46. Fill Your Own Bucket
Welcome to episode 46 of the Mindful Weight Loss Podcast. I am your host and your coach, Emily Erekuff and today I am talking about the idea of filling your own bucket. And I got the idea for this episode from the children's book called "Have You Filled a Bucket Today" by Carol McCloud.
And if you haven't read the book, the idea is that we all have invisible buckets that we carry around that hold our good thoughts and feelings. And when our buckets are full we feel good and when they are empty we feel bad. And we rely on others to fill our buckets and our job is to fill others' buckets. And we do this by being kind. And when we are unkind we are being a "bucket dipper" and removing some of those good thoughts and feelings from someone else's bucket. And so then our goal each day is to fill someone's bucket.
It's a really lovely children's book. The concept is so easy to understand and the message is great. It's a great message for children who need to learn the impact that kindness has on others.
But we are grown ups and there's a different lesson that this concept can help us learn. And that's the idea that we need to fill our own buckets; that we are ultimately responsible for how empty or full they are. We can't wait for other people or external circumstances to give us good thoughts and feelings, or we might be waiting a really long time.
And why am I talking about this in the context of weight loss? Because when you feel good, the urge to overeat isn't as strong. Feeling good is the best offense against overeating. Because you know they say the best defense is a good offense and this truly is getting on the offensive. If you want to stop overeating, then you've got to stop worrying about overeating and berating yourself for the times you've done it in the past and focus on feeling good instead.
If you found out today that you won a million dollars would you end up overeating in front of the TV? And actually, I'm sure a few of you are thinking "yeah" and for those I'll make a mental note to talk about celebratory overeating in a future podcast. But for those who say no, consider why if you learned that you won a million dollars, why would you then not end up overeating later.
If you connect the dots, it's probably because you think or know that you will be feeling really good and then why would you need to overeat then? And in that case you can see that overeating is compensating for something, most likely a lack of feeling good. In other words, you overeat when your bucket is empty.
And you anticipate that winning a million dollars will fill your bucket. And that's where so many of us go wrong. And that's not to say that winning a million dollars won't fill your bucket at least initially, but we have this idea that we are supposed to wait for our buckets to be filled by external events like winning the lottery, or like losing weight. We don't feel empowered to fill our own buckets now and have this perpetual notion that they will be filled later once something else happens: once we get more time, get more money, get a handle on something. It's always some future event that never comes.
And frankly it's cruel to do this to ourselves. We hold these things over our heads. It's not so much "I can't be happy until I have x" as "I won't be happy until I have x" because happiness is there for the taking. You have the ability to fill your bucket at any time. But so many of us don't choose to because somehow we don't think we deserve to until something changes.
The statement "I can't be happy until I lose weight" is a lie, plain and simple. You absolutely can be happy at your current weight. And if you utter that statement or think that thought, what you're really saying is "I won't let myself be happy until I lose weight." or "I don't deserve to be happy until I lose weight."
If those latter statements don't resonate with you, then you have to concede that you can be happy at your current weight and start doing it. And if those latter statements do resonate, then you know where your work is; you need to start addressing your belief in what you deserve.
Because that's the primary problem. When you get rid of the weight loss condition you're just left with "I won't let myself be happy" or "I don't deserve to be happy" It doesn't matter what the condition is, every time you think something like this you are telling your brain that you won't or don't deserve to be happy period.
And the crazy irony about this is that if you don't think you deserve happiness period, why then would you go to all the trouble of losing weight to make yourself happy. You don't deserve happiness, remember? There's this circular logic, this chicken and egg thing that happens, that feels inescapable sometimes. And the only way out of it is to commit to the belief that you deserve to feel good and be happy; that you deserve to have a full bucket no matter what.
And then you need to start seeing that you do have the ability to fill your own bucket; that you don't need to wait for someone to hand you a pile of money to feel good. You don't need a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand to fix things for you, because you are capable of all of it.
We need to stop thinking that some external circumstance or some other person will rescue us. We need to step up and rescue ourselves. In fact we need to realize that we don't even need rescuing, because we are in charge and we are powerful.
So how do you fill your bucket?
