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Struggling to Lose Weight or "Get Healthy" But Have No Motivation? No Problem! Here's What To Do.
How much of your day do you spend thinking about all the things you think you should be doing about your weight or health but just can't seem to "make yourself" do? How much of your day do you spend judging and berating yourself for not being "motivated enough" to do them? If you're anything like I was for many years, the answer to both those questions is most of the day. No worries, keep reading because in this post, I'm diving into the biggest reasons why we get stuck in that rut and more importantly, what to do about it. So if you've been following my work for any length of time, you know by now I always like to start with asking why. The two whys we want to start with are why aren't you motivated and why do you want to lose weight or get healthy or whatever that thing is that you keep telling yourself you want but have no motivation for. So why are you unmotivated and why do you want it? Understanding why you're not motivated is super important because it puts you back in control, rather than spending your time feeling like a helpless victim to your lack of motivation. AND it helps you stop resisting your reality. The three biggest reasons people tend to struggle with motivation around this whole weight loss/healthy living thing are: First, you're stuck believing it even requires motivation in the first place. We've been sold a lie that prioritizing our health requires motivation because it's hard work and supposed to suck. Punishment, hard work, restriction, deprivation, willpower, suffering, etc. No wonder you're not motivated! You have to be pretty desperate to willingly sign up for that and no matter how desperate you are, motivation to stick to that will never last forever. What annoys me the most about this reason is that it's all lies. Read more on why I say that in my last post, here. Prioritizing your health shouldn't be hard work. You just don't have the capacity to do literally anything else. You're likely exhausted. You're working a million hours a week, you're stressed, you're not sleeping well, you're putting every one else's needs ahead of your own because you feel like it's selfish to do anything for yourself or that you don't deserve a spot on your own priority list. This only gets compounded by all the messages that tell us prioritizing our own well-being is supposed to be hard. You just don't want it bad enough. This one usually stems from lousy reasons behind why you think you want it and then gets compounded by the first two. What do I mean by lousy reasons behind why you think you want it? Most people obsess over wanting to lose weight or even "get healthy" because of looks. It's about looking a certain way, or being a certain size because of what we associate with that - validation and celebration from those around us, being viewed as successful and more respected, etc. Pop over to this podcast episode for more on this. Now, you may be thinking, "no no Roni - I need to lose weight for my health" but I call BS on that if you're obsessed with external measurements (which almost everyone is). Your health is not defined by external measurements. I spent 8 years helping women lose weight and 99.9% of the time, their reason for wanting it was related to looks - which is horrible motivation! Why is that horrible motivation? Because you're not really doing it for you. When you're obsessed with weight loss because you think you want to look better, it's about how other people see you. How can it be for you? You only see yourself for a couple minutes a day. Again, you have to be superrr desperate to sign up for the hard work you've been told it takes just so the people around you see a smaller version of you. Looks, size, scale numbers are also terrible motivation because the choices that you make today cannot affect those things today. So you have to suffer, restrict and willpower your way through the day so that maybe someday a month or two from now someone will tell you look great and ask if you lost weight? It's horrible motivation which is why you're struggling with motivation. Now that we've looked at why you're probably struggling with motivation we're going to build on that last point and look at the second why. Why do you think you want it? Let's get at your actual core desire. See, most people want to lose weight or "get healthy" for some surface reason as discussed in point #3 above - smaller pant size, cute summer clothes, a smaller number on the scale, so that mother, sister, friend, etc will be proud of us, etc... but that's never the real, underlying reason. It's just the crummy surface reason that we keep focused on but the REAL reason almost always comes down to how we think it will make us feel. We associate certain feelings with all kinds of external goals and whenever we set goals, it's almost always because of how we think it'll make us to feel to reach them. What feelings are you associating with weight loss or being healthier? List them. Ok, now from here you're going to start doing two crazy things. First, stop trying to get motivated or telling yourself you need to be and just accept that you're not. No motivation? Ok, that's cool! Every time you notice yourself pressuring or judging yourself about it, make a purposeful effort to change those thoughts to thoughts of acceptance. Just accept where you are. So, when you hear something like, "I need to get motivated to get this weight off. What am I going to do to get motivated? It's been so long since I've felt motivated, what if I never do again?" etc... stop those thoughts in their tracks and just start repeating something else. Something as simple as, "it's okay, let it go" can be helpful. Just accept that you're not motivated and allow it to be okay. I told you it was going to sound crazy. But it's actually not crazy because here's the thing - reminding yourself a hundred times a day that you need to get motivated does exactly nothing to actually get you motivated. In fact, it makes you less motivated because it's like kicking yourself when you're down. Doesn't it make you feel worse every time you remember how unmotivated you are? Exactly! We don't want you feeling worse, we need you feeling better so we can start building forward momentum. Screw motivation, forward momentum is the ticket and that requires not continuing to beat on yourself. Stop fighting against your reality and accept it. Allow yourself to be completely unmotivated. It is what it is. It is where you are. Fighting your reality does nothing to change it. Second, start from there. Start where you are. Right now, with no motivation. That's where you're going to start. You're going to take everything you just discovered from the first few questions, you're going to accept that you're completely unmotivated and then you're going to pick one thing to do today that moves you toward what you want based on the answers to the first two questions. Pick just one thing and make it super small and easy. Make it something that makes you feel better since not only is that likely your core desired feeling but also feeling better will help drive forward momentum, which is what we want. Look at the reasons why you're not feeling motivated, what you actually want and use those answers to decide what one thing you're going to do. For example, are you unmotivated because you're exhausted and your core desired feeling is to just feel better? Great. So then maybe the one thing you'll do today is to nap or go to bed earlier tonight. That's understanding why you're unmotivated, and starting to move towards what you really want from exactly where you are. Then continue doing that every day. Assess how you feel, assess how you want to feel and do one thing about moving towards what you want based on how you feel and what you want. That's it. It's just that easy. And so much healthier because rather than crapping on yourself, feeling like a victim to your lack of motivation and treating yourself and your body like garbage until you "get motivated again" you're actively working towards just giving yourself what you actually need in a way that makes you feel better & makes life easier, rather worse. Every day. No more track to keep jumping on and falling off. Reminding yourself a hundred times a day that you need to lose weight or get healthy without understanding why you're not doing the things you think you should be doing to get there, is doing nothing but wasting time keeping you stuck in that rut and making you feel even worse - when I'm guessing all you really want is to just feel better, in general and about yourself.
