Thursday, March 31, 2011

Habitutation, the power of imagination, and Dr. Oz

Do you think it is possible to eat less by imagining cleaning your plate?  A new study says you can!!  Click here to watch a 4 minute explanation by Dr. Oz and his panel on how you can use this technique to help you eat less.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The 500th Post!

This is the Eating Coach Official 500th post!!

When I started this blog, I didn't even tell anyone I was going to try it. I just started writing and figured it would be okay if I ran out of things to say (at 10 or 50 or a 100 posts) if no one was reading it anyway. But I must not have run out of things to say since I made it this far.

Having 500 posts under my belt, there is one thing I can say for sure -- I wouldn't want to have to sit down and crank out 500 posts all at once --- or even in a month -- it would be too tough!

It's not tough writing one post per day (or not usually that tough). Looking for inspiration for one post is a do-able thing. And honestly, once I realized I could do one post per day, I found I liked it well enough to add another post. At my 300th Eating Coach post, I added the Kristi-in-Kzoo blog. I don't update that one as regularly as this one -- it keeps the pressure off and I just post things that interest me.

A couple months ago, I started administrating and posting for the BorgessAthlete. So now I'm up to 2 posts every day -- which is cool!

NOW.....before this really does sound like too much self-congratulations -- here's what I really want you to notice about my story:

1. I started out just seeing if I could make a small change. There was a risk of failure -- but I tried to limit price of failure so it was small enough that Lizzie couldn't start screaming at me too loud.

2. I had to learn to break my work down into manageable pieces and then spread it out over 21 months. If I had convinced myself it needed to be done all at once -- I would have been too overwhelmed to start!

3. Once I had some success with what I was doing, I looked for ways to expand on that success -- but it wasn't perfectly copied success (I only add to the "just for fun" blog when it's fun and convenient -- to keep the pressure off).

Give some thought to an area you have been successful in.  Did you jump in both feet way over your head and devote every waking hour of you life to that success until you achieved it?  (some people do...but I think they must have longer attention spans than I do) Or....did you stick a toe in, try it out, work through the kinks, walk away from it and then walk back to it.....etc.?

All of that is another way to say:

Start small.
Build on success over time.

And then don't forget to step back, appreciate what you've accomplished for a minute, feel good, and then get back to work.

What do you think? Sound like a plan?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Voting with your Dollars

A couple weeks ago, Rob, from Gazelle Sports, was here to talk about how to find the right athletic shoe. One of the problems brought up by a participant was that once a person finds the right shoe, the manufacturer changes the shoe and we have to start the shoe search from scratch.

Rob countered this potential downside with the idea that consumers want newer, faster, lighter, etc and companies need to innovate to keep up with market demands.

This idea of consumers "voting with their dollars" has been rolling around in my head for the last couple weeks and it has made me think.

If we are serious about being mindful of our eating, are we voting for mindfulness with our dollars? Are we making decisions to buy the Kid's Meal option at Wendy's (for yourself -- not your child), the smaller portion meals at Applebee's, one or two small plates at Fandango's? Are you being an activist for mindfulness and portion size?

Maybe sometimes? Or maybe when you remember?

What would happen if you actively opted to use your eating out dollars to promote restaurants and specific dishes that helped you achieve your weight management? Two things come to mind:

1. If you started being mindful of how you were "voting" -- you would be mindful of the meal you were choosing for yourself.  Voila!  Increased mindfulness for you!!

2.  If you are "voting" with your dollars, you are encouraging the companies you patronize to support your weight management efforts with products and services that make it easier for EVERYONE to be more mindful of their eating behaviors.

So, as I see it, it's a mindfulness win win. 

What do you think?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Do something Friday

Where do you find you are the most and the least successful in maintaining your mindfulness?  The environment where you eat (where you do anything, really) plays a role in the ultimate success or failure of your endeavor.

As Seth Godin has said:

Most of all, I think we can train ourselves to associate certain places with certain outcomes. There's a reason they built those cathedrals. Pick your place, on purpose.

Give some thought to where you are most successful cultivating real-time mindfulness.  Can you make sure you eat there more often?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How is Mindful Eating training different than Training for a Marathon?

It's not.

Have you ever considered (even for a moment) training for a marathon?  I have (for a very brief moment).

26.2 miles.  Let that sink in for a minute.   Yikes!!  That is a LONG way!

But then give this some thought:

People average 250 food choices per day -- so just this weekend, you will be making 500 choices.  How do you go about being mindful that whole time???

Well, just like marathon training, you start small.  Marathoners don't run the 26.2 miles on their first training run.  They start with what they can manage -- maybe they start with 2 miles.  Sure, it's a long climb from 2 miles to 26.2 -- but if, when you start, all you have is 2 in you -- then that's where you have to start.  It will just take you longer.

