Monthly Archives: July 2016

Realization: I Still Try to Make Others Laugh at My Body

I've always made my body the joke to protect myself.

I’ve always made my body the joke to protect myself.

Earlier this summer I arrived at a family cookout and one of my relatives said to me “Oh, look at your nice figure”. I was wearing a long fitted henley sun dress. Instead of just saying “Thank you.” I said “oh, it’s because I’m wearing too tight clothes! haha.” I cringed the second it came out of my mouth. The dress isn’t even too tight. It fits me perfectly and I love wearing that dress.

I have a tough time accepting a compliment without making a joke about my body or me. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done.

But it’s kind of a problem since I, you know, work with women who have emotional eating struggles and because I’ve come so far with my own. I’ve changed a ton but from time to time behaviors come to my attention that make me go “whoa! what is this?”

I’ve learned so much about myself the last couple of years. I finally feel like I’ve figured out how I can eat normally, how to not overeat, which foods work for me (and which ones don’t), how to move my body with exercise that I enjoy (instead of just whatever will burn the most calories).

I’ve become hyper aware of all the routines and habits I had created that kept me stuck in the same cycle of overeating and dieting. I no longer try to go as long as I can on as few calories as I can so I can eat a ton at night. I can sit comfortably with uncomfortable feelings without needing to eat to comfort myself. The negative self talk about my body that used to be a never-ending commentary in the background hardly ever shows up at all anymore. It’s quiet now.

I feel more confident in my body.  Enough so that I find myself doing things like taking off a sweat drenched tank top in the middle of a busy NH state park parking lot after a hike, and switching it out for a clean one, without worrying who might see me in my bra or might see my belly. That probably doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you’ve spent most of your life changing in shower stalls or bathrooms so you didn’t have to have your body seen naked in public view it’s a big deal. A really huge accomplishment. I can go to the beach now and wear a bathing suit and not worry about my pale thighs or belly rolls. I’m there to have fun, not to look like a model. I’m sure some of that comfortableness comes with getting older and just not giving a fuck but I know a lot of it comes from the work I’ve done in coaching.

All of this isn’t to say, wow, look at me, I’m doing so well. This is so easy! Everyone can repair their relationship with food on their own! No. All of this stuff is awesome and I feel great but, what I’ve noticed, is that as far as I have come, and as more “real” as this feels as any of my previous attempts at a normal life with food and my body, is that sometimes shit I thought was behind me still comes up from time to time.

Occasionally eating more food than I needed? Not a big deal, especially when it’s an incredible meal at a restaurant that I’ve been dying to check out. Occasionally choosing to eat foods that don’t have any nutritional value? Really not a big deal, especially when I’m choosing to eat it because I really want it (and not because I need to hide from some feelings).

Something I thought I was over, that keeps popping up is saying negative stuff about my own body to other people!

If I see someone I haven’t seen in awhile and they tell me I look great, I tend to wave it off by saying “oh, thanks, but I’ve actually gained a couple of pounds.” If someone tells me I look like I’ve lost more weight, “thanks, but I’ve really been slacking lately!”. I’ll whine about clothing stores having weird sizing and billowy styles and how at Lucky Jeans I have to buy a size Small shirt, even though there’s no way I’m a Small! If someone tells me I’m getting skinny, I say things like “Nah, I weigh about 157 lbs!” (as if it would be impossible for someone at that weight to be slender or fit looking).

In my head, I feel good about my body. I wear clothes that I feel comfortable in. I think I look pretty fit.  And I’m at a sustainable and healthy weight. But outwardly, I find myself projecting the thoughts that I may no longer consciously be having, but were a part of my repertoire for decades. Like tree ring patterns, the ways I navigated through my world have left a record of my history that can’t be washed away so easily.

I’ve always had a self-deprecating humor and made fat or ugly jokes about myself. When I was a kid, people would make jokes about my size in my presence and it stung, a lot. I remember playing the game “Taboo” once with my sisters and some of my cousins. Taboo was a game where you had to use words to get the other players to name a word on the card without using the 4 or 5 other synonym or related words on the card. Sort of like a riff on charades or pictionary but with without acting or drawing.

