Running on empty: Millennial burnout and why we deserve to stop

burnout

I’ve been listening to a mountain of body positive books lately, like I’m simmering myself in the decadence of self-love until it permeates every molecule of my being. I want every single morsel of myself to be flavored with the spice of confidence and knowledge that I am totally awesome and I don’t have to whittle myself away and restrict my behavior until I’m suitable for the average consumer.

After ravenously listening to Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker and The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, my copy of the brand-spankin’-new The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner arrived. And this book leans on a lot of the scientific data covered in Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size.

Everyone benefits from self-love, and the first step toward self-love is changing your media habits as they pertain to how you view and interact with your body. This includes:

  • Unfollowing social media and mainstream media that focus on diet and weight loss mentality, or anything that makes you feel crappy
  • Following social media that focuses on self love, self care, and body confidence, or anything else that makes you feel good
  • Unsubscribing from magazines and returning library books that celebrate restriction, weight loss, and dieting
  • Reading the hell out of books like the above that affirm your desire to love yourself no matter your BMI or body fat percentage

I love the affirmation of books like Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls and The Body Is Not An Apology. They gave me moments of “hell yeah” and “damn right” and “I do what I WANT and if you don’t like me then GO AWAY,” all of which are really nice to feel. But what The Fuck It Diet and Health At Every Size have done is make me super, super mad.

I was so mad that I turned off HAES and called my sister to say, while she was getting a pedicure, “DID YOU KNOW THAT BEING FAT ACTUALLY HAS NO BEARING ON DISEASE? YEAH. FAT PEOPLE AREN’T ANY MORE PRONE TO DISEASE JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE FAT. ALSO THE CDC FAKED DATA AND INFLATED OBESITY RELATED DEATHS BY 94% AND I AM SO MAD RIGHT NOW.”

The truth, they say, will set you free.

It turns out that a lifetime of my bloodwork being great, blood pressure being great, cholesterol being great, prediabetic markers being nonexistant, and overall health and fitness level being great was completely overshadowed by my fatness and BMI. So I restricted, I dieted, I did extreme exercise, and I lost a whopping 99 pounds.

I kept it off for years, too. I was the success story, y’all. I did it. I had made the “lifestyle change.”

And then I left my abusive ex and slowly unpacked that my weight loss had been the only thing in my life I’d had any control over, and every part of me that had been striving for some piece of control and self-efficacy was just burned out and exhausted.

I have gained back 90 pounds. I was struggling with this fact.

But thanks to the knowledge contained within books like The Fuck It Diet and Health At Every Size, I know that it’s not because I failed. It’s because diets fail. They do. They’re designed to fail. No one can sustain such restriction forever, and your body is smarter than you. If you put it into a famine state, it will act like you are in a famine. If you avoid your hunger and fullness cues for decades, you will have to re-learn how to eat.

Listening to HAES on my commute to work this morning, it so happened that I pulled into the gas station to fill up my tank about ten or twenty miles before the fuel light came on. I considered this a huge success. My new year’s resolution was to take better care of my car, which included no longer running it to the fuel light (my previous go-to method).

I pulled away from the pump and turned the book back on, and the topic was hunger cues and when it’s the right time to eat. Each person is different, but the author states that if she waited until her stomach was growling, she had passed from “hungry” into “ravenous” and would likely not make very conscious food choices, as her body would be driving her to eat more food at a quick pace to stop the internal panic of running on empty.

Oh.

Shit. 

The way I operated my car was the way I had been operating my body for years. And let’s not talk about how I routinely run my phone battery charge into the ground and I don’t even know the last time I used, let alone charged, my Kindle.

I’ve been doing a lot of work in therapy lately. I started with body image, and then shifted to rest. One of the thoughts I’m targeting is “I’m not allowed to rest.” Since childhood I have always overcommitted and overachieved, in the hopes of getting recognition and affection from my parents and teachers. Now I do it to impress bosses, peers, everyone around me.

But guess what?

When you keep running on empty, whether it’s your gas tank, your schedule, or your stomach, you are not being a very good steward of your car, your time, or your body.

Millennials are the burnout generation, because we’ve been raised to be. You have to hustle. You have to do so many things, do them well, and do them for a long time, in order to make any headway in life. Retirement? You have to start early! College? Better work as much as possible and take as many classes as you can to get through this expensive experience ASAP. And then haul ass to pay off those loans, what were you thinking? Weight loss? You can’t take over the world if you’re fat, fatty – get moving!

In this world of constant movement, constant stress, constantly worrying what the next problem is going to be, it is radical to rest. It is radical to stop harming yourself with an overcommitted schedule. It is radical, even, to eat what you want, when you want it, without forcing yourself to eat what’s healthy even though it makes you gag.

Fill your tank, please.

With laughter, with dance lessons (even though you’re fat!), with a grilled cheese sandwich, with good sex, with a good long nap, with your favorite book, with a hot bubble bath. Please, take care of you, BEFORE your fuel light comes on.


PS. If you haven’t noticed the new home page for Born Again Minimalist, or the fun link that says “Book” in the navigation – I wrote a book! You can preorder it now!

Learn more at bornagainminimalist.com/book

 

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2 thoughts on “Running on empty: Millennial burnout and why we deserve to stop

  1. Lisa says:

    I do agree with the burn out idea — most people in the educated, middle class are in various stages of burn out. I’m not a millennial, but I see all of my peers just running on empty all the time — hustle, hustle. I just haven’t bought into it because I like to do things slowly. It gives me pleasure. Of course, I am the exception, not the rule.

    But I can’t agree with careless eating — we all need our fruits and veggies and a diet of over-processed, over-salted, or sugary foods will not allow us to reach our potentials. Sooner or later it catches up with us. We don’t need to deprive ourselves or stuff ourselves with broccoli if we hate it, but wise food choices will stand us all in good stead.

    • Caitlin says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for commenting. I’m curious where you took the takeaway that I’m recommending careless eating or suggesting that whole foods aren’t beneficial?

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