Category Archives: Weight Loss

If I Don’t Congratulate You When You Tell Me You’ve Lost Weight Here’s Why

This cat doesn’t have anything to do with this post but it’s cute face got me thinking: do you think cats congratulate each other about their changing body sizes? Do they notice when one of their litter mates has put on a few ounces? I doubt it.

A Reputation for Knowing all things Weight Loss

 

Long before I became a health coach I had a reputation for being knowledgeable about weight loss, for being well versed in healthy or lower calorie eating, and for knowing all the ins and outs of dieting and lifestyle change.

I had lost large amounts of weight several times in my life and people who knew me “before” and saw me now, began to seek me out for help with their challenges in losing weight. I had a food blog that was dedicated to turning my favorite comfort foods into lighter and “healthier” versions as I learned how to cook for the first time. I made internet friends on diet tracking sites who turned into real life friends. I lived, breathed, read and consumed all things health and fitness.

And even when I gained a lot of weight back (again, several times), people still asked how I had done it, the weight loss that is. What did I eat? How much did I exercise? How did I stay on track? I had all the answers, or at least I thought my answers were helpful, and I was more than willing to share them. I became obsessed with the subject.

I was always interested in talking about bodies. What I didn’t like about mine, what was ok about mine, what I wish was different, how bummed I was that I had gained weight back, or how I still felt fat despite being the smallest I had ever been in my adult life. I felt closer to friends and family when we commiserated about our shared body, weight or food struggles. My interest and the ability to bond with others on the same journey is certainly a big reason why I ended up taking steps to become a health coach.

The majority of conversations I’ve had during my life have had at least one or two references to diets, unhappiness with our bodies, gaining weight, weight loss etc. sprinkled in, regardless of the subject. I was a super willing participant and often I was the one leading these kind of conversations! And it wasn’t all that long ago that there was still a part of me who thought that reaching and maintaining a certain number on the scale was going to bring me the happiness, acceptance and health security that I was after.

 

How Confusing it is to Navigate an Appropriate Response When You are OVER Weight Loss

 

I am so over it. Weight loss isn’t necessary for a happy life or a healthy one for that matter.

I’ve been “over it” for a while but have been trying to gracefully navigate my current feelings about it and my super ingrained normal response to this stuff.

It’s not going as gracefully as I’d like.

So if you tell me about you weight loss and you don’t get a “Wow! Congrats!” from me, I want to share where that’s coming from.

My current feelings are that I’m no longer interested in discussing or living a weight loss motivated lifestyle. I’m no longer taking on clients who are specifically looking for weight loss (which reminds me, I have a lot of old blog posts that I need to edit that say otherwise!). And I believe that keeping so much of our conversations on weight loss and dieting is harmful, especially the way we treat it like the cure for all health concerns.

If health is important to us, we should focus on eating a well varied diet, getting regular activity, managing stress in effective ways, strengthening social relationships that are important to us, developing a spiritual or creative practices that renews us and finding meaningful work or hobbies that bring us life satisfaction. In this way, you can be any size and be healthy (if that is your goal).

My normal (“super ingrained” as I said earlier) response when people talk about weight and dieting has been one that feels almost automatic because of my long history of being immersed in this stuff.  In social situations I might join in or laugh at jokes about weight that I don’t actually think are funny anymore, nodding my head in agreement when someone makes a comment about wanting pizza but they can’t because they’re on a diet, or congratulating people when they share their weight loss success. It’s easier to participate in the way I’ve always known how and go through the motions, even when I am cringing inside at my own response.

I know better! Why can’t I just not laugh when someone makes a self-deprecating joke about their body? Why can’t I walk away from the conversation when it turns to weight loss? Why can’t I just tell people how I feel and why talking about this stuff all the time is a problem?

It’s not that easy. For starters, in our culture, it’s the NORM to be participating and living a lifestyle of always wanting to be in a smaller body. I’ve been living in that culture (and full on participating) for over 35 years. Some responses are learned over time. Another reason is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that disrupting people’s beliefs in most social situations does not go over well. It either causes an argument, makes someone feel badly, or will make you seem totally out of touch with the group. And since connection is an important part of human needs, I’m interested in fostering connection, not preventing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been one to speak up when it comes to doing the right thing or when something is important (and I don’t intend to stop that) but when it comes to something as personal as body image, weight and food beliefs, I prefer to handle that on a one by one, case by case basis. I’m not going to launch into a diatribe in a group about how diet culture has brainwashed you into thinking your body isn’t already bikini-worthy. You have to know your audience. Everyone is on a different journey and people know what I do for work now – when they’re ready to walk away from that stuff, they know where to find me. I don’t need to preach about it in socially.

One area I have gotten much better in is in not making jokes about my own body. If you’ve read my stuff over the years, you may remember this post. It’s taken a lot of self awareness (some might say I’m overly self-aware, but it comes with this territory) but I feel I’ve reduced the jokes at my own body’s expense by at least 75% of where they used to be. That is no small feat and feels really good. But changes to conversation like that, and in working to be more true to my current feelings about weight and body image mean that I find myself more silent in social situations than I used to.

