Tag Archives: emotional eating coach

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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The Toll Overeating Takes On Us Physically

Think it's just about your weight? I hate scare tactics but sometimes we need a reality check.

Think it’s just about your weight? I hate scare tactics but sometimes we need a reality check.

Everyone knows that eating too much, too frequently can make us fat.

And that seems to be the main motivation most people have to not overeat – they’re worried about the effect eating too much has on their waistline.

But did you know that there are a lot of physical problems that can develop if we overeat too often?

When I decided to finally lose weight, after topping out at 225 lbs, my motivation was part “I want to be skinny and hot” and part “I don’t want to die young like my mom.”

My mom wasn’t grossly overweight, but I know a big part of the reason she isn’t here today was due to lifestyle choices (smoking, not exercising etc) and I knew my lifestyle choices were going to take me down a similar path. Diabetes plagued the maternal side of my family. My mom, Aunt, Pepe and Meme, all died young, all partially from complications due to type II diabetes.

Diabetes doesn’t just affect overweight, sedentary people BUT, I knew that if I remained sedentary and didn’t change my eating habits and my weight, that the diagnosis would be a guarantee with my family history. I also had high blood pressure (another genetic gift from my ancestors!) and worried about my heart, my lungs (I had asthma too) and how every other system in my body was affected by my weight.

I knew my binge-eating, overeating, chronic dieting and being in the “obese” category would contribute to my long term health – but at the time, other than possible cardiovascular disease and diabetes, I didn’t realize how many health conditions can arise because of our eating habits.

I was motivated to change my weight out of fear of death. Sounds dramatic but that’s where my head goes.

I was motivated to change my eating habits because of a fear of health complications while I was alive.

I was able to make both those things a reality when I started to see the payoff in my health (more energy, clearer skin, better asthma control, lower weight, less illness etc).

I was able to maintain those changes (finally) after a lot of trial and error but what finally made it stick, was the internal emotional and mental work I talk about so much on this blog.

Some of us overeat out of boredom, because it’s habit (our families ate a lot so we do too), because we’re out of touch with our hunger cues, or because we’re trying to satisfy an emotional hunger. Regardless of the reason you might be overeating and regardless of where you are in your journey . . .maybe you need to hear this.

Maybe hearing me wax on week after week about getting to know yourself and tuning in to your body instead of dieting aren’t cutting it (for you), maybe you need to hear something else.

I’m not a fan of scare tactics but sometimes we need a reality check, right?

If you don’t care about having a good relationship with yourself, with food and your body, maybe what you need to hear today is all shit that can go wrong with your body if you continue on the path you are on today. If you keep overeating, if you keep bingeing, if you keep playing this game of restrict and consume – well, there are a few things you might have to worry about that go beyond just going up a size, that go beyond your family predisposition to diabetes.

The emotional stuff of food is important and really, in my opinion the key to lasting health, but you can’t get there if you don’t recognize the role your daily habits have in all of it.

So let’s get into it.

What other physical health problems can arise when you don’t listen to your internal cues about when to stop eating?

Here are just a few that you might not be aware of:

It’s well known that people suffering from bulimia and anorexia are likely to have tooth decay issues, from stomach acid during the purging process (in the case of bulimia) or from a lack of nutrients (in the case of anorexia) but did you know that people who binge-eat can also have tooth problems arise from the habit?

Our teeth are made to withstand a certain amount of wear and tear over many years but eating far more than our bodies need, and doing so frequently can physically wear down the teeth faster than normal. All that extra chewing and chomping can also cause damage to the gums.

Eating extra food frequently also exposes the teeth to more of the acidic foods that wreak havoc on tooth enamel! One of the worst offenders is sugar and those of us who have a history of bingeing love our sugar-filled foods. Another common way your teeth can suffer from eating too much is if you have serious heartburn (such as in the case of those with GERD) – the acid from your stomach can enter the mouth and get to that enamel again!

Dental work is expensive, painful and time consuming, and healthy teeth and gums are supremely important to your overall health – it’s really not just cosmetic. If you want your teeth to last into your twilight years you have to take care of them and in addition to brushing, flossing, getting regular check ups, it also means avoiding habits that speed up damage – of which, frequent overeating, is one.

Check out this article from Sept 15, 1948 in the Chicago Tribune. It’s old news that overeating is bad for your teeth (and apparently we should remember to take off our lipstick before we go to the dentist – haha!).

Gastrointestinal Upset and Disorders
If you’ve ever overeaten to the point where you need to go put on a pair of comfy sweatpants to allow for the expansion of your belly, then you know what it feels like to have your digestive system at maximum capacity! You may have experienced gas, cramps or even heartburn (that one can also affect your teeth as mentioned above). It doesn’t feel good!

Overeating once in awhile is normal and it isn’t a big deal but when we overeat on a regular basis, we’re putting extra stress on the organs in our digestive system – stomach, gallbladder, intestines, liver, kidneys etc. They work hard each day to digest and process our food and waste so that we have energy and all systems in our body receive the nutrients they need, but when you fill up your stomach with a ton of food at one time, and do it repeatedly, everything gets clogged up. Tired. Slows down. Can’t keep up. Chronic overeating can increase your risk of constipation, diarrhea, gallbladder disease, diverticulitis, pancreatitis and in some cases, cause the stomach to rupture.

One of the first places we “feel” things whether intuitively or physically is in the gut. Overeaters tend to override those signals because of the comfort eating gives us. Tune back into your body – if you are feeling frequent discomfort in your gut, it’s trying to tell you something. Don’t ignore this stuff.

Deficient in important nutrients
What? I know it sounds a little crazy but it can be a real issue. You’d think that if you’re consuming large quantities of food that you’d be consuming all the vitamins and minerals that you need but think about the foods that most people binge on – sweets, fried food, crunchy processed junk food etc – high sources of calories but low nutritional content. When we overeat, we overeat chips, cookies, candy, breads, cakes. No one is overeating lettuce, carrots and pomegranate seeds!

Heavily processed foods are usually lacking in important phytonutrients (flavonoids, chlorophyll, carotenoids etc) because the high heat or high chemical processing they go through destroys them. If you are consuming a lot of these processed foods in favor of fresh food, you’re not going to get valuable nutrients that can help protect you from disease.

This is not just a problem for those of us in the US. Even in places New Zealand and Brazil they are noticing the effects of low nutrient content and the wide availability of heavily refined products. Increase the amount of colors you eat in your daily diet and you’ll get a wider range of nutrients (and I’m not talking about colors provided by food coloring).

Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition where the liver accumulates excess fat which in severe cases can cause inflammation, scarring and in serious even liver failure. Doctors aren’t 100% sure what causes NAFLD but we do know that risk factors include obesity and many conditions that can be triggered by obesity. Overeating is a behavior associated with the disease.

