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Fact. You can’t fail at self-care.
How many times have you decided that you’re going to make a change? Lose weight? Stop eating so much sugar? Read more? Avoid social media? Take your vitamins? Stretch regularly? Meditate?
If you’re like me and most of my patients and clients, it’s a number you couldn’t possibly begin to count. I remember when I was struggling with my weight and compulsively overeating. Every day I would wake up thinking today would be the day I would finally not fail. It would be the day that I would finally become the new me I’d always wanted to be.
When the day would end, and inevitably I found myself neck deep in a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips I would call myself out. I failed. Again.
Recently on Facebook one of my friends posted:
“I haven’t had a drink in 30 days. Not because I think I have a problem with alcohol but because I want to see how not drinking affects my sleep and joint achiness.
I also went super low carb (paleo keto) during that same time.
My fatigue (plagued me for years) is gone. I am never hungry. I’ve lost some weight. My mood and energy are stable throughout the entire day. In a nutshell, I feel amazing. Like really really REALLY amazing.
I went to an African drum dance class last night and had so much energy to dance it was unbelievable. I hadn’t eaten in 6 hours but because my body is fat adapted, I could power through with gusto.
Being an all or nothing type person, this has been relatively easy for me (giving up so many things). Now the trick is figuring out my balance. This is where I always fail and revert back to my gluttonous ways.
I want to be that 95 year old grandma jumping out of airplanes. Taking care of my health now has GOT to be a priority. This feels like a good start but I’ve been here before and failed…bigly (gained 60 lbs in under a couple of years).
Food and drink is an important part of my social life. I need to find that balance…lay your strategies on me…please!”
Facebook had plenty of answers for her. Here’s mine:
Oh Dear One, you didn’t fail.
You can’t fail at self-care.
Each and every step you take toward the you that you want to be is an important step. I’ve watched you over the last few years posting about your deeper acceptance of who you are independent of your weight. I’ve watched you over the last few years finding a wider voice that will help so many women. I’ve watched you embrace the quirky, off-beat, irreverent, and hilarious woman you are, despite a gaggle of difficult things in your life. If a 60 pound weight gain or another “failure” is what got you there, how, indeed, is it a failure?
It’s a success that you can see a vision of how you want to feel in your body. It’s a success to spend 30 days not drinking and following a paleo/keto diet (um…that’s a lot of work.) It’s a success that you are learning what your body craves and what it needs to keep you at the top of your game so you can have all of the energy you need to dance your ass off for hours on end.
Framing a weight gain after a weight loss (or picking up an old habit again) as a failure undermines your initial success and all the successes in between.
So no, you didn’t fail. You didn’t fail at all.
And, as to your question, for me, it’s about getting clear about what’s most important. It appears that you have two conflicting values- socializing around food and drink, and feeling ah-maz-ing.
I would have you start with an important question:
What are your non-negotiables?
When I’m working with patients and clients I always work with them on three things before we decide what things are worth an all-or-nothing approach, and which things can be flexible.
- Values. What are your core values, who do you want to be in your life.
- Feelings. How do you want to feel on a day-to-day basis? This is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Health goals. What would vitality look like to you, and is this important? What would life be like if you felt the absolute best you could? And most importantly, what is the critical minimum for you regarding your health?
Once you are clear about these things (I am actually working on a virtual course to do this based on the Stress-Less Solution that I have been teaching for the last few years, keep an eye out) then you can identify your non-negotiables, that which is most important to do, or stick to. After all, you can only do so much.
After you get specific about these things you can then actually vet your choices based on that which is most important as opposed to based on how your brain chemicals are tracking. You can keep your brain from being overwhelmed by avoiding chronic decision-fatigue.
Now to the all-or-nothing issue.
Our brains crave dopamine. Social situations create this for us, but so does novelty and success. This is why a short-term program is easier to stick to than a long game lifestyle. If you know your priorities are in one direction and you have trouble with moderation, you could have dopamine to blame. Being aware of this can really help.
That said, when we use food, or alcohol, or social media for that matter to make dopamine because we are uncomfortable feeling feelings of discomfort that may be a “therapy issue” – a term I use with patients and clients for the need to understand and address how our pathology is driving us to make choices that don’t line up with our values. We all have these. The question is how badly are they undermining us and how willing are we to face them?
Food and alcohol are both sedating. They’re sensual. They’re soothing. They cause us to create dopamine. They are a socially acceptable way of numbing ourselves from the myriad things that are painful in our lives.
So no, going back to ‘gluttonous’ ways isn’t a failure, it’s a process of diving deeper into what it is that you really need and who it is you really want to be. That’s a success. The question is what are you going to do with it?
Yours in Health,