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: weight loss
Wouldn’t you like to know?! We all love black and white information, especially about eating. “I want to KNOW,” you may say, “exactly what to eat and what I should never touch.”
I am sorry to disappoint, but you will not get that here. One of the problems I have with traditional dieting is that many of them offer lists like this. As a culture, we love that! “All I need to do is cut sugar (and/or wheat, gluten, dairy, carrots (!), . . . ) completely out of my diet and I will get to my dream weight and stay there for as long as I live.”
Good luck with that. I don’t see that strategy offering long-term success to anyone I have met. Unless a sharply defined eating rule has personal meaning for you, forget it; it will not stick. If, however, you break out in hives all over your body when you eat even a single slice of bread, I would imagine you would have a relatively easy time giving up gluten if you can pin down the cause of your breakout to any food containing it.
What about WHEN to eat? Many diets convey the message that if you want to lose weight, you should sometimes eat when you are hungry (when your diet plan makes it possible), never eat simply for pleasure, and never eat when you are emotional.
Here is how I feel about that:
You should always eat when you are physically hungry. (There is no better reason to eat than this!)
You should sometimes eat for pure pleasure. (Why not? If you can supplement food pleasure with other life pleasures, a healthy diet can include some food for the sole purpose of taste enjoyment. It won’t take much to satisfy a pure pleasure need. Not being able to stop is a reminder that there is something else going on.)
Eating mindlessly for emotional reasons, with no physical hunger, will never resolve the emotional difficulty, but you will sometimes do it anyway, and you should never beat yourself up about it. You will always be human.
Someone once said to me, “Kim, the doctor just told me that I am obese.” She sounded devastated . . . and desperate. “Obese” is such an emotional term for many people. It is technically defined by a certain body mass index (BMI). Defined in this way, it is very mathematical, very exact, and simply factual. It is a number after all, not a feeling, right? Or is it?
In fact, being labeled obese has a very emotional meaning for many people. “Obese” can feel like a judgmental term. When one is told they are obese, it often sounds more like “You are really, really fat.” Panic is a natural reaction, along with shock in many cases: “UGH, I had no idea I was THAT fat!”
Whether someone has just learned they are clinically obese or has just felt “really, really fat,” the results seem to be the same. Feeling unacceptably fat appears to make it harder for people to lose weight; in fact, it looks like it might cause them to gain. Recent research on the subject was really no shock to me.
I have been telling weight loss clients for years that the first step toward improvement is accepting where they are. Then, putting a focus on changing behaviors instead of obsessing over numbers will help with forward movement in a healthy direction. Once this happens, tension releases, desperation lightens, and change is possible. The alternative is lots of stress, often using food as a soother, leading to weight gain, not loss or even maintenance.
The research report states that three studies “found consistent evidence that perceiving oneself as being overweight was associated with increased weight gain.” In fact, even people who just felt overweight (but were not) gained. The perception seems to be the important point. This makes perfect sense, since what we perceive is what affects emotions, not necessarily what is actual, factual reality.
“Individuals who identified themselves as being ‘overweight’ were more likely to report overeating in response to stress and this predicted subsequent weight gain,” according to the authors. “These findings are in line with recent suggestions that the stress associated with being part of a stigmatised group may be detrimental to health.”
The report also noted that the gains may have come from emotional reactions to being considered unacceptable, OR they may have been the result of aggressive dieting. Brilliant! Can we finally all agree that crazy, rigid dieting is not effective . . . unless of course you are trying to GAIN weight.
This one was a surprise! A co-worker said her husband heard the app discussed on the WTMJ morning news show. (Click the link to check it out.)
On Monday, a nice article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talked about the phone app I developed. I thought the writer, Lori Nickel, did a nice job of understanding my passion and translating it into a very readable format. (Just click the link to read it.)
I have a client on my mind. We met this morning, and the conversation was interesting. “I am struggling,” she said. I found myself asking lots of questions to understand exactly what the struggles are and what is causing them.
What I learned was that she is still having trouble controlling sweets at work. (People bring them in.) After digging deeper, we discovered that she really doesn’t think she can resist eating the treats at work. Although she avoids the room they are typically in, all it takes to trigger the “I can’t resist it” belief is the mention of cake or other treats by a co-worker.
She does feel conscious of the fact that there is a choice to eat it or not, but in reality it is not a choice at all. The mindless part of the habit is in the deeper belief that she cannot resist treats when they are available. Checking with herself in-the-moment about whether or not to indulge is really just going through the motions. The deeper (and less conscious) belief tells her she is not strong enough to really have a choice. Call it a perceived “willpower disability.”
