Tag Archives: relationship with food

Should You Weigh Yourself?

Should you weigh yourself if you have a history of eating issues?

Should you weigh yourself if you have a history of eating issues?

I’ve decided to cut back from posting a new blog every week to just 2 a month. I’ve been pumping out a new blog every week for a long time and my brain is starting to feel a little fried when it comes to keeping the content fresh. On one hand I’m kind of bummed to take a break from it (I love to not break a long streak!) but I also need to listen to my needs and get out of that kind of perfectionism. I think backing off a little will help bring back some creativity that I feel I’ve been lacking in my writing lately. It will at least free up some of my time to work on other things I want to do in my business which is something I have to do.

Today’s topic is a question that I hear many people asking and my answer is a little more unconventional than you might think considering the business that I’m in.

Is it okay to weigh yourself?

Should you throw out your scale if you’ve struggled with body image issues or disordered eating?

This is a question that comes up a lot for women who have struggled with some aspect of their relationship to food or their body.  Many health and mental health professionals and those in the body positive movement usually recommend that we toss out our scales.

I personally think it depends on the individual person and their specific relationship with the scale.

I go through periods where I weigh myself daily and then I sort of walk away from it for awhile and might only weigh myself once or twice a month, sometimes I go through longer stretches where I don’t weigh myself for a few months (mostly in the winter!). This works for me. I don’t get anxious about not weighing myself and I don’t get anxious about the number when I do.

When I weigh daily, it confirms for me that the way I am eating and the amount I am exercising is the right amount for my body.

It also has helped me understand the normal fluctuations in weight that my body has week after week or throughout the month, which results in not being alarmed by them. Lots of things contribute to our weight going up or down a pound or two – salty food (up), slow digestive transit time (up), dehydrated (down), week before period (up) etc. Weighing regularly has made me very comfortable with these changes.

As someone who has been challenged in her eating habits and used to be so dependent on tracking calories to know if I had eaten too much – the scale helps confirm for me that I’m on the right track (since I no longer count calories and instead use my hunger / fullness signals as a guide). Weighing myself occasionally tells me that the way I’m living is working, that I am in tune with my hunger signals (or when my eating issues are cropping up again) and that my intuition is working. It actually reinforces some of the good things I’ve worked on in the last 3-4 years.

When I take breaks from it for longer than a few weeks at a time, I find it’s like a silent decision I’m making that I’m going to go a little rogue with my food choices for awhile. I’m choosing to silence my hunger signals and while there’s nothing wrong with doing this once in awhile, I do have a history of really going overboard for long periods when I avoid the scale. If it don’t “see” it, it’s not happening! It’s a way I can lie to myself. For me, purposely avoiding the scale is an indication that I’m heading into unhealthy territory. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect!

When I’m using the scale as a tool, it doesn’t have a ton of power over me. I don’t give the number a ton of meaning. The number doesn’t tell me I’m good or bad, that I’m worthy or unworthy. It mostly serves to tell me if I’m staying present and being honest in my choices or if I’m trying to hide from myself.

Using the scale occasionally gives this former yo-yo dieter the confidence to keep choosing foods that both give me the nutrition I need and also tastes and textures that I enjoy. When you’ve had 90 pound weight losses and also 60 pound weight gains in your life, you realize that you are someone who can easily turn a blind eye to your ups and downs, and the scale helps me keep my eyes open to my actions. It’s something I keep in my personal tool box because even though I don’t put pressure on myself to weigh a certain amount anymore (and I do think it is possible to be healthy and overweight), I do know that if I allow my weight to creep too far back up and stay up, I am increasing my risk for diabetes (too much of this in my family history) and complicating my own history of high blood pressure (and each year that passes, I would be increasing those risks). I’m heavily motivated by living longer and healthier than the people in my family who passed away too young and for me, I know that keeping my weight stable is an important part of this, again, for me personally.

I know this is not the right thing for every woman with a similar history as mine. And I know there are many other women who feel like they get completely crazy over the scale.

It’s important to know yourself and listen to what is right for you, rather than doing what the masses are doing, or what a stranger on the internet says (that includes me – just because I’m sharing that using a scale helps me stay mindful, doesn’t mean that my answer is right for you).

Some women really become obsessed with the scale in a very unhealthy way. If the number on the scale isn’t a number they like, it can ruin their day or their whole week, it can make them restrict food and punish themselves with harsh exercise. It can make them feel helpless, worthless and value themselves less. Feeling this way can lead to really unhealthy behaviors.  For these people, not weighing themselves is a better idea. Using a scale causes them stress, anxiety and depression. In these cases, it’s not a tool, it’s punishment.

The key to knowing if you can continue weighing yourself or not is how much meaning you give it. In my opinion (and experience), if you can use the scale as a tool in a neutral way, that has about as much effect on how you feel about yourself you as tying your shoes does, then it’s probably okay to keep using the scale in some way. If you can step off the scale and not feel virtuous or ashamed, you might be able to still use it. If you don’t feel the need to do something in retaliation to what number is on the scale, you may be able to still use it. It’s important to know how it affects you.

If you are wondering if you should toss your scale out or not, ask yourself:

How do I feel after I weigh myself?

Do I feel virtuous or depressed depending on the number I see?

Do I feel the urge to do “something” to affect my weight in response to the number I see?

