Monthly Archives: February 2016

10 Tips to Help Stop “Night Time” Eating

Can you sit down, chew thoroughly and eat in front of others? It's one key skill to learn to stop overeating (and nighttime eating).

Can you sit down, chew thoroughly and eat in front of others? It’s one key skill to learn to stop overeating (and nighttime eating).

You feel like you do ok with your eating all day but when night time comes, you sometimes feel like you can’t curb your hunger. You have dinner but before the meal is over, you are already thinking about the cheese popcorn in the pantry. You buy a snack for your kids but you find yourself eating most of it when you’re packing their lunches at night. And what feels worst of all is that you usually do it when no one else is looking. You’re frustrated. This behavior is interfering with your weight loss goals, how you feel about yourself and you’re so tired of going to bed full and bloated. Every day you get up and think to yourself “I’m not going to pick after dinner tonight!” but then another day happens and you did it again. Uggg. You totally feel like you have no control over this!

Here’s something that might be hard to hear but you need to know it:  Night time eating is not beyond your control. We tell ourselves it is and we’re constantly told that it is so we come to believe that the responsibility lies somewhere outside of us. What sucks about believing that is that it keeps us stuck and feeling helpless. It keeps us feeling like we’ll never get better because we’re not in power. I’m asking you to believe that you do have the power to change. Believing that’s even possible is the only way we ever make progress.

There are things we do, habits, foods we eat and ways we think about ourselves that keep us getting up and heading into the kitchen. To stop this habit (because that is what it ultimately is now) we have to look at each of these things and see how they might be creating a situation where we are more tempted to eat.  A simple example of one of the ways we keep ourselves stuck in this pattern is that if you are under eating or eating low quality refined carbs all day long, there is no way that you won’t be tempted to eat in the evening. It becomes basic math at that point.

If you work to put all 10 of these things into your life, you will find that the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry is not as strong. Think of these tips as armor, as protection, as fortitude to not do what you’ve always done – to have the strength to do something different, to be thoughtful about our choices and make caring for ourselves a priority.

Please know that there are a lot of ways out of this but there isn’t just one single “trick” or tweak you can use to stop it from happening.There’s no quick fix for most of us and recognizing that can go a long way in your success.  Just brushing your teeth after dinner or having a glass of water won’t be enough – you need to look deeper at your whole day and food “life” to build up the ability to resist overeating.  Resist probably isn’t the right word – when you are eating the right things for your body and doing it for the right reasons, not overeating can be easy (and I only know this now after years of struggling).

If we want to stop nighttime eating, or overeating in general we have to look at our whole “eating life”, act like a detective and “investigate” ourselves and then be committed to taking new actions. This is how we effectively make changes.

Here are 10 of my best tips to stop nighttime eating:

1.   Make sure your meals are solid.

By “solid” I mean that they need to contain enough nutrition to get you to the next meal. Whether you choose to do 3 meals a day or smaller more frequent meals is up to you – but make them count. Your meals should always contain a good amount of protein, fat and fiber. An iceberg lettuce salad with fat free dressing isn’t even going to get you through an hour and if you actually ate your own arm later I would not be that surprised!

Eat real foods that satisfy and sustain you. One of the most common reasons we overeat is because we’re actually HUNGRY! We starve ourselves all day, limiting calories and portions or eating foods that don’t have any staying power (foods lacking protein, fiber or fat) and when we finally get home and settle in for the night, we can’t control ourselves because there isn’t enough energy in our body and our monkey brain takes over (usually going for simple carbohydrates like sugar and refined flours). Overeating is way less likely when you actually have quality food in your body keeping things humming.

2.   Snacks too.

If you’re eating enough at each meal, it’s possible to even skip snacking (and you won’t miss it) but I know for some of you that isn’t going to happen so if you’re going to have a few snacks a day – make them nutritious ones! Nutritious doesn’t have to mean boring, bland or not fun – an apple with peanut butter, an avocado w/ sea salt or hummus with sliced vegetables are all great choices. If you can’t think of a well rounded snack (remember: protein, fiber AND fat), think of snack time as another meal time, even if just a small one – eat leftovers from dinner, have some oatmeal – whatever would make a high quality meal would also work as a snack even if you need to make it a smaller portion.

3.   Plan ahead.

Look, none of us want to think about food, shopping and preparing it more than we have to. We have enough to do already. But, if you are serious about wanting to make any changes to your diet or eating habits, they are not going to happen unless you have a plan in place and you are willing to make changes. You don’t need to know what you are eating every day for the next month, but you do need to know that you have your next few meals at your fingertips and can pull it together relatively easily. If you come home from work and are starving and don’t have a meal in mind (and ingredients ready to go), you’re going to order take out, eat all the ice cream in the freezer or chow down on a bag of chips. If you planned ahead and know you are coming home to a quinoa salad that you already made waiting for you in the fridge or that you have vegetables all chopped up so that you can make a fast stir fry, you will feel less out of control and again, less tempted by the stuff you don’t want to eat in the first place.

You can’t get from where you are to where you want to go without actually taking some concrete changes and that does include spending some time each week on preparing healthy foods. Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to prepare healthy food. You have the same amount of time as everyone else and quality food really deserves to be higher on all our priority lists. It’s literally what we are made of. It matters.

