I’m working towards deliberately treating my body better so I can actually be my best self in my work, life, and relationships.
I’m breaking up with counting.
Not all at once, because that feels terrifying, but, slowly.
I’m breaking up with meticulously measuring meals, miles, minutes, etc. I’m worn-out by the fatigue that follows the cycles of fixation. These cycles disguise themselves as control and help me define myself within parameters that feel palpable — things I can wrap my head around.
The thing is, my version of “being in control” has morphed into an exhausting attempt to do whatever it takes to mitigate the chaos in my life. I can’t keep up with it anymore. Too often, I find myself spinning — as in spiraling out of control.
Here’s an example: I’ve drifted from portioning meals (let’s be real: apples, trail mix, and hard boiled eggs are snacks) so that I have enough to eat, to portioning food, so I trick my mind into thinking I’m in control of the choices I’m making each day. Because, then, to me, it would be OK. I feel like need to control everything that my body endures (this includes how I spend my time each day).
Most days, my entire caloric intake equates to less than a single meal or has, imperatively, been dissipated by an intensive cardio workout — a workout which also eases my mind, provides me with a reassuring glimpse of clarity, and boosts my mood.
Feeling like I’m losing control — not planning meals, rationing portion sizes, micromanaging my schedule, counting ingredients — is pretty distressing. I’ve learned that trying to “turn off” or halt the emotions I’m experiencing by imposing senseless restrictions and structured routines is merely a temporary fix.
Feeling in control this way is soothing, but it’s not sustainable or realistic. Honestly, I’m just as out-of-control in those moments; but the outward semblance of order is powerfully deceptive. Therefore, I’m working towards deliberately treating my body better so I can actually be my best self in my work, life, and relationships.
One strategy I’ve found helpful is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad." Mindfulness is helping me redefine control. For me, “control 2.0” looks like making choices that are driven by feeling compelled to slow down and reconnect with my mind and my body as opposed to requisitely going through the motions.
Practicing mindfulness helps me foster awareness where previously (even seconds before) I experienced a frenzy of racing thoughts and overwhelming possibilities. When I’m mindful, my choices don’t feel crazed or urgent. They feel nurturing and wholesomely intentional.
Attending to the present moment and recognizing how I’m feeling allows me to reframe my experiences and move beyond boxing up and ignoring my needs. I can think more logically and coherently through the potential consequences and gains — I’ve missed that type of thinking!
I’m focusing on being completely present and responding to my body’s cues. Do I want that cookie (or salad or whatever)? Yes! Okay!
Rather than computing some illogical, complex, mental math and recollecting what I already ate today, yesterday, this week and what I plan to eat tomorrow and over the weekend, I’m going to eat that cookie and notice how nourishment tastes and feels.
Even if it feels overwhelming and even if I want to squelch the immense discomfort and fear I feel, I’m going to brace myself for the crushing waves that are rapidly approaching. Then, instead of feeling like their crushing force is going to destroy me, I’m going to listen to my instincts.
By that, I mean I’m going to take a deep breath, take a risk, and trust my intuition — my mind — to know what’s best and tell me what I need, without judgment. The same logic applies to sleeping, consuming caffeine, calling a friend to talk, or taking a break to gain some perspective.
Simply put, this strategy is helping move from compulsively counting trivial elements of my life to counting the times I make choices that are reflective of my wants and needs. I’m choosing to focus my strength on being mindful rather than feigning control by strictly obeying the imperatives I’ve created to calm my frenetic life.
I’m giving this a dedicated attempt. I’ll probably slip up a lot!
The truth is, I am the one thing in life I can control; but I can’t cultivate my agency unless I acknowledge myself. I’m good at following rules — even if I make them up.
So, I’m changing the rules of this game. I can’t succumb to harmful, seemingly-necessary restrictions and subsequent compliance anymore.
Today, I am choosing mindfulness. I’m choosing to privilege the moments I listen to and acknowledge my body’s wants and needs.