Stop optimizing. Start nourishing.

Lizzo in the "Juice" music video
A week ago, my friend shared the video for Lizzo’s song “Juice.”

I commented, “I want to feel as cute as she is.”


I started watching Dietland last week. I got to the scene where the main character, Plum, goes to her Waist Watchers meeting, and everything they talked about started to feel familiar:

Logging literally every bite you eat. Telling yourself you’re doing it to look good naked.

When Janice showed up with her amazing dipped hair and fabulous eye makeup and colorful clothes, I loved her immediately. And then when she responds to the idea that she is here to be her best self with “Excuse me?” and then launches in to her lovely monologue:

I love myself… I came here to get some help to lose weight because I have back problems, not because I hate my body… I am a unicorn. I am a goddess.

I was ready to cheer.

In the one-on-one at the end of the scene, the facilitator reminds Plum that, “Food is fuel. That is all.”

Later, there’s a scene where Plum absentmindedly licks a little bit of frosting off her finger, then realizes what she’s done and runs to the sink to try and spit it out.

There are a million tricks: put half your food away as soon as you get it at a restaurant. (I actually like that one.) Drink water and fill up on vegetables before you go to a party so there will be no room in your stomach for treats. And there are all of the fashion rules to make you look slimmer, too: black. Only vertical stripes. Prints on a very precise scale to match your body.

I realized watching Dietland how tired I was of this nonsense.

I have been trying to lose weight since I was 20 years old. And I know I started later than many other people. I have tried Slim-Fast. I have tried ChangeOne. I have tried the Fat Flush diet. I have done two elimination diets. I have walked on the treadmill. I have done the rowing machine. I have done bodyweight exercises. I have used hand weights. I have used gallon jugs as weights. I have done all the things you can do to make water taste better. I have brought my own special foods to parties.

And I’ve also tried intuitive eating and Health at Every Size.

The only correlation I have found between my actions and my body’s shape is that when I eat fewer inflammatory foods, I’m less-inflamed. So that informs how I think about food. Food is one of life’s great pleasures. It is a centerpiece for social functions. It is a source of comfort. And it is fuel. I want to give my body anti-inflammatory, mostly whole foods, because it gives me energy and is more flavorful. But not to punish it for being the wrong size or shape.

Lizzo said in this interview with the New York Times, “I had to really look myself in the mirror and say, this is it…This is the person I am going to be for the rest of my life and it is not going to change.”

I need to love this vessel I’m in. This chronically ill, hard-to-clothe piece of flesh that carries me around the world, that created the most amazing person I’ve ever known. I need to get okay with it truly at every. Size.

 


But my body shape isn’t the only way I’m not too much or not enough. I remarked on how I tried literally all the things that Anne Helen suggests won’t fix burnout.

I’ve tried a million things to fix my mood – not things that move directly toward giving me the neurotransmitters (a thing I wholeheartedly endorse getting via pharmaceuticals if your body isn’t making them), but things that indirectly help: sun lamps. Fish oil supplements. Scheduled friend times. Gratitude journaling. Affirmations.

I’ve tried gamifying my habits with Habitica and Fitocracy.

I have more than five different books about how to get my home organized and keep it clean. It isn’t organized. It’s only clean because my husband cleans it.

I have two different books about improving my wardrobe. I have four about fixing my finances.

I subscribe to two self-care newsletters and two self-care podcasts. But at this point, self-care feels like another to-do list item that overwhelms me, not something that actually involves caring for myself.

I read this New York Times piece on the genius of insomnia, and thought about all the different ways I’ve tried to fix my “bad sleep hygiene.” Red light bulbs. Blue light filters on my devices. Yellow glasses. White noise. Audiobooks. No caffeine after 4 pm. Using the bedroom for nothing but sleep.

And then I thought, “What if everything I am – everything I’ve tried to improve in this particular, optimizing, tool-utilizing way, is just fine?”

And then I thought, “Well, what if I try living as if it is, anyway?”

What if I give all facets of myself the nutrients they need, without judgment? What if I purchase things from companies that affirm the idea that I’m already great, rather than selling me the idea that I need to be corrected? What if, when I wake up at 4 am, I don’t chastise myself for being a bad sleeper, but instead use that time to relax while awake? What if the only self-improvement projects I take on are related to my curiosity, my desire to grow and learn?


And I decided I will live this way. I’m going to operate on the assumption that everything about me is exactly enough.

I’m going to stop optimizing.

I’m going to start nourishing.

 

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