How do you know what works for you?

by Kim on March 11, 2014

Thanks for all the love on my announcement last week!

(And my apologies to those of you who were totally confused by it! My humor is completely weird and unpredictable sometimes.)


I’ll be 17 weeks this Saturday. We’re super excited, especially after the pitfalls we experienced last fall. I promise to fill you in on how my first trimester went down later this week!

This will be my first time blogging through a pregnancy, which is kind of exciting for me–but I certainly don’t want you thinking it’s going to take center stage around here. I don’t see myself doing the weekly bump update thing, just because I can only imagine how bored you guys would get of me answering the same questions every week. :) But I’ll definitely be stopping by with semi-regular preggo check-ins, and I also have a few pregnancy-related topics I’m excited to talk about.

As for the labor…live tweeting?? Thoughts?? (Kidding…mostly…)

Anyway. There’s something that’s been simmering on my brain for awhile now, and I wanted to run it by you guys today.

Let’s talk about the phrase “works for you.”

I have a little bit of beef with this phrase, only because it’s used so often–especially in the health/fitness community–that I feel like it’s losing meaning.

There are two primary examples of times that “works for you” tends to pop into conversation. Example 1 is the Disclaimer, where, after offering advice, people backpedal into the safety of “but you have to find what works for you.” Example 2 is the Defense, where people share a personal approach to something and then ward of judgement by saying “that’s just what works for me.”

When I hear the Disclaimer, I feel deflated. All those great ideas and now I’m just on my own? When I hear the Defense, I feel sad that we (myself included) feel like we have to justify our choices by constantly reminding everyone that we’re all different.

But most tragically of all, the more I hear this phrase, the more I lose sight of what it means. What does work for me? What makes me so different from this other person that their methods wouldn’t make sense for me?


And how do I know if what I’m currently doing is working for me or not? Until I’ve tried everything on the planet, can I ever be completely sure? (I mean–could I have even more energy? Could I be even happier? Could my skin be even clearer?)

For the past few months, every time I’d hear or read that phrase, I’d start picking it apart in my head. What do people really mean when they say “works for you” or “works for me”? What would a more helpful and constructive synonym be?


Eventually, I came up with this: find “what you are willing and able to do.”

The Paleo diet doesn’t work for me, not because I don’t think it would be beneficial for my health, but because I’m not willing to completely give up grains and dairy.

CrossFit doesn’t work for me, not because I don’t think I’d like it (I probably would), but because I don’t want to pay for it and I like the variety of my current exercise routine.

Sugar detoxes don’t work for me because, well–I just can’t. (Haha–ok, more accurately, I just don’t want to.)

Marathoning doesn’t work for me anymore, because I’m not willing (or able) to devote the time to training. (Plus a few other reasons, but that’s the biggest one.)

Next time you hear or read something telling you to “find what works for you,” see if this version brings you any additional clarity. And when you hear the phrase used as a defense, know that there are probably some more concrete, perfectly relatable reasons buried underneath it.

Although I was thinking about this mostly as it applies to the health/fitness world, it can work outside of that bubble too. Cloth diapering doesn’t work for me, not because I know from experience (having never actually tried it) or because I don’t think it’s a great thing (it is), but because I’m intimidated by the process, the up-front price, and the laundry. Could I be convinced to change my mind? Probably. But I’m not in a place where I’m ready to consider that right now, and therefore, it doesn’t currently “work for me.”

There’s one more little nuance to all this. (It’s completely obvious, but still worth saying.) In addition to something you’re willing and able to do, what “works for you” also has to be something you believe in. If veganism works for you because you’re super passionate about animal rights, that’s going to trump willingness and ability–you’ll find a way to make it happen. If you don’t believe the Paleo diet is the optimal way to eat, you’re not going to do it even if it’s the easiest thing in the world for you to do.

The most important thing is: you need to be behind your own ideas. If you find yourself covering up the unknowns with the “works for me” blanket, try digging deeper to find the real reasons you do what you do.

To be clear, I’m not against the “works for you” phrase, at all. I’ll probably use it a bazillion more times myself. It definitely has its place, as long as it stays meaningful.

What do you think of the “works for you” phrase?

What’s something that does or doesn’t work for you, and why?



{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

char eats greens March 14, 2014 at 8:39 am

I love the light you look at this in, and you know what? I don’t think I hardly ever use that phrase. I mean, it makes sense to do what works for you (in the sense that no one can ever fully know what/how/when/why you do things to make assumptions on what you SHOULD do!), but I really do believe that people use it as a safety net so no one can come at them!

