This post is part of a series about changing health beliefs. To learn more, read: Changing Your Harmful Health Beliefs.
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The phrase, “Be the boss of your body,” is regurgitated everywhere, from health & fitness magazines to gym walls to trainer-bro’s mouths.
Phrases with the same mindset include:
- No pain no gain!
- Puking, crying, and crawling are acceptable. Quitting is not acceptable.
- Go hard or go home.
- Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
The overarching theme is: Manipulate and abuse your body ‘CUZ YOU’RE THE BOSS DAMMIT AND SKINNY/BUFF=WIN.
Are we forgetting that um…your body is you? So in effect, you’re showing yourself that you’re the boss of yourself? What a head scratcher.
What “being the boss of your body” really means
The problem with this belief, is that most bosses totally suck. Notice I said “most” so don’t #notallbosses at me.
Think about your boss right now.
Did you picture a wise, compassionate, and strong leader who you like and respect? According to multiple surveys, the overwhelming majority of you would say, “heck no!” Even bosses admit they don’t know what they’re doing!
Common complaints about bosses are that they:
- Don’t understand the employee or their job and don’t care to learn
- Expect employees to work unreasonable hours and meet unreasonable goals
- Blame employees when something goes wrong, even if it’s the boss’ fault
- Think they know how to do the job better than the employee
Does any of this sound familiar?
Let’s think about your body for a moment…
Do you know where your spleen is or what it does? Do you know how your immune system functions? How your body makes your pee pee and poopers?
Do you know the difference between adiponectin, leptin, insulin, and glucagon? How your pituitary controls your thyroid? What organs are included in your digestive system and what roles they play?
Most of you don’t know the answer to any of those questions.
And without much of an understanding of how your body works (or urge to learn), do you then push your body to meet unreasonable goals such as trying to lose 15 pounds one week before Aunt Susie’s wedding?
Do you force your body to work unreasonable hours without rest while either depriving it of the supplies it needs (whole foods, nutrients, and water) or giving it supplies that make its job more difficult (processed foods, alcohol, and soda/energy drinks)?
Do you knowingly abuse your body (never take it for walks, deprive it of sunshine, stare at screens all day and night, smoke, drink, etc.) and then blame it when it responds with skin/eye/butt disorders, catching every cold and flu, developing a chronic disease, or succumbing to an injury?
And theeeen, do you try to “fix” your body by micromanaging it with supplements, juice cleanses, and detoxes in an effort to boost/fix/hack your body?
M. Night Shamalongadingdong would be proud of this twist folks… Congratulations! You’re already acting like the crappy boss of your body.
This isn’t a good thing, nor is it something to aspire to. The scariest part of all is that when your body decides to quit, it’s over man. You can’t hire a replacement.
Our bodies are such amazing pieces of machinery that they function well until they suddenly don’t. A lot of us don’t get much of a warning until it’s too late.
Every person I spoke with in the hospital post-heart attack/diabetes diagnoses/leg amputation said, “I wish I would have treated my body better before it got this bad. I didn’t realize how bad it was.”
You need to change your thinking to change how you treat your body, and you need to do it NOW.
How to change this belief
Don’t worry friends, there’s some good-ish news!
Firstly, you’re not alone because we all do it. Secondly, now that you know what you’re doing, you can change it!
How? I propose looking towards a different job role for inspiration…
Be the producer of your body
Note: The definition of a producer may be different depending on the job, as producers can “produce” literally anything. I am defining the term based on my experience working as a game producer.
So what are the biggest differences between bosses and producers?
Bosses generally prove their success by how good they look. Producers prove their success by how good the team looks. Bosses tell the team what the goals are and what to do. Producers help the team to reach their goals and keep them on course.
If the producer is truly amazing, they’ll get zero credit with no one understanding what they actually do everyday.
Producer job description:
- Learn about what each worker needs and ensure those needs are being met
- Maintain constant communication with all team members
- Remove obstacles
- Protect the team/project from outside attacks
- Be the team’s biggest cheerleader
I’m kinda generalizing, and yes, there are bad producers too, but doesn’t this description sound less…Dictator-ish?
I propose the new phrase, “Be the producer of your body.” Be the encouraging facilitator, not the ignorant and aggressive commander.
