For the past 3 years in January I usually do a vegetarian January to think more about what I am eating and really appreciate meat when I have it again (also for enviornmental reasons and to get me to be more mindful of all the animals I ate over christmas!). I am down in Dublin at the moment doing some training and when I arrived yesterday from Belfast I was hungry, tired and needed something substantial to eat for the day ahead. The buckwheat pancakes in the fancy cafe seemed to be the best option, one option was with banana and the other with bacon and stewed apple and I weighed it up in my mind...What do I do?
I saw someone else with the crispy bacon and by that stage my mind had made the decision, and so with slight guilt and like a dirty little secret I ordered them thinking 'sure noone else will know'...only to hear that old moral teachers voice in my head saying
'Well you are only cheating yourself, Aisling.'
And yes it was delicious. So what can I do now, its only the 9th of January and I have broken it once now properly (and twice if you count the microscopic bits of crappy chicken I had on a dominoes Pizza a few days before...) I have a choice to make. Do I tell myself its ruined now and I am really a big bacon munching fraud? By allowing myself to do that I could let myself off the hook, it might be nice, I could just tell people that I didn't last and so now I have given it up and take the easy way out, and eat that nice looking chicken and broccoli bake for dinner. I could tell people and laugh about it and tell them that my 'New Years Resolution' only lasted til the 9th of January. I could tell myself that I failed this time and that there is no point in even attempting it next year.
or I could recognise that it was me who set the goal, and I can change it anytime I want to. I could do something totally different.
I have had a very busy challenging week and another busy one this week, what do I gain from being too hard on myself? Chances are if I do that then I get into black and white thinking and because of a small bit of bacon, I give myself permission to eat meat as normal. Who benefits if I do this? Not me, and not the animals, not the environment. I thought about all the good I had done already, even in 8 days with no meat.
I look back at my reasons for doing this in the first place, my original intent. Being more mindful and aware of what I am eating, not taking meat for granted and doing a small part for environment. Am I still achieving all of these things? Well actually yes I am. I made a mindful decision, even though I had meat I thought about it and I didn't take it for granted. So instead I decided to not be so hard on myself, I changed the goal into a more flexible one.
I am eating alot less meat this January, anything I cook myself will be meat-free and accepting that sometimes the circumstances of that day affect your ability to make the right decision.
I felt instantly better. I forgave myself, I felt grateful for the food I had. As nothing was lost, there was no black and white thinking, that evening at the hotel I had an opportunity to eat less meat and be more mindful and so I had a falafel burger. I feel good. I already have plans of a big pot of veggie curry I will eat tonight and I had eggs this morning.
I thought of people who so often do this in so many ways and accidentally sabotage the good things they were doing. The person who set a goal of going to the gym but because of work didn't make it there on time even once this week. What was your intention? Would a better one be- 'move more to feel better' so that could mean you could still take a walk when you are home from work, if its raining you could do some youtube yoga in your house, you would still be moving and feeling better.
What about those on a 'dry January' who cracked a bottle of wine on Friday night? Could you decide to 'drink less' and still feel better?
Could the person who wants to stop smoking recognise that perhaps cutting down to 5 rather than 15 is a wonderful achievement for them and one that perhaps they will change again in the future.
and to those struggling to lose weight ask themselves what their intention is behind this? Far to often, its to feel better about themselves. I wonder how you could feel better about yourself right now, just as you are? and decide that maybe 'to eat more real whole foods' would be a better goal.
This isn't about accepting that its ok to be wishy-washy on things and break pledges you have made, but in my experience and most of the research literature on this would indicate that the setting of 'hard rigid goals' is what sets people up for failure. They either 'did it' or they 'didnt.' So if you have set a goal you are struggling with, then look back at what your intention was behind it and find other softer ways you might be able to achieve the exact same thing. You might find you end up doing what you thought you couldn't.
If you feel you are too hard on yourself, or you have a change you would like to make in your life then contact Aisling today for a chat (she is based in Belfast, Ormeau Road) or make a consultation appointment on 02890641111.
until next time...