Category Archives: Primary Food

If You Want to Stop Emotional Eating You Have to Get Back into Your Body

photo credit: good morning via photopin (license)

photo credit: good morning via photopin (license)

If you want emotional eating to be a thing of your past, if you want your long history of diets to be over, if you want to stop struggling with food, there is one thing you absolutely must do and that is get out of your head and get back into your body.

What do I mean by this? Most of us with emotional eating issues or a long term diet mentality will do anything we can to distance ourselves from our bodies and we often don’t even realize it. While a lot of our mental focus might be spent on how we feel about our body on any particular day (feeling fat, feeling gross for overeating etc) or how we want our body to look (wanting to be thinner, fitter or more muscular, wanting to have curves if we don’t etc), virtually none is spent on actually paying attention to the signals our body sends to us – signals like hunger, fullness, satisfaction and having had enough!

If you watch babies and young children, they are very in tune with the signals their bodies send them. Babies cry and toddlers get cranky when hungry. They feel it. Some days it seems like they eat almost nothing, while other times they seem to be a bottomless pit. We say “oh they must be going through a growth spurt” when this happens. We recognize that the extra hunger they have must be caused by something their body is conveying. A need for energy. A need for nourishment. A need for fuel to build healthy muscles and bones. But they stop themselves when they’ve had enough. While very young, we are very in sync with the needs of the body. So we start off honed in to these sensations and then lose it. Why?

Over time, we’re taught that we can’t trust our bodies. The teacher might be parents, relatives, well meaning neighbors, or it might be advertisements we see in every form of media. As children, we’re told told if we clean our plates we’ll be rewarded with dessert. How many of you struggled to finish your meal just so you could enjoy a treat? We’re taught that eating happens at 8am, 12pm and 6pm and we fill up at those pre-selected meal times whether or not our bodies say we are hungry. As adults, we’re taught that smaller portions and counting calories is the only way to not be overweight. We receive the message that point systems, low fat products, sugar free substitutes, and liquid meal replacements are the way to having a thinner body (never mind the message that a thinner body is what we all must have to be happy or desirable! uggg!). Along the way, we learn to gauge if we’ve had enough or too much food based on the calories, visual cues like portion size or by what we see in the mirror (thin or fat?). Eventually we learn to ignore something we had at birth – the ability to determine when we’ve had enough by paying attention to how our body feels.

We’re so focused on what our bodies should look like, how they should appear in a bathing suit and how few calories it takes to see the scale go up that we spend a huge chunk of our time attempting to maintain some arbitrary bullshit ideal. We abuse ourselves by withholding food based on whatever is popular at the time, instead of using the tools that our body is equipped with (or abuse ourselves by overeating to satisfy an emotional need). I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again – Our bodies are incredible machines – all we need to eat the right amount of food is inside us, if we’d only start paying attention and give it the trust that we instead give to whatever diet guru is popular at the moment.

Paying attention to the signals in my body has been a huge game-changer for my own relationship with food. I used to think that there was no way to not weigh 300 lbs without strictly accounting for all calories – but once I was able to trust my own hunger (now that I can recognize what that is!) I found that my weight is far more stable and I have less fear and stress around food. When I focused on calories, I made food choices based on what was going to help me meet my weight loss goals and not what was going to fuel my body. It wasn’t balanced and I always felt deprived. These days I can eat whenever I’m hungry and stop when I’m not and not worry about it – all because I’m in tune with my body and stop eating when I’m not hungry.

A key theme that every eating issue recovery program, tool, book and philosophy on the subject all have in common is that if you want to be more at peace with food and your body, you have to get out of your head and return to your body. If you eat according to anything other than the physical sensation of hunger, you’re probably not doing that.

What does this mean exactly?

Getting out of your head and back into your body means:

  • we choose to eat because we are hungry. True “hunger” means your stomach feels empty, it may make growling noises, your mouth may salivate at the thought of food, you may feel weak, lightheaded or slightly nauseous. You may feel hunger in your throat or neck instead of your stomach. It may be a gnawing, gurgly, light feeling. Hunger is a physical sensation. Describe it. Get in touch with it. What does “hunger” feel like to you? When was the last time you recognized that you had physical hunger? Do you feel it daily? Once in a while? Don’t remember the last time you felt it?
  • we stop eating when we are no longer hungry. Most of us confuse emotional hunger with physical hunger. You will never satisfy emotional hunger by eating food. Being in your body and in touch with the physical sensations it gives you means you can recognize when you are truly hungry and make the choice to stop eating when you are not.
  • not making food decisions based on whether something looks like it’s too much or not enough food, or whether it’s more or less calories than you “should” have at a certain meal. Instead of using judgements from our head about the quantity of food to determine how much to eat, we have to allow our bodies to tell us when we’ve had enough food. This can be really scary if you been calorie counting, dieting, restricting or have a history of out of control eating – I recognize this – but it’s key. You have to trust yourself.
  • Choosing foods based on their ability to make your body feel energetic, light and satisfied. We make the majority of our food choices based on fuel and nutrition but occasionally still leaving room for foods that bring us joy (and this doesn’t mean that the foods that we use for fuel aren’t also enjoyable!).
  • Avoiding foods that make us feel sluggish, lethargic or make us feel out of control. When we’re eating from our heads we tend to choose foods that don’t satisfy us very well (fat-free, low calorie, low nutrients) or make us feel terrible (fried, heavily processed, high in sugar etc). Are you even aware that some foods make us feel better or worse than others and that that is different for each person? It’s worth working on.

