It’s not about eating the salad. It’s about the motivation and the why behind it.
Choosing to eat a salad out of self-care or self-compassion, when it’s something you genuinely want, feels good. And it will feel inherently different than eating a salad because you should or because you have to.
Negative willpower is shame based. Positive willpower, on the other hand, is based on honoring your feelings, needs, and values.
Self-awareness is realizing that any kind of food choice isn’t black or white. It isn’t even positive willpower versus negative willpower. It’s simply how you are choosing to express your will.
So, what do you want?
Sometimes you don’t know what you want and that’s ok.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Maybe you slip into negative willpower because that’s what you’re used to, it’s habitual. That’s ok, too.
So, how can we develop habits to practice more positive willpower (not because it’s better but because it’s a process toward more self-awareness)? Learn to be ok with the process, and be mindful of any perfectionistic tendencies where you assume food choices or eating habits have to look a certain way.
Our desire to eat “perfectly” is often motivated by judgments, what we’ve made it mean about our Self or other people.
Instead of beating yourself up, be gentle. Stop putting yourself into false dichotomies and realize we’re all here learning, experiencing, and “mistaking” — that’s kind of the point of being alive!
Remind yourself when you do slip into perfectionism that you can shift out of negative willpower into positive willpower by saying to yourself, “Oh, there’s that habit again! Well that’s ok, let’s try something different. How do I feel? What do I need/want?” And then move on.
Any food can be “guilt-free” when you’re truly self-aware.
Eat the salad, or don’t. Your body, your choice. Find ways to nourish all parts of your Self with compassion and curiosity. But above all, remember that your food choices and eating habits do NOT define you. You’re enough, just as you are. Always have been, always will be. So eat something because you deserve to and you’re worth feeding.