Category Archives: Weight Loss

Things I wish I knew sooner (on this food, fitness and health journey)

Things I wish I knew sooner: that finding exercise that you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you "endure".

Things I wish I knew sooner: that finding exercise that you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you “endure”.

My mother had this sweater machine – a big electronic knitting loom thing that helped her make sweaters and blankets way faster than she could knit them by hand – because she loved to sell baby sweaters at Church fairs. In order to create a new row of stitches she had to move this white plastic handled part of the loom from left to right, right to left over the machine, and each time it went over the rows of yarn, it made a loud click-clack sound for a few seconds. I remember timing my trips to the kitchen by that sound after school. I’d wait in the kitchen with my hand on the cookie jar lid and when I heard the click-clack start, I’d lift the lid carefully and reach in and grab some cookies. My mom probably would have said yes, had I asked for a cookie. If she heard the cookie jar opening, she probably would have commented “hey, don’t ruin your dinner!” but nothing more. She wouldn’t have shamed me but I somehow knew I didn’t want to have a conversation about it and I knew that if I did it quietly I could go back and get more cookies. Just have to wait for that click-clack of the knitting machine to start so she couldn’t hear me.

“More” food was something I always craved and yet I wanted to push away all accountability for my choices all at the same time. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. If I wasn’t sneaking food, I was trying to find ways to burn more calories so that I could lose weight. I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but I remember laying in bed as a child saying my nightly prayers and asking the Virgin Mary to make it so that for every calorie I ate, I would actually burn 2! I obviously hadn’t worked out how that math would work long term had she been able to fulfill my wish and I may have misunderstood the types of things that prayer was useful for, but you have to admire the shameless way I tried to elicit the Virgin Mary’s assistance on my #bodygoals.

I don’t remember when specifically I learned that I was overweight or when I learned that that was something I needed to change. I just feel as though I always knew it was something “wrong” about me. Other people with food/weight stories like mine usually have one or two defining moments that stick out in their minds. I have tons of small moments that just add up to a life of feeling completely controlled by or out of control around food.

I’ve spent the last decade plus a few years working on my eating and weight issues in some manner (some things more successfully than others). The most progress in my journey has definitely come in the last 3 years – when I decided to train to be a coach and when I started taking on clients of my own. Watching other women make connections about their own stories and be empowered to change their story going forward has made my own stuff become so much clearer.

During this journey, I am constantly unlearning and relearning things that I took for granted. Things that I once took for certain, like “fat is bad”, I now can’t fathom that I ever believed that. I wish I had known that fat was a crucial and necessary macronutrient a lot earlier in this process. I think my relationship with food might have been less tempestuous had I been able to eat foods that were more satiating due to their fat content. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

If I was starting at the beginning of my food and weight story again, there are a lot of things I know now that I wish I knew then. I am going to share some of those below in case you are just beginning (or well on your way) and one or two of these could help you get to where you are going a lot sooner.

 

Things I wish I knew sooner:

  • that what you eat affects how you feel physically and emotionally.
  • that can’t outrun a bad diet.
  • that just being skinny wasn’t going to solve my problems.
  • that the things I didn’t like about my body when I was heavy would still be the things I didn’t like about my body when I was thinner.
  • that I don’t need to eat to comfort myself.
  • also that there are better ways to comfort yourself, that last longer and don’t have negative effects.
  • that there’s no quick fix, fast diet, pills or powders that will solve what got us into this mess in the first place.
  • not to compare my body and my progress to someone else’s. We’re all on different journeys.
  • that feelings won’t break me and I can feel anything without resorting to food.
  • that the number on the scale can go up and down throughout the week or month and not be an indicator of actual weight gain.
  • that foam rolling existed!
  • how to prepare healthy food so that it tastes good. I used to think it had to be bland and flavorless to be good for me.
  • that this is the only body I have and I need to appreciate it for all that it does for me.
  • that fat wasn’t going to make me fat and that eating it would actually help prevent me from overeating! (Could have saved myself a decade of being hungry here!)
  • that being strong and capable feels way better than weighing a certain amount.
  • that you can enjoy eating without it being your primary source of joy.
  • that liking myself was more important than liking how I looked.
  • that the amount of calories I burned during exercise doesn’t give me a license to eat as much junk as I wanted.
  • that having cute and well fitting clothes to wear makes exercising way more fun.
  • that motivation isn’t a secret energy that only some have, it’s just another word for being disciplined. When you say you lack motivation, what you really mean is that you lack discipline. We can train ourselves to become more disciplined – and it will stay with us a lot longer than any motivation, inspiration or will power.
  • that saying you are “trying” to do something is usually a hint that you are expecting to fail or preparing to never even get off the ground. Remove “try” from your vocabulary and just “do” (not “try” to do) the things you want to do.
  • that being so overweight wasn’t just a given because of my “genes”, or being born “big boned”. In my case, it was the direct result of many, many actions (and inactions) I took over many years (calculated hand in the cookie jar!). Had I recognized earlier that I had a huge hand in getting to such a high weight . . .I would have also been able to recognize that I had a hand in getting myself out of it.
  • that being attractive is not directly tied to the size of the dress I’m wearing. You can be thin and unattractive and you can be fat and attractive. Attractiveness is something so much broader than our size or shape.
  • that the more I worried about how much I ate, the more how much I ate would be a constant concern.
  • that taking rest days when my body needs them actually helps me make more progress, not less!
  • that lifting heavy weights wouldn’t make me big or bulky. (Getting big or bulky from weights requires major herculean effort – you aren’t going to get there accidentally).
  • that for every restrictive diet there will be an equal or greater binge (that idea is goes to Geneen Roth). The more I tried to dial back and eat less, the more I felt compelled to eat more the second I thought I could get away with it.
  • that physical hunger doesn’t cause panic (emotional hunger does). I didn’t really know what hunger felt like for a long time and instead had taught myself to feel “hungry” when I was bored, tired, overwhelmed, stressed, confused etc. I have relearned what hungry feels like in my body and it’s a lot easier to manage now.
  • that taking care of my body feels much better than retaliating against it.
  • that finding exercise you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you “endure”.
  • that having a proper sports bra makes exercise less painful and makes you feel good (check out Enell, Moving Comfort or Panache if pulling an elastic tube top over your chest that smashes you down isn’t working for you).
  • that keeping weight off after you’ve lost it can be harder than losing it in the first place. If you lose it in a fast or unsustainable way, how will you keep it off forever? Something to think about.
  • that love, success, friendship, admiration, creativity, self-worth and confidence isn’t something reserved only for the thin or fit.

What are some things you’ve learned during your health, weight and fitness journey that you wish you knew sooner? What would you tell someone just starting out?


If you’re not ready for a consult with Andrea but you like what she has to say, then please 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!).

What if We Gave Up Wanting to Lose Weight?

Is the idea of losing weight holding you back from the life you could be living?

Is the idea of losing weight holding you back from the life you could be living?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what motivates us to work at improving our bodies, and for so many women, it’s the number on the scale. We think the number on the scale automatically translates to looking good or bad. It holds so much power over us, if we let it. But really that number doesn’t really mean all that much. It doesn’t tell us how strong you are. It doesn’t necessarily tell us that you have too much body fat. It doesn’t tell us what your body can do and it doesn’t show us what you look like (despite our thinking that it screams “fat! fat!” to anyone within sight).

You can take three women who weigh the exact same amount and they will look remarkably different. Height, genetics, body composition, body shape and lifestyle can all affect what those women look like at the same weight. A woman who is 5 ft 9 and runs 4 days a week, will look different from a woman who is 5ft 2 and sedentary, and they’ll both look different from a woman who is 5 ft 6 and is a powerlifter.  They may all weigh 145 lbs but be wearing different sizes and be capable of very different things. The number on the scale alone doesn’t tell us anything about them or their lives. It’s not useful but we cling to it like it’s the end all, be all, that determines our worth and how we feel about ourselves.

What if for just a few weeks or months we gave up wanting to lose weight? That nagging, permanent and always just out of reach, weight loss goal? The one that plagues us no matter what weight we are.

You know which one I’m talking about.

You lost 50 lbs . . but that’s not quite good enough, “oh I just need to firm up my belly or lose this belly flab. I’ll be happy when I lose another 10 lbs, I think . . .”

You lost 10 lbs. “Ug, it’s not enough. I need to lose a few more. My thighs are still out of control.”

“I won’t start living until I get rid of this weight.”

“I’ll accomplish x, y and z when I reach that weight. I’ll go on that trip. I’ll date more. I’ll start dating. I’ll buy a bathing suit.”

Try to remember back to the last time you were at that goal weight, you were probably there at some point (even if it was middle school). Were you happy with your body then? Or were you in it but wishing it was something different?

I have clients who by all ways of measuring are what many of us would consider a perfectly acceptable weight – but they’re still not happy with their bodies. Or they are, until they hop on the scale in the morning.

I have friends who are at what most would consider a perfect weight but they’re not happy with their bodies either.

When I was my thinnest, I still felt bigger than everyone around me and found fault with the most ridiculous things – my ass was too flat, my stomach has too many old stretch marks and loose skin etc. I determined that the number on the scale must still be too high.

Some of us will find something to criticize or tear apart no matter how much we weigh or how little we weigh. And sometimes the more we lose, the more we find fault with.

And we put our lives on hold until some mystery time in the future when everything about our bodies will finally be right? But they’ll never meet our expectations. There will always be something we don’t like.

Isn’t that the most insane thing ever?

Could you let go of wanting to lose “weight”? If not forever, how about just for the next 3 or 4 months? If after 3-4 months of not trying to lose weight, you are not happier in your skin, you can go back to being unhappy in it while also wanting to lose weight.

And during that time, instead of focusing on diets that restrict and make you feel tired and hungry, could you focus on taking amazing and loving care of yourself?

Instead of losing weight, your goal for the next 3-4 months is to:

  • Eat food that nourishes, soothes and satisfies your body. Food that gives you energy but also leaves you feeling light and free.
  • Move your body regularly with activity that makes it feel strong, powerful, graceful and resilient. And if it doesn’t feel that way now, your goal is to try new activities that you know will help you get there.
  • Get regular sunshine, fresh air and be social with people whose company you enjoy.
  • Laugh and cry and feel joy but also feel boredom, anger and sadness. Feel all the things, as much as you can.
  • Stay home in your pjs occasionally and drink coffee and read fluffy fiction like it’s your job.
  • Say “no” to some invitations/events/requests that you don’t want to do.
  • Get 8-9 hours of good sleep per night (that means putting down your phone an hour before bedtime).
  • Wear clothing that makes you feel amazing (no matter the current size or shape of your figure).
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Live. You will do everything you had planned to do when you finally reached that weight, size or shape. You won’t wait, you will start doing those things now. Right now.
  • Look in the mirror every day and find something that you like about the way you look. Bonus points if you can come up with something different each day.
  • Give away as much love as you are willing to receive back (you ARE deserving of it). If you’re not there yet, practice will get you there!

During this time you won’t:

  • Criticize your body in any way shape or form. Also don’t criticize other people’s bodies.
  • Make judgements about the food that you eat or about yourself for having eaten food that previously you labeled as good or bad.
  • Restrict, count calories, points, macros or anything else.
  • Overexercise.
  • Weigh yourself

Try it. Just for a short period of time, try letting go of the need to lose weight – especially if this is something that has plagued you your entire conscious life. Losing another 5 or 10 lbs is not going to fix what isn’t working in your life but putting down that burden might give you the clarity to find another way.

