The Manual | Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms with Dr. Priyanka Venugopal

Episode #9: The Manual

May 31, 2022

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Did you know that you have a rulebook for how the world works… well, how you think the world should work? We call it your manual. You have one for your kids, your relationships, and even weight loss. Most of us aren’t even aware that we have this rulebook, but the moment you start to uncover and explore it, creating lightness in your life becomes so much easier.

Last week, I spoke about my child covering his face during his school performance. Well, it turns out he had a very understandable reason for acting that way. At the time, I was uncomfortable because he wasn’t following what I thought were reasonable expectations. But in reality, this was my manual, and my son didn’t even know I had it.

Tune in this week to discover what you have a manual for, and why you might want to put it down. I’m sharing where this rulebook comes from, why we have it, and I’m giving you some insight into the results this manual is creating in your life. Then, you can decide whether or not you want to keep it.


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What your manual is and why you have probably never noticed it.
  • Why your “reasonable expectations” aren’t universally true.
  • A non-exhaustive list of things you probably have a manual for.
  • How your manuals are coloring your experience of everything in your life.
  • Why we believe we can only feel calm and confident when we’re in control of our surroundings.
  • How to see exactly what your manual is creating in your life, and whether you want to keep it.


Listen to the Full Episode:



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Full Episode Transcript:

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Priyanka: [00:00:00] Hey, I'm Dr. Priyanka Venugopal and you're listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms - Episode 9, The Manual.

In today's episode, we are going to be talking about your rule book for the world. This is your rule book for your kids, your relationships, and even weight loss. I would say for most of us, we aren't even aware that we have this rule book, but the moment that you start to uncover it and explore it, you will start to be able to create so much more lightness in your life.

If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body, you need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions infused into your life. I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories or crazy exercise plans. Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and in my life.

There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the skills I'm going to be teaching you. Ready? [00:01:00] Let's get to it.

Welcome back, Friend!

Oh, my gosh. I have to tell you the follow-up for last week's music show story. So, last week I recorded this podcast right after blocking off my morning to watch my son's performance for a musical show they had at school. And there were many shenanigans that left me feeling embarrassed and concerned and worried... and annoyed.... and embarrassed.

You can go back and listen to episode eight for the whole story. And I didn't even tell you all that after the first song of their music show, a teacher came up and checked on him and my son left the stage. He chose to leave the stage and I stayed there until the very end feeling a flood of emotions, holding it all together, amidst feeling embarrassed and concerned and annoyed.

Anyways last week's episode really shared with you how I observed my primitive brain's most reflexive thoughts.

Is he okay?

I can't believe he's acting that [00:02:00] way.

None of the other kids are...

what are the other parents thinking?

And these thoughts created a flood of emotions. But just noticing them freeing myself of personal judgment is what allowed me to access some compassion and curiosity, for myself and for him. You better believe I asked him about it when he got home. So I had to finish the story of what he told me in today's episode, before we dive in. So he gets home that day from school and I said, "Hey, I loved coming school today. I noticed that you were shuffling around a lot and you were covering your face with your mask in the middle of the music show, at one point of the teachers even came up to you and you left the state. What was up??"

He looks at me and he says, so matter of factly, "Mommy, you know, I don't like my picture being taken. And all of these people are in the audience and they were all taking pictures. So of course I had to cover my face!"

Guys, my heart melted. Because [00:03:00] the thing is, I do know this about him. He has always had a thing I would say for a couple of years now that he doesn't like his photo being taken most of the time. He's very particular about the way that his photo was taken. Or if it's a video, if he's jamming out on the piano or if he's doing like a personal music performance, then he loves it. But when it comes to posing for photos, he's usually a no. Unless I talk to him about it in advance.

So the whole drama from last week in his brain, wasn't a drama at all. He just didn't like photos, and so naturally he covered his face and left the stage. It made perfect sense, but in my mom brain, I kicked up so many reflexive primitive thoughts that create an embarrassment, annoyance and concern.

