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Avoiding the All or Nothing Approach


Sometimes when we are trying to make changes, we set the bar too high for ourselves. This is especially the case when it comes to making changes to our health. It’s easy to make drastic claims: “I’m never having sugar again!” or, “I’m cutting out all snacking after dinner!”. Often we can do okay with these restrictions for a short amount of time, but then somebody drops off homemade cookies and all our previous plans go out the window.


This all or nothing approach can be exhausting. For a few weeks, we meal prep every meal, stock our fridge full of produce, and chug gallons of water. And then our motivation fades, life gets in the way, and we go back to eating our favorite sugary treats and snacking mindlessly in the evening.


What if we took a more moderate approach? Instead of thinking we have to change everything at once, we can remind ourselves that doing something is better than doing nothing. It’s easy to let our pursuit of perfection get in the way of just doing better than we were before.


First, set the bar low! Pick a goal that feels easy, even if it’s below where you would like to be. For example, set a goal of moving your body twice a week, even if you would really like to exercise more than that. That way, when you accomplish it, you feel more positive and motivated to continue, instead of feeling frustrated that you didn’t meet your goal. Focus on making small changes that are sustainable instead of big changes that are unsustainable for more than a few weeks or months.


Second, remember that consistency is key! Even if you miss a week or day here and there, the most important thing is that you continue on. Maybe you are trying to break the takeout habit and start cooking more. You set an attainable goal of getting takeout only twice per week, and have been cooking more meals at home. But then a busy week at work happens, and you go back to getting takeout every night. Instead of giving up on your goal, make a plan and start over next week.


Remember that forming healthy habits that we can continue doing day in and day out is going to be much more beneficial for us in the long term.


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Author: Becca Sprague, MS, RD, LD