My Portion: When Good Enough is Enough

by Jenn (eating bender) on August 11, 2008

When push comes to shove, I’ve always loved writing. So it may come as no surprise that I’ve been wanting to write longer, more meaningful posts for quite some time now. I don’t know how often I will be able to write them, nor do I know what the topic will be from month to month. But without further ado, I want to introduce you to the newest segment of eating bender, called My Portion. For links to all of these long form posts (as I write them), please visit the My Portion tab at the top of the site.

Disclaimer: You don’t have to agree with what I write about. In fact, feel free to disagree with me. The point of this segment is to express one girl’s opinion on topics that I feel are relevant and important. Thanks!

Today’s topic seems particularly timely (completely by coincidence, by the way – love that blog world mind connection we’ve got going on) considering that Heather at Hangry Pants, MizFit and Kelly from Grounded Fitness have all posted their own thoughts on the subject.


When Good Enough is Enough

Good enough. Satisfactory. Sufficient. Passable. Presentable. Adequate.

For me, these six adjectives have, in the past, been summed up by one noun.


At school, being good enough is out of the question. It’s important for me to excel in all areas of study, even those that are completely unfamiliar to me. I don’t cut myself any slack and I’m not willing to make any excuses for poor performance. My life is consumed by letters and numbers as I strive for straight A’s and a GPA that will allow me to graduate with the highest honors. Anything less, anything that’s simply good enough, brings disappointment.

And college is supposed to be the best time of my life?

Lest you might come to the conclusion that I am actually a hermit who spends her every waking moment cooped up in the library among piles of musty textbooks and an Apple laptop, I feel I must make clear that overall, I really do enjoy my time at school. Turns out whoever said that college years are the best years was right. I am able to manage my studies in such a way that allows me to truly enjoy my weekends: spending time with my friends, my roommate or my boyfriend and participating in some of the stereotypical college student activities. Even so, schoolwork is always in the back of my mind, and I can’t help but catch myself feeling guilty for staying out late and sleeping the morning away when there’s a 20-page paper prompt glaring at me from across my bedroom.

“Keep ignoring me,” it taunts, “and I’ll only be good enough.”

Knowing this about me, it should come as no surprise that my good enough is not enough mentality has, at one time or another, permeated into other aspects of my life, including food, nutrition and overall health. In fact, there are numerous occasions that I can recall conversations similar to the following:

ME: I only exercised 6 days this week.

FRIEND: That’s good enough!*

ME: Ugh, I’m so disappointed. Now I will probably gain weight and lose all of my muscle…

*It wasn’t specifically “good enough” that was used, but it was similar in meaning.

If you’ve been reading eating bender long enough, you can probably recognize that I am not that girl anymore. For those of you who don’t know me, know this: if I miss a workout, I know that there will be another day, another time and another opportunity. It has taken me several years to realize and accept this seemingly logical concept. But I no longer feel guilty. I realize now that whatever I am able to accomplish is good enough. And I couldn’t be happier.

The same mentality can now (finally) be applied to food. Gone are the days where I measured out every portion and counted every calorie, as if just one calorie over my “limit” would doom me for the rest of my life.

Now, there is no limit. I never eat the same amount of food each day. There are weeks where I feel completely healthy, as though I got everything just right. There are also weeks where I know I’ve overindulged a bit too much. Either way, I know that my eating habits are good enough. And even though there are days that I am fully aware of how many calories I’ve consumed, there are three key differences between where I am now and where I used to be:

1) I typically will only check the calorie count if I am going out to eat and would like to have a general idea of what I am putting into my mouth.

2) I never will count calories for an entire day. I don’t care enough about the final number to make it that far. In fact, much of the time I’m counting to make sure I am eating enough calories. I will never again plan my meals according to caloric allotment.

3) I will never feel guilty about eating something that’s higher in calories when I know that every ingredient is pure, wholesome and fueling for my body.

