All or none thinking

February 20, 2017

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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

This is a common trait among individuals with eating disorders.

They see the world in black and white.

Things are good or bad…

…Right or wrong.

…Healthy or unhealthy.

…Success or failure.

The problem is, our existence isn’t black and white.  Most things in life happen on a continuum, in the shades of gray.  The ambiguity of the shades of gray can be very uncomfortable for a person with an ED who is trying to live by an external set of self-imposed rules and uses this all or none criteria for self-evaluation.

For example, if I have the rule that I can only eat a certain amount of a food, then eating more than this constitutes “failure” and leaves me feeling bad about myself.  I might even feel guilty for having broken the rule (even though I did nothing morally wrong).

This type of all or none thinking gives the ED a whole lotta power.  It is so easy to create arbitrary rules that are impossible to always follow, leaving you to feel like crap when you break them.  “Shame on me for breaking the rule,” you think.

On the other hand, you feel in supreme control when you follow all of ED’s rules.  This feeling of “everything is just right” is false control.  YOU aren’t in control at all, it’s ED.  And this feeling won’t last.  But it’s so tempting to keep striving for it.

Here are a few tips for practicing more flexible thinking:

  • Acknowledge that no food is inherently good or bad.  Foods are just different.  All foods can fit into a healthful and enjoyable eating style.
  • Give yourself some compassion when you struggle with food.  Everybody over or under-eats sometimes.  There is no such thing as perfect eating.
  • Trust that your body can handle it.  The human body has an incredible capacity for taking care of us.  Our eating doesn’t have to be entirely balanced every day for our overall intake to balance out over time.  Watch a toddler eat – you’ll see what I mean!
  • Your worth as a human being is about so much more than what you eat or weigh.  Embrace all of your various sides and qualities – they are what make you YOU!

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