Category Archives: dieting

What Does it Mean to Have Food Freedom?

I want it all and on my terms.

There have been many years where the way I ate was most definitely a “diet”. My goal being to make my body smaller and lighter through food restriction.

Then there were several years where the way I was eating was still restrictive in a lot of ways even if weight loss was just a backup singer to the lead vocalist in the band of “health”. Sometimes I restricted that quantity of food I ate, sometimes it was the calories. Sometimes entire food groups, no dairy, no wheat, lower carb, no animal products, no processed food etc.

During these times, I referred to my way of eating not as a diet, but as a “lifestyle”. The goal of the “lifestyle” was to feel good, and to maintain and “insure” my health, but if my “lifestyle” way of eating was a TV show, there would definitely be some closed captions in parenthesis behind me, whispering shadily that my goal was still to become a smaller person. Make no mistake, the word lifestyle is a both a great way and a terrible way to describe eating like this. On one hand  it has to be a lifestyle in order for anyone to be able to eat that way. You have to have a certain amount of money, time and willingness to prepare food with both strange and time consuming ingredients. Your life has to take on a “lifestyle” where food becomes the most important thing . . . because if you live this way you won’t have time or room for anything else. But on the other hand, a food “lifestyle” is just another word for a diet. It is still restriction with a more appealing name.

Somewhere beyond that is where I am right now.

I’ve been playing with a lot of ideas, a lot of foods and really analyzing what I want my relationship with food to look like.

3 and a half years of coaching women on their relationship with food and I decided that I don’t want dieting, “lifestyle” diets and moral judgements around food to be included in my own.

I want freedom with food. I want ease and I want time and energy available to do other things.

Having food freedom means having more freedom in my life in general.

You may have heard me toss around the term “food freedom” or having “freedom with food” a few times over the last year or so.

But what am I really talking about? I know it’s confusing, especially if you’ve followed me from the beginning. My stance has evolved quite a bit since I started coaching. It is still and always will be evolving. What works for me one month may not be true three month from now. And because of that recognition I have really moved away from giving specific food related advice here anymore. I really believe you have to make these decisions for yourself and that no one can know what makes the most sense for you, but you. It should go without saying that f you have certain health conditions that require abstaining from certain foods, like celiac disease or monitoring your intake of certain macronutrients, like diabetes, that may be a different story.

So in case your food story is also evolving and you too want to leave dieting, lifestyle diets and food morality behind, let’s talk about what I mean by food freedom.

Food freedom is:

  • eating what I want, when I want. Sometimes it’s a burger and fries, and sometimes it’s fresh vegetables.
  • making my own decisions about what foods are good for my body instead of changing my mind every time a new half-assed food study comes out
  • being able to walk into any restaurant and find something to eat
  • being able to eat food that isn’t “healthy” and be completely fine with that
  • not feeling virtuous for ordering the fish or for eating light if I don’t have a big appetite.
  • not letting other people’s decisions about food affect my own needs and choices (this one takes some time/work)
  • not feeling like I have to explain or defend my food choices to anyone
  • not being worried about what other people think about what I’m eating or not eating.
  • trusting my body to tell me when I’ve had enough
  • deciding that it’s ok to have ice cream for dinner because that’s what I want
  • realizing that there are some foods that I don’t want to start eating again, because on revisiting them, they still make me feel like poop
  • being able to skip a meal because I’m just not hungry
  • eating after 8pm because I am hungry
  • trying new foods, prepared in a variety of ways, without needing to know the nutrition facts for the item first
  • not hesitating to order the thing I never “let” myself order when I was dieting (if it’s what I want)
  • choosing for myself whether to eat the same amount of meals each day or to eat whenever I want to
  • making only one rule around food and that is: I get to eat and not eat whatever the fuck I want
  • accepting that my body shape or size may fluctuate throughout the year (and keeping some flexible clothing sizes on hand so that I can feel my best whether my body size goes up or down
  • not making myself sick by worrying about what to make for dinner. One meal or 5 meals doesn’t make a big deal in the scheme of things.
  • buying a box of cap’n crunch because I haven’t had it since I was little and I want to feel that delicious crunch on the roof of my mouth. And then eating it whenever I feel like eating it
  • deciding that there is more to a healthy person than rigorously controlling one’s food intake within an inch of their life
  • is being able to say yes to something as simple as ordering pizza or having a beer without having to weigh the pros and cons of it
  • is revelling in and also not caring at all about food at different times

This is what I want from my relationship with food, and this is how I’m trying to live my life right now.

It feels less tiring.

It’s certainly a lot less work to go out to eat or to plan meals or to make food each week.

I still eat a wide variety of foods and I do have a preference for the types of foods that make me feel energized and comfortable most of the time (which often are traditionally “healthy” things) but nothing is off the table anymore at anytime.

“Food freedom” for me also feels more like “normal” eating for my husband. I don’t think I ever realized how my stuff around food affected him as much as it does. Even though I was always willing to buy or make whatever he asked for regardless of what food restrictions I was currently consumed by, he usually went along with it (because this girl is a decent cook and he’s easy going) but he told me a few months ago how awesome it is that he can say “hey can we have nachos for dinner?” and have me just say yes without even thinking about it or he can suggest some hole in the wall restaurant without me having a melt down about it not having the right kind of food on the menu. It makes me sad that I didn’t even realize that my issues with food made things not “normal” for him too.