If you hate thinking about what to eat and shopping you can also try one of those meal delivery services like HelloFresh, Plated or Blue Apron where they deliver a few meals worth of ingredients for specific recipes each week. We actually tried Hello Fresh this past week and the three meals we had were actually really good. It was a nice treat to have food delivered on my doorstep and know what I was making on certain nights without having to think about it and all 3 were super easy to make. I’m kind of a skeptic but I was pleasantly surprised (I also like that I can turn my subscription on and off each week) and we will use them occasionally. If you want to try HelloFresh, I have a referral code you can use and you’ll get $40 off your first delivery – enter TNNUAR at checkout (FYI – I get $20 off my own delivery if you use it). I’m hoping to try out Plated and Blue Apron in the coming months too and I will do a write up of all 3 if I do!

4.  Stop eating foods you hate.

If we’re going to make sure we’re eating balanced meals and snacks and we’re taking the time to prepare them so that we have something solid to eat, it makes absolutely no sense to dread eating it. If you hate bean sprouts, don’t eat them. If you hate cold salads, don’t eat them. If chicken is not your favorite, don’t eat it. There is a whole world of healthy, nutritious whole foods that can supply your body with the energy it needs – you don’t have to eat things you don’t like. If we spend all day feeling like we’re only putting food in our mouths that we abhor, it’s going to send us running to the kitchen faster than our feet can carry us. How many times have you finished a meal that tasted like cardboard and even though you technically were full, you found yourself thinking about when and how you could eat something else? It will gnaw at you all day. Don’t do this to yourself. Eating better doesn’t mean having your food taste like crap. Eat food that you enjoy (or at least don’t mind) and there will be less temptation in the kitchen.

What whole foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds etc) do you enjoy? Focus on increasing the ones that you are more than willing to eat.

5.   But be willing to try new things.

It’s totally fine if you hate kale but you are open to eating other greens. Maybe you don’t like sweet potatoes but you are a fan of butternut squash. Cool. But if you tell me you hate all vegetables, I’m going to call bullshit (or assume that you are still 10 years old). There is no way in the world that you have tried every vegetable out there and you certainly haven’t had each one prepared multiple ways. If you hate vegetables, what is it that you hate about them? Odds are you just don’t like the way they’ve been prepared most of the times you have eaten them. No one likes overcooked carrots or the faintly metal flavored peas from a can and if you are still eating fat-free dressings on your salads, it’s probably the dressing you don’t like, not the poor vegetables. Open your mind and try new foods and new recipes. Find at least a few new ways that you do like. I personally hate raw mushrooms but sauteed?! I love them! Also note that our tastes change over time. I remember hating tomatoes and onions as a teenager and even in my early 20’s, but I actually eat them all the time now (in fact, I get mild anxiety when the pantry is running low on onions – we use them in everything here!). You’re an adult, so eat like one.

Still think you hate vegetables? You think quinoa is awful?  beans are gross? Come over my house for dinner and I will show you differently.

Try new foods - even ones you thought you hated as a child. You might be differently now!

Try new foods – even ones you thought you hated as a child. You might be differently now!

6.   Commit fully.

When you do decide to eat something not so nutritious – candy, ice cream, chips etc – don’t eat it UNLESS you can let yourself truly enjoy it. Commit to eating it and allow yourself to feel nothing but joy in every bite. If you know it will lead you to a dark path of emotion filled with shame and other bad feelings, it’s best to find something more wholesome that will satisfy the craving you’re after. We don’t want to eat in shame – it just keeps us repeating the behavior we want to stop. Indulging in negative feelings about food during and after we eat will lead you to the very night time binge you’re trying to avoid by reading this post. What’s so wrong with enjoying the food you do put in your mouth anyway??

7.  Eat fat. No really. Eat fat.

Again, I’m going to hammer on those of you who are still trying to find peace with food by restricting calories and eating low-fat or no-fat everything. You will NEVER be satisfied eating fat free candy bars and fat free cheeses and a binge will always be around the corner when you try to satisfy yourself this way. You will always be looking for another taste because you never got what you were looking for. If eating fat free really was the secret to not overeating and to losing weight, none of us would struggle with these things. It didn’t work in the 90’s and it’s still not working now. If you desperately want a candy bar (or cheese), have one and make sure it is exactly what you want. No one overeats or “gets fat” because they ate one full fat candy bar a week. It’s the 700 fat free candy bars we’ve eaten in secret this year (and the 250 “Skinny” ice creams we ate after those because the candy bar didn’t cut it) that led to the weight gain. Please put fat back in your diet and you will notice the urge to scavenge in the kitchen after dinner is majorly lessoned.

8.   Sit down when you eat, eat in front of others if they are there and chew thoroughly.

I’ll bet that when your nighttime overeating pops up you find that you are shoveling food in your mouth quickly and hardly chewing. You’re probably also doing it in secret – after the kids have gone to bed and maybe while your husband is watching TV or is taking a shower. You might pick while you are putting dinner away. You might graze while packing lunches for tomorrow. You might get up from the couch on every commercial break to sneak a handful of chocolate chips – knowing that you can swallow them quick enough that when you come back to the room no one will even know that you had them! I’m not being cruel by calling these things out. I’m not judging you if you are doing this – I know these things because I have done all of them myself.

