#MotivationMonday posts abound to help us through the first day of the work week (for most) and often also the first day "back to the diet" after a weekend of indulging. The guilt of how many drinks were consumed, how many servings of dessert, the midnight snacks, the double-portion sized breakfasts… you get the picture, we've all been there. But usually we don't just bounce back to healthy ways without some serious negative self-talk first. We'll slip in a few treats Monday morning instead of a healthy breakfast or snack, because "the damage was already done on the weekend" and "I really need this sugar rush to get my energy up", and perhaps "there's no point, I just can't do this", and "my body type is just not meant to lose weight." Or the opposite, we punish ourselves with ice-berg lettuce wrapped around carrot sticks all day because "my diet was off the charts bad this weekend."
Let's stop the negative thought train right there. Imagine talking to a new colleague or a child who's trying to learn something new the same way you talk to yourself, and treat yourself. It would sound ridiculous and incredibly mean, and likely get you fired and/or worst uncle/aunt of the year award. No child would ever learn to ride a bike, and no one would make it through their first day of work. Just this morning I was remembering my first real day of work at my first real job out of university, and I was laughing to myself how absolutely little I knew that day, and the effort the simplest tasks required. I am grateful to my senior on the job for not shaming me and questioning my choice in career right then and there. Oddly it turned out we were distant cousins who'd never met, so maybe that's why he was kind that first week? Or maybe it's that he remembered what his first day was like trying to learn something new, knowing a little patience would go a long way and would likely motivate me to keep trying, rather than throw the file across the room and hide in a corner. When I (finally) got that first task down, he didn't rush off and give me a cookie and pet me and say "good job!". No, he gave me my next task, a little tougher than the first, to keep me moving forward, progressing, learning, and becoming better, bit by bit. If this scenario didn't play out in every job and task we need to learn in life, we'd literally all be stuck being no better than that first day on the job, or first day trying to learn to ride a bike. So when it comes to food, why do we use treats or "cheat meals" as rewards for good behaviour? In training my dog, I've read that pure food motivation isn't always the best way to train a dog, yet we're still doing it to ourselves!
"The fact that you went 'off the rails' is not the problem. The problem is that you have rails."
- Paul Nobles, Eat to Perform
Having "rails" or "cheat meals" or boundaries means that we are living in one of two spaces when it comes to nutrition: Good. And Bad. Well, that sounds like a pretty harsh environment to live in, doesn't it? Imagine if every class in school was a pass or fail, with zero explanation as to why you got what you did? At least with 65% I knew that yes, I put in a little effort, but not my best, and maybe shouldn't have skipped class to go to Peter's Drive In with my friends. On the other hand, a 90% was nice confirmation that my hard work did pay off, even though while grinding away studying I really didn't want to put in the time.
When it comes to nutrition, we need a healthier relationship with food, as well as with ourself. Next time you feel that negative chatter starting, stop it in it's tracks. Ya, you ate a whole pizza/tub of ice cream/all you can eat pasta, but it's done, it's over, and there's nothing you can do about what happened. What you can do, is make your next choice healthier. That's it. Keep moving forward. Back to your childhood, or perhaps teaching your own child- you fell off your bike? Well, better lay in the mud, stay there, and cry. Wait, what? There's another option? Dust off your knees, get back on that bike, try again, and show it who's boss. Eventually you'll be doing circles around the backyard, taking mini jumps off the sidewalk, and landing them better than Evel Knievel himself.
I know, sounds easier said than done. So start simple. Start with your thoughts. When you find yourself in that negative thought pattern of "I just can't", "it's already too late", "why me" - stop. Stop dwelling on it. And let it go. Once you've dropped the thought like it's hot, find something encouraging to replace it. Whether it's nutrition based or not. Acknowledge your successes and growth - in anything. And then make a positive action plan - key word here is "positive". Don't say "I'm not going to eat cookies at bedtime this week", say "I'm going to eat yogurt and fruit after dinner if I'm hungry." Small difference in the wording, same outcome, but notice what you are tracking in the second way it's worded: Successes. Not failures. So on Sunday, you can say "I ate yogurt and fruit 4 nights last week" instead of "bah! I had a bowl of cookies 3 nights. See, I can't do this." [cracks open fresh bag of oreos]...
Build on your successes. You'll be a superstar before you know it, and won't even recognize the former you from a few years ago, kinda laughing to yourself at the fact there was a time you were scared to drop the training wheels. Most of all, be patient with youself, and patient with the process. Remember how many scraped knees it took on the bike, or how many mistakes it took at work to get you to the place you are at today.