Category Archives: Health Coaching

How Health Coaches Are Contributing to A Diet Culture Full of Fear and Confusion

If you go to the market and have these thoughts: “Oh, those tomatoes look so good. Thank goodness, they’re organic! Oh, wait, tomatoes are nightshades. I probably shouldn’t eat them. Oh and they’re so acidic, should I be eating more alkaline foods? And I better not eat them raw, aren’t tomatoes better for you when you eat them cooked? But cooking destroys so many nutrients, I should probably invest in a dehydrator. Screw it, I’ll just not get them.” then diet culture and the coaches you follow may be failing you.


Two weeks ago I talked about how dieting shouldn’t be our normal state and some of the normalized things that go on in our culture that contribute to entire generations of women being obsessed with getting and staying “small”. This is a huge subject and one that I’ve only scratched the surface of. In this post, I want to talk about another aspect of it and something that may seem a little strange considering my job title.

I think some health coaches are unintentionally contributing to diet culture and might be doing more harm than good.

Before I get stoned by my peers, I want to say that not all coaches are doing this and of those that are doing it, I know it’s mostly with good intentions and in all honesty, I fell into this category when I first started out too.

 

A little bit of backstory.

Several years ago, I gave up traditional dieting in favor of a healthy “lifestyle” because after a decade plus of dieting I just couldn’t do it anymore. Dieting had turned me into someone who had frequent binges and a lot of shame around my body and food. Embracing a whole foods healthy lifestyle meant I lost weight and had an easier time keeping it off without feeling crazy or deprived. I felt much better eating “cleanly” and I really came to believe that a whole foods based diet and eating as little processed food as possible was the way to health. My health coaching practice and social media reflected this.  I still eat this way for the most part but I have become much more flexible as to what I view as “healthy” and it has more to do with where my head is at than what specifics I’m eating.

If you’ve been following me from the start of my coaching career, you may have noticed that I’ve posted very little about actual food specifics the last few years. Gone are the whole food based detox programs, I rarely post photos of food I eat and it’s only on the odd occasion that I share a recipe, whole foods or otherwise. I don’t share much information about pesticides in our foods, how to sprout your own lentils and which health conditions need to avoid cruciferous vegetables. I now push intuition, body and self trust / knowledge, joyful movement and other things that sound really wishy-washy but really matter to someone who wants more peace with food.

 

Hypocrite or Evolving?

As my own relationship with food has evolved over time, I realized that some of what I was teaching and recommending in my early days of coaching conflicted with where I really want to take people – and where I wanted to be myself. I want and I want others to feel confident in themselves as their only guide to making food choices. I want people to feel less fearful about food and more relaxed around it (and just so you know this does not necessarily mean disregarding nutrition or health). I feel a little hypocritical when I look back at some of my early work but Marie Forleo says that if you don’t look back at your early work and cringe a little, it means you’re not growing (so at least I’m growing)! Growth is good.

 

Diet culture wants you to feel scared and confused so you keep buying.

One of the things diet culture thrives upon is keeping people confused, keeping them scared of making choices and teaching us that we can’t trust our bodies. If we’re scared and confused, fearful about our health and our bodies, we will run out to buy whatever it is they’re selling – shakes, exercise programs, food plans, supplements etc. If we’re not scared and confused, if we trust ourselves as smart creatures who have always known how to feed themselves, there won’t be much we have to buy.

A lot of well meaning coaches are constantly sharing information that the general public may not be aware of that the coach believes we need to know in order to feel motivated to make better decisions about health (how bad sugar is for us, how glyphosate increases gut permeability, how animal products cause cancer, how our phones are causing brain tumors and increasing ADD etc). The problem is that when we share so much of this kind of scary health information we are making people afraid of food and adding to the confusion that is already out there. After a while, this kind of information sharing creates a feeling that we can’t trust anything and we end up in a food choice paralysis.

 

More confusion and fear around food is not helping people make better choices.

Feeling afraid of food helps you develop eating disorders (fyi – aiming to eat perfectly clean and healthy all of the time and feeling ashamed and stressed when you can’t or don’t is called “orthorexia“). Feeling confused around food makes us dependent on diets and diet gurus to tell us what to eat when really we should be dialing down into listening to our bodies hunger and satiety signals, paying attention to the way individual foods make us feel, learning about what foods our ancestors ate (it’s in our DNA) and being flexible to change.

In the world of emotional eaters and chronic dieters (where my viewpoint is), fear and confusion is the last thing health coaches should promote. Two of the main lessons we learned in coaching school was that the client has their own answers inside of them and that we have to respect something called “bioindividuality” – the idea that people know what’s best for their bodies and the way of eating that works for one person may not be right for another. I see a ton of coaches instilling fear in people because they believe one specific way of eating is correct. I know it has to be hard to coach people towards their own needs when you are a die-hard vegan or strict paleo, but being that rigid about what people should be eating is moving away from coaching territory and into something different (and depending on your state you may need additional certifications to do that). It’s really not our jobs to tell people what to eat in such strict terms.

