Looking back at the horrific events of the past week reminds me that our actions always reflect our priorities – even what we eat reflects our priorities. No matter what we tell the world, what we do sometimes belies our words. Not only can this sometimes confuse those around us, it can hinder us from reaching our goals. No change can come until we have the courage to stare the facts in the face.
There are millions of choices when it comes to food and health. What works for one person may be detrimental to another. We each have a unique ecosystem within our bodies. The only way to know what works for you is to become aware of your body’s signals and educated about the foods you choose to eat.
Keep a food journal for a month and you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your priorities. Sometimes when we express a priority, what we really mean is we feel we “should” focus on a particular thing because of peer pressure or a doctor’s recommendation. It often turns out to mean much less as far as our everyday behavior. Not only does this make us feel bad, it becomes an impediment to making positive change. For example:
If your stated top priority is to limit the sodium in your diet, but you don’t take the time to read the labels on your salad dressing, sandwich meat, cheese, packaged soup, and whole wheat bread, then you will not be able to achieve your goal because you won’t know whether you’re within your limit.
It could be that limiting sodium is not a top priority, but instead falls below work, screen time, working out, or whatever it is that keeps you too busy to read labels. That’s okay. Once you recognize the facts, you are in a great position to make the best choice for you.
If your stated priority is to avoid sugar and you continue to eat bread, breakfast cereal, frozen pizza, muffins, ketchup, barbecue potato chips and Ranch dressing, you are choosing foods that contain sugar. Once you recognize this you can decide to: 1)Eliminate these foods and all others that contain sugar, 2)Limit sugar by not eating dessert or “sweets”, but stop trying to avoid it 3)Eat as much sugar as you want.
Any of these choices is okay. Only you can decide what’s right for you. Once you look at the facts, you’ll be able to see how to achieve your personal goals more easily.
If your stated priority is to avoid processed food, but you eat at fast food or fast casual restaurants every day at lunch, then a revision of your stated priority or a change in venue may be appropriate.
If your stated priority is to avoid carbs, but you eat potato chips, drink beer, consume commercial smoothies, or coffee drinks, eat bagels or yogurt with fruit on the bottom, then it’s time to review your priority. It could be that research must take precedence while you learn more about carbs or it could be that you decide you don’t want to avoid carbs other than those from added sugars.
If your stated priority is to feed your children real, unprocessed food, but you grab the Lunchables®, packaged mac & cheese, or fruit roll-ups more often than the broccoli, black beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, squash, green beans, and asparagus then perhaps it’s just a goal and not a priority or maybe you believe education, sports, or dance are more essential building blocks for a good life and have prioritized those over real unprocessed food. If so, that’s okay and only your stated priority needs to change.
This flight of fancy may seem unimportant to you, but choosing and owning our choices is the only real power we have in life. You cannot control other people. You cannot control nature. You cannot control what foods make you feel bad. You cannot control all public policy. You cannot control feelings that come rushing from a subconscious trigger. You can control when and how you act on your feelings and you can seek help if prior trauma leaves you doubting your perceptions.
Ultimately, it is our choices that allow us to create the best possible life we can have no matter what uncontrollable or tragic circumstances we encounter. This is true when it comes to diet and health. It is also true in relationships, finances, on the highway, and in a job situation. Changing our lives for the better is always within our power, but it will not happen until we have the courage to observe the facts and tell ourselves the truth no matter how ugly or difficult that truth is. It is at that point that it becomes possible to give up excuses and blame in order to craft the lives we desire.
When I can embrace and accept the things about me about which I feel the most shame, I begin to treat myself as though I matter, my priorities matter, my health matters, and my heart matters. While I hope that this will be valued by everyone I encounter, I know it will not. When my values run counter to yours, I can make a choice to argue with you, bully you, harm you, dismiss you or hear you, inspire you, and have compassion for you. I will not always make the ideal choice. It is then you can have compassion for me.
I wish us all the courage to become our best selves.