Leaving Perfectionism Out of Your Diet
I feel like a common struggle among those who embark on a new healthy eating journey is dealing with a perfectionist or “all or nothing” mentality. You’re either eating healthy or you’re not, with no middle ground.
Whenever you start a new weight loss program, it’s normal to want to follow the rules exactly. You trust that if you do so, you’ll be successful in melting off unwanted pounds. You’re convinced that this approach is the right one—until you hit the familiar speed bumps, such as overindulging with pals at an after-work happy hour, and your resolve comes to a grinding halt.
Unfortunately, when it comes to health and weight management, many women combine perfectionism with a self-punishing attitude, defined by unrealistic goals. As a result, perfectionism can sabotage the journey to a fitter self.
If you can answer yes to several of these questions, you might be a perfectionist dieter:
Do you typically begin your new program on a Monday?
Do you use the words good and bad to describe certain foods and your eating behavior?
Do you typically want to speed up the process by eating less than your program suggests to reach your goal?
Do you expect to suffer, feeling starved and deprived?
Do you expect to completely eliminate your favorite foods?
Do you fall off the wagon and throw in the towel after making just one unhealthy food choice?
Are you convinced that past failed attempts were due to lack of effort and/or staying focused?
If these patterns and attitudes sound familiar, you may be unnecessarily setting yourself up for failure. The good news? You can successfully lose weight and keep it off without dieting “perfectly” and trying to follow a plan to the letter.
Follow these 3 weight loss solutions and you’ll escape the perfectionist trap once and for all:
Find a balance in your eating patterns
You think you are either on a diet or off a diet. For this group of people there is no in between. Say someone is following a paleo diet and they follow it 100%. Great for them, right? The bad thing here is that once they have something not allowed on the diet, which they inevitably will, all bets are off.
“Oops I went out to eat and had cheese so now I’m going to eat French fries, beer, and dessert because I already messed it up”… “I’ll start again Monday”.
This problem leads into the next mindset block, which is thinking in the short term, but it also gives you no sense of balance. Remember, things aren’t so black or white. Find a balance in your eating patterns that allow you to eat healthy yet not be deprived of things you love. Just be honest and smart about incorporating those foods and you’ll be set up for a lifetime.
What you eat does not dictate whether you are good or bad
Is food really good or bad? Foods are not inherently good or bad. They have no morals. Yet people connect them with their own inner morals thinking they are being either good or bad depending on what they eat. You’re not a bad person for eating foods that have been deemed good or bad.
These words promote the all-or-nothing mindset that you’re trying to escape. I encourage my clients to allow themselves to taste the indulgent food they crave and ask themselves if they are enjoying it as much as they thought they would. Dieters often may not even enjoy the flavor of the “bad food” but want to eat it because it’s something they think they shouldn’t have. The forbidden nature of the food is often more appealing than the actual taste. This rebellious behavior reflects the struggle between trying to follow your super-strict rules and cutting yourself a break now and then.
It’s okay to give in occasionally; just make sure the food you indulge in is worth it to you. Imagine what eating a healthy snack like an apple with peanut butter during the workday will do for your energy levels, as opposed to eating a bag of chips. Just enjoy a small serving and savor the flavors you love.
Don’t weight loss as a short term diet
This is a huge mind block that so many people have yet to overcome. If you still think your diet is some means to an end, you will not be successful.
“I just have to do this diet until I’m back down to my old weight”….what do you think will happen once you get down to that weight and go back to the way you were eating?….Probably go back to being overweight. Every time you do this, you slow your metabolism and make it harder and harder to lose weight.
Ditch this mindset now if you ever want to be successful achieving the body you want. I think many people have this mentality because they also have all the other mindsets I’m talking about.
Perhaps if you didn’t view weight loss as this miserable all or nothing, self-deprivation act then you wouldn’t be so scared to commit to the long term.
You can still go out to eat at restaurants, grab a beer with friends, eat your birthday cake, all while losing weight and getting healthier. Finish lines keep people focused on the short term, but what you want is a habit to last you the rest of your life so you’ll look great, feel great, and age gracefully.
A finish line is a onetime goal and it undermines the habit. Do you want a six pack? What happens when you get there? Want to lose twenty pounds….then gain back 30? Or do you want to adopt the habits that will allow you to lose 20 pounds and then keep it off forever?
This is problematic because finish lines are also stopping points. Once you reach that finish line of, say, losing 20 pounds, you stop doing everything that got you there. Starting and stopping a diet is much more difficult than continuing healthy habits. Set it and forget it.
If you want long term success and a physique that you’re happy with year round, you cannot view weight loss as a short term diet.
Losing fat, getting healthy, and achieving the body you want are all a matter of consistency through habit. Implement positive habits that will provide you with the results you want for the rest of your life. The journey may not always be easy, but it’s doable and worth every bit of effort.