Giving up on "all or nothing" thinking

When it comes to healthy living, what’s better: 100% or 80%?

You probably immediately went with 100%. We all want to stick to the plan 100%, we want to hit the gym 100% of the time we are meant to, and we want to see 100% of the results. In fact, we tend to see 100% as success and anything less as a failure. We call this “all or nothing” thinking.

But aiming for 100% may be just as damaging as deciding to give up and settle for 0%.

Often, when we get trapped in an "all or nothing" thinking pattern, we miss the benefits of hitting your targets 80% of the time or 50% of the time. Let's face it, 10% is better than 0% and one of the best things you can do for your health is learning to stick to your behaviors as much as is possible because the things you do every day — behaviours— help you to achieve your goals. Forget perfect, focus on what you can actually do right now.

This kind of perfectionist thinking leads to the concept of “cheat meals”, the idea that some foods are “good” and some foods are “bad”, and that certain foods must be “earned." In the long run, this thinking can lead potentially contribute serious mental health problems like orthorexia or severe anxiety around food choices. We shouldn’t focus on cultivating iron-clad-willpower that means that we never stray from our diet. Instead, we should focus on developing a healthy relationship with food that allows us to enjoy ourselves and navigate everyday food choices healthily.

Unless you are a professional athlete, sticking to a healthy diet 80% of the time will likely get you where you need to go in terms of health, and when I say healthy diet I mean a diet provides the necessary nutrients to support your lifestyle and allows you to be the happiest and healthiest you can be. If you set a goal and you can only manage it 50% of the time, set an easier goal and start from there. Set yourself up to succeed from the start and everything will fall into place. 

Learn to love 80% and do away with "all or nothing" thinking, not only will it make you more likely to achieve your goals, it will probably make you happier too.

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
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