So it isn’t hard to imagine my initial reaction when I came across an article on entitled “The good enough guide to health.”

First of all, I was thrilled to see an article that shows people that living healthy doesn’t have to be time-consuming, stressful and impossible to maintain.

The article claims that while perfectionism may seem like something to strive for, when it comes to healthy living, being good enough is enough. There is a “gold standard” that says you should aim for 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. But getting in 5 servings is good enough. There is a “gold standard” that says you should aim for 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. But getting in 17 minutes of exercise every day is good enough.

Sound familiar? It did to me.

Basically, it confirmed my current state of mind. Perhaps being good enough is actually synonymous with meeting one’s goal, not disappointment. And by being good enough, we are also acknowledging that we are, in fact, capable of accomplishing even more.

So good enough is enough for me now, at least when it comes to my health. School is still another story. But I’m working on it.

1 Nicole August 11, 2008 at 7:21 pm

That was a really inspirational post! Thank you for writing it.

I have to work on being okay with good enough a bit still, but I’m on my way! I know my habits are far more healthy than ever before and I have to stop striving for the impossible perfection!

Really, thank you!

2 HangryPants August 11, 2008 at 7:22 pm

How interesting that we wrote on similar topics at the same time. I guess we are more alike than we would have imagined. Actually, I’m not surprised because I love your blog and see a lot of myself in what you say.

You’re a great writer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m going to link this post to my blog if that’s ok.

3 alicia August 11, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Being good enough is not easy. We compare ourselves against others and it’s natural to do so but can be demoralising at times. It’s great when we come out on top but a tad depressing when we realise we are not good enough.

Well, we all have strengths and weaknesses so shouldn’t beat ourselves up too badly. However it’s so easy to be overly critical with ourselves these days as we compare ourselves to celebrities, people we read about in the news etc.

Hence we must strike a balance. Not easy. But we must try.

4 VeggieGirl August 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Jenn, this is fabulous – as a fellow passionate writer, I appreciate the time YOU take to write your real thoughts. Love the new “My Portion” feature!!

5 HangryPants August 11, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Link me, baby!

I would love it if we could spread the word that accepting less than perfection is where it’s at. :)

6 glidingcalm August 11, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Wow Jenn! Im glad you LOVE writing, because I LOVED reading this. **Cheeseball alert**. I am also a perfectionist, and so I could really relate to this post. It’s SO HARD for me to sometimes say ” it’s okay to rest “…you don’t HAVE to always be studying, doing something to train for skating (cross-straining, weight lifting, more dance), always cleaning, always working…. it’s okay to just relax and breathe sometimes…and not only is it OKAY, but it’s necessary to my health and well-being! Thanks so much for sharing, and I really look forward to more of this new “My portion” feature! Yay Jenn!

7 Mandee Lei August 11, 2008 at 7:51 pm

I spent many years being exactly as you described. In school it had to be A’s, I knew I could do it so I wouldn’t settle for less. I struggled with eating for a long time because I always felt less was more and it was showing some kind of willpower to always be able to say no, which to me meant strength. I was always feeling I had to do my ‘best’. Every work out. Every day. Every meal. All the time. I had that ‘Aha!’ moment only a few short months ago. I was going to the gym straight after working 8 hrs and doing this every day of the week. I was miserable. I missed the quality time I got to spend with my husband and family when I got off work. I missed feeling like I had the ability to make choices and to live life! It doesn’t matter how fit you feel if you aren’t really happy. I realized I had to make my happiness as much of a priority as my health. Life is just too short. I started running outdoors again, and doing yoga, hiking, swimming, things I hadn’t done in years. Things I loved.
Sorry to blab on about myself. I just felt so connected to your story that I had to post. I’ll look forward to more in the future :]

8 Fit Bottomed Girls August 11, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m in 100 percent agreement with you on this and have been pretty much the same my whole life. It took me a couple of years out of college to figure it out, so congrats at getting it early. :)

