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Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry!

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently let myself get too hungry, here’s what happened . . .

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Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Results

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. ~Albert Einstein

When I initially read the prospectus for my mutual fund, it reported  historically high rates of return. I was a touch disappointed when I encountered the disclaimer past performance does not guarantee future results. I like guarantees. I want all of the benefits and none of the risk.  My mutual fund had an annual rate of return of 22% when I invested in it back in the mid-90’s and I really wanted that same rate of return or higher from that day forward, but I knew it would fluctuate, even fall, but I took the risk anyway.  In 2008 it’s rate of return was -37%.  Past performance does not guarantee future results.  Boo.  However, my fund has since bounced back nicely since then and made more money for me over the years than if I had not invested in it. Yay.

But what if we’re not talking about a mutual fund? What if we’re talking about you, specifically, your challenges—the ones you’ve struggled with for a long time, maybe your whole life?  Now how does that phrase sound to you?  Past performance does not guarantee future results. I can’t lose weight.  Are you sure?  Well, I won’t be able to keep it off once I lose it.  Really?  I’ll never find a suitable job or straighten out my romantic relationship situation. Is that right?  I’ll never have enough money. How can you know that?

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your past outcomes dictate your future outcomes. If you’re going to look back, then recall a time when you improved some skill or situation (no matter how slight).  You probably took some risks, did something differently and then got a different result. If you don’t like your past performance, find out what you can do differently right now to alter the trajectory of your outcome. The smallest change can make a big difference.

There Is No Finish Line

April 12, 2010 4 comments

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill

When I lose the extra weight, I’ll feel good about my body.  When my career takes off, I’ll relax. When I’ve accumulated enough money, I’ll feel secure.  The most recent one I heard, when I find a romantic partner, I can get on with my life, made me chuckle.

We tend to see our goals as static objects: once we reach them, we’re done.  The truth is that our goals are living organisms.  This is especially true for our long-term goals. Reaching a goal is just the beginning, then it’s about looking after it, caring for it and doing our best to make sure it thrives.  Achieved goals require maintenance.

So many of us are in love with the happily ever after concept.  It makes for tasty, tidy Hollywood endings. It’s fun entertainment, but it is a crappy model for goal setting.   Then there’s the concept of maintenance.  At best, we tend to think of maintenance as something that is boring and unsexy (like getting your car’s tires rotated), at worst we confuse it with something that is a struggle and painful (like holding on tightly to a challenging relationship or a new dress size).  It sounds really un-fun.  But I think we need to change the way we think about maintenance, because it’s what works after the movie has ended. Maintenance requires effort, no doubt about it, but it should never feel like a struggle.

I’ve lost weight and struggled with maintaining it, and then I’ve lost weight and put in effort to maintain it.  The latter feels much better and far more satisfying.  Why? Because when I approach maintenance from a place of effort (as much or as little as I want to give) I’m in far greater control of my life and my circumstances.  I like that.   When I struggled with my weight, I was working against myself: forcing myself to avoid this or that food, soldiering through extra workouts to work-off any extra calories I may have consumed and punishing myself if I did neither.  Not enjoyable at all.  Putting effort into my weight maintenance is different.  It’s not about how much I move or eat, it’s about checking in with my mindset.  The real work happens inside of my head, not outside of my body. When I catch myself feeling anxious or stressed about ANYTHING, I know there’s a thought that needs my attention and I make the necessary adjustments right then before I end up anywhere near the kitchen in a feeding frenzy. I have learned that there is no upside to avoiding my feelings and thoughts and that there is tremendous value in addressing them and authentically changing them when necessary.  I could just distract myself: sit and watch TV, surf the Net or eat. . .but the few moments of effort I put into my kind of maintenance keeps me from ever struggling with maintenance.

If you have a goal you really want to achieve, first get clear on how badly you want it and why.  Are you clean about it? By this I mean do you feel happy and excited about it (clean)? or do you feel anxious and stressed about what will happen if you don’t achieve it (dirty)? Once you achieve this goal, will you want to give it the love, care and attention—the maintenance–it requires?   Or are you just hoping for a happily ever after ending?  One choice empowers you, the other choice leaves you feeling powerless. I know which one I choose, and it’s a choice I practice making over and over again.  It is effort, it is clean and it is beyond worth it.

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.

Weight Loss and Fitness Goals: Check Your Motivation

October 11, 2009 2 comments

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When I look back on my past and recall all the desperate and disordered attempts I made at losing weight and keeping it off, I never felt at peace. Even when the weight came off, I was worried about putting weight back on.  My identity was all wrapped-up in what I made my size and shape mean.  At times, being thin meant I had a shot at a dance career, at other times it meant attempting to please a man who cautioned me never to gain weight if I expected him to remain attracted to me (it’s no coincidence that I attracted a man into my life who mirrored my lack of body confidence at the time) and still other times my fitness drew attention and compliments from others and made me feel validated. At none of those times did I feel genuinely happy—I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was motivated by fear (of not being good enough) and lack (never getting enough approval or attention). It took me a while, but eventually I learned that nothing outside of myself (compliments, boyfriends, career, thinness and even my own body) could give me lasting happiness, that was a choice I would have to make in my own mind.

