I knew there was a reason I wanted to devote an entire month to focusing on feeding and loving my body well… because it’s tough! We are not off to a great start. I’m going to be kind to myself because of my four month old. Something about cute babies and sleep deprivation makes me crave sugar. My first confession: I ate two doughnuts from the bakery section of the grocery store while shopping two days ago.
But despite this, my resolution continues on! This month is about finding ways to come back after making poor decisions. Teaching myself to continue to treat my body with kindness and respect even after a lapse. How I got back on the horse is more important than how I fell off in the first place. Sidebar: My book for April is called “Rising Strong” by Brenè Brown which tackles this very subject.
Reminding myself that this month is all about treating my body well has been the biggest motivator for me. Living up to that resolution in my actions makes me feel like I am acting in accordance with my values. In therapy we call that cognitive consonance. Which is the opposite of cognitive dissonance, which may be the more familiar term. We feel cognitive dissonance, for example, when we smoke a cigarette even though we know it’s bad for our health. We tend to “explain it away” when we engage in harmful behaviors that don’t line up with our value system. Sometimes just avoiding the cognitive dissonance is enough to motivate behavior. Sometimes you need a little more push to connect to your values.
Sometimes I do the following exercise with clients to help them uncover underlying reasons why their behavior change is important to them. It’s called The Five Why’s. You start with the behavior you want to change then ask yourself “why?” Five times in a row to identify why it is so important to you. Here is an example I made up:
1. I want to lose weight
2. Because I want my clothes to fit better
3. Because if my clothes fit better I will be taken more seriously at work, look more professional
4. Because if I am taken more seriously at work, I will be able to take care of my family better
5. Because if I take care of my family then they will respect how hard I work. I want to set an example for them of a healthy and hardworking lifestyle.
See how deep it gets? Your aspirations can look shallow or meaningless on the surface. Like that scene from Mean Girls when Regina George says she “really wants to lose 3 pounds” and then waits for her friends to tell her she’s crazy and how great she looks. But there is always a deeper meaning.