I’m not knocking all coaches – I’m still a health coach and I have a lot of health coach friends who I respect and I know they are sincerely doing work that is going to change the world. Health coaching has been incredibly helpful for tackling my eating struggles and I have a lot of tools that have helped me make peace with food (and helped me teach my clients the same). As a whole I believe the profession’s goals are to help people live healthier so that they can do more amazing things in their lives. This is a good thing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some big problems! The intent in the health coaching community is good but sometimes the way we go about encouraging change is diametrically opposed to actually being healthy.

 

Health Coaches with Strict and Extreme Views

There is a faction of coaches who practice extreme vigilance about food and the ideas some these folks teach contribute to deeper entrenchment into diet culture. In addition to sharing lots of scary and over complicated info, they promote products and programs that perpetuate us not trusting our bodies to tell us what to eat (powdered shakes, special containers and super specific and rigid meal plans etc) and others that have such high and restrictive standards of what constitutes healthy eating / healthy lifestyle (for example, raw food only, vegan only, paleo only, organic, local, non-irradiated, soaked and sprouted etc) that by the pure challenges of following everything they recommend, we are set up to fail and become more confused and scared of food.

Let me illustrate how insanely difficult and impossible the way we seem to expect people to eat is (according to the things coaches share on social media). I personally have every opportunity to make this unrealistic healthy food movement come to life in my American home.

I have the knowledge to prepare food the “healthiest” way possible.

I have the time and ability.

I work from home, love to cook and I’m a good cook.

I also have the financial means to buy organic, free range, local, grass-fed etc foods.

We prioritize food in my house over many other things.

And I don’t have children who pull at my pant legs and beg to have heavily processed chicken nuggets and hot dogs for dinner (just a cat who is a finicky eater).

This is not a brag, this is to show you how my life and I am well suited to make this inaccessible and perfect food stuff work. I legit have all the means necessary to make foods the way people are preaching we need to if we want to be healthy and yet even I find I get fucking tired of it, overwhelmed, apathetic and annoyed and sometimes I wish there were take out places nearby. I’ve sometimes thrown all my food edicts out the window and eaten a frozen pizza (yes, even dairy and full of gluten and processed) because I can’t deal with checking all the damn boxes for another day and I want it easy. This is coming from someone who dearly loves food and nutrition.

If I can’t do “it” every day of my life and I’m the perfect candidate, then how can we expect people in other more complicated situations to get in line?

This is not really working guys!

Having a zillion rules about food, how it’s sourced, how to prep it properly and more causes stress, panic and eating disorders. It does not actually make someone healthy. How can you not fall into some type of eating disorder when you no longer know what is SAFE to eat? And if we have to depend on another person more educated than us on food to give us guidelines (that change constantly), then we will never be free and never be healthy.

An overly puritanical “healthy lifestyle” can lead you down an unhealthy path of being overly restrictive with food just as much as the average diet can and all in the name of health, energy and clear skin.

If you’ve had any food struggles in your life, learning to trust yourself and re-engage with the wisdom and intuition we had as babies and toddlers is a better path to health.

Worrying about food all the time is not healthy.

Worrying if you’re making the right choices is not healthy.

Still feeling like crap even when you’re doing all the “right” things is not the picture of health.

It is much better to trust your body, feel safe with your own knowledge and listen to your body to tell you what it needs. This leads to better mental health – and when we’re well on an emotional and mental level, we make physical choices we can feel good about too.

I’m not saying that health coaches need to throw out everything they’ve learned about nutrition, health and how food is produced in this country, but we really need to start asking ourselves if what we’re sharing and recommending is helping people to feel empowered? Is it helping them to feel secure, relaxed and confident? Is it truly making people feel well on an emotional level?

Let’s ease up and help people get back in touch with those answers we know they have inside of themselves.


How did you like that rant? Do you want to learn more about feeling confident in your relationship with food? Do you want to learn to trust yourself and discount the confusing messages in our media? If so, click the image below and grab my copy of “You Have What it Takes“, a guide full of questions to help you improve your relationship to food.

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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!

 

What Does Being “Fit” Mean to You?

What does being fit mean to you? Try to remember that fit doesn’t always look like what we think it should look like. Try focusing on function and the joy you get from activity.

If you were an alien visiting this planet for the first time and taking in all the different sources of information we have available to us (TV, internet, magazines/newspapers, books etc) to learn about your new planet and it’s people, you’d quickly form opinions and ideas about our society.

Some of these would be absolutely and hysterically incorrect but others would be very accurate.

For example, an alien might come to believe that “Twitter” is a God who doles out important edicts in 140 characters or less, all day long.

They may determine that our primary food source is french fries and burgers from McDonald’s (and don’t forget the Coke!).

They may wonder why some people on this planet are starving and yet other parts of the world have grocery stores that are so overflowing with food that some of it gets tossed in the trash every day. They may come to believe that every American swallows a small white circle called a “pill” that has a funny name that gives them a dog, a spacious back yard with luscious green grass and a smiling husband and kids but also has to watch out for side effects like diarrhea, skin rashes, leukemia and even death.

This would look like a really strange place to someone who’s never seen any of it before.

Let’s say this alien’s job was to understand what being “fit” meant to humans, in particular, people in America.

