I recently read a short post by The Dietitian’s Pantry about why diets are silly and unreasonable and pretty much everything I have been against for the better part of forever.
The main point: eat what you want until it no longer satisfies you. If you really want a piece of pizza, and you force yourself to eat a sad salad instead, chances are you will still end up double-fisting some slices of pepperoni heaven. You probably don’t want the pizza because it will nourish your body…it’s just really really tasty. So enjoy it with no apologies, but maybe just have one and then give the salad a second chance.
I enjoyed reading this article not just because of its commentary on nutritional wellness, but because the concepts resonate with so many different aspects of mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
I think this quote from the post embodies my point quite well:
“Mindful eating is about really enjoying the food you eat, tasting each mouthful and tuning in to the taste, texture and flavors of the food. It’s about listening and recognizing your hunger and fullness signals so you know how much to eat till you are feeling comfortably satisfied.”
When all we have are expectations of what we are supposed to do, how we are supposed to feel, and what we ought to be achieving, we lose the ability to consciously recognize what our minds and bodies need.
When I came to college, I promised myself that I would never settle. I would not make decisions simply because the alternative would mean difficulty and discomfort. I hoped to set myself up for a lifetime pattern of rejecting the “get the degree, go to grad school, get a 9-5 desk job, get married, have kids” system. I wanted to make plans that would ensure the cycle would never form.
And then plans changed.
I had been working as a social media marketing intern for about three months, making excuses that it was good public relations experience.
Even if I disliked it now, at least I had a paying job in my future industry.
It didn’t matter that I spent four hours a day in an office setting.
I’m not a fan of it now, but it would be over soon.
I can work 9-5 over break and make enough money to afford my rent.
Woah. This was not me.
Then one day I was finally honest with myself: I hate this job. I hate everything about it. And so I quit. And then, I was well again.
Not long after I quit my job, new challenges began to surround me. I spiraled. Many days were consumed by panic, anxiety, depression, and uncertainty. I felt as though all I ever did was work and study. The only way I could ever climb out was by making the conscious decision to grab the seemingly-invisible handholds.
Even if I knew I had piles and piles of work to do, I always honored the 1-2 hours I set aside to be active. At the end of the week, when I was too exhausted to even consider painting a new face and (willingly) walking in to the frigid night in 5-inch heels, I didn’t. If it was 10 pm and I would rather encapsulate myself in covers, I did. And in the morning, before everyone else awoke to pounding headaches and questionable bruises, I could go run or hike or dance or wake up ready to indulge in sunrise yoga.
That’s not to say I never go out. I do, but if I don’t want the slice of pizza, I won’t eat it simply because it’s there.
The hardest decisions you make bring about the greatest change. It’s hard to learn how to indulge in self-validation, instead of deriving worth from the perceptions of others. Every minute of your day holds value and promise, and any minute not spent alone should be spent in the company of those who think the world of you and are there in the darkest times (and vice versa: friendship and love are two-way streets).
Evaluating your situation, and making conscious choices to change it, is not easy. It’s hard to realize on your own that you don’t have to stick with a job you don’t like. You are not required to go out every weekend to release the pressure that consumed your week. You are also not required to miss out. Surround yourself with people and experiences that bring you nothing but joy. You don’t have to ignore the gorgeous, greasy, cheesy pizza on your kitchen table, but take it when you want it and in moderation.
Yes, I will have to get a degree and find a job…but the rest is optional. I think the rest will come to us in time, and will mean even more if we have made honest choices about what we want. I still plan to intersperse my path with side roads and spontaneity, because I have big plans and intend to keep them.
I also intend to eat a slice of pizza.