One upon a time there was a magical land that created the magical diet. This was like no other diet because this diet was perfect. It was flawless in every respect. And when you were on this diet, you were perfect, too. Let’s take a journey through our magical land so we can finally experience the perfect life as we’ve always imagined…
You’re finally motivated to begin losing weight. Your plan is perfectly designed with all the right foods, eaten at the correct times and most important, your head is screwed on right this time. Oh yeah, you’re ready.
So you start your weight-loss project on Monday, and you’re full speed ahead. And this time it’s different because you’re finally in that magical land. Monday flows into Tuesday and Wednesday coasts into Thursday. Perfect. Oh yeah baby, you own this!
Then something happens — something weird and unexpected. On Friday you’re feeling the pressure of a nagging boss, a stressful work environment, financial woes, or kids driving you up a wall. Then you sort of semi-consciously slip off your plan. A Snickers bar just made that stress feel So. Much. Better. Then it starts — you get that gnawing sensation, that tiny, persuasive whisper that tells you that since you’ve already gone off your diet, you might as well keep it going. That whisper somehow convinces you that on some level you’re going to feel better. So you go off your diet in a big way. After all, if you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this right.
Then it’s over. It’s almost as if you wake up from some weird dream, and you start to feel crappy feelings. The feelings are all too familiar, and they speak loudly. “I couldn’t even make it one week. I always do this. I failed on my diet because I’m weak and I’ll always be weak. I can do so many things right in my life but I fail at this every time. No wait, it’s not even that I failed; it’s more that I am a failure. I am a complete failure, I’m fat and I’m disgusted with myself. I’ll never get this right.”
Now please allow me to bring you to a better land. Somewhere in your life you were led to believe that this whole dieting thing is about being perfect. Trying to be perfect is what’s screwing with your head. Perfect is only in our magical, once-upon–a-time land that has no basis in reality.
Perfect is stupid. Your goal is consistency, not perfection. Consistency is your friend, and it will always be your friend. Perfect is a one-night stand. This is the thing that you have to start believing and practicing.
With the media’s focus on perfect bodies and perfect diets and all the comparison traps women experience in this society, no one can blame you for trying to be perfect. But let it occur to you that it’s programming that doesn’t work. And it will never work.
What will work for you is worth repeating: To be consistent, not perfect.
Now let’s play out the scenario again with a different outcome. You go off your plan for a meal and you do it in a big way! But you go back on your plan the next meal. You weren’t perfect, but you aren’t a failure. In fact, by going right back on plan you made the conscious and courageous decision to do that which is in your best interest. When someone just quits on their program and never goes back to it, they accept failure as their destiny. But when you stay with it, even when you have a dark moment or moments, you become your own hero.
One more time with gusto and say it out loud: Not being perfect on my diet does not mean failure. And it does not mean I’m a failure.
March 1, 2011 at 9:08 am -
hmmmm, sounds hauntingly familiar 🙂
While I don’t give up, I do punsih myself badly in the gym for my mistakes….
This is where I need forgiveness…. hard to give that gift to oneself… 🙁
March 1, 2011 at 9:43 am -
Karen – You’re a great client and you’ve been nothing short of sensational. I’m keeping an eye on everything — not just the physical. No worries. I agree that it’s hard to give that gift to oneself and that’s why it takes practice. You’re doing great though — you really are.
March 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm -
Right on Raphael! I fall into this trap, then climb out. It is difficult to grasp that success doesn’t require perfection. I sometimes equate consistency with perfection; but it simply means more often than not, not necessarily ALL THE TIME (constant). Great post.
March 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm -
Thanks, Nancy! Well said on your part too. Much appreciated.
March 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm -
I have tried too many times to live in the “perfect” world. It is a lot easier to have finally learned I am not perfect and never will be. I can be consistent though.
March 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm -
Laurette – Bravo! And let’s not forget you have overcome a lot of issues with consistency. Perfection is too much for anyone to live up to. It’s just not reality.
March 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm -
Giving up trying to be perfect is difficult, even though I know that’s what works. But every time I mess up, whether it’s little or big, I just climb back on and keep on going. Raphael, your post is perfect, because it will help keep me centered (and I suspect a lot of others as well). Noodles and tortillas are my downfall sometimes, but I try to keep the damage limited and return to good foods right away.
March 2, 2011 at 2:45 am -
Reenie – I agree, it’s difficult. But you are probably one of the most consistent people I’ve ever met. Thanks for what you said about the post!
March 3, 2011 at 8:53 am -
Great article, Raphael. I particularly loved this line: “Perfect is a one night stand.” This also reminds me of a recent NY Times article on self-compassion and how lack of it can lead to obesity. People who are more self-compassionate tend to be healthier and happier. http://tinyurl.com/4ek8vng for the article.
March 3, 2011 at 9:10 am -
Marcia – Thank you! Seems like a lot of people enjoyed that one night stand comment. Ironically, I posted the link from the NY Times article yesterday morning on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s a good one. Thank you again!
Cathy W says:
March 3, 2011 at 8:15 pm -
What??!! I’m NOT perfect?? Oh dang, I guess that means the prince on the white horse isn’t going to show up soon either ……
March 4, 2011 at 5:21 am -
Cathy – If he does let me know! You’re perfect in my eyes my friend!
April 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm -
I could have written this. How can I be successful in just about every other part of my life and fail miserably and consistently in this ONE. DAMN. SAME. AREA?
April 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm -
Vi, you’re not alone. Really and Truly you’re not. So many people experience the same thing. Just start again with a very short term goal — a one week goal.