See if this scenario sounds familiar:
The alarm goes off on January 1st, and it’s do-or-die time. You’ve resolved to finally lose the weight once and for all, to get those Jennifer Aniston arms, that highly coveted thigh gap. So you get out of bed, maybe scrounge around the kitchen for a piece of fruit before heading out to use your newly minted gym membership.
But at the gym, you’re not entirely sure how any of the scary equipment works (even though everyone else around you clearly does), so instead of royally embarrassing yourself in front of the Skinny Tan Beautiful People (STBP–you know, those people that seem to exist solely to make the rest of us feel like total crap about ourselves) you just hop on a treadmill because it’s familiar.
About three minutes in, you remember you absolutely hate running, and that you could also be doing this for free outside. You push it out for another 20 minutes until stepping off, wondering why no one else seems to be hog-sweating like you are. Not sure what else to do now, and wanting to avoid hovering awkwardly in front of the STBP, you leave the gym.
This miserable cycle will maybe continue for a day or two, and you feel like you are ready to collapse from eating nothing but sad salads and vegetables you don’t really like. Then, the thought inevitably comes…like a whisper at first, but soon it turns to a shout… surely, after all that hard work, I deserve a treat.
Out comes the container of Ben and Jerry’s from the fridge, and you take a few small bites at first. But those salty caramel swirls soon have you devouring it like a madman, and almost before you realize it the entire container is scraped clean. Sitting back down on the couch, awash in guilt and self-loathing, you resolve to do better tomorrow. But then the morning comes, and you decide you simply cannot bear to run one more hog-sweat second in front of the STBP.
We all know the ending to this story of course, because it’s happened to 95% of us: we are slain by feelings of guilt, failure, and discouragement, so we start to comfort-indulge in food and Netflix again. The gym membership lapses, and we simply decide it’s too hard, too embarrassing, too expensive, too time-consuming, or too miserable to continue on in the quest towards that Pinterest-worthy body.
This yearly cycle is definitely all too familiar to me, and I’ve grown quite tired of living this way. But this year is different (no really, it is!; hang with me). I’ve made the same mistake too many years in a row to repeat it again, and that is a combination of expecting too much too quickly, not getting creative in the kitchen and cooking differently, and the big one: speaking unkindly to myself and trying to bully my body into shape.
In late December of last year, with yet another January 1st looming just around the corner, I came up with a concept to carry me through the remainder of 2018: learning when something is a Right Yes, and when it is a Right No. But what exactly does that mean?
I think it’s best expressed through story.
There’s an old folk tale involving the wind and the sun, and the two have a bet going to see who can get this man to take off his coat first. The wind goes first, and he tries to blow the man’s coat off through sheer force. He pummels the man with strong, hard, cold winds, but this just makes the man grip his coat tighter and tighter around himself. When it’s the sun’s turn, however, he simply turns toward the man and lets its warm rays fall over him, warming his chilled bones. Eventually the man feels content enough to shrug of his jacket and bask in the rays.
If you beat yourself up for eating a slice of pizza or cake, it’s just like the wind blowing cruelly against the man in that coat. Getting angry with yourself is always a Right No. It leaves no room for forgiveness, and therefore no room for growth or future success. Anger and guilt are not sustainable emotions for humans to feel for long, so instead of waking up and trying again the next day, you might fear the crushing weight of your own self-imposed judgment and give up before you even try; eventually, it just becomes easier to give up rather than suffer that cruel voice of failure in your head once more.
But what if we reconfigured the whole New Year’s resolution thing into more of a “sun” approach?
Say you’re doing pretty well eating healthy and staying active, and then a friend calls to invite you out to celebrate a promotion or something similar. It may seem there are only two options here: stay in out of fear you won’t be able to control yourself when the pizza is set down on the table, or deciding to go and getting angry with yourself for eating a slice or two.
But I present a third option: LET YOURSELF ENJOY THE STUPID PIZZA AND CELEBRATE YOUR FRIEND. Sometimes there are way, way more important things in life than adhering to a hard and fast food regimen, like celebrating good things and making people feel important.
Not only will giving a Right Yes to leaving room in your life for occasional indulgences like gelato, a fat juicy burger, chips and queso, birthday cake, or a beer or two give you the freedom to continue living a fulfilled and engaged life with those around you, it will also greatly minimize the temptation to binge. Total deprivation through self-bullying may indeed lead to more weight-loss up front, but there’s likely a binge session lurking right around the corner. And feelings of guilt, frustration, and shame are never far behind that, creating a recipe to gain back the weight plus some.
So, this year, a sun approach is in order. By acting with grace and patience towards myself, it’s my goal to lose the 30 pounds I’ve gained since getting married while also learning to have a healthy relationship with food and fitness.
I will not live in a cramped box with no margin for error. I will forgive myself when I mess up. I will not get angry with myself for not magically losing the weight all at once. I will learn to cook differently and with intentionality. I will develop a relationship with vegetables and purchasing locally. I will find a fitness regimen that works for me. I will utilize free and cheap resources around Tulsa and know that I don’t have to break the bank to start living differently.
But most importantly, I will fight the accusing voice in my head–and that is always a Right Yes.