As a dietitian I help women form a healthy relationship with food. I show them how to listen to their hunger, to make self-care a priority, and to treat themselves with kindness and respect. But I’m also a human being, and that means I have bad days. Stressful days when I make not-so-healthy choices. Like last week when I ate an entire JUMBO bag of Twizzlers while driving in my car. Here’s what happened:
My fiancé Aaron had surgery a few weeks ago (nothing major, and he’s doing great), but with the pre-op appointments, the hospital surgery, the post-op appointments, and all the running around I’ve been doing to make sure he’s recovering comfortably, I’ve been super busy. Combine this with my work deadlines, and I was seriously overwhelmed.
Plus, my mom ended up in the hospital with a broken nose artery the same day as Aaron’s surgery! With so much going on I was skipping meals, skipping my workouts, and skipping my morning meditations.
So one day last week I made Aaron a healthy breakfast, but I was rushed to get to the pharmacy so I didn’t bother to sit down and eat myself. I had a few sips of Aaron’s green smoothie, and then I ran out to the store. I’m at the pharmacy and I realize that I am H-ANGRY (hungry and angry). So what do I do? I buy a jumbo size bag of Twizzlers (enough waxy red candy for a small village!) at the checkout counter, and I scarf down almost the entire bag while driving to my next errand. UGH. And then I started to get down on myself about it.
But after berating myself for a few minutes, I made a different choice, a better choice. I drove to a favorite park and took some time for myself. I let myself really FEEL my emotions, and I thought about how I made the choice the last few weeks to take care of everyone else, while flat-out ignoring my own needs. Then I listened to my favorite meditation app (check it out HERE) for 15 minutes, and I made of list of things I could do that day to feel better. And I actually started to laugh about the Twizzlers. I mean, I don’t even like Twizzlers! So, yes…
Sometimes I eat an entire jumbo-size bag of candy in under 10 minutes.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and anxious and out of control.
Sometimes I skip dinner and have a giant plate of French fries instead.
Sometimes I ignore my hunger signals and end up overeating.
Sometimes I have really bad days and sometimes I make really bad choices.
And that’s OK! I’m sure this happens to you too. It’s just a part of life. But if your food life is really out of alignment, it’s usually a red flag that something else in your life is also out of alignment. Pay attention to that. And instead of letting a bad day or a bad situation totally derail you, you can choose to guide yourself back to a self-loving place. Here’s how…
Step One: Embrace Your Emotions
From bliss to despair, we’re meant to experience a full range of feelings. Emotional pain is a natural and normal part of life. But when you resist the pain (or deny it, or stuff it down with food), it not only sticks around a whole lot longer, it causes a ton of (totally unnecessary) suffering.
But when you acknowledge your feelings without judgement by simply saying to yourself, “OK this is how I’m feeling right now, and that’s OK, I have a right to my feelings,” you give yourself the mental green light to relax into your feelings. You stop resistance and you practice radical acceptance. It’s simple and profound.
Look, I’m all for positive thinking, but it can do more harm than good if you don’t also allow yourself to really feel and deal with your feelings. So instead of dishonoring your emotions, embrace and express them.
Step Two: Take Back Your Power
Once you honor your feelings it’s SO much easier to step back from the situation and ask yourself, “What are some simple changes I can make right now, right here to feel better?” You don’t have to stay stuck in the eat-repent-repeat cycle. You can choose to show up for yourself with patience and with care instead. Even if you’re feeling angry (or sad or overwhelmed or whatever), you can choose to make a small self-loving choice that will have a HUGE impact in your life. Here are a few ideas:
* Read or watch something inspirational, like the Phenomenal Woman poem and video from Maya Angelou HERE.
* Write down three things you’re thankful for right now – I love this simple and modern gratitude journal.
So what do you think is the most powerful thing you can do to improve your weight loss journey? Find fun ways to work out? Eat whole foods? Drink more water?
Those things are important (and as a dietitian I certainly recommend that you do all of them!), but the real key for lasting weight loss has absolutely nothing to do with diet or exercise.
The secret to body confidence and lasting weight loss is to treat yourself with respect and kindness—not 10, 20, 30 or 100 pounds from now, but right now.