Add to this challenge the guilt that accompanies the inevitable “choice,” and it adds fuel to the fire of the belief: “See, I knew I couldn’t resist. I never can.”
Beliefs are strong. And they are most often unconscious. This can make a “conscious” thought a mere habit instead of a realization of actual choice. There is a big difference between realizing on a superficial level that you can eat something or not, and really believing it. In other words, it is possible to choose to eat something and also truly believe that there was a choice not to eat it. In order for the latter choice to exist at all, one must believe that this is possible, at least sometimes. And, of course, there are all kinds of choices that exist between the two extremes of all and nothing.
Being conscious of thoughts is important, but sometimes it takes looking deeper, especially when feelings of failure and disappointment keep popping up. If the thought of an option to make a self-controlled choice is habitually followed by discouraging thoughts (“What makes you think you really have any choice at all, you spineless disappointment?”), those thoughts probably point to a deeper belief that keeps that habit going.
To be clear, it is still a good idea to keep from deliberately making choices too challenging by surrounding yourself with temptation. Let’s face it – some kinds of food are just really, really hard to resist when they are too accessible. There is no need to test your strength by leaving a whole cake out on the counter. That’s just not very kind!
Choosing to eat any particular food is not the problem. Knowing you could choose not to have something and having it anyway feels so much different than eating it because you feel too weak-willed to have any choice. How much enjoyment can there really be in that?
People tend to believe what they read in the media. Journalists wouldn’t give us bad information . . . would they??
A recent study pulled a bit of a fast one on the media. The apparent results of the study, which were reported in many respected international journals and newspapers, reported that adding dark chocolate to a low carb diet increased weight loss by 10% when compared with the same diet without the chocolate. People also kept the weight off better.
But wait! Before you leave your computer and rush off to the nearest convenience store for your weight loss miracle, you should know just one itty bitty detail. The study behind the study was intended to find out how difficult it would be to get bad science into the mainstream media.
It turns out that it wasn’t hard at all. A strategic press release was all it took to get the journalistic world going. The chocolate study, which had several major flaws, was picked up by major newspapers and scientific journals, apparently without much further review.
The lesson is this: Be careful not to change your diet based on information you get from the internet and the newspaper. Attention-grabbing headlines do grab us. When you are checking out at the grocery store, read a few just to remind yourself what an art it is to draw us in. Until you see several reputable studies that come to the same conclusions, just keep walking.
I have yet to find a “too good to be true” eating plan that isn’t just that – too good to be true.
Everyone I counsel has one goal in common: health. Beyond that the details vary a little, but for the most part, almost everyone wants to lose weight.
The goal seems simple on the surface: be healthy, lose weight (the goal), and it’s all good, right? In other words just follow the plan, whatever plan that is, and your success can be measured on the scale.
Not so fast! There’s one not-so-little detail to consider. Temporarily following a diet without actually changing the long-time habits that have driven eating in the past is bound to be a short-term venture.
Behavioral habits that lead to extra pounds are controlled by habits of thinking. Thoughts like “Oh, just one more won’t matter. They are so tasty, and I won’t be eating these again anytime soon, if ever!” Or maybe “I’m up 2 pounds today and I was PERFECT yesterday! I give up.”
There are endless habitual thoughts that play out like a well-worn tape, and the results we see in our behavior are predictable. Outwardly it may seem like you just lost control and someone else – an alien perhaps? – is driving your choices.
Binges often follow negative or unsupportive thoughts – maybe after taking a bite of the cookie you told yourself you would never eat again? If automatic thoughts were more neutral or positive, the binge would be much less likely. Positive thoughts create more desirable actions. Allowing thoughts to run wild without any awareness of them is simply not a good plan!
Changing habits of thinking is hard – really hard – but also really important. Because so many thoughts are unconscious, and because thoughts affect feelings, it is easy to feel bad without knowing why. When we notice the thoughts, it is possible to see how the feelings developed. Then there is an opportunity to really change – from the root of the feeling – the thought.
As it turns out, we are better off when we just observe thoughts without judging the fact that we are thinking them. We can then use a very useful tool – the brain – to work with us toward finding solutions to problems. The brain is not very creative when it is judging. It is too busy sending uncomfortable emotional messages that affect feelings.
With practice, different kinds of thoughts become more automatic. New habits of thinking can develop – how exciting! That means that healthier habits will play out in actions too, and the body will become healthier overall.
