Goals life

Rules, Upholding & Flexibility

February 16, 2023

I ran in the afternoon and didn’t die!

I recognize this is not really that exciting, except that it’s one of those unspoken rules for myself that I basically work out in the morning or never. That got me thinking about other things I consider rules that are actually . . . very much not.

Some of them serve me:

I pretty much only drink a) on vacation b) at a restaurant or c) at some social events. AND I pretty much always limit it to 1 in any of those contexts unless I have the ability to sleep in and then mayyyyyyybe 2 (RARE). Since my life is largely not very exciting, this means I do not drink that much. This framework seems to currently serve me.

I respect the boundaries of my allowance.

I feel compelled to get to clinical inbox zero before leaving work (with rare exceptions).

Some of them do not. Here a few that I have learned to break:

I am ‘not allowed’ to wear scrubs to clinic ➡ Guess what? I have now done so many times, and nothing bad happened. In fact, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my FIGS.

I choose high quality treats and not fast food. ➡ I LOVE DQ Blizzards. I do not eat them all that often but I wouldn’t call it a rarity either. (I could write a whole post on dietary ‘rules’ I have since abandoned. Remember the paleo phase? lol.)

I generally avoid taking any medicine. ➡ I don’t take all that many, but treating my PMDD and migraines with prescription medications have been very helpful.

AND, I am sure there are many that I haven’t figured out I can break yet.

What arbitrary rules have you created for yourself? Anything you wish you had given yourself permission to abandon sooner?

I was on Spawned podcast this week!

This was really fun since I’ve been listening to Spawned for years. Here’s the post and here’s an ep link!


  • Reply Grateful Kae February 16, 2023 at 6:44 pm

    I used to be the same with my gym time. If I didn’t get to the gym before ~4 p.m, I told myself I simply couldn’t go that day because it was “way too busy” at night. And yeah, it IS busy then, but it’s also not the end of the world. Some days it’s not even that busy, really, or even if it is, I can just deal with it and work around the other people. I made it this huge issue in my head for ages about it, until I finally went a few times and realized yep, it is indeed possible to go to the gym in the evening. Still not my favorite time, but better than not at all.

  • Reply Morgan February 16, 2023 at 7:57 pm

    This is really interesting! I am an upholder and I actually have a lot of difficulty with moderation and find more freedom through structure. Your semi-recent body image and mindful eating post really struck a chord for me – I struggle with the same things (and also feel kind of guilty for caring bc I’m trying so hard to rage against diet culture…)! But for me to reset and feel more comfortable in my skin, I find that I need to put more strict “rules” in place (a la paleo) in order to feel more at ease. Fascinating!

    • Reply Louise February 17, 2023 at 1:07 am

      I am in exactly the same place. I do find that if I ‘let’ myself eat carbs/sugar even in small amounts, then I tend to eat them in ever-increasing amounts but I can’t decide if it’s a physical response (i.e. the starch creates a craving cycle) OR it’s a psychological upholder response that once the never rule is broken, I just have no moderation option.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 17, 2023 at 6:14 am

        To be fair, I’ve always gravitated towards being a moderator in this realm (other than the paleo year!). And everything in that body image post holds true – I definitely care and I pay attention. I just find that there IS room for carb/sugar (the latter in moderation) and honestly now that I am more into running again I see that carbs are actually very helpful in certain contexts.

  • Reply Cat G February 16, 2023 at 11:01 pm

    As someone with ADHD- lol this is… wow! Also as a lawyer- WHEW, that rule about your inbox could be really dangerous. Also having a chronic illness, same as to the one about meds but it would have been really helpful for challenging my doctors’ default responses to my dx. Aka I have none, my response to you is fascination and a bit of jealousy, our brains are different- I’m flexible and that’s good and bad and just different.

  • Reply Amanda February 17, 2023 at 6:36 am

    It’s not necessarily a rule because I often go to bed with the house messier than I’d prefer but I’m really trying to care less about mess in the house. Before kids if the house was messy/laundry wasn’t done/bed wasn’t made I didn’t feel that it was acceptable. My kids are 4 and almost 1 and it’s just so hard to have things set the way I want them every day. It really does affect my mood negatively when things are messy, but I also get grumpy if I sacrifice too much sleep or personal time to constantly tidying up. I truly envy my husband who prefers things to be tidy (and thus helps out to a reasonable extent) but isn’t negatively affected in terms of his mood until things get into true disaster zone. This seems like a much more pleasant way to live in this stage of life.