One of my cousins was trying to get us to say “fat” or “chubby” or something like that. I don’t remember what the actual word was. He was struggling to come up with words to give us hints because things like “obesity”, “overweight”, “large” were off limits. So, what he finally said was “Andrea”. My sister’s and cousin’s looked confused and shouted out things like “blonde?”, “girl?” and then finally someone said “fat!” and my cousin said “ding ding! That’s it!”. I was totally mortified (and pissed! This cousin had a bit of a weight issue at the time himself.). It certainly wasn’t the first time someone in my family had referred to me as fat but it was the first time it became clear to me that that was how most people would see me. That was how they would describe me. It was what I was leading with, even if that’s not who I saw myself as.

I think I started to make the jokes myself with the idea being that if I made sure everyone around me knew that I knew that I was fat, anything they may say or think about my weight couldn’t hurt me. That rational didn’t work out so well, it still hurt, but I adopted the practice as a form of armor. If they’re going to laugh at me, I’m going to be in on the joke dammit! They’re not going to laugh behind my back – they’re going to laugh with me!

Making these jokes about my body, in response to anything and everything was just how I operated. It became a part of my personality in a way. So much so that most of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it. It’s just “me” now.

The summer after my junior year in college I worked for the University’s department of housing. It was a physically demanding job – we worked long hours in sweltering heat painting dorm rooms and carrying heavy furniture up and down many flights of stairs. I remember a few of the other kids always wanting to be my partner in carrying furniture. I was strong and I made carrying steel bedframes feel easy for the other person, because as a “fat” person, I thought it was my duty to take on more of the weight, more of the work. I could handle it. Even the guys would rush to carry with me. And it felt good to be wanted. It felt good to be seen as useful and valuable. For once my fatness was a positive, not a negative. I made jokes about being built like a “brick shithouse” or I’d hold flex my biceps and say “Have you seen these guns?” and everyone would laugh. They thought I was so funny and down to earth and “real” (something that seemed rare on a college campus). I said what everyone else was already thinking. My roommates and I became regular hosts of parties at our apartment that summer for our coworkers. My fatness was valuable at work and the humor I used to detract from myself also made me a riot and people loved to party with me. I could drink almost everyone under the table. It was a joke but also a sense of pride that I took at the time being able to pound 12 beers with the guys on my work crew. I may be fat, but I can party! The fat strong funny girl was a party animal too. The more attention I got, the more the jokes came. I couldn’t stop.

I’m not that girl anymore. My life is really different from my college partying days. I can’t drink anyone under the table anymore (and nor do I want to). I’m still strong but you can bet I’ll let others do their share of the hard work (but I’ll still ask that you admire my biceps). I still make jokes, about my body, but also about really morbid stuff. I have a really dark sense of humor. I’m step over the line a lot. But I don’t want to be that person who makes negative remarks about their body all the time.

She’s still there.

And it’s really annoying because the negative self-talk about my body isn’t there so much anymore. I can walk by the bathroom mirror naked and look at myself and not think much of anything, other than “that’s me”. I don’t recoil in disgust.

In general, I don’t necessarily want to change things that are part of my core personality. I know that a lot of that stuff is what makes me “me”. It’s even part of how some people know me. Who am I without this stuff? Who am I if I don’t make these kind of jokes? Could I be someone who just says “thank you” to a compliment?

I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say with this post.

I guess just that even as far as I’ve come, there are still things that come out sometimes that surprise me. I thought this was behind me. I thought I was healthy enough to not crap on my appearance publicly and regularly. I have clients who get upset sometimes at old behaviors that they still find themselves doing sometimes and to them I say “I know how you feel”. I feel like a failure when this stuff pops up. How can I preach “self-love” and body acceptance when the moment you complement me I have to make a joke about the size or shape of my body? Ug. That’s horrifying.

I have come really far and I don’t see myself ever going back to the unhealthy place I was in in the past but there are still some things I’ll need to keep my eye on.

I have to work at doing this differently. Knowing that I have this behavior isn’t enough to change it. Awareness is a start but I have to keep going and do more. This was something I actually forgot that I did. And now that it’s on my radar, it’s my job to actively work to do better.

If this hits home for you, here are a few questions to explore for yourself. I’d love to hear some of your answers if you want to share them with me:

  • Is there something that you’ve discovered about your personality or behavior that you believe is a result of your history with your weight or eating struggles? How does it impact your life? How does it impact how you view yourself?
  • Why do you think you developed this trait or habit?
  • Would you like to respond differently? If so, what would that look like?

Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

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You Have To Do The Work (Or Why You Don’t Need to Read Another Book, Take Another Course or Do More Research).

