We’re all a little obsessed. Why? Another word for obsession is passion.
The thing is, most unhealthy obsessions start with a super healthy passion for doing something we love. It makes us happy until we turn it into an unhealthy obsession. Here’s how to reclaim your passion and get back your happiness!
WE VALUE OBSESSION MORE THAN EVER
I constantly battled my relationship with food. I blamed so much of my troubles on the idea that “something was wrong with me”.
It was like no matter what I did, anytime I was stressed I turned to food to feel better – because it was something I could control. But does that mean “something’s wrong with me” if I want to control my life when it feels stressful and out of hand? Absolutely not. It’s in our nature to want to control things and make peace instead of living in stressful situations.
So what happens when you stop fighting obsession and start accepting it as human nature?
You stop beating yourself up about it.
We’re chronically stressed and chronically obsessed with the stuff going on in our lives, whether it’s healthy or unhealthy for us. We’re addicted to our smartphones, we’re workaholics, we’re obsessed with taking photos of absolutely everything we do, so why is it such a shocker that we can get obsessed with being healthy?
The thing is, healthy is trendy – it’s in. It’s the new thing to do. There are yoga classes, Whole Foods grocery stores, soul cycle studios, grass-fed burger restaurants, and even vegan sushi places, and heck, you can even get coconut milk at Starbucks now.
But guess what… we’ve allowed this amazing obsession with being healthy to occupy so much space inside of our heads that it literally becomes an obsession.
So is it bad to be healthy? Absolutely not. These things are awesome. We’ve completely changed the “hippie” and turned her into a trendy girl that cares about the environment, animals, her health, and her impact on other people. This shift to healthy living has been extraordinary, and it’s absolutely here to stay.
But…. at the same time, it hasn’t made it any easier if you’re hyper-focused on your food.
IT’S EASY TO BE OBSESSED
It’s easy to find a role model in the healthy living space (especially on social media) and think wow, they’re just perfect. Their whole life is exactly how I want mine to be. Maybe it’s a fitness icon, maybe it’s a healthy foodie, or maybe it’s someone who tries all the latest health hacks. Either way, you’ve got yourself a picture of who you want to be like inside your head.
These role models are usually a little “nuts” for their passion, in a good way.
It’s magical to watch them do their thing, and it inspires us to push to be more like them.
Turns out, they also typically meet the criteria for being “obsessed” with their passion… and we LOVE it.
In this case, we value the obsession they have with their healthy lifestyle. And at the same time, it brings up the question: Would we still like them if they weren’t as focused on what they’re “known” for? Probably not. Think about the backlash of a…
- Vegan foodie who reintroduces meat into their diet.
- Fitness model who starts gaining weight.
- Athlete that loses their competitive edge.
If they stop being known for what they “obsess” over, they lose fans, followers, attention, and in return, their lives get flipped upside down. There are exceptions where change can be positive, but just think about the initial backlash that happens from changing what you believe in and what you stand for. It’s seriously challenging.
Our obsession with being healthy isn’t very different.
OBSESSION IS ACTUALLY NORMAL
Obsession is the name of the game when you’re passionate about something. It’s how human nature works. So don’t think you’re a bad person because you’re struggling with body image issues or restrictive eating habits.
There’s honestly so much going on in our lives most of the time, that unless you obsess over something and prioritize it, it can feel like nothing’s ever going to get done.
We become so driven by success, progress, and control, that we become obsessed for what we’re “known” for.
I made my whole life about being healthy – eating healthy, working out, becoming a health coach – it’s basically impossible to stop caring about my health. You could say I’m a little obsessed 😉
WHEN DO OBSESSIONS START BECOMING UNHEALTHY?
For a long time, my obsession with being healthy was super unhealthy. I stopped going out to eat with friends, I couldn’t skip a workout without feeling like my progress was going to disappear, and I couldn’t go out for more than an hour without bringing snacks because if I was hungry and didn’t have access to my food, I wasn’t going to be able to eat at all.
Don’t get me wrong, it started off amazing. I was seeing tons of progress, I felt really really strong, and for a while, I was actually super satisfied with my health. I reached my goals of being healthy and then…. I kept pushing.
I started comparing myself to other healthy people and realized I wasn’t as healthy as I “should” be. I worked harder and harder and became even more obsessive over my food. I pushed through the pain, restriction, and self-criticism because I told myself that once I got there (and I was as good as X person), I’d finally be happy. But of course, it wasn’t true.
I pushed past the point of happiness the minute I started comparing myself to others.
I turned a passion into an unhealthy obsession.
So how do you know when your obsession exceeds the tipping point? Meet the benefits curve.
WHEN PASSION BECOMES AN UNHEALTHY OBSESSION
Simply explained, the idea that the more you do something, the better it is – is flawed. In most cases, doing more of something is good up until a certain point, then it may actually do more harm than good. That’s where this idea of “balance” comes from in the first place.
Check out this awesome benefits curve that I made for you below 😉 It shows you the idea that you obsess over something just enough to make a conscious change that makes you happy.
BENEFITS CURVE: JOGGER TO MARATHON RUNNER EXAMPLE
Let’s say you have a personal goal of running a 7-minute mile. You work hard and wake up early to go running 4 times a week and finally meet that goal. You’re obsessing (in a super light-hearted sense of the word) because you’re passionate about it. You feel amazing and before you know it, you’re waking up on weekends to go race in 5k’s. Awesome! You love it and things are going really well. You’re pushing yourself but you feel good and you’re still really happy competing in races for fun on the weekends.
