RECLAIMING MY TIME
Think about all the seconds you have taken where someone has given you a compliment, and instead of just saying “thank you,” which takes A second, you take minutes to explain why you don’t deserve it.
Or, think about all of the minutes that you spend in front of your mirror, poking at yourself, and picking at yourself, and tearing yourself down.
What if I could give those minutes back to you?
What would you do with all that time?
When I first realized how much time I was spending on self-hate and negative-body-talk I was stunned.
I mean, I really challenged myself to do the math. (You know, it’s funny, I just realized that my last two blog posts have dealt with math. And it occurred to me that numbers are what truly led me to a place of disordered eating and body image (clothing size, number on the scale, calories per day…) So it seems fitting that numbers are what led me back to health, doesn’t it?)
You know how there are those apps you can download that let you know how much time you spend on your phone? Well, I wanted to train myself to notice and record every time I was consumed with what I labeled as Body Thought.
I bought a mini moleskin notebook, grabbed my favorite type of pen (for those of you wondering, it’s a Uniball Vision Elite with black ink) And set out with the intention to write down every Body Thought for the span of a whole day.
I set the notebook and the pen by my alarm clock across the room (which, at the time, was my phone. And I set it far away to ward off hitting snooze) And I went to bed.
The next morning, I didn’t even make it over to the phone before I had Body Thoughts number 1, 2, and 3.
They went like this:
1. I think I might be having a skinny day today.
2. (Putting my hands on my waist) Yeah, this feels pretty good!
3. (Running my hands down to the roll beneath my belly button) But this fucking thing! I bet if I just gave up carbs and upped my time on the treadmill that would finally go away.
I had not even been awake for five minutes, and already my mind was consumed with the size of my waistline. Not only that, but the thoughts also tied in with my perception of how the day was going to go!
When my waist felt smaller to me and I thought I might be having what I used to call a “skinny day,” I clearly remember having this feeling that the day was going to be good. And when I realized that the small roll of “gross fat” under my belly button (some people might call this part of me just, you know, having a fucking body) I suddenly felt like the day was somehow screwed unless I devoted all of it to weight loss.
And so, began my experiment. It was only 10am and already I was off to a body-negative start. But I was determined to see it through. I told myself that I was doing this in honor of my highest good. I reminded myself of all the women I had worked with when I was a personal trainer, and how 99.9% of them came to me because they hated how they looked. Their stories were my story. And I knew, deep down, that none of us had to be living a life where we were our own worst enemy.
By the end of the day? I had over 800 Body Thoughts written in my little notebook.
I figured that each thought probably took up around 15-30 seconds, especially since they then brought up more thoughts. Even the simple act of keeping a log brought up negative self-talk. A voice within me kept repeating that if I continued down this path I was going to be complacent, and complacent meant weight gain, and weight gain meant fat, and fat meant unlovable, and unlovable meant alone, and alone meant unhappy…
But in the end? The fact that I calculated having spent an average of 267 minutes (or 4 ½ hours) thinking about how much I hated myself, was a serious, mind-blowing wake up call.
4 ½ hours.
For some perspective:
The average novel ranges from 60,000 to 100,000 words. The average person can read all of those words in around five to six hours.
4 ½ hours was almost enough time to read one of the many books I had gathering dust on my shelves.
According to a website called, literally, wordcounter, the average person can type 40 words per minute. If you could keep that pace for an hour? You’d have written 2400 words. That means that in 4 ½ hours I could potentially write 10,800 words. Going back to the average number of words in a novel, this means I could have written 1/6 of a 60,000 page book.
Now, as a musical theater kid myself, I know this is probably feeling very beginning of Act II Rent for you with all the hours, numbers, and seconds talk, but I gotta keep going.
If I spent 4 ½ hours every day thinking about how much I dislike my body, that equals 1642 ½ hours per year. Each year is only 8760 hours. And I’m spending nearly 2,000 of those hours thinking about how worthless I am due to my size?
Pardon my French but, what the fucking fuck?!
I hadn’t even calculated all the time I spent researching diets or fitness programs. All the times I had gone through my closet and berated myself while trying on what no longer fit. All the times I had eaten until I felt sick before promising myself I’d start being perfect tomorrow. I had just calculated one day, and I used 4 ½ hours of it to beat up on myself.
With the numbers in front of me I was suddenly hit with this deep sense of grief. I mean, like, serious mourning. All that time was made up of books I hadn’t read, plays and stories I hadn’t written, conversations never had with friends that weren’t about diets, meditations I never sat through, hobbies I was interested in but never took up…
I was wasting my life and my potential because I didn’t have a six pack.
