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check yourself

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Hi there.

Nice to see you again.

You know, life is expensive. I went to see the new Lion King movie with my sister last week, and my ticket was $17.50. True, this is Manhattan, but...yikes.

Luckily, free entertainment abounds. Like listening to the endless array of words that float past you every day. Some might call this eavesdropping, but I like to call it “being attentive.” Or, as my dad (henceforth referred to by his proper nomenclature, Papa Wolff) always says, “observing the world around you.”

Case in point: I experienced the greatest juxtaposition (that’s for you, Papa Wolff) of ideas at the beach recently. First, I heard two young women talking about some health goals: “I’m eating no carbs, starting tomorrow. Instead of avocado toast, hard-boiled eggs...I hate salads, but I guess I’ll have them for lunch...And I’ve been working out, but when I work out, I get hungrier, so I guess I just won’t work out.”

Then, right after that, I heard the little boy I mentioned last week say to his dad: “Let’s go super close to the waves and hug each other.”

I mean, humans are great, aren’t they?

Again, part of me wants to spend time basking in the glory of wave-hugging. But I’m not going to. I’m going to go back to that first conversation – the one that I wrote down verbatim because it was so chock-full of material that I had to incorporate it into a j.e.wolff piece. (Plus, one of the categories of this blog is “hybrid health,” and I’m well-aware that this is the least chosen category on my part.)

Okay, let’s dive in to this case study, shall we?

These are the four things I wanted to say to this frustrated young woman:

1: Stop it.

Let me soften that a little: shift out of the dieting and cleansing mindset (e.g., “no carbs”). I’ve only tried one cleanse, and it wasn’t even a legit cleanse: I followed a meal plan out of a health magazine for two days. I was allowed to have some kind of juice/smoothie drink for breakfast and plain lean protein and vegetables for lunch and dinner.

Some people say that doing a cleanse or fast fills you with energy, but I was hangry for two days straight. And, again, it was only a baby cleanse. All I could think was: “Why?! Why do people do this?!” Well, a lot of people do it as a kind of “refresh” or “reset.” But, you know, there are a lot of ways to refresh and reset without taking all the fun out of food and feeling like you want to kill somebody.

Can you maintain that way of eating long-term without losing your mind? If the answer is no, then stop it. Find a more sustainable and enjoyable approach – and take baby steps.

2: Do it today.

If you really want to shift a habit, you have to buck up and try it now. I’m a big lover of saying “Starting Monday, I’m going to [go to bed earlier, start a writing schedule, stop night-snacking]. But, you know, Monday comes around, and I’m not nearly as gung-ho as I was on Saturday or Sunday. This happens every single time.

Really, “starting tomorrow” is an excuse. It’s a valuable excuse, because it means that the thing you’re putting off either:

  1. doesn’t fit into your lifestyle (in which case, you need to rethink it),

  2. doesn't align with your bigger values or goals (in which case, you need to rethink it), or

  3. sounds painful (in which case, you need to rethink it).

Seeing a pattern here? If you always “start tomorrow,” you’ll never actually do it. Plus, habit changes take time to develop, so every day you put off is one less day of that habit getting easier.

Do you really want to make this change – and can you do so in a way that you’ll actually enjoy? If the answer is no, then rethink it. If the answer is yes, then do it today. What are you waiting for?

3: Enjoy.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: when it comes to "eating well,” pleasure matters. This might mean that you need to care a little less. Now, if your idea of healthy eating is washing down an entire bag of Cheetos with a few bottles of Skinnygirl wine every night until you realize that you haven’t moved from your couch in three days, then perhaps you need to care a little more. But if you’re so focused on eating healthy food that you forget to enjoy food, or if you feel guilty and/or ashamed because you were the only person at brunch who went for it and ordered the burger and fries, then I encourage you to take a step back.

There are so many nourishing foods that are actually fun to eat. And, no, I’m not necessarily talking about kale. Kale doesn’t have to be like the colleague you secretly can’t stand: you don’t have to pretend that you enjoy its company. Yes, it’s true that the more you eat vegetables, the more you crave them. There are genuine physiological and neurological reasons for that. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to force-feed yourself kale until you reach that point. You can order the burger and fries. Just maybe not on a daily basis.

Do you really hate salads? Then maybe don’t force yourself to eat them for lunch every day. Life is short, and pleasure, along with nourishment, is integral to the healthy eating equation. You can have both, I promise. All it takes is a little bit of research and creativity.

4: Check yourself.

I'll keep this one brief. When you hear yourself saying things like, “When I work out, I get hungrier, so I guess I just won’t work out”...check yourself. Does this make logical sense?

I’m not saying that all food choices have to make logical sense. Remember point #3 above! We’re not in survival mode here, eating every body part of the animal we just killed after two days on the hunt: we’re in the local grocery store trying to decide what flavor of hummus to buy (consistently a very difficult decision for this writer). Still, it’s easy to get caught up in illogical thinking. As someone who was down the dark rabbit hole of an eating disorder in high school, I know firsthand that this can 100% happen.

So, when you catch yourself – for example, deciding not to exercise at all (which you know doesn't support health in any way, shape, or form) because it means you won’t be a hungry and won’t eat as much when you’re trying to diet – pause. Does that make sense? If not, something isn’t adding up. Food is supposed to provide energy for exercise. So, if you’re always starving, maybe you need to reassess your food intake on some level. Just sayin’.

Really, this pretty much sums it up.

When it comes to health, check yourself. If it's not enjoyable and doesn't make you feel good long-term, then be honest with yourself and reassess. Life is short, and you're the one who's living it. It's up to you.

Okay, that wasn’t so brief. I try really hard to not get on a soapbox when it comes to health, but I’ve learned a lot over the years that I want to share with the world. For now, I’ll share it with all 17 of my consistent readers. Thanks for reading. See? Free entertainment.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.


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