Category Archives: Primary Food

Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Weight (even though you’re giving it your all)

The most common complaint I hear is that someone “just can’t lose weight”. They believe they’re doing all the right things and they’ve tried “everything” but the scale won’t budge. They’re frustrated and ready to give up. I’ve even been here myself, several times. So what’s going on?

Everyone knows how dieters can get stuck on a plateau that last forever or that chronic dieters have been dieting for so long that their bodies don’t burn calories efficiently anymore. But what are some other reasons you can’t lose weight?

There are lots of them! I’m going to share the ones I think are most common that we tend to ignore! Why do we ignore these? Well, sometimes we’re not even aware that they could be a problem, and for others, we prefer to go the “easy” route and delving into some of this stuff is a bit harder! Read on – you never know, your solution could be in one of these paragraphs.

A Few Reasons Why You Might Not be Losing Weight:

You have a hormonal or metabolic condition that makes it difficult for your body to burn fat or causes weight gain. Hypothyroidism, PCOS, Metabolic Syndrome, Cushing’s Syndrome and natural hormonal changes like Perimenopause and Menopause are just a few of the medical/physical conditions that can make weight loss seem impossible (and weight gain seem inevitable). If you suspect that you have a medical condition that is getting in the way of your goals, talk to your doctor. There are tests that can diagnose all of these conditions and treatments that can help! And the sooner you know if you are dealing with a medical condition, the more effective all your efforts will be.

 

-You have a food sensitivity. Food sensitivities can cause us to gain weight, but we usually don’t know we have one! Food sensitivities are not the same thing as a food allergy. If you have an actual allergy to a food, it will usually show up in a blood test or skin prick test that you can have done by an allergist. When someone eats a food that they are allergic to, the symptoms usually happen relatively quickly (hives, itching, wheezing etc) and can be life threatening (such as in the case of someone with a peanut allergy with anaphylaxis). To learn more about food allergies and testing, visit FARE.

While food allergies usually are noticeably caused by the food in question, a food sensitivity can go completely unnoticed, as the symptoms and discomfort that come from the sensitivity happen so slowly over time that we don’t see them as related.  We usually only become aware that there is an issue with that food if we take it out for a period of time (like during an elimination diet) and reintroduce it. Food sensitivity symptoms can include many things that can appear to be from other conditions (or just a part of getting older) like bloating, body aches and pains, rosacea, asthma, constipation, diarrhea and weight gain. Food sensitivities are becoming increasingly common today (a few reasons include an increase in gut permeability & exposure to hormones) and many people who have a food sensitivity gain weight because the offending food causes an inflammatory response in the body. Interestingly enough, the foods we are sensitive to are often foods we eat frequently and have cravings for! Remove the offending food and weight starts to come off easily. If you need help doing an elimination diet to see if you have a sensitivity to the most common ones, let’s chat!

 

-You have self limiting beliefs. Do any of these sound familiar? “I’ve always been fat.” “I can’t lose weight.” “Losing weight is too hard for me.” “I’m just a big boned person.” “Everyone in my family is overweight.” “I’ll never be a normal weight.”For me, the thought was “I’m just a fat girl” – as if being “fat” defined who I was as a person.We make our weight mean something about us. Thoughts that we think over and over again become part of our belief system and when something is ingrained in our beliefs, like it or not, we take actions repeatedly that will provide evidence for that belief.

For example, if you believe that your weight is a direct result of just everyone in your family being naturally heavy or if you believe that it’s not possible for you to lose weight, how much effort do you think you’ll put into eating well or not eating too much? If you are like most people with these beliefs, you’re going to half-ass it! If you already believe you will fail, you won’t give it your all – because why give your all to something you know you can’t have? You’re not a bad person or lazy for doing this – it’s human nature. We won’t work hard at something we know we can’t have.

But you don’t HAVE to believe these things are true. It’s a choice to believe these things about yourself. Change your belief and you will change your future. To open up the door, start asking yourself empowering questions, like: What if I could lose weight? What can I do today to make weight loss more likely? Is eating this food in alignment with the person I want to be? See where that takes you!

 

-You’re holding onto emotional weight. This is where I’m gonna get a little woo-woo and won’t provide scientific facts to back me up – just personal experiences and observations but I have a feeling you’ll get what I’m talking about and see how it can cause issues with your weight.

Sometimes we gain weight and can’t lose it because we are holding on to something that we believe or think about ourselves on such a deep level that it becomes what I like to call “emotional weight”. The belief doesn’t even have to actually be true to weigh us down – it just has to be something that we think must be true! For example, maybe you got the impression as a child that you weren’t lovable – so to prevent people from loving you, you gained weight to protect yourself from what you saw as inevitable rejection. Or perhaps you got a lot of attention from the opposite sex when you were young that made you feel uncomfortable, so you gained weight in the hopes of reducing that unwanted attention.

The weight was a physical way for us to build up a wall around ourselves to keep others out or to keep believing whatever it is we want to believe about ourselves.  Emotional weight prevents us from being who we want to be, it gives us an excuse to hold ourselves back, it keeps us playing small and safe. We think it’s protecting us in some way to continue living that story or belief about ourselves, but all it’s really doing is limiting our potential.You may not even realize there is some deep emotional root to your weight gain – many of us get stuck here and can stay here for years until we recognize that the reason we are unhappy in our bodies is because we are stalling ourselves in other ways.

If you can let go of whatever is weighing you down emotionally, often we start to lose weight. Release whatever is holding you down emotionally and weight loss will happen naturally. Don’t know how to that? Schedule a consult with me to discuss it.

 

-You’re super stressed out. High levels of stress cause us to release lots of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone – and when this happens too often we gain weight, especially in the belly. In early times, this release of hormones helped us to stay alive by giving us quick energy to escape predators and increasing fat storage in case we were without food for long periods of time!

