When Good Enough is Enough
August 11, 2008
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 MSNBC.com 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.