There’s a famous story about Albert Einstein in which he explains his theory of relativity to his secretary.
When she asked him what it was, he said, “When you sit with a pretty girl for two hours, you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”
Although Einstein’s theory of relativity eludes most of us, all of us can all relate to his simplified explanation.
But even if you don’t get excited about sitting with a pretty girl in the same way Einstein meant (and if you do . . . great!), I’m sure you’ve lost track of time while having an engaging conversation with one of your (pretty) friends.
And I’m certain no one I know has ever held her hand to a hot stove, but we all know the feeling of suffering through something miserable – like folding laundry, the week leading up to a presentation, or a baby shower (so glad I’m done with those).
Einstein’s overall point has to do with time: whether you’re acutely aware of the minutes passing by or whether you lose all track of it. And that’s what I want to talk about here as it relates to dieting and weight loss.
As I always say, the biggest reason diets don’t work is because they’re all about resistance. You create massive resistance by focusing on the negative: what foods you’re not supposed to eat (usually the ones you love), how many calories you’re trying to cut, and how much weight you need to lose.
To use Einstein’s analogy, dieting is like putting your arm on a burning hot stove. And the only thing that will relieve the resistance you feel – much like yanking your arm off the burner – is to eat.
So when you diet, you spend your whole day enduring the misery of trying not to eat. And because that day seems to go on forever, the amount willpower you have to summon to be successful is huge. So you create tremendous resistance, which is a powerful force to not only overcome but which drives you to do the very thing you’re trying to avoid doing: eat.
In this never-ending-day scenario where your entire focus is on trying not to eat and all you can think about is eating, you become hyperaware of time passing. How long has it been since I last ate? Is it time for lunch yet? When am I allowed to eat again?
And if you’re focused on the clock and the clock isn’t telling you what you want to “hear,” you’re going to eat for reasons other than hunger: stress, boredom, loneliness. And even if the clock says it’s time to eat, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily hungry.
So a dieting mentality is the “hot stove” version of weight loss. Now let’s look at the “pretty girl” version.
In Einstein’s analogy, time speeds up when you’re doing something pleasurable, like sitting with a pretty girl. Enjoying yourself results in the feeling of “Where did the time go?”
One of the key elements of weight loss or gain is energy consumed, which we typically measure according to daily intake. There are obviously many other factors that play a part in how much we weigh – like energy burned through exercise and the quality of the food we eat – but for this discussion we’re going to focus on how much or little we eat in a day.
If you’re reading this article, I’m assuming you’ve been a lifelong dieter whose approach to eating less has been the willpower/resistance method, which we’ve established backfires.
So if you want to eat less during a day and also increase your odds of doing so, the most effective approach is to shift your perception of time so that it speeds up, instead of inching by to the point that all you do is watch the clock.
When you’re absorbed in something joyful, you lose yourself in the moment. When you lose track of time like this, you’re not focused on whether it’s lunchtime – or whether it’s time to eat at all. You start doing whatever it is you love and then suddenly realize that hours have passed.
In this scenario, you’re not going to eat out of boredom because you’re actively engaged in something. And because that something makes you feel good, you won’t feel stressed, sad, or frustrated. In other words, you’ll eat in response to true hunger instead of negative emotional cues – because there won’t be any.
I want to emphasize here that I’m not saying you should set up your day so that you don’t eat. What I’m saying is to proactively minimize the chances that you will eat emotionally or binge eat – both of which are the direct result of trying not to eat.
Ok, let’s move on.
We’ve established, according to Einstein’s analogy, that you make time seem to go by faster by doing something you love. So watching a great movie, getting a spa treatment, or going on a walk with a friend all count.
But I want to take it one step further. Enjoyment is great – but true fulfillment will multiply your results exponentially.
And as I always shout from the rooftops, having a larger goal is the fastest (and most enjoyable) means possible to being fulfilled and, consequently, achieving your weight-loss goal.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with a big goal, identify those activities that you do enjoy most. Then see yourself doing them for a living.
If you love to check out and read fashion magazines, see yourself as a stylist, jewelry line creator, or perfume tester. If you love cooking, see yourself as a professional chef or restaurant owner. If you’re a Type A neat freak like me who actually enjoys cleaning, you could be a professional organizer. Now you have a big goal.
Then it’s easy: back out the goal into a series of smaller steps, and set about checking them off, one by one. If it’s hard to see yourself in a bigger way, have faith that in the accomplishment of the smaller milestones, you will slowly morph into that person.
Speaking of that process of becoming, the ultimate aim of this shift in your perception of time and using it to your advantage is that making it a practice to spend your time being fulfilled makes you a fulfilled human being.
That person doesn’t waste her days thinking about how much she weighs, because she naturally engages in habits that automatically result in a healthy weight. And she also doesn’t agonize over what she looks like – because she no longer cares.
During the course of a day, the same amount of time passes. But how you perceive it determines how you spend it. And how you spend it shapes who you are . . . and who you ultimately become.
What’s the one activity you lose yourself in most often, and how could you convert that cherished activity into a larger goal? What’s one small step you could take today to work toward achieving it? Leave a comment and let me know.
You can become a woman who realizes her fullest potential by living joyfully from the inside out. Or you can stay stuck never knowing who you truly are because you spend your days in the misery of dieting, trying to fix yourself from the outside in.
Please don’t waste 20 years of your life on a diet like I did. Pull the ripcord on that non-life, and get busy living. Choose to become fully alive by joyfully losing yourself in something you love.
It’s the easiest way possible to get the body you’ve been dying to have.