I know so many girls and women who are incredibly dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle. They read blogs, listen to podcasts, buy books and go to presentations to learn all they can about the best way to eat and exercise. They are constantly in their kitchen cooking healthy food, scheduling time to workout every week and carrying around their BPA-free bottles with them everywhere they go.
Despite this, at times they can still hear the voice saying, ‘I’m not good enough’.
Are you familiar with any of these thoughts? I should be eating slightly smaller portions. I should be having less cheat meals. I should be going to bed earlier rather than being on social media. I should be doing an extra workout each week. I should be making so-and-so food from scratch rather than buying the store bought version.
It’s so easy to fill our minds with negative self-talk. You know what these thoughts sound like to me? Guilt. Guilt is not the appropriate emotion for someone who is doing their best to live a healthy lifestyle. Guilt by definition is a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong.
I think there are four major problems with feeling guilty about your lifestyle:
- Food is not the number one determinant of your life expectancy, anyway. Even if you did eat whatever you think is perfect, it wouldn’t necessarily make you live longer. I listen to a podcast called ‘100 not out’ where they look at what the oldest living people have in common. It turns out having purpose and being well-connected socially has more of an influence on your life expectancy than your diet. (Of course, your diet does have a significant effect on your quality of life and your risk of developing certain diseases.)
- Food is not a moral issue. You are not a good person when you eat good food and a bad person when you eat bad food. Once you stop labelling food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ you should start to experience less food-guilt.
- It doesn’t really matter. Take a step back and gain some perspective. I recently read some interesting research by a nurse on the top five regrets of those on their death beds. None of them had anything to do with body composition, fitness or food! I have never heard of anyone on their death bed saying they wish they had skipped a few more family dinners so they could’ve lived life a little more shredded!
- It is not bad or wrong to live an imperfect lifestyle. It is human. It is realistic. It is not possible to live a perfect lifestyle because perfection does not exist!
So here’s what I want you to do today to replace guilt with joy, pride and confidence:
- Set a really small goal, do it, and be proud that you did what you set out to do. You’ll never be able to get everything right, so choose just one or two positive things that you are really going to focus on doing today.
- Learn from your mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. Rather than feeling bad if you eat a whole block of chocolate or only get in one workout that week, think about what could have been done differently to prevent that undesirable event from occurring. For example, train yourself to think, “Next time, I’ll eat a healthy snack before eating some chocolate so I’m not ravenous and likely to eat the whole block in one sitting.” Or, set your alarm and get your workout out of the way first thing in the morning so it doesn’t get skipped.
- Only compare your current self to your old self. Rather than looking at your friend who makes her own bone broth each weekend, or who religiously rides his bike to work every day, think back to what you were like a year or so ago. What things are you doing differently now that are positive improvements? Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that you now heat up your leftovers in glass containers instead of plastic. Yay! Now you’ve got peace of mind that you haven’t got plastics leaching into your food! Or, remember how you used to have a slightly disordered view of eating and now you’ve found a nice healthy balance? Or how you used to eat a packaged cereal for breakfast every single morning, and now the majority of the time it’s eggs or smoothies? Celebrate how far you’ve come!
- Talk to yourself the way you would your best friend. I try to only speak to my friends with kindness and politeness. I remind them of their strengths and best features. I encourage them and believe in them, and THAT is the way I believe you should speak to yourself. Next time you hear a nasty negative thought bouncing around in your head, replace it immediately with truth and positivity.
I sincerely hope this post will have spoken to you if you have been a bit too hard on yourself recently. Stop telling yourself what you should be doing better and remind yourself of the great things you are doing. This message is especially for those of you who are high-achievers and perfectionists.
There is no perfect lifestyle. There’s just doing the best you can.
Be kind to yourself this week, fit chicks!