Tag Archives: weight loss

Can you notice deeper changes?

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 stressfulbut 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.

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Happy Mother’s (Martyr’s?) Day!

I always wanted three!  (My 2 kids with my daughter-in-law Marina)

I always wanted three! (My 2 kids with daughter-in-law Marina)

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!

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Here’s the real secret to weight loss that lasts!

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!

Roasted Vegetable and Avocado Lettuce Wraps

IMG_0510Hunger grabbed me around 3pm today – not unusual.  When I’m home on the weekend, that is when I tend to drift into the kitchen and start searching for just the right snack that can hold me over until dinner.

Today I used some leftover roasted vegetables (mushrooms, eggplant, carrots and red pepper) and a couple of slices of avocado to fill butter lettuce leaves.  After a light splash with good quality balsamic vinegar, I rolled them up and enjoyed a delicious, albeit messy snack.

There’s no shame in procrastinating! OWN it for better eating.

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.

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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.

Too much? Too little? Ahhh . . . that’s just right!

Goldilocks knew what was "just right."

Goldilocks knew what was “just right.”

Oh, the beauty of balance!  Yes, you can get too much of a good thing.  A new study claims that people who run a lot – not moderately – tend to have similar risks of dying as those who do not run at all.

A little running – say 3 to 4 miles a few times a week – has health benefits.  Run too much and it loses its health benefits.  Of course there are individual differences as with any human studies, but logic always seems to come back to balanced living for better health.  Ultramarathoners: you would definitely not be considered moderate.  Isn’t 26.2 miles enough of a challenge?

Balance is not an easy concept to define with precision, but it is still a good basic guiding principle for healthy living.  Believe it or not, we all “know” where the point of balance is for our unique bodies.  The problem is that not many of us trust that we know.

Let’s face it.  We are addicted to information, and there is plenty of it out there:  the TV, magazines, newspapers, friends and acquaintances, and  the internet.  All of these sources are external input.  What about the internal indicators we might get if we tuned in more often to that channel instead!

With increasing information about what to eat, when to eat, and why to eat – not to mention the many versions of advice and “proof” – our diet-crazy culture has lured us away from the true messages of our wants and needs.

Too much?  Feel sick, stuffed?  It could be a response to thinking you need less than you do, failing at that craziness, and “blowing it.”  Or, it could be the result of not taking true care of emotional needs.  Emotions need balance too.

Too little?  Feeling starved, weak, deprived?  Your true balanced self would tell you it’s crazy not to eat!  External messages that imply (or come right out and tell you) it should be enough are not in your best interests either.  And what about all those ads that show what fun you will have if you eat all those tempting gooey treats?  Just more confusion.

Tune back in to your needs!  It will likely feel uncomfortable at first.  “Who me?” you ask,  “I’m the expert on balance?”  Yes, you are!   Here are a few tips:

1.  Feeling sick to your stomach = too much

2.  Irritable, hungry, worried about eating too much = too little

3.  Enjoyment of a balance of healthy AND delicious food in the quantity needed for a vital life and a mind that is not overly-fixated on the next meal = perfect balance

It’s really that simple.

Updates for In the Moment App Now Available!

Check out some new content:

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I love this new bubble choice: “I want to stop!”

 

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If you choose “I want to stop!” this is some of the content you will see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just received approval from Apple for the updated version (1.1.1) of In the Moment – Mindful Eating.  

 If you already have the app on your iPhone, just go into your “updates” and you should see it waiting for you.  If you have never downloaded it – and maybe don’t even know about the app yet – just go to the App Store and search the name.  It is a great app for support of your New Year’s intentions.  That darned human side (ie. emotional side) does seem to get in the way of healthy changes, doesn’t it?

To read more about the app, visit the Facebook Page.