When I first changed to a plant-based diet, I found myself getting thrown off track and giving up prematurely by making it too complicated for myself.
One way I made this mistake was with perfectionistic thinking; getting hung up on tiny details that don’t affect the larger picture but might seem like they do at the time.
The problem with this is that these seemingly harmless concepts got me bogged down and stuck in analysis paralysis.
You know that feeling when you’re overthinking everything, your brain gets tired, and you throw your hands up and say, “Screw it!” and order a pizza?
Rules can make us feel good. Having guidelines to follow gives us structure and can be helpful.
But they cross into unhelpful and downright sabotaging when we become hyper-focused on them.
And when we get so hung up on the idea of being perfect that we’re sabotaging our chances at success, then these rules are no longer serving their purpose, and we’ve missed the point.
What Ideas Are Setting Me up to Fail?
At some point in time, many of us have fallen prey to these limiting ideas or beliefs, myself included.
Here’s just a sampling of some of the excuses I’ve made or heard others make to justify giving up on eating healthily.
- Only buying organic
- Only buying non-GMO
- Only buying fresh, not frozen or canned
- Not using pre-packaged convenience items and making everything fresh from scratch (like making your own hummus or almond milk) or even no prepared vegetables like grated carrots or bagged salads
- Not using a microwave
- Only eating SOS free (Sugar, Oil, Salt)
- Anything else that stops you from seeing the big picture
There is nothing wrong with choosing to do the things on this list. But if you’re like me, giving up before I even started because I couldn’t do it “perfectly,” then you need to reassess the situation.
Once these concepts disrupt our ability to make healthy progress in our lives, they are no longer serving us and are actually undermining our health and happiness.
Why Perfectionism Is Unhealthy
Perfectionistic thinking is unhealthy because the truth is, despite what your Instagram feed might have you believe, there is no such thing as perfect.
It just doesn’t exist.
We are creating an ideal for ourselves that is impossible to meet.
When we set up these imaginary rules for ourselves and inevitably can’t meet them consistently, we give up.
But perhaps the more harmful result is that we begin to formulate a belief about ourselves that we are failures because we can’t live up to the standards we set for ourselves.
That critical inner voice is a liar and does not have your best interest in mind. You can’t make progress when you’re stuck in that mindset.
How to Fix All-or-Nothing Thinking
Remember that you can gain health even with imperfections.
Quality is important, but a good result should be the goal. And you can get a good result without meeting all these arbitrary rules.
Those who are consistently eating according to a whole food plant-based diet (even if they are consuming non-organic, GMO, from a can, or microwaved food) see results without having to be perfect.
Please recognize that a whole-food plant-based diet’s principles are to eat fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables and tubers, whole grains, and legumes in abundance. Enjoy plant-based milk, tofu, tempeh, whole grain pasta and bread, nuts, seeds, and nut butter in moderation. Avoid or minimize dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, oils, refined sweeteners, and white bread, pasta, and rice.
Nowhere in that list does it say you have to make it unnecessarily hard on yourself by adding in additional rules. Choosing whole plant-based foods alone will create a marked improvement in your health and wellness.
To change our all-or-nothing thinking, we need to keep a few things in mind:
- Be kind to yourself. Have some compassion, take a step back and stop the negative self-talk.
- Focus on what you are doing right. We can get so wrapped up in what we think we’re doing wrong that we don’t make any room to notice everything we’re doing right. Recognize that every day you are improving and that positive change is still happening.
- Remind yourself of your end goal. Overall health and wellbeing do not require you to meet some made-up standard of perfection.
- Focus on consistency. Progress, not perfection. Any action that you take towards your goals is a step in the right direction, and consistently showing up will get you to see results.
A crucial point to remember in your health journey is that progress is messy and non-linear. We often revisit old lessons with fresh eyes, taking what we’ve learned in the past and applying it to the same old challenges while seeing new hurdles we were unable to grasp the first time around.
It is so important to remind ourselves that progress is not a straight shot from Point A to Point B. Knowing that the road is winding and sometimes doubles back on itself can help you when you feel like you can’t go on.
The way we move forward through those tangled spots is with consistency because if we’re waiting to take action until we can do something perfectly, we’ll be waiting forever.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: You don’t need to be perfect to get healthy and see benefits.
What good is it to your high cholesterol or heart health if you choose not to eat healthy because you can’t be perfect? Your body would rather that you eat conventional frozen GMO veggies than none at all.
Of course, you want to take the best care of your body, but the truth is that it’s highly forgiving. Don’t get caught up in the minutiae and end up doing the exact opposite.
Remember that you are striving for progress, not perfection.
Now I’d love to hear from you: What excuses have you found yourself making that are keeping you stuck in old habits? Leave a comment below and let me know!