Years ago, I remember waiting until my husband (“boyfriend” at the time) went outside for a cigarette so that I could scarf down another piece of pizza. He wouldn’t have cared if I had a piece of pizza in front of him (it was what we had for dinner anyhow) but I knew it was more than I needed to eat because I wasn’t hungry, I just “wanted it” – so I felt I had to hide it. I ran to the kitchen and stood over the pizza box, inhaling the bread as fast as I could. I barely made it back to the living room by the time he came back in. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t even taste it. And my throat actually hurt from trying to eat it so fast so I wouldn’t be caught. Can you relate to any of this? If you eat in secret, if you eat quickly and you eat standing up you are making it too easy for you to keep eating at night. If you’re going to eat, please resolve to do these three things: You will sit down, you will chew thoroughly and if there is someone else in the home, you will eat in front of them. If you are unwilling to do those things, you are not hungry. You are eating to fill another need (that’s another post) and you are feeling ashamed of your eating. We don’t want to eat in shame (remember it keeps us in the cycle). Slow down. Chew well. Sit down and enjoy. And anything you are willing to eat shouldn’t be hidden.

9.   Talk about it.

Most problems in life feel less overwhelming if we have someone we can share our struggle with. If you are dealing with this and yet no one in your life knows about it, it’s going to feel like this dark looming cloud in your life. Talking about it will bring you some emotional relief (like you’ve been carrying a suitcase on your back and suddenly it’s gone!) and it can also give you a source of support and accountability. Tell a friend that you can’t stop eating at night and you might be amazed when they tell you they’ve been there too and share what helped them stop . . .or you may share with your husband that you want to stop eating less after dinner and he may say “I didn’t even know you were eating anything after dinner!” and you can tell him that you tend to sneak bites in between commercial breaks of your favorite shows. You can then ask him to check in with you if he sees you getting up in between commercials. This might be totally out of your comfort zone (and I’d put money on it that it is if you are currently in the midst of this) but there is some way, someone in your life with whom you can share your challenges with. Knowing that someone else understands or that there is someone else who can help hold you accountable can be a huge motivator in sticking to changes. And keeping it all inside just gives it more power over you.

If you don’t feel like you can share with the people closest to you, do you think there might be a part of you who doesn’t want to stop this behavior? I get it – we hate and love our eating at the same time. It’s comfort and torture. It’s love and disgust. This might be a big step for you so for now, just think about who you could share with and what you might say if you had the conversation. It doesn’t have to big a big deal or a huge reveal – it can be as simple as “Hey, i’m having a tough time controlling myself from eating tortilla chips lately and I don’t want to eat them anymore. Do you mind if we don’t keep them in the house for a little while?” You might be worrying what they’re going to think of you when you tell them, but guess what? Everyone has some part of themselves that they think is some huge awful secret thing that in actuality isn’t a big deal to other people. You share something with them and next thing you know, they’re sharing something that’s been burdening them too. It’s healing for everyone. And if someone makes fun of you for revealing your pain to them? Fuck them, they’re an insensitive asshole and you can take some pride in knowing that you’re more evolved than them.

10.  Figure out what you are truly hungry for.

This might be obvious, and in fact, if you read my posts normally you probably were wondering when I was going to say this! If you’re not eating at night because you are hungry (working in #1, #2 and #7 will help manage that), you are probably eating because there is something else you are hungry for. You might be at that point in your life when you wish you had spent more time on your art, you might be avoiding acknowledging that you’re in a loveless relationship, or you might be longing for a change in scenery and it’s time for a move to a big city. The only person who knows what you are craving in your life is you and you will keep eating at night until you figure out what that hunger is and give yourself permission to have it.

We head into the kitchen because we feel something we don’t like or are uncomfortable with. We might be triggered by an event on a specific day that brought up these feelings or it might be a feeling we have daily.

Try this exercise
To start to figure out what you are hungry for, ask yourself these questions (on paper please!):

What am I feeling when I get up to eat?
What is it? Describe the feeling the best way you can.
Why do you think you don’t want to feel this feeling?
What will happen if you allow the uncomfortable/painful feeling to just be?
What do you think this feeling is trying to tell you?

What would you like to feel instead of this?
What do you think needs to happen in order for you to feel this (your preferred) way?

Write these down, without any requirement that you figure it out right now. Sleep on it. Let your thoughts marinate a bit. You may find that you wake up knowing exactly what you are hungry for (and then we talk about how you can get it) or you might find it hits you three weeks from now when you are in the grocery store. We have so much wisdom inside us and if we take the time to look for our own answers and do the work it takes to reveal and apply them, sometimes we find some really good stuff we didn’t even know was there! Trust that you have the answers and will figure it out!

I hope you find the tips in this post helpful and take the time to investigate your own eating life to lessen your night time eating!  You have more control over your eating than you think but it does take some active changes to feel that way. These are all things I use regularly to keep myself on track and I can’t tell you how much easier my relationship with food is when I pay attention to these things.

What has helped you keep your own nighttime eating in check? And what do you find still troubles you? I’d love to hear from you, you can reach me either in the comments or you can send me an email.
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I see you hiding in photos.

unsplash hideI see you.

