A very very long time ago there was a popular book entitled I’m OK, You’re OK. I didn’t read it (I was actually a toddler back then), but from what I understand it was one of those self-help psych books about how to work through life’s problems and situations. Generally, I think it’s okay to accept people’s differences and to accept the different situations life has handed you. Obviously, there are some things you can change and some things you can’t and the challenges come when you’re faced with something you (or someone else) can change, but you’re not sure how to make it happen.
What’s really started to get under my skin lately is the idea that “everything is okay.” You really overate today and most of it was stuff you’re trying to avoid- “that’s okay! It’s one day! You’ll do better tomorrow!” You’ve blown off your workouts for the last week because you just didn’t feel like going- “that’s okay! Everyone needs a break! You can get back to it tomorrow!” You’ve been stressing out over work/ family/ whatever and not sleeping well and staying up late- “that’s okay! We all have problems and we need to learn to deal with them!” NO, THIS IS NOT OKAY!! NONE OF THIS IS “OKAY”!!
Yeah, I know: I probably sound like a crabby b*tch right now. Actually, I’m usually a little torn in situations like those above. On one hand, I don’t want to be unsupportive and tell someone that they really blew it and need to toughen up; but on the other hand, I don’t want to condone (or encourage) “bad” behavior. A lot of times it feels like a choice between condoning their lack of effort or being the b*tch, so I usually try to find a middle ground: “yes, today was a disaster with the poor food choices and/ or lack of exercise, but you need to try harder to find out why you made the choices you did.”
I was listening to a podcast today, and one of the hosts was telling a listener that “it’s okay” to be unhappy with her weight and “it’s okay” to struggle with her body image and “it’s okay not to be okay.” WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN? I think we have become too okay with everything being “okay!” At some point someone has to stand up and say no, this behavior/ attitude/ whatever is NOT okay. It’s not okay to make poor food choices day after day and tell yourself that you don’t do this “all the time” and you’ll do better next time. It’s not okay to blow off your workouts half the time and tell yourself it’s because of the stress or the crappy traffic or you’re just “not feeling it.” It’s not okay to stay up late half the week because it’s “a special tv show” or you’ve got “a lot to get done.” It’s not okay to hit snooze over and over again each morning because “it’s cold, you’re tired, you don’t want to get up, you can get five more minutes.” Yes, I’m being b*tchy, and I’m being b*tchy at me! These are my examples of bad behavior for the last couple of weeks at least: too many “treats,” slacking off on activity and exercise, staying up late and lagging in bed in the morning. None of this is okay: it’s not moving me towards my goals or teaching me any consistency. Telling me “it’s okay” is giving me free rein to act badly! This is where I tell myself what I said earlier: “You screwed it up today and you need to look at why you did that so the next time this situation comes up, you have your counterargument ready!”
You had a doughnut: It was a really crappy week and I wanted to do something nice for me so I got my favorite doughnut (and it was really really good too!) Counterargument: That “yummy” doughnut spiked your sugar, made you hungry later and had the same calories as a salad or a piece of chicken but no nutrition, and that’s “something nice for you?”
You blew off your workout (again): I really didn’t feel like rushing to the gym and changing really quick so I could make it to the class on time and I really hate to be late! Counterargument: So instead of being late, you missed class entirely! You didn’t replace that activity with something else and so instead of feeling accomplished and energized, you feel guilty and like the slacker you are, and you didn’t even do anything productive instead!
You repeatedly hit snooze in the morning: I really hate getting up. It’s cold and it’s still dark and I don’t need to get gas/ coffee/ drop laundry. Counterargument: So instead of getting up with enough time to make it to work without worrying about traffic and having a few extra minutes to get settled/ make more coffee, you’re lying in bed whining? And if the freeway is a parking lot (again), you’re just going to be late? Remember how much you hate being late? Is that few extra minutes (half hour) worth stressing over being late?
