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Conquer Your Weight

Episode #28: [Root Cause Series] Overworking: Saying No and Letting Go

Show Notes

October 26, 2022

This week's episode is the first episode in the Root Cause Series. Instead of focusing on fixing our over-eating (or over-drinking, over-spending, endlessly scrolling through social media, watching hours of TV at night, etc), what if we focused on the events that led up to it? What if our lives didn't suck so much, and we didn't feel like we needed to escape from them?

In this first episode of the Root Cause Series, we're going to discuss overworking. This is one of the most common problems I discuss with my patients, and it's an issue with which I've struggled. You're going to learn what questions to ask yourself to figure out if you're overworking and how to start letting it go.

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Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh, and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, episode number 28. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host, obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hey everyone, thanks for joining me today. I am very excited for today's episode. It is being released a week later than anticipated, which is in part due to the topic itself. Let me explain. Today is the first episode of a series I'm calling the Root Cause series, and I'm so excited for this series because it applies to overeating behaviors, but honestly, it applies to every other undesirable behavior we have in our lives. So as we're talking today, I'm going to be talking about emotional eating and overeating. But if those aren't issues that you're struggling with right now, plug in whatever issue that you're struggling with, whatever issue you use, your default behavior when you're trying to escape is that overeating over drinking, overspending endlessly, scrolling through social media, watching hours of TV at night, watching pornography, people pleasing With any of these behaviors in our lives, it's important to analyze what happened that led up to taking or not taking those actions. These behaviors don't just happen randomly. They happen because of a whole series of events that led up to them. Even if those events are completely automated in your brain, or even if you've never stopped to think about them before. At the Life Coach School, we are trained to use the model, and we've spoken about the model before, which is that there's a circumstance in our life about which we have a thought, which causes a feeling in our body that drives the actions we take, and ultimately the results we get in our lives. What that means is that every single action we take happens for a reason. Again, it might be subconscious or unconscious, but there was still a whole series of events that led up to it. Many weight loss plans focus on ALINE work, meaning they focus on the actions that we should take. You should follow X, Y, Z diet. You should eat less sugar, you should eat that, you should eat this, you should exercise more, et cetera, et cetera. The problem with this is that my patients are really smart. They know what they quote should be doing, but they are making choices that aren't in alignment with their goals for themselves. When we start to understand our why, we can finally have a breakthrough. And overeating is one of those action lines. And this is a gentle reminder that overeating does not have to mean stuffing oneself full to the brimm. It can mean that, and it sometimes does, but I want you to think of overeating as eating more than your body needs. Eating beyond fullness, eating at times when we're not even hungry, eating simply because, Ooh, that looks good. And how often does that happen when you see a delicious looking cookie and you eat it without even thinking about it or eat a second portion of a meal that you didn't really need or you've had a stressful day of work and you come home to unwind into a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips or fill in the blank. Guilty pleasure. And broadly speaking, there are two different things we need to address in this situation. One is learning how to deal with our feelings so we don't turn to food in those situations in the first place. But honestly, what if we just didn't feel so bad in the first place? What if we could learn how to not feel so bad in the first place? Have you ever been in a situation with another person and later they tell the story of that day's events to a third person? I've had this situation plenty of times in my life, a friend, and I would be at the exact same event, and then I hear them recount the event and it sounds completely different than my memory of it. And as you hear your friend describe the event, you think, wow, that's not really how I remember it at all. And it's not that your friend is lying. They might not even be exaggerating or trying to be dramatic. It's just how they remembered it. The same circumstance happened to both of you, yet each of you had your own thoughts and feelings about it, and you've told yourselves completely different stories in your head, and both of those stories are completely true. I've talked before about learning to process your feelings, learning to accept negative feelings and appreciate your positive feelings. But what if instead you could just have a total mindset, a mindset shift, pardon my language here, but what if your life just didn't suck so much and if it didn't suck so much, then you wouldn't be looking to escape from it? And this is where the root cause series comes in because the reality is, is that any circumstance could trigger thoughts and feelings that drive you down a pathway of overeating. And just like that example of a friend who experienced a story and experience that event completely different than you did, you can take an event and look at it differently, understand it differently, interpret it differently, and get to the root cause. So in the Root Cause series, we're going to address common circumstances that I discuss with my patients often. And today we're talking about overworking. This is one of the most common themes I discuss