As a perfectionist, I have always worked my hardest at everything I do–school, college, work, relationships, etc. So when it came to losing weight, I was sure I could do it easily. I just needed to put my mind to it…and I did. I did in 2013, and 2014, and 2015…and I have for almost all of 2016. But instead of losing weight, I gained weight—30 pounds of it. And the more I gained, the more I wanted to lose…
Until I realized all I was truly losing was my sanity.
For me, “putting my mind to it” with losing weight was trying to have as many “perfect” days in a row as possible. It meant absolutely avoiding any alcohol, fast food, sweets, chips, etc. If I did indulge in any of these items, no matter how small, I felt that I had failed. I was sure if I could just train myself to avoid these things for as long as possible, eventually I’d be okay with it and lose the weight.
Although this was a noble goal, it wasn’t realistic for who I am, and it sure as hell wasn’t a way to live a happy life. It only resulted in me being in a constant state of war with myself between wanting to be slimmer but also really wanting to zone out on the couch with a bag of chips and a bottle of wine—meaning no matter how many “perfect” days I squeezed in, I would easily ruin any progress I’d made with a day or two of binging on the foods and alcohol I missed.
Finally I realized I had to learn how to let go of this need to be perfect and begin setting realistic goals while still loving myself unconditionally. Instead of trying to be the ideal image of health, I needed to learn how to be healthy in my own way by practicing moderation instead of deprivation. If you struggle with a similar battle, consider trying a few of these mindset shifts that have helped me in the journey to letting go of my perfectionism.
Step 1: Make Peace with Yourself
It’s impossible to live a happy life with someone who constantly puts you down. The #1 step to letting go of obsessive perfectionism is to become your own best friend. Be kind to yourself. Accept yourself as you are currently. This isn’t as easy as flipping a light switch; it will take time, just like any relationship does. Make it a daily practice to say nice things to yourself, no matter how false those nice things may sound at first. You are the only person guaranteed to be in your life forever—you may as well love yourself!
Step 2: Get Back to Basics
Stop getting distracted by the millions of ways you can lose weight and focus on the main thing that is needed: a caloric deficit. If you find yourself feeling obsessive about every macronutrient or minute of exercise, take a deep breath and remember you’re doing the best you can. Stay within your recommended calorie limit (insert link here), and be happy with that. You’re doing the best you can.
Step 3: Be Yourself, Not What You “Should” Be
If even the thought of eating kale salads and squash soup makes you feel queasy, don’t sabotage yourself by making yourself eat them. Weight loss is about creating healthy habits that work for YOU—not whatever works for everyone else. This is the fun part of weight loss! Do you love cheeseburgers and pizza? Research ways to make healthier versions of your favorite kinds! Start where YOU are, not where the millions of health articles say you’re supposed to be.
Step 4: Be Your Own Best Friend—Not Your Own Worst Enemy
Old habits die hard. You’re going to feel like you’ve screwed up every now and then. You’re still going to occasionally feel the sting of regret after overeating. But if it was your best friend or your child upset about those things, how would you speak to them? More than likely you would comfort and reassure them. Be that person for yourself. Self-talk is one of the most powerful tools you can implement in your life.
Step 5: Focus on Enjoying Life
Your body is composed of the perfect combination of elements to be alive, and your home is a planet hurtling around a humongous ball of fire and gases in a vastly magnificent universe. Life is pretty damn amazing and should never be taken for granted. Although your health and weight are important to you, never let it take away from the miracle your existence is. Whenever you find yourself feeling down about how imperfect you feel, look at the bigger picture. I guarantee it will put your worries in perspective.
Now go out there, be your own best self, and appreciate every moment of your journey in life.