Does even thinking about giving up the scale make me feel very anxious? Why?

When in doubt, talk to your doctor or a professional you trust who is aware of your history to discuss what would make the most sense for you. And trust your gut!

Do you need more support with emotional eating? Come join my Ending Emotional Eating Group on Facebook to talk with other women going through the same thing. We’d love to see you 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!

e-book-3d-render

Advertisements

A Better Relationship with Food Means Making Deliberate Decisions

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

I just want to point out that getting better from our struggles with food doesn’t happen by chance.

I talk to a lot of women who seem to believe that there must be a secret way out of all of this – one that will allow them to be somewhat unconscious or inactive while someone or something else does the work (I’ve been there!).

We won’t wake up one day able to eat the exact right amount for our body without judgement, without overeating and without a lot of conscious choices just because we’ve been hoping that would happen.

I certainly tried that. I remember literally trying to “pray” away my weight as a kid. And as I got older, I definitely daydreamed about just waking up in a body that wasn’t confused about food.

We won’t “fix” our stuff just because someone gave us the right diet plan. Being told what to eat and how much is liberating, but only briefly. I say briefly, because on any diet, we will find ourselves choosing to not eat the things or quantities we are supposed to at some point. We will make decisions about food, regardless of what we’re “supposed” to do.

There have been many times over the years where I just thought if someone else would tell me what to eat, exactly what to eat and I didn’t have to make decisions about food, then I wouldn’t have the struggles I did. I wanted to opt out of all decision making about what I put into my body.

But the way out is by actually facing those decisions head on, taking responsibility for our choices and having the consciousness to be able see what our actions lead to.

The best thing to do is to accept that almost everything we do in our food life is because of a choice that we made. Even the choice to not make a choice and have someone else make it for you (i.e. having someone give you a specific diet plan) is itself a choice. The lack of decision is also a decision.

We will only improve our relationship with food by making deliberate and more conscious choices and decisions about:

  • what we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat this compelling donut in front of me or the nutritious lunch I planned?)
  • how we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat slowly, chewing every bite thoroughly before swallowing? Or will I choose shovel handful after handful of chips into my mouth without even taking a breath?)
  • how much or little we will eat (ex. Will I choose to eat until I’m uncomfortably full or will I stop when I’ve had comfortably enough?)
  • when we eat  (ex.  Will I choose to eat because it’s a certain time of day, because it’s been 4 hours since I last ate or because I am physically hungry? etc)
  • why we eat (ex. Are we choosing to eating from a recognition of our physical hunger? Or are we choosing to eat so that we can avoiding feeling our feelings?)
  • even the other stuff like letting go of judgement, loving our body and loving ourselves as we are right now. It all feels abstract and the thoughts we have about ourselves do pop up without conscious choice, but it’s still a conscious choice as to what we will do with those thoughts. Will we choose to let them pass through like clouds pass by in the sky? Or will we choose to choose to focus on them and allow those thoughts to grow?

This is not a blame game. I know people often feel sensitive and defensive when they hear that they have a choice about something because it sounds as if we are choosing to be unhappy, overweight, or to live a complicated relationship with food. But just because we have a choice over our actions, doesn’t mean that it makes it easy to make the best choices all of the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will make good choices even when you are aware of the consequences of the choice you are making. So before we get riled about trying to figure out where to place blame, let’s just decide that there isn’t anyone or anything to blame. This is just how it is and let’s take responsibility for what we can, and not worry about what we can’t.

Focus on the actions you can take to improve things in your food world, like bringing more awareness and more attention to your choices, your meal times, your purchases at the grocery store, how you eat, when you eat etc. Make awareness your job.

When you start to feel acutely aware of the inner thoughts you have as you make these choices (oh, we all have them!), you’ll notice that you can decide to go along with it or choose to do something different. You’ll start to notice that when you decide to make a different choice that you feel better, happier, have less digestive distress etc. And when you feel all the good things that come with making the best choices for your body, making those choices more often will get a little easier!

But first you have to make deliberate and conscious choices regularly, daily, even hourly sometimes. You must do this daily – it has to become part of your life’s practice.

Choose to not reach into the candy bowl again.

Choose to not eat in your car.

Choose to exercise even when you don’t want to.

Choose to eat vegetables even though chips might be more appealing right now.

Choose to go out and visit with friends when you’d rather be downing a pint of ice cream on your couch.

Even with acute awareness and practice, sometimes you will still choose the things that won’t feel best. You will still occasionally choose to eat more than you had planned. You will still sometimes choose foods that don’t feel so great in your body. But that doesn’t have to mean that anything has gone wrong or that you aren’t doing the best you can right now. Normal eaters sometimes do these things too. And for someone healing their relationship with food it is normal to wonder if these perceived “slip ups” are proof that you aren’t improving things or if it’s normal. It’s all in how you handle it. Will you view one single overeating episode as a reason to go back to overeating all the time? Or will you use your knowledge and awareness to let that go and make a different choice going forward?

Realizing that every bite we put in our bodies is because of a deliberate decision we have made is actually very powerful. We can choose to view that as crappy and feel like we are being blamed for our eating challenges or we can choose to see freedom in knowing that we can be active participants in the way out.