I know you know where I’m going here, but just for a minute try to view this stuff through the lens of totally fresh eyes.

What would you see?

What would you learn?

Using the same sources of readily available information, much of it coming from heavily available advertisements and articles, this alien would soon create an idea in their head that being FIT equals:

  • being tan skinned
  • having no visible body fat other than in female breasts and booties (which may or may not be enhanced by implants or injectables)
  • being tall
  • usually being caucasian
  • having well developed and very visible muscles
  • wearing very little clothing but whatever clothing fit people do have is tight fitting
  • spending hours upon hours in an enclosed space called a “gym”
  • eating lots of fruits and vegetables, low fat foods and also powdery substances called “protein shakes”
  • working so hard that your body cries visible tears (sweat)
  • demonstrating amazing feats of strength and endurance by completing competitions like marathons, powerlifting, triathlons etc.
  • moving fast

I’m sure you can think of a few other things that would seem to be typical of a “fit person” in America if viewed through the eyes of an alien. That list is a little tongue in cheek but how much of it do you agree with?

What is being fit? What does it mean to you?

In our real “human” lives we take this same information and internalize it, some of it consciously, and some not so consciously and we kind of develop a similar impression of what it means to be fit.

I have spent many years being frustrated that my body physically didn’t look the way it was “supposed to” despite all the things I did to be “fit”.

I wasn’t the right size, body type or height. My body has and had plenty of visible body fat.

To someone just looking at my outside at most points in my life, and possibly even today, I may not appear fit . . .to them. I know I’m fit regardless of what I may look like to someone else.

Fitness and “being fit” is not a one size fits all definition and it certainly doesn’t have one single look or body type. Being fit doesn’t always look like what we think it looks like.

Here is what being fit means to me.

It is feeling and being strong and capable. Having the energy to do all the things I need to do and not be completely spent afterwards. Or being spent afterwards (sometimes that’s the goal!) but recovering quickly enough to be excited to do it again.

Being fit is being able to carry my snow tires on their rims from my basement to the back of my car without needing to ask anyone for help.

Being fit to me is being able to bike 30 miles on one day and still have the energy to meet up with friends afterwards.

Being fit to me is being able to help a friend move without being totally sore the next day or being sore but not having it destroy me.

Being fit to me is being able to climb several flights of stairs and not be out of breath for very long.

For me, being fit is so much about function than aesthetics.

It’s about feeling powerful, experiencing joy, having good health (something else with more than one definition), pushing oneself and pulling back as needed, and being able to adjust to a change in course.

I’m not planning to ever be a marathon runner or a powerlifter (but props to those who are).

I’m not fast. I’m also not that flexible. And I have some foot injuries that pop up occasionally that slow me down a little and even cause me to modify some things.

However, I also have a lot of strength and endurance that doesn’t quit at the end of a long day.

I know when to rest my body, when to give her the time and care she needs. I know when to push myself and when to back off. I know what I’m capable of, what I’m not and when it’s possible that I might entirely be wrong about myself.

My hard workouts are still hard. Even though I’m physically fit, I get out of breath, muscles cramp, and aches and pains sometimes make me stop before I want to. I sweat. I pant. I get rosy cheeks.

But I’m willing to adapt, modify and change my view if it means being able to continue moving forward, making progress and smashing my own goals. Being fit is accepting where you’re at right now, but also being interested in doing at least one of the following: maintaining, growing, challenging or changing. You decide what, how and how much. You decide what’s enough.

I urge you to question what you believe “being fit” means. If your beliefs about what “fit” looks like don’t match up with what you look like, despite your effort, energy and capabilities, throw it out the window and build your own definition from scratch.

What are you capable of?

What incredible stuff does your body do?

What sort of activity makes you feel incredible? What brings you joy?

What do you wish you were even better at?


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!

Why Old Eating Habits Keep Coming Back and How Your Response Can Reduce Their Frequency

Things were going so well. So why do you find yourself picking at junk in the pantry or eating when everyone else has gone to bed? And what can we do about it?

Things were going so well. So why do you find yourself picking at junk in the pantry or eating when everyone else has gone to bed? And what can we do about it?

Sometimes I am just going along in my day to day life and everything seems good, only to find myself staring in the pantry wanting something that isn’t there.

The pantry is filled with plenty of food and I’m not actually hungry, but there is something I want in there. And even though with every available brain cell, I know that the want I am feeling comes from something other than food and that responsible present day Andrea would walk away from the pantry and go think or write about her feelings and what might be causing the need to fill it up with food, and if I did that, I wouldn’t even want something in the pantry anymore. But there is another Andrea from my past who appears and says “Hey, shhhh, don’t listen to her! You listen to her all the time! What about us? We used to have so much fun together! Let’s eat like old times – just this once! I promise I’ll leave you alone if you just give me big two handfuls of trail mix and half a bag of popcorn. I swear!” Sometimes I let past Andrea in for a bit. Not for very long – but just long enough to have me go “Why am I eating this?”.

Old eating stuff is going to come up from time to time, no matter how long you’ve been at this healing process.

But why is it coming up? And what’s the best way to handle it?

