3 Tips To Avoid The All Or Nothing Mentality When It Comes To Your Nutrition Goals!

all or nothing mentality featured

A winning mindset can have a very positive impact on your life, and well being. It involves developing certain attitudes, beliefs, and habits that can help you approach challenges, setbacks, and goals with a positive and determined mindset. But the opposite is true for many people. Negative self talk, and low self esteem plague our society causing mental health issues to be on the rise. All these negative thinking patterns cause us to move from a place of positive thought pattern to having an all or nothing mentality.

In this blog post we will highlight three tips that can help you ditch the all or nothing mentality, and get to a place of positive, “gray is ok”, thinking pattern.

chalk board with glass half full written on it showing an all or nothing mentality

What Is An All Or Nothing Mentality?

An “all or nothing” mentality, also known as “black or white thinking,” is a cognitive pattern characterized by viewing situations, options, or possibilities in extreme, polarized terms, with no middle ground or room for compromise. It often involves the belief that things must be either perfect, or a complete failure, with no shades of gray or partial success acknowledged.

All or nothing thinking can manifest in various areas of life, including personal relationships, work, lifestyle, nutrition, fitness, and goal-setting. It can lead to feelings of frustration, disappointment, and self defeating behaviors. Additionally, these all or nothing thoughts hinder adaptability, and problem-solving.

woman with a scowling look showing an all or nothing mentality

It’s important to note that this mindset can be unhelpful in many situations, as life often presents nuanced, complex scenarios where there are multiple valid options, and varying degrees of success.

But worse than that, this thought process can cause anxiety, and depression leading to other distorted thoughts. Mental health issues, such as eating disorders when the mentality is centered around healthy eating behaviors is another example of how the all or nothing mentality is just no good.

What Can I Do To Help Myself If I Notice This Negative Thinking Pattern

Overcoming an “all or nothing” mentality involves recognizing, and challenging these negative thoughts, and then cultivating more balanced, flexible perspectives. Ultimately, cultivating a winning mindset is about maximizing your potential, embracing growth, and striving to be the best version of yourself. It empowers you to overcome obstacles, achieve success, and lead a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Here are some tips you can use to help break free from this all or nothing mentality when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, and eating a healthy diet:

Tip #1 - Define What You Want And Why

a man writing what do you want on a whiteboard

When you have a clear understanding of what you want, and why you are pursuing that goal, it fuels your motivation.

Defining what you want, or targeting a goal is the first step. Doing so will help you stay focused in a positive direction. That goal that you have shines like a beacon in the night. Write it down and tell the world. When you lose your way, look for that shining light to guide you back.

Your “why” acts as a powerful source of inspiration, reminding you of the meaningful reasons behind your goals, and actions.

Here are some reasons that knowing your “why” is important:

  1. Provides Clarity and Direction: Understanding why you want to achieve a particular goal or pursue a certain path provides clarity and a sense of direction. It gives your actions a purpose and helps you stay focused on what truly matters to you.

  2. Motivates and Inspires: Your “why” serves as a source of motivation and inspiration. When you know why something is important to you, it can provide the drive and determination needed to overcome challenges and obstacles.

  3. Strengthens Commitment: Having a clear sense of purpose strengthens your commitment to your goals. It reinforces your dedication, even when faced with setbacks or difficulties.

  4. Fuels Resilience: Knowing your “why” can be a powerful source of resilience. It helps you bounce back from setbacks and stay the course, even when things get tough.

  5. Guides Decision-Making: Your “why” acts as a guiding principle for decision-making. It helps you prioritize tasks, allocate resources, and make choices that align with your deeper purpose and values.

  6. Increases Satisfaction and Fulfillment: Achieving goals that are aligned with your “why” tends to bring a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s more likely to lead to a sense of accomplishment and contentment.

  7. Reduces Distractions and Shiny Object Syndrome: Knowing your “why” can help you filter out distractions and avoid pursuing goals or opportunities that don’t align with your true desires and values.

  8. Enhances Focus and Productivity: It allows you to focus your time and energy on what truly matters. This can lead to increased productivity and a greater sense of accomplishment.

  9. Builds Meaningful Connections: Understanding your “why” can also help you connect with others who share similar values and goals. It can form the basis for meaningful relationships and collaborations.

  10. Provides a Long-Term Perspective: Knowing your “why” encourages you to take a long-term view of your goals and aspirations. It helps you see beyond short-term setbacks and stay committed to your overarching vision.

Pro tips for creating goals

a chalk board with SMART written on it showing how goals can help you eliminate the all or nothing mentality

When creating goals for yourself, it can be helpful to set SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This type of goal setting is very popular, and works in many different scenarios.

Setting SMART goals ensures that you don’t have unrealistic expectations for yourself which can often lead to failure. Failure leads to decreased confidence, and negative thoughts which only furthers the dichotomous thinking problem.

Outcome vs Process Goals

Outcome goals, and process goals are two types of goals that serve different purposes in achieving success.

Here’s a breakdown of each:

Outcome Goals:

  1. Focus: Outcome goals are targets that are centered on a specific result or achievement. They are usually the ultimate goal you want to reach. Example: I want to lose 30 pounds.

  2. Measurable: They are typically easy to measure since they represent a clear, tangible result.

  3. Long-term Perspective: They often have a longer time frame, and represent the end point of a series of actions and efforts.

  4. External Validation: Outcome goals are often externally validated, meaning they are recognized by others. (If you lost 30lbs your family would notice)

  5. Motivating and Inspiring: Achieving an outcome goal can be highly motivating and provide a sense of accomplishment and validation.

Process Goals:

  1. Focus: Process goals are centered on the actions, behaviors, or steps you need to take in order to achieve a desired outcome.

