As a weight loss coach for the last 20 years, I have noticed that most of my clients are perfectionists. They tend to measure themselves against perfection and have an inner voice in their minds that is always pointing out their shortcomings.
Perfectionism can work well for school, careers, and parenting because these areas have clear boundaries and structures that help individuals know what to do and how to do it. However, weight loss does not have clear defining structures, and the tactics used for weight loss are usually singular and insufficient.
Many people, especially perfectionists, tend to believe that drastic changes to their eating habits or cutting out certain foods altogether is the fastest way to lose weight. However, this mindset does not provide a complete understanding of how to master weight loss, and individuals may struggle to see results.
For example, someone who focuses only on not eating carbs may lose weight for a little while, but they are not taking into account the other factors that impact their weight. Their subconscious programming also plays a role in their eating habits, which means that using willpower to force themselves to not eat carbs becomes a conscious-oriented process.
Perfectionists tend to measure their results against perfection, making it almost impossible to achieve their expectations. This approach makes weight loss a difficult process for them, and they may feel discouraged when they do not see immediate and perfect results.
If you gave me one word to describe the typical client I’ve worked for the last 20 years to help master their weight, I would say ‘perfectionist,’ and I don’t know why I attract this type of person. It might be because I myself am a recovering perfectionist, but this is definitely almost every person I’ve ever worked with on some level as a perfectionist. And so it seems counterintuitive almost, right? That a person who’s a perfectionist, a lot of time, is able to use that quality to succeed in school, to succeed with their career, to succeed as a parent, or whatever thing’s really important to them, but when it comes to weight, it doesn’t seem to help that much, and I have a couple of reasons why that may be.
First off, what is a perfectionist? I think of a perfectionist as someone who measures themselves against perfection all the time, right? So instead of kind of measuring where they came from, they’re always looking at perfection and seeing where they fit in terms of that. And the other piece of it is that it seems like they often have an inner voice in their mind that is one of a parent, like a strict parent who nothing was ever good enough for them, a coach, a boss, that type of person who is always kind of pointing out their shortcomings and again measuring them against perfection. That’s where they learned it from.
Now, why does this work when it comes to work in a career, in school, and not seem to work very well with weight? Well, I think it’s because school and careers and even raising children, to some degree, it’s contained, okay? And so what I mean by that is that when you have a job, now again, these may be workaholics as well, but it’s still there. There’s work and there’s leisure, and there’s kind of boundaries there, and inside of those boundaries, there’s a structure for what you’re supposed to do. So when it comes to work, you know, at first, you’re not really sure of what those boundaries are and what those structures are, but as you continue down your career path, school, being a parent, you figure out how to do it, and you have a clear idea of what you should do and how to get it done.
Now with weight loss, a lot of times, there are not those clear defining structures of how to behave. There’s tactics, there’s the tactic of stop eating carbs, intermittent fast, count my points. It’s usually kind of one thing. And what happens is when we compare ourselves to perfection, but we don’t have the full strategy available to us, it becomes kind of impossible, I would say, to get the results you want.
I generally reference the Rubik’s Cube for myself. I used to play with the Rubik’s Cube all the time, trying to figure it out. And intuitively, I was trying to do one side, then the next side, and the next side, but that’s not how you fix a Rubik’s Cube. You have to follow this algorithm, which makes no intuitive sense. You just have to learn the algorithm. And weight loss is a lot like this. We think that the fastest way to really master our weight is to just stop eating or to drastically change how we’re eating in order to start losing weight. And again, that’s the perfectionist mindset that if I’m gonna do it, I’m going to do it all the way.
And when you apply that mindset with a diet mindset, you tend to get less than stellar results. And again, there’s a couple of reasons for this. One of the biggest ones is that you think you know what to do to lose weight, but in reality, you’re just trying to follow a tactic. It’s not a complete holistic strategy, and so your obsession with that one tactic – you may do it for a while – but that tactic’s not enough. It’s not a big enough understanding. It’s not a complete structural understanding of how to master your weight.
So let me give you some context to understand this. It’s like if you’re really focusing on, let’s just say, you’re going to do keto, and you’re really focusing on not eating carbs, that’s what you’re focusing on, okay? But the problem is that there are so many other things that are impacting your weight. It’s not just enough to know what you’re going to eat because our brain’s not designed to micromanage every little food decision. Our brain is designed to pretty much be on autopilot. And so it’s really driving our eating is our subconscious programming. So when we say, okay, I’m going to stop eating carbs, it becomes a very conscious-oriented process where we use our willpower to force ourselves not to eat carbs, okay? So that’s the first part, and that’s what a lot of perfectionists will do, and they will stop eating carbs for a little while. But then what happens is, as a perfectionist, that’s the only thing they’re doing. They’re not eating carbs, and so after a couple of days, a couple of weeks, they – this typically perfectionists measure their results based on the perfect results, and it’s almost impossible to hit those results for most people because those results are completely subjective to the person, right?
