Monday, August 31, 2009

Doing things by heart

Yesterday, in his post "The problem with doing it by heart", Seth Godin states:

The next time you or one of your people starts rattling off the obvious truth by heart, wonder about whether it's obvious because it's true, or true because it's obvious.

I talk to clients who are in the midst of a transition in their lives. They are choosing to eat less. This isn't an easy proposition but they have started examining "obvious truths" of their eating lives. Like:

--I like to get my money's worth

--I can't WASTE food

--I love to eat (this would imply the loving the process)

--I love food (the actual stuff you are eating)

Really? Are any of these truths for you?? Are you sure? Have you given it any thought or have you just accepted these thoughts as your reality without knowing for sure where they came from?


How much to do you need to eat to justify spending $11.50 on a buffet?

What is your definition of wasting food? Isn't it just as much of a waste to eat something you don't need, doesn't taste good, and will make you put on weight?

How many times per week do you eat in your car? If you are driving, talking on the cell phone and mentally reviewing your grocery list while you are eating, you really aren't paying that much attention to the process.

Ditto to the above for paying attention to the food. When was the last time you tasted something, realized it wasn't as good as you thought it would be and didn't eat anymore of it? If you really enjoy food -- you won't enjoy EVERYTHING you put into your mouth because food it too variable in flavor.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ice cream before Dinner

Hi all. I have been on vacation (thus explaining the lack of posting the last couple days) but had an experience I wanted to share.

Yesterday the kids wanted to go get ice cream. After playing on the beach all day and trying to work out a schedule where I could get a shower and prep dinner and make all of that happen so we could walk downtown to get ice cream before the shop closed, I realized I couldn't make it all work.

So we came up with a plan B. Plan B was to have the kids walk downtown to get ice cream before dinner -- dinner would be ready when they got back. Here is what I am thinking....

If the kids eat ice cream before dinner and they get more full, it is more likely they will eat less dinner. If they ate dinner first (when what they really wanted was ice cream) they would eat their normal amount of dinner and then finish all of their ice cream. Thus, eating more calories total.

So what would happen if we ate more like this -- when we were hungry for a sweet, we ate a sweet -- when we were hungry for ribs or a steak or a salad, we ate some of that. Why do we try to trick ourselves with healthier choices first and then end up eating the food we really wanted in the first place.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In Charge versus in Control

The definition of "In Control":control - to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command.

The definition of In charge":in command; having supervisory power.

How much different would you feel about your eating habits if you really thought about being in charge of your eating? --Not feeling like you had to be in control of it all of the time.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Nothing exciting today, my friends. Just a reminder:

The thing about using mindfulness as a tool for weight loss -- you are only looking to reduce your intake by 9 bites per day. Just 9.

Doesn't matter where they come from -- just 9 that you would normally eat but you are now leaving them uneaten. That will give you enough calories to lose .5-1 pound of weight per week.

Look for the ones that don't matter to you. The things that don't taste as great as you thought they would. Leave those on the plate or throw them away!!

If something is tasting wonderful, don't switch to auto pilot after the first or second bite. Keep enjoying, feeling the texture and tasting the flavor. When you notice that it is no longer WONDERFUL, stop.

That's it. Give it a whirl this weekend :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just for Fun

I found this when I was looking for a graphic for the last post. Wanted to pass it on just for fun. -- somehow it diffused some of my stress :)

Stress eating

Already today has been chaotic. The copier wasn't my friend this morning. I had a morning meeting that didn't go well. It was raining (possibly in my open windows). The house was a wreck when I left...and all I want to do it eat. Stress eat. I know it is trigger eating but the urge is still there. Now what?

Fortunately, I have a time-tested standing plan to avoid eating a billion calories today just because I don't feel good.

A meal sitting down. No phone. No work papers. No email answering.

If I am really lucky and disciplined, I will make myself take a few breaths before I start eating.

Diagnosing the want to stress eat is the first hurdle. The second is to not freak out just because I have the desire to eat everything in sight -- just because I want to doesn't mean I have to. Stick to the plan. An quiet lunch and taking a breath.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Books in the trash can

A couple weeks back, I was talking to my friend Phyllis. I don't remember how the subject came up but she was telling me how when she was a kid, she and her friends would walk downtown (Kalamazoo) after school got out. They would stash their school books in the trash can, ask the local police officer to keep an eye on them, and head to the local soda shop for a drink. might think this story would provoke me to talk about how sweets were viewed as treats during the time P grew up or...that it was wonderful how much activity the kids got so they could actually calorically afford to go to the soda shop...