  2. Measurable: While they may not be as immediately measurable as outcome goals, they can still be tracked. They often involve specific, quantifiable actions, such as attending a certain number of networking events per month, or in order to lose 30 pounds I need to shop for healthy food.

  3. Short-term Perspective: Process goals are typically focused on the short term, and are the building blocks that lead to the achievement of the larger outcome goal.

  4. Internal Validation: These goals are more internally validated. You know whether or not you’ve accomplished them based on your own efforts, and adherence to the plan.

  5. Promotes Consistency and Habits: Process goals are important for building habits, and consistent behaviors. They focus on the daily or weekly actions that lead to success.


Let’s say your outcome goal is to lose 30 pounds. Your process goals might include:

  • Exercise a certain number of minutes each day of the week.

  • Learn what eating a healthy diet looks like.

  • Shopping for healthy foods in the grocery store weekly.

  • Getting adequate rest and recovery.

These process goals are the steps you take on a regular basis to work towards the ultimate outcome of losing 30 pounds.

Now that you know your goal, and your why, it’s time to move on to tip number two.

a woman before and after losing 30 lbs

Tip #2 - Plan For Success

Planning for success means putting your process goals into actions. It also involves understanding some core human behavior to help you navigate through a challenging situation such as temptation to overeat junk food, or alcohol. (Both would set you back in reaching your thirty pounds weight loss goal)

Understand Willpower

Willpower, also known as self-control or self-discipline, is the ability to exert conscious control over one’s actions, decisions, and impulses in order to pursue long-term goals or resist short-term temptations or distractions. It involves the mental strength, and determination to make choices that align with one’s goals, and values, even in the face of difficulties or immediate gratification.

Relying on willpower alone to help with self control and discipline is very challenging. That is why helping yourself by removing the temptations around you will help you set yourself up for success.

Reset Your Environment

Setting up your environment to align with your goals can significantly increase your chances of success. Heard of the old saying “Out of sight out of mind?

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is an idiom that suggests that people tend to forget or stop thinking about things that are not visible or present in their immediate environment. In other words, when something is not directly in front of us, we are less likely to remember or consider it.

Here are five strategies to help you create a physical environment that supports your goals:

  1. Clear the Pantry and Fridge:

    • Remove unhealthy, tempting foods from your home. Donate them or give them away if they’re unopened.

  2. Stock Up on Healthy Options:

    • Fill your kitchen with nutritious, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Having these readily available makes it easier to make healthy choices.

  3. Pre-Portion Snacks:

    • If you buy snacks, divide them into single-serving portions. This can help control portion sizes and prevent overeating.

  4. Use Smaller Plates and Bowls:

    • Research shows that using smaller dishware can trick your brain into feeling satisfied with smaller portions.

  5. Arrange Healthy Foods Visibly:

    • Place healthy options at eye level in your fridge and pantry. This makes them the first thing you see and reach for.

Here are five more strategies to help you create a social environment that supports your goals:

  1. Communicate Your Goals:

    • Share your goals with friends, family, and close colleagues. This makes them aware of your intentions and can elicit their support.

  2. Find Like-Minded Individuals:

    • Connect with people who share similar health and fitness goals. Joining clubs, groups, or online communities focused on your interests can provide valuable support and motivation.

  3. Invite Accountability Partners:

    • Identify a friend or family member who can serve as an accountability partner. Regular check-ins or updates on your progress can help keep you on track.

  4. Plan Ahead for Social Gatherings:

    • If you’re attending an event, offer to bring a healthy dish or eat a balanced meal beforehand to reduce the temptation to overindulge.

  5. Choose Restaurants with Healthy Options:

    • When dining out with friends or family, suggest restaurants that offer a variety of nutritious choices.

Remember, creating a supportive physical, and social environment doesn’t mean isolating yourself from others. It’s about finding ways to align your goals with your social interactions in a way that is positive for both you, and your relationships.

a woman doing a pullup showing she doesn't not have the all or nothing mentality becuase she is recognizing small wins

Tip #3 - Celebrate Each Milestone

Sticking with the example of losing thirty pounds, celebrating each milestone is important when it comes to ditching that all or nothing mentality. We spoke about the difference between outcome and process goals. Celebrating each successful step taken when completing each process goal is an important part of realizing that every step matters. Walking on the treadmill, packing your lunch, and shopping for healthy foods is all part of doing the things that leads you to being successful.

Recognizing these little non scale victories occur from going through the process of doing the things necessary to help you reach your goal, brings realization that these all or nothing terms are not realistic.

When you see the results (one pound lost at a time, your pants fitting loser, you can do pull ups, you are sleeping better) you have physical proof that each step matters, leaving black and white thinking as a thing from the past.

Don’t Forget Positive Affirmations

Also remember that positive self worth doesn’t come from negative self talk. We all go through a rough patch from time to time. Reaffirming you are on the right track will help positive thoughts become automatic thoughts.

Examples of positive self talk are:

  • I am empowered to create the life I want to live

  • Progress over perfection

  • I can do anything I set my mind to

Wrap Up

Certain scenarios can lead us down the path of having an all or nothing mentality. But, taking the tips from this article and applying them to your real life is the first step in eliminating this common cognitive distortion. If you still struggle after implementing some of these tips, reach out to your local mental health professional. We would love to hear if some of these tips have helped you! Shoot us a DM or send me an email! heather@healthystepsnutrition.com

Free Help!

WATCH & LISTEN: 4 Tips To Help You Master MindfulnessHERE

WATCH & LISTEN: A Winning Mindset To Overcome OverthinkingHERE

WATCH & LISTEN: 3 Steps To Change Your Destructive Thinking Patterns – HERE

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