How Perfectionism, People Pleasing, and Procrastination Influence Your Eating

Do you consider yourself to be a people pleaser, perfectionist and/or a procrastinator? These are common behaviors people use and associate with parts of their personalities. It may even feel like it’s who you are. However, these behaviors aren’t fixed, and you likely adapted them as a form of protection.

When I say protection, I’m not talking about your physical safety. It’s more from a sense of psychological safety and a sense of belonging.

For example, growing up did you get praised for being helpful and the “easy” one, so you learned that putting other people’s needs ahead of yours got you accepted?

Or, maybe you tried something hard and then were reprimanded for it and told you weren’t good enough either explicitly or implicitly. Moving forward, you procrastinate doing hard things for fear of failing if you can’t do it perfectly.

How many times after doing for others all day do you dive headfirst into a family size bag of chips and can’t seem to stop? Or, to be “productive” while procrastinating, you aimlessly wander around the kitchen looking for any snack you can find.

Even though our eating may not have typically made sense in those moments, there could be a connection. So, let’s break down each behavior further.

People Pleasing:

If you’re someone who tends to be a people pleaser and you put other people’s needs ahead of your own, has anyone ever told you that you should set boundaries?

While it can be helpful for self-preservation, it’s not always that simple. For example, if you’re feeling unvalued or at risk of not being lovable, then you protect yourself by putting other people’s needs ahead of yours in an effort to belong/be chosen.

So, setting boundaries won’t actually feel safe since it’ll make you feel at risk of not belonging.

How people pleasing influences our eating:
When people pleasing, we can turn to food because we’re not sure if we’re meeting the other person’s expectations so we eat to not feel like we’re failing.

And, if we set boundaries we may turn to food to release the tension since it can put us on edge and feel like we may be at risk of letting the other person down or rejection.

A tool to use to break the autopilot cycle:
Next time you catch yourself thinking ‘I should,’ or ‘I must’ when it comes to someone else and/or a food choice, check in and ask yourself, “what if the risk of rejection wasn’t real, what would I choose?” Once you determine what you want to choose, does anything shift (e.g, with your cravings, how you’re feeling about the situation, etc.)?

Perfectionism:

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do things well and as best you can. But, do you ever judge yourself, or beat yourself up if you feel like you weren’t able to meet expectations?

Being a perfectionist could be a form of emotional protection and could be one layer to your out of control eating. So, how can this show up?

How perfectionism influences our eating:
If we’re not confident, we procrastinate on a task due to the risk of failing, or being exposed. You may believe if you can’t do it perfectly, then it’s not worth doing at all.

Or, we end up being hyper productive trying to go above and beyond for acknowledgment and recognition to prove that we really are the best.

Either of these can lead us to experience an insatiable hunger and feel out of control with our eating in an effort to protect us from feeling like we’re failing in the first example.

In the second example, we burn ourselves out and have to press the release valve once we have space to collapse and breathe. Cue all the cookies and/or chocolate!

A tool to use to break the autopilot cycle:
Next time you find yourself striving for perfection and are thinking about food before, during or after, check in and ask yourself, “What would a good enough first step look like?” Or, “What if the risk of failing wasn’t real, what would I choose?”

Procrastination:

Many people say they work better under pressure, which may be true, and procrastinating starting a task may be a way to mitigate some risk you may not even realize is there. And then you find yourself in the kitchen searching for a snack.

How procrastination influences our eating:

  1. You jump from one task to the next without completing any of them. You keep feeling distracted, but in actuality there may be some discomfort or vulnerability with the task you’re working on. To avoid feeling vulnerable, you either jump to another task, or you start nibbling on some candy and then find it hard to stop.
  2. You build up everything that’s on your plate/to-do list and get overwhelmed, so you don’t know where to start. Unconsciously, there’s a risk of failing if you can’t get it all done, so instead of taking one step, you decide to plop down on the couch with a bag of chips and postpone starting anything.

A tool to use to break the autopilot cycle:

The next time you notice you’re eating because you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, ask yourself, “how can I break this down into small steps?” Or, “what’s one step I can take to start taking action?”

How do these show up for you?

If you’d like to explore and connect how these behaviors may be influencing your eating/self-sabotage, schedule a free Curiosity Call. You’ll fill me in on your challenges with your relationship with food and will have a safe space to talk about what’s been swirling around in your mind. (There’s absolutely no charge for our first chat.)

Or, if you’re not ready for that step yet, download your free ‘get back on track’ guide to help get to the bottom of why your eating feels out of control.

About Laura:

Laura is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and holds a certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). She has supported over 100 clients who know what they should be eating but have a hard time sticking to it by helping them identify the familiar patterns keeping them stuck so they can radically transform their relationship with food.

Laura is a facilitator of the research-based Truce with Food® process, which helps clients achieve sustainable results by getting to the bottom of why they fall off track and aren’t able to remain consistent. She’s also the creator of the self-study course, “Behind Your Cravings.”

After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura’s mission became helping others get to the bottom of their self-sabotaging patterns.

Laura coaches clients one-on-one, in small groups, runs workshops, speaks at summits and conferences, and has been featured in Voyage Chicago. Laura can be contacted at [email protected].

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