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Celebrating, Not Dreading, Foodmas

December 27, 2009 Leave a comment

This week I told my Facebook friends I am calling the period from Thanksgiving to New Years Foodmas.  I have had a Thanksgiving dinner, a Hanukkah feast, a Christmas lunch and, in between, several holiday parties complete with their yummy treats.  As much as I have truly enjoyed indulging in these foods this season, my body is ready to get back to the clean eating and physical activity that it’s accustomed to.

A couple of years ago my sentiments about holiday eating—or eating in general—were not so casual or matter-of-fact.  I frantically accounted for each calorie consumed, checked the scale multiple times throughout the day and eyed myself in the mirror searching for evidence that I had indulged in forbidden tasties.  Most of the time I willed myself to stay away from the foods my friends and family were enjoying and on the occasions when I allowed myself to eat the sinful foods, I’d go way overboard and binge on them—the inevitable result of skipping meals and snacks throughout the day and assigning food moral values.  So there I was at parties and family functions so tightly wound-up about what I was ingesting, I’m sure I completely forgot to have fun.  Not this year.  I put my party pants on and ate what everyone else ate. Was I eating what I normally eat? Nope.  Did I occasionally eat when I was not hungry? Yup.  Did I pack on 500 pounds over the holidays? Nope.  Did I feel like an unworthy, out-of-control lowlife freak for eating a sugar cookie? Hell no.

I did gain a few pounds, but the difference between this year and years past is that I know these are temporary seasonal fun pounds that will leave with the holidays.   More importantly, I now know my weight has no impact on my feelings: I get to choose how I feel about me and my body and I choose to feel fierce regardless of what the scale reads or how my skinny jeans fit on any random day.  For anyone who is an emotional overeater and/or is struggling with body image issues, this is most likely a foreign concept, and I can certainly relate. Now that I no longer eat for comfort or excitement, however, food has lost its charge.  I can appreciate the pure pleasure of decadent holiday food, indulge in it and then walk away from the dessert table when my body has had enough –-and I can do this with zero drama.  This year when I did eat past satisfaction to fullness, I found it unpleasant enough to not want to repeat it.   My body and I are on the same page, I feel her signals and I honor them.  Okay, with the exception of that piece of pecan pie, but the good news is that even when I eat past fullness on rare occasion, my body trusts me to feed her the very next time she asks for fuel and to stop when she is satisfied and I do that for her.  We’re on the same team.

This is what happens when you realize that you are in full control of your feelings and actions.  I used to think bingeing was the act of a person who had lost control.  But the truth is I was always in control. My proof?  I walked me to the kitchen.  I reached into the pantry for the chips. I put the chips in my mouth. All me. Going deeper, I was in full control of the feelings that caused me to walk into the kitchen when I wasn’t hungry.  If someone said something rude to me with no hint of constructive criticism, I could decide to take it personally or realize it really is the problem of the other person.  If I stubbed my toe getting out of bed in the morning I could tell myself it’s going to be a horrible day or I could acknowledge it happened and see that it had nothing to do with the fabulous day I intended to have.  We choose our feelings–I do, you do and so do all the women who engage in emotional eating right now.

If you’re used to beating yourself up during and after the holidays for the foods you consume, be more compassionate with yourself.  Do something different this year: instead of going into the new year with a mean intention to starve and deprive yourself thin, find out what it is you really want out of life.  At best, food is fuel for your body–at worst, it is only a very poor substitute for what you truly yearn for.  If you’re going to make a new year’s resolution for 2010, resolve to find out what it is you truly want and go get it.  Don’t be surprised if you lose your food cravings, find your waistline and discover a good time along the way.  I sure have.

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Clothes Are Your Employee, Not Your Employer

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

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I went shopping last week and spent the vast majority of the time in a fitting room thanks to a very helpful personal shopper who retrieved everything and anything I could possibly want to try on.  While I waited between outfits, I was privy to the conversations going on around me.  Usually I’m too preoccupied with trying stuff on or fetching clothing myself, that I don’t pay attention to what is being said, but this time, with little else to do but wait, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations.  One woman was talking to her daughter on her cell phone, another woman was going over the merits and consequences of breaking out of her current classic style rut with a friend and then there was the conversation that really captured my attention: a woman lamenting to her sales associate I could never pull that look off.  I don’t know what look she was referring to, but it was irrelevant, I was intimately familiar with this woman’s sentiments.  As someone who spent the better part of her high school years and young adult life addicted to fashion magazines, I knew exactly what this woman was talking about.

