Struggles and challenges are inevitable when you are trying to get better at anything in life, and health is no exception.
Our culture values those that find ways to fight through adversity and accomplish their goals anyway. As a health coach, I am guilty of promoting this behavior when trying to help someone not feel guilty about “making a mistake” or feeling defeated about getting “punched in the face.”
“It’s okay. Don’t give up!”
“As long as you are in the ring, you are winning.”
“One step at a time. Just make the next choice a good one.”
Harmless right? Good advice. Most of you probably agree.
To the naked eye, this advice seems justifiable. To get a body and life you love obviously doesn’t happen overnight. It requires work. This is stuff that we don’t shy away from at Rebooted Body.
However, can this type of advice ever backfire?
Is encouraging someone else or ourselves to keep going in the face of adversity, even by taking tiny “self-loving” steps forward, always what’s best?
I am going to propose that, sometimes, this strategy can be completely counter-productive.
Because even with the best of intentions and full awareness it can trigger our Inner Rebel.
We normally talk about the Inner Rebel in terms of rebelling against dieting dogma and sabotaging you whenever you’re following oppressive advice.
Today, I’m going to talk about the Inner Rebel perceiving even legitimate goals and behaviors as oppressive.
Let’s examine further.
Here is a very common scenario that I have seen in my profession hundreds of times: Client falls off the wagon. Coach tells them it’s not a big deal, you’re going to get punched, keep swinging and let’s move forward.
As a coach, this makes sense right?
My role is to lift up someone when they are down, help get them “back on the field” as quickly as possible, and empower them to give it their all once more.
You haven’t been able to move at all in 4 days? Go on a 20 minute walk today.
Party too hard over the weekend? Reset and make some big deposits in your health bank account when Monday rolls around.
In 98% of cases, this is the strategy that works best.
But 2% of the time, I have noticed that it actually stops someone dead in their tracks.
As benign and as unrestricted and non-antagonistic as this type of “encouraging” strategy sounds, it is a huge shit sandwich when it comes to a very specific situation.
What’s the situation?
When someone is truly overwhelmed (i.e. not just “stressed out”), the idea of even taking one step forward, albeit in a “loving” and “healthy” way, can send the Inner Rebel into a tantrum that completely poisons the well of positivity and progress.
“You want me to go on a walk? My dog just died, my sister is being a complete dick, my kid is sick, and my husband just lost his job. Screw you buddy!”
Then worst of all, deep down, because you’ve been programmed to believe you should never give up, you still feel like you are failing because you haven’t been going on the walks, prepping the meals, journaling, or getting a restful night’s sleep!
You can’t win in this scenario.
So what can we do instead?
When faced with true overwhelm it can be appropriate to completely check out of the health game.
We need to allow ourselves to feel the craziness of life and be with it. We need to be utterly unattached to whether or not we are “in the ring.”
First, this will greatly calm our Inner Rebel.
Second, this will give us the necessary chance to live out the saying “this too shall pass.”
This could take a couple days or even a few weeks. You might gain some weight. You might feel worse physically in the short term. You might lose momentum.
So what? Your body is incredibly resilient and can bounce back quickly.
I know. Scary stuff right?
You might be thinking, “What if I ‘give up’ and it lasts forever?”
Fear not. It won’t.
Giving yourself patience and grace is, in itself, a self-care activity. Self-care activities drive other self-care activities.
You can trust that once the overwhelm subsides, you will naturally lace up your boots again, slip your gloves on, and get back to fighting.