Same goes for mindful eating.  If you can only master eating breakfast mindfully -- then that's where you have to start.  Starting (for any type of training is the real key to success -- not where you are when start).

Marathon training is broken down into chunks and you have to train consistently if you want consistent results.  Most areas now have marathon training groups -- so much easier to maintain your momentum if you have a supportive group around to train with.

Did you know I can personally vouch for us having close to 300 people in Kalamazoo getting this blog in their email inbox.  There are people out there to train with.  Are you looking for them?

And what's the biggest way mindful eating training is like marathon training?  You have to do it even when you don't feel like it.  It will get easier -- but it takes practice even when it doesn't feel natural.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What is Success??

Success is not a race, be patient.

Success leads to success.
Success is always a work in progress.
Success doesn't come to you--you go to it.
Success is a journey, not a destination. Focus on the process.
Some people dream about success... while others wake up and work hard at it.
Success is achieved and maintained by those who try-and keep trying.
Everyday is a good day to SUCCEED!
If at first you don't succeed-try, try again


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

But we LOVE metrics!

Have you ever noticed how much easier it to define ourselves by how much we earn a year, our volunteer hours, the minutes or miles we exercise per week, the number on our scales?

It's so much easier to define ourselves with numbers than it is to define ourselves by how content we are, how fulfilled we feel, how many people smile when we walk into the room.

Which of these are really important to you?  Which ones are you working hard to cultivate?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Do something Friday

Make a plan to breathe, my friends!  We have had some beautiful sunrises the last couple days.  The moon is huge at night!!  The air is warmer and the birds are back and singing about spring.

How many of these things have you noticed?

Your task for the weekend:

Plan on taking your first cup of coffee (or whatever powers your day) while mindfully appreciating some spring-focused natural phenomenon.  So...if your an early riser, plant yourself in front of the window and watch the colors of the sky as the sun rises.

If you find yourself sleeping in, take your coffee or OJ out to the deck and appreciate the bird song.

And as you're appreciating nature, take the extra time to appreciate the warmth of the mug in your hands, the flavor of the drinks, the way the steam rises up.

There's so much to notice about the activities we engage in every day.  Bring some awareness to them this weekend!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Success and the fear of Failure

The other day I was reading Seth Godin's workbook for Poke the Box and he asked the question:

What are you afraid might happen if you took action on your ideas?  Do you worry that you will be destroyed?  Your reputation ruined?  Or like most people, are you really afraid you might succeed?

Fear of success?  With weight management?  Really?? 

And then I started thinking.....follow my logic and see if this rings true for you:

On the surface, success might be defined as reaching your goal weight.  But that's not wholly true, is it?  Most of my clients have reached their goal weight before -- so maybe success is reaching your goal weight and maintaining it?

For how long?  For many of my clients, success is defined by reaching their goal weight and maintaining it.....Forever!!  That is how they will know they have been successful --  by dying thin.

So what is happening is they are living their lives under the constant, imminent threat of failure...until they breath their last.

No wonder someone might have some mixed feelings about doing what it takes to reach their goal weight -- there is no finish line for them.  And their sense of well-being is riding on this!

Now, I have no good solution to this dilemma -- if I did, we'd all be happy because you'd be thin and I'd be a millionaire.  As it is, I think our best bet is for you to achieve your healthy weight and me to shoot for solidly upper middle class -- what do you think?

The best suggestion I can make here is for you to evaluate whether some of this rings true for you.  Sometimes, our definitions of success have been so deeply ingrained in us that we don't no longer verbalize them to see if they still make sense to us or not.

I'm not a huge advocate of having your goal be to die thin -- that seems pretty macabre!  If you can understand how you define your success, it might lessen some of the self-sabotage leverage Lizzie is spreading around in your brain.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Having trouble keeping on track?

Ask for help.

This might be the hardest step for many of us to take.  There is a weird definition of self-sufficiency many of us carry around that sometimes does more harm than good. (I know I've battled with this from time to time).

If we are fortunate enough to have some confidence in our abilities, that confidence sometimes hamstrings us with the idea that because we can do many things well, we should be able to do all things well.  Especially, weight management, right?  Because how hard is it?  We know what we should be doing.

And that might be an accurate view from the intellectual side of our brain.  But we aren't talking about the intellectual side -- that side knows why we shouldn't eat the whole pan of brownies after the kids are in bed.  We are talking about the emotional side of our brain.  The one that needs encouragement, a pat on the back, and permission to feel crappy about the decisions we now have to make because we made different decisions in the past.

Sometimes, sharing your frustrations with a friend, coworker, or loved one is enough to get the ball rolling again.  Having someone to encourage you, tell you you're on the right track, and they appreciate all the hard work you are putting into making yourself healthier (both physically and mentally), is enough to get past your frustrations and on to the important work of continuing to make small changes in your eating habits.