Today, many of us enter that fight or flight mode daily due to situational stress, (most of which isn’t a threat to our lives), and our body (amazing machine that is is) prepares us to deal with it by making sure the body is prepared for famine or being on alert. When we’re chronically stressed, the body thinks that we’re at risk for starvation so it starts to store fat in case we need it later (because thousands of years ago food wasn’t at our fingertips like it is today). When this happens on a daily basis, you can see how difficult it will be to lose weight if your body believes you are in danger and need all the fat stores it can make! Even more annoying is that while under acute stress, most folks lose their appetites, but when the stress is chronic, we actually get the urge to eat more – so you end up with eating more which contributes to the fat storage.

If you’re under high levels of stress, or even moderate stress but don’t handle it well, try making stress relief a priority in your life. Gentle exercise like walking and yoga, movement like tai chi and qigong, deep breathing exercises, massage, evening baths with epsom salt, journal writing, meditation and avoiding caffeine may help! As you reduce your stress level, the weight may come off more easily.

 

-You’re eating more than your body needs. This is the category that most of us fall into. It’s not something we like to hear, but most of the time, the reason we gain weight and the reason we can’t lose weight is because we are taking in more food than our bodies are using for fuel. This happens for a lot of reasons, a few that you may relate to are:

1.   We’ve gotten very disconnected from our bodies and don’t listen to hunger & fullness signals to determine when to start and stop eating. This means we eat more and more often! When was the last time you actually felt true hunger in your body?

2.   As a society, we eat a lot of foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, these foods make us feel good in the short term but they spike and crash our blood sugar, making us feel ravenous later, again leading to eating more food than we can use.

3.  We live sedentary lives, spend too much time driving, on the computer watching TV and not enough time moving around so we don’t burn enough calories to use up the food we eat.

4.  We turn to food when we’re upset, sad, frustrated, lonely or even happy. When we do this, we usually consume large quantities of food in a short period of time and do it on a regular basis.

5. We eat massive portions that restaurants serve and start serving ourselves those same sized portions at home even though they are way more food than our body needs. It’s just what we’re used to, so we eat it!

How do you deal with this? Take an honest inventory of your habits. Some people may need to try weighing their food with a kitchen food scale (to determine whether they’re having 1 serving or 4) or get back in touch with their bodies natural hunger signals.

 

-You’re self-sabotaging yourself. You eat well and exercise for a couple of weeks, then decide to “reward” yourself for your hard work by having a cheat day, but that cheat day turns into you falling off the wagon for three weeks. Or you have been stuck at the same weight for a year, despite exercising 5 days a week and eating well 5 days a week but every Friday and Saturday night you have a few drinks and then after your drinks decide to eat chocolate, ice cream or whatever else strikes your fancy. You’ll worry about your “diet” on Monday! Or, you drop 20 or 30 lbs and while super excited about your progress, you start to purposely sabotage yourself because there is a part of you that is completely freaked out about going below a certain weight. We use weight to protect ourselves sometimes (see the point on “emotional weight” above) and even though consciously we want to lose weight, sometimes we’re more comfortable at the weight we’re at than we want to believe. In fact some of us actually don’t want to lose weight but have been conditioned by society to believe that we need to in order to be happy, so we struggle to lose weight even though it’s not even something we want for ourselves!!

So how do you stop sabotaging yourself?

Self sabotage is a complicated beast but for most it goes back to getting in touch with our feelings. Do you feel guilty or berate yourself when you something that isn’t on your “diet”? Then you’re going to self sabotage. Do you use food to comfort or reward yourself? That’s self sabotage. Getting to your why is key to putting an end to it. Find out why you are doing this to yourself and then come up with some good reasons to stop doing it – without judgement and with love! Go back to why you want to lose weight in the first place – what’s your motivation? How will losing weight change your life? Is there anything that scares you about that? Is there anything that excites you? Own up, be honest with yourself. This is your ride and you’re in control of it.

So what do you think? Could one of these be troubling you? What are some other unknown reasons you think people have trouble losing weight? Please share with me in the comments!

If you are having a difficult time losing weight and aren’t sure where to turn next,  I sincerely hope you will contact me. I have helped many women get over hurdles that were blocking their success and I’d love to help you do it too.

Are you looking to give your body a little reset after summer indulgences? Consider joining us for the September 14, 2015 round of the 12 Day Detox program. This is an online program that will help you embark on a whole foods lifestyle with lots of support, recipes and even a coaching call with me! Only $67 for the whole program – which is a steal!

Did you hear? The 12 Day Detox Program is returning September 14, 2015. Join us!

Did you hear? The 12 Day Detox Program is returning September 14, 2015. Join us!

Yes, You Really Should Write That Thought Down

I’m a big advocate for writing things down. I have a journal collection that now spans decades (though I slacked heavily shortly after I met John and only in the last year or two have I picked it up again!). I write details on the back of every photo I’ve ever printed (names, dates, locations etc). In college, I could bang out a paper at the last minute in just a few hours. I still tend to write my shopping lists on paper – despite having every list making app available literally at my fingertips on my phone.

Despite all this writing, my handwriting is a mysterious scribble that can only be understood by me. (Apologies if you’ve ever been the recipient of a card or letter from me – odds are you are still trying to figure out what I wrote but are too polite to ask!). Writing is just a huge part of who I am, and always have been.

I promise with all this writing, I’m not just anal about details! Something I’ve noticed over the years, is that when I write things down they become more concrete in my brain. The act of writing (as opposed to typing or just thinking about something) creates memories that are more firm. It’s a long running joke with my friends and family that I have an insane memory and I’ll never let you forget something. Mention one detail, “oh that night we went to ______” and I can often tell you who was there, what we ordered and where we went afterwards. I might even be able to tell you what I was wearing! Possibly what you were wearing too! I’m not special, I don’t have super abilities or anything – the reason I am able to remember these types of details so clearly even years after an event is because of my dedication to writing things down.

