Dusting Off the Crumbs

CrumbsWhen you’ve fallen off the wagon, eaten something you wish you hadn’t, not quite finished the eating challenge you set out to do, or had some other less than stellar episode with food or drink, what do you do? How do you get back up and continue on your journey towards better health? Here are a few things that I find helpful when getting back on track to a better version of me…

1) Reflect. Regardless of the journey you’re on, it can be extremely valuable to reflect along the way. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will miraculously have clarity around your actions and be able to stop any similar behaviors before they happen again (I wish!), but it does mean you will have a greater understanding of why you made those choices. The why is important because it provides an opportunity to understand what triggers certain behaviors, let’s you decide if those choices are in line with your goals or not, and perhaps sets the stage for making different decisions the next time. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process. Just try to understand why you stumbled so that you can be aware of that particular obstacle in the future.

2) Plan. So you took a nose-dive. When you get up and dust off the crumbs, you need to start moving forward, and in order to do that effectively, you need a plan. Even if you aren’t a natural planner, this step is important and it helps you get back on the path to success. I’m not talking about an elaborate, step-by-step layout for your entire future, either. What really helps is just knowing what you’re going to do next. Maybe it’s your dinner plan or even just what things you’re going to buy at the grocery store so you’re all stocked up. Maybe you plan a few snacks so that when hunger strikes, you’re prepared. The point is to take some ownership of your next steps and then do it.

3) Get going. Totally unrelated to food, my dad once told me that sometimes you just need to start behaving as if “it” (in this case maybe the “it” is a balanced approach to food or whatever speaks to you) were true. This might sound strange, but think about it. Instead of dwelling on past disappointments or bad choices, just start BEING. Make the next bite a healthy food, drink a cup of tea, get a workout in. Don’t let what was or what might or might not be hold you back. Just get moving in the direction you want to go. The longer your behaviors align with your goals, the greater the likelihood of reaching them.

4) Take it one step at a time. Sometimes we fall so hard that it can seem overwhelming to begin again. We think we’ve failed and might as well just give up. Or we might identify so deeply with the person who returned to old habits that we think it’s impossible to break free. In order to move forward, we need to be okay with taking small steps in the direction of our goal. Each moment is an opportunity to remind yourself that you already ARE that person you see in your mind’s eye and each deliberate step in that direction helps strengthen that belief. With each tiny step, we get closer and closer to realizing that best version of our self.

5) Celebrate. Celebrate every little thing. Our brain loves it when we reward it so if we celebrate frequently the little actions that we take that move us closer to our goal, our brain is going to help us move a little closer again. We want our brain on our side, right? Well then…tell it that it’s doing a great job! Pat yourself on the back, literally or figuratively, give a little cheer for yourself, actually SAY, “Great job!”, or do a little something special, like carving out some time for a bubble bath or buying some new workout gear. Whatever! The important thing is to take a moment to mark the occasion of working towards your goal. You deserve it!

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All or Nothing

It-is-good-to-have-an-end

My entire life, particularly where food is involved, I have been an All or Nothing kind of person. I’m either dieting and trying to lose weight or I’m eating and drinking and having a ball. I have never been able to find that middle ground. That elusive thing that some call moderation, and that I might call balance, has remained a dream in the distance.

A large part of Balancing Paleo is this search to find balance in various areas of my life – including food. I seek balance in my family life, my fitness goals, my friends and social engagements versus time I need to be internal. These aspects of life, while sometimes a little out of whack, are generally stable, ebbing and flowing like the sea. And that’s exactly how I like it. There might be times when we are filled with friends and outings and visits and those are balanced with some time just hanging out. It happens naturally and I often think about how that would feel in terms of food. How I might look at food if I felt truly in tune with it.

A few months ago I read a memoir about a foodie and she looked at it from a feast or fast perspective. Sometimes she was feasting and indulging quite frequently, and when that time would come to an end, she would eat lighter fare and smaller portions. It didn’t seem to bother her, and while it didn’t sound effortless, she seemed comfortable with it. I think there is something very important in that concept. That maybe it’s less about what is actually happening and more about how we perceive what is happening. Perhaps if I could be happy in times of feasting, I could be equally happy in times of fasting, knowing that it was a rhythm tied to life.

Unfortunately, more often than not, I feel guilty when I’m eating too much. And guilt is never good. It wreaks havoc on the heart, mind, and spirit and generally creates an environment of self-loathing or at least great disappointment. It is difficult to break free of that cycle.

My wonderful friend Sonja posted over on her blog about something similar. She is a competitive triathlete who WINS Ironman competitions. She actually won her most recent Ironman while completing her first Whole30! She received a comment on her blog criticizing her because during her training and her race, she fueled with things that were not Whole30 compliant, but she just kept going on her Whole30 journey anyway. She ended up reaching out to the authors of It Starts with Food to get their take and, in a nutshell, they reiterated that adherence to the guidelines is critical, but you also need to keep in mind your own personal goals. Sonja is incredibly health conscious, but it has to support or improve her triathlon performance, otherwise she’ll make a concession. So her Whole30 looks different given those expectations.

My Whole30 should be pretty traditional looking, though, because I don’t do anything that warrants special fueling. Whole foods work just fine for me. But here I am on Day 26 and I made Paleo cookies – and I ate a couple. Why? Well…it snowed and I always bake cookies for my son on days that it snows. I made them Paleo because I think that almond flour and honey is a better idea for my family too – not just for me. Still they aren’t Whole30 compliant. At all.

The context of it, though, is that I’ve been finding it harder and harder to finish this Whole30. This has been an emotionally charged month complete with a job change and some other stuff. I made it through all of that – lots of sleepless nights, hunger completely gone for several days, just a lot of stuff – and I stayed true to my goals through all of it. These past few days, though, I’ve been in a bit of a funk and just haven’t felt very motivated to continue. So I’m sure that part of me made those cookies because I wanted to eat them too.

So what to do? Throw in the towel? Scrap my Whole30? Accept that I failed? It’s frustrating because I don’t want to leave my journey here at Day 26, but I certainly did not adhere to the rules of a Whole30. I think that when I examine my goals, primary amongst them is to live a Paleo lifestyle intentionally, forever, and with balance. I want to live this way because I am healthier and happier with steady energy and a vitality that I don’t have when I’m eating a more conventional diet. I want to continue this not just for 30 days but far beyond that. And that means that tomorrow is not Day 1. It’s not even Day 27. It’s a continuation of a way of eating that promotes a healthier me.

I was considering continuing on with Day 27, but in the end, I feel better accepting that this time, I ate squeaky clean for 25 days and my body and mind appreciate it. Please don’t judge me too harshly as I continue on my journey towards a balanced Paleo life. I’m not too worried about a careful reintroduction of foods – I already know what sugar does to me. It gives me a headache. I don’t need to learn that this time. What I really need to learn is how to pick up the pieces after stumbling and keep on going rather than throw in the towel. So that’s what I’m going to do…I’m going to keep on going.

Thank you for being there.