I like the idea of what you’re willing to do – clearly with your vegan example (am I the subject of that idea? haha) because obviously if I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons, then I wouldn’t be doing it right or for very long. :)

I just love the way you write. And your bambino.
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Kim March 14, 2014 at 8:46 am

Yeah I totally get the safety net–I’m sure I’ve done it too, and probably will again–but I just know that when I hear that phrase, I tend to think it means more than it does. Like I’m supposed to know whether something works for me, and how to figure that out, when really it’s those exact answers that I’m looking for. (This is mostly coming from me listening to too many podcasts, haha.)The vegan example was totally not just you, haha, although I did think of you! :) Veganism just came to mind as a top example of something you might do for an ethical reason, because you believe in it, rather than just because you think it’s healthy.


emma @ be mom strong March 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Popping over to say hello! And love this topic… I think it was originally used with good intentions but now it is overused as an excuse.
I do what I feel like doing but realize the consequences before doing it. That’s what I tell people too… if you’re ok with indulging and not going to sit around and complain about how you ate so much, but rather savor the moment and make it sporadic, go for it!
Yay for August babies!
Can’t wait to follow you!
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Kim March 14, 2014 at 8:57 am

Thanks for stopping by Emma! Looking forward to following each other’s pregnancies. :)


Larissa March 12, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Oh I love this! Your alternative “find what you are able and willing to do – and are passionate about” is perfect. It’s the combination that’s key. I know I am able to run a full marathon if I trained for it, but I simply don’t want to right now. I’m really happy with my 10k-half mary distances. I am able to eat really clean, but I like my afternoon hot chocolate, homemade pizza and graham crackers with milk.

I know I am ABLE to lose the 7-10 pounds I’d like to drop, but I’m not willing enough – and unhappy with my weight enough – to make the more drastic changes necessary to get there.
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Kim March 14, 2014 at 8:58 am

Exactly! I mean, I COULD have a 6 pack…

Wow, hot chocolate, homemade pizza and graham crackers all sound excellent right now. Good choices.


Presley @ Run Pretty March 11, 2014 at 9:11 pm

OMG how did I not know my bestie was pregnant? ;) hahah I am the WORST internet friend.


Make sure you do what’s best for you during this process. Kidding. Do what you WANT or NEED to do. Did I get it right?

Sorry for all the caps, I’m exhausted and confused.
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Kim March 12, 2014 at 8:35 am

Don’t worry, I just announced Friday and you were understandably busy being rich and famous in California. Thank you for remembering us little people! :)


Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate March 11, 2014 at 7:41 pm

UM…how did I miss this?! A huge congratulations to you!!!
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Kim March 12, 2014 at 8:36 am

Thanks Katie! You didn’t miss much–I sneaked the announcement in while you were gone. :)


Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries March 11, 2014 at 4:58 pm

I’ve never even THOUGHT of this, but I’m liking what you have to say about it. You make some really good points. I guess you just have to do what works for you. Haha. Just kidding. ;) But in all seriousness, I will be thinking twice the next time I’m about to type or say that. I think the phrase helps give some cushion (at least for me) in fear that someone will say something rude or mean back to me. But, I just need to get over it and recognize that if I’m going to write a blog, I need to be willing to get the occasional backlash.
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Kim March 12, 2014 at 8:43 am

Oh I totally understand the cushion! Like I said, I’m sure I’ll use it again too. We’re not always going to want to explain all the reasons behind our decisions, and we don’t have to. :) I’ve just been listening to a lot of podcasts lately and this phrase comes up coooonstantly, but people hardly ever explain what to do with it. And then I’m left feeling unsure about all the advice they just gave me! Plus, it makes me think that people are going through these long soul-searching processes to find what “works” for them, and I should be doing that too–when really, it might just be a coincidental decision or a random preference. Does that make sense? :)


Sarah @ Run Shop Eat Repeat March 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Great post, I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog! I’m not a huuuge fan of the phrase either. Seems defensive and can sting a bit, depending on the situation. Fad diets and cutting out entire food groups, like Paleo, don’t “work for me” simply because I enjoy the variety that my current diet offers. Weight Watchers on the other hand does work for me. Since it’s basically just portion control (and that’s always been my downfall) I find it to be easy, healthy and sustainable… for me :) Congrats by the way!
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Kim March 12, 2014 at 8:46 am

Exactly! I think when people say things like “Paleo doesn’t work for me,” it’s easy for others to hear “Paleo is stupid and I’m secretly judging anyone who follows it.” The “works for me” thing has definitely gained a negative connotation, even though it’s usually not meant that way!


Rachel@curious runner March 11, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Your bump looks very cute! Look forward to keeping up with all your preggo posts and how you’re getting on with it all. Whatever works for you… JOKES! Great tips, I am so with you on the ‘what works for you’ phrase. I have a one year old and it was the phrase I had a love/hate relationship with this whole last year. What does it even mean people!!! You’ve put on great spin on it here :)
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Kim March 11, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Ohh yeah, nothing makes you question things (especially yourself) like motherhood! I used to have everything all figured out. :)


Heather @fitncookies March 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm

This is so true and something I really haven’t thought about. You are so right though that things that don’t “work for me” is because I don’t want to do them or don’t think I can. Some things I would be honest and say it doesn’t work for me but I just love the thoughts behind this!
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Kim March 11, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Exactly! Thanks for stopping by Heather!


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