These eating episodes are a little annoying but I handle it much differently than I would have in the past and that is the difference between still being in an unhealthy place and being a normal human being with an challenging eating past.

The women I work with have this struggle too. They confess to overeating at dinner, to choosing a cupcake over an apple when they wanted a snack, to still having small binges occasionally when they’ve had a rotten day. They know they have tools to turn it around, to choose something different and most of the time they do, but sometimes they may even want to give in to the old desire and they think that this means something has gone terribly wrong in their journey – that they are WRONG for these things to be happening in their eating life or wrong for wanting to eat this way sometimes.

Nothing has gone wrong. In fact, I don’t think you can truly make progress in healing the relationship you have with food without having some screw ups along the way. If you never get to test a skill out, how do you know if you’ve really mastered it? If you’re training to be a pilot but have never actually flown a plane, I don’t want to get in a plane you are flying. Learning is one thing, gaining lots of experience is another!

One of the biggest indicators of progress is in how we handle ourselves when things don’t go the way we planned them to. When our old habits resurface (and they will), do we roll over and say “I give up! I failed!” or do we dust ourselves off and keep moving forward? Do we shame ourselves for making a mistake or do we remind ourselves that we are human and aren’t expected to be perfect?

Old eating habits (overeating, restricting, bingeing, emotional eating etc) will reappear in your life. That is a given. So why do they keep reappearing? We’ll get into that below. I’ll also tell you how you can respond so that they happen less and less.

When and why do old eating habits reappear?

Old habits resurface when we stop being so vigilant or we stop paying close attention to eating. When we start to feel confident that we know how to do this now, we know how to eat mindfully or intuitively. We start to want to be “lazy”  – paying close attention to every bite we eat, and the sensations in our body, as well as why we’re eating etc is a lot of emotional work and sometimes we just want to go on autopilot. Don’t feel bad about this desire to be “lazy”, it’s actually the way our brains are designed to function. Your brain want things to be as efficient as possible so it can use energy on more important things so it’s going to try to make you choose actions that feel automatic over things that feel difficult. Remind yourself that “being present” eventually won’t feel like work if you continue to choose it daily. Your brain will start to see that as the “easier” response. And yes, it takes a long time but it will get a little easier.

Old habits also will pop up when we’re stressed out. New job, new baby, moving, worries about your kids or parents, illness, anxiety disorders etc. Anything that causes you to feel stressed or having a lack of control over your life can mean you will look for ways to comfort yourself and relieve stress. For those of us with a history of overeating or emotional eating, turning to food might be your first reaction, even if you’ve been doing really well. That habit is wired in your brain through lots of neural pathways and while you are building new ones every time you choose to do things differently, it will be a long while until those old pathways are no longer dominant and the “easier” route. We can’t undo decades worth of repetition in just a few months. Under periods of stress, our brains want to conserve our energy to deal with whatever crisis you are going through, so it’s going to choose the path of least resistance, and old, reliable paths that don’t require any thinking will win almost every time (that’s why we find ourselves grazing in the pantry and hardly even remember making a decision to do that).

Old habits will appear when we’re sick, tired, bored, PMS’ing or even overwhelmed. We don’t necessarily have to be going through a crisis or feeling lazy to find food starts to feel like a problem again. The level of self control we have at our disposal changes based on what else is going on in our lives. I know that when I get sick, I am more emotional and I want to wallow or indulge in feeling crappy. I know that probably sounds strange, but it’s the truth! When I get into a place where I want to “indulge in feeling crappy” I will turn to food. If I feel like crap when I’m sick, eating crappily or eating too much in general will make me feel worse and for some reason it feels justified. It’s ironic, because I know that eating well when I’m sick will actually contribute to me feeling better in general much quicker, but sometimes I have an emotional brat in me who wants to come out and she’ll take advantage when she knows I’m down. Maybe you can’t fathom overeating when you’re sick (most people aren’t even interested in food then!), maybe for you it’s when you’re feeling lonely, have a lot on your plate or are generally just exhausted. In any of these situations, our guard is down, we’re occupied by something other than being present and taking good care of ourselves (which in all honesty is most of the time, right??) and that means there’s an opportunity for less than desireable eating behaviors to show up.

Old eating habits can show up anytime. You probably read the above scenarios and go, okay, I see why they come back up when I’m busy paying attention to something other than my thoughts and actions around eating. That makes perfect sense. But what about when I’m going along in life and things seem pretty ok and suddenly I find myself in my car eating a bunch of cookies? Slightly stale ones at that. They weren’t even that good, but I couldn’t stop. I eventually had to get out of the car and toss the rest of the package in a garbage can in front of the store before driving home because I knew that if the rest of the cookies stayed with me, they would have ended up in my belly which was already stuffed to the brim. Sound familiar? Maybe your slip up happens in your kitchen at night when everyone else is asleep or maybe it happens when you’re out to dinner with friends, in full view, you eat twice as much as you know you need.

