Worry About Yourself

My friend called me up the other day to tell me that he walked 10 miles.  He planned on just going 4, 4 turned into 6, he was feeling so good 6 turned into 8, and he had never gone 10 in his life and being so close, he pushed it all the way to 10.  He was thrilled. He had been on a weight roller coaster since his dad was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease and died a couple of years ago, hitting his all time high at about 60 pounds overweight.   I can see that he is making this transformation from someone who struggled with exercise to someone who is embracing it, pushing his physical limits, and can no longer live without it.  This makes me very excited.  I tell him how awesome this accomplishment is.  I hang up the phone and begin to think about how much exercise I’ve done this week.  Hmm.. I have to up my game.

I hop on the treadmill for my “American Idol” workout, now feeling the pressure to increase my exercise routine.  They premiere Jennifer Lopez’s new video, where they flash her abs 4 times a minute.  I think to myself, “when did she have those babies?”  I do a quick Google search.  Darn, her babies are even younger than mine.  Now I feel like I should really be doing ab exercises.

Have you ever felt like you were going on a pretty decent course and then you see something someone else has done and suddenly feel like you are off course?  I hear my Dad’s voice in my head in these situations, he would say, “Worry about yourself.” I grew up in a family of 5 where each of us 3 kids took every opportunity to identify even the slightest inequity so that the entire family could finally see that it is ME who is being treated unfairly in this family!

The backseat of our blue with wood grain-siding station wagon was full of, “why does SHE get to go to the movies!?”  “how come HE gets to have a friend sleep over!?”  “how come SHE doesn’t have to get braces!?”  “UGH!”  My Dad never seemed up for these debates and would just turn around and say, “worry about yourself.”   I always figured he was just trying to shut us up, but I think what he was getting at is that if we spend all our energy focused on what other people are doing, then we are not focused at all on what we are doing.  As a result, we have no fun, we make no progress, and worst of all, just end up feeling bitter.  I probably should have called my Dad after the Googling J-Lo’s babies incident.

There are other situations where we need to worry more about ourselves and less about other people.  Worry less about other people?!  Sound crazy?  A very common theme I hear among the patients who come to me for weight loss is how they don’t have time to exercise, make healthy meals, or buy healthy foods because their time is so heavily allocated towards other people.  People who struggle with their weight are very generous with their time.  Taking care of children, attending each and every of the kids’ events, doing favors for friends or extended family, and taking more than their share of responsibility for things other people should be pitching in on.  The feeling of obligation to do these activities is very high, to the point of where obligation outweighs even the enjoyment of the activity.  Not doing the obligatory activities engenders feelings of guilt and shame.

Overextending yourself and the constant feeling like you are falling short can be a source of much stress, which is unhealthy (see my post “this is your body on stress“).  Also unhealthy is that this pattern leaves little time to take care of yourself.   If this sounds like your life, you are correct in that people may feel let down initially if you pull back from some of these activities to carve out time for yourself, likely because you have been so willing to drop everything in the past.  Setting new boundaries can surprise people. The good news is that people do tend to adjust.  Taking care of yourself is not selfish. You will find that when you feel healthy you are more energized to do things for other people and perhaps more efficient and more effective.  There is no correlation between free time and ability to live healthy.  There are as many busy people doing it as there are not very busy people not doing it.  Regardless of your responsibilities, obligations and schedule, it is extremely important to invest a little time on most days to do something healthy for yourself, including exercise.  The return on investment is longer life, better health and quality of life.  The kids can wait, the spouse can wait, work can wait, everything can wait for you to be the healthiest person you can be.  Take it from my dad and worry about yourself a little bit more.  And whatever you do, do NOT Google J-Lo’s abs…



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  1. Jess says:

    This post was helpful for me. I work full time, commute almost 3 hrs a day, and tend to the house and my daughter at night. Where can I possibly fit time in, for myself, to exercise? I struggle with this question everyday. I always seem to feel guilty when I try to make a change and then the change never sticks. This is a good reminder that I do have other people in my life that can help out.

  2. Susan Bakke says:

    I often use to hear that from my dad too..take care of yourself..to say the least…we are women, mothers, wives, grandmothers, freinds..We are nurturers and givers..yes we do tend to forget about ourselves for sure..the buck stops here because we are the masters of our own ships and we alone with of course some support can get to our destination..I too witnessed J-Lo’s abs and said to myself, how the heck do these Hollywood folk fare so well…Hey maybe they should walk in our shoes for a while and see how life really is..the struggle to stay healthy is about choice, hard work and that “never quit attitude”..take charge and you will surprised as to where you can go…

  3. Kristin says:

    Fantastic message and one that needs to be emphasized. My mantra is “Balance is the key” and if I am spending all my time meeting other’s needs and not my own, I am unbalanced, which is not a healthy place for me to be! Kudos to you on a great post.

  4. Daddy O says:

    (worry about yourself) What great advice. Your Dad sounds like a smart man.
    Before I get started there is an app for your computer that makes people look fat, take j-Lo’s picture and do it. Hang that in front of your treadmill and you will feel better right away.
    First you must have a realistic goal for yourself not J-Lo’s, not the biggest loser, just worry about yourself. People have to make lifestyle changes that they can honestly live with in their diet & exercise. Start slow so you’re not overwhelmed.Everybody knows what they are. They just don’t do it. There is no short cut or magic pill. It has to be a way of life for you that you can live with. Everyone can find the time if they really want to.
    Quote of the day:
    You must make the time to worry about yourself now and you won’t have to worry about your health later.

    Your postings are great. Keep it up.

  5. Barb, RN says:

    Glad to hear that some things your Dad said stuck with you.

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