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.
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: ) 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.
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 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:
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. 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. 2. Weight gain is the result 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? And where is that extra coming from?
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? I actually prefer putting on a few pounds in the winter. 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. That's why focusing on weight loss when you want to lose weight is setting yourself up for failure. Figure out why the weight went on in the first place. 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 lasting change has a chance. :) How many times have you repeated that pattern? Shoot me an email and let me know if this sounds relatable to you and if you want some specific strategies for how to start digging into your whys. I'll do another post on that for you. :)
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.
I don't know if anyone has ever actually studied how many people struggle with this but I would hazard a guess at tens of millions.
If ONLY I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, "I do so good all day but then I blow it in the evening because I can't stop eating chips" (or whatever their "comfort food" of choice is). So, why does that happen? It happens for sooo very many different reasons that I could not possible begin to get into them ALL in one post or tell you exactly what's causing it for you on any given day - because that's the thing - it happens for different reasons on different days, for different people. But almost all of them come down to the stories we're telling ourselves and the way our brains drive our choices as a result of those stories. 1. The stories you're telling yourself about food. In 2008 I was referred to an eating disorder therapist for binge eating. The first thing he told me was that I needed to stop dieting/trying to restrict certain foods. I was aghast. Couldn't he see how fat I was? Didn't he know I was there so he could help me stop bingeing so I could actually stick to a diet. Stop restricting bad foods? Was he crazy? I'm not supposed to eat those things. I want to be healthy! I have to work even harder to not eat those things - I can't ALLOW myself to have them. <- that's what I thought when he said that. But the truth is, he was right. The answer to learning to "eat healthier" or even lasting weight loss lies in removing the restrictions, labels and rules. Everything we've been taught about what we're supposed to do to "eat right" is contributing to all the ways we struggle to do exactly that. The story that certain foods are "good" and certain foods are "bad" and you have to eliminate all the "bad" foods if you want to be skinny, and healthy and worthy is causing you to overeat or binge in the evenings because we're not designed to live that way. When you're trying to force yourself to "be good" and eat what you think you're supposed to eat to accomplish that, you set yourself up for overeating or bingeing at night. The harder you try to "be good", control your intake and the more you feel like you're restricting things through the day, the more at risk you are for this and the worst the night time snacking will likely be. It happens because of the way our brains are wired - they are not designed to support food restriction. That's not a normal way to go through life. Grab a copy of my free ebook for more on why. 2. The stories you're telling yourself about... well, anything and everything that happens through the day. A few examples of what I mean by that: One client told me she came home and dove into the box of cookies after work and had no idea why. After we did some digging together, we discovered it was because the dishes weren't done. She'd been at work all day and she felt like if her kids cared about her, they'd have done the dishes so she wouldn't have to when she got home. The story she was telling herself was that she wasn't loved or valued enough - which prompted self-punishing behaviors. Another client talked about diving into chips after work one day and after some digging we discovered it was because she was feeling overwhelmed and ineffective - she judged her house to be a mess, her schedule to have un-done tasks left on it and she decided she wasn't getting enough done every day. The story that she was telling herself about her own abilities was that she wasn't working hard enough or capable enough - which again, prompted self-punishing behaviors. Another client dove into pastries because she felt unsafe and they reminded her of feelings of safety from childhood. The story she was telling herself was that the world was unsafe. Anxiety drove uncomfortable feelings that prompted her to soothe that anxiety in the only way she knew how. When we're eating for reasons other than physical hunger, in ways that don't make us feel good, there is an underlying story or cause. Your job is understanding it so you can begin to rewrite it or learn to respond to that stimuli differently next time. Most night time snacking is the result of a combination of few things, the things I already mentioned but also, sometimes it may even be as simple as being tired - not getting enough sleep messy with your hunger hormones and drives you to want to eat more. But no matter what the cause, if you keep trying to force yourself to stop it and judging yourself for it without understanding exactly what's driving it for you, the chances you'll ever change it are slim to none because those things just add fuel to the reasons it's happening in the first place.
My clients stop night-time without even trying because my system guides them through the process of understanding what's causing it and gives them tools to practice that are designed to change whatever the cause is.
If one night it's just because you're tired, you can learn to just go to bed instead. Sometimes, just the permission element alone is enough to stop it because your brain's survival center stops freaking out over the restrictions. But it all starts with giving yourself permission to eat what you want through the day so your "willpower" isn't depleted by evening (remember the more you try to restrict all day, the more at risk you are for night time snacking) and giving yourself permission to snack at night so you start getting curious about the cause because when your thoughts aren't all judgy and obsessive over the fact that you're eating chips when you think you're not supposed to, you can 1) start putting them to use reflecting on why you even want the chips in the first place and 2) can learn to either have a couple chips and enjoy them or stop even wanting them in the first place. It sounds crazy but it works. I went from having so little self control with potato chips that I'd eat any entire large bag in one sitting and still want more to almost never even eating chips anymore at all because I rarely want them - and my clients do the same.
The more scared you are to just allow yourself some chips while you work on understanding what's driving you to want them, the more you likely need to through that process.
If you need help or don't fully understand how to start implementing this strategy on your own, shoot me a message. I'd be happy to help clarify and give you more direction.
