We are a week into the new year and I’ve already heard from friends and family that they feel like they’ve failed on their resolution to eat better. Yep. 7 days in and people are already feeling like a failure. Guess what? That’s ok! Feel all the feels and read on to learn why this is a GOOD thing!
We’ve all been there.
We have a few small squares of dark chocolate. A second glass of wine while making dinner. A bag of chips in the afternoon because you have a late business dinner. In our heads we know that individually, these items don’t have a ton of calories. And, often we rationalize the calories because of exercise we’ve done or will do (inner voice: Girl – 45 minutes of spin burns 400 calories, you’re good to have that second glass of wine!). The danger of trying to exercise your way out of a calorie vortex is that we usually overestimate how many calories we burn and underestimate how many we consume. But that’s not what I’m talking about today. Today it’s about embracing the food fails. When you know you’ve eaten too much or you’ve eaten foods that are not fueling you in the right way.
Empowerment not shame!
Food can be tied to so many emotions, so I don’t advocate adding to those feelings with guilt or shame. What I want you to feel is the feeling of EMPOWERMENT and CONTROL. In order to do that, you need to have an accurate picture of what you’ve eaten so you can:
Own the reality. It’s easy to minimize, rationalize, etc. when it’s all in your head. When you type it out in an app or write it in a journal, it becomes real as hell and you are required to own it.
Identify patterns. Now that you have an accurate food diary, you can look for habits and patterns. For example, are you always snacking on something salty or sweet at 2 p.m.? When you find the pattern, or trigger you can address it and refocus your attention and behaviors in a positive way.
Move forward. When you get real with yourself, it allows you to release that inner guilt, so you can move forward. Don’t you feel better when you’ve confided in a friend about something that’s bothering you? It’s the same thing with your health. Holding in that guilt perpetuates the behavior. Release it and move on.
The last one is perhaps the most important. Keeping the feelings in and continuing to be stuck will only snowball into a pattern of destructive behaviors. How many times have you had one or two days of eating poorly coupled with sitting on the couch binging a new show (I’m over here raising my hand)? If you don’t catch it in those first few days and course correct it can turn into a week and then a month, and soon, it’s been 6 months since you’ve been to the gym or cooked a meal at home.
Go back and track!
So, what’s my advice for someone who’s had a few days of too much dark chocolate, chips and wine? I don’t scold, guilt or shame. I tell them to go back and TRACK it. This is not about punishment. Rather, it’s about helping them be accountable to their goals, recognize triggers and vulnerabilities, and put a plan of action in place to avoid another detour. Tracking ALL your food is a tool to empower you. It allows you to see the bigger picture of your diet, be in control of what you eat and know when you can treat yourself and when you need to dial it back. Most people feel a sense of relief when they see what they’ve been eating because they know they can now deal with it.
If you never acknowledge where you’ve been, you can’t get to where you’re going.
That’s the point of building healthy habits – achieving your goals! To understand your diet, you must be honest about it. Good, bad or otherwise. No one balks at tracking their calories when they do well and stay within their allotment. Because it provides a self-esteem boost and keeps you motivated. I believe tracking the bad days can do the same. Maybe not a self-esteem boost but it refocuses you and motivates you to do better the next day.
So, let’s get real. Let’s write down the missteps. Let’s own the feelings so we can move beyond them. Embrace the food fails to move forward with success and empowerment!