This past winter I was watching a football game with my husband and the TV camera panned across the stadium. A whole section of fans raised large foam fists with extended index fingers and shouted “We’re #1!” That moment got me thinking about what it means to be number one. Regarding what? To whom? What are the criteria? I remember being #1 in a spelling bee when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. And I was the shortest (and heaviest) girl in my second grade class. I guess that counts as #1 (although it’s not on my resume).

Dear women readers, what does it mean to be number one? To put ourselves first on our “To Do” list. Do we make the top ten? Are we even on the list? Many of you are rolling your eyes now and thinking: Is she kidding? When is there time to think about me? To take care of me?

I struggle with this a lot! Balancing multiple priorities isn’t easy. What happens if a client calls with a crisis and the only slot I have is during my lunch hour? How many nights do I work so that my working clients can be seen? It’s the weekend, the list of house projects has doubled – and I’m pooped. And I don’t have children! Trying to fit in “me time” is even more challenging for parents with work, sports schedules, doctor’s appointments, homework, and family mealtime (what’s that, you ask?). One client recently quipped that she would put herself on her “To Do” list in 2020 when her youngest child turns eighteen and goes off to college.

So I ask you, can we mentally, emotionally, and physically wait that long? Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD presents the following scenario during her “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” presentations: You’re on an airplane, traveling with your young child in the seat next to you. The cabin pressure drops and the oxygen masks fall from the overhead compartment. What do you do? Invariably, my group members, without hesitation, state that they would put the mask on the child. (Buzzer sounds… Wrong answer!) The right answer, according to Northrup and I would agree is to oxygenate yourself first – so that you can assist your more than likely struggling child and other passengers in the throes of a panic attack. Putting ourselves first can save lives!

Now let me link what we experience as our physically and emotionally depleted lives to our relationship with food. Have you ever found yourself wandering around the kitchen at midnight, rummaging through the cabinets, mindlessly eating, exhausted? Some would say and I would be one of them that this behavior is a way of saying… finally time for me! Often our relationship with food and our eating behaviors are symbolic of our unspoken and unconscious beliefs about our lives. Everyone else comes first. Others are more important than I am. As a women, a wife, a mother, it is my job, my role to meet the needs of others before I meet my own. Please, please, please, challenge those beliefs. Self-care is not the same as being selfish! As they say, “You can’t get water from a dry well”. And you can’t get enthusiasm, focus, and zest from a depleted women!

Each of us needs to adopt an “I’m Number One” belief and the behaviors that support that. What are the things that each of us can do to foster our own importance? For me, starting each day with a gift to myself has been transformational. Reading a novel for thirty minutes works for me. No matter how the rest of the day unfolds, I feel that I have treated myself specially. What would work for you? Planning a vacation? Getting a massage? Going for a walk? Digging your hands in the soil? Sitting in the sun? Going to the lake (in even meditation)? Breathing deeply? And if none of these appeals to you, why not buy a big foam fist with an extended index finger and walk around the house exclaiming, “I’m Number One!”

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed, clinical social worker with 15 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh based private practice, she works with women who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense, program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight, eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164 or