For awhile I was chalking it up to working from home (a major blessing that I’m thankful for but also one that has taken any social awkwardness I had and multiplied it by 5) but I think a lot of it is just that so much of conversations with women seem to be about hating our bodies or wanting to reduce our size and I just don’t want to take part in it.

I think there’s so much more to us than our size or shape and I’m working to break down my own biases about weight and fat bodies (that I have carried my whole life). I personally care about living an active lifestyle and eat a variety of types of food but I don’t think I’m a better person for doing that. And I don’t value you less or more based on your interest, willingness or success in doing that too. I want other women (and men and children too) to feel that they matter for who they are, not for what they look like. I want the conversation to be about all the other interesting things we have going on in our lives, all the things we are challenged by, looking forward to or geeking out on. I want body fat to go back to being a part of our bodies that protect and insulates us, not something that we need to feel ashamed about.

So it’s for all these reasons that I’ve gotten a little more quiet when it comes to congratulations and participation in normal diet and weight related stuff and I guess I’ve been feeling the need to explain myself (blogs are great for working through that!).

 

I Swear I’m not Trying to Be a Rude, Disinterested B*tch (and what I’m working on right now)

 

If you tell me about your weight loss success, your newest diet and the new size you are fitting into and I don’t say anything about it, please know I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just that I want you to know that your weight doesn’t matter to me. You matter to me. By saying “Congrats” I would be reinforcing the idea that weight loss is something worth congratulating and I no longer believe it is. It might be the right thing for you and I know there were too many times in my life when I felt it was the right thing for me. I don’t want to praise weight loss anymore. It is not the life-fixer we think it is and it’s not indicative of our health or value.

That’s all. That’s where I’m at. My response has nothing to do with my feeling about you or my desire to see you happy.

So just to share, here are a few things I’m personally working on as I continue to navigate this new (and somewhat lonely) place:

  • When giving compliments, I’m trying to come up with something that doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss or physical looks. This is harder than you think when all the compliments you’ve received or given your whole life have been in those categories!
  • Remembering to just say “Oh” or “How do you feel?” when people look for praise or feedback about their weight loss or diets. It’s not the response they are looking for but it’s one I can give without feeling like I’m encouraging a focus on weight.
  • Being forgiving to myself when I do fall back into old ways of responding and interacting because of a situation that is familiar (i.e. conversations about diets or weight loss). I’m human and it’s taken me this long to get here, it’s going to take a bit longer before I iron out these conditioned bumps!

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and trying to understand my perspective as it continues to change! I’m still coaching women whose goals are not weight loss. Instead it’s better health through lifestyle changes (that may or may not affect their weight ever) and focusing on taking radically good self care of ourselves. My coaching programs teach women how to step away from dieting, understand and manage emotional eating and treat their bodies with the respect it deserves (and weight loss doesn’t need to be a part of that).

How do you feel about this subject? Do you feel weight loss is something we should applaud in our society? Do you think a lower weight automatically means a healthier person? Are you fed up with diet and body talk and food fears in your own social circles? What do you think makes a person healthy? And do you believe that we can see if someone is healthy by what they look like?

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Should You Count Calories to Manage Your Weight?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should you count calories to manage your weight?

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

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

Why did you gain weight that needs to be lost?

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

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

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


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

e-book-3d-render

 

Your Weight will Always Be an Issue Until You Fall in Love with Yourself

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Choosing to love yourself is a worthy adventure!

Until you fall in love with yourself, you will battle the same weight issues you’ve always battled.

Until you accept your body and yourself as you are, you will never lose weight and keep it off. You might be successful for a little while in losing it, but you’ll gain it back, sometimes even more weight than you lost to begin with, if you refuse to accept and love yourself.

The same behaviors that made you gain weight will come back.

The same thoughts and judgements that led to eating more will come back.

The same “comfort” eating that actually brings discomfort.

The same hiding and denial that makes you want to shrink from living your life the way you want to.

The same feelings of disgust, shame, anger, frustration and anxiety will resurface again and again.

If you think, I’ll love myself when I’m skinny, when I’m fit, when I don’t have this tire around my middle, you will always be looking for that love somewhere else, and in your particular case you’ll look for that love in food.

You need to love yourself NOW – as you are right now.

When you do love yourself, wholly, completely, fully, and without judgement about what your body looks like, the eating stuff will fall into place. It won’t feel like such a big struggle.

I know it feels like a big struggle now. And you wonder how you can just let go of the hate for your body, the hate for your size or shape, the hate for yourself for what or how much food you put in your mouth. The hate you feel for yourself sometimes.

It’s not as complicated as we make it out to be.

You have to let go of this idea you have about yourself – that you are unloveable and broken.

It’s not any different than when we want to move on from unhappiness in our relationships.

