Tag Archives: emotional eating

You Have To Do The Work (Or Why You Don’t Need to Read Another Book, Take Another Course or Do More Research).

You already know what you need to know to get started. Don't fall into the trap of believing there must be easier or better answers out there. Start taking action on what you already know now.

You already know what you need to know to get started. Don’t fall into the trap of believing there must be easier or better answers out there. Start taking action on what you already know now.

When I was first training to be a coach, I had this overwhelming feeling that I didn’t know enough. No matter how many lectures I listened to, worksheets completed, books read and coaching demos watched, this feeling kept coming back. How can I be ready to do this work? There’s no way I know what I’m doing. I’ve got to learn more before I begin. Maybe this book or course has the answer. Maybe I need to read a few more blogs on the subject.

What my coaching school told us over and over (it was a common complaint and fear of students), and what I learned to be true afterwards, is that the only way you get good at this work (or anything) is by doing it.  The only way you “know” enough is by going out and doing it.

Knowing something intellectually is not the same as knowing something spiritually or in your core. You can consume all the information available in the world. You can read every book, buy every online course and you’ll still feel just as unprepared as you did on day 1 if you don’t actually go out and do the real-life work.

I had to take everything I learned in school, from books and lectures and apply it in actual coaching conversations before any of it made sense – before I felt confidence in what I had set out to do. In order to become a skilled coach (and to feel like a coach), I had to actually coach!

The same can be said for repairing your relationship with food, with losing weight or getting fit. Really, it can be said about anything new we want to do or create in our lives. You can spend hours upon hours of your time learning about what diet to try, what exercises to do, what mental habits you need to learn and none of it will get you where you want to be unless you actually go out, buy the food, prepare it, eat it, go out and do the exercises in your workout plan several days a week and practice all the mental tools to change your thinking. The key to reaching any goal (as I have preached on and on about before) is taking the physical steps and actions to get there.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that x, y, and z isn’t working for them and so they ask me to give them something else that will work. “What else can I try?” they ask. Let’s say X is mindful or intuitive eating. Y is eating whole foods most of the time. Z is feeling their feelings instead of eating them. When someone tells me any of these things, my first instinct is to play sleuth before handing them more information. I have to find out what “not working” means. I don’t doubt that whatever they are doing isn’t working (if it was, this complaint wouldn’t be so prevalent) but I have to question what mindful eating, whole foods or feeling their feelings looks like in their reality.

How are they applying it in their daily life?

What does each meal look like?

How many times did they feel an uncomfortable feeling today and what did they do?

How long did it last? 

In reality, most people who learn about mindful eating think that just being 50% mindful three meals a week is enough to say they tried mindful eating and it didn’t work for them. People who say eating whole foods didn’t work for them think that eating a salad one day and steamed broccoli on another cancels out the 3 trips to McDonald’s and the 3 pints of ice cream they ate this week. People who are supposed to be focusing on feeling their feelings instead of eating them, feel an uncomfortable feeling once or twice and run for the hills (and usually into the pantry).

Trying something once, twice or partially 10 times is not enough.

It’s half-assed and it’s not doing it.

Feeling your feelings regularly is something that takes a lot of time and effort. We have to continuously bring our minds back to our discomfort and be able to sit with it until the feeling dissipates. The same goes with mindful eating. If you want that to work for you, you really have to make mindful eating something you do at every meal, with every bite.

We think that just by knowing something, it will be enough to help us make changes. Knowing the why’s and the hows is a big part of making changes but it’s just a blueprint. You’re the architect. You still have to oversee the actual building of the building. You have to go out and buy supplies like wood and power tools. You have to hire a team to help you build it. You have to get permits and deal with bureaucratic BS. You may even have to physically pick up a hammer and nail a lot of boards together. Not just once. Over and over until what you build looks like the blueprint. You don’t give up on day 1 because the hardware store didn’t have the brand of nails you like. You don’t give up on day 2 because a contractor was late. You might need to adjust your schedule or change your plan of attack but you do what you have to do to complete the project. Just knowing how something can and should be built isn’t the same as actually getting it built. It’s the same with repairing your relationship with food.

