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No Such Thing as A Perfect Eater

  • Eating

It’s easy to understand how anyone who’s had under- or overeating problems for a long time would think that there are people out there who are perfect eaters. You know, the ones who never overeat or allow themselves to get too hungry, who always know exactly what food they want and don’t ever feel disappointed by a poor choice, who eat nutritiously 100% of the time and never struggle over food decisions.

Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect eater. “Normal” yes, perfect no. “Normal” eaters misjudge their hunger and get ravenous or end up eating when they’re not hungry. They make unsatisfying food decisions and get stuck eating foods they don’t like. Sometimes they lose track of what they’re doing and eat too much or get side-tracked and take in too little. Their clothes may hang a little loose when they’ve been too busy or upset to eat or they may get a tad tighter when they’ve been vacationing, eating out a lot, or partying and feasting during the holidays.

The interesting question is why you might think there’s such a thing as a perfect eater and spend your life trying to become one. Perhaps you’re so sick and tired of struggling with food that you want desperately to believe you can get to the point where you’ll never have to think about it again. Maybe you fantasize that being a perfect eater would prevent you from feeling ashamed about making mistakes with food. Or perhaps you try to be perfect in everything you do so you’ll approve of or love yourself more or gain love or approval from others. Could be you even have the all-or-nothing conviction that if you’re not perfect you’ll be its opposite, a failure.

What are you really giving up when you let go of the ideal of perfection, with food and otherwise? Your answer may unlock more than your obsession with eating just right. It may give you insight into the rest of your personality that fears looking foolish, making mistakes, and failing. I’m sure you had adaptive reasons from childhood to believe you need to be perfect—being unfairly criticized, humiliated, degraded, rejected shamed, or abused for doing things wrong. But that was then and this is now. Or maybe you had parents who were perfectionists and really don’t know how to be any other way.

How about aiming your recovery at being an imperfect “normal” eater? Eating is an art not a science, and we do it from our heart as well as from our head. Set a goal that includes being a flawed human being and you can reach it every day! Give yourself the leeway to do well or poorly with food and you’ll always succeed.