By no means am I suggesting that if you have gallbladder disease, NAFLD, GERD or anything else that I mentioned here that you must be a secret binge-eater. And no, I don’t assume that if you’re overweight that you are doing these things either (people of all sizes struggle with this shit). Obviously there are MANY causes for all of these conditions – but if you stay on the overeating path long enough you majorly increase your risk of all sorts of complications.

What would motivate you to change? Is is something on the outside – your appearance or weight? Is it health worries like I talk about here (and something that motivated me)? Is it the internal stuff, like feeling confident in your skin and being at peace with your choices? Is it having more energy? Sleeping better? Not being in so much physical or emotional pain? Only you know what that pain point is for you.

For me, I couldn’t sleep at night because I was worrying so badly about my health. I needed a reality check to finally make changes – maybe you do too.

This isn’t to fat shame you. I believe some people are overweight, healthy and not doing things to harm their health. But you’re not healthy if you are overeating frequently regardless of your size.

Where do you begin? Baby steps. What is one healthy thing you can do for yourself today? Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.Newsletter Sign Up for Bottom of Blog Posts - 1-2016

You’ve set a goal, now how do you actually reach it?

photo credit: Nothing but dreams via photopin (license)

What’s that saying about reaching for the stars? Something about how even if you fail at least you’ll be among them? Better to get off the ground than to never start! Here’s how you make your dream a reality!  photo credit: Nothing but dreams via photopin (license)

Everyone has at least one big life goal in the back of their mind – whether it’s to lose weight, get more fit, run a marathon, reach a certain peak in their career etc. At first, there’s a fire and excitement and passion when thinking of that goal! We can’t wait until we reach it! We envision what it will feel like, look like and how different our life might be if it happened. How free, accomplished and proud would you be?

Then we come out of our daydream and start thinking about how long it will take to reach that goal and we become overwhelmed and disappointed. We don’t take action on the goal and 6 months from now we’ll be fantasizing about reaching that goal all over again. I’m sure some of you have already given up on a goal you set on New Years, right?? It happens to everyone at some point!

So how do you actually make it happen? How do you actually take that dream in your head and bring it to life?

Here’s the short answer: With specifics.

Here’s a graphic of the steps if you’re short on time – read on for more details!

Can you take these actions? I bet you can!

Can you take these actions? I bet you can!

Sit down with a pen and paper and get brainstorming! Create a list of all the things you can think of that it will actually take to reach that goal. What concrete steps will you need to take to make the dream a reality? To get from A to Z, what will you have to do?

Break the goal down into the smallest steps you can think of. If your goal is to run a marathon but you are mostly sedentary at the moment, one of your smaller steps is to begin exercising.

But what do you need to do to make that happen? Do you have a gym membership? Do you have a pair of good sneakers? Can you workout at home? When will you workout? Do you have clothes that are comfortable for exercise? What actions will you need to have taken before you can take on the more challenging aspects of marathon training?

Once you know what steps you need to take, try to organize them into a rational order.  In the above example of starting to exercise so that you can eventually run a marathon, the first steps may look something like this:
#1 Go shopping for sneakers and workout clothing.
#2 Purchase sneakers and workout clothing.
#3 Make an appointment with my doctor to get the ok to exercise.
#4 Decide what days and times I have available to exercise.
#5 Decide what kind of activity to start with.
#6 etc.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Often when we take on a new challenge, we aren’t totally sure of all the steps required until we start working on it. There are lots of things that we won’t know to list until we begin – know that it’s ok to edit your list multiple times if needed! It’s ok to revise and rethink your plan of attack several times! What matters more is that you are actually taking the actions on your list.

Once you have your list of steps – those concrete actions that make up all the steps needed to reach the goal you have in mind, you want to plan out and schedule them in a calendar!

No really. I’m not kidding. Don’t fight doing this step. It’s crucial.

I know those of you who are creative types or have ADD are sitting here going “I work better when I see where my focus is each day.” Uh-huh. Yeah. I’ve said and done that myself. How has that been working for you? Are you actually making progress on them with this plan of attack? If you are, great – you’re an anomaly – continue on! But most of us, myself included, just spin in circles when we go that route. It’s a form of procrastination that comes up out of fear! Don’t fall for it!

I find it helpful to look at how long you think it could reasonably take to accomplish the goal and break it down into 3 or 4 month increments. How many of the steps can you accomplish in 3 months time? If your goal is something that will take a year to accomplish, you would need to take action on 1/4 of the steps in your total list to be on track to complete the goal in one year’s time. (One year is just an example – depending on your goal, you may be looking at multiple years or only a few months) After those 3 or 4 months are up, check in – how are you doing? Are you on track? Great! Schedule out the next 3 or 4 months worth of action steps. If you’re not on track, assess what needs to change to get you there. Do you need to extend out your goal time line? Are certain steps taking longer than you planned? That’s ok – that’s reality! Maybe you’ve discovered that tasks you thought you could get done in 2 hours actually take you 5. Now that you know that you’ll have a more realistic schedule for the next few months. Once you know where you need to change things, get to work at scheduling those tasks!

Is it freaking you out to think 3 or 4 months out in the future? Ok. What steps can you take this week and next week? Start there and once you accomplish those you’ll build confidence that will help you be bolder in the weeks following.

Use any calendar you want for this task! I like using my google calendar because it updates on all the devices I use but you can use anything that you will be consistent using!  A paper calendar or a day planner like the Passion Planner or Leonie Dawson’s Workbooks are great options too (and can even help you get clearer about what you really want).

Next honor yourself by actually taking the actions you have planned and scheduled out. Showing up is the hardest part sometimes! Even if you get so far as to put all your steps in your calendar, a lot of us will get up each day and choose to ignore that calendar. Make a commitment to look at it each evening – so that you already have an idea of what you need to take care of tomorrow. I know you make time to be prepared for work meetings, doctor appointments and all of your children’s activities. These are all in your calendar and you make sure that they happen. You wouldn’t dream of blowing them off! Do the same for the action steps for your goals. Treat them as you would anything else that is important to you! They are not negotiable.

Don’t put something in your calendar that you have no intentions of doing. And if you have no intention of taking that step, please ask yourself why? What is holding you back?

That’s it. That’s how you make a goal a reality. 

There’s no magic to reaching goals other than having a clearly laid out path of action and then committing to yourself to take it.

And here’s something to remember if you still feel like it’s too much work to tackle that goal – know that that time is going to pass no matter what. So you’ll either reach that point in time having achieved what you wanted or you’ll reach that same point in time wishing you had started back when you first started thinking about it. Why not start right now?

You may be thinking “but my goal is more complicated than that! I can’t plan actions towards it!” But that’s very unlikely. The majority of goals can be broken down into small actions that added up over time equal the end result. If you’ve ever lost weight or got a job, any job, how did it happen? I’m guessing you went on a diet, started an exercise program, counted calories or something similar when you lost weight. And how long did you do it for? And how strictly? You took repetitive steps that resulted in weight loss. Same with getting a job, even if we’re talking a job at the mall food court in high school – at the bare minimum you walked into a business and filled out an application, probably received and answered a phone call and showed up on your first day of work.  Those are all actions, as basic as they may seem. Bigger goals, just mean MORE actions.