How do we get start to get back in our body?

  • Keep a food journal. I know it’s tedious but it works. Write down every single thing you put in your mouth (food or drink, even a single lick off a spoon – every bite!), what time you ate, as well as how hungry your were when you started eating and how full/satisfied you were when finished. It’s also helpful to record where you ate the meal and your mood at the time. Calories aren’t important but quantity might be helpful in the beginning. This is where we see patterns and start to understand our food “story”. Knowing your story is how you go about changing it. Some of the things you’ll see: When do you overeat? What foods do you tend to go for when you’re in a good mood? When you’ve had a rough day? Are you eating more or less than you thought you were? If you’re not willing to take the time to keep the food journal, you may want to ask yourself why? What are you afraid of finding out? People I know who are resistant to keeping a food journal, claim it’s because they already are aware of what and how much they are eating, but they’re usually the ones who have the most to learn and the most to gain from connecting with their bodies! Yes, you can use an online tool like myfitnesspal, peertrainer or whatever else you’re into – BUT ignore the calories, macros etc, PLEASE input info beyond the actual food you eat and ANALYZE it over time. Using paper, you’re more likely to look back at past entries and see your habits – with tech we’re less likely to do that so be willing to commit to that if you insist on using an app. I have seen the best results from paper and pen for me and my clients.
  • Use a hunger scale. When we’re not used to paying attention to the sensations in our bodies, using a hunger scale every time we eat can help us by slowly bring our attention back to our bodies on a regular basis. It takes a little practice. Here are two tools that I regularly use with clients (depending on their particular needs) – example 1 and example 2.  In both tools, the goal is to stay somewhere in the middle all day – never letting yourself get super hungry or super full (neutral to comfortably satisfied is where it’s at). Doing this, we start to pay more attention to when and how our bodies start to signal us and we’re less likely to run into that problem where we’ve gotten so hungry that we can’t make good decisions and end up going completely overboard. A tool like this takes a little practice to use. First you have to determine what each point on the scale means to you – with Brooke Castillo’s 2 to 2 scale (from example 2) – how much food do you need to eat to take yourself from -2 to 0? What about from 0 to +2? What does eating to +5 look and feel like? What does letting yourself get to -7 feel like? You may find some days you reach satisfaction with less food than on other days. Some days you may find that you are hungrier than usual and need to eat every few hours to prevent yourself from getting too hungry. Once you know how much food it takes to keep you in a comfortable place on the scale, you can plan ahead since you’ll know what it will take to satisfy you (and you’ll start to recognize how beneficial it is to not let yourself get too hungry or too horribly full). I can tell you that what felt like “enough but not too much” shortly after I ended my regular binges now feels like being super stuffed. Be willing to adjust your expectations and needs as you get more comfortable with your body and eating intuitively.
  • Eat slowly, in a calm environment and chew more than you think you need to. Doing this ensures your brain and digestive system work together to #1 prepare to digest your food properly (saliva and gastric juices baby!) and #2 release chemicals that tell your brain that you’ve had enough. Often we eat so quickly that by the time we stop eating, it’s another 20 or 30 minutes before the brain catches up – by then we’re so full we can’t stand it! If you slow down it won’t get to that point and you’ll be amazed how much less you need to eat to feel “good”.
  • Indulge in body based self-care. It’s not a direct route to listening to your physical hunger sensations but these are all certainly aligned with getting in touch with your body (literally!) and can help foster the skills you need to listen to your body more. If you can’t stand to touch or move your body, you might be not be open to its communication tools as well. Try some of these to open back up: Dry brushing daily with a natural bristled brush (towards the heart), physical movement that focuses on the mind-body connection like yoga or qigong, masturbation (did she just write that? yes, yes she did!) or deep tissue massage.

Ditching a diet mentality and recovering from emotional eating takes a lot of effort but with concrete tools and consistency you can make some incredible progress. Eating does not have to be such a struggle and if you start here – connecting with your physical self, you are at step one of a healthier relationship with food and yourself.

Does any of this resonate with you? Have you been completely out of touch with your hunger signals? Please share in the comments! And as usual, if you like what you’ve read here, please sign up to be on my email list in the green box below.

When Will Life Not Get in the Way?

Life gets in the way

Now that I’ve been coaching clients for awhile, I’m starting to notice some trends among my clients that actually applies to most of us. People seem to fall into two places when it comes to getting things done – they either straight up “do it” or they “let life get in the way”. Both types of people have busy lives with many responsibilities but they have different beliefs about their role in their own life and how much control they have over it. This isn’t a “lazy” problem. This is a “thinking” problem. I’ll explain!

During my coaching sessions with clients, together we come up with a few diet or lifestyle recommendations for them to try out in the two weeks until our next session.  These recommendations are small “tweaks” to what they’re doing already. We build upon what they’re already working on in small increments so that the tasks are attainable and they don’t feel overwhelmed. By doing this, we ensure that they will be able to reach their goal as long as they take the steps we’ve outlined together and they feel empowered to take on more challenges as they progress.