with my patients, and I've spent a lot of time working on this one personally overworking. Well, she is a dear friend of mine, or maybe she's an enemy, a frenemy, perhaps overworking, and I know each other quite well. She has been with me my entire life. And while I've not fully overcome the concept of overworking, I now recognize when she shows up in my life. And that realization is powerful just in and of itself. You can probably imaginate imagine situations in your own life in which you've overworked, and you can put that circumstance or you can put that into the circumstance line of your thought model. And you can get really specific about overworking meant you could write down every task on your to-do list, the timeframe in which you have to do them. And you can imagine that you have a thought about it. Often it's something as simple as, oh my gosh, how am I ever going to get all of this done? And when you think something like that, it might drive a feeling like overwhelm. Does that sound familiar? Well, what do people do when they're feeling overwhelmed? I'll give you a secret. They don't buckle down and get to work. Overwhelm is a feeling that shuts us down. It's a feeling we want to escape from. And then we turn to our buffering behaviors like overeating or over drinking, scrolling, social media, overspending, pornography, whatever those undesirable beha behaviors you do when you feel like you need to escape. And one of the things that happens at this point of coaching is a lot of people don't believe me when I say that overwhelm drives these buffering, these escape behaviors. They're like, no, no, Dr. Stombaugh. When I'm feeling that way, I buckle down. I get to work. But buckling down and getting to work comes from a different thought and feeling. It's not when we have a circumstance in our life, we don't just have one thought about it, we often have many parallel thoughts about it. And so when you're buckling down and you're getting to work, usually that comes from thoughts that are happening in parallel. You're thinking to yourself something like, it's okay. I can do this just one step at a time. And with those thoughts you feel determination and from a place of determination, you're able to move forward with your work. But let's get back to overworking. Instead of thinking about the thoughts and feelings that flow from overworking, let's go back to overworking and tackle that. Why are you overworking in the first place? Why do you feel like you need a million things on your to-do list? And what would happen if you didn't do those things? And I want you to notice if you're having resistance, if you are prickling right now, if you're having thoughts like you're super angry at me, like, no, no, no, she just doesn't understand, I have to do these things. If you're prickling, it's because we've hit a major issue in your life. And so it can be really valuable to just stop and allow yourself to think and to question because you don't have to change anything. But allowing yourself to stop and question can be so powerful because you bring awareness to aspects of your life that have previously been happening automatically. Overworking can look like so many different things. It doesn't have to be overworking at your traditional job. It can be overworking in other aspects of your life. And for people who struggle with overworking, they're often overworking in every aspect of their life. So it can look like over-committing and over-scheduling oneself, trying to maintain a perfectly clean house, feeling like you have to prepare a homemade meal for your family every night, volunteering for events or committees that you don't even care about, not asking for your help when you need it. And overworking can easily bleed into other areas as well, like perfectionism or people pleasing. But to be honest, those hefty issues deserve their own episode. So today we're just sticking to overworking. So I wanna tell you a bit about overworking and how it's shown up in my life because as I said, overworking and I are dear friends. We go way, way back and I'll share with you how I've worked on it and how I continue to work on it. Before having my own private practice, I was an employed physician at a large hospital system in the Chicago area. And as with many industries, COVID completely changed the landscape of my job. After the pandemic, our office was facing pretty significant staffing shortages. And as a physician, I relied on the support of all of our office staff in different aspects of my day. For a period of time, we were dealing with a shortage of nurses, nurses who helped to triage online messages from patients. And that shortage was really challenging. It affected me directly, and it meant that messages sent from my patients could go unread for days at a time. And as their physician, it was hard for me to let that go. And so I didn't. I decided to step up and manage my own in basket. And while that was excellent for patient care and it was noble and blah, blah, blah, it was a huge burden. Before that, I was already getting to work at 7:30 in the morning and staying until five o'clock in the evening and managing my own in basket meant working from home every morning from 5:00 AM until 6:00 AM And it was a lot of work, especially because at the time, I was the mother of an infant and a two year old child, and I had a good flow to my day. I started each workday having already addressed all of my lab results and my patient messages, but it was really hard and I was harboring a lot of negative feelings like resentment about that situation. And carrying around resentment is a really heavy burden. And what is feeling resentment? It sucks to sit and feel that emotion. So instead of feeling an emotion like resentment, it's easy to escape with those buffering behaviors to overeat over, drink, overspend, scroll through social media, whatever it is. And as all of this was happening, my husband was finishing his subs special training, and he was interviewing for jobs. And for many reasons, we decided it made sense for him to accept a job offer at the University of Virginia. And wrapped up in all of that was my decision to leave employed, practice