I’ve put on a little weight during all this food freedom (to be expected when you stop restricting whole food groups) but I don’t really care. In a lot of ways, I feel lighter. I feel emotionally lighter for sure but even my body feels less burdened by the weight of carrying so many rules about food in it. And honestly, that is probably the best part of finding food freedom.

What does food freedom mean to you? Do you already feel that you have freedom with food or is this an area that you would like to work on yourself? I’d love to help you take steps towards finding your own version of food freedom when you are ready.



The Myth of The Girl in The Body from Your Past

I want to ask you to question the validity of the stories and myths you tell yourself about your past.

When we’re going through a tough time, we have a tendency to look at our past and see just the pretty parts. We also tend to alter or mythicize the truth in order to make sense of where we are now.

It’s a common theme in our lives.

This happens when we are in a job that isn’t a good fit for us. A previous job that was stressful and draining and all consuming starts to be remembered in a much fonder way.

We’ll find ourselves doing this when we’re single and missing some of the benefits that come with a romantic relationship. We suddenly remember an old boyfriend as being more handsome, more interesting and kind than he was in reality. (He was a dirtbag and you still don’t need him, I promise.)

It’s not hard to find more examples of this in every area of our life. When we’re bored or stressed about the responsibilities of raising families, keeping a home and paying ever mounting bills, we think about how carefree we were in our early 20’s. We conveniently forget that we didn’t have health insurance, our car starting was a daily gamble, and our diet consisted of ramen noodles and frozen burritos (that might be a year old) because we often didn’t have any money for food after paying our bills. It was stressful and awful in a different way but we forget that.

We remember eating better (we ate terribly). We slept better (we hardly slept). We had more energy (we napped all the time). We were more fun (we were just as anxious as we are now). We were more outgoing (No, there were just more opportunities to socialize). More interesting (we just liked to hear ourselves talk about everything we were learning).

The list goes on and on.

The way we remember things and the way we view ourselves isn’t always accurate. We glamorize and mythicize to suit a “need”. The thought is that if we can make ourselves feel that the past was better, maybe we’ll be motivated to make changes or take action to change now.

The most common example I see is in glorifying the myth of the girl in the body from our past. Most commonly the smaller body from our past.

You may believe this myth yourself when thinking of your younger days. Or you may have even seen it shared publicly from someone else, as we tend to do things since the advent of social media! Usually it comes in a “I miss this girl” kind of post on social media. Sometimes it comes in the form of a before / current photo and talk of starting their journey back to their pre-x, y or z weight. (complete with a photo of them drinking an expensive powdered shake in a plastic container of course).

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Someone posts a photo of themselves in their younger thinner years, usually in a bikini, short shorts, or other various states of light clothing wearing.

It’s always the same.

They’re young. They’re pretty. And they are in a smaller, seemingly imperfection-free body.

They express a desire to get back “there”. (We do this in our heads too – social media isn’t necessary for this kind of myth perpetuation)

The woman they are today (and that most of us are today) has probably been through a lot and on the way, her body has changed. She’s gained some weight, maybe she has stretch marks and cellulite. Maybe she has wrinkles or gray hairs. She may have dealt with some health issues. Her physical body is overflowing with the marks of time and life.

When I see these photos like this or hear statements of “I miss this girl” and “I was so much better then” it makes me so very sad.

First, because in hindsight, we see the younger, thinner version of ourselves as being free from worry, free from problems, and having the body that we would desire to have now. It must have been so fun to have that body then, right? We must have appreciated it and loved it and treated it with respect and great care.


The sad thing is that we didn’t appreciate it. We didn’t love it. We didn’t respect it.

Those of us who are reeling from our current bodies are partly in the place we are in because we treated our younger bodies abysmally.

Raise your hand if you started dieting as a pre-teen and your entire teenage years were consumed with thoughts of needing to stay small or lose a few pounds so you’d be as small or smaller than your friends.

Raise your hand if your norm in those smaller bodied days was to go as many hours as your could between meals and to eat as little as possible at each meal, filling up on rice cakes, fat free cottage cheese and cucumber slices or anything else that your teen magazines told you were low-cal.

Raise your hand if you remember the hours you spent in tears because the boy you liked didn’t like you back and you attributed it to your thighs (and how large you thought they were).

Raise your hand if you started smoking to reduce your appetite, started drinking coffee to lose weight (you didn’t need to lose in the first place) and bought jeans a size smaller than you wear so that you would be too uncomfortable to eat.

Raise your hand if most of your actual memories of those years are not of all the fun ways you lived in and enjoyed your body but instead are flashes and pieces of hunger, thoughts about food or feeling badly about your body for various reasons.

We don’t usually land in our today bodies accidentally.

When we spend time fantasizing about the girl in the body from our past, we are indulging in a myth. When we say “I miss that girl” in our thinner and younger photos, what we are really saying is:

I miss feeling in control of my life and my body.

I feel invisible and too visible at the same time.

I want to feel beautiful, powerful and carefree.

I want to feel confident and happy.

That girl you were wasn’t necessarily any of those things just because the you of today thinks her old body was better. If we’re unhappy now, we tend to look at our past selves with rose colored lenses.

Please, don’t make the mistake of glamorizing the past in favor of crapping on your now.

The body you had when you were 16 or 20 was probably treated often with the same disgust and disdain that at times, you have treated your body of today with. That body didn’t bring you joy and you didn’t feel half as confident as the you of today thinks you were.

The problems you see with your body today were likely the same things that bothered you then (even if there is or isn’t a discernible size difference between the two). And these things will always be a problem as long as you believe they are a problem, no matter what diet or workout routine you take on.