You do not need another book. You don’t need another course. You don’t need to go to another workshop. You have to settle in with what you already know and use it.

If you do this, try to learn everything you can, but don’t actually put it into action, don’t feel badly. You’re not alone. We all do this. We all have a lot on our plates and we try to just skip over the parts of our healing process that we find difficult or confusing or uncomfortable.

Instead of hunkering down and immersing ourselves in the physical process of change (like letting uncomfortable feelings be, prepping healthy food for every meal, returning our focus to our meals each time our brain wants to go somewhere else etc) we attempt spiritual bypass. We learn all we can and then think that means we can skip over the meaty parts because we have the intellectual knowledge.

The problem with this is that we end up really still being in the same place. We just think we’ve moved past something when really all we’ve done is checked out in the part of our journey where it gets hard. Stop checking out. Check “in” instead and apply what you already know.

If you see yourself doing this, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What is it that you want?
  • What actions are you taking towards that goal?
  • What have you tried that has not worked?
  • How much effort did you put into the things that you feel did not work?
  • How much of your time and energy do you spend reading, learning, consuming new or more material on the subject you want to change? (Are you always buying another book on the same subject? Always following a new guru on social media? Do you buy courses online but then look to buy another before completing the work they ask of you?
  • What is something you know you must do to reach your goal but are having difficulty taking the first step on?
  • Why do you think you haven’t taken that step?
  • What would make taking that step easier? Who could support you? How can you support yourself?
  • If you already knew everything there was to know about your subject or goal, what 3 things do you think you could start doing today that would move you closer to reaching that goal?

If you are struggling in translating your knowledge into action with emotional eating, chronic dieting or overeating, let’s talk. Coaching is an amazing tool for exactly that kind of transformation and I’d love to be of service to you.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we do that?

How to Go on Vacation without Gaining 10 lbs


Start your day off with something really nutritious.

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

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

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

Make the best choice you can make at every meal.

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

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

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

Eat food that you actually like.

Your nutritious choices can also be foods you like!

Your nutritious choices can also be foods you like!

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

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

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

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

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

Get some exercise or movement daily.

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

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

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

Relax. Really

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

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

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


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

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


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

Why Am I So Hungry All The Time?

There are many reasons we feel hungry all the time - one of them is due to what we eat!

There are many reasons we feel hungry all the time – one of them is due to what we eat!

One of the coolest parts of my job as a health coach is that I get to play detective with my clients. I freaking love playing detective (which totally aids me in my genealogy research hobby)! My job isn’t to “fix” them, instead my job is to help them figure out the right answers for them and give them support and accountability as they go from step to step. In order to do that we have to explore why they’re doing the things they are currently doing that keep them in a pattern. Together, we have to uncover the clues that reveal why they’re eating “too much. Why they can’t lose weight. Why they self sabotage. etc.

When we understand “why” we’re doing something, we develop an awareness that creates an environment where change is possible. I’ve said it several times on this blog – if we want to have a healthy relationship with food, we have to become a detective and investigate our habits and the actions we take on a daily basis that have gotten us to the place we are in.

One of the most frequent things I hear from my clients when we first start working together is that they are hungry all the time. They feel like they’re turning to food constantly and don’t know how to lose weight if they’re always compelled to eat. They feel like they can’t trust this natural signal that their body is sending them. It’s a mystery and they feel completely baffled by it. Feeling hungry all the time is something that can get in the way of your health and fitness goals so it’s hugely important that we figure out the reasons why this might be happening to you.

While a blog post isn’t a replacement for working with a coach who can help you figure this out, if you’re someone who is dealing with this, you may not even know what types of things can lead to you feeling this way – today I’m going to share the most common reasons why someone will feel hungry so often.

Do any of these resonate with you? You may have more than one – most of us do!

 

Why Am I So Hungry All the Time?