So if a perfectionist in their mind thinks they should lose two to four pounds a week and they only lose one to two pounds, then they may feel discouraged because, again, they’re measuring themselves against perfection, as opposed to measuring themselves and where they started from. And so right off the bat, it’s a very difficult process for them because if they’re not perfect, they experience that in a much more negative way than the average person does. Okay?
So when you’re just following a tactic, it gives you one thing to focus on, and the only thing you’re measuring is weight loss. So as an alternative to that, what I always help with people is how people do is have a much more holistic approach to mastering their weight. So it’s not just a tactic, an eating tactic of stop eating carbs, it’s multiple eating strategies, but more importantly, it’s the foundation of it is lifestyle strategies, and below that is mindset strategies. And so what happens is the perfectionist responds much better to this because now there are lots of different categories of things they can do well in. It becomes much more like college in a sense.
So it’s like most people approach weight loss like they’re going to go to college and take one class for four years, and it’s not enough. Right? You can’t take if you want to get a business degree, you can’t just take accounting for four years, right? There’s a lot more to it. Well, it’s the same thing with weight loss. Your weight loss does not just revolve around just the food you’re putting in your mouth. It does technically, but in order to get yourself to consistently eat that way, you need to look at these other factors, these lifestyle pieces.
What lifestyle piece am I talking about specifically? I’m talking about relaxation, hydration, your sleep, how you’re nourishing your body, movement, meditation, gratitude. These are the things that really allow you to inhabit a place within yourself and mentally to get yourself to eat the way you want to. And so what happens with perfectionists is, when it comes to their weight loss, because there are no boundaries with it, right? I mean, your weight is an all-the-time thing. So, with work, there are boundaries to when you’re doing it, even if you’re a workaholic. And with the weight, it’s just a 24-hour day thing. So, if you try and be a perfectionist and eat perfectly with your weight, you very quickly will burn yourself out. And the biggest problem is that once you make a mistake, instead of learning from it, you just beat yourself up about it. And you can only do this so long until you end up just quitting.
Okay, so the much better solution for a perfectionist is to realize, hey, you can’t be perfect with your weight. You can’t eat perfectly. There are just too many eating situations you’re going to have from here to your goal weight. And even once you reach your goal weight, you’re not going to be perfect. So, you really need to let go of that perfectionism. You need to focus more on getting consistent. Consistently doing things halfway will serve you better than doing one thing perfectly when it comes to your weight. So, it’s a complete reorientation of how you think of the process. And again, you have so many great skills. You know, the perfectionist has so many great skills they’re bringing to it, but they’re not utilizing them properly, you know? And so, what we want to do is, instead of trying to be perfect with one thing, we want to be pretty good with lots of things that are going to affect our weight.
This has been the biggest shift I’ve seen to really help people master it because now it’s not a one thing where you’re either all or nothing, you know? Because that’s what you’re doing in the past. You’re holding yourself to this high standard of how you’re going to eat perfectly starting tomorrow, and the second you make a mistake because you’re measuring yourself against perfection, you feel like you failed. It’s very difficult to keep going. And once you start feeling discouraged and down about how you’ve done, it’s very difficult not to eat the wrong food, you see? So, it’s the strategy right from the beginning that’s preventing you from getting the results you want, more than anything else, you know?
So, you need to be more intentional about how you’re going to use this perfectionist mindset that you have because you’re not going to change the perfectionism in yourself. You are a perfectionist and you will continue to be one. You can lower it a bit, you know? I mean, you can work with it a little bit, manage a little, but you can’t get rid of it. So, instead, we want to identify what you are at your core, and we want to utilize it. We want to be strategic with how you’re going to be a perfectionist so that you can get the results you want.
So, I hope this helps you understand it. And again, it’s never any time you ever struggle with your weight, it’s not a you problem, it’s a strategy problem. Very important to remember because once you are exposed to a new, better strategy that works for you, all of a sudden you feel re-motivated. You can start getting better results. And so, if you ever feel like you’re struggling, you’re not sure what to do, do not take it as it’s a problem with you. Take it as it’s a problem with your strategy and what you’re trying to do to get the results you want. And focus on that. All right I hope this helps you out I. hope you have a great day.