In my opinion, this is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to losing weight and/ or getting fit: we settle for good enough. As in, “the fried chicken really isn’t on my diet plan, but it’s better than the pasta! Ehh, good enough!”; “I did better today than yesterday!” even though we know that yesterday was ‘full of indulgences’ (code for: freakin’ terrible eating!) We also do it when we go through the motions working out: “hey, I’m here instead of on the sofa!” We’ve gotten used to the idea of not being perfect and focusing on progress. Don’t get me wrong: holding out for perfection instead of progress is the second biggest pitfall in weight loss, but there comes a time when Good really isn’t good enough anymore.
It’s like when you learn any new skillset: we either keep improving or we stagnate. Can you imagine playing Candy Crush and just staying on level four? “Ehh, level four is better than three!” Imagine telling all of your fellow Candy Crushers that you’re on level four and that’s good enough for you- they’d look at you like you were nuts! Isn’t getting better at the game the whole point of playing?
The reason this happens so much with weight loss is that- for a while- we lose weight just being good enough. Being good enough is usually enough improvement that we drop a few pounds and we feel encouraged to keep ‘being good’ but eventually our body adapts and our weight loss hits a plateau. Usually by that time, we are getting a little tired of being good. It’s that old vicious cycle again: we’ve stopped losing weight, so we’ve stopped being motivated to continue the healthy changes, and the longer we don’t lose weight, the less motivated we are to be better. In other words, we’re content to stay on level four in Candy Crush!
When it comes to eating healthier and being more active, it really is improvement vs stagnation. If we don’t keep improving, we will level off and stay there- unless we backslide, which is always a danger! This is what makes weight loss and being active so difficult for us: we have to keep improving if we want to make progress! And for most of us, even though we think we are improving (we’re sure trying!), we’ll still hit that dreaded plateau! It’s frustrating and it’s a pain in the butt and so we settle for being Good Enough by telling ourselves “at least I’m not eating as bad I used to eat!”
But that’s not the point! The point is being as healthy and as active as you want to be! If you can get there- and stay there- by being Good Enough, then congratulations! For most of us, Good Enough isn’t good enough though, and while we’re thrilled that we lost twenty pounds, those last ten pounds are still stuck on our butt! So, we’ve made progress, but we haven’t reached our goal and we’re frustrated and tired of ‘being good,’ especially since we aren’t making any more progress. For many of us, the thought of having to do more, or rather give up more, is really adding insult to perceived injury. “I stopped eating cookies and chips, lost 20 lbs and now I have to give up fruit/ bread/ pasta?! Oh, hell no!”
We need to stop thinking in terms of Good Enough, as in just doing enough to make a little progress or stay at ‘level four.’ We need to focus on doing our best every day rather than looking down at the finish line at our goal. Many times our goal is so far away we are tempted to procrastinate, as in “it’s only January. I don’t need to lose weight until Mary’s wedding in June, so I’ve still got time. I can eat these brownies tonight and worry about my diet tomorrow.” Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) calls this Good-Better-Best Thinking. When we’re faced with choices, either in food or activity, don’t settle for what’s good: formulate a better choice and your best choice, and if your best choice isn’t an option, then ‘settle’ for the better choice instead of just picking the good one. Example: you’re out with friends and the restaurant where you planned on having lunch is too crowded, so your friends opt for a pizza place instead. You had planned on having something healthy at the other place, and now you’re stuck looking at a menu full of pasta, chicken wings, pizza and giant hoagies. So, what’s a good choice? How about having one slice of pizza or just the toppings? What’s a better choice? Maybe having the unbreaded chicken wings and celery? What’s the best choice? Maybe it’s a salad or maybe it’s skipping lunch? Whatever your options are, when you start thinking in terms of good-better-best, it becomes a habit and even if you do choose to settle for good, you are acknowledging that’s what you’re doing. You don’t always have to choose the best, but by formulating your choices, you are paying attention to your actions. For most of us, when we realize we are choosing ‘good enough’ day after day (especially if you are keeping track), it soon becomes apparent why you aren’t making progress towards your goals.
We don’t always have to be The Best or spiral into depression because we ‘blew the day.’ There’s nothing wrong with aiming for perfection or the best choices all the time, but we need to acknowledge that sometimes Perfect or The Best isn’t an option. It also means we shouldn’t settle for Good Enough every time either. The point is, if The Best isn’t an option, aim for something in the middle ground. Aim for Better before settling for Good. You’ll not only make progress with your goals, you’ll likely get off level four too!