the fuck yes mentality for health


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Despite the title of this post and the number of times I use the word hereafter, I don’t especially like saying (or even writing) the word fuck.

And by the way, since you’ve already clicked on this post and have read this much, you’re okay with profanity. It’s all for a purpose anyway…I swear (see what I did there?!).

F-bombs that leave my own mouth just feel a little odd. In the nanoseconds between the sound ffff forming on my lips and escaping them thereafter, I sense the tiniest but ever-so-present flutter of guilt, the kind that a daring kid who knows she’s done something mischievous might feel. It might seem like I have a potty mouth to some, but for the most part, I truly avoid dropping fucks unless I feel fucking strongly about something.

You can assume, then, that when I say “Fuck Yes!” with the same enthusiasm as Homer Simpson saying to a pink sprinkled donut, “Ohhhhhh!” it means I’m putting all my eggs in one basket; hitting 90 miles per hour when the speed limit is 60, betting all my money on black, and generally having zero doubt that I am viscerally stoked for that which I just said “Fuck Yes!” to.

In most cases, “that” refers to something I really, really want to eat or really, really want to buy. If I don’t say “Fuck Yes!” to that double bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter shake, or to that limited edition Evangelion model kit, then I do not pass go or collect $200 dollars; I ignore it and move onto the next thing at which I may have a chance to scream “Fuck Yes!” –perhaps at some ramen with double order of pork and egg. As a result, I’ve been able to make better food choices (most of the time) and save money in the process by not spending frivolously on snacks and crap that I don’t want to eat that badly.

This is the premise behind the rule of “Fuck Yes!” It’s helped me draw boundaries on what’s important to me and what’s not, and allowed me to turn down things that I’ve felt only lukewarm about. In other words, it’s a way to empower the decisions that would (at least within my limited foresight) be good for me.

I do have to admit that I’m not cool enough to have come up with this idea on my own. I first learned about a similar iteration through Mark Manson who apparently had heard about it from Derek Sivers. Both of these brilliant writers applied it to other aspects of life: in business and relationships; but I’ve repurposed it to be a counter maneuver against our greatest common enemy: temptations.

WTF Is the Point?

Most of us recognize on some level that exercising is good for us, but when it’s go-time we get stuck in our own butt imprint on the couch and flip a bird to the idea of sweat and physical effort. And most of us know it would be best to put aside a portion of our paycheck to slowly save up for that dream New Zealand trip, but we end up getting pulled in by giant HOT, HOT, HOT! SALE signs.

Why are our actions so often inconsistent with what we know we should do?

I’m not going to pretend to be a well-studied behavioral scientist by hitting you over the head with a bunch of esoteric terms, but the short of it is that we’re human and we’re all fundamentally alike. As humans, we sometimes want things we didn’t even know we wanted, or we think we know what we want but really don’t. At least not without some context.

Let’s say one morning you go into a Starbucks with the intention of getting a cup of coffee. While standing in line, your eyes hover over that brilliantly designed and well-placed display case of goodies–and wham!–that pumpkin cream cheese muffin suddenly looks sooooo sexy, and you determine that it would look even sexier…in your mouth.

It’s not like you’d planned this out though. The insatiable itch-like feeling most of us recognize as a craving just hit you like Cupid’s arrow, but instead of looking at the barista with googley eyes you’re lusting after a lumpy, slightly burnt pumpkin cream cheese muffin. This is what smarter people than I refer to as temptations.

What’s more: We’re inherently really bad at predicting how we will act in the face of temptation, or dealing with the temptation once it hits. That means we tend to easily choose the things that give us immediate reward or gratification. Case in point: that pumpkin cream cheese muffin will taste damn good for like 20 seconds; a chill evening on the couch with Netflix is the clear winner over a slog in the gym; the 2-for-1 taco specials…you’re getting TWO tacos for the price of ONE–how can you lose?! Et cetera, et cetera.

In all cases, it’s the result of some internal fistacuffs between our own self-controland temptations, the latter of which can be further influenced by oh-so-many other factors (environment and smells, to name a few) and almost always wins. In fact, temptations are pretty big jerks that constantly bully and rob us of our lunch money (a.k.a. our long-term goals).