What might you be able to do if you were freed from thinking about your weight or size daily? Who do you think you would be? How might you be different? What about you would be the same? Would you like the woman you’d be? How can you be more like her now?


Like this? To get more like it, please 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!).

How to Start Eating More Mindfully

Mindful eating uses all of our senses.

Eating mindfully means using all of your senses to experience each meal.

Look at the photo above. Let’s pretend we’re about to sit down in front of that plate and eat this meal. What is the first thing you notice before you even pick up the fork? For me, it’s that I’m already salivating at the thought of that crispy and buttery waffle hitting my tongue. I can actually smell the maple syrup and the toasty smell of the waffle browning in the waffle iron even though this is just a picture. I can feel the cool crisp contrast of the tart strawberries and the sweet velvety whipped cream in my mouth, and again, this is just in my mind. I can hear the crunch as my fork presses down to carve a bite out of the waffle. A clink as it hits the plate. The maple syrup has gotten onto the stem of the fork and it’s slightly sticky. Just by looking at this photo, all of my senses can anticipate what they’d experience if only this waffle was really sitting in front of me. This is how we begin to eat mindfully, by being totally present and using our senses to experience food.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 5 – 10 years, you’ve probably heard of the term “Mindful Eating” as a solution to weight loss. It’s an alternative for those who’ve tried diets and gained the weight back, for those who still struggle with their weight despite trying to eat the right things. I have had great success using it in my own life, after growing tired of the diet mindset that left my weight going up and down and I now help other women incorporate tools like mindful eating into their own life.

It’s not for everyone and it’s not easy (despite how the practices below may sound) but if you are exhausted from trying to lose weight and keep it off by counting calories, points, and fat grams, and you know that it’s not working for you – mindful eating might be something to consider.

Today I’m going to share two of the main mindful eating practices I use but first let’s talk briefly about why diets often fail us.

 

Diets Fail Us

Overeating is the most obvious cause of weight gain and diets are awesome at managing the physical component of this – the “what” part. What should I eat? How much should I eat? Most weight gain is due to taking in more calories than our bodies are able to use. The calories we don’t use end up being stored as fat. Diets take those math equations and assume we are robots who can and will do exactly as they prescribe forever without any obstacles.

The problem with diets is that they fail to address the emotional and mental components of overeating. You may understand on a mental level that you have gained weight because you have eaten more over a long period of time than your body needs but we rarely understand why we are doing that. Why are we overeating? Diets act as if this part of the equation doesn’t exist. Again, like we’re obedient robots, instead of humans who do things for a variety of reasons.

If we can address why we are overeating in the first place, we can reduce how often it happens. If overeating is less of an issue, weight gain is not going to be much of a problem anymore.

There are several reasons why we overeat, one of them I addressed in How to Feel Your Feelings. Another reason is because of how mindlessly we eat (and how mindlessly we go through life in general). We eat too fast, with too many distractions and we’re not present when we consume a meal. With our senses not taking in the meal and at the speed we eat, our brain doesn’t receive signals it needs (from our stomach as well as sensually) that we’ve had enough to eat. Living this way makes it challenging to ever feel satisfied after a meal – we’re always left wanting more, even if we are physically full. Mindful eating is a practice that can help bring us back to the present and quell the urge to overeat because it connects the dots between the brain and our stomach, helping us to feel satisfied.

Now we’ll get down to it!

 

Two Big Mindful Eating Practices to Try

1. Start treating mealtimes as if you were meeting with a old friend you haven’t seen in years.

If you were super excited to see this friend, you would give her your full attention! Your eyes would take all of her in the moment you saw her (does she look the same? totally different?). You’d give her a hug and the smell of her perfume would bring you back to another time. The sound of her laugh would make you feel completely at home. You wouldn’t dream of multitasking, checking email or reading while spending time with her, would you? Omg, no that would be so rude!!! Do the same thing when you eat, every time.

Give the meal your full attention.

Be completely present with the food in front of you.

Don’t do anything other than eat – no multitasking. That means put your smartphone away, turn off the TV, don’t read the newspaper or a book, don’t eat in the car (unless it’s absolutely necessary).

Don’t distract yourself.

Use all your senses: Look at the food in front of you (is it colorful? textured?), Smell it (does it have a strong aroma? pleasant? pungent?), Does it make any sounds? Is your plate sizzling hot? Does the food crunch when you chew it?, Taste: Do you like how it tastes? Is it sweet, salty, sour, bitter or savory? Feel: How does the food feel in your mouth? Is it too hot or cold? What is the texture like? Smooth, silky, rough, crumbly? Other things to notice: when you see or smell the food, do you notice saliva forming in your mouth? Are you excited to eat this meal? Are you actually hungry? If you were going to describe this meal to an alien from another planet, how would you describe it to them?

 

2. Learn the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger, commit to eating only when you feel physical hunger and get into the habit of talking to yourself.

Physical hunger comes on slowly, emotional hunger feels urgent (gotta have it now!!).

Physical hunger can be satisfied with anything (you’re willing to eat broccoli or a salad), emotional hunger will only be satisfied by something specific (I want something sweet!).

Physical hunger goes away when you’ve eaten, emotional hunger hangs around even when you’re very full.

Eating to satisfy physical hunger feels neutral, while eating to satisfy emotional hunger will bring up feelings of guilt and shame.

Start practicing trying to eat only when you feel physical hunger. This will probably be the hardest thing to do – that’s ok, just start noticing the difference between the two and becoming conscious of the choice you make (no judgements).

Sounds easy enough to figure out which is which, right? But it’s not so simple when you’re in the moment. When you feel emotionally hungry, all you can think about is “how can I get my hands on something that will satisfy this?”.  The way I work around that urge is to have a conversation with myself. I ask myself  “What would make me feel best in this moment?” and then I really listen closely to the answer before I actually respond to the craving.

If it’s physical hunger, I have the consciousness to choose something that is nutritious for my body (hard boiled eggs, quinoa salad, a banana and peanut butter etc).

If it’s emotional hunger, the question leaves room for an answer that is something other than food. Notice I don’t ask “What do I want to eat?” If I did that and it’s emotional hunger, I am going to sabotage the shit out of myself with a bag of doritos. Asking what would make me feel best in this moment? opens the door for that emotional urge to be expressed in another way.

Believe it or not but most of the time, the true answer to this question will be something other than food – it might be a hug, a nap, a phone call to a friend, a walk, some time spent journaling, a long bath and a good book etc. Your emotions want to be felt and expressed and if they had the option, food wouldn’t be their first choice in expression, so help them out by asking them something that will bring out other answers.

Occasionally you’ll ask this question and even when listening closely for the answer, it will be an ice cream sundae or a piece of pizza. That’s ok. Sometimes those things are what would make us feel best but honestly those times are rare. If you get an answer like this and aren’t sure if it’s emotional hunger or truly what would make you feel best, how do you know? This part is actually easy . . . do you think eating that ice cream sundae will make you feel bad after you eat it? If you know it will, that’s emotional hunger and you should dig deeper for another answer to “What would make me feel best in this moment?“, because if it’s going to bring up guilt or shame, those are obviously not emotions that are going to make you feel best. If you know you can eat the sundae and feel neutral and at ease about it – you’ve answered the question thoughtfully and mindfully and you can go ahead and have it.

 

How To Start Eating More Mindfully

You aren’t going to go from a lifetime of using structured diets to seamless mindful eating in one go. It best learned slowly. You want to dip your toe in slowly like you would in a cold pool of water and then slowly move into the water a little by little as you get used to the temperature of it. Sure, you’ll get used to the water a lot faster if you just dive in, but you run the risk of wanting to get out of the pool immediately!

Choose one meal per day to practice this with at first. Which meal of the day naturally allows for the most time to yourself? Which meal will allow you to not feel rushed? Pick that meal and for 10 days practice mindful eating with that meal only. Again, pretend you are seeing an old friend for the first time in years – treat the meal the same as you would her, with your full attention. At this daily meal:

  • Eat while sitting down (not in the car) and without distractions or multitasking.
  • Chew each bite slowly and thoroughly.
  • Notice the food with all your senses. How does it look, smell, taste, sound and feel? Your mind will naturally want to wander to your to do list, if you want to give it something to do, bring your attention back to your plate and experience the food with all of your senses.
  • Take deep breaths and relax into the process.

When you start to feel like being mindful at this one meal per day is totally doable, see if you can do it for two meals per day or for one meal and when you have a snack. This will take time. Do not become discouraged if it’s not easy!

Begin a meditation practice. I know, it may seem like another subject entirely, but one of the biggest struggles with people just beginning a mindful eating practice is that they’re not used to being alone with their thoughts and it is uncomfortable not “doing” anything else while eating. One way to flex this muscle so that being present while you eat becomes the norm is to get used to meditation. All you have to do is find a quiet place where you can shut your eyes and take deep, slow breaths for 2 minutes a day. If you can do 2 minutes easily, try to do 3, if that’s easy do 5 minutes. Notice how long you can go before you start to feel restless and practice relaxing into this time for yourself. I found this really hard to do at first because I’m not very good at relaxing naturally – but working on this has made mindful eating much easier for me to settle in to.

Keep coming back to it. If you start a mindful eating practice and notice that 4 bites into the meal you automatically picked up your phone to browse the internet. Just bring your attention back and try again. If you notice that you are eating fast while standing at the sink because you’re in a rush, sit down and try again. No one learns to play the violin in a day and gets to Carnegie Hall. We have years of habits to correct – be patient and unrelenting in your persistence. It will get easier the more you do it.

This is just a small taste of how you can start to use mindful eating as a tool for weight loss and preventing overeating. If you’d like to see if it’s something that might work for you, I’d love to support you in doing this. I’m passionate about helping women connect the dots in their relationship with food! This stuff is much easier to do when you have support along the way. Contact me and we can set up a time to discuss.


If you’re not ready for a consult with Andrea but you like what she has to say, then please 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!).

Want to Lose Weight? Commit to A Sacred Self Care Plan (and yes, you are worth it)

Make self care sacred, non-negotiable so that the things you need to do to lose weight or live your live don't fall to the wayside.

Make self care sacred so that the things you need to do to lose weight or live your life your way don’t fall to the wayside.

If we want to successfully lose weight or stop overeating once and for all, we need to create an environment where this is possible.

Unfortunately we tend to live high stress lives where we don’t have much time to tend to needs beyond work and family , which means that our health isn’t always at the top of our priority list, but if we want to make progress in this area, it has to be. There is no option other than making it a priority (if you are serious about making it happen). Working on this stuff has to be just as important as sleeping, going to work, and caring for your family. We have to fit it in. We can’t keep putting it on the back burner and expecting the same results as people who do make their life fit their goals.

An environment that is conducive to weight loss and not overeating is one that holds a sacred space for self-care. People who lose weight for the long term do it because they have committed themselves to a lifestyle that includes self care. Knowing this can be a great tool for weight loss and for finding ways to make self care a priority in your life.

What is self care?