Depending on where someone is on their journey, I’m noticing that my clients seem to land in these two camps (the “do’ers” and “life gets in the way” camps). In the first camp, I have people who show up at each session and have completed each recommendation with impressive fervor and drive.  They can’t wait to take on more. They see the value in doing each step and they know that if they don’t take the actions we plan, then they won’t get the results we’re after. These people make incredible progress week after week. They reach their goals and then some.

In the other camp are people who at the end of the session say they are excited about their recommendations and they feel confident that they can complete them before the next session. At this point they appear very similar to the people in the first camp. But when it comes time for the next session and when I ask how the recommendations went they haven’t done them.

Why? The reasons I hear are things like: “Oh, I didn’t get to them at all! Life just got in the way!” When I ask what specifically made it difficult to do what they set out to do, they have things like this to say:

1. “I don’t know, it was just a really busy couple of weeks!”
2. “Well it was a school vacation week.”
3.  “I had a lot of events to go to.”
4.  “We just weren’t home much and I didn’t have time”.

So we try again, we go in with a different plan of attack and break the goal into something even smaller so that there will be less to get in the way of it getting done.  Still, clients in this camp show up to the next session having barely worked on their goals (some not at all, others in a half-assed way). They express frustration that they aren’t making progress. But how can we expect to progress if we aren’t taking action?

Clients in both camps are busy. In fact, I would venture to say that all of my clients are very busy people, in fact, the people in the “do’er” camp also have events, school vacations and aren’t home much – but they get done what they set out to do. Why is this?

Where they differ says something about how they look at life.  Both sides are busy but one side repeatedly let’s regular daily life stuff get in the way of their dreams.  In the first camp, the “do’ers” are people who look at life as something they have some control over – they see evidence that their beliefs lead to actions that create results.  In the second camp are people who look at life as something that happens to them – they don’t believe they really control the course of their life. They believe they don’t have control, so they take actions (or lack of actions) that bring them results they don’t want (and then they see that as evidence that their original belief of no control is correct).  What’s terrible about this is that it’s re-enforced as they go through the cycle again and again and it’s hard to get out of.

What’s different about the people who fall into the “life gets in the way” group is that there is a part of them that believes that we can only make life changes (even small ones) when things are quiet, when everything is lined up in a row, when we don’t have vacations or appointments or meetings or housework to do. The problem with this type of thinking is that nothing ever gets done. Progress is never (or barely) made because they believe life needs to be smooth and perfect before attempting to change anything. They believe that in order to be successful, they need to be able to concentrate every ounce of their energy on a new task, and since that is impossible (even for people who aren’t busy), their belief is setting them up for failure.

The “do’ers”, those who get stuff done despite obstacles recognize that in order to make changes you have to fit your goals in with the rest of your priorities. Just like brushing your teeth, showering, feeding your kids and paying your mortgage – the goals you set to change your life need to be moved up higher on the priority ladder or they will never get done.

Now, I’m not talking about those major circumstances (like a death in the family, major illness etc) that we can’t plan for.  Obviously these things come up and we didn’t know they were coming.  But we do know when our children’s school break is happening, we know we have appointments scheduled, we know when we have a busy week of social events and we know we have a home that needs regular house cleaning.  I hate to say it but these are things that you can plan around.  You can fit your small goals into these regular life things if you take a few minutes to look at your upcoming week and figure out a plan. You wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth or paying your most important bills just because life got busy, right? So why do we think it’s ok to skip out on the actions that will get us where we want to be?

You know you’re going to have to eat no matter what, why not plan ahead for some healthy options you can eat when things are very busy? You can cook a few meals ahead of time and freeze or get into the habit of keeping quick grab healthy foods in the house like peeled/sliced vegetables (every grocery store sells these now), a can of beans, a container of hummus, plain yogurts, fresh and dried fruit and nuts etc. It can be done no matter how insanely busy you are.

If you’re in the “life gets in the way” group, it all boils down to a belief.  A belief that life is happening to me and that I have no control over it. A belief that I’ve never been able to do x, y, or z so why would i be able to do it now?  A belief that you are the victim in your life. Or maybe you believe that you’re lazy.

Is this what you really want? Of course not! But somewhere along the line, you received the message that life happens to you and that you’re just along for the ride. But today I want you to hear the message that there is a whole other world out there if you are open to it. If you can change your belief about the level of control you have in your life, you will be open to taking different action and can change the outcome. You’ll be able to get the results that you want so badly.

The only difference between people who are incredibly successful and those who aren’t is that the successful ones don’t give up if they stumble. The most successful people in the world have failed many many times but they keep going. Failure or slipping up isn’t a sign from the universe that you’re not meant to have or be something – it’s a sign that maybe you need to change how you’re going about it. In this case, you have to change how you are viewing your role in YOUR life.

I know people who fall into both camps – and I definitely used to fall into the “life gets in the way camp”. I now see myself as a “do’er” and can’t imagine going back. It’s a lot more satisfying to recognize that your life is YOURS.

Which camp do you think you fall into? Are you letting regular life “things” get in the way of your goals? Do you really want these goals to begin with? Do you believe you can have it? Do you recognize the amount of conscious work it takes to get there? Goals and dreams don’t happen without real action and dedication to the process. You have to SHOW UP in a real way to get there.  If you half-ass it, you’re living a half-assed life.  What is the point of that??

