Forget about Perfection

Many dieters have an interesting sabotaging thought: “Because I wasn’t perfect on my diet just now (i.e., because I just cheated), I may as well give up (and start again tomorrow).” It’s a cleverly hidden excuse.

Dieters who have read The Beck Diet Solution (or one of the other books) may also have a sabotaging thought about the program contained in it. “Since I’m not following the program perfectly, I may as well stop following it altogether.”

But these ideas really don’t make sense. After all, if you found you had made a mistake in balancing your checkbook, would you stop balancing it at all? If you forgot to call a family member on his birthday, would you not call at all? In what other context of life would you postpone or even abandon a goal that’s important to you, just because you made a mistake?

I think what’s really going on with dieters, when they eat something they shouldn’t, is the idea, “I don’t want to hold myself in check. I want to give myself permission to continue to eat.” After all, dieters know that there is a huge difference between eating an unplanned piece of cake (which is maybe 350 calories that won’t even show up on the scale in a few days) and eating the cake and ice cream and pretzels and chips and cookies—and anything else they desire—and starting again (at best) the next day. Just think, if every time in the past when you made a mistake, you limited it to one piece. You wouldn’t still be struggling with your weight after all these years.

And let’s say that you just don’t have the time right now to implement every step in the program. Isn’t it better to do as much as you can, rather than abandoning the program altogether?

One helpful way to respond to perfectionistic sabotaging thoughts is to think to yourself, “What would I tell my best friend if she were in this situation and had this thought?” I would bet that you’d be good at giving advice to her. Now you just need to give that same advice to yourself.

3 replies
  1. Corina
    Corina says:

    That’s exactly right! I’ve always thought that perfectionism was an excuse. I’ve always been a “diet perfectionist”, and still am! I have to fight very hard against it. But the truth is that when I make a little mistake, I only decide to go overboard backed up by that sabotaging thought (I already ate, I maight as well continue to do it) when I’m confronted again with some food I love. Then I find it difficult to resist, the thought comes to my mind, and I’m really relieved by the possibility of eating again. Today it happened because of a bad eating evening yesterday, but I resisted, and now I’m so glad I did! I’m immagining how I would feel if I had eaten again today, I’d be crushed!

  2. Callista
    Callista says:

    I started on The Beck Diet Solution last year. I managed to lose and reached my desired weight. Those afternoons I starved myself and distracted myself at work.

    Then Christmas came and I just lost it. Now I’ve gained back all, and more. Sometimes I wonder if it was worth it – I really did enjoy being thinner and fitting into nice clothes, but I was too hungry.

    I guess perfectionism does not mean you’re perfect all the time. In fact, due to the pursue for it, you’ll being the exact opposite.

    Starting the whole routine again this time. With this recession, I’m really stressed out, especially recently. Hopefully I can pull it through, and lose this excess weight, for good.

  3. Cindy G
    Cindy G says:

    I lost 15 pounds last summer using the program plus Weight Watchers, then gained back 5 in the fall/winter. At first, I was in a new diet trance, which made it easy to stay on track. Then the novelty I wore off, and though I kept reading my cards religiously, they just didn’t have the same amount influence they had had before, even when I tried writing new ones that spoke directly to new negative thoughts. I seem to need novelty to lose — a new program, a new something. I think this is probably just a basic fact about me I have to accept. I’m hoping reading this blog every day will supply some of the novelty I need.


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