How to strive for progress over perfection

Spoiler alert: Trying to be perfect is unrealistic - and it can take us further from our goals! Science shows that accepting imperfections can actually bring us closer to where we want to be.
Published 18 October 2022

Learning to let go of perfection

Imagine you’ve had a great week of tracking without missing a beat. You were diligent with your water intake and you even managed to fit in three 30 minute walks after work. BOOM!

You’re going out with friends for dinner tomorrow and you’re excited! You’ve already looked at the menu and know exactly what you’ll order that fits in your Points Budget.

When it comes time to meet up with friends at the restaurant for dinner, once you’re seated, you get so caught up in conversation, when your friends suggest sharing entrées, you agree on autopilot.

You love each dish (most of which were likely higher in Points) and you leave not knowing how much you ate, what you ate but knowing that you went over Budget. You begin to feel frustrated, thinking “I had the perfect week and now I completely blew it.” You go home feeling defeated and decide now that your perfect week is ruined, there’s no use trying tomorrow.

Now, imagine the same scenario, but instead of expecting perfection, you’ve accepted that setbacks are normal and no one is perfect. While you wish things had gone differently, you treat yourself with self-compassion. You tell yourself that you’ll get back on track, no one is perfect— and that this one minor setback doesn’t undermine all your hard work.

In fact, once you got home, you prepped your kitchen to make a healthy breakfast so that you were more likely to eat healthy in the morning, then you went to bed.

The moral of this story is that no one is perfect, and the journey is not a straight line. When we accept our imperfections as part of what makes us human and treat ourselves the way we would a friend, we can keep moving towards our weight and wellness goals, no matter what setbacks we encounter.

Embracing the ups and downs

In any process that requires changing lifestyle habits, there are going to be ups and downs. So while it’s normal to feel frustrated when—despite your best efforts—the scale just won’t cooperate; it’s also important to remember that the scale is only one measure of success.

There are lots of other ways you can evaluate your progress:

  • Are you eating more nutritious foods?
  • Feel like you have more energy to run around with the kids?
  • Have you achieved a fitness goal?
  • Perhaps your jeans feel a little looser?

While feeling motivated to do your best can help you meet your goals, expecting or aiming for perfection can undermine your progress on your journey.

Research shows that when we strive for perfection, we are less likely to adjust a goal when we have trouble meeting it. This can lead us to give up on the goal entirely or to continue trying to reach a goal we’ll likely never meet.

Similarly, when we strive for perfection, we are actually less likely to take healthy steps, like eating healthier or moving more.

When we accept that imperfections are a part of being human, we are more likely to adjust our approach when we hit challenges and setbacks and act in ways that bring us closer to achieving our health and wellness goals.

Just because you haven’t been “perfect” does not mean you haven’t made progress.

5 tips from WeightWatchers® Coaches

We asked our WeightWatchers coaches for their expert tips to help you strive for progress over perfection on your weight-loss journey:

1. Guesstimate when you need to

It's more important to put SOMETHING in your My Day food tracker than to leave out a meal or item that could undermine the general accountability of your overall budget for the week. Using the 'quick add' feature the WW app is a great tool if you need to make a Points guess for an item or meal.

- WW Coach Kathlene M

2. Look at your monthly weight loss average

I learnt in my 14 years of WW that a weekly weigh-in result can be disheartening with the reality of gains and losses. Instead, looking at the average over 4 weeks, or your weight loss over a month is a better reflection than only focusing on your weekly result.

- WW Coach Katrina M

3. Learn how to forgive yourself and keep going

Progress is what gets results and helps us achieve our goals. Aiming to be perfect will almost always end with disappointment. Looking at your overall progress helps you celebrate how far you’ve come and to identify the changes you still need to make. Members achieve their goals not being perfect, but by moving forward every time they slip up.

- WW Coach Marie E

4. Never give up on your goals

Reaching my goal in 2012 after the birth of my son was one of the biggest personal achievements of my life. I had lost 30kg and felt fantastic. I went on to have 2 more children and managed to keep the weight off after each pregnancy. Then hello menopause at the age of 40. It’s not been easy and I gained 15kg. My moods and body shape changed a lot and it was tough. I am now focusing on fueling my body and being the strongest and healthiest that I can be. The weight is starting to release again, slower than I’d hoped, but each day I can choose to be the best version of myself and you will never see me quit!

- WW Coach Shellie F

5. There's no such thing as “the perfect time”

Don't wait for the perfect” time to lose weight - it's never going to happen! Instead, choose a day and start. It might not be faultless, but making any move towards achieving what you want to achieve is better than not making a move at all.

- WW Coach Rebecca B