Everything about the way “healthy lifestyles” are promoted in our culture makes me 🤮
Unpopular opinion: Everything about the way “healthy lifestyles” are promoted in our culture makes me 🤮
Here you have it folks, the skinny instagram model type mixing expensive shakes in workout clothes - the epitome of what we're taught "healthy living" looks like 👇👇 🙄🤦♀️ "Healthy living” has just become a rebranded version of diet culture. It’s the same focus on looks - pretty pictures of bodies and food and gyms and yoga at sunset and step counts and calories burned, and water jugs. The same rules, restrictions, messages of suffering, work, willpower and motivation. The same air of superiority around one way to eat or live and demonization of everything else. Drink 8 glasses of water. Eat healthy. 10,000 steps. Sleep 8 hours. Move your body. Motivation. Willpower. Discipline. Hard work. I mean I get it. I fell prey to that crap for a long time myself. Now though I just feel like shouting... 👇👇 Admit it, you read that meme in a British accent, didn't you? Yeah, me too. 😂 Everyone talks about how hard it is to do this healthy living thing - how we know what we “should be” doing but it’s just sooo hard to do it. It’s become totally normalized that prioritizing our health is supposed to be hard and something we always have to be “working hard” at. Noooooo. No. No. No. No. I’m curious - how many hours of your day do you spend ragging on yourself for all the things you “should be doing” but aren’t? How many times have you “started again Monday” because you can’t force yourself to do all those things so you end up doing none of them? Exactly. That messaging is not helping our population actually live healthier in any real measurable way. All it's going is creating a population that lives stuck between being either "on track" or "off track" their whole lives. Not. At. All. Healthy. Physically or mentally. And do you know WHY? Why it’s just so hard to do and why everyone struggles so hard to “make themselves” do all the things they think they "should be" doing? Because of all that messaging. Because we’ve been taught that prioritizing our health means actively forcing ourselves to ignore what we want and need - that it means finding the “motivation” to start working at checking off that ridiculous to-do list of all the things everyone else tells us we need. Because in the biggest lie of all - we’ve been taught that our natural instincts are to “be bad” and so to be healthy we have to not only resist all our natural instincts, but actively “find the motivation” to fight against them - to “be good” & “stay on track”. There’s even a feeling of superiority built right in when we are “being good”. We end up either feeling good or bad about ourselves depending upon whether or not we’re “on track”. It’s so toxic. I’m not saying sleeping more, eating “well” and moving more are toxic behaviors. I’m saying the messages and the culture that promotes them are toxic because it keeps people stuck in that unhealthy battle between either fighting to be “good” and “stay on track” or being “off track” and making choices that make them feel like garbage. Here’s where the biggest lie of all has steered us in such a toxic direction - the idea that our natural compulsion is to “be bad” and eat all that bad stuff is full on bullshit. Pardon the language. We’re not born into bodies that naturally want to eat in ways that make them feel like garbage. We're not even born into bodies that are "too lazy to exercise". I call bullshit on all that too. Our bodies want to move and feel good. We’re born into bodies that know how to eat and naturally want to move. We’re born into bodies that want to feel good and are actively working to try to keep us healthy 24/7 for our entire lives. We've just been so busy hating and ignoring them that we can't even hear them anymore. As we grow up, we learn patterns of thinking and behaving from those around us, and our own life experiences teach us coping strategies that aren't always in our best interest long term. These learned behaviors get programmed into our brains and end up driving our choices - rather than the natural instincts we were born with. It’s not your natural instinct to chow down on a whole bag of potato chips just because they’re there. Nor is it your natural instinct to ignore your body’s cry for some movement. Those are learned behaviors. By the time we get to adulthood, the way we eat, think and live just become learned patterns of behavior - that can be changed when you stop trying to follow other people's rules and start understanding how you got where you are. When you spend your life stuck in that “on track” versus “off track” cycle you’re completely disconnected from yourself, your body and what you actually want and need. The only two things that are driving you, when you live in that place are either: 1) learned patterns of thoughts & behaviors from old programming (when you’re “off track”) OR 2) other people’s rules about what you think you should be doing (when you’re “on track”) Neither have anything to do with you - with what you, at your core, actually need or want. That’s why everyone is struggling so much! We're not put here to live by other people’s rules for our bodies. We were put here to just live - as the most authentic expression of who we uniquely are. Prioritizing your health shouldn’t be work. It shouldn’t make life harder, it should make life easier - I mean, that’s the whole point isn’t it?! And it has nothing to do with how many steps you take or whether you drink 6 or 8 glasses of water today. Prioritizing your health SHOULD mean knowing, and being deeply connected to, yourself and your body. It should mean learning to understand the messages your body and your emotions are sending so you know what you need, when you need it. It should mean working on loving and trusting yourself first so you naturally want to make choices for yourself and your life from that place - not from old programming or other people’s rules and restrictions or some societal notion of what “being healthy” looks like on the outside. If you want some help learning how to do that, don’t miss the free micro-course I’m hosting this month. Learn how to rewire old programming that’s not serving you, tune out all the “should be doing” thoughts and reconnect with what you need (mentally, emotionally and physically) to feel your best. THAT is healthy living at its finest.
Diet & Exercise Is Out, CBT is IN - The Canadian Medical Association Journal Has Spoken!
I have NO earthly idea how it took so long to get here but the Canadian Medical Association Journal in partnership with Obesity Canada have just released new guidelines for treating obesity that validate everything I've been saying for over two years, including the necessity of cognitive behavioral strategies. And you guys, I am thrilled. Don't get me wrong, we still have a long way to go. There's still a ton of language in their work that's problematic (that fact that they're even still using the phrase "treating obesity" and declaring it a "disease" to name a couple) and there are still some suggestions that I wholeheartedly disagree with but it's such a wonderful step forward. The future is coming! I started really hating being a trainer the last probably 4 years that I was doing it. Why? Because I had slowly been realizing all this.
Most people in the diet and fitness industry have blamed individuals for their weight loss "failures" but I didn't. At first, when clients would struggle, I blamed myself (I mean, I blamed myself for everything my whole life, why should this be any different? Haha). But when I started noticing that EVERYONE struggled, I started blaming the system and looking for solutions. That also happens to be how I healed my own struggles with weight & food. Most people would likely look at my old progress pics and assume that when I lost the weight, I solved my "weight & food problem". That's what we all think, isn't it? That if we could just "get motivated" or find some "willpower" we'd lose weight all our weight and food problems would be over. But weight loss doesn't solve anything - even if you manage to achieve it, all it does it create a new set of problems (and obsessions) because then you have to start the losing battle of trying to keep it off. In the last four years or so as a trainer, I started trying to SUPER slowly shift away from traditional focuses (weight, food, etc) in my work with clients. Three years ago I decided to really start shifting in a different direction and two years ago I completely mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral coaching courses and officially cut the final cord on my time in the weight loss and fitness world. I officially quit being a trainer (read more on why here) and in the two years since I've been developing cognitive eating. More than two years before these new guidelines came out I was saying things like, "stop focusing on weight and start working on changing why the weight went on in the first place" and I started teaching cognitive behavioral strategies - now the medical community is FINALLY saying the same thing!! The last guidelines were created in 2006 and recommended SUPER outdated practices like focusing on weight, BMI and waist circumference as measures of health. That's finally out. The whole idea that people who carry extra body fat just aren't trying hard enough to "fix" the problem or that they've been lazy and undisciplined in their eating habits has been pervasive, toxic and blatantly untrue myth for generations and the report aims to change those - FINALLY! The new guidelines FINALLY acknowledge none of that to be the case - that are in fact underlying causes and getting to the root of those are the key. They suggest taking the focus off weight and instead learning to understand the root causes through cognitive behavior therapy. Earlier this year I wrote a piece for Tiny Buddha that I originally titled, "If We Really Care About Health, We'll Stop Focusing on Weight Loss" in which I explain exactly why I believe such a controversial thing. Lori at Tiny Buddha changed the title as she often does (she's got a gift for great titles and mine was admittedly a controversial statement) but my points remain and with these new guidelines, my position is no longer controversial - it's the way of the future! The reality is, the chances that you will ever "solve your weight problem" with diet and exercise is slim to none. (I'd even go so far as to argue that we don't need "obesity treatment" and don't have "weight problems" - we have self-destructive thoughts, beliefs and patterns of behavior that develop as a result of the way our species is wired. That's it. That's where the entire focus should be - on changing self-destructive thoughts, beliefs and patterns of behavior because with awareness and the right tools, you CAN change them. Continuing to approach weight loss or "healthy living" in the traditional "diet and exercise" way almost guarantees that you will gain more weight over time and struggle forever. Why? Three reasons. 1) because not only does it do NOTHING to change the reason weight goes in the first place 2) it fuels even more self-destructive thoughts, beliefs and patterns of behavior 3) makes you more likely to gain weight over time How do I know? Because for over a decade I've heard the stories of women just like you who have spent the entire lives trying to "diet and exercise" the "problem" away. It doesn't work. I've been saying it for years and now FINALLY the medical community is catching up. The new guidelines they've just released are a huge step forward. They're a huge step towards creating the future I've been dreaming of for our population and future generations - one without the weight & food struggles we've all been plagued with. Hear me when I tell you this - your weight and food struggles are NOT your fault. They were never your fault. We were sold "solutions" that cause them. Dr. Sean Wharton, co-lead author of the guideline and adjunct professor at McMaster University, said in a recent phone interview with CTV News, "simply cutting calories and increasing exercise is not a sustainable way to lose weight and can ultimately lead to the patient regaining the weight. We know that willpower and motivation will allow for a dietary plan that lasts for a short period of time and then our body compensates and regains the weight." They have specifically added cognitive behavioral therapy as a means to help patients understand why they're eating the way they're eating and learn to create new behavior patterns. That's EXACTLY what I've spent the last two years developing cognitive eating to do. I cannot even tell you how completely validated I feel right now. (How much do you love Bobbie Adler? Will & Grace is one of my favorite shows in the world and I'm obsessed with Grace's mother and her "told you so" dance so I had to throw her in there.😂) Again, I have NO idea what took them so long to get here. It's not like cognitive behavioral therapy is new. It's been around for decades and is one of the most effective treatments used to treat eating disorders. To my knowledge though, my cognitive eating system is the only one of its kind that blends not just CBT but mindfulness, meditation, mind-body connection and some intuitive eating elements into a simple to follow, step by step process, complete with online course content and group support. Dr Wharton also said, “Some people can do that skill (CBT) without even being taught that skill, but the majority of people have to be taught those skills." So can you do it on your own? Absolutely! I did. But it took forever and it was SO hard to do it alone. I was piecing together little bits of information from where ever I could find it, stuck messing around with trial and error, and had no support when I needed it the most. It was brutal. That's why I create so much free content for you. If you want to do it on your own, I want to make it easier for you than it was for me. But for those that want or need more help and support, it's why I created Cognitive Eating and the Cognitive Eating Academy - to give you what you need to finally get out from under the all consuming, soul crushing weight & food war. It's exactly what I needed when I was struggling. I created it to give you what I didn't have - the exact step by step process and all the tools and support you need, in one convenient place. Traditional diet and exercise programs set us up for failure and continued struggle because they force us to fight against our brains and our bodies. The CBT, mindfulness, and body connection practices that I've built into cognitive eating teaches you to work WITH the way your body and mind are naturally designed to work so you can learn to eat and move in ways that make you feel amazing because you WANT to, not because you're trying to "stay on track" or do what you think you're supposed to be doing. I've believed with my whole being that this is the future, that this shift will change the way the world views weight loss and healthy living and I've spent 2 years developing and perfecting the process. Are you brave enough to lead the way and join me?