Let’s imagine that you’ve had a huge argument with a friend or family member who you love. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before! For awhile, you are more mad or angry at the other person than you are sad that the relationship is strained. You want to feel “right” or feel your anger more than you want to admit any wrong doing or to give them forgiveness. You hold on to the anger, the pain, the stress of the fight for a while because it is serving you in some way. But there comes a point where it hurts more to still be angry. It takes more effort to maintain the distance between you and this person than it would to just forgive them or let go of the discord. We usually can’t forgive them immediately after a fight – emotions are too high and we need time and space before we have the clarity to allow us to take that step. But eventually, if we want to move on in our lives or move forward with this relationship we have to forgive, we have to LET GO. Not really for them – but for ourselves. If we don’t, it will continue to weigh us down. The anger and negativity will fill other parts of our lives. We usually come to a place where we see more value in letting go than holding on to the old grudge and when we do finally do decide to forgive, it’s actually without a lot of fan fare.

It’s actually really easy to do.  It’s not easy when we’re not ready . . .but when you get to a place where the pain of not forgiving is greater than letting go and forgiving – it’s actually quite easy. The repairing of the relationship may take additional work and time (just like repairing our relationship with food) but giving forgiveness, letting go and choosing love is more straightforward.

Letting go of the hate you have for your body is just like the above example.

If it feels too hard, you may be going through a time when you aren’t ready to give that up. The feelings of hate you have for yourself appear to be bringing you more value right now but eventually you will get to a place where holding onto that hate and allowing it to color your life will feel more painful and take more effort than it does to just let it go.

Let it go.

There are two exercises I recommend you try to begin the process of letting go of the hate you feel for your body and beginning to view it with more love.

  1. Write a letter to yourself.

Write an apology letter to your body. Start by laying out what words or actions you are sorry to have used towards her (you), what you are grateful for and how you will start acting differently in the future. Exercises like this help us to “soften” towards ourselves – even if it feels a bit silly when we are writing it out!

Use some of these prompts to get started:

“I am sorry because . . .”.

“I have dishonored you by . . . ”

“I appreciate you for . . . .”

“I am grateful for you because . . .”

“You have taught me . . .”

“In the future, I will no longer  . . . ”

“I look forward to . . . ”

“You (I) deserve . . . ”

2. Visualize putting the hate away in a box and shipping it away.

It’s easy to knock visualization exercises – they seem so abstract and “woo woo” that it’s hard to believe that they can be powerful tools of change! But if you have a good imagination (and if you’re a lover of books like I am or any creative arts then you do!) they can be an easy way to spark change and help you to be more conscious of your actions. To help stop some of the hateful thoughts you have about your body and increase feelings of love, try visualizing your hate or thoughts of hate as something physical. You might see a big grey cloud or something more concrete like animated physical words. Whatever it is that you picture when you have these thoughts, imaging that you have 2 boxes in front of you. One is sealed up and the other is empty and needs to be filled and sealed. First, take the empty box and fill it with whatever physical image you visualized your hateful thoughts as (grey blob? words? etc). Stuff them in there. All of them. Then, close the flaps and seal the box with some heavy duty packing tape. Visualize picking up the box and walking to a post office box and then drop the box in. Once it’s in the post office box you can’t reach it anymore – it’s literally out of your reach! Those thoughts are going to be shipped away and are no longer your concern. Now, go back home to the other sealed box waiting for you. Open it up. Inside there are “wearable” words, thoughts and feelings of love and acceptance. Pick each one up and put it on. “Dress” yourself in these loving words and feelings. What do they look like to you? How do you feel when you try them on?

Try these two exercises and see if they help you open up and feel more accepting, tolerant and loving towards yourself.

Eating is not a character flaw. It’s not a moral shortcoming. You do not deserve poor treatment because of your eating choices.

Practice choosing love, more often, until it becomes your only choice – that’s when food becomes less of an issue and your weight struggles will not be a struggle any more.


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!

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“Why Am I Mentally Hungry?” Or Why Your Brain Keeps Telling You to Eat When You’re not Physically Hungry

Can't stop thinking about food? Feeling mentally hungry all the time? 3 Causes of Mental Hunger

Can’t stop thinking about food? Feeling mentally hungry all the time? 3 Causes of Mental Hunger

Every so often I get an email or Facebook message from someone asking “why am I so mentally hungry when I’m not physically hungry?”. I’m not sure if it’s because the weather has turned colder (and we all feel a pull to eat more in the fall!) or if it’s just coincidence but I’ve had 3 really similar questions about this in the last 10 days, so I thought I should answer it here – since clearly this is something a lot of people are having trouble with!

Examples of Mental Hunger:

Mental hunger = That gnawing urge or desire to eat something when you know you aren’t hungry or that non stop chatter in your brain telling you that you need to eat a specific thing.

I have one woman who finds herself thinking of going to the vending machine in her work cafeteria an hour after lunch. She tries to ignore thoughts about this, because she can feel her belly physically still has food in it, but the urge to get up and go get a snack keeps pulling at her.

