Diets are built on willpower.
Sure, you've got to remember what you're allowed to eat, what's on plan and what's off plan, but the heavy lifting when it comes to sticking to a diet is willpower. At least, that's what a lot of people say.
And, willpower isn't only the answer for diets used to lose weight. Even diets promoted for health still rely on willpower (and a "strength" to "take care of your body", as if only those who value physical health are elite, respectable, and not lazy).
Willpower is talked about when it comes to starting a business and hustling through (you've got to WANT it bad enough), when talking about exercise and getting to the gym regularly, and even when it comes to resisting temptations beyond what we eat.
Willpower has become the easy scapegoat. The thing we must not have when we're doing something we don't "want" to do. It's the thing the successful have and the lazy (and especially the overweight) must not have.
I'm tired of hearing about willpower. I'm tired of hearing that these diets, these restrictive ways of living "aren't that hard".
What if willpower isn't all it's cracked up to be? What if we took just a minute to actually address what's underneath our actions (or lack thereof).
This idea first came to me when chatting with a friend about health - and specially the motivation to take care of oneself. My friend said that the thought of how what she does now will affect her 30 years from now is the motivation. That if she wants to feel good when she has grandkids, then she's got to take care of her body right now.
On the surface, this is totally true. We do want to take care of ourselves now to maximize the chance of feeling good later. But, at the end of the day, that's all we can do. MAXIMIZE the chance of feeling good later. We can't guarantee it. (We can't even guarantee the "later".)
So, instead of willpower (a finite and temporary source of energy) being our motivation to take care of ourselves, instead of taking care of our bodies so that we feel good later...what if we simply practice wellness as a way to take care of our body so that we feel good in our skin RIGHT NOW. What if we practice self-care FOR the present, not for tomorrow, not for 30 years from now, not to escape death, and certainly not because someone else said we should.
This might sound like a picky distinction to make. But it's important. For a couple of reasons.
1. If you get sick later on in life, it is not automatically "your fault".
In fact, there shouldn't be any fault to begin with. I'm a bit sensitive to this subject, because there's a lot of judgment in the wellness world right now. If you have an autoimmune disease, then you caused it. If you're not fixing that autoimmune disease naturally, then you don't care about health. On the other end of the spectrum, if you're following a diet, then you're promoting behavior that often leads to eating disorders.
I've even heard industry leaders claim that a cold was a signal to take better care of oneself. That getting a simple, everyday cold meant she needed to eat better, sleep better, do all the things...better. If a cold signals a lack of self care, what does an autoimmune disease signal? What does ANY illness signal? A total and complete lack of self care? Lack of self worth? Lack of self respect? Do you see the issue with this line of thinking?
While what we do, how we think, and the way we live AFFECTS our health, it is not the end all be all FOR our health. We are all doing the best we can with what we have and blame only contributes to the problem. (Just like pressure.) Which brings me to number 2...
2. We aren't God.
He's got plans bigger than you, bigger than me, and bigger than what we can see. Maybe our challenges are there to teach us about self care or to encourage a relationships with the body. That's a possibility to consider without inviting blame for not having done this sooner. But, maybe also, those challenges have little to do with what you've done and haven't done -- and way more to do with what He needs and how you can help.
Sure, if value health (not everyone does), then do want you can to take care of yourself now to maximize the chance of feeling good later. Just remember, that's all you can do. MAXIMIZE it. There's no guarantee of feeling healthy later. (We can't even guarantee the "later".) Plus, it's possible feeling good later has more to do with what you believe than even what you eat. (Source: Mind over Medicine.)
3. Finally, taking care of yourself reaps immediate benefits.
THIS is the real motivation behind self care. THIS is what let us CHOOSE to take care of our bodies out of love rather than fear. THIS is what puts our bodies into the relaxation response over the stress response and promotes healing, digestion, and ultimately health.
Now, noticing these immediate benefits definitely does require work and commitment. But, it is the only way we are available to choose wellness versus feel dictated by it. Because at the heart of the matter, wellness is about cultivating a relationship with the body. And this relationship, like any other, does take work, patience, and trust. But, as we cultivate this relationship, we will start to notice the immediate effects of the choices we make. Putting two and two together is how we can finally choose things that leave us feeling good...versus make a decision based on should, rules, diets, or force. It's how we WANT the stuff that feels good...versus fall into the rabbit hole of NEEDING them. This distinction here is exactly why diets (a mindset of rules and regulations that determine action out of fear* and carry emotional attachment) don't work in the long-run.
*That fear typically lives under the surface and looks like a fear of weight gain, fearing a loss of social status, fear of disease, etc.)
So, HOW do we cultivate a relationship with our bodies? HOW do we choose wellness versus feel dictated by it? I'm talking all about this in The Wellness Boulevard. Take a free spin around the block and see if it's the right fit for you.