You already know what you need to know to get started. Don't fall into the trap of believing there must be easier or better answers out there. Start taking action on what you already know now.

You already know what you need to know to get started. Don’t fall into the trap of believing there must be easier or better answers out there. Start taking action on what you already know now.

When I was first training to be a coach, I had this overwhelming feeling that I didn’t know enough. No matter how many lectures I listened to, worksheets completed, books read and coaching demos watched, this feeling kept coming back. How can I be ready to do this work? There’s no way I know what I’m doing. I’ve got to learn more before I begin. Maybe this book or course has the answer. Maybe I need to read a few more blogs on the subject.

What my coaching school told us over and over (it was a common complaint and fear of students), and what I learned to be true afterwards, is that the only way you get good at this work (or anything) is by doing it.  The only way you “know” enough is by going out and doing it.

Knowing something intellectually is not the same as knowing something spiritually or in your core. You can consume all the information available in the world. You can read every book, buy every online course and you’ll still feel just as unprepared as you did on day 1 if you don’t actually go out and do the real-life work.

I had to take everything I learned in school, from books and lectures and apply it in actual coaching conversations before any of it made sense – before I felt confidence in what I had set out to do. In order to become a skilled coach (and to feel like a coach), I had to actually coach!

The same can be said for repairing your relationship with food, with losing weight or getting fit. Really, it can be said about anything new we want to do or create in our lives. You can spend hours upon hours of your time learning about what diet to try, what exercises to do, what mental habits you need to learn and none of it will get you where you want to be unless you actually go out, buy the food, prepare it, eat it, go out and do the exercises in your workout plan several days a week and practice all the mental tools to change your thinking. The key to reaching any goal (as I have preached on and on about before) is taking the physical steps and actions to get there.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that x, y, and z isn’t working for them and so they ask me to give them something else that will work. “What else can I try?” they ask. Let’s say X is mindful or intuitive eating. Y is eating whole foods most of the time. Z is feeling their feelings instead of eating them. When someone tells me any of these things, my first instinct is to play sleuth before handing them more information. I have to find out what “not working” means. I don’t doubt that whatever they are doing isn’t working (if it was, this complaint wouldn’t be so prevalent) but I have to question what mindful eating, whole foods or feeling their feelings looks like in their reality.

How are they applying it in their daily life?

What does each meal look like?

How many times did they feel an uncomfortable feeling today and what did they do?

How long did it last? 

In reality, most people who learn about mindful eating think that just being 50% mindful three meals a week is enough to say they tried mindful eating and it didn’t work for them. People who say eating whole foods didn’t work for them think that eating a salad one day and steamed broccoli on another cancels out the 3 trips to McDonald’s and the 3 pints of ice cream they ate this week. People who are supposed to be focusing on feeling their feelings instead of eating them, feel an uncomfortable feeling once or twice and run for the hills (and usually into the pantry).

Trying something once, twice or partially 10 times is not enough.

It’s half-assed and it’s not doing it.

Feeling your feelings regularly is something that takes a lot of time and effort. We have to continuously bring our minds back to our discomfort and be able to sit with it until the feeling dissipates. The same goes with mindful eating. If you want that to work for you, you really have to make mindful eating something you do at every meal, with every bite.

We think that just by knowing something, it will be enough to help us make changes. Knowing the why’s and the hows is a big part of making changes but it’s just a blueprint. You’re the architect. You still have to oversee the actual building of the building. You have to go out and buy supplies like wood and power tools. You have to hire a team to help you build it. You have to get permits and deal with bureaucratic BS. You may even have to physically pick up a hammer and nail a lot of boards together. Not just once. Over and over until what you build looks like the blueprint. You don’t give up on day 1 because the hardware store didn’t have the brand of nails you like. You don’t give up on day 2 because a contractor was late. You might need to adjust your schedule or change your plan of attack but you do what you have to do to complete the project. Just knowing how something can and should be built isn’t the same as actually getting it built. It’s the same with repairing your relationship with food.

You do not need another book. You don’t need another course. You don’t need to go to another workshop. You have to settle in with what you already know and use it.

If you do this, try to learn everything you can, but don’t actually put it into action, don’t feel badly. You’re not alone. We all do this. We all have a lot on our plates and we try to just skip over the parts of our healing process that we find difficult or confusing or uncomfortable.

