CommunityBrowse groupsBlogEtiquetteInvite Your friendsSuccess Stories


All or nothing thinking?

Okay experienced dieters: your thoughts. I have a special Bermuda Triangle of dieting that involves overcontrol of my eating at first, then a sense of deprivation, leading to massive over-indulgence and undoing the good work already accomplished. PeerTrainer has been really helpful in helping me regulated, accountable and aware of what I am actually eating, planning and feeling in balance.

But what lies underneath the All Or Nothing Pattern? Anyone have insights into the psychology of this destructive paradigm? I am sure there are some cognitive psychologists out there who have thoughts. I realized that I love that process of letting go--it feels great--but the results are dismal.

Sat. May 10, 11:12am

Add comment  
I can't tell you why I have no psychology background other than having been to therapists for years off and on.
But I have the same mentality in that it's all or nothing.
I either diet very strict or eat like crazy
so what I have tried to do to get out of that thinking is diet very hard and one day a month give myself a free day.
At first I felt very guilty for having unhealthy food. But now it has been a year of doing this and it is working.
It is part of my plan and that way I don't get to where I feel deprived.
Maybe not a perfect way of dealing with it but it works for now.
My main difficulty is in making myself eat enough calories to feed my body what it needs.
I hope you can find some answers and I will be curious what others with some background in this will have to say.

Saturday, May 10, 2008, 4:13 PM

Add comment
I can only give you my experience as an AoN thinker, myself. For me, it's rooted in perfectionism. If I can't do it 'right' or if I eat something I 'shouldn't' or eat 'more than I should' - then I'll just have a blowout until I can have a do-over. Kinf of a 'well, I blew it so might as well go for broke...' It's really a ridiculous pattern! Fortunately, I'm much better about it and I'm much happier having toned down that way of thinking.

Saturday, May 10, 2008, 5:54 PM

Add comment
Here's what I think...

Many people have an all or nothing pattern when it comes to weightloss because it's so hard to see the fruits of your labor during weightloss!! You give it your all when you first start out expecting certain results based on what you see in your mind's eye and then when you don't see that result you start questioning what you're doing and give into the cravings. It's hard for us to realize that every little bit counts towards the overall effort and we throw in the towel because we don't think what we're doing is helping so why deprive ourselves anymore because it's not doing a bit of good!

I myself had this attitude until I bought this little device that sits on my arm and shows me the fruits of my labor!! It's called the bodybugg and it shows me the calories I burn in a day and even has a mode where I can see the calories I'm burning per minute at that very moment! I now see that even 5 mins. of exercise gets my calorie burn up for a good 20 mins or so! I see that when I miss a day of exercise my calories burned per minute shows it!

In January this year I weighed 190 lbs. at 5'1". I was a size 18P!!! Today I am 1/2" away from being a size 10P and have lost 30 lbs. of fat!

Get rid of the all or nothing attitude already and strive for "Progress not Perfection!". It ALL helps - don't throw in the towel! Good luck and I'm cheering for ya that you can get past this mindset!!

My progress photos and stats can be seen below.


Sunday, May 11, 2008, 9:50 AM

Add comment
These comments are really, really helpful. The idea of perfectionism hits home--something to work on in general in the rest of life--good enough is good enough!--and also the bodybugg. I am very active already, but this add incentive. Great thread and I hope people will keep on posting. All or nothingism is very disheartening!

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 1:32 PM

Add comment
That all or nothing way of thinking is not productive. There's no way I could live with that. And it is all about living. Which is why I don't "diet". I take things one day at a time. Sometimes one meal, or one snack, at a time. If I mess up at that one meal or snack, no biggie. I get right back to healthful eating with the next scheduled meal or snack.

Very important to me is not feeling deprived and not having anything labeled as off limits. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. The trick is to train myself to want the healthier foods more often, and the not so healthy foods only occasionally. If I know I can have a piece of cheesecake once in a while, I don't crave it every single day. Because I know I can have it when I really want it. So I seem to want it less often. And I don't want to eat the whole thing. I can have a one inch thick slice and be happy.

It takes a lot of thought and work to change your attitude about things. I'm not saying it's easy at all. But it is easier to stay on a lifelong healthy/healthier eating plan if nothing is eliminated and considered to be a "bad' food. There are no bad foods in my eating plan. Maybe just not such a good time to have a particular thing.

So I only get rid of a few ounces or half a pound a week. This isn't a race and I don't have to drop 20 pounds right away. The fact is, it IS melting off. It's slow, but it's steady. And the good, healthy things are becoming a habit.

What more could I ask for?

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 1:36 PM

Add comment
At the point where we decide to do something about our weight it is usually an assault on a total lack of awareness situation. So the reaction to that is an all out assault. It may even be good strategy in the initial stages because it is highly motivated move, but one needs to be conscious that if any plan is going to last it has to work. To have a lasting change it has to work in all kinds of circumstances without dramatic deprivation, but with loving choice. Being conscious of your diet is like housework. You have to do it every day, it's not that fun, but it feels good when you attend to it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 2:04 PM

Add comment
I have definitely been a victim of AoN thinking. The thing is that for me in the past moderation hasn't worked. I would say to myself, I will have one snack and that will be it, then find myself at the bottom of the bag. So, I got it in my mind that I needed to be very strict and cut everthing out, because handling moderation was just too hard. I think AoN thinking is characteristic of binge eaters. I am going to try moderation again though. I think I can do it. I just have to tap into the right attitude and outlook in order to do it. Any suggestions from someone who has overcome AoN thinking?

