We're heading into holiday season, full of special times with family and friends, cooler weather, shining decorations, and seasonal foods. And then comes the New Year, full of hopeful resolutions and promises to make the next year better and more prosperous.
Most people make at least one New Year’s resolution that is health focused: exercise more, eat healthier, lose weight, etc.
And yet, how many actually follow through and keep those resolutions?
Many times the resolutions we make are not intimately tied to our values.
We think we should eat healthier, but health may not be a true priority for us.
We know it would be good to exercise more, but it is not something we enjoy or is just not that important when stacked against all the other demands on our time and money.
If our values are not lined up with the resolutions or goals that we set for ourselves, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
If you don’t like to cook, are always making excuses about how you don't have time to do it, or are not willing to spend some time in the kitchen, it is unlikely that you will make it beyond the first few days of any nutrition challenge you undertake. Instead, because of a lack of preparation, you will be stranded without appropriate foods and will then make a poor choice because you are hungry, tired, or tempted (Well, hello there, jar of office-candy…).
Or perhaps you have been convinced that this is something you “should” do, but you haven’t completely bought in to the idea. (Enter your nagging friend who keeps bragging about how insanely awesome she felt on the 21DSD). It will then be easier for you to sabotage your challenge by eating something on the “no” list or just giving up completely and diving headfirst into a bowl of pasta. (Thanks, dear, sweet Italian mama…)
So what should you do?
Set yourself up for success by aligning your values with your decision to do the 21DSD or other nutrition challenge (or with whatever other health goals you have) and then consider the following.
First, make sure that when you start you are emotionally ready for the change.
Sometimes we set a goal for ourselves before we are truly ready to follow through with the commitment. It is perfectly fine to purchase a program guide, read a few websites or blog articles, and talk to some friends before deciding that a particular challenge is right for you. You might be ready to jump in right away… or it might take you a year or more to be fully on board with the idea of changing your eating habits (even if only for a short period of time). Being ready emotionally and having additional support from a partner, friend, or family member can make it so much easier to stick with the program. If you make the decision to complete a nutrition challenge, but wait until you are ready, you will be better prepared to make choices throughout the program that support that goal (even when going to a birthday party that is a complete wheat and sweet-fest).
Being emotionally ready sets you up for a successful experience.
It’s not necessarily easy to follow a structured plan, especially if you are new to eating Paleo, but you will make it much easier if you know what is involved and you prepare.
- Read the program guidelines (maybe a few times).
- Check out the program's FB page and/or forum and see what people are saying.
- Clean out your pantry and fridge.
- Ask a friend, partner, or family member to join you.
- Go grocery shopping or visit a farmer’s market.
- Visit recipe-sharing sites and get ideas for meals.
- And start cooking, even if it is very simple and very basic.
Preparation is often vital to success, and you need to be ready to shop, chop, and cook so that you always have good, nutrient-dense food available when you are hungry.
You also need to be ready to ask questions if/when you have them. Check in with the FB or forum communities or a friend/family member who will support, encourage, and root for you.
Finally, if you start a nutritional challenge and slip up, know that all will be well.
We are all human and we all make mistakes! You might find that you mindlessly pop a grape in your mouth when you are washing them for your kids, or you start to chew a piece of gum after a garlicky meal, or you choose to eat a slice of birthday cake at your boss’s party.
In that moment, you may have made a mistake given the outline of the program you set out to follow, but you are not a failure.
Let me say that again: failing to follow any program 100% does not make you a failure.
You may have slipped up, screwed up, lost focus, given in, gotten busy, gotten lazy, or distracted yourself. But it is only a failure if you decide that your health isn’t worth the effort and you give up on yourself and your goals completely.
A setback does not ruin the progress you have made during your nutrition challenge, and you will be okay. Just realize what led to the mistake, have compassion on yourself, and keep going.
You, and your health, are worth the effort and struggle that it takes to complete any health and lifestyle renovation, and the 21DSD and other challenges are great ways to reset your metabolism, make you more mindful of your eating habits and how food makes you feel, and connect with other like-minded people who are all in this struggle together and will rally for you when you make a poor choice.
Just remember that you had a setback, not a failure, unless you use that slip up as an excuse to derail you completely.
Get back on the horse! Finish the race! Fight the good fight! And know that we are all in this together and we want you to succeed.
You can do this!