It doesn’t matter how noble these goals are, like saving up for retirement, or how they may benefit us, such as working out four days a week, the fact remains that repeatedly giving into temptations is a source of our misery (“Why can’t I keep myself from eating the whole box of donuts?! I’m so weak.” Cue the tears and guilt). It’s why some of us have a hard time saving money, seem to have no control when dessert and 25-cent Wing Wednesday night roll around, and generally spend or eat needlessly.

So, unless we take deliberate measures to make progress toward these goals–any goal–we’ll continue to get side-tracked, procrastinate, and get impatient that good things aren’t immediately happening.

The good news is that self-control can be learned and improved, like a skill.

Enter the rule of “Fuck Yes!”

You Gonna Eat That?

Over the years, I’ve developed some pretty impressive iron will, through a combination of conscious practice and a few perspective shifts. You can now put a plate of cookies in front of me–but joke’s on you, I hate cookies. If you try again and tempt me with, say, a glazed donut from Stan’s Bakery in Santa Clara,  I can resist eating it completely if I want to…but after a bit of self-talk, dilated pupils, and a few skipped heart beats, of course. (I’m still a donut-loving human, after all.)

Why not just eat the damn donut, you ask? Because remember: I didn’t say “Fuck Yes!” to it.

The rule of “Fuck Yes!” has helped me rule the temptations that used to rule me.  While I apply this mostly to my food and “treat yo’self” choices and what I buy, which helps to put my food choices and spending under control, I’ve seen success in some (not all) instances where I had trouble deciding what I needed to do or whether to date someone as well–but those are a wee-bit more complicated.

In my mind, this is effective because I believe in a difference between eating something (and by extension, buying something to eat or whatever) just for the sake of giving into that moment’s temptation, and eating something because I really know I will really fucking enjoy it. I know the “risks” involved in eating the food (discomfort, guilt, pressure, and so on) and weigh them against the reward (how much I’ll enjoy it).

When temptations, cravings, and “hot” desires, start to creep on me, the rule of “Fuck Yes!” acts as a buffer to make me stand back and ask myself questions, like: “Is this really what you need at this very moment–not because it’s a distraction, you’re bored, or an excuse to procrastinate? Knowing yourself, is the pleasure as much as you think you’ll get from eating or buying this? Will this in some way help you toward what you really want or want to accomplish?”

If it’s a “Fuck Yes!” to those questions (doesn’t have to be all), it’s time to rock.

The rule of “Fuck Yes!” has allowed me to place greater value on myself and my decisions, and develop a greater appreciation for the many things that I now choose to do, eat, buy, love, or whatever. It also helps to know what you deeply desire and value in the first place–not the superficial stuff, like “I want to lose 5 pounds” but more like “I really want to feel confident.” It can be tricky to figure out, but I’ve found that oftentimes what I seek or desire is somewhere in my grumbling tummy or cold, icy heart, and the enthusiasm of a “Fuck Yes!” helps bring whatever it is out of me.

All in all, it’s not by any means a perfect system, but it’s certainly helped me in staying on track with goals–whether they’re related to choosing healthier choices, saving money, and generally making decisions that also make me happy.

So, how do you apply the rule of “Fuck Yes!”? Quite simply:

  • Practice interjecting when you’re about to make an impulsive decision. Don’t ignore this voice. Ask yourself something like, “Is this something that I would still want and make me happy 15 minutes from now? An hour from now?”
  • Be compassionate. Don’t ask questions that belittle or berate yourself. It might work for some people, but I believe it to be counterproductive.
  • Be honest. Ask honest, revealing questions. Obviously, you can fudge the questions you ask yourself to make you be in favor of everything, but you’re only cheating yourself by doing this.
  • Really mean it when you say “Fuck Yes!” to something. If you pass by an ice cream shop and that pistachio ice cream looks really damn good, make sure you know you’re going to enjoy the hell out of it and move on. No regret, guilt-tripping, or wishy-washy bullshit.

Try it out, but don’t expect to be perfect. Things like self-control and being able to pull back to question your intentions take a lot of practice. Just continue to work on it, and in time, you too can be able to shout “Fuck Yes!” over a menu item at a restaurant.

–Stephanie


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Richard Lee

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