I love the new longer posts! Keep ’em coming! -Jenn

9 fitnessista August 11, 2008 at 8:06 pm

i totally adore this new addition to your blog– you are a very talented writer and i totally agree with everything you said!!
like you, i am also a super perfectionist when it comes to grades and school, which is why i’m dreading starting my master’s next week. hopefully i can remember this awesome essay and remind myself that it’s ok to relax a little!
i’m very excited for the upcoming posts in this new segment!
take care,

10 addicted2pb August 11, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Wow… this is very well written. I definitely have gone through a stage of feeling not good enough in regards to grades (perfectionist high school/college friends will do that to you) and in eating, but I think it gets better every day. And reading this certainly helped too :)

11 Danielle August 11, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Bravo, thank you so much for sharing such a well-written and wonderful piece. We are lucky to have a girl like you in the blogosphere :)

12 Little Black Dress August 11, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Jenn, this is a fabulous post. you are an excellent writer and very inspiring. I could really identify with everything you said, only you said it much more eloquently! Thanks so much!

13 Sarah August 11, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Thanks for sharing this Jenn, it’s awesome! This post is definitely more than good enough : )

I know EXACTLY how you feel in all of your points, as I struggle with the same issues. I’m so proud that you have reached the realization that you don’t have to be perfect all the time when it comes to nutrition and fitness. I really wish that I was at the place you are but unfortunately I’m still really struggling. I know it’s a long, hard process that doesn’t happen overnight and I am getting there slowly but surely. This piece really is inspirational and I know that it will help me in finding the healthy balance I’m looking for.

Thanks for the honesty and for all the hard work and energy you put into this blog and in commenting on others!

14 jenngirl August 11, 2008 at 10:10 pm

great post! i agree that we’ve become a society of people where “good enough” is synonymous with failure, it’s sad. it’s still a struggle for me to let go of being right on target as far as eating and exercise, but it’s seeing people like you actually live a life of balance that let me know i’ll get there. thanks! :)

15 Sharon August 11, 2008 at 10:45 pm

This was a very insightful post.

“Good enough” can mean balance.

16 Melissa August 11, 2008 at 11:05 pm

seriously, i think i might be your twin.

hahaha…i was totally like that in school, my friends even called me “the hermit” because i stayed in so much to study my flip’n butt off…and i was def that way with food too…i got pretty bad with it, but like you, as you can tell from my blog, i’m no longer like that anymore.

great post hun. i love it and that you’re going to be doing this more in the future!

17 runroamrecycle August 11, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Dear Jenn,

You’re amazing.

Mmm.. I think that was it. See ya later =]

18 Caroline August 11, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Jenn, this post resonates so much with me. I’ve talked about my history with anorexia on my blog before, and I think the root of it directly relates to what you’ve discussed here.
It seems like we both suffer from the same academic pressures, too–I am surrounded my bright people, and I constantly feel the pressure to be the best. Having an A- is good, but not the best. It’s something I struggle with every day while I am at school. In short, I completely relate.
I love this new segment of eating bender–can’t wait to see your future posts.
Take care,

19 Erin August 12, 2008 at 12:17 am

It was a privilege to read this post, and it’s a privilege to know you. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us struggle with. This was very individual, of course, but it’s almost like you were speaking to, and for, your readers.
I’m amazed and admire your growth!

20 MizFit August 12, 2008 at 5:27 am

LOVE how youve pulled all our thoughts together into an awesome post.

good enough IS, indeed, enough.

now to remember that…

21 Erica August 12, 2008 at 6:14 am

Girl, your blog is awesome! I love how you keep adding different things to it! I loved todays post. Reading about how you feel about school sounds exactly like how I felt about school. I was always consumed (even when I was out with friends). Thank you for this! Keep up the amazing work!

