Taking Care of “Numero Uno”

Since March of 1988, I’ve lost count of how many times that I’ve heard a patient say, “I just don’t have time for myself”. At the same time when these same patients do come in, they often feel guilty that they are taking time for themselves or are spending time and money that could go towards other obligations (e.g. kids, spouses etc…). As well, I have caught many patients nodding off to sleep while they wait for me, because often their visit to see us is the only time they have to themselves. When this type of dialogue or situation takes place during an office visit, I pull out the following little diagram from my desk drawer and start to talk about taking care of “Numero Uno”.

The diagram pictured above represents you (“Numero Uno”) and your five dimensions of optimal health. The physical triangle, of course, represents our body and the other four triangles represent what takes place above the shoulders in our mind (these four triangles contributing to make us all the complex creatures that we are). In fact, during our life, whether we are aware of it or not, we are striving to keep all of the five triangles in balance.

Most people think they come in to see me to fix the physical triangle because they only have one symptom and that is, they have a weight problem. However, once I show them this diagram, they soon realize that there are perhaps 1001 reasons behind this one physical symptom (the1001 reasons stemming from the other four triangles). Interesting to note here, is that when one says, “that does it, I’m going to do something about my weight”, weight loss and weight control actually start in the mind, therefore, taking care of the physical triangle takes place in the mind as well.

The arrows around the triangles represent all the factors that we deal with in our lives: Our spouse, children, other family members and other commitments (work,volunteering, committee obligations, etc.). For many, there are several more arrows that can be added to this diagram. If one thinks about these arrows as energy being pulled or taken away from each of the triangles, the triangles (or “Numero Uno”) could shrink until they are nothing but a speck on the paper that you can hardly see. This is why I emphasize that each and every one of us has to take care of “Numero Uno” first. Right away I can hear you say (as I have heard many say) that this is being selfish and these types of feelings could lead to a lot of guilt. I reply by mentioning that truly selfish people are egocentric, step on others to get their way or put others down to rise to the top and these type of people do not feel guilt. An individual who truly takes care of themselves in a positive way and is balancing out the five triangles is kind, considerate, charitable, energetic and has a lot of energy to give to others. (Without suffering from guilt!)

My simple advice to you is to take care of yourself first (“Numero Uno”) and keep the triangles at full size. Picture all of the arrows revolving around you and your full size triangles. Think of the arrows as energy to give, rather than someone or something taking energy from you. As well, imagine the arrows extending out from you in a positive manner (like open arms) with yourself giving out this new found energy. Compare this to a negative picture of having the arrows represent someone or something pulling away at you and exhausting your energy stores (and as stated above, the triangles becoming nothing but a speck on the piece of paper). Continuing to take time for yourself and working on this “Numero Uno” principle will help you feel good about “you” in general and as well, go a long way in contributing to your weight control success.

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