Do you keep lists?
A lot of lists?
Do you ever get to the end of one?
Science tells us that the very desire to get things done well can prevent us from getting them done at all. As I suggest to patients, “the perfect is the enemy of the good. Or even the good enough.”
Recently researchers have turned their attention to the important but neglected area of binge-eating disorder. Perfectionism, the ultimate set-up for disappointment, can lead us to binge. Watch how often you, your child or family use the word “perfect.” Then try to substitute another. As we used to say in the hospital, in groups of anorexic girls, “I never met a perfect woman but if I did, I don’t think I would like her. She wouldn’t be real.”
Dr. Simon Sherry, an assistant professor of psychology at Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia, has published “The Perfectionism Model of Binge Eating,” a paper examining the connection between perfectionism and binge-eating in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The article is co-authored by Peter Hall of the University of Waterloo.
You can read a review of their paper here at Science Daily.
As the author points out, “Perfectionists are often not self-aware and are reluctant to seek help, posing a conundrum. They don’t want to admit they’re imperfect.”
Sherry also adds: “I’m hopeful that students will read about this and realize that there are effective interventions for binge eating, including some help for perfectionism change is possible.”
Photo credit: palo
Many mothers have asked me seriously whether juice is something I would “do”? They seemed worried that they were serving a child drugs in a little cardboard box with a bendable straws. How sad that there is so much to worry about. And sadder that we focus on such tiny things and become distracted from joy.
Playdates can be complex negotiations about foods that are ‘off-limits.’ Anaphylactic shock, risk of diabetic coma, these are reasons to focus on your child’s intake. Mere calorie-counting is not. The current war on obesity must be waged on the right battlegrounds; these battlegrounds are usually neighborhoods without safe outdoor space and schools without healthy snacks. Many families and communities need real help and education about nutrition.
But we are besieged by a new cult of thinness. Anorexia has arrived again wearing the mask of health. And worse: “good mothering.” Parents and children now protest as they restrict: “I just want to be healthy. I just want to eat healthier. The news science of health tells us we will live longer the less we eat.” I have heard children recite caloric intake and name trans-fats. I have heard children tell little friends that their food “isn’t healthy ” for them. A six-year-old girl asked her playmate: “Why does your mother let you eat food that is bad for you?”
Making children focus on their food is not healthy. No young child needs to worry about nutritional values. Recently I spoke to an oral surgeon who told me proudly that none of his children had one cavity. However, he added, they did have eating disorders.
Cavities or anorexia?
The French have a real tradition of afterschool snacks, ‘une gouter.’ Nutella, anyone? Taste—they understand—is part of what makes life rich.