Is Perfectionism Making You Fat?

Thoughtful woman with problemAn alternative title could be: Is Perfectionism Keeping You Fat?

I’ve written a lot about stress and my unsuccessful attempts at losing weight* . If you life is so stressful that you can barely cope, you probably won’t be very successful in your attempts to stick to a healthier lifestyle.

There are many practical and concrete things to decrease your daily stress, but I’m not really interested in them here.

I’m interested in the ways you create your own stress, and I’m especially interested in how perfectionist thinking causes stress.


I’m not just blabbing my mouth here.

According to Judith Beck’s book Beck Diet Solution, the rigid rules that are characteristic of perfectionist thinking can cause a lot of unnecessary stress in your life. If you’re a perfectionist, you may have endless lists of shoulds you expect yourself – and perhaps other people around you –  to follow without exception.

  • I should always try to do my best.
  • I shouldn’t rely on others.
  • I shouldn’t let people down.
  • I should always put other people first
  • I should never be unhappy and upset

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples.

It’s really hard for perfectionists to recover from their diet slip ups, because they usually see them in terms of black or white: as a complete failure or complete success. And because perfectionists are usually very self-critical, they rarely even enjoy about success. Nothing really compares to the unrealistic standards they set for themselves.

Also, I just recently came by a research article that discusses the connection between perfectionism and eating disorders. When I saw the title of the paper – The role of stress in the association between low self-esteem, perfectionism, and worry, and eating disorders – I was flabbergasted. How did they know I’m a perfectionist with low esteem, and a big worrier too?

According to a Finnish nutrition scientist (my “guru” Patrik Borg), the more you worry about your diet and weight, the more difficult your weight maintenance will be.


I’ve declared a war against my perfectionism. I don’t do it merely to lose weight, but because I think I will have more fun and find more satisfaction in life if I can relax my overly rigid standards.

I end the post with a paragraph I found in Tal-Ben Shahar’s book The Pursuit of Perfect:

Those who intensely fear failing end up falling short of their potential. We either learn to fail or fail to learn.

* I’ve lost 3.8 kg / ~8 lb in the last four months.


  1. I very much agree that perfectionism can pretty much shut down any endeavor…if we have to be perfect we know (deep down inside) that we “can’t” do it. I am a big fan of taking imperfect action these days. 🙂

    • Satu says:

      Hi Karen!

      I have plenty of examples of that in my life! And it robs all enjoyment and spontaneity out of your life if you let it.

  2. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! I think that last time I looked at your weight loss, I thought of it in my mind as 3.8 pounds instead of 3.8 kgs. 3.8 kgs is so much better!!!! Congratulations!

    Perfection is impossible. It eventually makes a person shut down. As a person who has perfectionist tendencies, I have to admit that I think it is sort of a cop-out to avoid moving forward. We all know nothing will turn out perfect. Even perfectionists know that. Yet, some part of us wants to remain stuck, even though moving forward feels better.

    I also think perfectionists may be afraid of making mistakes. For my professional work, I’m always kind of concerned that I spelled “shirt” without an “r,” or double negatived a sentence to make it the opposite of what I’m arguing. In the U.S., we grew up with history books that never mentioned mistakes of great leaders. They all made mistakes. It is okay that we make mistakes.

    In TOPS, many members have shown me all of their weight gains (in red) to explain to me that even with some mistakes, a person can succeed at weight loss.

    🙂 Marion

    • Satu says:

      I think that cop out is a perfect way of describing perfectionism.:-) And for perfectionists, life always ends up being unsatifsying because they sit in the sidelines and watch life going by.. or they are so stressed out they can’t enjoy anything!

  3. Congrats on the weight loss! And I love this post. As you know I am a recovering perfectionist and trying to change that behaviour – but it’s a struggle.

    Love the quote as well!

    • Satu says:

      I’m trying to keep that quote in my mind when I press ahead! 🙂

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