The reason I’m telling you all this isn’t to pat myself on the back for being a pen-wielding computer of memory but because writing things down can be an incredibly important way to work through our feelings, including our issues with food and solidify new habits! I have a few clients who definitely don’t love it when I suggest they do a writing exercise – but every one of them who is willing to do it ends up seeing benefits from it!

This is also one reason why I often ask folks who are having trouble losing weight or are unhappy with their food choices to keep a food journal. It’s not about calories or fat grams – it’s about becoming aware of what we are putting in our bodies and not hiding from ourselves. Writing it out makes it all the more real! It’s a great way to get to know yourself a little better and see what you are really thinking about.Joan didion quote for blog post

Here are some of the benefits writing can bring to your life:

  1. Self – exploration & clarity. Writing things down helps you figure out how you are feeling. If you tell me you don’t know why you’re overeating when you get home from work, I’ll suggest you “dump” all your thoughts out on paper (without judgement or trying to write fancy – just get them out!) and I bet you’ll discover something there that gives you an answer. Writing helps us tap into parts of ourselves that we have a hard time accessing otherwise. Getting to know yourself better is one of the best ways to change yourself for the better.
  2. Better Memory. Write things down so you don’t forget! Ideas and thoughts can be fleeting – what you think you’ll remember later, you’ll forget as soon as you stop thinking about it and you’ll wonder what that great idea was! How many times have you walked into the grocery store thinking that you’ll remember all the things you needed and promptly arrived home missing some of the important ones?! (Oh, is that just me??) Write it down to make it come to life.
  3. Firmer goals. Writing down goals makes them more likely to be achieved. If you write it down, it becomes more real. It becomes a commitment to yourself. It’s a lot easier to ignore that you had a goal of not eating cupcakes at work when you only thought about the goal – writing it down gives it concreteness that will help hold you accountable.
  4. Stress relief. Writing can help us release stress and feelings that we are having difficulty letting go of. Ever experience that release that comes from talking to a good friend about something that has been worrying you? You can get a similar release of stress by writing about an experience (or your thoughts/feelings). It’s very cathartic to write everything that is going on in our brains!
  5. Concrete evidence. Writing serves as a record of our progress. At the time, writing acts like a stamp on your memory and helps you let go of feelings and situations that are troubling you, but read those same writings months or years later and you will be able to see how far you’ve come in areas of your life. Sometimes we forget exactly where we were when we started and it’s easy to gloss over how much work it took to get where we are, but if it’s written down, you’ll have that to look back on, which can be a powerful tool to keep your motivation up!
  6. Cultivate positive feelings & self-esteem. If you’re someone who has a habit of thinking negatively about yourself, writing exercises can help you become aware of when/how you do that as well as help build more positive feelings for you – one thing I love to suggest is for clients to write a gratitude list before bed each night, a list of the things they did well that day, or things they love about themselves (physical or otherwise). For some these tasks are very hard at first – it’s hard to come up with things you love about yourself when you’ve been putting yourself down for years – but over time, it gets easier and in their day to day lives they feel more powerful, supported and able to go after what they want. This is such an awesome thing! Writing at bedtime inserts those thoughts gently into your subconscious so you wake up feeling the effects of that good stuff.

So you’re probably wondering what kind of writing can be helpful? And how to get started?

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Buy yourself a pretty journal or notebook. I don’t know about you but I’m more excited to write when I like the notebook. Call me shallow, I’m ok with that!
  2. Set aside one day a week or a certain time of each day where you will dedicate to at least 15 minutes of writing and stick with it. Put it on the calendar. If you’re more introspective in the morning, maybe that’s a good time to write. If you feel more free on the weekends, that might work better for you.
  3. Find a place that you enjoy writing. I always got more journal writing done when I left my home and went to a coffee house/cafe or outdoor park or beach. I’m more inspired in those types of places and don’t enjoy the distractions that can come from being at home (ug, I should really do those dishes!). When I was single and lived in a house with a bunch of friends, my room was my writing retreat. Find what works and inspires you!
  4. Decide what kind of writing you want to do. It doesn’t have to be formal or in a certain format and it can change however you like. You can write in prose, poetry or just random thoughts. It’s ok to have spelling errors and wacky punctuation. It doesn’t have to sound pretty or smart – it’s just about getting what’s in your head down on paper and seeing where it takes you.
  5. What should you write about? It’s up to you, really! You can just write about your day – what did you do? Who did you see? How did that make you feel?. You can write about things that are worrying you, bothering you, things that happened that made you happy, things that happened that frustrated you. You can write down goals and use a journal as a way to track your progress with them. You can even use a journal to draw and color and tap into your creative side! You can write down old memories – maybe for you, writing could be a way to document your personal history! (This is where my genealogy hobby intercepts my coaching business, haha!) Where did you grow up? Who were your best friends? Where did you go to school? Who was your favorite relative? What sort of food did your family eat? etc.  Lastly, you can also look for writing prompts if you’re the type who draws a blank when you put pen to paper – just do a google search “writing prompts for self-discovery” or “writing prompts for goal setting” etc. Insert whatever subject you might want to explore and when you find some writing prompts that interest you – write one down on each page of your journal and then as you have time to write you can fill in each prompt.
  6. Shameless plug here – Join the September 14, 2015 round of the 12 Day Detox program. It’s a whole foods based program that will help you connect with your body – but each day there are writing activities that can help you get started writing!

