Health

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Best self-help? Work

Tough love: Author Ruth Field encourages readers to listen to their 'Inner Bitch'.

Forget fads, fast-tracks and the easy life, the witty woman author behind 'Run Fat B!tch Run' tells Nathalie Marquez Courtney that the true path to happiness lies in hard work and true grit

 

The inimitable Ruth Field is back with a bang. She turned her attempts to get fit into a bestselling book and is now bringing her no-holds-barred tough-love attitude to the race of life with a new book.

'Get Your Sh!t Together' picks up from where 'Run Fat B!tch Run', takes off, and sees Ruth returning with her beloved dual personalities. There's the 'The Grit Doctor' or 'Inner Bitch', Ruth's "acid-tongued, arse-whipping" alter ego, who chastises readers into action. In the book, she encourages you to find your own Inner Bitch who will help push you into getting your act together. Filled with her trademark wit, the book tackles everything from managing job stress to cleaning the kitchen shelf.

But there's also Ruth's own anecdotes, which share her journey trying to "get my sh*t together".

"It's easier to share tough home truths if you can show that you're struggling with them as well, rather than saying, 'I'm here, and I have it all together', because that would be a lie," she says. "I think people are more willing to listen if they know that it's just as much a struggle for you as it is for everyone else."

Not a week goes by when there isn't a new expert dishing buzzwords about the latest stress and life managements approaches.

We are constantly presented with a new diet, new idea or new shortcut and Ruth is eager to stress that her approach is the opposite to that.

"Experts massively have their place," she begins. "But when we rely on experts for everything we sort of lose touch with our own basic sound judgement and common sense."

She warns against falling for being "spoonfed" advice, and losing touch with the ability to do things for ourselves.

"It would do us a lot of good to get back in touch with that, because it's very confidence building. Getting stuff done on your own, making decisions yourself and realising that you can be in charge is powerful."

She's also curious about what goes on behind the closed doors of people who constantly dishing advice. "Looking at all of these self-help experts – I wonder how many of them actually have their stuff together?" she asks.

"Is this working on the ground, is it actually helping people with their lives, or is it just making us rely on them even more?"

As well as moving away from our reliance on advice from others, Ruth urges people to stop comparing their messy, stressed-out lives to the seemingly perfect and together lives of friends. "I have a friend who, to me, is superwoman," she said. "She has three kids, runs her own business; she's just so organised and sufficient." But there is always a flip side.

"Whenever we have a deep and meaningful chat, she tells me that she's crippled with anxiety or has to take sleeping pills to go to sleep because she worries so much." The lesson here? Every life has a different set of challenges, and often the people who look the most successful are "carrying it somewhere else", Ruth said.

'There's something that's suffering as a result of having all this. It's quite reassuring, because you realise that it doesn't matter what you have or don't have; it's all about your attitude to where you're at."

In her book, Ruth advises that we shouldn't be afraid of hard work, and that tackling a task – instead of trying to find quick-fix ways of avoiding it – will leave you feeling much more content at the end of the day.

"I totally buy into that, I really feel so good after a hard day's graft, when I've really put myself out there and done as much as I can as well as I can," she said. "But when I give in to my lazier side, I'm left feeling even more tired and lacking in motivation, which is annoying.

"Sometimes you think if you have a lazy day that you'll feel all rested, but it doesn't work like that. Getting into action starts with something as small as cleaning out a kitchen shelf. You then apply this approach to bigger tasks, breaking them down into smaller components and working through bit by bit."

In the quest for a simple, streamlined, stress-free life, time seems to be the biggest nemesis. It is blamed for all the things we cannot do, but, Ruth explains, we need to take control back, and to admit that saying "I don't have time" is simply another way of saying "I don't want to".

"The truth is we all have the same amount of time, and we all get the stuff we choose to get done, done," she said. "There is always stuff that you can cut out to create time – nine times out of 10 that's TV. It's an obvious thing, we all know it."

She admits to being as bad as the next person when it comes to getting sucked in, but says we need to do the maths and shock ourselves into realising how much of a time-suck some TV shows are. "If you added up the hours, watching 'The X Factor' could mount up to weeks of your life."

Ultimately, there is no easy fix; you have to put down the remote, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. "Everyone is looking for a short cut," says Ruth. "But there's no magic in it – it's just hard work, that's it. "

'Get Your Sh!t Together' is out now.

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