I recently returned from my holiday trip to Puerto Rico. I had a wonderful time with my family, soaking up the sunshine (and some rain), and enjoying the food and drink the local restaurants had to offer.
Now, here is where the “Nobdy’s perfect” comes in. I may have overdone it on the food and drink part of this vacation. I don’t know why. I usually am pretty good about “eating around” a menu. But something in me this time was saying, “Try the local cuisine; it’s part of the experience.” It’s not that I deny myself when I travel, but this time I may have gone a bit overboard. Think chincharrones (fried pork rinds in photo at top of page) and mojitos. But also other local favorites like Mofongo (fried plantains above left) and Pernil (roasted pork.) I ate way fewer greens than usual because they just didn’t seem to be on the menu. And while some of my food choices might still have been acceptable in my usual whole food eating plan (like a traditional fish and chickpea stew or salmon, above center and right) others like the chicharrones definitely were not!
So why am I confessing this too you?
Because nobody’s perfect. I can only do my best, and every now and then…
The real trick is how you deal with these times. Do you think of them as failures? Do you give up and give in to other cravings or behaviors? Do you blame yourself for not having the “willpower” you think you should have? Does this lead to you think about all the other things “you’re not good at” or “have failed at?”
Or, can you accept the fact that you are not perfect, and this one act does not define you. I like to think of this as having compassion for yourself. Imagine what you would be saying to a friend if they were feeling bad about some perceived shortcoming(s) they have, or something they regret doing. Wouldn’t you try to comfort them and let them know that it’s not as dire as it seems; that they should forgive themselves, maybe look on the bright side? Maybe you would try to point out all their good qualities, or all the things they have done right in the past. Why don't we do the same for ourselves?
We as human beings are much more likely to forgive and support others than we are to forgive ourselves. We tend to dwell on our perceived failures, and not celebrate our successes.
It isn’t easy to be perfect, or even trying to be perfect. And maybe we shouldn't try.
Striving to be perfect isn’t necessarily a good thing for our health.
I like the way Jennifer Kunst, PhD describes this pursuit of perfection in this exerpt from her Psychology Today article:
“How many of us have imagined that if we were better looking, we would be happier? Perhaps for you it would be smarter, stronger, richer, funnier, or thinner... It’s easy to get drawn into a misguided effort to become a perfectly functioning adult: always knowing the right thing to say, never getting our feathers ruffled, easily finding an ideal work-life balance, and never ever again getting drawn into our old worries, preoccupations, bitterness, or conflicts…First of all, no one is perfect, no one has it all. And second, even if we could be perfect, it wouldn’t get us to where we really want to go. You see, a healthy, happy, and satisfying life is based essentially in love — loving relationships with others, and even a loving relationship with ourselves. And at its root, love has very little to do with perfection.”
So what did I do when I returned to “the real world” after vacation?
I decided to look back at my vacation eating without placing blame or seeing it as failure. I accepted that this was a fun part of the experience as I gently coaxed myself back to my normal routine, which meant getting back to eating clean whole foods, upping my vegetables, drinking lots of water, and cooking most of my meals at home where I can control ingredients and portion sizes. I got back to my exercise routine, and my bedtime rituals. In a sense, back to my 80/20 rule, “Eat cleanly and mindfully for 80% of the time, knowing that 20% of the time things may be out of my control.”
And while I did enjoy my vacation, being with family, and exploring new places, it’s nice to come back home, where I don’t have to “start all over again” but, rather, get back to what I have made a normal healthy routine for me over the years. By having set these habits already in place, I know I can easily get back to them. My kitchen is set up with healthy pantry supplies and my freezer is stocked with leftovers from past meals. If I am still craving some sweets (another holdover from the vacation,) I have fruit and a bit of dark chocolate on hand to help.
I hope you had a wonderful holiday, filled with no regrets! And maybe my experience will help you look at “failure” a bit differently in the future.
Does this message resonate with you? I would love to hear what you think!
Yours in Health,