Self care is all of the deliberate things we do to keep ourselves performing and functioning our best. Fitting in exercise that makes your body feel good, Making time for friends, setting aside the money and time for a massage, eating food that nourishes your body and practicing meditation which calms your anxiety are all examples of self care. Even basic things that most of us may take for granted – like showering each day and taking medications can be included in self care.

I want you to make self care sacred, which means holding some space for yourself at the top of your priority list. I’m not saying you have to save all the room at the top for you, but please put yourself at least on the same lateral line as your partner, your kids or your job. You are not less than them and you don’t deserve less care.

The idea of sacred self care may seem indulgent, it may seem like a luxury afforded to those who have more time than you, or it may just seem completely out of reach if you are someone who does nothing but give to everyone in your life but you.  It’s not indulgent, it’s absolutely necessary if you want to have the emotional, mental and physical capacity to be the woman you want to be. And especially if that woman is someone who wants to lose weight or stop eating too much.

I understand that you want to be a great mom, wife, sister, friend, employee and/or boss and so you think that means sacrificing your own needs and wants in order to provide for others (because that’s what society tells us we’re supposed to do). Here’s the thing though, a physically exhausted mom is not going to be able to respond to her child the way she’d like to, a mentally drained employee is going to be less productive and more likely to make mistakes at work. An emotionally tapped out wife is not going to be able to connect to her partner at the end of the day or be able to maintain friendships. When we support our needs first, we actually have more to give elsewhere in our lives. If you are well nourished – body, mind and soul – then think of how much more you will be able to connect to the people in your life? How much more will you be able to understand your child’s needs? How much more will you be able to focus at work? How much more of a friend will you be able to be?

If sacred self care isn’t appealing to you on the grounds that it will help you be more available in all the relationships you are already giving everything to, guess what? The benefits don’t end there. It’ll also help you be more creative, connect to yourself or your higher power on a deeper spiritual level and you’ll be able to tap into your abilities in ways that you didn’t know were possible – all because when you are well cared for your brain and spirit have the flexibility to go places beyond just making it through your daily routine.

Why does self care being sacred matter for weight loss and ending overeating?

It’s pretty simple actually: Holding self care sacred means that you don’t automatically push your needs aside as at the first inkling that someone requests your time or attention.  Someone who is has made self care a priority is not afraid to raise their hand and say “Hold up, I can’t stay late after work tonight” because she has an exercise class to get to or “Honey, will you do the dishes for me?” so that she can do food prep for the week” and she is going to get where she wants to be. The woman who holds self care sacred sees herself, her needs and goals just as important as the goals and needs of the other people and things in her life. This means that the things they need to do to make those things happen, won’t be pushed aside until all the kids are out of the house (or retirement).

She’s going to get her workout in. She’s going to move her body the way it asks to be moved. She’s going to make sure she has time to plan, buy and prep healthy nutritious foods that keep her satisfied (and less swayed by chips and sweets). She recognizes that getting a massage isn’t just an hour of quiet to herself – it’s also a super healthy thing to do for her health, which spills over into the health of her family. She’s not going to ditch what she needs and wants for another day, another time – she can care for her family, do an amazing job at work and make time for herself too and she understands that having all of this may require asking for help.

To create an environment where weight loss and overeating is a thing of the past, you want to create a self care plan. This plan or routine has to be one that speaks to you, that makes you feel soothed, supported, nourished and tended to. A self care plan should contain the things that you need to have in your life in order to feel and function your best. Only you can determine what those things are and maybe right now they are so far out of reach that you don’t have the faintest idea of what you need to be your best – ok, then brainstorm. Get out a pen and paper and dream a little – if you had all the time, help and support that you needed, what do you think you would need to be your best on a daily basis? To keep you running efficiently and not stressed?

Here are some of the things that are requirements in my self care plan (which I definitely hold sacred):

  • I sleep late. I’m naturally a night owl and am my most productive and creative in the evening hours. This means I stay up  later than most but I also require a lot of sleep (and obviously sleep is really important). So to combat my late hours, I sleep late whenever it’s possible. I’m up early when I have a morning client or an appointment, but if Saturday comes and I don’t have to be anywhere, you will totally find me in bed until 11am (possibly later)! Getting enough sleep and doing it on the hours when it makes most sense for my life is super important to me.
  • I exercise as frequently as possible but also listen closely to how my body is feeling on any given day. I have learned that I’m someone who needs movement in her life to stay sane and the more I move, the better I feel. Exercise reduces my anxiety, helps to clear my head and keeps my body strong. I push myself when it feels right but I also back off when it’s right for me. It’s really important to know your body and what it needs. Because I want to be able to keep moving my body, I have to listen to it and that means adapting to how it feels on any given day – some days I feel like I can do anything and other days, a short walk or gentle yoga is all I will feel like doing. When I miss a few days of activity, I start to feel cranky, restless and borderline depressed. I also know that a lack of exercise can be a trigger for me to eat more (may sound crazy but it’s how my mind works!). If I want to do what I need to do in life (and also keep my weight stable), exercise is a must and I make the time for it, even if it’s only 10 minutes some days.
  • I get an extended massage and facial every 6 weeks. Indulgent and expensive? Maybe, but that’s where I choose to spend my extra money and it’s worth every penny to my physical and mental well being. I have high blood pressure so getting a massage is a great way to force me to relax and unwind (something that is challenging for me) and it keeps my muscles from getting too tight from all my workouts. And the facial is also relaxing of course, but really I do it because it keeps me looking my best (and I am vain as they come)! Haha!
  • I spend time doing a few things I love every week. My personality type is one that gets stressed out easily so I make sure I have some time for hobbies and activities that relax and reenergize me. Reading, working on my genealogy projects, meeting up with friends, dinner out with John, cooking an elaborate fancy meal (that may or may not fit into the category of healthy) or working on different craft projects are a few things I like to “schedule in” to the week. If I don’t make room for at least 2 or 3 hours of “fun” time for myself throughout the week then I find I start to get stressed and restless which honestly affects my work, mood and relationships. Doing the fun stuff keeps me more balanced!
  • I plan ahead and prepare for the week. As I’ve mentioned, I’m an anxious, easily stressed lady (see a pattern to my self care, haha!) and there’s nothing I deal with more poorly than being unprepared or not having enough time to do things. I’m not good at rushing and I know I need a certain plan and order to keep me functioning my best. This means, if I have a really busy week coming up, I look ahead and plan out simple meals, snacks and even my workouts. If I do this, I know I’ll stay on track. If I don’t do these things, convenience foods that make me feel like crap suddenly find their way into my diet or I will miss 3 days of exercise in a row, which tends to make me slide into tricky territory with my eating habits. Taking the time to think ahead and prepare for busy weeks makes a massive difference in whether I finish the week feeling awesome or feel completely broken down. I’d rather feel awesome so it’s worth the hour or two it takes me to do this!

    Reading is a part of how I relax and destress - so it's something I make room for in my self care plan.

    Reading is a part of how I relax and destress – so it’s something I make room for in my self care plan.

That’s just some of the non-negotiable stuff in my self care plan. It took me a long time to feel comfortable making room for all of this in my life. I think as women, naturally we tend to feel guilty about making time for ourselves (because we’re the caregivers in many areas of our life) but it’s really something we need to overcome if we want to get the most out of our lives. You may not be able to do the specific things I mentioned in self care (not many folks have the luxury of sleeping late or keeping my weird hours!) but that doesn’t mean you can’t figure out what you need and how that can work in your life. 

My weight journey has been complicated but it got less so when I decided to make myself a priority. When I put “me” first (through sacred self care), I’m less likely to have a binge, less likely to skip a month’s worth of exercise, less likely to “need” that cheesecake and less likely to yo yo up and down on the scale. That kind of peace with food is invaluable to me and I don’t think I could have it without dedicating some room for a serious self care practice!

If you don’t have a life that has room for self care in it right now, what can you do to change that? Can you hire someone to help with childcare (even for 2 hours a week)? Can you ask your spouse or partner to pitch in more? Can you talk to your boss about flex time at work so that you can work hours that make more sense for your life? Is there anyone you could barter with to get your needs met? (Maybe you have a skill or time you could offer to someone else in trade for what you need help with?)

Think about all possibilities before you say “I can’t do any of that”. What could you do? What could you possibly ask for? Where can you get help so that your needs are a priority?

First, know that you are worth being on the front burner and second, ask for the support you need so that you can create the life you want.


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!).

Weight Loss: How to Lose Weight Forever (Instead of Fast)

A few things to practice if you want to lose weight forever (give up losing weight fast!)Last week I talked about the benefits of switching from a “fast” weight loss mindset or timeline to a forever one. This week, I promised I would share some of the ways you can switch out of that “fast” mindset into a “forever” one. Yes, it is slower – the weight will not fall off you in a week. It may take months and in many cases years, but if you learn how to live this way and really commit to it, you won’t find yourself yo-yo-ing up and down attempting to solve the same problem repeatedly – and that means you’ll have more time to live your life the way you were meant to live it.

So how do we get you on the path to forever weight loss?

Here are a few things you’ll need to start practicing:

1. Aim for what we call the 90/10 rule. I’ve talked about this several times on the blog, make 90% of your daily food intake high quality and nutritious (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, animal or plant protein sources etc) and then 10% can be whatever you want (sugar, candy, chips, booze). You can do this several ways – some people do this by meal – they’ll have 9 super high quality meals and then their 10th meal is a fun cheat meal. If you’re a calorie counter (not my preference) and you are aiming for 1800 calories a day, you can sprinkle in 180 calories of treats in your day (and the other 1620 calories would be super nutritious stuff). I do it a little more loosely because I don’t like counting things anymore – I tend to save my treats for sugar in my coffee, some wine or chocolate. Do I stray from 90/10? Absolutely. It’s not a hard and fast rule – it’s a general guideline to try to live by (and it can help us make better choices throughout the day).

One thing people get confused with when talking about 90% nutritious / 10% treats is that they think that means that their nutritious food has to be boring or bland. Not at all! I use things like avocado, spicy extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, spices, herbs, lemons, chile-garlic paste, tamari and toasted sesame oil to add richness and flavor to my food. Those are all nutritious things. And I always buy the highest quality ingredients that I can afford. Try not to confuse nutritious with being low fat, low calorie or low flavor – they are not mutually exclusive.

2. Get familiar with how foods make your body feel. Often we think we “know” how a food makes us feel because we like or don’t like a food. We see our preferences for food as being evidence for how they feel in our body – but it’s not the same thing. I loved doritos and bagels and found myself buying them when I needed comfort – thinking that emotional comfort was the same as making my body feel good but they actually both make me feel awful physically which I only noticed when I started to look into it.

Keep a food journal for several weeks and write down everything you eat / drink and note how you feel immediately after each meal and how you feel a few hours after. After awhile you’ll see patterns emerging – you may discover that every time you eat rice noodles you feel ravenous at bedtime and that makes it hard to sleep. You may find that when you have oatmeal for breakfast you feel like you can go forever between meals. You may find that eating beans makes you feel bloated and tired but eating salmon makes you feel energized and satisfied. Once you know what foods make you feel great and what ones make you feel not so good, you’ll find making choices about what you should eat (and how much) becomes really easy. Now that I’m so aware of how awful bagels and doritos make me feel, I have no interest in them. And it’s way easier to not binge on something if you don’t want it!

