Should You Begin a Healthy Eating Challenge Today?


It’s the first day of the month. And it’s Monday.

A perfect day to start a new diet, wouldn’t you say?

If you are on top of the latest trends in healthy eating and frequent the healthy food websites, you would be privy to the popularity of beginning a diet today. Or another first of the month, or another Monday.

30-day challenges, 21-day detoxes, 3-day reboots.

There seems to be magical dietary hope in a new month. A new week. A new chance to get yourself healthy. Get yourself slim. Get yourself unstuck of the bad habits you picked up the last few weeks, or the last few months, or however long it has been leading up to you finally showing junk food and poor choices who’s boss.

I don’t have anything against doing challenges, or cleanses, or reboots. They can be a very practical way of replacing negative and unhealthy habits with better ones. They can expedite the body’s ability to reduce inflammation, or release excess water weight. They can teach you alot of insightful things, such as what you place dependency on (afternoon treat, anyone?) or help you develop your self-control muscles.

Healthy eating challenges can be positive and enlightening for many people.

But they are optional, and not necessary for improving your health (even dramatically), and they are always your choice to do or not do, no matter how popular or amazing they really are.

I spent many years, many firsts of the months, many Mondays, cleaning up my diet, and starting over as a healthy eater, always with the idea that this reset would reset them all. That this time, my relationship with food would be freshened up for good.

That this time, I would be good.

My experiences with strict dietary challenges have certainly opened me up to new ways to think about food. They have allowed me to improve my sleep, my joints, my skin, and my emotions.

But they have not saved me the way I always wanted them to.

Knowing that I would be starting a strict and clean diet would usually lend me bingeing on everything the diet forbade in the days leading up to the big start day.

When I would finally decide to stick to a respectable food plan, I would feel good about eating so well, but mostly I would feel saved from myself, from my potential to self-sabotage through food, from the vulnerability to go at my health goals alone.

It was inevitable after beginning a strict plan that I would eventually break the diet, or mess up. It was likely that I would be frustrated with how time and thought consuming it was, or irritated at how critical its biggest fans were.

And it was inevitable that the diet would only take me so far. That it would improve my health for as long as I adhered to its guidelines, but guilt me into thinking I was an utter failure when I “fell off the wagon” or “cheated” or “just couldn’t do it”.

I know there are people who would disagree with this, and maybe even think it’s the wrong approach to take, and that is OK. I know challenges and diet plans can be maintained without them adding stress or trauma to a person.  I realize that if I really wanted to keep a food challenge (and by this time, you would be correct to suspect it a Whole30 or 21-Day Sugar Detox or an I Quit Sugar plan), that I could.

I could get through the temporary discomfort of forgoing my beloved tamari, or bananas, or a square (or two) of 85% dark chocolate.

I could call every restaurant I would attend for the time of the challenge, and ensure they only cooked with ghee, olive, or coconut oil, and I could make certain there was no soy or corn fed to any animals I was consuming, or that there was not dried fruit or candied nuts in my salad.

And I could skip every invitation to dine at a friend’s house whose cooking was not “approved” by my newfound redeeming health plan.

By my new, Good News.

By my new Savior.

But I will tell you, I’ve done all those things.

And I don’t do them anymore.

I’ve spent alot of time studying food. Studying its make-up. Studying how nutritious it is. Studying how evil it is.  How it helps us.  How it hurts us.  How it ruins the planet, and how it saves souls (oh wait, I meant, how it helps you improve your body composition).

I’ve learned alot in my studies, but the things that nutrition could never teach me was how to trust myself to eat healthy, everyday, without fear of failing a plan, without the obsession on perfectionism, and without needing anyone else’s approval.

Food challenges are amazing for alot of things, but it takes determination and commitment to decide to treat your body well, with kindness, and with compassion, after they are over.

It takes will to make your own rules, to let in only helpful opinions, and to turn your eyes and your ears from anything that doesn’t empower you.  That doesn’t give you confidence, or energy, that doesn’t root you in self-assuredness, and that doesn’t serve to make you a better version of yourself.

You can follow plans, and challenges, and diets, and enjoy them, and benefit from them, but never forget that you can experience health, and enlightenment, and self-growth all on your own.

If you think you need to learn more about food to make your own choices, study it. Find out how it effects your body. Learn how it can make you feel well.

Experiment with it. See what works for you. See what you like.

And then, know when you’ve studied enough. Know when it’s time to trust yourself, trust your body, and get on and live your life.

Be responsible, but be in charge.  Be yourself, and be proud of it.

So, if you asked me if it was a perfect day to start a new diet, I would say, maybe, but maybe not.

Instead, I say it’s the perfect day to start trusting yourself with food.

And so is tomorrow.  And next week.  And definitely, next month.

 

Image from What’s on the 6th Floor?

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If You Think Being Fat is Bad

You would not say it out loud, but you might think that being fat makes you bad.  Worthy of mockery.  Deserving of shame.  The worst thing in the world.

It’s not.

Being fat is a situation you might find yourself in if you have been in the habit of overeating or bingeing.  It might be a physical revelation of inflammation or hormonal imbalance or lingering weight from past pregnancies.

But being fat, having excess body mass, weighing more than other people, does not make you bad.

