Sunday, May 30, 2010

When food isn't what you really want....

I didn't plan ahead for the holiday weekend.  No excuses -- I knew I wanted to post today -- I just didn't make it happen early.  So here I am, out of town, sitting on a wonderful coffee shop full of goodies, listening to Joe Jackson.  To be able to get the WiFi I desperately needed to reach you, it required I purchase something.  (Full confession...I am writing Sunday at 4:09p)  I have been on the beach all day and enjoyed.  Dinner is going to be burgers on the grill (yeh!) and I still have a couple hours but I am not hungry now.  Definitely at 456 moment.  I need to buy something (to take home?  Yeah, right.)  So...What to chose???

They have great looking cookie -- Granola!  YUM!  (and a Coke.  Just to make sure they give me enough time to write)

Not hungry.  The cookie looks great.  Tastes good.  Not as good as it would if I were actually hungry but still....

The upside of this?  I have gotten my blog reading and blog writing almost done and my cookie isn't.  I have made a conscious effort to appreciate the texture (bumpy and the right amount soft and crispy) and to appreciate the colors (oatmeal and cranberries) and the fizziness of the Coke.  But most of it will go in the trash when I leave (because really..what did I pay for?  Internet access -- not food)  Worth enjoying the experience but not filling up on it.

So -- what about you?  The next time you find yourself out and about -- coffee with a friend, dinner with clients, cake for a coworker -- and you realize food is not what you want right now, are you ready to not fill up on it?  Are you ready to let those calories go even though they taste pretty good or possibly even really good?  Are you prepared to recognize food isn't what you are paying for -- that food isn't what you really want right now???

Happy Memorial Day!!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Do something Friday

I was trying to come up with a snappier blog than this for today but this seemed worth talking about. 

I realized I should probably give up cheese sticks.

Okay-- just so we're on the same page -- you know what I am talking about, right?  Those prepackaged mozzarella sticks?  There isn't anything wrong with them.  I like the flavor.  But here's the deal --

They are too convenient.  I can stuff it in my work bag, eat it anywhere, walk and talk with it.  (and did I mention that it can be gone in 2 bites without the flavor even registering with me??)  Although they aren't very calorically expensive, they  don't even put a dent in my hunger and their convenience makes it really easy to eat them without being mindful.

An alternative to the cheese stick could be a slice of fresh mozzarella.  It's wet, heavy, and messy.  I can't eat it (well, I could but it would be more messy) while I am driving in my car.  I would have to cut it and put it into some kind of packaging so it requires more thought. 

I know it's not a very big deal -- but that is what mindfulness is all about:  eliminating the calories that don't add value to your life.  Cheese sticks are like that for me.  They are good ( in the quiet, eat it and be done with it kind of way) but they definitely don't knock my socks off.  So...I should probably make them less convenient for me at my house.

It's Friday -- so what about you?  Which foods are your convenient foods that don't knock your socks off?  Which ones should you be making less conveniently available because they lead you down the road of unmindfulness???

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Planning

We are almost at the official kick-off of summer!  I love Memorial Day Weekend!!

Before you head off to your parties, picnics, and parades -- if you are a fan of the holiday, what is it you really value about the upcoming activities???

Sometimes people get so caught up in the food and fun that they jump in to what they are doing and forget to be mindful of their eating.  If you don't want to pay attention to your eating for the weekend --that is absolutely fine.  BUT if you want to maximize your enjoyment of the food, family, friends and fun -- start thinking about where you are going, who you are going to see and what are the likely situations you could find yourself overeating because you aren't paying attention to your hunger and fullness.

Once you have given it some thought, likely solutions can present themselves.  (and none of them include NOT going to wherever it is just to avoid the temptation).

You can enjoy the weekend grilling fun without losing track of your weight loss goals.  It just takes some planning now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Mindfulness is:

Deliberately paying, without judgement, to one's own experiences.

What's your plan for cultivating mindfulness today?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Eisenhower Principle of Eating

Somewhere, recently, in my web wanderings, I came across the Eisenhower Principle.   Legend (or facts) have it that Eisenhower had a chart where he put all of his tasks.  He sorted his tasks by urgent (or not) and important (or not).  Depending on how they fell into these two categories, he would either handle them himself immediately, delegate them immediately, assign a due date for himself (because they were important but not urgent, or trash the "to do" all together (because they were neither important or urgent).  Genius!! 

So what would happen if we applied this idea to eating?

What if we had to decide how we were going to eat based on hunger (either we are or we aren't) and how the food tastes (absolutely FANTASTIC or something below that level).