3. Eat according to how much food it takes to make you feel comfortable/ just satisfied. This one can be a huge challenge but is so worth practicing. Don’t eat to total fullness or very full. But also don’t let yourself get too hungry. Aim to keep yourself always between just satisfied and slightly hungry. What does that even mean? You have to experiment to figure this out for yourself. Most of us eat according to how many calories something is, or how many serving sizes, points or some other unit of measurement. But how many times have you finished eating your portion of one of these measurements and felt like it was too much or not enough? Instead of using units of measurement to determine how much you should eat, I want you to get used to using your own body’s signals to determine when you should stop eating.

This is really scary at first if you’ve never done it before. You’ll need to keep a food journal (like above) for several weeks and note after each meal where you were on a hunger scale – still hungry? satisfied? full? very full? Start to notice how little food it takes to get you from very hungry to just satisfied. There are many hunger scales out there (a quick google search can help you find one that works for you) –  use one that makes the most sense to you.

How much food do you have to eat to go from just satisfied to full? This experiment requires patience and quite a bit of mindfulness – which is possibly something you are not used to doing when eating. Stick with it until you are sure you know what “satisfied” vs. full vs. hungry feels like. Describe those feelings in your body in great detail – what do they feel like to you? Most of us have forgotten what hunger, satisfaction and fullness feels like – but when we were children we naturally ate according to listening to our body. Once you know what they feel like and the difference between them, your goal is to always eat to “just satisfied”. Practice doing this over and over again until it becomes second nature. One key to being successful in doing this is to not let yourself ever get too hungry. A little bit of hunger is fine (in fact it can do many of us some good) but letting ourselves get past a certain point of hunger will make it incredibly hard to make good decisions when food is finally within reach. A little hungry is ok. Starving is not.

Lose weight forever instead of fast.

Want to lose weight forever? We have to practice things a little differently.

4. Practice being “okay” about food/body things we normally freak out about. The scale going up a little. Your pants fitting tight today. Skipping a couple of workouts in a row. Eating too much at your last meal. Eating foods that you have labeled as “bad”. Life is going to happen – no matter how long you are on this journey, you are going to have days where you don’t eat the way you want to or you eat more than you would have liked. The best thing to do when that happens is to not make a big deal about it. Accept that it happened, don’t beat yourself up or make judgements about it and move on. One of the things that keeps us make poor choices about food is constantly feeling bad about our choices. We think that if we don’t criticize ourselves then we’ll just keep doing it and blow up to extreme proportions but really our constant criticisms is exactly what makes us feel bad enough to reach for the extra food. Notice your reaction when these situations come up and try swapping out negative words and thoughts towards yourself for neutral ones (I like saying “oh well” or “no big deal”) and then literally force yourself to move on. Don’t wallow or go back looking for more evidence that you did something wrong (yes, I know this is challenging – it only gets easier if you interrupt the pattern regularly).

The less a “big deal” I make any of my eating stuff, the less of a big deal it is. It’s the truth. My weight doesn’t go up and down by 10 or 20 pounds every other month now. I can enjoy an indulgent night out with my husband that includes truffle fries, wine and dessert without hating myself for 10 days afterwards.

Try to be kinder to yourself for 2 months. No name calling, no catastrophizing, no harsh punishments, restrictive eating or excessive exercise regimens in retaliation. If it’s easier to put yourself in the right mindframe, practice living the same way as you think someone without an overeating issue or weight problem might live. Does a naturally slender person panic when they have a single piece of cake? Does she tear herself down for 3 days after eating it? No. She eats it. Enjoys it and goes about her life. Pretend you are her (for 2 months) – and then let’s see how many of her natural kinder habits you’ve started to acquire.

5. Make feeding yourself properly a priority.  In our culture, we’ve come to value convenience, speed and comfort over the quality of the food we put in our bodies. Yes, our lives are busy today, but they’re also way easier than those of our ancestors. We whine about having prepare meals that take more than 10 minutes to make which is hilarious when our ancestors essentially spent their entire days doing tasks that contributed to the feeding of the family. We have all these conveniences in life now that make it possible that we can live these busy lives full of other things that take up so much of our time – but we bitch about this tiny thing we have to do like grocery shopping and cooking. Why is something that is so crucial to our health and survival given so little priority in all of our lives? We all have the same amount of hours in our day and I will bet that there is something in your life that can take a back seat so that food prep can take a priority. It’s really about weighing what’s important to us and there is no way around this one – if you want to lose weight, if you want to get healthy, if you want to be less challenged emotionally by food – then you must make food planning, shopping and prep a top priority.

Time and time again when I see people fall off the wagon, it’s because they gave up in this area. I know it’s easier to order pizza 3 nights a week and to hit the drive thru at lunch – but it’s not going to get you where you want to go.

Look, I know as much as I love to cook, there are days where I just want someone to come into my kitchen and cook for me (and clean up!! So much clean up!). I know how hard it can be. But you know what’s harder? Eating for convenience and comfort and being unhappy forever with how that makes your body look or feel. Keeping you fed well is the only way you will ever reach your goals – and unless you are in a tiny subset of the population who can afford to have a private chef, this is something you need to put at the top of your priority list. There is no negotiating here.


So those are just a few of the things you can start doing today to make a switch from fast weight loss to forever weight loss. If you need some support in making this switch – I know someone who could help (me!). Shoot me a note and let’s set up an appointment.

Make no mistake – none of this is easy at first. It’s essentially a complete reversal to what most of us have been doing our whole lives and it takes a lot of discipline to change it. Remember, anything we want to get good at, we have to practice. No one wakes up one day and is an amazing piano player or fluent in 4 languages after reading one blog post or book. No one is an incredible public speaker the first time they get on stage. No one can do advanced yoga asanas the first time they get on the mat. No one creates their best artwork the first time they ever put pencil to paper. Overhauling our eating habits so that we can have less ups and downs throughout our life is something we have to practice – daily. You can’t do these things once or twice and expect to be fixed. But if you come back to these things daily, and really make the effort to put them into your life and call yourself out when you try to hide or lie your way through it, then I know you will make huge strides towards forever weight loss and a happier relationship with your body and food. And isn’t that worth it?

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!).

Weight Loss: Do you want it fast or forever?

 

Weight loss doesn't need to be fast to be successful.

Relaxing about when you reach your weight loss goal can make a huge difference in your success.

I’ve come to the conclusion that how fast we want to lose weight can be a critical factor in how successfully we lose it, and how well we keep it off. It’s not as sexy to go slowly. It’s not hip to do it for the long haul. There’s no “21 year fix” program. Moderation and consistency are not what people want to hear but if we want to keep our sanity and have a peaceful relationship with food, it really is the way to go.

Fast diet plans set us up for failure.
We’re taught that setting concrete, specific and timely goals are the best way to reach them and diet plans know this. All the marketing we see for popular plans out there focus on how quickly they can produce results for you. Yes, having a specific time goal can be motivating and also keep us on the path when we’re tempted to stray. Having a firm, short time based goal can help some of us bring our A game. But if we focus too much on the time aspect of our goal, it can undermine our success in the long term because we never learn to deal with our eating stuff. What use is a 30 day diet or a 6 month diet if you don’t know how you’re going to eat to maintain that loss for the rest of your life? Or they provide you with a maintenance plan but it’s not something you can follow? Most of us want to lose weight permanently but short, fast diets don’t give us the tools we need to keep it off when the diet ends.

If you’ve tried to lose weight quickly, many times, and you’re still out there searching for a solution to your weight struggles (because you’ve gained it back or never lost it to begin with), maybe it’s time to try something different. I want to ask that you let go of the short and fast goal to lose weight. Let go of the “now” timeline for losing weight.

Slow weight loss plans are easier to maintain.

Slow weight loss plans are easier to maintain.

Instead, make your weight loss goal forever.

I’ve done both – tried to lose weight quickly and also gone the slow and steady route. Fast weight loss plans are always motivating at first and helped me drop initial pounds but on the other hand I have to say that letting go of the quick fix and relaxing about “when” I’ll reach my goal weight has been way easier.

Some people will cringe when I ask them to try to not have a strict time goal in mind. I get it. We are completely conditioned to want everything right now and some people view not worrying about how long it will take as “giving up”. It’s not. If holding yourself to a tight deadline, a fast goal hasn’t fixed your weight struggles, all I ask if that you give a forever plan a chance. For me it was like having a massive weight lifted off my shoulders.

A few reasons why a forever weight loss goal is easier than a fast one:

1. It gives you the ability to relax about your food choices so that you can enjoy life.

Without the pressure of “I need to be thin now!” you can choose foods that you enjoy eating all of the time. This doesn’t mean that you can go ahead and eat junk food all day long but it does mean that you don’t need to eat fat free cardboard stuff that doesn’t satisfy you. Without the pressure to drop weight instantly, you can make choices about food that come from what will feel best for your body right now, what will fuel it for the next few hours and what also tastes good. This means that sometimes you’re going to choose to plan and prep lots of healthy nutritious meals at home and sometimes you’re going to order greasy take out. You don’t have to worry about one high calorie restaurant meal derailing you . . .because you’re in it for the long haul. So that meal may move your goal by a day or two. What’s a day or two in the scheme of things, really? You can go to a party and enjoy what others are eating. You can make room for a moderate dessert a few times a week. You don’t have to stress about every little morsel you put in your mouth because your goal is on taking care of yourself everyday, not just for the next 30.

2. You will naturally make better choices, more often.

When getting skinny tomorrow isn’t on the menu and instead being fit, active and strong for the rest of your life is, you feel thankful that you can make choices every day about what to put in your body. You will willingly choose foods that make you feel good instead of foods that make you feel ill. When you’re in it for the long haul, there are no foods you can’t have, there are no foods that are totally off limits so there is no urge to “rebel”. There is nothing to rebel against. And because you don’t feel like you need to act out to rebel, the foods that previously would have held you captive, lose their appeal (or most of their appeal). You will actually want the foods you thought you wanted less and less. You will start to notice that they don’t make you feel the way you thought they did (they actually make you feel terrible) and that they don’t even taste as good as you thought. By making them available and not off limits, you’ve actually removed a lot of the power that they had for you.

3. You will find you are able to be more present in life.

Without the pain and pressure of trying to conform to a restrictive eating plan, you will find that you have the emotional and mental energy to actually spend time connecting with the people in your life. Instead of spending 20 minutes at a restaurant trying to figure out the meal that will be least likely to blow your limited diet for the day, you’ll be able to quickly go with your gut and choose a meal that you know will make your body feel good and be able to spend more time being with the person you are sharing a meal with. You won’t need to mentally tally up the calories in every bite and you can actually hear what the other person is saying. You’ll have more to talk about because your entire mental life isn’t spent thinking about how little or how much you can eat today. You’ll “live” more instead of just trying to make it through all the calendar days until you’ll be done with this stupid diet.

4. You’ll find value in your body beyond the scale.

One of the best things I’ve found about dropping any type of time goal for my weight goals is that I care way less about what the scale says today or what size pants I’m wearing. Instead, I find value in what my body can do (lift super heavy weights, carry lots of grocery bags at once, bike 30 miles etc) and I see how closely that is tied to what I put in it, how I care for it. There is less room for crappy foods that make me feel terrible if I want to be able to be strong and active, not just now, but as I age. As a bonus, the things I do to make sure I am strong and fit for life (exercise, sleep and good food), naturally help me look my best, and they also increase confidence, which also looks good. As I get physically stronger, my body changes in a good way. My weight doesn’t change all that much (since I’ve put on some muscle) but my clothes fit better and I like my shape more. And have I mentioned how awesome it feels to be strong????