Really, it was just because I wanted to belong to the herd-- and this is natural and normal. I think it's stronger for women and it's really true for many of us, we want to belong. And this desire is [00:04:00] rooted in primitive survival. Think back to eons and eons ago, belonging to the herd meant your survival. It makes so much sense that our primitive brains have hardwired our desire for this.

Any suggestion of being kicked out of the pack or being different or doing something differently than the group is an immediate sign of danger. Naturally, my primitive brain had so many thoughts simply because I didn't want to be different and I didn't want him to be different.

What were the other parents thinking?

Sure. They might not have noticed or had a second thought about it-- it's totally possible.

Or they totally might judge him. They might judge me. Listen, canceling play dates is the same thing as being kicked out of the herd, friends. Even to our brilliant Mom Brains.

And guess what? Here's the honest truth.

They might.

It's true that they might judge us because let's be honest humans, judge. You know, you do. How often do you see another human, your [00:05:00] your kid, your partner, your friend, your family, the neighbor, that other kid on the playground, that other mom and have a thought that is laced in just a little bit of judgment.

Come on, be honest.

It's because we know that we judge other people that we worry about other people having those same judgy thoughts about us. So we all go around with our judgy thoughts, trying not to be judged ourself. I mean, isn't it kind of silly?

I'm laughing about this right now. Only because I can see it and I can see it so clearly.

But when you're in the deep doo-doo of judgment, either you being judged or you doing the judging, really, it doesn't feel so good. Either way, it feels heavy, doesn't it?

So for now we can just agree that people, including you, have thousands of thoughts per day, and some of them will be laced with judgment.

But here's the best news: you never, ever, ever, ever need to judge yourself [00:06:00] ever again.

Let's just take a load off.

So we have these many thousands and thousands of thoughts per day. Some of them are reflexive and primitive while others are brilliant thinking. And what we always want to know is that our primitive thoughts will create primitive feelings, which will drive primitive actions, creating a survival results.

And to create brilliant results on the scale and in your life requires brilliant solutions. It requires your most abundant and brilliant feelings, which come from your brilliant thinking.

Both your primitive brain and your brilliant thinking can have a layer on top. And that's what we're talking about today. This layer of judgment, blame, criticism, or some flavor of this is the most optional layer-- and as is the easiest to peel back. Doing this peeling back, this layer will help you feel so much lighter.

I had to share how the story ended with the music show and it's the perfect segue to today. And it [00:07:00] brings me to today's topic. Yes. I had a flood of reflexive, primitive thoughts, and a flood of primitive emotions, but I also had some deep seeded rules in my mind for how I thought things should be.

This is called having a Manual.

As the name implies, The Manual is a rule book.

It's your rule book for everything in the world and likely you haven't been actively aware of it. And like for most of us, this manual is thick. We don't even know we have this very thick rule book because our own brain thinks we just have "reasonable expectations."

I'm putting, and you can see me- I'm putting a "reasonable expectations" in air quotes because they seem reasonable to us.

It's reasonable to me that my kid not cover his face with a mask during a school performance. Maybe I haven't thought like "that's so rude, it's disrespectful."

My son doesn't think that that's very reasonable. He thinks "I don't want people taking pictures of me. I better cover my [00:08:00] face."

So what I perceive as reasonable expectations, isn't universally true.

The other important element of these manuals that we carry is often the people in our life don't even know we have them. So this manual ends up being an unwritten and unsaid list of rules that we just carry around. You might have a manual for your kids, your spouse, your neighbors, your family, your boss, your time, your weight-loss, yourself.

You probably have a manual for that kid at the playground and that other mom.

These manuals, as I'm about to describe-- color, your experience of yourself and your relationships. Your relationships with everybody in your life, your relationships with your kids, your spouse and yourself are influencing the texture of how you feel in your body. This manual, or the rules or expectations characterize the flavor of how you think things should be.

