Perfectionism (with food) is a shapeshifter

Perfectionism (with food) is a shapeshifter

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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — I talk a lot about intuitive eating, positive nutrition, trusting your body and learning to be at peace with food in the work I do as a registered dietitian. Because I specialize in disordered eating and chronic dieting, much of my work revolves around helping my clients recognize perfectionistic, rigid and all-or-nothing thinking with food, eating and nutrition.

Letting go of perfectionism when it comes to food is critical, because perfect eating doesn't really exist. Perfect eating isn't healthy eating and healthy eating isn't perfect eating.

So often, having the impossible idea of perfection as your goal is the very source of chaos and dysfunction with food you’re trying to avoid.

Perfectionism is sneaky, though. In fact, I think of it as a shapeshifter. It can feel like a game of whack-a-mole where you knock it down in one area of life, only to see it resurface in another. Strengthening your relationship with food — in many cases — requires a deep, hard look at your perfectionism in all areas of life, not just with food.

Here's an important thing to understand about perfectionism according to Brene Brown. "Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best," Brown said. "Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. It's a shield."

So, there's a distinction to be made here: It's not wrong or bad to try to be your best whether that's with food, with self-care or with other areas of life. But, if you take an honest look at things, it's important to separate whether you are truly trying your best or whether you believe that living or appearing perfect is somehow acting as a shield to protect yourself.

And because perfectionism is a shapeshifter, morphing and adjusting as you attempt to rid yourself of it, it’s critical to look at how you might be able to work on letting go of perfectionistic thinking altogether (imperfectly, of course).

Here are three things that can be effective in challenging perfectionistic thinking, with food and beyond.

1. Invest in quality therapy with a credentialed mental health therapist

Sitting in a therapeutic setting where you are able to explore all areas of your life and your beliefs around perfectionism and beyond is such a gift. Having someone outside of your familial and social circles who allows you to explore your authentic self can be incredibly healing. Therapists are trained to help you explore your beliefs and thoughts and help you uncover your authentic, imperfect self. Consider finding someone in your area who can help you examine your perfectionistic thinking and help you figure out who you are under your shield of perfectionism.

2. Read great books on the topic

There are some incredible books and resources about the topic of perfectionism. I recommend starting with Brene Brown’s work. She has many titles that explore the concept of perfectionism but two of my favorites are The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.

3. Practice mindfulness meditation

When it comes to mindfulness meditation, you can start by simply practicing sitting with your thoughts and feelings. Giving yourself the space to experience what you are thinking without any judgment can be a powerful way to find answers about how to best move forward. There are many great resources and books about this topic as well. Simply setting aside a few minutes each day to breathe and experience your thoughts and feelings can be healing in and of itself.

This concept of perfectionism is baked into the very culture and society we live in. It makes sense that we fall into the trap of perfectionism, but with time we can understand for ourselves that holding onto perfectionism is often the very source of chaos and distress that we’re trying to avoid. After all, there is far more peace in being relatively good, kind, calm and happy than in pushing yourself to be 100 percent anything. Shedding the false shield of perfectionism is a step toward that peace.


![Paige Smathers](http://img.ksl.com/slc/2678/267808/26780875\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: Paige Smathers --------------------------------

Paige Smathers, RDN, CD is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice and podcaster whose work revolves around helping people heal their relationships with food and their body. She specializes in chronic dieting, addiction recovery nutrition, eating disorders and family feeding dynamics. She is the owner of Positive Nutrition™, which provides individual nutrition therapy, online courses, and mentorship and coaching for professionals. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook for more food for thought!

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