Sometimes the hard part is seeing the steps to your goal clearly – it’s tough to get started at all if you don’t know where to begin! If you need help translating this formula to a goal in your life, let’s set up a time to chat!  I can help you determine if your goal is reachable and how you can get there.

A Rant: Get off Your Stupid Phone and No You Don’t Need a Special Diet for the New Year!

I like to end the year by taking some time to recharge my batteries and I definitely did that this holiday season, though I will say I was somewhat forced into that as I came down with a cold just before Christmas (and I haven’t had a cold in almost 3 years)! Ug! Luckily it wasn’t a super bad one, thanks to the self-care I do all year. One good thing about getting sick always gives me an opportunity to sit still and think about what’s actually important to me and what’s not. There are two things I decided were going to be less important to me as we moved into the new year – and while they may seem arbitrary to this blog, they both can relate to those of you who have food issues!

What’s not that important?
1.Being a slave to social media – whether for your business or personally.
2. Finding a new diet or detox program to work off those holiday pounds as quickly as possible (especially if you are tired of repeat weight gain).

This will be a long one but if you can’t put your phone down or seek a quick diet fix every new year, please read on! Let’s get into it!

Put down your stupid phone and pay attention to your life and the people in it!
One of the things I learned really quickly with starting my own business was that I needed to have a strong social media presence – this means posting frequently, be engaging/interesting, sharing high value content and being personal while also being professional. I’ve worked really hard at it – while juggling other aspects of business. At times I’ve definitely enjoyed it, but holy crap it can be exhausting trying to keep this up (never mind the amount of time I spend on my personal account too!).

Part of recharging myself after a super busy year was taking a much needed break from Social Media. Normally, I work that in to my vacation time by scheduling a bunch of articles, photos, and other posts to be published on my business social media profiles while I’m away – so while I can take a break from the stimulation, but it looks like I’m fully engaged like everyone else. This is a great help but I never really get to fully disengage because I still need to comment and respond if followers interact with my posts – which leads me to checking social media a few times a day on my vacation. This time around, I just decided I wasn’t going to post and I wasn’t going to schedule anything – I didn’t even reply to private messages I received on social media. This was both incredibly difficult to do (what will they think if they don’t hear back from me within a few hours) and also super freeing . . .and it was exactly what I needed to do. Taking a major break meant I could actually be in my life, instead of worrying about what I was going to post tomorrow.

What does my social media break have to do with you? And certainly what does it have to do with your relationship with food?

A lot. I swear.

How much time do you spend on your electronic devices browsing, posting and commenting on social media? And why do you do it? I know I was talking about it from a business perspective, but you can relate it to your personal use of social media, I’m sure!

Many of us do it as a way to “zone out” from our feelings or things we’re worried about. We use it to deal with boredom. You may even be using it to not be present.  It’s even gotten to the point where we feel uncomfortable just watching a TV show with our our devices in hand. Have you ever gotten up on a commercial break to grab your phone to browse something non-specific? That urge to scroll something, anything, instead of being left with just our brains, is strong! It may feel harmless, but we actually actively avoiding being in our lives – feeling whatever we feel.

When we actively avoid our feelings – good or bad – we’re balancing on a slippery slope. Finding ways to not be present in our lives frequently leads to overeating. Not for everyone, but it is a bad habit to get into if you struggle with food.

I’ve noticed people doing this at parties or family events – we think we’re spending time with our families during these important events (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, holidays etc) but we’ve checked out by looking down at a gadget in our hand for most of it. At the end of the day, what do you remember about it? Was it a buzzfeed article you read that someone (you aren’t even sure who) posted on facebook? Maybe a photo posted on instagram by one of your favorite celebrities? Or was it a conversation with your favorite aunt? A funny thing said by one of your nephews? Or how delicious your cousin’s cheesecake was? At the end of the event, do you feel like you got to catch up with everyone you wanted to? Or do you feel like you didn’t even see anyone (but you know that a classmate of yours from 20 years ago just announced her engagement and that someone you once worked with is drunk posting and will probably deactivate their account when they see the fallout tomorrow morning)?
Be present. Commit to NOT zoning out from your life and the people in it. Your life satisfaction will increase - and guess what- This also translates to a less complicated life around food and that's amazing!!

How do you get out of this habit? Here’s some tough love. Put the phone in your purse or pocket and leave it there until you are ready to go home. If you use your phone to take pictures of the event, put it back in your pocket afterwards. You do not need to post the photos immediately. Your followers are hopefully busy living their lives as well. Post the photos (if you desire) later, when you are no longer in the company of the people in them! Enjoy the time you get with your family, your friends, EVEN if they drive you crazy. Sure, your curated instagram photos look like you had a fun day with your family or friends but did you? Were you more interested in creating an experience for your social media followers than you were in creating an experience with the people you love? There will come a day when you WISH you actually talked to the people you are related to – when they are no longer here. Don’t waste it on people you’ve never met on the internet who don’t really care about you.

It’s hard – I’ve caught myself pulling out my phone too – (I may be preachy but I’m not perfect) especially if I’m left alone for a few minutes at the dessert table! But whether I’m zoning out from people or around food, I know I’m choosing to live that way, and I don’t want that. I have a feeling you don’t either. Be present. Commit to NOT zoning out from your life and the people in it. Your life satisfaction will increase – and guess what? This also translates to a less complicated life around food and that’s amazing!!

No, you really don’t need a new diet or detox for the new year!
Part of me not only felt compelled to post on social media, but I also felt pulled to promote a weight loss or detox program for the new year (like every other health coach, nutritionist and health food guru out there). This is prime $$$$$ making time for anyone with a health or web based business. People overeat and drink heavily over the holiday season and come January they are ready to throw money at gym memberships they’ll never use and the newest diet program that promises them significant and (most importantly) fast weight loss. Then after the program is over, they usually go back to their old habits and by next January will be chasing down another quick program to lose the same pounds they gained yet again.

Sound familiar?

I get it, having dealt with my own weight demons for decades, I really do understand that urge to grasp at whatever will help you feel better as fast as possible. As a businesswoman, I also majorly feel the urge to offer you something for this time of year – there are others in the industry who would say I’m literally throwing money away by not promoting something (someone else will sell people things if I won’t). It’s not that I can’t put together a program that will help you with your holiday weight gain (I have one already actually) but like I mentioned in last week’s post – I’m in this for your (and my) longterm success. And I want to work with people who are looking for that longterm happiness with their bodies – not with people who just want to fix RIGHT NOW. No offense meant RIGHT NOW folks, but it’s just that if you want something immediately, you’re a little less inclined to put in the actual work that it will take to solve your issue.

