Avoiding the Guilt Trap

by

There are plenty of excuses for not making healthy lifestyle choices. You’ve probably used a few of them yourself—we all have. Our natural instinct is to resist any suggestion that could disrupt our deeply-entrenched routines. So we cling to our biases and excuses like a shield, deflecting change – good or bad – that could intrude on our comfort zones. Do any of these sound familiar?

Too busy to cook a healthy meal
No time to shop for fresh food
Not feeling motivated or inspired
Don’t know where to start
The gym is too far away
There’s no room in my house to exercise
My schedule is too full
I work late hours and put in too much overtime
There’s no one to watch the kids or the dog
My favorite TV program is on
I deserve the day, the week, the month off

Sure, it’s easy to rationalize, even justify our actions. But what about the nagging, guilt-laden thoughts, the ones telling you those excuses are just empty whispers based in uncertainty, or fear?

Excuses and guilt—they’re not only interrelated, they’re lock-stepped in co-dependency. The worst part? All those excuses are keeping you right where you are—another reason for guilt to keep tapping you on the shoulder.

Committing to positive change, whether it’s eating healthy, starting an exercise plan, or carving out time for self-care, is a choice. Will it take a little sacrifice on your part? Not if you consider what you’re gaining in return. The first step is to realize you’re making an investment in yourself. And when you consider the returns—a better quality of life, increased longevity, and greater confidence and self-assurance, the notion of making a sacrifice goes out the window. 

Ready to eliminate the excuses and break free from the guilt trap? Here’s a couple suggestions to get you started:

Own it! Guilt is self-induced, the result of allowing others to determine what’s best for you, a power struggle between independent thought and a desperate need to please. Here’s the question: Guess who’s in charge of changing your mind? That’s right! And since it’s up to you, begin right now to clear your mind of imagined obligations and live your life.

Determine the source of your excuses. Will a change for the better really put someone else at a disadvantage? Or is it more likely the other way around? Trying to please others at the expense of your health and longevity is a simple act of misplaced priorities. Our friends want us to be like them, to reflect the same habits and activities. But if you’re ready to quit smoking and all your friends are smokers, you have a choice to make.

Guilt is a useful reminder. It encourages us to take a closer look at how we spend our time, how we treat ourselves, and what we could have done that would have been healthier, safer, and more productive. Used to advantage, it can prevent us from making harmful choices at the grocery store, stop us from drinking that second glass of wine, or eating that huge piece of chocolate cake.

Although we tend to consider it as a negative emotion, guilt reflects the most personal side of who we really are—with abject honesty. If the choices you’re making are truly your own, you won’t feel guilty about the results, or lack of them. Taking charge of your own life brings a sense of strength and independence—and that’s when change really begins.