Ep. #69: Breaking the Rules (Body Episode)

Last time we talked about breaking the agreed-upon rules that govern your business relationships, through a concept called efficient breach, and how that can seriously move the needle on your earnings. In today’s episode, we discuss how breaking the rules also can help you with your body.


Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get everything you want, and get out from under everything you don’t want. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and if you’re just joining us now, I’d like to say welcome. This is a show about achieving the results you want in life by marrying an effective mindset with a resonant message.

If you’re in business and the result you want is more money, mindset + message equals money, and that’s what we’re working on in our business episodes this year. That’s the first episode of each week.

And in our second episode each week, our body episodes, we’re working on how mindset + message will get you the body you want, and I’m the guinea pig here. I’m applying effective business principles that create money, that make us rich, to my project of getting down to my dream weight of 105 pounds without dieting. These are our “thin” episodes each week, because the premise of this show is that you can create anything you want in life with the right mindset and the right messaging. Why does this work? Because the right message inspires desired actions and results. In business, the right message—how you speak to your customers–inspires your customers to take action and to buy from you, and with your body, the right message—how you talk to yourself–inspires you to treat your body with the respect it deserves, and that’s what takes weight off.

Today is our body episode for this week, and we’re talking about breaking the rules. Last time, in our business episode, we talked about how we get into implied or explicit agreements with other people, that involve agreed-upon rules, and we are often reluctant to break those rules even if doing so would be better for everyone involved, and what said there is that these rules extend beyond business. They also govern what we do with our bodies. Probably no surprise there. Many political battles and legal battles are waged on what we are and are not allowed to do with our bodies, and what I’m learning this year is that the agreed-upon rules about food are included in these social rules about what is and is not allowed. We have to break these rules if we want to undo the damage.

What rules am I talking about breaking? When we are born, unless there is something medically different about us, we come equipped with a perfect gauge for when to eat and when to stop eating. But what happens is that this gauge gets broken over time, as we absorb the rules around eating that others impose upon us. It starts with rules such as, “Finish your dinner.” Whether you want it or not. Many of us spend a good eight or ten or twelve years operating under that regime, during which time we can count on the gauge that tells us when to quit to become inoperable.

And then the rules change. First we follow the rules and we teach ourselves to stuff ourselves, and we are rewarded handsomely for that. When we’re young, parents and grandparents beam as we overeat. And then, once we’ve learned to do that really well, once we’re very effective at stuffing ourselves, the rules change. You get to adolescence, and particularly if you’re a woman, stuffing turns to starving. Then it’s no longer about overeating. It’s about undereating, and the message becomes, “No one likes a fat girl. Better get a handle on that. Don’t you think you’ve had enough?”

These rules work to ensure that the gauge gets broken the other way, too. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve killed the sensor that says it’s time to stop, and we’ve killed the sensor that says it’s time to begin.

And then, we’re really screwed up. Add into this mix modern-day franken-foods that mess with your mind and your satiation signals, and what you have is a recipe for disaster. You could be 30 or 40 or 50 years old and have no clue how to eat anymore.

As an aside, I could note that exactly the same thing happens with our earnings. When we come into this world, we have no shame about wanting what we want, but that, too, is socialized out of us.

So this socialization can mess up our eating and our earning, or both, but with me, the eating piece was really a mess, and so at the beginning of this year, I embarked on an effort to restore my body to its initial knowledge about what to do, to get its gauge about hunger and satiation working again. And in doing so, I am breaking all of the agreed-upon rules about eating. My strategy for losing weight I don’t want is that I’m eating only what I want, and nothing that I don’t want. I’m refusing to stuff and I’m refusing to starve, and I’m listening only to myself, and I have to tell you, I think this is the hardest thing I have ever done.

It’s more difficult than the stint I did studying for the New York bar exam, because it turns out that this social compact that I’ve internalized, about eating for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with me and whether I actually want food, aren’t so easy to break.

A big reason these rules aren’t easy to break is because I haven’t yet completely extricated myself from dieting mentality. My lower brain still feels worried that there’s not going to be enough food at some point, and it still wants to stockpile and horde at times. And of course, it’s not just my brain that’s saying this. The messaging about this is everywhere.