But those are not the things that struck me first while she was telling the story.

What I got hung up on was that she stuck her school books in the trash can -- GROSS!!
When I asked her about this ("Didn't anyone ever dump something on them???") She said it was always fine because they didn't used to have trash like we do today. Hmmmm....that got me thinking.

How would your today have been different if...

1. you had to either make your coffee and drink it at home (no travel mugs or cup holders in the cars)

2. you had to go to the diner and sit and drink your coffee there (and possibly eat your breakfast sitting down at a table .. gasp!) because you just didn't drive thru back then. And paper cups and plastic wrap were not plentiful.

If these options were taken away from you, would you consume foods differently than you did this morning?

Could you get back to more of this view of food? Not eat in the car. Not eat out of plastic wrappers or paper cups or travel mugs (the travel mugs is what would be hardest for me)?

Could ya? Would ya? Just give it a try -- just for a week. Maybe you will learn you can be happy living with real dishes and real coffee mugs and making less trash. If you take away the multitasking while we eat -- we would reduce how many times we eat a day -- no question about that. Calories saved. Weight to be lost.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seasons are changing

It's been over a month since we have had a holiday. The summer is winding down. We've had the opportunity to eat the hot dogs and barbecued chicken on the grill, the potato salad and the rest of the summer food. What's next?

Soon the kids will be back in school, back to the structure of "normal" life. What is going to happen to your eating patterns? Are you getting ready to make the transition away from the cool salads of summer into the heartier foods of fall? How will those heavier foods change your fullness levels?

As your activity slows down, your need for those extra calories for biking and walking in the evenings will go down, as well. How can you successfully make all of these transitions?

By continuing to be mindful of your level of hunger BEFORE you start eating and by monitoring your fullness level WHILE you are eating.

Try serving yourself smaller portions -- when the food is gone you can access if you are still hungry or if you could be content to stop eating. If you are still hungry, put another small serving on your plate. You can go from hunger to the first signs of fullness in as little as 3 bites. Eat them slowly and see what signals your stomach sends you about the amount of food you are eating. There is no need to put on pounds just because the seasons are changing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mundane versus...

What was the best tasting food you ate this weekend? Can you name it? Can you describe why you liked it?

If you had something off-the-charts good, how did all of the other calories you ate compare?

If you didn't eat anything that knocked your socks off last weekend -- why not? And what kinds of things did you eat instead?

Would you trade some of the mundane calories for a 3 bites of knock-your-socks-off goodness that you took the time to experience (not just eat)?

Friday, August 14, 2009


The other day, I was thinking about reducing the message of Eating Coach down to its simplest form. It came to me today:

Omit needless foods.

That's it. Any bite of food you eat when you are not physically hungry, is stored in the form of fat. Those calories are not nourishing your body.

Any food that you eat when you are not ACTIVELY appreciating the taste, texture and smell are not nourishing your soul.

If food is not nourishing either your body or your soul -- there is no purpose to it!!! It is needless. Omit it. Save the calories -- lose the weight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Sweets. I've come to conclude, are the ultimate feel-good, feel-bad food, and as such they're as beguiling as they're exasperating. They inspire stories as rich and deep as an intoxicating love affair. A better understanding of this relationship provides some insight into the meaning we instill in our food and the reasons why we consume it the way we do; it uncovers our pasts, our unspoken beliefs, fears, and desires. It sheds light on the way we view others.

--an excerpt from The Taste of Sweet --our complicated love affair with our favorite treats by Joanne Chen

Exaggeration?? I think not.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What do you get out of your food

...When we are talking about the taste of something, however, we're usually talking about flavor. Flavor is many tastes combined, embellished, and fine-tuned with aroma and texture. It's not merely, say, the spare sensation of sugar or vinegar on the tongue, but the full-blast gustatory experience of lemon pound cake, apple pie, or candied oranges. It's the sense of taste made gorgeous with the senses of smell and touch.

A person's gustatory world becomes whole thanks to a vast network of nerves and receptors on the tongue, in the mouth, up the nose, and in the brain, all assiduously doing their part. When one is not up to snuff, the brightness of a food's flavor dims a little....