If you are hungry and the food is fantastic -- eat on
If you are hungry but the food is something other than fantastic:  eat just enough to get your hunger to go away
If you are not hungry but the food is fantastic: eat some but pay very close attention to when it stops being FANTASTIC
If you are not hungry and the food is something other than fantastic: don't eat

What if that was the whole decision tree?  Would you chose to rely on a construct like this?  Are you willing to at least try it out?

Monday, May 24, 2010

your body knows what it is doing....

Mindfulness is all about trust.  You are making a bargain that your body knows how many calories it needs to do what you ask it to do.  When you are physically hungry, your body is sending you the signal that it needs calories.  You eat a little food, the hunger goes away.  You eat a lot of food and your body will store, as fat, everything beyond what it needs right then.

The purpose of mindful eating is to pay attention to how many bites it takes to go from that feeling of hunger to a feeling of satisfaction -- which is not the same thing as being full.  How soon can you stop eating while still being SATISFIED? 

Satisfied is the important part -- if you feel deprived because you are eating soooooo little, you will not stick to being mindful just like most people don't stick to any particular diet for life.

Your body knows the number of calories it needs on any given day -- much better than your conscious brain does.  Have a little faith and give it a try.  Make it a game to see how few bites it takes to go from hungry to satisfied.  If you are paying enough attention to count, you will be surprised at what you learn.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Accepting versus changing

Why is it that most people set weight loss goals that they never acheive -- or if they acheive them, they do not sustain the weight loss over time?

The big reason is that the change is so hard to create that it impinges on the rest of one's life.  It lessens the overall quality because what it takes to create or sustain unrealistic weight loss does not fit well with how one wants to life ALL of the other parts of life.

Studies show losing 10-15% of body weight is clinically significant for things like diabetes, cardiac risk, knee pain, etc.  But how many of us just want to lose that much?  How many of us set ourselves up with desired but unrealistic weight loss goals?

What about acceptance?  How many of your diet gurus, books, weight loss shows have talked about acceptance?  Being willing to take the tough and objective look at what you want (lose 100 pounds and reach the weight you were when you got married) and see that although you could put your life on hold and with a ton of work, make this happen, your life is not in a place right now where you WANT to put it on hold.  You don't really WANT to make all of the tough eating choices on the side of losing weight.  Sometimes you want to have a really big bowl of ice cream and not worry about it.

Are you accepting that although you could and you think you should, you may not want to?  Have you looked at the option of becoming more accepting of how much you are honestly willing to do to lose the weight?

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The really hard thing about trying to become more mindful, is that you have to remember to do it.  Sounds stupid but true.

Gretchin at the Happiness Project did a nice video blog yesterday on the subject of creating cues to help you remember the mindfulness you want to cultivate. are you remembering to be more mindful when you eat?

One way is to only eat sitting down.  It isn't that sitting down is inherently better -- it is just that if that is what you, you will be paying more attention to eating because you are aware you're eating in the first place.

Another way is to make sure you are journaling everything that is going into your mouth AS SOON AS YOU GET DONE EATING IT.  Again, this just creates more awareness that you are eating -- and then holds you accountable to remember what it is you ate.

And yet another cue might be to put a rubberband around your fork/spoon.  Something that changes the way your utensil feels might be enough to remind you that you are trying to be more mindful.

Post-it notes on the placemate, plating the food in the kitchen -- are they small ways to change your eating environment to let it support your goal of mindfulness?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Power and Responsibility

I was joking with my spin class on Monday.  They had told me the power of my being the instructor had gone to my head.  I countered with the idea that with power comes responsibility.  That got me thinking about the reverse of the statement.

It is also true to say:

With responsibility comes power.

When you are responsible for the choices you make about your eating, you have all of the power to indulge your desires  --  either the desire to lose weight, the desire to eat delicious food, or both.

When you accept responsibility for making choices about your actions, you have unlimited choices.  My favorite chocolate cake from the Grand Lux  is no longer off limits (even though the slice is big enough for me to eat as a lunch AND a breakfast -- no lie).  I have to be responsible enough not to eat it for EVERY lunch and breakfast -- but then I am empowered to eat it and thoroughly enjoy it when I do.

Power sets you free from feeling like a victim of your choices and their consequences.  You are making conscious decisions about your actions and the outcomes are not forces upon you.

This is a much different approach than a diet where you have no power.  The responsibility of a diet is directed on following the diet and all of your power is given away to a book, guide, or guru.  This leave you feeling powerless both for your decisions (no cake for you!) and for the outcomes.  Not a long-term guide to feeling successful.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Failure?...or Learning Opportunity?

