Tag Archives: Gratitude

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!).

Happy Thanksgiving and A Few Things I’m Grateful For

Untitled designWith Thanksgiving just 2 days away, I wanted to take a minute to wish you a happy day with your family and friends. We’re at the opening day of what will be a very busy holiday season for most of us, I hope you can take some time before it begins to reflect on the wonderful things you have in your life, even if things aren’t going super well right now. When I feel scared, overwhelmed or generally whiny – I run through a list of some of the things in my life that I’m sincerely grateful for – it doesn’t “fix” what might be wrong but it helps me put things back into perspective.

I am thankful for so much this year – here are a few things that I am overflowing with gratitude for right now:

My health – even when I’m dealing with an injury (currently nursing a jammed big toe joint) – there is so much I am able to do thanks to this incredible body I have been given. I am grateful for my mobility, for high energy, for restful sleep and for strength!

A supportive and loving husband – he works his tail off (with a 3 hour daily commute), he makes me coffee every morning and plays with my hair at the end of every day.

A warm and safe home – I get tired of driving so far all the time but I have all that I need here and more. I’m lucky that I even have a car to drive all that distance!

sweet pest of a kitty who brings me comfort on bad days and whose antics make me laugh the rest of the time.

Friends & family I can count on. My circle is small but it’s full of people I trust and who legitimately care about me.

Access to fresh and wholesome food – I may get tired of cooking sometimes (i’m human!) but I have so much healthy and fresh food at my fingertips. So thankful that we are in a position to feed ourselves well.

Being able to enjoy food on this day. It wasn’t too long ago that every bite of food was a struggle between treating myself and beating myself up. I’m thankful that I’m in a place where I can enjoy food socially but also stay true to what feels best for my body. This is an amazing gift. (Contact me if you want to figure out how to get there yourself)

Life – sometimes I’m just amazed that I am here on this planet at all. How lucky that I’m here out of millions of other sperm/egg combinations!

A fulfilling coaching practice – working for myself and helping other women create the life the want to have is supremely satisfying and I’m thoroughly thankful that this is my life .

You – whether you’re a client, friend, classmate or just a curious person who stumbled upon my site, I am grateful for you! Thank you for reading, thank you for your kind notes, thank you for your business and generous referrals! I couldn’t be doing this work without you.

What are you feeling thankful for right now? Do you regularly think about all the positive things in your life?  Have you noticed any benefits in your life with staying conscious of the things you are grateful for?

Expressing Gratitude Can Increase Your Happiness

Practicing more of this can increase your health and happiness.

Practicing more of this can increase your health and happiness.

Last week I came across this article from the American Heart Association, that shows the relationship between negative emotions and stroke risk.  Negative emotions (such as stress, hostility or depression) increase the risk of stroke in middle aged and older adults. A quick internet search of these key words leads to many other studies showing similar results. Considering how stressed and depressed we are as a country, studies that show results like this are somewhat alarming.

However, I don’t think the idea that our emotions can affect our health is new news. I’m sure we’ve all seen the depiction on TV of the stressed businessman who explodes with rage and then drops on the floor clutching his chest. Or we’ve heard someone say “Calm down before you have a stroke!”

But I think seeing research confirm repeatedly that there is a direct link between our emotions and our health is good news, even if you are someone who finds themselves frequently feeling less than positive emotions? Why? Because you can do something about it. Knowledge is power.

While I’m not saying we can change our natural tendency towards pessimism or optimism (and obviously someone with clinical depression will need additional help), I absolutely think we change our overall experience on a daily basis.

How? For starters, a diet with a broad spectrum of nutrients supports our brains and our bodies, endorphin pumping exercise increases cardiovascular health and improves mood and self care work like massage, meditation, yoga and breathing exercises all dissipate stress when done regularly.

If all that seems like way too much to take on at once, I recommend starting with gratitude exercises.  Research on gratitude is relatively young but the studies that have been done are showing great promise that there is a connection between feeling grateful and our well being. Gratitude has been shown to reduce stress and boost the immune system. Positive emotions may even reduce the risk of sudden death from heart conditions like CHF and CAD. If you’re not convinced you should try some yet, here’s a great article that goes over several gratitude studies and the mental and physical health benefits participants received.

