• Theresa Gentile

Scarcity Mentality vs. Abundance Mindset

Your mindset and how you perceive the world can predict if you achieve your goals. Mindset is an important element in achieving success in school, business, life and your eating habits. I love this Oprah Winfrey quote: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Ok, easy to say coming from a billionaire, right? But there is research to prove this theory of the abundance mindset.


What is a scarcity mentality versus abundance mindset?


The terms scarcity mentality versus an abundance mindset were coined by Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (For which I can thank my high school for including on a summer reading list.) The scarcity mindset is where one feels there are limited resources to achieve our goals. It’s the idea that life is a pie and if people take too big of a piece, there won’t be enough left to go around. It makes us competitive for scarce resources, driving the primitive part of our brain to its evolutionary roots of survival.


On the flip side, there’s the abundance mindset. This is the growth mindset, where there is enough to go around; money isn’t lacking, resources aren’t lacking, and food isn’t lacking. When we’re not acting in the context of the feeling of scarcity, we aren’t pulled automatically towards unfulfilled needs. We don’t have to act in the moment; we can take our time, savor, appreciate, and avoid always feeling like your decision is a trade-off.


How an Abundance Mindset Can Help you Reject Diet Culture and Lose Weight


The scarcity mindset creates short-sightedness. When you’re micro-managing the minutiae of your calories each day, you need to resist and avoid so much. “Since I ate a cookie, (which was baaad!), now I need to deduct those 100 calories from somewhere else in my day. Ok, 50 calories here, 50 calories there. I won’t eat at the party; I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!”) This constant worry eats away at your self-control facilities. It’s no wonder you’re not left with much will-power at all after scarcity thinking like this all the time.


When you restrict foods you believe are “bad” or off-limits, it triggers your scarcity mentality. You wind up focusing on those foods you “can’t” have. Scarcity mindset creates the desire to hoard these foods.


I can’t tell you how many times a client has come to me and told me that they just had their “last meal” of pizza (or some food they thought I was going to restrict) because, after seeing me, they can never eat that again, right?


The abundance mindset frees you from the diet cycle. Frees your mind to be more in tune with your hunger, fullness, desires and habits.

The abundance mindset allows you to make better decisions around food. It allows you to be intentional and intuitive with your food choices and with the timing of your meals.

Abundance mindset frees you to meal prep and make healthy choices at tempting events and in stressful situations.


The abundance mindset also helps you to avoid falling prey to shiny wrapper syndrome. Training your brain to act in light of an abundance mindset means you don’t have to eat the Entenmann’s cake at AND your Grandma’s homemade cheesecake at your Christmas spread. The Entenmann’s cake will always be there. It’s not going anywhere. It’s just decorated in red and green on the outside.


Plus, you CAN have both if you want. You don’t have to restrict. It’s a choice, not doctrine. You’re in control of your food choices. NOT the other way around.

Scarcity mindset also makes you focus on the present scarcity, blinding you to the future. You have to have an abundant mindset to value future benefits to overcome immediate temptations. You have to be able to see the larger picture.


OK, How Can I Shift My Mindset from Scarcity to Abundance?


1. Be grateful for what you do have


When you’re feeling inadequate, flip the script to accentuate what you’re really good at. Accentuate your abilities and gifts. Actually write them down – on paper. Keep a list of achievements handy, so you can revisit this when feeling down.

Also, consider keeping a gratitude journal and jotting down 3 things for which you’re grateful every day. I try to do this often with my kids as a way to foster optimism and help them savor and appreciate life’s everyday things. The science of gratitude indicates that gratitude can actually change our brain to increase our mental and physical well-being by decreasing inflammation and increasing optimism.


2. Practice being happy for others


The corporate world breeds scarcity mindset. Competitiveness abounds, everyone fights to hoard information, and there’s a bias towards the here and now, leading to short-term thinking. Instead, notice when a resentful feeling pops up in you and jot down one of your own achievements in that gratitude journal. Try a small act of kindness for someone who didn’t expect it and see how it makes you feel. Don’t compare and despair.


3. Surround yourself with like-minded people


You are the company you keep. If you’re surrounded by those with a fixed or scarcity mindset, you’re likely to think like them.


4. Grow


If you’re stuck wallowing in self-pity or feeling of lacking, try learning and growing. Learning a new skill can foster an immense sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. You’d be surprised how much a little extra boost of pride and achievement can help you view the whole world in a different way.


Although the world may seem like a competitive and difficult place sometimes, if you can alter your own world to decrease urgency and increase happiness, you may find yourself making healthier food and life choices.


Do you find some aspects of a scarcity mindset in yourself?

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