I was reminded again today that coaching a client through set backs is, perhaps, one of the most important functions of my job.

How many times have you felt like you had things all figured out -- things were working -- you were losing weight-- and then life happens and you experience a set back.  Whether or not your weight starts creeping back up is not the point.  You had gotten used to feeling like you were in charge of your eating behaviors.  You liked how you were feeling when you left the table feeling light and ready to move on to the next activity.  You liked trusting yourself to make appropriate choices about what you were putting in your mouth.

And then something change...and now you are not feeling all.

Some of the weight loss literature is suggesting we should spend more time per session coaching a client for weight maintenance than we do in actually helping them lose the weight in the first place.  Now...from my perspective, that is a hard sell to clients who are feeling great about their success. 

Some of the literature is also suggesting coaches help clients reframe the idea of "failure" (i.e. gaining back some of the lost weight) into the idea of "learning opportunities".

Learning opportunities are those times when your resources have been pushed to the limits and the positive behaviors aren't sticking as well as you would like.  Learning opportunities are the times where your old behavior (you know...the ones that caused you to gain the weight in the first place) start to reassert themselves.  This is the point where the rubber meets the road. 

Please don't operate under the idea that once you feel you have it all figured out and you have hit your goal weight (or you've lost enough to start feeling really good about yourself) that it will be smooth sailing from then on out.

Plan for the bumps and bruises to your routines.  Figure out what makes you successful in losing weight right now and WRITE IT DOWN!!  Put it in a go-to envelope so when life happens and you move away from those helpful behaviors, you have a plan in place that you can implement ASALP (as soon as life permits).

It's not a failure if you pick up the pieces and work to get yourself back on course -- you will have learned how to cope with that experience.  You will be wiser and better prepared the next time life presents a Learning Opportunity.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Question for the day

What eating decision did you make yesterday (I am going to eat this because I am hungry/I am going to stop because it no longer tastes good/ I didn't eat the cookies when the girls scouts tried to peer pressure me) that you feel good about???

If nothing hits you right away, give it some thought -- you average 250 food decisions per day -- there is at least one you made that you should feel positive about.

Got it?  Okay.  How do you do more of that today?

Friday, May 14, 2010


I found this this morning and think it speaks volumes.  It might not always be pretty or sane -- but it is yours and you only get one.  What are you going to do with it?

Do something Friday

Discomfort -- the absence of ease.

According to research, people have varying abilities to tolerate discomfort and this looks like it is pretty much hardwired into us at birth. Sure, there are things you can do to push yourself into a little bit higher discomfort level but more or less, we are who we are.

I read an article the other day that stated Americans would rather be overweight than deal with the discomfort of being hungry.

Why is that? And why do we have the perception that discomfort is BAD? I understand being uncomfortable it uncomfortable -- what I think the real issue is, is that we aren't taught that discomfort is okay, it probably won't last very long and it usually passes or we just get used to it and it is no longer uncomfortable.

When I first started blogging, I was extremely uncomfortable with having my words in print out there where anyone could read them. But, as I did it, it got easier and easier and now it is no big thing -- my tolerance for the situation went up and the discomfort went down.

Chronic dieters, as a group, have higher thresholds to discomfort than many other groups -- because they are used to putting themselves into uncomfortable diet plans and sticking with it for a while.

The part that struck me about tolerance to discomfort being one of the most reliable predictors of a person's eating behavior change is that we should acknowledge that discomfort is an expected outcome -- not a side effect.

Especially, if you are starting to set aside all of the "dieting knowledge" you have gathered through the years and are replacing it with starting to trust your own sensations of hunger and fullness. That is a big, discomforting change in your belief system. It might be enough to send you running for the Snackwell's aisle because the ideas are new and scary. But you need to realize it is just discomfort urging you to eat the box of cookies! Just understanding it is discomfort lessen your discomfort.

Stick with it! Ride out the discomfort of moving away from a dieting system where "experts" tell you what you should do. You are moving towards being your own expert. You are exploring new terrain. If you are persistant, it won't take long before you get more comfortable with what you are doing -- it will be your new normal. (and then an opportunity will present itself and you will be uncomfortable again and the process will start all over). Discomfort doesn't last.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Reliable Predictor of your Success....

One of the most accurate predictors of a person's success in changing (whether behaviors, jobs, whatever) is their ability to tolerate discomfort.  Not agony.  Not excruciating pain. 

How well do you tolerate being uncomfortable???

Think about it.

We will talk about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What has the Power over you?