You can’t solve your body image and weight issues with the same hateful mindset that got you here. It just doesn’t work. People always say change takes time—and yes, change does require commitment and time—but you can have a quantum shift, meaning you can alter your perception of a situation, immediately.
Seem impossible? Try this simple exercise I share with the women who join Smaller Size Bigger Life, my online weight loss program for women who struggle with emotional eating, binge eating, overeating or body image issues.
Close your eyes and think about someone you love deeply: A sister, your best friend, a favorite aunt, whoever. Now imagine this person has gained 20 pounds, 30 pounds, 100 pounds or even 200 pounds.
Then ask yourself this: Would you love that person any less because of the extra weight they gained? Of course not! You love that person because of WHO they are (you love their spirit or their inner being), not because of the size or shape of their body, right?
And now ask yourself this: Can you give yourself that same consideration? Can you separate yourself from your body and see that you are an awesome and beautiful being who is worthy of love and kindness no matter what?
Because you are enough, exactly the way you are. You are beautiful, worthy and lovable. We all are. And nourishing your mind with compassionate and supportive thoughts is just as important as nourishing your body with nutrient-rich leafy greens.
If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and felt inadequate (and hello, who hasn’t!?), please watch this powerful 3-minute video…
How fantastic is THAT!? As women, we tend to tear ourselves apart and see the worst about ourselves. We notice the negative. But we need to do the opposite. We need to build ourselves up and notice all the good.
In fact, I believe it is our responsibility to do so. No one is going to treat you better than you treat yourself. And it is not up to anyone else to do it—it is up to YOU.
Start talking to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love, and just watch how your life (and your body) changes.
I’ve been practicing unconditional self-acceptance for many years now—and that is exactly what it is, a PRACTICE. Some days I fail (miserably) and some days I fly. But no matter what, I keep practicing. And so can you. Just try it and see what happens.
With love and acceptance,
P.S. If you know a woman (or ten) who could use some help shifting her inner voice, please send her this video—let’s share the love and remind each other that we are all ENOUGH.
By now we all know that diets don’t work, right? Even so, with a 68 billion dollar weight loss industry constantly enticing us to jump on the diet-and-deprivation bandwagon, it’s hard to just say no. I get it.
But here’s the thing: You cannot shame and deprive your way to a happy and healthy life. Even if you lose some weight on a restrictive diet, it doesn’t stick. And it certainly doesn’t make you feel fulfilled or free. Going on a diet is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm. They’re ineffective and exasperating at best, emotionally damaging and physically harmful at worst.
So this year, instead of dieting (and instead of setting totally unrealistic New Year’s resolutions) try something radical. Something much, much better. Try treating yourself and your body the same way you would treat someone you love—with respect, compassion, and loving care.
Ending the battle with weight is all about starting a healing relationship with yourself. You (absolutely, positively, and without a shadow of a doubt) have the power to transform your relationship with food, your hunger, and your body, truly. Life is way too short to spend another year, another week, or even another day at war with yourself.
Here are my top 4 reasons to ditch dieting this year (and forevermore), and what to do instead…
1. Diets don’t address the reasons why you struggle
Maybe you’re afraid of being “seen” and the extra weight is your excuse to stay in your comfort zone (FYI: Real change happens outside your comfort zone!). Or perhaps you turn to food to avoid feeling negative or strong emotions. Or you might be really sensitive and use the excess weight as a sort of armor to make you feel safe. Or maybe your weight issues are related to childhood abuse, abandonment, or other painful losses you experienced growing up, and for you food equals comfort and weight equals protection.
Diets don’t help you understand WHY you overeat in the first place, so they don’t get to the root of the issue. And without this vital information, you’re going to have a hard time.
Once you understand your fears, however, you can effectively work your way through them. And this will give you the psychological green light you need to lose the weight, for good. That’s why identifying and releasing your weight loss fears is a critical part of my Smaller Size Bigger Life program.
2. Diets encourage you to ignore your body’s wisdom
Feeding yourself according to external cues—the clock, the amount of food on your plate, or a rigid dieting plan—goes against your bodies’ natural instincts and internal wisdom. And if you skip meals or underfeed yourself, you trigger your primal drive to overeat.