That’s really all you need to get going! One word of advice – try to not have judgements about what you are writing or how your writing should look or sound. This is just for you and no one else needs to read it (unless you want them to). You don’t need to censor your thoughts – we do enough of that elsewhere in our lives! Lastly, just do it! Commit to doing some form of writing for at least a few months (whether it’s daily or once a week) and if you don’t see a benefit from it after that, go ahead and stop, but I’m guessing you will be able to come up with at least a few positives that have come from it!

Have you found benefits to journaling or doing writing exercises? Please share with me in the comments! (And if you dig this kind of stuff, consider joining my email list in the green box below!)

How To Recover From a Binge

My old binge food of choice. photo credit: Sugarland aka Supermarket (2 of 10) via photopin (license)

My old binge food of choice. photo credit: Sugarland aka Supermarket (2 of 10) via photopin (license)

Last week, one night on my way home from running some errands (which included the grocery store), I decided to have a piece of milk & caramel chocolate from a bar I had bought (just a piece!). That one piece, turned into me eating the entire bar on my drive home.

Ug.

I felting sick from being “over-sugared” and so disappointed in myself for choosing to indulge in emotional eating. I felt myself slipping into the mental shit spiral that comes with binges (do you know what that feels like?? It’s the WORST).

But I stopped my pouty pity party because I thought “hey, wait a minute, I don’t want to do this. What would I tell a client right now?”. I coached myself through it and instead of one eating episode sending me into a tailspin for days, it was over, which is the goal.

Here’s what to do to recover from a binge quickly:

  1. Figure out what the feck you were feeling when the binge happened.For me, I know I wasn’t hungry but I was tired and kind of in a funky mood. Buying the bar itself wasn’t a big deal – we usually keep some junk chocolate in the house – because we’re human! But most of the time I try not to eat in the car, unless it’s absolutely necessary (like eating a snack immediately after a long workout), and that I was choosing to do this was unusual, at least it’s become unusual for me in the last 2 years.Prior to that, when I was in some of the worst binges I’ve ever had (I’m talking about you 2012!), I went through a period of time where I would drive to a store on my way home from work, buy a bag of doritos or a box of white cheddar cheez-its (jesus christ those things are delicious) – and open it as soon as I got my seatbelt on in the car. Then I’d drive home (another 35 minutes) inhaling whatever junk food I bought – barely tasting it and feeling awful about it the whole time – but feeling unable (and unwilling!) to stop.But why was I doing it today? What was going on for me in the last 24 hours? Nothing crazy. I had a couple of really good client calls that day – I was feeling really proud of all my ladies and all they were doing for themselves. Ok, so what was I doing right before I did errands? I was listening to a business building podcast – on a subject that I’m excited about learning about but feel a little overwhelmed on. Ah!! Bingo – So I was feeling overwhelmed, and probably like I wasn’t enough / didn’t know enough. Instead of feeling that and remembering that those feelings would go away in their own time, I reached for something that was my comfort for a long time – food!When trying to figure out why you binged (especially when your binges have been a thing of the past), it’s helpful to keep digging if you’re not coming up with an answer. Telling yourself “I don’t know” why you did it, is a subconscious way of avoiding the issue. You know why you’re doing this – keep asking questions and looking at your thoughts and interactions that led up to the event. Pretend you are a detective and leave no stone unturned!
  2. Recognize that it happened.
    Acknowledge to yourself -I ate that bag of chips. I ate that whole chocolate bar. Whatever it is. If you keep a food journal/diary, it’s important to log it down. We love to hide our binges from the people in our lives but also from ourselves and if we avoid it, it’s easy to let them happen again and again.
  3. Ask yourself: “How did eating this make me feel?”
    In my case, it made me feel really shitty. It made me feel like a bad person. It made me feel like all my hard work – emotional and physical (eating to satisfaction, stopping when I’ve had enough, exercising etc) was for nothing. I don’t like feeling that way.
  4. Next ask yourself: “How would I rather feel?
    I’d rather feel strong, capable and in control of my feelings and what I put in my mouth. I’d rather not feel ashamed of what I eat.  I’d rather have a relationship with food that is easy and not wrapped up in so much emotional garbage.
  5. Write all that shit down.
    Writing stuff down on paper preferably (typing is not the same but preferable to not writing at all!) helps us release feelings and cement the thoughts and feelings that we want to have in a way so that they stay in the front of our minds. Things become more real when we write them down! There’s no avoiding your feelings if you’re writing and acknowledging those facts down.I came here and wrote up this blog post after my binge and that helped immensely! Confronting this bad boy head on, meant I didn’t end up binging all night, it meant I didn’t skip my workouts for the next few days and it meant enjoying the weekend with my handsome husband without being moody and bloated (because that is the type of shit that happens when we let rotten feelings about a binge hang around and fester).
  6. Now that you know how you’d rather feel, know that you can choose to feel that way instead of the terrible way binging made you feel.
    What??? I know that’s a tough one to wrap our heads around but I’m serious. If I want to feel strong and in control of my food choices I can choose to feel that way from now on rather than choosing to feel like a bad person because of one single event. Eating the candy bar was an action I took and the only reason I felt bad about myself after was because I choose to make the act of eating it mean something about myself (I’m bad). But I can just as easily decide that I’m human and it was just one food choice and I can move on and make better choices going forward. You can CHOOSE to not feel like crap about it (and guess what?? That will affect your future food choices too!!) and that is really good news!
  7. Let it go & know that one binge does not mean all your progress is erased. I know it’s hard. I know there is a part of you that thinks if you don’t beat yourself up over it, then you’ll just do it again and never learn from your mistakes, right? It happened. Let it go. There’s no benefit to us to obsessing over what we did in the past – because we can’t go back and change it!Eating a whole chocolate bar in the car – (while a slightly lesser big deal than a whole box of cheez-its) felt so terrible, not because it was more calories than I want to eat in chocolate, but because it reminded me of how out of control, miserable and borderline apathetic I was a few years ago – and despite the healing I’ve done, there is a small part of me (and almost every one who is recovering from eating issues) who thinks that if an old behavior resurfaces at all, it means I’m back to square one. And that thought is terrifying.It’s also completely untrue. One binge does not undo all the hard work you’ve done – it’s how you move forward that counts. It’s your willingness to confront your actions (instead of tucking them away and ignoring them) and feel those feelings that made you want to binge in the first place that is the hallmark of your hard work!