When I let go of looking outside myself for my happiness, I was free to discover what really turned me on, what truly filled me up.  I started to participate in activities for no other reason than they looked like a good time, I wasn’t trying to take anything from the experience, I was giving myself  the gift of fun.  One of the many things I  discovered is that I am an athletic girl who loves and appreciates her body for it’s strength, abilities and good health, no longer because I hope my body will buy me approval or acceptance.  So when I get on my pole, practice yoga, swim, surf or dance, my motivation is abundance and excitement: I want to play!  With that motivation, it feels good to be in my body enjoying these activities–the activities and my body don’t bring me joy, I bring joy to my activities through my body. And because I’m enjoying myself so much, the only people who show up in my life are other people who reflect back my own joy—at least, those are the only people I am aware of!  I’m not so evolved that I don’t have days where I see myself or my body with a critical eye, but I have learned and created some pretty fierce tools for snapping myself out fear and lack mode and bringing my focus back to all the abundant and exciting stuff going on in my life.

If pursuing your weight loss or fitness goals makes you feel stressed and anxious, your actions are being driven by fear and lack.  Take a long hard look at your goals and be sure your desire comes from a place of abundance and excitement, and  you’re not just afraid of what will or won’t happen if you don’t achieve them. Signs that your motivation is abundance and excitement are:  you stride confidently toward your goal knowing it’s just a matter of when–not if– you get there, the journey is as much fun (if not more fun than) arriving at your goal, your actions are inspired and you look forward to having what you want without grasping or neediness.  If you are impatient, frustrated or worried then you are counting on your goal to give you something it cannot: peace and happiness.  Use the meantime to cultivate peace and happiness for yourself now.  One way you can do this is by keeping a gratitude journal and write five things for which you are grateful every night–this is very powerful. This way, you will have what you truly want now and after you reach your goal, too.

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.

Forget Dieting: Fill Yourself Up Before You Eat

I see far too many people go into restrictive mode when they want to shed some pounds.  If you find food pleasurable and you are getting a great deal of your total daily pleasure from food, restricting food means you are restricting your pleasure.  Yikes!  This is especially true if you feel you are addicted to certain foods. Instead of restricting your pleasure, I highly recommend adding alternate, inedible sources of pleasure that you find truly satisfying.  Dropping the restrictive mentality and adopting one of plenty will not only help you lose weight, it will help you maintain it.  Whether you’re telling yourself you can’t have a certain type of food or you limit your food intake (based on anything besides your own body’s satiety cues), “willpower” will only take you so far then dump you in the woods naked, alone and bewildered, wondering what the hell went wrong.  This method of temporary weight loss usually leaves its practitioners feeling angry, sad and shameful, not to mention severely self-critical. Ironically, most people pursue this avenue (in some cases, more than once) convinced that they will end up thinner, and, therefore, happier.  If you are intimately familiar with what I’m talking about, then I invite you to consider this suggestion: fill yourself up before you eat.

To help you fill up before you eat, start by checking in with yourself before you take a bite of anything.  Are you physically hungry?  (for chronic dieters, this may be a difficult question to answer as many diets prescribe what and when to eat based on schedules and food choices that have nothing to do with the dieter’s own hunger and satiety cues). If you answer yes, then eating is what you truly need to be satisfied in that moment (ideally you are hungry, not famished).  If you are not physically hungry, pay attention to what you are feeling.  If you are feeling bored, sad, angry or frustrated, see if you can sit with that feeling for even fifteen or thirty seconds without eating, that may be enough time for you to locate the thought causing the feeling (a feeling is ALWAYS caused by a thought, if you want proof, check out life coach Brooke Castillo’s brilliant Self Coaching 101 tool, while you’re there check out her book If I’m So Smart Why Can’t I Lose Weight? it, too, is brilliant  – I teach many of the tools she introduces in it). If you still feel like eating after sitting a while with your thoughts and feelings, go ahead, go to town – you’ve already extracted the real benefit from the exercise:  dis-identifying from your thoughts long enough to observe them.  When practiced consistently, the thoughts surface and food starts to lose it’s emotional charge.

Observing your thoughts, you may discover that what you really want is something like entertainment, love or approval.  Food is a very poor substitute for any of these things. How do you know?  Because after you’re done eating, you still have not satisfied your emotional hunger, so the next time the real need or want arises you ignore it and eat, repeating the cycle ad nauseam until the buttons start popping off your blouse, and not in a sexy Pussycat Dolls kind of way. Filling yourself up with the very things you truly want and need is the only real solution to this situation.  If, for example, you feel you are lacking love, then give yourself love.  This is accomplished by doing what you love and surrounding yourself with people and things you love. One of the ways I fill myself up is by watching the sunset from my second story deck – I have an ocean view there, and I truly appreciate it when I make the time to do this. Others may consider buying new music or making time to read a book without interruption a real treat.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be satisfying and inedible. Saying no is another good way to show yourself some love if you always put yourself last and it is ultimately way more satisfying than devouring half a chocolate cake.  So, if you are eating but you really want to let your best friend know how much she upset you when she mentioned your collection of granny panties in front of the super cute guy you just started dating, drop the fork and give her a call right now to get it off your chest (or, better yet, do The Work or use another thought dissolving tool such as Self Coaching 101, mentioned above, on whatever thoughts you have about the situation.).

Filling yourself up before you eat will not only make you more inclined to eat for fuel and satiety (thereby causing your body to release excess weight), but you will also feel much more satisfied and peaceful – the very feelings so many people hope to achieve through weight loss. Interesting.