The best thing you can do for the you of yesterday and the you of today is to not wish to be someone from another place in time. Instead start practicing love, respect and appreciation (or at least just acceptance) of the body you have right now.

Don’t sugar coat or gloss over your past. Don’t pretend things were perfect. All that does is set you up for failure. If things weren’t perfect then and you weren’t happy and confident then (before bills, before kids, before work, before LIFE), then how in the world do you have a chance of achieving happiness, confidence and perfection now??? The answer is you don’t. So don’t hold yourself to an impossible and imaginary standard.

If you want to radiate the confidence and beauty you think your younger self is the epitome of in old photos, you don’t get there by making yourself feel bad for where you are today.

You get there by practicing kindness to yourself, always, by caring for your body physically in ways that make you feel good (move your body joyfully, feed both it’s needs and wants) and by removing the pressure on yourself to look a specific way.

You live your life in the present moment.

If the girl you were in your high school days could speak to you today, do you know what she would say?

She’d tell you that she’s always loved you, she just didn’t know how to show you that. She wishes she had spent less time focused on staying thin and being pretty and more time enjoying the freedom those younger years usually bring.

She wishes she had eaten to fullness, laughed with her friends, gone out for ice cream regularly and never started to smoke in the first place.

She wishes that you appreciated all that your body still has to offer you now, exactly as it is and before it’s too late.

She hopes you will stop wishing and missing the girl you were and start paying attention to the woman you are and can still be.

She hopes you raise your own daughters to love, respect, appreciate and accept their bodies for enabling them to breathe, love, create, dance, run, climb, laugh and live. She doesn’t want you to miss the girl right in front of you, right now.

Go out and love and appreciate her.

A Few Things That Are Better than Dieting

Consciously restricting what we eat, for weeks and months (and in some of our cases, years) at a time, sucks.

It sucks so hard but so many of us do it anyways because of the immense pressure in our society to be thin.

If you’ve never dieted, you might wonder what the big deal is, so for those of you in that camp, let me illustrate to you what being on a diet is like.

We go hungry. All the time. Constantly having to remind ourselves of our “goal” so that we don’t eat. We spend hours looking for ways to suppress normal biological hunger with “skinny” versions of our favorite foods, lots of lettuce, water and food that is reminiscent of cardboard filled air. We dream about getting to eat real food and actually satisfy our appetites. Even when we’re eating, we’re counting down the minutes until we can eat again because we know that whatever we are eating isn’t going to cut it.

We beat ourselves up when we eat more calories than we “should” even if we’re eating because we’re are so hungry we can’t think. We have a massive list of shoulds that we expect ourselves to conform to and we can never meet all of them on the same day. So we shame, berate and use sheer will to get ourselves in line.

We put what little energy we have left into punishing exercise (have to burn off what we eat!) and anything that’s left gets put into wishing we had more willpower and creating pinterest pins of impossible to achieve body standards in the hope that they will help motivate us to ignore our growling stomach for just a few more hours, every day, every week. All of this helps us end the day feeling completely spent with not much to show for it, only to have to get up the next day and go through these same motions again. And again and again until we meet our goal (which is often a moving target).

You don’t have to diet. You might think you have to do it and that it will make you happy but the truth is that you don’t and it won’t. You don’t have to purposely prevent yourself from responding to hunger. If someone prevented a child from eating what their body needed, we would call it abuse, neglect, and go on and on about having basic needs met (because that would be totally messed up). But we don’t think twice about not meeting our own basic needs. We’re different, right? Our needs aren’t as important because we’re bad, we’re out of control and we need to be smaller.

There is so much more to life than size.

I’ve never heard anyone say that they love to diet. I’ve never heard anyone say that they feel amazing being hungry all the time. I’ve never heard someone say that they get more accomplished as a dieter. But I have heard plenty of women talk about the things they were missing out on in their lives because they were too caught up in the details of a food issue. I’ve had plenty of women tell me about all the things they couldn’t be present enough to enjoy because of their obsession with their weight.

It sucks so much.

If you decide that you are done dieting and want to feed your body the way it needs to be fed, once and for all. If you decide that you are worth more than an arbitrary number then you will find that a huge world of amazingness starts to open up for you.

Here are just a few things that are way better than dieting:

  • warm summer sun on your skin
  • a cat purring on your lap
  • a cup of coffee brewed to the exact strength and temperature you like
  • an afternoon (and evening!) spent reading your favorite kind of book
  • a leisurely bike ride through gorgeous countryside
  • clothes you like that fit your actual body
  • having a good hair day
  • hearing someone you love laugh
  • falling asleep in someone’s arms
  • being snowed in with nowhere to go, nothing you have to do and good food and company
  • a big bowl of real ice cream from a farm stand
  • helping someone else (feels even better if they appreciate the help!)
  • getting complimented on something other than for what you look like
  • swimming in warm and clear water somewhere beautiful
  • not having to set an alarm for the next morning
  • watching someone you love graduate, become a parent, get married or start their first job
  • doing those things yourself
  • finally doing something you’ve always wanted to do
  • sharing a meal with people whose company you enjoy
  • looking at old family photos and remembering those days just as vividly
  • eating your fill of your favorite food
  • getting a 90 minute massage (that someone else paid for!)
  • having more than one day off in a row
  • having a little kid reach up to hold your hand
  • hearing a song you love that you haven’t heard in years
  • surprising yourself by being good at something you never thought you would be
  • getting a job or promotion that you really wanted
  • getting asked out by someone who you really dig (or asking them out and having them say yes!)
  • having a belly that is comfortably full of food on the regular
  • having sex with someone you like and respect (and vice versa)
  • having a warm, safe and comfortable place to live
  • feeling like you have everything you need
  • planting something yourself and watching it grow
  • climbing into bed with fresh sheets
  • teaching someone else something that you know
  • falling asleep because someone is playing with your hair
  • watching butterflies dance near you
  • falling in love for the first time
  • falling in love with yourself for the first time
  • mastering a skill or learning something totally new
  • opening a bottle of good wine that you saved for a “special occasion”, just because
  • discovering that there are sports and activities that you actually enjoy
  • being able to pay all your bills paid and still have a little wiggle room for fun
  • visiting a new city and envisioning what it might be like to live there
  • the smell of fresh lemons and limes when you first slice into them
  • witnessing good deeds that have nothing to do with you
  • the feel of freshly washed skin and the smell of freshly washed hair
  • having a well stocked pantry and fridge
  • waking up to a sunny day despite a forecast that called for all day rain
  • having your health
  • a good night’s sleep (no insomnia, no bad dreams, no restlessness!)
  • that first bite of homemade cheesecake. The last bite is pretty good too
  • challenging the beliefs you have about yourself
  • letting some things go
  • loving the body that you have as it is right now