Wasting with a capitol W.
And as the saying goes: ain’t nobody got time for that.
I decided right then and there that while I couldn’t make up for the seconds, and minutes, and hours of the past, I could make damn sure I was honoring my time in the future. I knew it was going to be hard, but the best things in life can be that way from time to time, and I was willing to do whatever it took to stop being a bully to myself.
I switched from using my notebook to using my phone to record Body Thoughts. Everything, even the “ooo, I feel skinny!” thoughts were written down. And since new habits are even easier to maintain when attached to old habits (IE: setting your journal next to your coffee maker to remind you to start your journaling habit when you get your morning coffee) I decided that I would take a moment after every Body Thought I wrote down to also write down a goal I had that wasn’t related to diet, fitness, or weight.
Now, at first that was really hard.
Because my mind would go blank.
I couldn’t think of a single non-weight related goal.
And even if I did, a voice in my head would pop up and say: “yes, but that’s not even achievable until you lose the weight.”
Which, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, was really scary.
I began taking serious, significant time to get quiet and listen to what I wanted.
At first, the goals were small:
Start journaling again.
Buy yourself flowers sometimes.
Go through your books and DVDs and donate what you don’t want.
Finally shred all the papers you have been meaning to shred for years (truly, I had pay stubs dating back to 2009)
Start voice lessons again.
Then, they got a little bigger. And a little scarier.
Delete all weight loss apps from your phone.
Stop wearing your FitBit.
Go through your clothes and get rid of all the clothes you were keeping for when you reached your “goal weight.”
Go shopping for bigger jeans at a high-end store so it feels exciting! (Thank you to my friend, Kristen, for going with me!)
Choose a mantra for exercising that is rooted in love vs hate. An example being, “You are strong, capable, and bad ass!” vs. “Get rid of those gross love handles!”
Eat whatever you want, whenever you want and see what happens.
With goals in place that lit me up, I found that the Body Thoughts happened less and less. And achieving goals like buying pants two sizes bigger than I had been squeezing myself into and not having the world collapse, meant that it was safe and beautiful to live the life I wanted to in my current skin.
Since taking back my yearly 8,760 hours I’ve thought up and crushed a few goals. Here are a few of them (and, yes, my inner gremlin is shouting: “don’t post this, everyone is going to think you’re bragging!” But, I feel like it’s important so…I’m doing it)
- I started Zen & Sugar and Master Your Mirror, so that I could take what I learned and help others.
- Performed my solo show Everything You’ve Heard is True to a sold out house at the Cutting Room in NYC.
- Written a play that is receiving its world premiere at a Tony Award winning theater.
- Started working on my first ever adaptation.
- Announced my plan to write a web series.
- Sent my scripts to over a dozen agencies and posted them to online play networks.
- Asked an artistic director I admire to assist him on a world premiere show (He said “yes,” and it was awesome)
- Ran a theater and writing intensive for tweens that went super well, and I got asked to come back (for more money)
- Read a shit ton of books (Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery was my favorite)
- Used a meal delivery service to learn how to cook
- Became so much closer with my friends and developed friendships that really mean something
- Started this blog
- Went to an airbnb cabin and ate an entire charcuterie board and didn’t feel gross afterwards and instead had awesome sex
- Oh, yeah, met someone who loves me for me
- Did a lot of soul-searching and meditation to heal my anxiety and anger issues
- Booked a show with a director I’ve wanted to work with again for a long time
- Stood up for myself
- Cut out toxic people
- Coached women and helped them learn to love themselves
- Worked out with no other intention than doing something that is good for me
- Stopped grinding my teeth (my dentist is very pleased)
- Stopped checking the social media of people who make me feel badly about myself
- Split multiple pizzas and breadsticks with friends
- Eaten two slices of cheesecake in one sitting
- Had a photoshoot in my underwear while eating cupcakes and gummy worms
- Said no to things I didn’t want to do
- Said yes to things I did want to do, but that scared me
- Became way closer to my cat
- Stopped watching so much TV
- Dyed my hair blonde
- Started journaling every morning
- Oh, and I stopped biting my nails.
But the most important thing about that list is? It’s not special. I mean, it is, but it also isn’t. I am not special. I do not have some magic potion or serum or anything like that. I am a 100% average person who wanted to stop waiting to reach a certain size before life could begin. I am an ordinary chick who scared the crap out of herself when she realized she had been holding her entire existence hostage because of how much she weighed. And if that sounds at all like you? It means that you’re capable of a list just like mine.
So now comes the question: What would you want? If you were given 8,760 hours of newly freed up time, how would you want to spend them?
Til next time,