It’s been a fun ride so far – and if you haven’t been along for it, I’d encourage you to start from the beginning: open up posts on our theme “Enjoy the Process” Part 1 and Part 2. No spoilers here though – promise 😛
Stress Comes in Many Forms
You set goals. You love the practice, and you get results. You have even learned a trick or two on how to deal with adversity. So, what can we do next to further improve ourselves in our never-ending search for self-improvement and sustainable weight loss? Manage your stress.
Of course… the simplest and most effective way to do this would be to just stop stressing about a few things. But how can you possibly do that? Just… stop? Well, there’s an exercise you can try to carefully choose those concerns you will put effort in to vs what you will not. You need to put things in perspective and prioritize. You will need to understand those things which you control vs. those which you do not control, and allocate your limited daily focus & resources to maximize your results. How, you ask? Let’s begin!
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
What will derail your efforts at achieving your weight loss goal is spending mental energy worrying about things you have zero control over.
Examples of things you don’t have direct control over:
- Family heritage / background
- Number the scale “chooses” to display today
- What others do / eat / say, etc.
Examples of things you do have direct control over:
- Foods you eat
- Frequency of eating
- Exercise you do
- Your attitude (how you frame events ie: optimism vs pessimism)
The trick here is to maximize use of your limited time, money, and mental energy to those things netting you tangible results, and simply forget stressing about the rest!
Why? Consider this: when you attempt to divide your mental energy equally across all things you are concerned with, life can start to feel overwhelmingly complicated. This causes extra stress you essentially can never ‘deal with’… it festers. I love the quote here, I think we can all relate to my boy Bilbo:
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread “Bilbo Baggins – Lord of the Rings. (Would do him well to skip those carbs!)
You can feel demotivated when – no matter what actions you take – you are unable to do anything to meaningfully “move that needle” to any better place than it was at the beginning. Psst: It’s because you have zero control of those things! Time to dump that stress like a loaf of bread. Stress leads to poor decision-making, which leads to carbs, and carbs … to the dark side.
Circle of Control: Prioritize Your Efforts
Have you ever heard of the concept of the ‘Circle of Control‘? This concept puts in perspective all of the things you may spend time thinking about (all things that ‘concern’ you), but allows us categorize them 3 ways.
- Concerns you control
- Concerns others control and you can only influence
- Concerns nobody directly controls.
Let’s get visual here for a second!
Think of the yellow (center) as what you immediately control, red (middle) as what you can influence, and blue (outer) as things you have zero control over.
This exercise really helps me get my priorities straight when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Compared to the amount of things you could be concerned about, there’s much less on your plate in a day you can directly control and therefore do anything about.
This means I don’t lose sleep at night wondering about growing obesity rates (we’re going to get in to those in just a bit!). Yes, it is a concerning topic, but I recognize I have no control and little influence over it… Instead, I recognize I control the choices I make daily for myself and my family. I can also share as much as I can (via this blog, social media, and awkward dinner conversations about why I won’t just eat the pasta!) to try to help others make better decisions for themselves. That’s basically all I can do! And I’m happy about that :)… stress drops.
How to Allocate your Daily Mental Energy
I’ve tried to illustrate these principles in a couple of pictures. I’m no graphic designer so cut me some slack ok 🙂 The first image shows what your likely ‘current mental energy’ allocation looks like – it’s spread across many concerns. Some you have zero control over, some you have influence over, and others you have direct control over. I’m trying to show you are missing out on the red dotted box of ‘results’ that you could be achieving if you spent more energy on things you had ‘total control’ over.
This next visual is how you should optimally spend your energy day to day (mostly on things you control!) Notice those ‘results‘ are now within your spent energy box because you are spending more effort on those items – you can achieve more results, quicker, when more of your energy is focused on things within your control.
Essentially this boils down to wasting energy on things that don’t get you results is a total waste of time. Instead, better to prioritize your energy to things you have direct control over, and start building momentum to achieve the results you want. Is this selfish? No, and I’ll tell you why…
The Whole World is Sick! What do I do?!
” …the United Kingdom and the United States appear to be experiencing stagnating or continued declines in life expectancy, raising questions about future trends in these countries. “Exceprt from “Recent trends in life expectancy across high income countries: retrospective observational study
We are in the midst of a massive multinational downturn in health and life expectancy. Studies are popping up every other week reporting decreased an explosion in obesity rates. 40% of American adults are now considered obese(…isn’t that insane? FORTY PERCENT?). Check out this map of the heaviest states (and for a real scare, click here to see the trend over just the last 7 years).
And let’s briefly touch on how much taxpayer money is spent on treating the metabolic problems of being overweight / obese (not the least of which is Type 2 Diabetes):
” …annual medical costs for people with diabetes total $190.5 billion (USD). Although not all of these costs are attributable to obesity, excess weight is the single greatest predictor of developing diabetes “– Link https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.28.5.w822
Why am I bringing all of these issues to your attention? Didn’t we just say we can’t deal with these big issues we have no control over? Well, there’s a method to this madness… trust me and read on!
For a moment, imagine the next CDC map for say 2018 started to reverse trajectory & improve – 2019… 2020… a slow shift from yellow / red zones back to green again. It’s impossible to believe that could naturally happen, isn’t it? Our track record is abysmal (sidenote: that trend of inevitably increasing obesity tells you everything about the effectiveness of our current nutritional advice, doesn’t it? Bam.) Now you may be thinking – how can I affect this national trend I am but one single individual?! Bad news: you can’t. Good news: you can help yourself. Best news: That’s both all you can do, and all you actually need to.
Think about this… a healthy, vibrant person in the midst of an increasingly overweight population – these people used to be commonplace, but now are the exception. Their body is fueled by whole, nutritious foods, they remain healthy late in to their 60s, 70s, 80s+ (we’ll talk “healthspan” vs. “lifespan” in another post)! That healthy person becomes a leader in their home, their social space, their workplace and eventually infects just a few others with healthy habits. This diverts their course from obesity back to health. Soon, with enough people taking that accountability and ownership seriously, our cities and nations reverse their trajectory and begin again spending their resources on problems other than obesity. Global prosperity ensues.
So this comes full circle: focusing on getting yourself healthy, and sharing your story with your social and family circles (read: influencing their ideology and challenging what they believe is fact) – you indirectly elicit global change from the ground-up. You have a responsibility to keep yourself, your friends, and your family accountable to be healthy so they can prosper… and in prospering, you contribute your unique talents and skills to the overall betterment of society (human rights, poverty, hunger, climate change the list goes on, but shouldn’t include obesity!).
OK I’m off my soap box! 🙂 Let’s bring this together.
Go! Be in Control & Stress-Free, My Friends
So, recognizing what I can control allows me to be lower stress all the time. My focus is spent making decisions directly impacting my strategy. I also spend some of my effort creating an environment (friends, foods available to me, ability to fast for long periods of time if no good options exist) which makes those decisions as easy, automatic, and low-effort as possible. What I consider my “worst cheat day” today is nutritional light-years better than what I considered my ‘best day’ during your pre-lifestyle change ‘weight gaining’ phase.
So the whole population of America, the UK (and yes, let’s not forget Canada is in the same boat here, eh!) is at risk. Is this something you should be worried about? Yes, sure! Be aware and concerned! Is this something you have control over? No! None at all! You can control how healthy you are. Spend your mental energy there. Once you have your own health under control, consider spreading some of your knowledge and see who else might pick it up… and slowly we fix the world together!