When I was in therapy a decade or so ago, I used to sob hysterically to the therapist - so desperately wanting him to “fix” me - but I didn’t even know what was “wrong” with me so I'd beg him to tell me, “why am I like this?! What the hell is wrong with me?!” I was so desperate for answers. Why was I living in such a war with food, my weight and myself? Why couldn’t I stop eating like a pig (that was my judgment of my habits at the time)? Why was I so angry all the time? Why did I wake up every morning so full of dread? What was that huge, empty feeling in the center of my chest that I kept trying to fill with food? I honestly had no earthly idea and he never gave me any answers, or solutions for that matter, but eventually I did find them. What did I find? 💔 I didn’t love myself - but more specifically than that, I did even like or value myself. I hated and was ashamed of the person I thought I was. 💔 That was at the root of everything in my life that wasn’t working - and frankly, it’s at the root of just about everything for everyone. It just manifests in ways and to different degrees in different people. For me, the empty hole, the anger, the body hate, the obsession over my scale, the eating habits, the war zone inside my head, the codependency (though I didn’t even realize I was codependent at the time) all those things were just the way that underlying truth was manifesting in my life. See, that’s the worst part of not loving or valuing yourself. You end up so consumed with trying to prove your worth by fixating on what you think other people want, expect or need you to be that you lose sight of who you are. You lose sight of your worth. You lose sight of your own truth. When you lose sight of those things, external feelings of love and belonging are the only things you have left to rely on to fill that need - but nobody else can ever fully love us in the way we need to be loved so life becomes one big chase. The chase for the perfect weight. The chase for the perfect diet. The chase for the perfect exercise program (and the self-judgment when you can't stick to it). The chase for other people’s love and acceptance through those or a hundred different things. And it becomes a life-long chase because the “fix” of external validation never lasts long so we need to just keep chasing more every time it wears off. It played out something like this: When I believed, at my core, that I was fat, ugly, stupid, worthless, damaged (or whatever), I was constantly in search of outside praise, of hearing how great I was, of having people tell me I was amazing and beautiful and worthy - or I'd try to prove it by obsessing over food, weight, scales, etc so I'd look "perfect". The longer I'd go without a “fix” the more I'd feel like I need it and the more willing to do whatever it takes to get it. I'd get down on myself, have more “fat” days, feel sad, depressed or anxious - obsess over ways to make other people happy so they’d need or like me more, (etc) until I'd get the next fix. When I would get the next short fix of external validation (someone made me feel good about myself, or the scale went down, or I'd manage to “eat good” or whatever), I'd feel better temporarily but that feeling would wear off rather quickly and what remained - what always remained - were the underlying beliefs and gaping hole where my own love and acceptance were missing. The thing is, it's a whole lot easier to rely on other people, events or things to fill that need but it’s a whole lot more satisfying, healing and long-lasting to learn to give it to yourself -- all the time. Loving yourself is acceptance and compassion. It’s understanding you don’t need to be perfect to be good enough. It’s understanding that you are not your mistakes, your darkness or your past - you are not your body, your weight or your food choices. And it's understanding that learning to love and value yourself is a forever kinda practice and being gentle with yourself while you learn. You are life. No more. No less. That means, exactly as you are, you are as valuable and whole and worthy and full of infinite possibilities as any other life on this planet. And if that’s not something to love, I don't know what is. Tell someone you love them today, but more importantly, I’d like to challenge you to stand in the mirror and tell YOURSELF... "I love you". Be your own Valentine. Today and every day. <3
One day, toast changed my life. Literally. Sort of. It was many years ago, I was still living “on track” one day, “off track” the next mode that we all know so well. When I was “off track” I was still bingeing & feeling fairly out of control around food but I had been starting to try to work on noticing & changing my thoughts so I'd say I was in the beginning stages of awareness.
Anyway, I’m making myself toast one morning - with *gasp, shock, horror* white bread of all the blasphemous things - because despite vowing to “get back on track” that day, a mere hour earlier when I woke up, I had already decided I’d start the next day. So, I’m standing at the counter, making toast & listening to my thoughts as I’m buttering it.
They were abusive, judgmental and berating - because I was about to eat toast. “What kind of loser eats bread for breakfast? And white bread, even. It’s so bad. You’re such a screw up. What’s the matter with you? You’re gonna be so bloated and gross. This isn't going to build any muscle. You trained hard yesterday, you should be eating protein. God you’re an idiot.”
Then the voice started planning a trip to the grocery store for all the things we would get to binge on the rest of the day - yanno, because I’m such a stupid, screw up already - may as well just eat everything today because I won’t be able to have any of it anymore when I get back on track tomorrow.
Then it started getting all judgey again.
“You’re supposed to be having oats & eggs & 6 blueberries. That’s what you should be having. That’s a good breakfast. God you’re such a screw up.”
(yes, I used to actually have meal plans from my own coach with 6 blueberries in a meal - this is me rolling my eyes into oblivion) Then, like magic, something switched in my brain and another voice came charging in like a knight on a white horse and said, “Uhhm, dude, it’s just toast.”
The first voice stopped in its tracks and was like... “wait, what did you just say?”
White knight voice: “I mean, it’s just fucking toast. You don’t want oats and eggs and shit, you just want toast this morning. Normal people eat toast for breakfast sometimes. Why have you decided you're a horrible human because you feel like toast for breakfast? That's the silliest thing I've ever heard.”
It was like someone shook me out of a nightmare. Like, someone in my head finally threw me a life raft of sanity. The first voice was a little taken aback for a second and needed to sit with that information before replying ...”holy shit, you’re right!!”
Instantly, all abusive thoughts were gone, all thoughts of going to the grocery store for more food and all plans for all the things I was going to eat the rest of the day were gone. I ate and enjoyed my toast. A few hours later it was lunchtime and I realized not only was I getting hungry but I hadn't thought about food in a while. That alone was a miracle - normally I was consumed with thoughts of food non-stop. So I wondered, hmm.. can I use this new skill of just having what I want for lunch too? *gasp* Dare I? I asked myself what I wanted. I felt like a sandwich. *gasp again* But.. that would be bread... twice ...in one day. *the horror* The white knight rolled in with the reminder... it's okay to eat what you feel like eating. So I had and enjoyed a sandwich. A few hours later, same thing - I noticed I was getting hungry and again, I hadn't thought about food in awhile. I don't remember what I had for supper that night but I just ate a normal supper, of whatever I wanted. What was almost another day of being a complete train wreck with overeating things that made me feel like garbage by the end of the day, turned into just a normal day of eating and enjoying food. Because I shut off the voice in my head that been programmed by our insane diet culture.
That was the beginning of freedom... and getting my sanity back. And it was the beginning of using the same strategies successfully with clients who were also struggling with living in that "on track", "off track" cycle. Now, I have toast for breakfast a few times a week, but almost always even end up throwing one piece away because I'm full and regularly throw out half loaves because they go bad before I eat the whole thing. This is the woman who could eat an entire loaf of bread in one day before. That's not to say I'm advocating food waste, but I'd much rather see extra go in the garbage or out to the birds because I'm listening to my body when it tells me its full rather than stuffing in way more than I need because food rules programmed self-destructive habits into my brain and it's running the show. I'm not here to argue with you about what's healthy or the best way for you to eat. What I will tell you is that it doesn't matter how perfectly healthy and "clean" you're eating part of the time if the rest of the time is a complete train wreck because you're "off track" and eating everything you can't have when you're "being good". And, carrying shame, self-judgment and criticism over the way you eat is a hell of a lot less healthy than just having a cookie or two when you feel like it.