 

  • Because I’m a fat lazy slob with no self control.  No, that’s not it. And please stop talking about yourself that way. It’s not doing you any favors.
  • Because of the shitty quality foods we eat. If your diet is heavily made up of heavily processed food (stuff like cookies, crackers, chips, breads, frozen entrees, fast food etc) it probably contains food additives that were specifically created in a lab to make you crave certain flavors and textures. I’m not kidding. There are over 3000 substances that are allowed to be added to our food for several purposes. Food processing of this degree started off as a way to reduce waste and increase shelf life, but over time, it has turned into a way to keep consumers coming back for more. It’s not just the chemical additives that cause an issue with hunger, many of these foods are super high in refined carbohydrates (the refining process removes fiber and nutrients which would slow digestion) and that causes our blood sugar to spike and crash quickly – when that happens, we find ourselves back in the pantry looking for more food. Adding more quality “whole” foods to your diet can help.
  • Because your hormones leptin and ghrelin are out of whack. Leptin and Ghrelin are hormones our bodies produce that regulate our appetite and energy levels. Leptin is tells us when we’re full and when to stop eating but when we ignore our fullness signals over and over again and eat past them, we become leptin resistant and it no longer regulates our hunger. We’re no longer sensitive to it. Ghrelin is a hormone that tells us we need to eat. It’s something our bodies use to help us survive – if we didn’t eat, we would die, but some people produce too much of this hormone, causing them to feel hungry all the time. If you are not sensitive to leptin or you are producing too much ghrelin, you are going to eat and eat. You can read more about the role these hormones play with weight here.
  • Because advertising is designed to make you crave certain foods. Both TV ads and the way our food is packaged is designed to make you salivate and think about how you can get your hands on that food. Companies hire food “stylists” to make food look as appetizing as possible for photographs, often using props and materials that aren’t even actual food to create the depiction that the company wants. They show people laughing and having fun while consuming the food, all so that consumers will want what those people have. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s how advertising works.
  • Because the cues you use to eat come from outside of your own body. Even if you don’t have an issue with leptin or ghrelin, it’s pretty common these days to not be in tune with our body’s hunger signals. Instead of trusting our body to tell us when it’s time to eat, we “trust” calorie counts, certain times of the day or visual portion sizes. We eat to clear our plate if it was under our “calorie goal”, even if we’re feeling stuffed for the last several bites. We eat at lunch “time” even if we’re not hungry. We don’t really know what hunger feels like and so when we actually feel hunger, we don’t trust that that’s what it is.
  • Because you are bored. Probably the most simple reason here is that many of us turn to food as a way to entertain ourselves. We’re not hungry, we’re not stressed, we just can’t think of anything better to do right now and food will take up some time.
  • Because you’re not drinking enough water. Some of us confuse thirst with hunger. If you are drinking less than 8 glasses of water a day, try increasing your water intake and see if it changes how hungry you feel.
  • Because it’s a long ingrained habit. When we do something for the first time, it feels foreign, it’s often difficult and we have to think a lot about what we are doing. The first time you tried to tie your shoe on your own as a child probably took a lot of concentration and effort, now you do it without thinking about it. Our brain wants to be really efficient so it creates neural pathways everytime we learn a new skill or habit. They get stronger the more we do something – it doesn’t matter if it’s something like brushing our teeth or snacking every time there is a commercial on TV. If you go to the pantry every time there is a commercial, your brain will connect the dots and you’ll start to find yourself in the pantry during those times without even thinking about it. It’s a habit that your brain has been conditioned to follow.
  • Because you associate food with comfort. Lots of women don’t let themselves feel uncomfortable feelings and to deal with them, they turn to food for distraction and to bring comfort from their feelings. We stuff our feelings as far down as they can go and eat to fill that space. This is emotional eating. After awhile, any time we feel a feeling that we don’t want to feel (confusion, worry, sadness, frustration etc), we may start to feel “hungry” in response to it. Being “hungry” all the time, may actually be a sign that you are feeling things you don’t want to feel most of the time and trying to put a stop to it.
  • Because you’re not eating enough. Some women aren’t eating enough food to give their bodies the minimum amount of energy needed for them to get through their day. They’ve bought into the idea that women should be slender and shouldn’t eat much, so they spend all day trying to avoid eating more than a tiny bit at a time, even though their bellies are loudly proclaiming their hunger. If physical hunger is a constant state and you are at a normal weight or underweight, then you are probably not eating as much as your body requires to function.
  • Because you are training hard. If you’re an athlete or someone who is working out like an athlete – lifting heavy weights, running long distances etc., your body may need extra fuel to build and / or repair muscle after your training sessions. To make sure your muscles get the energy they need, your appetite will increase. If you don’t want to lose muscle during your training you need to eat a little (or a lot) more.