So in addition to my social media break, I also let go of the urge to sell something for the new year. It feels awesome – and I was more able to relax during my break because I didn’t have to think about a program launch or if I had enough marketing planned. I’m working on planning out my year and I’m going to be offering some things that I truly feel are suited to you and that also truly feel right in my gut. But I’m not going to hawk restrictive and painful products to you that you’re going to need every January 2nd.

What does my objection to new year diets have to do with you? What does it have to do with your relationship with food?

One of my beliefs about healing our food lives, our food relationships is that we really have to look closely at it – we really need to get to know ourselves – intimately! How we operate, why we operate the way we do and how we try to elude ourselves. In seeking out (or for me, selling) quick fixes, we again aren’t looking at ourselves clearly – we’re afraid to admit and acknowledge why we gained weight and why we ate things we feel badly about in the first place. To ignore all of this means you’re just going to do it again, and again.

Are you ok with that? Are you going into a quick fix detox or cleanse believing that this will be the final time you resort to something like this? Do you believe that next year will be different if you could just drop 7 lbs right now?

Hey, maybe you’re ok with an annual or quarterly quick fix diet – for sure there was a time I felt this way too – but if I’m honest that was because I didn’t want to give up the food that I enjoyed when I gained weight each holiday season and I also believed that I couldn’t have these foods. I got over that. You can read about that here. Maybe you’re ok with living like that. But maybe you’re not!

If you are ready to focus on your longterm health, relationship with food, relationship with yourself AND willing to take active steps on them week after week (despite your full and busy life), you’re ready to work with me and I’m super psyched to have that opportunity. Because I know my longterm success as a coach depends on the success of my clients and their longterm success matters far more than if they can drop 8 lbs right after new years.

You don’t need a quick diet to make you feel better in 3 days. What you need is the fortitude to go at this one day at a time, to say “so what?” and “That’s ok” when you make a food choice you aren’t happy about. You need kindness for yourself and your choices and you need to recognize that your life is about far more than what you weigh, what you look like and what you put in your mouth.

How you approach eating and your body is closely tied with how you deal with everything in life. How likely are you to look for quick fixes at work, in your relationships or anywhere else? How uncomfortable are you with things not being perfect, good or easy? Oh my, I’m painfully uncomfortable when things aren’t “good”. It’s frequently been a trigger for my eating – when my Mom was in the hospital, when I was miserable in my job, when my husband and I fought. Fix it fix it, fix it I’d be screaming inside as I ate. Sound familiar??

How do you get beyond that? How do you stop looking for quick fixes? You have to sit in it. You have to recognize that sometimes life has a timeline that you’re not in control of (I know, this makes me want to pull my hair out too!). You have to keep your head above water during the hard times (whether that be illness, weight gain, stress etc) with dedicated a self-care routine (you decide what keeps you going – sleep, massage, exercise, social time, creative pursuits, sex, a good book etc). You must trust that things are going to work out the way they are meant to (that doesn’t necessarily mean that all will be well – people pass away, terrible things happen etc) and that no amount of worry or mental emphasis on the situation is going to make everything perfect. Dropping weight you’ve gained over the holidays in a longterm focused way, means taking it one day at a time (that fortitude we talked about earlier in this post), making decisions you feel good about as often as possible and remembering that you love people in your life whether they weigh 5 or 25 lbs more or less than they did the last time you saw them. Saying goodbye to the quick fix is easy when you focus on all that you have to offer this world and the people in it (instead of focusing on the numbers on the scale). Put your mental energy into other things in your life and if you do need to focus on something physical, focus on how good your body feels each day in your care (not how you look) and how your daily actions affect that. This will help you make better daily decisions that affect your longterm goals.

Well, I’ve ranted enough today! What are you fed up with in your own life? What behaviors and habits in your daily life are affecting your experience of it? Are you a slave to social media or quick fixes? How do you feel about that? Share with me in the comments or send me an email! And if you like this, fill out this form so you’ll get my weekly emails!

How was Your Year? What’s up for next year?

Year EndJust a few more days before 2015 is over. So hard to believe!

I feel like I just wrote my last email/blog post of 2014 so I’m totally amazed by how quickly this year went by! I like to spend some time at the end of each year to take stock and to see where I want to change or improve things. I think it’s an important thing to do to make sure I continue to grow and change!

This might be a boring post for you – I’m really just analyzing some of my year but I want to lay things out on the table. I’m a work in progress. I’m learning as I go. I’m not afraid to pick up and change course when I don’t like where I’m headed. I hope you see that too. If you don’t like how 2015 was for you, you can make 2016 different.

In one of last year’s last posts, I wrote about how I wanted more of a heart-centered business and to let go of some of the “shoulds” that were coming from my head and not my heart. I also wanted more calm. Let’s see how I did.

Heart Centered vs. the Shoulds
I’m going to say in this area, some ways I did great and in others not so great! I launched several new programs, some of which came from a “should” place. The meditation program was one of those. I felt I should run it – I love meditation, I think the mental and physical benefits of doing it are amazing and I want to share that with others in an accessible and easy way . . .but . . . I felt I had to launch that program because it was part of a package I bought from a company who creates programs for life coaches when I first graduated. It was supposed to take some of the work out of starting the online portion of a coaching practice – but that program (along with some others) was FULL of typos and poorly proofread components that I had to spend hours and hours just making it ready to sell. I eventually felt I had to launch it because #1 I wanted to make back the money I spent on it but also because I had put so much time into just making it usable! By the time I actually launched it my heart was no longer in it and I felt bitter about it. It’s hard to sell something you don’t feel great about! I believe in meditation and I think an online program can be a great tool for getting started in it, I just wish I had dropped this one before I spent so many hours trying to get it going. I felt sour about it and that showed in my marketing. It was not done in a heart centered way (which is hilarious since the subject was meditation!!). If the original program wasn’t such a mess, I could have spent a few hours making it more fitting to my niche – emotional eaters and those who want to stop dieting – but I was so annoyed by the poor quality control that I barely had the time to just correct their errors, let alone change the content to fit my specific needs. Oy! Not the heart centered approach I wanted to have. The “shoulds” won in this case.

But other than that, I’ve done really well staying focused on the heart. My writing has picked up (I’m sending out at least 1 email and blog post every week these days) and I’ve really started to focus on writing about where my heart is (emotional eating!). I’ve let go of more of the “generic” aspects of health coaching. Yes, many people need help with learning how to eat cleaner or how to get more sleep or what foods they should be avoiding etc. and I do help my clients with that, but more importantly, my clients and readers need a place where they can discuss what is going on with them, uncover why and how they can take steps to move forward. No one is going to be able to eat cleanly when their job and home life is falling apart or needs support. I can support them with a desire to eat cleanly but I’m better suited to help them understand why they are eating so poorly in the first place and they make much more lasting changes this way. Heart-centered has won in my writing and in my one on one coaching practice. Yay!