and open my my private practice weight loss clinic. So now I'm the boss. And here's the funny thing, it turns out that I'm the problem. Sure, we needed more staff at my former job, but there's no reason that I had to take over the burden. I chose to do it. I chose to sacrifice sleep. I chose to sacrifice time with my young children. I chose it other times to go to work when I was sick. And it sounds so crazy to say it out loud, but no one was making me do these things. I chose to do them. But why? Because overworking is a default behavior of mine. And it was only when I was self-employed that I fully realized I have no one but myself to blame. And I'm gonna tell you the story of the moment. I realized it earlier this year. I was about three months pregnant and I was on a video call with one of my patients. I had woken up that morning feeling pretty nauseated, but it was a rough pregnancy, and that was pretty common for me. Partway through the call though, I had that moment when I realized I was going to get sick and I had just enough time to hit the mute button and turn off the video before I projectile vomited onto my wall. And sorry, that's pretty graphic. But here's the crazy part. Instead of realizing, wow, maybe I'm too sick to be doing this right now, I felt momentarily better. And so I washed up and brushed my teeth and I went back to the visit and I finished that visit with my patient. And throughout that day, and over the next couple of days, I proceeded to get sick, like really, really sick. On top of the morning sickness from pregnancy, I ended up having norovirus and I was sick to the point where I actually needed IV fluids. It was miserable. And a few days later, I was telling the story to a family member and I joked to them, can you believe it? I threw up and my boss still made me work. And I was joking, but I was reflecting on that later that evening. And I realized it wasn't funny at all because it was actually completely true. My boss was a total jerk. And the problem was I was the boss. Why would I do that to myself? Would it feel good if others treated me that way? And what's the point of being self-employed if I'm going to be a jerk to myself? And it really got me thinking, I'm my own boss. What kind of boss do I want to be? Because I'm a boss to other people. I'm a boss to my nanny. I would never treat her that way. So why am I treating myself that way? And this is just one example, but the reality is there are dozens or honestly hundreds or thousands of iterations of this in my life. No one was making me do anything. I was the one creating unrealistic expectations and then beating myself up if I couldn't meet those expectations. And I want you to reflect on this. Do you have too many things on your to-do list? Have you committed to too many things? Have you taken upon a burden that you didn't wish to take on? Are you the only person who's capable of accomplishing this task? And what would happen if you didn't accomplish X, Y, Z task? What if you took a sick day? What if you didn't clean the house? What if you didn't make a Pinterest perfect Halloween costume for your kid? What if you didn't cook homemade meals? What if you didn't cook at all? What if you didn't take on someone else's job duties at work? What if you didn't check your email at 10 o'clock at night? Is it possible that you're the problem, that you have unrealistic expectations of yourself and perhaps you've trained others in your life to share those same unrealistic expectations of you? Really stop and think about it. Is overworking showing up in your life? Start with reflecting on the things you think you should do. If you think you should do something. It's often because someone else or some they are society leads us to believe there's things we should be doing, not because we actually want to do them. And so I want you to ask yourself these questions. What is the most loving thing I can do in this situation? What would feel amazing? What do I actually want to do? When you're faced with an offer of another project, another committee, whatever it is, do you actually want to do it? What feels worth it? What are you truly excited about? And most importantly, what are you giving up when you say yes to another commitment? Because no one is on their deathbed wishing they worked more. And through this process, I've realized I hate cleaning and I don't have time for it. It's worth the money for our family to hire someone else to do it, and that's okay. And I love cooking. But life with three little kids is tough. I like to plan easy meals and crockpot meals, but sometimes even that is too much. So instead, we just have scrambled eggs for dinner, and that's okay. And there's no reason I need to check my email at night or on weekends. I've set boundaries with my patients and they know email responses can take up to 48 hours and I don't check my email after hours, and that's okay. And last week when I was dealing with an insanely fussy baby who is crying for hours every night and trying to manage a migraine, there was no reason I had to record a podcast for you. I'm self-employed. I have a six week old baby. The most loving thing to do was skip a week in my podcast. And so that's exactly what I chose. And that's okay. I hope you can take time to reflect on if and how overworking is showing up in your life, and if you were able to tackle the root cause with that, decrease the need to escape from it. Doing this work with another person can be hugely beneficial to have someone else reflect your thoughts back to you and help you realize where you're being loving or when you're just making excuses. Let me know how I can best support you on your journey. You can visit my website at That's www S-A-R-A-H-S-T-O-M-B-A-U-G-H-M-D dot com. To learn more about me and a role in my medical practice, if you live in Illinois or Virginia, if you don't live in Illinois or Virginia and you'd like help getting connected with an obesity medicine physician or a life coach who would be a good fit for you, let me know. I'd love to help out. Thanks so much for joining me today. I'll see you all in two weeks. Bye-bye.
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