The healthiest way to eat for you is whatever way makes your body feel its best - and doesn't destroy your mental health or your relationship with yourself and food in the process.
"I've been dieting my whole life but I'm so stupid and always gain it back. I don't know what's wrong with me. I've tried everything but I think this is the heaviest I've ever been." and... "I struggle with food the most." I cannot even begin to count how many times I've heard a women say those two things (or variations of them) to me in the last 10 years. At first, I'd nod knowingly - "it's okay", I'd tell them. "This time we'll make it stick because we're going to make it a lifestyle change" (click here for my latest podcast on the lifestyle change lie) All the while, I really believed that's why they struggled. They just kept doing fad diets, never thought of it as a new "lifestyle" and never knew how awesome they'd look and feel with "clean eating". Once I showed them those things, the struggles would be over. I believed it because that's what we're taught. When diets don't work, we're taught we just need to keep trying the lifestyle change thing with "meal plans" or "eating healthy" instead - and we just have to keep trying, forever, and ever, ever and ever... hoping it'll one day stick. That's what we're taught - until, in my case, I started digging and learning more because I started noticing a pattern in, well, damn near everyone. They were all struggling in all the same ways. The more patterns of identical struggle I began to notice, and the more digging I did, the more I started realizing, this isn't just me and a couple of other people. The struggle wasn't just a ME thing. It's not just a YOU thing. It's a MAJORITY thing. And it's being caused (at least in large part) by other people telling us what we should or shouldn't be eating. That was a scary realization for me because back then, I was still giving meal plans and helping people try to "change their lifestyle". The status quo was literally keeping my lights on and food on the table. But I started hating it and the more I learned, the more I realized I couldn't keep doing it. Because now I know, even with meal plans (or any kind of food 'do's and don'ts', they're just diets with superiority complexes so don't fall for the slight of hand marketing tactics) and "lifestyle change" messages the outcome is always the same for the majority of people. They end up right back where they started or even heavier and always, always, always... having to "start over" when they get "motivated" to "try again". That's the cycle our population has been taught to literally live in their entire lives and it infuriates me. The truth is that when you really start digging into the long term research into dieting (by any name, meal plan, nutrition guidelines, whatever) despite all their claims, what it actually shows is: 1) NONE work any better than any others 2) NONE work long term - at least not for 95-98% of people 3) Dieting (again, by any name) is the best predictor of future weight GAIN It's making people heavier. It's causing weight gain. That thing everyone keeps harping about that people who gain weight need to do to "fix" the "problem", it's making them gain weight over time. It. Is. Causing. Weight. Gain. A consistent caloric deficit is the ONLY requirement for weight loss and a consistent caloric balance is the only requirement for maintenance. The question isn't (and has never been) what diet will work for me (because they don't), it's why aren't you able to consistently "stick" to anything? It's NOT because you lack willpower like you've been told. (if you want some clarity to help understanding that, grab my free ebook here, or podcast link for the 7 biggest reasons people struggle with that) At first, I stopped giving meal plans. I phased them out slowly by initially calling them "guidelines" that were designed to just help give clients suggestions but I encouraged them to eat what they wanted. Then I just stopped giving them entirely. Even when people would ask for a meal plan, I wouldn't give them. I'm sure I lost clients but I knew passing them another "meal plan" was going to result in the exact same outcome they had every other time before me and I did NOT want to be the reason they felt like they failed again or their already hard-wired habit of caving and falling off track got even more firmly embedded. The more I transitioned away from that kind of thing, the more I realized how deep "diet mindset" really goes for most people. Pro tip: if you're constantly telling yourself that you have to "start eating healthy" and negotiating with yourself about when, or judging and being annoyed with yourself for eating "bad" things - that's technically a "diet mindset" too, even if you aren't necessarily thinking about weight loss. That internal fight is caused by the voice in your head that starts every time you try to follow someone else's idea about what you should or shouldn't be eating. Which brings me to the other lie we're told. It's just "a mindset switch" - you just have to "change your mindset". *eye roll No. There are complex, and deeply ingrained thought patterns, habits, beliefs and behaviors behind it all (where do you think our "mindsets" come from?) and they take a specific set of steps, (and repetition), to rewire and change. You cannot just flip a "mindset switch" to change them. So, I talk about my own struggles with weight and food often but I don't do it, I don't do any of what I do, because of me. My own struggles make me super passionate and driven to do this work but they aren't why I do it. I didn't make the switch from trainer to this because of my own struggles. I would have honestly preferred to continue being a trainer and had my struggles been unique to me, I would have done just that. It was SO much easier. I didn't have to open up the darkest, most embarrassing parts of my life publicly to do that work - all I had to do was share some #fitspo or post transformation pics of my ass and that was it. SO easy. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't keep doing it because my struggles were not mine and mine alone. They are everyone's. My why is you. I do what I do now because of you. I do it because when I was struggling, I thought I was alone. I thought I was the only one who struggled so hard to stick to anything and kept judging myself harshly for not being able to "just get my shit together with food". I thought I was the only one who stared in the mirror in disgust every morning (no matter what the scale said). I thought I was the only one who got on the scale every single morning to have it tell me if I was allowed to feel halfway okay about myself that day. I thought I was the only one who spent 2 decades trying to get my "weight problem under control" only to fail miserably every time. ...until that one time, I actually did it but still spent every single day obsessed with food, terrified to eat, hating myself for overeating and being terrified to put the weight back on. I thought I was the only who one woke up with dread in my heart every morning because I knew it was just another day of feeling terrible about myself for my body and food choices ...and I was exhausted. The longer I trained women, the more I realized I wasn't alone. I was the majority. And it's the majority who all think we're alone in the suffering because we're so suffocated by shame that we don't talk about any of it to anyone. Ever. THAT is why I do what I do. That's why I talk about my own struggles, so you won't feel alone and ashamed about yours. That's why I force myself (even though it's absolutely TERRIFYING) to speak publicly and I host workshops and I record podcasts and I write blogs and share content - even when I know I'm often the lone voice against millions of others still promoting the old, stupidly broken paradigms. I do it for you because I don't want one more woman to waste her life in that soul-killing internal and life-long war that is the weight & food battle. And because I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not alone. It's not your fault. And there's nothing wrong with you. Here are some actionable steps for you to take right now if any of this resonated with you. This is where you can start: 1) Give yourself a break and a ton of love and compassion 2) Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, with no guilt or shame. You are NOT bad for the way you eat and the sooner you believe that, the sooner you'll find freedom & start making less self-destructive choices 3) Let go of the obsession to lose weight (or "eat clean") at any cost (the cost is WAY too high) and if you must obsess over something, obsess over what it feels like to live in your body and your head and what changes you can make right now to make those things FEEL better. Forget what you keep telling yourself you "should" be eating or doing. What does your body WANT to eat or how does it want to move (your body, not what the programming in your brain is telling you it wants ;) ). Your body wants to feel good, it will never steer you wrong. And what about your mental and emotional health? How is the state of that today? What does THAT need to feel better? 4) Practice pausing through the day to just reconnect with yourself and your body so you learn how to be able to hear it when it's trying to tell you what it needs 5) Practice my SANER method when you eat (S-stop before you eat to -> A-ask: are you hungry, why do you want it, how will you feel if you eat it, N - notice: how do you feel, what are you thinking/feeling?, E - extend yourself compassion and allow whatever you feel to be okay, R - react from love with whatever choice you make) 6) Grab a copy of my free ebook, pop over to my new podcast and start listening, or reach out to me via email. I would love to hear from you.
