June 23, 2016

How my Perfectionism made me Fat.


Perfectionism left me feeling empty. Whatever I did, or whatever I accomplished, it never seemed to be enough.

This sense of failure created a void inside me. Food became the perfect way to fill that void.

Until recently, I never understood how being a perfectionist was ruining my life. I looked for perfection everywhere. I’ve always had high expectations of myself.

We aren’t born with perfectionism. Rather, it’s a trait that we develop as a coping mechanism. Ever since I was a little girl, I was made to feel like I could always do better. No matter what I did, it wasn’t done the “right” way. I had awesome grades at school, but it still seemed like a chore to go meet my teachers and discuss them. In order to be loved and accepted, I needed to be perfect.

What I came to realize is that what we think about ourselves is always mirrored back to us by people we surround ourselves by.

So, years later, I asked myself: “Could my perfectionism be the reason for my weight gain?”

​When I was dieting, perfectionism played a big role. I mean, I wanted to do this perfectly. One pound a week? Bleh, I could do way better than that. I went through phases where I would lose 50 pounds, but I was still unhappy. I still saw myself as fat. Whenever I would fall off the wagon and binge a little, I felt like a complete failure. I would then punish myself even more the following week. I’m an “all in” or “all out” kind of person. I saw something as either a complete failure or a complete success.

Here’s how perfectionism can show up when you’re trying to lose weight  >>

– Do you wake up, thinking that today is the day for a new start? Today you’ll finally get it right?
– When you start a new diet, do you feel like you fail when you slip off for a bite of cake?
– Are you afraid of gaining back the weight you lost, wondering what other people will think?
– Ever signed up to the gym, feeling motivated to exercise four to five days a week with a goal of having this perfect body?
– If you feel like you failed, do you react by overeating more—-feeling like you’re hopeless anyways?
– Do you set up an “ideal” way of eating for you (knowing quite well you can’t live your life without certain foods)?
– Do you label food as “bad” and then label yourself as a “bad person” for eating them?
– Do you lose weight but feel like it’s never enough?

You would think perfectionism would make you a winner. In some ways, it did. It taught me a lot and made me who I am today. It still shows up, but less often: in my work, in my relationships, when I write a piece like this for elephant journal,  I still struggle with it, but now I am able to shut it down. How? I am aware. I notice its face when it appears. Awareness is the key.

​If you can relate to any of this I want you to know that you aren’t alone with the struggle of being perfect.

Here are some things that may help you on your path:

1: Stop weighing yourself too often.
Your weight fluctuates a lot throughout the month. Be good to yourself—weigh yourself less. Let it go.

2: Stop dieting.
I had to say it. I repeat it often. I’m all about not dieting anymore. Why? Because dieting is unnatural. You deprive your body, you deprive yourself. You punish yourself. You tell yourself you can’t be trusted with food. How is that loving?

3: Set shorter & more attainable goals.
We too often set goals that are unattainable. “I’m going to lose 15 pounds in the next month.”  Can you feel the pressure? ​And then what happens when you don’t achieve it? You’ll probably eat food to fill the void caused by the self-inflicted shame for “failing” your goal.

Be good to yourself. You are enough just as you are, right now. Perfection is an illusion, and one we need to erase from our minds.




Author: Chantal Lavergne

Image: Flickr/hikingartist; Flickr/roberlan 

Editors: Pippa Sorley; Emily Bartran

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