Learn more about Cognitive Eating and the Cognitive Eating Academy.
The Two Biggest Requirements For Reaching Goals That Most People Miss
Where do you want to go? Have you tried asking why? I’ve watched a lot of people smash through a lot of awesome goals in the last number of years - I’ve done so myself. I’ve also watched a lot of people give up on a lot of goals without ever getting anywhere on them. So, what’s the difference? What makes one person reach them and another, quit? I think it comes down to two vital things: 1. Being realistic about your current reality and willing to start there 2. Having a big enough why and keeping your focus more on that than the actual goals you think you want I fully believe humans are capable of astounding things. When we want something badly enough, there's almost nothing we won't do to get it. But most people spend all their time ignoring their current reality (the things about themselves and their lives that are holding them back) and obsessing over whats: what they think they want and don't want. And they do so while ignoring the thing that gives us all of our power - our WHY. Success is in your why and recognizing the things that are getting in your way so you can move them. When I started asking, and more importantly living from WHY everything got easier. Why do I want that thing and as a follow-up question, why don't I already have it? The follow-up helps me understand more about the how because it helps me plot a course for getting there not based on what I think I should do but based on the ways I need to learn and grow to become someone who is aligned with living the reality I do want. When we have a why that gets us up in the morning, things like excuses and quitting aren’t even options that exist in our vocabulary. We just follow our why because it’s being driven from a place deeply connected to who we are and what we value most in life rather than external measures of achievement that society tells us we’re supposed to want. It helps you connect with your deepest core desire and gives you the awareness necessary to stop standing in your own way. For example, “chasing weight loss goals” because you'd like to fit into a certain size, or see a certain number on the scale when you're an emotional or binge eater is an example of not having a big enough why and not starting from a place that's realistic based on where you currently are - and yet it’s what almost everyone does which helps explain why so many people struggle with “weight loss goals”. Almost everyone sets weight loss goals because of the way they think seeing that number or being in a smaller body will make them feel. And almost everyone engages in some level of mindless or emotional eating at least sometimes. And it keeps them stuck in the cycle of getting on and off the scale, wanting an arbitrary number to change so you'll finally feel like you have permission to be happy or feel good about yourself and your body - and continually caving or quitting on your attempts to change it every time you get triggered by uncomfortable emotions (which often happens multiple times per day). That's a recipe for being unhappy and feeling hopeless to change for obvious reasons. Even if health is the reason we think we want to lose weight, when are we going to stop treating our mental and physical health like they’re achievements or life levels to unlock? Human wellness is not measured by how many pounds we lose or goals we can reach. It’s the ever-changing individual conditions that determine how we experience life from inside our bodies - and our minds. Approaching our lives from the standpoint of digging into the deeper WHY behind all the things we think we want changes everything. WHY has chasing weight loss become a central focus of your life (if you’re like I was and it has)? Why does that number matter? It matters because we learn to associate some feeling with that number. We want to feel healthier. We want to stop hating the reflection staring back at us in the mirror every morning. We want to feel good about ourselves. Or whatever the case may be. We obsess over the what (the thing we think we need to achieve to feel that way) and chase it by doing things that keep pulling us farther away from our core desires - eg. trying to force ourselves to follow other people’s rules about what we should or shouldn’t be doing for our bodies (while ignoring the wisdom of our own bodies), setting unrealistic goals and expectations and beating on ourselves the entire time when we judge ourselves as continually to fail. You become so focused on the number you think you want that you make yourself miserable and moving ever farther away from the feeling. If we go back to the example I just gave, and apply my WHY theory, everything changes. We’re instantly empowered in THIS moment to live every moment in a way that aligns with what matters most to us and makes us feel the best rather than waiting until we get to that goal to feel it. When we apply the WHY method to “chasing weight loss goals”: You think: I hate my body and want to lose weight. You before, when focused on the what: I have to start dieting. (Cue the instant feelings of dread and scarcity that creates overeating, binge eating and/or self-punishing behaviors and non-stop obsessions over what you think you should or shouldn’t eat to accomplish that goal) You now, applying the why theory instead: Why do hate my body and want to lose weight? Because I feel terrible and want to feel better. Why? Because I want to be healthy, happy and feel good about myself (that’s the core desire) and I believe weight loss will make me feel that way. Then ask: Why am I not already experiencing those things now? Because I eat mindlessly, or to feed emotions in ways that caused weight gain and when I gain weight, I feel like a failure. I feel like I’m less worthy and I make choices that are self-punishing and make me feel even worse when I feel that way. The second part, starting where you are, is just as vital as connecting with the big enough why. If you put a destination into google maps and expected it to map out your route without knowing the address you were starting at, you wouldn’t get very far. But that's what so many of us try to do. They try to ignore their current reality, hoping if they pretend it doesn't exist they can willpower their way to changing it. If you're so exhausted all the time that you don't even have the energy to walk to the end of the driveway or spend a few minutes a day doing some light stretching, it's unrealistic to expect you'll suddenly have the energy for that new workout program you keep promising yourself you're going to start. Start where you are. Why are you so exhausted? Why are you not already doing at least a little movement? Based on your answers, start slowly building momentum from there instead of starting that new insanity workout that you're never going to have the energy to keep up with. If you're an emotional or binge eater, restricting food to try to lose weight will fail over and over and over again until you work on changing those things. You cannot ignore that reality and expect to be happy or for any kind of change to last. You have to start where you are and change those things. Start where you are. Then, go back to your core desires, the things we actually want (feeling healthy, happy and good about ourselves) and THIS is when you can ask a couple of what questions: What one thing can I do today to make me feel that way or that will at least move me closer to feeling that way? (Eg. ask your body what it needs and bring awareness to whatever thoughts are present for you. Are they helping or harming? If the latter, how can you change them?) What do I need to do, change or learn for this not to be the way I experience life anymore? (eg. If you’re an emotional or binge eater, learn to change the conditioning you’ve developed that have created those coping strategies. Ask, how can I start practicing to better manage my emotions today? Or what can I do to start valuing myself more so I don't feel the need to self-punish through bingeing?) Can you see how powerful that switch is? My own whys have been deeply connected for me from the beginning. Personally, I decided I was not put here to live at war with myself, my body and food. It took some time to figure out how my reality was causing that war so that I could change actually it. For example for me, all the years I worked on weight loss didn't change it. It was only when I did what I'm describing today that I changed it. I took a step back and realized that the weight obsessions were merely external superficialities that I had learned to believe were the answer to getting what I wanted. I realized that if I ever actually wanted to stop the war so I could just be happy and at peace with myself and my body, I had to change the things going on IN me that were causing the war. It’s like there’s been this constant nagging, a calling from deep within me to just love, accept and be at peace with myself. Before I knew better, I thought weight loss was the answer to those things. Now I know it's about finding that place within me that just IS peace and so I’m driven to just keep uncovering and changing the things that keep me from it, knowing that with every new layer I uncover, every new level of growth, I get closer and closer... life gets easier, and things just keep improving. Professionally my why is also driven by a similar calling from deep within. A client once said to me, “thank you for the pain you endured to save a soul like me” and I welled up with tears and never forgot that line because that sums it all up for me. I need to feel like I’m giving others what I never got. I need to feel like the suffering I’ve lived through has some sense of purpose and if I can use it to help pull others out of the darkness I lived, if I can use it to have some positive impact in the world, it will have had a purpose greater than me. I don’t even set goals anymore. I wake up every day with one intention: to live from those core values - creating the life I want, serving in ways that help others do the same and asking one question: What do I need to do and/or learn today to move me closer to those things? I can't even express the level of peace that's come from that one switch alone. Is there a constant nagging somewhere in you that feels like it’s trying to tell you something but you’re not sure what? Is there someplace inside you that whispers, “you’re meant for more than this”? Listen to those whispers. Whether you set still goals or begin approaching life from more of a "being" place than an "achieving" like I have, try using this why approach instead of focusing on the whats. Connect deeply with something that drives you from your heart and soul, heal the parts of you that are keeping you from already having it and you’ll never quit anything again because it will be deeply aligned with your unique core value and desires. If you’re thinking, I don’t even know what I want, that’s an example of an obstacle and why starting where you are is so vital. If that’s your current reality, that’s where you have to start. Get to know yourself so you can figure it out. Figure out where you are, WHY you even want to go where you’re headed and if that why is big enough that you’re willing to undertake the (probably) long, arduous journey. Then, plot a route and ideally find a tour guide to help so you don’t have to go it alone. If getting past the weight and food struggle so you can rebuild a loving, trusting relationship with yourself and food and learn to feel at home in your body again is one of your deepest whys, I created the cognitive eating academy to help provide your most direct route by helping you uncover all your whys.