I spent most of my adult life as an emotional eater and for the first half, I didn't even know it. I honestly had no idea. I just thought I liked food. I just liked to eat and loved the taste of all those highly-palatable foods we're told we're not supposed to be eating. That's what I honestly believed. Then I started trying to train for a figure competition where I had no choice but to not touch those things and emotionally, I fell apart. I was struggling hard with all the cravings and obsessive thoughts about food (that ended up causing the binge eating) but what I didn't realize initially was that the new struggles I was experiencing to just be able to get through the day when I was "on track" and perfectly following what I was supposed to eat, were because I no longer had my go-to coping strategy to rely on. I started noticing that the days that I was allowing myself to "cheat", emotionally, I felt way more like I had my shit together. The days I was "on track", I was a hot mess emotionally. One. Big. Walking. Raw. Nerve. I used to describe it as feeling "emotionally itchy". It was like having an itch I couldn't scratch - from way down deep within me. After a few months, it finally occurred to me - I was an emotional eater. Truly, I had no idea until then. So of course, I did what any rational woman would do when trying to get lean and build a perfect body, I spent the next few years trying to ignore it and willpower my way through it! Hah. That was cute. And doesn't work. Eventually, and thankfully, I got to the point in my own journey that I decided enough was enough. In the same way I decided years earlier that I was changing my weight to "fix" my problems, this time I decided I was actually going to dig into the things causing the things I was struggling with and I was going to learn how to change those. The mindless & emotional eating, the binge eating, the obsession with my body that was fueled by the belief that I was unlovable if I wasn't wrapped in the perfect package, the shame and self-loathing, the constant abusive inner dialogue that left me feeling like the inside of my head was a war-zone whenever I was awake - all of it. I'll be honest, the emotional eating took the longest and only really stopped in the last year but it was a process that slowly just kept improving over time. The last couple years, I was still relying on food in times of extreme stress or distress and even when I would, it was such small amounts, that I didn't even care. It wasn't even something on my radar as needing to be "fixed" anymore. But miraculously, as I kept working, growing, learning and healing, it just slowly kept improving until one day late last fall, I realized that I have survived some very painful and difficult things without relying on food at all and as a matter of fact, I couldn't remember the last time I fed emotions. That's how this whole process of change works. We're taught there's an end date - and therein lies the problem. I knew going into my own efforts that there was no end date - only learning and intentionally practicing what I'd learned, one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. And change doesn't happen in one sweeping moment either. We don't wake up one day a different person, with all the things we're struggling with magically just gone. We practice. Again, moment by moment, day by day, and slowly, over time, the trend moves towards struggling less and less and less. It's the "solution" everyone wants but the truth that most people won't tell you. The upside is that every day, just slowly gets a little better and a little easier than the day before. So with all that said, let's dive into more on emotional eating for you, specifically, what it is, what it isn't and what I did to stop. What it is: ✔ A fairly normal coping strategy that almost everyone relies on at least a little bit at some point in their lives ✔ Just another way humans numb out - no different than relying on alcohol, drugs, shopping, or even mindlessly scrolling social media, or bingeing on Netflix ✔ Wiring in our brains that, over time, learned to associate food as the fix for non-hunger related discomforts (lack of love, fear, connection, uncomfortable emotions, etc) What it isn't: ✖ A sign of weakness ✖ A character flaw ✖ Something to be ashamed of ✖ A pattern you have to be stuck in forever As someone who spent most of her adult life as an emotional eater and has finally, successfully learned to change that too, it's really a glorious not feeling uncontrollably driven to reach for food all the time. The first thing I did, to start learning how to stop? I gave myself permission to do it. Why on earth would I do that when it sounds like the opposite of what we should do? Well, hating myself for it wasn't making it stop, it was only making it worse. Hating yourself is a pretty strong emotion. And what happens to emotions when you're an emotional eater? You feed them! So, permission was the first step to help stop that nasty little hating myself feeling that drove a lot of it. Then, I got good at understanding my thoughts, and how they were impacting my emotions. Then, I learned how to manage, or choose to ignore my thoughts. And I learned how to manage and accept my emotions. I learned that I don't need to be afraid of them, I don't need to judge them or try to force them away, I can survive giving them space to just be and I have the power to choose to feel different ones when it's appropriate. And I just kept practicing all those skills until... FREEDOM.
I've built that entire process into cognitive eating. It doesn't just help you understand emotional eating, I gives you the tools you need to learn how to manage and live with emotions, without food.
