The All or Nothing Dieter

Does your weight loss plan have two speeds, turbo and idle?  If so, you might be stuck in an “all or nothing” style of thinking.  “All or nothings” are either losing weight like gangbusters or in a tailspin of weight gain.  Some “all or nothing’s” are capable of large weight losses, high levels of exercise, and outstanding adherence to healthy diet…until… the wheels fall off.  And boy do they fall off.  The weight comes back sometimes even more than was ever lost, until gangbusters starts again, but it never lasts.  While it is great to be capable of pouring yourself into change, extreme change can undermine the potential for long-term success. If you fall into the “all-or-nothing” trap, here are a few ways to avoid swinging from extreme to extreme and settle down into the gray zone of long term weight loss.

Know What Flips Your Switch– When you swing from extreme to extreme, something is triggering the switch from all to nothing and vice versa. A major part of breaking out of the pattern is identifying those triggers. Try to think back to your last switch from all to nothing. What happened around that time? Usually the switch points involve a stressful time or changes in routine.  The more aware you are of your switch triggers the more you can make a plan to prevent them from tripping you up next time. For example, if you know you will be starting a new job in October, keep in mind that such a major life change could derail your health goals. Before you start, sketch out a plan for how you will continue your healthy behaviors while on the new job.

Enforce a healthy pace – Whatever you do, never lose more than 2 lbs a week. If you lose more, correct the following week.  Losing more than 1-2 pounds per week can slow your metabolic rate too much, which undermines the weight loss and makes further weight loss difficult. “All or nothings” often love the idea of big weight losses in short periods of time, however these just don’t last.  Finding a healthy pace is extremely important to long-term success as well as breaking free from being too extreme.

Embrace the gray area – The challenge of the “All or Nothing” is that he/she is always either losing weight or gaining weight. There is never a period of weight maintenance. Try practicing periods of weight maintenance, meaning staying within 1-2 pounds at all times. Here’s how: every 3-4 months, plan for a month in which the only goal is to maintain your weight.  This will require weighing yourself often and still paying close attention to what you eat and how much you are exercising.

Slow your roll–  The “All or Nothing” is often a fan of extreme exercise.  If they aren’t pushing themselves hard, hard, hard, they feel like it wasn’t a workout.  They don’t like to spend time on low or moderate intensity activities. The danger of pushing so hard all the time is that you will burn out.  It is just too difficult to keep up that pace and it also increases risk of injury which may be a trigger for switching back to “Nothing” mode.  Even marathon runners are urged to run slow miles occasionally and to have periods where they run far fewer miles than they can, for this very reason.  Make sure at least 1/3 of your workouts each week are at a low to moderate pace.

Dear All or Nothing: I Love You. Signed, Fad Diet Industry.  The “All or Nothing” is very vulnerable to extreme fad diets.  The fad diet industry feeds on your urgency for fast extreme results. Avoid all-liquid diets, very low calorie diets, cabbage soup, cookie, and celery diets!  Throw the diet book collection away! Slow and steady wins this race.

Commitment Issues!  If you find that you are having trouble with long term commitment to a weight loss regimen, it’s not you, it’s your diet!  You are picking the wrong regimen.  The number one predictor of success is how long people can commit to the plan they set forth for themselves, and what helps people commit is finding an approach that is as easy and enjoyable as possible. For every change you make to your diet and exercise, big or small, ask yourself, “Could I do this forever?” If the answer is no, then don’t bother with that particular change. Build a life you can tolerate living and you’ll avoid setting yourself up for failure.


Share on Facebook


  1. I have been putting this into words for myself this past week and this post rings so true for me!!! Thanks for writing it!

  2. Perhaps you could tell us some common triggers of binging- I suppose people fall into traps because of a poor balance while dieting, and they binge to reacquire missing substances.

  3. Amy says:

    This is a great article. Nice to see you posting again!
    This is something I worry about. I am part of your Work In Progress series. I have lost 43 pounds so far but still have 100+ to go. I am so conscious of what I eat ALL the time that I worry when I eventually reach my goal I won’t know what to do with myself! There have been times when I have maintained my weight as opposed to trying to lose. For the whole month of August I didn’t lose a single pound. My family and I had gone on vacation and my husband and I also went away to a wedding. I knew I would be indulging during those two times away so I tried to focus on choosing wisely on my own as opposed to following my current weight loss plan. So I guess that was good practice for my future self 🙂

    • Sherry says:

      Hi Amy! Sounds like you are doing well! Congrats on 43 pounds! You have a very big weight loss goal so I think periods of maintenance will be key because they will allow your body to adjust to the new weight as well as give you a break from “weight loss” mode. Hang in there, you are on a roll! Sherry

Comments are now closed for this article.

© 2012 fudiet | Privacy | Terms | Contact Us