Have you really ‘blown it’ when you eat the donut?

On a Sunday evening, you find yourself doing an inventory of the weekend eating, with a giant dose of self-criticism and chastisement. You’ve felt wildly out of control with food consumption, with no stop-button in place. Tomorrow, you vow to yourself that it will be a better day. The Monday-healthy-wellness plan will commence, and you will undo all ‘wrongs’ with zealous determination.


Naturally, the Monday plan commences with energetic enthusiasm and fortitude. Calories are restricted; vegetables are eaten in abundance and gallons of water drank. You feel virtuous and light in body.

By Wednesday though, the initial zeal has waned somewhat, with tiredness and irritability creeping in, due to low energy and fatigue. Nevertheless, you persist hopefully, considering that this time things will be different.

By Friday, thoughts about food infiltrate your mind from dawn till dusk. You find yourself fantasing about gooey pizza, creamy ice cream and your favourite chocolate brownie cake. Following a stressful day at work, you find yourself at the supermarket till with a few chosen items in your basket. The pull towards the comfort and soothing that the food invites is magnetic, and thoughts of the strict regime feel distant. 

On the drive home, you find yourself in a frenzy of eating, with an initial surge of rapturous delight when devouring these foods denied for several days. But this is quickly replaced by a descending cloud of doom, as shame and regret sweep over you. ‘I’ve blown it’, you say to yourself. ‘I might as well carry on and start again on Monday’. 

The weekend is then a dissociated, blurry haze of eating, as your inner rebel fights back with a vengeance, making the most of anything and every food denied. Because on Monday morning, you have decided that the diet will commence again.

If you resonate with this cycle, your ‘all or nothing' thinking will certainly be sabotaging your success. 

Self-sabotage and 'all of nothing' thinking

This type of thinking exacerbates the inner critic, which will demonise or idealise your eating behaviours. You are either winning and achieving perfection or you are failing and falling back to square one. 

Striving for perfection is like trying to hit the bullseye continuously and is simply not sustainable. Then, when you critique yourself for not achieving these unrealistic goals, you likely feel hopeless and overwhelmed.

If you are ‘all or nothing’ in your approach, the shades of grey can feel bland and ‘not good enough’. However, contemplate that the grey areas can offer underwhelming but sustainable change that can be built on, in increments.

Rather than embracing a dietary overhaul next Monday morning, consider a baby step towards balance and sustainable change for your body. It could be planning a lunch that is blood sugar balancing and staves off over-hunger later in the day. It could be adding in some vegetables with the evening meal.

And when you eat a cake at 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon, you have not ‘blown it’ or failed. Instead, you have tasted a food that you love, and you can appreciate it. You can think‘Yum, it is wonderful to enjoy a range of foods and not to feel deprived. This is an inoculation against ‘out-of-control’ eating and I embrace this experience.

Consider how your thinking can be profoundly impactful here. Judgement might feel familiar and appropriate, but does it work? 

Usually, the inner critic is discouraging, and perpetuates misery and despair. Whereas a bit of kindness and self-love can ultimately reduce self-sabotage and allow a tolerance of imperfection and a possible cruising through the more achievable shades of grey.

I encourage you to give it a go and to experiment with a different way of thinking.

If you find this post helpful, you might be interested in working with me or signing up to my online course, listening to my podcast (The Eating Disorder Therapist) or if you’re a counsellor, you might be interested in my training courses.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image. She has worked in the NHS and private practice since 2003, and is passionate about supporting and educating others through therapy, writing and social media.
Instagram: @theeatingdisordertherapist_; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist Podcast

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