I see you there, in a group picture, behind the woman with the long blond hair and the one with the oversized glasses.

I see you smiling. You look like you’re having a good time.

I see you’ve placed yourself behind the other women in the photo so that all that I can see of you is your face, your body hidden by the other bodies in front of you.

At first, I thought your placement in the picture was because it was crowded and you’re a little taller than your friends. Perhaps you went to the back so that your graceful height didn’t block someone else from view.

But then I saw you again. In another picture.

This time, behind your children when they were toddlers. You pulled them to you in a loving embrace, in front of your body, so much so that you looked like a smiling floating head in between their little faces.

Your body once housed them and protected them as they grew, now you use them to protect you.

You are still smiling.

I thought it was a sweet photo and familiar. I had certainly seen many many photos of other mom’s proudly displaying their beautiful children in front of them. This is not an abnormal thing for mothers to do.

But then I saw a new photo.

This time, behind a group of your high school friends, at a reunion I think, where this time you were not the tallest one, yet there you were politely moving to the back in order to make sure more of the others were seen.

And again in a group photo with your girlfriends at a party. Everyone is having a good time and there you are, again, all I can see is a smiling head.

Then again at the beach. This time, you are not hidden by people but by towels. Completely wrapped up in a towel at the beach on a 90 degree day, and behind a chair.

Your face is all we can see of you physically in these photos. And you do look happy, which is great. But I can’t help feeling sad that you seem to be trying to hide yourself.

Not Fit to Be Seen (Unless Photoshop is available!)
I see women who are underweight, average weight and overweight do this and they’re all doing it for the same reason – they don’t want their body to be seen.  They’re not the size they want to be. They’re not the shape they want to be. They’re heavier than they were in the past. They haven’t lost the baby weight. They don’t feel like they are fit to be seen. They don’t want to see themselves and they don’t want others to see them either.

One thing that isn’t helping is this photoshop, “waist trainer” and plastic surgery obsessed society that we live in. If you own a smart phone, odds are you spend at least a portion of your day looking at carefully curated celebrity profiles or your friend’s profiles. It’s hard to look at that stuff day in and day out and not feel a little ashamed about how we look. But most of what people post on social media is FAKE. These people don’t look like this in real life. Their photos are so doctored up with filters and makeup “apps” that we wouldn’t recognize them in person. We’re feeling bad about ourselves while we compare ourselves to something that isn’t even attainable in real life! It’s completely crazy!

If we physically hide ourselves in photos because we believe we aren’t fit to be seen, what else might we be hiding from?

Where else are we hiding in our lives?

Where else are we only playing part way?

Where else are you putting limits on yourself?

Where else might you be holding yourself back?

Make no mistake, the self-consciousness we have about our bodies drips over into other parts of our lives and affects a lot of things. I want more for you. I want more for all of us.

Messages Sent and Memories Made
If you run to hide every time a camera appears, I worry that your daughter is getting the message that if her body isn’t the “right” size or shape, that it shouldn’t be seen. And since you share genetics, she is likely to end up with a shape similar to yours someday and will remember that it’s not one to be comfortable with.

I worry that your son is getting the message that shape and size are more important than who someone is. Or that women with imperfect bodies should move to the back.

I worry that your kids will look at photos of their childhood and wish that they could see you better because they love all of you, not just the part that looks pretty or neat or small.

I worry that there will be a lingering sadness when you or they look back at your family photos because instead of remembering being in the moment, you’ll remember that your mind was more on your bodily position in the snapshot.

When we look back at old family photos of relatives or friends who are no longer with us, what do we see? What do we remember about them?

In my experience, you remember the twinkle in their eye, the way they laughed with their entire body, the way they made you feel like the most important person in the world each time you saw them.

You remember their delicious cooking and their love of ghost stories.

You remember how when they played video games with you for a moment you saw what they may have been like as a child and it made you feel closer to them. It made you understand them more.

You see how you actually look a little like them and how your daughter is like a carbon copy of them. You suddenly see that your brother has their nose and your cousin got their smile. You all have a little bit of their spirit.

You see that they loved to wear bright colors and prints and how their jewelry glistened so much it looked like it had been stolen straight from the Crown Jewels.

You see that they loved life and were living it without self-consciousness.

You see who they were through the photo.

You know what we don’t see, what we don’t remember?

Their size. Their weight. When they last colored their roots. What state their body was at different parts of their lives.

We don’t care if Grandma was 100 lbs overweight and had thinning gray hair – she was amazing.  She survived horrific things we only read about and still managed to laugh daily.

We don’t care that Aunt Mary was built like a brick shit house (that was one of my mother’s favorite sayings actually!). She was a powerhouse of love and force to be reckoned with. And also incredible meatballs. She fucking loved to make meatballs.

Despite the craptastic amount of energy the Instawhores spend on creating unrealistic photos, I know on some level most of us do recognize that the physical appearance of our bodies not very important – but sometimes it seems we don’t really get that until someone isn’t here anymore. That sucks.