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 2:38 PM

Add comment
Beck advises that giving ourselves credit is necessary. The AorN thinking does not allow for the individual individual small successful choices.

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 2:48 PM

Add comment
This is a great question. Thanks for asking it OP. There is a subtle unconscious implication that what ever list of things that must be done perfectly must also be done forever. So there is never a now to be proud of, or a meal that is enjoyed, a body to appreciate or a mind that is free. It is conditional on perfect and forever. Impossible.

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 3:27 PM

Add comment
Great response PP. I can relate to that!

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 4:28 PM

Add comment

well, as the head of psychology at the Harvard University Center for Eating Disorders I would say that you are just crazy and that is all. You should come and sit on my couch and talk about your childhood. And bring some snacks and a sleeping bag because you'll be here for quite a while.

jk - I think you should keeep the control but eat just a little more in phase one and then phase two and three will go away. That is all - for real.

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 10:13 PM

Add comment
Which poster is this comment directed to:

"well, as the head of psychology at the Harvard University Center for Eating Disorders I would say that you are just crazy and that is all. You should come and sit on my couch and talk about your childhood. And bring some snacks and a sleeping bag because you'll be here for quite a while. "

It seems pretty negative and counter-productive.

Sunday, May 11, 2008, 11:32 PM

Add comment
Hey, this is amazingly insightful. Thank you.

Monday, May 12, 2008, 2:24 PM

Add comment
oh man, jeez 11:32, I was totally joking hence the jk (just kidding)

I just think IN THIS CASE it doesn't need to be turned into psychology that is all...
you get hungry and you want to eat stuff, so don't let yourslef get quite as hungry next time, that is all.


Monday, May 12, 2008, 2:56 PM

Add comment
I used to have an all or nothing mindset on eating, as well. I'm trying to think of all the things that have changed that habit. I never let myself get too hungry. I never tell myself I can't have a specific thing because that's the one thing I'll eventually go crazy on. I almost never over-eat (I used to over-eat at every meal). I take it one day at a time. I listen to my body for when it's hungry and when it's full. I'm not trying to "hurt" myself with food anymore. That's pretty much it. I don't expect everyone else to be perfect, so why should I expect that from myself?

I'm down 23 lbs. and still going.

Monday, May 12, 2008, 3:20 PM

Add comment
thank you

OP here. Thank you for the two comments especially "I used to have all or nothing," and "There is a subtle unconscious implication that what ever list of things that must be done perfectly must also be done forever. So there is never a now to be proud of, or a meal that is enjoyed, a body to appreciate or a mind that is free. It is conditional on perfect and forever. Impossible." I read them both again and again. Great wisdom and help. With gratitude.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 9:03 AM

Add comment
Thank you OP. Asking the right question is the most difficult part. The answer is always uncovered by asking the right question.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 9:40 AM

Add comment
3:20 I don't think it is all about letting yourself get too hungry.
At least in my case it isn't.
I very seldom get hungry. And when I am overeating or binging it has Nothing to do with hunger. It has to do with want and stress and a way to deal with what I am or have been experiencing.

I think there are some good thoughts here but really I think it all comes down to learning that perfection doesn't have to be achieved.

One said something to the effect of, that it is one meal, one decision at a time and that they add up. And that is exactly what I tell others when they are experiencing a difficult time in making right choices. However that same rule doesn't apply for me. In my thought process.
I need to learn how to get there.

And I have to say I think there are times when therapy can be helpful. Mabye not for everybody but some.

Thanks for the oppinions everyone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 4:33 PM

Add comment

Related Content:

How To Lose Weight- The Basics
Weight Watchers Points System
The Fat Smash Diet
The Eat To Live Diet
The Beck Diet Solution
How To Get The Motivation To Lose Weight


How To Be Successful Using PEERtrainer

How To Burn Fat
Online Weight Loss Support- How It Works
Does Green Tea Help You Lose Weight?
Tips On Using PEERtrainer
Visit The PEERtrainer Community
Diet and Fitness Resources


Weight Watchers Meetings
Learning To Inspire Others: You Already Are
Writing Down Your Daily Workouts
Spending Money On A Personal Trainer?
How I Became A Marathon Runner


Preventive Health

How To Prevent Injuries During Your Workout
Flu Season: Should You Take The Flu Shot?
Are You Really Ready To Start PEERtrainer?
Super Foods That Can Boost Your Energy
Reversing Disease Through Nutrition

New Diet and Fitness Articles:

Weight Watchers Points Plus
How To Adjust Your Body To Exercise
New: Weight Watchers Momentum Program
New: PEERtrainer Blog Archive
Review Of The New Weight Watchers Momentum Program

Weight Loss Motivation by Joshua Wayne:

Why Simple Goal Setting Is Not Enough
How To Delay Short Term Gratification
How To Stay Motivated
How To Exercise With A Busy Schedule

Real World Nutrition and Fitness Questions

Can Weight Lifting Help You Lose Weight?
Are Protein Drinks Safe?
Nutrition As Medicine?

Everyday Weight Loss Tips

How To Eat Healthy At A Party
How To Eat Out And Still Lose Weight
The Three Bite Rule
Tips On How To Stop A Binge