Shifts in Perfection

I used to refer to myself as an, “All or nothing” gal. Once dedicated, the effort required for me to stick with a project, goal or lifestyle change was nearly effortless. Motivation wasn’t the driving force, or even devotion. I simply adapted rather quickly to changes I chose to incorporate. Equally strong was my struggle to get back on track after missing a day of a given change. The length of time I’d successfully taken measures to establish the habit  wasn’t a factor, either. I could be cruising through month six or day four of these small to lofty pursuits when, bam, I hit a hiccup and what happened next was just illogical defeat. Case in point: I was meeting with a trainer three days a week, doing intense gym sessions and working out solo on the days in between. We switched up boxing, body weight training, lifting, tractor tire rolling, cardio…never overtraining any muscle groups. I was in great shape, felt awesome, nice lines highlighting my muscle tone and eating clean. I took a week off to meet up with an old friend on Palm Coast and, upon returning, I didn’t go to the gym the following week. Or, the week after that. Intellectually, I knew my, “What’s the use?” attitude was majorly flawed. Convincing my body to follow my brain was a different thing, entirely. It took way too long (my trainer had long moved across the nation) to return to a life in which regular, consistent exercise was the norm. My “condition” plagued me. While many of you already have this trait pegged, it took me even more time to understand the root of this frustrating flaw. I was a perfectionist. I was sure perfectionists were organized, punctual, had every facet of their lives together and never knew struggle. What’s more accurate, is perfectionists struggle the most. Good, isn’t. For me, it was a subtle, repetitive thought, for some, it’s a foghorn: “You failed.” So, there’s an incessant undertow to continue the goal process and the positive changes we’ve made for ourselves, lest we stumble, once, and cannot run it out to keep from face-planting. Fun stuff, huh? Living becomes a command we dictate for ourselves. We need no further consequences than the stream of thoughts reminding us that we never stick with anything. We never finish. We always screw it up. When the epiphany came that I just might be a perfectionist, I began to wonder what would happen if my slips and the resulting mental bashing were more commensurate. If I HAD a paranoia, it would be of drama, I’m sure. But, how much more DRAMATIC can one be, eating a doughnut six months into a food plan that doesn’t accommodate refined sugar and spend the next hours thinking about what could have been…alas, the plan loses momentum or is off, completely, and your greasy fingers reach for another French fry? It’s ridiculous. It’s senseless. And, it slaughters all self-care. We do much more damage to ourselves than if we’d eaten a doughnut everyday for a month. Without delving into the myriad psychological factors that play into this behavior, from childhood, on, I’ll start with, “Now.” I don’t diet and I’ve always loathed the word. It implies a temporary fix to a problem, real or perceived, that’s bound to return without maintenance. I have adapted a way of eating that is a complete shift from how I’ve eaten, my whole life. My health required it. I don’t eat sugar, dairy or grains. I was certain I would fail by day three. To my amazement, I was enjoying food more than ever, right away. Within the first two weeks, all sugar cravings were gone, along with simple carb yearnings. Dairy was the easiest of the three. I don’t drink milk, but I did enjoy some of its byproducts . I’m about 3 months into this no-name, self-designed way of eating. Last night, our family was ordering Italian from this little locally owned restaurant that creates incredible, homemade dishes. They don’t skimp…on anything…ingredients, portions, the time required to make any of their signature dishes. Their steamed fish and vegetables is the only thing on the menu that doesn’t wreck my food intake. I did not want steamed fish last night. I wanted lasagna. I perused my fridge half-heartedly, not wanting to cook, when I blurted out, “Order lasagna…I want the lasagna,” while Jason was placing the order. Eyes in the room widened. I somehow knew that as much as I’d shifted my eating habits, I’d also fully shifted my self-sabotage when deviating from what had always been strict guidelines, regardless of the habit. I ate the damn lasagna and the real mozzarella and the layered pasta and felt zero guilt. If you’ve never struggled with this frustrating plague of self-imposed, zero tolerance, this doesn’t sound like much of a win. I assure you, it is. It’s not about the lasagna. It’s that my ability to also nurture my mental and emotional state has come a hundred thousand miles from my old ways. Self-care is just that…it’s grace when we sometimes make choices that aren’t, on paper, the best for us. But, they’re water stations that keep us motivated to stay the course toward whatever marathon it is we’re in, to be better physically, financially, socially, behaviorally. I used to treat money in quite the same way. I’d buy absolute necessities, save the rest, denying myself luxuries under the illusion that a frivolous expense would land me, not poor, but broke. What… I wouldn’t stop at a massage, but replace my wardrobe or something equally unrealistic? What is unrealistic is ceaseless deprivation. It doesn’t matter if it’s food, time management, working out, buying the $400 boots or the $10 lip balm…we NEED a break from our limits. More than that, we deserve it. Not to be confused with entitlement, which triggers an entire generation, being deserving is as simple as recognizing that our needs are not static. I need to follow my food plan to be healthy and keep several serious conditions at bay. I also need to listen to that inner voice that requests a break from the way I do things, now. Regardless of how superbly our various shifts in life skills is going, when you need to clock out, you’ll know. From the most rewarding job to the most well-behaved kids, we are better at our roles when we recognize and honor the call of creating space to satisfy our hungers that fall outside of the food plan, the bank account, the regimen. In the long run, we are far more likely to resume and stick to our desired life path, when on that path we sometimes stumble across lasagna. Good, is. Peace, Warriors.

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