The truth is this: Your perfectly designed body instinctively knows exactly what it needs to thrive and naturally reach its ideal weight—you just have to listen to it. Think of your hunger like a scale…
Once you reach a 1, 2, or 3 on the Hunger Scale (the Danger Zone), it’s nearly impossible to make mindful eating choices. And H-ANGRY is never, ever pretty. Plus, once you’re in the Danger Zone it’s way too easy to get to 10. It happens FAST.
As often as possible, eat in the Fuel Zone. Start eating at around a 4 or 5 and stop when you get to a 6 or 7. And if you find yourself eating when you’re in the Discovery Zone (a 7 or above on the scale), most likely you’re using food for emotional relief—to comfort, to reduce anxiety, or to reward. But this is just a habit and you can absolutely break it. Instead of feeding your feelings, take a few minutes and actually deal with them (I promise this is not as difficult as you might think).
The next time you have an intense emotional food craving, first take a few deep breathes and really acknowledge any accompanying feelings of fear, anxiety, or whatever. Once you make yourself aware of your feelings, simply say to yourself, “OK this is how I’m feeling right now, and that’s OK, I have a right to my feelings.”
Then take a few more deep breathes and say, “I choose to feel peace instead.” Concentrate on your breathing and just repeat this mantra until you feel a little calmer. This begins a powerful new habit of releasing your fears instead of holding on to them.
Next, write out exactly what you are feeling (and why), or what you are trying NOT to feel (and why). And then do something else… something fun! Take a relaxing bath, call a friend, watch a favorite movie, whatever. By checking in with your hunger you’re rewiring your brain, so instead of…
Hunger = Eat
You are training yourself to think…
Physical Hunger = Eat
Emotional Hunger = Feel & Heal
Tuning in to what your body needs (instead of ignoring your hunger), builds trust, and learning how to get your emotional needs met (without eating) transforms your relationship with food. This is the opposite of what diets do, and this leads to long-lasting change and weight loss.
3. Diets don’t program your mind for success
We all have a set of memorized behaviors, emotional reactions, beliefs, and attitudes that run behind the scenes. This subconscious program determines how we live and make decisions on a moment-to-moment basis. And when you have beliefs and thoughts that don’t support your health goals, you end up constantly sabotaging yourself.
Plus, if you only consider yourself “worthy” or “good enough” when you eat less, weigh less, or stick to an unattainable set of dieting rules, you set yourself up for a never-ending cycle of self-hate and frustration.
Trying to lose weight without also changing your mind is a BIG weight loss mistake. On the other hand, if you shift your mindset from fear and guilt to acceptance and forgiveness while you implement healthy changes, you’ll fast track your success.
So what’s the best way to start shifting your mindset? Easy. Stop criticizing yourself. Accept and love yourself exactly as you are (yup, extra pounds and all!). This is the first step to making any change. You’re not giving up. You’re empowering yourself to feel good now so that you can take positive actions towards your goals with confidence.
Think about it this way: If criticizing yourself worked, you’d already be thin and happy, right? Learn more about shifting your beliefs HERE and HERE.
4. Diets keep you locked in food prison
Food is a seriously important part of self-care. One of the best ways to love yourself is to provide your body with nutrient-rich foods that make you feel and look your best. Food is also the universal connector—we all have to eat! We all celebrate with food, socialize with food, and fuel ourselves with food. Food is a life-giving necessity and eating should be fun and enjoyable.
Diets, however, make you feel like food is the enemy. Food restriction also triggers binge eating, increases anxiety, and slows your metabolism. Diets rob you of the pleasure of eating and keep you locked in a self-imposed food prison. But this year you can choose food freedom instead. It’s all up to you.
Most people don’t expect their journey to health and lasting weight loss to be filled with joy and ease. Most expect struggle, sacrifice, and suffering, and so that’s exactly what they get. But the struggle does not move you forward in positive ways—it keeps you stuck and miserable.
In Smaller Size Bigger Life—my online weight loss program for women who struggle with emotional eating, binge eating, overeating, or body image issues—you’ll discover how to change with ease. You’ll release your weight loss blocks and learn how to lose the weight for good—no dieting, restriction, or self-hate required. The next class starts in early January. Find out more HERE.
Are you ready to stop dieting forever? In the comments below I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make 2015 your healthiest and happiest year yet.