There are a zillion more things that are better than dieting but that’s just a small list to get us started. What are some things that you think are way better than dieting?

Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!

Dieting Shouldn’t be Our Normal State

Diet culture teaches us to tell ourselves that this plate is too much food before we even take a bite.

Everyone is on a diet, always, or thinking about their next diet, or thinking about going back to the diet that they lost 30 lbs on ten years ago. The amount of brain energy we use to think about better ways we can restrict food is absolutely insane.

Dieting shouldn’t be our “normal” state in life yet for most adult women, it’s something they are frequently thinking about.  It’s rare to meet a woman who has never been on a diet or who doesn’t desire to be smaller. It’s disarming to be in a room with a woman who seems to eat freely, without concern for calories, carbs or how other people will perceive her for eating whatever she desires. Try going to the average exercise class full of women and I will bet you $100 that the instructor will say something about working harder so you can wear a bikini in a few months (the assumption being your current body isn’t fit to wear a bikini). Try watching TV for an hour and not see a commercial that promotes either a device that will help melt off fat, a procedure that will make you slimmer or an exercise program or medication that will help you finally lose weight.

Women grow up knowing what dieting is, long before their bodies are done growing. We understand the need to manage and manipulate our bodies in order to receive approval. At a young age we don’t understand why dieting is so important but we learn that it’s just part of being a woman and we really want to be adult women.

We hear our Moms and their friends, or other women in our family talk about how they need to stop eating carbs, or how they just can’t control themselves around sweets or bread. They pinch their stomachs and say “Look at this! Can you believe how fat I’ve gotten?” and laugh. They order diet cokes and salads with fat free dressing when the family goes out to eat. They comment on other people’s bodies too. They say things like “She’s too big to wear that” or “She’s totally let herself go.” We also hear “Have you lost weight? You look so beautiful!” or “Wow, that’s a very slimming dress on her.”

We take it all in. Just as we learn everything else. Big = bad. Fat = bad. Pretty = good. Thin = good.

We grow up watching the women around us push food around their plates instead of putting it in their mouths. We watch the women we love hold onto clothing hanging in their closets that are 3 sizes too small but they keep because of a dream body that still lives in their seams. We learn that dieting is just what women do and because we are desperate to be a grown woman long before our bodies and minds are ready, we too start to regulate our food intake.

We tell our own girlfriends that we’re no longer eating cookies or that we’re watching the carbs. We tell them how we’re going to start exercising so we can lose a few pounds. We aren’t even sure what a pound is or how many of them is enough, but we know that we should have less of them.

We say all of this so proudly and we wait for their eyes to light up with envy, with awe, with approval and love. We know how grown up “dieting” makes us appear and that idea makes an electric tingle go through our bodies starting from the glittery headbands on our heads down to the suede ballet flats on our feet. We feel more bonded to our friends and other women in our lives when they share their diet plans or secrets. We bond over vilifying fat and celebrate our accomplishments when we can squeeze into a dress that was too small a few weeks ago. Food becomes an enemy to never relax around and being willing and able to go hungry for long periods of time becomes a badge of honor.

Little girls learning that they have to be small, pretty and perfect to be loved is not ok.

It’s not ok because they grow up to be women who accidentally teach the same ideas to the next generation.

It’s not ok because all of these women limit their potential because they’re so bogged down by the issues attached to weight, size and controlling their bodies.

It’s all so crazy and sad. And we have to start changing it.

We should be outraged that this has become the normal. That it’s completely accepted that we should all be vying to be as small as possible and that anything else is wrong.

I just want to say for a second that there’s no one to blame here. I’m not blaming mom’s for their daughter’s learning this stuff and you’re not a bad person if you say, think and do the things I’m talking about here. You learned this stuff somewhere too. My own mother constantly told me that I was capable of anything and also that I’d look beautiful even in a burlap sack. But her own words about her own body was a different story and I absorbed all of it as just something women did.

This is a bigger cultural issue (diet culture) we have that goes so deep and is supported by every single one of us taking part in it. I still find myself occasionally thinking or saying things (especially as a joke about myself) that support diet culture even though it goes against everything I believe and teach today. Some things are so ingrained, it’s hard to realized how far, except when they seem to appear out of nowhere. I’m still working on my own deep beliefs about my body and food. It’s a process and one that will take years to undo the damage our diet culture does to all of us.

