You might think that perfectionism can help you to avoid unhealthy food choices. But many people’s experiences show that it can only make things worse.
Watch a long term raw vegan Chris Kendall, legendary Banana Commander sharing his experience with perfectionism.
What is perfectionism?
To be a perfectionist essentially means that we are trying to force life to be exactly how we want it to be. In other words, we want everything to happen on our terms, which is unrealistic.
You might think that you are not a perfectionist. But if you do have an addictive behavior, there is probably a hidden perfectionist inside of you. Yes, even if your room is messy. It’s not always about being perfect in the eyes of others. It might be about getting anything in your life exactly how you want it.
The most challenging task for perfectionists is to allow things to be as they are. We need everything to be extra enjoyable, exciting, dramatic, or it can be something else that we feel we need. That’s why we continuously need stimulation, like drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, food, or other addictive substances or behaviors. With food, it’s much harder to see where our physiological need ends and where addictive behavior starts.
When we allow ourselves to be present without numbing or stimulating ourselves, it forces us to feel things we might not want to feel. Something inside us is trying to come to the surface, but that we are afraid or reluctant to deal with it. This something is most often a childhood trauma, some emotional challenge.
Signs of perfectionism
As perfectionists, we are often making promises that we are not able to keep. We are trying to do everything all at once. And as a result, we overextended ourselves. We can get overwhelmed and obsessed with the tiny details of a task or the way we feel. The world has to be a certain way for us. That’s the sickness. An emotionally healthy person would strive towards perfection, but not get obsessed and upset if not all the little details are not perfect.
Another sign of being a perfectionist is to be constantly aware of the imperfections of others. And at the same time to be scared to death for other people to see our mistakes. It’s a massive fear of inadequacy.
Perfectionism has its roots in trauma; that’s how we develop it.
As perfectionists we are afraid to show our human nature because of the fear of inadequacy. We like to point out the mistakes of others because it makes us feel better and takes attention off ourselves.
Struggling to fix it
Perfectionists tend to struggle with spiritual and self-care practices. We think, “I don’t deserve it yet, but I can deserve it later.” We feel that we have to prove our worth first.
We tend to think that if someone is pointing out something that we are doing wrong, it’s because they don’t like us. But nothing can be further from the truth; in fact, it’s usually just the opposite.
It’s challenging for us to make decisions because we are afraid to make the wrong ones.
Can a perfect plan solve my food addiction?
You can follow a perfect diet, exercise plan, meditation, etc. But if you don’t change the way you think and your perfectionism, you’ll still find yourself addicted or stressed. The worst thing that you can do to yourself as a perfectionist is to follow an exact diet and exercise plan. It leads to judging ourselves harshly as we measure our progress with the wrong gage. So we keep on hiding behind our perfectionism.
Perfectionism keeps us going from one extreme to another. Feeling less than, or better than. It’s an old coping skill that protected us from being hurt. We’re trying to preserve our sense of self, not realizing that this is not who we are. The personality that we are trying to protect is a collection of ideas, limiting beliefs, empowering beliefs, trapped emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. And this collection can and should be changed if we want to grow as a person. It is not easy, it takes practice, persistence, right knowledge, and support, but it is possible.
It’s happening to me as I write this sentence. The sour taste appeared in my mouth out of nowhere when I got a bit nervous about been unsure how to explain my thoughts in this article. At that moment, my first reaction was to grab some snack to get rid of this sour sensation. It happens to me all the time, and most of the time, I am not even conscious about the reasons for my food cravings. But this time, as I noticed it and wrote it down, the feeling disappeared.
Yes, I am a food addict. I am a fully raw vegan, so I eat very healthy foods. But I am still addicted to fixing my reality with food if you know what I mean. And I can quite easily go without food for a long time if I don’t have to work. I fasted on water only for 40 days without having to work. Working on a project that will be public in any way is often giving me anxiety or discomfort, just like the one I described above.
Addiction or physiological need?
Food is a part of our daily life (unless you are a breatharian 😀 ), it’s not like cigarettes or alcohol that you are dropping altogether. And as raw foodists, we suppose to eat a lot, since fruits and veggies are low in calories. But eating until you are physically satisfied is different from using food as a coping mechanism.
I never considered myself a perfectionist, because the things I do, my clothes and my place are very far from perfect. But after digging into the research about the connection between addictions and perfectionism, I started seeing that I am a perfectionist in my own, funny way. But this realization gives me the power to change things. And I already started the process of breaking free from my addiction to using food as a way to deal with anxiety.
How to release your cravings
We can allow ourselves to be teachable and vulnerable if we are willing to take emotional risks. We need to start being honest and expose our weaknesses. We’re hiding because we have so much pain, hurt, and feelings of inadequacy. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Modern psychologists developed effective methods and practices for letting go of addictive behaviors and perfectionistic personalities.
There are many psychologists and personal coaches who recommend dealing with cravings by avoiding them and distracting yourself with other activities. But it’s much more efficient to look at your food cravings even more closely and carefully. If you identify, describe, and pinpoint your emotions, thoughts, and sensations exactly, it will be much easier for you to let them go for good.
Next time you will notice a desire to eat something when you are not hungry, try to identify where in your body, you feel this craving. Grab a little notebook or your phone and write down where you felt it and also your thoughts.
For example, “I feel it in my chest.” And “I would love to eat a couple of dates right now. I feel a bit nervous.”
After you collect this information for a few days, you will start noticing specific patterns. Look at them closely and see what your actual need is. Write it down.
Find ways to give yourself what you need. Offer yourself emotional support as you would to your best friend. Allow yourself space and time to be just the way you are, perfectly imperfect. Allow your life to be as it is also. Beautiful in its imperfection, filled with a variety of sensations and opportunities to grow as a human being.
Open up for opportunities to seek support from others. Connect to likeminded people, tell a good friend or a loved one about your battles, if you feel that they are ready for it. Or find a therapist who would be happy to support you. If you can’t find anybody, look on social media. Look for someone just like you and offer your support. Support each other. If you are brave – write about your challenges on your social media page. Or drop me a line on Instagram messages: @happyrawreny
PS. I borrowed most of the descriptions of perfectionism in addictive behaviors from this excellent lecture.