And if you're not frustrated, give some thought to who your support people will be if frustration threatens to derail you.  It's always better to have a plan for these situations should they arise than fly by the seat of your pants when you're feeling down in the dumps about your progress.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do more of the things you remember

What did you eat 2 weeks ago?  Do you remember?  Let me help -- we'll narrow it down:  Two weeks ago today was March 1.  It was a Tuesday, obviously.  Remember what you had for lunch?  Or dinner?....No?

Then how important was that meal to you?  Was it worth over-eating if you can't even remember it now?

If you're struggling with the hunger/fullness scale, maybe that is the question you should ask yourself BEFORE you finish the food on your plate (and again before you go get seconds) -- "Will I remember this food in two weeks?  Is it really that good?  Or should I just stop because this is probably enough."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Misconceptions about changing our eating behavior

That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
US essayist; poet (1803 - 1882)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do something Friday

Yesterday, we talked about those negative voices in our heads that have nasty comments for everything we do.  Now that you are starting to notice them, how are you going to counter that thought pattern?
Think of something you feel really successful about.  Come on....think!  What are you proud of or pleased with that you have accomplished in the past?

What if, whenever you hear the negative comments, you pick up your chin (and I mean physically actually picking up your chin) and reply "I have done __insert_what_you feel_positive_about______ already and I am accomplishing my weight management too".

No arguing, just a simple statement of fact -- you have been successful in the past and you will be successful in the future.

And if you add the chin lifting part, it adds a whole confident posture change, which, science is tells us, changes the neuromessengers in our bodies.  Our physical body reacts like we really are more confident in our own statement.  Cool, huh?

So give this mindfulness exercise a try this weekend. 

  1. Notice the tape running through your head.
  2. Lift your chin
  3. Repeat your positive phrase

Then notice how you feel.  Are you feeling more positive and confident with your situations?  Remember, the more you think you can do something, the more likely it is you will be successful -- sometimes we need to work on feeling confident and then the problem is easier to tackle.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What's running through your head???

Confidence -- while I was getting my undergrad in Exercise Physiology, the term we learned was "self-efficacy".  One of the definitions of self-efficacy is "belief in one's own ability to perform a task".  When a person KNOWS they can create mindful eating behaviors (although they haven't mastered it yet), they are said to have a high level of self-efficacy.  Those with higher levels of self-efficacy are predicted to be more successful in their behavior change.

Self-efficacy is what you feel within yourself.  Confidence, on the other hand, might be interpreted as expression of being certain in more of an outward way.  For example, I might appear to be confident in my ability to succeed in managing my weight, however, my self-efficacy can be low because I may be able to "talk the talk" but feel unsure of how to "walk the walk".

Low self-efficacy really works against use as we try to change behavior.  When you are not sure that you will ultimately triumph, every little bump in the road and learning curve has the potential to derail your whole process.

That is why it is important to me for clients to share their successes.  If you can verbalize a behavior you feel positive about, those little, positive bricks add up.  Your sense of self-efficacy grows.  Your chances of ultimate triumph increase!

So how do you start to gauge your current level of self-efficacy?  Here is an idea from Brian at

As you notice the statements that make you feel worse, give them the critical thought once-over.  Do they make sense?  Are they accurate?  Or is that just the same ole negative tape running through your head (Lizzie, perhaps?)

Can you change those thoughts?  Of course you can!!  Like so many things, change starts when you become aware of these thoughts and redirect your thoughts to patterns that make you feel like giving it another shot.

Take Brian's advice -- pull out your journal and start to jot down some of your thoughts after you do something.  Most of the time, a change in waistline starts in your head.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why are you doing what you're doing?

I just finished an (the 6th) version of an essay about why I do what I do for a living.  This first 5 were terrible.  I mean it....really terrible.  This 6th wasn't too bad -- not great but not embarrassingly bad anyway.

What I learned from this experience is:

It's sometimes really hard to figure out why I want to do what I do. (Because" it's fun" isn't really a reason.)  But walking out of the process, I can see how each of the essays contributed to a deeper understanding of my behaviors.  Verbalizing is a great way to actually see if I KNOW the reason I do what I do.

Have you ever noticed how "Because my boss/spouse/doctor/best friend told me I needed to" isn't really long-term motivating?  And if you really want to be successful in managing your weight, ultimately, it comes down to you doing the work (because no one can do it for you) and you keeping yourself motivate (because no one understands you like you do).

But if you don't understand your own motivations, how can you  be successful practicing mindful eating and keeping yourself motivated to eat mindfully when it's much easier to "let things ride"?

Maybe it's time for you to write an essay. (I can hear the groans from here -- believe me, I feel your pain!).  Take some time to write out why you're doing what you're doing.  If it doesn't come easy, give it some more thought and write another essay (and another, and another, and another if you have to).  Keep writing until you can adequately put into words why you are trying to manage your weight in the first place.  I expect you have many more reasons that you think (right now).  And wouldn't it be great to gain some extra motivation when the chips are down and you really want to binge?