Obviously I’m talking to myself here; I would never be so harsh to someone asking for help or advice, but the bottom line is that when we make excuses for ourselves or for others, letting them off the hook with “it’s okay,” we are giving them a pass to stay the unhealthy course they (or we) are trying to change. It is okay to be human and not be perfect; expecting perfection is unrealistic, but we have to acknowledge that we are moving towards a goal of consistency and overall improvement. If we don’t keep moving, we stagnate in complacency and we go nowhere! I spent too many years of my life being “okay” with my body weight and my living fat default lifestyle, and much as I’d like to say I went nowhere, I did make progress- for the worse! My health continued to deteriorate, my life was miserable and I hit 438 lbs. But it was all “okay” because I was “doing the best I can.” HAH!! If I’d worked at it, I could have done better and made small improvements that wouldn’t overwhelm me but would ultimately lead to overall better health and lifestyle choices. But I didn’t do that because everything was “okay,” until it wasn’t. What happened was a major life event resulting in months of depression and recovery. Definitely not fun. Definitely not okay.
It’s those little changes that we need to focus on and these are the things that get overlooked when we tell people it’s okay to have a treat once in a while, or blow off your workouts, or whatever the poor choice was. Scolding someone for eating a doughnut or a hot dog or whatever probably isn’t going to help them make better choices: it’s just going to make them feel guilty and/ or like a failure. I was on the receiving end of a lot of those lectures from my mother for most of my life and the one thing I did learn from all of them is how spectacularly ineffective they are. I feel for me personally change comes from finding out why I made the choice that I made. The “snooze button battle” is a good example of a change I’m struggling with right now. I really really hate getting up early and every night I tell myself I’m not hitting snooze and every morning I hit the button again. (Aaargh!!) Arguing with myself has been as marvelously effective as my mother’s lectures. Going to bed earlier has not been effective either. Lagging is bed is not okay because of the traffic delays and the before-work errands that I need to do that can’t be done at another time (usually gas & laundry), so reminding myself that there is a reason I need to get up at a certain time is not as effective as I would like it to be. I may just have to be “the b*tch” and make myself do it, but telling myself that this counterproductive behavior is “okay” is not helping me be more consistent or productive but it is causing stress due to tighter time constraints at a time of day when I’m already not my best. It really is not okay for me to continue doing this. Accepting this behavior just lets the problem drag on being a problem!
Some of you know I watch a lot of TLC, including My Big Fat Fabulous Life with Whitney Thore. Whitney weighs about 370 lbs and she’s “okay with being fat.” In the season 3 finale, she said she had accepted that she would probably be fat all her life, and I was so sorry to hear that. I don’t think everyone needs to be skinny, but I remember making a similar decision when I weighed in the same neighborhood. I realized, almost at the same moment I made the decision, that I wasn’t “accepting” anything- I was giving up, and more, I was giving myself a free pass to eat whatever I wanted as much as I wanted and to never have to think about exercising again. I was “the fat woman” and it was okay! Except that it wasn’t. It’s a little ironic, because the fighter in me realized in that same moment that I had given up and she refused to accept it! As soon as I realized I’d given up, the fighter in me said, “oh, hell, no!” and kept on fighting. I gave up on giving up. It is NOT okay to accept defeat without a fight. Yes, there are some things you will never be able to change, but there are almost always ways to make improvements! Yes, I blew off workouts and ate doughnuts and have been staying up too late- but I can change those things! Yes, I weighed 438 lbs, had horribly painful knees and stress induced asthma and panic attacks- but I changed those! Yes, I still weigh 275 lbs and I have loose saggy skin on most of my body- I am changing those things! I can acknowledge that I screwed up without judging myself or shaming myself or beating myself up. People stumble, they fall, and they get up and do better! Telling them it’s okay to stumble and fall is acknowledging that they’re human, but telling them it’s okay not to get up and do better is most definitely NOT okay!