Diet culture teaches us that we can’t trust our own bodies to tell us how much to eat. It teaches us that we are wrong and sneaky. It teaches us that we need calorie counts, points or portion sizes spelled out for us in order to know how much to eat. Diet culture teaches us to silence the signals that are already available to us in our own bodies, until they’re so faint we can’t hear them anymore.

I can’t stress enough that we don’t need diets or meal plans to tell us how much and what to eat. Unless you have a medical condition that requires careful policing of certain nutrients or food categories (diabetes, celiac, kidney disease etc), you probably don’t need some other authority to tell you what and how much to eat. And if you feel so far removed from trusting your own hunger cues, I can help you get back in touch with them. The best authority to check in with to determine how much food your body needs is you. Your body. Your knowledge of yourself. If you feel good and you’re healthy, if you have ample energy to do all the things you want to do, then odds are you are eating the right amount of food that you need. You don’t need to follow a diet.

This might mean that your body is meant to be a little or a lot larger than you want it to be. This also doesn’t mean you have to be unhealthy. You can eat well, exercise, get good sleep, manage stress and do all sorts of other things in the name of health. You don’t have to necessarily manipulate your size or weight to be healthy. Being slender does not equate health and being heavier does not equal being unhealthy.

Constant dieting is like being at war with yourself and you can’t make peace with food if you are at war.

You may not be ready to give up dieting or know how to stop taking part in diet culture the first time you are introduced to it (whether through a blog post like mine or somewhere else) but what you can do is try to become more aware of your thoughts and beliefs and ask yourself where that came from. Here are a few questions to ask yourself or use for journaling to bring up your beliefs about your body and food:

  • What do you believe about your body? Is it too big, too small, just right? Why? Why is it one of those things? How do you know?
  • Think back to your childhood and teen years. What types of things did the people around you say about their bodies, your body or other’s bodies? How do you think their viewpoints affected you?
  • What do you believe if the right way to eat? What foods do you eat regularly and which do you never eat? Why? Why do you think you choose the ones you do or don’t?
  • What thoughts and feelings do you have about other women’s bodies? Are there certain attributes you are aspiring to? Are there attributes or features that you are trying to change? Why?
  • When do you feel your physical best? Why do you think that is?
  • Do you have judgemental thoughts about food? Do you believe some foods are good or bad? Or that you are good or bad for eating them? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you admire and appreciate about your body as it is right now?
  • When was the last time you ate a meal and received pleasure from eating it (without judgements)? Can you try to receive pleasure from food more often?

I have so much to say on this but I don’t want to bog you down with yet another 2500 word blog post (haha) so keep an eye out for my next blog post which will be on how health coaches are contributing to diet culture and how I’m trying to do things differently!

Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!


Should You Count Calories to Manage Your Weight?

Is calorie counting a good tool to use to manage your weight? It depends on your relationship with food.

Is calorie counting a good tool to use to manage your weight? It depends on your relationship with food.

Today I’m going to answer another question that often gets asked as women want to have less struggle in their lives with food:  Should I count calories to manage my weight?

If someone came to me and their goal was to lose weight quickly and they had a normal relationship with food, then yes, I would recommend calorie counting as the easiest and most reliable way to reach their fast weight loss goal (in this scenario, I’m going to define “fast” as safe [.5 lbs – 1lb a week], consistent, and doable).

But the majority of people looking to lose weight don’t actually have a normal relationship with food or their body and to them I can’t recommend calorie counting, for reasons I will outline below.  In real practice, I don’t recommend calorie counting to my clients (or to anyone who feels overwhelmed by food) and that is because I believe calorie counting conflicts with their long term goals. Most of the women I’ve worked with are trying to learn how to have less stress and worry around food and they are learning to trust their bodies to tell them what to eat. Calorie counting prevents them from doing that and for me to support goals of just weight loss can set these types of women up for a long painful struggle that is way too familiar to me. I’d like to prevent others from having to spend so many years beating themselves up physically and emotionally the way I did.

I lost 90 lbs between 2003 – 2007 by strict calorie counting and lots of punishing exercise. This was still in the low fat days so I also cut fat way down in order to keep my calories low. This meant I ate lots of refined foods just because they were low calorie and I almost always felt hungry. I had been “fat” for as long as I could remember and felt so proud that I finally found the self-discipline to stick to something that was working. The reason it took 4 years to lose the weight was because every so often I’d go off of calorie counting (because it was exhausting to have to calculate and track every single day) and decide that I could handle eating on my own without it. And each time I did that it resulted in a bit of weight gain. I’d drop 25 lbs, gain 10, drop 15 lbs, gain 7 back, drop another 25 lbs etc.  When I finally hit my low weight (about 137 lbs), I was thrilled and was determined to maintain it.

I tried to maintain it by running, a lot and of course continued calorie counting. Eventually I injured myself and couldn’t run anymore and had to do less vigorous exercise. I also took a desk job that meant I was less active than normal 5 days a week. And then I decided again, that my food issues were totally fine now and I could stop calorie counting – because REALLY WHO CAN DO THIS FOREVER?? IT’S MAKING ME FEEL INSANE.

And the yo-yo-ing started again. But it was going in the opposite direction.

