Just wanted to post another invitation to follow me at my new website, lmwellness.com. I notice that there are still a number of people who are visiting this site (kimthedietitian.com), yet I have not posted in many months. I fear they must think I am lazy! Not so. I have just been posting in a different place. Join me there!
Tag Archives: diets
Right here. Right now. I am going to reveal the secret to the question that drives people to try every eating plan under the sun, spend billions of dollars every year, and endure endless suffering in pursuit of its answer. The answer to the question – what is the secret to lasting weight loss? – is not as complicated as many make it.
I have watched many people as they move toward the answer. Many start out thinking that they just need to know what to eat. “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it! Tell me EXACTLY what to eat and when, and I’m good to go.” Some remain stuck here for a long time, moving from one diet to the next, waiting for “the one,” the magic plan that will be discovered any day now. In fact, each plan provides new hope, but little else.
Others think the answer is having something or someone control them, to save them from their out-of-control tendencies. A task master who penalizes lack of results is what they think will help. Fear of not following orders drives them to comply to avoid shame and disappointment. This usually works for a while, but when results are not as expected, derailment usually happens, along with plenty of feelings of failure.
Supplements and formula diets appeal to many dieters, especially when magical claims are made. Advertising can make it sound like the secret has finally been discovered in the form of a pill or powder. “Melt fat instantly. Lose inches and pounds in days.” Don’t get too excited. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So what is the secret? Well, it’s not quick, or easy, or sexy, but it is real, lasting, and bound to improve the way you look at your entire life. When I notice a client has stopped panicking and fighting with themselves, and is moving toward a more self-compassionate acceptance of their abilities at this time, I know they will succeed at healthier eating that will become a part of their lives.
When this happens, I hear things like, “I don’t know when it happened, but the healthier habits are just what I do now. I don’t think about it, and it isn’t hard. I’m not perfect, and I allow myself to have what I want, but what I want has changed.”
Asking “What is the best I can do for my health today” is a good practice. Do the best you can at any moment. If today seems hard, just know that not every day is the same. Ride the waves. Be kind – yes, to others, but mostly to yourself. Feel good about what you can accomplish, and move on when your eating is disappointing. This is a life-long process, because we are always changing.
When every eating experience feels like your choice, and when the choices feel kind most of the time, that’s as good as it gets. But that is certainly good enough!
I can see myself doing it. I’m procrastinating again! I have a work project I had intended to work on today, but I keep getting up from my desk. “Just a little snack . . . a couple of nuts . . . then back to work.”
Who am I fooling?! I’m just not going to finish this project right now, so I may as well do something else. I am a disciplined person. I like setting deadlines for myself, planning out my work, keeping on target. So why would I advocate just quitting for now?
The simple answer is that I AM quitting right now. I can either embrace it, OWN it, lose the guilt, and do something else (productive or just plain recreational), OR I can keep pretending I’m working on my project and keep drifting into the kitchen for that little “something” to give the illusion of taking a needed break.
I’m not hungry! I don’t need to eat, so why do I do this, as so many of us do? I think it is because eating in small little spurts like that is “really not much of a break” and “It’s not like I’m sprawled out on the couch watching soap operas or anything!” In short, I am justifying.
When I hear myself doing this, I laugh. It really is ridiculous, don’t you agree? We are the masters of fooling ourselves, especially when it comes to eating.
I can usually spot this pattern quickly, now that I recognize it for what it is. This has taken lots and LOTS of practice. I now find that admitting to what I’m doing is the beginning of the way out of the habit. Then I can decide if it is realistic to expect myself to buckle down and do my project now, or lose the guilt and do something else.
Sometimes just stepping away, even when a deadline is looming, allows my head to clear. Then, magically, creative thoughts start flowing and I’m engrossed in my endeavor – and loving it!
To be able to say, “Yes, I am procrastinating, and while I’m at it, I intend to do an incredible job of it!” eliminates the guilt surrounding it. A psychologist friend recently told me that guilt is an emotion that has absolutely no positive side to it. I believe it usually just drives procrastinators into deeper pits of paralysis, which leads many of us to munch on food we don’t really need or want.
How many unnecessary calories do you think you consume while procrastinating? Hundreds? Thousands? It’s hard to really know, because procrastination is often so mindless.
My phone app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating) addresses this issue, so it may help the procrastinator in you to be more self-compassionate during these times. Here is a screen shot that gives a glimpse.