Knowing you can choose at every meal and every situation is very liberating. It is freeing. It can help you relax around food. It can help you beat yourself up less (because there will be more choices to make going forward). I know it isn’t easy and I’m not promising that making good choices is easy from the start (it’s not!) – but to get to the “easy” and I know that most of us are always looking for easy, you have to first understand and accept that we have choices to make, bring your attention and awareness to your actions and choices and then start deliberately making choices from a conscious place.

There is a lot of hard work in this. And yes, sometimes it’s really uncomfortable, painful and you’ll feel “I don’t wanna!”. That’s fine – you can feel that way. Just don’t stay there all the time (that’s a choice too cutie!). Come back when you are ready and let’s make more deliberate decisions together.


Could you use some support in this area? Schedule a free consult with me here.

You can also download a 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!). It’s my starter tool pack for those who want to begin changing their relationship with food.

This is How You Respond with Love When You Overeat

How to respond with love when you overeat.

How to respond with love when you overeat.

Responding with love after an overeating episode.

How do we do that?

Last week I wrote a post on how the way that we respond to ourselves when old eating habits resurface can make a big difference in how often we overeat. I talked about how there are two ways you can respond – either with love or with shame, disgust and guilt and that responding the more familiar, negative way is the sure way to find yourself rooting around the pantry again. Responding with love can help these kind of overeating episodes become less frequent and less damaging over time.

So let’s talk about what responding with love actually looks like!

If you’re like me, you like lots of information when you are trying something new. Information, details and answers make you feel safe or like you’re on the right track. But I also have a tendency to overcomplicate things with my need for details (haha! If you’re like me you probably get that too!) so I’m not going to do that to you today! I’m going to give you the info you need but not so much that it makes you feel paralyzed or stuck in taking action.

Responding with love each time you overeat doesn’t have to be a huge, complicated process. It can just be something you do, naturally, simply and normally.

If we go into this by only focusing on giving ourselves love when we eat in a way we aren’t happy with, it’s going to feel like an uphill battle. So with that in mind, the way you respond with love in your overeating episodes is to respond with love every time you eat.

Each time you eat, whether it’s a normal meal, overeating, under eating, a binge, a diet, a snack say thank you. If you’re eating a salad, a steak, a cup cake, a whole sleeve of Ritz crackers, say thank you. Every day. Every meal. Every bite.

Thank your body for receiving the food.

Thank it for digesting it.

Thank your teeth, saliva, your tongue for chewing it so that you can digest it.

Thank your body for retrieving the energy and valuable nutrients from the food that it needs so that you can live your life.

Thank your body for giving you feelings of comfort and satisfaction and safety after a meal.

Tell your body your love her. For no reason other than you are present with her now. Thank you, I love you. Thank you, I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Get in the habit of sending her adoration and gratitude at every opportunity.

It might feel silly at first.

You might feel conceited.

But it’s not conceit. It’s not pride. It’s one small, gentle, non-threatening way you can show yourself love.

We already are really good at saying thank you. From an early age we are taught and trained to say please and thank you. Saying thank you in response to certain situations becomes automatic. We want to show respect and be polite. We want to acknowledge the thoughtfulness and kindnesses others show to us. Why can’t we do the same for ourselves? Isn’t our body deserving of the same pleasantries? Literally everything we are able to do in life happens because we have a functioning, breathing, thinking body. And eating and processing food is a part of all that. Thank your body so often for it’s daily gifts that your positive response will become automatic (just like it is when someone holds the door open for you).

Your digestion will be better. Your body will absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. Your general outlook will be better. You may not even recognize why but it’s because you’re connecting with and acknowledging the role your body plays in your world.

If this feels crazy silly to you, you could also try saying a form of “grace” before you eat or after you eat. Instead of (or in addition to) a prayer to God or your higher power for providing the food you are eating, you could pause for a moment and to yourself (or out loud if you wish) say:

“Dear Body, I thank for all the work you will undergo so that I can eat this food and digest this meal. Thank you for making it so the nutrients in this food allow me to have a productive and satisfying day. Thank you for giving me energy today. I love you for all that you do, all that you are and exactly as you are right now.”

Alter that as you wish. What does your body want to hear? What does she do for you every day that you are grateful for? How is she worthy and deserving of your love? And will you try giving it to her so that it becomes easier to give it to yourself?

So now you know how to respond with love to your eating episodes. Will you try it?


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!).

Need help with your own eating struggles? Let’s talk.

Why Old Eating Habits Keep Coming Back and How Your Response Can Reduce Their Frequency

Things were going so well. So why do you find yourself picking at junk in the pantry or eating when everyone else has gone to bed? And what can we do about it?

Things were going so well. So why do you find yourself picking at junk in the pantry or eating when everyone else has gone to bed? And what can we do about it?

Sometimes I am just going along in my day to day life and everything seems good, only to find myself staring in the pantry wanting something that isn’t there.

The pantry is filled with plenty of food and I’m not actually hungry, but there is something I want in there. And even though with every available brain cell, I know that the want I am feeling comes from something other than food and that responsible present day Andrea would walk away from the pantry and go think or write about her feelings and what might be causing the need to fill it up with food, and if I did that, I wouldn’t even want something in the pantry anymore. But there is another Andrea from my past who appears and says “Hey, shhhh, don’t listen to her! You listen to her all the time! What about us? We used to have so much fun together! Let’s eat like old times – just this once! I promise I’ll leave you alone if you just give me big two handfuls of trail mix and half a bag of popcorn. I swear!” Sometimes I let past Andrea in for a bit. Not for very long – but just long enough to have me go “Why am I eating this?”.