And because things aren't that way [00:09:00] right now, it creates a struggle.

Here's some thoughts that might be familiar for you.

My kid should behave a certain way.

My spouse shouldn't do that thing.

My family should support me.

My boss shouldn't be so demanding.

I should have lost the weight by now.

I should have hit that goal.

That kid on the playground should be more respectful.

That mom should get her kid under control.

Here's why we have these rulebooks. There's some belief, deep in the recesses of your brain that believe if only my rule book was followed, then I would get to feel in control, calm, confident, proud, even respected. And then with years and decades of programming, we just become accustomed to believing that these feelings are contingent on the manual being followed.

And so our brain gets to work and we started believing this more and more deeply. Remember, our brain just wants to prove us right.

We start [00:10:00] thinking if my kid behaved a certain way, then I wouldn't feel embarrassed.

If my partner was more attentive, then I would feel connected.

If I just lost the weight, then I would feel confident and proud this.

If- then relationship keeps abundant feelings like connected, calm, confident, and proud hostage and at the whim of outside influences. No wonder we want to control so much and no wonder our manuals have gotten so thick.

But here's what this is really all about. We just want to control how we feel.

And because of longstanding programming, we think that we can only feel calm, confident, and proud when things go a certain way. When people behave a certain way or when we lose weight or have the results in hand.

Now the purpose of this episode and discussing the manual isn't to have you throw your rule book out the window. You can keep it if you want. What we're exploring in this episode [00:11:00] is where your rule book came from, why we have it and what it's really creating for you.

And then you just get to decide.

Do you want to keep it, modify it, maybe throw the whole thing out the window.

This manual or your set of shoulds and shouldn'ts was formed at a really, really young age. And it was influenced by your own experiences in your own childhood. Maybe it was the way that you were parented. Maybe it was influenced by certain cultural or social norms. Maybe you saw something in the movies or at a friend's house, or read something in a book. Maybe you picked things up from your friends and teachers. You looked around and you took it all in and at a very youg age, you created some beliefs for how things should be.

I promise you, you did not come out of the womb with these shoulds and shouldn'ts. You learned them. And at our youngest years, they were passed down to you from family, friends, and society who were operating in their best capacity with their own rule book. [00:12:00] This is what creates generational beliefs, passing manuals and rule books down from generation to generation.

It makes so much sense that humans do this because we're passing down so much-- we're passing down culture and belief and stories. Right?

But these are passed down as well. These unsaid rules for how things should and shouldn't be. And while some of these may have been very useful at some point in the past, we've never really re-observed them or challenged them until today.

That's what we're exploring here together. It's not to throw out your rule book, but to simply know that you have one and to start to notice what it's creating for you on the scale and in your life. So now, you know why we have a manual. We think we get to feel a certain way when our rules are followed. And now we also know where our manual comes from. It's just a compilation of thoughts and beliefs that were taught over the years.

So now I want to ask you, what is your manual creating for you, really? [00:13:00]

Let's explore that together in both relationship examples and a weight loss example.

Here's an example of a Manual that someone might have for their husband.

"My husband should ask me about my day."

When I have this rule, I have a certain emotion in my body. It might be a little righteous, maybe judgy, maybe annoyed, if he doesn't, it feels heavy, doesn't it?

And then let's take this one step further. How do you show up with your husband when you think this way?

What actions or inactions do you take? Now, if he does ask you about your day, you and him are off the hook. Awesome. But if he doesn't ask you about your day, maybe you feel annoyed, which leads to maybe the silent treatment, or maybe you pick a fight or snip about something. It just leads to more disconnection.

So the rule that you had, he should ask about my day was only there because you want it to feel connected, right? But here you leave feeling more disconnect.

You could do this exercise [00:14:00] with every role that you have in every single relationship. And remember, as I said, we have thick manuals for the people in our life, especially our loved ones.

I just gave you one small example.