5. You’ll have less drastic ups and downs in your weight.

Short, hard diets get most of us caught in a tedious cycle of restricting and bingeing – we’ll lose the weight quickly because of our strict adherence to the diet, but as soon as we go off of it, we feel so deprived that we binge our way back to the weight we were before (or gain even more). It’s awful and then we’re looking for another quick diet to help us lose this weight too. And do it again. No one can lose weight that way and keep it off, unless they are willing to continue on that diet for the rest of their life. If you throw out the strict, rushed timeline and eat more according to the needs of your body (not saying this is easy), you’ll find that these big ups and downs become rare. It will take longer to lose weight, for sure, but if you gain weight, it’ll only be a couple of pounds – and usually it’s because we’ve been unconsciously depriving ourselves and find ourselves resorting to old rebellious behavior. That’s an easy fix – get back to being conscious about what you put in your body, based on how the food you eat feels.

6. You’ll actually have fuel and energy to do awesome things.

When you aren’t in such a rush to drop pounds, you can eat enough to fuel your body properly. This means performing your best at work, in school or in creative pursuits. This means being able to have and meet physical fitness goals that have nothing to do with how small you are. This means being able to play with your kids for hours without being too tired. This means doing things that you thought people didn’t do at your age. This means being able to get frisky with your honey even though it’s late and you have to get up early. This means not getting headaches or feeling weak from a lack of food. This means not dreaming about when you can eat next. This means having a more chill relationship with food.

When you feel the benefits from a timeline of forever, fast won’t be as appealing. You’re worth slowing down for!

Ok so this all sounds lovely, right? So how the heck do you do it? Stay tuned! Next week I’m going to tell you a few ways you can start relaxing your own weight loss goal to work for you instead of against you and I’ll share the strategies that have worked for me as well as my clients.

Losing Weight Requires Feeling Uncomfortable

Losing weight is uncomfortable.

Losing weight is uncomfortable. Be willing to feel discomfort and it won’t be so difficult.

Raise your hand if you want to lose weight without feeling deprived, hungry or feeling uncomfortable? Raise your hand if you think losing weight shouldn’t be difficult?

If you are raising your hand, I swear no judgements will come from me, because I have spent most of my life trying to figure out how to do that too, how to get into the body I want without feeling any pain or discomfort for even a moment.

We want to lose weight without feeling uncomfortable

I got very clever at doing this. Calorie counting for awhile helped me to eat lots of food so I wouldn’t feel hungry – while still eating low enough calories that I could still lose weight. I’d swap out higher calorie foods like cream for soy milk or rice milk. I’d eat rice cakes for breakfast so that I could eat 3/4 of a pizza and a bottle of wine for dinner (and call it a day). Never ever go hungry.

Later, running 25 miles a week meant I could almost eat anything I wanted, anytime I wanted. I didn’t have to ever go without a cupcake, a beer, or greasy takeout if I wanted because I knew I’d be working off the calories the following week. Never ever feel like I was deprived.

Later, bingeing when uncomfortable or confusing feelings arose was a way to fill myself with comfort so I wouldn’t have to face what I was feeling. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up my running schedule (too many recurrent foot injuries) and calorie counting had long stopped (I just couldn’t deal with the constant mental math) and bingeing brought me back to a painful weight. I was so uncomfortable being heavy again that the only thing I could think to do was to put more food in my face. It felt better than facing what I had done. Never have to face uncomfortable feelings.

In the last 3 years, wanting to lose weight, yet again (can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been down this road – I have lost track), I knew I needed to do something differently. I was never going to win this battle if I didn’t figure out why I couldn’t seem to keep my desire to eat under control.

I know I’m not the only woman who thinks this way about losing weight.

We don’t want it to be hard. We don’t want to feel at all like it’s a struggle. We don’t want to feel like everyone else can enjoy social events without worrying about how much they want to overeat while we can’t. We want what the thin girl has without eating as light as her. We want what the fit girl has without working as hard as her. We think that a 10 day diet should help us lose the weight we gained over 10 years.

Ultimately we don’t want to be uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. All these years of trying to find diets that “work”, exercise routines that work with the least effort and really the solution was staring me in the face. I had to let go of the idea of trying to control it all and instead try to understand it. If we have understanding, we don’t have to worry so much about control.

Today I want to talk about two of the ways our avoidance of discomfort interferes with weight loss progress – choosing to comfort ourselves with food and telling ourselves that going without is deprivation.

Stop choosing food as comfort

The urge to overeat often comes from a desire to comfort ourselves. Comfort from what, is your call, it might be a crappy day at work, overwhelming anxiety, general dissatisfaction from our life circumstances or a difficult conversation with your boss. We’re all trying to comfort ourselves from different unwanted feelings, uncomfortable feelings. Instead of allowing the negative feelings to come over us, we rush to stop ourselves from feeling or acknowledging them.

One of the easiest ways we can avoid our feelings is with food. Why is it so easy? Well it’s abundant, socially acceptable and affordable. Turning to food numbs us, feels familiar which we interpret as comforting and it gives us the distraction we’re after for a little while.

But why do so many of us do something so destructive (overeat) in order to avoid something so normal and benign? Overeating is destructive. Having feelings and letting them run their course is benign. I know it doesn’t seem that way but it really is! I promise you that if you let yourself feel whatever it is that you are feeling, good or bad, you will be ok. You will get through it. You can survive any feeling you are having.

When my mother was sick, I really couldn’t deal with it. I would go to the hospital and do what I needed to do to support her and my family but emotionally I was totally checked out. I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to think about what I was feeling. I couldn’t let myself feel those feelings. Then, when my mom passed away, I thought there was no way I would get through those feelings too, in fact, there are whole months of that time period that I don’t even remember. I thought there was no possible way I would survive the loss.

But I did. Each time something “awful” has happened in my life, or each time I have had an awful feeling – I’ve gotten through it.

I’m still here.

Because I’m still here and I’m functioning, productive and have a good life (and I still miss my mom), I know I have proof that I can get through any uncomfortable feeling. Do I always handle it well? No, but that’s not the point of this example. Think about the absolute worst thing that has ever happened in your life. Did you make it through as horrible as it felt/feels? What was the worst feeling you’ve ever endured? If you’re reading this, you survived it. You were able to feel those feelings and live.

If you know you can handle any feeling that comes your way, you won’t need to turn to food for comfort. Your urge to turn to food will be lessened because there is nothing to run from. You won’t need comforting because uncomfortable feelings are merely sensations in the body that last for a little while and not something that warrants comfort.

You’re going to feel uncomfortable, even painful things. That is par for the course for this thing called life. Let yourself feel them. Don’t resist them. Don’t push them away. Don’t fight against feeling them. Just feel them. If that means sitting in your car and crying, so be it!

A few questions to ask yourself if you find you get most of your comfort in life from food:

  • When you sit down to comfort yourself with food, what does it feel like?
  • When you finish eating for comfort, how do you feel?
  • Why are you choosing to comfort yourself with food?
  • What or who else could you receive comfort from instead of food?
  • When an uncomfortable feeling arises, what can you do instead of eat?
  • What is it that you need to comfort from to begin with?

We aren’t being deprived

Another way we try to avoid discomfort is by telling ourselves we have to keep eating or overeating certain things in order to not feel “deprived”. We view most food plans as “depriving” even when they’re well rounded and allow us treats. We think that if we have to eat less or if we can’t eat ice cream in the large quantity we want to every night then we are being deprived. We want to lose weight without ever feeling deprived.

But let’s look at what deprivation is for a second:

Deprivation actually means (from Merriam-Webster) “the state of not having something that people need or “the act or process of removing or the condition resulting from removal of something normally present and usually essential for mental or physical well-being”.

Read that again. Do you see what it’s saying? Not overeating or choosing to not eat things that derail our progress is not deprivation. We do not need daily cheesecake. We will not die without chocolate. Double orders of cheesy nachos are not essential to life. There are only a few things that are essential or necessary in life and yes we can argue that food is essential. Food is something we need. But excess food is not required for our survival. Junk food in excess is not essential. Telling ourselves that by going without cake, cookies or other junk or that by eating a little less is depriving ourselves is completely unhelpful and will cause you to want to rebel against an imaginary adversary who is holding your treats hostage. No one is doing that.

We are not being deprived. No one is taking away anything that you need. If you are overweight and have weight to lose, there is no way you are being deprived of food. You eat breakfast every day. You likely eat lunch, dinner and snacks too. You have enough. You are not being deprived. Please stop believing you are.

You want cake. You want ice cream. You want beer. I get it. I have wants too. And sometimes I go ahead and satisfy my wants. But I no longer tell myself I’m being deprived because I’m not.

If you choose to eat cheesecake, chips or whatever your food of choice is, choose it because you want it and enjoy it, not because you feel like it’s something you need for survival.

Not eating your favorite junk foods isn't deprivation.

Choosing to skip the bread at dinner once in awhile in order to lose weight isn’t deprivation. It’s only deprivation if you aren’t getting what you need. We don’t need bread if we’re eating a 6 course meal.

From another angle, let’s say you still feel “deprived” even though after reading this you know you technically are getting what you need – what then? Well, then I’m wondering what is so awful about “feeling” deprived? Go back to the section on comfort where I talk about feeling your feelings. Feel them. Let yourself feel deprived (if that is what you choose to feel). It will pass like any other feeling and you will survive it. Know that just because we feel something doesn’t mean we have to act on it.

A few questions to ask yourself if you can’t seem to make any progress because of a fear of deprivation:

  • Why do you feel deprived?
  • Why are you choosing to feel deprived?
  • What would feel better than feeling deprived? How would you have to eat and live to feel that way instead?
  • What are all the ways in your life that you are not deprived? Where do you feel rich, full and satisfied?
  • What necessary / essential things do you truly have enough of?

Losing weight isn’t comfortable

Losing weight isn’t comfortable. It’s not always going to be a soft, easy ride.

But think about anything you’ve accomplished or created in your life – maybe you’ve given birth and raised a child, maybe you earned a college degree, maybe you’ve started a business or competed in a triathalon. Whatever you’ve accomplished, I’ll bet it was work. I’ll bet that it was uncomfortable, possibly excruciating at times – but OMG, it was worth it, so worth it, wasn’t it?

A really minor accomplishment that most of us have tackled that I like to think of to compare to this, have you’ve ever done a really hard lower body workout? You know the kind where you worked your legs so hard that just standing up on them when you get out of bed makes you yelp? That soreness, that muscle pain is certainly uncomfortable – and for a few days makes everything a bit more challenging, but while it’s painful / uncomfortable, it’s also satisfying. Discomfort doesn’t have to be bad. Discomfort can be where the good stuff is. Where growth is (not just muscle growth!).