You know who doesn’t care what your body looks like? Little kids. Little kids will think you are the most beautiful person in the world if you are kind to them and care for them and play with them. I don’t have kids but I have nieces and nephews and I have been a blonde, brunette, and a redhead, I have been skinny, fat and somewhere in between. I have had crazy rosacea eruptions on my face and acne and they’ve seen me without makeup (and coffee). And they think I am beautiful. They see who I am inside – they see me for me, not for what I look like. But give kids a reason to pay attention to the size or shape of our bodies, by hiding them (or commenting on how much we dislike something) and they will learn really quickly how to judge a body and the person inside it. That also sucks.

Can you look at yourself the way your kids would look at you, before they learned that they should be judging everyone by their bodies?

Can you look at yourself the way you look at your own children, seeing all their amazing potential and beautiful humanness? If you can’t, why can’t you? What’s the harm in giving that kindness to yourself?

Which is it? Is my body important or not important?
I know it sounds like on one hand I’m telling you that your body isn’t important, so you should stop hiding it. And then on the other I’m saying it’s important so you should stop hiding it. Haha. But bear with me. It’s both.

It’s not really about whether we actually see your body or not.  I know a lot of people judge us for our weight and it feels even more so with social media these days. Fuck them. Fuck all of them and their judgey selfs. It’s really more about the messages you are sending by hiding – the message you are sending your kids (discussed above), to yourself and to your sweet body. Nevermind the message you are sending to others – it’s like a beacon telling others that you value yourself less. And some assholes will see that as permission to treat you as less.

Your body lovingly and carefully carried those children for 40 weeks. In many cases, it physically provided food for them in their first year. Your body enables you to do all the things that you do. Go to work. To and from school events. You wake up still breathing each morning. You, at whatever current size you are at, whether it’s big or small or somewhere in between, care for your family, your friends and everyone you meet in some way. You go the extra mile anytime it’s asked of you. You are a rock when necessary and a teddy bear when called for.

As a side note, this isn’t unique to moms. Even if you haven’t had kids, your body too, it also does amazing stuff every single day! Maybe it’s run marathons, works double nursing shifts or has beaten cancer. Maybe it’s gotten you through heartbreak and back again. It literally stands up for you, every single day. It’s the BEST friend we can have.

I am amazed by how generously loving my body is to me, still, despite the abuse I have put it through! This thing keeps on giving back to me. It’s self-less. And doesn’t that deserve some respect?

Your heart beats. Your eyes open. Daily.

Your heart beats. Your eyes open. Daily. Just that it exists at all on this planet, in this universe is a miraculous feat.

Doesn’t your body, don’t YOU, deserve more than to be hidden?

Your body is a prize. It’s award winning. It deserves applause. It’s beautiful as it is.

This is the body you have. This is the only life you have. You should enjoy both while you can.

Your heart beats. Your eyes open. Daily. Just that it exists at all on this planet, in this universe is a miraculous feat.

Please don’t hide yourself.

Please put down any shame or discomfort you may have about getting your picture taken. Jut out your hip like you own that body the way you want to (because you do whether you believe it yet or not).

Flaunt it like you respect it. Like you already KNOW how amazing it is.

And what’s great is when you do that enough, when you “fake it until you make it” with your physical posture – you actually will start to feel more confident (and you may even take better care of yourself – which will be reflected in your appearance). Don’t think about it. Just do it. Treat your body like it’s a trophy worthy of being on display. If you want to practice this, please watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are and do the poses she talks about. It’s ridiculously powerful.

Show your kids that you love yourself, that you are unashamed and unabashedly YOU, that you are living your life and not thinking twice about filtering it for the masses. Your body is amazing as it is right now and you don’t have to hide it anymore.

I see you. I see who you are inside. I don’t think she is someone worth hiding and I hope that after reading this you agree.



How to Set Clear and Healthy Boundaries That Actually Work

People are going to cross your boundaries. Here's how to make more effective ones.

People are going to cross your boundaries. Here’s how to make more effective ones.

One of the biggest causes of frustration that I see people dealing with is that they go through their lives feeling walked all over, stepped on, disrespected and that other people are taking advantage of them, over and over again. If this is something you struggle with regularly, it’s very likely that you aren’t good at setting boundaries or that you don’t know how to set boundaries correctly.

I hear “They don’t respect my boundaries” a lot. But, we can’t stop people from doing the things they do. For some reason, in our society, we think we have a right to control how other people act and because of that, most people think that others need to respect their boundaries and they can’t figure out a way to make that happen. They get frustrated. They don’t feel like boundaries are worth setting. But that’s because they’re setting boundaries with the expectation that the other person controls whether it works or not. Of course that’s not going to be effective!

People are going to cross your boundaries. That’s life. You cannot stop people from pushing your buttons or from doing things you don’t want them to do. They don’t have to respect your boundaries. You have to respect your boundaries.

They don’t have to respect your boundaries. You have to respect your boundaries.”

I’m going to tell you how to make boundaries work for you so that you never feel powerless or walked all over ever again.

First, remember that no one can walk all over you or take advantage of you without your compliance.

How we respond when someone tries to do this to us, either reinforces to them that they can keep on doing that behavior without repercussions or shows them that their actions won’t be tolerated. We choose how to respond and how we’re going to allow ourselves to be treated.