You hit the golden star point of ultimate happiness on the graph and you are incredibly happy with all of your progress.
Then you make the goal to run a half marathon and the ish hits the fan.
You’re pushing yourself SO hard and you’re feeling more and more exhausted by the day. Sure, some people love marathons, but in this case, you’re not loving running anymore. This goal is making you so unhappy, but guess what? You still do it even though everything in your body is telling you that you’d be so much happier competing in 5k’s. You feel like you can’t give up because running “is your thing”. But guess what? You’ve been so focused on running because “it’s your thing” and you feel like you’re supposed to keep pushing.
This, my friends, is where you go past the point of the most benefit and start feeling LESS happy.
It’s hard to ease up on something you love. You feel like you’re giving up on something you worked hard for. But guess what? You’re not giving up. You’re listening to what makes you happy. You think you have to do this thing that’s making you so unhappy, but in reality, your life is supposed to be all about doing what fulfills you. If it’s marathons, awesome, but if not, that’s just as awesome.
You ultimately have to do what’s right for you and what brings you the MOST happiness.
And I’m talking about more than running. There’s always going to be a “tipping point” where it’s better to stop pushing yourself to do more. For example:
- Eating protein is good for you, but too much protein can be harmful to your liver.
- Running is good for you, but too much running can be harmful on your joints.
- Sleeping is good for you, but too much sleep will leave you feeling way over tired.
Therefore, the best idea is to find that golden star sweet spot where you get the most benefit, without doing too little or too much.
WHEN OBSESSION GOES TOO FAR
I didn’t say finding that sweet spot was easy.
Creating a healthy lifestyle comes with TONS of lessons. Personally, I struggled with restrictive eating habits and over exercising. I did it out of fear that I was never doing enough to reach my goals.
I became obsessed and I absolutely took a passion for healthy living way too far.
The thing is, it’s not your fault that you become obsessed with whatever aspect of your healthy lifestyle that’s turned negative.
We don’t really know everything about the lifestyle we’re striving for. Most of the repercussions are hidden from us unless we actively look for them. Which means, if you’re following the healthy lifestyle trends you keep learning about, you probably hear all the amazing things about it, with very little of the negative feedback from people who have tried it and didn’t have positive experiences.
- Why do so many fitness models shift to talking about healthy weight gain and positive body image?
- How come so many strict diet advocates change their approach as time goes on?
- When do you ever see an athlete who isn’t injured from a lifetime of pushing their bodies to the max?
It’s clear that pretty much everyone experiences some level of going past the golden star on the benefits curve – it’s part of living.
HOW TO GAIN BACK CONTROL AND RECLAIM YOUR PASSION
So how do you overcome obsessions that have gone too far? You actually embrace your obsessions! It’s time you stopped making your situation a negative obsession and got back to being happily passionate.
Instead of constantly battling yourself and denying that you’re in a spot where you’ve lost control (which most of us do)… we’re going to embrace the fact that we’re a little obsessed with being healthy. Since nobody likes to admit when they’ve made “wrong” decisions, we sometimes become obsessed with justifying what we did, so we don’t have to accept the fact that we messed up. Here are 3 positive ways to embrace your obsession with being healthy:
1. Stop fighting yourself
If you want to learn about health, learn about health!
Instead of constantly fighting yourself, learn to embrace the fact that you’re passionate about health. Whether it’s healthy eating, cooking, fitness, yoga, weight training, etc., you shouldn’t deny yourself something that you love so much.
The reason being: if you constantly deny yourself the opportunity to learn about what you love, you turn that passion into something negative. The only difference is that you have to learn to make safe boundaries. It’ll be easier to cope with stress when you stop beating yourself up about not being perfect.
2. Make safe boundaries
What you must do to keep a healthy relationship with your obsessive habits:
- Learn about both sides instead of constantly surrounding yourself with biased information. Example: if I’m interested in the Paleo diet, I should also learn a lot about what the negative effects of the Paleo diet could be!
- Get clear on what you want. Do you really want a 6-pack or do you just want to be fit? What level of dedication to your passion would actually make you happy?
- Have a support system to check in with you. If you have tendencies to make things super restrictive, have someone be there for you to talk things out. If you’re falling into negative habits, they’ll be there to help guide you out of it. A health coach is a great way to get support without relying on friends and family – you can learn about working with me here!
3. Don’t hide your feelings
Knowing that you tend to be obsessive, makes it a lot easier to step back from the situation and understand that you’re being so hard on yourself because of your obsession.
For example, I always felt ashamed for binge eating. I would get mad at myself for eating too much ice cream, then I learned to take a step back and think Bree – you’re being a little over the top. You know you always do this when you’re super restrictive with your diet. You’re always hard on yourself when you get too obsessed with being healthy, so take it easy.
Allowing myself to accept my obsession changed the way I thought about my relationship to food. Instead of constantly being stressed, I became more relaxed and accepting of who I was and how I behaved – that way I actually reduced my stress in general and stopped binge eating!
TAKEAWAY: DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT IT – EMBRACE IT!
It’s okay to be a little obsessive, if you’re passionate about something, you will be! Instead of beating yourself up, learn to embrace the obsession and create a positive environment to make sure your obsession stays healthy and ALSO makes you happy!