive all-or-nothing mentality for a long time.

In my 20s, I’d go on a very strict diet and exercise regime for weeks or months.

I wouldn’t allow myself any chocolate, ice cream, alcohol or cookies for weeks at a time.

Eventually, my will would give in.

I’d probably keep up with the exercise (because, for the most part, I enjoy it), but I’d soon decide that the struggle with food wasn’t worth it.

I’d have some chocolate.

A LOT of chocolate.

Then maybe some ice cream the next day.

When I went out with my friends on the weekend, I decided I didn’t need to stick to water anymore.

I was completely off the rails again and gaining plenty of fat to prove it.

Eventually I realized that I was making a mess of everything and I put myself back on a diet again.

No more “bad” food…just “clean eating” (another meaningless term).

And the Diet Cycle began again.

Only to be repeated countless times over a decade or so.

I eventually realized that I didn’t have to be perfect to get leaner.

The biggest difference now is not expecting everything to be exactly on the mark.

What does that mean specifically?

It means that you head to the gym for only 35 minutes instead of skipping it altogether when you’re busy.

Maybe you only workout once or twice that week, but you decide to be more careful with what you’re eating by reducing your calories and carbs slightly.

One weights session is better than none.

A single glass of wine is better than three or four.

Maybe you’re craving a hot chocolate when you go to the Christmas Market.

Your meals that day can be slightly adjusted with sugar and calories to keep things in balance.

And even if you eat a bit more one day, it’s not a reason to keep doing that.

Just go back to your usual plan without guilt.


There will be treat foods that you’ll want and there will sometimes be things you have to do besides workout.

Don’t give up.

Life throws you challenges for kicks so you need to be ready…and not imploding with the slightest pressure.

Giving up on your goal because of a small setback is like slashing the other three tires when you find out your car has a flat.

Not helpful!

The satisfaction of my lifestyle now is that I enjoy my food without guilt.

I tend to know when I’m getting carried away and I can pivot quickly to make sure that I don’t sabotage myself by giving in completely.

My client Kathyne, who always thought she needed to stick to a “clean diet” to stay lean, has realized that she can have the delicious cheese that her husband brings back from his work trips.

She just has to plan the rest of her day (or the next day) accordingly to account for the additional calories and fat.

You can hear what Kathryne (and some of my other clients) has to say about my approach HERE.

So this season, and next year, try to take a more balanced approach.

You can have some potato chips.

You can order the fries on the side sometimes when you go out.

That dessert place that your spouse has been dying to check out doesn’t have to feel scary.

It takes time to change your relationship with food this way.

In truth, many of my Online Coaching clients are still working on it.

It’s a process that can’t always be undone in a few weeks or months.

That’s fine.

The habits of a lifetime are not undone just because you read this article.


You have to remind yourself every time you sit down to eat.

Sometimes you need support to guide you through the inevitable hurdles that you’ll face.

Know that the process is worth it.

Believe that you can do it, as long as you follow a practical strategy and look at your limiting beliefs around food.

You don’t have to be perfect.

You just have to make progress.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 8-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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