To remain true to my heart, I’ve also decided to retire the 12 Day Detox program. I hate the word detox and I hate the idea that you can fix your problems in 12 days . . .the program attracted people who were looking for the next quick fix diet and while I’m happy to be able to provide a short program to give people a taste of a cleaner lifestyle, it completely goes against my philosophy of making changes slowly so you can be in it for the long haul (and not yo yo diet the rest of your life). Will I never run a new short term clean eating program again? No, I’m sure I’ll do one again some day but you can bet it will fit into the mold I want for my business and my life better. Heart-centered win!

I guess in a way, I’m honing in more about where I want my coaching practice to be and that means doing away with some things – January will be 2 full years I’ve been coaching and while it’s been amazing, at times I felt like I was just plucking ideas out of the sky even if they didn’t fit in my long term plan. I want more cohesion in 2016. I am not a natural marketer and don’t know the first thing about branding but I know my “brand” included not promoting products that I’m not totally enamored with.

One of the things I mentioned in the post I linked to at the top of this post was that I wanted more calm in 2015. Two of the ways I maintain feelings of calm are #1 with physical activity and avoiding anxiety. I actually did great there!

I made physical fitness a priority – most weeks, I exercised at least 5 or 6 days, whether it was through barre classes, walks, weight lifting, HIIT intervals or biking and whether it was for 90 minutes or 10 minutes. I moved my body regularly and listened to it when it asked for time off.

And when I say avoiding anxiety – I know some of you are laughing at that, like you have a choice, right?! In getting to know myself really well (something that I think is key to making changes), I know now exactly what things bring out my anxieties and I take steps to not let that happen. One way I do this is with my thinking. I know, when I have a thought around worrying about my health (one of my anxieties), that if I let myself think about it, pay attention to it, my anxiety and worries will grow. If I say “ok brain, I hear that you are worried about this, but I am not going to give it attention right now” it stops the crazy worries from growing. It keeps me in a state of calm. And had I spent extra time indulging in those thoughts, the only thing i would have gained from it was more stress. I really made an effort to check myself and not indulge in the very thoughts that make me crazy. It’s probably been the best year so far for my medical anxiety in all the years I’ve had it! Yes, I still had a few episodes but the ones that I had were just a blip on the anxiety radar instead of a full on panic attack (or 3 day panic paralysis). Once you know what works for you with eating, anxiety, procrastination, whatever, you have to work it. You have to apply it for it to make a difference and I did and I am and it’s awesome. Calm is good.

Lastly, I want to talk about food and eating this year. My weight is the same as it was at the end of last year. I’ve been between 155 – 160 for over a year now. It’s a little more than I ultimately want to weigh but I feel good. I feel strong. It’s not a struggle to weigh this. I don’t have to restrict and I’m not going up and down in huge amounts. I eat whole foods most of the time but I can let go and enjoy a party feast or have a piece of cake or buy a bag of chips these days without all hell breaking loose. There are things I wish were different about my body sometimes but overall, shit’s not so bad! I know they are people who look at me and think “How can she feel ok being overweight?” and that’s their problem now, it’s no longer mine.

It feels way better to be a bit heavier than I want to be but have this freedom and relaxed attitude around food, than it did years ago to reach the weight I wanted to be but have to work really hard to stay there and worry about every bite that went in my mouth. Because of this (weighing more, relaxing my eating), I’m able to enjoy life more. I’m able to enjoy my time with friends and family more. I’m able to enjoy a meal out with my husband more. My time is mine to do with what I want and isn’t just a countdown to how many days I have to lose weight before an event. It took a lot of work to get here and it was not a fast process but it’s been so worth it. I’m using a heart centered approach with my choices around food and the payoff is huge. Heart centered win here!

What’s next
In 2016, I want to continue this heart-centered approach with my business and with myself. It just feels right!

How did you do in 2015? What were you hoping for more of this year? What did you want less of? What do you want for 2016? And ultimately do you believe you will get there? (Think about this deeply – If right now you do not think it’s possible to reach a 2016 goal then it won’t be possible to reach it.) Take stock of your year and hopes for next year and please share with me!



Overeating is a First World Problem (and how that might actually be a good thing)

12-22-15 blog post coverThese are a few things I’ve found myself getting pissy about the last few weeks:

  • I went to unload the dishwasher only to realize that I had forgotten to run it the night before and it still contained dirty dishes.
  • We ordered new LED battery operated Christmas candles for our windows (that were highly rated on Amazon) and when they arrived they didn’t come with batteries. We finally got batteries and turned them on and they were so dim you couldn’t even see that there were candles in the window.
  • I’m finally all caught up on my DVRs of The Walking Dead, only to realize that it’s the mid-season finale and I’m going to have to wait until February to watch it again. Grrr!
  • I was thawing a 7lb local pasture raised chicken in cold water all day, only to find out when it was time to start cooking that it was still frozen inside. I had to cook the thing for way way too long to ensure the entire bird had reached a safe temp, so most of the meat was dry and stringy.
  • It’s been so mild out (in the 40’s and 50’s) that I’ve been waking up in a ball of sweat because I’m using my usual winter bedding (flannel sheets and a down comforter) anyway.
  • I desperately need a massage (my hamstrings are a mess from barre & weight lifting) but my massage therapist isn’t available at a time when it’s convenient for me.

These are all #firstworldproblems, these are the problems of someone who is privileged.

A couple of months ago I was out with friends and I found myself complaining about having to find a new hair stylist as mine had recently moved to Houston (and I had been going to her since 2007). They all laughed. No matter how traumatic getting your hair cut or colored by someone new can be, it certainly is a “problem” many would rather have instead of the problems they are dealing with. While I’ve had my share of struggles and heartache over the years, the problems I have at the moment are REALLY not a big deal.

It’s all about perspective.

The fact that I have a dishwasher at all, when there are others who don’t even have clean water to drink or that I have dishes that need washing – that means I’ve been fed and my tummy is full.  That I have dim candles to return to Amazon, means I have a home to display them in. That I’m caught up on my binge-watching of the Walking Dead,  means that I have free time to relax and watch TV (and can afford cable & DVR). That my pasture raised chicken was still frozen, means that I have food to eat and even more so, that we’re well enough off that I can afford pasture raised animals. That I’m waking up in a ball of sweat due to too many blankets in these temps, means that I have a warm place to live and comfy place to sleep. That I even have a massage therapist and that I have barre classes to make my hamstrings sore, means that my basic financial needs are met and then some, leaving me a little extra money to use on these things.

I have it really good right now.

For the most part, I keep things in perspective. I know how good I have it and I’m supremely grateful for everything in my life but even when things are going well, it’s easy to find things that upset, annoy, frustrate or anger us and I’m no stranger to falling in with that.

One of the largest #firstworldproblems that I’ve ever had was being overweight. Overeating. Bingeing. Worrying about losing weight. Dieting. This problem has taken up a huge chunk of my brain’s energy over the years.

But, as much as overeating and being overweight is a real problem to the person dealing with it, it is, at it’s core, a problem that can only happen because we have access to lots of fresh food to eat and we have the security and safety afforded to us to live sedentary lives. I  know that sounds harsh. But isn’t it true on some level?

