Be a little indulgent. Be a little wimpy. Be a little imperfect. I'm suggesting that we resist the temptation to set ridiculously high standards for ourselves when we periodically get disgusted with ourselves and focus on healthy behaviors.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it's the only effective coping mechanism in a culture that conspires to make us fat, lazy, and stressed out. Unfortunately drive-thrus are here to stay, another over-the-top exercise regime will replace CrossFit when it becomes passé, and the demands of your 24/7 workplace are not going to ease up so that you can have a lovely, balanced life. This is our reality, and we need to learn to live in it.
We all know the ingredients of a healthy, happy life: managing stress, eating healthy foods, and keeping our bodies moving. Yet many of us never manage to get these under control. Instead, we ricochet between healthy and unhealthy phases. We go on diets. We hire personal trainers. We say, "Om." We're doing great... for awhile.
But then we lose our resolve. We go to Carl's Jr. and order a ½ lb. Western Bacon Thickburger with fries. We sit on the couch and eat our way through a bag of Lay's Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese chips. We put on our makeup and check our phone while on the way to work and cause a rear-ender.
Why can't we stay on the straight and narrow? Why do we keep vacillating between "being good" and acting like a hedonist? As ironic as it may seem, the problem is that we try to be "too good." We set the bar too high, fail, get discouraged, give up.
Let's say you convince yourself that sugar is evil and decide to cut out all desserts. You may succeed in abiding by this draconian rule for a week or two, but when your birthday rolls around and you're presented with a homemade chocolate fudge cake, you indulge. The first piece tastes like nirvana. Before you know it, you've wolfed down a second piece. You feel guilty, but you give yourself a "birthday exception," and fully intend to resume your saintly ways. Instead, you slide down the slippery slope. The first time you have a rough day at work, you find yourself in bed with Ben & Jerry's, binge-watching episodes of "Orange is the New Black."
Stop Trying to Be a Mother Theresa
1. Be a little indulgent. Don't put any food on the "forbidden" list. It will call your name. Even if you splurge on a nutritionally bankrupt, yet oh-so-tempting, deep-fried treat at the County Fair, indulging once in a while isn't not going to give you thunder thighs or add 2 inches to your waist.
2. Be a little wimpy. Unless you're already in great shape, super-strenuous workouts like CrossFit are not for you. And many personal trainers are on a mission to give you the toughest, never-to-be-repeated workout of your life. The predictable result: injury or burnout. You don't need to be that macho; be a little wimpy instead. The key is to discover some fun, or at least tolerable, ways to get your body moving that you won't come to dread.
3. Be a little imperfect. Much of our stress is caused by a drive to be perfect -- as a parent, as an employee, as a boss. Abandon that unattainable goal. You can't be all things to all people 24/7 and also give yourself the time and attention you need to recharge and stay healthy. Be content with being slightly less than perfect.