It’s time to be real. I struggle on days to get up, to eat real food, to move and to lift heavy things. I struggle on days to shut down the mindless scrolling on Instagram––I recently deleted the app to work on this very item since I felt it was becoming more of a distraction than a tool.
I think we all have those challenging days where a lack of willpower, motivation or drive seems to take over. It is normal and natural to crave and desire things that play on our neurochemistry. Social media is engineered to get us to scroll endlessly and not leave their site. Food, as well, is engineered to the “bliss point,” an industry term in processed food and drinks that refers to the exact range that gets us to want to consume more. Not too sweet. Not too rich. Not too salty. It’s just right. It is on these days that we have to rely on habits that we have set up to help us. The discipline the follow through and to also have compassion and empathy for our shortcomings. Are we going to stumble and fall on days like this? Absolutely. It is human nature. The critical thing to remember is that when we do fall short and struggle, for a day or a meal, to not let that become a negative feedback loop that then becomes days and weeks of shortcomings strung together. Repeated struggling day after day is how we often find ourselves giving up and quitting on ourselves. Digging ourselves into a hole that can feel too deep to climb out of. I know I have been there. I have also learned from those experiences as well.
Take chocolate, for example, I love dark chocolate. The brands I prefer only have two or three ingredients, so I feel pretty good about having it as a healthy treat. But, I do not do well with moderation and chocolate––or sweets at all for that matter. I have tried to get the moderation concept to work for me, but I can still eat the entire bar without much effort and sometimes even while I am eating it saying, “Nathan, stop.” Sweets and chocolate trigger something deep inside, and it becomes hard to stop. It could be a dopamine hit in the pleasure center of the brain or something a bit more emotional, fear of scarcity. Either way, this area of struggle for me is real, and I know this an area I need to pay attention to If I am to guard against this behavior. I do this by making sure I am in the right frame of mind and have a limited amount of chocolate available to me if I am going to eat some. I also try not to keep it in the house. My goal is to set up the right frame of mind by making sure I am eating well, getting plenty of sleep and plenty of movement. If I don’t do these foundational things, then it becomes much harder. And when I am stressed and running on poor fuel and limited deep sleep, I am going to go crazy and end up devouring all of the chocolate around. So for me, if life is getting the better of me on a day with stress, lack of sleep, or something else, then abstinence is my friend on these weaknesses. I won’t tempt fate, it can be hard, and I’m not perfect. But as I mentioned at the beginning, I then have compassion and empathy for myself. I shake it off, get back up and start again with the next meal, the next day, the next time. The key for each us it to learn what these areas of weakness are and how to mitigate them.
If you are struggling, take a step back, breathe, and get some distance so you can evaluate why and the what. Be kind to yourself. None of us are perfect. Remind yourself to focus on the process.
By: Nathan Marsala