Dear Parents Who Struggle With Self-Care:
Are you feeling guilty about not taking better care of yourself (whatever that means to YOU)? Maybe you took great care of yourself (whatever that means to YOU) before you had kids, but now you feel pretty far off course?
I get it! The other day I caught myself thinking “It is crazy how far off course I was from living a lifestyle conducive to self-care.” If you knew me when I was in my 20s, you would probably say the same thing. I was the most health-fanatical person of anyone I knew! Now, I’ve been working on habits that I would have considered pretty basic back then. I would have thought that these habits were not nearly enough to maintain my health.
A couple weeks ago, I added a new habit to my list: finishing my food for the day by 8pm. My goal was to do this 25 times by the end of the year.
Why did I choose this goal? I’ve been noticing that if I eat too much, too late, I feel uncomfortable while going to sleep. My sleep is not great and I thought this habit might improve it. Why only 25 times? Because I have a past history with any “rule” that sounds like a diet rule, and I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I just wanted to start experimenting with this habit to see how it felt. 25 times amounted to roughly 3 times per week. I was uncertain as to whether focusing on this habit is a good idea in the first place. What if it sends me back to a dieting mindset?
I noticed those feelings and tried to address them. You don’t have to do it every day. The goal is 3 times per week. That leaves plenty of room for listening to your body. If you are hungry and need to eat, go for it. It won’t mean throwing in the towel. If you didn’t get home in time to finish eating by 8, the goal is flexible enough to accommodate that. If you are watching a movie and want a snack for pleasure, not hunger….well, there is room for that too.
This is not about restricting myself from eating food that my body is hungry for. It’s about encouraging me to finish all that food early enough in the day that my sleep won’t be compromised by a full belly. It’s about noticing where I am in this process/journey of developing an intuitive eating practice…and noticing that I have made great strides with it during the daytime, and not as much in the evening. Therefore, it’s about giving myself an external reminder (the clock) during the time of day when I feel least likely to remember to eat in tune with my hunger and satiety cues. And since the goal is not perfection (but rather, 25 times by the end of the year), there is room for me to check in with myself and decide that I DO want or need to eat after 8pm on any given night for any reason.
Even acknowledging all of this flexibility, I still notice some uneasiness with this idea. Not necessarily in a “red flag” sense…maybe just in a “notice the sensation” sense that yoga teachers talk about when holding a challenging pose.
This is the third post in a series about role models. (You can read the first post and the second post too).
One of the reasons I chose habit-based goals instead of outcome based goals is that I wanted to keep myself open to whatever outcomes may come as a result of adopting healthier habits. I did not want to attempt to force certain outcomes on myself, which I ultimately could not control anyway.
One of the really nice outcomes I’ve been experiencing as a result of walking away from weight loss pressure is getting a lot more practice speaking to myself kindly – the way I strive to speak to (and listen to!) my own kiddo. I want to care for my kiddo as best I can, and that includes a sense of a emotional safety. Why would I want to do anything different for myself?