Instead of gaining a little weight and then losing more than that again and again, I started to gain back lots of weight. Between 2008 and 2013 I gained 60 lbs of that 90 lb loss back. It’s not like I shut my eyes and just “gave up” on weight loss during this period – I was constantly and actively looking and thinking of ways I could lose the weight again. I’d go back to calorie counting for a bit, drop a few pounds, feel better and then let go of calorie counting again. I was so burnt out on calorie counting that I couldn’t sustain doing it for more than long enough to just drop a couple of pounds.

It was a rough couple of years. I felt terrible about my body and ashamed, sad, embarrassed about myself. Even though I still weighed less than when I started this journey, I felt even worse than I had felt at my heaviest weight. I felt like I was wearing a sign on my body that said “I’m a failure!” to everyone who had known me while I was losing weight.

Calorie counting does work. It can absolutely help you lose weight and it’s a far safer method of losing weight (especially if you choose to eat whole foods) than taking pills, powders, shakes or having to resort to surgeries. It can be done in a way that isn’t extreme (by eating just a 100 or 200 less calories each day than you normally would) and leads to slow weight loss, rather than in a way that is dangerous (such as eating under 1200 calories a day).

It works – But, again, I wouldn’t recommend it if you have any issues eating “normally.

Calorie counting is a tool that reinforces the need to listen to something else other than our bodies. I used it as a guide to tell me when to stop eating, when I had enough, when I must be full. Serving sizes didn’t matter because I had my calorie count to guide me. Fullness signals in my body didn’t register because the calories I ate told me I hadn’t had enough. Whether or not I was hungry didn’t matter, if it was 7pm and I had only had 800 calories so far, that meant I could eat a massive dinner. Even when I was hungry, if I had eaten a certain number of calories, I had to ignore my hunger signals and stick to my calorie goals.

All physical sensations, trust and knowing in my body went out the window for 10 years. Calorie counting got me more lost in my body than I was at the outset of my weight loss journey.

I weighed 225 in college because I had trouble listening to my body in the first place. I had gained so much weight because I used food as comfort instead of dealing with feelings I didn’t want to feel. And then when I found calorie counting, it was GREAT because it made it possible for me to both lose weight (my biggest aspiration at this point in life) and continue numbing and distrusting my body. I could ignore everything my body told me because calorie counting would lead me to where I wanted to be.

None of this would be a problem if calorie counting every day for the rest of my life was possible or reasonable. Well, technically it’s possible, but it’s not something I’m willing or really emotionally able to do. Even though I still have calorie counts for everything under the sun still memorized in my brain (can’t shake it no matter how hard I try!), the act of tallying up every bite I eat and the emotional imprint it has on me if it’s a “good” or “bad” number is exhausting on a deep soul level. It saps my energy, my creativity and my focus. There’s so much more interesting and important sh*t for me to do than that.

Because I couldn’t and wouldn’t calorie count for the rest of my life, when I stopped it became glaringly obvious that I didn’t know how to eat in a way that my body needed. I had lost touch with all intuitive knowledge my body had and because of that every meal was a gargantuan battle between should and shouldn’t, want and need, desire and punishment. I was so f*%king confused!

I’ve had to spend the last 3.5 years reteaching myself how and how much to eat, how to listen to my body, how to trust what it tells me and how to know if a food I’m eating is adding value to my life. All because I clutched too tightly to a tool like calorie counting. It’s still a learning process and I still make some goofs and poor decisions sometimes but I am so crazily happy that my choices are now based on the trust I have built with my own body and it’s needs now, instead of trusting an external tool.

Should you count calories to manage your weight?

My answer is it’s ok only if you don’t have any issues with food. If you already only eat when you are hungry. If you only eat to fuel your body (and minimally for fun). If you already know when you’ve had enough to eat based on signals inside your body, then you can probably use calorie counting for the short term to lose a few pounds. But before you do, ask yourself this:

Why do you need to lose weight in the first place?

Why did you gain weight that needs to be lost?

And how many solutions have you sought that are outside of yourself?

Most of us gain weight because we are eating too much. We don’t eat too much because our bodies need it. We eat too much for a myriad of reasons and most of them have to do with not dealing with our feelings or being deprogrammed from feeling our hunger signals. If you have weight to lose because of these things, then calorie counting may only exacerbate your struggle in the long term.

If I knew then what I know now and could do things over, I would not choose to lose the weight with calorie counting.  I would have paid more attention to why I gained weight the first time and why it was so hard for me to eat without something or someone telling me what / how much to eat. I would have learned how to decode the needs of my body and how to stay with myself when uncomfortable craptastic feelings came up. It took me years to lose the weight in the first place – learning to eat more normally would have saved me a ton of time and pain. Moral of the story: think about why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place before choosing how to move forward.

Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!



Should You Weigh Yourself?

Should you weigh yourself if you have a history of eating issues?

Should you weigh yourself if you have a history of eating issues?

I’ve decided to cut back from posting a new blog every week to just 2 a month. I’ve been pumping out a new blog every week for a long time and my brain is starting to feel a little fried when it comes to keeping the content fresh. On one hand I’m kind of bummed to take a break from it (I love to not break a long streak!) but I also need to listen to my needs and get out of that kind of perfectionism. I think backing off a little will help bring back some creativity that I feel I’ve been lacking in my writing lately. It will at least free up some of my time to work on other things I want to do in my business which is something I have to do.

Today’s topic is a question that I hear many people asking and my answer is a little more unconventional than you might think considering the business that I’m in.

Is it okay to weigh yourself?

Should you throw out your scale if you’ve struggled with body image issues or disordered eating?

This is a question that comes up a lot for women who have struggled with some aspect of their relationship to food or their body.  Many health and mental health professionals and those in the body positive movement usually recommend that we toss out our scales.