Another acquaintance is trying to lose body fat for an upcoming event and has been on a strict diet for several months. She has a certain amount of calories she allows herself each day and feels like she is eating enough. She says she doesn’t feel hungry on this diet but she is having a hard time staying under her calorie goal lately because even though she technically isn’t feeling hunger in her body, her mind keeps telling her to eat. Every day is a battle between staying under those calories or giving in to thoughts about cookies, crackers and donuts!

I also received a message from someone who is going through a tough time in several areas of her life. One area that normally isn’t a problem for her is food but lately her weight feels like it’s skyrocketing because she finds herself eating in front of the TV, while she’s cooking dinner, in her car – everywhere and anywhere. She’s always feeling the urge to eat, even when she isn’t really hungry.

The circumstances are all slightly different but the reasons we feel “mentally” hungry are almost always the same. There are 3 reasons I see over and over again. Do you see yourself in any of these?

 

3 Causes of Mental Hunger

 

You’re physically depriving yourself of food too often

This happens when you have been on a diet for a long time, have frequently been on diets in your lifetime or a general tendency to restrict food intake even when not actively on a diet.

The body keeps diligent track of how much food it’s getting, if it’s getting the right nutrients and if it has enough energy and fat stores to get through periods of difficulty. As much as we may want to be a certain size or body fat percentage, our body puts our general survival and health as a major priority and it sees depleting fat stores as a threat to our safety.

It thinks famine is here and in order to survive a period where less food is available, it will do whatever it can to get you to eat when food is available, in order to offset any fat / weight you would lose during a time of famine. In this way, your body is actually trying to help you! If you have been dieting or restricting for awhile and your mind is really working hard to get you to eat more, it’s technically doing it’s job. It’s working exactly the way it is supposed to.

You are emotionally hungry.

We tend to call this urge to eat mental hunger because the source of it seems to come from our brain. It’s the non stop thoughts we have about food or an unconscious pull to get up and go to the fridge but for a big portion of us, it’s not so much mental as it is emotional.

Everything in life “feeds” us in some way (if you want more info on this, check out this post). Our job, social life, home life, creative life and lots more contribute to how well rounded and satisfied we are with our life. If there is an area of your life where you are not emotionally satisfied, you may turn to food to fill that void or need.  If there is an area of our life that isn’t “nourished” well, we will feel “off” or like something is missing (even if we can’t identify initially what that is) and we turn to food to “fill” that space up.

How is your job/career going? Is it fulfilling or soul crushing? Somewhere in between? How is your social life? Full or lacking? Romantic life? Spiritual life? Do you have creative outlets? Time for self-care? Physical activity/stress relief? Do you feel that you have purpose? Do you feel you are giving back in some way? etc.

Analyze your life a little. What is missing? Why do you feel restless? What do you want more of? Less of? And then try to “feed” those areas so that they’re more balanced, more satisfied. Eating emotionally will happen less and less as you find your soul is getting the nourishment it needs in multiple areas.

 

There are feelings you are trying to avoid feeling

No one likes to feel uncomfortable but uncomfortable feelings are a part of life but some of us will whatever we can to avoid them! Uncomfortable feelings like discomfort, confusion, sadness, loneliness, anger and shame get stuffed down and pushed away. As a way to deal with them, we may use food as a distraction or to seek comfort. If we are eating, it gives us something to do or makes us feel temporarily positive feelings that help us avoid the negative feelings we were feeling.  That repetitive urge to eat that we refer to as mental hunger is really our way of trying to ignore something we are feeling that we don’t want to feel.

To complicate matters further, we don’t even know how to feel uncomfortable feelings. When one arises, what do you feel? Panic? Anxiety? Confusion? Restlessness? All of the above? And then what happens? You reach for food because not only do you not want to feel what you’re feeling – you also aren’t sure what the heck to do with it! We think we need to take action on it somehow, but that’s not really necessary. Sometimes feelings just need to be felt.

We avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings (and not knowing what to do with them) by numbing out with food. Eating food temporarily brings us comfort and sometimes even joy – for a few minutes we can avoid the feelings we were having and feel something better. But these feelings will keep coming back up, and the urge to eat will keep coming back as long as we don’t let the feelings we have run their course. We can’t outrun our feelings. They have to come out! If you need more info on feeling your feelings, read this post or this one.

Does one of these causes of mental hunger seem to be appearing in your life? If you’re not sure or if you want help working on your own relationship with food, let’s talk. Honestly. Openly. Confidentially.


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

Forget Willpower, Instead Learn to Strengthen Your Self-Control

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about this for a second.

 

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

 

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

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

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

You have tons of self-control.

I know you do.

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

How do I know this?

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

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

 

Self-Control is Something That Can Be Strengthened

 

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

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

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

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

 

Practice Makes us Perfect at Whatever we “Practice”

 

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

For example:

 

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

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

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

More fun examples:

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

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

This will take time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

A few questions for thought:

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

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

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

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

How to Go on Vacation without Gaining 10 lbs (but still be able to enjoy vacation foods)

Finding a way to get some form of daily movement each day is one way to prevent vacation weight gain.

Finding a way to get some form of daily movement each day is one way to prevent vacation weight gain.