22 Fitzalan August 12, 2008 at 9:05 am

The same mentality can now (finally) be applied to food. Gone are the days where I measured out every portion and counted every calorie, as if just one calorie over my “limit” would doom me for the rest of my life.

For years I felt like if I went over by 15 calories over my allocated goal, I would gain weight. How illogical this is, but I simply felt like a failure if I went over.

Thank you for such a honest post. I am in your situation when it comes to a lot of things (hello undergrad—I don’t remember much of any fun because I always had school work on my mind.)

Now if only you could come live with me and teach me how to accept the ‘good enough’ philosophy. I have gotten there with the calorie counting but I am still a perfectionist in many other aspects of my life.

Love this post!

23 Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food) August 12, 2008 at 11:00 am

Jenn, this was such a well-written and thoughtful post. Thanks so much for sharing and providing great insight! I look forward to reading more of your My Portion posts :)

24 Grounded Fitness August 12, 2008 at 11:03 am

great post! and Im glad you are taking your writing firther- its great to write about what you care about and have peeople give you feedback.

and “my portion” is very clever, I like it 😉

25 arielle August 12, 2008 at 11:30 am

Yay! This was awesome.

26 Julz August 12, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Jenn, my darlin, you are TRULY a gem.

This post is absolutely STELLAR and you, a marvel of a writer. I feel honored to *know* you, both as a fellow blogger and a friend. I feel like we should all group together and be the “GOOD ENOUGH SISTERS” or something, you know. And we should put a blogging banner on our blogs that says something like, “GOOD ENOUGH SISTA” 😉 That would KICK @SS! :)

I couldn’t be happier that you wrote about this. Perfectionism has resonated with me, for my entire life as well, and it went from music, to sports, to then not being able to have music in my life, to feeling like I was an absolute failure TO EVERYONE AROUND ME. It’s an ongoing process, but through some incredible support, I’m on track to allowing myself to enjoy life again, and allowing those around me to ENJOY ME again, whether I have music to produce to them or not. Life is such a blessing, once you experience something like that, you know? Having lost something that WAS that way of reaching higher than others, having lost a LIGHT that ignited the fire in my everyday, having lost what seemed like my calling (etc etc etc), and then feeling as though I was so worthless when it was suddenly taken away from me, COMPLETELY… And now being able to look back, see where I was, and where I have come to, I realize how STRONG I truly am, and how much I truly can accomplish! I’m strong enough to get through everything in life that I WANT to get through, and am strong enough to be comfortable and allow myself to be comfortable being “GOOD ENOUGH” for me.

It makes me so proud of all of our blogging sistas, because I know that each and every one of us have overcome such obstacles and that, to be where we are now, is TRUE PROOF that we ALL are more than strong enough to allow ourselves to *Just Be Us*.

Bravo to you, babygirl… You are out of this world.

27 Jenn August 12, 2008 at 12:54 pm

To all ~ Wow. I am at a loss for words. You all provided some amazing perspectives on this issue, and I can’t tell you how much of a comfort it is to know that I can relate to you on so many levels. Please know how grateful I am for you taking the time to respond with so much thought and care. You have inspired me to continue with this new idea for the blog, in order to generate more responses such as these. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

28 eatingbirdfood August 12, 2008 at 2:06 pm

This piece was well written and brought back memories of my college experience as I struggled with perfectionism. I love your idea to add the My Portion section!!

29 Karla August 12, 2008 at 5:22 pm

I, too, am in college–and this certainly rings a bell! I work so hard that my parents tell me to “push the limits” and stop trying so hard. My Dad even bet me to drink a beer before I turn 21, because I follow the rules all of the time :)

Well written Jenn. You are doing so well, and are an inspiration to many!