Getting good at setting personal boundaries means a lot of things have to happen – you’ve got some personal development work to do to be able to do this well! You have to have a good amount of confidence in yourself. You also need to learn how and when to say no, always say what you mean (stop beating around the bush and expecting other’s to know what you need) and let go of the need to be liked by everyone all of the time. You also have to be able to recognize that a boundary is something you put in place to protect you – it’s not put in place for the other person to abide by (which can be tricky to understand – I’ll go more in detail about this difference).

Today we’re going to go over all of this – what boundaries actually are (not what most of us think!), how to set them, enforce them and what boundaries are NOT. Really getting familiar with boundary setting has helped me navigate my personal and professional relationships with so much more ease. With clear boundaries, I no longer worry what to do when I’m with people who want to push my buttons or when family members overstep their bounds. I choose what’s best for me thank you – and I confidently make decisions as to how to handle myself.

If you take the time to learn this tool and practice it, it will make an amazing difference in all of your relationships – but especially the relationship you have with yourself.

Let’s talk boundaries, shall we?

What is a boundary?
First off, a lot of people think a boundary is something we set for other people in order for them to behave the way we want them to. Nope. This is wrong. That’s manipulation.

We can’t control how other people act. We cannot change someone else’s behavior (though wouldn’t we all like to sometimes!). Clear and effective boundaries can only be set from this perspective.

What we can do is set boundaries for ourselves. We decide what we are ok with and not ok with. How others get to treat us. How we want to feel in our relationships.

A boundary is an action you decide that you will take if someone does something that violates either your physical or emotional personal space. Your physical space is your body, your home, your safety. Your emotional space is a little harder to define but I see it as “how I decide I am willing to be treated” or what my “emotional dealbreakers” are. There is shit I won’t put up with in my life.

Here’s an example of a physical one. Let’s say someone steps on my toes in public. The boundary I will set is that I will move away from someone if they step on me. Pretty obvious right? I don’t even have to communicate this boundary to the person. I can take care of my physical needs (which includes not being stepped on) without them even being involved. Notice the boundary does not require the other person to do anything but is instead is something I do in response to their action.

Here’s an example of an emotional one. Let’s say I have a friend who really hates my husband and keeps talking shit about him to me. I can’t make her like my husband and I can’t control what she says to other people about him but I can decide how I want to be treated. The boundary in this case I would set is that I would ask her to no longer talk negatively about him in my presence. If she continues to talk about him, I will leave. If she calls me and wants to talk shit about him, I will hang up the phone. (This is a fictional situation by the way! My best girlfriends are fab and all love my husband). Notice again, this is an action I take in response to a boundary violation. It is not an action I ask her to take. She is still free to hate my husband. She is still free to talk about him until she’s blue in the face, even in my presence, but I don’t have to participate in it.

What a boundary is not
A boundary is not a threat or done in retaliation. Threats come from a place of anger, pain, fear – we threaten people because we want to cause harm (usually because we are hurt!). A boundary is set with respect & love. There shouldn’t be any intended harm when you set a boundary.

Here are a few example of threats (not boundaries!):
“If you don’t get a job that makes more money, I’m going to divorce you.”
“If you go out with your friends tonight, I will leave you.”
“If you don’t lose weight, I’m going to cheat on you.”

You could also call the three above “ultimatums”. Sometimes we get it in our head that people are supposed to act a certain way in life, as if there is some freakin rulebook that they should know about. We have rules for people that we just assume they will abide by and when they don’t, we get upset and want to throw up our fists and demand that they do what we want. But this isn’t the same thing. Someone not losing weight, going out with friends or not making more money is in no way a violation of your physical or emotional space. Demanding an action be taken by someone else is NOT a good boundary. The easiest way I can explain this is to remember that a boundary can only be enforced by you taking the action. The other person doesn’t have to do anything to satisfy you or make you happy in order to make the boundary successful.

All three of these examples are intended to cause fear, hurt and pain out of retaliation. Boundaries are never about retaliating. They’re more about protecting yourself (your physical / emotional space).

Threats = pain / fear / hurt.
Boundaries = love / protection / empowered.

If anything, when we set a boundary, it should help us feel more love towards the person and ourselves. Remaining in situations where we feel our personal boundaries are being encroached on brings up all kinds of negative feelings that can affect our life and our relationships. Setting clear and appropriate boundaries (not threats) where you have an action you know you can take is empowering and will let you take control over what you do have control over – yourself!

Will everyone be happy when you take a stand for yourself? Not always. People who like to cross our boundaries are rarely happy when someone has healthy self-esteem enough to set them! But what’s awesome, is that if you are in a healthy enough emotional place to set boundaries and hold yourself accountable to them, you will be less bothered by people who don’t like it.

How to set them
You set healthy boundaries by first deciding how you want to feel in the relationship. This friend who is talking crap about my husband – if she is someone really close to me, I probably want to feel love towards her, right? I don’t want to feel resentment and resentment is what I will feel if I keep listening to her negative feelings about someone I care about.

If I set my boundary from a place of love (for both of us) – it will be clear and appropriate.

If I set my boundary from a place of anger or resentment – it’s probably going to be more of a threat and that doesn’t help anyone (certainly not if I want to keep this person in my life).

