As part of any effort to eat more healthily there will always be lapses. I am getting a bit better these days at going easy on myself when I slip up (maybe because lapses have become so commonplace for me these days!) I have always heard/thought/believed that having self-compassion and going easy on myself when I have a lapse is a better way of handling them (as opposed to the, “Oh well, I’ve stuffed up, the day/week is ruined now so I may as well just eat whatever”).
I had an interesting thought the other day though: How can I go easy on myself when I have a lapse, while still making progress towards my weight loss goals?
Weight loss requires a level of discipline and self-control, but what do you do if you find you are falling off the wagon more frequently (like me!)? If you go easy on yourself won’t that just perpetuate the cycle? Like a parent going easy on a disobedient child, and the child eventually becoming unmanageable because they haven’t ever been disciplined or punished?
But then I thought of another way.
Showing self-compassion and “going easy on yourself” doesn’t have to mean letting go of your goals. By taking it one decision at a time, I realised there may be a way to use positive reinforcement to build positive behaviours that, when performed time after time, for a long time, will ultimately lead to reaching my goals.
Hence, this week I have started a “happy jar” (I thought of other names like, “habit jar” or “goal jar” but “happy” was the first thing that popped into my head and, to be honest, it just makes me feel, well, “happier” than the other names!…I know right? Who would’ve thought?)
It works like this: Every time I make a decision or do something that is in line with my weight loss goals I place something in this jar. At the moment it’s a small piece of scrunched up paper, but I’d like for it to be something a bit nicer that I can display, like pebbles or beads. I like the image below with the candle in the middle too and I’ve thought that this could be part of the process, where I light the candle and take time out to reflect on my week.
So in practice, I might earn a pebble (for want of a better expression!) for staying within my calories/macros/points etc for the day, or going to the gym. But it might be for something as small as wanting a biscuit, but knowing it’s not within my calories for the day, and deciding not to have it.
Once the pebbles reach a certain mark I’ll reward myself – like get a manicure or something nice. This way I focus on rewarding my good behaviours and make sure I don’t focus on the negative ones, I just let them slide and wait for the next opportunity to add to my jar (because, let’s face it, our day is literally FILLED with decisions, many that relate to food or exercise).
The more I’ve thought about this idea the more I like it. In the past I’ve rewarded myself for reaching weight loss mini goals, but because my “happy jar” rewards actual behaviours, and not the end result of behaviours (i.e. weight loss), I feel like it gets right to the source of what will make or break a weight loss journey – the day to day, tiny, repeated decisions and behaviours -the habits.
The other thing I like about this is that I will never take pebbles out of the jar for lapses – just like how a whole week of good decisions is not changed by subsequent bad ones. Yes, if enough bad eating decisions are made, the weight lost in that good week may come back, but it still doesn’t change the good decisions, because they are in the past.
I’ll be sure to post further on how this is going!