5 Ways to Let Go of Food & Body Perfectionism

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If you’ve spent any time in the nutrition, fitness, or eating psychology universe, you’ve probably noticed, or personally experienced perfectionism. When you aspire to improve your body, or diet, it is easy to lose track of celebrating progress and just keep seeing more ways we could be even better. 

So many people seem to be focused on having the perfect body, reaching the perfect weight, or finding the perfect diet or nutritional system to follow. It is easy to think that to be ‘on track’ we have to have the perfect eating habits without a single misstep. 

The perfectionist within us doesn’t need to be there all the time. It can show up around work. Or parenting. Or finances. Our social life. Or anywhere in life where we somehow decide that we need to be perfect. 

If you have any amount of this perfectionist archetype within you, you know that it seems like such a noble and sure-fire approach to life goals – just do everything right and you’re guaranteed to achieve the “best” outcomes. Doing things “wrong” rarely feels good or gets us praise. But doing things right gets praise, respect, and protects us from blame or shame. Unfortunately, perfection is not possible and our quest for perfection has a toxic side to it that can be quite debilitating. 

Perfectionism can terrorize us. 

It sets us up for constant failure, and keeps us in a perpetual state of never feeling good enough about who we are, how we eat, and what we look like. It’s an ever present nagging voice that does not stop. Perfectionism is a harsh critic. This voice in us can say things in silence that we would never think of saying out loud. 

If the perfectionist archetype within you has been dominating your inner world, then you know, deep down inside, that you’re not happy. Of course, we think we’ll be happy once we are perfect. But that day never comes. The road called perfectionism has no happy ending. 

In fact: Always around the corner from perfectionism is self-abuse.

That’s because the state of “perfect” doesn’t actually exist. It’s a destination that isn’t even on the map of life. When we put our efforts into perfect eating, perfect exercise, and following our diet perfectly – eventually, we will stray. 

And the usual response when we fall off the “pedestal of perfect” is self-attack, self hate, and self criticism. We might even jump to “screw it, I tried to be perfect and I couldn’t, so now I’m going to throw it all out the window and just trash my body with food.” Or we might re-double our efforts, become dramatically more uptight, and once again submit ourselves to the demanding perfectionist taskmaster within. And all the while, we’re spending our life energy on something that we can never have.

I’d suggest that perfectionism is a virus that does very little good for the human body and soul. 

It’s the kind of virus that exists in the realm of our collective mind, and that finds a home in those who are susceptible and unsuspecting hosts. A viral thought such as, “I must be perfect” causes us to feel weak. It puts us in a constant state of stress and fear. These are the ideal conditions for the virus of perfectionism to happily exist. It fools us into believing in the false religion of being perfect. Like any smart virus, it wants to keep us alive, but weaken us enough so that we cannot overcome it. And even more to the point:

Perfectionism is a “fantastic distraction.”

It takes us out of the game of life. It places us in a very private and narrow world. Perfectionism keeps us small, rather than grant us the big payday we expect from this clever virus. Perfectionism creates distance from others. It keeps us self centered. It kills intimacy. It’s unsexy.

Eventually, we will tire of the quest for perfection and find ourselves disappointed that our efforts haven’t provided us with a winning lottery ticket. Or for some of us, when we do finally achieve our perfect weight or create our perfect body, we will find ourselves still unhappy, or living in a state of anxiety that we might lose our perfect achievement. Have you ever met someone who got the perfect results they wanted, but couldn’t experience much joy with their success?

If you count yourself as a perfectionist, then it’s probably time to liberate yourself from the virus that’s poisoning your mind and removing the smile from your life. It’s time to look at things honestly, and humbly.

Five suggestions for cleansing the perfection virus out of your life. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to do any of these strategies perfectly. Consider these as “practices.” You do them a little bit each day. You commit to your own evolution, your personal growth, your happiness.

Practice #1: Get Messy

Getting messy means being willing to be imperfect. It’s about embracing your humanity. It’s an inner decision to silence the voice of “perfect” and replace it with the voice of self acceptance and maturity. It’s about being humble, and joining the rest of the world in being fallible, flawed humans who are doing their best. Be willing to make mistakes and admit them. Put yourself in situations where you can laugh at yourself. Laugh at your own perfectionism. See how silly it is. Remember what it was like to be a little child who found joy in being messy. Be that person now.

Practice #2: Get Feedback

Reach out to people who care about you, and who matter to you. Honestly ask your friends and loved ones if your perfectionism impacts them. Ask them to be real, direct, and loving. Be open to their feedback. Request that they tell you about the details of how your perfectionism shows up for them. Ask for their advice on how you can improve here. You might be surprised about how the people who know and love you have important insights you can learn from, whether it’s your partner, parents, friends, or children.

Practice #3: Let Go of Perfectionist Rituals

Commit to letting go of perfectionist behaviors that you do regularly. For example, do you constantly weigh yourself? Do you count calories and fat grams way too often? Do you eat tiny portions of food to control your weight, but find yourself constantly hungry, and eventually binge eat? These are all examples of “anti-personal growth practices.” They are perfectionist rituals that keep us small and unhappy. They bring out the worst in us. Practice waking up. Start catching yourself in the act of trying to be perfect. Let go of behaviors that reinforce the perfectionist within you. 

Practice #4: Let Go of Perfectionist Thoughts

The thoughts we think create our reality. They structure our experience of the world. The more we think perfectionist thoughts, the more we will live a life that’s filled with criticism, self attack, unhappiness, and unfulfilled potential. 

Examine the content of your thought-world. 

  • Do you ongoingly look in the mirror and quickly launch into harsh words and self criticism? 
  • Do you judge yourself for what you ate, or what you should’ve eaten? 
  • Do you create impossible standards of how you should look and what you should weigh in order to accept yourself? 
  • Do you habitually look at other people’s bodies or diet and judge them? 

These are the kind of thoughts and beliefs that are calling for our conscious intervention. Notice them, and choose to not give them your wholehearted attention. Focus your mind elsewhere. Slowly release these thoughts from your life.

Practice #5: Celebrate Your Life

If you’ve been gripped by perfectionism, then it’s time to live your life more. Here are some reminders – simple ways you can worry less and live more:

  • Have fun. Do some Karaoke. Laugh out loud. Play a game. Watch a silly movie. Make a list of everything that gives you pleasure and makes you smile, and start checking off that list.
  • Lighten up and color outside the lines. Walk barefoot. Do something goofy. Eat some fun foods. Bend a few of your most rigid rules. 
  • Stop being so hard on yourself. Allow for missteps. Give yourself lots of second chances. Recognize what you do get right – even if it isn’t everything. 

Stop waiting for perfection, and start living your best life. The world needs you to be the wonderfully imperfect human that you are. Put your attention back to the things that truly matter most. Do the things you love. Set a good example for the young people in your life by showing yourself compassion, acceptance and love – even when you are not perfect. 

P.S. Interested in learning more about emotional eating and finally finding freedom with food? Would you like some deeper wisdom and guidance in your emotional eating journey? If so, we’d love for you to learn more about our special program, The Emotional Eating Breakthrough. This is a 10-week online transformational experience that’s designed to help you finally find peace with food. You’ll learn from the originator of the field of Eating Psychology, Marc David – and you’ll be guided through a true mind, body, heart and soul approach combining the best of psychology, science, and personal development. The powerful tools and techniques you’ll discover in the program address the root cause of why we emotionally eat, forever changing your relationship with food.


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