I saw a post by a friend on Facebook with a list of 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. I’ve been giving up things regularly since beginning this journey, and I’ve never been happier. There was a time that I thought you’d pry my satellite television remote from my cold, dead hands. You would have had a better chance separating me from my morning Diet Coke than pulling a crooked stamp off an important letter. These things mean nothing to me now. When I read over the list my friend posted, it resonated with me on a number of levels.
- The need to always be right. This one is deeply seated in me. As an analytical person, I find myself seeking an absolutely correct answer to a lot of problems. I so often seek “right” and “wrong,” and I get rubbed the “wrong” way when people don’t do things “right.” It has been so freeing for me to realize that things which are right for me might be wrong for others, and vice versa. Now if only the Westboro Baptist Church could have this revelation, right?
- Give up your need for control. Margaret, one of my dietitians, once gave me some wise words. She said (more or less), “Relax. You don’t have to be in control. You just need to be in charge.” I can’t “control” my body, but I can be in charge of the decisions I make which influence how my body reacts. I can do my best, and that’s the best I can do. At work, I am finding that releasing the need to be in control is also freeing. It frees up time and lowers my stress levels. Surprisingly, things still get done.
- Give up on blame. As a younger man, I was very much guilty of assigning blame when things went awry. I was always glad to take credit for when they went right, however. As I mature, I find that we’re all in this together, and everyone deserves a fair share of the costs and the benefits. If I gain weight, it’s convenient to say, “Well, I had salt. I didn’t exercise. That food was mis-labeled.” It’s much more freeing to say, “I gained weight this week. Okay. Next week is a new week.”
- Give up on your self-defeating talk. Bazinga! This one is huge for me. I so often talk myself out of things before I even start them. The vast majority of things I’ve achieved have been despite my inner voices, rather than because of them. Just tell them to, “hide and watch.”
- Give up on your limiting beliefs. I find myself closing more and more emails, post, and text messages with, “What’s stopping you?” It’s even on my Needless Pounds business cards. So often, you are the only thing stopping you. Stop stopping you 😉
- Give up complaining. I love how much better my quality of life is now that I see things more positively. I’m not certain how that change happened, but I’m so thankful that it has. I even keep a list of things that I’m thankful for each day. In my last job, I had wonderful opportunities, great colleagues, and amazing students. I left because there were one or two things I found complaint-worthy. In my current role, I have wonderful opportunities, great colleagues, and amazing students. There are still one or two things that I could complain about, but I find my job so much more rewarding when I see the “wins” before the “losses.” In terms of weight loss and body image, I know there are things about my body that I don’t like. There are many, many more things about my body which are wonderful and amazing than which need fixing.
- Give up the luxury of criticism. See number 1. See number 6. See the good in things. See?
- Give up your need to impress others. As a big kid, I received sooo much criticism from my peers. “Kids can be so cruel” doesn’t begin to describe my childhood as an obese kid. I grew up feeling the need to overcome my physical appearance by being better, stronger, faster, smarter, what-have-you than others. I was walking down the hall just yesterday, and I saw my reflection in a large glass window. I picked out a flaw (see numbers 4 and 6), and I said, “Eh. Who am I trying to impress?” It’s so freeing!
- Give up on your resistance to change. Change is scary. Change requires effort. Sitting still is comfortable, but so is eating a bag of miniature Reese’s Cups. Sitting still will get you nowhere. If you stand still on an escalator, you will find yourself back on the ground floor. As a young educator, I’ve found myself swimming against a sea of complacency when trying to implement new approaches and technology.
- Give up labels. Here’s an excellent example of this: You’re “Obese.” Most people are. To be not obese requires a body mass index under 30. My body mass index still claims I’m overweight. BMI is just a label, and it’s crazy how skinny I’d have to be to be labeled “normal.” I can achieve the things I want to achieve today. I can be better tomorrow, and I’m working toward that, but there’s nothing “wrong” with me right now.
- Give up on your fears. Isn’t this just a special case of numbers 3, 4, and 5? Fear is often associated with uncertainty and the unknown. I was afraid of going to the gym because I didn’t know how to use the equipment, and I was uncertain if I would be able to figure it out. Fortunately, I had a friend take me by the hand and guide me. He helped me through my fears. What are your fears? Who can help you past them?
- Give up your excuses. I’m a successful weight loss patient. It only took me 30 years to get over myself and do the work required to achieve the results. So many people come to me and say, “Can you help me do this, too?” After giving them advice and specific direction, they say, “Oh. I can’t do that because.” or “That wouldn’t work for me.” What I hear when people say things like that is, “I really don’t want to change.” Obstacles can be overcome. Excuses are not obstacles — they’re you holding yourself back.
- Give up on the past. You can’t change the past. You need to learn from it and look forward. You have total control of your present and future actions. Set goals, establish strategies for reaching those goals, and get busy accomplishing these goals!
- Give up attachment. I’ve lived a life attached to things, ideas, and causes for a long time. Food was one of those attachments. I’ve already discussed giving up my grips on satellite television. I’ve written about my experience with debt which was associated with an attachment to “things.” It’s very freeing to let go of attachment.
- Give up living your life to other people’s expectations. My life is mine to live. I set my goals, I make my own decisions, and I reap the rewards or pay the penalties for my actions. When I was living a life that was based on stuff, I racked up a ton of credit card debt. That sucked. When I was living a life of dietary excess, I racked up a ton of body fat. That sucked. When I made my career decisions on what I thought would make other people happy, I ended up in a lonely cubicle. That sucked. I now make my purchasing decisions for me. The fact that most of my clothes are second-hand doesn’t bother me one bit. I make most of my food decisions for me. The fact that I eat a lot of foods that many people find boring is frankly none of their business. I like carrots. I sincerely like carrots. I teach at a community college which pays me far less than I feel I’m worth. I’m not in it for the money — that’s not my expectation. Giving up on what other people want for you is so freeing!
That was a lot of words. If you’ve skipped down here for the insight, I don’t blame you. For me, the take-away is that less is more, and when you’re living on/with less, it’s important that you make wise decisions about what you do have/keep/choose. Choose nutritious foods. Do work you enjoy. Surround yourself with people who lift you up rather than bring you down. If it hurts, stop doing it. If it’s not making you better, it’s probably making you worse.