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"Think Direction, Not Perfection"

Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at

I admit it – I’m a perfectionist. If I’m going to do something, I’ll do it to the best of my abilities, with a (sometimes obsessive) attention to detail. I double-check and sometimes triple-check my work, wanting it to be as error-free as possible. When I make a mistake, I am often my harshest critic.

This is especially true in relation to food and eating. After all, I, better than most, know what I should be doing, and that I may feel physically bad if I misstep. Plus, as a facilitator for the Am I Hungry? (AIH) Mindful Eating program and a health counselor in training, I experience additional internal pressure. To be a good model for those I work with, shouldn’t I be perfect?

Except I’m human. By definition, I’m not perfect, hard as that is to accept. Which is why one of the phrases I love from AIH is Dr. May’s advice to, “Think direction, not perfection.”

The goal is not to make no mistakes, but rather to learn from them. When they happen, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up but rather see what happened so that in the future we can apply that learning to achieve a different result. And in that sense, perhaps it would benefit my clients to know I still mess up now and again, and they can see how I recover.

In thinking of this, I am particularly inspired by the example of Julia Child. She started cooking on TV with a very limited budget, before they could afford multiple takes. Therefore anything that went wrong was captured forever on tape, for millions to see. Ironically, that’s one of the things viewers loved most – her humanness, her relaxed attitude toward mistakes, and how she found ways to correct them. It made her that much more accessible, and made the art of cooking less intimidating.

In that same spirit, I confess that I’ve lost and maintained weight not by having an unbreakable will but by forgiving myself for those mistakes I make and moving on. Some examples of things I still do at times include:

  • Eating when I’m not hungry out of a sense of obligation or social pressure

  • Choosing foods that might not be the healthiest option

  • Eating more than I need (see my recent Harvest on the Harbor post)

I’m very happy to have gotten to the point of acceptance and forgiveness when these mistakes happen, so I can move back into my instinctive eating cycle without wasting time or energy on making myself feel bad. While it can be hard to get to that point, it’s so important. We are, after all, only human, and direction, not perfection, is the best route we can take. It allows us to live and eat in a sustainable way, but it is also very freeing and joyful. And I’ve decided that for me, that is perfection enough.

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