Last night, at 9:32 pm, I found myself slumped Gollum-like over my smart phone compulsively checking my work email.  As I waited for the opening page (you know the one...the one that says who has emailed you and what they have emailed you about -- the one that tells you if you can breath because you have the "all clear" or the one that is notifying you that your desk has just been lit on fire and you better have a plan to fix it by tomorrow morning), I realized how much I live and die by what this particular piece of technology tells me.

As I took a mental step back from the Gollum-posed me, I was struck by the similarities of my posture and intensity to that of a kid waiting for an answer to a question made to a Magic 8 Ball.  Remember asking when you were a kid -- sometimes it seemed amazing that the 8 Ball could give you the answer you sought!  ("Does So-and -so really and truly like me???"  "Outlook looks good!")

Okay -- we're older and wiser now.  We know the 8 Ball doesn't hold the key to our future -- it has no insights except what we give it.  (Right??)

So...let's look at another scenerio.  What about when you get up in the morning and step on the scale.  How much power are you giving that scale over how you feel about your yesterday and your today??

If the number is down -- "Yeh!  I rule the world!!" 

But if they numbers are up -- "I suck!".

And yet -- much like the Magic 8 Ball -- the numbers on the scale have no insights into the person you are, how you spent your yesterday or what great things you will accomplish today. 

They are just numbers.

They do not define you.  You give them power they do not have without your active participation.

Don't be Golum-like on your scale -- it's not a pretty picture and you certainly deserve better from yourself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Your Personal Legend

The below is a thought from Paulo Coelho (I wrote about his book last summer -- what a wonderful book it was!) via Wake Up Tiger (fun Aussie blogger who loves to rant as much as me!)

Paulo Coehlo cites this as one of his 'declaration of principles'. I love it!

Each human being has his own Personal Legend to be fulfilled, and this is the reason he is in the world. The Personal Legend is manifest in his enthusiasm for what he does. The Personal Legend may be abandoned for a certain time, provided one does not forget it and returns as soon as possible.

I can guarantee your Personal Legend is not losing weight -- you are more multi-dimensional than that. Your weight, however, may be getting in the way (either physically or maybe emotionally just taking up too much of your brain space). What are you excited about doing during your day? What are you holding back from doing because of your weight? What would you do first if you wake up tomorrow and the weight was gone?

Aren't those things worth pursuing? I have seen client after client learn how to stop obsessing about food...and weight...and what they ate or didn't eat... and you know what? That leaves them (literally) with more ENERGY to pursue their Personal Legend(s).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Carpe Diem

You'll notice this is the send off you sometimes get from me. I love this phrase.

"Seize the Day"

This one is the only one you are sure off getting -- this is the only one you can do anything with.

What are you going to do with your day today? ( is not just a rhetorical, pie-in-the-sky question! Are you giving it some thought?)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Do something Friday

Studies are showing that self-control is a limited resource.  Anyone with a toddler already knows that -- you can only set a bowl of cookies in front of a hungry toddler for only so long before he has a breakdown.

What I don't think is emphasized enough, though, is that although we can gain more self-control, through practice, the supply is never unlimited (kind of like our energy levels).  And much like our energy levels, studies have shown that self-control is renewed daily and we have the highest levels in the mornings.

Dan and Chip Heath describe the mind as having two components -- the rider (the logical part that likes to think things through and has all sorts of good intentions) and the elephant (the emotional part of the brain that can get a lot of work done without much thought but likes to stick to the paths that are familiar).  The rider (self-control) can steer the elephant for a while but eventually the rider gets tired.  Once the elephant is in charge, it heads straight back for what it knows and can do without too much thought.

If you see this as  a given for you, don't despair -- there are ways you can work with this.  One of the ways is to limit your really challenging eating situations to the times of day that you naturally have more self-control.

Or...just accepting that it is going to be harder at some times than others (and there is a logical reason for it -- you are not just weak willed) might be helpful.  Much like asking a toddler to sit in front of a bowl of cookies and not have any -- if you understand that evening snacking or too much at dinner is a challenge for you, you can plan for that situation and ration out your self-control so you have some left for that time of day.

This weekend: pay attention to the times that eating decisions feel easy and you are in the zone -- what time of day do they occur?  Do they happen on days that you have been more relaxed or more stressed?  Are business dinners easier or harder to have eating self-control than when you eat with friends?  Start looking for the patterns so you can plan ahead for your success.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

International No Diet Day

It is International No Diet Day today.

A celebration of body acceptance and body shape diversity.

Are you up for joining in?

It was just too apt of a comparison to pass up....

I just read this on Brooke Castillo's Blog. It is dead on, amusing and made me smile -- hope it does the same for you :)

How Not to Lose Your Mind
Keep an eye on it.