The first step is to make the intention to do it. When you make the intention to be kind to yourself that in itself is already a kindness to yourself. So just the mere act of deciding to fill your bucket fills it up a little bit and get's you started.
I love to think about starting my day with an empty bucket and thinking about how I can fill it up by the end of the day, so that when I go to bed it's full and I am happy and satisfied.
And as someone who is a absolutely not morning person, this really helps me with that too.
I love to be cozy in bed in the morning and I love my sleep. I do best on eight to nine hours of sleep a night. But even when I get nine hours, I just don't relish getting up. No matter what I am someone who always wants to linger in bed in the mornings. And I always felt like that was something to fix about myself. I always wanted to be someone who just springs out of bed and is cheery and ready to tackle the day. But I just don't have a full bucket first thing in the morning. But now I see that as a good thing because it's a reminder that my job is to fill up my bucket and I get excited at the notion that I get to and can do that.
And so I think about what I can do that will fill my bucket. And here's the funny part about it, is that generally I don't have to do much different. When I think about what fills my bucket, it's simple things like enjoying my coffee in the morning, enjoying meals that are easy to prepare, working out, meditating, writing, coaching, making progress on my business and on my house, walking my dogs, and enjoying my family. And those things are all available to me every day and what I realize when I do this bucket exercise is that it's not always about doing something different. A lot of the time it's just about recognizing that something does or doesn't fill your bucket.
So before you start creating some to-do list out of this, ask yourself what are you ALREADY doing that fills your bucket? Because what you'll tend to find is that it's not about buying a new outfit or getting a pedicure, or even getting yourself a special coffee, it's the simple things like savoring your child's smile, or really appreciating your spouse or your pet, or feeling proud of yourself. It's not about those external things. It's about what happens within. And funnily enough, when you experience that, then those external things - the pedicure, the manicure, the special coffee - those things are even better, because you are doing them with awareness.
Each moment, each action, it's about the meaning that we bring to it. A pedicure is just a pedicure. It doesn't automatically fill your bucket. But when it's something special that you really make a point to enjoy and savor, then it fills your bucket. And so it's not the thing, that fills your bucket, it's the meaning you bring to it.
And so gosh, when you say you "can't find time for yourself" honestly that's total BS, because anybody and everybody can find numerous 5 to 10 minute pockets throughout their day that they can bring positive meaning to. You can make that time enjoyable simply by deciding to savor and enjoy the break. You don't need to fill it with Facebook or with food to make it good. It's good just by virtue of you thinking that it is.
You might notice this isn't unlike keeping a gratitude list. Because gratitude isn't about the things themselves, it's about practicing a grateful state of mind and realizing how much we already have to be grateful for.
And when you start recognizing what fills your bucket you can start doing more of it. And when you start realizing what drains your bucket you can figure out how to do less of that. You can learn how to protect your bucket from other people or external circumstances that don't go your way.
And the big thing is that when you live life with the goal of filling your own bucket each day, you start to realize that the end results don't really matter. What matters is how you do things and how you approach things.
You can exercise in a way that's punishing or in a way that's loving. You can exercise in a way that empties your bucket or fills it. And when you approach exercise in a way that fills your bucket, the result don't matter because what you're doing feels good. You will keep doing it regardless of the outcome precisely because it feels good. And then strangely enough, because it feels good, you'll keep doing more of it and then the results you want are almost guaranteed.
So ask yourself how you can fill your own bucket today? Ask yourself what you're already doing to fill your bucket because I'm sure there's something that you can just bring more awareness to. It can be as simple as really enjoying that cup of coffee or that glass of wine, or celebrating your accomplishments during the day, or savoring moments with your family. And then when you consider creating new habits or rituals, like we talked about in the last episode, only consider those things that will fill your bucket in some way. And no, that doesn't mean that you don't do hard things.
Hard things can fill your bucket too - they can give you more confidence, leave you feeling accomplished, and help you see just how capable you are. And when you approach a hard thing with that point of view, when you do it knowing that it will fill your bucket, it becomes just a little bit easier and you might even find that you enjoy the hard thing while you're doing it because you're witness to your own growth.
As always, take really good care of yourself and I will see you next week.