A piece of cake, once in the mouth, is a moving target, causing conditions that are difficult to re-create in the lab and making taste especially tricky for scientists to study. The temperature of the food rises or falls until it finds its equilibrium in your warm mouth; its viscosity changes. As you chew, you're not only breaking down the food but also stirring up the air around it; aromatic components rise up as and solids move toward the back of the tongue and are eventually swallowed. The back of the nose catches a whiff, a process known as retronasal olfaction. When it's blocked by congestion from a cold, the flavor of the food becomes muffled and the pleasure is lost....

The Taste of Sweet by Joanne Chen

Are you utilizing all of your gifts to get the most satisfaction in the least amount of calories???

The "New Normal"

A couple of months ago, I thought I coined this phrase. I thought it was quite clever. Seems now, I must have just heard it somewhere and just picked it up.

New normal is what we are striving for. Clients tend to get frustrated toward the end of their first 6 weeks with me because everything requires so much thought. It was easier when they didn't have to put so much thought into every eating decision. But...I counter... they were putting at least as much energy into feeling bad about their weight or their eating decisions, it was just normal and natural to deal with the negativity -- so it didn't seem like as much work.

The "New Normal" comes when people develop the habit of asking themselves "Am I hungry?" BEFORE they eat. If you are hungry -- then eat. If you are not hungry, then you have the opportunity to decide if this is something you really want or need to eat. With practice this becomes the natural thought process. It becomes just what they do automatically. It becomes normal.

When paying attention to your hunger and fullness levels becomes the "New Normal", it will require a lot less energy and thought than it does now. And you will have developed an effective, life-long tool to manage your weight.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Work as Play

Leo, at Zen Habits, was talking about how he has turned his work into play. How it has transformed his world because he shifted how he looked at what he did.

When I teach classes, I try to emphasize the importance of curiosity in exploring eating habits. If you are curious about your behaviors, you create an environment of learning -- any kinder garden teacher will tell you that.

If you are judgmental of your behaviors, if you label eating ice cream "BAD!" -- it is not going to stop you from eating ice cream but it will stop you from looking at why you eat ice cream. Judgment shuts down the creative part of the brain.

How would your eating behaviors change if you viewed them through the lens of exploration? Looking forward to meals as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself.

Remember: Your goal for eating Mindfully is to maximize your enjoyment of the things you eat AND lose weight by eating 9 bites per day less than you do now.

So where are you going to find those 9 bites? Which 9 bites do you enjoy least? Which ones are the ones that leave you feeling guilty, too full, or uncomfortable? Wouldn't it be great to get rid of those (bites and feelings)? If you get rid of those bites, you would be left with feeling comfortable physically and mentally.

To find those 9 bites, put on your Explorer's Hat and get curious about yourself. Don't judge your behaviors -- just write them down. The 9 least enjoyable bites will be right there in black and white. Once you understand which ones they are, you can make a plan to leave them uneaten.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Inalienable Rights

Eating whatever you want and maintaining perfect health are not inalienable rights. Neither God nor the Founding Fathers promised us that. Madison Avenue has been trying to convince us these are our rights. They tell us we can have it all (and without exercising too) but truth be told, we know in our hearts this is not the way the world works.

There isn't a pill that will restore our health or make us thin without huge side
effects -- so why do we keep looking?

Losing weight is like amassing a huge fortune. There will be a lucky few who have the genetics to eat in the most natural way and they will maintain a healthy weight -- just like there are a lucky few who win the lotto or buy Microsoft at its IPO.

For the rest of us, it is all the little decisions we make every day. 250 choices a day. 250 opportunities to eat just one or two bites less -- or not finish something if it doesn't taste as good as you thought it would. Amassing the stockpile of uneating calories -- being willing to keep in mind your big picture goal -- trading instant (and many times fleeting) gratification for health and ease of mind in the long term. (Really -- is the enjoyment of a couple extra bites worth your peace of mind where weight is concerned???) It is always a trade off.

No one can promise you success one can stop you from being successful if that is what you chose to do.

Friday, August 7, 2009

8 things I need less of...

I have posted an 8 things list before. Again, this is inspired by Magpie girl.

1. Experts telling what foods are "good" foods and which ones are "BAD" foods.

2. Experts changing their minds on their original opinions of "good" foods and "BAD" foods.

3. Processed foods that are white.

4. Guilt when I eat Cheetos.

5. The feeling that people judge what I am eating because of the job I do.

6. The feeling I get when people say I must have a rocking metabolism because I can maintain my weight without any effort (excuse me? Do they not see all the ways I practice what I preach?)