If you are getting stuck in this type of thinking when it comes to taking actions towards your goals, I urge you to ask yourself “When will life not get in the way?”.  Does your answer surprise you? Do you feel angry that I’m even asking you these questions? Think about it and please share your answers here in the comments.

Show up. Take control. Sculpt the life that you want.

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!


6 Things You Can Do To Have More Power Over Anxiety

photo credit: anguish via photopin (license)

Some simple things you can do to reduce the impact anxiety has on your life.   (photo credit: anguish via photopin (license))

In last week’s email I talked about some of the benefits I’ve experienced from my own meditation practice and one of those things was the effect it has had on my anxiety. Sending out that email made me realize that I haven’t talked much about anxiety in the whole time I’ve been keeping this blog. Since anxiety can be a huge factor in whether someone is able to move forward on their health or life goals and it’s something I personally have dealt with, I thought it might be a good time to talk about some other things that might be helpful if you are suffering from anxiety – because let’s be honest . . .there are more of us that are dealing with anxiety in some form or another than aren’t. Today I’m going to share 6 things I do that have given me more power over my anxiety (and I’ll share some about my struggle too). I hope some of these help you!

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting about 18% of the adult population. And that’s only those who have actually been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (and not including those under 18). I’ve had anxiety for years, and while I’m managing it very well these days, there have been times when it has been a major issue in my life and felt completely out of control. Long term anxiety and stress can lead to many health problems, so it’s really important to find ways to manage it if you suffer from it (even if you don’t have goals that it’s getting in the way of).

Despite how common it is, I’ve been a little shy about sharing my struggle with it in the public sphere (even though I’ve been very frank with my weight & emotional eating history), probably because there is still a big social stigma surrounding mental health.  Today I’m going to share because I’m in a place where my anxiety is pretty well managed (by some of the tools I’ll talk about today), I want others to know that they aren’t alone and I want others to see that even people who you think have their shit together, have probably struggled with things that you would never suspect. (Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone thinks I have my shit together. Just kidding, I have my shit together . . . it’s in a pile over there, but it’s still shit. Haha.)  I also think anxiety ties in easily with the to the emotional eating world – the two often go hand in hand.

My Anxiety Story
To give you a little background about my anxiety . . .I have a type of medical anxiety that is called “health worries”.  It started shortly after my Mom died in 2001 (though if I’m honest, I’ve always been squeamish about medical stuff – it just snowballed after 2001).  I remember lying in bed feeling like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. At the time, I was living pretty “hard” (lots of partying, bad food, crazy hours) and I remember thinking constantly that I was having a heart attack or that something else was seriously wrong with my body. As the years went on, that fear around my health got worse. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in my early 20’s and had to go through a bunch of tests over several months. The doctor was worried that my kidneys and heart were damaged from possibly having high blood pressure for years. Having to have all those tests when I was already scared about health stuff really put my anxiety in overdrive (thankfully those tests showed everything was ok) and there have been times when I was completely paralyzed by my anxiety. Every doctor appointment, test or even a random pain or sensation in my body that was abnormal for me could send me into a multiple day panic attack. I have had difficulty discerning when a pain or a feeling I have in my body is something that needs immediate attention or is nothing to worry about. And of course, with my anxiety, I’m terrified of going to the doctors (what if they find something terminal?) and also of what happens if I don’t go (what if it is something terrible and I’m ignoring it?). You can see how that loop can be hard to get out of during an episode.

Quality of Life Issue
That’s the cliff notes version of how my crazy anxiety works (which is more than you probably want to know I’m sure). A doctor once said to me, when I said I wasn’t ready to get help for it, that people only get help when their quality of life is compromised to a point that they feel is no longer acceptable. I didn’t understand what she meant at the time but several years ago I finally reached a point where I understood what she was talking about. The amount of mental and emotional energy I was using just to get by most days was completely exhausting.  I went to therapy for it, and have also done a ton of work on my own since then. I still have occasional anxious days that pop up but nothing that would stop me in my tracks for days like I used to. I have tools now that I use to halt the progression of my anxiety. They help me keep perspective, stay calm and grounded and I’m so glad I have them. I would never want to go back to feeling the way I used to (feeling out of control, smothered and vibraty all at the same time).

While my health anxiety manifests a little differently than other generalized anxiety disorders, the techniques I use to manage it are similar to those used with generalized anxiety – and can be very effective!  Try some of these and let me know if they help you at all!

6 Things You Can Do To Have More Power Over Anxiety

1. Exercise.
The first thing to go for me when I’m in the midst of anxiety is to stop exercising, usually because I’m so wrapped up in my fear that I become paralyzed but in reality, exercise is the best way to release some of the stress around the issue, get some feel good endorphins going again and concentrate your energy in a healthy way. It helps get your mind off of whatever you are worried about or at least gives you something to focus on other than the feelings your anxiety gives you. When my anxiety creeps in these days, I make sure to stick to my regular exercise schedule and doing that usually shortens the duration of my anxiety.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, even going for a short walk or a 15 minute yoga session at home can enough.  Getting in touch with your body and out of your mind for a bit can be immensely helpful.