There are many more reasons why you are hungry all the time but these are just the most common ones I see people struggling with. In most cases, true physical hunger isn’t something to ignore. The tricky part for most is determining if whether what you are experiencing is physical hunger or emotional hunger. If you’re not sure which, I’d love to help you figure that out and create a plan to change your habits. You can contact me here.


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!).

Secret Eating is Keeping You Sick, Fat and Running in Circles

We're only as sick as our secrets.

When we eat in secret we’re only really hiding it from ourselves.

There is a saying that is common in addiction and recovery circles that “we’re only as sick as our secrets.” While I don’t think it’s helpful to think about our relationship with food as an addiction (you can read why here), I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that the secrets we keep in this area will continue to keep us sick. In the case of emotional eating, bingeing, and yo-yo dieting, the secrets we keep around food will also keep us fat and running in circles trying to lose that same weight, again and again.

As Sick as the Secrets We Keep

I used to do most of my binges after work – either in my car on the way home or while sitting at the bar in my kitchen in front of my laptop, chowing down on whatever binge food I had gotten my hands on. My husband got home from work much later from me so this was my private eating time. The only time of day when I could be completely by myself. When he finally got home, I was usually in the middle of making dinner or other housework and my secret eating was completely unknown to him. We’d sit down to eat dinner and I was so stuffed from my binge that it would be tough to get the meal down but I had to because I didn’t want to explain to him that I wasn’t eating dinner because I had binged earlier. Who the hell does that and tells their partner?? Not me. Not when you’re in denial that it’s even happening.

In my college years, my bingeing happened usually late at night, after we’d get home from the bar or a party. My roommates and I would drink some water before bed and usually have some snacks (you know, to absorb the alcohol so we’d be less hungover the next day). Lime tostitos, pizza with ranch dressing. You name it. Really healthy stuff, haha. But sometimes, as everyone would be getting ready for bed, I would still be in the kitchen, eating one more piece of pizza quickly and quietly, while I stood by the fridge. Or I’d sneak one of their buffalo tenders from their take out leftovers. I just had to have it. One more bite. Sometimes my binges would happen in the morning. I’d stop by the Bagelry for a coffee and a bagel – but instead of ordering one bagel with cream cheese (veggie of course), I’d order two, to go. See, if I got them “to go” I thought the cashier would think that I was bringing one to someone else. Nope, just for me, to eat both shamefully in secret while sitting on T-hall lawn.

No one knew about any of this. In college, our binge drinking wasn’t secret. Everyone did it. It wasn’t a big deal (except to the administration). But no one talked about binge eating and most of my friends were of average sizes so I would never have opened up to them about my eating habits. Even my heavier friends, who I did discuss being overweight with, I rarely addressed the why or how. We talked of our size as if it was just an unfortunate accident that we were heavy. “We’re just naturally big girls, I guess! Haha!” we’d laugh. That secret eating had nothing to do with it.

