I recently got a new planner journal that I’m loving from Silk and Sonder that combines daily planning with goals, self-improvement, habit tracking and coloring. It is beautifully designed and has a wide variety of pages that encourage thoughtfulness and self-reflection. It could also, if you were so inclined…trigger the tendency toward perfection and eventual quitting…I can definitely be so inclined 🙂
I remember as an elementary aged kid-before we had computers to do our assignments on…we had to write reports and assignments on paper in cursive. I would write and erase and rewrite and throw away and start over 10 times. If my spacing was off or I wrote a letter weird and couldn’t correct it, if I spelled something wrong…I would scrap it and start over and go until it was perfect.
It was a real issue with my piano teacher. I would start the song over again and again during my lessons until I played it with no mistakes. One of the biggest things I had to work on was allowing a mistake to happen as I played and to just keep going. It was soooo uncomfortable to my brain. I remember feeling such a strong urge to stop and start over. Learning to accept and go with the flow of imperfection was something I had to work really hard on and continue to.
Because I am not and will not and cannot be perfect-at anything. What it created for me mostly as a child was me not trying certain things or new things lest I made a mistake and couldn’t do it perfectly. This is often what happens with perfectionism…it’s not really that a perfectionist does everything perfectly, it’s that we only do the very few things we know we can do perfectly. We run ourselves ragged trying and we don’t attempt anything else. Or we quit straight away when we are not perfect at it right?
I have worked really hard as an adult to learn to embrace my imperfection, my humanness and do things even if I can’t do them perfectly. Try new things and be bad or mediocre at them. Work on them to improve, not to be perfect. Allow myself to make mistakes and keep going.
So as I opened up this journal for the first time I felt a little bit of that tendency. It’s so pretty! And there are a number of pages that have some sort of daily check in. One for habits you want to keep track of, one for tracking sleep, and one where you can track meals and water intake. So what if I MISS a day?? It just hurts my perfectionist heart and makes me want to throw the whole thing away and start over next month.
So in order to actually allow myself to be human and also participate in this fun new journal, I decided on some new rules for myself with this journal situation that I think we can extrapolate to the weight loss journey you are all on.
Rule #1: Let there be blanks
There will be days I don’t open the journal and there will be a blank where that day did not get checked off. Big glaring blank spaces that say I didn’t do that thing I said I was going to do.
But…there will also be many days that I do open up the journal and check off boxes. Days that are not blank. That is what I want to focus my energy on noticing. All that I do, not only the things that I don’t. And at the end of a month…I will have accomplished things and learned things and experienced things I never would have experienced if I had quit and thrown it away at the first sign of a blank space.
You will have days where you don’t focus on your hunger and satiety. Days where you don’t plan a thing. Days where you eat 3 desserts when you only wanted to eat one. But those days will just be blank spaces in a sea of trying and learning and checking the boxes. That one meal off plan does not negate the other two or discount the fact that you are making progress toward your goals.
Throwing away the day or beating yourself up about the blanks…that gets you nowhere. And it’s not necessary. Let there be blanks and keep going.
Rule #2: Let it be messy
Of course with a pretty new journal, I had to get pretty new pastel pens to match. And the perfectionist in me wanted to use them in rainbow order and coordinating colors perfectly of course. And of course I didn’t want anything to be scribbled or crossed out or changed despite the fact that they are pens not pencils.
Listen. I know how satisfying it is to watch someone on Instagram meal prep 20 identical meals for the week and stack them beautifully in their fridge. Just like it is very satisfying to see one of my journal pages filled out in a lovely and neat rainbow of colors. But that is not the only way this has to look.
You don’t have to meal prep, or make all your meals at home from scratch, or only eat organic in order to lose weight and take care of yourself.
Your life, your human life is unpredictable and tangly and messy. It’s also beautiful and uniquely yours. And it’s happening either way. So you can fight the mess and be mad about the lack of utter and complete Instagram perfection…or you can embrace the mess and find ways to move through it and work with it.
Even McDonald’s has salad ok? It may not be the perfectly macro balanced organic Kale recipe with the homemade Keto friendly dressing that you saw on Instagram this morning and planned to make tonight…but it will get the job done when plans change and you’re tired and the alternative is you eating ice cream out of the container for dinner.
Rule #3: Give yourself space to figure it out
One of the pages of my journal is a circular habit tracker. The idea is to choose 6 things you want to check off daily and do those same things for a month. So I thought about it and picked 6 small habits I wanted to focus on. I kept them tiny and reasonable so that they would be doable.
And about 10 days in, there was one of them that I hadn’t done even one time. The other 5 things I had done most days but there was that one ribbon of blanks running through it. So I got curious. Why was I not doing that one thing? Did I really want to do that one thing? Or was this a thing on the list I felt like I should want to do because other people say it’s a good idea? And so I played around with different versions of it, with eliminating it altogether and replacing it with something else, a series of experiments to see what worked and what didn’t.
Another thing I noticed about halfway through the month was that there were a couple of things I was doing anyway without having to think about. I didn’t really need to make an extra effort to remind myself to do it. So even though those were easy boxes to check everyday, it wasn’t really the challenge I wanted to provide for myself. So I replaced them with a couple of things I wanted to work on. Things that I needed those boxes to help remind me to do them.
Weight Loss is ongoing problem solving. Just as your life is dynamic in its twists and turns and ups and downs. So will be your weight loss journey. Your body is always changing, your life is never static…and therefore so will be this process.
The reality is not that you will find a one and done solution and never look back. Along the way you will observe patterns you want to change, find things that work for you and things that don’t, notice obstacles that come up-if you are open to figuring it out rather than frustrated that it’s not solved already-your brain will be able to see creative solutions and next steps to take…rather than throwing it away and starting over next month:)
Let there be blanks, and keep going anyway.
Let it be messy, embrace it and keep going.
Give yourself space to figure it out so you can keep going.
The only way we get there is if we keep heading toward it.