“You’re a dietitian and you’re ordering dessert?” That wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten that comment. Yes, I’m a PhD nutritionist and a registered dietitian…but I’m not “perfect.” And, I don’t aim to be. I consider myself to be Perfectly Imperfect. I enjoy chocolate and other desserts – and I give myself permission to enjoy them. In fact, eating chocolate day is one of the secrets to my weight maintenance success.
Another similar comment I get is (when I order a diet coke with my cheesecake), “If you’re going to get the cheesecake…why don’t you just go all-the-way and get the REAL coke?” Frankly, I think it’s this dichotomous mindset that gets people’s weight and health out of balance. We “diet” then “blow it”, then repeat….setting ourselves up for failure every time.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “But I can’t have just one.” That’s because we expect perfection of ourselves and when we can’t meet this unrealistic (and unnecessary) goal, we beat ourselves up with our comments – and subsequent damaging actions. We start off with the assumption that sugar is bad and we need to give it up completely. Then when we eat just one cookie, we beat ourselves up with, “Oh, I blew it…I might as well eat the whole box”…and then we do!
A cookie, a slice of cheesecake, or a coke (or any other food or drink you love), is NOT the reason for our growing waistlines. I believe our expectation that our eating habits should be perfect is much more damaging. That perfect expectation sets us up for a diet mentality of “good” and “bad”. Watch the behavior of naturally lean people and you’ll find that they are not perfect eaters, but they don’t have a strict “diet” mentality either – allowing them to eat them in moderation, without overeating or bingeing.
Tips for Becoming Perfectly Imperfect
- Drop the “diet” mentality. Sure some foods are healthier than others, but drop the strict categorization of “good” foods and “bad” foods. This results in us feeling “bad” when we eat one of the not-as-healthy foods. Everything in moderation is fine.
- Stop “shoulding” on yourself. When you eat something that wasn’t on the plan, be kind to yourself. Scolding yourself only makes the repercussions worse. Instead use the opportunity to ask yourself WHY you ate what you did. Did you skip a meal and get overly hungry? Are you stressed? Tired? Bored? Why not treat the real problem instead of stuffing yourself with food?
- Be picky. People tell me they love ALL the “bad” stuff – and that’s why they attempt to cut it out completely because they can’t control themselves. Spend some time asking yourself what your absolute favorites are (right down to the specific brand) and then give yourself permission to work these foods into your weekly, or even daily meal plan so you don’t feel deprived. The research suggests that successful dieters don’t give up their absolute favorite foods.
- Be wise. Research shows that we’re more likely to eat foods that are visible and readily available. Don’t buy foods that are too tempting or buy them in smaller quantities. You may also decide to enjoy your favorite treats only when eating out when there’s just one portion – and not the whole cake!
- Give yourself permission to enjoy food. Instead of guiltily stuffing those forbidden foods in your mouth to get rid of the evidence, give yourself permission to enjoy every bite. Take tiny bites and let the food melt in your mouth and savor the flavor. When you give yourself permission to enjoy your favorites you’ll find yourself eating less.
Keep these tips in mind and you, too, can be perfectly imperfect…allowing you to keep your weight, health, and sanity in check.