The more I ate in secret, the more normal (for me) it became. I automatically reached for certain foods at certain times, without an obvious conscious thought. The only conscious thought I had about it was that “I would die if someone saw me eating like this.” I knew it was something that I couldn’t let other people see. It was embarrassing, painful and shameful. I felt I had to keep it to myself. It needed to be my secret. The problem was that by hiding the crumbs under the rug, it made it easier to keep the habit going. Each time I did it, it reinforced the habit. My weight went up, up and up – quickly. I felt like keeping the problem a secret meant that it wasn’t really a problem. As long as no one knew about my weird eating habits, I was normal.

We think that by not acknowledging to another person or to ourselves that there is something wrong, that we sneak food, that we overeat, (or undereat, that we plan and calculate how we’re going to burn every calorie we eat off), that we are keeping it from developing into a real problem. If we said it out loud or even confirmed it in our heads, it might become real and it might mean something about us. We might really spiral out of control.

But what is it now? All the things we do to keep this thing going – this obsession with food, the obsession with the state or size of our body – it consumes so much of our time and attention, silently. We can’t do anything else but think of what we’ll eat next, how we can get our hands on whatever we crave or how we can punish ourselves to make up for that indulgence. We can’t live our lives, be with the people we love in any real way and our entire life’s purpose becomes about maintaining some impossible to achieve perfection with our weight and the amount of food we consume.

It’s Only A Secret to Us

The secrets we keep are only secret to us. If we asked the people closest to us if they ever noticed anything off about our food behavior – if they felt like they could be honest (and most feel that they can’t), they would probably say “yeah, I notice that you only ever order salad when we go out” or “I notice that you’re really uncomfortable at family gatherings when there’s a lot of food” or “You know, I thought I usually left a few pieces of pizza to take for lunch the next day and there is always less when I get to work to eat it. I thought my memory was going”. I remember one of my roommates asking totally innocently and non threateningly “Hey, did either of you eat some of my buffalo tenders? I could have sworn I had more than this.”  Both me and our other roommate shrugged “No, I didn’t have any.” What?? I’m cringing now, just thinking about it. I can’t believe I lied about that stuff – but it was a part of me I denied for so long.

We are not doing ourselves any favors by keeping it all inside. The secret behaviors we have are not really secret. Maybe they don’t know the exact details, but they know that something is wrong. I know my husband had to know something was up when I’d struggle to eat dinner but my weight was going up instead of down. The sweet guy never said a word about it (thankfully he thinks I’m hot at any size) but he had to notice. My roommates noticed their food missing. (I could have at least paid for it. Ug.)

No one can help us if we don’t want to help ourselves. Helping ourselves starts with getting out of that place of denial. You must be honest with yourself. You have to acknowledge that there is a problem around food and that you don’t want to do this anymore. You have to sincerely be interested in choosing to be kind to yourself and treating your body with love. You have to choose honest living – all our secret behaviors that keep us in that sick place need to come out from the dark.

You have to let go of keeping secrets from yourself. Acknowledge all the things you are doing that keep you sick, fat and running in circles. Up a few pounds, down a few pounds, up a few pounds, down a few pounds. Secret eating, secret exercising. Secret ways of avoiding food, secret way of getting more food. Be honest about how much you are eating, how little you are eating, when and where you are eating and under what conditions (rushed? shoveling in handfuls at a time? only alone? etc).

Once you can be completely honest and forthright with yourself – not keeping anything under a rock, it’s time to share with others in your life who care and can help – if only by being a sounding board that keeps you honest. A therapist might be a good start for some of you – but I also encourage you to talk about your struggles with friends, with family or maybe with a support group of some type. You are not the only one who has this complicated relationship with food – and there is strength in hearing other’s stories. There is also something undeniably powerful about putting your pain and secrets into the world. You can’t hide from them and it makes it less appealing to fall back into it.

Once John knew that I was bingeing on cheez-its after work, he was like “Hey, let’s not buy those for awhile. I don’t need to eat them if you are having trouble with them.” Phew! I didn’t have to allow them in the house “for him” when they were really there to support my secret eating. Whatever you’re binging on – ice cream, cookies, chips, pizza etc – your partner can support you in some way if they know it’s going on. If your best friend knows that you binge when you are stressed out, maybe you guys can chat after work a few nights a week to see where you’re at, and relieve some stress with giggles and venting that only friends can do. The people closest to you can be a form of accountability. It’s not their job to fix us (and they can’t) but if you are being honest with them, it’s a lot more difficult to be dishonest with ourselves.