Moving forward, the next time the potential for a binge appears and you start to fall into old habits that make you feel uncomfortable, you can come back here and revisit these steps. Just knowing that 1 binge doesn’t have to equal weeks or months of destructive behavior. With practice, new positive habits begin to replace old habits and we become less likely to resort to our old ways.

Notice I said “less likely”. Here’s the thing – I have a toolbox full of effective, tried and true tools to stop emotional eating and all are effective in different ways, but sometimes we resort to whatever our brains know best – and my brain still remembers bingeing as the most basic way for me to cope. I’ve retrained it pretty well the last few years – but it can sneak back up on us, especially under stress. I coach women on their own eating struggles and yes, mine sometimes creep up here and there (I’m human and imperfect) but they’re never as bad as they were in the past because I remember to do a mental and written “download” of the experience immediately afterwards.  It’s all about how you handle the “after”.

If you want to recover from a binge – you have to face it, instead of running away. Try reframing it into a learning experience about yourself and it will help remove the shame that we put on it! What helps you recover after a binge? Share with me in the comments!

Hey – did you like this article? Consider sharing your email with me (in the box below) and I’ll send you goodies like this directly to your inbox! Need help working through your own struggle with emotional eating? Schedule a free discovery session with me and let’s see how you can 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!

Stuck? Or Just Stuck in Your Story?

I love a good story - is yours serving you or holding you back?

I love a good story – is yours serving you or holding you back?

Do you ever feel stuck? Like no matter what you do, you can’t get out of your own way? That you were dealt the short stick in life? That there are too many obstacles in your way? That things just don’t work out for you? If this is happening to you, it’s possible that you have created a “story” for yourself and you’ve gotten stuck in it’s web.

We all have a story or stories. Something that has made us who we are today. We cling to it tightly and carry it with us everywhere we go. We use it to explain why we are the way we are and why we say the things that we do and why we can’t do certain things. We use it to protect ourselves from pain. We use it to continue doing behaviors that don’t serve us. Our stories formed in order to serve us in some way – it’s possible that the did help us at one time, but they may not be serving us now.

What’s your story?  Think you don’t have one? Sure you do – most of us have at least one (and some of us have many). How do you know what yours are?

What does a story sound/look like?

Think about the recurring thoughts about yourself that you’ve had throughout your life. The ones you may not say out loud to anyone else but have thought over and over again. The ones that have influenced almost every decision you’ve ever made. The ones you might have only shared with your closest friend. The ones you wrote down in your journal. It might be one long detailed story that originated from a specific event or it might be little bits and pieces of things that were said to you that you came to believe were who you are.

I’ll tell you some of mine:
(some of these are past stories that are no longer true for me, others are still a part of my internal dialogue)

I’m the fat girl. I’m lazy. I’m so awkward. I never finish what I start. I’ll never meet a guy who I like as much as he likes me. I’ll never meet a guy who likes me as much as I like him. I don’t have what it takes to start my own business. I’m not as smart as I think I am – there’s no way I could get through grad school! I’ll never be able to just eat without thinking about my weight. My stomach is so disgusting. I’m physically strong. I’m meant to do more than sit a desk and type and answer phones all day. I’m funny.

Maybe you don’t identify with mine but here are some other really common ones:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’ll never have/get what I need.
  • I’ll always struggle with __________.
  • I don’t deserve to ____________.
  • I can’t do __________ because people will think__________ about me.

Do any of these sound or feel familiar? Notice most of them are negative. If you rely heavily on your “story” or if you tend to feel stuck a lot – I’ll bet that most of yours are too.

Why do we create stories for ourselves?

In so many ways, our stories developed as a way for us to make sense of a situation or to protect us from something in our lives. Some of the things our stories protect us from are certainly real threats, for example, someone who has been mugged may worry about going out at night alone and might buy mace to protect themselves. Their story (I’ve been mugged – it’s dangerous out there) is protecting them from what is a legitimate threat.  But most of our stories are protecting us from things that we believe are real threats but may not be. In many ways, our stories keep us living in or fearing the past or prevent us from taking risks, being vulnerable or pushing out of our comfort zone. Some of us make our stories such a big part of us that others can see them within a few minutes of meeting us. Have you ever met someone and quickly got the vibe that they had really low self esteem or that they have lots of bad stuff happen to them? It’s because they’re living their stories in such a big way that it becomes almost a flag that they wave around.

Understanding their purpose

My beliefs that I wasn’t smart enough for grad school or that I didn’t have what it took to start a business were my subconscious way of protecting myself from taking risks – saving face! The thinking was: What if I failed? If you don’t try, you can’t fall flat on your face right??? It’s better to not try at all. My beliefs about not finding someone who could love me and vice versa stopped me from having to take an active role in my dating life. If I believed that it was impossible to find someone with an equal interest in me then I had no responsibility to put myself out there (ironically this post is going live on my 4th wedding anniversary – I killed that story!). Believing that I’ll never be able to eat without worrying about my weight, kept me from exercising and allowed me to continue eating foods and in quantities that made my weight remain an issue. I thought these stories were serving me. I thought they were protecting me.  But they were protecting me from even giving things a go! There came a point where these stories were causing me more pain than protection. That’s when I knew these stories had to be let go of.

