Belly Up on the Floor in a Food Coma: My Struggles With the “all-Or-None” Mindset
If you read this article here, you’ll recall that I suffered from a form of disordered eating back in 2004.
I had a combination of exercise-induced bulimia, anorexia nervosa and orthorexia (an obsession with food quality).
Plus an aversion to recovery.
Well, after a stay in the hospital and numerous counselling sessions,
I apparently beat it.
Or so I thought.
Fast forward to 2007 when I had gained 50lbs of muscle,
I was working out hard,
I was recovering properly,
And I was eating well…
Most of the time.
You see, one of the things that I obsessed about before (food quality) never actually went away.
I continued to avoid the foods I considered “bad” all week but come the weekend,
I let loose.
I would basically just say “eff it, lets do it!” (A phenomenon known as disinhibition).
But, I figured I was cured of my disordered eating because I was eating the foods I considered “bad”.
It was just at a specific time.
Well, turns out I was wrong.
I still had the same rules about food.
I had “good” foods that I ate during the week and I had “bad” foods that I let myself eat from Saturday at 4pm until I went to bed that night.
So, for 8 hours per week, I could let loose.
And, man, did I ever let loose.
This “cheat day” was an all-out binge.
I ate ice cream,
I ate chocolate bars,
I ate pizza,
You name it.
I ate it.
I ate so much that I would just lay on the floor,
so full I couldn’t move.
Sounds healthy, right?
I had such strict rules around eating that I had nothing to fall back onto when I deviated from my rules.
On my cheat day, food was just something I needed to get before the night was over.
So, I basically I went from one form of disordered eating to another.
What’s important to mention here is that my mindset around food had never changed.
When I was initially admitted to the disordered eating program in 2004, I had strict rules about “good” and “bad” foods.
I just didn’t eat those foods at all.
In 2007, I still had those strict rules about food, but I only ate them during my Saturday binge.
Still, I looked healthy,
I was fit,
And physically thriving,
But my mindset was the same.
Nothing had changed.
This was indicative of an “all or none” mindset.
Where I was either “on” or I was “off”.
There was no middle ground for me.
And I looked forward to my binge all week.
I was never really living in the moment,
And never really enjoying the moment.
I was always looking ahead to the weekend when I could cram all the ice cream, pizza and cake I could into my gullet.
I had a serious case of weekenditis,
And binge-eating disorder (undiagnosed, but as you can see, it was pretty obvious….)
A turning point?
This went on for about year.
I would eat “well” all week,
And then let loose on weekends.
Until I just got sick of it.
It made me uncomfortable.
It wasn’t fun.
I had trouble functioning the next day because of my food “hang-over”.
It was no way for me to live.
So, I stopped it.
For no other reason other than I hated how it made me feel.
But, again, my mindset never changed.
The “cheat day” was gone but the strict rules were still there.
So, the next thing in my journey was that I would give myself permission to eat “bad” foods when at a family gathering,
When with friends,
The scheduled binging now become situational binging.
A little better,
but the “all-or-none” mindset was still there.
Enter Precision Nutrition
It wasn’t until I started to learn about Precision Nutrition and their approach to coaching nutrition, that I started to get it.
I started to turn around my mindset about eating,
I was able to see food differently,
I loosened the reins on my rules,
And I no longer referred to foods as “good” or “bad”.
And although, I am still a “work-in-progress”,
I now have a healthy relationship with food and I have dropped most of the “all-or-none” thinking.
Here are the remedies I used to kick my “all-or-none” mindset
1. Aim for good enough, not perfect
Seeking perfection does not lend itself to consistency.
And ultimately, the goal is consistency.
A B+ program with A consistency is better than an A+ program with C consistency.
Instead of asking yourself “what’s the absolute perfect choice?”,
ask “what choice is just a little better, given what is available?”
Look at foods on a continuum of better to best.
And make the best decision based on what is in front of you at that very moment.
And when all else fails, you can always, always fall back on eating slowly and mindfully.
2. Change your vocab
I am super diligent with our clients when choosing words to describe foods.
Instead of “good” foods, we say “foods that are more conducive to health”.
Instead of “bad” foods, we say “foods that are less conducive to health”.
3. No food rules
Food is what it is.
Food is enjoyable,
But it is also a means of health, fitness and performance.
You don’t need to set up rules about when you can eat,
Where you can eat,
With whom you can eat,
and what you can eat.
There are some principles that are conducive to losing fat,
Like eating lean protein with every meal,
Eating colourful plants with each meal,
Choosing healthy fats,
Choosing smart carbs,
and eating slow and mindfully,
But you don’t need rigid rules governing your eating.
4. No more cheat days
Needles to say, I eliminated my “cheat” days.
They made me feel like shit,
They made me unproductive,
They went against much of what I believe in as human being;
Living in the moment,
And being energetic and productive.
And what does “cheating” imply?
That you are doing something bad (again, with the “good” vs “bad” foods).
5. Clean slate method
Every day is a new day and it’s a chance to crush it.
What happened yesterday has nothing to do with today.
Even, what happened at your last meal doesn’t affect this meal right here.
The slate has been wiped clean.
This is your chance to nail this meal.
6. The bouncing back method
The healthiest and most successful people in our program,
And generally successful people in life,
Have the ability to bounce back effectively.
They don’t get down on themselves.
They see “failures” as feedback and use it as a learning experience.
Bouncing back is a skill that you can train.
Use your “failure” as an opportunity to practice the skill of bouncing back.
So, the next time you have a meal that is less conducive to your health,
Take that opportunity to train your ability to bounce back by eating well on the next meal.
7. Sensing into body cues
Eating slowly and mindfully have been essential skills for me in the acquisition of appetite awareness.
Staying in tune with how my body feels has been the best way I have been able to deal with my rules around eating.
I have no issues whatsoever eating “treat” foods if I eat them slowly and mindfully.
Also, I enjoy them more,
I feel good about eating them,
And I use them as an opportunity to practice the skills of eating slowly and mindfully.
I’ll admit, there will be times when I am eating them and I feel myself being a little out of control.
If that’s the case, I stop, check in with my fullness and assess whether it is wise to take another bite.
If it’s okay, I go for it.
If not, I stop.
A great strategies that helped me for this one was the hunger game (check out this “eat until 80” video).
8. Weekend and night-time overeating journal (download)
Look for patterns,
Look for possible roots of your behaviour,
And look for what you are actually trying to get.
Are you bored and looking for fun?
Are you lonely and looking for connection?
Are you sad and looking for comfort?
Are you stressed and looking for a way to blow off some steam?
Are you a control freak who needs to let loose?
Replace the food you are using to get some feeling (excitement, stress release, comfort) with with an alternate activity.
We wrote about this extensively here.
Do you find yourself constantly chasing the next fad diet?
Do you eat “good” all day and then let loose in the evening?
Are you “on-point” all week and then let ‘er buck on the weekends?
If so, then the “all-or-none” mindset is likely lurking somewhere deep in the recesses of your mind.
This mindset will not only sabotage your efforts to lose fat,
it may cause you to gain unwanted fat,
And may interfere with your ability to be happy and healthy.
Try the methods presented in this article to help fight back against the “all-or-none” mindset.