If you have ever thought that you are a bad person for being overweight, it is because you believe that fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think the way to to get fat is to overeat, and overeating is wrong, so fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think fat is ugly, or requires laziness, or dirtiness, and all of those things are disgusting which makes fat disgusting which makes you disgusting.

While some people do become fatter for eating too much or never moving their bodies, they do not become worse people, and they do not deserve public shaming.

Being fat may complicate your life (as may being thin) for a variety of reasons, but remember that fat is only extra weight your body is holding onto.

It is not your soul, your spirit, your mind.  It isn’t your sense of humor, or your generosity, your intelligence, kindness, love, or wonder for the world.

It is a physical condition, and that is all.

You can lose weight.  You can gain weight.  And in the end, you choose what you believe about it.  You choose what you do about it.

I am not suggesting that it does not matter if you are fat.  Being fat may make you suspect to disease, early death, or a difficult life (physically, at the very least, emotionally, because other people, including yourself, may view your fatness as a problem needing to be shamed).

What I am suggesting is that it matters how you view fat.

If you are fat, how do you view yourself?

Lazy?  Glutton?  Unfortunate?  Ugly?  Victim?  Bad?

You have not become a worse person for weighing more than you did at another point in your life, or more than people around you.

You can believe that or not, but try to keep perspective in the matter.

Hatred is bad.  Injustice is bad.  Bitterness is bad.

But extra weight is just extra weight.  Decide if you want to do anything about it, accept the situation you are in, and move forward how you like.

Reserve disdain for those tragedies that deserves such negative feelings.

Your body isn’t one of them.

Image from Pinterest.

Self Acceptance Is Your Choice Today

A common misconception about accepting yourself is that if you do, you will become lazy and never achieve any of your goals.

This isn’t true.

I read about accepting myself, exactly as I was and where I was at in life, a few years ago.  The idea seemed simple, but it was very threatening.

It seemed simple because all self acceptance required was a decision to stop rejecting myself. It didn’t necessitate anything outside of myself such as a job promotion, approval from others, an improved marriage, or reputation, or a better house, or car, or bigger bank account, or fill in the blank.

It didn’t require working up to anything before it could be practiced, except the decision to practice it.

Because of this, it was also very threatening.

If self acceptance didn’t have anything to do with outside affirmation and influences, and only had to do with my decision to practice it, then it was entirely my own choice to be comfortable and happy with who I was.

And I wasn’t comfortable or happy with who I was.

So, I didn’t accept myself.

Sometimes it seems easier, or even appropriate, to decide to hold off accepting yourself until “x”, “y”, or “z” happens.

Examples as they relate to diet and fitness:

  • Losing the last 5 pounds (or 10, or 15, or 20).
  • Getting a flatter stomach (or more toned arms, or thinner thighs).
  • Fitting into your ideal size jeans.
  • Eating what you think is the perfect diet (and never blowing it).

All of these goals are fine to have (though not always worthwhile), but when they necessitate your own self acceptance, your comfort and happiness relies on their presence, and typically remains in the past or in the future.  You might remember a few years ago as a happier time because you were thinner, or you might wait to be happy next month, when you finally (you hope), lose weight.

But what about right now?

What about being comfortable and happy with who you are today?

The belief is that achieving your goals will make you happy.  That they will erase, or at least soothe, life’s difficulties, that things will make more sense, that you will finally be comfortable with who you are and where you’re at.

And that others will be comfortable and happy with who you are and where you’re at.

But this is only an illusion.

The reality is that you will continuously be growing and evolving with the seasons of life.  You will experience hardship, and loss, and pain, and devastation, but you will be relieved by grace, and mercy, and kindness, friendship, love, and laughter.  And hope.

Your body will change.  Your face will change.  Your hair will change.  For the better, and for the worse.

You will get promotions, and offers, and approvals, and rejections.

You’ll make friends, and then take different paths.

You will meet a lover and grow together, and you might lose them, and you might never.

And you can choose to accept yourself the entire time.

You can choose to be comfortable and happy about who you are and where you are at.  You can certainly try to improve yourself and situations, but the process can be enjoyed and expressed lovingly, like you would to someone you cared about, simply because it’s better than negativity, judgment, anxiety, and worry.

Because it’s better than letting anything outside of yourself determine your success.  Because it’s better to be happy right now, than to wait until tomorrow or reserve it for the past.

Because accepting yourself breaks down the walls that you’ve built all around you, so that you can finally be liberated to go out and do what you need to do in this life without the burden of hating yourself or feeling stuck.

The truth is, accepting yourself will not turn you into a lazy and unlikeable slob.  It will relieve you, allow you to get over what is keeping you from moving forward, and free you to enjoy the short time you have to breath and love and wonder.

If you’re in the habit of waiting for something or someone to liberate your self rejection, why not try choosing to do it yourself?

Why not choose to accept yourself, and see how it goes?

Why not see if you can enjoy who you are and where you’re at today?

And then try it tomorrow, and the next day, and then the next.

Keep goals, and keep learning, and keep exploring, because it keeps things interesting, and challenging, and rewarding, but keep it in mind that those things are only life’s varieties, and that you are exactly where you need to be right now to choose self acceptance.

Image from Paris Hotel Boutique.