Choices. Life boils down to choices. Every day we make hundreds of choices. Some are better than others. Some have immediate consequences and some don’t affect us until much later in life. Some choice consequences are larger than others. I want to get you thinking about why some choices matter more than others, how to make better choices and how to recover from the not-so-good choices.
Sometimes a choice can have no perceivable consequences, and other times it can be life-changing. Think about daily choices regarding food. It’s easy to think these choices aren’t a big deal. You need to feed yourself probably three times a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, every year of your life. Do the math. That’s a lot of food choices. Do you want to spend a lot of time agonizing over every one of those food choices with as much thought as you give to deciding on a major? Probably not.
But here’s an important distinction. You spend a lot of time contemplating those big decisions because you perceive them as important and life-changing. But if you realize that each food choice you make perpetuates a way of thinking about food and leads to repeat decisions that affect your health and body image, now those individual food choices take on new meaning.
For example, if I normally eat lots of vegetables and lean meats and one day someone offers me some of their hot Cheetos, am I going to die if I eat a few? No. But if I eat hot Cheetos every day and they are part of a diet full of processed foods loaded with sugar, salt and fat, then every time I choose to eat a hot Cheeto, I’m choosing illness and death rather than health and wellness. If I continue choosing to eat like this, it is going to affect me sooner or later. Maybe it’s just buying bigger jeans next week, but eventually my decisions turn into doctor visits and not being able to do the things I want to do.
The good news is that the first time I decide to say no to hot Cheetos, I’ve made an incremental change with huge potential. The next time I want hot Cheetos, I can remember I survived without them last time, and now my decision is a little bit easier. Every time I choose to not eat like that, I build a little reserve of willpower.
At first it can seem like a huge battle to make the right choice, but the more times I win that battle, the stronger I get. Eventually I realize I don’t need hot Cheetos anymore. So now maybe I decide I’m going to start packing an apple every day instead. Then I might do something crazy like choosing a salad instead of a hamburger for lunch. It’s so easy to think each and every little choice doesn’t matter, but when you put them all together, you can completely turn your life around by just changing your choices and taking them seriously.
So now maybe you’re thinking about the importance of food choices. But maybe you don’t think you can say no to hot Cheetos, or soda, or candy, or whatever it is you are eating or drinking that you think maybe you shouldn’t be. How do you win that first battle? What weapons do you have at your disposal?
You probably won’t hear this often, but in this case procrastination can be a good thing. What if you tell yourself that you’re not going to have it right now? But you give yourself permission to have it later, if you decide you really need it, and at that point you allow yourself to have it guilt-free. What is important is that you told yourself no -- maybe for the first time in a very long time. There is power in that. You take that power and you build on it.
Let’s imagine you’re eyeballing that darn Gigi’s cupcake truck. Your mouth is watering and you can taste that frosting as if it’s already on your tongue. You already have your wallet out and then you remember that this morning your jeans were pretty tight. So you tell yourself you are choosing to say no to that cupcake for right now. You tell yourself you can have it after your next class if you still really want it, but right now you are choosing to say no. You head off to your class feeling a little proud of yourself, because you can’t remember the last time you said no to a cupcake.
After your class you are faced with another choice. You can again choose to say no, and maybe it’s a little easier now because it felt good the first time. Or maybe you thought about it all during class and you really want that darn cupcake. Okay, enjoy the cupcake. But again, choose to delay. Tell yourself it is okay to enjoy the cupcake. You did well by delaying it for an hour. But now you’re going to run up and down the stairs first before you buy it. Maybe after the stairs, you realize how out of shape you are and you really don’t want to eat a cupcake that will only worsen the problem. Or maybe you just go ahead and eat it. Even if you eat it now, you know that you said no to it for a while, and that you even exercised a bit. It is a matter of gradually changing your way of thinking and believing that you can say no. Here’s the important take-home message. Every time you delay a little bit or say no completely, you make it easier for yourself to do that again in the future!
So what if you did eat the cupcake? Are you going to beat yourself up? Will that help you make a good decision next time? Not likely. The best way to recover from a less-than-stellar choice is to be compassionate with yourself. It’s time to remind yourself that you’re human and these things aren’t easy. But then remind yourself that you at least waited a while before you caved. And ask yourself if you can keep increasing that waiting time. Start thinking of things you can do next time you have a craving that would increase your chances of success. Maybe you pack a small healthy snack and leave your wallet at home. Maybe you make a plan to buy a new hat instead of the cupcake. You could change your route to avoid the cupcake truck. The point is that you are taking control. You are choosing to think before you act.
As a former member of the morbidly obese club, I can tell you that every food choice is important. But the beauty in that is that the choice you make today to say no to some food you know you shouldn’t eat is an opportunity to say yes to a new life. You can change your life, one choice at a time.
I’m often amazed at the person I’ve become compared to who I was a few years ago. But I know my transformation happened one choice at a time. I believe you can do the same. Make a good choice today and change your life.
P.S. I want this to be a dialogue, so please write and let us know what your good choice was today so we can celebrate with you!
I’m believing in you,
I am a Human Nutrition-Dietetics student at Metropolitan State University of Denver, pursuing my degree and hoping to become a Registered Dietitian. My personal story is that about five years ago I weighed almost 400 pounds, was sick in bed and on over 20 medications. Diet and exercise, as well as lifestyle changes, including regular chiropractic adjustments, were all part of my transformation. I have lost almost 200 pounds and want to help other people discover their motivation to get healthier and feel better.