Years ago, when I would go on any type of vacation or “girls trip”, I would find myself scrambling in the weeks leading up to the trip to lose a few pounds, regardless of where my weight currently was. I’d get ready by trying to eat as little as I could “safely” get away with before a trip. I even did this in 2011 when John and I eloped in California, though since we hadn’t planned on getting married on vacation until just a couple of weeks before, I only had time to drop a few pounds.

You may be thinking that the reason for the last minute weight loss before a trip was so that I would look my best during it. Well, sure, who doesn’t want to look their best on vacation? But that wasn’t really the reason. The reason I always had to work off a few pounds before vacations was really to balance out the weight gain that would definitely come during a trip!

I always saw vacations and nights out a nice restaurants as a reason to go crazy and eat and drink whatever and how ever much I wanted (probably because of my constant yo yo-ing between dieting and gaining weight). The problem with that was that a 10 day vacation became more about the food I would get to eat than about getting to experience a new place or doing fun things with my man or my friends. Inevitably, I would eat terribly all vacation long – eating foods that make me feel bloated and sluggish and eating far too much of them at every meal.

Vacation would start off fun, but by the last few days, I’d be feeling so uncomfortable in my body, that the clothes I brought with me would feel too tight and I’d be looking forward to going home just so I could have relief by “working it all off”. But not before I ate another ice cream sundae, plate of fried clams, some pastries and lots of beer. “Gotta enjoy myself, you know! Because after this trip, I won’t be allowed to eat these things again for a long time”.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned that letting myself go crazy and eat everything under the sun when I’m on vacation is the perfect recipe for me to A) feel horrible all vacation long, B) gain 10 lbs in a short period of time and C) set me up for messed up eating and restriction when I get back.

None of that sounds like fun or even remotely vacation-like or relaxing to me!! Yet I did it over and over. I finally realized that I don’t have to do that.

Vacation should be awesome and it shouldn’t be a free for all and it also shouldn’t mean automatic weight gain. Ok, but that brings up a lot of questions, like:  To avoiding feeling terrible on vacation and after, does that mean I have to eat super cleanly all of vacation? Isn’t life for “living”? And doesn’t that include delicious indulgent food sometimes? How can I enjoy food on vacation without causing myself discomfort, pain and emotional ups and downs but still enjoying myself? I’m a foodie, how can I go to fun places and not eat the local foods they are known for?

I’ve been doing things differently when we go away the last couple of years and I feel like I can now enjoy going to new places which includes eating delicious food, without feeling compelled to eat everything in excess and without feeling deprived and without gaining a ton of weight. In fact, when we went to Martha’s Vineyard two summers ago, I actually came home 1 lb lighter than when we left (without trying to). Not saying any of us should try to lose weight on vacation but I know it’s possible to enjoy amazing food and relaxation while on vacation without coming home 10 lbs heavier.

How do we do that?

How to Go on Vacation without Gaining 10 lbs


Start your day off with something really nutritious.

High protein breakfast in Kapaa, HI means I'm nourished and able to enjoy the whole day.

High protein breakfast in Kapaa, HI means I’m nourished and able to enjoy the whole day.

The first meal of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. For me personally, if I start the day off with a bagel or a pastry, I will be hungry again in 2 hours and I will crave sugar and other carbs all day long. This makes it really tough for me to make choices that make my body feel good and by the end of the day I will probably have eaten enough food for two days and yet still be itching for more. On the other hand, if I start my day with high protein foods that I digest well, I have energy for hours and cravings don’t control me, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy myself. I love to start vacation days with eggs and sauteed veggies or fresh fruit. If that’s not an option, a protein bar and some fruit works great (and travels well). For you it might mean cottage cheese and some bacon or Ezekiel avocado toast. And don’t tell me you can’t get something nutritious for breakfast at restaurants. Even the greasiest diner in the world will make you scrambled eggs with vegetables or a side of oatmeal.

Make the best choice you can make at every meal.

Eating Whole Fried Trout at The Loon Lodge in Rangeley, Maine. Don't worry, I didn't eat the head.

Eating Whole Fried Trout at The Loon Lodge in Rangeley, Maine. Don’t worry, I didn’t eat the head.

Sometimes that means I have lots of really healthy options and sometimes that means the healthiest option isn’t so healthy. Let’s say I’m at the airport and food options are severely lacking (and I didn’t pack anything). Even at Starbucks, I can grab a piece of fruit and their protein sampler (or something like it). Just because they mostly serve pastries, doesn’t mean I have to choose a pastry. Use your common sense. I try to find whatever option seems to resemble “whole” foods the most (less ingredients is usually a better choice). And if the best option isn’t that great, don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s just one meal.

Eat food that you actually like.

Your nutritious choices can also be foods you like!

Your nutritious choices can also be foods you like!

