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Is it laziness OR something else?

busy mom

I’ve noticed a pattern in the women that come to me for Nutrition/Intuitive Eating counseling.

When we eventually get to the “gentle nutrition” part of Intuitive Eating – they will inevitably use the word “lazy” to describe themselves. For example – “after I have fed all my kids, I am too LAZY to cut myself a salad. I just end up eating the pizza I served them.”
I literally heard a mother of nine tell me this recently.

I can’t wrap my head around that. You can’t have nine kids, keep them all alive and be lazy.

I think we may be using the word lazy wrong. Perhaps this stems from our society’s obsession with “being productive.” When I ask a busy, working Mom if she could just take a break in the middle of the day, I usually get a gasp! “I would feel way too guilty just taking time to do nothing!!”

“Why would you feel guilty taking a break – what are you guilty for?” I’ll respond.

“Well, my to-do list is forever long, so taking a break would mean that I am giving up on my list.”

Newsflash – we only have a certain amount of energy per day. We work tirelessly the entire day, without noticing what needs of ours we are neglecting, we just aren’t even productive at a certain point.

That means that taking a break is actually not lazy, it’s productive.

Here’s another common occurrence. I’m looking over what a client has eaten in a day. I ask them what motivated that food choice or the decision to eat at all.

“Well, I was really tired and I just couldn’t handle the kids anymore!” She’ll respond.

“Oh Ok, so if you were really tired and overwhelmed, what did you need at that moment?” I’ll ask.

And the answer almost across the board is “I needed a break.” But if you needed a break – why did you eat?

“Oh, eating for me is taking a break without feeling guilty. I may feel guilty about my food choice later but in the moment, taking a break to eat is okay, taking a break to relax is not okay.”

And there you have it. You have been conditioned to believe that taking a break when you know you need a break is lazy, inefficient, wrong… But if you need to eat something, then the break is justified.

What I have learned from doing this work with many women is that even when we engage in a behavior we supposedly hate, that exact behavior is trying to tell us something. One way of dealing with it is to shame ourselves and call ourselves lazy. “That works for me!” Said no one ever.

We can’t shame or criticize ourselves or others to change. It actually usually has the opposite effect.

What else can you say besides for ”lazy?”

I need a break.

I can’t work past 10:00pm. My brain doesn’t function as well at that time of night.

I think I need to hire more help.

I am feeling very overwhelmed by my schedule.

I think I need to make a change in my life.

And here is where the magic happens. When you notice what times of the day you are more productive, you can allocate high energy activities for that time. Other than those times, getting certain things done just won’t happen.

The more you can do this, the more efficient you will be.

For example- if you know that eating a salad for lunch is what gives you the energy you need, 1 or 2 days a week, I will urge you to get a delicious salad made for you because the money spent on the salad will actually buy you the energy you need to get through the day.

Or what about buying cut up fruits or vegetables. “Are you crazy, do you know how expensive they are?” I inevitably hear back. To that I will answer “Ya but you end up buying pizza anyways because your so overwhelmed. Try this relatively inexpensive convenience to help with the stress of your life.” And to quote my friend and fellow RD, Yaffi Lvova, “pizza tastes better when we plan for it not when it becomes plan B because we had nothing else to eat.”

My point is – you’re not lazy, you may need to pivot, make a change, and definitely stop speaking harshly to yourself. Your expectations for yourself may be too high. You might need more frequent breaks. But, NO, you are not lazy!

Using food when we aren’t hungry is usually giving us valuable information. When our needs go unmet, our bodies will try to meet those needs one way or another. Food can be a break, a loyal friend or the pleasure we so desperately need in our lives but are not getting.

So let me ask you- is it laziness or something else?

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Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. Asa teenager, she was faced with constant ha talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food, she smuggled with disordered eating.This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a on-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.

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