Here's an example with weight loss: I should have lost the weight by now. This creates a feeling of discouraged, blame,. Deflated. Think of it, how you show up for yourself when you keep this thought, this rule for yourself. Likely you're going to give up more easily. Maybe you blame yourself or look for all the reasons that it's been so hard.

And this creates the result of you still not losing the weight and it staying hard.

We think that these should thoughts, these rule books will whip us to take action. And it seems so true and so useful. It's only because at some level you believe if you had already lost the weight, then you would get to feel confident and proud. This is holding confident and proud hostage until the "should rulebook" is followed, but I'm telling you this doesn't work. [00:15:00] And it deprives you a feeling proud, confident, and lit up right now in the work of actually losing the weight.

It's so interesting, right- to explore where our manuals come from and why we've had them. And I think you're starting to see a flavor of what keeping these manuals really is creating for your life.

This kind of brings you back to even the story about my son. I have a manual for how my son should behave. I know exactly how I teach him and how I parent him.

So my manual is "he should behave."

And I'm sure he has a manual: "People shouldn't take photos of me."

And maybe other parents in the audience have their manual, maybe-- "that kid shouldn't behave that way" or "that mom should teach her kid better."

Do you see all these manuals that we have?

They're just the source of our judgment, blame, shame, and criticism. And it's this layer on top that we get to explore right now and release if we want to. Can I just tell you I got the funniest visual of a room full of adults holding those like old telephone books from back in my youth. I don't know [00:16:00] if you are remembering what I'm talking about, but back in the day, I would say in the eighties and nineties, and even early two thousands, we had these phone books that were really thick and really heavy.

And I'm just visualizing us walking around with these thick manuals, knocking each other over the head.

Okay, but I can hear what you're saying. "Priyanka, are you saying that I cannot have expectations of my kid, my partner, myself?"

Of course you can.

Let's break this down.

So the manual is your set of rules and this manual has attached how you feel with the rules being followed. That's the part that we don't have to do.

But of course we can have expectations of ourselves and the people in our life. We're just not hanging our whole experience and how we feel contingent on them being followed.

Because no matter what you think you can't actually control other people: what they'll say or what they'll do.

So then what?

Then we get to have expectations that we communicate [00:17:00] clearly or requests that we can express to our loved ones. For a moment, let's just focus on adults. Imagine instead of having a thick, rule book for that adult relationship in your life, you made a request.

So let's go back to my last example about a husband.

"My husband should ask me about my day." If he follows the manual. Awesome. I feel cared for, but if he doesn't, then I get to feel annoyed or neglected.

Instead of this, making a request is clearly communicating your desire or wishes in advance. Now let's pretend that there are no mind readers in this relationship. And even though your husband has known you for 10 years still needs you to clearly communicate your desires in advance. Here's what our request would sound like:

"Hi husband, I would love if you asked me about my day, because I love connecting and conversing with you about what's going. And if you like, I love to ask about your day too."

And then here's the crux --he gets to choose [00:18:00] because he's his own free agent. He gets to decide whether or not he wants to fulfill your request. If he asks about your day, amazing. And if he doesn't, you don't hold it against him. We aren't dependent on him to fulfill you anymore. We're not needing him to create connection. You get to create the feeling of fulfillment and connection first.

Really check into the energy of how each of these feel.

The first was: "my husband should ask me about my day."

It's heavy is dependent, demanding; it's requiring something of someone else to fulfill your needs.

Versus, "Hey husband, I would love if you asked me about my day."

It feels light, like a request. It's open where you get to fulfill yourself and then you just get to delight in the relationship.

This is what lets your loved ones be themselves while also letting your voice be heard.

It's a win-win when you both get to be [00:19:00] yourself.

Now, I want to insert a caveat here. This doesn't apply when it comes to safety, when you're protecting your emotional wellness. And this is where you can take requests to the next level by setting boundaries.