To lose weight, you’re going to have to let yourself feel the discomfort of hunger. Sometimes you’ll have to pass on cheesecake, cannolis or extra bread. You may have to squeeze in a workout on a morning when you’d rather sleep in. Exercise, sweating and breathing heavy, might be uncomfortable, especially at first. Prepping healthy food might be uncomfortable (and certainly time consuming). You will have to go to social events and focus on interacting with people instead of snacking at the food table and it will feel foreign. You’re definitely going to have to feel uncomfortable feelings, sometimes frequently.

It’s not our birthright to feel happy and good all of the time. Good feelings are great but part of the reason why they feel so good is in contrast to the moments when we feel bad. Life is a mix of all feelings and we can’t successfully go through life trying to pick and choose which feelings we will feel. We’re going to feel anxiety, anger, jealous, nervousness, stress, fear, lonely, grief, boredom, frustration, confusion, apathy and guilt along with joy, love, pride, creative, confident, playful, excitement and hopeful. You’re going to feel it all and if you don’t feel it when it comes up, you’ll feel it later in other ways.

Feeling your painful and uncomfortable feelings is going to bring you discomfort, but that’s ok because you now know you can feel anything.

It’s all worth it. I promise it is. The discomfort that we feel while going through these changes is nothing compared to the discomfort we will feel if we don’t take steps to get where we want to be. Be willing to feel anything, especially the uncomfortable stuff and you will get there.


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

 

It Doesn’t Need to Be This Complicated

There can be joy and relief found in letting go of our eating and body issues. You don't HAVE to hold on so tight.

There can be joy and relief found in letting go of our eating and body issues. You don’t HAVE to hold on so tight.

We think that healing this relationship with ourselves, with food – stopping the dieting, stopping overeating, ending restriction – we think it’s really complicated and that there must be some big step we just don’t know about because if we did, then we’d finally solve this thing once and for all.

Do you ever feel that way? Like, there’s just one more bit of information, some diet, exercise routine, some book, some workshop, somebody somewhere that’s just around the corner that has the answer you are looking for.

(Hard to hear) Newsflash: There’s nothing else to wait for. There’s no other teacher you need. No other info you must learn. No secrets knowledge being held from you.

If you’ve been going at this awhile – then, you have all the pieces you need to pull yourself out of this.

You have the ability to put each tool and everything you’ve ever learned about your struggle one into practice (you may or may not have support to do that – if that’s the case, we need to build that up).

Put it all together, apply, practice, share, keep no secrets, and you’re going to get better. Perfect? Fuck no, no one is. But less pained? Less frustrated? Less burdened? Less exhausted from trying to keep this thing going? YES.

So what’s the problem? If we are honestly doing the work, then why do we still struggle so much? There are two simple reasons I can think of:

The first one is because we haven’t let go of our desire to have this problem. This problem keeps us from really “blowing” up. There is something appealing about it – on some level. We believe that if we really do give up all our “controls” – the things we use to keep us running on this hamsterwheel, if we stop counting calories, if we really do allow ourselves to eat as much as we want, as much as our body requires, then we’re going to weigh 400 lbs. If we stop telling ourselves how ugly and unlovable our bodies are, then they’re only going to get even more unlovable. Even if intellectually we know all the things we need to do and we do them 80% of the time – we hold on so tightly to our old familiar and comforting problem because we aren’t totally convinced that it’s a problem.

There’s a teeny tiny part of us, who doesn’t want to admit to anyone – and would certainly never say it out loud – that she really doesn’t want to stop dieting. Dieting is a safety net. And we think we can get better by having our cake and eating it too. We want to be able to eat mindfully and diet. Over exercise to burn calories and listen to our bodies. We want to stuff our faces with all the foods that set off our binges and we want to stop eating when our bodies tell us we are full. We want it both ways.

We are stubborn little shits!

The second reason we’re struggling so much is that there’s a faction of us who doesn’t believe that this problem is solvable. We see magazine cover after cover with headlines of “How to lose 10 lbs in 10 days!” and “How to firm up that flab!” month after month. If weight problems were so simple to solve, wouldn’t magazines have run out of stories to run on it yet? We’re all still fighting the fight. Still looking for a solution. We’ve been told that most people gain weight back after losing. We hear how people in recovery from eating disorders must remain vigilant for life. We’ve heard the message loud and clear that this is a losing battle – so why really try? I’m not saying that healing from this stuff is easy (it’s not) but going into it believing that there is no way out, that you are destined to be “sick” or in pain and struggle forever is the surest way I know to be in pain forever.

So if you see yourself in either of these, how do you get out of it? How do you really stop it?

You have to want to get better more than you want to hold onto what is keeping you unwell (whether that’s the desire to have this problem or the belief that it is unsolvable).

The very thing you want to get rid of is the very thing you are clinging tightly to. You can’t move on from here if you don’t let go.

Believe that this problem isn’t helping you in any way.

Believe that it is solvable.

Believe that this doesn’t have to be a big issue in your life if you choose otherwise.

This part actually isn’t complicated. Please don’t look for the hard part (we’ve already been doing that all along!). Let go of your need to hold this problem so close to you. You will take a huge sigh of relief at the thought of not struggling with it anymore. You know those deep breathes you take after a really good cry? Those ones that feel like your lungs are breathing for the first time? It’s like that.

For me, I simply choose to not participate anymore.

I refuse to be complicit in torturing myself for a moment longer. Merriam-Webster defines “Complicit” as “helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way”. That’s right – it is a crime. The way we treat ourselves (withholding or gorging on food, beating up our bodies with negative thoughts etc) is a crime and it’s certainly “doing wrong”. We don’t have to do it.

I’m not going to go along with it – with the craziness that bingeing and dieting over and over brings me – because i don’t have to. I don’t have to hold onto this shit like it’s some precious special part of me. It’s not. I am not special because I am not as heavy as I could be or because I am flawed in my eating history. My problems don’t make me unique and I don’t have to carry them as if they were my life’s work. I don’t have to believe that this is unfixable. Nothing good comes from that.

There is no positive side of still holding on to this part of myself. I don’t see any benefit to continuing it so I’m just going to stop. I don’t want to torture myself anymore. I don’t want to cause more struggle and pain. I see more benefit in relaxing about my “flaws”, relaxing about what I eat, relaxing in the standards I hold myself to.

I refuse to participate in the bullying of myself.

Are you here? Have you arrived at this place too? When you do, it really is as simple as just saying “I don’t want to do this to myself anymore.” We have to want to stop more than we want to continue.

I deserve more. I will feed my body the way it wants to be fed. I will care for it the way it wants to be cared for. I will not torture myself anymore.

We can uncomplicate it if we want to.

Let go. There’s no prize or reward to holding on to your pain or for believing you are unfixable or for wanting to struggle.

No more.

What would happen if you let go of it (it being your problem) for a week? for a month? for a year? forever? What would happen? Do you feel like it would be a catastrophe? Your life would completely fall apart? Would it fall apart briefly but you know you’d ultimately right yourself and be ok?  If you recognize that all the important pieces of your life would still be intact if you let go of this – you’re ready. You can let this go. If you think you desire not struggling with this shit more than you want to keep this pain, you are ready. Set it free. Let it go.

Letting go of it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t have goals and don’t want to improve your fitness level or lose weight. Sometimes we think that not having a food issue anymore means giving up on how we look or feel about our bodies. It doesn’t have to mean that. You may find that those things are actually easier when you aren’t clinging so tightly to the preconceived notions and ideas that are keeping you stuck and miserable.

If what you believe and think was working, you’d be there by now, yes? But you’re not. You’re still struggling up and down with the same 10, 20 or 30 lbs and you still find it challenging to choose meals in a restaurant that you “want” vs. what you “should” have. This shit isn’t working for you, so why are you working so hard for it?? Don’t.

Again, this part is not that complicated. You can put it down.

Take a few minutes to think about how your life would be if you chose to let go of this struggle once and for all and instead chose to put caring for yourself far above weight or food stuff. Go to a quiet place with a pen and paper and answer the following questions about this problem (our need to diet, to overeat, to hold our bodies hostage). Feel free to answer in the comment below, on Facebook or even by shooting me an email (I will respond to you!). Are you ready to uncomplicate things?

Are you ready to uncomplicate things-

I sincerely believe that one of the main routes out of our eating and body struggles is through self-reflection. Get to know yourself, how you feel, what you think, what is just under the surface! When it’s not a secret anymore, when we aren’t hiding from ourselves, it’s hard to not want to do better for ourselves. I’ve cycled up and down in all these places that I write about so many times and the only time I’ve felt like I wasn’t constantly grappling for stable ground was when I decided to put caring for myself first instead of letting my eating issues dictate my day. I know you can do the same.

One of the most helpful things in the world is sharing your struggle with another person. I invite you to schedule a free mini session with me to discuss your goals and challenges around dieting and body image. How can I be of support to you? Do you get my emails?

10 Tips to Help Stop “Night Time” Eating

Can you sit down, chew thoroughly and eat in front of others? It's one key skill to learn to stop overeating (and nighttime eating).

Can you sit down, chew thoroughly and eat in front of others? It’s one key skill to learn to stop overeating (and nighttime eating).

You feel like you do ok with your eating all day but when night time comes, you sometimes feel like you can’t curb your hunger. You have dinner but before the meal is over, you are already thinking about the cheese popcorn in the pantry. You buy a snack for your kids but you find yourself eating most of it when you’re packing their lunches at night. And what feels worst of all is that you usually do it when no one else is looking. You’re frustrated. This behavior is interfering with your weight loss goals, how you feel about yourself and you’re so tired of going to bed full and bloated. Every day you get up and think to yourself “I’m not going to pick after dinner tonight!” but then another day happens and you did it again. Uggg. You totally feel like you have no control over this!

Here’s something that might be hard to hear but you need to know it:  Night time eating is not beyond your control. We tell ourselves it is and we’re constantly told that it is so we come to believe that the responsibility lies somewhere outside of us. What sucks about believing that is that it keeps us stuck and feeling helpless. It keeps us feeling like we’ll never get better because we’re not in power. I’m asking you to believe that you do have the power to change. Believing that’s even possible is the only way we ever make progress.

There are things we do, habits, foods we eat and ways we think about ourselves that keep us getting up and heading into the kitchen. To stop this habit (because that is what it ultimately is now) we have to look at each of these things and see how they might be creating a situation where we are more tempted to eat.  A simple example of one of the ways we keep ourselves stuck in this pattern is that if you are under eating or eating low quality refined carbs all day long, there is no way that you won’t be tempted to eat in the evening. It becomes basic math at that point.

If you work to put all 10 of these things into your life, you will find that the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry is not as strong. Think of these tips as armor, as protection, as fortitude to not do what you’ve always done – to have the strength to do something different, to be thoughtful about our choices and make caring for ourselves a priority.

Please know that there are a lot of ways out of this but there isn’t just one single “trick” or tweak you can use to stop it from happening.There’s no quick fix for most of us and recognizing that can go a long way in your success.  Just brushing your teeth after dinner or having a glass of water won’t be enough – you need to look deeper at your whole day and food “life” to build up the ability to resist overeating.  Resist probably isn’t the right word – when you are eating the right things for your body and doing it for the right reasons, not overeating can be easy (and I only know this now after years of struggling).

If we want to stop nighttime eating, or overeating in general we have to look at our whole “eating life”, act like a detective and “investigate” ourselves and then be committed to taking new actions. This is how we effectively make changes.