Old eating stuff is going to come up from time to time, no matter how long you’ve been at this healing process.

But why is it coming up? And what’s the best way to handle it?

These eating episodes are a little annoying but I handle it much differently than I would have in the past and that is the difference between still being in an unhealthy place and being a normal human being with an challenging eating past.

The women I work with have this struggle too. They confess to overeating at dinner, to choosing a cupcake over an apple when they wanted a snack, to still having small binges occasionally when they’ve had a rotten day. They know they have tools to turn it around, to choose something different and most of the time they do, but sometimes they may even want to give in to the old desire and they think that this means something has gone terribly wrong in their journey – that they are WRONG for these things to be happening in their eating life or wrong for wanting to eat this way sometimes.

Nothing has gone wrong. In fact, I don’t think you can truly make progress in healing the relationship you have with food without having some screw ups along the way. If you never get to test a skill out, how do you know if you’ve really mastered it? If you’re training to be a pilot but have never actually flown a plane, I don’t want to get in a plane you are flying. Learning is one thing, gaining lots of experience is another!

One of the biggest indicators of progress is in how we handle ourselves when things don’t go the way we planned them to. When our old habits resurface (and they will), do we roll over and say “I give up! I failed!” or do we dust ourselves off and keep moving forward? Do we shame ourselves for making a mistake or do we remind ourselves that we are human and aren’t expected to be perfect?

Old eating habits (overeating, restricting, bingeing, emotional eating etc) will reappear in your life. That is a given. So why do they keep reappearing? We’ll get into that below. I’ll also tell you how you can respond so that they happen less and less.

When and why do old eating habits reappear?

Old habits resurface when we stop being so vigilant or we stop paying close attention to eating. When we start to feel confident that we know how to do this now, we know how to eat mindfully or intuitively. We start to want to be “lazy”  – paying close attention to every bite we eat, and the sensations in our body, as well as why we’re eating etc is a lot of emotional work and sometimes we just want to go on autopilot. Don’t feel bad about this desire to be “lazy”, it’s actually the way our brains are designed to function. Your brain want things to be as efficient as possible so it can use energy on more important things so it’s going to try to make you choose actions that feel automatic over things that feel difficult. Remind yourself that “being present” eventually won’t feel like work if you continue to choose it daily. Your brain will start to see that as the “easier” response. And yes, it takes a long time but it will get a little easier.

Old habits also will pop up when we’re stressed out. New job, new baby, moving, worries about your kids or parents, illness, anxiety disorders etc. Anything that causes you to feel stressed or having a lack of control over your life can mean you will look for ways to comfort yourself and relieve stress. For those of us with a history of overeating or emotional eating, turning to food might be your first reaction, even if you’ve been doing really well. That habit is wired in your brain through lots of neural pathways and while you are building new ones every time you choose to do things differently, it will be a long while until those old pathways are no longer dominant and the “easier” route. We can’t undo decades worth of repetition in just a few months. Under periods of stress, our brains want to conserve our energy to deal with whatever crisis you are going through, so it’s going to choose the path of least resistance, and old, reliable paths that don’t require any thinking will win almost every time (that’s why we find ourselves grazing in the pantry and hardly even remember making a decision to do that).

Old habits will appear when we’re sick, tired, bored, PMS’ing or even overwhelmed. We don’t necessarily have to be going through a crisis or feeling lazy to find food starts to feel like a problem again. The level of self control we have at our disposal changes based on what else is going on in our lives. I know that when I get sick, I am more emotional and I want to wallow or indulge in feeling crappy. I know that probably sounds strange, but it’s the truth! When I get into a place where I want to “indulge in feeling crappy” I will turn to food. If I feel like crap when I’m sick, eating crappily or eating too much in general will make me feel worse and for some reason it feels justified. It’s ironic, because I know that eating well when I’m sick will actually contribute to me feeling better in general much quicker, but sometimes I have an emotional brat in me who wants to come out and she’ll take advantage when she knows I’m down. Maybe you can’t fathom overeating when you’re sick (most people aren’t even interested in food then!), maybe for you it’s when you’re feeling lonely, have a lot on your plate or are generally just exhausted. In any of these situations, our guard is down, we’re occupied by something other than being present and taking good care of ourselves (which in all honesty is most of the time, right??) and that means there’s an opportunity for less than desireable eating behaviors to show up.

Old eating habits can show up anytime. You probably read the above scenarios and go, okay, I see why they come back up when I’m busy paying attention to something other than my thoughts and actions around eating. That makes perfect sense. But what about when I’m going along in life and things seem pretty ok and suddenly I find myself in my car eating a bunch of cookies? Slightly stale ones at that. They weren’t even that good, but I couldn’t stop. I eventually had to get out of the car and toss the rest of the package in a garbage can in front of the store before driving home because I knew that if the rest of the cookies stayed with me, they would have ended up in my belly which was already stuffed to the brim. Sound familiar? Maybe your slip up happens in your kitchen at night when everyone else is asleep or maybe it happens when you’re out to dinner with friends, in full view, you eat twice as much as you know you need.

