Perfectionism and Weight Loss

Perfectionism is Keeping You Fat

Perfectionism and weight loss don't go as well together as you might think. I find that many of the people who come to me expressing the want to exercise more consistently, eat more healthfully, trim down, and get in shape are harboring some faulty ideas about what it takes to make this change in their life. The number one belief people commonly have that is misguided is that you have to do everything “perfectly,” or else there is no point to following a program.

perfectionism weight lossOnce I gave up my perfectionism, my weight naturally settled into place with so much less worry and effort.

Everyone is busy, and things are always going to come up that affect how closely you can follow your program. Sometimes it is a family vacation that might prevent you from sticking to your usual exercise routine and typical food plan. Other times you might need to stay late at work to finish an important project, or you might have to help a friend or family member who needs you. You might go to a birthday party and find that there is nothing healthy to eat. Or, you might simply be under a lot of stress and turn to junk food and missed workouts to help yourself cope through that time. These deviations from your plan happen to everyone at times…even people who compete in fitness and bodybuilding. And really, fitness and bodybuilding competitors are the ONLY people who need to be “perfect” to achieve their goal, which is ultimate leanness (even to the point of looking like a “freak” to the average person, as you can see every muscle striation and vein in these folks). But, even fitness competitors have an off season—in fact, the off season is very important to them because that is the time that they regroup psychologically, as well as build up their muscle mass and re-set their metabolism that slowed while dieting. All of this makes their diet that much more efficient when it’s time to cut the fat again. For a bodybuilder, the off-season gives them a physical and mental break from the stringent diet and exercise routine they have to follow during contest preparation.

Even though training for fitness and bodybuilding competitions is just about the only time you legitimately should be trying to be as close to “perfect” as possible for the twelve weeks or so of contest dieting, even these folks have lapses where they deviate from their diet and exercise plans. What is the difference between the champions and the ones who never make it up on stage, or don’t place very high? The difference lies in how they perceive having deviated from their plan, and how fast they catch themselves or take control of the situation. You might call it making “better bad choices.” 

Let’s say that the champion encounters a situation where, unexpectedly, the only food available for hours on end is pizza. He might have a slice or two, and move on to his next meal on its regular schedule when it’s time. On the other hand, the person who never reaches his goal will probably have a “last supper” of sorts with the pizza, perhaps downing an entire pie because he figures he won’t be having pizza again for a long time…and since he’s already blown it, he might as well dig in. Well, guess what? The champion will still clock in at the end of the day with enough of a calorie deficit to promote fat loss (because he stopped at one or two slices, which doesn’t have so many calories that it ruins the diet for the day). The person who ate slice after slice because he was upset that it was the only choice available will have a calorie surplus for the day and may gain bodyfat as a result, rather than lose bodyfat like he wanted. The same analogy works for exercise…the champion might miss a workout and make it up the next day or simply resume the next workout on schedule, whereas the person who fails will say, “I missed today, I will never do this right…I might as well stop working out, since I obviously can’t stick to it. There is no point in trying.”

So what’s my point? Make “better bad choices” whenever you can. And never give up more than you have to when you deviate from your diet or workout plan. 

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