Alternatively, my belief that I’m strong (whose beginnings were cultivated by pulling older my sisters around our neighborhood in a radio flyer wagon as a little kid) has allowed me to become strong. I never turn down an opportunity to lift a heavier weight, or do one more pushup or carry a big box. When men kindly have offered to do something for me because it was heavy and I’m a girl, I decline – not to be rude or because I’m a feminist – but because I’ve learned to take great pride in my physical strength (and I enjoy it). When I worked for the Department of Housing in college, my coworkers always volunteered to carry furniture into the dorms with me. Why? Because I made the work easy – I was able to carry more weight than anyone. I love this story and love how it makes me push me forward still. I know part of the reason I clung to the strong story was that it was protection from the fat label (sure I was fat but I was also strong!) but even as I’ve shed the “fat” label the strong story has always been a positive thing. This story is serving me. This story acts like a teacher who encourages and fosters growth and pushes me to be who I can be. Stories like this can stick around because they’re giving me results that I’m benefiting from.

Keep it or let it go?

How do you know if it’s time to put a story down or let it stick around?  First off, you need to know where your story came from. Write this stuff down. You may think you don’t know where your story originated but I’ll bet with a few minutes of journaling you can come up with 2 or 3 memories about that story. Once you know how it was created, ask yourself how was it serving you? What was it protecting you from? And then, how is it serving you now? Do you like how it is serving you? Do you like the results you are getting from staying in your story? If yes, keep it, encourage it, grow it. If you don’t like how it is serving you or if you don’t like the outcome it is bringing, then you know it’s time to put it down. If you feel stuck and like you aren’t moving forward, then your story is probably getting in the way.

Fears of letting go

Some of you may see that it’s time to let go of something but fear putting an unhelpful story down. I get it. We think that by no longer living in our story daily, it will mean that what we’ve gone through isn’t important or that we won’t be who we are, or that our worst fears will come true if we stop believing something (If I believe I can eat normally, I’ll gain 50 lbs! If I stop blaming others for my lot in life then what if I still can’t get what I need? etc). But putting down your story or letting go doesn’t mean any of that. If your story keeps you from taking responsibility, you’re putting all power for change in someone else’s hands and you’ll stay exactly where you are.

Your past experiences happened – no one can take them away from you (good or bad) -and they absolutely affect the fabric of who we become (but we have a choice in what we do with the experience going forward). Our past is our past and it does not need to be our future. Sometimes we keep our stories held so tightly because they keep us connected to someone who is no longer with us or no longer in our lives but I promise you, that your connection to that person exists even if you put the story down.

And guess what? Because these stories are a part of who we are, even if we put them down and begin believing something that serves us better (believing that you can eat normally and that you can lose weight, or believing that you are good enough and will have enough), if we don’t like the results or don’t feel safe there – we can always pick the story back up again! It all goes back to how it is serving you. If you are honest with yourself, you will know if the story is worth pick up again. Is it bringing you more pain to believe or live in your story? Is it preventing you from doing things that will help you grow? Only you can answer these things and you have the choice to stay in your story or not.

Which will help you get closer to the life you want to have – staying in your story or beginning a new one? If your story is causing you great pain but you want to continue it, ask yourself why you are choosing to bring yourself pain? Questions like these can help you determine what to do and can make a huge difference in stepping forward into the person you want to be.

Do you have a story that is getting in your way? How has it served you? Please share in the comments!

We Can’t Shame Ourselves Thin

For some reason, we think that if we could just hate our bodies a little more, it will spur enough motivation for us to change it. We believe that if we could reject it more, that we’ll finally reach the weight, size or shape that eludes us. That there is a level of disdain, distrust and disgust we need to reach with ourselves before we’ll diet enough, exercise enough and have willpower enough to reach an ideal in our heads.

So many of us think this way and unconsciously accept this type of thinking as truth. But have we ever seen even a modicum of proof that it works? Of course not – but yet we act it out as though it was the only way. And we hold onto this body hate so tightly, as if we loosen our grip on it, even a little, we’ll lose total control and end up in a worse body than the one we already are living in. But this is total lie.

Here is the honest truth:  There is no amount of self-rejection that will lead us to the body we want. No one has ever lost weight and kept it off with hate. You can’t shame yourself thin.

The more energy we put into rejecting ourselves, the greater our struggle will be. It’s tiring and the goal always seems so impossible to reach. As long as we direct hate at ourselves, we will continue to do the very actions that keeps us in a body we are unhappy with.

To lose weight and to change our bodies, we actually have to let go of our habit of beating them up. We have to choose love and appreciation instead. We have to accept what we look like and how much space we take up right now. We must consider this:  What if I had to stay in this body as it is right now for the rest of my time on this earth? How would that change how we lived our lives? And what is holding us back from living that way right now?

The way we think about our bodies is a choice. I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, but feeling the way we do really is a choice. It all comes from our brains – which we are in charge of. We choose to hate our stomachs. We choose to see dimples on our thighs as repulsive. We choose to view a number on the scale as good and another as bad. We choose to put energy into feeling disgusted with ourselves.

Ask yourself, why am I choosing to think thoughts about myself that cause pain?

Why am I choosing to think thoughts that cause me to do harm (restrictive eating, bingeing, over-exercising, not exercising etc)?

Why am I choosing to think thoughts that prevent me from living the life I want to live?

How do you want to feel about your body, about yourself? Really. Think about this. If you could choose how to feel (and know that you can), what would you willingly choose to feel? I know that the answer is not hate, shame, disgust or pain.

