I spent much of my life as an achiever. From college to a management consulting firm to a technology startup, I always thought that if I did more, it would be better.
Except that it wasn't.
I was eating compulsively, I felt exhausted by my social commitments and I had no idea what I actually wanted to do with my life beyond "have a fancy job that impresses people."
Then I saw this quote by Brenda Ueland: "So you see, imagination needs moodling--long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering."
Vegging. Moodling. Dawdling. Puttering.
You know: time lie of my bed and wiggle my toes, time to read a bunch of internet articles or watch a full movie just because I feel like it, time to read a magazine cover to cover and tear out the pretty pictures. Whatever is relaxing and totally useless.
I've found in my own life, and in my work with clients, that more vegging is a key (and often unacknowledged) step to healing our relationships with food, forming authentic relationships and getting a much better handle on meaningful work.
Wondering if you could use more veg time? Here are five signs:
1. You stay up way too late
If you notice that you are watching YouTube videos way past the time when you should go to bed, you may think "I'm already vegging too much! I'm staying up way too late!"
However, this is often a sign that you actually aren't building enough veg time into your day, so your deepest self sabotages you by making sure you get that time, at the expense of your need to sleep.
2. You have a hard time focusing on the things you need to get done
Doing high-quality, focused work requires having a full emotional and intellectual "well." But if you are constantly "doing" things - working, socializing, even doing fun activities - you may constantly emptying the well, but not spending time refilling it.
Puttering and vegging out are the most effective ways I know to refill the well so that you can do your great work and be present for those you love.
3. You find yourself over-eating.
As a coach that helps women learn to eat intuitively and lusciously, a huge thing that my clients struggle with is overeating before, during, or after work or social events.
Much of this happens because our deepest selves don't always want to be in "go" mode, so we end up eating in order to numb out our deep need to relax. Once you let yourself putter and be unproductive, eating in a healthier and intuitive way comes much more easily.
4. You feel like your desire to do nothing is endless
Many people are afraid of the intensity of their desire to do nothing. "If I let myself work less/socialize less/spend time puttering that was just for me, I would never want to stop. All I would do is watch movies on my computer and I'd lose my job and my health insurance and never save for retirement and end up on the street."
If you haven't let yourself really relax enough, the extent of your desire may be overwhelming. It definitely was for me at first - I felt like I could lay on my bed reading chick lit novels all day everyday for months. And, frankly, that was what I did in every free moment for quite some time.
But the only way to know if something is really endless is to try it. You may have a significant desire to putter and do nothing of societal value for a while, but if you really let yourself do it, it may end far sooner than you expect.
5. You scorn vegging
"I could be seeing friends/making art/doing work/saving the world! I'm not going to lie on my bed and read a trashy novel!"
Sure, that's just fine. But if you find yourself frustrated by your inability to "get things done" as much as you'd like, or feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day, vegging can make a huge difference.
Sometimes forcing yourself to reduce the list of have-tos, and allowing yourself to putter, can allow you to focus on what you really have to get done.
Think your lifestyle might be affecting how you eat? Check out Katie's free "What's Your Eating Style" Quiz, plus recommendations tailored just for you.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.