Physical hunger and what our bodies want or need are so rarely the driving forces behind the way we eat and therein lies the problem we're all having with food. Some signs this may be true for you include: 👉You spend a fair amount of time autopilot eating and mindlessly munching on whatever food is in front of you just because it's there. 👉 You're often driven to get up and wander the kitchen aimlessly looking for something when you're not even really sure what it is you want (spoiler: if you're not physical hungry & this keeps happening, it's not actually food that you want, you've just gotten used to interrupting everything as a hunger signal - which is fairly common, fyi) 👉 You keep eating when you know you've had enough because your brain convinces you that "just a little more won't hurt". 👉 You're driven to the box of cookies when you're pissed off, or bored, or anxious, happy, sad, etc. 👉 You have cravings so strong that you cannot stop thinking about that thing you're craving until you finally "cave". Every time we eat for reasons other than physical hunger, it's our brains that are driving those choices, and overriding our body's cues. We're ignoring the wisdom of what our bodies are telling us they want and need AND we're consuming extra energy that our bodies don't need. Do you know what happens to extra energy that our bodies don't need? You guessed it. It gets stored. (𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘴 - 𝘦𝘹𝘵𝘳𝘢 𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘨𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘯'𝘵 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘺𝘦𝘵 - 𝘴𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘥𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘻𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵 🙃) There are too many reasons why diets don't work to even begin to list again here (go here and grab my free ebook for more) but one of the biggest is because physical hunger is so rarely WHY we eat. There are soo many different things going on in our brains that drive us to mindlessly (and often almost uncontrollably) put food in our mouths that it's ludicrous to believe willpower, mindset and motivation are all that's needed to "stick to" a diet. Dieting does NOTHING to address any of those things. It does nothing to address the WHY behind what and how we're eating and if we're eating for reasons other than physical hunger, reasons that are being driven what's going on in our brains, we're going to be consuming more energy than our bodies need -- almost uncontrollably. In fact, dieting usually just makes it worse which is why as many as 2/3's of people who lose weight on a diet regain even MORE weight than they lose. Dieting is making us heavier (over time) because it high jacks the survival center in our brain and hard-wires auto-pilot eating. (and you won't hear the diet industry tell you that because it's the perfect system for them!) If we're mindlessly (or uncontrollably) consuming more energy than our bodies need, we will gain weight. It's really that simple. Which is why the message we've been taught that overeating or gaining weight is somehow a character flaw makes me crazy. It's just a little faulty wiring in the way human brains work. That's IT. Again, stop demonizing it. Mindless, autopilot and emotional eating gets hard-wired into the survival center of our brains and there's not a single diet on the planet that can override that. But that doesn't mean change is hopeless, just that we've been trying to treat symptoms rather than the underlying issue AND we've been using the wrong "solution" to do it. And there's a specific set of steps built into my cognitive eating system that will actually rewire your brain so you stop being driven to eat by what's going on in there and instead, learn to honor your body's needs and wants for nourishment. Your body didn't want to eat that extra-large slice of cheesecake after dinner, when it was already full ...it's faulty wiring in your brain driving that behaviour. Wiring that, when changed, changes literally everything. That's what makes cognitive eating so effective as an actual forever thing. There's no food restriction ever. You just learn to nourish your body with what it wants and needs, when it's physically hungry and all that extra eating just... stops. On its own. Because we're changing the driving forces in your brain. When all that extra eating stops, and when you stop consuming more energy than your body needs, weight gain stops. Just. That. Simple. If weight loss has been a lifelong goal you've been working on, and are still struggling to actually achieve or maintain, if you actually want it to stick this time, you have to start doing something different. Stop band-aiding the symptoms with diets and start changing your brain. That's where the magic is. --- For more info on cognitive eating, click here.
What You Need to Know If You Obsess About Weight Loss
“By choosing healthy over skinny you are choosing self-love over self-judgment.” ~Steve Maraboli If we actually care about health, in 2020, we have to stop trying to lose weight I know, that’s the opposite of what we’ve been taught to believe, but stay with me while I explain why I say that. Dieting and weight loss obsessions are actually causing weight gain and poorer overall health outcomes in our population. Our culture has been obsessed with weight loss for generations. We’ve been constantly bombarded with ridiculous “lose fat fast” claims by more and more supposedly miraculous diets. It’s been going on for hundreds of years. So, with all that obsessing, how’s it all working for us? Is our population getting smaller and healthier? Hardly. The opposite is true. Sure, we think dieting works because often when we jump on another new plan, initial weight loss happens fairly easily. We get excited and tell everyone who will listen about the new miracle diet we found and how great we feel. And when we gain the weight back? Well, that’s our fault, right? We only gain it back because we’re stupid and “fall off track,” right? That’s what the diet industry has cleverly programmed us to believe.
(This post was originally published for Tiny Buddha. Read the whole piece here...)
What To Do When You Feel Like You'd Do Anything To Lose Weight... Except Eat "Right" & Exercise
I spent a lot of years struggling with my own weight. Some of those years were spent starting and failing at weight loss attempts but others were spent not even trying. Of living in that place of wanting to lose weight, or feeling like I was supposed to want to lose weight but not really wanting to do any of the things I thought I had to do to get there. In diet culture, it’s become a joke and we’re often made to feel lazy and weak when we’re in this place. But the truth is, it has nothing to do with being either - it’s nothing more than just not wanting it badly enough. And an even bigger truth ...THAT’S OK. Not wanting to lose weight badly enough to actually do it, doesn’t make you bad. When we want something badly enough, we will do whatever it takes to get it. When we don’t? We make excuses, we find reasons to put it off, we let fear or self-doubt keep us from even trying. That’s how we can think we want it… but not do anything about it. Have you been there? Living with that ever present “I really need to lose weight” thought followed by “but I don’t wanna diet, or exercise. Wanna lose weight but not bad enough to do anything about it? So, the question is, what should you do if that’s where you are? First figure out what you really want and why you want it. It’s your body. You’re allowed to live in it and be happy at whatever weight you want - no matter what diet culture tells you. And you have the power to make it feel better to live in, with your next choice. So let’s dig into your real why. Why do you think you want to lose weight? Is it because you think you’re supposed to, to look better? To fit some diet culture mold of what our society says bodies are supposed to look like? If this is the ONLY reason why you want to lose weight, you’re likely going to struggle forever. Looks are a horrible motivator for most people. Why? Well, because it’s more about external validation and doing it for other people, than it is for ourselves. And if looks are your only why, you’re only faced with your why for a few fleeting moments each day. How often do you look in a mirror or see your reflection? I’d guess well under 5 minutes a day. The rest of the time, you’re not seeing your body and being reminded that you wish it looked different but you ARE seeing all the foods you love. And if looks is the only reason, all motivation goes out the window in those moments because the choices you make right now cannot affect how you look right now, but they can taste amazing right now. Is it fear of not being healthy because we’re programmed to believe that size is an automatic indicator of weight? Well, that’s also a terrible motivator. Fear-based decisions for our bodies almost ALWAYS lead to self-punishing and self-destructive behaviors – true there are a small percentage for which this isn’t the case, but they are the exception, not the norm. Is it because you don't physically feel good now and you think losing weight will make you feel healthier? This one is a little better than the looks motivator but also pretty terrible because