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Dieting Tips for Perfectionists

Updated on July 25, 2013
Abby Campbell profile image

Dr. Abby Campbell is a Naturopathic Doctor & President of 911 Body ResQ, an online store providing organic and non-GMO supplements.

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

Dieting tips for perfectionists.
Dieting tips for perfectionists. | Source

5 Tips for the Perfectionist in You

If dieting were quick and easy, then everyone would be doing it. Much more, we wouldn't have an overweight and obese society. For the perfectionist, however, dieting can be ever more difficult. A perfectionist is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as one who has:

"a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable, and the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness."

Are you constantly failing at diets? Have you ever asked yourself "Why?" Find out if you're a perfectionist by reviewing the 10 signs below:

  1. having an "all or nothing" mentality
  2. constantly having a critical eye or ear
  3. pushing yourself too hard
  4. setting unrealistic expectations
  5. obsessing about results
  6. being depressed or disappointed about unmet goals
  7. fearing failure
  8. procrastination
  9. being defensive
  10. having low self esteem

If you can relate to most of the signs above, then you are probably a perfectionist. Your perfectionist characteristics have benefits. However, they could also be your demise if you aren't careful, especially when it comes to dieting. Continue reading to learn how you can change your attitude and/or behaviors. Five dieting tips for perfectionists are provided for you below.

Do you have an "all or nothing" mentality?
Do you have an "all or nothing" mentality? | Source

Tip #1: Overcome The All or Nothing Thinking

How many times have you said that you're going to start dieting on Monday? Monday rolls around, and you're doing great. Not once have you cheated on your diet. Tuesday comes along, and your husband brings home some leftover cake from a birthday party he had for his boss at work. That chocolate icing was just calling your name as you would pass by it in the kitchen. Before you know it, you stick your finger in the icing. Mmmm... that was good! Your finger is wiped cleaned by the sweet sensors of your tongue. Ooops! That sure was satisfying for a split second, but guilt overwhelms you. You feel you've cheated, so why not have a piece of cake? Or, maybe two pieces will do. You've fallen off the wagon, and you haven't even been on your diet for two full days. Hmmm. You've already cheated this week, so you'll just start your diet again next Monday. That's five days from now!

If you can relate to this scenario, you have one of the perfectionist's tendencies to either think of what you're doing as "totally perfect" or "not good at all." In this particular scenario, that small taste of chocolate icing was not good at all. Therefore, you went over the deep end and delved into more cake.

Let's think about this sensibly. You had a finger taste of icing. The calorie count of that small amount may have amounted to 25 calories. However, you decided to have two pieces of cake which amounted to over 500 calories. That's more than 20 times the amount of that little bit of icing! If you would have just stuck to the finger swipe of icing, you could have worked that off easily in 5 minutes of cardio exercise. However, 500 calories will have to be worked off with a strenuous one hour of weight training and cardio. Otherwise, you run the risk of making your goal harder to obtain. So, your tip for overcoming the all or nothing thinking is to:

  • Forgive yourself.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff.
  • Allow yourself room to have a small "treat" two to three times per week.

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One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan
One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan | Source

Tip #2: Change Meaningless Criticism

Are you one that has a critical eye or ear? Do you have the attitude that there are "good foods" and "bad foods" and no in-betweens? Is your family constantly being hounded by you to eat perfectly so that they can't even enjoy their own meals? Then stop!

Focus on enjoying your meals and precious time with your family instead. By your example, they will learn what is healthy or not. Pressuring them to eat like you only pushes them away. What may be right for you may not feel right to them. They will have to make choices themselves (if they are teens or adults). However, this attitude of "good foods, bad foods" is probably making you feel miserable as well. Because feelings of deprivation set in when dieting, it usually promotes meaningless criticism on your family as well as yourself. Rather than making your diet a "weight loss diet" that is completely different from the way you normally eat, why not make healthy eating part of your life for long-term? That doesn't mean you can't ever have your favorite foods again. You just have to incorporate them properly.

A great tip is to stick to the 80/20 rule. If you have a lot of weight to lose, begin with the 90/20 rule and gradually move to the 80/20 rule. This rule requires healthy eating 80 percent of the time with a lenience 20 percent. Eat sensibly during your 20 percent. Studies have shown that when dieters aren't feeling deprived, they are happier and more successful.

Tip #3: Set Realistic Expectations and Stop Pushing So Hard

Want to lose 50 pounds? That's great! Want to lose it in four weeks? Hmmm. That is just being unrealistic! Oh, but there's exercise and you can workout two hours every day to get to your goals faster. Not so fast!

Most dieters are anxious to get the extra weight off, especially when summer is right around the corner. Though your goal may be to wear a sleeveless shirt or shorts in four weeks without the added flab, you have to give yourself a break. You would never expect someone else to lose 50 pounds in four weeks, so don't expect it for yourself. Every person's body functions differ. Metabolisms may be high or low which will either help one progress faster or slower at their goals. If you are eating healthy 80 percent of the time and exercising sensibly, you will lose a healthy amount of body fat in due time. By pushing too hard, you are only going to burn out. In fact, you could even be slowing your metabolism by over-exercising as your cortisone levels increase.

Tip #4: Stop Obsessing Over Results and Unmet Goals

You have 12 weeks to lose 20 pounds. This is a reasonable amount for some. However, it is all you can think about everyday. You weigh yourself first thing in the morning hoping to get closer to your goals. While obsessing over what your results will be, you are missing out on enjoying the process. Stop stressing so much! Just enjoy each meal and exercise session. As mentioned in the previous tip, every person's body functions at different speeds. Results will come in due time. Sometimes, they may be met by your goal date or not. If you haven't met your goals by your goal date, don't panic. All that anxiety could make you give up everything that you have striven for over the last 12 weeks. Instead, re-work your goal date and continue doing what you're doing. Giving up will never help you meet your goals. Failure is not an option. Consistency and dedication will push you to meet your goals. When that day comes, you will be thankful you continued.

Perfectionists can overcome by these rules.
Perfectionists can overcome by these rules. | Source

Tip #5: Boost Your Self-Esteem

Perfectionism is usually a result of over-compensating for something that you feel you lack. Usually, that something else is your self-esteem. Feelings of insecurity and self-doubt often create an attachment of trying to perfect your outside world. Rather than trying to perfect everything in your external world, try to find things that will boost your self-esteem and motivate you. You may want to find a hobby. Gardening, rebuilding motorcycles, or reading are great hobbies. Getting your hair done or a makeover may also boost your self-esteem. Do something you enjoy and get your mind off your insecurities.

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Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.


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