The 8 Biggest Reasons You Struggle With Consistency
Consistency is the magic key. We’re bombarded with weight loss and diet advice every day and everyone says the same thing about theirs – “scientifically proven”, “best way to burn fat forever”, “easy to follow”, “secret fat burning system”, “lose stubborn fat and keep it off”… literally, they all claim the same things but they all require the same thing. Most people who start a diet fall off it before even losing any weight and 95-98% of those who do lose weight, regain it all within a year and as many as 2/3’s of them will be even heavier than when they started within 5 years. The truth is, ANY diet that puts you in a caloric deficit, if consistently followed forever, will result in weight loss and ultimately weight maintenance. Yes, ANYTHING you do that puts you in a caloric deficit will result in weight loss and ANYTHING you do that results in your eating at maintenance consistently, will result in maintaining. You don’t even need to do a “diet” …as long as you’re eating less than your body is burning, you will lose weight.
Despite their claims, multiple meta-analysis of long-term diet studies have shown that no one diet really works a whole lot better than any other in terms of how and how quickly they help shed body fat – there’s often not much more than a 1-3lb difference between them. And, ANY diet that you consistently continue to follow AFTER you reach your goal, that keeps you in a deficit will help you keep the weight off – again, no one diet really works any better than another here either. Notice the key point in those two truths? Consistency. Without consistency, they are all completely worthless – actually, worse than worthless. Dieting often causes a whole host of other problems, both mental and physical, in a large majority of people. So, CONSISTENCY is the biggest factor in determines whether or not you’ll be successful at losing weight and keeping it off. Without it, nothing will work. With it, just about anything will. But consistency is the exact thing that people struggle with most. That’s why so many people spend so many decades hopping back and forth between dozens of different diets – trying to find that magic one that they can FINALLY be consistent on. But it rarely works because until now nothing ever really did anything to change the reasons WHY we struggle with consistency. There are several reoccurring themes I’ve seen over the years that most commonly keep people from being consistent. The eight biggest ones in no particular order are: 1. Wiring in our brains. Our brains are incredibly complex and have, since the beginning of time, been designed for survival. They have all kinds of annoying little tricks to make sure we stay alive and the wiring in our habit center is one of them. What’s the first thing that happens when certain foods are off limits? Pretty much the second you decide a food is off limits you suddenly can’t stop thinking about it and craving it, right? That’s a survival instinct that’s literally been hard wired into our brains since the beginning of time. Food equals survival so when food restriction is introduced, our brains get scared and start trying to force us to “cave” and eat that thing we think we’re not supposed to have. Then, when we finally do cave, our brains get rewarded because they love food! That’s when the habit center kicks in and start wiring the cycle of craving and caving as an auto-pilot habit that we don’t even really control after awhile. The more you do it, the more you teach your brain that cravings = rewards and the harder it becomes to “stick to” anything. Have you noticed that when you first started dieting it seemed easier to stick to them and the more years that have passed the harder it’s become? That’s why. The longer this cycle repeats, the more ingrained the act of “caving” becomes. This is one of the biggest reasons most people struggle with dieting – because diets, especially the super restrictive fad ones, are SO restrictive of food. It’s also why eliminating food rules & restrictions is required. 2. Self-sabotage from limiting beliefs/the way we feel about ourselves. The stories that we tell ourselves about weight, food, our bodies, what we're capable of, even our worth determine the outcome of damn near everything in our lives. If we continually tell ourselves we're failures, we're quitters, we always screw up anyway, we believe those things to be true of ourselves and we act accordingly. When we don’t trust ourselves or believe in our ability to be successful, we self-sabotage - because why on earth would we keep going when things get tough if we don’t think we can do it anyway? If we’ve already decided going in that we’re just going to screw up because we always do, we’ll just keep quitting as soon as it gets tough or inconvenient. Also, when we don’t like, value or love ourselves, we self-sabotage because we don’t believe we deserve to be successful. Unless and until you change those things, consistency will always be a struggle. 3. The change model. Again, another fun little trick our brains play on us because of their faulty programming. It’s a normal cycle when we’re trying to change because our brains do NOT like change and do everything they can to keep the status quo. So, the change model looks like this: First, there’s the discontent. We don’t like something like say our weight. Second, the breaking point. This is when we can’t take it anymore and brings us into the next phase of the cycle, the declaration. “This is IT this time, I’m really doing it!” which brings us to the next phase: fear. When we start doing things differently and our brains get scared. Remember, they don’t like change so they start making up a bunch of things for us to be afraid of. When it gets too overloaded with fear, it kinda shuts down which brings us to the next phase in the change model: amnesia. This is where we start forgetting why we wanted to change in the first place. The goals we set weeks or months ago start feeling completely unimportant and we just stop caring about them. Which leads to back tracking on any progress we may have made while we slip back into the old habits that are brains are comfortable with.. until we start to feel that discontent again and the cycle just keeps repeating. The change model: Discontent > breaking point > declaration > fear > amnesia > back tracking > repeat will just keep replaying until you recognize it for what it is and learn to manage it. 4. Fear. Fear is a huge reason we struggle with consistency. Not just because our brains don’t like change as in the last one, but often, carrying extra pounds often makes people feel safe – if there’s a history of physical or sexual abuse, this is especially true. Often people who are struggling with their identity will also feel safer with extra weight because it helps them feel more invisible. No matter where the fear is coming from, it will cause self-sabotaging behaviors if you’re not aware of it and don’t have a plan to manage it. 5. Emotional eating. Some level of emotional eating is pretty normal for most people on occasion but if you’re someone who relies heavily on food for everything, whenever you’re bored, or stressed or upset, or anything… you’re going to keep falling back on your go-to copying strategy and consistency will suffer until you learn to better manage emotions. 6. Don’t want it bad enough. This is a really common one. If your why isn’t big enough, if you don’t want it badly enough, you’re going to struggle with consistency every time it starts getting hard. You really have to dig into your deeper why – fitting into a certain clothing size or seeing some number on the scale simply aren’t generally big enough motivators for most people so what’s your real underlying why? What’s the why that’s going to get you fired up to keep going when it gets hard? 7. Relying on motivation & thinking you need to do everything. This is SUCH a big one. Most people have this idea about what it takes to “live a healthy lifestyle” or “get fit” or lose weight – that is that it’s all about suffering. We’ve been taught that it takes alllll the exercise and alllll the food restrictions and that it’s hard work. So we waste time doing nothing while waiting for enough “motivation” to start again. When motivation is high, we jump back in doing ALLL the things. Motivation is powerful when it’s high but it literally never, ever lasts. For anyone. Ever. And when it inevitably dips, as it always does, we have absolutely no interest in continuing to do allll the things anymore and it becomes a never ending cycle of starting and stopping. 8. The weight centric paradigm that defines success. This is something I’ve seen derail SO many people – defining success based on what the scale says and nothing else is such a fundamentally flawed premise. What do we often say to ourselves when the scale doesn’t say what you want it to say one morning? “This sucks, I’m never going to get this weight off, screw it, I’m eating whatever I want today.” Or even if it goes farther in the direction we want it to than we expected.. “Oh wow, I’m doing so awesome, that’s more than I thought I lost… I deserve a treat!” which usually ends up in overeating. The other reason that the weight centric paradigm is flawed is because it’s a terrible incentive. Trying to force yourself to work against the way your brain is programmed in order to eat in a specific way today just because maybe at some point down the road from now it’ll make you skinny and happy is terrible motivation to change eating habits that almost never works. Today you doesn’t really care about what the next week you is going to look like, today you just wants to eat what you want. There’s no immediate gratification when we live from a weight centric approach.