2.  Tell someone about it.
This is something I didn’t see the value in until I was in therapy for my anxiety (which seems crazy to me now!). I used to actually keep all my worries and fears inside – part of me felt like my fears would get worse or be realized if I actually shared them with anyone.  But when I did finally share with my husband or a friend that something was on my mind, not only did I feel a huge sense of relief but it also allayed the extra anxiety that comes from thinking you are acting like a big weirdo during the attack (since they now knew the reason if I was acting like a weirdo). Sharing your worries, fears and anxieties with someone you trust can help you realize how much we build stuff up in our heads (to a huge deal) and it may seem like way less of a deal when you say it outloud. I find I’m much more likely to think rationally after talking about something with another person. Hearing their thoughts can be helpful too because they can be more objective. Hearing from someone who cares about you that the situation you are having anxiety about isn’t very likely to happen can make you feel world’s better. And if the situation is something that is legitimately likely to happen, these people who care about you can also be the ones who support you and help you get through it. Totally helpful either way!

3.  Write.
Journal! Free form or be specific. Just get it all out – say as much as you need to and I recommend good old pen and paper over typing/computer. When I’m dealing with my medical anxiety, I find writing especially helpful. There have been times when I felt completely paralyzed by my own thoughts and fears around my health.  One tactic that has been very helpful to use during a panic attack is to write a journal entry about it.

For me, it goes something like this:  What am I feeling? I write down what I’m feeling at that exact moment (for me it’s usually a pain or sensation somewhere in my body).  What do I think it is? I write about what I’m worried what it could be. Next I ask myself to get into my rational brain for a minute with What it is more likely to be? (odds are it’s just constipation or just my body being run down etc), and then I come up with a rational action plan. What and when will I do about it? For me, it might be something like “if this pain gets worse or lasts longer than 3 days, I’ll go to the doctor”.

Once I put it all down on paper I feel some relief just sheerly out of being able to express what I’m feeling, but also having an action plan written out, helps me to relax.  Sometimes my anxiety brain can’t understand when something is worth investigating and when it’s best to wait and writing helps me make sense of it all. It’s like I get stuck in a loop but writing halts that loop from continuing.

For general panic / anxiety, your questions and answers might look a little different – maybe something more like this (but please customize to what makes sense for your type of worries):

1. What am I feeling? (physical sensations, thoughts, feelings)
2. What am I having anxiety about? or What do I think I might be anxious about?
3. Do I actually have any real evidence that this is likely to be/ happen? If so, what?
4. What specifically can I do to feel more in control in this situation? And when will I take those actions?

Writing in a question / answer format might not feel right for your particular type of anxiety – I know for some folks, anxiety is a vague feeling of fear or worry (or just something not being right) – so writing about specific worries and action plans may not be possible. I’d still encourage you to write in a freeform style – to get all your thoughts and sensations on paper. Take some deep breaths and read it over when you are done. For many people just putting the thoughts down somewhere can be enough to take us down a notch!

Doing this will be hard at first – in fact you may not remember to even do it! But if you keep it in the back of your mind as a tool to try the next time you are freaking out you may be surprised by how much it can help. I find this one especially to be cumulative. The more I’ve resorted to it, the faster it brings me back to normal.

4.  Become aware of your thoughts and make the decision to change them.
Okay this one deserves a blog post on it’s own because it takes a lot of practice but to be as brief as possible, know this – ultimately, we’re in control of the thoughts that happen in our brains. I know it may not seem like it (and holy shit it doesn’t feel like it when you’re lost in anxiety land!), but we are the ones coming up with  thoughts (good or bad) and those thoughts that make us feel a certain way (anxiety, happiness, jealousy etc). The problem is, most of the time we’re not aware how ingrained these thoughts are in our brains. They’re so ingrained that it becomes an automatic response to a situation. This makes it very difficult to change it (unless you are willing to notice and call yourself out on it, repeatedly).

To become more aware of your thoughts, next time you feel anxious, I want you to try to recall (write it down) what thoughts made you feel that way. You may not be aware of the conscious thought at first – but it will become more apparent the more you give your brain this task to do. If you don’t want to wait until you’re anxious to do some of this type of thought work, try it the next time you find yourself feeling down or irritated – work backwards from that feeling and try to find the originating thought that made you feel that way. This kind of work helps us become more aware, which is the starter step for changing your response.

The good news is that once you are aware that you’re the one in control of your thoughts, that you’re the voice inside you that is thinking those things, you can work at managing and changing those thoughts.  For me, in the past this meant when an anxious feeling or thought came up that normally would send me into a tailspin, my old way of thinking was to go along with the thought (because our brains like to do what’s easy – and that’s easy) and build on it, look for evidence of it being true, which would increase stressful anxious feelings very quickly. My current response when an anxious feeling or thought comes up is to notice it, pause, say to myself “I’m not going to give that thought any power over me right now.”  A statement like that is powerful because it interrupts the natural evidence building process that goes on with anxious thoughts. I actually feel almost instant relief now when I feel anxious and I halt the thoughts in this way. It feels incredible to have some control over your brain.

It probably won’t work the first time you use it and the first few times you try to reroute your brain you might find that it halts the thought temporarily and then it comes back, but try a powerful statement again (even if you have to go at it a different way), and again, and eventually you’ll find it will have more staying power. You are literally retraining your brain how to think in these situations. It may help to practice changing your thoughts in less volatile situations at first – instead of trying it for the first time during an anxiety attack, try it when you have self-doubt about a situation at work or self-judgement about your body. Becoming skilled at managing your thoughts can be helpful in so many areas of our lives! (I will be sure to talk more about managing our thoughts in another blog post – because this is a huge subject and it is something that takes lots of practice!)