7. Grocery store candy bars -- I used to think they were the best thing going. Now, my taste for really, really good chocolate is more developed and the Snicker's of the world don't do it for me -- but I still find myself eating them in a pinch.

8. The voice inside my head that tells me I shouldn't eat this or shouldn't eat that. (If only I could morph that into "I choose not to eat this".)

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I picked up a copy of the book Beyond Chocolate yesterday and flipped it open to a page where the authors were talking about all of the rules they had for themselves.

Carbs are bad.

Rice will make me fat.

I shouldn't have pasta.

Fat-free cookies are okay.

Salads are always a healthier choice than burgers.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I will enjoy life when I am thin.

If I am not dying from exhaustion, the exercise isn't doing anything for me.

and the list goes on....

Where do the rules come from? Have you ever questioned whether they are true or not?

Rules and habits are how we get a lot done during the day. I park my car in the same spot everyday so I don't have to think about where to find it when I get done with work. I have the same morning routine so I don't have to expend energy thinking about how to get the coffee made, my teeth brushed, and bags packed so I can get out the door on time.

But what happens when needs change but your rules and habits don't?

150 million years ago, I was a high school athlete and a growing girl -- I ate a HUGE breakfast and was starving when lunch rolled around. As I reached my adult height and stopped playing sports, my caloric needs changed -- what would have happened had I continued to eat the HUGE breakfast?

Now, I have coffee on the way to work and a small breakfast-something later in the morning. Needs changed --rules and habits followed. But first,I needed to be willing to examine my rules and habits to see if they still were helping me achieve my goals.

Think about your automatic responses:

Do you really think carbs are "bad"? There are the same number of calories in a gram of carbohydrate as in a gram of protein -- why are carbs bad?

Rice making you fat? It can make you retain water and white rice is digested very quickly, leaving you hungry sooner so you could end up eating a greater number of calories -- but "bad"? It isn't inherently bad.

Shouldn't have pasta? No, you shouldn't have a bowl of pasta the size of your head -- there is nothing wrong with some pasta.

Fat-free cookies -- Have you ever looked at the calorie count on fat-free cookies? The have to make them out of something. If the fat content is lower, chances are they are higher in sugar. --calorie savings? I think not.

Always salads? Many of the restaurant salads have as many or more calories than the smaller burger dinners.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Who says? Lots of people feel nauseous if they eat breakfast. If you are hungry, by all means, eat! But if you are not physically hungry, your body does not need the calories just then. Tune into what your body is telling you -- you will get hungry eventually.

I will enjoy life when I am thin? Your life won't change. If you can't appreciate what your body does for you now, you won't appreciate it when you are thin. There will always be someone who is thinner or younger or more accomplished than you. Carpe Diem, my friends, appreciate what you have today and move forward in the direction that seems sensible to you. But don't hold out for someday -- someday is not guaranteed.

Exercise? Find some way you like to move and move. Life is too short to punish yourself everyday in the name of health. If you like to walk, walk. If you like to dance in your living room, do that. You don't have to kill yourself with exercise to lose weight.

So maybe I didn't cover your rules -- give them some thought and see if they still make sense for you. Maybe they weren't ever true for you -- you just picked them up from somewhere.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fun in a box

I was having lunch with a friend from high school - just getting re-aquainted. Some how we came around to the subject of contentment -- what it takes to be content in this world. She described herself as being able to have fun in a box -- meaning she does not need a lot of "stuff" to be content.

Since that lunch, months ago, I have kept that phrase and reused it to describe myself. Yup, it's true, I can have fun in a box.

Fast forward to a working lunch with another friend. I was telling her about a project I have just dreamed up and it occurred to me...I can have fun in a box but it is very hard to maintain a decent amount of enthusiasm for a new project all by myself in that box.

When I get excited about a new creative exploit (whether or not it eventually comes to fruition), I like to share the idea with others. This does a couple things for me:
1. I get to hear their thoughts and brainstorm with them
2. If they get excited or at least moderately enthusiastic about the idea, that feeds my creative energy levels.

When I have to do without the enthusiasm of others, it makes the creative exploit seem more mundane and harder to sustain. More like work...less like an adventure. I am more likely to burn out.

Is your weight loss like that? If you lose weight in a box, does it make it harder to sustain? Might you need to get out of your box and find a tribe to be enthusiastic for you?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why a Coach?

In yesterday's post, I commented that I am a coach not an expert. Perhaps that needs a little expanding.

Wikipedia describes coaching as: ...(a) method of directing, instructing and training a person or group of people, with the aim to achieve some goal or develop specific skills.

