The Most Important Thing I Learned From Doing a 21-Day Intuitive Eating Challenge

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Back in May, I participated in a 21-day intuitive eating challenge. I’ll be honest: The challenge wasn’t as helpful for me as I was hoping it would be. I think a lot of other people in the group had a different experience. But since I’d been introduced to a lot of the concepts before, getting daily e-mails reminding me of them wasn’t exactly life-changing.

There was one big lesson that the challenge hammered into me, though—and I’m so thankful it did. The message? There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. The idea is that if you slip up—in this case, eat mindlessly—that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You could look at it that way, and goodness knows many people do. But the much more helpful thing to do is to look at it as a potential learning experience and try to figure out where your good intentions were derailed—so you can use that knowledge to your benefit in the future.

For example, I found myself snaking a lot one afternoon during the challenge. But rather than berating myself for being so “bad”—something I definitely would have done in the past—I decided to think about why I felt like munching nonstop—and I realized the fact that I was sleep-deprived didn’t help. Since then, it’s become obvious that not getting enough shuteye definitely makes it hard for me to eat mindfully.

The concept of “there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback” is incredibly empowering, especially if you’re the type of person who’s ever beat yourself up over mistakes (guilty as charged). It gives you the ability to change yourself from a “complete failure” to a human being—one who’s allowed to make mistakes without letting it completely erode your self-worth. That self-compassion is the real benefit of this approach—although getting helpful information on how to change your situation in the future is definitely a nice bonus. I still slip into that mindset where I start belittling myself sometimes. But I’m getting better about making more of a conscious effort to stop that destructive thought process and repeat my new mantra instead.

Tell me: What other strategies do you have that help you practice more self-compassion when you feel like you’ve “failed”? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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