Ahhh, now I feel better. This post is a perfect example of productive procrastination. Now I think I can go back to work on my project – refreshed.
I had coffee with a friend recently. Retreating from the cold Wisconsin weather, we settled in, warmed up, and savored the wonders of our steamy beverages: the taste and warmth of the drinks, to be sure, but also the experience of connection in a cozy setting.
Later she sent this:
Yes! We eat – and drink – for reasons that are complex and interconnected. Do we ever eat simply for physical hunger and nourishment? If so, it is rare, at least in developed countries. I understand the metaphor of a human body as a car, and we want to use good quality fuel, but it’s not that simple!
We are human beings, not machines, so eating decisions are always interesting blends of physical hunger, pleasure seeking, and emotional needs. We often weigh these factors unconsciously, so food decisions can seem to be controlled by factors beyond our control. “I don’t know why I ate those cookies. I couldn’t stop, and I didn’t even really like them that much.” (In reality, the cookies may have been a mindless attempt to meet an emotional need, one that might have been more truly soothed with a non-food solution.)
I believe that one reason we tune out and don’t hear our genuine needs is that our diet-focused culture seldom encourages that kind of non-judgmental observation. Why would we be curious about that if we believe that we should just follow a plan no matter what?! Why question that craving? Just resist it!
People who blindly try to follow a rigid eating plan do not always realize that ignoring real needs does not make them disappear. In fact, the opposite is usually true; ignoring them is more likely to cause uncontrolled eating that appears to have no logic other than “I have no willpower, and I’m a total failure.” There’s not much insight in that kind of thinking!
This is not to say that having a plan is a bad thing. It is actually a very good thing if a plan is defined as having an intention to do something, but any plan that will work long term must be chosen, not imposed. That means it should make sense for your body and be realistic for your life. Maybe most importantly, any good plan for human beings needs to be flexible.
We know what we need if we pay attention. If we listen, true needs (sometimes for physical nourishment, but sometimes for more complex things like warmth or comfort or pleasure or pain avoidance) become less mysterious and we can choose to honor them and care for them kindly, or we can decide to ignore what would be truly supportive and act outside of our best interests.
Either way, a choice is better than mindless default. Choice always leaves the door open for a kinder approach next time, and choice is less likely to cause regret and disappointment, guilt and shame.
Let me tell you a quick story, one recently told to me by a young woman as we discussed a topic unrelated to eating . . . but then again, it was. How we interact with food in our lives is so often a reflection of our tendencies in general.
So, here’s the story, as told by a yoga classmate while we considered our own reactions to rules imposed upon us:
Back in junior high school, the boys were allowed to wear blue jeans; the girls were not. We could wear colored jeans though . . . seemed so unfair!
It really pissed me off because it made absolutely no sense. So I got a really obnoxious pair of pink jeans – the most obvious, ugly pair I could find. They had kinda sparkly things on them, and they were really, really PINK – I mean BRIGHT PINK!
I wore them every day, even though I didn’t like them, just because the rule was so stupid. I mean the boys’ jeans were so beat out. We (the girls) actually had nice-looking jeans. UNFAIR!
I really hate it when people set rules that make no sense. I feel like I just have to break them.
Bingo! She hit the nail on the head. People are often the same way when it comes to eating rules. If they don’t make a conscious choice to follow a particular rule, it is just like someone arbitrarily telling them they can’t wear blue jeans. The response is similar: “I can’t eat any chocolate, huh?! Watch me!!” Then they eat an entire box.
Just like my friend wearing her pink pants, they really don’t want to eat that much chocolate. They want to choose the rules (call them guidelines, if you prefer) that make sense for them.
There are lots of rules on the internet about eating. Read carefully, and consider thoughtfully, before imposing them on yourself. If they make sense, it won’t feel restrictive; it will feel nurturing. If they don’t make any sense for you, they will feel like a pair of sparkly pink pants you wear just to make a point.
The answer is . . . just about anything! Make a quick, delicious, satisfying – and healthy – snack or mini meal out of one of nature’s healthiest fats, an avocado.
Try stuffing half of one with salmon salad (I mix my canned salmon with plain Greek yogurt, celery, and onion), egg salad, a blob of hummus and diced cucumber, or cottage cheese and grape tomatoes. Go wild! Be crazy!
