Why it's so hard to stay "good" and what we can do about it:
Regardless of how you were raised, we all have an idea of what is “good” and what is “bad” and I feel confident in saying that I can’t be the only one who frequently ends up making choices that I am not proud of.
Why is this?
Why when we are trying so hard to change, do we continue to make mistakes?
Well, being human might have something to do with it.
I don’t like the word “diet,” it gives me anxiety and I feel like it has a lot of negative connotations, but if you think about it, when we are trying to be “good” we are dieting in one way or another.
There are all kinds of diets beyond just giving up foods. Spiritual diets, emotional diets, financial diets, relationship diets.
Restrictions we place upon ourselves in order to feel lighter.
There are a lot of things I am personally working on, things I am trying to change about my lifestyle. Some are easy to discuss, like abstaining from sugar for health reasons, and others are more personal.
Here are some tips that can help us on the quest to stay "good.":
1. Sustainable “Dieting"
When choosing a diet, or a restriction to place upon yourself, choose one that will last. Thinking of goals as a “diet” that you can go on or off is a lot less effective than simply switching to a healthier lifestyle that you maintain at all times. This applies to every type of diet. If you are trying to live to religious standards, you don’t want a religion that you follow when its convenient or easy, you want one that you live and follow at all times. If you are trying to diet financially, you don’t want to save only to buy things later, you want to save to invest, to pay yourself. This is why it’s important to pace yourself. If a lifestyle diet seems too difficult in the first place, sustaining it for a long time will seem impossible.
"'Losing weight and maintaining it is among the most difficult things people can do because it has no end,' says Gary Foster, PhD, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. 'To succeed is to make the vigilance part of a regular lifestyle.’”
SustainabilitY is KEY, but sometimes you can jumpstart sustainability with strictness. It's really hard to give something up if you still allow yourself a little, because a little quickly becomes a lot.
2. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations
You don’t lost thirty pounds over night, just like you don’t become a millionaire over night or the pope or an olympic athlete. All things come in due time with effort and patience. It is easy to quit or abandon a diet simply because you had a “cheat week” and feel like redemption is futile.
Start with small goals, rather than perfection. Take the tiny victories and celebrate those, rather than highlighting the failures. The belief that you have failed, triggers more failure and old habits to return. Look at failure as a learning opportunity for situations to avoid in the future.
Love yourself, forgive yourself, reward yourself.
But not with the thing you are avoiding. Don’t reward a good “temptation free” day with a little bit of the tempting thing. Find a more rewarding reward.
3. Track your progress.
Write down the small moments throughout the day of success. Create an “I did it” journal where you celebrate your moments of strength. Satisfy your hunger with healthier alternatives. When you ache for company late at night, call up a good friend rather than an old lover. When you ache to buy something you can’t afford, set down your card and enjoy something you’ve already purchased. Manage your stress with healthy alternatives like bubble baths and dusk-time bike rides, rather than the vices that threaten your well-being.
4. Don't Diet Without Exercise
If you restrict yourself from bad things without strengthening yourself with good things, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain the growth. There are lots of ways to strengthen yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically, beyond the “norm.” Nature walks once a week are a fantastic way to come closer to God, stability, and health. Work your way up from there, just start where you are.
5. Change Your Environment
Giving up sugar while still having a fridge full of ice cream was not one of my best ideas. Willpower can only go so far until I’m face first in a carton, forgetting everything I’ve worked for all day long. Get rid of the triggers from the beginning. Move, change schools, change jobs, change friends. When giving up mini-addictions, you need to be proactive. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed, and support you in avoiding temptations.
Don’t get discouraged. Any form of “diet” is an uphill battle, and some slip ups are inevitable. Just keep climbing.