The Problem with Playing the All-Or-Nothing Game with Your Health 1

all or nothing

Perfection is not realistic in life so why would it be any different for health? Thinking this way does not account for the way the world (and your body) actually works. People are often too hard on themselves by playing the all or nothing game and thinking of health as a set of binary (sacrifices).

I can do this OR that. Have a beer OR drink water. Have vegetables OR cheat and have pizza. Have macaroni n’ cheese with hot dogs OR a plain salad and a “bland chicken breast”. Go to the gym OR walk outside later.

Making health decisions as if they are binary decisions is the start of the slippery slope that leads to all or nothing thinking. Well, I ate this so the whole day is ruined. And so is tomorrow too because I said I was going to eat healthy this week as some slip deeper into their own negative thought patterns.

Stop. Because you can do both.

What most lack is not what they perceive to be healthy or not, it is their lack of resiliency when something throws them off their game. Each passing moment presents another opportunity to make the “right choice”. And a shot at redemption.

Why can’t you have both in the majority of situations in your life AND think of it as a successful day?

Forget about the day by day or choice by choice and think in seasons.

Any baseball fans?

Baseball is a perfect metaphor for many things in life. Think about batting averages. A .333 batting average or 1 for 3 is pretty damn good. In a single game and across the season. In fact, if your batting average was .333 over the span of your career, you would be a Hall-of-Famer. But that doesn’t mean you are getting a hit every game.


…maybe not

Over the span of the season, you may go 0 for 3, 2 for 3, 3 for 3, in addition to the countless averages you could think of. What does it matter? One single at bat does not define your career. It is the collection and the average across the span of a season (or career) that makes you a Hall- of-Famer.

If some days you have 0 hits/healthy meals, you have a “game” the next day. Now if in that next day you go 3 for 3 with healthy choices, what average does that get you? How about for the two-day span?

Now forget about averages for a minute. What about RBI’s, Walks, Sac Fly’s, diving catches and any other baseball metaphor you want to use.

Back to health, this could mean that RBI’s might be the number of vegetable servings you get in a day. A walk might be a free pass that doesn’t affect your average which might be an indulgence on a day you earned your carbohydrates (huge workout or high activity throughout the day).

A sacrifice fly? Eating something shitty and still getting your RBI’s! See the effect of AND?

Coach Kyle here

The point is that you should not give a shit about the outcome of one single at bat or healthy eating choice, but you should be prepared to get a hit or make a good choice in the next. Because your season is not defined by one game. Nor is it defined by one day.

Healthy eating is not:

  • All OR nothing
  • This OR that

Healthy eating IS

  • This AND that

Hidden in the all or nothing approach is the concept of time. If you are doing it the right way, it’s going to take a long time!

It is the collection of our choices over a period of time and the effort we put in to make that average great. And if you had simply had more healthy choices throughout the day or week than bad ones, then I would say your average is pretty great. And you should too.

Your options grow significantly greater when you stop pushing yourself into a corner by thinking binary. More opportunities start to open up because you are looking for them! First, you have to forgive yourself for the collection of individual bad choices while at the same time not hide behind them as excuses.

Try this approach out

Most have a general idea of what is healthy and what the right things are but this binary/all or nothing approach has obviously failed many. It’s not what you should do that is going to solve the health problem, it is the process and mindset you approach it with.

Reframe the question entirely and stop focusing on what you shouldn’t do next time after it happens.

all or nothing

What about instead of thinking about what you should do, you think about what you shouldn’t do.

Name 10 things right now synonymous with healthy living that you believe and that you are not currently doing. Ask yourself, what are the actions I could do that would absolutely cause me to fail? Be more aware of them when they happen and try to avoid them.

Here are a few that made my list

Healthy people don’t

  • Stress about eating one bad meal causing the whole day to be ruined
  • Eat out of pure boredom
  • Pack their cabinets full of tempting shitty foods
  • Fill their fridge full of beer to have on hand in case they want one
  • Avoid vegetables because they don’t like them
  • Sit on their ass all day
  • use food and exercise as awards or abuse
  • think about health in the short term
  • Pretend they don’t have enough time to be healthy or cook
  • Think working out has to happen every day
  • Being too busy to recover, relax, recharge
  • Avoid reading because they don’t like it
  • Approach their health based on the generalized views of the internet
  • Think that one way is the only way…avoid experimentation

It’s not that the above list is true for everyone. It’s about finding and making a list or set of solutions that work for you and drive you to approach the problem a bit differently. Think about instead of how you want to self-identify.

If you are doing half the things on your do not do list, then stop pretending that you are already the person you envision yourself to be. But, if you take actionable steps towards avoiding these, you win.

Make life simpler. Hell, pick one simple thing and crush it each day. Feeling great? Add another. That is one way to Simply Kill It Every Day.


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