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Food For Thought

Can a "good enough" habit effort be good enough to work?

Sandwich on bun with lettuce

Are you one of those people for whom doing less than "all the things" means you might as well do nothing? Do you give up on making eating habit changes if you have an off day or even an off week?

Listen, you're human, so striving for perfection is futile.

As humans, nothing we do will ever be perfect—we know that. Yet here are, still hoping to follow that diet plan perfectly, or stick to our workout schedule perfectly.

Trying to attain perfection usually leads to either inaction or obsession—neither of which is a good place to be. It also doesn't feel good to torture ourselves into self-improvement. Which would you rather experience: happiness and some progress at an 80% effort or misery and burnout at a 100% effort?

The key is to figure out how to get good results from habit changes that are "good enough."

Trying to attain perfection usually leads to either inaction or obsession...

What a "good enough" effort does for you and your eating habits

A "good enough" effort isn't just any effort. And my "good enough" effort might be your half-hearted effort. So how can you tell what a "good enough effort is? Here are some characteristics:

  • It sets "guardrails" for you. You're not trying to strong-arm yourself into better eating, but you realize that you need some boundaries in place and you're doing it from a place of self-love.

  • It prevents you from over-reaching and burning out. You've no doubt heard the saying "Done is better than perfect." One aspect of living that concept means that you stop spreading yourself so thin that you end up making no progress on anything because nothing has your focused attention.

  • It doesn't require you to put off parts of your life in order to achieve some results. Not going to the beach until you can fit into your bathing suit from 5 years ago, not going to the fancy restaurant or the party until you've lost some weight—these are the kinds of things that perfectionists miss out on. You don't need to earn fun experiences this way.

  • It's not just laziness. It's not a free pass or an invitation to "phone it in." It's a way of operating in the world where you set priorities, meet thoughtful daily targets for yourself, and still get to live your life.

  • It helps you recognize that the long game is where the magic is. You are you only competitor here, and of course you have an outcome you're looking for. But putting expectations on yourself that you’ll get there in 30 days or 3 months sets you up for journey filled with dread and self-recrimination. It causes you to overdo and rush through.

  • It can get you where you want to be IF you do it consistently. Reaching your good enough goal day after day will work—and often better than the ups and downs/starts and stops that happen in pursuit of perfection.

A good-enough effort isn't just any effort. It's not an invitation to just "phone it in."

Decide what will make a "good enough" day for you

  1. Think about the fundamental habits that will do the most for you. The idea is to have your "good enough" day actually move you along the progress path or at least help you maintain progress, not just be something to do. Don't waste time on things that won't contribute to the outcome you desire.

  2. Choose 1-3 things that you'll accomplish on your "good enough" day. For example, if the fundamental areas that are important to your goal are things like getting enough protein, hydration and movement, you could choose one thing you'll do in each category. One could be getting in a 20 minute walk every day (remember, we are talking about something you can do on your busiest or worst day, so the bar has to be achievable). For protein, it might be having a protein shake, or getting 25g protein at each meal (if you track those things). Hydration is pretty easy for most folks, but it's important so still a good one to include. It can also be a starting point if this way of thinking is new to you. Your "good enough" day habit for hydration might be starting and finishing your day with a big glass of water, or having water with all your meals.

  3. Do a simple tracking of your fundamental habits, perhaps on your calendar or on an app. Just trying to keep up a streak can be motivating—even if you're the only one who knows about it. A star on your kitchen calendar works. Of course, if you did more than your "good enough" effort, of course that would earn a star as well!

  4. Be ready to adjust your "good enough" habits as you get better at them. The height of your low bar effort will eventually move up—that's the beauty of keeping consistent habits, even if they aren't terribly difficult.

Give yourself permission to just meet your "good enough" goal

Finally, letting yourself be ok with just doing your "good enough" habits is important. Beating yourself up for only doing your "good enough" fundamentals is counterproductive to having them. Fully allow yourself to just meet these goals, not exceed them. Tomorrow is another day, and maybe you'll be able to do more then.

If you found this post helpful or interesting, reply back to me or leave a comment!


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Right now, all members of the women-only Eating Habits Lab Facebook group have access to the brand new Shake Your Sugar Habit Mini-Course. If sugar is your dietary downfall, this is the course for you! It's just 3 modules and consisting of a few videos and worksheets. You'll figure out your "worst offender" sweets and map out new habits to handle sugar and those troublesome sweets. Join the EHL Facebook Group today if you want this mini-course (it will be for sale elsewhere, but is free to group members)!


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