like with the rest, it's based on obsessing over choices that we think we "need" to or "should be" to create some future that may or may not happen rather than choices based on right now. As a general rule, whenever you're adding words like "need to" or "should be" in relation to your body or food, it's a really good indicator that your why is misaligned and you're going to keep struggling. How do I know this? Because if you actually wanted to do those things badly enough, if your why was big enough, you wouldn't be thinking, "I need to" or "I should be", you'd be actually doing those things. So, if you're hearing yourself say those words about anything really, it's a red flag that it's not something you care enough about. The other reason it's a terrible motivator is because it's not likely even your weight that's not making your body feel its best, it's more likely your day to day choices. Often, when we're carrying extra weight, we don't feel great about ourselves and when we don't feel great about ourselves, we don't treat ourselves very well. We think well, I feel like crap anyway so I may as well just eat this thing that's going to make me feel like crap. We put off making more health related choices until we decide to "lose the weight" because we're so heavily associating health and weight loss. But you CAN change how it feels to live in your body today without losing an ounce. It starts with your next choice. Meditating or walking/stretching for 10 minutes or having a big glass of water with a bowl of your favorite veggies can affect how your body feels right now. Perhaps it’s because of how you think losing weight is going to make you feel about yourself or life? That’s a common one. I’ll be happy when… I’ll feel so much better about myself when… Also, not a great motivator because 1) it’s rooted in the mistaken belief that you are lacking those things now and need to change your body to create them (remember when I talked about how wanting to change how our bodies is a terrible motivator)... that you need something outside of yourself to create them and 2) when we don’t believe we are worthy of feeling those things as we are, we’re prone to self-sabotage The fix for every single one of those things is to stop feeling like you "have to" make choices based on future events and start focusing on your present. AND... start accepting yourself exactly as you are. Right now. Really. So, what’s stopping from doing that? What are you telling yourself about yourself that makes you believe you don’t deserve your own acceptance today, exactly as you are? I think you deserve it. I think you’re perfect as you are. Why don’t you? Because you’re living with that non-stop nagging feeling that you need to lose weight before you can? That’s often one of the very things that makes us keep gaining but more on that in a minute. Those are some of the many reasons why the weight centric model in our culture is so deeply flawed, at its core. So let’s get into some actionable things you can start doing right now to change it. Stop even thinking about it. Your first piece of homework is to let thoughts of weight loss go entirely. Every time you notice the thought pop into your head, remind yourself that it’s counterproductive and that no, you don’t have to lose weight. You can feel however you want to feel RIGHT NOW, without ever losing an ounce. I know that when you spend years feeling like you always have to be worried about your weight it can be scary to stop but it’s a vital first step in the process. Why? Well, for one: how’s it been working for you to keep thinking about it? Have you gotten there yet? No. So, thinking about it isn’t working. But also, it’s making things worse. Have you ever noticed yourself thinking about weight loss and then reaching for food? I guarantee it’s happened, whether you’ve noticed the connection or not. Let me explain why… First, because when we live with the non-stop nagging feeling that we have to lose weight and associate weight loss efforts with restriction, deprivation and suffering, we live in “I’ll just have this now because when I start trying to lose weight again, I won’t be able to have it anymore” mode. Nobody has ever made nurturing choices for their bodies living like that. And second… humor me and try a little experiment: sit still and quiet for a moment. Relax, bring your attention to your breath, take 5 nice slow deep breaths in and out, staying focused on your breath the whole time. Then start to bring your attention to your body. How does it feel? What sensations do you feel? Where do you feel them? What do they feel like? If they had a shape and color, what would they be? Ok… now, start thinking about needing to lose weight. Think about those words, what they mean and how they make you feel. Say them out loud a few times. Stay present with your body while doing so. What do you feel in your body now? Where do you feel it? Perhaps it feels a bit like a dull ache in the middle of your abdomen? Or an uncomfortable tingle in the middle of your chest. Why does that matter? Because every time “I need to lose weight” pops into your head, whether consciously or unconsciously, it’s causing a physical response in your body that you’ve probably not even noticed before and have almost certainly been interpreting as hunger - because our brains often get signals mixed and learn to associate every sensation in our bodies with hunger. On a call with a client one day not too long ago she stopped and commented how strange it was that she just noticed she felt hungry… but she didn’t think she should be because she had just recently eaten. We went through the little body connection exercise together in that moment and she realized the sensation she was interpreting as hunger was actually in her chest. Where do actual hunger pains come from? Not our chests. Through some more work together she was able to identify that what she was actually feeling was overwhelm. Our thoughts have power to influence our emotions and our emotions drive our choices. So, thinking about weight loss can drive us to eat more. That’s why priority #1 is to stop thinking about needing or wanting to lose weight. The other thing you can start doing right now is just stopping for one second before you eat and asking yourself… Why do I want that? Am I physically hungry? (use the little body connection exercise I just took you through to figure it out) and then, “how will I feel if I eat that and do I want to feel that way?” Those are some powerful first steps you can start taking right now to stop always having weight loss as that nagging, ‘ugh, I really should do that’ dread hanging over your life. Lastly, if you notice that you go through that process and find yourself saying, “I don’t care” when you’re about to eat something that you know is going to make you feel like garbage, that’s not a sign that you’re hopeless, it’s valuable information about what your next steps need to be… heal your relationship with yourself so you stop feeling like you deserve to be punished. That’s more complicated but it can be done and I can help. Drop me a message if you need it.
Since it's the New Year and every where you look there's a different diet being shoved in your face making all kinds of miraculous promises I want to offer a few things... According to the National Institute of Health, 98% of people who lose weight on a diet regain all the weight they lose and a large majority gain even more than they lost. And up to 90% of people who start a new fitness program, quit within 3 months. Close to 90% of people who set New Year's resolutions give up before ever achieving them. Those strategies are not working. Insanity: doing the same over and over again and expecting a different result. If you've been dieting and/or setting resolutions for years and you're still not happy with your body, yourself or your life... it's the definition of insanity to do the same thing again in 2020. If you actually want a different result this time, you have to do something different. And no, trying a new diet isn't doing something different - it's just doing a different version of the same basic thing that's already failed you a million times. EIGHT IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT Healthy diets do not eliminate entire food groups and weight loss doesn't require eliminating anything. Dramatically reducing or eliminating entire food groups is disordered eating. And diets that eliminate entire food groups are not sustainable long term so they WILL cause you to regain everything you lose (and probably more). If your diet is eliminating entire food groups or labeling certain foods as good vs bad, you're seriously at risk of creating a ridiculously messed up relationship with food... and yourself. ESPECIALLY long term. Please don't risk your mental health in pursuit of weight loss or a healthy body. It's not worth it. ANY diet that you can be happy sticking to will result in weight loss if you are at a caloric deficit. Weight loss is not a difficult or complicated process. You could eat nothing but twinkies and lose weight if you're eating less than you burn. Seriously. (not that I recommend that, you'll feel like garbage ;) ) The point is, the commonality behind ALL "successful" diets are a caloric deficit coupled with consistency and compliance. There is no miracle, just a consistent caloric deficit.
