In our high-pressure society, it’s not uncommon for people to take on more responsibilities than they should. At various times, we all probably feel over-worked, over-committed, or over-extended—if not all three at once. However, when that feeling becomes a way of life instead of a temporary condition that only exists for a short period of time, we make it much more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
The Physiology of Stress
There is a very valid physiological reason why chronic over-workers, over-extenders, and over-committers have a hard time losing weight. When we work more than we should, it corrodes our sense of life balance, which in turn causes stress. Stress causes our bodies to release a hormone that not only makes it hard to lose weight, but also makes us hungry. In essence, when we stop caring for our bodies the way that we should, nature steps in to protect us from ourselves.
The Roots of the Problem
In many cases, a person’s tendency to work too hard and overcommit themselves is rooted in their upbringing. Many people are taught at an early age that working hard and always “going the extra mile” are virtues, and they are pressured to do everything perfectly. Society rewards this type of thinking—we honor those who are the best employees or the best friends, not the people who have the most balanced lives.
Once people get in the habit of working too hard and overcommitting themselves, our lives gets so busy that we end up needing to cut something out, and more often than not what gets cut is our own self-care. We will stop going to the gym, stop working out, stop preparing healthy meals, and cut our ties to our support system that speaks the language of weight loss. We’ll start experiencing feelings of anxiety and stress, which are warning signs that they are pushing ourselves too hard. However, instead of slowing down, we often start using food as a way to relieve their anxiety because it’s our most reliable comforter.
Eating “comfort foods” lights up the sensors in the brain that provide pleasure and a temporary escape from stress, but as soon as the food is taken away, the stress and anxiety return, along with guilt and shame that come with indulging in unhealthy foods.
Once this cycle begins, it is very hard to disrupt. Being an over-worker, over-extender, or over-committer can become so much a part of your identity that you are afraid to give it up. You are afraid that if you cut back even a little bit, it will put everything at risk, from your job to your relationships. Perfectionism always raises the bar–once you get that accomplishment at work, or once you’re told that you’re the most reliable, loyal friend, it becomes a new minimum standard that you expect of yourself.
Filling the Void
If we really dig deep, what we often find is that over-achieving, over-committing or over-extending are simply tools we use to gain a sense of self-worth. A sense of knowing we are enough. As one of these three types of overs’, this is something we struggle to always believe, especially if we were to be stripped of our accomplishments and titles.
One of the most important parts of your weight loss journey will be to untangle your self-esteem and self-worth from the number on the scale. But, it doesn’t stop there. Attaching your self-worth to anything external is dangerous because accomplishments always have an expiration date.
In order to re-write your story as an over-achiever, over-committers or over-extender you must replace it with a belief that you are already enough. Now, regardless of anything you do or accomplish.
If, after reading this article, you recognize that you are either an over-worker, over-extender, or over-committer, the first thing you need to realize is that you are not alone. It is very, very common for people who struggle with food and weight problems to also struggle with one of these three things.
The second thing you need to realize is that you aren’t going to be able to re-write this aspect of your story on your own. You will need support creating a new identity for yourself. It will not happen overnight, and the process will not always be easy, but you can absolutely do it. Begin by using the resources provided in my Road Map to Weight Loss program to unplug from the cycle of over-working and over-eating and find your sense of self-worth from within. This is the key to both keeping the weight off and avoiding becoming unbalanced in the first place.