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SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine for a moment you're taking a lovely drive down a beautiful coast. Without warning, a tire pops and you swerve to the side of the road and come to a halt. Your best laid get-away plans have been frustrated. It seems as if every time you try to vacation, something goes wrong.
What should you do? Do you whip out your phone, call a taxi and call it quits? Of course not. To do this would be exercising what therapists call all-or-none thinking (thinking you must do something all the way or not at all) or magnification (thinking small things are bigger than they are), two irrational or distorted thought patterns.
Your vacation still awaits you, and you're in a beautiful place with lots of things going your way. One setback doesn't indicate failure. You roll-up your sleeves, get a little dirty and solve the problem. Soon you'll be on your way again.
When you set a new goal and resolve to do better — to eat more vegetables, gather your children around for more family dinners, or eat out less — you embark on a journey much like going on a vacation. You dream of your destination and how much you'll enjoy your accomplished goal, but there are many miles between you and your destination.
Long before you reach your goal, you'll have several bumps in the road. You will have a busy day and not make it to the grocery store. Your balanced meal will burn and your family will still look at you expectantly wondering what you're going to feed them. You will get sick, sprain a foot or have your wisdom teeth extracted. The one thing you can count on is chaos.
Changing behavior is hard, and not always fun, but the journey is a beautiful process and setbacks can be small scenic outlooks if you let them. The trip is still worth taking, and the goal worth setting.
The next time a flat tire interrupts your healthy eating plans consider:
1. Your thoughts: Do you think you've failed if your plans don't go as you intended? If you have one cookie when you planned to have none, do you eat the rest of the pan because all is lost? This is all-or-none thinking at its finest. Instead, take a step back putting things into perspective. A cookie is just one delicious cookie, not a pan of cookies. One day missed at the gym is just one day. What we consistently do matters most for our health, so pick up where you left off and make the next choice a great one. Think in percentages instead of absolutes. Eighty percent completion of a goal is still a high and passing grade and likely a higher percentage than you would have obtained if you hadn't tried to improve at all.
2. Lessons from the obstacles: Do certain problems keep you from your goal more than others? What causes those problems? Work backward to find the culprit and the solution. Maybe you eat fast food at lunch every day because you don't pack a lunch for yourself. What makes it so hard to pack a lunch? Do you like to sleep in? Is it because you stay up too late? Or do you hate making a mess in the kitchen in-between meal preparation? If so, you could pack a lunch for the next day while making dinner the night before?
Is it hard to get dinner on the table because your kids are flying at opposite directions throughout the evening? What could make these chaotic nights easier? Perhaps a slow cooker or freezer meal with microwaved veggies or a premade salad and fruit?
Chances are if you take the time to learn from your obstacles you will have the best solution for your unique struggles. Taking the time and energy to make your healthy goals happen today will yield time and energy later. You are worth it.
Erica Hansen is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a master's degree in nutritional science from BYU. She works with individuals and businesses to make meaningful and nourishing changes that stick. Website: www.foodsthatfityourlife.com