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January 31, 2016

Conscious Consumption: Turn New Year’s Resolutions into Life Revolutions.

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It’s that time of year again, when our New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, exercise more and spend less are turning into:

“I ate too much,”

“I failed again,” 

“I might as well throw this in my cart.”

Through my homesteading journey, I have found that the only effective way for me to permanently shift a pattern in my life is to connect my actions into a deeper alignment with my values and the world I want to take a stand for.

How we eat, how we spend our dollars and how we spend our time are the most powerful ways we vote for the world we want to create. I call it conscious consumption.

When we realize this connection—between our actions and the larger effect they have on the world—we get clear on the world we want to vote for through our fork, dollars and actions. These values can become a big source of motivation for shifting actions or behaviors without the use of willpower.

For us “do-gooders” in the world, these value-based motivations may be a much deeper motivation for our eating and spending patterns than a bikini, size six jeans, or savings set aside for an all-inclusive vacation.

For years, I was obsessed with calorie counting, different diets and cleanses, the next trendy health food, rigid work out schedules and making rules around cooking at home instead of eating out…all with the intention of losing those last 10 pounds. The problem was that it became a battle of willpower.

There were times that peeling back plastic cellophane from my Lean Cuisine or Luna Bar for the sake of knowing my caloric intake each day were at odds with my deeper values for whole foods, less packaging, a smaller footprint on the earth and supporting farmers who were growing food in alignment with these values. Even when I did switch over to a more wholesome “cleansing” way of eating, my thoughts and energy were still consumed with food, health and body image. This left very little space for my values of improving the world or living a happy life.

After more deeply understanding and honoring our values, my husband and I decided to start a homestead. We now grow our own food and eat deep orange yolks from our very own chickens. There are no food rules or calorie counting or deprivation. I eat everything I crave in the amounts I want. Those last 10 pounds are no longer on my mind and, more importantly, my weight stays stable so I can put my energy toward more important things than the number on the scale.

There are no more binges, obsessive thoughts about food, or constant battles with my body because I feel deep alignment and peace with my food and the world I am standing for through how I eat.

To be clear, I do not think everyone has to become a homesteader to escape the body and food battle. But, what I have realized through this process is that when you focus on losing weight, restricting food, cooking more or setting other rules for yourself, willpower becomes what you rely on—and it runs out.

Instead, when you dive deep into your food values and recognize the impact your food choices have on the larger planet, it no longer seems like a treat to sit and eat a pint of “frozen dairy dessert,” what they call most “ice creams” today.

Eventually, as your thought patterns shift (no, it doesn’t happen immediately) it’s just no longer pleasurable to eat fake food. Treating myself to ice-cream-like chemicals and a dose of a petroleum-intensive food system I don’t believe in? No thank you!

Many of us also struggle with the consumption of stuff. We feel that dopamine rush in the home decor aisle and all of a sudden everything in the store is a need that gets thrown in the cart. Or you realize a good portion of your income is going to fancy coffee drinks from Starbucks. Can you relate?

If we want to shift a spending pattern or set rules and budgets as part of our New Year’s Resolution process, it is going to feel like torture because we still get pleasure from this shopping experience or getting that coffee treat. We will feel deprived.

Again—through my own journey with overspending—I realized that after I took time to assess my values and acknowledged that how I spend my dollars is one of the biggest ways I can vote for the world I want to live in, I naturally started living more consciously. I started spending less, engaging in more DIY and minimalism, and spending dollars on local or used products. The more commercial options that guzzle resources, produce trash and take away markets for local artisans naturally became less appealing.

Now, when I feel the rush to buy, I have a strong foundation of values to use as criteria for where I spend my money rather than relying on willpower or restriction. I feel pleasure instead of deprivation in this more aligned spending pattern.

This is how I turn New Year’s Resolutions into Life Revolutions—I make sure my new actions become sustainable habits, without the need for willpower, by connecting them to how my actions impact the larger world.

Although it will look different for each of us, I believe that by thinking through what conscious consumption means to us personally and what we want to stand for in the world with how we eat and spend our money, we can bring our value-based motivations into play. And in the end, create more sustainable shifts in our lives than any other New Year’s resolution that we’ve been trying to stick to so far in 2016.

The benefits to the whole concept of living life using The Conscious Consumption method of dieting and budgeting run long and deep. When I am living in deeper alignment with my values in all areas of my life, that empty place that craves being filled with food and commercial items is already filled up with a deep sense of peace and purpose in my day-to-day experience.

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Relephant Reads:

Before You Make a Single New Year’s Resolution, Read This.

A Farm for the Future. {Documentary}

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Author: Tessa Chittle

Apprentice Editor: Jaimee Guenther; Editor: Emily Bartran

Image: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr; Boemski/Flickr

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Tessa Chittle