  • Reply Coree February 17, 2023 at 6:44 am

    That’s so interesting how people approach things. I don’t know if I have any real hard and fast rules, but there are a few principles I mostly stick to.
    1. We don’t drive for in-town errands. I don’t drive at all, but unless the weather is dire, we walk or cycle everywhere, which also has the bonus of giving a significant amount of exercise.
    2. Conversely and hypocritically, if my flight lands after 8pm, I take a cab, not a bus, as a gift to myself.
    3. Airports are for working, flights are for reading novels. I have a 2x weekly short flight and this feels like such a treat, and it’s amazing how much quicker you can read when there’s no prospect of interruption.
    4. No buying unitaskers or single-use items (novelty tshirt for spirit day), etc. I hate stuff, I hate waste.

  • Reply Ashley G. February 17, 2023 at 8:43 am

    Love the comments here. This is all really interesting to me. I actively dislikes rules for the sake of rules (upholders amaze and confuse me haha) but I still have some weird internal ones that I live by and have to force myself to break from time to time for the sake of my sanity. i.e.: if I don’t make a ton of food on the weekend our week will be a disaster and I will have no healthy lunches, etc. This weekend I just forced myself to NOT do this and guess what…everything was fine.

    Also, DQ blizzards are the best.

  • Reply Chelsea February 17, 2023 at 9:27 am

    I’m a moderator in most things, but the one thing I find incredibly addictive and hard to moderate is diet soda. If I have access to it, I will drink gallons, and, unlike moderate consumption of chocolate or alcohol, it has absolutely no redeeming value.

    Since the new year, my DH and I have made a pact not to buy any diet soda in bulk from the grocery store. If we are out or traveling, we can get a single diet soda from the gas station, but we cannot keep it in the house. So far that’s been working pretty well. My consumption of fizzy water has gone way up, and I may need to experiment with some caffeinated fizzy waters for the summer when it’s hot and hot coffee isn’t appealing at lunch time, BUT fizzy water isn’t full of garbage the way Dt. Mt. Dew is.

    • Reply Angie February 17, 2023 at 10:01 am

      I have been going through the same thing. I love my Diet Coke. I’ve drastically cut back and now when I have it I find it kind of gross and can’t finish it. But I also feel better and don’t feel so bloated all the time. I definitely can’t keep it in the house though.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns February 17, 2023 at 10:18 am

    I find it interesting that as a physician, you avoid taking medicine! Although being able to say that means you have some privilege in terms of not needing to take medicine. I am on so many drugs and they are not optional because of my RA. So I am a bit more sensitive to comments about not taking medicine/medications. We talk a lot about “health care privilege” in our house because my husband is incredibly healthy and rarely has doctor appointments outside of his annual physicals and rarely has to fill prescriptions.

    One rule I have is that I won’t work out if I am ill/coming down with something. Any benefit I get from working out will potentially lengthen my course of illness so it’s not worth it for me and it’s best to let my body rest. I prefer to workout in the morning if possible, but I will workout around lunchtime or in the afternoon if that is when I can wedge it in. I won’t workout at night, generally, like after the boys are in bed. I have run at that time with my neighbor in the summer and it amps me up too much and makes it harder to fall asleep!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 17, 2023 at 3:38 pm

      The irony is I have to say trying to avoid was dumb! (And YES to this is 100% health privilege at play – kids with type 1 diabetes for example do not get to decide not to take medicine. Or those with autoimmune diseases . . or cancer . . . etc.)

  • Reply omdg February 17, 2023 at 12:03 pm

    I used to think I HAD to exercise before showering and that I have to shower after every workout. However I realized in residency that there are many forms of exercise that just don’t make me that sweaty (walking, lifting weights, core, yoga), so it is perfectly ok to shower first and then exercise later while I am watching TV or something. I also periodically find myself falling into the trap of thinking that I have to devote at least 30 minutes to a workout or else it’s not “worth it.” This leads me to skipping a lot of workouts. I’m trying to keep in mind that even if I am physically able to workout for longer, it’s still better to do 5-10 minutes of something rather than nothing.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 17, 2023 at 2:27 pm

      YESSS to the short bits of strength/core/etc not requiring a shower and fitting into smaller bits of time.

  • Reply coco February 17, 2023 at 9:51 pm

    I used to have so many rules….can’t remember why I had them. The number one rule is always do something productive for the day. Now… I’m totally fine “wasting” time. 🙂

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