Halting negative thinking is not easy. It takes a lot of practice and awareness. The first step is noticing where those painful thoughts creep in.

I have a little homework for you. Will you do it?

Homework assignment:
This week, just notice how your brain operates. Our brain likes to be efficient and do things it’s good at (think how we go on autopilot when brushing our teeth) – and it’s excellent at thinking painful thoughts about ourselves. Just notice where it goes. Become a witness in your own mind. Become aware of your patterns. Notice what you are thinking about your body and notice how that influences the choices you make. Write these thoughts down – and write down what was going on when they came up.  Be honest and don’t hold back.

Don’t focus on changing your thoughts with this assignment – this week I just want you to notice what your brain is up to! And please, let me know if anything comes up that surprises you or if you have any questions.

What would you like to declare independence from?

photo credit: Stars and Stripes, US Flag via photopin (license)

What will you declare your independence from?   photo credit: Stars and Stripes, US Flag via photopin (license)

I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July!

The 4th of July celebrates America’s Independence from the British and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and as I was preparing my blog posts for this month, the holiday got me thinking about all the things that we do to ourselves that keep us perpetually in a state of oppression or at war with ourselves – physically, emotionally or mentally. Huh? Hear me out. The American colonists reached a point of oppression from the British (taxes) that they deemed unacceptable before they were willing to take actions that would forever change the course of this country. As an analogy, we have to reach a certain level of unhappiness, frustration or health issues before we are willing to make changes to our lives and that turning point is reached because we can no longer tolerate our own self-oppression.

When I talk about self-oppression – I’m talking about how we have a tendency to suppress and control who we are, our deepest desires, urges and needs, all for usually not great reasons! Neverending diets, restrictions, negative thinking, painful judgements, punishments, withholding permission etc around any area of our lives. When we go to war with ourselves – no one wins. This summer, I urge you to come up with a list of actions or thoughts you will stop doing and then take time each day to work on them.

What are you doing in your life that is not serving you? That you will declare your independence from?

5 Things I’m declaring independence from:

1. I Declare Independence from Body Shame. This summer, I will enjoy being at the beach, at the pool or on vacation in a swimsuit without spending precious energy judging my body. No one is paying all that much attention to what I or you look like anyhow (despite what we think!) because they’re focused on their own body issues. The amount of joy I receive from doing “summer” things just like everyone else in a bathing suit far outweighs silly thoughts about my physical form.

2. I Declare Independence from Food Guilt. This summer, I will enjoy summer foods like ice cream, cheeseburgers and potato salad on occasion without feeling bad about it. There is room in every “diet” plan for life and if there isn’t, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. No one blows their weight loss goals by having one ice cream sundae. And no one succeeds in their goals by attacking themselves. If I eat foods that aren’t great for me, I will only do it because I really want to eat them and I will eat them slowly and savor every bite. I will not eat in secret.

3. I Declare Independence from Judging Others Bodies. This summer, I will let passing thoughts of judgement about other people’s looks go on by.  When we make judgements about someone else’s body or lifestyle based on how they look, it’s not really about them – it’s really about how we feel about ourselves. Why would you want to feel anything but good about yourself? Give yourself the freedom to stop knocking others down – instead look for good things in others (which will help you see them in yourself).

4. I Declare Independence from Other People’s Standards. This summer, I will not worry about whether or not I look how others would like me to look. I will never be a size 0. But I know I can be strong, healthy and beautiful at any size. It has nothing to do with the amount of physical space my body takes up on this earth or what size appears on my clothing tag. I can meet my own standards by taking care of my body through eating high quality food the majority of the time, getting lots of sleep, laughing often, being gentle with myself and others and moving my body in supportive ways every day.

5. I Declare Independence from Limiting Beliefs. This summer, I will work on not limiting myself with beliefs that are carved in stone. I acknowledge that believing that I can’t do things (lose weight, stop eating junk, get that promotion, climb that mountain etc) only serves to prevent me from doing them and holds me back from living the life I want to have. I will practice being open to an “I can do this” mindset because the actions I will take are a direct result of my thinking. The difference between what we can and can’t accomplish is all in what we believe! (And if you don’t believe that – it’s a limiting belief!) 🙂

Those are the things I’m working on freeing myself from. Not just this summer, but always. Can you come up with some of your own? What would you like to Declare your Independence from?  What is something that is holding you back, making you feel stifled, making you feel crushed and preventing you from taking the actions you know you need to take? Write it down! Declare your independence from it! You are the master of your own life – no one else! Please, share with me your declaration of independence, either by leaving a comment here or by shooting me an email! I’d love to chat!

Your Feelings Have a Message for You. Are you Listening?

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When we overeat instead of feeling our feelings, we’re rudely silencing ourselves.  (Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Last week, I wrote about how one of the things you need to do if you want to stop eating emotionally is to get back into your body. This week I want to talk about another aspect of halting emotional eating. This time, it’s about listening to what the feelings we avoid feeling might be trying to tell us. We must make sure that we are being heard.

I can’t tell you how many times I reached for food as a way of comforting myself for feeling sad, lonely, lost, uninspired, demoralized, frustrated, stuck (insert any crappy feeling here). I can tell you that once I realized I was emotional eating that it didn’t make it easier to stop.

I can tell you that there were times I knew full well that the eating I was planning on doing was actually going to make me feel worse than I felt to begin with – yet I still shoved handful after handful into my mouth. Feeling physically terrible and emotionally bad about what I just did (eating those feelings!) somehow felt less bad than whatever vague discomfort or frustration I was feeling before. I thought I was eating to feel better yet feeling “better” actually meant making myself feel worse.

The remedy for my uncomfortable feelings was to make myself feel so bad that I forgot for a little while what I was feeling so bad about! And feeling so awful only confirmed for me whatever negative things I was thinking about myself (I’m out of control, I’m a failure, what is wrong with me?) so the urge to do it all over again was stronger the next time I felt bad.

