What is Your Nutrition Personality?

It’s been quite a while since I sent out a blog. I have been thinking a lot about you!

So, how ARE you doing?

Are you keeping up your mental and physical health?

I know it’s difficult during a pandemic. But if there’s anything we now know, it’s that we can better weather these kinds of storms when our mind and body are well. Keeping our mind and body well means healthy exercise, getting out in nature, engaging in practices that create a calm and aware mind like yoga and meditation, and fueling our body with necessary and healthy nutrients.

I’ve been thinking about my own nutrition, as I definitely have been doing some emotional eating and comfort drinking. What about you? Did the pandemic uncover any nutritional weaknesses for you? If so, please feel free to reach out and let me help. (PS– A tiny piece of advice- cut yourself some slack. It’s a freaking pandemic!)

Along these lines, I have been doing some thinking about a concept I call our “Nutrition Personality”.  Our mindset around our relationship with food determines how we feed our bodies, and whether we do that with calmness, awareness and success, or neuroticism and self-loathing. We all know which is best, but sometimes we go against our better instincts, as all humans can, and we can get off kilter. Understanding ourselves and our innate personalities will always help us make healthy choices stick.

Your Nutrition Personality

Yes, you have a nutrition personality.  It’s really just an offshoot of your personal mindset; how you approach the world. Your personal mindset controls the way you approach your nutrition as well.  By this I mean your food choices, your thoughts about food and your relationship with food.  Knowing your nutrition personality goes a long way to feeling better about yourself, because you better understand the actions and choices  that lead to success or failure. You can better chart your course forward with this invaluable knowledge.

In my experience, there are 2 major kinds of nutrition personalities. There are “All or Nothing” people and there are “Everything in Moderation” people. Of course, this is not as black and white as I make it out to be. It is also possible that you may have gone through periods in your life where you were one mindset and then shifted to the other. It’s also possible that you lean too far to one side and this is not serving you well, so you would like to find balance by shifting into the opposite mindset.  But, for our initial discussion, let’s explore these 2 basic mindsets, or perspectives.

All or Nothing

If you are “All or Nothing”, you may be the kind of person who can switch “on and off” your nutrition endeavors. You buy in immediately to diets and feel great the more stringent you eat.  You can get good success with diets because you are all in.  This is a real positive.

You might also find, however, that you have issues with being able to eat “just one” of something.  So, stringent diets create rules for you that, as an “All or Nothing” person, you embrace wholeheartedly. You like rules because they create safe boundaries and no grey areas.

When you do overeat, because you can’t do things in moderation (or won’t) you might find you go to an extreme. This further perpetuates the need to then go back to a stringent diet, because you can’t trust yourself.  This mindset can be a roller coaster (but not a fun one!) because you really can beat yourself up if you make even 1 teeny error in your diet.  If it’s not perfect, you label it a fail. You may even feel so bad about that minor indiscretion that you then head to the “nothing” part of you. That’s the other side of the coin…. sometimes you are the “nothing” side, and can go off the deep end nutritionally.

Nutritionists actually refer to this as the “f*** it” attitude.  It is the ruiner of many good dietary intentions. If you veer towards a “f*** it” attitude, working to shift this mindset is key. I counter this mindset with a mantra I learned from a client…. Do the next right thing. Anytime you are off track, instead of thinking “screw it, I’ve blown it, so there’s no use in continuing”, shift your mindset to Doing the next right thing.

“All or Nothing” people may also procrastinate when trying to begin a healthier eating regimen because “the time is never right”.  We often adopt this belief because we know there will be challenges to our adherence, and we don’t want to fail. I get it. But the time is always right IF you are ready and aware enough to create structures to support yourself in case of a brief indiscretion. Small failures teach us. There is no failure that can’t be undone with a positive growth mindset. Do the next right thing is a reminder of hope and growth.