How to be the producer for your body
A well-respected doctor I interned with at Dell Children’s Hospital once said during rounds, “A lot of times we makes things worse by trying to force the body to do what WE think it should do. We throw a bunch of science and drugs at it, when most of the time, we should just support it and get the hell out of its way.”
What he said stuck with me to this day.
Your body is the result of millions of years of evolution and has potentially billions of functioning parts and interactions. Experts who devote their lives to learning about the human body will never know everything.
So basically, neither will you! Accept that fact and act accordingly; be a humble student to the master, with the master being your body.
You can accomplish this by changing the producer job description I previously mentioned to be body-specific…
#1: Learn about what your body needs and ensure those needs are being met
You know the basics: Eat whole foods vs. highly-processed, get 7-8 quality hours of sleep daily, stay active, drink water, reduce stress, etc. No one, from keto-enthusiasts to vegans disagree on these points.
BUT! You need to figure out what your body’s specific needs are. For instance, if you have Celiac Disease you should not be eating any gluten, whether it’s whole wheat or not! Maybe you’re someone who feels better on 5-6 hours of sleep instead of the recommended 7-8.
Or, maybe you’re someone with a FODMAPs sensitivity who poops your pants eating healthy foods such as apples, onions, or beets!
Ignore the recommendations if your body is saying otherwise.
#2: Maintain constant communication with your body
Your body unfortunately cannot speak to you in words. However, it does speak to you in symptoms.
Headaches, fatigue, mood fluctuations, skin disorders, chronic diseases, etc. are all examples of how your body communicates.
If you eat pizza and get bloated or poop your pants, that’s your body shouting, “STOP WITH THE DOMINOS ALREADY” or “How many times do I have to tell you I can’t digest dairy ya moron???”
Or it’s saying, “Something is wrong in here buddy, get me a professional ASAP!”
Insomnia, for instance, is your body trying to tell you that you’re stressed the fork out, you’re drinking too much caffeine, you need to exercise more, or you have a blood sugar problem.
On the flip side, feeling energized, regular bowl movements, gorgeous skin, hair, and nails, thinking clearly, and overall feeling great are examples of your body saying, “Please keep this up! If you change one thing I’m taking you back to poopy brain-fog town!”
Symptoms are the language of your body. Listen, learn, and make changes.
#3: Remove obstacles that prevent your body from doing its best job
There are some generally agreed upon obstacles and outside attacks that prevent your body from doing its best work.
- Chronic stress
- Lack of sleep
- Emotional and/or physical abuse
- Lack of energy (in the form of nutrients, food, and sunlight)
- Toxins (alcohol, drugs, smoking)
- Highly processed foods
- Being sedentary
- Not drinking enough water
If you do a bunch of these, just pick one to change. Once you’ve mastered that one, take on another!
#4: Be your body’s biggest cheerleader
Treat your body like its your best friend, your child, or your most loved pet.
When your body is doing a great job, make sure it knows! Encourage it and help it to see the positive!
This may sound weird and you might be thinking, “Jeez Lana, what do you want me to do, congratulate my body?”
YES. As mentioned earlier, your body IS you. YOU need to know when you’re doing well, YOU need be encouraged, and YOU need to be comforted and cheered on.
Just like you do with your loved ones.
We constantly beat ourselves up and focus on the negative. Focusing on the negative makes us feel miserable all the time, which then leads us to seek out instant gratification (food, alcohol, harmful relationships, social media) to make us feel better. Which long-term, just makes us feel worse!
Rinse, repeat, misery.
We need to help ourselves to focus on what we’re doing well and right, just like you would do if your best friend was freaking out because they tooted during a public speaking event.
Being the boss of your body will end in failure and misery for all parties involved. Follow the principles above to support your body in its daily tasks. By supporting, instead of commanding, demanding, and micromanaging, you will have a happy and healthy “employee.”
Truly loving yourself is not purchasing crappy mugs from Hobby Lobby that have, “Love Yourself” on it or shouting, “I luuuuve myself” when people accuse you of low-self esteem.
The love you need to feel for yourself should be equal to the one you feel for your child, your pet, your family, or your best friend. The deep kind of unconditional love where you will do anything to make them happy and healthy.
You will never reach that level of love and respect when acting like a boss towards your body. It will only be a matter of time before your body takes over and shows you who’s really in charge.