When you get upset that you binged your way through the pantry, at least you have food in your pantry to eat. When you’re pissed that you ate 300 extra calories today, at least you are financially fortunate enough to have excess calories available to you. When the scale reads higher than you’d like, that you even have the emotional bandwidth available to worry about your weight is a fortunate thing.

The next time you get worked up about something you’ve eaten, can you take a minute to put it in perspective?

What else are people suffering with around you? Chronic illness? Death of a loved one? Loss of job or home?

What about people elsewhere? There is war and sadness and atrocities everywhere. You don’t have to look that hard to find something to give you perspective.

I’m not saying that the problems we have with food and our bodies aren’t valid (they are) or that they are easy (they’re not) or that we should feel bad for feeling the way we do (feel those feelings). Obviously I think they are important or I wouldn’t be doing coaching work (which if I’m honest is a first world profession that helps people with first world problems!).

These are our lives, our problems do matter to us even if they would seem trivial to an outsider. It’s all relative. If something stops you in your tracks, if it’s preventing you from being who you want to be or accomplishing things you want to accomplish, if it’s interfering with your relationships etc – it is important. But . . . it’s also helpful to look at our struggles with a big picture view because in it, there might be a way out.

If your weight, body or food issue is a problem that others wished they had and you think others would look at your struggle with envy or think you are frivolous, maybe that’s one step in making it less of a big deal for you.

One of the reasons it’s so hard to heal from food issues is because we put so much emphasis on what it says about us. We make it into this huge thing that defines us. We believe that it’s impossible to fix. Thinking negatively about ourselves and beating ourselves up, leads to more eating, more struggle, more pain.  But, if our “problem” (being overweight, overeating etc) really isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things, then maybe it doesn’t have to be that big of a deal to us?

Bear with me here, I’m just kind of figuring this out as I write and I won’t be saying this very eloquently.

What if, by looking at your problem briefly through the lens of someone with less privileged problems, your problem wouldn’t seem like such a big deal? If it’s not such a big deal, maybe you could be kinder to yourself? Perhaps you’d have less negative thoughts about your body, your actions, your habits? And in doing so, you’d overeat less often (by now you know that the more shitty we feel about ourselves, the more we turn to food).

The more power we give our food issues, the more strength it has to sabotage us. If we step back for a second and look at it with a different perspective, maybe we can take some of it’s power away.

The fact that overeating is a “first world problem” could be your very way out of it’s clutches. Try looking at your life with a little perspective and take some pressure off of yourself. Can you lighten up about your struggles? If not, why can’t you? What benefit is being so “serious” about your food issues bringing you?

There’s no judgement from me in those questions. I promise. I have to ask them of myself sometimes too (did you see my silly list above??). Curiosity is one path to getting out of this shit. Let’s not make things a bigger deal than they are. Wishing you, perspective, levity and kindness.

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The Realization that Stopped My Holiday Bingefests

Historically, when it comes to food on holidays, I completely lose my shit. Go off the rails. Eat my weight in potato chips. And gain quite a bit of weight that I end up attempting to work off all winter, sometimes longer. Even if I do well leading up to it, exercising and eating well, the day of the actual holiday comes and it starts at least a 5 day eating frenzy! Thanksgiving is no exception – my husband, brother and law and I spend the whole 4 days together reading, playing games, binge-watching The Walking Dead, enjoying cocktails and eating up all the leftovers.

Considering I make a lot of vegetables, this doesn’t have to be a big deal, but since there is also lots of pie, cheesecake and leftover appetizers and dips and things, it’s been ugly many times in the past. I can think of multiple occasions when I found myself sitting on the couch with a bowl of chips and dip after guests left, not even hungry, but desperately wanting that rich creamy deliciousness that I hadn’t had since the previous Thanksgiving. Sure, I ate some in front of guests, but I wanted to consume a large quantity of it, when I could enjoy it without the distraction of others.

I’d go to bed with a full and distended belly and wake up the next morning feeling physically terrible and emotionally fragile. I’d feel so defeated (by dip, it’s just dip!!!) that I’d eat breakfast and yet be counting down the hours until I could snack on whatever tasty item my mind was obsessed with in the fridge. And then I’d snack on that, and then something else, and something else, until by the end of the 4 day weekend I was sick, irritable and a good 8 lbs heavier. Getting myself back to normal eating after several days of this was always hard, especially with Christmas season following close behind.

The last couple of years I’ve been able to stop the ridiculousness before it began. What’s awesome about that is not only do I not physically feel sick for days at a time but I also get to enjoy the rest of the holiday season without feeling shitty about myself, which means I don’t do things (like binge eat) that will make me feel even shittier. It’s a wonderful feeling to not feel so compelled to bury myself in food . . .but my solution to this annual problem was surprisingly simple.

I came to the realization that I can eat these foods any time I want. I’m not just saying that. It’s the truth. If I want them, I can eat them. I have free will. I have the $$ to buy them. I have the time and energy to make them. We make food choices every day and a choice I could choose is to eat dip and chips and cake more often, if i want!

I don’t just have to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy Ina’s pan-fried onion dip or Karina’s flourless chocolate cake and the reason I found myself going nuts on them is because I completely bought into the belief that I shouldn’t have them, I thought they were too fattening or that they were “bad” for me. I believed they were so bad for me that they took on an emotional charge – and that charge pulled me to them like a magnet and steel.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat cake and creamy dairy dips daily – but once a month, twice a month? That’s really not a big deal. Keeping these foods so off limits that they could only be enjoyed once or twice a year gave them a power over me that made eating them a charged experience.

Recognizing that I’m the only one putting a limit on these foods and that if I actually want to eat them I can, took the emotional charge away from them – which means I feel less out of control around them and frankly want them way less! I may eat them more frequently but I eat far less of them when I do.

When I do eat them now, they taste good and I enjoy them, but that compulsion to find a way to eat as much of it as I can is just a memory. Because, if I want to eat it again next week or next month, I very well can!

Let these ideas sink in:

  • Rich, decadent foods aren’t “bad” and you are not “bad” for enjoying them occasionally.
  • You can eat what you want, when you want to.
  • You actually may not even want the things you thought you did when they are always available to you.

Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years are coming. Lots of holiday parties, cookie swaps, cocktails with the girls – think of what foods or drink you romanticize or obsess over and answer these questions (in your head is ok but on paper is more effective).

  • What thoughts do you have around them?
  • Describe what you hope to get when you eat these foods. What feelings will they bring you (good or bad)?
  • How does eating them make you feel about yourself?
  • Do you have any restrictions around these foods (when, how, why you should enjoy them)?
  • What do you think would happen if you could let yourself eat these foods whenever you wanted?
  • If you did eat these foods whenever you wanted, how much do you think you would eat? How long before you get sick of these foods?
  • Are you willing to let go of some of the charge these foods hold for you?