But switching from that weight centric model to focusing on how you feel changes everything because there is immediate gratification there. The things you decide to eat right now, will either make your body feel good or make it feel bad. If you’re trying to force yourself to eat what someone says you’re supposed to eat in order to make the scale go down at some later date, you lose sight of what your body wants and needs. It all becomes a fight over what you’re supposed to eat versus what you think you want to eat because your brain’s survival instinct is driving cravings. If instead, you start learning to trust your body and just asking yourself, “how will I feel if I eat that?” and “do I want to feel that way?” you start learning that your choices impact you right now and the more immediate the reward or the consequences, the more likely you are to be consistent. I created cognitive eating to give you a simple to follow, step by step process that teaches you how to address all those reasons and more. If any of that sounds relatable and you need help navigating your way through changing it all, you can find more info on the Cognitive Eating Academy here.
Why Can't I Stop Overeating?
This is a question I spent over 20 years wondering. Well, I guess I didn’t really wonder why, I thought I knew why - I thought it was because I was a pig with no willpower and just loved food too much to stop eating. Turns out, that has nothing to do with why people overeat - so we can let that destructive myth die now, mkay? For the purposes of this piece, I’m defining overeating as eating past comfortably full or eating when you’re not really hungry and you know eating more will make you uncomfortable - basically, anything that makes your body feel like… ugh, why’d I eat so much? Two of the biggest causes of overeating certain foods or even just food in general: Feelings of scarcity around food - this can come from food insecurity as a child, from present food scarcity or from trying to restrict things you think you shouldn’t be eating (in ways I’ve been discussing) Self-punishment - this comes from underlying feels of inadequacy, self-loathing, shame (related to food choices or any other kind, which also often comes from the “good food” versus “bad food” messaging we’re programmed with) There’s a widely held belief that overeating, especially certain foods like sugar, happens because they're hyper-palatable, we’re weak-willed or even addicted to it. The mistaken belief behind it is that we have to detox and forever stop eating those things, especially sugar - but it’s that exact messaging that actually causes it, at least in part because it contributes to exacerbating BOTH of the biggest causes of overeating. Our bodies want to feel good, they're not driving us to eat things that make them feel like garbage and they simply don’t get addicted to sugar or food in the same way they do illegal drugs. Studies that have shown addictive-like behaviors around sugar have been misinterpreted. It’s not sugar itself that causes addiction like feelings, it’s restricted access to sugar. Have you ever noticed that even if you don’t normally think about a certain food very much, the SECOND you start to diet or “eat healthy” you cannot stop thinking about it. That’s why. That’s your brain, reacting in fear to the feelings of restriction and driving you to want the things it thinks you're not allowed to have. Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London said that while it was true that cravings for sweet things can be habit-forming, it's “absurd to suggest that sugar is addictive like hard drugs.” (For more on that, go here: https://www.ronidavis.com/post/i-was-a-sugar--food-addict ) And the thought that we could be physically addicted to food, in general, is silly - unless needing something in order to live is an addiction. In that case, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re also addicted to air and water. ;) But, as Sanders says, food (certain foods or in general) can get programmed into the habit center of our brains which is what makes it feel like we’re addicted and can’t stop. The problem with, “your body is addicted to sugar” messages is that because it’s not actually your body that’s addicted to sugar, it’s the habit center of your brain that just makes it feel that way out of restricted access, the more we try to restrict based on those messages, the more we crave it and the more addicted we feel. Basically, it’s the very message that we shouldn’t ever eat it, that’s causing a lot of those addictive type habits to get programmed into our brains. And the problem with all the tricks and strategies we’re often given that are supposed to help make us stop doing it is that none of them are addressing the actual cause. They’re all focused on trying to force us to focus on controlling the externals while ignoring the actual internal causes. But without changing the internals, the actual cause, nothing works for very long and we’re always left feeling like we’ve failed - which makes the whole pattern even worse. The reality is, for people who struggle the hardest to eat well (like the women I work with and I used to be) knowing WHAT to eat is sooo not the problem which means that continuing to focus on the what is futile. We’ve been told for years what we should or shouldn’t be eating - knowing what we should or shouldn’t eat in any given moment is sooo not the problem. All the information in the world about what we should or shouldn’t eat does nothing to help change our patterns of behavior around food because we can’t make ourselves stick to those rules and just end up feeling like crap, or like we just keep failing. And we certainly spend enough time asking ourselves “why do I keep doing this?!” but rarely do the digging required to actually uncover the answer so we can learn to stop. But that’s the key. That’s where the power to actually change it, lies. Understanding WHY we can’t seem to make ourselves stop eating the things we think we should be more consistently and changing all those things going on in our heads that’s driving it all is the answer. We’re born into bodies that know when they’re hungry, they know when they’re sufficiently full, they know what makes them feel their best and they send us signals accordingly. I cannot possibly drive this point home hard enough - your body WANTS to feel its best. The problem is, our brains take over the decision making for our bodies and write all kinds of stories that drive all kinds of destructive behaviors. Our bodies don’t want to overeat things that make them feel like crap. Your brain is driving those choices simply because it’s gotten wired with certain patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The Answer If this sounds like you, the first question to ask is, am I even able recognize my hunger and fullness cues? Do I know when I’m physically hungry, do I know when I’m physically full? Can I recognize when I’m getting full when I’m eating. Start there, because if you’re so tuned out from the signals your body is sending that you don’t really know the answers to those questions, you need to learn to hear those. You need body connection so you can hear and understand its signals and you need way more awareness of not only your thoughts, but yourself. Then start noticing your thoughts around food. Are they rooted in fear and scarcity? For example, thoughts of "this food is unhealthy and bad & shouldn't eat it" or while you're eating, are you trying to stop yourself with thoughts like, "stop eating already, this is bad, you shouldn't be eating this, you've had enough" etc. Are they rooted in criticism and judgment over the way you're eating? For example, do you often think things like, "you're so stupid, why'd you eat that? You always do this, you always screw up!" That's a big part of the problem because our thoughts create beliefs and both thoughts and beliefs drive our behaviors. So, overeating is being driven by the brain (not addictions of the body, as many would have you believe). That's why all the external things we try to do to stop it, don't work AND why awareness of the things going on in your brain is the key to changing it all. Awareness gives you the chance to be aware of both conscious and subconscious things going on in your mind that are driving (almost uncontrollably) the reasons why you struggle to listen, or even care enough to listen, to your body because again, your body wants to feel good. It's trying to tell you what it needs, your brain is just overriding with all those thoughts. Awareness is key because without it, you cannot change those things. With it, you have the power to change literally everything - not just the way you eat but the way you experience life. Wouldn’t you just love to be able to trust your body and eat and live without always thinking or worrying about food and trying to micromanage and control your intake? Wouldn’t you love to just be able to eat and enjoy a small slice of birthday cake and not feel guilty or even sick because you ate too much of it? Wouldn’t you love to not have those all-consuming thoughts about food in your head all day every day? Wouldn’t you love to stop feeling like you’re always trying to willpower your way through life? You CAN. This is how my Cognitive Eating Academy clients learn to eat and live. It’s what has changed everything for me, and does for them. With awareness comes trust, love, connection and kindness and a food world built upon those things is a beautiful thing.