Even though things are going well, we can still have “blips” in our progress. Self-sabotage is real. Some of us can’t handle for things to go well and we will do whatever we can to mess it up, so that if it does go badly, we can say “see! it wasn’t meant to be!”. Deprivation is another reason this stuff will keep coming back. You think you’re eating mindfully, thoughtfully. You think you are eating what you desire and also eating nutritiously, but deep in the back of your mind are a whole bunch of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and you’ve listened to the “shouldn’ts” a few too many times and now all you can think about is those damn cookies. And also, sometimes a little overeating is a normal part of life – yes, normal.

Slip ups, mistakes, old habits are inevitable. We’re human. There’s nothing you can do to stop the occasional overeating hiccup from appearing. No matter how “good” you are, no matter how rigorous you’ve been in applying all you’ve learned about habit change, you will still find yourself making food choices sometimes that could bring up old feelings of shame, guilt, disgust or make you want to take drastic habits. There’s no avoiding this part.

But here’s what you can do about it:

You can choose how you respond when it happens.

There are really only two options.

Option 1

Respond with the old familiar ways – feel shame, disgust, guilt. Beat yourself up. Tell yourself how gross you are, how foolish you are, how undisciplined you are. Make this eating choice mean all possible terrible things you’ve ever thought about yourself. Remind yourself that this is why you aren’t getting farther in life, that this is why you are single, that this is why you don’t have more opportunities in life. This is the source of every problem you’ve ever had. Let this one moment in eating turn into more years of pain, sadness and despair.

Option 2

Respond with love. Remember ultimately WHY you are eating like this in the first place. You are trying to bring yourself comfort. You are trying to give yourself a kindness when you aren’t feeling any elsewhere. You are just trying to feel love. Let the few hours of physical discomfort be just that. Let any feelings of shame, disgust or guilt float on by. Remind yourself that you are not bad or gross for eating something. Accept that this was just one small choice and it’s in the past now. It does not mean anything. Respond to yourself the same way you would to a crying child (you are eating this way because a part of you is crying inside in some way – answer that cry with LOVE). You are just a person, trying to do her best, with the way she knows how in this particular moment. Let this one moment in eating just be that, one moment of eating.

One of these will make it a lot easier for overeating, bingeing to come back over and over again. One of them will make your eating life remain an uphill climb. And the other, while it may feel harder at first, will make your long term success more likely. It will make these episodes less frequent. Which will you choose?

I hope you choose love. Responding with love and letting go of the urge to shame yourself can be challenging at first, but do it over and over again and not only will it feel easier, it will start to feel good and you will see your “mistakes” as no big deal in the scheme of things. This makes moving forward so much easier. When this happens, you will truly have made progress – your backtracking and slip ups will happen less and less, and when they do happen, you will have the tools necessary to get out of it and get on with your life.

It’s just love. The very thing you are looking for when you eat, is the thing you need to get out of here, and you already have it inside of you. Practice using it on yourself and you will cultivate more of it in your life.

Do you find old eating habits reappear in your life from time to time? How do you choose to respond to these episodes? What benefits does that choice bring you?

Things That’ll Happen when You Stop Obsessing Over What and How Much to Eat

This croissant is not "bad" and you are not "bad" if you eat it. It's just food and eating one of them is not going to alter your body in a significant way. You can enjoy it freely.

This croissant is not “bad” and you are not “bad” if you eat it. It’s just food and eating one of them is not going to alter your body in a significant way. You can enjoy it freely.

Improving your relationship with food is a little bit like cleaning your house. You think you’re making awesome progress and you’ve worked really hard, but every time you turn around there is another pile of junk to deal with! Who put this here? When did I acquire this?? How did this get here?

All joking aside, it might be helpful to think about our food relationships getting “better” as something like a long hike! You may spend some time in valleys and on several peaks. It’s not a straight line from A to B. There might be detours onto a different trail, occasionally it might feel like you are back pedaling (why is this trail going down again, when we’ve been going up for so long!?), there will be some gorgeous views if you’re lucky, but sometimes it’s cloudy out and there won’t be any view – you’ll just have to trust that it’s there. Sometimes it’s all you can do to just keep your eyes on your feet and pray that they keep lifting up off the ground to take another step in front of you. At the end of the day, you’re exhausted, sore and filthy and yet you feel proud of your tenacity and maybe even look forward the next hike.

Improving your relationship with food is a little like hiking - tiring, long and sometimes frustrating but totally worth it.

(Summit of Mt Tecumseh this past weekend) Improving your relationship with food is a little like hiking – tiring, long and sometimes frustrating but totally worth it.

I’ve stumbled a lot along the way. The women I work with have too. Sometimes it feels like you are still at square one. But other times, if we look back at where we were a year ago, 2 years ago, 10 years ago, we can see how much progress we really have made.

One thing I’ve been noticing lately is how different my thoughts around food have gotten. For so very long, it was almost impossible for me to enjoy a meal without first having calculated the calories in it. I’d look at menus before arriving at a restaurant, so that I could factor in what meal would fit in calorically with the other meals that day. Everything had to add up correctly and I would plan and adjust constantly so that it did. It felt like a game that I could never win. When I stopped religiously calorie counting, it was incredibly hard not to do the mental math automatically. I had memorized the calorie count and nutritional details of almost every possible food out there. It’s really hard to “unlearn” that but I’ve made a huge effort to put my mind on the quality of the food I’m eating and learning how to read my hunger and fullness signals. Sometimes I’ve had to essentially “hush” that part of my brain that wants to add up the numbers. A lot at first. But I do that less and less now.

