Making All-or-Nothing Work To My Advantage

Despite years of practice, I know that I often fall into having an all-or-nothing mindset around weight management, where I have to be either “all-in” on my eating program, or I am out of control. I often can’t inhabit a middle ground for long, and particularly when I was new to maintaining my weight loss I needed to spend the vast majority of my time all-in. The more time I spend all-in the better off I am. But once I’m out of control, how do I get back in?

I need to put my foot down sometimes and designate certain days, weeks, events, or places as “decision-free”. Meaning, I don’t get to decide what of the food on offer I get to eat. This removes me from falling into a vicious cycle of negotiating myself down a slippery slope into a dieting train wreck. So, when I know it’s time to get back into control, I decide I’m in the groove and I start kicking up my planning several notches. I ensure I have all the food I need to sustain my needs for the day, and I rule out anything not already planned for.

When I find myself in a situation where there is food available – a party, a buffet, any kind of event where food is part of the social situation, I make up my mind before I go that nothing there is on my plan. I don’t get to eat anything there, I don’t have to make any choices, and so I eat before I arrive.

The reason this is so effective is because I can completely disregard the food table (or menu, whatever) and pretend in my mind like it doesn’t exist. I can tell myself that it’s not even food – it’s just plastic food replicas. Because if I didn’t to this, if I just decided I would eat the healthy things I found at the food table for the party (for example), I would start negotiating with the part of me that makes food choices. I would say, “Hey look, veggies, those are safe, I can eat those. oh, but they’d taste so much better with that cheese dip on them, I’ll just take a little! And, ooh, right next to them – just a bite or two of cheese, cheese is made of milk so that’s healthy. But I’ll need a cracker or two to put that on, and hey – cookies! I can have one or two. And now I need some protein, so I’ll grab some cold cuts, but look, wings, those are chicken and that’s healthy…!”

See the slippery slope in action? I’m better off if I just remove the entire decision making scenario from the situation and don’t have to make any choices at all. This is how I handle food situations when I know I can’t control my decision-making in the moment. It’s easier to decide before-hand, if I know I am better off avoiding treats and focusing on my own health, than to try to implement this on the spot.

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5 Responses to “Making All-or-Nothing Work To My Advantage”

  1. Caron Says:

    Excellent! I know better than to play around that slippery slope but sometimes I tempt fate and try to negotiate it. Nope, I’ll never be a “normal” eater and that’s a fact. 🙂

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    Yup, I do the negotiating thing, too. I simply hate holidays because we’re usually at a family member’s house and it’s a buffet (or in the least, an unlimited source of food). Since we’re usually there a good 5-6 hours, I have to eat. I can’t play the “eat as many calories as you’re allowed for the day in one meal and not eat the rest of the day” game so I’m stuck trying to take just what I need and nothing else.
    Thanks for posting this. Definitely some good food for thought in here!

  3. Karen Williams Says:

    I’ll be serving plastic food replicas at my wedding reception, so don’t worry.

  4. Tracy Renae Cote Serros Says:

    What a well-timed post (for me, at least)! Now that I’m done breastfeeding, I’m back on a pretty strict diet that worked for me years ago. My food is pre-determined, there’s no guesswork – aside from varying my fruit choices between meals… Since I started 3 weeks ago, my mind has been going crazy thinking of different foods constantly throughout the day, and it’s interesting to watch it happen knowing I’m not going to indulge any of the cravings. Of course, when I’m not on a diet, my mind is not quite as obsessed with food… but it’s so much easier to resist the constant barrage of temptation when there are no decisions to be made about what I’m going to eat. And I know this about myself – I’m definitely an all-or-nothing kind of person… but I haven’t put that knowledge to use in developing good life strategies. This is really helpful for me to read! Dieting is relatively easy (though painfully slow – so much easier to put it on than take it off!!)… Maintaining will be more of a challenge, I think. I’m glad to read your insights to help me think more about my own strategies!

  5. Donna Says:

    This is why we try to think of non-food centric things to invite you over for … museum outings, shopping, etc. When you are feeling up to an indulgence, let us invite you to dinner, but otherwise, even though we’d love to feed you, we know it isn’t part of your plan so we don’t. But since you and your sweetie are such wonderful people to be social with, it is hard to resist the temptation to invite you to dinner 🙂


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