Are You Eating Non-Stop?
I recently wrote a piece for Tiny Buddha called, "I Used To Be Hungry All The Time". You can read it by clicking here. In it, I talk about how I used to feel driven to eat all the things, all the time - and I share some of the deeply seeded, destructive, unconscious beliefs I had bubbling under the surface that drove my constant hunger. But constant snacking isn't always the result of past trauma or destructive beliefs - it can be real time triggers caused by just about anything. At its core, it's really just your brain trying to problem solve as quickly as possible - and based on my timeline lately, there are a whole lot of brains trying to solve the current crisis with food. ;) Everywhere I look someone is joking about how much they've been eating and how much weight they're probably gaining. So, what's up with that? What's up with all the extra food consumption? Stay tuned for an explanation and some tips. The causes? On the surface, the biggest, most easily blamed culprits are likely boredom, overwhelm & fear. But I'm going deeper than that to explain exactly how and why those things cause overeating and what to do about it. Your brain is basically a problem solving computer. It spends its day trying to keep you safe and alive. That's its job and it's pretty good at it. But it's not always efficient. It's locked up there alone in your head - it can't see, hear, or feel what's going on around it so has to rely on interpreting millions of little signals it receives from your body and the way its perceiving your environment. And it relies on it's memory bank (the habit center) for much of our daily activities (so we can multi task by operating most of our day on auto-pilot) or when presented with a problem. This is where the programming can get buggy and may drive you to the fridge a hundred times a day. Life is busy, we're busy, we're distracted, our thoughts race, we're disconnected from our thoughts, the present moment and from our bodies. We're even actively taught to ignore our bodies and listen to other people's advice about what they need. As a result, we stop being able to hear or understand what they're telling us - but our brains are still getting the signals they send out and drives behavior as a result of what signals it gets. Here's an example of how that plays out to create non-stop snacking - particularly in the midst of life getting upended like it has recently. You wake up and remember there's no work or school, it's another day of being alone (which you're not used to) or being locked in the house with kids and a spouse all day (which you're also not used to). You remember your parents are in a high risk zone and wonder how long this will last. You sigh - you're trying to stay positive but those realizations come with some kind of feelings. Your brain gets the signal that you're feeling some kind of way - in this case, probably fear, maybe overwhelm, uncertainty and dread. That's a trigger. And you probably don't even notice it happening because you've already got kids screaming in your ear and a dog that wants to go out and you definitely don't notice whatever feelings landed in your body with those thoughts - too much other stuff going on and you're already trying to sort out what everyone wants for breakfast. And it's okay, you don't have to worry about sorting out those thoughts and feelings anyway because your brain has your back! It's on the job! It's already gotten the signals from your body about the emotions those thoughts produced and searched it's memory banks for a solution. In less a fraction of a second it remembered that time in 1984 when you were little and upset - Grandma gave you a cookie and a hug and told you everything was going to be okay. It felt really good and made you feel better. Your brain saved that moment in its "solution to feelings of upset" file so it could pull it back up faster the next time you were upset. At the same time, it remembers the other 2945732 times since then, that food has made things feel better. So, it determines food is the answer - perhaps even so specifically that it determines a cookie is the answer. Before you even realize what you're doing, you're standing in front of the pantry reaching for the cookies. And you have no chance in hell of even figuring out what just drove to you to the pantry for those cookies because now your thoughts are too busy doing this to be aware of anything else: "What are you doing reaching for the cookies again?" "STOP! Omg, you're going to gain 20lbs by the time this is over! STOP EATING." You're instantly flooded with a hefty shot of fear (which drives you want the cookie even more) over the thought of gaining weight but don't even notice because the thoughts are still going... "I'll just have one." "God you're so pathetic. You were supposed to start being good again today - it's not even 10am and look at you, already eating cookies again." "Oh well, may as well just eat the rest of them, since I already blew it. I'll start over tomorrow (or when this crisis is over), for real." And the rest of the day ends up following that same pattern - perhaps even the week, month, year. Even if it's just boredom. Your brain determines there's a problem and searches for a solution. It goes like this: trigger that you probably don't even notice has occurred > brain searches for solution > determines it's food > you reach for food. But, because it's all happening behind the scenes in your head, you have no idea it's even happening. You're just wandering the kitchen all day, aware that you can't stop reaching for food for some reason. On top of that you may also be judging yourself and worrying about weight gain - which are often just more triggers. That's a pretty normal pattern for most people - that's why everyone is joking about not being able to stop snacking right now. Because it's actually pretty normal. So if you've been judging yourself and worried about weight gain, stop. The choices you've been making have been serving a purpose for you right now, and that's okay! Even if you're not someone who feels like they have "food issues" and you have a fairly healthy relationship with food, if you get the urge to eat something, it feels downright uncomfortable to try to force yourself to not eat in that moment. Because your brain has determined you have a problem and it's working hard behind the scenes to drive you to what it thinks is the solution. And a million different things can trigger you in the run of a day - especially in the midst of uncertainty and chaos. That's why you keep eating all day. Again, it's pretty normal because it's how our brains are designed to work. They're doing their jobs. They're going to help you get through this the best they can and that's a good thing. But, it's not always healthy. If you're spending the entire quarantine overeating things that make you feel terrible, you're going to ... well, feel physically terrible. But there's also a mental health cost that most people don't talk about. We're happy to joke about all the overeating or fears of weight gain but for many people, behind the joking lies real feelings of fear, guilt and shame. All of which are unhealthy and triggers for more eating. The point of all that is to say, it's all really normal and gaining a few pounds in the middle of a global pandemic isn't scary so can we please stop joking about it because the last thing our world needs right now is more fear. And if the worst thing you come out of this chaos with is a stomach that's a little bloated and scale that's gone up a few pounds, consider yourself blessed beyond measure. Before I sign off, I want to leave you with some actionables if this is you and it's causing you distress. Most advice for mindless, emotional and autopilot eating is unhelpful because it's basically just lists of activities you can do instead of eat. My therapist used to tell me to take a bubble bath when I felt like overeating & I'd kinda want to punch him a little. For the most part, that's completely useless advice because it does nothing about the wiring in your brain that keeps causing it. And what happens AFTER you do everything on those lists of activities and you still want to eat your way through the entire kitchen? Trying to busy yourself with distractions when you feeling like eating non-stop is often useless because there's a reason you feel like eating. Something is driving that action - you need something. Trying to busy yourself so you don't think about it doesn't do anything to help give you what you actually need - particularly since there are triggers everywhere, all day long. It's impractical to suggest busying yourself through every trigger for the rest of your life. A more constructive, permanent solution is two fold: 1) Recognize when and why you're being triggered 2) Rewire the part of your brain that has learned the solution is food. Most of this comes from just learning to be with, and better manage, emotions since emotions are often huge triggers. If boredom is a trigger, you have two choices: Stay busy forever or learn that you can survive just being still with yourself. As someone who used to eat out of boredom (and for just about any other reason, lol) I chose the latter (thank goodness) and it's been a life saver for me through all this. Boredom doesn't even exist in my world anymore which is making this easy for me get through it all without eating non-stop. But I've put in a lot of work to get here and the middle of a crisis as unprecedented as we've been facing lately is probably not the easiest time to start trying to learn how BUT you can start doing a few things if you'd like to start trying. Here are some steps you start trying to implement today if you want to start trying to better understand your non-stop snacking: 1. Stop trying to "be good with food" and just eat whatever you want. This helps remove the added fear and guilt that food rules create. 2. Pause for a second before eating to ask am I physically hungry? Do a quick body scan to notice what you're feeling. This helps you start reconnecting with your body. 3. If no, then notice - what just happened? What was I just thinking about? What am I feeling emotionally? What do I actually need right now? And two big ones: how will I feel if I eat that and do I want to feel that way? This helps create a space of awareness between trigger and behavior and that space is where your power lies - that's where automatic programming can start getting rewired because it shuts off the automatic programming long enough for you to make a conscious choice. That's the first step. For awhile, you'll still choose to eat. That's normal in the beginning. It's a process that happens in steps - the first step is just pausing the autopilot for a second to notice. I took me yearssss to learn how to do this myself and because I want to help make it faster and easier for you to learn how, I've broken the entire process down into an easy to follow, step by step SANER way to approach mindless and emotional eating with my Cognitive Eating system.