If you don't want to lose something, you pay attention to what it is doing.

Toddlers for example. (A perfect example for most minds too.)

You have to watch where they run off to. What trouble they want to get into. Stuff they want to put into their mouths. And what things they keep going back to-like the pool.

Your mind is the same way. You need to watch what it's thinking. What it is running off with. What it is believing. What lies it is telling you. And what it wants you to put into your mouth.

Ignore a toddler by distracting yourself with something else, and you are asking for trouble.

At the very least you are going to lose them and have to go looking.

Ignore your mind for long enough and you might end up saying, "I am losing my mind!"

But the truth is, if you are saying that -it's already lost.

Go find it. And then keep an eye on it.

Don't throw the baby out with the Bathwater

Ever start off losing weight and feeling really successful only to "fall off the wagon" and give up before you climb back on???

Most dieters (studies say) see this as "bad eating" when really it is just eating.  I don't mean this in the "You're Great -- We're all Great -- You get a ribbon just for Participating" kind of way.  It is really true.

If you divide eating into three categories (ala Michelle May), you get restrictive eaters (dieters), over eaters, and intuitive eaters.  All of us are all three.  Even the most intuitive eater (that effortlessly thin spouse or friend) over eats sometimes.  If they seem effortlessly thin, it's because they spend more time eating according to their hunger and fullness than eating in the other two styles. 

Just like the most over- or restrictive eater will sometime eat according to hunger and fullness signals -- they just spend more time over- or restrictively eating.

Here's my point:

A "bad" eating day is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  You will have more opportunities to make the kinds of choices you feel good about the next time you are thinking about eating.

Don't let a lapse (a short-term disruption in your mindfulness) turn into a relapse (a return to all of your former eating behaviors -- you know...the ones that got you to where you were before you starting being mindful in the first place)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stop Doing List

I just read something EARTH SHATTERING!!

I was minding my own business reading "Quit Managing your time...and Start Managing your Attention", when an idea sooooo revolutionary jumped right off the page and into my head.

The author suggested creating a Stop Doing List eekk gads! who would have ever thought I needed a list for that??? But it makes so much sense -- people get into the groove of working and start run on autopilot without considering how they are really spending their time (is anyone reading the anti-definition of mindfulness here?) The author's logic proceeds with the creation of a Stop Doing List to help us remember where are priorities are and what we do not want to give our attention to. Genius!

So here is what I propose:

You spend the next week (7 days -- until next Tuesday) creating your own Stop Eating List. NOW....I don't want this list based on what you think you "shouldn't" eat. I want it based on all those things you eat in a week that after they are done, you wonder (to yourself or others) "Why did I eat that???"

Just write 'em down as they occur. I give you permission to set aside your regular journalling(which of course you are all doing, right?) to create this new list. The whole object of the list is to become aware of any patterns you see in the eating of things you shouldn't (because they're not worth the calories). You might be surprised with what you learn.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Feeling what you're feeling

You might be amazed at how many clients tell me they hate the feeling to being hungry.  I am not talking about starving -- I am talking about the 2-3 level hunger.  They don't like it!  They have to stop it from happening!!

But what about the rest of us?  The ones who are eating, not to prevent the discomfort of the physical sensations of hunger, but those of us eating to stop feeling uncomfortable feelings. 

Are you quieting your feelings with food instead of dealing with the feeling directly.  One of the most powerful sentences I have read lately is "Are you avoiding yourself by avoiding your feelings?"

A huge component of mindfulness is to be able to let yourself feel what you are feeling without judging it.

If you choke out what you are feeling with a bag of chips (or carrots, for that matter) are you cultivating mindfulness?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Everyone wants to be thin...

Sure, everyone wants this (or at least a lot of people have this as a goal). But how much do you want it? Do you want to be thin more than you want to eat a sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie? If the Thin Fairy was standing there -- cookies in one hand, wand in another, how much of a no-brainer would it be?

But...with the cookies right there and weightloss further down the road -- what then? Are you prepared to make the choice? The time for choice is here -- I have seen the cookies -- it won't be long until the Troops are lining up outside Sam's selling the beautiful little boxes -- have you thought about what you're going to do?

Being clear in your mental vision of what you want is important. When faced with a tough choice (would anyone like another slice of pizza?), you have to be able to recall what you are trying to accomplish in at least as vivid of detail as the smell of the pizza wafting through the air.

If you want to make changes to your weight, you HAVE TO make changes to the amount you are putting in your mouth -- that is the only way weight loss happens. And in order to do that -- you have to be clear on what you are gaining when you leave that food uneaten.