My point is that the less I focus on how much to eat and whether or not I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat something, the more “normal” eating makes sense. By holding on a little less tightly to controlling it all, the hold food has had on me has loosened up too. I let go of what I thought I couldn’t let go of and by doing that, it’s letting go of me too. I’ve been finding myself making choices lately, that may not be the “healthiest” of foods but being able to enjoy them in a reasonable amount – without it turning into a binge, or beating myself up. Enjoying without making it mean anything more.

I’ve been compiling a list of surprising things that have happened along the way as my relationship with food has become easier. Things I wasn’t expecting or I thought wasn’t a big deal until I looked back at where I was originally and could see what a huge deal it really is.

For someone who doesn’t eat emotionally, hasn’t spent their life dieting or bingeing or overeating every night of their lives, this stuff must sound so stupid! But for those of us for whom, food has taken on a larger than life personality, this kind of progress is invaluable.

I feel like I have so much more life, so much more to give and so much more ability to connect with others now since my mind isn’t completely consumed by thoughts about food or my body. That doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do still, but holy crap, I have come so far.

I’m sharing my list with you, in case you want to know how different your life could be if you work on some of these things too. (Check out my Pay What You Can Coaching offer this fall if you’re looking to make some big strides in your own relationship with food).

Things That’ll Happen when You Stop Obsessing Over What and How Much to Eat:

  1. I can fill up my plate at a bbq or other social gathering without spending even 1 second worrying about what everyone else is thinking about what I’m eating. And I can watch others eat without wondering how the heck they can eat what they do and be as thin as they are. Really, I can eat and be present with the people I’m with instead of interacting with both our plates of food.
  2. If I want ice cream, I can eat a big serving of real full fat ice cream and be both satisfied and not have it turn into a downward spiral into binge-land. I don’t have to satisfy my craving with a fat free, fake sugar filled pretend version of the real thing (which only makes me want to eat more and more of it). I want it, I eat it.
  3. That being said, eating what I want and when I want it, now means I want less of the things I thought I always wanted. I thought that if I had certain foods at my fingertips all the time, then I would eat them all the time – but that was only the case when I was telling myself that I couldn’t/shouldn’t eat them. Telling myself it’s ok to eat these things if I really want them strangely enough means I usually don’t even want them or if I do, I can eat a serving or two and be done with it.
  4. Going out to eat I can order whatever I really feel like eating – which might be a salad or baked fish or it might be something really decadent. It used to be about ordering whatever the most indulgent thing on the menu was – since I viewed going out to eat as a time to “cheat” and I usually went overboard.
  5. Not going to bed really full is nice. I am less likely to binge or eat too much because I’m not spending half my week eating as little as I possibly can. I’m able to listen to and eat what my body needs.
  6.  A chip is just a chip. A cookie is just a cookie. It’s not the doorway to weighing 400 lbs. A glass of wine does not equal gaining 3 lbs. An extra handful of nuts doesn’t mean I won’t fit into my jeans. It’s not a big deal.
  7. Eating too much is just something that happens occasionally. It is not the end of the world and it no longer ruins my day (or week). I move on instead of wallowing in it.
  8. Eating too little is no longer a badge of honor. I know I need more food to get through the day successfully so I feed my body appropriately – especially as I’ve started to lift heavier weights and go on longer hikes and bike rides. I just can’t do that stuff (and I enjoy it) if I’m not well fueled.
  9. Feeling strong and powerful in my workouts has become the goal and is now way more important than looking skinny or feeling thin. Do I look better because I exercise? Sure. But my size is no longer my focus. It’s barely even in the lens anymore.
  10. I regularly go into my closet and get rid of clothes that no longer fit. I no longer hold onto too tight clothes for the day when I finally fit into it again or onto too big stuff in case I gain weight again. I can live in my present body and not live in hope or fear of the future.
  11. Foods that I used to think tasted amazing actually don’t taste very good upon further inspection. This surprised me a lot! The texture of store bought frosting leaves a disgusting greasy residue in my mouth. Foods with artificial sweeteners taste too sweet and generally “off”. Cheez-its don’t really taste cheesy to me anymore.
  12. My weight is more stable. I go up and down a few pounds normally. No massive ups and massive downs. I know if I end up on the scale my weight will be somewhere in an 8 lb range (constipation, PMS, normal body fluctuations are much of that). As long as I don’t see anything way over or under that, I know I’m eating the right amount for my body.  Having this data, while triggering for some, actually helps reinforce that what I’m doing is working for me right now. I know I can trust my body, because things are balancing out on their own.

What do you think? Can you relate to any of these? What has been the most surprising benefit for you as you’ve made progress on your own eating concerns? What habits and changes have been the most helpful?