For a long time I felt the need to make clothes look good. I wanted to be worthy of the season’s hottest silhouette and styles, even if it didn’t flatter or honor my shape and size. I would get super frustrated when I tried something on and I didn’t look anything like what was styled for me in my fashion magazines.  There was good reason for this: I wasn’t built like anyone in a fashion magazine and I erroneously thought I should be.  It wasn’t until after I had my first child that I learned the value of dressing for my body and discovered how choosing the right styles for my shape and employing a skilled tailor would make the clothes serve me, not the other way around. It’s a simple shift in thinking really:  I’m the employer, clothes are my employee.  Now that I know this, fitting room meltdowns are a thing of the past. When I shop, I pass over racks and racks of clothing that don’t flatter me and I quickly narrow my choices down to pieces that do.  Knowing that my clothes work for me is no small boost in confidence either, it’s a lot easier to carry myself well when I know my clothes fit, hug and hang on my body in all the right places.

If you’re ready to have your clothing work for you, then check out what I consider the bible for dressing any size and shape: The Pocket Stylist by Kendall Farr.  If you like the idea of having a real live person assist in your clothing choices, find out if your favorite department store has a personal shopper or stylist on staff and make an appointment with her (I’d still do my own homework on my shape, though). This service is free and having that objective opinion can end up saving you time and money.  You could also hire a freelance stylist for more choices that aren’t limited to a specific store.

Can You See Beyond Your Belly Roll?

October 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Take a look at this photo I came across in this Glamour Magazine article.

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What thoughts enter your mind?

The first thought that popped into my head went something like Yikes! Did this poor girl know that her belly was going to be photographed like this? I’m so glad I don’t have THAT situation going on! You can see how distraught the model, Lizzi Miller, is in this captured moment. Of course, the problem was all mine—in the instant I saw that photo, my eyes were drawn to her belly and I immediately recalled, with knee-jerk speed, all the rules I had adopted over a lifetime governing what an acceptable belly looks like. This may sound completely un-cool coming from someone who works with individuals on weight loss and body image issues, but, yup, that was the dirty little thought that flooded my mind at that very moment.  As a coach, I also know that any judgment I make about anyone or anything outside of myself is really a judgment I make about me.  I imagined the horror I might feel if I was the girl in the picture and it was my belly rolling out for all to see. Some of you may sympathize with me and many more of you may be thinking, Are you kidding?! I would kill to look like Lizzi Miller in this photo! Either way, chances are good that you are harboring a less than kind thought about your own body.  If the first thing you noticed was Lizzie’s gorgeous smile it’s because you recognize your own inherent beauty, something the rest of us need to do if we want to feel fabulous about ourselves.

Because I’m a firm believer in facing my fears, I stripped down before a mirror, found myself a stool to sit on, relaxed my belly and recreated Lizzi’s posture to see what, exactly, would happen. Now, even though my belly is quite fit, it turns out that I get a belly roll in this posture, too. Know what else?  I totally survived the experience, because I know it doesn’t matter what my belly does or doesn’t do: I can be happy whether I have rolly, fleshy belly or flat svelte belly—that’s my call. If you happen to be working on getting a flat, svelte belly, getting happy now, whatever the state of your belly, will help you bring about and maintain your desired results (if you’re hoping the flat belly will make you happy, you will only be as happy as your belly is flat—how happy will you be to maintain that belly under those high-pressure circumstances?).

You can try this same experiment for yourself. In fact, I encourage you to try it if the thought of seeing your belly bared or not sucked-up into your esophagus gives you hives.  What are you making that extra flesh mean? When you feel good because your belly looks flatter, but feel crappy when your belly looks fuller, you are creating a lot of drama for yourself.  Decide to feel good about yourself no matter what, pick a feature or quality you do love and focus on that, then look at your belly again.  If you are completely held hostage by your thoughts about your body, check out my post, Does This Thought Make Me Look Fat.

After doing this little experiment on myself, I learned two things: 1) No matter what a person’s size or shape, belly rolls happen—that’s real. I can either choose to see myself as an individual with a belly roll or see myself as someone with a gorgeous smile.  What I focus on tells me a lot about what I’m thinking about myself and the good news is, if I don’t like what I’m thinking, I have the power to change that. 2) When someone radiates self-love, self-acceptance and confidence, they are going to look incredibly attractive to other self-loving, self-accepting, confident individuals, no matter what pose they strike.

With this new understanding about myself, I now look at the photo of Lizzi Miller and think that is one sexy chick rocking a killer smile.