Let me present you with a little scenario: say your great-grandmother left you a beautiful set of bone china. The good stuff with the gold trimming and the little chip in the tea cup your great-grandfather used the most.
It’s gorgeous, it’s priceless, it’s full of three generations of little imperfections and stories and the kind of history that hardly exists anymore.
And Oh. My. God. You dropped a salad plate. You did. You were being so good and washing it by hand in special imported soap and drying it with a dish towel woven by mute Chinese nuns and everything and it just. Yep. Slipped out of your hand and shattered into a million pieces.
It’s gone. You can quietly mourn for a moment if you need to.
You know what you wouldn’t do? You wouldn’t take the rest of the plates and tea cups and sugar bowls and smash them on the floor too—would you? Of course you wouldn’t! In fact, you’d probably take extra care to make sure you weren’t so slippery with the rest of them. You’d be heartbroken that one had smashed, but you’d rejoice that you still had the rest, wouldn’t you?
So why then, when people slip up in their healthy eating, do they do exactly that? They take all the hard work they’ve been doing, all the exercise and the conscious choices, and they smash them mercilessly on the floor.
Okay, not everyone does this. But lately it seems like I’m surrounded by people who say those two, guilty little words to me, “I cheated” and proceed to flush their brand new healthy lifestyle right down the drain.
Let me remind you of something: you are nothing more and nothing less than a collection of traits that fought long and hard to root themselves in your DNA. You’re a walking, breathing, complaining collection of family heirlooms. There isn’t a part of you that you can’t connect back to someone else—probably someone you love, someone who loves you.
Me? I’ve got terrible feet—but so did both grandmas who have taught me more about the world than I could ever hope to learn on my own. I also have sloping shoulders—and so do my aunts and my cousins because Grandma Schohn had sloping shoulders. My legs are short and I’ll never be anything other than a curvy, solid 5’6”—just like Noni. I have Mom’s smile and the Parroccini nose and chin and all of these are things I can do nothing about. I have to love them on some level because they’re not just me, they’re my family.
You are a collection of heirlooms and just like the china set, you are just as precious, just as priceless, and just as irreplaceable.
Once you start accepting that, I think you might be less quick to destroy them, to act as if one day of eating chocolate is an excuse to undo six weeks of clean eating and exercise.
It’s not! People slip! I don’t know what else to say to all the people I’ve been hearing this from lately. What do you want from me? Guilt? Shame? I mean, I guess I could try to shine some on for you, but it’s not really my thing...
…I mean, unless I want something and have something I can lord over you. Then guilt is totally my thing and I’ll be shameless in my use of it. But food-shaming? Breeding an even more negative relationship between someone and food? Sorry, not going to contribute.
It’s not the end of the world. If you made a new year’s resolution and you’ve fallen off the wagon, guess what? It hasn’t rolled away! You can jump right back on and recommit yourself to a healthy lifestyle.
Because it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do yesterday or last weekend. It matters what you do today. Feeling guilty or asking for absolution for breaking one plate isn’t going to change anything—it won’t replace or glue that salad plate back together and it won’t help you to take care of the rest of the dishes. It’ll just be exactly what it is: a broken plate. Sweep it up, say a prayer over its broken pieces, and get back to work.
And be kind to those heirlooms—they worked hard to fit into the person you are today.