5.  Watch what you put (or don’t put) into your body.
I know you knew this one was coming. 🙂 If you’re a naturally anxious person, then it’s super important to pay attention to how different foods, drinks and other substances affect you – items in each of these categories can increase or decrease anxiety in certain people. Sugar (including carbohydrates from refined grain products), alcohol and caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety, especially in high quantities or in those who are very sensitive. Anxiety can also be a symptom of a food sensitivity or intolerance (and one way to determine that is through an elimination diet).  Low blood sugar can set off anxiety (if this sounds like you, you may want to keep balanced snacks of protein, fat and fiber on hand).  I know I’m far more anxious if I’ve drank more alcohol than I should (especially the day after) or if I reach for a 3rd cup of coffee. Know yourself and what you can tolerate.

Many supplements are touted to be beneficial for anxiety sufferers, including magnesium, valerian root, kava, chamomile, fish oil and several of the b vitamins – if you have any medical conditions or are on any medications it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking supplements (especially if you’re thinking about taking more than one).  And lastly, a whole foods diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and light on heavily processed foods is one way you can support your body from your toes, all the way to your head. Is a whole foods diet going to cure your anxiety? No, I’m not saying that, but if you give your body great nutrition, it’s better equipped to support you in every way, including mental health.

6. Breathwork.
I’ve already talked in previous posts about meditation being so helpful for anxiety – but in particular, to me, quiet time with deep and slow controlled breathing is one of the best things you can do during a panic attack or even during less acute anxiety.  A few minutes of slow diaphragmatic breaths will slow down your heart beat, reduce your blood pressure, relax muscles and the intake of fresh oxygen with stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which will help you feel more calm.

Unfortunately, breathing is one of the hardest things to do when we’re freaking out isn’t it?! We take shallow breaths which makes us feel like we can’t get enough air in, we’re breathing too fast or we have difficulty exhaling fully, all of which increases feelings of panic. If you feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen, it’s hard to think rationally or about anything else so in order to slow the anxiety down, first you have to slow your breathing down.

To slow yourself down, try this breathing exercise:  sit down in a quiet place and breathe in fully and slowly for a count of 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds (if this is prudent for your body – it may not be if you have any heart or respiratory conditions) and then exhale for 4 seconds. To make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm, put one hand on your belly when you inhale. Your belly should expand on the inhale and retract on the exhale. If you are breathing from your chest alone (too shallow) your belly won’t rise. Try breathe deeper into your body and try again. Do anywhere from 4 – 10 of these slow breaths and go back to your normal breath if you find you start to get dizzy.

Don’t be surprised if you feel sleepy and relaxed after!

Well that’s all for today. I hope some of these tips can help you if this is something you are going through. I know they’ve made a world of difference in my life.

One last note of importance, please, if you have been suffering from anxiety and aren’t having any luck reducing it on your own, please consider speaking with your doctor or a mental health professional for help. You don’t have to go through it alone and there are many resources available to increase the quality of your life.

If you have anxiety, what are your favorite tools or tricks for managing it?  Please share in the comments below.

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!

The Real Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice & Last Chance to Save 15%

Most of the benefits we talk about a meditation or mindfulness practice bringing to one’s life are the intangible kind – ones that can only be measured by each person’s individual experience.  But did you know that there are many real, scientific and measureable benefits from daily meditation practice?  Here are just a few of those benefits (with links from scientific studies that used blood tests, MRI’s and other accurate markers of effectiveness):

What’s amazing to me is that doctors don’t prescribe meditation to every single person walking in to their offices. It can help with so many conditions (mental and physical), it can be done anywhere, at any time and without any required equipment or tools. All it takes is a little discipline and a willingness to try something different.

Do you need special training to start meditating? Absolutely not. But if you want support to develop and structured practice that you can customize to your changing needs you should join me June 1st for the 28 Day Spiritual Cleanse. You don’t need to be religious, be into “woo woo” kind of stuff or have any type of experience to get a lot out of this program.  You just need an open mind and be able to dedicate 20 – 30 minutes per day (for just 28 Days) to learning, writing and meditating.  How will your life change for the better?

There are only 2 more days to save 15% with Early Bird Pricing (though you need to be on my email list to get it) so if you are thinking of taking part – now is the time to sign up! If you have any questions I’m happy to answer them – send me a message or leave a comment here.

How A Meditation Practice Can Help You Lose Weight

11187217_944500648914551_6888870963403059405_oMost of us know that practicing meditation can help us feel more peace, more focus and generally more at ease, but did you know that a meditation practice can also help you lose weight?

It’s true. It’s especially true for those of us who identify with being an emotional eater. For people who find themselves eating in order to not feel an emotion (or in order to feel a certain emotion), one of the things they have in common is a lack of paying attention to their eating. What I mean by that is, if we are eating emotionally – usually the act of eating isn’t a memorable one. We eat fast, we chew quickly, if at all, we barely taste the food we’re eating before we swallow it. Many of us read, watch TV or browse the internet while eating. We do anything we can to not be present during our meal.

