Not Another Diet — Principle 5

Simplify Your Life

An often overlooked aspect to losing weight is having time for self-care. I don’t mean some consumerist vision of self-care that includes bubble baths and new shoes, but open time in your schedule where you can fulfill your promises to yourself.

Time to think, breathe, stretch, take a bike ride and prepare your meals. Time to buy nourishing food, read recipes, head to a fitness class or walk, take the stairs or ride your bike on a Saturday morning.

I think of open time in my schedule as non-negotiable. I am not able to keep the weight off by compartmentalizing my eating and movement. A class here, a salad there. I need unscheduled, free time.

“Being busy is a disease of our time. The body physiologically needs to unplug, to relax. But we’ve become so accustomed to a state of sympathetic nervous system overload that we can’t get out.” The Urban Monk

Your overall health and wellbeing require a balanced schedule in order to have both the time, but also the mental fortitude to do the daily tasks that lead to a healthy weight. An emotionally depleted or physically exhausted person with barely any time is not one who can actively look after themselves.

You’ll notice I say having time as opposed to making time. That’s because one refers to a life with room to breathe, another concedes that idea. I am actively suggesting you reconsider all your time and task commitments to be certain there is room for relaxation and self-care.

We can change. People say we can’t, but we do when the stakes or the pain is high enough. And when we do, life can change. It offers more of itself when we agree to give up our busyness.

Many of the things people think of as non-negotiable are in fact, negotiable. We have more choice over what fills up our day than it would appear. I’ve seen parents so actively involved in their child’s sports they spend every day taking them around and driving long distances to games. That’s negotiable. If it takes an hour or more to do hair and makeup before leaving the house. That’s negotiable. If you play video games, watch sports games back to back or spend hours in front of Youtube, that’s negotiable.

If you are already defending things in your own mind that you secretly know are sucking up your time and focus, please absorb this quote ↓ from the introduction.

Your weight is a natural by-product of how you construct your life.

I encourage you to go through your day and see what you can safely let go. Things that creating busyness, and take up large chunks of time but don’t lead to meaningful progress towards your deepest desires.

The first hint that I may have filled up my own life with the wrong things happened when my husband and I divorced. As part of the terms of the divorce he bought my interest in our home. Overnight, I went from a 6,000 sq ft house with a large, cultivated yard, a hot tub and almost no household help to a condo that needed very little from me. I was stunned at the open time in my schedule. To be clear, I was never a crack housekeeper. I kind of hated keeping up with a large home, and mostly felt overwhelmed by it. I suspect a lot of people are living in arrangements that feel draining. That house didn’t suit who I really was, which is a person who would gladly trade square footage for walking and less maintenance. Lesson learned.

The second happened around dating. As I filled up my life with exercise, cooking, reading and relationships, I began to question all the grooming I was doing. It felt oppressive and time-consuming. Was it really true I had to do all these things in order to be attractive? One by one, I began to scale it back to just the things I found necessary. No more haircuts that required twenty minutes of blow-drying, no elaborate eye makeup, no manicures. I could go on, but you get the point. It changed absolutely nothing about my dating. It did free up time and money for activities I really wanted.

I bought sports equipment and learned things like paddleboarding. I spent Saturday morning reading. I stretched, planned and dreamed up fun projects for myself. I felt the joy of a person unburdened (or relatively) by unnecessary labor.

I am not suggesting you have to sell your house, or never get a pedicure. No one needs to look like Sasquatch to lose weight. The key is to examine what things are done for the expectations of others, status, or some sense that adults must do xyz.

Part of being a self-aware, growth-oriented grownup is giving yourself permission to set down activities that society has conceived for you, but are not actually necessary or a great fit. You get to say what matters to you, where you want your time and effort to go, and what things are worth your resources.

In fact, you must do these things to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

On a final note, it may seem inconceivable now to let some things go. Once you do, you’ll be surprised how little you miss or think about it, and the space it opens up for something that will serve you.

If you are new to this series please go back and read the introduction. It’s important to understand the basics before simply adopting the principles.