Get real for big change

By on April 9, 2015

As a working mom, I am constantly bombarded with information about what I should be doing to be a good mother, wife and business person. I should always feed my family healthy, organic, creative meals, I should be always available to help friends and family with their trials and celebrate their triumphs, I should network, volunteer, advance my career (or grow business revenues) and, of course, I should do this all while staying fit and looking fantastic along the way. Needless to say, it is easy (and realistic!) to feel like I will never measure up.

Most of the mom’s I talk to feel the same way. They are exhausted and overwhelmed by the number of areas in which they expect themselves to achieve. As food preparation is one of the main places my clients feel weighed down by expectations and judge themselves for not doing it good enough, I thought I would use it to illustrate some key principles of creating positive change in your life.
Set your own standards. When it comes to food, there are many different points of view about the right way to do things. Should you be gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, or low carb? Expert advice and research is useful, but the best way to determine what is right for you is to look inside. Do you really need to create new meal from scratch every night? Do you have to eat organic all of the time? Replace “shoulds” with “choose to’s” to set your own standards. Let go of the rest.
Start where you are. No matter what positive change you are trying to make in your life, everyone starts from a different place. If you were raised on meat and potatoes and have been feeding your family this way for years, it can feel overwhelming to even begin because it feels like you need to invest huge amounts of time learning new recipes and give up all of those comfort foods you love. This does not need to be the case. You can start by simply adding raw veggies and hummus to every meal. Alternately, if you are feeling exhausted from trying to keep up with cooking “proper” meals and find yourself resorting to fast food more often than you would like, your path to positive change might simply involve cooking larger amounts when you do cook so that you can freeze one or two meals for a future date. Acknowledge your starting point and work from there.
Avoid intention overload. Every change we make takes energy, so it is important not to try to change too many things at once or you will not have the energy to see any of them through. Pick one area of your life that you most want to optimize and work on that. If it is eating more healthfully work on that. If exercising more feels like it would have a big payoff, put all of your efforts into creating change in that area. If getting ahead at work is what you are most excited about, set your goals, develop a plan and execute it. Let go of the other things. They will either happen as a byproduct or become unimportant to you once your main goal is achieved.
Keep it simple. Don’t try cooking in ways that require you to completely change the tastebuds of you and your family. Start with staples that you know and love and find simple ways to adapt them. For example, I puree kale with veggie broth and combine that with ground beef or turkey when I make shepherd’s pie. I also use a combination of mashed sweet potatoes and cauliflower instead of white potatoes. Those two small changes have turned a family favorite comfort food into a meal that also packs a hefty nutritious punch.
• Create routines. Just as you are more likely to exercise if you have a consistent routine, you will find it easier to eat healthfully if you create streamlined routines for meeting the nutrition needs of your family. Introduce fruit shakes for weekday breakfasts. A big blender, some protein powder, and some frozen fruit is all you need to make a healthy breakfast for your family in a matter of minutes. Chop up a big tub of veggies and keep it in the fridge ready to snack on. I do mine every Sunday and always have plenty of hummus on hand to go with it.
• Ask for help. Making yourself 100% responsible for changes that require buy in from others is bound to zap your energy. If you want to make changes that everyone will benefit from, get input from your family on what they want and where they can contribute. From a very young age in my family, each family member was responsible for cooking one meal per week. My youngest sister often made hot dogs when she was young, but as we all got older, we came to look forward to our cooking day and to trying out new recipes on each other.
• Let go. One of the frequent complaints I hear from my female clients is that their spouses or children don’t help out as much as they would like. In many instances the woman is contributing to the problem. Imagine someone running as fast as they can with a heavy backpack and complaining that no one else will carry it for them. You have to slow down and take off the pack so someone else can pick it up! You may need to leave that pack sitting there much longer than you would like before someone else picks it up, but most of my clients are surprised to discover that their family will help out if they slow down long enough to let them share the load.
• Be patient with yourself. There will be false starts. You will fall off the wagon. Don’t expect change to happen too quickly. A good plan involves small changes over long periods of time. Month one might involve keeping chopped veggies in the fridge at all times. Month two you develop the habit of cooking one meal a week that you freeze something for a future meal. Month three might be replacing white bread with whole wheat. Month four you introduce one new recipe each week. Or even better, one new recipe per month for a year. Keep goals small and focus on building sustainable habits instead of quick results and you will be more likely to succeed.

If we are to survive and learn to thrive as women we need to learn to look at each element of the roles we believe we are supposed to fill, re-think them, and design them to fit us. Whether you want to change food, fitness, career, relationships, or parenting, I hope that the above principles inspire you to remember that sustainable change must be based on knowing who you are, what you want, and what can realistically be expected of any human being.

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at www.kyoseiconsulting.com