by Erin Risius, MA, LPC, Program Director at Green Mountain at Fox Run
Let’s face it—once January 1 arrives (okay, maybe January 2 due to the effects of New Year’s Eve), millions of women resolve to put health at the top of their to-do list—to exercise more and to eat better.
But after only a few short weeks—four to six at most—almost 75 percent of all resolutions are dropped like a hot potato.
The Willpower Myth
Lack of willpower is often named as the culprit, but at Green Mountain at Fox Run, we find it’s not the lack of willpower as much as the approach. That approach tends to be all-or-nothing, involving a pendulum swing between extreme ideas about what we “should” and “shouldn’t” do when it comes to eating and exercise.
For example, holiday food indulgences are swapped for restriction in the form of strict dieting in the New Year. On top of that, often from a starting point of doing nothing, we move to intense boot camp workout regimens characterized by the no pain/no gain approach. It’s not at all about easing into health as much as dramatically swinging from all to nothing in the case of food, and vice versa when it comes to exercise.
Both ends of the spectrum have one thing in common: They require ignoring internal cues that are designed to guide our behaviors for wellbeing. We end up ignoring hunger cues that signal when our bodies need fuel, for example. And in the case of high-intensity exercise, we can often end up ignoring significant pain, which is the body’s way of telling us to stop doing something.
The Awareness Reality
Ignoring bodily cues to continue doing something that doesn’t support it requires disconnection. That’s the furthest thing we want to do when it comes to creating a healthier lifestyle.
Instead, we want to cultivate body awareness so that we can tune in and feel what our body needs in a given moment, and then actively learn how to honor the body’s needs. This helps a person successfully move from the all-or-nothing approach into the practice of moderation. It’s the middle ground from which long-lasting, positive change can occur.
So, in order to illuminate what moderation feels like, we need to slow down and practice being in the moment. This is the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is about being present-centered, about tuning into and honoring the body’s cues instead of ignoring them. The stress and busyness around the holidays are an easy distraction from tuning in, but this is the time when we need it most. And especially before we enter the New Year. You can’t change what you aren’t aware of. So take the time now to begin tuning in to your body. It’s as simple—and yet as we all know, not as simple—as that.
How to Practice Moderation through Mindfulness during the Holiday Season
Here are a few tips on how you can begin practicing being mindful in the moment so that you can acknowledge and then honor what your body—and mind and heart—need in the moment.
- Take five. Take five deep breaths (or more) and simply focus on your breath—the rise of your belly and chest with each inhale and exhale, the flow of the air moving in and out of your nose and/or your mouth. Your breath is your anchor and focusing on your breath in the most stressful of times instantly relaxes the body and calms the mind. All you need to do is “Take five.”
- Savor. Slow down and savor the foods you enjoy. Notice how your food looks. Take time to truly taste each bite. As you chew, notice the texture of the food, and the aroma. Instead of guiltily devouring a “forbidden food,” try savoring the flavors of all the foods that you eat. You are eating it anyway, so get the most out of it.
- Get moving. Your body needs movement. It doesn’t need punishment. Tune in and move in a way that feels energizing and uplifting. Experiment until you find an exercise type and intensity that feels good in the body you have today.
Begin reconnecting to yourself now—and your body and mind will love you for it. Give it a shot. And while you do, know that you are worth the time and attention.
“In order to understand what your body needs, you have to care enough about yourself to listen.” —Geneen Roth