Everyone wants to know what to eat, how much to eat, where to eat, when to eat, and who to eat with.
If it’s not food, it’s exercise. What gym machines do I use? What exercises should I do at home? Should I do CrossFit? How do I train for this 5k?
If information were a vitamin, we’d all be overdosing. That’s not to say that information isn’t necessary. You must have the right information. What I’m saying is that the information isn’t the final answer.
In my experience, eight out of ten people who have the right information still fail. Why? Because there’s more to this journey than facts and figures. We need to start looking at the bigger picture.
Being deficient in the well-known vitamins—A, D, E, C, and K—is a bad thing. There’s not much debate there. But there’s a whole other set of vitamins that are rarely talked about.
I’m talking about social and emotional vitamins. These vitamins are tied to every important aspect of our lives. And as I often say, doing authentic work is about having a body and LIFE you love. So let’s take a look at these eight extremely important vitamins.
Vitamin M – Margin
Vitamin M deficiency is an epidemic in the United States. And it’s spreading around the globe at a furious pace.
Look at us. We’re over-scheduled, over-burdened, and stressed to a deadly level. We don’t sleep enough. We don’t play. We barely ever spend quality time with the people we love.
Margin is the breathing room on the side of your “life script” that you can fill with anything. If there’s no margin, you’re stuck in your current script. This leads to excuse-making: “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have enough money.” “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”
Even if you have the best of intentions, without margin there is nothing you can do to close the gap between your good intentions and your behavior.
Margin extends well beyond the obvious areas as well. Margin must be cultivated in every corner of your life from time and money to relationships and environment.
Vitamin L – Love
Human beings crave connection. It fulfills us. But with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce and many more hanging on by a thread, we’re losing this deep sense of connection.
If our parents struggled to have healthy, intimate relationships then we’re bound to repeat the cycle unless we do the work to escape it. Looking at the divorce rate, I’d say that not enough people are doing the work.
Too many of us are falling short when it comes to self-love as well. It’s bad enough that we struggle in relationships with others; it’s tragic that we struggle with loving and accepting ourselves.
And really, it’s love deficiency that’s driving so many of the challenges we face. If you don’t believe you’re worthy of love, you’re inhibited from practicing self-love as well. That doesn’t mean you won’t engage in intimate relationships, it just means you’ll sabotage them. And you’ll sabotage yourself.
As one of our deepest needs as a human being—intimacy—goes unmet, it’s no wonder that people are turning to food to fill themselves back up. But it’s a false and damaging attempt at fulfillment that worsens the cycle of shame, fear, and guilt. Do the work to make sure that Vitamin L is in large supply in your life and you’ll stop looking to food as a symbolic substitute.
Vitamin P – Patience
The same mindset that gave us reality television gave us “duct tape diets” and “infomercial fitness.” The demand for quick-fix, band-aid solutions has never been greater.
This rush to results is disrespectful to our body and mind. Often, it’s because we’re focused on superficial things like how we look in bathing suits for the Summer or how our dress is going to fit for the company Christmas party.
These weight-loss-by-any-means-necessary approaches ask us to work against our body rather than with it. And they fail to respect the integrative nature of the system.
My main goal for my clients is to “win without warfare.” When you create a healthy physical, mental, and emotional environment for yourself, it’s amazing how the body responds. Without patience, though, you’re unlikely to see the process through.
We currently have clients in over 30 countries around the world in our Rebooted Body Academy. No matter how well we set up expectations and communicate that this is a long term process, we still field questions and concerns about how they think they’re failing because they don’t look drastically different after two weeks.
It’s tough to shake the programming you’ve been subjected to. The idea that everyone’s journey can be put inside a neat little one-size-fits-all, eight week box and told with a single before and after photo inundates the landscape. If you’re deficient in patience, you’ll always quit before you give yourself time to heal. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about relationships or fat loss. Patience is critical.
Vitamin G – Gratitude
Kaila Prins, one of my favorite health bloggers, used to run a #GratitudeMadLibs game over at inmyskinnygenes.com where she prompted you to post something you’re grateful for every day.
Gratitude is one of Kaila’s core philosophies because gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to shift perspective. It’s this perspective shift that’s the secret sauce to success.
People who succeed aren’t luckier than you. They don’t have secret information that you don’t have. They don’t have bulletproof willpower. What they have is a different perspective.
If you look closely at people who seem to lack gratitude, they also often lack flexibility. They’re very rigid in their approaches and they see life as zero-sum. Their mindset is often a prison, as I discussed in a previous article and podcast called, Your Personal Alcatraz. Gratitude is a great way to change perspective quickly. A perspective shift, by the way, is the closest you’ll ever get to a magic pill.
Vitamin F – Fulfillment
Food is filling in more than one way. When you’re nourishing your cells and filling your tummy, that’s a great thing. When you’re using food to get a sense of fulfillment because you’re wholly unfulfilled in other areas of your life, it’s a vicious cycle.
Food is the number one drug in America. Emotional eating has its roots in childhood and lingers with adults like an anchor, making it hard for most to swim and completely drowning others.
Having unmet needs as a child sets you up to have unmet needs as an adult. We don’t just have a collective obesity problem, we have a Vitamin M (margin) problem, an intimacy and Vitamin L (love) problem, a stress problem, a Vitamin G (gratitude) problem, a Vitamin S problem, and a financial problem. I could go on, but you get the point.
We’re wholly unfulfilled as a society and food is the most convenient way to help bridge the gaps. When you find ways to achieve legitimate fulfillment in your life, the medication you relied on for quenching that thirst, and that hunger, is easy to let go of. That’s where true freedom lives.
Take an honest look at your life and figure out where the fulfillment gaps are and then work to legitimately bridge them.