Peanut butter and avocado . . . well, maybe don’t go completely nuts!
We’ve all heard the expression “Hindsight is 20/20.” But what does that kind of expert vision accomplish if it just manifests as regret. Absolutely NO good! In order to be valuable, hindsight has to give us a little foresight. In other words, it must be combined with learning to have any benefit in the future.
My husband Peter and I had this discussion recently after a very regrettable incident, and yes, if he could have predicted it, he would have done things differently. But one thing is for darn sure . . . he will never, EVER again stand on a chair without being very mindful. Actually he may never again stand on a chair at all!
Here’s what happened. Peter woke me up one morning last week with the urgent news that there was a bat in our house – a bat now trapped under a bowl on our bookcase after he cornered it – and I needed to get up to help him get the bat out of the house.
So there I was, cookie sheet in hand, while he slid the bowl ever so carefully off the shelf onto it. Everything was going perfectly . . . until Peter lost his balance and fell off the chair. The bat was captured successfully, but Peter landed badly and his knee was not looking “right.” Actually it was looking very, very wrong, with a huge bulge protruding away from his leg.
This long story ended with a trip to the Emergency Room and surgery to repair a torn quadriceps tendon a day later. He will now be on crutches for 6 weeks. What a set-up for a case of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s”! But it doesn’t help his current situation to realize that he was focusing too much on the bat and too little on his balance.
Experience is a great teacher though. This recent setback has started me thinking that learning from the “slips” of eating habits – the equivalent of falling off the chair (or the wagon!) – presents a similar opportunity. Unfortunately it is all too common for people to get stuck in the regret of their disappointments, looking back with hindsight (that crystal clear perspective) to see that “I shouldn’t have eaten so many cookies,” instead of understanding what caused it to happen and looking for solutions . . . changing the hindsight to foresight.
We can predict that destructive eating patterns will happen again if all we do is display perfect hindsight. That’s easy! In order to turn it into something productive, we need to give up on the regret and “if only’s” so we can actually learn something useful.
If having an abundance of cookies in the house causes a cookie binge, there is a difference between saying, “I shouldn’t have eaten all of those! I have no willpower,” and observing that “having all those temptations in the house is not very supportive of my goals. I will practice self-compassion by not buying them.” (awareness + insight = learning)
The first method is judgmental and negative. It does not get beyond the regret and shame of “messing up.” The second is supportive and useful. This may sound like picky semantics, but it makes a big difference! Are you learning or just finding fault with yourself?
My clients frequently display signs of brilliance! After a great start to a slow and steady weight loss – after decades of yo-yo swings – one of my recent superstars was trying to explain how different her attitude is now.
“This reminds me of when my kids were little. I tried to raise the first one by the book . . . to do everything perfectly . . . I was nerved up a lot! Then the second one came along, and I was just more flexible. For instance, a bottle now and then was OK with me, even though I had thought I should never do that with the first child.
I was more relaxed . . . quite frankly, the flexibility made me a better parent. That’s the way I feel about my weight loss plans now. I try to follow sensible guidelines most of the time, but when that doesn’t make sense, I just do the best I can . . . I wiggle the plan to meet my needs. I stress less, and I am losing, not as quickly as in the past, but I am not as worried about going back up either.”
Didn’t I tell you I have brilliant clients! I couldn’t have come up with a better analogy if I had tried.
I couldn’t agree more. Why do all of the trendy diets work for a while, and then people often gain back what they lost? The simple reason is: How you eat is much more important than what you eat. The “what” usually takes care of itself when people are developing a “peaceful” eating pattern that is realistic and self-compassionate.
Intellectually we probably all agree about this. Still, can we internalize this concept and really LIVE it? This is where I see people struggle. “Oh yes, I want to change my lifestyle. I know diets don’t work. . . . but . . . . I need to lose 20 pounds right away, so what can I do?”
If you find yourself thinking like this, you will want to read this study that looks at how people fare in both scenarios. It does help to hear the same message many ways, so add it to your mental library of evidence in favor of realistic lifestyle changes. One of these days, it’s bound to really click!
I had a weak moment this morning. I confess that for an instant I considered spending a good chunk of change (more like wad of dollars!) on a beauty “miracle”. I got an e-mail ad from a skin care company, and they made some very enticing claims. They promised to minimize my pores, tighten and de-wrinkle my skin, add a youthful glow . . . and on and on. Continue reading