Permission to Embrace your Familiar Messy Beautiful

We all know perfect moms don't exist. Why can't we accept imperfect health? Amy Connell, GracedHealth.com

I’m not a perfect mom.  

In fact, that’s just one of the long list of roles at which I’m not superb.  In addition to imperfect mom, here are a few other roles that fit that adjective:

Wife

Sister

Daughter

Friend

Eater

Fitness Instructor

Wine Drinker

Writer

Speaker

Runner

Bible Study Leader

Life liver

We seem to be in a trend – a magnificent trend – of accepting our flaws as moms.  I love this authenticity we embrace.  One of my favorite Facebook pictures was shared by a family friend several months ago.

We all know perfect moms don't exist. Why can't we accept imperfect health? Amy Connell, GracedHealth.com

Captioned:  Family Beach Portrait ’17.

Not on the beach. Careful efforts to coordinate outfits thwarted by headstrong boys, new haircuts uncombed, daughter distracted by cigar merchant, hangry 5 year old refused to keep feet still, “no flip flops in the restaurant” policy ignored, sunburned eyes visible, swimming pool-inflicted head scrape visible, one out of five looking at the camera! Success!

225 of her friends laughed, loved, or liked that photo.  Every. Single. Comment was positive, validating, and encouraging.  

We celebrate these blunders. Yes! Somebody else takes crappy photos! Yes! Other people’s children don’t always look lovingly at the camera! Thank you! Your beautiful family in a beautiful mess makes me feel normal!

I think I can safely say that we all know perfect moms don’t exist.  

Why am I talking about motherhood on a site designed for healthy living?

Because I believe we are failing to give ourselves permission to be imperfect in our health journey.

As women, we struggle to embrace imperfect health, and would rather show a veil of kale-eating, green-juice drinking excellence than admit we (gasp!) drink a Coke and eat Oreo’s occasionally.

Imperfect health is OK - as long as we're still striving for it. Amy Connell, GracedHealth.com

Enjoying a Coke after a race.

Or we feel it’s all so out of reach, we don’t even bother.  It’s too hard, I don’t like kale, and I need a Coke at 2 pm every day; it’s not worth it.

Why must we strive for flawless health? Why do we feel unsuccessful if we aren’t exercising seven hours a week and eating the ideal combination of nutrients?

What does impeccable health even look like, anyway?  I argue it doesn’t have a look.  We certainly can’t judge someone by what they look like and determine if they are healthy or not, as I wrote in this post.

I’m not saying we should embrace lethargy.  This isn’t permission to grab the Ben & Jerry’s and plop your rear on the couch for a This is Us marathon. It also doesn’t mean overindulge on the basket of chips and guacamole. Ahem.

I just finished The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKurest.  Yes, I realize this book was released three years ago in 2014.  Add “imperfect book reader” to the opening list.  In full disclosure, when I say reading, I mean listening to the audiobook in thirty-minute increments while walking my dog.  That’s one multitask I perform effectively (which I wrote about trying to stop here).  

In the book, Lysa discusses there is no perfect decision.  Often choosing one decision over the other is really choosing one good decision in favor of another.  Both are good. Different, but acceptable. We can’t be paralyzed in decisions we need to make in the fear they are imperfect or fall out of the will of God.  

Could the same apply to our health? Do we quit the journey before it even begins, paralyzed we won’t do it right? We won’t take the first step, however small it may be because we are afraid of failing.

Or we have a day full of vegetables, lean protein, and fruit but feel we’ve failed if we indulge in the special-occasion cake?  

Make no mistake, the apostle Paul instructs us to take care of our body, our temple, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

But he doesn’t say we have to be perfect in doing so.  He doesn’t give a prescription for taking care of said temple. I’m no bible scholar but I believe that’s because perfect temple care is a little different for everyone. Our uniquely designed bodies need a unique mix of foods and movement.  

I have so many imperfect health decisions I dare not list them all at once.  Instead I’ll give you three:

  1. I eat too much chocolate and sugar.  
  2. I have an extra glass of wine when I don’t need more.
  3. I simply put more food in my stomach than what it needs.  
Finding balance in our health creates success. Amy Connell, GracedHealth.com

The night that ended with this hit two of the three points: sugar and quantity.

These don’t happen consistently, but they do occur.

Last week, I found myself feeling full-to-the-brim three hours after my nutritious, well-rounded dinner.  It wasn’t what I ate, but how much of it.  

My perfectly balanced meal was executed imperfectly. Despite this, it was still a better choice than the Tex-Mex restaurant we considered, and I passed on dessert.  That night was a good reminder to pay attention to my body’s signals for food.  I can’t eat as much as I used to and my body doesn’t need as much. Thanks, aging metabolism.  

I reset the next day with salad and right-sized portions.  

I wish the lesson ended there, but the truth is I had another three or four cycles of overeating, resetting, eating right, and repeating over the next week.  I never said I was a fast learner.

I shared on my Facebook page I was struggling, not in the hopes of advice or a fix, but that others would know so many of us share common challenges.  Just like in the picture above, we find comfort in familiar messy beautiful.  

My success in this story is that I kept trying. I continued hitting the reset button until something stuck. It won’t last forever, I know myself better than that.

My friend’s family will no doubt take a perfect picture at some point, if not already.  We should all be blessed with a perfectly lit, posed, and coiffed family picture at one point. And every now and then I could qualify as a nutritional poster child.

My friend will also most likely take messy beautiful pictures, and I am guaranteed to overindulge again.

Most days, however, are somewhere in the middle. The middle allows for both perfection and imperfection. It provides my own sense of balance.  It keeps me from being paralyzed in indecision of what to eat for fear of failure.

The middle between perfect and disastrous is a good place to be.

While my recent eating has been far from flawless, I’ve been able to reduce my sugar, wine (sniff), and portion sizes.  I’m enjoying the middle and successful at staying away from sugar.  Well, except the bible study snacks, but everyone knows Jesus cancels out sugar.

Here’s to the middle.

Give yourself permission to be imperfect in your health journey. Amy Connell, GracedHealth.com

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