I want to feel love towards her. I can’t stop her feelings and I can’t stop her from talking about him in general, but I certainly can control if I’m willing to listen to it or be around it.

I know some of you are reading this and going “But she shouldn’t be saying those things! She’s not a friend if she is!”

But, here’s the thing – that’s actually your opinion. That’s not a fact. I’m sure there are some cases, where telling a friend how awful her partner is, would be considered being a good friend (like what if the friend was in an abusive situation?), right? So, the best way to deal with those thoughts that come about about how someone should or shouldn’t be acting is to just remember that that is completely out of our control. So we need to focus on what we can control and that is our behavior. If she’s really as crappy as y’all think she is, I can choose to walk away from the friendship entirely but that’s not always what we want and sometimes way more extreme than it needs to be!

Ask yourself – Am I setting this out of love? Or out of fear/pain? and What do I want to feel towards this person? If love – boundary. If fear/pain – cautious, it might be a threat.

How to enforce them
We enforce boundaries by doing what we’ve said or decided that we’d do if the other person infringes on them.

Boundaries only work if we actually take the actions we’ve decided we are going to take when there is a boundary crossing. They are completely useless otherwise.

If you’ve set a boundary that you are going to leave the room when someone does something unacceptable to you, then you must leave.

If you’ve set a boundary that you are going to not answer work related phone calls after 7pm, then you must not answer your phone when coworkers call.

If you have a boundary and don’t follow through with the action you’ve set, then it’s not going to do anything but upset you and communicate to the other person that things are just fine with you!

If you’re not ready to take the actions you’ve decided to take in your boundary setting, then that is not an appropriate boundary and you should revise it. Remember, they don’t work if we don’t take the action we said we would take.

One more thing: You may tell someone what your boundaries are but it isn’t always necessary – because you are the one who will take the action, not them. There are some boundaries that aren’t worth saying to anyone, such as in the toe stepping example above – it goes without saying that most people don’t want their bodies to be stepped on. I don’t have to communicate my boundary here. In some cases though, you will want to communicate your boundary and doing so will make your relationships better. In the example with the friend talking shit about my husband, I would communicate my boundary. I certainly could act on it without communicating it, but it would make our relationship confusing to her when I got up and left the room or hung up the phone. Who wants more confusion and drama? No thanks. Communicating the boundary doesn’t make the boundary firmer (firmness happens on my side – my actions) or more enforceable but it does make communication clear and makes less room for resentment and pain on all sides.

Will my friend be annoyed? Maybe. Will she find herself still blabbing about my husband? Probably? Will she eventually learn to shut the fuck up around me? Yup. Pretty quickly I might add.

Quick recap: How do you know if you’ve set a boundary correctly?

  • It’s something you will do if your physical or emotional boundary is crossed (the other person doesn’t need to do anything to “respect” your boundary). You respect your own boundary.
  • It’s not a threat (it’s intention is not to cause harm or pain). It’s done out of love for you or the other person.
  • It is not an attempt to manipulate someone else’s behavior or choices. It’s about protecting you.
  • You act on it. Don’t set one and not do what you said you’d do. They don’t work that way.
  • You won’t feel frustrated anymore.

So that’s it!

Practice setting boundaries. You can have the relationship YOU choose to have with people. You decide ahead of time what you are ok with. You decide ahead of time what you are not ok with AND what action you will take if the other person crosses that boundary.This allows you to be fully present in more of your relationships, instead of spending time and energy resenting people.

Are good boundaries going to fix every aspect of all your challenging relationships? Of course not. But being able to set these and act on them is a sign of emotional maturity and responsibility and that can go a long way in every relationship.

I’d love to hear from you now. Do you have difficulty following through with boundaries you have set? Do you have difficulty determining when and how to set boundaries? They can be tricky, so I’m happy to help you find clarity if there is a situation you are having difficulty with.


Food is not the enemy

Eating is a "gift" of comfort to ourselves sometimes. Like a having a friend by our side even on the roughest of days.

Eating is a “gift” of comfort to ourselves sometimes. Like a having a friend by our side even on the roughest of days.

Why do you think you overeat, binge or yo yo diet? Why do you think you do it over and over again?

These activities cause us to feel pain, discomfort and shame. It also can cause us to gain weight.

But when we’re in the midst of it, we truly feel like it’s impossible to stop.

Why do you think that is? Why do you think it’s so difficult to stop?

Most of you will say, it’s because you’re addicted to food, or because you don’t have any self control but I don’t think that’s accurate.

Food Addict?
It’s not popular to say this in this industry, but I think labeling ourselves as “food addicts” sets us up for a lifelong and confusing struggle and I think we should avoid labeling it that way.

Here’s why:

We have to eat food to live. Every day. Multiple times a day. How can you consume something you’re “addicted to” in a responsible and healthy way? If it’s a true addiction, you really can’t, right? Common treatment for most drug or behavior addictions includes complete abstinence from the substance or activity that one is addicted to – except in the case of food addiction. Can you imagine someone in active recovery from alcohol addiction drinking daily – because they had to? Going back to the very substance that they struggled with? It would be challenging to view them as in recovery and not having relapsed, wouldn’t it? If you’re a food addict, are you relapsing every time you have a meal, regardless of what it is?

