We can’t be perfect all of the time, despite what we are told by the beauty and diet industry. It’s all about motivation, says dietitian Aoife Hearne
SUMMERTIME for me is a crazy mix of loving having more family time with less strict timelines and pulling my hair out, trying to keep everyone entertained (not fighting) and craving routine.
Last weekend we spent a lovely afternoon in Kennedy Park in Wexford — the last time I was there was a school tour in primary school.
The weather was gorgeous and kids had lots of fun dancing to the music and meeting the cartoon characters that were there.
At one point my three-year-old daughter Alva looked at my husband and said, “Daddy, you’re the best daddy in the whole world and Mammy you… you try your best.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
I comforted myself knowing that at least she listens when I say it’s important to try your best and not always to be the best.
But it also highlights the struggle that is parenting.
I strive to be the best mother I can be, but I am imperfect.
There have been times where I have failed miserably but I pick myself up and start again.
And I know for sure the pressure of trying to be the perfect mother, in reality, turns me into a pretty poor one.
In some ways this is at the core of the ‘bounceback’ myth. The idea of bouncing back to the perfect body.
I don’t believe in perfection when it comes to eating or parenting. In fact, I think the ‘good enough’ approach, promoted by paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott in the 1940s, is a far healthier ideal to strive for.
We are sold the idea of being the perfect woman and mother and this is often tied into our external appearance. No value is placed on hard work and effort, only on the perfect outcome.
I recently saw a before-and-after picture posted by a mum a week after giving birth.
The idea that having a flat stomach seven days after delivery is something to be proud of makes me a little sad. I just wanted to shout “your worth is not determined by your abs”.
For me, it’s not about women wanting to get back to their pre-pregnancy body, it’s the approach.
It’s frustrating knowing that perpetuating the bounceback myth is a part of keeping the global $70bn beauty and diet industry alive and well.
MOTIVATION TO CHANGE
Last week I looked at the mindful eating approach as a positive and empowering approach for us all, new mums included.
And even with this approach, it can be hard to stay 100% motivated all the time. I know I’m not.
One of the most common questions I get asked when people are making changes to their lifestyle is, ‘How do I keep motivated?’ My answer often surprises people: ‘You don’t need it.’
In part, this is tongue in cheek, but I truly believe it’s an unrealistic expectation to be highly motivated all of the time.
Life gets in the way.
We should actually base our changes on things that take the lowest possible level of motivation because for many of us this is actually the norm.
And the research backs up my belief.
BJ Fogg is director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. I was lucky enough to have been at a lecture he gave in California a few years ago.
The information he shared from his research changed everything I had said in relation to weight loss and shifted my focus on how people can actually create permanent behaviour change in their lives.
According to Fogg, motivation goes through peaks and troughs at different time of the day, week, and year. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that.
Fogg suggests when motivation is high, it is a great time to make big changes that can have long-lasting effects on your week, month, year.
DITCH THE DIET
What should we do when our motivation is low?
This is when we need to focus on things that are easy to do.
Diet mentality is so seductive.
It tricks us into believing that we just need to stay motivated to maintain the changes and that will lead to the results we want. But, in reality, this doesn’t always play out.
A very simple tip is to think about the behaviours (these are the triggers) that make the things you want to do (which will become habits) easy to fit into your life.
The triggers are different for everyone.
Here are some examples:
Goal: Drink more water.
Trigger: Always have a water bottle with you.
Goal: Stop buying chocolate when I refuel the car.
Trigger: Use pay at the pump option.
Goal: Eat more fruit.
Trigger: Make sure fruit is always in the house and accessible.