'But until a person can say deeply and honestly, "I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday," that person cannot say, "I choose otherwise.".'
We make choices in life everyday. We base these choices on what we wish to achieve. Sometimes these choices can be based on greater, longer term goals; so you choose to got to work because you need to pay the bills and ultimately keep your job, even when it's a rare beautifully warm day and you'd rather bunk off and spend the day at the beach! And sometimes, our choices are based on what we desire at that specific moment in time so you do end up at the beach (possibly looking furtively around you thinking you'll be caught out at any moment by someone who would have had to have made a similarly impulsive choice)!
Most of the time we're perfectly capable of making these choices autonomously. Save for a few of the more life-changing ones where we may need consult others, the rest of our day to day decisions are made quickly without too much effort or regret.
So how is it that an entire industry has managed to thrive by convincing us of the opposite?
I talk with people frequently about choices. Generally, we discuss this in terms of the choices we make daily - hourly perhaps - about food and exercise. Everyone I know, me included, has been on a diet at some point so I'm going to assume you have to.
Diets work on the idea of removing the decision making process - and therefore the 'hard work' from you. Instead of having to make choices about what you want to eat that day, a list of allowed or restricted foods enable you to remove any thought process from it and instead, simply follow the rules.
So we continue to follow the rules. We don't think about whether we want that food, simply whether we're allowed that food.
And then Christmas hits.
Or a birthday.
Or simply a meal out when there's nothing on the menu that follows those rules.
What do you do? How do you make a choice? How do you decide what is going to be best for you in that moment?
Well, if you're anything like me, you don't. Rather, you realise there's no way you can stick to your diet plan.
And you eat...
And oh my word, it's good...
And it's so good, you keep eating...
Aaaaaaaallllllll the food...
Until you realise you're way off plan, you've put weight back on and you need to get back 'on it' again. Because following the rules works... right?
Well yes, to some extent it does. But what if you were able to make choices about your food based on what you want and know rather than what's allowed?
'I am today because of the choices I made yesterday...'
If you're capable of making choices in the rest of your life, you're capable of making them with regards to the food you eat too.
The diet industry likes to convince us that this takes willpower, perseverance and ongoing motivation and as these are in such short supply; we need rules instead.
And whilst to some extent that may be true, why do we think we're unable to do this?
After all, it used to take me a lot of willpower to walk into work everyday knowing that I was facing challenges, difficulties and a mountain of stress, but I still did it.
It took a huge amount of motivation to ignore all the negative thoughts that told me I couldn't walk away from a job that was considered a 'career for life'.
It took perseverance and the burial of self-doubt (of which there was lots!!) to start my own business and follow a new career path that was all at once exciting and incredibly scary.
And you make decisions like these too.
Just because a choice can be difficult to make, it doesn't mean you run away from it; you take the decision to do something that feels more difficult because it suits your longer term goal.
'“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.'
This blog post came about from a conversation I had with someone in our personal training session this morning which really made me think.
Choices are not always easy.
I think it's important to recognise that and we shouldn't aim to simplify the process of decision-making too much because when we do, we remove our autonomy from the equation. As humans we need autonomy, we can only follow rules for so long before we start to question them or find ourselves in a situation where we're unable to apply them.
Why don't diets work long term? Because they only work whilst we choose to 'do' the diet.
But what if, we were to choose to work towards a long term goal instead? This doesn't mean that we have to work towards it permanently, at all times and never relent from it once; if you're seeking a promotion at work, you can still take time out to have fun with your family, to visit the cinema and relax, to go on holiday and forget about it all for a while. Similarly, if you're saving to buy a new house, you can still spend some of your money on more frivolous things such as new shoes, an extravagant night out or a bottle of wine in the evening.
Know your goal and then assess the choices you make against that goal.
In all cases, MOST of the choices you make will be aligned with your longer term goal but SOME of the choices you make will be made simply because you want to, in that moment, and for no other reason that that.
In some cases those choices will be easy to make and you'll choose a salad because you want it; but sometimes it'll be harder and you'll choose it because even though you want the burger, your long term goal is even more important to you right now.
By approaching things in this way, by placing your longer term goals at the forefront of the decisions you make surrounding food, you'll be able to stay within the calorie deficit required to lose weight most of the time but also enjoy a little of what you want, when you want without feeling guilty for breaking the rules...
Because there are no rules... only choices.