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Overcoming Perfectionism With Food

I’m an overcoming perfectionist. There have been so many times in my life where I couldn’t let go of the all-or-nothing mentality. Whether it was school, business, exercise, food or raising a baby.

I’ve struggled to fall back into the zone where everything has to be 100% perfect in order to be worth doing.

But lately, I’ve had to really let go of this expectation that still seems to be a habit of mine. After struggling for a whole year to overcome some health-related issues, I’ve learned that something doesn’t have to be perfect in order for it to work.

Maybe you’ve felt the same urge for perfectionism creep into your own life. The downside to it is that we feel pressured to give everything our all – and if we don’t, we feel as if it’s not worth doing.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Small, tiny steps toward something matter. Especially when done with intention. Each of those small steps builds upon each other. And over time they make a big difference. Doing them often, with love, and do them without expecting a perfect result.

This past year I’ve had to make some big changes in my life.

I started to struggle with health issues that were quite scary. Dizziness, vertigo, and heart palpitations – I had no idea what was causing them and my perfectionist tendencies wanted answers right away.

But that wasn’t what happened. I ended up struggling with health problems daily for over a year before discovering how to alleviate them. Now that I’ve finally found a solution, I’ve also learned a big lesson – it didn’t matter how fast I wanted to fix my problems, my body needed to take more time to heal itself. I had to do this healing imperfectly.

I’ve lived in the imperfection this whole year. And looking back I feel blessed to receive it.

This brings me to food.

Many of us were raised with unrealistic expectations of our health. Whether it’s from societal expectations, magazines, our family, or some random movie we saw as a teenager… We see images of people we feel like we can’t measure up to therefore we might feel like there’s no use in trying at all.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties and went back to school to become an integrative nutrition health coach that I realized that health is a lot more simple than we’ve made it out to be.

For me, becoming a health coach gave me one of the best gifts – the gift to relaaax when it comes to eating healthy. What I mean by this is that you don’t need to eat a fancy salad in order to be healthy. You don’t need to join that pilates studio, take a 10-day juice cleanse and eat collagen in your smoothies. Not only is this expensive, but there’s an easier way and it’s much simpler than we’re all lead to believe.

BUT if you don’t let go of the perfectionism you will miss the beauty of it.

Food Is Fuel.

The truth is that I doubt the inner voice telling me to give it 100% will ever leave. It’s been part of me for too long now – I can remember it being here way back when I was a child. But I’ve learned to see when it pops up and rethink how I respond to that voice. It’s sneaky, it can pop up when I least expect it. The best thing I can do is be aware, and give myself grace and love.

When it comes to food, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that have really helped me.

First, food can be fuel. It can give you energy. Make you feel lighter, less bloated, and it can affect your mood.

But it can also be something that drags you down, makes you tired and sluggish, and causes health problems (like it did for me).

Your food choices matter.

One of the biggest hurdles that I hear over and over again from readers is how to stay motivated with eating healthy.

Well, the trick is to let go of the perfectionism.

If you hang on to it, you’ll be disappointed when you grab take-out one night when you told yourself you wouldn’t. You’ll want to quit. You’ll think you can’t do this right. You’ll think you’re not good at this.

But health doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can choose to do it in whatever way you want. That’s what I love about it.

I always think of health as a journey with chapters. Every chapter builds on the last. It’s quite natural to want to evolve with it more over time, but you can do it at your own pace. Unless you’re struggling with a health issue, there’s no deadline for for what chapter you need to be on. You can choose. You can take your time. You can make small changes when you’re ready.

oatmeal with raspberries and blueberries in a white bowl on a wood cutting board

Here’s How I’ve Learned To Eat Healthy Without Perfectionism

I’ve learned a lot over the years of having this blog. I’ve made over 200 recipes. I’ve made mistakes, and those mistakes have led me to learn some of the best healthy eating hacks for moms.

Here are the most valuable lessons I’ve learned to eat healthier:

  • I Never Just “Wing It” – This is biggest mistake that most people make. Winging it every week only leads to burn out, stress, chaos and spending too much money. I always go into the week with a plan. Here’s the secret: you don’t have to reinvent that plan every week. You can rinse and repeat the same plan over and over again. You can eat the same thing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays etc. You can create theme nights to keep things organized or you can create a handful of meal plans (two or three) and repeat those in a cycle throughout the month to make things feel a little more fresh. Everyone is different, so you do you.
  • I Learned Simple Nutrition Basics – This was a BIG shift in changing how we eat healthy at home. Before learning nutrition basics and how our bodies use healthy food to function properly, I was focused on the wrong things. I thought I needed to eat fancy salads, try juice cleanses, and buy packaged health foods that are out of my budget. Learning the nutrition basics allowed me to understand where to look in the grocery store for healthy foods that are inexpensive and easy to put together.
  • I Found Ways To Cut Back On Time – There are recipes and cooking methods that require less time than others. These are life-savers when you’re cooking for a family. But think one-pot or one-pan meals, freezer meals, instant pot, etc. Don’t use complicated recipes that require a lot of different steps or dishes. Focus on the simple ones that use less dishes and less ingredients.
  • I Practiced – In the beginning meal planning will feel like work. Especially if you’re not used to it and have been using convenience packaged foods and take-out for majority of your meals. But the more you do meal plan, the easier it will get. I guarantee it. Some recipes will be epic failures, others will be successes. And overtime you’ll find a good groove that works for you and your family. It just takes practice.
  • I Created A Balance That Works For Our Family – Can you imagine eating healthy 100% of the time perfectly? That would be so hard! I’m sure there are people that can do it (kudos to them) but I’m not one of them, nor is my family. We still grab A&W from time to time, I still love a big plate nachos and how could you live life without an ice cream cone by the beach? Basically, I’m still a living breathing human being. What I’m trying to say here is that for some reason we think that if we go on a health journey we have to do it 100% of the time in order to be successful. I completely disagree. I think it’s about doing it often but still enjoying the things you love. Life is about balance.
  • I Didn’t Put Labels On It – Labels feel like pressure and a declaration of resolution. I don’t define myself as a “healthy eater,” I just go with the flow. I know that eating healthy foods makes me feel so much better than if I don’t so I choose to put my effort on the healthy stuff. I find healthy eating hacks to make it easier on myself but I don’t like labels because it makes my inner perfectionist want to kick in. So instead I just do the things that work for me. That’s it.

Once you encourage yourself to try this without high expectations and perfectionism, you’ll start to see results. The more you do it, the more rewards you’ll see. Some will be things you didn’t expect. They’ll surprise you. 

Each week will get easier, and over time you’ll notice you feel better, have more energy and confidence in it as well.

The good news is you don’t have to do meal planning with an all-or-nothing mentality. You don’t have to skip all junk food or favorite snacks at the store if you don’t want to. You can find the right balance for you and your family.

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