It’s in the ads of multi-national corporate weight-loss programs, that tell you how to assign points to what you’re eating and count how much you are allowed, because you couldn’t possibly know for yourself. It’s in weight-loss podcasts, in which we are admonished not to take so much as one taste of food in between meals, and to manage our minds and learn to welcome the discomfort of hunger because that means we’re getting somewhere. And I see this message in the smirks of people around me. These are the smirks that silently seem to say, “You can’t have everything you want, dummy. Don’t you know that?”

So we have a lot of messaging coming at us: you can’t have what you want. This affects not just our eating but also our earnings. It’s probably the seed from which all wealth-killing problems are sown. You can’t have what you want has killed more dreams than any other thought in history.

The other reason it’s difficult to break this social compact about eating for external reasons is because what happens when you stop shoveling in food that you don’t want? Then you hear the voices about the other things you don’t want.

A big voice I heard this week is that I no longer want to do certain types of work that I’ve always done. The place I am most likely to eat food I don’t want is when I’m forcing myself to sit at my desk for longer than I want to, and to do work that I don’t want to do.

And isn’t this why we use food so often? It is a drug that assuages frustration. Food is a woefully insufficient consolation prize for losing your life to something that just doesn’t matter to you, but that’s how we use food.

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is never eating at my desk. This forces me to sit in the discomfort of the reality that I have many professional activities that I didn’t used to mind so much, but that are now just too burdensome. These tasks are weight that is pulling me down and preventing me from doing the work that I want to be doing right now. The reason broke and bulky go together like peanut butter and chocolate is because when you are playing small in your work, when you are doing the things that you are used to doing and that are comfortable and easy but that suck the life right out of you, you will feel a very predictable amount of stagnation and frustration because as humans we want to grow. When we are working small, we are like race horses strapped to a pony ride. We are going too slow, and we don’t want to be there. It’s not an accident that the handicap in a horse race is extra weight on the animal, and as human animals, we are no different. We are born to run, and when we are not running, we don’t like that feeling. We hate it, and we want out from under it.

I remember when I was studying for the New York bar exam, holed up at my dining room table for nine hours a day, and all I wanted to do was get up and go somewhere else. I didn’t want to study that stuff, I did not care about it, and I was just going through the motions of intellectual bulimia. Binge, for three straight months, and then go purge all of that knowledge in three days and then forget it. There was nothing on that exam that I needed to know to practice law in my practice area.

And to make that tolerable, what did I do? I ate a couple pounds of those dark chocolate covered acai berries from Costco every week. My husband would go to the store and buy me a new bag when the old one ran out, and he was going to the store a lot more frequently than either of us expected that he would have to go.

And why were we doing this? In hindsight, we realized that we had an unwritten rule between us that I would study for that exam one time only, no matter what that did to me, my health, our lives, or our relationship, and he would support that.

I read today, in a post by Josh Spector entitled, “20 Reasons Why You Should Break the Rules” to “[b]eware unwritten rules—there’s a reason they haven’t been written.” If my husband and I had been aware at the time of this rule that we were operating under, we would have realized it was a bad bargain. We entered into this arrangement because, subconsciously, we had it in our heads that failure wasn’t an option. That I needed to over-study so I’d only have to fly to New York once and sit for the bar exam once. And this unwritten rule worked such an inefficiency and caused so much unnecessary unhappiness, because it turns out I over-studied. The New York bar exam, like all bar exams, is about a mile wide and an inch deep. I didn’t need to know a tenth of what I crammed into my head to pass that test. And if I’d given myself permission to do a minimal amount of studying and see how it went the first time, I’d have been a lot better off. I would have passed and I would have been happy and not chained to the dining room table and all those books for all those weeks. That unwritten rule ruined months of my life, and if I would have seen it, I would have broken it and been a lot better off.

And now I have to break some other unwritten rules that I’m operating under right now. These are the rules surrounding certain work that I’ve always done for my clients. I’ve always done certain kinds of work for them even though someone else could do that work. For example, in the first few months of this year I spent an inordinate amount of time gathering and uploading documents to a regulatory website. This obviously doesn’t have to be me. Anyone could do this if they understand what the documents are and they know where to find them. This is lots of people other than me who could do this work, and I no longer want to do it, but we have an arrangement, my clients and me, in which I have done this work in the past and will do it going forward and I’ve been reluctant to alter that arrangement. I’ve been reluctant to break the agreed-upon rules. I’ve made noises about doing it. I’ve even said that it must end point. But I haven’t actually ended it, because I think that other people will be inconvenienced if I do it. Everyone likes the idea of me continuing to do this work. “You’re so good at it,” is what they say. And they’re right. I am good at it. But that isn’t a reason. If you want to live a wealthy life, in which you have everything you want and nothing you don’t want, you don’t choose things because you’re good at them. You choose to do the things you’re best at, that only you can do. These are the things we tend to love doing. Given a choice, my clients would rather have me coaching them on their marketing message and enhancing their profitability than uploading documents that anyone could upload, so my unwillingness to break the rules and change the deal isn’t serving anyone.

We talked about efficient breach in our last episode. It’s the legal and economic theory that says that if there are damages to breaking a rule, to changing the rules in one of your relationship, that are outweighed by the benefits of doing so, then that’s what you should do. You should break the rules. You should change the relationship, so that you serve more, earn better, and advance. You don’t just advance yourself and your own skills, you also advance the people around you, because you’re no longer playing small. No one is served by you playing small, and here of course I’m talking about myself, too.

The work that I no longer want to do, the work that isn’t my super-power and that anyone could do, I think is holding me back. And when I think I’m being held back, that results in frustration that I assuage by eating chocolate at my desk so that I can stand the pain of not growing. It’s an anaesthetic.

So notice something here—it’s the thought about the work, not the work itself, that is causing the frustration. And here I have a choice. I can manage my mind to think something different so that I don’t feel frustration and I can accept a circumstance that I find unacceptable. Or I can manage my mind to create something new. I’m flagging this point because many of us get a little bit into thought work, we dip a toe into the ocean and we use that teensy bit to accept the unacceptable, and maybe that’s a good place to begin, but it doesn’t end there. The real benefit of thought work, and the premise of this show, is that you can go so much deeper than that. You can fling yourself into the ocean and manage your mind to create whatever it is you want to create. And this is where you stop accepting the weight of your life, the things you find oppressive, and you start shaping your life into what you want it to be. A life that feels lighter.

Stoic acceptance of that which you cannot change should not extend to the things that you can easily change, and the things that we can easily change include a lot of things that tend to think are immovable objects. The change I’m making right now is letting go of the work that has become a weight around my neck.

I’d like you to notice something else about this, too. Everyone wants to talk about the discomfort of growing and earning more money. And what I’d like to suggest here is that this is not where the discomfort is. If you are overeating or overspending or overdrinking or over-anything in your current life, and you are under-earning, please take a second to consider that under-earning is where the discomfort is, and the overages that you’re engaging in are your anesthetic. It’s a wellspring of frustration, because when you are doing it, you are not growing. You are not serving at the highest level, and as humans, we hate that. We’re wired for growth, so what I have to offer, contrary to the prevailing message, is that the discomfort isn’t in the growth but in the part where we get stuck and we’re not growing. That’s why when you get rich, when you start serving and earning at the highest level, you also get thin. It is not an accident that what we call the 1%, the highest-earning people on the planet, also tend to be the thinnest people  in developed nations where obesity is otherwise on the upswing.

These folks in the 1% are the thinnest because they’re doing exactly what they want to do, and they don’t have to drug themselves with food so they can stand the pain of continuing to do what they’re doing. They’re not in pain because they’re doing exactly what they want to do.

So the task before me now, in getting to my dream weight of 105 pounds, is to let go of the work that is holding me down. I’ll be breaking some agreed-upon rules to get there, but I’m up to the task, because it’s how I’ll make room for the work I really want, and that’s helping you get everything that you really want.

So let me know if I can help you. If you’re not serving and earning at the highest level, and you want to change that, get in touch. kelly@richandthin.com, or go to richandthin.com, where you can set up a free but very valuable session with me. We’ll talk about what you want, why you don’t have it, and I’ll give you my take on how to get it and whether I can help. That’s kelly@richandthin.com.

Thanks. Have a good weekend, and I’ll talk to you next week.

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