Vitamin R – Recovery
How do you get more Vitamin F? By getting enough Vitamin R.
I said earlier, “Having unmet needs as a child sets you up to have unmet needs as an adult.” That doesn’t even account for having to deal with larger issues like physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Gabor Mate, an addiction expert who is doing amazing things in Canada, said this about his work:
The hardcore drug addicts that I treat, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. The commonality is childhood abuse. These people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development, they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men–or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again. That’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction.
Mate’s conclusion is that heroin is not the problem, it’s the addict’s solution to the problem.
Food is used as a medication just like cocaine or heroin. It’s just done on a smaller scale and is much more socially acceptable. And it’s not as immediately damaging. The point of all this is that, like heroin, food is not the problem.
That means you can end the war against food and start working on yourself. Regardless of what you think of your childhood or your past, everyone can benefit from therapy and everyone should constantly be working to improve themselves.
Your past isn’t either healthy or unhealthy. It’s a scale. If there’s a little pain, there’s a little coping. If there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of coping. If you struggle with emotional eating or any of the eight common eating triggers, then there’s work to be done on the recovery front.
Without Vitamin R, it’s very difficult to get enough of the other vitamins.
Vitamin S – Self-Esteem
There’s a lot of talk about self-esteem in schools. But the way schools discuss self-esteem is tragically narrow and misguided. As a result, hundreds of millions of people struggle with self-esteem issues.
In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathanial Brandon talks about happiness anxiety. “Happiness anxiety” is very common. Happiness can activate internal voices saying I don’t deserve this, or it will never last, or I’m riding for a fall, or I’m killing my mother or father by being happier than they ever were, or life is not like this, or people will be envious and hate me, or happiness is only an illusion, or nobody else is happy so why should I be?
Happiness anxiety, which goes hand in hand with negative self-talk and self-sabotage, is a key symptom of damaged self-esteem. In fact, Brandon shows the myriad of ways self-esteem manifests in our life:
- Focusing versus nonfocusing.
- Thinking versus nonthinking.
- Awareness versus unawareness.
- Clarity versus obscurity or vagueness.
- Respect for reality versus avoidance of reality.
- Respect for facts versus indifference to facts.
- Respect for truth versus rejection of truth.
- Perseverance in the effort to understand versus abandonment of the effort.
- Loyalty in action to our professed convictions versus disloyalty—the issue of integrity.
- Honesty with self versus dishonesty.
- Self-confrontation versus self-avoidance.
- Receptivity to new knowledge versus closed-mindedness. Willingness to see and correct errors versus perseverance in error.
- Concern with congruence (consistency) versus disregard of contradictions.
- Reason versus irrationalism; respect for logic, consistency, coherence, and evidence versus disregard or defiance of these.
- Loyalty to the responsibility of consciousness versus betrayal of that responsibility.
As Brandon puts it, self-esteem is the immune system of the consciousness. As we work to develop a healthier lifestyle, we’re going to be faced with a unique set of challenges. Self-esteem doesn’t just play a big role in determining whether or not we will be able to meet those challenges, it determines whether or not we feel we deserve, and can accept, a successful outcome.
Understanding that, it’s important that we work to legitimately improve our self-esteem. This can’t be done, by the way, with feel-good affirmations and hollow praise. That’s how schools approach self-esteem and it leaves kids, and thus adults, hopelessly lost in the woods for the rest of their lives.
Vitamin W – Work
When I talked about having enough Vitamin P, I alluded to our fast-paced, instant-results culture. There’s two side effects of this: people want a magic pill and they want additional magical somethings.
If you believe there’s a magic pill or an “easy street” to any of this, that’s a delusion that always ends in demoralization. And demoralization — when thrown on top of previous demoralization — creates a smog of hopelessness that many people never escape from.
You know some of these people. When you talk to them, you can tell they’re defeated. They continue to do everything in life that gives them instant gratification and they avoid everything that takes a little bit of work.
Then there’s all the magical somethings they hope will short-cut them to success:
- More money (to fix struggling finances)
- A baby (to fix a struggling relationship)
- A new possession (to fix the struggle with finding happiness)
- A high achieving child (to fix your own struggling self-worth)
- Weight loss (to fix your struggling self-image)
This is all based on the delusion that the struggles of life will stop at some point after uncovering all this magic. That there’s a finish line up ahead.
The truth is that everything is a struggle and always will be a struggle. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be set free. Free to keep fighting. Free to continue succeeding.
Relationships take constant work to nurture. Your physical body takes constant work to keep in shape. Your finances take constant management to keep in order. Your mental and emotional self takes constant work to keep healthy. And the things that look like magic or promise to be magic never fix anything. They’re distractions.
More money won’t fix your finances. If you can’t get your finances in order with the money you have now you can’t get them in order regardless of how much you have.
A baby won’t fix your struggling relationship. If you can’t get your relationship in order without a baby you’ll never get it in order with a baby.
A new possession won’t fix your happiness. If you can’t find happiness with what you have you won’t find it with a surplus of stuff.
A high achieving child won’t fix your own struggling self-worth. That’s something inside of you that needs attention and nothing outside of you can fix it.
Weight loss won’t fix your negative self-image. When you reach whatever physical goal you’ve set, nothing will be different about your life. If you’re unhappy now, you’ll be unhappy then. If you’re stressed now, you’ll be stressed then. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for things. It means that if you want to change your life, you should actually change your life and not just your body.
So Vitamin W is critical to all the other areas I just discussed. If you want success, you must do the work.
That’s your cue, by the way. You might feel overwhelmed because of everything I just talked about, but there’s no need to try and fix it all at once. Pick one area and get started. As I repeat often, over-thinking is not required. Forward momentum is all that matters.