A few months ago, I was interviewed by a writer for a mental health magazine about the concept of my latest book, ONLY LOVE TODAY. The article was scheduled to run in their November issue. I have searched and searched and cannot find the magazine anywhere. I find this a little funny because at the time of the interview, that was my hope. I really didn’t want people reading about the unhealthy habit I confessed to the interviewer. But given what’s happened since then, I feel it needs to be shared. So here goes …
I remember this phone interview vividly because the interviewer’s very first question was abrupt and caught me a bit off guard.
“I understand the importance of approaching life with a positive lens of acceptance and kindness, but what about bad habits — damaging habits that make you unhealthy?” she said skeptically. “Do you just throw up your hands and say, ‘Well, this is who I am. I am going to love myself as is, and I don’t need to change?”
No! I wanted to outwardly object, but then I’d have to explain how I knew this – and that explanation would go into the magazine. I debated for a moment, then took a deep breath and spoke honestly.
“Well, as a matter of fact, I’m working on a bad habit right now. I’m trying to break the habit of drinking large quantities of diet soda. And approaching it — or any other damaging habit — from an accepting, grace-filled way is quite motivating. It means you don’t berate yourself when you slip up, so you keep trying. It means you focus on progress, not perfection. It means you remember you’re human, and each stumble only gives you more experience and greater wisdom to use next time.”
In other words, shame and condemnation are not motivating; acceptance and grace are.
I witnessed this first hand when I taught special education for adolescents with severe behavior issues. They often came to me so defeated because they’d grown up only hearing what they did wrong. They often believed they couldn’t change. One of the first things I did was break down their goal into tiny, achievable steps. By mastering that tiny step, they got their first taste of success. This sparked belief and motivation.
I decided small, achievable goals was exactly what I needed to overcome my unhealthy habit. As I contemplated my goals, a term mentioned by a blog reader came to mind. When I referred to my diet soda consumption an “addiction,” this reader countered that it was not an addiction – it was a choice. After my initial feeling of defensiveness, I googled the term she suggested would help me: Intuitive Eating. These are some descriptors of Intuitive Eating that quickly jumped out at me:
- practices being more mindful at meal times
- reconnects to your body’s innate wisdom to determine the right amount of food for you
- becomes clear on what food you need, owning what food you need whenever possible, and not apologizing for it
In short, it’s about becoming attuned to your heart’s sense of what is right …. good … and true for your body. And that’s when I realized Intuitive Eating could be actually be called Only Love Today Eating. I was on board.
I created four tiny goals for each time I ate or drank something and put them on an index card. The card read:
Rachel’s Intuitive Eating/Drinking Goals: (BBRR)
*Be thankful for what you are about to eat / drink
*Really taste the flavors
*Relish any & all good choices you made
On the back of my goal card, I placed two empowering quotes:
“I am the only person who has control over my eating habits. I can always resist something if I choose to.” –Louise Hay
“Every Choice Matters.” –Kerry Foreman
I quickly went from five to seven diet sodas a day to one or two and upped my water intake astronomically and have sustained this for several months. This is quite significant – if not miraculous – given the results of past attempts where my goal was total abstinence. When I “slipped up” after a few days and had a soda, I felt guilty and ashamed. I’d quickly decide I could not do it, and I’d go back to drinking more soda than ever.
Shame and condemnation are not motivating – but acceptance and grace are.
Over the past several months, listening to my intuition and giving myself grace have motivated and encouraged me in ways I’ve never experienced. Not only am I being more mindful about what I’m putting into my body, but I’ve also become more in tune with my deepest needs and best interests. I was able to determine it was not time to write another book, but it was finally time to create my first online course. I was able to determine something was wrong with my body and quickly sought medical attention. I was able to sense a damaging habit in a loved one and took steps to rectify it – with acceptance, grace, and love.
I am experiencing great clarity by reciting “BBRR” anytime I want to make sound decisions and positive choices in any life situation, not just when it comes to eating and drinking:
Really taste it
Relish your good choices
When mindfully applied, this formula has the potential to enhance any life experience and guide you towards what is right … good … and true for you.
I feel this formula is particularly helpful during the holidays when we are bombarded with opportunities to make damaging choices when it comes to eating, drinking, spending, saying yes to all the requests, and neglecting ourselves to get everything accomplished. By the time Dec 25th rolls around, we are in such a deep place of shame and exhaustion that we cannot enjoy our sacred time with our loved ones or relish our blessings.
I know that depleted and defeated season well, and it is anything but joyful. It’s quite painful to reflect back on all the holiday moments I’ve sabotaged by berating myself over poor choices, not being a certain size, or not having achieved what I wanted to by the year’s end. What a foolish waste of time! What a miserable existence!
I am so excited this will be my first intuitive, grace-focused Thanksgiving. I find it especially timely given that of all the holidays, this is the one I most associate with my father-in-law Ben who unexpectedly passed away in March.
Some of my fondest Thanksgiving memories involve going to Ben’s small residence with my husband Scott and our daughters. Scott would make his father a complete Thanksgiving meal – turkey, stuffing, rolls, homemade macaroni and cheese, and cherry pie. As Ben neared the end of his life in March, it did not surprise me that his bucket list included a bite of cherry pie made by his son.