The Best Advice You'll Ever Get For How To Stay On Track Amid Coronavirus (or anytime really)
Click play to listen or continue below if you'd rather read the post. This is it, this is the best piece of advice you'll ever get for how to stay on track. Have you noticed that everyone is always trying to do that? To give you their best for how you can stay on track with your healthy eating or weight loss attempts ...over the holidays, while on vacation, over the summer, when you’re sick, when a huge pandemic shuts down the entire planet… etc. So basically, whenever life happens. Right? Because that’s the thing, life always happens. Something always, always, always happens to threaten our attempts to follow that new diet or healthy lifestyle change attempts. Which is why it’s so silly that people keep offering and we keep trying to find all these outside tips and strategies to make us be able to. The single best advice you’ll ever get to stay on track - whenever… is to… just... Stop trying to stay on track. Now, I know that sounds crazy but stay with me while I fully explain… The reality is, if you’re even “trying to stay on track” in the first place, this suggests that you’re trying to force yourself to eat what you think you’re supposed to be eating. You’re trying to let your brain be in charge of making the choices you’ve learned from other people, are the “right ones” for your body.
And that. Never. Ever. Works. For. Very. Long. For. Most. People. Very few people on the planet can ever stick to anything - because that’s not the way our bodies and brains are designed to work - which is why everyone always struggles so much. So, if you’re even trying to “stay on track” in the first place, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure, or at the very least, living in that “on track” one week “off track” the next.. Basically, forever. If you’re trying to do anything food or exercise related and you’re wondering how you’re going to be able to stay on track with it, you’ve already failed. Stop trying to stay on track. Stop trying to make choices for your body based on what everyone else is telling you is best for it. And just listen to IT. Have you ever watched your dog through the day? He eats when his body tells him its hungry, he stops when he’s full (for the most part), he sleeps when he’s tired, he runs and plays when he wants to run and play, he stretches when he needs to stretch. His body sends him signals, he listens and responds accordingly. The same thing happens to us! Our bodies are built with those same instinctive cues - they want to move. They want to rest. They want to eat what makes them feel the best. The problem with all the healthy living and “stay on track” advice we’ve been bombarded with since we arrived on this planet is that it’s all taught us to ignore, and even fight against the signals our bodies are giving us - and as a result our brains have taken over the decision making process. But our brains are scared of everything. They don’t like change. They want quick fixes, they want to numb emotions, they want to stay comfortable and not be pushed out of their comfort zone - so they tell us all kinds of crazy stories about what we should or shouldn’t be eating or doing for our bodies while our poor bodies get distrusted, ignored, demeaned and even hated.
If you want to stop falling off track, stop trying to stay on it in the first place and start reconnecting with your own body. Whenever you hear your thoughts start trying to make food or exercise choices, just pause for a second. Do a quick body scan. Notice how it feels to live in your body in that moment and ask it, what do you need to feel better? Use this for food and exercise choices. Reconnect with your own hunger and fullness cues. Are you even physically hungry when you’re about to eat? Before and while you’re eating, ask ...How will I feel if I eat that? How will I feel if I keep eating that? Do I want to feel that way? It’s not always that simple because for some, it can take practice. If we’ve been actively ignoring our bodies for years, just relearning to recognize when they’re hungry and full take be a bit of a challenge and our brains are tricky little devils so they’ll tell us anything to get us to do what they want us to do (which usually involves laying around doing nothing but eating) and they can be convincing but it’s a place to start and with practice it’s truly the healthiest, most liberating switch you’ll ever make. And apply the same strategy with movement. Pause, do a quick body scan and notice what it feels like to live in your body right now. Ask it, what do you need to feel better? When your brain pipes up and says lay down or sleep or watch TV or whatever (which it usually always will because remember it likes to be comfy and it’s used to driving your choices) ask again… a little calmer and quieter. Is that really what I need right now? Will I feel better if I lay down or will I feel better if I just move a little? If you’re not used to being active, this takes practice because it never feels good to start moving more if you’re not used to it BUT if you make the movement you choose something super quick and easy that actually does make you feel better, it slowly becomes easier because you stop associating movement and exercise as punishment. So, start slow. Even just 5 minutes of super gentle stretches for your tightest areas or 5-10 minutes of a slow mindful walk. Pay attention to how you feel when you’re done and remind yourself of that the next time you ask your body, what do you need? You’ll slowly begin to hear it answer... A little movement please… more and more often. When you approach healthy living from this angle, it changes everything. There’s never any track to fall off, just a constant connection with your body and what it needs to feel its best.
I Used To Be Hungry All The Time
I mean, hungry allll the time. Basically, if I was awake, I was ready to eat. I’d mindlessly pick at whatever was available. I’d wander the kitchen feeling “snacky” all the time. I’d be completely consumed with thoughts of what I was going to eat next from the minute I woke up til the minute I went to bed. And behind all the desires to eat were always the arguments—what I wanted to eat versus what I thought I was “supposed” to eat. No matter how much I had just eaten, I could literally always still eat. I lived in a constant state of fear of putting on more weight and felt guilty and horrible about myself for all of it. “No thanks, I’m not hungry” wasn’t a sentence that existed in my vocabulary. If there was food around, I was eating it. If there wasn’t food around, I was going to get it. This post was originally published for Tiny Buddha. Read the whole piece, here: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/i-used-to-be-hungry-all-the-time/
If You Want To Lose Weight & Keep It Off, Get Off Your Scale (and stop focusing on weight loss)
So this time, this is it. You're really doing it this time. You're sick of feeling like a stuffed sausage in your clothes, you're turning "X" years old, or you have that big wedding coming up or you want to feel good in a bikini this summer - whatever it is that's "motivating" you this time, this time you've decided - IS IT. So you start exercising. Maybe it's that hot new exercise trend every one has been talking about, or that ass-kicking personal trainer that everyone has been going to (I know, I was her) or maybe you just start making yourself get outside to walk everyday. And you're smart. You know diets don't work so you just start "eating right" - you want to be healthy too, after all. Right? So you swear off the bars and the cookies and all your favorites. You decide, you'll "let" yourself have them if you want them but you really don't want them - because... you're being good. "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!" after all, right? You keep it up all week. You gaze longingly at the bars in the grocery store line - but NO! You're being good. You're really doing it this time. You're not getting one! Same thing with the cookies when you get home. And maybe pizza night comes - you don't even touch it.. you're being good! A week goes by. You're super proud because you did it! You made it a whole week! Now it's finally time for your reward - validation of a job well done by getting on your scale. And. It's. Up a pound. There are two ways this ultimately turns out almost 100% of the time and both ways end in you eventually quitting until the next time you "try again". First, you either say screw it right there and then and dive into all the things you didn't let yourself have all week or you promise to do better, try to restrict even more ...before caving and diving into all the things you've been trying to restrict. Either way - this approach almost never results in weight loss and if it does, it doesn't result in lasting weight loss. And yet, it's what every one does. If you actually want a different outcome this time around, you need a different approach. A drastically different approach. Like - Get. Off. Your. Scale. For one thing. But more than that - stop making weight loss the goal. Focusing on weight when you want to lose weight is asking for failure. Why? A few reasons. 1. Research actually shows that people who diet (defined as restricting ones intake to try to lose weight) are more likely to gain weight over time than those who don't. Our cultural obsession with weight loss is actually making most of us heavier over time. 2. It's a slow process, and the scale is almost never going to cooperate so if that's the validation for a job well done that you're relying on, you're setting yourself up for failure - and a lifelong war with your scale. 3. Weight gain is the result, in large part, of our eating habits. It happens when we eat more than we burn. That's it. So, why are you eating more than you're burning? Where is that extra coming from? And is eating more than you burn or gaining weight even really automatically bad thing?! Actually, no, it's not.