This is really confusing because we can’t not consume food.

We can't not consume food.

We can’t not consume food.

I’m not denying that some foods are made of addictive substances (of which we are bombarded with advertisements left and right) and I’m well aware that we can actually change our brain chemistry to crave more of these foods. But it’s probably not helping to call yourself a food addict. It’s just my opinion but I believe labeling ourselves that way just sets us up to feel shame everytime we eat and feeling that way only adds to the desire to eat, making what is already pretty challenging to heal from, even more so. I just don’t think it’s constructive to think of it this way.

No Self-Control?
About self-control, I know you have self control. If you didn’t have self-control, you’d probably call out of work more often than not. You’d probably tell off your boss, your child’s teacher, the lady yapping on her cell phone while being rung up by the cashier. You’d run red lights, you’d rip open presents under the Christmas tree before Christmas day, you’d rip off your shirt in public when hot etc.

I’m sure you can think of 5 things you’ve already done or not done today that exhibited remarkable self-control. What we want to do vs. what life/society/we expect of ourselves. It’s a tough thing to juggle but yet we manage to do it most of the time in many areas of our lives. You do it daily with many of your food choices too, don’t you?

If Johnny Depp or Christoph Waltz walked into the room I am in right now, I know I would be able to stop myself from ripping either of their clothes off (although if they initiated, I might talk to the husband about getting a hall pass). Can I say the same thing about a box of cheez-its? It’s debatable. I’m sure I’ve said I couldn’t control myself around them before – I like to joke about it. But I know it’s not really about being able to control myself. I know I can control myself – but if the right (or wrong) circumstances align themselves, I’m less likely to be willing to use my self-control (that I know I have). I’m sure this is true for you.

If we remove thinking of ourselves as food addicts or of having a lack of self control from the equation, what we are left with is the real reason you are having such a difficult time stopping yourself from eating.  It’s because of what the act of eating is giving you.

Eating is giving you something. What is it?
Consciously or unconsciously, you probably view eating as comfort, joy, safety, love. You may feel that you “deserve” to eat this food or the time you have to yourself while eating it. It’s like a friend you feel safe talking to at the end of a long day. Eating is about getting enough of something that you are not getting elsewhere in your life. You are hungry for something in your life – and it’s not food – but food is currently filling the place of whatever it is you crave.

You can’t give up overeating or bingeing because it’s one of the ways you “treat” yourself. It’s one of the ways you care for yourself. It’s one of the few things you do for you and not for anyone else. It’s, in a way, a gift you give to yourself.

I know you’re reading this right now both agreeing with this idea and going “no way, that’s fucked up! Why would I comfort myself with something that is causing me so much pain?”

Exactly. Why are you choosing to comfort yourself with something that causes you so much pain?

Well, on the most basic level, humans are born and bred to seek comfort. In ancient times, we had to focus on making sure all our immediate needs were met – food, shelter, warmth. Having those needs satisfied brought comfort and allowed us as a species to relax a little. Today, more of our immediate needs are met much more easily than they used to be, but we’re still wired to seek comfort and food is one of those things that we still associate with that feeling.

Food isn’t the enemy. It’s the opposite. You’re choosing to eat because you think you are doing something loving and caring for yourself.

The next time you have the urge to overeat or binge, can you think of something else you could do to feel comforted? Loved? Cared for?

This is not a failing on your part – we are wired to protect ourselves in this way. Can you feel compassion for yourself for choosing food as comfort? Why or why not? I sometimes find that if compassion doesn’t want to come out, it helps to think of how I would react if it was a young child dealing with this, or even a really good friend. Thinking of someone I am naturally more forgiving towards, helps me find compassion for myself.

What in your life is causing you to seek comfort, love or caring? Often we choose food for comfort because we are hurting in another place in our life. Work is stressful. You’re lonely. You don’t receive enough human touch. You don’t have a creative outlet. You never attempted to have a career in X even though it was always your dream etc. There is an area that needs your attention and it is communicating that through your desire for food.

How do we begin to handle this and stop seeing food as an enemy and ourselves as out of control addicts? With curiosity and compassion.

Sit in a quiet place, when you have some time to be alone and ask yourself these questions – out loud or write it down on paper (please):

  1.  What gift am I trying to give myself through food?
  2.  What am I really hungry for?
  3.  How can I get that hunger fed in a more satisfying way?

Don’t be surprised if answering those gets you feeling a little emotional (it’s not uncommon to let out some tears with this stuff!). After you’ve answered those questions and identified how you are truly trying to care for yourself, I ask that you give yourself permission to go after what you are really hungry for. Don’t worry about how you’re going to make it happen right now (we’ll figure that out later). Don’t think of the reasons why you think it’s not possible or practical. Right now, just say “yes. I can have that. I give myself permission to have that in my life.”

You deserve love. Human touch. Creativity. Inspiring work. A connected existence. Quiet time. Acceptance. A little selfishness. Whatever else your heart desires.

Tell yourself you can have it and begin to dream about what life will be like when you do.

If this speaks to you, you are my people (and I’d love it if you submitted your email below). I’m an emotional eating coach who’s struggled with this stuff herself and I’d love to support you in cultivating more compassion for yourself.

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