On Letting Yourself Go…

Confession: I fell behind on work today, and didn’t have the chance to write a new blog. However, as promised, I still plan to be consistent with my weekly posts on Mondays, so I dug this one up from the archives – an oldy but a goodie I think! Hope you enjoy…

Originally written by me, and published for Libero Network on March 8, 2011 here (article has been edited/updated for the purposes of this re-publish)


I’m not sure why, but recently I have been hearing the term “I’ve just been letting myself go” more than usual. I suppose it may have to do with life getting busy near the end of the school year and people being slammed with final papers and exams.

All this talk has gotten me thinking about this phrase and trying to figure out where it originates from and why it holds such a heavy negative connotation to it.

We all know what it means; it means that you’ve been eating too many “bad things,” shouldn’t have had the super-sized bag of popcorn at the movie last night, and probably would’ve been better off skipping the movie all together and going to the gym instead…and so you say that you are ‘letting yourself go’ with a hint of disdain in your voice as if what you really mean is ‘I am losing all control of myself, I am having way too much fun, and it’s got to stop’.

If we dissect it, the simple term “I’m letting myself go” implies there are two parts to a self: the part that has the desire to indulge in simple pleasures like cheese pizza and chocolate cake, and the ‘wiser,’ more responsible part that feels what the other part needs is just a little bit of discipline in order to stay in line and ‘keep on track.’

But wait a minute, what is so wrong with cheese pizza and chocolate cake, anyways?

We talk as though we have embarked on some great rebellious mission whenever we tell the waitress “Yes, I’ll have the fries with that,” almost mumbling it under our breath for fear those around us, or, heaven forbid, the “I’ll have the side salad, please” friend we are with will hear and cast judgement. At which point we undoubtedly would say to our salad-eating friend, with an embarrassed chuckle, “Man, I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately – I’m really letting myself go…If only I could be more disciplined like you.”

And then you’d both laugh, but inside you’d be scolding yourself: “Why aren’t I more disciplined like her?”

But who was it that made all these rules to begin with? Who decides what is or is not disciplined? We all know that diets don’t work, but moving beyond that, a life with food rules doesn’t work either – at least it doesn’t if you want to live a full and happy life (which I personally would prefer over the other possibilities).

By using the term “I’ve let myself go” we are implying there is a part of us that needs to be contained, needs to be held captive, and yet is that where happiness lies, in being held captive?

The rules of intuitive eating are as follows: eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, listen to your body and eat what it wants – no food is forbidden, no food is ‘bad.’ In other words – give yourself freedom.

Freedom…isn’t that a better definition for ‘letting one’s self go’? And freedom doesn’t hold any negative connotation, does it?

We were never meant to be slaves to our diet books or personal fitness trainers. We were never meant to deny ourselves pastries or to force ourselves into the gym seven days a week and slap ourselves on the wrist if we don’t go.

Yes, we are meant to take care of our bodies and part of that does include eating your vegetables and going for a walk every now and then, but that is really all you need to do to be healthy.

Healthy is not about rules;  it is about living your life and loving yourself
(click to tweet)

– not forcing yourself to comply by silly food rules and guilting yourself out if you don’t abide by the laws dictated by your self-made regime.

So maybe the answer to a healthier, happier life is not strapping the muzzle back on and forbidding ourselves the buttered popcorn or the vanilla cupcake or, heaven forbid, the cheeseburger and fries. Maybe the answer is to let yourself go.

If you are hungry and you want the fries eat the fries. If you are busy with school and you haven’t gotten to the gym yet it’s OK, don’t beat yourself up about it or promise to do better next week, because we all know when next week comes around the pressure of ‘doing better’ will be so much that you’d rather put off trying until the next week, and so the guilt-tripping continues…

Let yourself go! Be free, live life, eat, run, and enjoy. Don’t live by rules. Listen to your body – it knows what it wants, and sometimes it wants a brownie for dinner. And sometimes if it’s out with friends it’s going to drink a glass of sugary wine. And sometimes it is just going to be too busy or tired to run a marathon – but it may want to go for a walk instead.

Listen carefully. It’s speaking to you. It knows what it wants and it doesn’t want to be made to feel guilty for it, and it doesn’t want to feel like its opinion doesn’t matter. It wants to be respected, it wants to be loved.

So forget about your new diet plan, or ‘no sugar’ lifestyle or your commitment to exercising 2 hours a day, six days a week without exception. Here is your new resolution:

Let yourself go! – Because you’re worth it. (click to tweet)

While we’re on topic, maybe it’s time to stop criticizing others (celebrities and friends alike) behind their backs for ‘letting themselves go’  – it doesn’t make us look any better and if that’s what you need to feel good about yourself, well…I’ll just have to save that for another blog.


Twitter: @lauren_b_sag

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