Gratitude exercises are something you can do every day and most take just a few minutes to do.

Here are some of the gratitude exercises I recommend to clients and have practiced myself:

1. Create a daily gratitude list. Keep a notebook by your bed and each night before bed, write a list of the things you are thankful for each day. It can be something that happened that day or something you are grateful for in general.  Try to come up with at least 3 items each night and do this for at least 3 weeks to create a habit. This exercise can even help you get better sleep.

2. Write a gratitude letter. Think of someone in your life who had a positive effect on you (big or small) and write them a letter telling them so. Explain what it was that they did/said and how thankful you are to them because of it. Mail it.

3. Meditate on gratitude. Spend 5 – 10 minutes each day meditating on some of the things you feel thankful for (perhaps it’s your health, your warm home, your children, the food on your table etc). Set a timer and sit comfortably in a quiet place with your eyes closed and begin to focus on your breath.  With every inhale, think to yourself “I offer gratitude for___________”. With every exhale, think  to yourself “Thank you” or “I am blessed.”

4. Start a gratitude journal. Once a week, sit down and write about all the things you are grateful for that week. Go in as much depth as you feel like. Let all the good things come out on paper. Squash the negative thoughts (at least in this journal). Some weeks you may find this hard if things aren’t going so well – but dig deep. You will find something.

5. Schedule a gratitude visit. Maybe you’re not the writing type. No worries! Instead of writing a gratitude letter as outlined in #2, schedule a visit, lunch or coffee with a person you’d like to express your gratitude to. It doesn’t need to be something major. The idea is that it will make you and them feel good (and that’s good – it’s infectious!).

6. Express gratitude before you get out of bed. If you can’t do anything else, before you even get out of bed in the morning, express gratitude out loud or even in your head. Thank you for waking up! Thank you for a good night’s sleep. Thank you for this sunny day. Thank you for the sleepy person laying next to me. You get the idea.

7. Say thank you in a conscious way. How often do we say please, thank you, you’re welcome etc in a robotic, routine way? It’s great that we are polite, it’s not so great that there often isn’t any feeling behind it. When you express gratitude thoughtfully and sincerely on a daily basis, it will have a greater impact on the person you are saying it to (and on you as well).  Continue to say thank you, you’re welcome etc but before you say it, pause and connect the thought of gratitude directly to the person you are saying it to. Thoughtful and conscious acts have an effect on our bodies and our minds.

Have you ever practiced gratitude on a regular basis? Do you think it can be helpful for changing our outlook on life? Share in the comments.
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Day 19 – What are you grateful for?

I'm always grateful to see a beautiful sunset!

I’m always grateful to see a beautiful sunset!

Wow, this month is flying by, huh?!  It’s day 19 of  31 Days of Healthy Ways to Enjoy the Holidays More and today’s tip is to spend a few minutes thinking about what you are grateful for.  I know we just had thanksgiving a few weeks ago but studies show that people who focus on the good in their lives feel happier than those who focus on the negative so I think it’s important to make gratitude a regular thing.  Most of us have a tendency to focus on what isn’t going well.   While it isn’t easy to pull your head up when things aren’t going well, trying to remember what you have, instead of what you don’t have, can make things look a little rosier.

Acknowledging what is good in your life, doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop trying to change things for the better or that everything is perfect, it just means that you are aware of all that you have. It doesn’t mean that you can’t vent about the bad things (especially when you are going through a lot!).  I have my struggles but ultimately I feel very lucky because I have a warm and safe home, a kind and hardworking husband, good health and supportive family and friends.  That’s not so bad!

Take a few minutes today to think about what is positive in your life.  What or who are you grateful for?  Was there something good that happened to you today?  You can write it down or tell someone.  Sometimes saying things out loud makes a bigger impact.

If you feel like expressing gratitude isn’t easy for you, or if a dark cloud seems to be following you around try this longer term exercise:

Keep a blank journal on your nightstand and every night before bed, write down three things that happened that day that you are grateful for.  Simple things are fine.  For example:

1. I’m grateful for the sunshine today
2. I’m grateful for my reliable car getting me to where I need to be
3. I’m grateful for good coffee

Try it for three weeks.  Your general outlook on life will improve and you will find it easier to see the good.

I know I have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season.  I hope you do too!