All or Nothing Thinking? Try this instead.

Steph Wagner MS, RDN

October 4, 2023

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All or Nothing Thinking after Bariatric Surgery? Try this instead.

“You know my biggest problem, Steph? I’m an all or nothing thinker. I think I need to be perfect or why try at all?”

^ I hear this ALL the time. From anyone but especially bariatric surgery patients.

It’s understandable, really. When you’ve spend a good portion of your lifetime on a diet program or in between diet plans.

I mean, a Super Bowl Party when you’re “on a program” is a very different experience than when you’re in between programs. 

But how can we get past it? How do we quiet the food guilt and not “blow the whole day” and say forget it. 

Let me introduce you to the mindset shift I coach often around here. A new way to think about eating and living after bariatric surgery, instead of the all or nothing one track loop.

banner image with text get bariatric eating help from an expert weight loss surgery dietitian click here for more info with photo of steph wagner an ipad with vegetables



1- The 5 Pillars of Healthy Living (for bariatric patients or not)

I’m focusing on these pillars from a bariatric lens…but really it’s true for all human bodies.

These are the physical pillars which means it doesn’t consider all the emotional pieces that impact our health.

^Check out my Emotional Eating video course inside Premier Access Membership for more on that!

However…by focusing on these 5 pillars, we are better equipped to navigate the mental-emotional pieces of our humanness.

The 5 Pillars are:

Meal Planning & Food Quality

We’ll dig deeper on each of those in coming videos but today we’re setting the stage.


2- Focusing on ONE Pillar Strengthens the Whole Foundation

GREAT news!!

When you focus on habits that strengthen one of your health pillars, the entire foundation gets stronger.

For example: drinking water

A more hydrated human body will have more energy. This might lead to more movement. Which may lead to improved sleep studies show. 

But wait, there’s more! A more hydrated, better slept human body is better setup to make wise food choices.

By focusing on one pillar (water) we strengthen other pillars as a result.

Which means even more good news…


3 – One “bad night” or vacation doesn’t crumble the whole thing to the ground

This is why thinking of health pillars and the whole foundation is such a helpful mind shift.

If you let loose and indulge in all sorts of foods on your vacation, you didn’t ruin everything.

Because chances are you had a lot of movement on your trip. You might have had plenty of water because you were so active. Those pillars can help hold things together until you get home and get back to your normal routines.

Out with shame! In with mindset shift!


4- Use Health Pillars for Goal Setting

I go back to the health pillars ALL the time in my bariatric coaching.

Typically when someone is struggling with something (night time snacking, grazing, hunger through the day, stalls, etc…) we can bring it back to a pillar.

Not always. Sometimes a stall is just annoying and we have to power on building the pillars in the meantime. 

In the next couple of week I will be sharing about my free Goal Setting Workshop and how to create goals that build the foundation, that fit in your daily life. No all or nothing thinking around here. 

If you aren’t already, get on my so you don’t miss those announcements coming soon!


Comment below with the pillars that come easy to you, and the ones that DON’T!


10 thoughts on “All or Nothing Thinking? Try this instead.”

  1. You are the best thing that has happened to me since my surgery 5 years ago!!! Thanks so much!

  2. I will say on average water, vitamins, and sleep are easier to handle. I tend to put off or ignore formal exercise but am trying to be more active (housework, get up more often) than before. Meal planning (and sticking to the plan) are what I struggle with the most. Think I am doing an ok job on food quality.

    It is too easy to get swept up with work and not make time for lunch. The old habit of snacking before dinner is a hard one to break (think I am using food to destress-usually crave something crunchy and salty.). Not following a more regular eating plan also leads to night time snacking.

    I definitely appreciate you reminding us NOT to have an all or nothing mentality. Having lost 95 pounds and have around 10 more to hit my original goal – your advice, tools, and mentorship have been instrumental in my journey. I feel like this new way of loving is do-able and definitely your concept of the 5 pillars is something that keeps me on track.

  3. Water has been the easiest so far. I had to put my vitamins by my bed just so I would remember ‍♀️ I forget all the time. I carry two mugs with me everywhere and constantly filling them up. I use my bigger one to fill up the smaller one that has a straw. It makes it easy to get all the water in I need and more! Eating hasn’t been too bad except I find I’m not even hungry most of the time so nothing ever actually sounds good. I have to make myself eat. Movement has definitely been easier! I try to go on a lot of walks and hiking through the nature trails around here with my dogs. Sometimes I even overdo it before I even realize it (I still have back problems like arthritis, etc) but it’s worth it! I thank God for this second chance at life and I’m not wasting it!!!! Thank you also Dr. Scott!

  4. My husband and I had surgery together 6/15/22. Problem is, we’ve been in a stall for a couple of months or more. We’ve both been dealing with, and caving in, cravings. The cravings are real!! I’m down about 85-90 lbs with still 40 to go to where the doctor wants me. My husband has lost 75 lbs and still needs another 10. He’s starting to get a belly again and I know I’ve gone up maybe 10 lbs. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. We try to stay on plan but end up giving in to bad things. We’re taking our vitamins but are probably not getting in enough water or protein. Please help.

  5. There are no words sufficient enough to express my gratitude to Steph. I’ve exceeded my goal because of her coaching! I intend to be a lifelong member so that I can continue healthy living -without judgement when I slip a little bit sometimes. I live in the gray and love it.

  6. This fills my tank so much!!! I’m so grateful to hear this and to have connected with you over these last years!

  7. I know it’s scary but truly, it’s a natural part of this post-op journey! I love that you are doing it together. Sometimes that’s hard (for sure) but overall its wonderful. I created a course called “After the Honeymoon” for this reason. You might consider going through those lessons together and discussing it together! (AKA I do have advice but there’s a lot to say!)

  8. I love this reflection on your pillars!!! What a great example of the power of visibility. “I carry water with me everywhere” and then trying the same method with putting vitamins more visible. You’ve learned so much about yourself and your habits, I can tell!

  9. I am SO grateful to hear the pillars are helpful for you!! It fills my cup to the BRIM to hear how helpful it’s been in your life.

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