Consistency is the key and the best consistency trigger is what you're already consistently doing so don't change what or how you normally eat, just start changing how MUCH of it you eat. Portion control is key.
(Learn the 7 biggest consistency killers - download my free ebook, "Why'd I Eat That?" here)
Also, just because a diet claims to work faster, or have science behind it, doesn't mean it's healthy or that the "science" behind it is even true or valid. AND just because you're eating "healthy" doesn't mean you're eating for weight loss.
Studies on the LONG TERM success rates of diets prove that 1) no one diet works any better than another and 2) none of them work long term. PLUS, no diet can tell you what's best for YOUR body, better than your own body. Weight loss is actually pretty simple. It's not a complicated process. Losing weight is not the hard part. ALL it requires is a consistent caloric deficit. Eat less than your body needs and you'll lose weight. That's it. The reason you struggle to keep it off or stay consistent has nothing to do with your willpower or motivation or ability to be successful and everything to do with the things going on in your brain. (Click here to learn more) Here's the biggest secret of all... you need to stop focusing on weight loss. Continuing to focus on weight loss is going to keep resulting in the same outcome - no sustained weight loss. Focusing on weight loss keeps you trapped in that cycle of trying to force yourself to eat something you think you're supposed to in the hope that maybe sometime at a later date the scale will reflect a different number or you can buy a smaller size in jeans. It's TERRIBLE "motivation" that almost never works because there's no immediate gratification. Rather than trying to force and willpower your way to disordered eating in order to make the scale go down, listen to your body. Learn to make choices for it from a place of love, rather than fear over your size or what the scale says. Learn to stop letting your brain make all the choices by running it's autopilot programs of mindlessly eating in front of the TV or to numb emotions, or just because the food is there because as long as those habits persist weight loss will never last anyway. Your time and energy is far more productively spent working on the reasons weight went on in the first place, than on what the scale says. And if you focus on how the things you're eating are making you feel, you CAN get instant gratification. The things you choose to eat today cannot affect your weight today, but they can and will affect how you feel today. And don't you want to FEEL GOOD? Learn to trust and listen to your body. It's really friggen smart and knows how to eat. It knows what makes it feel good and what doesn't and it wants to eat things that make it feel good. It doesn't want to overeat until it's ready to hurl - overeating, emotional eating, mindlessly eating, those are all behaviors being driven by your brain - not your body. Switch it so your body is making the choices for itself, rather than your brain.
To do that start by eliminating all the food rules and diet mindsets. They're just making it harder to hear your body. Then pay attention to how the things you're eating make you feel. Start asking yourself before you eat, how is that going to make me feel? Do I want to feel that way? Do I need it? Why do I want it? Am I physically hungry?
Be aware that anytime you're eating when you're not physically hungry, or when you know it's going to make you feel like crap, that's an action being driven subconsciously by your brain.
Be mindful and knowledgeable about what goes in your mouth AND how much of it is going in. You can lose weight and be healthy without being deprived or scared of slipping and having a "bad" food. You can learn to be lean, healthy and sane without even spending a dime... if you just take the time to learn how to break away from the fad diet roller coaster. I swear it'll be the best thing you ever do for yourself. If you've been struggling with weight and food and a brain that drives those types of behaviors, focusing on weight loss is the single least effective thing you can do. I feel like this doesn't even need any explanation. Just look at your own history. How many times have you tried? Have you kept it off yet? Obviously not or you wouldn't be here. As long as your brain is stuck in those self-sabotaging habits, there's close to zero chance you're ever going to keep it off. But that's the good news because you CAN change those things. Don't put a time frame on your new habits... do it until. Do it until you're where you want to be. Do it until it's second nature. Do it until it's your new normal. I don't care how many times you "screw up" or "fall off the wagon" just keep starting again and do it until.... accept that all of those things are a NORMAL part of the process and use them as learning opportunities rather than excuses to beat on yourself and quit. Picture the life you want and never, ever stop working on creating it. No matter what. The above points are ALL you need to lose weight. If you know what you need to do and consistently don't do it, there are deeper issues going on. If you've spent much of your life struggling with your weight and/or jumping from one diet to another trying to find "THE" one you can finally stick to, until you address the real issues behind your weight you will continue to do just that. Continuing to waste time dieting does nothing to help you, it only makes matters worse by continuing to reinforce habits that are keeping you stuck. Hear me when I tell you this because I speak from over a decade of experience. Years of dieting wires habits, mindsets and behaviors into your brain that keep you stuck repeating the same habit loops of "falling off track" or "failing" over and over again. No new diet can change those. They only make them worse. And food and body issues run DEEP. I've said this before, trying to diet those things away is like trying to fix a gun shot wound with a bullet. It. Doesn't. Work. This is why we struggle so much with food and our weight. It's not because we don't know HOW to lose weight, it's because those things are keeping us stuck and repeating the same patterns over and over again.
That doesn't mean you can't fix it... it just means you need to stop dieting and start working on the specific set of steps required to change those things.
It's almost 2020... it's time we start doing something different. If you're ready but don't know where to start or how to do it on your own, I'm here to help. Start by grabbing a free copy of this super detailed, extensively researched ebook. in which I outline why and how your brain sabotages you, why the current system isn't working and why it's not your fault, the most common consistency killers and more. Click the image below for more.