I personally think it depends on the individual person and their specific relationship with the scale.

I go through periods where I weigh myself daily and then I sort of walk away from it for awhile and might only weigh myself once or twice a month, sometimes I go through longer stretches where I don’t weigh myself for a few months (mostly in the winter!). This works for me. I don’t get anxious about not weighing myself and I don’t get anxious about the number when I do.

When I weigh daily, it confirms for me that the way I am eating and the amount I am exercising is the right amount for my body.

It also has helped me understand the normal fluctuations in weight that my body has week after week or throughout the month, which results in not being alarmed by them. Lots of things contribute to our weight going up or down a pound or two – salty food (up), slow digestive transit time (up), dehydrated (down), week before period (up) etc. Weighing regularly has made me very comfortable with these changes.

As someone who has been challenged in her eating habits and used to be so dependent on tracking calories to know if I had eaten too much – the scale helps confirm for me that I’m on the right track (since I no longer count calories and instead use my hunger / fullness signals as a guide). Weighing myself occasionally tells me that the way I’m living is working, that I am in tune with my hunger signals (or when my eating issues are cropping up again) and that my intuition is working. It actually reinforces some of the good things I’ve worked on in the last 3-4 years.

When I take breaks from it for longer than a few weeks at a time, I find it’s like a silent decision I’m making that I’m going to go a little rogue with my food choices for awhile. I’m choosing to silence my hunger signals and while there’s nothing wrong with doing this once in awhile, I do have a history of really going overboard for long periods when I avoid the scale. If it don’t “see” it, it’s not happening! It’s a way I can lie to myself. For me, purposely avoiding the scale is an indication that I’m heading into unhealthy territory. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect!

When I’m using the scale as a tool, it doesn’t have a ton of power over me. I don’t give the number a ton of meaning. The number doesn’t tell me I’m good or bad, that I’m worthy or unworthy. It mostly serves to tell me if I’m staying present and being honest in my choices or if I’m trying to hide from myself.

Using the scale occasionally gives this former yo-yo dieter the confidence to keep choosing foods that both give me the nutrition I need and also tastes and textures that I enjoy. When you’ve had 90 pound weight losses and also 60 pound weight gains in your life, you realize that you are someone who can easily turn a blind eye to your ups and downs, and the scale helps me keep my eyes open to my actions. It’s something I keep in my personal tool box because even though I don’t put pressure on myself to weigh a certain amount anymore (and I do think it is possible to be healthy and overweight), I do know that if I allow my weight to creep too far back up and stay up, I am increasing my risk for diabetes (too much of this in my family history) and complicating my own history of high blood pressure (and each year that passes, I would be increasing those risks). I’m heavily motivated by living longer and healthier than the people in my family who passed away too young and for me, I know that keeping my weight stable is an important part of this, again, for me personally.

I know this is not the right thing for every woman with a similar history as mine. And I know there are many other women who feel like they get completely crazy over the scale.

It’s important to know yourself and listen to what is right for you, rather than doing what the masses are doing, or what a stranger on the internet says (that includes me – just because I’m sharing that using a scale helps me stay mindful, doesn’t mean that my answer is right for you).

Some women really become obsessed with the scale in a very unhealthy way. If the number on the scale isn’t a number they like, it can ruin their day or their whole week, it can make them restrict food and punish themselves with harsh exercise. It can make them feel helpless, worthless and value themselves less. Feeling this way can lead to really unhealthy behaviors.  For these people, not weighing themselves is a better idea. Using a scale causes them stress, anxiety and depression. In these cases, it’s not a tool, it’s punishment.

The key to knowing if you can continue weighing yourself or not is how much meaning you give it. In my opinion (and experience), if you can use the scale as a tool in a neutral way, that has about as much effect on how you feel about yourself you as tying your shoes does, then it’s probably okay to keep using the scale in some way. If you can step off the scale and not feel virtuous or ashamed, you might be able to still use it. If you don’t feel the need to do something in retaliation to what number is on the scale, you may be able to still use it. It’s important to know how it affects you.

If you are wondering if you should toss your scale out or not, ask yourself:

How do I feel after I weigh myself?

Do I feel virtuous or depressed depending on the number I see?

Do I feel the urge to do “something” to affect my weight in response to the number I see?

Does even thinking about giving up the scale make me feel very anxious? Why?

When in doubt, talk to your doctor or a professional you trust who is aware of your history to discuss what would make the most sense for you. And trust your gut!

Do you need more support with emotional eating? Come join my Ending Emotional Eating Group on Facebook to talk with other women going through the same thing. We’d love to see you there!

Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!


Common Mistakes We Make When Trying to Halt Emotional Eating

Don't set the world on fire while you're changing your relationship with food.

Don’t set the world on fire while you’re changing your relationship with food.

This blog post was supposed to go out early Thursday morning but when I went to put the finishing touches on it Wednesday (last minute, of course!) we had a local internet outage that lasted several hours and by several hours I mean from about 12:30 until 6pm!! I love how easy technology makes our lives most of the time, but I really hate how much we’ve come to require it. So many aspects of my job depend on it and most things come to a halt when it’s not working. And when things aren’t working for me, I tend to have a total meltdown. I’m not very mature when things don’t go my way or according to plan. I didn’t know what to do with myself (luckily, there is always something that needs doing around the house! I took a forced break to house clean after my last client!)

This behavior translates into other areas of my life.