Here are 10 of my best tips to stop nighttime eating:

1.   Make sure your meals are solid.

By “solid” I mean that they need to contain enough nutrition to get you to the next meal. Whether you choose to do 3 meals a day or smaller more frequent meals is up to you – but make them count. Your meals should always contain a good amount of protein, fat and fiber. An iceberg lettuce salad with fat free dressing isn’t even going to get you through an hour and if you actually ate your own arm later I would not be that surprised!

Eat real foods that satisfy and sustain you. One of the most common reasons we overeat is because we’re actually HUNGRY! We starve ourselves all day, limiting calories and portions or eating foods that don’t have any staying power (foods lacking protein, fiber or fat) and when we finally get home and settle in for the night, we can’t control ourselves because there isn’t enough energy in our body and our monkey brain takes over (usually going for simple carbohydrates like sugar and refined flours). Overeating is way less likely when you actually have quality food in your body keeping things humming.

2.   Snacks too.

If you’re eating enough at each meal, it’s possible to even skip snacking (and you won’t miss it) but I know for some of you that isn’t going to happen so if you’re going to have a few snacks a day – make them nutritious ones! Nutritious doesn’t have to mean boring, bland or not fun – an apple with peanut butter, an avocado w/ sea salt or hummus with sliced vegetables are all great choices. If you can’t think of a well rounded snack (remember: protein, fiber AND fat), think of snack time as another meal time, even if just a small one – eat leftovers from dinner, have some oatmeal – whatever would make a high quality meal would also work as a snack even if you need to make it a smaller portion.

3.   Plan ahead.

Look, none of us want to think about food, shopping and preparing it more than we have to. We have enough to do already. But, if you are serious about wanting to make any changes to your diet or eating habits, they are not going to happen unless you have a plan in place and you are willing to make changes. You don’t need to know what you are eating every day for the next month, but you do need to know that you have your next few meals at your fingertips and can pull it together relatively easily. If you come home from work and are starving and don’t have a meal in mind (and ingredients ready to go), you’re going to order take out, eat all the ice cream in the freezer or chow down on a bag of chips. If you planned ahead and know you are coming home to a quinoa salad that you already made waiting for you in the fridge or that you have vegetables all chopped up so that you can make a fast stir fry, you will feel less out of control and again, less tempted by the stuff you don’t want to eat in the first place.

You can’t get from where you are to where you want to go without actually taking some concrete changes and that does include spending some time each week on preparing healthy foods. Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to prepare healthy food. You have the same amount of time as everyone else and quality food really deserves to be higher on all our priority lists. It’s literally what we are made of. It matters.

If you hate thinking about what to eat and shopping you can also try one of those meal delivery services like HelloFresh, Plated or Blue Apron where they deliver a few meals worth of ingredients for specific recipes each week. We actually tried Hello Fresh this past week and the three meals we had were actually really good. It was a nice treat to have food delivered on my doorstep and know what I was making on certain nights without having to think about it and all 3 were super easy to make. I’m kind of a skeptic but I was pleasantly surprised (I also like that I can turn my subscription on and off each week) and we will use them occasionally. If you want to try HelloFresh, I have a referral code you can use and you’ll get $40 off your first delivery – enter TNNUAR at checkout (FYI – I get $20 off my own delivery if you use it). I’m hoping to try out Plated and Blue Apron in the coming months too and I will do a write up of all 3 if I do!

4.  Stop eating foods you hate.

If we’re going to make sure we’re eating balanced meals and snacks and we’re taking the time to prepare them so that we have something solid to eat, it makes absolutely no sense to dread eating it. If you hate bean sprouts, don’t eat them. If you hate cold salads, don’t eat them. If chicken is not your favorite, don’t eat it. There is a whole world of healthy, nutritious whole foods that can supply your body with the energy it needs – you don’t have to eat things you don’t like. If we spend all day feeling like we’re only putting food in our mouths that we abhor, it’s going to send us running to the kitchen faster than our feet can carry us. How many times have you finished a meal that tasted like cardboard and even though you technically were full, you found yourself thinking about when and how you could eat something else? It will gnaw at you all day. Don’t do this to yourself. Eating better doesn’t mean having your food taste like crap. Eat food that you enjoy (or at least don’t mind) and there will be less temptation in the kitchen.

What whole foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds etc) do you enjoy? Focus on increasing the ones that you are more than willing to eat.

5.   But be willing to try new things.

It’s totally fine if you hate kale but you are open to eating other greens. Maybe you don’t like sweet potatoes but you are a fan of butternut squash. Cool. But if you tell me you hate all vegetables, I’m going to call bullshit (or assume that you are still 10 years old). There is no way in the world that you have tried every vegetable out there and you certainly haven’t had each one prepared multiple ways. If you hate vegetables, what is it that you hate about them? Odds are you just don’t like the way they’ve been prepared most of the times you have eaten them. No one likes overcooked carrots or the faintly metal flavored peas from a can and if you are still eating fat-free dressings on your salads, it’s probably the dressing you don’t like, not the poor vegetables. Open your mind and try new foods and new recipes. Find at least a few new ways that you do like. I personally hate raw mushrooms but sauteed?! I love them! Also note that our tastes change over time. I remember hating tomatoes and onions as a teenager and even in my early 20’s, but I actually eat them all the time now (in fact, I get mild anxiety when the pantry is running low on onions – we use them in everything here!). You’re an adult, so eat like one.

Still think you hate vegetables? You think quinoa is awful?  beans are gross? Come over my house for dinner and I will show you differently.

Try new foods - even ones you thought you hated as a child. You might be differently now!

Try new foods – even ones you thought you hated as a child. You might be differently now!

6.   Commit fully.

When you do decide to eat something not so nutritious – candy, ice cream, chips etc – don’t eat it UNLESS you can let yourself truly enjoy it. Commit to eating it and allow yourself to feel nothing but joy in every bite. If you know it will lead you to a dark path of emotion filled with shame and other bad feelings, it’s best to find something more wholesome that will satisfy the craving you’re after. We don’t want to eat in shame – it just keeps us repeating the behavior we want to stop. Indulging in negative feelings about food during and after we eat will lead you to the very night time binge you’re trying to avoid by reading this post. What’s so wrong with enjoying the food you do put in your mouth anyway??

7.  Eat fat. No really. Eat fat.

Again, I’m going to hammer on those of you who are still trying to find peace with food by restricting calories and eating low-fat or no-fat everything. You will NEVER be satisfied eating fat free candy bars and fat free cheeses and a binge will always be around the corner when you try to satisfy yourself this way. You will always be looking for another taste because you never got what you were looking for. If eating fat free really was the secret to not overeating and to losing weight, none of us would struggle with these things. It didn’t work in the 90’s and it’s still not working now. If you desperately want a candy bar (or cheese), have one and make sure it is exactly what you want. No one overeats or “gets fat” because they ate one full fat candy bar a week. It’s the 700 fat free candy bars we’ve eaten in secret this year (and the 250 “Skinny” ice creams we ate after those because the candy bar didn’t cut it) that led to the weight gain. Please put fat back in your diet and you will notice the urge to scavenge in the kitchen after dinner is majorly lessoned.

8.   Sit down when you eat, eat in front of others if they are there and chew thoroughly.

I’ll bet that when your nighttime overeating pops up you find that you are shoveling food in your mouth quickly and hardly chewing. You’re probably also doing it in secret – after the kids have gone to bed and maybe while your husband is watching TV or is taking a shower. You might pick while you are putting dinner away. You might graze while packing lunches for tomorrow. You might get up from the couch on every commercial break to sneak a handful of chocolate chips – knowing that you can swallow them quick enough that when you come back to the room no one will even know that you had them! I’m not being cruel by calling these things out. I’m not judging you if you are doing this – I know these things because I have done all of them myself.

Years ago, I remember waiting until my husband (“boyfriend” at the time) went outside for a cigarette so that I could scarf down another piece of pizza. He wouldn’t have cared if I had a piece of pizza in front of him (it was what we had for dinner anyhow) but I knew it was more than I needed to eat because I wasn’t hungry, I just “wanted it” – so I felt I had to hide it. I ran to the kitchen and stood over the pizza box, inhaling the bread as fast as I could. I barely made it back to the living room by the time he came back in. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t even taste it. And my throat actually hurt from trying to eat it so fast so I wouldn’t be caught. Can you relate to any of this? If you eat in secret, if you eat quickly and you eat standing up you are making it too easy for you to keep eating at night. If you’re going to eat, please resolve to do these three things: You will sit down, you will chew thoroughly and if there is someone else in the home, you will eat in front of them. If you are unwilling to do those things, you are not hungry. You are eating to fill another need (that’s another post) and you are feeling ashamed of your eating. We don’t want to eat in shame (remember it keeps us in the cycle). Slow down. Chew well. Sit down and enjoy. And anything you are willing to eat shouldn’t be hidden.

9.   Talk about it.

Most problems in life feel less overwhelming if we have someone we can share our struggle with. If you are dealing with this and yet no one in your life knows about it, it’s going to feel like this dark looming cloud in your life. Talking about it will bring you some emotional relief (like you’ve been carrying a suitcase on your back and suddenly it’s gone!) and it can also give you a source of support and accountability. Tell a friend that you can’t stop eating at night and you might be amazed when they tell you they’ve been there too and share what helped them stop . . .or you may share with your husband that you want to stop eating less after dinner and he may say “I didn’t even know you were eating anything after dinner!” and you can tell him that you tend to sneak bites in between commercial breaks of your favorite shows. You can then ask him to check in with you if he sees you getting up in between commercials. This might be totally out of your comfort zone (and I’d put money on it that it is if you are currently in the midst of this) but there is some way, someone in your life with whom you can share your challenges with. Knowing that someone else understands or that there is someone else who can help hold you accountable can be a huge motivator in sticking to changes. And keeping it all inside just gives it more power over you.

If you don’t feel like you can share with the people closest to you, do you think there might be a part of you who doesn’t want to stop this behavior? I get it – we hate and love our eating at the same time. It’s comfort and torture. It’s love and disgust. This might be a big step for you so for now, just think about who you could share with and what you might say if you had the conversation. It doesn’t have to big a big deal or a huge reveal – it can be as simple as “Hey, i’m having a tough time controlling myself from eating tortilla chips lately and I don’t want to eat them anymore. Do you mind if we don’t keep them in the house for a little while?” You might be worrying what they’re going to think of you when you tell them, but guess what? Everyone has some part of themselves that they think is some huge awful secret thing that in actuality isn’t a big deal to other people. You share something with them and next thing you know, they’re sharing something that’s been burdening them too. It’s healing for everyone. And if someone makes fun of you for revealing your pain to them? Fuck them, they’re an insensitive asshole and you can take some pride in knowing that you’re more evolved than them.

10.  Figure out what you are truly hungry for.

This might be obvious, and in fact, if you read my posts normally you probably were wondering when I was going to say this! If you’re not eating at night because you are hungry (working in #1, #2 and #7 will help manage that), you are probably eating because there is something else you are hungry for. You might be at that point in your life when you wish you had spent more time on your art, you might be avoiding acknowledging that you’re in a loveless relationship, or you might be longing for a change in scenery and it’s time for a move to a big city. The only person who knows what you are craving in your life is you and you will keep eating at night until you figure out what that hunger is and give yourself permission to have it.

