It seems in life that you are always trying to improve yourself. You want to be more successful at your work place. You want to be more fit and flexible. You want to achieve the best possible grades that you can. Even when you achieve the highest award or run a marathon, you still strive to do better. And while striving to be a better person and to do bigger and better things in your life shows that you are motivated and have goals for your life, sometimes that constant need for improvement and perfection can be absolutely exhausting… especially when it comes to your body and mind.
Change and recovery are both slow processes. In my profession as a registered dietitian, I see patients and clients struggle constantly with the pace of their journey. Clients who are desperate to attain a healthier weight get frustrated when the numbers on the scale don’t move fast enough. Patients with diabetes feel defeated when their blood sugars are high and don’t improve quickly enough for them. And those who struggle with eating disorders wonder when ED will finally be gone and they can focus on their life rather than food and weight.
The most difficult thing for most clients, no matter what change or recovery they are striving for, is accepting the “here and now” – the present tense. When we don’t accomplish goals quickly enough, or when we don’t like something about ourselves, we are quick to make negative comments and bring ourselves down. At Inner Door Center® our recovery programs are based on mindfulness, and mindfulness is based on living in the present, living in the moment. This blog article aims to provide you with some tools that will help you be comfortable with your present self, and to accept that whatever change or recovery you are trying to make will be a journey. One of my favorite quotations is “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” By deciding you want to make changes and want to recover you are taking the first step – the next step is to accept where you are and decide where you want to go from here.
Here are some ways that you can start “living in the moment” and loving yourself in the present tense.
1. Throw away your to-do list.
Even if it is just for one day, forget your planner. Forget the things you had to do today. Live in the moment, and let life take you where it wants. Maybe that means watching all of the episodes of your favorite show that have been sitting on your DVR for months… maybe it means you still do your “to-do” list, but without thinking about it. Or maybe it means spending some time with friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Letting go of the “have-to’s” and “to-do’s” lets you live in the now and be fully present because you don’t have any idea what you’re going to do next!
2. Chart your values.
What are the little things in life that make you happiest? Maybe it is spending time with friends, exercising, rocking a presentation at work, or volunteering. Write down everything that makes you happy and then spend a week focusing on those things – not focusing on doing them, but focusing on how they make you feel. Notice how much time you might have spent thinking about how to reach your goals, or speaking negatively about yourself, rather than celebrating the things you value most in your life.
3. List your star qualities.
It may be a difficult task in the beginning, but think of the things that you like about yourself. If you can’t think of anything, try to remember compliments that you have received from people about various aspects of your appearance or personality. Even if you don’t believe the compliments that you’ve been given, for the moment pretend that you do and write down everything that you or other people like about you. Focus on this list, and get your mind off of the number on the scale, or the pace at which you are moving.
4. Realize sooner rather than later that the world is not “one size fits all”.
The most frustrating thing about my career is that we are so focused on “ideal body weight” and BMI charts. While these tools are important and can be helpful when interpreted correctly, they are not necessarily helpful to someone that is not trained to interpret them. Thinking that every woman who is 5’6” should fit into a small little box – between 120 and 145 pounds, or a BMI of 18.5-24.9 – is absolutely preposterous. Every body is different, and every body is beautiful. Not every person will fit into the “normal box” that these tools define. We all fit into our own “normal box” – what is normal for me won’t necessarily be normal for you. Our normal is what is healthy and that is something we have to accept right away on our journey.
5. Enjoy your food.
Stop judging food the way that you judge yourself or other people. There is no “good” and “bad” food. Food provides us with energy that we need to fuel our bodies. Food provides us with nutrients that make the cells in our bodies work on a daily basis. Food provides us with emotional experiences, like the warmth and comfort we feel when we drink a hot cup of cocoa, or the wonderful feeling of a creamy sauce on our tongues, or reminiscing about our childhood when we eat an ice cream cone. Evelyn Tribole (co-author of Intuitive Eating) suggests a 90/10 rule: make 90% of your food choices for self-care, overall health, and good nutrition. Make 10% of your food choices for pleasure.
6. Set small, achievable goals that aren’t related to size or weight.
Instead of focusing on the numbers on the scale or the size of your clothing, choose to work towards goals that provide overall wellness. For example: eating breakfast every morning, or drinking 8 glasses of water every day, or taking your dog for a walk 4 times a week. These are small goals that you can do right now. They are goals that can be celebrated daily when you accomplish them, and you know that all together they will add up to a greater success down the road.
7. Stay away from people who feed your “mindlessness”.
If you have one friend who constantly talks badly about herself, it can be triggering and overwhelming! The last thing you need when you are trying to be mindful is someone venting to you about all of the stuff they have to accomplish in the next week. Being a good friend does mean being there and listening when your friend wants to vent, but you cannot be a good friend without being good to yourself. If you need to, stay away from these people for a while. If you’re comfortable, try to change the conversation when those topics come up – say something like, “Wow, this tea is just absolutely delicious. It is exactly what my body wants right now,” or say “I really like the outfit you picked out today. It makes your green eyes really stand out.”
8. Repeat daily affirmations – and fake it ‘til you make it!
We provide our clients with affirmations – positive statements that you repeat to yourself to improve your self esteem and self love. In the beginning it may seem very silly to stand in front of a mirror and say, “I am beautiful just the way I am, right here, right now.” And you may not believe yourself at first. But you have to “fake it until you make it” – keep repeating these positive statements to yourself until you are speaking the truth and truly believe the words that you are saying. “I am a strong, independent woman capable of just about anything.” “When I dance in my bedroom, I am beautiful.” These are some positive affirmations that you can repeat to yourself to help you love yourself – right here, and right now.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, addiction, or just need help learning to love yourself and be the best “you” that you can be, please contact the Inner Door Center®. Our trained professionals can help you reconnect with yourself and practice mindfulness. You can visit our website for more information (link to website here) or please call us at (248) 336-2868 for more information on the services that we provide.