I’ll never forget the look on Ben’s face when he took that bite. His eyes lit up, and the joy of a thousand memories erased the pain from his tired face. In just one bite, Ben was nourished by memories of long tables filled to the brim with comfort food, family, and togetherness.
The way Ben relished that single bite brought me to tears, and now I know why: That is how I want to taste life.
I want to relish, savor, and consume meaningful moments of goodness rather than be consumed by guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.
Guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy will not sustain us when we lose our appetite and our body grows weary at the end of our days.
That is what will sustain us. So that is how we must fill our plates today.
Let us remember these vital ingredients of a meaningful life come more readily and abundantly when served with grace.
Unlike shame and condemnation, grace gives us hope.
Grace helps us pick up and try again when we fall.
Grace gives us tools to use.
Grace keeps us moving forward.
Grace says, “Only love today. You got this.”
Grace reminds us life is a journey and we can’t possibly know how to manage every challenge that comes our way, but we do know what will sustain us as we carry on.
And if we listen closely, our intuition will tell us that is all we really need.
My friends of the Hands Free Revolution, what I have shared here, a small-step method of change and enlightenment, is the premise of my very first online course debuting in January called SOUL SHIFT. I will be coming into your home through short videos to equip and encourage you. You will receive empowering daily messages and be part of a supportive online community lead by me. My skills as a teacher, writer, encourager, truth teller, and hope bearer are merging to help you live the life you most want to live. Click here to enter your email address so you can be notified when the course registration opens on January 8th at a discounted price. There are also share options at the bottom of the page if you would like to invite others to join you. I am so excited to share this transformative journey with you!
As a gift of thanks to you for all the love, support, and encouragement you provide me year-round, please accept this gratitude eBook I made for you. It’s a Guide to Increasing Gratitude this Holiday Season.
Please check the Hands Free Shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday because my sister-in-law (who manages the shop) is running some awesome deals. The gorgeous cuffs, bracelets, notecards, and prints provide helpful visual reminders to live better & love more based on my most memorable mantras.
Thank you again for the wise words in my inbox. I read a post quite recently, in Zenhabits, reminding us that it’s important to get really good at starting again, instead of berating ourselves for not maintaining good habits. Happy Holiday Season!
Rachel Stafford says
I so appreciate hearing from you, Jennifer, and this beautiful affirmation. So much love to you.
“Shame and condemnation are not motivating – but acceptance and grace are.” I will be repeating this to myself during and after the holidays- we must continue to cherish ourselves and everything that we put into ourselves- food,thoughts and prayers. Acceptance and grace moving forward. God bless you!
Heidi Brooks says
Rachel, thank you so much for this blog post and all of your posts. Thank you for shining your light brightly for us to follow when we are feeling lost. Your website always inspires me. Today I came looking for an old blog post on giving up diet soda, as I had fallen off my own wagon of good food choices yesterday. Instead I found your most recent post talking again about this same issue. It felt like you wrote it just for me and left it conveniently where I could find it. I have been trying to heal my body from some various health concerns for the past few years and part of this is a very restrictive diet. Sometimes I cheat. Your blog always seems to have exactly what I need. I wish you the best on your journey-you are insanely talented at what you do and I wish you all the success that comes with the commitment of showing up to following your calling. If you aren’t already familiar with their work, you should definitely check out two other women’s work who I am currently following: Anne Berube (Author of Be, Feel, Think, Do) and Rebecca Campbell (Author of Light is the New Black and Rise Sister Rise). I think you would find them very helpful on your path of discovery. Kindest Regards., from Nova Scotia, Canada. Heidi
Rachel Stafford says
Wow. This message is just pure balm to my soul, Heidi. I have my moments of doubt … & I was feeling shaky today. But here you are assuring me to keep going. I am going to write down these book titles. My sister likes to get me books for Christmas. I can’t wait to share these titles with her and start reading. I love my community so much because we can learn so much from each other. Thanks for walking beside me. I wish you all the best as you heal and strength and flourish. Love to you.
Heidi Brooks says
I hope you like them. Your books are on my Christmas list 🙂 Rebecca Campbell also has a fantastic website with videos that I like even more than the book – Light is the New Black.- although the book is also a great resource. I haven’t read Rise Sister Rise yet. https://rebeccacampbell.me . Anne Berube’s book is a must read though- I read it twice in a row so I could take notes the second time. Both of these authors were published through Hay House. Both books are all about tuning into your inner voice and your inner wisdom. Based on your recent post and your upcoming course I thought these might be interesting resources for you. So happy to be part of your community. xo
Rachel Bishop says
Beautiful piece! I have been trying to learn to lead a life of purpose and your words gave me some great comfort in knowing I am living as true to myself as I can. I’ve recently read Mo Issa’s book The Shift and I have found a new look at the way I am living. I want to be with no regrets, and as hard as that is I am giving it all I have, I will get there!
[…] night, I resigned myself to putting up the tree anyway, and then I read Rachel’s post, “Not Another Defeated, Depleted Year’s End: Give Yourself Something Truly Sustaining,… and I breathed a sigh of […]