We head into the kitchen because we feel something we don’t like or are uncomfortable with. We might be triggered by an event on a specific day that brought up these feelings or it might be a feeling we have daily.

Try this exercise
To start to figure out what you are hungry for, ask yourself these questions (on paper please!):

What am I feeling when I get up to eat?
What is it? Describe the feeling the best way you can.
Why do you think you don’t want to feel this feeling?
What will happen if you allow the uncomfortable/painful feeling to just be?
What do you think this feeling is trying to tell you?

What would you like to feel instead of this?
What do you think needs to happen in order for you to feel this (your preferred) way?

Write these down, without any requirement that you figure it out right now. Sleep on it. Let your thoughts marinate a bit. You may find that you wake up knowing exactly what you are hungry for (and then we talk about how you can get it) or you might find it hits you three weeks from now when you are in the grocery store. We have so much wisdom inside us and if we take the time to look for our own answers and do the work it takes to reveal and apply them, sometimes we find some really good stuff we didn’t even know was there! Trust that you have the answers and will figure it out!

I hope you find the tips in this post helpful and take the time to investigate your own eating life to lessen your night time eating!  You have more control over your eating than you think but it does take some active changes to feel that way. These are all things I use regularly to keep myself on track and I can’t tell you how much easier my relationship with food is when I pay attention to these things.

What has helped you keep your own nighttime eating in check? And what do you find still troubles you? I’d love to hear from you, you can reach me either in the comments or you can send me an email.
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How long will it take to heal your disordered eating and body image Issues?

photo credit: lost in the mirror via photopin (license)

There isn’t a neatly marked timeline to follow. Be patient and keep moving forward.                                                 photo credit: lost in the mirror via photopin (license)

“I thought I’d have made more progress by now.”

“I’m so tired of thinking about this.”

“Why is my friend doing better than me?”

“When will it be easy?”

Sometimes clients express these thoughts about their journey and I’ve certainly thought these things myself at different points along the way. I wish there was a simple answer. Losing weight often is easy – eat less, get more activity etc., but working through the reasons you gained weight in the first place can be time consuming, painful and sometimes feel like you’re just trying to keep your head above the water. You may not feel like you’re making any progress day to day or week to week. It can be frustrating, angering even!

You believe you are “working” so hard at this – you’ve thought about your weight in some way forever! So why do you feel like you are in the same place you were 6 months ago? A year ago?! Ug!! It’s maddening sometimes.

There’s no clear, fixed schedule or timeline for healing from disordered eating or body image issues. Everyone is on a different journey, has different triggers, unique habits and support systems in place, all of which contribute to how well they’ll do in the long run.

I can’t give you a schedule of when you’ll be “fixed”. But one thing I know for sure is that we’re all in a rush to get “better”, to not have this hanging over our heads anymore and for most, to do as little as possible to get there. I know I did – I literally tried to pray the fat away!

I remember being a child, laying in my bed and praying to Mary (I was raised Catholic) to help me not be “fat” anymore. I thought she’d understand more than Jesus or God, you know, being a woman and all. I asked Mary if she could make it so that every calorie I ate would actually burn 2 calories.  I don’t know how old I was exactly but I was still young enough to believe in “magic” but yet old enough to know about calories and their effect on weight and I knew that if I could burn 2 calories for each 1 I ate, then I’d lose weight in no time!

She wasn’t able to answer that prayer (maybe she was busy that day) but it was the first of many occasions where I daydreamed about what it would be like to not be heavy anymore. Ironically, I don’t  look at my elementary school pictures today and see a “fat” kid. I was mildly larger than the other kids – which certainly got worse as I got older – but I was not overweight enough to have to pray it away!

The result of thinking about my weight and food from such a young age, and gaining and losing so much over the years, is that by the time I reached adulthood and was ready to deal with my problem with food, I already felt like I had been “dealing” with it and “working” on it for years!

Thinking like this made me only give partial effort to whatever I did try – because I was, in a way, super resentful that I even had to work at it – since I had been “working” at it, at least by beating myself up and thinking about it for so so long! I expected any diet, workout or self-help book I got myself involved in to solve my issue in 2 months, 3 tops! But, I had been eating and thinking about my body in a disordered way for a long as I could remember. How the hell long will it take to get over this?

I have a rough mathematical answer for you. I give credit to Charlotte York for the formula.

In the Sex and the City episode Take Me Out to the Ballgame (Season 2, Ep 1)  Carrie and Big have broken up and Carrie is pretty depressed about it. Miranda, of course, is totally annoyed that Carrie isn’t back in the dating scene already but Charlotte tells Carrie that it takes “half the total time you went out with someone to get over them”. Only a month has passed since they broke up and Carrie and Big dated for a year so Charlotte suggests that Carrie will be over him in 5 more months.

I think Charlotte’s breakup timeline is probably similar to our food and body image stuff. If you’ve been struggling with food, dieting, overeating, restricting, criticizing your body etc for decades, you can’t expect to heal from it fully in 6 months or a year. It may take YEARS and years.

Later in the episode, Charlotte says “You can’t just push yourself into feeling good. The only way to get over someone is to feel really bad, cry to your girlfriends and replay what you hated about him over and over in your head all day.”  Those specific items aren’t what you need to do to make progress in your relationships with food and your body BUT Charlotte’s sentiment is in the right place – she’s telling Carrie that she has to focus her mental energy and take actions that will help loosen the hold Mr. Big has on her. He’s a habit that she has to break with new habits. In the same way, we have to use our mental energy and physical actions to take steps and create thoughts that will heal us, that will create new patterns and new habits. You have to be conscious with your thoughts and you have to make room in your life for the things that you know support the habits you want to acquire. (I could use that whole episode or any episode of SATC as a metaphor / analogy for this stuff – but really that would be a whole other blog! haha!)

Huh? My eating or body image issues are a habit?

That’s really all most of our shit is – habits we’ve picked up along the way. Things we’ve gotten really good at because we do them repeatedly. Now it’s time to get good at something else – not doing those things that are causing you pain and doing something else constructive instead.

Let me give you some examples!

If you’ve gotten into the habit of getting up off the couch during commercial breaks to look for snacks in the kitchen – you’re going to feel compelled to do it on every commercial break. You may almost feel physically pulled to the kitchen or almost like you’re on autopilot if you’ve been doing it for awhile. How long you’ve been doing it for will determine how difficult it is for you to break this habit. To break this habit, you’re going to have to associate something else with those commercial breaks – this might mean turning off the TV and finding a different activity entirely. Or it might mean doing jumping jacks during commercials or maybe folding laundry. And when you first try these new things, you may be successful 3 days in a row and then resort back to your old ways. Next time you may go 5 days in a row and then go back.  The point isn’t that you went back to your previous habit (that’s bound to happen) – the important thing is that you keep getting up and trying to change it for the better.

We know that often people overeat / binge because they are trying to numb themselves from feeling something that they don’t want to feel (unhappiness in their marriage, confusion in their career, worries about the future etc). Sure there is often some deeper psychological stuff going on but the simplest explanation for what it actually is is that it’s a habit that was created (regardless of the circumstances that created it).  Ultimately it is an action they took a few times, subconsciously or consciously noticed the effect it had on how they felt (it mitigated the pain they were feeling), and so they did it again, and again. It becomes a learned response. X happens and Y is the action taken. Stopping it starts with allowing those negative feelings to just be there – but it doesn’t end there.

Stopping someone from bingeing doesn’t happen with one single habit change – you have to go at it with multiple things, repeatedly and for a long time. Those things will be different (to a degree) with each person.

One of my clients has been successful in preventing binges by making sure she gets plenty of sleep, speaking her mind at work and at home (instead of keeping things bottled inside), writing in a journal daily and by eating more fat and protein in place of refined carbohydrates. She doesn’t just HOPE that these things happen – she creates space for them in her life by setting a bedtime and sticking to it, scheduling journal writing time etc. She essentially creates a plan to fit these new habits in daily.

Some of the ways I avoid bingeing is by eating a diet that is 90% whole foods (the sugar / crunchy / salty junk sets me off), caring for my body with frequent exercise and by doing lots of thought work that affects my daily outcome (Check out Self Coaching 101 by Brooke Castillo – great tool for changing your results!). How do I make space for this stuff? I plan for it. I make grocery shopping, meal prep, exercise and thought work priorities in my life.  Bingeing used to be treated like a priority. I couldn’t wait to get home from work to zone out and eat (or in the car if I could get to a store first). I made space for it and it became a firmly ingrained habit. I didn’t get where I am today in a few weeks or months. It has taken YEARs of trial and error,  repeated attempts and conscious, focused actions!

Do these new habits that we’ve made space for mean we NEVER go back to our old ways? No. Pretty much everyone slips into their old behaviors at some point, sometimes many many times. Even me. I’ve slipped back into my old habits more times than I can count but you know what? Each time it has happened I have learned something from it – a new thing to watch out for, a new tool to keep me taking good care of myself possibly and certainly more experiences to share with all of you. I should also mention that each time I’ve “fucked up” it’s been less serious than previous times. What I consider a binge for me now, I would not have considered a binge 3 years ago. What I consider crappy eating today doesn’t look like my crappy eating from 5 years ago. I am always making progress and always working to do better.

It’s not easy but it’s also not hard all of the time either, I promise! Sometimes things will just click and you feel like “I’m going to make it!”, other times you will feel like you’re not making any progress at all. My advice to you is to:

  • Keep going no matter what. Creating new habits/responses requires time. You are actually creating new neural pathways in your brain when you repeat a task over and over and it will get stronger the more often you do it.
  • Get conscious – get to know yourself. Learn all of your habits, thoughts and how you may try to lie to yourself (it’s only 1 bite!).
  • Keep track of all that you’re trying – what’s working? what’s not?
  • Note where you are getting support – friends, family, coaches, therapists? Who knows about your struggle and cares about your success? Where else can you get support?
  • What resources you have read, watched and listened to? What kind of resources speak to you the most?
  • What tools help you to connect to your body in a positive way? Mindful or intuitive eating? Throwing out the scale? Keeping a food journal? Gentle exercise? Figure those things out and do them often.
  • What things trip you up? What situations trigger you to choose old habits? Make a plan to prepare for these situations so that when they pop up you know what to do.
  • Keep track of your accomplishments no matter how small. Where have you made progress? What good habits have become almost 2nd nature to you? Keep this list handy to look at on those days when you feel like you are at square one and it will make you feel proud.
  • Have patience. Settle in. There’s no rush. Giving up keeps you in the pain that only seems easier because it’s familiar!

As I said earlier in this post, there is no concrete timeline for healing your relationship with food and your body. It may take far longer for you than it does a woman in your yoga class or less time for you than your roommate from college. Your timeline is unique because the circumstances, relationships, thoughts and experiences that created the eating and body image problems (habits) you have today are yours. Try not to compare where you are with where someone else is.

You may have an issue with food or with how you think you look but you are also smart, resourceful, persistent and deserving of a peaceful food and body life. You are also capable of taking new actions towards the life that you DO want. Even if you’ve been struggling with dieting, bingeing or criticizing your body for 50 years, there is the possibility for change if you settle in for however long it will take and keep taking dedicated action daily. Don’t give up.