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Emotional Eating and Perfectionism: 5 Signs of Trouble

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emotional eating and perfectionism

Perfectionism is a very tempting trap to fall into. For those who are prone to it, the idea that it is possible to get everything “just right” is a very seductive standard to shoot for. The truth is, trying to get it (whatever IT is) “perfect” can make emotional eating, or whatever you are trying to take control of, much worse.

Perfectionism leads to all-or-nothing thinking. To our inner perfectionist, it’s either perfect or not good enough. If we didn’t get all the checks in the box, our inner perfectionist tends to believe we “blew it” and anything we’ve accomplished is instantly erased with one mistake.

An all-or-nothing approach to weight loss will sink weight loss efforts fast. It’s simply not possible to be “perfect.”

Is perfectionism getting in your way? Here are five ways perfectionism shows up with eating and weight loss:

1. Do you wake up in the morning thinking “today is a fresh start?” Lots of us love a new beginning, but that feeling of starting over often includes the idea of “getting it right this time.” When we think this way, we run the risk of not taking credit for all we have accomplished and learned so far.

2. Does your newest approach to eating fall apart because you did something “wrong” and feel your efforts were ruined? That’s your inner perfectionist. Perfectionism doesn’t include the message that there will be rough patches and missteps, and doesn’t offer a plan for dealing with them.

3. If you deviate from your plan for your eating, do you react by overeating even more? That’s not logical, it’s perfectionism and it is incredibly common. It’s usually not the first step off your food plan that leads to weight gain or plan failure, it’s the eating you do once your inner perfectionist tells you that it’s “hopeless” because you’ve “failed.” Actually, you ate something you hadn’t planned to and you go back to your plan, you WILL make progress.

4. Do you have expectations for “ideal eating” that are so unrealistic or rigid that you could never imagine sticking with them for a lifetime? Or—do you begin to feel deprived just thinking about how you “should” eat? Your perfectionist is setting you up.

5. Are you plagued by perfectionism in other areas of your life? This is another way our sneaky perfectionist can sabotage weight loss and trigger emotional eating. If we get wise and learn to let go of our perfectionism with food, our perfectionist may still maintain a rigid hold in other areas. When our perfectionist is doing the judging we are NEVER good enough. No job is EVER absolutely complete, and we are NEVER allowed the satisfaction of feeling great about what we accomplish. Coping with an inner perfectionist—whether it’s negatively judging our work, our parenting, our housecleaning OR our health is enough to bring out the emotional eater in most of us.

Feel free to reprint on your own website, newsletter, blog or message board as long as you include the following: Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC is a psychologist, certified life coach, and the founder of Enduring Change Coaching, a company that specializes in providing programs and resources to help women worldwide create the lives they’ve been craving and weight loss that lasts. Her newest program, The Weight Loss Winner's Circle helps women stay on track, stay out of self-sabotage, and have positive support as they meet their weight loss goals.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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