A few weeks ago I had lunch with my university room mates. They were always attractive women and they still are... but Max actually looked better than she had at the last reunion, a couple of years ago. She attributed it to her successful completion of the Whole 30 diet... a diet that eliminates the most allergenic foods to 'reset' your health.
I have long been interested in good health. I was the one who served 'spinach loaf' to my room mates when I was nineteen. Back in the days of white wonder bread and iceberg lettuce salads. "What is this?" they asked at the time. "Spinach loaf!" I replied brightly. Silence. "It's green" someone observed. "Yep" I said "spinach is green" my tone defying anyone to further comment.
Max explained, over our lunch that day, that she has never felt better physically or emotionally. Never slept better. She looked great at age 19 so we couldn't really say she never looked better. But still. People in their 50's are not usually talking about how good they feel or sleep.
The Whole 30 diet, she said, was very restrictive. No sugar. None. Not even the bit that comes in your ketchup. No grains. Not even the trendy healthy quinoa. No dairy. No alcohol. No legumes.
I've always secretly believed that if I could just completely eliminate sugar, all my ailments would disappear. I've believed that since I read "Sugar Blues" when I was seventeen. However, I have sweet 'teeth', not merely a sweet tooth. So... completely eliminating sugar was akin to eliminating sunshine. Impossible and by mid morning... why would you want to? I regularly 'curb' my sugar intake to accommodate my health beliefs, but completely eliminate? Never happened.
I was, however, impressed enough to google the Whole 30. It sounded daunting. The authors do a tough love approach and do not care that their diet is hard. Apparently I do because I found myself balking. I have never gone even a week on a diet that restrictive, although I have attempted lesser versions. What makes me think I could do it this time? Better not to commit. Then if I can't do it, it's not such a glaring failure.
I caught myself thinking that way. Wow. Seriously? Better not to try in case I can't do it??? I'm a psychotherapist... I preach against those self-limiting thoughts. So I decided to practice what I preach and unpack the mental blocks and do whatever I needed to do to make it happen. The premise of the whole 30 is that you have to do it for 30 days without even a tiny exception in the 'rules'. If you do, no problem though... you simply start again at day 1.
I took some comfort in the fact that Max did it. Not in a 'well-if-SHE-can-do-it-I-can-do-it' sort of way. Just that she is the kind of person who does not mind being 'real'. She does not try to present herself as someone who effortlessly breezes through hard things while also making home- made bread and inventing a better wheel. So I was inspired by her achievement, and by her comment that she's going to do it again because it was such a good thing.
The authors basically say "quit your whining about it being hard. Battling cancer is hard. Losing a loved one is hard. Drinking your coffee without cream and sugar Is Not Hard." Point taken. Perspective is important.
Re-working your perspective is a big part of it and it does help to remember all the really hard things people can do. But basically we are motivated to the extent that there is a payoff for us personally. Max wanted to look and feel great for her daughter's wedding....it was her motivating pay-off. If we are continually failing at things, it's largely because we are not more emotionally invested in succeeding than we are in failing. This can be complicated because sometimes we have unconscious reasons to resist success. Perhaps we're afraid of what success means, or entails, or creates. Perhaps we are reluctant to give up our victim helplessness and self pity (which one part of us despises and another part of us depends upon). Perhaps we are afraid to discover what our 'ceiling' is, or what our 'limits' are and prefer the fantasy that we 'could have' if we'd wanted to. Fear of failure and fear of success are really powerfully limiting fears.
When people come into my office, it is most often because they are motivated by crisis. Crisis is hugely motivating. Suddenly what might be lost (your marriage, a relationship, an opportunity, your health) is worth doing whatever is required to keep it in your possession. Sadly, sometimes it is too late then.
If you would like to make some significant changes in your life but find yourself balking, procrastinating, wishing, blaming, envying, regretting or stagnating...then perhaps you would like to make an appointment to discover what your limiting (perhaps unconscious) fears are.
Call me. I can help.
p.s. I did complete the Whole 30 :)