Visiting Oregon and Being the “New” Version of Myself

Roses in the rose test garden in Portland, OR

Roses in the rose test garden in Portland, OR

I thought I’d do something different this week and share more personal details than I usually do on the blog by telling you a little bit about our vacation in Oregon. In this day and age of technology and social media, it can be confusing to know how much sharing is enough and how much is too much. By nature, I’m not a very private person and consider myself an open book but I definitely have come to be more cautious about how much I put out there about myself online. Less out of a privacy concern and more out of a “Do people really want to hear this? Do people need to know this about me?” concern. There’s a lot of oversharing on the internet and we’re over-saturated with content, who has time/energy to read extra details about random people? But what I’m noticing is that people do want to hear and see more personal stuff today than they have in the past. People are curious . . .and since I’m not ready to take the plunge onto all the video options of sharing personal details, I’m going to put it out there on the blog.

If you read last week’s blog post, you know I had come down with symptoms of strep throat right before we left for our 9 day trip to Oregon. I was starting to freak out about it but decided I was going to enjoy our trip even if I was sick. It did end up being strep and I was on antibiotics for most of the trip but by day 3, I kind of forgot that I was sick, thankfully.

Drinking Kombucha at Deschutes Brewery in Portland. First couple days of being on antibiotics for strep - eating foods that are rare for me but drinking kombucha instead of beer!

Drinking Kombucha at Deschutes Brewery in Portland. First couple days of being on antibiotics for strep – eating foods that are rare for me but drinking kombucha instead of beer!

We stayed for 4 nights at Hotel Vintage, in downtown Portland. We had a small but really cool room with panoramic skylights which was fun. It was nice to have so much natural light in a hotel room (don’t worry it had electronic shades so we didn’t bake in the sun or give neighbors a full view at night) and the extra windows helped make the room feel a lot bigger than it was. It ended up being the perfect location to explore Portland – it was easy walking distance to tons of great restaurants and lots to do within a few blocks. Portland is super walkable – 20 blocks equals a mile so you can cover a ton of ground in a little time.

We visited the International Rose Test and Japanese Gardens which were less than a 2 mile walk away from our hotel. It was 97 degrees out and sunny for the first several days we were there and we walked between 6-8 miles each day – John didn’t complain once! A huge difference from some of our previous trips where I made him walk, bike or hike everywhere. He quit smoking 2 years ago this week and he’s been exercising on his own lately. He’s like a new man.

We kind of joked that this change in him was the “new John”. And then we joked that the Andrea that didn’t “over plan” the trip was the “new Andrea”.

In fact this became a recurring joke and theme of our whole trip.

The Andrea who normally stresses out about every detail of a trip and who normally panics at signs of even the most benign illness, she wasn’t here. We left her at home. This was a “new Andrea”.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this in yourself but it’s easy to keep doing things exactly the way we’ve always done them. As we get a little older, those natural habits and tendencies can start to make us feel stuck, stagnant and that we’re hitting the same walls over and over again. It’s hard to get farther or have new experiences in life if we limit our experiences before they begin – know what I mean? Both John and I have noticed things about ourselves that have started to feel cemented in place and we don’t want that. On this trip, visiting a state we’ve never been before – seeing things we’ve never seen before, we found it easy to loosen up, shed old habits and be a different or “new” version of ourselves.

Just because I’ve always freaked out when getting sick or planned every detail of a trip doesn’t mean I have to keep doing that if it isn’t working for me. John always told himself he hated exercise – but that only made him hate exercise. It wasn’t providing any benefit. Lately he’s been trying to think of it as exploring (we’ve even done a few hikes together this summer!). That helps change how he feels about it and in turn his whole experience is different and he looks forward to going out and moving his body more.

The same goes for our eating habits. If comfort eating after a long day at work isn’t actually bringing you the comfort you originally thought it was, something needs to change. If eating lunch out every day of the work week isn’t making your body feel good, maybe packing your lunch one or two days week is worth trying. If counting calories, trying to burn off every bite you eat with exercise isn’t serving you – you don’t have to just keep doing it.

We don’t have to accept the way we do things as permanent, unchangeable. Sometimes I think one of the purposes of life is just figuring out how to navigate through it and to do that successfully it might mean changing direction or the way we do things sometimes. Being a new version of yourself!

As I mentioned earlier, we went on this trip with me letting go of the reins of planning and just winging a lot of it. This brought up a lot of anxiety for me. I like to seek out the best restaurants wherever I go. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy but they have to be good – creative and with fresh ingredients. I turn into a monster brat when I go out to eat and have a rotten meal. It’s partially because I’m a snobasaurus, but also it’s a leftover imprint from food issues where I didn’t allow myself to enjoy food except under rigid circumstances. Now that I can enjoy food more easily . . .I have an expectation that it has to be amazing (yeah, I know, my work isn’t over yet!) so picking restaurants with me is often a dramatic hassle (at least for John). I let go of that in Portland.

I also let go of something else. While I don’t have rules anymore about what I can and can’t eat as far as whether it’s good for me or too high calorie or anything like that, I do try to avoid certain foods or food preparations that I know make me feel awful. Most dairy, wheat and fried food or baked goods are off my menu when I have the option and I like how eating that way makes me feel (less constipation, less skin issues, less asthma symptoms and digestive pain). But sometimes that can feel restrictive or annoying to follow too – even though I feel best when I don’t eat that stuff. Because we were on vacation and I was already relaxing about where we ate, I found myself also relaxing more than usual about what I ate or ordered.

