How To Beat Perfectionism And Start Losing Weight

Apr 23, 2018

One of the most common obstacles that clients face in weight loss is perfectionism. Clients who identify as perfectionists almost always have a similar cycle:

“I was doing really well for a few days, then I blew my diet. I couldn’t be perfect, so I decided I’d just start again Monday.”

The thinking is — they want to do really well. So, if they can’t “do well” they’d rather not do it at all. I get it, we all want to do well.

Unfortunately, research into perfectionism shows that it always produces failure. That perfectionism isn’t defined by doing well, it’s defined by quitting.

If you want to do well and hit your goals, there are two other things you should do instead.

We’re going to take a look at what perfectionism is, we’re going to change your context for perfectionism such that you can break free of it, and then we’re going to look at the two things you can begin practicing, today, that will actually have you hit your goals.

If you want to lose weight, and perfectionism is getting in your way, this post is a must-read.

Perfectionism: Working Really Hard Until You Realize You Can’t Be Perfect At Something, Then Quitting

Perfectionism is that cycle of working really hard and quitting. But it’s the action of quitting that distinguishes something as perfectionism. Researchers studying “positive perfectionism” vs. “negative perfectionism” found that there is no positive perfectionism. It’s only negative. It’s only about quitting.

If it were positive, it would be “pursuit of excellence” or “conscientiousness,” which we’ll talk about later.

The perfectionist is someone who works on her diet really hard for Monday-Wednesday, then has some sort of mistake on Thursday, quits, and says “I’ll start again next Monday.”

The lie is — “If I can’t do it perfectly, I should start over again next week.”

Unfortunately, humans are never perfect. The most successful weight loss clients aren’t perfect. The most successful weight loss clients are the ones who have practiced becoming comfortable with their imperfection, while they are practicing pursuit of excellence and conscientiousness.

Let’s take a look at those next two things. Practicing these two things are the best ways to avoid “perfectionism failure.”

Pursuit Of Excellence: Working Really Hard At Something. When You Mess Up, You Work Harder Or You Get Coaching

The 2018 Olympics are on as I’m writing this. It’s easy to imagine that all of the Olympians have been perfect every second of their lives, and that’s what got them there. In reality, it’s the opposite. It’s that they’ve become very comfortable with working really hard, then when they mess up, they get coaching on how to do it more effectively.

An interesting thing in figure skating — some of the top skaters fell during their performances. Did they give up and leave the ice? No, they finished their routine, amazingly so, and actually won medals despite having made a mistake.

So, quick review:

  • Perfectionism is defined by quitting when they make a mistake
  • Pursuit of excellence is defined by getting coaching when you make a mistake.

Conscientiousness: Honoring Your Word About What You Said You Would Do.

If someone is conscientious, when they mess up, it has no effect on them continuing to do what they said they would do.

The person who is conscientious is someone who diligently works on her food skills Monday-Wednesday, then has some sort of mistake on Thursday, and then diligently works on her food skills Thursday-Sunday. A mistake one day has zero impact on keeping her word the next day. The only game she is playing is to keep her word the next day.

Now, in honoring your word, depending on what you mess up, that may include letting someone know who you are accountable to that you messed up. But that’s done without emotion or exaggerated bad feelings. It’s done with conscientiousness: “I said I’d do this for seven days, and I did six.” That may be followed up with, like pursuit of excellence, some coaching. Or, it may just be that that’s how life goes, that humans are imperfect, and that’s okay.

Another quick review:

  • Perfectionism is defined by quitting when they make a mistake
  • Pursuit of excellence is defined by getting coaching when you make a mistake.
  • Conscientiousness is defined by doing what you said you would do, regardless of if you make a mistake.

Perfectionism Is Not A Fixed Human Trait, It Is A Practice

Perfectionism is an action —Quitting in the face of adversity.

Pursuit of excellence is an action — Getting coaching in the face of adversity.

Conscientiousness is an action — Doing what you said you’d do, in the face of adversity.

All of those are actions that can be practiced. If you’ve practiced perfectionism around food for years (decades), it’s going to be hard to practice pursuit of excellence or conscientiousness.

When you first begin to practice pursuit of excellence or conscientiousness, you may notice you still have perfectionist thoughts. Don’t fight the thoughts. You’ve had those thoughts for years, they may stick around for years. Just let them be. Just notice. You don’t need to change the perfectionist thoughts, you need to change the perfectionist actions.

You can have perfectionist thoughts, and still practice pursuit of excellence or conscientiousness actions.

The only route to getting rid of the perfectionist thoughts is by practicing pursuit of excellence or conscientiousness actions, for months or years. The action is your way out. In the beginning, don’t worry about the thoughts at all. Let the thoughts be there, while you practice the actions for the kind of person you want to be.

Weight Loss Success

Weight loss success is defined by pursuit of excellence and conscientiousness.

Granted, if you’re doing a diet, you’ll still fail. Which is why we recommend using the One by One Core 5 Food skills. Skill-based weight loss just works better for real people, in real life.

 

So, weight loss success is:

  1. Practicing pursuit of excellence (get coaching when you need it)
  2. Practicing conscientiousness (doing what you said you would, even when it’s hard)
  3. Practicing the One by One Nutrition Core 5 Food Skills

Keep it that simple, and you’ll steer clear of perfectionism failure.

Again, notice that all three things are practices. You don’t need to do them perfectly (there’s that word again!), you just need to practice.

If you think about it like anything else you’ve ever learned that was hard (like a musical instrument or a language) you know that it’s just about practice, pursuit of excellence, and being conscientious. Practice, practice, practice your way to weight loss success.

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