As an English major, I have a love for words and how we use them. Words we choose have a powerful impact on our health and keeping our bodies moving, just ask any marathoner what they think after running for 3-6 hours.
Let’s break down the often heard message of discipline when it comes to discussions on fitness and food. We all read about actors, describing their busy lives and ability to "stay disciplined" in their workout regimen or diet with the occasional pint of ice cream (chuckle chuckle), and it seems out of reach for us normal people. Of course they're highly motivated to have that amount of discipline based on their industry, even though our fight on making spaces for normal bodies and dissolving harmful body images is well underway.
For the rest of us, we hear the word "discipline" and our mouths may sour a bit. It's not "bad", but it's uncomfortable. There are several issues with the words "self" and "discipline" in the same sentence as "food" or "diet"; and I think we need a new way to discuss the concept of discipline without it being so problematic and triggering. We can pull the well-intentioned meaning of "discipline" into other words when we discuss health.
What we can do is direct, and take direction. Direct is a far more positive verb. Directing yourself to make positive choices is what keeps people healthy, day after day, year after year. Self-directing has a clearer intention, with less muddiness. You can self-direct while holding your mental health in high regard.
Over the last three months, I've learned two lessons about how to direct myself and why it matters. Here's what I've discovered:
1. I've started to direct myself to see the food I make as valuable. Because food is temporary (we can literally make it disappear by eating it), I tend to forget that it has value--in nutrition (this seems obvious, but we forget that imbalances in vitamins, minerals, and macro nutrients can have serious effects on our health), and monetarily (food costs money, obviously). When I don’t eat what's in the fridge, (and eat out instead), that is now money down the drain. Goodbye, Hard Earned Money! 💸💸💸 It was nice knowing you, lol.*
2. Sitting with my thoughts on both food and money has helped me direct my energy into bigger, brighter ventures. I'm talking a hard sit, like imagining you're in a hot bubble bath with suds all over, and those suds are your thoughts. You want to spend some time here to figure out why you do the things you do.
When I'm bored and/or stressed, I crave both salty and sweet. Torture for me would be having to choose one or the other. Choosing one causes me to immediately crave the other, thus snacking turns into an endless cycle of non-fulfillment, like trying to decide which dog to pet first when I'm faced with more than one dog.
I also know that these feelings are temporary. I can direct myself to "exit stage left" when these cravings come, and make a beeline for a glass of water.
Having direction in these areas of my life has not been an overnight thing, and I'm okay with that. I don't beat myself up if I DO say yes to having a few glasses of wine on a "school night", because I've gotten better at directing myself to abstain. I don't view days with Ben and Jerry's as failures, only steps along the journey.
Maybe your directing involves making it to your HIIT class three times a week, or foam rolling more. Maybe it's remembering to drink more water. Whatever it is, I encourage you to write it down, and make the directions for yourself as specific as possible. And when you miss your directions, think of yourself as an actor, learning lines and memorizing cues. No one gets it perfect every time; it's all part of the journey.
*I'm not saying I never eat out, but I view restaurant nights as holding value, too. Spending time with friends, bonding and relieving stress also helps keep me even-keeled, but I don't need it everyday, and I don't need to share a bottle of wine each time. 💕