Instead of hunkering down and immersing ourselves in the physical process of change (like letting uncomfortable feelings be, prepping healthy food for every meal, returning our focus to our meals each time our brain wants to go somewhere else etc) we attempt spiritual bypass. We learn all we can and then think that means we can skip over the meaty parts because we have the intellectual knowledge.

The problem with this is that we end up really still being in the same place. We just think we’ve moved past something when really all we’ve done is checked out in the part of our journey where it gets hard. Stop checking out. Check “in” instead and apply what you already know.

If you see yourself doing this, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What is it that you want?
  • What actions are you taking towards that goal?
  • What have you tried that has not worked?
  • How much effort did you put into the things that you feel did not work?
  • How much of your time and energy do you spend reading, learning, consuming new or more material on the subject you want to change? (Are you always buying another book on the same subject? Always following a new guru on social media? Do you buy courses online but then look to buy another before completing the work they ask of you?
  • What is something you know you must do to reach your goal but are having difficulty taking the first step on?
  • Why do you think you haven’t taken that step?
  • What would make taking that step easier? Who could support you? How can you support yourself?
  • If you already knew everything there was to know about your subject or goal, what 3 things do you think you could start doing today that would move you closer to reaching that goal?

If you are struggling in translating your knowledge into action with emotional eating, chronic dieting or overeating, let’s talk. Coaching is an amazing tool for exactly that kind of transformation and I’d love to be of service to you.


Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

Forget Willpower, Instead Learn to Strengthen Your Self-Control

 

You don't need lots of willpower to resist that 2nd piece of cake. You just need to utilize self-control that you already have.

You don’t need lots of willpower to resist that 2nd piece of cake. You just need to utilize self-control that you already have.

I’ve lost dozens and dozens of pounds, dozens of times (because I’ve also gained dozens of pounds multiple times). Each time I lose a noticeable amount of weight I start hearing the same thing over and over from well meaning folks:  “I wish I had your willpower.”

Saying no to cake at all the office birthday parties:  “You have so much willpower!”

Not eating pizza at a family gathering. blah blah blah willpower.

Passing on the bread at a restaurant. blah blah blah willpower.

Getting a good sweat on almost every day of the week. blah blah blah so much willpower.

Honestly, I don’t think I have willpower. What I do have and what I practice is using and strengthening my self-control.

Frankly, I’m not a fan of the word willpower because most of us give it too much power. We give it control over whether or not we take good care of ourselves.

We think about it as something we have a certain amount of and when it’s gone or used up, we are unable to control ourselves. We hand over our personal power and wipe our hands of responsibility and pretend as if this internal willpower is outside of us.

Think about this for a second.

 

Willpower and Self-Control are the Same Thing but We Think About Them Differently and That’s Part of the Problem

 

What sorts of things do you use “willpower” for?

We use it to resist eating foods that will keepus from reaching our body goals, we use it to not pick up a drink or cigarette when we’re trying to quit or cut back. And some of us use it when talking about romantic partners. Ever met someone you knew wasn’t good for you but you felt pulled towards? We all have. You’ve probably said “I just can’t resist him (or her), I have no willpower!”

Willpower is really just another word for self-control. But we think about them a bit differently. Self-control is always in your back pocket and you can exercise it to make it stronger. Willpower sounds like something magical and limited. Willpower will disappear on you, in an instant if the right circumstances present themselves. Self-control on the other hand, is always under the surface. You can always choose to utilize it.

You have tons of self-control.

I know you do.

Even if we’ve never met, I know you have self-control.

How do I know this?

You don’t run into the street when a car is coming. You brush your teeth each day even when you are tired. You get up and go to work each day, even when you really don’t feel like it. You pay your bills, even though you’d love to spend the money on something fun. You don’t eat cake for every meal even though you could. You don’t punch people in the face when they irritate you. You watch your language when around small children (or try to anyway). You urinate in toilets in private, rather than peeing on the floor when the urge arrises.

These are all examples of self-control. And self-control is, on some level, something we can learn and improve our mastery of.

 

Self-Control is Something That Can Be Strengthened

 

In other words, somewhere along the way, you learned to take certain actions in order to create certain outcomes in your world. Toddlers run into the street because they haven’t learned that it’s dangerous yet. People who want to feel secure in their life pay their bills and don’t throw wayward fists.