Why is that? Well, most emotional eaters don’t want to feel something that they’re feeling and they believe that eating this food will bring them comfort. Eating fast and without thoughtfulness is in an effort to distract themselves from the feelings they don’t want to feel. On some level, they believe that overeating or eating the wrong foods feels better than feeling the emotions they are trying to avoid. The worst part is that eating this way feels terrible afterwards and the guilt and shame that comes with it leads to us repeating the habit again and again.

Overeating is the opposite of awareness. And when we overeat regularly, it leads to weight gain. Let a few years of this behaviour pass and it won’t just be a couple of pounds that we want to lose, it can be many pounds as well as health problems.  Most emotional eaters are aware that their eating behavior isn’t normal (how do we know this? We hide our emotional bouts of eating from other people – it’s usually done in secret).  They know it’s not a normal way of eating – so in that sense they are aware that there is a problem, but they aren’t always aware that the issue stems from a deeper unawareness in their entire lives. Overeating to deal with emotions allows us to not be present or mindful or take responsibility for our feelings and actions. It’s a distraction. It’s a painful way to live and can feel impossible to get out of.

Earlier I mentioned that meditation can be helpful in losing weight. The reason for this, is that meditation can be a path back to mindfulness, back to being present and being thoughtful about our choices, not just in our daily lives with how we treat others and feel about ourselves but with how we interact with our food and our bodies. There is nothing mindful about overeating, whereas meditation essentially is the practice of being mindful.

When you first start a meditation practice, it can be really challenging. Your brain likes to keep a constant chatter of thoughts to distract you and your body doesn’t feel comfortable no matter how you sit. But with practice and consistency, it gets easier and you get more out of each session. You’ll find that your meditation sessions bring you awareness in so many other areas of your life, including eating. Your meditation practice will put you more in tune with your body which can help you determine feelings of hunger or fullness and it will put you more in touch with your emotions, which can make us less likely to reach for food. If we’re not using food to deal with our emotions as often, weight loss often becomes a side effect of practicing being mindful.

Will meditation alone fix emotional eating issues? Probably not but it’s one of many tools we can use that can make a huge difference.

Mindfulness Meditation is one of the types of meditations that emotional eaters can benefit from and it’s actually a part of what we’ll be doing on June 1st when the 28 Day Spiritual Cleanse begins.  If you’ve ever considered starting a meditation practice, this is a great way to learn! If you are interested in joining us, my email subscribers get a discount so sign up in the green box below!

Wavering Over A Big Decision? Here’s What I do.

Image courtesy of ponsuwan /

Image courtesy of ponsuwan /

When it comes to making big decisions in your life, are the answers easy and clear for you? Or is it exhausting trying to figure out the right path for you? If you feel like you don’t really know what to do most of the time it might seem like everyone around you just instinctively knows the answers to big questions like what should I major in?, Should I stick it out at my job or look for a new one?, Should I move in with my significant other?, or Should we have a baby? But the truth is, there are more of us who struggle with making big decisions than those who don’t.

Why is it so hard to choose? Well, we get overwhelmed by the pros and cons of each. We’re afraid that if we chose it will be the wrong choice and we’ll forever regret that we didn’t chose the other way. We worry if it’s the right time or if this is really who we are. We worry about succeeding with either choice. We worry about failure. We feel conflicted between choosing what we want vs. what we think is expected of us. We question if we even know what we truly want deep inside.

I’m tired and anxious just thinking about it, aren’t you?

So what do you do when you have a big decision to make and aren’t sure which way to go?

One thing you can do is talk to friends or family about the decision and hashing out your thoughts on either choice can be a big help. Sometimes just hearing yourself talk out loud is enough to sway you in a direction.  Sometimes feedback from people who love us is helpful because they see parts of us that we may not be able to recognize ourselves. And sometimes feedback from those same people isn’t very helpful since everyone has an opinion (and sometimes their “stuff” gets in the way of what’s right for you) but it can bring up deeper feelings inside you that might be revealing. Writing can also be incredibly eye-opening when you’re going back and forth on something. Writing can helps you to see what you’re thinking about, where the balance is falling and if there are any red flags to watch out for. Writing privately in a journal is a space where you may feel safe to bring up things you wouldn’t in conversation. Doing this can really uncover your true feelings.

What if talking with loved ones and writing about our feelings doesn’t help? Don’t fret, there is still something that can help – Meditation. You’re probably thinking, but I thought meditation was for relaxation?  It is but it’s wonderful for so much more.  Meditation has been incredibly helpful to me when it comes to making some of the biggest decisions in my life (including quitting my job and launching into the coaching field).

Why will meditation help you with decision making? Deep down we are intelligent intuitive beings who have all the answers we need inside of us. It’s true! We really do. Sometimes we get clouded by external (media, parents, societal pressures etc) and internal (our own thoughts) distractions but your soul has an answer for you. You just need to find a way to access it! Meditating can help us access those answers because it quiets the chatter going on in our bodies and minds and it allows those deep intuitive feelings to rise to the surface. It’s an amazingly effective way to get clear and refine your focus in any part of your life.

A few minutes of quiet contemplation, where you focus just on your breath and the question at the forefront of your mind and you’ll often know what to do when the session is over.