At a brewery we ordered parmesan garlic french fries and a charcuterie plate with brown bread.  I ordered latte’s (when in Rome). I ate some of John’s pizza, twice. I ordered soup with cheese in it. I drank a few beers and I ate some of John’s soft pretzel. Also mixed into all this stuff I normally don’t eat were lots of foods that made me feel good too – kombucha, raw and cooked vegetables, beans, seafood etc. I didn’t set out to eat anything just to see if I could do it. I wanted to relax about the menu and where we ate. John and I shared plates at a lot of meals. It felt great. I know I can’t eat certain foods on a daily basis (to do this with dairy would mean bad asthma all over again) but continuing to trust myself to eat and order various foods, whatever I want at the moment, even if it’s something that may make me feel “off” once in awhile is a part of normal eating. Sometimes we’re going to eat too much, too little or food that doesn’t feel or taste so great and that’s ok.

In Oregon, the "new Andrea" ate foods she normally would have avoided (like wheat and dairy). John did too - he ordered grilled Octopus and loved it. Sometimes you have to be someone else for a bit!

In Oregon, the “new Andrea” ate foods she normally would have avoided (like wheat and dairy). John did too – he ordered grilled Octopus and loved it. Sometimes you have to be someone else for a bit!

The interesting thing about being the “new Andrea” for 9 days was that I felt less crappy eating those foods than I think I expected to. Not stressing over where we were going or what to order meant my body overall was less stressed and I think this led to feeling less crappy than normal. We had an amazing meal at almost every meal we ate out. I can only think of one that was just “so so” and that was probably because we were tired and had been traveling all day (either way, I didn’t make a big deal about it – it was just a meal).

It certainly helped that Oregon, and Portland in particular has amazing food and amazing restaurants and that the people who work in them really seem to love the art of preparing and serving food! And also contributing to this overall feeling of letting go of rigid habits is the fact that everyone in Oregon seems really laid back. On the highway, heading out of Portland and to Astoria to have lunch before visiting Cannon Beach, I noticed that the speed limit was 70, yet everyone was driving at 55 mph. No one was riding my ass. No one was working to get around the slow cars in the passing lane. Everyone was just cruising along. For a minute the New England girl in me came out and I was like “What the fuck, can’t anyone go the speed limit?? These people would never survive in Boston!”. But then I realized they were on to something. What’s the rush? Why not be where you are right now, instead of rushing towards where you are going to be?

Me and John at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR. We had hot temps and did a ton of walking early in our trip and my heat/exercise disliking husband didn't complain even once. Trying on a new version of ourselves!

Me and John at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR. We had hot temps and did a ton of walking early in our trip and my heat/exercise disliking husband didn’t complain even once. Trying on a new version of ourselves!

We spent the second half of our trip staying in McMinnville, which is in the Willamette Valley. We picked McMinnville as a base location for visiting a few of the 300 wineries in the area. When we visited Napa five years ago, I hand selected the wineries we were going to visit weeks before – doing diligent research on location, type and quality of wines, atmosphere, cost – you name it. We had a great time in Napa but again, I let go of my need for planning in Willamette. The urge to see as many as possible over a few days left me and we found ourselves just spending a huge chunk of one afternoon at one winery in particular because it was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, the wine tasty and it was peaceful and happy. We opted for being in the present and listening to our needs and desires instead of checking off my tourism to do list. We felt relaxed and refreshed and even though we didn’t get to see as much of the valley as normally I would have hoped for, this felt perfect. We can always go back.

Beautiful views from Penner Ash winery. Spent more time being present instead of worrying about where we wanted to be next. I highly recommend it!

Beautiful views from Penner Ash winery. Spent more time being present instead of worrying about where we wanted to be next. I highly recommend it!

This was a great trip in so many ways. Not only did we get to explore a new state that we are excited to see more of but we both tried on new behaviors and relaxed old habits. I think this helped both of us relax and get the most out of our time away – we even found ourselves in several spontaneous conversations with fellow travelers and locals, which if you know John and I is not our usual mode of operation. We also sat at a bar more than once – for dinner and in a tasting room, which normally John won’t do. . .but he was open to because this was the “new John” and he actually liked it this time. I think the fact that I came down with strep right before we left and I had mentally made the decision to not let it ruin the trip actually became an awesome launching pad for being more open to other changes on the trip. So, thank you strep throat!

I spent 9 days in Oregon with the new Andrea and John and I liked them. Maybe I’ll invite them over more often.

There are certain things about myself that I find embarrassing or annoying (like my need to have perfect restaurant experiences or my over planning) and it felt good to play with changing those things in a safe way. I don’t want to get stuck being someone I don’t like. I don’t want to just accept that there are things I do that I don’t like. You are never too old to improve yourself or see and do things a bit differently (in your relationship with food or otherwise).

Next time you go to a new place, a new restaurant or are about to have any new experience, try doing things a little differently. What habits, quirks, needs of yours are holding you back? If there is something you don’t like about yourself, the way you do things or where your life is headed, what is stopping you from changing that? Could you allow yourself to be a “new” version of yourself, even if just for a week or two? What might happen?


Keep your eyes open for a special offer coming soon! I promised in September I would be making a special (limited quantity) offer to those of you who are new to coaching, that will make trying it more affordable! It’s coming soon! Make sure you are on my email list so that you don’t miss this offer when it’s ready! Joining this list automatically means you receive my free eBook Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be aWorkout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).