For many people, the New Year is a time to take stock and assess who we are, where we are going, and take a pause to reflect on our life. Are we OK, or do we want to make some changes? Do we want to give something up or add something in? This is a good thing!
I know I do and this new website is part of that thinking. Some of the other things I want to do are (a) Include more leafy greens; sure am great with veggies yet could use lots more leafy greens this winter. (b) Complete the 5 minute yoga sun salutation every single morning, and (c) stop eating when I’m full! What with the holidays and winter… hot soups, warm bread, cozy casseroles, and special desserts I just keep eating. Enough!
Sadly, some of us are not very successful at sticking with our New Year’s resolutions. Why is that? Why are we so resistant to change? For example, why are we reluctant to integrate healthier, plant based options into our daily fare when we keep hearing how great it is?
Obstacles to our success lie both inside and outside of us. What can we control? Let’s talk about it!
1. Fear of the unknown, losing control, or looking incompetent? Facing our fears builds confidence and desensitizes us to future fear. Facing our fear is something we have to do at many points in our life. There is no way to get around it but to examine it, talk about it, demystify it. We have to look ourselves in the eye and do what we think we cannot. It can feel really awful (argh, it really does!) but life does go on. Most people are too wrapped up in themselves to even care what you are doing, so just go for it despite any feeling of incompetence or emotional discomfort. I now call that the “what the hell attitude” sprinkled with compassion and patience with myself.
The first time I told my hosts I was a vegan I was terrified! I meekly whispered a bland comment to the wall. I was so scared – but a hole did not open up in the floor and I did not die a thousand deaths. From then on, every time I talked about my food choices, I felt stronger, more courageous, and had more confidence – even out in public with strangers! In 11+ years I have come a long way baby!
To successfully integrate better eating for life, we must ensure that we have some sort of vision or series of goals. Please refer to sessions #6 and #7 for more detailed information. Create a chart with action oriented items, a calendar with steps to take, and list of meals to eat both at home and out. To maintain our dignity (and not fall flat on our face!), we must have a plan, break our transition into a straightforward set of baby steps. Many people find it easier to wade into eating more plants meal by meal, food by food, or day by day, and not dive in all at once. There are all sorts of ways to wade in. Be smart about it; organize yourself so that you have as little discomfort as possible. Think and plan ahead. Fear will dissolve when you take control with a strong plan.
Remember, it’s all about progress not perfection!
2. Unable to make the changes you want at the present moment. Have you had a recent surgery? Are you in the midst of a work crisis? Is there something going on that you simply must focus on before you can tackle anything else? Be kind to yourself, take time, and plan for your imminent transformation. Think of it as preparing for a journey. Plant seeds in your daily life for the upcoming transition. Write up your plans for how you will do it. Gather recipes and make up weekly meal plans. Play with social media that focus on better eating for life. Get invested and excited now! Start telling friends and family that as soon as ABC is over you are going to start XYZ … then enlist their support!
3. Lack of knowledge is easy to fix. There are many trusted researchers, physicians, and educators who advocate a plant-based diet lifestyle and who are not paid off by special interest money. We made the successful transition to veganism after my husband’s heart attack in 2005. I created the website and 11 educational videos after I researched the topic and took a class by the eminent T. Colin Campbell, PhD. Look over my sessions for more information, then do your own research using reputable resources such as ones listed in the bibliography on our resources page.
4. Frozen or feeling paralyzed. Non-action is action. Not choosing is choosing. What will happen if you just do it? What will happen if you don’t? What will your life look like in 5 or 10 years if you do nothing? Do you like that vision of your future? Do you need more support getting to the bottom of it? Thinking about the future is a great way to tap into inner motivation. Motivation is the key! I love the story about a friend of mine who was told if she didn’t lose her excess weight, she wouldn’t live to see future grandchildren. Bingo! She was unstuck and has kept the weight off; she now plays with her grand kids.
5. Reliance on quick fixes. There is no doubt about it, changing your daily eating pattern is more effort at first. After 11+ years it’s super easy, we have our routines, and it’s very automatic. Yes, at first it is work. It takes time. There is no magic bullet and wishing upon a star doesn’t change anything either. Action and effort are required. Remember that it’s all about progress not perfection. Along the path, do take time to celebrate and recognize achievements along the way! Be proud of yourself and the positive steps you are taking!
6. Social pressure not to make changes. Sometimes we are fortunate to have super supportive environments in every aspect of our life. Sometimes not. The trick here is to manage external forces when making changes to your food choices. For example, don’t eat out with an unsupported friend; instead go for a walk or see a movie together. Eat before going out to a social gathering where you doubt you want to eat much, or bring your own food! Add more supportive, positive people to your world using social media like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. The more positive supports you have the less the negative ones will drag you down.
There was a woman in our family (RIP!) who was very mean and critical of me. She said the worst things! I had to learn to be very firm and stand my ground. I would not let her lecture or bully me to eat slabs of steak (really she tried to do that). Finally, after years of struggle, I decided not to have anything to do with her again. My emotional health and sanity was more important. It’s tricky and we all have to choose our own battles. The important thing is you take care of yourself; you can only help take care of others when you are strong, in a good place.
7. Perseverance and determination is lacking. Are we truly the Captains of our own ship? Do we give up easily? Do we have a bit of self-determinism or are we passive bystanders to our own life? If the first or second trip to the grocery store, with vegan shopping list in hand, turns out to be a disaster, don’t sweat it. Reflect on what you learned. Try again. As kids we fall off our bikes and jump back on; no big deal. Keep trying, keep jumping on that bike. Demonstrating a backbone is a good thing! Be the Captain of your own ship or someone else will be.
8. You don’t truly want to change despite saying you do. People say all sorts of things but actions speak louder than words. If that is the case, stop saying you want to! However, if others are asking you to integrate better eating for life, and you are reluctant, re-frame the thinking into something that does work for you. Ask yourself if you can turn their goal into something that’s a benefit for you? If you really want something, you will figure out how to get it. Tap into your inner motivation so you can go for the long haul. We all adhere to the idea of “what’s in it for me” right? Make it work for you.
9. Things are not bad enough yet. Physical, mental, and emotional pain are great motivators. Maybe you don’t have to shop for clothes in the special big persons department yet so are OK with excess weight. Maybe your blood pressure in only in the low danger zone. If your pain is not unbearable, you might be willing to hang on a bit longer. But do ask yourself where you will be in 5 or 10 years. Make a list of the positive and negative consequences 5 – 10 years in the future. What do you see? What future do you wish to see? Dealing with lifestyle changes is much easier when there is less to change and before personal health is severely compromised.
10. Do you feel a lack of compassion or kindness toward yourself? I can be really hard on myself so I get this. Sometimes we have to focus on other things first like finding the right level of safety and support. Before we can make significant changes, and eat better for life for example, we have to accept ourselves for who we are right now, warts and all.
I was a K-12 educator for a long time; any classroom teacher will tell you that students will learn, grow, and change in an environment of trust, safety, and support. When students feel good about themselves, accepted by their peers and teachers, they can soar! We all need environments in which we can accept ourselves and then make any desired or necessary adjustments to our lifestyle.