No Pain, No Gain

We have been told repeatedly that we must fight against time; fight against our appetites and fight against our bodies. Actually, wouldn’t it be nice to just stop struggling?

How many people do you know that have themselves scheduled so tight that they barely have time for their family or friends? What are they told? You need to schedule time for yourself. Make dates with your partner so that you don’t forget to stop and talk to each other.

Think of the programs that are recommended for people that want to lose weight. You manage everything that goes into your mouth. Let’s not forget that you are supposed to exercise every other day for 35 minutes, before breakfast if possible. You should be doing three sets of 15 repetitions at a weight that causes you to drop the barbell on your foot. No that’s not right, but there is a truth there. The same can be said for the advice we are given about every other thing in our lives.

We have been told that our brains can figure out exactly the best way to live. We think that if we just design the right program, the right schedule, and the most efficient way to get things done that some magical outcome will reign.

The message is that we need to be pushing ourselves all of the time. Why? When you look around it is clear that we are not a society that is “managing its time” well. We are very unhealthy despite realms of advice about what to eat and how much to exercise and billions of dollars being spent in these industries.

Here’s a thought. What would happen if we stopped listening to this advice? Would we really become slovenly coach potatoes staring at screens and only moving when absolutely necessary? Would anyone notice a difference if we did?

You see the funny thing about forcing these external rules on ourselves is that it does not respect our own bodies and our own needs. We all know athletes that have trained so hard that they have caused fatigue injuries. We all know dieters that are so strict with themselves that they don’t eat enough to be healthy. We all know people that take on every project that comes their way and end up not doing anything very well.

Let me say something radical. I know that this goes against everything that you have been brought up to believe, but just indulge me for a moment. How would you feel if you stopped working when you were tired, ate only when you were hungry and exercised for enjoyment?

I recognize that many of us need to go to work on a 9-5, or some other, schedule and we don’t have much choice about that without jeopardizing our jobs, but what about all of the other work you are doing? There is no gold star at the end of your life if you are going full out working as much as possible until you die.

Your body has a huge amount of knowledge. Just stop for a moment and appreciate how many things it is doing as you read this. First, it is aware of your entire environment, location and the date and time, but in addition to that, your heart is circulating your blood, your lungs are oxygenating that blood, your digestive system is processing your last meal and your brain is understanding these little squiggly characters on this page, all without any effort.

There are a multitude of cells making proteins, repairing themselves, dividing to provide new cells to replace the old ones; your hair is growing and you are keeping your mouth moist with saliva. Isn’t it amazing that your body can do all of this without you paying attention to it, setting up a schedule, defining goals, allotting times and thinking it through?

I would like you to consider another possibility, even if it seems way out there. Your body also knows when it is most efficient to get your work done, how much you should eat and move. Have you ever pushed yourself to finish something and it took you twice as long because you were tired or unfocused?

Stay with me here, there is one more, outrageous thought! Perhaps, if you paid attention to what your body was saying, or rather your intuition, you would focus on the things that you should be paying attention to instead of what your brain is telling you you should be doing. That opens up a whole new opportunity to just pay attention to your life. Do you feel like talking to your partner, friend or child? Don’t schedule an appointment, talk to them. Do you feel like relaxing? You may even find that if you allowed yourself to relax, you would get more work done!

The most beneficial long term “lifestyle” change would be to actually respect your body as intelligent and knowledgeable. Try it for four days. Check in with yourself about once an hour and see if you can understand the messages that your body is sending you. Tape reminders on the fridge, the dashboard of your car, inside your wallet, on the edge of your computer screen. Stop and do a full body scan.

What did you notice each hour? Is there any pain? Are you hungry? Overfull? Do you feel restless? Is your mind focused or wandering? I think that you would be amazed at how much better you feel if you paid attention to what your body was saying. You never know, you might actually be compelled to listen to what it was telling you and possibly,…..take it’s advice. Or, you could continue to listen to the “experts”. How is that working out for you?

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