If the right diet was the answer, so many smart successful women wouldn’t struggle with their weight. If the advice, “eat less, move more” was the only key you needed, there wouldn’t be so many women who feel ineffective and even hopeless when it comes to taking charge of overeating.
Overeating is complicated and, for lots of working women, busy moms, time-crunched professionals and business owners, the answer is not about the food.
Food is easy. Figuring out how NOT to overeat and to feel peaceful and happy with your relationship with food is a challenge.
Sometimes (most of the time), the key to overcoming overeating is to take a step back and get a different perspective. Instead of focusing on what to eat and what not to eat, it’s helpful to look at the patterns with life and with food that can create big problems. There’s one pattern or cycle that I see all the time and it tends to sabotage the brightest and most successful women. It’s the perfectionism, procrastination, overeating trap.
Perfectionism is the belief that it has to be perfect to be good enough. It’s all-or-nothing, black-or-white, and there’s no room for screw ups or mistakes or half-steps. Perfectionism makes it hard to ever feel “done” or to give yourself credit for the partial steps toward success.
Procrastination is what happens when your rigid standards or the belief that you have to do it all (perfectly) makes it too overwhelming to even get started or to take the next step.
Overeating can be an easy way to procrastinate. It’s also a way to soothe anxiety or squash feelings of frustration or “not being good enough.” Emotional eating is often the busy woman’s way to deal with pressure, with endless to-do lists, with not feeling appreciated, or with feeling tired and like you’ll never get enough done.
Once overeating happens, perfectionism is that voice that says, “Now you’ve blown it. All your efforts are ruined and you might as well just eat some more.” And this brings us full circle back to procrastination (“I’ll start over on Monday.”) and feeling defeated by that bag of chips.
As the cycle repeats, the (procrastinated) challenges feel bigger, the perfectionism feels more intimidating, and overeating probably feels more out of control.
How to break the cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and overeating.
One bite at a time (pun intended).
Start by revising your story. The first step is to challenge any beliefs that perfectionism is making you more successful or that procrastination is simply you being “weak” or that overeating is just laziness or some other negative statement about yourself.
Make a list of the ways that perfectionism causes problems in your life. Does it slow you down, leave you second guessing yourself, or erode your confidence? Is it a trigger for overeating or does it affect you in other ways? Write down all the ways that perfectionism takes a toll on you and your life.
Stop bashing yourself for procrastination and overeating. You may not like what’s going on, but beating yourself up about it is getting you nowhere. The real truth is, we choose our behaviors for a reason and if you can understand why you are choosing to procrastinate and if you can understand why food has the pull it does for you in certain situations, you’ll have a lot more power. Give yourself permission to be curious and to learn from your behaviors.
Do something positive NOW. Feel overwhelmed or unable to get started? Are you telling yourself that now is not a good time—that you can’t do enough now—that you should wait until—tomorrow, next week, or next month? Every moment is a choice point and you don’t need the stars to be aligned to move one inch (or more) closer to your goal. Do something that’s in your best interest NOW.
Consider breaking the task into smaller steps or goals—even very small goals. Just do something. You only have to move forward a very short distance to create the beginning of momentum. Whether you are focusing on writing a report, cleaning a closet, or losing 25 pounds, let go of the all-or-nothing-beliefs that have you stuck and focus on the next positive action you can take—not the long journey you may see between you and your final goal.
Don’t ignore your feelings. Emotional eating is often the busy woman’s tool of choice for coping with uncomfortable feelings, stress, worry, and insecurity. If you aren’t going to turn to chocolate, you’ll need other strategies and tools—and to start creating those you need to respectfully listen to yourself so that you can understand what you are feeling and what you need. Be curious about how you are feeling and be open to learning about yourself.
Let imperfection be enough. You are human and you won’t always get it perfect—or even the way you want it. All we can expect is our best and all we can do is to keep moving forward. One imperfect bite at a time.
Do your best, make a move, be kind to yourself. Seek support when you need it. Rinse and repeat. That’s how to break free of the perfectionism-procrastination-overeating cycle.
Take good care,