One of the most memorable things I learned in elementary school was to STOP, DROP, and ROLL. In the event that our clothing caught on fire, we were trained to:

-STOP because if we started running around in panic, the increased air flow would also increase the flames.

-DROP so that more of our body was touching ground instead of air.

-ROLL to insure that the fire was smothered by the lack of air, and also didn’t spread to other parts of our body.

In the long run, the simplest mantra is usually the most effective. For instance, I try not to over complicate my health routines. I tend to be a perfectionist and put unnecessary pressures on myself in so many aspects of life, to the point where I don’t need to add any more. I have been known to joke that I keep myself “sane” by either exercising or eating healthy. Yes, doing both consistently at the same time is best, but if I’ve at least accomplished one of those goals per day, if I am “doing something” to further my health and wellness, I know that my mind will ease off the Bigger Girl label I tend to give myself. Even if I haven’t lost any inches from my body, “doing something” alleviates my worry about wearing skinny jeans, and I even look forward to getting out of my home and getting around people! In essence, I am sane!!! Usually, implementing the simplest rules of health and wellness are enough to keep me in this positive frame of mind, this “sanity”, but any routine can get stale, and anyone can grow impatient about seeing more obvious results from the time and work they put into their health. So sometimes I kick it up a notch!

I will read a self help book, and I will usually think it’s wonderful, and that I have totally connected. A week goes by, I have been talking about it, going to the gym more, cleaning out my refrigerator…Two weeks go by, and something happens to upset my new healthy routine. I didn’t get enough sleep the night before so I skip out on the gym. I go so long without eating that when I realize how hungry I am, I treat myself to a big serving of ice cream. Then, since I’ve “blown” the day, I keep feeding myself “fun” foods like chips, pizza, and anything with cheese! By bedtime, I feel defeated. I feel like my stomach got replaced with a bowling ball! I want to throw away the self help book because it obviously doesn’t apply to someone like me with weak self control. The next day, I sleep in again because I don’t want to cram my bowling ball of a belly into a swimsuit or workout pants. There was even a time I stayed home from church because I couldn’t find anything to wear that didn’t make me look and feel fat! I couldn’t face the “public”. And the WORST part… Wearing my Bigger Girl label, I mustered the last of my energy to face the drive-thru, aquired even more of the comfort food culprits, and brought it all back to solitary confinement. Round 2 of self-destruction thus began…

The self-destruction part for me is not the eating of junk food every now and then. It’s the feelings of failure that accompany it, and my “hiding out” reactions. The perfectionist side of me sees the mistake I’ve made, refuses to forgive me, and tells me it was useless to live up to some new routine anyway. In a nutshell, my judge/jury/executioner mentality sentences me to more punishment! One mistake reverts me back to seeing myself as I used to see myself: The Bigger Girl who can’t change and can’t improve, who can’t measure up. I look at the self help book and think, “I wish I could be as strong as the author.” I drive by the gym and think, “I wish I could stick to my workouts.” I pass by the vegetable aisle at the grocery store and think, “Preparing all this healthy food just takes too long.” I give up. It’s too much of a pain to try again.

You know what’s too much of a pain? Giving up! Being a bigger girl is neither good nor bad. It’s just where some of us are, and it’s all relative (in the eye of the beholder) anyway! But the Bigger Girl label is bad…It is a label that LIES to us, with all it’s negative connotations, somehow giving us permission to treat ourselves as less than others; disqualified and undeserving of encouragement, change, and betterment. Let’s rewind to my bowling ball belly moment: I am feeling so much weight, both physically and emotionally. I am at a place of weakness, vulnerability, and self loathing. If I were with a loved one who was in the same position, would I become their judge/jury/executioner and punish them for where they were in that moment? Would I call them a fat failure and sentence them to stay away from the gym and eat junk food and avoid going out in public? NEVER! I would NEVER fuel the fire of shame and defeat in someone I cherish! If we saw someone, anyone, catching on fire and writhing in panic and pain, we would find a way to COVER them with something to extinguish the flames! WE WOULD PUT THE FIRE OUT!!! So why can’t we do the same for ourselves?

Well we can! Just like I was taught in elementary school, STOP, DROP, and ROLL!

-STOP the Thought: So you’ve made a mistake and you’re starting to panic. Your mind is about to run with the idea that you are a “failure”, and that fire will be fed with many lies about you that will keep those flames going. You must STOP your self-labeling right then and there, before it grows and starts to cause you pain!

-DROP the Charges: So you’re thinking of putting yourself in solitary confinement. Well don’t. Instead of punishing yourself, which fans the flames of your failure label, think of what you would encourage your loved one to do. Pick up the self help book, the Bible, the phone, and connect to encouraging words instead of your own punishing words. Pick up the car keys or your walking shoes, because YOU can release yourself from solitary confinement!

-ROLL Forward: So you think you’ve put out the fire. That means, when you wake up the next day, it will not have spread to other parts of your mind. To make sure that the fire is completely out, you must drag yourself outta bed (ROLL if you have to!) and make sure you continue with your original healthy regimen. Remember what got you started on being healthier in the first place. Be specific about how positive you felt, how motivated you were, and the strongest reasons for change. Get to the gym, get to church, get to the veggie aisle…Keep on rollin’, because you are worth putting out the flames of your pain!

Elementary school taught me other extremely important things like reading, writing, and arithmetic. But honestly, what good would any of that do me if I was burning and couldn’t stop the flames?! How are you able to do your job, take care of your family, and bless others if you are burning in panic and pain? We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not disqualified from a healthier us when we make a mistake, eat too much junk food, miss the gym, or even go to bed with a bowling ball belly! Fires happen. Sometimes they are accidents. Sometimes they are set on purpose. Whatever the reason your latest fire got started, you deserve to be covered. Don’t allow those first sparks to grow into flames and begin consuming you. If you are home alone, like I am, when my thoughts first turn to giving up, now you have a fire prevention technique you can use on yourself… STOP, DROP, and ROLL!