I know this sounds overly simple, and it is. It’s just one of many steps you can take to have a more relaxed life with food. We think getting better requires some major complicated epiphany but really it’s just many different steps and thoughts, practiced over and over and over again, until eating in a more loving and kind way becomes your norm. Every week I come here and write about some aspect of emotional eating, dieting, binge eating or other related subject and sometimes it won’t speak to you, other times it will hit the nail on the head. Maybe, just maybe THIS idea is one that will speak to you.

And if it does, let’s do a call! The intro session is free.

To Get What We Want, We Have to Give Up Something

Everything you want has a price. Becoming a runner might mean getting up earlier (trading sleep). Is it worth it?

Everything you want has a price. Becoming a runner might mean getting up earlier (trading sleep). Is it worth it?

You have a dream. You want to earn $1,000,000. You want 4 kids. You want a prestigious job. You want the Master’s degree. You want your wedding to be Pinterest perfect. You want to lose 30 lbs. You want rock hard abs. You want to stop binge eating or dieting or talking crap about yourself.

No matter what you want, in order to get it, you’re going to have to give up something.

There’s always a tradeoff.

Unless someone literally drops 4 kids off on your doorstep or hands you the master’s degree. And even then, I’d argue that getting those things would change your life in a way that something would be pushed to the wayside. If you suddenly had 4 kids overnight, you’d have less free time and certainly less money. Having the Master’s Degree in hand might get you the job you’re after but how long will you be able to keep that job if you didn’t actually earn the degree? Your lack of skills in that area will show eventually.

If you want something, you have to work for it. And if you’re like most people, your current life doesn’t have much room for making that goal happen. We’re all busy, full of excuses and tired. It’s easy to say, I can’t do X because I don’t have Y. But some people do make it happen – even though they’re busy and tired and make excuses of their own sometimes.

If you want rock hard abs or to lose 30 lbs, you’re going to have to make the time to exercise and eat properly. The time won’t just appear. You’ll have to swap out something else you are doing (TV watching, Facebook browsing, social time, laundry etc) in order to fit in the stuff that will help you get there. Is it worth it?

If you want to prestigious job, you might have to work extra hours, attend events that bore you to tears, take extra classes and kiss ass. You might get the job but the trade off is time with your friends, family and time for yourself. Is it worth it?

If you want that Pinterest perfect wedding, you may need to hire a wedding planner if you’re not crafty – which means you may have to take on an extra job to pay for it. If you are crafty, you’re going to have to find the time and energy to plan, shop and prepare all your fancy shit. The trade off will be time and money. You may not have enough of either as it is. Is it worth it?

If you want to stop dieting, binge eating or beating yourself up emotionally, you’re going to have to stop indulging in old behaviors. You’ll have to actively work towards changing. It takes practice and awareness and time and trial and error. To get there, you’re going to have to give up eating for comfort, stuffing down your feelings and believing that you are broken. The trade off is giving up all the things that keep you where you are. Is it worth it?

I know right now you’re saying “Of course it is!”. Of course, what you want is worth it. I’m not questioning that validity of your desire. I am questioning whether you know that you’ll likely have to give up something to get to where you want to go. In most cases we can’t have both. We can’t stay where we are and also go somewhere different. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t lose weight and binge eat. You can’t outrun a shitty diet. It’s always a tradeoff and yes it is usually worth it – but you have to decide if you can commit to the sacrifices that your goal will require. And be consistent about it.

You’ll never have the body you want if you fueling it primarily with foods that don’t nourish or satisfy. Are you willing to trade it in for good nutrition?

You’ll never have the relationship with your body that you’d like to have if you keep thinking about yourself in negative and hurtful way. Are you willing trade it in for kindness?

Think about what you really want and then list all the things you’ll have to do to make that a reality.

What do you want in your heart of hearts?

What are you willing to give up to have it?

What are you not willing to give up?

Where can you make room in your life for this goal?

Now, I’d like to know, what are you working on? Is there a goal you’ve been working on but not making progress on? Could it be that there is a trade off that you haven’t allowed for? Share in the comments or if you want to look into where you’re getting stuck, contact me soon to do a Discovery Session.

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Getting Help for Your Food Issues? You Are Courageous.

photo credit: it's oh so quite... (Denmark #5 Ry) via photopin (license)

We often feel alone in our struggles. Sharing with someone else can be scary but so worth it.  It takes courage.    photo credit: it’s oh so quite… (Denmark #5 Ry) via photopin (license)

We think of courage as bold overtures, soldiers storming into battle, a child bravely fighting cancer. Most of us hardly think of getting help for our eating “issues” as courageous.

To admit that you’re struggling in a big way to yourself is hard enough, but to vocalize (or even email it!) it to another feels a little like peeling off your skin and exposing your vulnerable insides to grave dangers. You’re not going to die from exposure, but for a moment it feels like you could. Putting it all out there – even to just one person puts us immediately on guard. We anticipate harsh judgements, embarrassment, ridicule even.

Why do we have so much fear sharing what’s really going on with us? Especially when you consider how much ridiculous shit we share online – with perfect strangers even!

The fear comes from the idea that we’re alone in it. We’re walking out into an abyss and no one else has a clue about it. That there is something wrong with us for having this problem – because everyone else seems ok. We think that we’re the only ones stuffing our faces, struggling to eat “normally” and revolting from our bodies. But the truth is, everyone has insecurities and stuff they are freaking out about inside. Maybe it’s not their food life or their body – it might be their marriage, it might be that they suffer from anxiety, maybe they feel like a total fraud at their job, maybe they have major social anxiety, the list can go on and on. Most of us keep it bottled up inside (unless you’re like me and you share way too much all of the time) – but we’re all hurting in some way and we all need someone to talk to. We all need to feel heard, understood, supported and most of all, not judged.

As hard as it is to suffer with an eating issue, it’s so hard to extend out our hands to get support. It may feel courageous to keep it inside and “handle it” ourselves but there really isn’t courage in that (at least in the long term). That’s based in fear. Fear of being seen as we really are – a complex imperfect human being!

Getting to the point where you finally reach out because you recognize that it’s actually even scarier to not seek help (and remain the same) takes immense courage. It takes guts. It takes a willingness to fall harder on your face than you already have. It is a risk.

But it’s one you have to take if you don’t want to feel this way anymore.

It takes so much courage to finally say, I need help, I’m stuck. I can’t do this on my own, I’m flailing, floundering and feeling fragile.

I talk a lot about what it takes to heal our relationships with food and loving our bodies and feeling our feelings. I talk about the need to take action and put things into practice instead of just wishing things were different but I don’t often acknowledge what it has taken the person who is in the process to even get to that point. That’s a whole journey in itself.

No one can tell you when you’ll get there, when you’ll be ready to get help, when enough is enough, but you. You’ll find that point someday where your quality of life is compromised enough that not getting help seems worse than sharing your struggles. To allay some of your fears, last time someone was brave enough to share with you something they were struggling with, how did you react? Did you make fun of them or tear them apart? Or did you let them know they were heard and understood? I’m guessing you may have seen yourself in them and said “Me too.”