Best Advice For Holiday Eating That Won't Leave You Full Of Regret in The New Year
Ahh, holiday eating! Who's already feeling stuffed, full of regret and planning their January "get back on track" goals? I get it, that soo used to be me. I'd almost even fear the holidays for how gross I knew I was going to feel and of course the weight gain that came with it. It was a constant war in my head between what I felt like I was "supposed" to be eating so I could fit into that cute outfit and not look bloated and what I actually wanted to eat... which was allll the things... alllll the days. But I'm here to tell you that it DOESN'T have to be like that! I'm proof you can change it! You can eat and enjoy everything you love, WITHOUT feeling all bloaty and sick or like you're "off track" and "being so bad". This is the simplest, yet best holiday eating advice you will ever get... 1️⃣ Eat whatever you want and enjoy it with NO restrictions. Feeling like you're bad for eating "bad" things or you "can't" have those things anymore after the holidays are over and you "get back on track" is a HUGE contributing factor to overeating and bingeing. Stop telling yourself that. BUT before you eat, take a quick second to consider how what (and how much) you're about to eat will make you feel and whether or not you want to feel that way. If you're at a get together with people who tend to push food on you and you don't want to eat until you're uncomfortable you can reply with things like, "No thanks I ate before I came", "I already had some, it was delicious", "I'm full from having too much of something else but I'd love to take some home" ...etc. Get creative but honor your own wants and needs over anything else. If someone else chooses to get their feelings hurt because you don't want to eat yourself sick, that's their problem, not yours. ;) Honor YOUR body's wants and needs. Always. 2️⃣ If you decide you don't care how it makes you feel and you do end up overindulging or downright bingeing, this is where often people feel discouraged. "See, I knew it, I knew it wouldn't work for me because I'm just a hopeless pig and can't control myself" is a common belief that can make us feel like we're broken beyond any hope for change - common but wrong. If you go through the process of stopping before eating something that you KNOW is going to make you feel like crap and you don't care, that's not time to give up on yourself, that's an incredible insight that you NEED to begin understanding WHY you're doing that. But the most important thing is, do NOT beat on yourself. No guilt, shame, or judgment allowed -- it only makes you feel worse and puts you at risk of making more self-destructive choices for yourself. Put it behind you & move on. Aim for having something that makes you feel good at your next meal and for making less destructive choices the next time you're out celebrating. Notice when and where those incidents tend to happen. How are you feeling? What do you REALLY need that you're using food to soothe? Why are you punishing yourself with food? The holidays are notorious for causing stress (and distress) so if you're an emotional eater, they will be particularly tough until you learn to better manage your emotions without food. Let that be okay because beating on yourself for it only makes it worse. (3️⃣ Bonus tip: keep moving! Just because it's the holidays and perhaps you're not actively trying to lose weight or you're feeling "off track" with your usual workouts, or whatever, doesn't mean you shouldn't still be looking for ways to get some movement in every day. You'll just feel better if you do. Even just a few minutes of gentle stretching every day and some outdoor walks can do a world of good for the way it feels to live in your body. ☺️ ) Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday! <3
About the lie of motivation and what to do instead of waiting for it to strike
I don’t know when or why we bought into this notion that we have to “be motivated” before we start making changes in our lives but it’s crap. Motivation is a lie. We’ll never always be motivated. Our brains aren’t designed to be motivated to make change. Our brains are designed for our survival and to them, change is terrifying. They like comfort and the security of everything always staying the same - even if we’re not happy as things are. That’s one of the reasons why motivation is so fleeting - it NEVER lasts forever, you know this already. And it’s why waiting for it before starting to make changes almost never works. Actually, I suppose in the weight loss & fitness world, I understand why we feel like we have to wait for motivation -- because we’re taught that making changes to our health and fitness requires an entire overhaul of our entire lives -- especially everything we eat. We’re taught it requires punishment, pain, restriction, deprivation, and motivation to suck it up and do it anyway, even when we don’t want to or are too tired. Forget what our bodies tell us they need and want… we just have to be motivated enough to work harder, restrict more, deprive ourselves more -
Eff. That. Shit. That message (that admittedly, I used to promote too) is probably a big part of why we believe we need to wait for motivation - because who the hell wants to sign up for that?! But once you know this, you can work with it.
Because here’s the thing - the current state of our lives is the result, in large part, of our choices. That’s it. A million teeny little choices, added up over time. WHY are you making the choices you’re making that are creating the results you’re getting? How do you learn to WANT to make different ones? For example, almost half of our choices happen on auto-pilot - that is, we don’t even realize we’re making them or why. How did you drive to work when you get there and don’t even remember the drive? Auto-pilot. Why did you reach for the bag of potato chips last night after supper even when you weren’t hungry? Auto-pilot. See, that’s the key right there. Learning the why behind each and how to change things one tiny choice at a time - not idling sitting around waiting for the day when all the motivation in the world magically hits you and stays forever - because that’s almost certainly NEVER going to happen. The most beautiful thing about that is how easy it is. You can start changing things RIGHT NOW with no motivation required and without restricting or ruining your holidays or avoiding your favorite treats. Every moment of the day is a new chance to get off auto-pilot mode and learn to make better, more conscious choices. Even just one small conscious choice a day to drink a little extra water or to add some veggies to your plate or to skip the second helpings. They all add up! So many of us get caught in the diet trap of being “on” and obsessing about every morsel that goes in, feeling like we have to gag on foods we hate eating only “diet” food while becoming a complete train wreck of nothing but crap and overindulging when we’re “off”. If you have a separate menu of foods you only eat when you’re “on track” vs foods you only eat when you’re “off track” you’re setting yourself up for failure and not likely ever going to get your relationship with your body, weight or food under control in a way that makes you happy long term. You're just going to stay stuck in that never-ending cycle of waiting for motivation, forcing yourself to follow the rules for a while and then quitting when the "motivation" fades.
Rather than waiting for motivation, remember how we just talked about our lives are actually created - through millions of little choices day in and day out, over time and start changing some of those. Work on building momentum to move in a different direction, one tiny choice at a time. Think about it. What if today, and everyday, you just started paying attention to how your food choices made you feel? When you eat something, does it make you feel good, energetic and healthy? Or does it make you feel bloaty, heavy, icky and tired? If the latter, remember that feeling next time and take a second to decide if that’s how you want to feel before you eat it again. What if you started making different choices even when you’re not “motivated” simply because they’ll make your body feel good immediately after you eat instead of just because you’re hoping they’ll make you skinnier a few weeks or months from now? You can decide to eat veggies or pay attention to your hunger/fullness cues even if you’re not dieting or “on track”, I swear you can! 😊 If you cannot seem to stop yourself from eating things that you know will make you feel gross, again -- WHY? Why are you purposely punishing yourself with food? I created Cognitive Eating to help you learn to understand the whys behind your choices and how to change them. To learn more about it, click here.