Dialectical Behavior Therapy, | 07.24.21
This is exactly why being a perfectionist will make us mess up more, rather than less. Sound counter-intuitive? Here’s the thing- when we run into life’s speed bumps as perfectionists, we’re more likely to say “Screw it!” This happens all the time with our eating behaviors. Have one cookie? You say, “Well, might as well have the whole sleeve!” Or maybe after a slip up with food, you think, “well…game over now. I might as well order allllll the pasta, cheesecake, cookies (cue the binge foods.)”
The Common Pitfalls in Recovery
In psychology, this is called the Abstinence Violation Effect. It’s one of the most common pitfalls in eating disorder and addiction recovery. It’s akin to getting a flat tire and deciding to slash all the tires and torch the car. We know reasonably that we could just change the tire, but our frustration, shame, disappointment, and non-acceptance of reality lead us to make the situation even worse.
This is an old diet drama story that we DO NOT need to repeat. This summer, as you may be navigating some tricky food situations, it’s important to remember that you are human. Diet culture has led us to believe that we need to operate our food plan like robots. But that’s not how life works.
How Do We Practice Imperfection
To do things differently this year, we need to think about the skill called Dialectical Abstinence, also known as your Anti-Perfection Plan. This is the key to battling perfectionism. Here’s how it works- while we still want to aim for the gold (doing our plan to a T), we need to understand that there will be times where things don’t go as planned. These are the moments where we take a mindless bite of food or turn to food out of social pressure or to cope with our feelings. In these moments, we want to try to treat our slips with compassion and remind ourselves that it’s never too late to get back on plan!
Using the Anti-Perfection Plan is a total game-changer in your relationship with food. Slips don’t become disasters, they just become moments for learning opportunities (for more on using your slips for learning opportunities, read the blog post here on making a corrective action plan).
So if you’ve considered yourself a perfectionist and find yourself running into this on-and-off diet cycle, consider that your black-and-white thinking may not be working. Especially if you’ve tried this way for a long time, consider that if it did work, you would be totally healed and recovered by now. Truly, I’ve never ever seen perfectionism work in the long term.
Next Time You Have a Misstep
So next time you get the urge to say “screw it” after a misstep, consider that getting right back on your food plan is the only option for long-term success. It’s time to be more compassionate, forgiving, and do your best to stay the course for the long haul. Trust that you are capable of acting in your integrity with food, it just may take a shift in your beliefs and behaviors. Get right back on instead of letting your perfectionism drag you in the opposite direction.
Remember, we’re all doing the best we can. By turning our brain “on” there’s a lot of help, support, and answers for getting through a difficult situation without making it worse.
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