It has to be said that just because you are starting your day off with something nutritious and making the best choices you can at each meal does not mean that you need to eat food you don’t like. You may have read the two above and said “but I don’t like eggs (or can’t eat them)” or “I don’t like cottage cheese”. That’s fine. You don’t have to eat the things that I personally choose! You can make great choices and start your day on the right foot by eating foods that work well in your body AND that you also like. Part of our problem in this society is that we think healthy food = bland / gross food and that’s not the case. If you go into your trip trying to gag down egg whites and kale juice and you hate those things, you are going to be be miserable. Nutritious doesn’t mean going without good stuff!

Eat whatever the heck you want a few times during the trip.

You can bet I am eating baguette's and local cheeses in Paris.

You can bet I am eating baguettes and local cheeses in Paris.

I am a foodie and half the reason I like to visit new places is to try new restaurants and eat amazing delicious creations. This may seem to be diametrically opposed to being a health coach but I swear it’s not!  One of the core teachings of the school I trained to be a coach at is that real health comes from making sure we are nourished in several areas of our life. Eating well won’t do much for our health if we are also not well fed spiritually, emotionally, creatively etc. and for me, enjoying indulgent creative food on occasion feeds my spirit. On vacation, I allow myself a few meals where I can eat as indulgent as I crave with no regard for the health or nutritive purposes of the meal.  I am not going to go to New Orleans without eating a beignet. I am not going to visit Paris without enjoying a baguette and local cheeses. You probably want to know how many times during a trip I let myself eat like this and to be honest, I don’t have a set number or restriction on it. I have to go by how I’m feeling on that particular trip. It might be 3 times on a 7 day trip or it might be 5 times. It depends on where we are and what sorts of things have me salivating and how much joy I get out of it. Sometimes the “healthy” food in a location is just as amazing as the unhealthy stuff. Kauai, Hawaii was like that – fresh mangos, coconuts, avocados and the most amazing fish I’ve ever had and available at every meal. And they tasted nothing like it does when I’m at home. I aim for a balance of feeling amazing and satisfying cravings during an entire trip. I want both, so that means listening in to my body and seeing what makes the most sense. Trust yourself (the only way to grow trust in yourself is by using it sometimes).

Get some exercise or movement daily.

Going on a biking winery tour in Calistoga, CA was a blast and a beautiful way to see the area.

Going on a biking winery tour in Calistoga, CA was a blast and a beautiful way to see the area.

I have learned that I feel best during and after a trip, regardless of what I’m eating, when I get some activity every day. This doesn’t mean we need to focus on burning off the calories in the beignet or those cocktails, calorie for calorie. It’s more about keeping digestion running smoothly (which often slows on vacation) and finding ways to enjoy life that is a change from our American couch and screen lifestyle (here’s to hoping you can bring home new active pursuits you love!). Some days that might mean just walking around local shops and parks while sight seeing, or renting bikes and ditching the car (we had no car in MV only bikes!). I might spend 30 minutes in a hotel gym or do some bodyweight exercises in my room if the weather is bad or if John isn’t feeling up for exercise. I’ve dragged John out for a sunset walk on the beach. We’ve rented kayaks and spent several hours paddling and exploring lakes. I’ve spent hours swimming and lounging in a salt water pool. We did a winery tour in Napa on bikes. We hiked to a waterfall in Rangeley.  The beautiful thing about making daily movement a goal while you’re on vacation is yes, you’ll burn some calories sure, but you will also be doing things that “feed” your soul. These new experiences, with people you love are sometimes the most memorable of a trip and will last so much longer than that so-so fish and chips you thought you wanted. The key to getting activity on a trip is to think how it can add to you enjoying your day and not how it can help you eat more or burn off more. You will not enjoy your vacation if the entire thing is a mathematical exchange of calories and time.

Relax. Really

Relax and make food less of a big deal and it will be less of a big deal.

Relax and make food less of a big deal and it will be less of a big deal.

Let’s say you go overboard and do gain a few pounds on your trip. That’s ok. It happens. But there’s a limit to the amount of real weight gain that can happen in a week or two and freaking out about it is going to do you more harm than good. If you do gain weight or if you are worried about gaining weight on a trip, the best thing you can do is to not make a big deal about it and focus on eating in a way that makes your body feel good and doesn’t make you feel deprived or crazy when you get back. The more we fight with ourselves and view our bodies as a battle to be won, the more casualties there will be. Practice putting down your need to control this stuff to a T and you’ll find that weight ups and downs are actually reduced. Try to view mealtimes as a time to refuel and not as something to fear and you’ll gain trust in your body.


That’s really it. I focus on taking pretty good care of myself but also leave room for some extras while on vacation. This way, I enjoy myself and my body feels good, instead of weighed down, bloated and uncomfortable. I can have both! An awesome and unexpected side effect is that now that I have done this a few times successfully, I have less stress as a vacation approaches and during it. I am able to focus on life more before I leave (rather than how much weight I can lose first) and enjoy it more during. I’m more present. I’m more me. And the food I do eat tastes even better because I’m not ruining it with calorie calculations before the first bite even goes in my mouth.