So let’s return to how we measure success. Even when weight loss is the goal, the scale does not have to be the main focus. The number is not entirely within our control day to day – too many opportunities for false conclusions and feelings of failure. It is true that regular weighing is one of the habits associated with people who keep weight off, but I would bet they don’t take the daily variations too seriously.
Drawing attention, without judgment, to thought patterns that drive actions gets to the root of the problem. The scale will take care of itself without a need to fixate on it. This may sound like a subtle difference in focus, but it is really the key to maintaining weight loss.
A long-time dieter I know has been working on this. She is still getting used to viewing progress with her thinking. Her comments illustrate how shaky it feels to change over to a new way of evaluating progress, but the progress is obvious upon a closer look (my comments in bold).
The only thing I can think to say is, “struggling but not giving up.” . . . So I continue on. I am becoming much more aware of my hunger and of what I am eating. (Awareness of hunger – great! And not giving up – essential!)
Work has been stressful but just yesterday I convinced myself that I don’t need to get so hung up with it. It was making me sick . . . . (Yes, other areas of life affect eating – good to realize that.)
I find it hard to understand why I am having so much trouble with this. (At least she is trying to understand.)
I’m grateful . . . that I haven’t given up. (Hooray!!)
Being able to see these glimmers of positive change are so important to moving forward. It would be easy – frankly easier for someone used to thinking negatively – to throw in the towel. That’s the old way of life that lines up with the old habit of thinking. Here is what would have stood out:
The only thing I can think to say is, “struggling
but not giving up.” . . . So I continue on. I am becoming much more aware of my hunger and of what I am eating.
Work has been stressful
but just yesterday I convinced myself that I don’t need to get so hung up with it.It was making me sick . . . .
I find it hard to understand why I am having so much trouble with this.
I’m grateful . . . that I haven’t given up.
It is likely she would have at least temporarily given up.
Picture yourself with a new pair of glasses – perhaps rose-colored ones that notice more positive thoughts developing. Noticing them and giving yourself credit for that important progress is the first step toward long-lasting healthier eating habits.
If you are a mother, I hope you find the time to mother yourself today. This can be very VERY difficult for many women to do without guilt. I know, because I spent too many moments martyring myself to others’ needs when my kids were small.
When offers of help came my way, my response was always something like this: “Oh, no, I don’t need any help. Yes, I AM exhausted and overwhelmed, but no . . . (heavy sigh) . . . I can manage.” I felt more uncomfortable asking for help than doing everything myself. I wondered, wasn’t asking for help a sign of weakness, or worse – selfishness?
A turning point came when a close friend made a perfectly-phrased comment: “That is so sad that you won’t allow others to love you.” Hmmm . . . “won’t allow . . .”: that was the part that hit me. This was a choice I was making, one that might not actually be serving anyone, maybe least of all the well-intentioned people who did love me and WANTED to help.
Self-care is a primary need for any kind of quality giving to be possible. This is a need, not an indulgence. I have learned this well over the years since my children were babies, and now I find myself sounding a little hypocritical when I repeat the well-worn wisdom “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” Obviously this is a lot easier for me to follow now that I am an empty-nester without even a dog to care for anymore.
I get it now, and it’s not too late, because there are still plenty of people who would like me to get involved in various investments of my time. Many are people or causes I truly value, and sometimes I say “yes,” but not always, and certainly not automatically without thinking first. Learning to say “no” occasionally has allowed me to give more joyfully and freely when I choose to say “yes.”
The basics of self-care include quality sleep, balanced nutrition, manageable stress, and enjoyable movement – sometimes called “exercise,” but the key is “enjoyable.” Interestingly, they all affect one another. It is hard to eat well when one is not sleeping well or is too stressed out to feel balanced. Staying physically active can affect sleep quality, eating choices, and stress level. You get the idea.
Can you imagine how much more difficult it would be for someone to eat well if they are not caring for themselves with the bare bones basics needed to feel balanced? Does playing the martyr sound like a healthy strategy to you?
Maybe you have already figured this out, but I notice what seems to be a disproportionate number of women trying to lose weight who are not meeting their most basic self-care needs. Sometimes the best first step to addressing eating issues is to take a good look at the status of self-care.
Are you mothering yourself well? Make today a day to commit (or re-commit) to this very important role. Yes, we are all responsible to some extent for others, but we are first responsible to ourselves. No martyrs, please! That kind of giving is not sent with the best motivation anyway. The best kind of giving is the joyful, conscious, deliberate type. Enjoy your day!
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!