The season of congregating, consuming, confection, and companionship.
Ahh, the holidays.
I adore the holidays. Simply adore them.
I love the fun, the day off from routine and hard work, the getting together, the decorations, the gift planning, the buying and wrapping.
I enjoy the anticipation, the experience, and the “How was it for you?” discussions. I stop everything usual, normal and regular. Just everything.
Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction after a happy holiday well done.
But for many, the experience is much more fraught. There is more candy than confection, more quarrels than companionship, more consuming than control. We beat ourselves up for falling off the wagon, frustrated at our inability to stick with our program.
We read success stories and long for a similar experience. We hear of people reversing decades of illness and marvel. We read of 30-day strict paleo completions and detoxes and wonder how they did it.
Then we wail at our own abilities and progress.
Sabotage and the effects on motivation
I recently read a success story on Marks Daily Apple. The story was close to my heart but it was the comments section that really got my interest.
Normally, the comments are full of “high fives” for the person featured, but this poor girl’s celebrations got hijacked by a few commenters lamenting their inability to stay on track despite their best intentions.
These are people that are constantly sabotaging their progress, the achievement of their goals. Who fall off, then get back on. Who despair at their woeful lack of self-control.
People who think “Whole30?” Jeez. “How about a whole half-hour?” I do believe I was one of those commenters.
Willpower doesn’t always work. Well it does, but like a flaky friend it deserts us in our hour of need.
We typically make three mistakes when we are jollying along on our paleo journey and start to hit roadblocks.
When judging our progress, we can:
1. Take a view that is far too short-term.
2. Look ahead instead of behind us.
3. Avoid standing back and taking a big picture view of ourselves.
4. Compare ourselves to others.
When this happens we judge our progress and, even worse, ourselves, negatively; our motivation dips and we despair.
Put on your zoom lens
We focus on the details, the “failures”, the restarts. We don’t see how small changes are adding up: how we spend time on health education rather than gossip sites; how we are spending more time on our feet instead of the couch; how we’re filtering our water and putting it in a glass bottle, how we’re going to bed 30 minutes earlier and protecting our bedtime fiercely, how we’re buying from the farmers market rather than the store.
We become inured to these changes because they have come habitual. Yay! This is what we want, but it does have a downside. We stop seeing them, and instead we lose sight of how are lives are slowly transforming, little by little, but surely for good.
When we zoom out, look at our lives objectively and see how all the small changes are fitting together, propelling yet more changes, we can see things differently. What appeared ragged and bumpy can be seen as a much smoother progression, and most importantly, in the right direction.
Look backwards instead of forwards
As I often say, if it were easy, we’d all be doing it. Changing takes time.
And because we think our journey should be quicker somehow, we start to tap our feet in impatience. We start to look far into the distance looking for our end point. We consult our paleo map to see how far we’ve got to go.
And we get discouraged because we realize we still have a long way before we get to be “paleo perfect” – before we eat all our meals healthy and homemade, before we can spy a frosted cupcake and throw it in the trash, before the number on the scale matches the number in our heart, before we’ve silenced for good the voice of the sugar devil in our head.
I say, turn it around. Look behind you to see how far you’ve come. Remember how it was when you were just starting. Maybe you’re aiming for 95/5 and despair because you’re at 60/40. But where did you come from? 30/70?
Monitor your progress on an *annual* basis
I was reviewing my recent Halloween experiences the other day. Having lived through four Halloweens in the time I’ve been paleo, it is interesting to take notice of the behavior change.
This is how I would like people who have trouble sticking with paleo or who are frustrated to view their progress: Compare your paleo behavior on an annual basis, not month-to-month, and certainly not day-to-day.
Doing so on holidays is an easy way to do this because they stand out in our memories.
My Paleo Halloween Journal
Halloween 2010: Disaster. I ate one Tootsie roll and spent the rest of the evening trying, and failing, not to eat the rest from my kids stash and those from the candy we had left over. This turned into a candy binge for the next two days and significant consumption for most of November. The San Francisco Giants were in the World Series and I ate candy corn during one game as an act of solidarity. I rationalized it by telling myself I was supporting them by eating candy in the team colors!
Halloween 2011: Better. I took the day off from paleo eating and ate what I wanted. Liberal consumption of candy ensued. Took another two days to reduce my candy consumption down to zero.
Halloween 2012: Good. Two pieces of candy while we were trick-or-treating.
Halloween 2013: Great. None eaten. Zero. Nada. Halo of self-righteousness, instead. 😉
I’m not perfect at all. I recently ate my own piece of my husband’s paleo birthday cake, plus some of his, and some of my son’s. I’ve had a couple of pieces since.
But I’ve come a long way from that woman who sat in her chair popping candy corn into her mouth like they were peanuts.
And that’s how we should view our progress – over the long term. Because this is a lifestyle, not a diet. It is our style for life.
And our life will be long and our habits need to be sustainable which brings me to the fourth way in which we go wrong.
Marathons and sprinting are two entirely different kinds of running. And they require different approaches.
Some of us aren’t built for speed. Go at your own pace, ignore the speed of others. Have confidence in yourself and your body. Suck things up if you need to. And, like a marathon runner, just keep going, one foot after the other.
- Measure instead your progress from where you started, not from your goal. Measure how far you’ve come, not how far you’ve got to go.
- Measure over the long term – how are you doing this last six months compared with the previous six months. How was your holiday this year compared to last?
- Look at how your life is trending. Step back and see how things are taking shape from an all-round healthful perspective – rest, play, relationships, exercise, as well as diet.
- Avoid comparisons, especially with the “overnight” folks. We all bring some baggage to the table. And our luggage varies in size, shape and color. Comparison isn’t particularly meaningful and not at all helpful.
Supporting yourself in this way makes the transition sustainable. It gives you the motivation to keep going. And, you never know, you might knock your socks off with surprise.