When we use food as comfort or to numb out, we are really trying to find a way to distract us from whatever it is we don’t want to feel.

Why do we need to distract ourselves? Why is feeling unpleasant feelings so awful? Where do we get the idea that there are some feelings too unbearable to feel? What went wrong for so many of us that this is how we deal with bad/negative feelings?

Let’s pretend for a minute that instead of turning to food when we feel something that feels overwhelmingly bad to us, that we decide to just feel that feeling. We don’t try to push it away, avoid it, wall up against it or resist it. What is the worst thing that can happen from feeling that way? Nothing, aside from feeling something uncomfortable for awhile.

There is nothing all that bad about feeling a feeling. It will come over us in waves, sometimes getting stronger before all is said and done (but if you’ve ever been in the ocean, you probably know how to ride a wave back to the shoreline). It’s just a vibration in the body – just a sensation.  And all feelings pass.  Good feelings pass. Bad feelings pass. We can’t be happy every day, every moment for all of our lives and we certainly won’t have bad feelings every moment of our lives. So why do emotional eaters treat them as if we let them in for one second they’ll never leave? For some, it’s a legit fear of the feeling – they can’t bear to feel it. But for others, it’s more than that.

Part of the reason we avoid uncomfortable feelings is because sometimes those negative feelings have a message for us and we might not be ready to listen, because listening to them means we need to do something about it. The message is that something needs to change and only you know what that something might be.

The need to run away is because those feelings might be trying to communicate that there is something in our lives that we need to change. Maybe we’re unfulfilled by our current situation or our potential is being limited by a job, a relationship, our way of thinking, destructive habits or something else. Uncomfortable feelings are the harbingers of a problem we are concealing.

Sometimes making necessary changes is scary and overwhelming so since we aren’t ready to face it, we push the message away and send back a message of our own. The act of overeating to avoid feelings is a message we relay to ourselves that says:

  • “I don’t want to listen to what you have to say.”
  • “You’re not worth the effort.”
  • “No one cares.”
  • “Shut up.”
  • “Your needs aren’t important.”

By not dealing with our feelings and turning to food instead, we are conveying to an important part of ourselves that he or she isn’t worth being heard.

This brings up the question, if at our core WE are not willing to listen to ourselves, where else in our lives are we not being heard? Not expressing ourselves? Where else in our lives are we feeling silenced or silencing ourselves? Putting our needs last? Feeling ignored? Feeling stifled?

How can we expect to get anything we want or need in life or from those around us if we are not even willing to listen to ourselves?

If you aren’t willing to express your feelings to yourself, it’s very likely you aren’t expressing them in other parts of your life either.

When was the last time you asked for a raise at work? When was the last time you communicated to your partner your needs? When was the last time you sent back a meal at a restaurant that wasn’t how you wanted? Do you think of yourself as a “people pleaser”? If you see yourself in any of this, I’m sure you can add some of your own examples.

At the beginning of this blog post I said that once I realized I was emotional eating that it didn’t make it easier to stop. That’s true. But once I realized that I was silencing myself by ignoring my feelings with food it became harder to view my actions with the same harsh judgement. It opened up a door to kindness – which is essential to moving past it.

Think about this. You’re at a party where you don’t know many people. You finally see someone you do know but they’re in a group having a conversation. You walk over to the group and wait for an opportunity to say hello to your acquaintance and introduce yourself to the others. You make eye contact with your acquaintance and believe they recognize you. Finally there is a pause in the conversation so you start to speak – but as soon as you do, your acquaintance puts their hand up and talks over you. You wait for additional pauses so you can have your turn but the same thing happens again, and again, each time the person speaking talks louder to drown you out. You leave the party feeling invisible, awkward and like you weren’t heard at all.

It feels horrible to feel like we aren’t being heard.

In real life, we would feel so ashamed to treat someone else like the acquaintance treats us in the example, but we do it to ourselves all the time! We wouldn’t do it to another person, so why do we do it to ourselves?

I know many of you reading this will recognize yourself in this. Do you think you can treat yourself with a little more kindness? Be more open to messages you may be sending to yourself? What might your loneliness, sadness or frustration be trying to tell you?

When I finally started to listen to the message my feelings were trying to tell me, the message was that I deserved more, I wanted more and I was capable of so much more. The reason I didn’t want to hear that was because I wasn’t sure how to go about it. But guess what? It’s been much easier to figure that stuff out as I go than it was to keep stuffing it down and trying to avoid it.

For a moment, let’s go back to the part where we let ourselves feel whatever we’re feeling. Instead of reaching for food, we choose to let ourselves feel whatever it is we normally avoid. What happens if we survive feeling our feelings? (which we will). We get past the uncomfortable thing we don’t want to feel and end up on the other side.

If you actually let yourself feel the depth of what is bubbling up for you, you might just hear the message you need to hear. Maybe not all of it at first, but some of it. Maybe you’ll feel it deep enough that you are ready or inspired to do something about it. Even if you aren’t quite ready to do something about it, know that there is value even in just hearing yourself out and that the depth of your understanding and willingness to create change can increase the more often you practice these things. You’ll know you’ve made very real progress with feeling and listening when the urge to run from your feelings isn’t there anymore.

Don’t underestimate the power of feeling your feelings and allowing yourself to be heard. If you hear one message from this post today, make it this: stop silencing yourself with food.

Do you think there is a message you need to hear that you have been avoiding? What makes that message so difficult to hear? What do you think you need to do to feel more heard in your life?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. If you like what you’ve read here, please join my email list in the green box below so that you don’t miss out on what’s going on with Andrea and her coaching practice.