Dietary Perfectionism

Dietary Perfectionism

A Recipe for Food Stress, Overeating and Weight Gain

Do you pride yourself on being a perfectionist?   You set the bar high, believe in doing things the right way or not at all, tell yourself that mediocrity is not an option for you.   You have a hard time giving yourself credit for things and tend to obsess on what you could have done better.  Do you bring these same standards to your eating?

Maybe you’re like a lot of people that I see in my work; in search for the perfect body, perfect weight, perfect nutritional system, perfect diet.

It’s hard no to, especially when you hear about all the powerful stories of transformation of people who are able to get healthy and happy by changing their food.   But the truth is that this quest for precision has a dark side and it’s actually what’s sabotaging your weight loss progress despite your best efforts and know-how.

Because perfectionism, especially in dieting is never really about doing something perfect, it’s about perfecting Self.   And flawless, last time I checked is quite simply an unattainable state of being.  So inevitably, when we fall off our own pedestal, the result is some form of self attack and self criticism, which has us throwing in the towel and harming our bodies with food.

Whenever you begin a new weight loss program, it’s normal to want to follow the rules exactly.  But dietary perfectionism quickly derails your resolve when life serves up familiar speed bumps like a hectic day or overindulging on a weekend.

Dietary perfectionism never comes from a healthy place.  It is not the same as striving for excellence or for a quality result.  It comes from a negative orientation focused on avoiding failure.  Dietary perfectionism has you running from the fear of being judged by others for being flawed.  It has you living under the spell of not being good the way you are.   It has you believing that you can control absolutely everything. When it comes to positive sustainable weight loss, this all too common attitude is a non-starter.

If you can answer Yes to several of these questions, you might be a Perfectionist Dieter:

  1. Do you weigh yourself often and religiously?
  2. Are you constantly counting calories and fat grams in your food?
  3. Have you ever measured our exactly “9” almonds for your snack?
  4. Do you tell yourself you might as well start next Monday after having an unhealthy food choice?
  5. Do you constantly procrastinate starting a new weight loss program waiting for the right time?
  6. Do you eat perfectly and then after an indulgence you figure you already messed up so you’ll eat whatever the rest of the day or night?
  7. Do you tell yourself that your past attempts at weight loss were unsuccessful because of lack of self control and effort?
  8. Do you see yourself in the mirror and are quick to criticize and judge yourself?
  9. Have you lost and gained the same weight over and over again finding the new changes you’ve made just aren’t sustainable with your everyday life?

Here’s what’s at stake if you are a Dietary Perfectionist:

Your emotional and physical well being – the resulting higher levels of self created stress and anxiety create exactly the opposite physiological conditions in our bodies that we need for a healthy metabolism.

You are distracted from the things that will really help you achieve your weight loss goal – you stay stuck on autopilot with a negative narrowly focused perspective that dulls your understanding of what you really need to shift in your eating habits and lifestyle.

Increased risk for mood and eating disorders – the relentless cycle of blame and self criticism can lead to a painful relationship with food and your body.

Not Living an Authentic Life  – When we seek unattainable standards for ourselves, we drain our life’s energy pretending to be something we are not.

You miss out on key life lessons that help you learn and grow – An exclusive focus on the end result is flawed.  Weight loss is a journey not a destination.  Our personal growth is in the detours and setbacks.  Approach it with this mindset and you can never lose, you either win or you learn.

How to be stop being a Diet Perfectionist:

Take morality out of the picture – Stop using “good” and ‘bad” when it comes to your food choices or describing yourself for that matter.  Also while we’re at it lets’ stop with the label “clean” eating and “cheat foods” too.  It’s so judgmental. A food is just a food. Eating and enjoying foods, even not the most nutritious ones, should never be done with guilt or shame. There’s nothing healthy about restricting pleasure in eating.

Bring Awareness to Negative Self Talk – Your thoughts and beliefs can be as equally toxic and weight promoting as any food choice.  When you hear that perfectionist voice slipping into your head, pause and observe what’s happening and use it as an opportunity to do gently redirect your way of thinking in a way that really serves you.

Don’t just focus on food in your goal to lose weight – Focus on the health of your whole well being and feed your other hungers in life:  recognize that your needs for rest, play, pleasure, connection, creativity are equally as important for you to thrive.

Let go of the scale – Stop weighing yourself every day.  Make self awareness and body awareness your progress tools and pay attention to changes in your overall mood, energy level, digestion, how you feel in you clothing, sleep, and cravings. Chances are, if you’re seeing and feeling positive changes in these areas, you are losing weight.  How you actually feel in your body is arguably the most important indicator of weight loss.

Take in the Good – Practice taking a mental inventory of your successes at the end of the day.  What went well?  Focus on the positive, not the negative.  Celebrate the wins, no matter how small they seem.  Paying attention and appreciating the positive things helps override our built in negativity bias.

Practice Mindful Self-Compassion – Being kinder to yourself leads to positive habit change.  You’re more relaxed, motivated and feeling good about yourself.  Change happens from a place of self acceptance when certain types of internal resistance in our minds quiets down.  Give yourself permission to see lapses or setbacks as a place to examine “what happened”  What thoughts or emotions or situations or physical states made you vulnerable to doing something impulsive or self-sabotaging? What might have helped prevent it? Approach this self-inquiry with a friendly attitude as you would with a good friend or a young child.

Do a Mind Reboot – Let go of the belief that eating healthy is an all or nothing start – you can restart any day, any hour, or any meal.  Remind yourself that the past is in the past and that your fullest personal and metabolic potential is always in the Now.

Chocolate Coconut Chia Seed Pudding


  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped fine
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk (“Native Forest”)
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 ½ tablespoons raw cacao powder (“Navitas Naturals”)
  • Dash of sea salt
  • ½ cup chia seeds

Optional toppings:  Shredded coconut, blueberries, strawberries


  1. Soak the dates in hot water for 15 minutes if not already soft and chewy.
  2. In a high speed blender, process soaked dates, coconut milk, banana, cacao powder and salt until smooth.
  3. Transfer liquid to a 32 oz container with a lid and add chia seeds.  Shake and stir until well combined. 
  4. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of four hours.
  5. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with shredded coconut and fresh berries of choice.
Yield: 8 servings Print
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