Even though things are going well, we can still have “blips” in our progress. Self-sabotage is real. Some of us can’t handle for things to go well and we will do whatever we can to mess it up, so that if it does go badly, we can say “see! it wasn’t meant to be!”. Deprivation is another reason this stuff will keep coming back. You think you’re eating mindfully, thoughtfully. You think you are eating what you desire and also eating nutritiously, but deep in the back of your mind are a whole bunch of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and you’ve listened to the “shouldn’ts” a few too many times and now all you can think about is those damn cookies. And also, sometimes a little overeating is a normal part of life – yes, normal.

Slip ups, mistakes, old habits are inevitable. We’re human. There’s nothing you can do to stop the occasional overeating hiccup from appearing. No matter how “good” you are, no matter how rigorous you’ve been in applying all you’ve learned about habit change, you will still find yourself making food choices sometimes that could bring up old feelings of shame, guilt, disgust or make you want to take drastic habits. There’s no avoiding this part.

But here’s what you can do about it:

You can choose how you respond when it happens.

There are really only two options.

Option 1

Respond with the old familiar ways – feel shame, disgust, guilt. Beat yourself up. Tell yourself how gross you are, how foolish you are, how undisciplined you are. Make this eating choice mean all possible terrible things you’ve ever thought about yourself. Remind yourself that this is why you aren’t getting farther in life, that this is why you are single, that this is why you don’t have more opportunities in life. This is the source of every problem you’ve ever had. Let this one moment in eating turn into more years of pain, sadness and despair.

Option 2

Respond with love. Remember ultimately WHY you are eating like this in the first place. You are trying to bring yourself comfort. You are trying to give yourself a kindness when you aren’t feeling any elsewhere. You are just trying to feel love. Let the few hours of physical discomfort be just that. Let any feelings of shame, disgust or guilt float on by. Remind yourself that you are not bad or gross for eating something. Accept that this was just one small choice and it’s in the past now. It does not mean anything. Respond to yourself the same way you would to a crying child (you are eating this way because a part of you is crying inside in some way – answer that cry with LOVE). You are just a person, trying to do her best, with the way she knows how in this particular moment. Let this one moment in eating just be that, one moment of eating.

One of these will make it a lot easier for overeating, bingeing to come back over and over again. One of them will make your eating life remain an uphill climb. And the other, while it may feel harder at first, will make your long term success more likely. It will make these episodes less frequent. Which will you choose?

I hope you choose love. Responding with love and letting go of the urge to shame yourself can be challenging at first, but do it over and over again and not only will it feel easier, it will start to feel good and you will see your “mistakes” as no big deal in the scheme of things. This makes moving forward so much easier. When this happens, you will truly have made progress – your backtracking and slip ups will happen less and less, and when they do happen, you will have the tools necessary to get out of it and get on with your life.

It’s just love. The very thing you are looking for when you eat, is the thing you need to get out of here, and you already have it inside of you. Practice using it on yourself and you will cultivate more of it in your life.

Do you find old eating habits reappear in your life from time to time? How do you choose to respond to these episodes? What benefits does that choice bring you?

The September offer I’ve been teasing you about: “Pay What You Can” Coaching

unsplash-giving

“Pay What You Can” coaching is a chance for me to give back! One month where I can offer my services to women who could use my support but have so far been unable to afford it.

 

If you get my emails, then you know I’ve been teasing for several weeks that I had an special and limited offer coming to for new clients in September. Well, I’m finally going to share what that offer is:

In the spirit of giving back, I am offering a “Pay What You Can” month where you can purchase a 3 month of private coaching at a price you can afford

(read on below to find out why and how)

You’ve probably noticed I’m doing a lot less “promoting” than I was when I first started coaching. In order to make a coaching practice grow, you really do have to do a ton of promotion and marketing – either in person through workshops and conversations or online (or you have to hope your lovely past clients will send you referrals). When I first finished the Health Coach Training Program at IIN, I was heavily immersed in reading and learning all I could about marketing a budding practice – and so my online content often reflected that.

But it started to feel hollow. Icky. False. You may have noticed I’ve dropped some of the programs I offered in the beginning, like the 12 Day Detox and the 28 Day Spiritual Program. As I developed and evolved as a coach they just weren’t feeling right anymore. They weren’t “me”.  I didn’t feel like they were as helpful to my core clients as I wanted them to be and so for the past year I’ve really focused my coaching practice on one on one coaching alone (specifically, working with emotional eaters, women who eat more than they want to and those who are sick and tired of dieting, want to stop but aren’t sure how).

Marketing is important, even in a business that is more authentically aligned with who I am so you’ll still see me promoting things I’m rather excited about – the things I KNOW can help women who struggle the same way I have, but I’ve had to shut out a lot of the online chatter from the big marketers and reassess how I want to do things.

Since I’ve been coaching, I’ve met with many women who could greatly benefit from coaching on their eating struggles (I see so much of myself in them) but who confided in me that they couldn’t afford coaching right now. They’re building a house. They’re pregnant with their 3rd child. They’re a single parent.  The first couple of times I heard this, I understood, accepted it and moved on. We all have things we have to pay for first and foremost – the mortgage/rent, groceries, car payments etc (that stuff adds up!) and really, there’s only a small subset of the population that can afford to pay for all the “needs” in their life and still have money left over for things like coaching, which many view as frivolous want. Every marketing guru out there teaches entrepreneurs that the “right” clients for us WILL have the money to spend on our services. On some level, I do believe this too. But on the other hand, it sometimes hurts my heart to feel like someone wants my help and I believe I can be of help to them and to have to go our separate ways because of money.