Your eating secrets only serve to keep you sick. If you share it, acknowledge it and stop hiding from yourself and others, it won’t be able to weigh you down so much. Literally!

Where to start letting go of some of your food secrets?

Try some of these:

  1. Keep a food journal. An honest to goodness – descriptive, detailed and every single bite or sip of food. If you binge on chips, put it in there. Not writing it down doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Be brutally honest with your food consumption – quality, quantity and circumstances (when, where, why did you eat?). Raw honesty is healing.
  2. Confide in people who love you. Share your struggles, your pain, your most fucked up habits. Watch as they admit they’re fucked up too. Also that they love you and want to help. Watch as it becomes way harder to deny to yourself that it’s happening if people in your real world know what’s up. This gives you accountability and support.
  3. Consider seeing a therapist. If you’re really in the midst of pain, it might be worth seeing a therapist. Therapists have great tools and skills to help you recover but they also can act like a stepping stone in opening up about your secrets – especially if you haven’t told other’s in your world yet. Alternatively, if you need help with changing your food habits, hiring a coach or joining a support group can be effective and motivating.
  4. Keep a regular journal. Write about your day, what is going through your head, urges you have, wins, fails, thoughts – good and bad. Let all those feelings express themselves. This can be a good exercise for “flexing” that sharing muscle. Share with yourself first, and when you can read those words and know they’re honest and not hiding – you will feel more comfortable sharing with someone else.
  5. Find a Social Media support group. I don’t recommend sharing all your secrets publicly on social media. Don’t tweet about your secret nighttime eating. Don’t take instagram pics of your latest binge. But Do find a private group that focuses on the topic you need support with. There are groups for Overeaters, Binge Eating Disorder – you name it. Some of these groups may not be very active or don’t have very active users – but others are filled with people who have had great success in overcoming their struggles and who want to help others do the same. I recommend joining a couple and reading through the past posts to see what topics they’ve covered and how people tend to respond. You want a group that is supportive, honest and knowledgeable.  Both Facebook and Google+ have groups and it may take a few tries to find one that is motivating and helpful. Watch out for groups that seem to have a lot of people promoting different diets and products – admins should be policing that for groups and if they aren’t, the group might cause more frustration and confusion than help.

I know you’re feeling ashamed that you even have these secret habits and sharing it in any way feels like you’re exposed. But something that you should know is that you are not your eating habits. You are so much more than that. When you can be honest with yourself, those secrets won’t have the same power over you. The fear you are feeling is a sign that growth is on the other side. We have to get uncomfortable to make progress. We can’t keep doing the same things and expect something to magically change for us. Open up, share, be honest. Let your secrets become just honest truths about your past experiences and your future will be more changeable.


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!).

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!).

How to Feel Your Feelings (so You Can Stop Eating Them)

How to Feel Your Feelings instead of eating them

How to Feel Your Feelings instead of eating them

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile (or are on my email list), you’ve heard me say many times that a huge cause of emotional eating is from us not being willing to feel our feelings. We feel the first twinge of something uncomfortable – something we think we can’t feel – and our first response is to push it away and stuff food in our mouths as a barrier to keep those feelings at a distance. We think we won’t survive if we let these uncomfortable feelings in, if we allow them space, they’ll take over and we’ll be stuck feeling terrible forever.

But that’s not how feelings work. Feelings come and go. They pass just like clouds on a windy day. They come over us in in waves, and yes, sometimes they are quite strong, but they’re not deadly. You will survive them.

