I recently read an article where men and women were asked what they do to keep themselves safe from assault. The men’s column was essentially blank. It read, “Nothing. I don’t think about it.” But the women’s column was unsurprisingly filled with responses. As I was reading down the list I realized all the little things we as women do in our everyday lives to stay safe that most men don’t give a second thought to.
For example, when I’m leaving a building at night I have a routine that is second nature to me. I make sure I parked in a well lit area, I have my keys in my hand before I get to the door and sometimes I position those keys as a weapon. When I approach the car I look around me to make sure no one is lurking then jump in and lock my door as quickly as possible. When I took a step back and noticed what I do, the whole exercise seemed a bit exhausting. Keeping myself safe with these precautions have become so weaved into my daily life I didn’t realize I even did them until this article shed some light on it.
More importantly, it made it blatantly clear that men rarely (if ever) consider the same things. Half of the population doesn't give a second thought about walking down a dark street by themselves or having to decide whether it’s safe or not to wear headphones when jogging through the park.
I believe this is how women are with their relationship to food, eating, exercising and their bodies. We have dialogues with ourselves that men can’t even begin to wrap their head around. Bargains we make with ourselves. Calorie and exercise calculations. This isn’t to mention the emotions we wrestle with when our self worth is calculated by a number on the scale (by the way..throw out your scales!). The punishment, the shame, the hiding out until we feel worthy of being seen. The feelings of our jeans rubbing our thighs too tightly all day long and the loathsome thoughts that follow.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to some women. But as someone who has finally attained food freedom and intuitively eats (I have to add an “Amen” because God did the heavy lifting) these thoughts/concepts were buzzing through my head over 20 years ago and they’re still painful to put onto paper. But here they are…8 things women think about that most men have never considered.
1. Having strict rules around eating. This could be as simple as not eating after 7:30 or as complicated as never letting white flour cross your lips again. Rules can quickly take over your life and leave you anxious if you are heading into a situation where they be may be hard to follow. This often leads to shaming yourself for “breaking” one of your rules.
2. Bargaining and calculating. I was the master at calculating my exercise. I never worried about calories, but I was obsessive about exercise and never could be fully present if I hadn’t put in a hard work out in the morning. Bargaining sounds something like this, “If I skip the really fun pink cocktail and just have vodka and soda, I can have a few bites of dessert.” “If I run for 45 minutes before work I can eat whatever I want at lunch with my co-workers.” “I am going to eat carb free for 4 days before my vacation so I can wear my little black dress without my stomach sticking out.”
3. Yo-yo dieting. Telling yourself you are going to start eating “right” on this day. That day comes and you decide to start another day. “After the holidays I’m really going to kick it into high gear and get serious about losing weight.” Then you somehow slip back into overeating and inactivity and the clouds of shame come rolling on in. Nothing is more energy sucking than shame!
4. Using food as a reward. There are ways to do this in a healthy way but it is a slippery slope when the only rewards you ever have are food. “I’m going to have the biggest brownie sundae after I meet my deadline.” “If I can get through this stressful week, I deserve to eat a carton of Ben and Jerry’s in front of the television”. Indulgences are normal, but using them as rewards can often turn to unhealthy, obsessive thoughts.
5. Using food as an emotional escape. I believe men do this as well, but not to the extent of women. Instead of feeling the feelings of boredom, rejection, grief, stress, etc. you decide to eat and avoid feeling the emotions.
6. The conversations we have when we are getting dressed. I promise men are not turning around to view their backside or lifting up an arm to notice their arm flab. “I’m too fat to wear a sleeveless top. Does this cover my thighs? This skirt didn’t feel as tight last week when I put it on.”
7. That feeling of teetering on the edge of a cliff. You are in a great spot. You’ve been eating healthy and your clothes are fitting great….but what if? What if I sleep in and don’t exercise tomorrow? What if I eat too many pancakes? What if I have to give up wine and chocolate for the rest of my life to maintain this weight? This feeling of being on the edge of failure all the time. One wrong move and you could be off the “plan”.
8. Body comparison. When you compare your body, fitness level or diet to other women. “How can she eat pizza and fit into those jeans?” “I swear she somehow managed to actually lose weight after that baby.” “At least I’m not that overweight.”
Although these thoughts are not universal to all women, most are thinking about their bodies, weight and exercise a disproportionate amount of time versus men. And like the article about keeping ourselves safe, our minds are firing these thoughts and we are totally unaware that they are building up walls to block us from living our best life.
Let’s pretend I could take a wand and not allow you to overthink about food and exercise or have any negative body thoughts? Sit with that. No negative body thoughts, no judgments on what or when you are eating and no comparing yourselves to others. Who would you become? How fully present would you be? How much more joy would you experience? Ladies, if we collectively donated the energy behind our food and body thoughts to a think tank, we’d have the cure for cancer by the end of the week..or at least turn out a few great novels! We are brilliant, we are creative and we are fabulous…but many are trading joy for obsessively thinking about our weight. We sit down to eat 3-5 times a day, if you aren’t feeling freedom and fun around food that’s sucking up a lot of precious you! Precious, precious YOU!