When things get tough, when I don’t understand something, when I hit a wall, I flip out and give up. I essentially set my emotional world on fire. Emotionally I’d just say “No way, not going to do this, feel this or experience this!”. I do this when I’m learning something and struggling with it. When I discover I’m wrong. When I don’t like an outcome. You name it. And in the past, I would turn to food to cope with whatever I didn’t want to feel. Whatever obstacle I encountered would be attempted to be climbed over with food. It was how I soothed bad feelings.

I don’t do that anymore. Or at least, I rarely do it now. And if I do catch myself reaching for food when I don’t want to feel something, I’m aware of it and can bring my attention to the feeling.

If you’re an emotional eater, I know you can relate to this. You probably have a bit of an “all or nothing” mindset yourself. If a little bit of something will help, then a lot will really cure it! Right?  Let’s burn it all down and start over! Because of this kind of thinking, and an inability to deal with uncomfortable emotions, emotional eaters tend to fall into several “traps” of the same nature when they are trying to stop eating emotionally. Instead of viewing it as a staircase where we make changes step by step on the way up, we try to leap from the bottom step to the top step without touching on the steps in between. We want to skip over the hard parts. We want to get from A to B without feeling uncomfortable on the way there. But that’s not possible!

I want to share a few of the most common mistakes people fall into when they are trying to halt their emotional eating in the hopes that you can avoid getting stuck in them like I (and so many others) have. Watch out for these!

Common Mistakes We Make When Trying to Halt Emotional Eating:

  1. We equate getting better with being perfect. Healing from emotional eating does not mean you’ll never have another moment where you put food in your mouth for reasons other than hunger – it just means you’re making a concerted effort to eat thoughtfully and while fully present most of the time. Some days it will look really great, other days it’s going to be ugly. Don’t make too much of it. The day to day is really is no big deal.
  2. We get too dogmatic about the rules, tools and which teachers that can help. Some people need to eat mindfully 100% of the time to stay on track, others do better when they eat every 2 hours whether hungry or not. Some only listen to what Geneen Roth’s ideas or only Kay Sheppard’s or only Ellen Satter or only their Yoga teacher and are distrustful of anyone but their preferred “guru”. There are lots of teachers, tools and rules that can help you have a better relationship with food. You don’t have to subscribe to one and one only. Try to remain open minded and be willing to listen to the experiences of others, even if they’re different from your own. You never know when you might learn just another way to peace. And different tools and teachers will make sense for us at different times in our lives. It’s ok to change with time.
  3. Avoiding social situations that center around food. Don’t you dare kill your social life. If you want to heal your relationship with food, you have to be able to manage food in all settings and that includes socially. Consider each social situation with eating as a component as practice in figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. Maybe you need to eat a snack before the event so that you don’t go overboard during. Maybe you need to eat cleanly and thoughtfully during. Maybe you need to eat exactly what you crave during so that you don’t go home and binge. Go to events. Eat. Be thoughtful about it. Let yourself be human and enjoy human things.
  4. Automatically banning the scale. Yes weighing ourselves obsessively doesn’t help and if weighing yourself causes you to feel bad or virtuous depending on the number that appears, then yes, you should try reducing your use of a scale (and dumping it completely in some cases). But if you’re one of those people who can weigh themselves and it’s entirely neutral for you, then it’s ok to keep using it as a guide. I find weighing myself several times a month gives me feedback that tells me if I’m on the right track in listening to my hunger signals and stopping when I’ve had enough. When it moves up or down a few pounds I don’t worry (normal fluctuations) but if I see if trending too far in any direction, I know that means I’ve gone off track and helps me bring my attention back to where it should be. When I’ve stopped weighing myself completely, I tend to go back to old eating habits and it has on more than one occasion resulted in unhealthy amounts of weight gained. So I keep the scale in my arsenal of tools. That works for me. It does not work for others. The only way you should keep using the scale as a tool is if it is no more upsetting than taking your temperature would be. When we take our temp, we either have a fever or we don’t. It doesn’t affect how we feel about ourselves or our body. Can you be that neutral with the scale? You need to decide what is the most loving thing to do for you.
  5. Thinking that it’s not worth doing if you can’t do everything. You may have great success when you first start implementing different tools and strategies to conquer your emotional eating. This is the “honeymoon” phase. Things will go well, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, and then because this is real life, something will happen that throws you off your game. You’ll find yourself back at square one, resorting to all your old habits and when you get sick of it and want to get back at it, it won’t feel quite so easy to implement those tools back into your life. You’ll feel resistant and even resentful. You’ll wonder why you ever thought you could do this in the first place. You’ll think everyone who claims they healed their relationship with food is a fucking liar. Slow down. Take a step back. You don’t have to get yourself back to where you were when you slipped. That’s a huge hurdle! Just pick one tool or one strategy that was working for you before that seems doable and go from there. You will get to where you were before, but not by skipping any steps along the way. Just pick up the pieces one at a time!

You didn’t become an emotional eater overnight. It’s not like one day you were eating normally, competently and the next day you turned to food for comfort. It was a coping strategy that you adopted over time in response to certain situations. In many cases it developed over many years. We have to have patience in changing it. We have to accept that we’re going to stumble a little, slip a little and that it might be uncomfortable, sometimes painful and often ridiculously slow! Be cautious of falling into these traps, take your time and don’t judge yourself for wherever you are in YOUR process. This is your journey and you need to do it however makes sense to you.

How are you doing with you own emotional eating or chronic dieting struggles? Could you use some support? If so, contact me to set up a Discovery Session. It’s free.

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!).