I talk about this concept a lot in terms of deeper issues (emotional eating, binge eating, trauma, etc) but it's not always anything that deep. Maybe it's just not understanding what your body needs and what it's getting. Think of it like having a gas tank with no gas gauge. Your body is like a car - it needs a certain amount of fuel to get through the day. Put too much in, and some flows out (or gets stored as body fat in our case). If all you're focused on is trying to force yourself to eat what you think you're supposed to be eating to make the scale go down, you're not focusing on changing the things you actually should be focusing on - what made the weight go on in the first place? If you want to reverse weight gain, especially if you want to reverse it in a way that will actually stick, figure out and change why it went on in the first place. Now you may be thinking, well I just like chocolate and I'm too lazy to cook. That's all. I don't need all that hippy-dippy looking inward crap - I just need to start cooking more and stop eating chocolate. But you would be wrong there too. You can never cook a single meal and eat chocolate every day and still lose weight - if you're putting less fuel in the tank than it needs. Not cooking and eating chocolate (or whatever) doesn't automatically result in weight gain unless you're consuming more overall energy than your body needs every day, consistently, over time.
So, why are you consistently consuming more energy than your body needs? That's not meant to sound judgy - and it's not even to say I think there's anything wrong with consuming more than we need. If you're happy and feel good, who cares? When I dug into my own motivations for weight loss, I realized they were PURELY external and outside of that fear of judgment for not looking perfect, I actually prefer carrying extra pounds. Big whoop. The only reason we've decided it's the worst thing we could ever do, or a reflection of failure is because we've been taught that. We don't need to keep buying that out-dated lie. But I digress... Whatever stories your thoughts and beliefs have been telling you about why this concept doesn't apply to you are lies it wants you to believe because no matter how badly you may want to change your weight, the computer in your head that's driving all your choices, wants everything to stay exactly the way it is because it doesn't like change. Your brain is driving your choices and to your brain, change is scary. Even if it promises a better life, change is still scary so it will tell you all kinds of things and sabotage you in all kinds of ways to keep you from changing - like the fact that you need to just keep dieting. That's why focusing on weight loss when you want to lose weight is setting yourself up for failure. It keeps you stuck in the sabotage mode that is the never ending diet cycle. Figure out why the weight went on in the first place and why weight loss even matters to you. Start learning about the way your brain works so you can learn to work with it, rather than wasting all your energy trying to fight against it (you will lose that fight every time), and uncover the habits, behaviors and beliefs that are sabotaging you from changing. THAT'S when real change has a chance. :) How many times have you repeated that pattern? Shoot me an email and tell me about it. I'd love to hear from you. ________ Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A.-M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare's search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220–233. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220
If You Hate Your Body and Think You Need to Fix It…
“That girl was fat, and I hate her.” One of my clients said this the other day—about herself. Well, her little girl self. And my heart broke. One of the very first things I do with clients is encourage them to practice self-compassion and kindness—just extending themselves the same basic human compassion and kindness that they would anyone else. Very much the opposite of what most people who struggle with weight and food are used to. After all, when it comes to our weight and food, we’re programmed with messages like “You just have to want it more, be motivated, build your willpower muscle, try harder, work harder, be better…” Perhaps to some, it may sound easy or silly, and it’s hard to understand what the hell kindness and compassion have to do with weight and food struggles when we’re so programmed to believe the opposite. This post was originally created for Tiny Buddha. Read the whole thing here.
The Greatest Lesson I Learned Going From Inactive To Exercise Obsessed To Healthy Movement Habits
I don’t talk about my workout habits anymore but it’s not because I’ve gotten “lazy” and don’t do anything now, it's more just because I don’t feel obligated to be all “fitness-y” now that I’m not a trainer anymore and also, well, my relationship with exercise has changed. I just move, whenever, however I want and don't really think of it as exercise - because exercise, is punishment but movement, movement is nurturing. See, as messed up as my relationship with food was for most of my life, so too was my relationship with exercise. My first experiences with exercise were, as with dieting, as a teenager - when I learned that I needed to diet to make my body more acceptable, I also learned I needed to exercise for the same reason. I had books & magazines (back when the dinosaurs roamed & we had no YouTube) that told me what exercises to do to “fix” the “problem” areas on my body & a few dumbbells with which to perform said exercises. The cycle went like this: I’d stare at the “problem areas” in the mirror, hating myself for them until I got “motivated” enough to “fix” them - and the cycle of punishment & failure would begin, again. I’d “get back on track” and restart the futile diet and exercise attempts - which meant trying to willpower my way through cutting out carbs and “getting a workout” in every day - making sure to focus on fixing all those “problem areas”. Now that I’m out of it, I can see it so clearly for what it was - punishment - for not looking (or being) good enough. And, as with the dieting, that was my relationship with exercise. It was punishment. Punishment that I’d try to start every few weeks or months - only to quit within a couple weeks with my fears that I was lazy and useless confirmed. Until the next time I tried again. Then in 2007, I actually made it stick. Desperation and self-hate are powerful forces when they’re deep enough and by that point, mine were deeeep. But as powerful as they are, they don’t drive positive change and while I had finally learned to make the whole exercise thing part of my life, it most certainly wasn’t in a healthy way. It was still punishment - only it developed into much more corporal punishment. The harder I could physically punish my body and make myself ache, the happier I was and the more powerful and better about myself I felt. And this concept of exercise as punishment for weight gain or not looking perfect, is one I see repeated sooo very often in women everywhere. Because that’s what we’ve been taught. We’ve been taught so many unbelievably toxic and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors in the name of “healthy living”. The entire time I was training like an animal and beating the hell out of my body I was celebrated. The more I made my body suffer, the more praise I got. And who eats up praise more than someone who hates themselves? Nobody. I ate that shit up. I lived for it - without it, I felt worthless.
The more I physically transformed my “problem areas” the more I needed to. It was all I cared about. Health, or what was best for my body wasn’t driving any of it. Desperation to punish myself into perfection was driving it all. If it wasn’t something that would contribute to improving the way my body looked, I wanted no part of it. And all I got from any of it, was a fleeting transformation (because physical transformations need constant work to maintain or they’re completely undone) and a crapton of injuries that plague me to this day. Punishment and self-hate never drive positive change. But that’s what we’re taught. If we just reject our bodies enough, if we just feel enough shame, if we just criticize ourselves enough - THEN we’ll be motivated to make healthy changes. Yanno, start “eating right and exercising”. We’ve been hosed by it all so unbelievably bad. All I needed, as a teenager was someone to help teach me how to listen to and respect my body - listen to what it was telling me it wanted and needed and how to care enough about myself to want to give it those things and it would have saved me decades of pain and suffering. Because, and this took me decades to figure out on my own, our bodies want to move. They aren’t lazy. They know when they need movement, instinctively, they often even sort of know what kinds of movement and they want it. They know when they need rest. They know what foods make them feel best and they don’t want to consume the ones that make them feel like crap. The entire problem we’ve been having with ALL of this mess is that we’ve been taught some really unhealthy things. Like that exercise (and healthy eating) is punishment. As long as you continue to view exercise as punishment, you’re going to struggle with things like constantly searching for ways to stay motivated or feeling like you need accountability tricks. Movement is not punishment and you’re not “too lazy” to start being more active. You've just been taught, like most of the rest of us, that exercise is punishment. You can learn to listen to your body when it tells you it needs some - and even learn to want to give it what it needs. I swear you can and it will tell you, if you just listen. Start by giving it some much gratitude for all it does for you - no matter how badly you treat it. Thank it. Seriously. And start connecting with it. That is, paying attention to what you sensations you feel in your body and where you feel it. Aches? Pains? Immobility? Weakness? Connect with all those sensations. How does it feel to experience life in your body today? How do you want it to feel? What one thing can you do right now to address any of those sensations you're feeling? It's a process that takes practice - when you've spent decades ignoring or punishing your body, understanding what it's trying to tell you isn't easy. But when you get good at it, nurturing your body with what it tells you it wants and needs, when it needs it, becomes automatic and there's never another diet or exercise program to "fall off". Just a constant connection with your body, asking it what it needs and giving it that.
If you need help, I've built the process of learning to add movement to your life in this way into Cognitive Eating. Learn more about CE here.