The positive of “All or Nothing” is if you have the energy and calm demeanor to embrace “The All” as a journey, rather than a punishment, you can have great success. We all know people who live a life of nutritional purity because they like it. But, what if your “All or Nothing” perspective is not enjoyable? This can create terrible stress. If this is the case, you might consider working towards the more moderated mindset, “Everything in Moderation”, or in this case, “Some Things in Moderation”, as you are in the learning stage. How would it feel to bring some moderation to your stringent diet rules?  Maybe scary. But maybe a more balanced way?

Everything in Moderation

“Everything in Moderation” people have a level of self-trust that allows a perspective of being able to enjoy a little bit of anything without feeling guilt or self-loathing. Someone with an “Everything in Moderation” nutrition personality does not do well with stringent diets, unlike the “All or Nothing” person. Nor do they go through periods of extreme over eating…the “nothing” end. They can have treats and only eat one. They keep quantities in check.  They rarely crave foods, as one might do after a period of abstinence from a stringent diet. “Everything in Moderation” people do not have extreme weight swings.

There is, however, a slippery slope side to this kind of nutrition personality. I am well aware of it because I am an “Everything in Moderation” person. The slippery slope occurs when you start by having a little bit of a treat every day, but it eventually grows to “little bits” of many treats every day.   So “everything in moderation” could mean just 1 cup of ice cream, or just 1 glass of wine, or just 1 handful of chips…. But what if you have all of those in 1 day?  No, you are not overindulging in one particular food, but the big picture might escape you.

And, how does one define moderation? Who defines it?  It can be different for everyone.  Is moderation 1 cup of ice cream every day, or ½ cup?  Or is moderation 2 cups of ice cream, once a week?  Things are not nearly as black and white for the “Everything in Moderation” person. This is why a level of self-trust and awareness is a must.  And there can be a slow but steady descent into over eating.

Your Nutrition Personality and Goal Setting

Knowing your nutrition personality can go a long way to figuring out what kind of eating regimen resonates best with you when you are looking to make healthy improvements to your nutrition. Sometimes we make poor nutrition decisions that are not in our best interests, or are a product of fear or self-loathing about our bodies.  Once we better understand our innate personality, we know that some nutrition choices and regimens are not right for us, and we can find a better way.

For example, you might be an “Everything in Moderation” person and try to go on a super-duper strict diet.  After 1 week, you’re going nuts, and you start to crave things you normally ate in moderation. You feel deprived, but, it’s a diet, so isn’t this the way it has to be?  But, does it? What if instead of getting all strict and stringent, you merely identified a few places in your nutrition that need attention, and work on those? Or, if your goal is fat loss, you could merely decrease portion size, and still have your cake and eat it too. I had a client who lost 50 lbs by just eating ½ portions of everything she used to eat. It was brilliant and not depriving at all!  Knowing your individual nutrition perspective will decrease the likelihood that you set yourself up for failure.

Another example; You might be an “All or Nothing” person on vacation with “Everything in Moderation” friends, and it stresses you out.  How do you deal with that?  How do you relax a bit and enjoy your comfort eating with your friends, without the self-loathing?  Can you let go for a bit, knowing you are fully capable of going back to your more stringent eating patterns?

I always recommend that “All or Nothing” people stay very aware of how challenging it is to have this personality.  It can create a need for perfection with both diet and exercise. Optimally, you would want to try and shift to a more trusting “Everything in Moderation” approach, which is the most natural way to eat. You can learn over time that you can have 1 piece of candy and you won’t gain weight. You can learn that you don’t have to adhere to strict rules around eating and can still feel good about yourself and your health. You can learn that running 3 miles a few times a week is more enjoyable than slogging through forced daily sessions. Try and find a bit of moderation that you feel comfortable with and just be with it. You don’t have to shift a lot, just try and find better balance. Trust yourself more.

After over 30 years in the fitness industry, counseling thousands of women and men, one of my greatest accomplishments is when I help people find a more natural, healthy relationship with food and their bodies. But it always starts with self-awareness and mindfulness. Not a diet. Not rules. Not guilt. Know thyself. Love thyself.