 

Toddlers and Cats are Skilled in Feeling Feelings

I have two examples I like to use when describing how feelings really work and how easy it is to actually survive them. Hopefully you can relate to one of them! The first is that of a cat. One minute, your cat is purring happily on your lap, enjoying you petting her. She might even lick your hand and drool – that’s how much she’s loving the attention. This might last for 2 minutes or it might go on for a half hour or more, but eventually, she’s going to decide that she’s had enough and she’ll jump off you and go do her thing elsewhere, and then look at you like she doesn’t even know you. If you get up and go try to pet her now, she’ll probably walk away again, almost recoiling from your touch. She’s totally over it. Her reaction to you is so changed that it’s almost as if she has no memory that she was begging for your attention just a moment ago. The other example is that of a toddler. Think of a toddler in the grocery store. One minute, he’s happily babbling and playing with a toy he brought from home. All is well in the world. The next minute, a colorful snack in the store catches his attention and he has a complete meltdown over it. He must have it but the parent is unaware of what specific object of his desire is. He can’t communicate verbally what it is that he wants so his only tools are crying, screaming and stomping until hopefully the parent figures it out. By the time the parent has gotten through the checkout line and back to the car, the toddler is calm again and happily playing with his toy. Except for a few drying tear streaks on his cheeks, you would never know that anything dramatic had just occurred.

Toddlers are good at feeling their feelings. You can be too.

Toddler’s feelings change in just an instant and they feel them deeply. One minute they are happy and peaceful and the next it is a total meltdown, and back to being peaceful all before you can catch your breath. Their feelings are felt deeply and they come out of it ok. You will too!

Our uncomfortable feelings act the same way as the cat and the toddler – they come on strong and may feel overwhelming but suddenly they’re gone and we’re still the same person we were before they happened, and a new feeling is in it’s place. You can get through this. You don’t have to eat to deal with it.

Feeling your feelings can take a little work to get used to doing regularly, but it’s actually surprisingly simple.

 

How to Feel Your Feelings

How do you feel your feelings?? You just feel them.

That’s really it. Step 1: Feel them.

You let them happen. You let them be. You let the awful, the uncomfortable and the stressful feelings come over you and then you don’t react to them beyond letting yourself feel the way you feel.

Feeling your feelings almost feels like you’re not doing anything. There’s very little action and doing and for some of us, this is what makes it so challenging. We are used to “doing” – eating, avoiding, restricting, resisting, distracting in every area of our lives.

Feeling uncomfortable feelings takes practice because we’re not used to letting ourselves feel that way.  Most of us do better with feeling good. Have you ever just sat outside for a few minutes and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine? You feel good doing this. It’s easy. You don’t have to work hard at feeling that way. We know how it feels to just be, for a few moments and enjoy the peace and quiet and be with our thoughts in those moments. After a few minutes in the fresh air, you feel renewed, empowered and ready to go back to your day. But your mood can change quickly even after a nice time outside – you might get a phone call you didn’t want to get, your boss may throw a huge last minute project on your desk or you may run into someone you really don’t like. Really our feelings change all the time due to our interactions with others and thoughts we’re having (conscious ones and unconscious ones). The good feelings pass and the bad ones pass too.

When a feeling you don’t want to feel comes up, think of a time when you were sitting outside enjoying the day and how easy it is to feel your feelings in that moment. You can feel your less comfortable feelings just as easily if you get into the habit of doing it.

 

Step By Step “How to Feel Your Feelings” For Those Who Can’t Believe that “Just Feeling Them” is All There is To It.

 

  1. When a feeling you don’t want to feel makes you want to run to the kitchen, go to a quiet place where you can be alone, without food and without your phone, ipad or TV.
  2. Just be with your thoughts and feelings. There is nothing to do but feel whatever way you are feeling.
  3. Notice that you’ll probably repeatedly feel the urge to get up – and you might keep feeling like you have to do something but not remember what that was (that’s your autopilot reaction to go comfort and distract with food). Notice that that is what you are doing (going on autopilot) and just consciously bring your attention back to your feelings.

Most of us need something to “do” when we’re first starting out with this stuff. We’re so not used to just allowing ourselves to be that we will feel like we’re wasting time or that we’re doing things wrong if there isn’t a clear linear path to progress. There isn’t one so you can stop looking.