You’ll know you’ve reached the right answer when what comes up feels like it is coming from your heart – our true place of knowing. If it feels wishy-washy or immediately wants to contradict itself, the answer is probably still coming from your mind.  Settling in for a longer meditation session may help you go a bit deeper. How do you know it is coming from your heart? It will feel confidently true. It will feel like something you just “know”. The doubt will move aside.

Do you want to try meditating on a big question? Here’s a free 1 Day Meditation for Decision Making that will walk you through it (save it to your computer for later). If you want more meditation tools like this, I have something that can help you go deeper!

When I chose to leave my desk job and start my own business, I spent time meditating on the decision. And when the answer finally came (on 4th of July weekend), it came from my heart (and I walked in and gave my notice that Monday). Yes, I was scared and worried about how or if I would make it all work (the details) but deep down I knew that this was where I was supposed to be.  Meditation helped me stop focusing on the “noise” and the anxiety that was preventing me from stepping out of my comfort zone.

Do you have a meditation practice or want to start one? Share with us in the comments.

Finding clarity is just one of the many many benefits that can come from starting a daily meditation practice. Earlier I mentioned that I have a way for you to go deeper if you are interested in learning more about meditation – it’s my 28 Day Spiritual Cleanse program which starts on June 1st.  In this program, you’ll learn all you need to know to start an enjoyable and effective meditation practice but at an unintimidating beginner level! We’ll go day by day and build on our knowledge step by step so that at the end of the 28 days you can move seamlessly into your own regular meditation practice (because you’ll already have developed one!). There are 3 levels / options for participation. You can read all about them to see which one is right for you here.

Ps. I’m offering a special discount for early birds who purchase the program before May 20, 2015 at 11:59pm but you have to be on my email address to get access to the discount.  Sign up in the green box below if you’re not already a member!

Why Choosing Foods that Nourish Your Body is Good for Your Soul

It's about the food . . .but it's not really about the food.

It’s about the food . . .but it’s not really about the food.

I want you to think for a minute about what sorts of things factor into your decisions when it comes to choosing the food you eat. Is it about what’s on sale? What the kids will eat? What you’re craving? What is comforting? What you feel is nutritious? What it convenient? Whatever is in arm’s reach?

What do you think might happen if you approached most food opportunities by thinking about what might be most nourishing for your whole being?

I can’t even tell you what a difference looking at food in this way has made in my life. When you’ve spent the majority of your life thinking about the toll of every little bite, every calorie and obsessing over how your flesh looks or feels on any given day – finding something that allows you to relax around food instead of tearing yourself down is amazing. Amazeballs amazing. It’s not a quick fix – it’s a mindset that I think takes some time and creativity to get to but it’s so freeing. I look forward to nourishing myself with food daily, instead of looking forward to what feelings I could satisfy with food. It sounds subtle but it has a big impact. I’ll explain why.

When we start choosing food that is physically nourishing, a positive side effect is that it often becomes emotionally nourishing as well. You begin to feel good about what you’re doing for your body, you start to notice how much more energy you have, how much better you feel eating this way, how much more stable your moods are etc. Soon you’re eating better not just because it’s “good for you” but because you actually want to. With each nourishing meal, you reinforce positive feelings associated with those choices, which makes you want to continue to make good choices, you continue to feel good and so on. Soon, foods that you never thought you liked before start to taste pretty good – not only are you more open to new flavors, textures and combinations but taking good care of yourself “tastes” so much better than any of the crap food you may have been eating before.
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When we are eating lots of “not so great foods” day in and day out, we can’t even fathom not eating them. It’s scary to give them up (or at least eat less of them). It feels impossible to stop eating that way. It seems crazy that anyone would want to eat more vegetables and less of the “fun” stuff. When you’re eating this way there is no nourishment. Sure, on some level, these are “comfort” foods that we reach for after a long day or a bad week – but how much comfort are they truly giving you after the opiates you receive from eating them have worn off? I bet the answer is NONE and in many cases you feel far worse.

When our diet isn’t nourishing us physically and emotionally, our bodies AND souls suffer. And when both suffer, well your life suffers. Your goals suffer. Your relationships suffer. It all feels out of control. And you thought it was just food!

The food we put in our bodies is so incredibly important but we’ve been taught that quality doesn’t matter (in fact, who talked about the quality of food up until the last decade??) and that the only thing that does is calories, carbs and fat grams. Every cell in our body is made from the food we eat – how can our bodies, our minds and our souls not be affected by it?

There’s no need to change it all overnight.  Studies show people make more lasting change when they make changes slowly!  You make something a long term habit first and then it becomes just a part of you and your life. Where to start? Think about what you can add to your diet, rather than what you can take out. 

It’s springtime here in the North East so I recommend adding some of these nourishing spring time foods to your diet to start: asparagus, leeks, avocado, fennel, peas, watercress, swiss chard, beets, fiddleheads, mizuna, strawberries, dandelion greens, chives, parsley, dill, ramps, radishes and lemons. Choose one or two to add to your diet this week, note how they make you feel and then next week try adding something else.  Focus on adding IN nourishment and see if you feel a difference. The rest will fall into place over time.

How much more awesome would your life be if you were nourished physically and emotionally? What do you think you’d be able to accomplish that you are struggling with now? Share in the comments. And as always, if you want help tackling the physical or emotional side of nourishing yourself with food – you know where to find me.