Every once in awhile I find individuals who think and function the way I do. We connect quickly, trust openly, and find joy in understanding and being understood. I like to call these people my kindred spirits, my alter egos, my confidants, my humans, my people.
I met one of these like-minded persons about a year ago. My friend Alex is someone who thinks deeply, lives passionately, and sees life clearly. When turning 30 years old he decided to share “30 life lessons” with his community of friends and family on the inter-webs.
In one such post he described a powerful concept:
“I believe we have a finite amount of self-control during the day. This can be grown and developed, but, overall, you can only expend so much discipline in any given day before it is gone. I spend some [discipline] to get up on time [and] to make it to work. I spend some to get myself to the gym. I spend some to eat properly. I spend some to not buy frivolous purchases online. I spend some to not eat delicious junk food. I spend some to make myself go to bed on time.”
He goes on to say, “If I have had a particularly bad day, the self-control wears thin… Maybe I have way too many obligations between work, volunteer activities with church, and helping out friends. Maybe I’m struggling with a relationship issue that has me worn thin. When these things pile up, it becomes much harder to make the cognitive decisions to do the important things that take up my discipline. I will skip the gym. I will sleep in. I will eat junk food. I will bail on obligations.”
I so appreciate Alex’s honesty and vulnerability. We all have been here. We have all had times when our mind, body, and heart are battling in an epic tug-of-war. I was here last week! I had an especially tragic day. I was mourning and easily threw my awareness to the wind. It was not long before I found myself at IHOP eating a pancake combo; eggs, hash-browns, bacon, and all. Can we say emotional eater?
Over time we can practice being more conscious and making choices that better serve us, even when difficult days come. As we practice, however, it is crucial to set ourselves up for success. When we are working through physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or even social issues we find our time and attention diverted and our capacity to make the best choices diminished.
So what is the answer?
Alex goes on to say, “I try my best to remove as many of these daily decisions as I can. For example, I prepare all my meals for the week at once… When I prepare all my meals, I can make sure they are all healthy, they are easy to [assemble], and I know they will be readily available to eat so… I do not need to be troubled by the question ‘What will I eat today?’”
CONSISTENTLY meal prepping allows me, and other with this habit, the opportunity to make the BEST decision ONCE. I have held a space once a week to write a menu, grocery shop, and prep my meals. If I make this ONE healthy decision each week it protects me from making 21 (7 days, 3 meals a day) potentially difficult decisions throughout the week. If I put only healthy food in my fridge and on the shelves of my pantry, that is the food I eat. If my meals are proportioned, that is how much I eat.
There are times when I go out to eat with friends, my coworkers bring food/treats into the office, or someone offers me something OTHER than what I have prepped. It has becomes easier and easier to say, “No, thank you” or to make a healthier decision when so many of my other food decisions are already made.
It also allows me the freedom to say, “Yes! I would love some dessert today!” (or a steak and mash potatoes), and allow myself to enjoy, on occasion, without shame, blame, or guilt. How? Because I am confident I have and I will continue to make the healthy choice the rest of the time.
Remember, it is about consistency, not perfection. Make your job easier! Be kind to yourself. Keep practicing.