Grace, not perfection

The start of a new year always brings thoughts of change, goals, and resolutions. However, I have found that in the past these New Year’s aspirations led me on a path of anxiety, perfectionism, and ultimately, defeat. A resolution to “be healthier” led to calorie counting, compulsive use of a fitness app, and excessive weight loss. A resolution to “get all A’s” led to endless nights of homework, declining social events to study, and isolating myself to my desk chair and empty bedroom. A resolution to “exercise more” led to daily exercise, a constant need to burn calories, and feelings of guilt for sitting still. I tend to take everything and magnify it through the lens of perfectionism. A goal cannot simply be met. It must be exceeded. But this year, three words kept replaying over and over again in my mind as I settled in, ready to start the New Year: grace, not perfection.

How could I stand to move away from perfectionism? It is practically a part of who I am at my very core. After thinking about it for a long time I realized perfectionism is simply a crutch that I use to fill up the spaces in my life where I feel inadequate, unqualified, or unworthy. But looking back, the times in my life when I have been the most successful, happy, and free are the times where I have shown grace, not perfection.

Perfectionism will always fail you. If you hold yourself to a standard of perfection, you will never be enough. Your own expectations for yourself should build you up, not tear you down. Why would you set goals for yourself that you wouldn’t dare set for anyone you love?

Perfection creates doubt; grace creates contentment. Perfection leaves you empty; grace fills you up. Perfection is unreachable; grace is realistic. Perfection is fleeting; grace is lasting.

This year I challenge each of you to strive for grace, not perfection. Realize that perfection is a myth. Grace is a truth. Set goals for yourself that will allow you to show progress. Set goals for yourself that are attainable and realistic. Set goals for yourself that will bring about positive changes in your life. You are worth more than the lies that perfection will feed you. You are worth more than the unattainable goals you set for yourself. You are worth grace.

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An Open Letter to Iskra Lawrence and Self Magazine from a Registered Dietitian

Dear Iskra and Self Magazine,

As my parents used to say, “I am not mad at you; I’m disappointed.” I’m deeply disappointed that you decided to include a diet plan in your New Year’s Challenge. Although you revoked this meal plan, you decided to include it in the first place. Iskra, how could you approve a diet plan that includes less than 1500 calories when you have suffered from an eating disorder and are a NEDA ambassador? How could you encourage your 2.9 million followers who idolize you as a recovery warrior to follow any sort of restrictive meal plan? Do you honestly believe that your intention was to provide “healthy” meal ideas for your followers, when many of them suffer from eating disorders that involve a skewed perspective of healthy? You have now made the dire mistake of tying “healthy” to restriction. Your attempt to undo the damage with your statement did not undo much of anything. Millions of women who already struggle with body image now believe that since you endorsed this meal plan, it must be the ideal. Women, especially those with eating disorders, do not forget numbers. 1500 calories per day will stick with them. The foods you included will become safe foods for them. The foods you did not include that they consume may now become fear foods because they were not in your plan. Does this seem extreme? Maybe. But eating disorders are both extreme and common. The minds of those with eating disorders are distorted and obsessive. You of all people should understand this. The information you provided through Self Magazine is triggering, unhealthy, and disappointing. If you consider yourself a body-positive Aerie Real model, you need to consider that diet challenges are far from body-positive. I understand that it is each person’s choice whether or not to follow a diet challenge. However, for women with eating disorders, dieting may not be a choice. Even for women without eating disorders, dieting is the main cause of eating disorders. In fact, 25% of dieters later develop eating disorders. What happened to intuitive eating and exercise, self-love, and self-care? It is your responsibility as a celebrity and advocate of eating disorder recovery to promote health and wellness. So many women will blindly follow what you do because “Iskra is happily in recovery and she can follow this meal plan.” This diet you have created is not conducive to recovery; it is conducive to relapse. From now on I ask that you remember your mindset in the depths of your eating disorder before publishing any materials. I wish you and all of your followers health and wellness – in its true meaning.

Best, Kaleigh Kessler, RD



Photo credits: Iskra Lawrence’s instagram account

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Ending the food talk this holiday season

The holidays are upon us all, which means endless parties, family events, and social gatherings (read: food). Somehow during the holiday season, negative food talk becomes more acceptable. I constantly hear comments such as, “I need to go for a run before eating all of this food!” or “I don’t even want to know how many calories are in this meal.” While some may view these comments as harmless small talk, they can be especially dangerous for those who have dealt with eating disorders or body image issues. The holidays should be enjoyable, but many end up feeling a sense of dread over the impending meals that seem to surround every social gathering. We need to take away focus from food. We need to turn that focus to what is really important. We need to promote uplifting conversation that does not revolve around food. But how do we do this?

Stop labeling food as “good” or “bad”

When did food become a moral issue? So often people translate foods into messages about themselves. “I am good if I eat foods that I have labeled healthy.” “I am bad if I eat foods that are higher in fat, sugar, or calories.” This is simply not true. View food as essential nourishment for the body that comes in many forms. Food is vegetables. Food is cookies. Food is anything that you can eat. Food provides energy. Food provides essential vitamins and minerals. Food keeps you alive. Our bodies need (and can handle) all different types of food. No one food is inherently “good” or “bad.” You can eat what you want without dwelling, compensating, or talking about it with others. When you end food labeling, you allow yourself to enjoy all types of food without feeling morally tied to your diet.

Show gratitude

When you replace anxiety with gratitude, you allow yourself to fully engage in the moment. When you replace fear with hope, you open yourself up to allow positive feelings in. When you replace obsessiveness with thankfulness, the holidays become less about the food in front of you and more about the people next to you. Take a look around. Dwell in what calms your soul. Engage in those around you. Get lost in conversation with your grandpa. Run around with your little cousins. Spend hours talking with your best friend. Be thankful for your warm house and nourishing food. Let love in. Show gratitude for all that surrounds you this holiday season – including your food. See each moment, meal, and person as a gift and a blessing.

Practice mindfulness

In order to become mindful of your food, you must allow your body to take over. Engage all of your senses. View food as delicious, nourishing, and interesting. Allow yourself to enjoy the smell of turkey roasting in the oven all day. Allow yourself to enjoy the way the food looks on the table. Allow yourself to enjoy the taste of every bite of food. When you become involved in the eating process, you savor your food more and do not feel the need to view food as your enemy. And the more you internally enjoy your food, the less likely you are to talk about it with others.

This holiday season open up room for what really matters. The food is simply an accessory to each party and social event. The food is not the center. Don’t make it more than it is. End the food talk by stopping food labeling, showing gratitude, and practicing mindfulness. Count blessings, not calories. Measure fun, not your waistline. Food will retreat into the background of your holiday celebrations – right where it belongs.

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