If you type “all-or-nothing personality” into google, I’m pretty sure my Facebook profile is the top result. Ok, not really. You’ll actually get an article called “What causes all or nothing thinking,” but you catch my drift. I basically define the term to a “T.”
All or nothing thinking is basically what it sounds like: you have difficulty finding a middle ground and either do something full-force or not at all. I really started to recognize this quality in myself when I began my eating disorder recovery. Reflecting on my actions in the depths of my mental illness, I realized that in my mind if I ate anything it felt like a loss, it didn’t matter how much it was that I ate. So, the only real accomplishment was eating nothing at all. Further on in my recovery, it was the same; I was either fully committed to regaining my life or not committed at all. There was no real in-between. However, these notions fluctuated regularly and the only real constant I had in my life was uncertainty.
Fast-forward to today. I still have this all-or-nothing personality. If I’m interested in a guy, I’m very interested – If I’m not interested, I’m very lax about the situation. If I’m friends with you, I will go out of my way to make sure you’re safe, happy and okay – If you have done something inconsiderate or mean to me, I will still be civil with you, but you become irrelevant; you are no longer a factor of influence in my life.
However, there are ways in which this personality is not necessarily healthy for me. For example, when I go to the gym I do a full workout cardio and strength training or I don’t go at all. I struggle to allow myself to just go and do cardio, or just go and do strength training. Secondly, my disorder has led to a mentality for chronic undereating. If my Fitbit tells me I’ve burned a certain amount of calories than it must be accurate, there is no going over that number, even if in my mind I know it is an incorrect calculation. Even hitting the number it tells me I should be aiming for is ‘not allowed,’ I have to be below it. In these cases I’m working towards finding balance. Balance is something I am a huge advocate for in terms of fitness and life in general. Although, I still struggle with this myself, it is something I encourage in others and something I continue to strive for daily.
Although I mentally know that I am not eating enough for my body based on my level and frequency of training, it has still been very difficult to combat the thoughts telling me to continue undereating. It’s not even necessarily a fear of gaining weight; it’s just a thought process that has been so engrained in my brain that it’s difficult to stray from. I’ve noticed that my body has been showing signs similar to when I was in my eating disorder, as well, and I know this is not something I want to have happen. I don’t want to continue to deprive my body, even though it’s never something I planned to do in the first place. I just need to learn how to adapt my nutrition to my lifestyle, so, in my first steps to try and find balance, I have decided to stop wearing my Fitbit. Don’t get me wrong, I think Fitbit is a great way to track your activity, steps, heart rate, etc. But, for me, it has significantly been underestimating my daily caloric output. When compared to professional opinions, other apps like My Fitness Pal, and online TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculators, the calorie burn shown on my Fitbit it is quite a bit lower. Now, for some people, it might be easy to just ignore this feature of the Fitbit and strictly use it for measuring steps and activity. However, for me, even having that other number being calculated gives me a mental caloric limit lower than what my body needs. Also, it is possible to live a fit, active and healthy lifestyle without reaching 10,000 steps daily, so why should I be focusing my life on getting the most steps, when I can focus my life on being happy, healthy and enjoying my time at the gym regardless of my ‘step-count?’
I have transferred my nutrition tracking fully to My Fitness Pal, deleted my Fitbit app on my phone and am going to begin making weekly meal plans for myself. Another thing I struggle with is choosing what to eat, so if I plan it out in advance, then that stressor and ambiguity is gone. This will also be another way to make sure I do, in fact, hit my macros.
I’m also trying to work towards a more balanced gym routine, where I am able to actually act on my knowledge that not doing cardio some days is actually okay!!!
Over all, I will always have an “all-or-nothing” personality, but it’s about learning to find balance within that personality. It’s about realizing how it is negatively impacting me and what I need to actively work on every day in order to offset that impact. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not my natural tendency, but it’s what I need to do in order to maintain my recovery and live my best life.