The key to not gaining a ton of weight on vacation is to go into it trusting yourself and choosing to eat and do things that will make your body and your soul feel amazing, the whole trip. You have to decide what those things are and how much feels like enough and not too much. You are in charge of you and you fully have it in you to enjoy your vacation and all the food that comes with it in a reasonable and enjoyable way.


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

An Exercise to Try: Take Regular Inventory of your Food, Body and Activity Habits

Take inventory of your habits that help or harm your progress. If twice a week happy hour is working for your goals and life then there’s no reason to change it. But if it’s preventing you from being where you want to be, it might be worth changing.

Sometimes we get stuck in routines, or how we’ve just always done something and in doing so, we limit our progress, because it’s much easier for our brains to let us do what we’ve always done, than it is to interrupt the pattern and try something new. The problem with this is that it sometimes means we get stuck doing things that actually aren’t helping us move forward. We think they’re working just because they used to in the past or because it’s what we’re comfortable with. We also sometimes get really scared of doing things differently and this rigidity can keep us unwell.

I have an exercise that can help you loosen up the hold some of your habits have on you – especially if they’re not helping you get where you want to be. It’s taking inventory every few months of all the things that I’m doing (and not doing) in regards to food, body/body image and physical activity – and then adjusting when needed.

This has become one of the most important things I’ve done while rehabbing my own relationship with food. I frequently take inventory of what I’m doing in relation to it.

Doing an inventory like this is important for a few reasons:

  1. It prevents me from doing things that are dangerous or unhealthy (ex. regular bingeing or excessive restriction of calories).
  2. It limits how long I’ll spend doing something before I change direction due to ineffectiveness (ex. doing the same exercise for years).
  3. It keeps me honest with myself (lying to ourselves is common with overeaters/undereaters).
  4. It helps me move forward instead of getting stuck in an unhelpful place.
  5. It helps me break out of rigidity thinking and absolutes that keep me unwell.

So what do I mean by taking inventory?

Well, I sit down with a pen and notebook and answer a bunch of questions around my eating habits, my body image or composition concerns and my physical activity routines to assess what things are going well and I should keep doing and what things might need to be tossed out. I want to stress that there are no “right” answers to these questions – it’s really personal and totally normal for the answers to change over time. Your honesty and openness is what will make this the most helpful thing.

Here are the questions in my inventory:

Food

  • What motivates my decision to eat?
  • How am I determining what and how much to eat? And is this working for me?
  • Do I feel energized with the quantity and quality of food I’m eating?
  • Am I eating foods that are both good sources of nutrition and enjoyable?
  • What foods have I been eating too frequently?
  • What foods am I not eating enough of?
  • What foods am I eating that make my body feel great?
  • What foods am I eating that make my body feel not so good?
  • What changes with food can I make so that my body feels better and has more energy more often?
  • Is the environment I choose to eat my meals in a benefit to my relationship with food? (rushed? relaxed? etc) Is there anything I can do to improve the environment that I eat in?

Body

  • How satisfied am I with my physical body (size, shape, composition etc)?
  • What am I using to determine this level of satisfaction? (ex. scale, measurements, clothing etc). Does this tool feel like a positive or negative part of my routine?
  • How satisfied am I with my body image?
  • What actions am I taking that make me feel good about my body or think positive thoughts about it?
  • What actions am I taking that make me feel badly about my body or think bad thoughts about it?
  • What needs to change in order for me to live more harmoniously with my body?
  • What do I love about my body today?
  • What parts of my body could use more love and gentleness?

Exercise / Movement

  • What is my motivation to exercise?
  • What physical activity am I doing?
  • What results am I after?
  • Am I making progress towards those results?
  • Does the movement / exercise I do make me feel powerful and energized? Or drained and exhausted in a bad way?
  • Does my body “like” my physical activity of choice?
  • Does the amount and type of exercise I’m doing fit in with my life and the type of life I want to have?
  • Is my activity interfering with the life I want to have?

Other Questions to Wrap Up

  • What tools, materials, thoughts and habits are serving me well at this time?
  • What tools, materials, thoughts and habits are not serving me (or possibly harming or hindering my progress)?
  • What have I been doing for months or years that will continue to make me feel good and reach my goals?
  • What have I been doing for months or years that is not helping and may need to change, be adjusted or dropped completely?
  • Are there any habits or actions that I’m doing that I feel like I need to hide from others? If so, does this feel like something that will help me heal my relationship with food or my body? If not, how can I change this action or get support to remove this obstacle?
  • What changes do I want to make that feel scary or overwhelming?
  • What changes do I want to make that I feel resistance towards making?
  • What changes do I want to make that I am actually looking forward to?
  • Where do I need support? And who could help provide that support?
  • When will I do another inventory? Schedule it in your calendar and re-answer these questions for your current situation.

One final thing I wanted to share about doing this type of inventory is that chronic dieters, emotional eaters etc tend to get themselves stuck in a land of absolutes. You know what I’m talking about (I can’t eat full fat foods. I must exercise 10 hours a week. I must eat less than 1300 calories a day etc) and I want you to use this type of self-questioning to knock that stuff on it’s butt.