Yes, I deserve to get paid for what I do. I have to make a living too. We all do. I can’t work with people who can’t afford to pay me.

Or can I??

A while back I saw that author and speaker Danielle LaPorte offers an annual “Pay What You Can Day” on her books and programs – generously allowing people who feel drawn to her work to benefit from it and pay what they are able, and she too has benefited greatly from it. Then I saw this post from Charles Eisenstein in a similar vein, about offering “Scholarships” at multiple levels for people to pay what they can afford for his work. Two of the things that these folks have in common is a desire to give back and remembering what they were going through when they were struggling too.

I’m nowhere near at the success level of these big wigs but I have things pretty good right now (and I’m so thankful for that). I’m in a position where I can give back. So while it’s a bit non-conformist and could possibly attract the wrong people, in the spirit of giving back, I am offering a “Pay What You Can” month where you can purchase a 3 month long coaching program with me at a price point that you can afford.

Some details you may want to know about:

  • I’m opening this up to 5 people only.
  • You must be a new client (we can’t have worked together before, so sorry) and you can’t be a relative of mine (too much history there kids!).
  • There are 6 different price points you can choose from. All are significantly less than what I normally charge for a 3 month program.
  • You pay in full for the full 3 months (if you need to pay monthly, just shoot me a note and we can totally work that out together).
  • You get 3 months of coaching with me on any of these concerns:  Emotional eating, overeating, a desire to stop the diet and binge cycle or improving body image. This includes 6 coaching sessions (via phone or through skype video calls) over three months, recommendations/assignments to do in between our sessions and email support from me in between our sessions (ask questions, get support and encouragement).
  • You have to be ready and motivated to get to work. I can’t do any of this for you. Coaching is a supportive process that will help you get the space and clarity you need to take action but it is useless if you don’t really want to make changes or are unwilling to do the things we decide are right for you.

How to take part of this offer:

  1. Schedule a 30 minute discovery session with me between now and October 10, 2016. It’s free and painless. If you don’t see a time that works for you in my scheduler, please message me. I will work with you to get this call on the calendar!
  2. After our discovery session, if you get off the call saying “yes, yes. I want this!! I know this can help me.” then you can purchase your 3 month program at your chosen price (anywhere from $75-$450 for 3 months).
  3. You can purchase your program anytime between when you complete your discovery session with me and October 22, 2016.

You should schedule your discovery session immediately if (any or all of these are true):

  • You’ve been reading my blog posts, emails or following me on social media and relating to everything I say.
  • We’ve done a discovery session in the past and you wanted to work together but were unable to commit financially at the time.
  • You’ve been interested in coaching but afraid to pull the trigger.
  • You are sick of overeating and then trying to compensate for it by dieting and restricting.
  • You are tired of doing this to yourself and want to stop but you know you need some support to do it.
  • You are ready to put yourself first, highly motivated to make real changes and willing to be honest with yourself (and with me).

Please do not take part in this if you are:

  • a former client or relative (so sorry, love you, but newbies only this time)
  • hoping for a miracle diet that will fix you (I don’t give out meal plans or tell you exactly what you should be eating)
  • looking for coaching help that doesn’t have anything to do with one of these concerns: Emotional eating, overeating, a desire to stop the diet and binge cycle or improving body image. These are my “babies” and I want to give back to other women who need help with these things.
  • just hoping to get something for cheap or free. Sometimes we don’t value or put as much effort into things we don’t pay much for. How many times have you purchased a groupon or a item of clothing just because it was a great deal and then never used it?? Please value this offer as if you were paying full price (your time and my time is worth it).

I am super excited about doing this and hope you take part! I wish I had encountered a coach with a similar offer when I was in the peak of my eating struggles – I feel like my path would have been a little less bumpy! I’ve been so fortunate to have made the progress I have in my own relationship with food and been along for the journey with so many other women on theirs. I feel blessed and grateful that this is the work I get to do and this is a small way I can give back.

If you’ve been following me for awhile and thought about scheduling a session, now is the time to do it! Schedule your discovery session now. There’s no obligation to go forward with a program!

You can learn more about me and what my coaching is about here.

Find additional info about this offer here.

Planning for Your Plans to Not Go According to Plan (or how to not freak out when you get sick on vacation)

How do you react when your plans don't go the way you want them to?

How do you react when your plans don’t go the way you want them to?

Normally, when John and I go away on vacation, I have a tendency to overplan. I plan out the restaurants we’re going to eat at (and when). I might rent us bicycles, book a harbor tour, or hire a driver for visiting wineries. I create spreadsheets of what we’re doing, what we could do if we have extra time and even seek out coupons or special deals in the area. I get a little nuts!

All of these things mean a pretty nailed down itinerary by the time we leave which gives my control freak side some comfort. I like knowing what’s next but  John does not have a control freak side and he can’t appreciate it. He’d rather just show up somewhere and see where it takes us (and his dream vacation includes lots of naps, no plans, internet time and TV).

