There is a problem with making lifestyle changes, such as cleaning up your diet or starting an exercise program when you are trying to “be good” or look good”. What’s wrong with this? Well, let’s look at these motives a little more closely.
“Being Good” – this motive has to do with feelings of shame and avoiding shame. When I am being good, I am deserving and acceptable. When I am not being good, I am bad and should feel shame. Eating a piece of cake or feeling too tried to exercise today causes feelings of unworthiness. In the long term, these feelings are untrue, unhealthy and will ultimate lead to feelings of failure and shame and…you may have guessed it, punishment.
“Looking Good” – this motive is all about a fear of losing control. I need to look presentable, up to a certain standard at all times. My face, hair and body must be perfect or I am falling short. I must maintain control of my body, carefully screen the foods that I consume, and exercise diligently. Control issues will rarely bring about lasting or satisfactory change.
Okay, so what is a healthy way to approach lifestyle choices? How about:
“Feeling Good”- I do what I do, and eat what I eat, and move the way I move because “I like the way I feel when I….” This is all about doing something for the sake of enjoyment and pleasure. It comes from a place of honoring your body, finding contentment and it evokes a spirit of autonomy and competence. You are empowered and making choices that make you feel good. This comes about through mindfulness, such as through noticing what foods intuitively feel “right” to you at any certain time, or moving your body in a way that makes you feel your best, and brings joy to your day. This motive works best for long term change.
Love yourself. Appreciate your body. Listen to that voice within and ask yourself, “What do I need today?” Maybe it’s a long walk alone in nature, or a rowdy game of Frisbee with friends in the park. Maybe you need a hug or a great bar of chocolate. Maybe you want to create something delicious for dinner with the fresh vegetables and have a glass of wine with it. Wellness is the natural state of your body, and doing what feels good in any moment helps us to maintain inner balance. Trust your inner wisdom and come from a place of feeling good.