When starting or staying true to a healthier lifestyle, one must have deal breakers. Right?
Lines that cannot be crossed, at least not often.
Perhaps you’ve set out to change the way you eat or decided to get more exercise. Maybe you’re swearing off fast food. Or you’re planning to take 10,000 steps per day. Or you aim to get 7+ hours of sleep each night. How strong is your resolve? How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to make those things happen?
What really are your deal breakers?
For me, gluten is a deal-breaker. Whenever possible, I avoid it. If I intentionally eat something containing it, I break my deal with myself. And I don’t take deal-breaking lightly, even if I know that bread pudding with friends would taste amazing. To me, avoiding gluten is important because it helps my digestion, which helps my allergies, which helps me stay off prescription medications that I used to take year-round but no longer need.
Another one of my deal breakers is skipping the gym on Mondays. I schedule my Monday around going to the gym. Why? Because if I start my week with a vigorous workout, it helps me start my week the right way and focus the rest of it accordingly – to do helpful things for my body. So on Mondays, I go to the gym.
But Before Those Deal Breakers …
As I look back on my decision to stop eating foods containing gluten, and the decision to make regular exercise part of my life, I realize that those came from a bigger, foundational decision. Avoiding gluten and going the gym are two of my outward focuses. My first deal breaker is more important to me than either of those, or any technique or tip I read about in the latest magazine, Facebook article, or (ah-hem) blog post.
This one is internal. It’s the foundation from which my other behaviors grow.
I will offer myself compassion and love.
From that one deal breaker grow my other decisions. Why? Because I know I’m often the hardest on myself. No one else is talking to me as I stare in the mirror and dwell on my flabby places. No one else is beating me up when I have that second piece of chocolate. It’s all me. The voices in my own head are the loudest. Some may have been put there initially by others, or I may have made them up all by myself. But I own them now.
Or do I?
How to Ignore that Mental Chatter
The alternative to engaging that self talk and letting it run rampant is to be present here and now. To recognize that my inner thoughts are not my outer reality. My inner thoughts are just thoughts. We each have thoughts running through our heads the whole day long – and they’re not all true. Some we hold onto, though, and we use them to beat ourselves up.
They’re not only subjective. They’re also destructive.
So looking internally at our own emotional landscapes, and offering ourselves compassion and love, can help us change our deeply ingrained habits.
Can you love yourself right now?
It’s loving yourself right now, when you’re trying to end your sugar addiction, to unfollow the Facebook friend who only posts photos and recipes of the cakes and pies she’s been baking. It’s loving yourself right now when you stop the thoughts that you’re going to “be good” on a diet next week and you can “be bad” this week. Healthy lifestyle changes don’t come about by calling our efforts good or bad.
Self-compassion helps us slow down and really focus on what’s going on in our body and mind. Given that awareness, we can make better decisions.
Slowing Down and Asking Questions
Do I really want that fruit tart? Do I really want that cheesecake bite? Am I just tired? Am I just thirsty?
Or am I at a once-in-a-lifetime, invitation-only outdoor luncheon, feeling the sun on my face, savoring each bite of food and joyous about each act of hospitality? What do I want, need? Do I want to experience all of this moment, right now, as it is?
Do I really want that? I ask myself.
(The crust probably isn’t gluten free. You’re breaking the deal!) My mind chatter continues.
Well, yes, actually. I do want to taste it.
By taking the time to survey my internal landscape, to not react to my mind chatter, I can take a bite and not beat myself up for it, and not let it affect my future decisions, which will be made in those future moments.
Do you have to beat yourself up for past actions? Do you have to believe that mental chatter? Or can that be your deal breaker, too? Can you offer yourself some compassion and love today?
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