You never needed “willpower” to brush your teeth. No one would ever look at you brushing your teeth and say “Wow, look at the willpower on you!”. They would sound crazy. Your parents taught you to brush your teeth and while for most of us it took a certain amount of encouragement, cajoling or even force for it to become a daily habit, it happened because they took daily action with you until it just became something you did automatically.

Self-control gets stronger with use. Take daily action. Repetition. Decisions. Routines. Habits. Discipline. Resolve. Practice.

Toss out your image of “willpower” and exert your already existing self-control. This is how we stop feeling weak and turn it into ironclad strength that we can use anytime, anyplace.

 

Practice Makes us Perfect at Whatever we “Practice”

 

Here’s another way to think about this. Whatever we do lots of, we get really good at. An action or thought becomes easy, becomes a part of us. We become skilled at it. When we do something repeatedly, we are “practicing” something. And practice essentially makes us “perfect” at it.

For example:

 

  • If we study a subject and work daily at it – we’ll be knowledgeable in that area. (practice learning)
  • If we play guitar every day for a year, at the end of the year we’re going to be way better than we were in the beginning. (practice guitar)
  • Babies learning to walk, crawl and take steps and fall down and get up again, and again until one day they are very steady on their feet. (practice walking)
  • A student taking driver’s ed is a better driver at their 12th driving hour than they were their 1st time at the wheel. (practice driving)
  • Someone who begins an exercise program today and commits to 30 minutes a day will be much fitter and stronger after 6 months than they were on day 1. (practice exercising)
  • A person who puts in time and effort to shop for and prepare healthy food will do it faster and more efficiently after they’ve been doing it every day for 6 weeks. (practice food prep)practice makes perfect

Those all make sense, right? We understand the value of how actively practicing something can form and change us.

But what about what we actively don’t do? Or things we’re doing but are unaware of and don’t want to do!? We get good at “not doing” stuff too.

More fun examples:

  • If you never exercise you’re getting really good at the habit of not exercising. (not exercising is what you practice)
  • Someone who repeatedly thinks negative things about their body is learning how to hate their body. (practice hating their body)
  • People who don’t speak up for themselves get good at keeping quiet. (practice not speaking up)
  • If we go home every night and eat everything in the kitchen – we’re getting really good at eating everything in the kitchen. (practice overeating)
  • A person who blames others for their life, learns how to not take responsibility. (practice blaming)

Doing something over and over (or not doing it over and over) creates and reinforces habits. If you are “practicing” something that isn’t helping you get the life you want, you’re going to have to start actively practicing things that do.

This will take time.

Just like a baby learning to walk or someone learning to drive, it’ll be hard at first. You’ll fall down, you’ll brake too hard and you’ll occasionally revert to the old habits you were practicing. But if you keep practicing this new thing, eventually you’ll be good at it too!

The reason we feel like we don’t have enough willpower to “resist” the cake or pass on the pizza is because we have created the habit of frequently having the cake or pizza. We don’t have the willpower to not lay on the couch after work, because we have repetitively laid on the couch after work. We’re amazing at laying on the couch. We could win awards at this couch thing.

If we want to change this, we are going to have to actively work hard at it, at least until it becomes our new normal. Our brains want to do the easy thing, they want to be efficient – and doing anything new, whether it be working out or even just driving a car for the first time, it’s going to take a lot of effort and concentration to get yourself there.

This isn’t a bad thing. This is good. This means YOU have it in you to change it.

If it’s just up to our idea of “willpower” we’re going to fail because it’s limited. But your self-control (the same thing but we think differently about it) is flexible, malleable and can be used like a muscle that gets stronger with each use.

You have to make the decision that you want to be more fit more than you want the snacks, eating out etc. You have to make the choice that you’re going to work your body each day even if you don’t really feel like it. You have to prepare healthy foods that fuel your body daily, not just once in awhile.

 

Use Self-Control daily with one Choice. One Step. One Action.

 

Applying self-control to your life is no different than going after a new job or going back to school for a career change. No one would ever say you did those things because you had willpower. You did those things because you worked hard, took daily action, created good habits. You wanted them. You did all of those things because you have amaze-balls self-control that you use regularly. And guess what it all started with? One choice. One step. One action. And then repetition of those steps. Over and over.

You have to choose to use your self-control for yourself, which will include making daily decisions that will seem difficult at first (choosing more vegetables, choosing to walk more, choosing to pass on dessert etc) but that will eventually become your new normal, it will be easier and more automatic. No one can do it for you and no one can share their “willpower” with you. You can’t avoid the hard spots between where you are right now and where you want to be. You have to accept that there is going to be some struggle as you get going – but isn’t what’s on the other side worth it?