What I mean by that . . there are some people who believe people with a disordered eating history should never weigh themselves, or they should never count calories. There are others out there who think you should never eat bread, cake or anything else that we could label as “bad”. There are some who think you can’t desire changing your body and also have a healthy relationship with it. But none of these are always true for everyone who has ever struggled with their eating or body image. There are certainly people who have a rough relationship with food who can use a scale without going into a tailspin. And there are people who can count calories without being too obsessive. The key is knowing who YOU are and what makes you well or unwell and using that to guide you.

I want us to throw all the “shoulds”, absolutes and inflexible ideas out the window. I think that kind of rigidity is part of what keeps us unwell. If we’re so attached to an idea or habit that we are unwilling to let it go even if it’s not working for us, we’re never going to get out of our own way. Answering these questions honestly and giving yourself permission to adjust or change where needed can be incredibly freeing.

I once thought that I had to count calories in order to lose weight. Then when I realized doing that never taught me to eat properly and I decided that not counting calories was the way to go. And that was working for awhile too. I went through a phase where I had to weigh myself every day, otherwise I would kind of turn a blind eye to how much I was eating and I’d gain and gain. Weighing myself let me adjust my behavior before it go out of control. Then I went through a period when I tucked the scale away and let how my clothes fit be a better indicator. For awhile I was using measurements.  These days, my weight or specific size is not something I monitor closely. I’ve come to decide that it’s healthier for me to think less about that stuff and more about how I’m caring for myself, regardless of my body size. As far as fitness goes, for years it was about burning as many calories as I could, then it was being as consistent as I could be, right now it’s about getting and feeling as strong as I can be.

What feels good? What doesn’t make me feel obsessive? These things change over time.

I am always evolving and I am not afraid of changing. I’m trying to not be so dogmatic about this journey. It can be challenging, for sure! Sometimes I feel like something is the total truth, the bible, and I want to share – “I have the answer folks!!!” But really, that answer is usually only the right answer for right then – for that period of my life. I try to remind my clients that same thing, that it’s ok to change it up. If you’ve been eating oatmeal every morning for 5 years and find yourself wanting to binge at the end of the day, maybe the oatmeal gets to take a vacation.

We are ever-changing, growing and evolving beings. And it’s important to honor that in our daily choices as we work our way to healthier and happier bodies, minds and souls.

Please don’t be too rigid about what’s working for you or “what you’ve always done”.

It’s ok to change it. In fact, it may be revolutionary for your body to change it!

It’s ok to let it go.

It’s ok to try something you previously thought was silly or too hard or wrong.

It’s ok to change your mind.

It’s ok to readjust.

Lastly, in case it’s helpful, I want to share a couple of examples of my most recent inventory changes. I am always trying to break my own rigidity and habits and staying open to changing to what works for right now.

Example 1. For years I drank black coffee during the week and had cream & sugar on the weekends as a treat. Well somewhere along the last year or so of working from home, I had started to do cream and sugar all week long in my coffee. I noticed my allergies were creeping up on me and the daily dairy was probably the culprit (it kills my asthma!). I went back to drinking black during the week just last week and my lungs already feel better. I adjusted even though cream and sugar sure tastes good – it wasn’t giving me the results I’m after!

Example 2. For the last 4 months I’ve been getting plenty of exercise each week – probably 6 days a week of barre, weight lifting, walking, HIIT, biking etc. I’m getting plenty of heart pumping exercise and feeling great! But what I realized during my last inventory was that by working from home, I’m way way more sedentary that I want to be. I don’t have a huge building to walk through like I used to when I worked for another company. Other than trips to the bathroom or kitchen, I’m sitting on my bum in my office most of the day. In some ways, it makes me more tired! Because of that, I’ve been adding just 20-30 minutes of a casual walk outside a few days a week and it’s really helping my energy throughout the day. Plus it’s great to get a little sunlight and get off the computer. Yes I’m getting plenty of conditioning exercise but my daily movement was limited otherwise and it’s important to change that. Human bodies were made to move!

Example 3. I usually don’t eat wheat which works for me most of the time . . . but Sunday I had brunch with family and some old family friends and John ordered a donut with a caramel bourbon sauce. It smelled amazing and caramel is one of my favorite things. I ate some of that donut. And it was delicious. And it’s ok.

I’m not a bad person for eating something I normally don’t eat and my world isn’t going to explode for having it. There’s no morality in food.

I am fluid. I am malleable. I am pliant. I shift. I fluctuate. And you can too.

One of the largest benefits I see to taking regular inventory of your habits around food and body stuff is that it becomes much easier to let go of the rigid thinking that keeps us trapped in unhealthy habits. It forces us to question why we’re doing that stuff in the first place and when you see it on paper, it’s a lot harder to ignore. When we can’t bear to let go of a habit, when doing something differently brings up a lot of resistance or stress, it’s sometimes a sign that it’s no longer a healthy thing for us to do. Only you can really determine what is right for you! Try this exercise and let me know if you find it helpful!