30 Rose August 12, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Hey Jenn,

I’m a little late in commenting on this blog post, but I hope that’s ok. A lot of what you said really rings true about myself, especially when I was in college. Like you, my grades and GPA were extremely important to me. If I got less than an A, I would beat myself up – saying that I’d never get into graduate school, never find a job, etc. and so forth. I want you to know that I do think it gets easier after school. Now that I’m in graduate school (and surrounded by plenty of talented people!) I know that I cannot be “the best” of the group – because that simply does not exist anymore (especially in a writing program). The same is true at my job. We all have our strengths and what we do well. If there’s an area in which we lack, it just gives us the inspiration to try harder and learn more. And think of it this way – being concerned about your GPA gives you a goal. And that’s ok. Just remember that learning is fun (I am such a nerd!), so try and remember that even if you don’t get the grade you wanted, you still learned something valuable that you can take with you. This matters most of all (in my opinion :)

Sorry I just wrote a book there. But I did want you to know how much I relate to you and how much you inspire me. I was looking at mi’s blog on her recent calorie counting question, and I read your answer. It really stuck with me. It’s ok for me to count calories perhaps for a meal or two, but I don’t want it to run my life. I know you’ve adapted that attitude, and you seem so happy. Seeing people like you inspires me to truly break free from my old habits (obsessions). So I want to tell you thanks. Your blog, your attitude and your open honesty is certainly appreciated.

31 ruby red vegan August 12, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Wow, this was a great post. I really enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to more My Portion features in the future! :)

32 chandra August 13, 2008 at 6:17 am

Of course, I’m late to respond because I procrastinate… :-)

BUT anywho – I read this post at work Tuesday morning and hadn’t had a chance to comment (because you know, I was supposed to be working), but late Tuesday afternoon I was in a conference call in a managers office and I saw one of those “Inspirational Poems” on her wall. It was called “Good Enough Isn’t Enough” and I almost laughed aloud. First of all the poem was not inspirational at all which made me laugh, but I also thought of you and this post and how it relates to so many people, including myself. (If I can find the poem I’ll send it to you, but I haven’t been able to get it yet.)

All through school (elementary through college) I always strived to be my best. I remember the first time I got a B as a grade I went home crying because I thought “B” was “Bad”. It was all downhill from there, and it carried over into other things such as friendships, work, etc… I always had to be everything for everyone and it was exhausting. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I realized I don’t have to be a super hero, people will still like me if I’m not 100% amazing all the time, and there is no reason for me to have to constantly exhaust myself trying to “do my best” all the time. Sometimes “good enough” IS the perfect amount of effort. :-)

Thanks for writing this. It’s hard to open up sometimes, but it’s always nice to know you aren’t alone in your ways of thinking. 😉

Have a great day Jenn!!

33 Jenn August 13, 2008 at 8:34 am

Karla ~ That is so funny about your dad because it is totally something my dad would say to me!!

Rose ~ Thank you so much :) I left you a comment on your blog about it.

ruby red vegan ~ Thank you! I’m looking forward to the next one now, too – haha :)

chandra ~ Thank you so much! And if you do find that poem, send it my way – I will totally post it because that’s just too funny.

34 Fitzalan August 13, 2008 at 9:03 am

I just wanted to reply to what Chandra posted…. It is so amazing that so many of us on here have gone through the exact same things despite so many other differences in our lives. It took me to nearly stressing myself to death about being perfect and excellent for everyone else that I totally forgot how to make myself happy. It was a lot of work to learn to relax and make decisions for myself.

Part of me is glad I didn’t learn any of this until after college though. I did get much better grades and didn’t have a procrastination problem like so many of my friends.

35 All Vegged Out August 13, 2008 at 10:25 am

Wow, I struggle daily with this… well more accurately secondly (if that’s a word?). I’ve always been so afraid that if I don’t excel at everything then I’ll fail at everything. This post really inspired me to focus on “good enough” because adequate will definitely equal contentedness!!!

P.S. I looooove “My Portion”

36 shannon October 4, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Awesome post. You’re a great writer.

37 Jenn (eating bender) November 11, 2009 at 11:08 pm

shannon ~ Thank you!!

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