Remember that whatever you’re not good at doing right now, whether it’s just getting out the door for a walk 5 days in a row or eating more green vegetables, you’re only going to get “good” at it by doing it over and over and reinforcing the habit. I never thought I’d be writing a blog post every week, but here I am, writing blog posts week after week. It all started with me deciding that that was what I was going to do and then going step by step to get there. Now it’s my normal. Your hard today can be your normal 6 months from now.

A few questions for thought:

What do you wish you had more “willpower” to do?

What are you currently “practicing” that you want to continue doing?

What are you “practicing” that you want to stop doing?

What is something you can do tomorrow towards one of your goals that you can commit to repeating for 30 days?

What if We Focused on What We Want as Much as We Focus on What We Don’t Want?

Notice how much attention you give to thoughts about what you don't want or don't like about your life. What might happen if you turned things around?

Notice how much attention you give to thoughts about what you don’t want or don’t like about your life. What might happen if you turned things around?

Three years ago this week I walked into my job after the long 4th of July weekend and gave my notice. I had spent the previous 6 months dreading almost every day, not sleeping and finding myself in tears both at work and at home, way way more than normal. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Looking back at it now, I wish I had spent my energy differently during those last 6 months there. I was so unhappy (managerial changes, layoffs etc) and so vested in my own misery that I couldn’t see anything other than my own unhappiness. It was like this massive grey cloud that obstructed my senses, so thick and impenetrable, I walked around with it held out in front of me, assuming that the grey cloud I saw everywhere was confirmation that everyone around me at work was also miserable. Some of them had their own clouds for sure (it was an ugly year for the company), but I was coloring my entire world with the way I had chosen to think about my situation. And I thought that the second I walked out those doors that that grey cloud would be gone forever.

When I embarked upon starting my own business, those same grey clouds would appear every so often, not as dark and thick as before, but certainly enough to make me question what I was doing (do I know enough? am I good at this? was I insane to quit?? etc). I realized that my situation wasn’t fully to blame for my unhappiness – a huge chunk of it was because of how much time I spent thinking about how bad things were at work. I was basically growing my unhappiness by cultivating thoughts about how deeply unhappy I was, all day long, over and over – with every interaction I had.

I am not unique (though I’d like to think I am, haha!).

Most of us spend big chunks of time focusing on what we don’t want in our current situation. It’s easier to think about what’s not going well, what we don’t want, or how we don’t want things to be.

Maybe it’s your job that you hate. You get up each morning, dreading the day ahead. Even going to sleep is challenging because you are thinking about how much you don’t want to go to work tomorrow. How much of your day (or night) is spent thinking about how much you don’t want to be where you spend most of your day?

Maybe it’s your weight. You weigh yourself first thing in the morning and feel instant disappointment. You’re still fat! You go to get dressed and have a meltdown just going into the closet. You know most of what’s in here doesn’t fit your “chubby” body. You take one last look in the mirror before you leave the house and wonder how you let yourself get this heavy? How much of your day is filled with thoughts about what is wrong about your body?

Maybe it’s where you are living. It’s too far of a commute to work. It’s too far in the woods. Your house is too big. It’s too small. You don’t like how it’s decorated. You don’t want to stay there but don’t want to deal with a move either. How much of your day do you dedicate to thinking about where you don’t want to be?

Maybe it’s the people you spend time with. Your husband annoys you or he’s not emotionally available. Your friends aren’t available enough or you have that one friend who is too available and you need more space. Your family is too nosy or they’re too distant. How much time do you spend thinking you’d rather be with someone other than the person or people you are currently with?

Maybe it’s your car. It needs some work or it’s too expensive.

Maybe it’s your local grocery store. They don’t carry the brands you like or they do, but it’s always too crowded.

Maybe it’s how you spend your free time. What free time? Or too much free time?

I think that’s probably enough examples to illustrate the point. We spend a ton of our thinking time in thoughts about what about our lives is “wrong” or “too much” or not “enough”.

How many times has doing that actually changed your situation?

Does a new job materialize when you spend all day stewing over how miserable you are?

Do you suddenly start to love your body after you’ve assaulted it with the 8th “You’re too fat” message in one day?

