If you’re reading this, you’re likely somewhere along the journey to making peace with food, your body, or both. OK, it’s not really an amazing guess, since that’s the topic of this blog! I’m willing to bet you are or have been a perfectionist at some point in your life as well. You and your body could never be good enough.
I know and understand (and experienced) several things you’ve likely gone through, and may still be working through now. Many clients have told me I can read their minds. But sadly, I don’t have any special powers. I’ve been through the yo-yo dieting that never resulted in long-term weight loss. Not to mention the additional weight I would gain along with what I had lost.
Beating myself up. Punishing overeating with overexercising. Binging as a reward. Binging as an escape. Binging as a way to cope. Binging because I hated myself for binging. (I’ve never claimed any of this behavior is logical!)
Having been there for 25 years and recovered, I know without a doubt that you can recover, too.
But there’s something important to understand about making peace with food and your body…
The Problem Has Little to do With Food!
Food is a symptom that when properly recognized, can alert us that something is going on – emotionally, mentally, physically, even spiritually.
But we’ve been brainwashed to believe overeating is a moral failing… we just need more willpower. If we were stronger, tougher, more virtuous, perfect… we’d never overeat. And, all the weight issues would miraculously disappear. (Thanks for that, Diet Industry!)
Perfection… I see it every day with my clients. I still see it in myself. It doesn’t show up with food anymore, or my body (OK, 99% of the time for my body), but it shows up in many other areas of my life. This is something you’re better off knowing now than when you’ve recovered from dieting and overeating…
When you’re able to eat that full-fat, full-sugar ice cream – for dinner – without guilt or worry about “making up for it,” diet mentality may surprise you by showing up in another area of your life.
Have you heard the saying, “How you do one thing is how you do everything”?
Our relationship with food often mirrors other parts of our lives. For example, if you hoard certain foods, worried you’ll “never eat them again,” you may have problems letting go of your “stuff.” This now becomes a clutter problem.
This is easy to see when you compare your behavior with food or your body to other parts of your life. And perfectionism is a perfect example (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
In my own life, perfectionism shows up frequently with my work. I’ll spend too many hours trying to get something “just right.” I’ve kept myself from releasing several helpful products and courses because letting them be good enough was unthinkable.
Recently I read an article by clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo. She has her own publication on the website Medium, called, “On the Couch.” Everything I’ve read is insightful, and I love her sense of humor. This article is about moving beyond perfectionism and it’s absolutely brilliant.
It’s called, “The Pocket Guide to a ‘Good Enough’ Life,” and it was written as a response to a client who asked for ‘words of wisdom’ during her final session of therapy. Nimmo says it’s her, “version of all that really matters,” but to me, it’s a roadmap to letting go of perfectionism once and for all.
She shares 10 pieces of advice, all excellent and worth reading. I’ll highlight a few that stood out. These points are essential for making peace with food and your body. Here they are, along with some brief thoughts about using them in your journey.
#3 Keep your past behind you.
If you’ve dieted for any length of time, you probably can list all diets you’ve done. For each one, you also experienced what you called, “failure.” But you kept going back, hoping the next one will be the magic bullet.
(By the way, you did not fail the diet. The diet failed you, and many are designed with that intention.)
By the time someone wants to talk with me about the non-diet/intuitive eating approach, they are sick and tired of failed diets.
I often hear, “I don’t know that this is going to work for me, nothing else has that I’ve tried.”
I understand this concern, but this thinking is just living in the past and allowing the past to dictate the future. It’s smart to look at the past to determine what you can learn from it. But dwelling on it and letting it influence your decisions today keep you stuck and unhappy. Note in the quote below she doesn’t say to “wait” for the future… she says to plan for it, but live in the moment.
Life is right here, right now, so commit to being in the present while planning for the future.
~ Karen Nimmo
When you focus on losing weight, you can’t fully live right now. You put real living on hold, waiting for the future (when your weight, and therefore your life will be “perfect”). But all you’re really doing is missing the present. It’s so sad to see someone putting off fun, meaningful or important things until they lose weight. That’s a guaranteed recipe for never losing it. I know, because I’ve done this myself.
#8 Your body is not a temple.
I love this! She writes, “Your body is just a body. So don’t get all obsessed with it…”
The idea that our bodies are temples just adds to the obsession we have with our external appearance. Get a group of women together, and what do they talk about? Their weight, how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they’ve been, or all the calories they managed to avoid (as if this is deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize or something).
The last time I was caught in one of these discussions, it was about some new diet. I wanted to scream, “Shut up, no one cares!” But under the circumstances, it wouldn’t have been the best option. I did remove myself from the group and went to see what the men were talking about. Anything is better than diet and body talk.
Feed it well, move it and treat it with respect and it’ll pay you back with strength and energy (and by fitting into your favorite clothes).
This is the heart of the Health at Every Size approach and eating intuitively. Feed your body food that makes it feel good. If you do, YOU will feel good. Feeling good makes it very easy to continue! You don’t have to be on a “maintenance” phase or eat a certain way one week and change it up the next. Learn what works for your body. Know what food you truly love to eat. Combine the best of these two groups and you’ll know what to eat that’s 100% right for you!
The idea of respecting your body, to me, is easier to achieve than, “I love my body!” Many do come to love their body. For the rest of us, respect feels much more attainable.
Respecting your body means you feed it when it’s hungry (most of the time – no perfection!). You don’t overfeed your body (most of the time). The clothes you wear fit you well right now (not too baggy, and not super tight). And you don’t think or say mean, horrible things to or about your body. Respect is awesome!
Abuse it at your peril — it may just seek revenge.
Need I say more? We all know what dieting has done to our bodies and how our bodies have responded. Respecting your body is much easier than dieting and trying to beat your body into submission!
#2 Date yourself.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean don’t date anyone else, but she makes a great point. It’s important that you become comfortable with being with yourself. Someone shared with me an excellent point about this concept. To paraphrase, if you don’t want to be alone with yourself, why would anyone else want to be with you? I can’t really add much more to that!
Nurture your mind, body and spirit — and take yourself out for some fun, sometimes. Yours is the only relationship you can’t leave.
Another good point, right? Once you realize you are all you’ve got for life, it’s time to decide. Are you worth taking care of? Allowing yourself to have fun? Worth the challenging but life-changing work to recover from chronic dieting and/or disordered eating? I know you are. I hope you’ll take this to heart, take a stand for yourself, and let go of perfectionism so your life can be good enough!
To read all of Karen Nimmo’s articles and additional writing by Karen, start here: