We hear from our own minds, and even sometimes the mouths of others, that we’re lazy and that we lack willpower. If we would just DO IT, we could make the changes. But this is SUCH an oversimplified way of looking at.
There is a popular metaphor used for people living with chronic illness called SPOON THEORY. It is a way of looking at life and expressing your daily activity levels and pain levels. Basically, we all start the day with a set amount of “spoons.” Smaller tasks like getting ready for the day, social interactions, errands etc, may take one spoon. Bigger tasks, like a stressful full day of work and parenting struggles when we get home take 2-3 spoons. And remember, we only have a finite amount to start with. Living with chronic pain- mentally or physically- means that tasks like getting out of bed, showering and feeding yourself take one spoon- or even more, and working, managing the people in your life, and making it to the end of the day take 2-3 times the amount of spoons it does for a normal person. It is a powerful analogy to illustrate our stress loads and what we are capable of.
This analogy can be used for those WITHOUT chronic pain too. I mean no disrespect to those who struggle with chronic pain and use this to describe their lives, I just do think it is helpful for so many of us. We ALL have a finite number of spoons we have at the start of each day. We all have tasks that have to get done daily, that vary from super simple to very difficult, that take our spoons. And the reality is, we do not have enough spoons to do all the things, all the time. And the number of spoons required for different tasks, vary based on what is going on in our lives at certain times. If you are struggling in parenting, your relationship with your spouse will take more spoons. If work is incredibly stressful, the household chores become more spoon expensive. If you’re depressed, tasks that used to be free, now take a spoon.
For most of us, diet and exercise fall into the category of tasks that cost a spoon. It takes time and energy to get ready and go to the place we workout (even if that’s our basement) and figure out what we’re doing and then physically do it. It takes time and effort to plan, shop and then cook food. These efforts cost spoons.
So what happens when we don’t have enough spoons? Something has to give. Just like we have a stress threshold, and when we rise above that, we have to adjust to come back down. It’s the same with spoons. We can borrow from the next day, but then we start the next day with less. In reality, we have to cut out things that cost spoons. This is where we start saying no to being room mom, or figure out better task distribution with our partner, or let relationships that are too taxing fall away. These are often costly cuts, but they have to be done.
And for most of us, diet and exercise are some of the first cuts we make when we don’t have enough spoons. We go through the drive through and get take out more, we don’t take the time to plan weekly meals, and we let our workout time fill up with other things.
If this is you, I GET IT. Sometimes, there just isn’t space (or to keep the analogy going, a spoon) for ONE MORE THING. It’s why I NEVER recommend cutting or being in a caloric deficit, during stressful seasons of life. Because make no mistake about it, living in a caloric deficit costs WAY MORE SPOONS than living at maintenance. So when my clients check in with me and apologize for not getting to the gym, my first thought is NEVER that you’re lazy. I know how spoon expensive life is.
But here’s my encouragement (And this is no longer Spoon Theory- these are my own thoughts). We here at Stay Fit Mom feel VERY strongly that you can ADD spoons to your life by prioritizing your nutrition and moving your body. If you pay out a spoon on Sunday to plan your meals for the week, order groceries and maybe spend a little time prepping, you will earn back MULTIPLE spoons during the week to be utilized in other places. If you prioritize going to the gym, even if it costs you more spoons than you think you have, the energy it gives you, the mental boost you’ll experience and the confidence it brings, will pay you back in spoons for SO MANY OTHER areas of your life. Going for a walk, although it may APPEAR to cost 5 spoons sometimes, is honestly usually free by the end of it, if we just start.
You can’t do it all. None of us can. You are not lazy and lacking in willpower. You have to prioritize. And you have to tackle certain things in certain seasons. For us here at SFM, this means we cannot be trying to lose weight all the time. Or trying to stay in marathon shape year round. Think about your stress load and where and when you have the capacity to spend time in a deficit. And when maintenance will help increase your number of spoons and therefore increase your quality of life. And remember that sometimes the things we think are costly, like prioritizing diet and exercise, are actually the things that give us the energy and ability to do the things we have to do.