Thanks, Yoda - I'll Take It From Here

Photo: AndresRueda

My brother once dated a woman who had four sons. Her "names" for them were Numbers One through Four. Charming, I know. You're captivated already, aren't you? Same with me. My husband and I have a son too and whenever we were in the presence of this woman she would launch into some parenting issue and end with the same, "and that's my advice to you about boys." Well, uh, thanks Yoda, but it's not like we even asked for your advice so why don't you mind your own business. Happily, once she felt secure with our parents' approval (they didn't like her either) she ignored us completely and instead spent all her time trying to solidify that all-important parent-girlfriend bond with those Zen master qualities of hers. To everyone's relief, she life-coached her way out of our lives and was soon off advising others in a galaxy far, far away. There's nothing that can clear a room faster that a know-it-all Mensa poseur - with the possible exception of the clam dip turning. Call the Algonquin and book that round table - party of one.

It's easy enough to blow off unsolicited advice because we've become pretty good at figuring out who's the real McCoy versus some pontificator who loves the sound of their own voice. People love to give advice - especially on topics with which they have little to no experience - such as childrearing, making money and interior design. As we continue to mature and have managed to stay out of jail, hold down a job, have kids, avoid Social Services/police interventions in relation to said kids, we begin thinking that we are the masters of our domain. Maybe our thinking starts becoming a little rigid (especially when children are thrown into the mix) and we settle into some hard and fast routines.

Then the day arrives when your doctor says you've got to do something proactive to improve your health. And you say, "I don't need no stinkin' advice - just give me a pill." You've gotten yourself this far without anyone's help and you figure you'll be just fine from here on out. But you're not fine and the physical problems continue to mount. The doctor says again that you must lose weight or be more active and still you resist. Hey - who knows better what you need than you? Certainly not some highly educated, trained professional with years of experience on her side.

When the day comes that you get winded from just tying your shoes or don't like having to whip out the Vaseline to wedge yourself into a restaurant booth, you decide to join a gym. You sign up for the complimentary workout session with a professional trainer. He or she shows you how to work the equipment and tells you that weight loss is 30% exercise and 70% diet. And you smile and nod and think to yourself, "I know what I'm doing. Thanks for the input, though." And because you love the novelty of it all, you invert that equation and make it mostly about the exercise and ignore the diet altogether.

After a little time passes you find that you're not making any progress at all. You still fell sluggish and look ten years older than you should. You always come to your defense first and divert blame away from yourself...until one day you're honest enough to finally confront your own flawed thinking. "Hmmm, why would I go to a doctor and not take her advice?" or, "I haven't lost much weight so maybe that trainer really did know what he was talking about. Maybe I really don't have all the answers." It's a good day when you've made the distinction about taking advice from your brother-in-law and taking advice from your doctor.

When your accountant says you owe money to the IRS, do you take that as a suggestion or do you pay up? Unless you love the look and feel of cold stell window treatments, you do what he says. Ever try to remove your own appendix? Give yourself a root canal? I certainly hope not. That's what professionals are for. And so it should be in respecting those professionals and their advice on how to improve your life through diet and exercise.

I know it touches a nerve with a lot of us when we're told we're overweight. We immediately become defensive and our guard goes up and rarely comes back down again; keeping us trapped in this situation. Perhaps it's because we're living in such a superficial society that places way too much importance on how we look versus the more complex and worthy attributes like kindness and compassion. It's hard NOT to take it personally. But if taking our own advice hasn't gotten us to a better place then it's probably time to start listening to the experts.

Start by taking the emotion out of it (and obesity has a lot of emotion tied up in it) and think of it as any other health issue that needs attention, like a bad appendix or tooth. These people know what they're doing and they're trying to help. Isn't that why you went to them in the first place? To quote a famous movie line, "It's nothing personal, it's just business."

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