Let go of perfection to make lasting progress with weight loss

Perfectionism and weight loss don’t mix.

Humans are rarely perfect. The only perfect person I know is not somebody whose company I enjoy. I avoid her.

She's so perfect she can't go out of the house until her house is perfect. Not even a fingerprint on the coffeemaker can be allowed to mar the perfection of her home!

She’s so perfect she can’t go out of the house until her house is perfect. Not even a fingerprint on the coffeemaker can be allowed to mar the perfection of her home. Ugh.

She’s annoyingly, hair-pullingly, obnoxiously perfect! I’m okay with “great” and “excellent” but perfect – ugh! No!

Some things simply aren’t meant to be done perfectly. Weight loss is one of them. The perfectionist personality generally takes an all-or-nothing attitude towards everything.

“If I can’t do it perfectly, it’s not worth doing.”

"If I can't stick to this perfect eating and exercising plan....

“If I can’t stick to this perfect eating and exercising plan….

"...then it doesn't matter what I do!"

“…then it doesn’t matter what I do!”

That statement isn’t a problem, but the problem is that “not worth doing,” is another way of saying, “Bad is bad. There are no degrees of bad, badder, baddest, and worst.” 

For more than 20 years I was deeply immersed in the horse world as an owner, breeder, and competitor. I don’t have horses anymore but I still keep up with the horse world. Recently I found this great advice on Denny Emerson’s Tamarack Hill Farm Facebook page.

Denny Emerson, was named one of the most influential horsemen of the 20th century in 2000 by The Chronicle of the Horse. He is an eventer, trainer, coach, author, leader, activist, and, as already mentioned, has been a significant, influential force in the equestrian community for a half-century. 

Denny Emerson

Denny Emerson

He offers this wise advice:

“I think that one of the big reasons that so many humans don`t exercise, and that horses don`t GET exercised has to do with the “all or nothing” fallacy.

As in, “I am so out of shape that unless I join the gym, run, do push-ups, there is no hope for me.”

You KNOW that ain`t gonna happen, and that knowledge is so depressing that you curl up on the couch, crack another Bud, open another box of Cheetos, and watch reruns.

Screw the gym. Go sweep the barn aisle. It needs doing anyway. Then grab Thunderball, groom him—which is hard work, ergo, good for both of you—and take him for a nice 45 minute to one hour walk.

Try this 3-4 times a week. See where it goes—-“

Of course he’s speaking to people who own and ride horses, but the concept can be applied to anybody.

“All or nothing” thinking holds us back.

A little is better than none, and from a little we can continue to add more “littles” until we accomplish something big. If we don’t get started because we want to start with big, we can’t even count on status quo. If we don’t work on getting better, we will only get worse.

He made some references to unhealthful habits – sitting on the couch drinking beer and snacking on cheetos – not as an accusation but to illustrate “black and white behavior.” It put the opposite of joining the gym, running, and doing push-ups into perspective.

Denny didn’t “kick any butts,” he doesn’t “bang people over the head to get them going,” he doesn’t speak with judgmental or moralistic overtones. Instead he suggests we “go out to the barn. Do some sweeping and some grooming and take a nice ride on a “good friend” who can benefit from the activity as much as we can.

If you don’t ride you can translate this to:
  • Get a little activity that makes you feel productive.
  • Do a chore that needs doing.
  • Then get some more activity doing something that is enjoyable and if you can include pleasant company, all the better.
  • Only commit to 45-60 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week.
Then see where it takes you…
Progress not Perfection! Try it, you'll like it!

Progress not Perfection. Try it, you’ll like it.

I’m betting it will take you on your way to where you want to be and the journey will only get easier and more rewarding.


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.