This year for vacation I decided to attempt to “let go”of my control freak tendencies and only lightly plan our trip. I booked nothing but our hotels and flights ahead of time! There are a couple of restaurants and things that I want to do this week but I’m not scheduling any of it. It sounds so lame, I’m sure, but trying to let go of my need to control every minute of our vacation pushes me out of my comfort zone, which is important and healthy to do once in awhile.

It’s a little ironic that I am trying to relax my need for control with this vacation because just a couple of days before we jumped on the plane (heading out to Oregon) I came down with symptoms that were similar to strep throat. Ugggggg. Yes, this certainly pushes me further out of my comfort zone. It’s also serving as a reminder that I can plan all I want, but life may have other things in mind for me.

As much as I planned to avoid planning this vacation, getting sick right before take off was definitely not something I saw coming. I seriously never get sick – once every year or two!

I had some moments of panic. First of all, I hate going to the doctor (it sets off my anxiety in a big way) but I knew that swollen glands, stiff neck, swollen red tonsils and a fever wasn’t just my allergies and the last thing I wanted was to end up needing to go to an urgent care center or the ER while across the country so it was better to go see someone before we left. Figured I needed to at least go and get a strep test (which I did, but as of the time I had to schedule this post, I didn’t have the results back yet – hmm, wonder if I’ll have strep or not?) But aside from going to the doctor being stressful for me . . . we don’t get to go away all that often, and rarely visit places I’ve never been before, so feeling so crappy when I have a 8/9 day trip to take was kind of a big bummer. Who wants to roam around a new city in the heat when their neck and throat feels like someone stuffed barbed wire covered cotton balls in it?

Another reason I was bummed is because the last 4 days of our trip would be spent in the Willamette Valley – Oregon’s wine region. John and I love wine (we even got married in the Sonoma Valley) and love tasting wine from different regions, especially tasting it where it’s made! I love learning about how it’s produced, how the climate and soil affects the taste particular wines will have. But drinking wine is the last thing on my mind. Plus, everything tastes (and feels) awful when you have swollen tonsils! Waahh!

The Sunday before we left, I woke up and went straight to the medicine cabinet to grab the thermometer. After alternating between chills and sweating in bed most of the night, I confirmed my suspicion that I now had a fever. I’ll admit that I even found myself briefly in tears feeling sad and sorry for myself for getting this sick a few days before vacation.

I wallowed for a few minutes but then I put an end to it. I choose to put an end to it.

I can have my momentary panic and a little cry (did I mention also that I’m PMSing?). I can feel a little annoyed and sad that I probably won’t feel my best during at least the first half of our trip. I can’t control this stuff (as much as I’d like to).

But I can control how much I let being sick affect my attitude, my feelings and my mood.

I have choices.

I can be the drama queen/control freak that I know I can be sometimes and wallow in the physical pain I feel. I can let negative thoughts fester and grow. I can remind myself over and over how much I’m not going to enjoy certain parts of the trip. I can make myself feel so much worse by focusing on the negatives of this situation.

Or . . .

I can accept that this is something I don’t have control over but not let it have such a big effect on me. Being sick is annoying, uncomfortable and the timing really sucks BUT it’s a short term illness (not a long term, debilitating condition!). I will feel better in a few days. I can still visit a new city and see all that it has to offer. Maybe I’ll need to take a few naps (something I’m not good at) or take my normal activity level down a notch or two (something else I’m not good at) and maybe food/drink won’t be the same since things don’t taste very good right now but I can still go on vacation and I’m very fortunate to be able to go on vacation in the first place. I don’t have to let this sickness ruin my whole trip.

I know I’ve said this at least a dozen times on this blog but while we can’t control what thoughts pop in our heads, we can decide what to do with them and what we do with them (let them pass on by or indulge them) hugely affects how we are going to feel. Thoughts are so powerful! I don’t want to let a little sickness ruin my whole trip, so I’m not going to let it! I’m grateful that it’s not something more serious and that it is something that I can work around on my trip.

By the time this is posted, I will be on a plane heading home from our trip (I wrote this before we left!). I’m assuming we had a good time and I will be feeling much better (mentally and physically!).

Are you a control freak too? How do you handle it when your plans go off track or something is beyond your control? Does it feel good to you to “wallow” or “indulge” negative thoughts? Or do you prefer the outcome when you allow negative thoughts pass on by? Is letting go of a need to control something you need to practice?

Update: (Post trip) Yep, it was strep! When our plane landed in Portland, I had a voicemail on my phone from my doctor’s office confirming the results of my culture were positive. Luckily I had prefilled an antibiotic prescription from them before I left NH and I could take it right away. Felt crummy for the first 2 days of vacation but I slept a little extra (and drank kombucha at breweries instead of beer) and I felt much better after that. We had an awesome time! I know deciding ahead of time to not let my sickness ruin vacation made a huge difference in how our trip went. Both of us consider this one of our best vacations to date and plan to visit Oregon again soon!


