Thursday, July 18, 2013

Perfection in Health and Fitness

I wrote a similar post on my Baby website concerning perfection in parenting recently (check it out here) and wanted to share the concept on here too. 

The common theme I read and hear from other mom's is that they are dissatisfied with their body and if they could just get a handle on perfecting their diet and committing to their workouts 100% of the time they will see magical and immediate results.  When that does not happen, the stress, depression and body image problems begin.  Is it just me or are we placing to high of expectations on ourselves to be perfect.  I understand having a goal and then knowing the steps to get there, but honestly do you believe that the average person goes an entire year without having a cookie or a latte or whatever you deem extra decadent.  Sure bingeing is not going to get you the body you want or even deserve, but nutrition, calorie counts and necessary workouts are still not an exact science.  They take experimentation and follow through.  So you splurged on something decadent one day or even an entire week, that does not define you and it doesn't have to defeat you. 

So I admitted in a facebook group today that I am a closet eater. I have never told anyone that before. Clearly I have maintained a sort of thinness throughout the years so it has never gotten out of control, but where did the need for secrecy come from. Why did I start feeling like I needed to eat only when others were not around? I have gotten somewhat better as I am more of aware of it, but it is still a part of me. Maybe it started because I sensed that people looked to me for advice regarding staying thin and I did not want them to see me at my lows, but that wasn't fair to them or to me. I am more aware of how my actions and even the things I say affect other's thinking and I do not want anyone to take something I say and feel failure when they cannot follow it.  The truth is that I am not perfect.  I do not want to be responsible for sending people on a wild goose chase.

I have been doing a lot of reading and questioning of diets, deprivation, eliminating, and just how we speak to ourselves in general. I know for myself when I "diet" there always comes that point of failure which spirals into so many things...all negative. I am just seeking healthy living where the word "cheat" is unnecesary because I eat great the majority of the time and having something decadent is not me cheating but me learning to accept living and being real and honest. I am tired of beating myself up over not being perfect. When we diet in this way, we are trying for perfection and as has been proven so many times, as humans, we falter. Perfection is rarely maintainable. In my quest for health I desire to be more like the tortoise, slowly progressing towards my goal of being healthy and less like the hare trying to make it there quickly with no regard to consequences and dieting does have consequences. Some of those consequences are not seen for years.  So often when find perfection, we lose it or take it for granted and ultimately we have to start all over.

The word "cheat" just doesn't belong in our vocabulary concerning food or even exercising. Think about how cheating is used in other situations. When you cheat on your spouse you hurt them, you hurt yourself, and to have any hope in getting that trust back you have to work extremely hard. Same as a diet, when you allow yourself to be governed by cheat days, you are saying my health is not important at this moment. I will just make it up later and many times that is by overexercising or undereating either leading up to that "cheat" meal or immediately following.  You start back at square one learning to trust in yourself to make the "right" decision next time.

There are times when yes, we need to eliminate something for the sake of our health and that is a different issue. I have done many eliminations in order to see the effects on my Crohns disease. I have yet to find a specific food or food group that affects my personal variety of crohns, other than sugar substitutes and sugar alcohols. They do tend to cause minor issues so for the most part I do stay away from those.

There are of course going to be a select group of people that can make their mind up and stick to a certain plan 100%, but that is not the general population.  This desire to be perfect is not working in our favor.  So, you temporarily end up #1 in a body building contest. It is temporary. Even body builders will admit it is not maintainable.

We talk about food and dieting so much more these days. It is a hot topic everywhere. I feel like this may be hindering us in some way. When those "sins" are in our face constantly and we start to feel like we cannot keep up with everyone else's perceived perfection it is easy to slip into the woe is me, I'm a failure mode.  The vicious cycle begins again.

I am not suggesting you never strive for better than you are at this very moment. Instead I am suggesting we take some of the pressure off and find a balance that is easily maintained. So the hare beats you to the finish line, once you make it there, he'll have been back and forth from the start to the finish many times. Going back to that starting point constantly is where the desperation and the poor body image takes over. Why cycle through that?

Even being pregnant, a time when my body kind of just takes over and does what it does even though I eat the same way and exercise the same way, I can get a little flustered and that is sad. I want my children to just see a mom that is active and happy, not one fretting if a certain food is going to cause me to balloon up or trying to make up for those "cheats."

I just worry about people looking for the next big thing or jumping on a train only to constantly bail and try the next big thing and then get on that vicious mental cycle.  What works for one, does not necessarily work for another. 

So now what?  I do love to work out.  It is good for my mental fitness, not just my physical fitness.  I will continue to share what type of workouts make me feel strong, powerful, mentally fresh, or even sore, but where food is concerned, know that I am not perfect.  I struggle but I power through and am working daily on finding a food balance and that is what I want for you. 

Can you relate?  Have you been seeking perfection?  Does it help you or hinder you?  I'm curious how others view goals and the means of getting there. 

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