21. Stop Trying to Be a Weight Loss Robot!
Welcome to episode 21 of the Mindful Weight Loss podcast. I am your host and your coach, Emily Erekuff and today I want to talk about treating yourself like a human being, because we get these messages from everywhere implying that we should be or at least behave like robots, things that fulfill a function but that don't require breaks and don't have emotions or needs.
And obviously this occurs a ton with diets. You're told to eat this and that and maybe specifically how much and at specific times and you're not generally told to tune into the wisdom of your body, because the assumption essentially is that there isn't any such thing. I mean, if your body had that wisdom, why would you need a diet in the first place?
But it goes so far beyond diets. And I got to thinking about this after the last episode about restriction and how incredibly common it is for us all to keep our heads down during the day and to save up all our joy for the evenings when we are done with work or when the kids are finally in bed, or similarly to save it all up for the weekends. And I don't just mean joy from food, I mean any kind of joy.
We restrict our activities, our self-care, and our outlook. For so many of you, everything is sacrificed when you're on the clock at work. It's just about surviving the day, getting yourself up and there on time, putting in your hours and then finally at the end of the day you get to breathe and relax and actually enjoy yourself. Or at least that's what you envision and hope will happen, but I'm willing to bet that you're so drained by that time that you just sort of numb out with TV and maybe with food, and then you repeat the cycle again the next day and the next.
And then no wonder we approach dieting in the exact same way. Just keep your head down and eat what you should during the day, and if you do what you're supposed to, you can reward yourself with something at the end of the day, or maybe give yourself a cheat meal or a cheat day on the weekend. Sacrifice your now for later. That's unfortunately how we're taught to live life, and it's just totally wrong.
You will never get there because there always becomes here. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The rainbow is the gift, but we overlook it because we're keeping our heads down always going after the gold that's not even there.
And I absolutely understand that there is a level of practicality to prioritizing work, and that as far as your job goes you may only have so much freedom as to how you are going to use your time. I've been there.
But, I also want to challenge you to exercise the freedom you do have. Because we are often our own worst enemies. We are the ones keeping tabs on ourselves when no one is looking. We are often the ones who are restricting even when there is no need to.
Do you know often times when workplaces institute unlimited vacation policies, employees often end up taking less vacation? People literally don't know what to do with that level of freedom and so they just don't exercise it. They just keep their heads down and keep working. And similarly when people start working remotely, as many have since the pandemic, they end up working longer hours.
And that's not because it's demanded of them. Again, I think we simply don't know how to handle our freedom. We're not used to it and most of us don't even assume that we have it. We walk around telling ourselves that we have to do this, that we should or need to do that. But honestly most of the time that's not even true. We think it's true because we constantly say these things. But truly every moment is a choice.
And when we embrace that mindset so many things can shift in an amazingly positive direction.
Here's a fun experiment that you can do that's super easy. Every time you say I have to do x, change it to I want to do x. Actually, do it right now. Think of something that you're always telling yourself that you have to do. I'll wait.
Ok, and now rephrase it. Say, I want to do x. And really do it. I'll wait.
Did you feel a subtle or maybe a major shift in your body? I swear when I do this I get like excited energy in my body. Like I kind of just light up, and it's not because of the task at hand, it's because I'm acknowledging my freedom. I'm recognizing that I'm making a choice; that I'm doing this thing because I choose to do it.
And when you start saying I want to instead of I have to, because you've opened the door to be honest with yourself you can actually consider, do I REALLY want to? Do you really want to give yourself just a 20 minute lunch break, or would you actually like to take 45 minutes or maybe even an hour? Do you really want to spend an extra 20 minutes answering that complicated email that rolls in at 4:55 or do you want to give yourself time to decompress and relax after a long day's work? Do you really want to eat the salad or do you actually want a cheeseburger?
And some might blow this off as being undisciplined, but I would actually argue exactly the opposite. I can tell you from experience that it takes discipline to take that longer lunch break and to actually quit at quitting time. It takes a great deal of discipline to set boundaries and take real breaks and take care of yourself in a world that preaches self-sacrifice. But when you do this, you are better for it and your work is actually better for it too, because now you are fully showing up. Now you are really taking ownership of your life.
And what you'll find is that when you consciously make the choice to take care of yourself and take a break, you also consciously make the choice to get back to work. And similarly, when you consciously make the choice to enjoy the cheeseburger will also consciously make the choice to have a salad later on at dinnertime.
We think that being disciplined means not giving ourselves choices, because we've been taught not to trust ourselves. And so we look for external authorities to tell us what to do, when to work, what to eat, when to relax. But there is no external authority telling you to take a break, telling you to add more joy to your day. So you've actually got to step up and do that for yourself. And that might take some courage. And it's most likely going to take some thought, intention and prioritization.
But it doesn't have to take a ton of time. I spoke with a client about this very thing just the other day, and at one point I said, what if you stopped everything and just let yourself listen to one of your favorite songs? What is that like three minutes? And that might be all it really takes to replenish. Maybe it's a 10-minute walk around the block. Maybe it's a 20 minute power nap.
So that's my challenge for you this week - to stop treating yourself like a robot during the day by adding more breaks and more joy to your day. Stop saving it all up for the end of the day - stop doing that with your food, and stop doing that with your life. Enjoy your day and embrace the freedom that you really do have. And remind yourself that you have this freedom by speaking in a way that reflects reality. Stop saying you have to, because in reality there is no absolute real have to. Everything is a choice, and when you own that you can start doing more of what you actually do want to do and start creating your life instead of simply reacting to it.