Boundaries are also clearly communicated in advance like a request, but then you also add a caveat for what you will do if your request isn't honored.

For example, "if you raise your voice with me, I'll be leaving the room."

"If you mentioned my weight again, I'll be hanging up the."

"If you show up 30 minutes late, I'll be leaving without you."

Even, these are effectively neutral. Notice how there's no judgment, blame or criticism in either of these boundaries. You're just letting the other person know what you will be doing. It's you taking back complete agency and ownership. You're not demanding anything of them or threatening them.

You're taking control and one, a hundred percent responsibility [00:20:00] of you and your emotional wellness.

I would say for the most part, boundaries are rarely used, but it does depend on the nature of your relationships. So how do you know when to make a request versus create a boundary?

I think the clearest way to know is when there's an issue of you feeling safe because creating boundaries is about protection of you and your emotional wellness.

 Now, if you ever feel physically threatened or your personal safety is at risk, always, always tell someone and please reach out for help. But the examples I gave in this episode was talking about making a requests and even setting boundaries with another adult.

What about yourself-- what does it look like to make requests with yourself?

Let me share a weight loss example.

We have the thought "I should have lost weight by now," or "I should have figured it out."

This is just your manual for yourself. And this manual is laced with judgment. Can you sense it? Yet we hold onto this manual so tightly thinking, we're just keeping it [00:21:00] real and saying how it is.

"I should have lost weight by now,' is a rule that's keeping your thinking myopic.

You're believing if I had just figured it out by now, or if I just lost the weight, then I would feel better. It's relying on weight loss, the number on the scale to create a feeling for you.

Can you see why so many working moms struggle with weight loss and why so many women try to lose weight without any joy? This one is hard and it's deeply grooved. We are so used to the A-plus, the gold stars to fuel our sense of pride and accomplishment and what I call the ooey, gooey good feelings of joy.

But this is taking you completely out of emotional responsibility. What would it look like in this example to release the manual of yourself? Instead of thinking, "I should have lost this weight by now..." imagine thinking "I would love to lose weight now."

How does that shift feel?

It's so simple, but it takes you out of blame and judgment, which is really just an [00:22:00] abdication of responsibility into complete and loving ownership.

Here's what I want to share about the manual. When you're unaware of it, it's easy to slip out of emotional responsibility. It's easy to judge, shame, blame, or criticize the outside for how you feel. Blame, judgment, and criticism of the kid, the partner, your time, the number on the scale, your work, your money is just a layer that's preventing you from owning your experience. And it's keeping calm, confident, and proud hostage. Because it keeps you at the whim of something outside of yourself. It's keeping calm, confident, and proud on hold until your kid behaves the right way until your partner says the right thing, until the weight is the right number on the scale.

We never ever, ever need to do this ever again.

And I'm inviting you to challenge your manual for this reason. Working moms need an infusion of simplicity and joy in their life right now. [00:23:00] And it happens by releasing the reigns on your thick rule book.

Now I hear you saying, "but really are you saying they shouldn't have any rules for my kid?"

Well, no. Children are in our charge. It's our role to nurture them and teach them. Right?

Of course, but we aren't attaching our feelings to how they take in your nurturing parenting or teaching. So for our children or even employees in your charge, you still communicate clearly you share the rules in advance, and then you also get to decide in advance what the consequences, for lack of a better word, would be if the rules aren't followed.

There's no emotional blackmail.

For example, "let's say I told my son, listen, we have some family rules when you're playing with your sister and she wants to turn, please acknowledge her and let her know when she can have a turn."

This is a fresh example, by the way, because this has been a thing in my house. And that'll add, "if you aren't acknowledging her or responding, we're going to take a break from that toy for [00:24:00] five minutes...." something like this.

Another example, "we don't hit because we don't want anyone to get hurt. If there's hitting, there's going to be a consequence."