This is the way I approach clients. I work with clients. I work for clients. It is not about my imposing my will or expertise ON clients. You know what feels right and what feels comfortable for you -- you are the best expert of you. True, as a coach, I will ask you to step out of your comfort zone from time to time but not so far out that when you turn around you can't even see it.

So I am a coach. I guide and listen, direct and instruct. We negotiate changes. I challenge you and provide accountability. It's a give and take relationship. One that, when it works, gives you the tools and support to make changes you can live with and be content -- hopefully more content than when you came to me in the first place.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Random Acts of Traction

I was reading Gaping Void this morning. Hugh introduced the concept Random Acts of Traction. Now, sure, he is using this as a marketing term but let's expand the theme.

Random Acts of Traction (my interpretation): what really works for you when you are bumbling around trying to figure out what works for you.

Point is: There really isn't any telling ahead of time what is going to work to be in charge of your weight over the long-term. I can tell what you what has worked for my successful clients. I can tell you what I thought was missing for the clients who were not successful.

But for you in particular??? That is the point. Over the course of your time working on managing your weight, you have learned things about yourself. What piece of the Atkin's diet were you successful with? What about when you were working crazy-long hours at the new job and your weight was right where you wanted it to be? What little bit did you learn during that time that worked for controlling your weight? (not eating because you never had time is not a long term solution -- think harder, what else did you learn?)

Hugh goes on to quote Doc Searls and his idea of rolling large rocks up a hill (try after try of deprivation diets you play out by the book) and how much nicer it is to roll snowballs down the hill -- some of them don't go very far but sometimes you will get one that starts its slow roll, picking up more snow as it goes and using its own momentum to change the landscape.

Seems like a nice way to manage your weight doesn't it?

Collect little pieces here and there that work for you. Coordinate them into your life -- sometimes these things start out slow. But as you gain traction -- as things start to work for you, you will find more little changes to make. As you pick up traction, the whole thing starts running on the momentum you put into getting it started.

Where will your traction come from? You are the expert on this. That is why I am a coach and not an expert. -- Think about the small ways you have been successful in the past -- see if you can string some of those things together. Be on the look out for new Acts of Traction. Pay attention. Be Mindful about what you are doing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

On loan from the Divine

"It’s like the Sufis say. Everything we have is not truly ours. It’s simply on loan to us from the Divine. We’re not the owners or the controllers, we’re the stewards. It’s up to us to make the most of what we’ve been given." --Pace

The above was a comment in response to a post on the blog Zen Habits. The whole post was great and I think the 2 questions Glen asked are worth asking ourselves -- the first one is:

If someone had a video tape of your typical day, what would they see?

And the second:

Based on your current actions and behaviours, where would you expect to be in five years? (please note the author makes the destinction between where you expect to be based on projecting your current actions vs. where you would like to be -- based on changes you might make. -- we are talking about projecting your current actions out 5 years.)

Many times, when working with a client, I stress that being non-judgmental is necessary to be able to acknowledge behaviors that are not serving you well. I will stress it here again -- don't judge your behaviors!!! I want you to just look them over in your mind's eye and see what you are doing. This is why I encourage you to keep your food journal -- it gives you a tool to examine your behaviors. Creates a habit of awareness about what you are doing so you can look back on what you ate and see if the behaviors are serving you well.

If you look at what you're doing and see that it is not serving you well -- that is the first step. The second step is to find a place to start.

If you are taking to long view of weight management, if you are done with the quick weight loss and then gaining it all back, then which small behavior change (notice behavior change is not plural -- just one) do you think you can make and sustain?

"Okay", you say,"but that change is not going to make all the difference in my losing 50 pounds -- just doing that will not get me to my goal!"


But as you become aware of some of the decisions you are making that consistantly move you away from your goal -- you can make another small change you can live with. People average 250 food decisions daily. Start making one or two differently and the calories will add up.

For example: Let's say you drink two softdrinks a day (real sugar -- not diet). If you reduce your intake to one per day you would save 65700 calories in a year (almost 19 pounds) -- and this is just the calories for a CAN of soda -- not a 20 oz. bottle! So... this one change would get you almost half way to your goal of losing 50 pounds. Yup, it would take a whole year to achieve's only a 1 can of soda change.

And how much better of a steward of what you have been given (a body that gets you from place to place, a body that lets you feel hugs from the people you love, a body that gives you the ability to make others smile) would you be by making just this one small change?