Does your unhappiness in your current home help you find your dream home in your dream town?

No. None of these thoughts about what we don’t want in our current lives serves to bring us what we do want. Sure, some of us can argue that if we’re happy, we’re unlikely to make changes – and that a glimmer of dissatisfaction can be what sparks motivation to change. But there’s a difference between wanting more in life and finding all that is wrong in it.

If anything, spending too much time in these thoughts about what we don’t want, can make us feel even more down, even more stuck, even more unhappy and less likely to take steps towards changing our situation.

What do you think would happen if we spent more time thinking about what we do want in our lives, where we want to be, what we want to create and who we want to be? What might happen if we spent time thinking about all the things that are right in our world?

When we put our focus on the things we do want in our lives, it makes us feel gratitude, appreciation, love and even joy. When we feel more of those things, we take actions that bring us more of what we want and it can cultivate more patience, tolerance and even appreciation in the areas that we do want to change.

How do we get there? How do we stop thinking so much about what we don’t want?

Here are two exercises that can help turn your thinking around (you’ll need paper and pen or pencil for this):

  1. Think about a time when you felt super pumped up, ready to create something new, go after something big or otherwise make major changes. What was going on in your life? What were you thinking about? Who with, and how were you spending your time? Write down the thoughts that you recall made you feel the most motivated. What thoughts in your current life are most like those thoughts? How can you have more of them?





  2. Each morning or evening (whichever is more convenient for you) write down 5 things in your life that you already have that you want. We spend a ton of time thinking about the things in life that we want but that we don’t yet have. That creates feelings of drought, lack – scarcity! I’m asking you to spend some time creating desire for the things you already have. What do you have in life that you truly want? Try to list 5 different things each day, even if it’s a variation on something you’ve listed before.





 

For exercise #2, here are a few examples from my own life: I want my husband and I want to be married to him. I want to be my own boss and I want to have clients who work to have a better relationship with food. I want my active lifestyle and my strong body. I want my safe and beautiful home. I want my sweet cat. I want my empathy and my sense of humor.

It may seem silly to list out things that seem obvious that we have that we “want”  – and it’s certainly way easier to come up with a list of things we don’t want! There are some days I get stuck in thinking about how I’m tired of living so far away in the woods or that as much as I love the freedom of working from home, it gets lonely and I feel like I’ve gotten extra socially awkward since I started (haha!)  but while those things are true – there are not the only “truth” in my life. There are plenty of things in my life that I do want – exactly as they already are.

We think of “wanting” as something we do when we are going without. But wanting is also desiring what we have already and even if there are things in your life that you don’t like and do want to change, I am sure there are things that you are blessed with that you do want and you do desire. Putting your focus on those can help get us out of focusing on the stuff we don’t want – and it will release our energy to be able to be put to use doing something more constructive.

One area that this has really made an impact on for me is my relationship with my body. Someone asked me recently how I made a switch from such a negative body image to a more positive one and one of the things I shared with her was that I indulged thoughts about what my body could do more than I indulged the thoughts about what my body was lacking (in my opinion). Both types of thoughts pop in my head and there’s no controlling what thoughts we have – but we do have control over what we do with those thoughts. I started to put more energy (intentionally) into thinking about all the amazing things my body does for me every single day – breathing, heart beating, feet supporting me when I want to take a step, every muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, organ and everything else in my body serving a function every day that enables me to do really cool things. Being able to ride a bike, take barre classes, walk, run, jump, lift weights, carry groceries, think, cook, love etc.  My whole life is possible because of the body I’m in and all that she does, every day for me. Doesn’t that deserve more attention than what is “wrong” about it? It does and so I started putting more energy there. And the cool thing about that is that it fuels my decisions about what to eat or what kind of exercise I do that is more supportive of a body I love (rather than as a way to punish my body). I put more focus on what I do want about my body than what I don’t want – and that has revolutionized my relationship with her.

In the same way, we can revolutionize our entire life with how we direct our thinking. What if we focused on what we want as much as we focus on what we don’t want?

That’s not to say that if you’re unhappy in your job, your marriage, your lifestyle, your health etc that you should just ignore it and focus on the happy stuff. I’m not suggesting sweeping anything under the rug. I’m just suggesting that we put in an equal amount of time and energy thinking about the stuff in life that we do want as we spend thinking about the stuff we’d like to change.

This is your life and you get to make of it what you want – so do it!


Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).