A Chinese proverb states: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” How true this is on any challenging journey. When pursuing a goal, it’s inevitable that at times you won’t perform exactly as you wish you had, and it’s in your response to the situation that your potential power lies.
For instance, in the case of food and eating, striving for perfection can be a problem in and of itself, in fact. The goal is a healthy relationship with food and your body, and all relationships go through periods of strain and tension as an essential part of the growth process. It’s called learning. The problem arises when you expect yourself to be perfect and are tempted to throw in the towel and binge when you eat one piece of candy or an extra slice of bread.
On the other hand, it can be important to determine if there are certain foods that cause your grief and abide by boundaries you set around these foods. You may even wish to experiment by eliminating them from your food plan for a set period of time, to see if you fare better without them. This is a very personal matter. Some people feel that they are truly addicted to some foods and need to stay away from them completely, while for other people the idea of complete abstinence from particular foods sets them up for a binge.
Several ideas can help:
Avoid black-and-white thinking. It’s very tempting to say “the heck with it” (or words to that effect) and go whole-hog, so to speak, if you eat one cookie, let’s say. It’s quite possible that this is your body’s way of saying, “I’m sick of trying to be perfect!” Better to practice self-compassion, like you would with a small child, and say something like, “Okay, that wasn’t part of my plan for today, but one cookie needn’t make or break my day. Overall, I’m doing a good job in feeding my body healthy foods.”
Listen to your body… and your heart. Ask yourself, “Am I really physically hungry? Or am I tired? Bored? Angry? Lonely? Scared? What do I really need right now?” If you’ve developed a habit of turning to food to soothe emotional needs, be gentle rather than harsh with yourself, but begin to recognize and address your emotional needs directly. Maybe what’s called for is a nap, calling a friend, or having a difficult but necessary conversation.
Avoid confusing your worth as a person with what you ate that day. Even if you eat a food that’s on your “red-light” list, this does not reflect on your worth as a person. Every day is full of choices, and you can make different choices today regarding food. Yesterday is history – today is what matters. Make your self-worth about your ability to give and receive love and service. You may find that as you do so, your willingness and ability to make healthy and loving choices regarding the food you eat will increase.
Enlist the aid of a nutritional professional and/or therapist. Getting an objective opinion from a trusted source can be invaluable, as you may be too close to the situation to view it without distortion. Another viewpoint can assist you in recognizing if you are being either too restrictive or too liberal in your food choices. In addition, if you have a medical condition you will benefit from consulting a medical doctor regarding your food plan.