If you have spoken up and are working to get better – with a coach, with a therapist, with a friend, with your journal, then you are courageous. You are fierce. You are strong. You are looking your fears directly in the face and saying “Is this all you’ve got?”, even if there are bumps along the way. You are brave.

If you’re not there yet, that’s ok. We’re all here for you and will be ready to listen when you are. I can’t wait for you to feel the relief that comes with being able to share your story with another person who gets it and who isn’t judging you. It’s like taking a deep breath by the ocean for the first time. It’s a big chunk of the healing just to get there. When you’re ready and want to talk, contact me.

Going Off The Rails and Trusting Myself Enough To Get Back on Track

Over the last two and half years I have done a crapload of learning – both for my own eating issues and in developing the skills I needed to work with my clients. Everything I’ve been taught to use with clients, I’ve put into practice first with myself – kept what worked and tossed what didn’t. Somewhere during that process, I’ve settled into something of a belief system when it comes to how to lose weight without dieting, how to manage emotional eating and how to eat normally (after years of chronic dieting). This “belief system” is really just a series of tools that I teach clients to use. I know they work when they’re applied to daily life consistently.

Tools and Trust
These tools have been working for me. I’ve lost 40 lbs this way and maintained that loss now for over a year. I’ve had clients ask: Does it get easier? Does it feel like less of a struggle at some point? And while the answer to those questions is yes, I certainly feel more at ease with food and my body, I’ve definitely clung to these tools tightly, there’s a part of me that worries I’ve held onto them possibly too tightly. There’s a fear that if I do let go of some of these tools (hunger cues, mindful eating, enjoying the food I eat bite for bite etc) for even a few days, I will gain a massive amount of weight again. Because I’ve done that (If you’re new here: I gained 60lbs of a 90lb loss back a few years ago). Because even if I have tools that keep me pointed in the right direction, there’s a part of myself that I don’t trust. 60 lbs felt like a huge betrayal.

So I’ve held the tools tight, relying on them most days in every food choice I make.

This isn’t a bad thing – having to practice something over and over again to make better decisions about food is way better than ending back in a shame eating spiral that never ends. But sometimes I wonder, what would happen if I stopped being so conscious and particular with these tools. Are they ingrained enough in me that they are now my “normal”? Can I trust what I’ve learned and taught or deep down is there an crazy eater just waiting to come back out?

Interestingly enough, despite relying on these tools so much, I’ve actually thought less about my own weight during this time than I have my entire life . . .which may seem surprising since I’m literally writing about weight, diet and eating issues on a weekly basis. I exercise, I eat well 90% of the time and put a lot of energy into acknowledging my feelings, journaling and working on getting what I need emotionally. I weigh more than I’d like to still but there’s no pain and shame around that anymore. I take good care of myself and I know I can look and feel good in the body I have right now.

In addition to wondering if I could stop holding on to these tools so tightly, my stablized weight and the length of time I’ve been using these eating tools, sort of made me feel like I deserved a “break” from them. If my weight had been stable for so long, what would be the harm in going off the rails more? I’ve never been so strict as to not allow myself what I want (we’re big into wine and chocolate in my house), but I definitely keep the reins from being too slack for more than a day or two. (As a side note: “going off the rails” is probably my favorite metaphor. The image of a speeding train on it’s predetermined and carefully maintained/charted course and then it leaving the rails uncontrollably and suddenly is a powerful image that describes how crazy eating can feel).

6 Weeks of Wild Eating
In late August, John and I went on vacation in Cape Cod. Vacation always brings a challenge when it comes to balancing healthy eating with indulgent eating and this year was no different. One of our house guests brought handmade donuts one morning. I said yes to the donut (I never eat donuts). We went out for fried clams and ice cream in the same night. I enjoyed both. After coming home from vacation, I gave it a half-assed attempt to get back on track, getting back to my regular workouts and focusing on getting my vegetables in but the “going off the rails” mentality food wise was still hanging around. All of September was filled with more chocolate, ice cream, bread, cheese, chips and wine than I had probably eaten in two years.

Earlier this month, I decided to finally get on the scale. Enough was enough. I don’t weigh myself everyday but I weigh myself regularly enough so that I can keep an eye on sneaky weight gain.  I also stopped keeping my food diary consistently. I don’t worry about calories anymore but I do write down what I eat everyday – it helps me remain conscious about my choices. I know myself and when I avoid the scale & my food diary, it means I’m trying to sabotage myself and ignore what I’m putting in my mouth. I kind of had been doing that since late August. I was still relying on checking in with my hunger and using that to decide when to stop eating but I wasn’t making the best choices I could most days. I know I was eating more than I usually do and I was often choosing a lot of foods that don’t make me feel my best.

The Scale
When I finally got on the scale, I sincerely expected to see at least a 6-8 lb gain – I had been eating wildly for at least 6 weeks. It was time to stop closing my eyes. It was time to get that train back on the rail! When the 0.0 on the digital scale finally registered my weight, it was just 1.4 lbs more than I had been when we left for vacation. I hadn’t even gained a pound and a half. Heck, my weight goes up and down a few pounds daily – if I weighed myself again in a couple days, would it even register as a gain?

I was dumbfounded. While I had been exercising, I wasn’t working out enough to work off all the extra stuff I had been eating and drinking. Historically – eating the very shit I had been eating equaled a huge influx on the scale.

I was hugely relieved. Even though I know I had gone off the rails for weeks, eating more and not well, I actually had been checking in on my hunger. There were no binges. No eating in secret. I tasted every bite of ice cream, chips, chocolate or other nutrient light foods and enjoyed the crap out of them. And I hadn’t indulged in negative thoughts about my body when they popped up. But I didn’t trust that these things were true because there was a part of me that was feeling like sabotaging my current ease with food.

I had let go of holding my “tools” so tightly and thought it was going to lead me down a familiar ugly path, but instead, it has proven to me that I actually have made some incredible healthy progress. It may sound fucked up to call 6 weeks of iffy eating as progress but it is, as I am trusting my body. I can trust what I’ve been taught and what I teach others. What I’ve been practicing for 2 and half years is having a deep effect on me. That not worrying so much about my weight means I can worry less about my weight. Eating “more” now doesn’t look like what it used to (clearing entire boxes of cheez-its or eating 4 slices of pizza for dinner). That is why I didn’t gain a huge amount of weight.

I guess the point of this long post is that we really need to be willing to trust ourselves completely and if you practice anything long enough, you’re going to get really good at it, even when you aren’t really trying all that hard. Knowing that I can let go of the reins a little more and not have disaster strike feels really empowering. It feels more like healing than I thought was even possible. I know that a truly healthy relationship with food means having a healthy relationship with yourself first – and that’s not possible if you don’t trust yourself.

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