By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Editor’s note: Registered dietitian Isabel Smith leads our small-group Guided Reboots. Ms. Smith guides Reboot participants through food, organization, health and mental challenges to achieve their personal health goals. Find out more about our Guided Reboot plans.
Guilt—we all feel it for one reason or another. Whether that guilty feeling comes from not executing choices regarding food, healthy habits, work or other decisions, it’s one of the major issues I hear from those participating in one of my Guided Reboots. Guilt allows us to carry feelings of dissatisfaction, failure and negativity—all things that we need to work hard to rid from our lives in order to really make positive changes and promote making our best choices.
One of (if not the most important) aspect to actually making the best choices is to not hold ourselves so tightly to our ideals of what we “should” be doing. We often keep ideals of things we really should or shouldn’t do in our heads: “I really must wash the dishes within 5 minutes of eating,” or “I must workout 7 days this week, or else,” or “I cannot have any dessert at dinner.” Sound familiar? Whatever it is we’re holding so tightly, it has to be let go.
With those things we hold so tightly, we also hold a lot of guilt—especially when we don’t do exactly what we had (or hadn’t) set out to do. It’s the guilt that actually hinders our success long term and leaves us feeling unhappy and unsuccessful (even when we’re actually succeeding).
First things first, let’s let go of those ideals (at least some of them) we hold so tightly when they make the uphill climb even steeper. In fact, it’s key to give yourself permission to do exactly what you don’t want to do, whether that be not workout daily, eat dessert, or leave the dishes in the sink. There’s a lot emotion tied up in those things we try so hard to do (or not to do). and permitting ourselves to actually be deviant, in most cases actually makes the activity we’re trying to avoid a lot less attractive. And when we make that activity less attractive, it’s much easier to stay on track.
When we let go of the most stringent demands we place on ourselves, and the things we try so hard to do or avoid, it’s almost as if we free up our emotional conscience, allowing us to make clearer and better decisions.
Okay, so how do you do it?
Remember that small steps lead to big changes, so be kind to yourself, take note of the things that make you feel particularly guilty and do your best to try to take a slightly different approach.