4. If you need something more concrete in the beginning stages of this work, here’s a           writing exercise to help you feel your feelings and pull your attention back to them:

  • Get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
  • Write down exactly what you are feeling. Describe it as best you can. What does it feel like? What does it make you want to do? If it had a color, what would it be? Where in the body are you physically feeling the feeling? Describe any physical sensations and where you feel them. Is the feeling heavy? Does it vibrate? Does it give you energy or take your energy away?

Flesh out as much as you can about this feeling. Doing this will help you start to recognize this feeling the next time you feel it, and it will also help show you that it’s something that is harmless. By the time you finish describing it the feeling will probably have just about passed.

 

What Not To Do When Feeling Your Feelings

I’ve already mentioned that when we’re feeling our feelings it’s important to not avoid, resist or push away the feeling (which we often do by “doing”). Another thing that we have to do when learning how to just “feel” is to not find ways to distract ourselves. Obviously distracting ourselves with food is how we got into this situation to begin with and so distracting is something we’re really good at.

If you look at advice articles on how to stop eating too much, the advice is almost always full of things like have a glass of water, chew on something crunchy and low calorie like celery, go for a walk, call a friend, read a book etc. Now, I think those things can sometimes be helpful overall when learning new habits that don’t include eating junk food – but they’re not helpful to someone who has spent years not feeling their feelings and is trying to learn how to do that. In those cases, going for a walk or drinking water just serves as a temporary filler or distraction which will defeat the whole purpose of this. Sure, going for a walk when you don’t want to feel uncomfortable will probably make you feel better (and it’s good for you), but for today’s purpose, we’re not trying to make ourselves feel better. We’re trying to learn how to be ok when we feel badly. Teach yourself that you don’t have to “fix” your feelings, you just need to be able to feel it and food will becomes less of a coping mechanism (because there’s nothing you have to fix – nothing went wrong and this will pass!).

Don’t do anything right now. Just feel. Your job is to get comfortable with being with yourself and not do anything other than that.

If you find yourself resorting to avoiding, pushing, resisting or distracting yourself – planning your next vacation, thinking about cooking dinner, reaching for your smartphone (which is supposed to be in the other room, remember?) come back to the writing exercise above. Start writing again. See if your feeling has changed from when you first started to write.

Am I Better Now?

That’s really it. I know, you might have expected a complicated process but really feeling feelings is something simple that we innately know how to do. We’ve taught ourselves to not feel them and it’s just a matter of relearning how to feel.

As with most things I write and teach my clients about, this is not something you do once and then are suddenly great at. It takes a lot of practice, vulnerability and a willingness to embrace your fears. You will occasionally resort to old habits of trying to comfort yourself with food when you feel bored, frustrated, angry, sad, confused etc even when you think you’ve mastered this skill. But keep coming back to it over and over. Be willing to feel your feelings always, no matter how terrible they are and no matter how badly you don’t want to feel that way. You have no choice really. You can either feel the crappy feeling now and have it move on (like the cat or the toddler above) or you can avoid the feeling and eat instead, only to still feel crappy later anyway!

Just like with all the other peaceful eating skills I talk about, feeling your feelings is just one of many things we need to do for ourselves to be well. It’s a practice that you can develop and customize and make your own, so that you can have the relationship with food that you’d like to have. This alone won’t make you better, but it’s absolutely necessary if you’re an emotional eater.

Can you feel anything without turning to food? That’s the goal. When the day comes when you are willing to feel any feeling, not because you like feeling bad (no one does), but because you know they’re just feelings and you can handle anything, that’s how you’ll know that you are beating this stuff. What’s the worst that will happen if you let yourself feel what you’re feeling (instead of turning to food)? Nothing.  I know you can handle any feeling. Now it’s your turn to convince yourself of it.

Do you want help putting this practice in your own life? Contact me to set up a free consult and let’s see if we’d be a good fit to work together.


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!).

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?

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.

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!