And then you get to decide what fits well for your family. And if there is hitting or in my case, my kid's not acknowledging his sister, I don't get-- I just respond neutrally. "Oh, you didn't follow the family rule, remember our plan?" And then you just follow through on the plan.

I'm not getting mad, annoyed, yelling or irritated at my kid for not listening or following the rules.

I'm not judging him for following the rules and I'm not judging myself for not parenting him well.

We're doing none of that.

I'm calm, controlled, and neutral. And the beauty of this practice is that you start to tap into curiosity so much more easily when you're not weighed down by judgy, blamey anger. Because his behavior means nothing about you as his perfect parent.

And it's so much more available to wonder. [00:25:00]

"Hmm. I wonder why he hit? I wonder what skills he needs to learn when he gets upset."

"Hmm. I wonder why he doesn't acknowledge his sister. I wonder what skills he needs to learn."

"Hmm. I wonder why I haven't lost the week yet. I wonder what skills I want to learn."

Judgment, blame and criticism is just a product of keeping your thick manuals and it's the fastest way to squash exponential growth.

So with my kid at the music show, I could observe my primitive brain having all of its reflexive thoughts and have no judgment about it. I knew he was doing his shenanigans, which I understand now didn't mean anything me or my parenting, or how good of a mom I am.

And it meant nothing about him being a good kid.

I could watch myself. I could sense my primitive brain, even though sure, maybe other people whose thoughts I don't control were having their thoughts.

But I had no judgments about it.

I could release myself. And it allowed me to [00:26:00] tap into curiosity and even love. I could ask him from a place of evenness, calm and lightness, and actually uncover what was really going on.

And then I can get to work creating more brilliant solutions. Listen before this work a few years ago, when my son would want to do his own thing and not play with the other kids on the playground or be his unique self, I had a thick manual for him and for me.

He should be like the other kids.

I wish he was more playful.

I should parent him better.

Maybe I shouldn't be working so much so that I could be a better mom.

I had a litany of thoughts like this of shoulds, and shouldn'ts about him and about myself. And these criticisms just felt so true and they weighed me down. And the thing is when we're weighed down with these judgemental or critical thoughts, our brain has designed coping mechanisms like overeating or drinking and over scrolling to numb ourselves from the experience of this heaviness, creating heaviness on the [00:27:00] scale.

How amazing that heaviness in our mind creates heaviness for our body.

And this is what prevented me from feeling love, curious, and compassionate for myself and for him. I thought if my manual is followed, if he just followed exactly the way that I think he should be, then I would get to feel good about him and me and I withheld those ooey gooey good feelings, hostage.

I promise that you can learn how to feel good right now.

Feeling lighter, more joyous, calm and confident now.

And this is my mission for all of the working moms of the universe to know you don't have to wait anymore. You can start feeling better now. And this is a practice and a priceless skill.

It will drastically change the results you create on the scale.

It will free and elevate your relationships and it will transform your life's experience being brilliant you.

Today's episode was a thorough discussion of the manual, where it comes from, [00:28:00] why you've had it and the results that it's creating in your life right now.

Just remember, we all have manuals and they've been passed down to us generation by generation and together we're starting to open up the book and look at them and see whether we want to keep those roles.

We talked about making requests and communicating expectations clearly and in advance and the difference between communicating with other adults versus the children in our life. In all of these examples, you are emotionally free, your emotional wellness, isn't attached to a number on the scale or anyone else.

It's delicious work, my friends and I love sharing it with you.

I'll see you next week.

If you're interested in elevating this work from your ears to your real life, we should talk. My clients are working moms. I coached them in an intimate small group setting, and they're creating some serious magic in their life. And I want this for you too.

If this is interesting to you, you can head over to [00:29:00]

And I have some delicious ooey, gooey resources there too, including my masterclass replay for you to grab. You'll get magic right to your inbox.


Thanks for listening to Weight Loss For Unstoppable Moms.

It's been an honor spending this time with you and your brilliant brain. If you want more information or resources from the show, visit


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