What I learned from zombies

I know I’m late to the game, but I finally saw Zombieland this weekend (and just for the record, thoroughly enjoyed it). At any rate, if you haven’t seen it, you are dropped right into Zombieland as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) begins listing his rules to survive living among the zombies (trust me, it’s not as cheesy as it sounds.)

Zombieland-PosterOne of his opening lines is, “I survived because I followed the rules, my rules.” 

Hmmm…call me crazy, but this really struck a chord with me (and not because the undead were lurking around my neighborhood.) For me, I pretty much developed these maladaptive behaviors years ago as a way to survive, a way to cope with my situation and the world around me.

Things chaotic? I defer to overexercising, restricting or obsessing about food/numbers/etc. so I can’t focus on anything else. Making myself comfortably numb was the only way I felt (and still feel) like I can handle both the outside world and the inside turmoil. I feel like in order to just make it through, to survive, I can’t have it both ways—it’s either/or.

I survive because I follow the rules, my rules.

I have ridiculous rules about everything—if I worked out for 30 minutes last night, it can’t be 29 minutes today; I put limits on pieces of gum and tea that have nothing to do with calories; my meal rules are ridiculous and I won’t even touch on them (work in progress, most certainly.)

But how much are these rules really helping? Unless you’re new here, you’re probably thinking, “How’s that working out for ya, Abby?” and understandably rolling your eyes. My rules give me a false sense of safety, but they don’t keep me healthy in both body and mind.

So, I have decided to amuse myself by adapting a few of the rules of survival from Zombieland to my own situation, adding my own “healthy” twist to things. Once again, I feel like I have to do everything “opposite” of what we are traditionally told to do (“eat less, exercise more,” for example), but rules are made to be broken—or at least twisted to fit my purpose.


(Disclaimer: This is not a complete list of Zombieland Rules for Survival. If you are in need of those guidelines, I suggest you log off and report your suspicions to the authorities.)

Cardio—This one comes up a lot in Zombieland, and it makes sense. You want to be in good physical condition to outrun the undead. However, if you are trying to gain healthy weight, cardio makes no sense—especially when it becomes obsessive. You want to be in good physical condition and not look like the undead, so cardio is basically out of the picture…unless being chased by zombies, of course.

cardioBeware of Bathrooms—In the movie, the bathroom is the perfect place to corner yourself and negate any hope of escape. Similarly, the bathroom for someone in recovery can be just as unpleasant for a variety of reasons. (1) There is the shower, where one is forced to get naked in front of (2) the mirrors. There might be a (3) scale, possibly a (4) hair-clogged sink or drain and (5) the inevitable medicine cabinet that may contain laxatives, stimulants, sleeping pills or any other artificial form of “alternation” (or maybe just floss…floss is harmless). At the very least, there is (6) the toilet—a vehicle for evacuation, or countless hours spent wishing for such a, ahem…movement.

However, one must regard the bathroom as a place of comfort and not of temptation to nit-pick or obsesses over physical…stuff. We’ll move on.  

No Attachments—In the movie, it is advised not to get too attached to other people or things, as they are likely to slow you down. Similarly, with recovery from anything, you cannot be so attached to your routine and addictions that they slow you down and impede your recovery. In order for things to improve, you have to be willing to let go of the habits that grounded you where you are.

The Buddy System—But that doesn’t mean you can’t be attached to people. In the movie, you want someone watching your back, always on alert for the next attack. Similarly, those in recovery need to have someone they can talk and be accountable to. Going at it solo, listening only to what’s going on in your own head, is no smarter than trying to take on a mob of the undead alone.

When in doubt, know your way out—With zombies, nothing is worse than a poorly planned escape. Similarly, when you find yourself slipping back into unhealthy behaviors or questioning your motivations, know what you can do to find a way out. Nothing is worse than a poorly planned escape. 

Be Ruthless—Just as the weak and compassionate will not survive in the world of the undead, one cannot expect to make progress in recovery by giving in and giving up when things get tough. Things will be hard, things will be uncomfortable, things will suck. Be ruthless; show no mercy.

Enjoy the little things—Self explanatory in both Zombieland and Abbyland. Life is short—take time to appreciate the small things that make your heart happy. In actuality, they are in fact the big things.

What “rules” can you break for yourself?


What rules should you follow that you don’t?

16 responses to “What I learned from zombies

  1. I absolutely love this Abby! .. I haven’t seen the movie, but now you have me intrigued!

    I have some pretty messed up rules that I have been putting on the back burner for awhile now… one of the biggest is probably not to go over a certain amount of carbs per meal. This is STUPID. I know it’s stupid… but it’s so hard to break away from it.
    One rule that I know I should follow, but I don’t always, is to eat extra if I am exercising an extra amount. I’m fine with eating more if I am hungry, but I find it really hard to balance exercise with intake at the moment.

    Thanks for such an awesome post 😉
    ❤ Tat

  2. marshall was begging me to watch it last night but i wanted to watch the invention of lying. i guess i better check out zombieland. loved the way you linked it into this post. you’re fun.

  3. i am going to have to see this movie now haha and i hate watching movies… i have a couple routines and quirks in my day that i convince myself keep me “funcitioning” however, they may or may not be ED related but breaking them sounds like it would be good for me!

  4. I like the way you wrote this post, especially the last part about enjoying the little things – fits right in with my post from this morning.

    I think I have certain rules/rituals that I follow just out of habit. Eating breakfast by a certain time, making sure that I don’t go without food for a certain # of hours or not eating something too soon after a meal….blah blah. I think I’m afraid of hunger…?? But I like knowing I’m hungry because it’s a real signal from my body that it needs fuel, not just a thought in my head of “oh that sounds good, I’ll eat a cookie”. SO I will break my constant hoarding of purse snacks “rule” and feel my hunger more often.

  5. I loved Zombieland! The rules in it were especially amusing. I think, as humans, we latch on to rules. We all want some structure and routine, on some level. I think even care-free people have rules. I thought my sister didn’t because she never makes plans or gets stressed out. Then I realized that not making plans is her rule. She just goes with the flow. Anyway… I think the point is to see that rules can be beneficial. They are a survival skill, in a way. I had lots and lots of rules around eating in my bad days, but I let go of those one by one. I still have rules, but I guess they’re healthier, like, “If I exercise today, NO exercise tomorrow” or “Use the leftovers in the fridge.” Being rule-less doesn’t seem that feasible to me; I’ve just had to reorganize my brain.

  6. brilliant abby. i don’t know what else to say.

  7. I love this post! I know exactly what you mean–for me ED seemed to be a survival thing but of course in the end it leads not not surviving at all. These new rules are so great and so necessary and true. I’m going to start following them now 🙂

    And I’ll definitely have to see the movie now too!

  8. This is so interesting. I’ve never seen that movie, but I think I’ll go rent it now.
    I used to have very different, strict rules for myself, but I don’t think any strict rules help with survival. They just make you feel bad if you don’t live up to your expectations.
    My “strict” rule is to live my life and be happy! Everything else, goals and such, are works in progress that I don’t think of as “rules”.

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  10. This is an awesome list of lessons about rules. I form habits at the drop of a hat, and also have to struggle against establishing too many rules. I have found, though, that sometimes that can work to my advantage. The rules are usually arbitrary (in terms of minutes exercised, food eaten, etc). So if I challenge myself, and just stick it out (usually 3 days or so is enough), the new, healthier behavior can become the new Rule that is ingrained. Not that we shouldn’t be trying to shed rigid rules, but sometimes being rigid about healthy progress is a necessary bridge, if that makes sense.

    Hang in there, love your blog.

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