Keep your eyes open for a special offer coming soon! In September I will be making a special (limited quantity) offer to those of you who are new to coaching, that will make trying it more affordable! Make sure you are on my email list so that you don’t miss this offer when it’s ready! Joining this list automatically means you receive my free eBook Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be aWorkout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

 

Why Self Care is So Easy to Preach but Hard to Do

Finding it hard to make time to write in your journal? Sometimes self care practices can feel isolating because we are already spending too much time on our own.

Finding it hard to make time to write in your journal? Sometimes self care practices can feel isolating because we are already spending too much time on our own.

Self care is the big thing these days. It’s replaced eating kale and drinking smoothies as to what clues everyone else into the fact that you’re into “wellness”. Everyone is doing it! Or everyone means to do it. Everyone is at least thinking about doing it.

Yeah, you know you should meditate, exercise and write in your journal. And healthier eating is definitely something you want to do. And someday you’ll have time for epsom salt baths and dry brushing too. It’s been a zillion years since you connected with nature and last time nature connected with you it left a welt the size of a quarter and you had to take benadryl for 3 days. Self care is totally on your priority list!

But no matter how many times you think, “I’m totally going to start doing that” (Tomorrow. Ah, Monday! Um, maybe next month?), another big chunk of time passes without you having made any time for self care practices.

 

What gives? Why is self care something we preach often but so hard to do in reality?

 

Two reasons come to mind for me.

  1. Because it’s not really a priority for us but we think it should be a priority because according to the media and all the women who actually go to the yoga classes you wish you could drag yourself to, it’s basically what’s going to keep us sane and healthy and not making time for self care is tantamount to to giving the middle finger to your health.Along the same lines:  YOU aren’t a priority in your life. Your job, your family, your volunteer work or school obligations, your DVR queue, heck, even social media comes first. There’s no room for self care because you are not high enough up on your priority list. The only way you’re going to start making room for it is if you move something else further down the list.The only way to have self care find a way into your life is by changing your priorities.How to change this. Make a list of how you spend your time. Account for every hour or half hour of every day for a week. Laundry, dishes, preparing meals, time in the car, staring out the window etc. put everything down on paper. When you see where all your time goes, it might make it easier to find something you can stop doing (or get help doing!) or something you can do less of and that is where you can make room for self care. But first you have to acknowledge that you deserve a place at the top of your priorities. What can you stop doing? What can you do less of? Is there anything that is taking up a big chunk of time that you are surprised by? Can you change that? Are you willing to change that? Compiling a list like this and analyzing what can be changed can help you find a spare 30 min to an hour to add in some form of self care. Start there and when you see the benefits of that small bit of time, you may be motivated to look for more.

    Meditation is a powerful tool to connect to your higher power, but can sometimes be a lonely place to be if you are feeling disconnected.

    Meditation is a powerful tool to connect to your higher power, but can sometimes be a lonely place to be if you are feeling disconnected.

  2. You’re going through a period of isolation or disconnection. As beneficial as self care stuff is to our lives, most of the stuff we do for self care is a solo practice that gets us deeper into our heads and sometimes that’s the opposite of what we need!Maybe you work a lot of hours in a private office, spend a lot of time in your car, work from home, spend all day caring for others, or have very limited social time. All of these things can start to make you feel isolated and doing self care practices that bring the focus on “you” can make you feel even more so. The last thing you want to do when you spend a lot of time alone is sit quietly in your own head space! That’s sometimes why we turn to food, drink or our electronic devices more than we want to – we’re seeking the comfort and the “feeding” that human relationships and interactions can give us and we are trying to substitute it for other things. We just can’t feed disconnection with those things and they will keep getting in the way of a self-care practice until we get some true self care by interacting with others!In this case, the only way to make yourself want to do solo practice self care stuff is by starting with one of the most basic self care needs – and that is social interaction!How to change This. Go have some fun and conversation with other humans! What is your soul hungry for? How connected to others to you feel? Do you have several people in your life that you connect with regularly? Go out and connect with them. Schedule time with your girlfriends. Have brunch with your siblings. Find an event that interests you in your area on meetup.com and meet some new people. Maybe you want to connect in a way that gives back to others? What about volunteering at a soup kitchen or senior center, or becoming a Big Sister/ Big Brother? You could also become a mentor for someone in your field. Friends don’t live nearby? Try video chat.

    When you connect to others deeply and regularly, you’ll find meditating, journal writing or exercising is something you’ll start to look forward to (and you’ll actually be able to do it).

I’ve gone through both of these myself – as a solopreneur the isolation one comes up regularly! I’ve found it really hard to stick to a meditation practice lately (even my doctor suggested I use an app and set a timer, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it). I know the benefits of meditation and I’ve had success doing it regularly during different periods in my life, but lately, asking me to sit down and meditate felt worse than going to the dentist! I finally realized it’s because I’m already alone in my own head too much! How and why would I want to spend even more time there? Haha! I’ve been making an effort to have more time with other people during the week, whether it be a networking event or a walk or lunch with a friend and it really helps me feel better (and more interested in doing other things that are good for me).

What is your experience with self care? Do you find it challenging to stick to a routine? Are you making yourself a priority and is self care truly a priority for you or just something you “think” should be a priority? Have you been spending too much time alone lately? Is isolation or disconnection something you have been feeling? What is something you can do this week to feel more connected to others?