Why an All-or-Nothing approach to healthy eating works best

Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

October 5, 2023

updated 4 Dec 2023


I am sure everyone agrees that the days of fad “Strawberry” or “Egg” diets are well gone. Everyone knows now that fad diets don’t work and while they’ll help you lose weight, you’re most likely to put it back on and possibly even more.

They lower your metabolism especially if you not only lose fat but also muscle mass because you are not getting sufficient protein and/or are not exercising enough.

Nowadays, we are talking about Elimination Diets, Fasting, Detoxification, Ketogenic Diet, Paleo Diet, Auto-Immune Diet, 2:5 Diet and many more.

Before I talk about the differences between these and the so-called “FAD diets” – What do the fad diets and all of the above actually have in common?

  • They ask you to focus on the foods you are eating.
  • They eliminate all processed and high sugar foods.
  • They ask you to add more nutritious foods (apart from fasting of course).

And what are the major differences?

  • Fad diets usually have one goal and that is a Quick-Fix Weight loss within a certain amount of time.
  • The other above-mentioned diets however have a specific goal in mind which is NOT just weight loss. They target specific health conditions and are not done for a short period of time (apart from complete fasting, even though some people do this as well over a longer period).

So, the major difference is the intention and the goal.

I have a few “RESET” plans that I suggest to my clients (depending on their current health condition, their current diet and their general life circumstances). These are all what you could call “diets” or very “strict” eating plans, but they give very clear guidelines of what and how much to eat or not to eat.

There are no “grey” areas!

An ALL-OR-NOTHING approach is generally not sustainable long-term for most people.

Unless, of course, you have very strong motivation and a very strong WHY. If you have a major health condition and know that for example, the “Paleo Auto-immune diet” has helped thousands of people with the same auto-immune condition that you have, you will have a strong motivation to stick to it. And you will have no problem – even long-term to eliminate certain foods.

But an ALL-OR-NOTHING approach can be absolutely brilliant and the only way to really get started and to see quick results that help keep you motivated.

Most people I know who stopped smoking did it from one day to another. I tried to stop smoking gradually for 8 years! Only, when I decided on a specific day (1. January 2000!) to completely and once and for all stop – that’s when I stuck to it!

Many people love doing an alcohol-free month because it’s much easier than saying “I’ll only have one glass of wine at the weekend”. Before you know it, the weekend starts on a Thursday evening already, and if there’s still something left in the bottle, the one glass only easily becomes 2! And again, I speak from experience here!

And it’s the same with eliminating certain foods. I tried it with “gluten-free” but then accidentally had a bit and immediately said, “Well, I’ve blown it now, I might as well have that whole slice of sourdough bread.”

But when I decide to do a RESET for a few days or a week or two, I have absolutely no problem at all sticking to a restricted diet plan. The chocolate and wine in the cupboard are completely ignored. The fact that my husband is cooking his dinner doesn’t faze me in the slightest.

And that’s exactly what I’ve been hearing from my clients as well.

But what are the benefits of such a RESET and why do it in the first place?
  1. It makes you focus on what you eat

We often get into habits of where we simply eat without thinking too much about it. Now, my diet has never gone back to being completely rubbish but in the last couple of months for example, I was traveling a lot and had to eat outside of the home, where I didn’t always get the healthiest choices. And there were certainly more temptations that I gave into than I normally would when I’m at home and when I can decide what comes into the house.

Getting very clear guidelines of what foods to eat and what not to eat, helps you focus.

  1. It gives your body a break or a well-deserved holiday

Your body needs to work really hard when it is digesting and detoxifying the food and drinks you put into it – even if the food and drinks are natural food sources that are packed with nutrients. However, if you are adding alcohol for example and processed foods, it needs to get rid of it, i.e. through detoxification. And this is putting pressure on your liver mainly. Also, read my blog about the liver.

  1. It helps “kick-start” new eating and lifestyle habits

Any RESET plan I suggest to my clients eliminates sugars and highly refined carbohydrates.

When you constantly eat sugar and carbohydrates, your body constantly needs insulin to get it out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells. That alone is hard work! However, many people have constantly elevated insulin levels without even knowing or noticing it, and this is a silent way towards insulin resistance or a pre-diabetic state. Completely eliminating sugars and carbs for even a short period can help bring insulin back into balance.

The second benefit of avoiding sugars and refined carbohydrates is that you lose your cravings for sweet things. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave it! After only a few days without sugar, everything will taste extremely sweet to the extent that you might not be able to actually eat certain foods because they simply taste too sweet.

Your cravings for unhealthy foods also go down after only one day of eating nothing or eating only nutritiously healthy foods!

  1. You will feel an improvement in energy and mood very quickly

Our bodies are so fascinating that they reward us by feeling so much better, full of energy and vitality after just a few days where we feed them with nutritious foods and where we eliminate the junk.

Yes, sometimes, if you’re diet has been really bad for a while, you might not feel that great when you are detoxing. The reason for this is that toxins are stored in fat cells, and as you are releasing the fat cells you are also releasing the toxins and your liver needs to work harder. Therefore it is vital that you support your liver when you are on a calorie-restricted eating plan.

  1. As humans, we actually love clear rules and guidelines
Having too much choice can lead to unhappiness.
Decision Fatigue is a real phenomenon.

There are studies that show that having to much choice can lead to unhappiness and frustration because by default, we always think that maybe the other thing that we didn’t choose would have been better for us.

Many people, when they start following healthy eating guidelines get bogged down by the many different opinions that are out there and then decide to do nothing.

“Is it better to buy the locally grown spinach or the organic one that comes from Italy?” (TIP: Any spinach is better than not eating fresh green leafy veg. Even the non-organic one has still some health properties. Ask your own conscience: How do you feel about unnecessary airmiles? Or would you rather feed your body with a more nutritious and less polluted food? My suggestion is: Grow your own, if at all possible!)

“Should I opt for the zero-calorie coke with aspartame sweetener that is bad for me, or for the one that contains a huge amount of sugar?” (HINT: Don’t drink coke!)

Reading food labels alone can be stressful – and as we all know stress isn’t good for us!

So, isn’t it great that someone is telling us exactly what to eat and what not to eat?

Even if it’s for a short while, your body is delighted to get told what to do and not have to make a choice.

And having followed a very strict plan for a week will then make it easier for you to continue with this for another while, at least with some of the suggestions.

After a 4-week Paleo Challenge that I did many many years ago in my local gym, I never went back to eating pasta and pizza for years! And still, I’d eat both very rarely and don’t miss either. And I used to live on pizza and pasta all through my twenties and thirties!

To summarise:

I firmly believe and have seen a lot of proof that a RESET plan absolutely helps people get back on track or kickstart healthy eating habits and lifestyles.

It is important though that a RESET plan is designed for you based on your health background, and your current diet and it has to fit into your life. That’s why I deliberately am not giving any information or choice here. If I made you curious, please book a “Health & Energy Review Call” with me or contact me directly.

Looking forward to hearing from you. And also please let me know what you think of this article. I always love getting feedback.


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