Please pass the salad…but hold the side of guilt.

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I’ve just returned home from coaching a class this morning and meeting with a personal training client, and I am preparing a healthy salad to take to one of the two picnics on my schedule today. I decided to pop onto my blog and share some thoughts that are running through my mind today… and quite possibly some of yours as well.

It is Memorial Day. Ahh… a day off work (paid holiday for some people). This day, although actually a rather solemn occasion to commemorate the fallen in our country and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, marks the beginning of summer. Summertime is basically “the season of cookouts and day-drinking”.

In fact, as I sit here and think about the approach of the cookout season, I realize that it’s  pretty much always a season with a reason to party. We come out of the Fall and Winter holidays into Valentine’s Day, then Easter and then summer madness is upon us just when we thought we could “get back to that diet once the holidays were all over.”

Okay, I’m about to hit you with a real truth here… “you need to stop waiting and stop making excuses” for when you are going to “get to it”… however, approaching your new-found healthy lifestyle from a place of guilt and shame will lead to absolute failure quicker than anything.

So now that you are totally confused, I will try to clarify where I’m coming from. As a survivor of an eating disorder, I know how to play the shame game with myself pretty darn well. I’d say I ought to win a gold medal in that game. I’d go to a party or a cookout and I would avoid eating all together. I’d say something like “oh, I ate at another party… or at home…” feeling guilty that I was not partaking in the efforts of the gracious host. Or I’d go to the party and eat the fun foods, like the potato salad, the fried chicken, the cheese and crackers, and then I would feel such crushing guilt and shame from “eating all the bad foods”. It was definitely contributing to my mental illness, y’all! What a crazy cycle that was. But I felt like every time I turned around there was a family birthday party, a friend’s cookout, a work party, a holiday… it was a constant battle.

As I regained mental serenity and learned to come from a place of self-love, I discovered that I could live with a balance of a healthy lifestyle and also truly enjoy the moments spent with friends and family. And today, I’m going to let you in on my secret equation.

Forgiveness + Commitment = Balance

First and foremost, you have to forgive yourself. Truly forgive yourself for all of the nasty, rude, mean, cutting things you say about yourself inside your head all the time. Go ahead, take a few minutes and really forgive yourself for being so harsh.

And know that when you fall off your healthy bandwagon, as we all inevitably do, you will need to do this whole forgiveness thing again. It’s okay!

Now that you have forgiven that little bratty critic in your brain, it’s time to fill that spot with self-love and gratitude. Celebrate the fact that you have family and friends to celebrate with and things to celebrate! That’s the real point of these get-togethers. Food is just one element of the connection we make at these events. So that said, no need to stress about it!

Second, you have to commit. I know this concept is really difficult for a lot of people, and often is where the hang up lies. Let’s think for a moment what the word “commit” means in other areas of our lives and how we can adapt and apply it to our healthy lifestyle.

If you are in a committed relationship, or a marriage, you are totally in it with that other person. When the going gets tough, by golly, we roll up our sleeves and get going. We are “committed” to making it work, even if there are rough patches, arguments, disagreements. We have a level of priority in lives for that person and that relationship.

When you take a position at work, you “commit” to that job, schedule and set of expectations from your employer. You may stay up late or wake up early to finish a project or make sure you are there on time. In fact, for a lot of us, your job takes priority in life over family or personal desires. That is commitment, y’all.

Now, let’s apply that same level of commitment to a healthy lifestyle. That life has to be a priority. A friend you “call everyday”, a place you “show up” to everyday. Just like you sometimes leave work early to go to a doctor’s appointment, understand that there will be moments when you aren’t completely perfect in the execution of your “healthy lifestyle”. And it is in these moments, you forgive, recommit and move forward.

So what the heck does this look like in the day-to-day and how in the world do I apply it to the holiday/cookout/neighbor’s brother’s kid’s 2nd birthday party world we live in?

Balance.

The habits you build every day “in the trenches” I call it… will be your armor for how you deal with all of the other situations that arise in your life.

Making healthy choices in the day-to-day, regular Tuesday at work situations will help you build a strong foundation.

If you know that your group of friends or your family is not on this health journey with you, and there probably won’t be any “healthy” options at that party, offer to bring the salad, the veggie tray, the fruit salad. Trust me, your friends will end up eating it with you and your healthy influence just might rub off on them! Plus, you will know there is something for you to fill up on at the party that is healthy.

When there are fun indulgences at the parties, ask yourself “what kind of joy does this treat bring me?” Meaning, is that your Aunt Judy’s famous apple cobbler that she only makes on the 4th of July? This might be the only time of year you can eat that special treat and you know how much Aunt Judy pours her soul into making that cobbler. If having a serving of that cobbler brings you joy, then eat the cobbler. And don’t stress about it. Don’t abuse yourself mentally about it later. Just eat it. Enjoy it. And move on.

If it’s a brownie from the grocery store, or something you could literally eat any ole time, maybe that is not as special of a treat for you, and may be easier to pass up for a more healthy option. Since you now have forgiven yourself for past and future offenses, know that it’s not the great famine, that food will always be there if you truly find joy in it. The allure of the “unhealthy” food loses its power if you can remind yourself that you aren’t choosing to avoid it because you are being punished, but because you are committed to your healthy lifestyle and you will wait until something comes along that actually brings you pure joy.

Enjoy the summer! It flies by so fast! Remember that there are a lot of active and playful ways to enjoy the summer weather and celebrations without focusing on the food.

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