And once you get your essay done, if you're really brave and looking for some accountability, leave it as a comment on the blog -- share it with the world so we can tell you what a great job you're doing!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Are you a glutton for novelty??

I was just reading a blog post that stated "we are gluttons for novelty" -- and I think that is true.  From the larger perspective of how very difficult it is to sit down to write this post and feel my attention being distracted with the thought of what might be showing up in my inbox or happening on Twitter to the more narrowly focused idea that the more variety there is in my fridge, the more I will eat in a day.

We like new things -- you don't have to look any further than the crock pot in your fridge with the leftovers from Sunday.  Think anyone is getting in there again before that food goes bad?  Nope -- you're better off just to put it in the freezer right now -- we've tasted it and moved on to something new.

We like different.  Why do you think we all eat so much when we're at a buffet?  Lord knows you don't want to miss out forever on that chocolate pudding and all three kinds of jello!

Did you know that if M&M's are sorted by colors into different bowl, test subjected eat fewer of them than if all colors are mixed into one bowl?  It's true!  We don't like to miss out on anything -- even different colored M&M's that don't taste any different no matter what the color.

So what's that mean for our ability to be more mindful with our eating?  Just recognizing that more variety makes it more tempting to eat can help us.  Try buying one or two variety of yogurts or fruits each time  you go to the store.  Get one wonderful cheese at a time.  It will alleviate some of the stress of eating one so you can move on to the next.

And then give some thought to what variety pack trips you up.  How could you change up your buying habits to limit the temptation eat for novelty?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thought for the Day....

“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”
-- Freya Madeline Stark

Are you doing what it takes today to make yourself happy?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Maybe it's time for a perspective change

I was in need of inspiration.  Honestly, it's not easy to come up with blog ideas for mindful eating day in and day out.  Normally, when I need a creative spark, I just flip though my reading list of blogs (almost none of them are about mindful eating) and something will shift my perspective to see mindful eating in a new way.

Today (if we go by my blog list), the only thing happening in the whole world is the TED2011 conference and Steve Jobs getting up to receive a standing ovation.  -- trust me, this must be all that's happening in the world because I scrolled through 100 posts from various blog sites and that is ALL anyone is talking about.

And then it hit me:  That's not all EVERYONE in the WHOLE WORLD is talking about.  It's just that these are the topics that my most proficient bloggers are writing about today.  You know, the ones who talk the most.

And then it hit me: this is a good representation of weight loss.  --It can be all consuming because when we are dealing with our eating behaviors it seems like food is all we think about and all anyone else is talking about. 

But that's not really true -- life goes on in any number of ways.  Perhaps, weight and what you chose to eat for dinner isn't the end all, be all topic it sometimes seems like it is.

Maybe, if we focus on dinner when we are sitting there tasting it, we won't need to worry about it when we get up from the table.  Maybe if we learn to differentiate physical hunger from the stress-induced reflex to eat, we wouldn't have to sweat our occasional piece of cheesecake.  Maybe if we paid attention to our eating when we are ACTUALLY eating (real time) -- we wouldn't have to think about it the other 23 hours a day.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Every brick counts

Have you ever built a brick wall?  When I was a kid, my parents bricked a wall in our family room.  My job, along with my sister, was to move bricks, by the wagon load, from the pallet where the truck dropped them off, to a spot outside the door where my parents could grab them, as they needed them for the wall.

Moving one brick in a wagon is really no big deal.  Even my under-motivated, 10 year old self wouldn't have minded that.  Moving a whole wall of bricks, on the other hands, was unpleasant enough that I still remember how much of a pain in the neck it was.  "Why", my lazy, 10 year old self would ask, "do I have to move the bricks? Should I be outside playing or something?" 

The difference between moving one brick and a whole wall of bricks is comes down to consistency.  Because my sister and I moved a wagon load a day, it took us quite a while to move the pallets -- but we got it done.  And it really wasn't more than two kids could handle.

The same thing can be said about most things in life.  The task as a whole seems daunting and you may feel unprepared to tackle it.  The thing about any task, though, is it can always be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Cutting back on your calories can be broken down to cutting back on a few bites of food each time you each.  What if you threw out the last quarter of everything you ate?  What would that do to the way your pants fit?

Sometimes you just need to move a brick at a time (or leave the bite uneaten).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Suspending disbelief

 If only I had a dollar for every time a person has asked me what they should be doing to lose weight and when I give them my answer (eat less) they tell me they already are.  OR...they only eat healthy options (like that really makes a difference to their weight -- obviously not if they are seeking advice from me). I wouldn't be quite a millionaire yet -- but I bet it would pay for a full year of college tuition!

The point is, we all like to be right.  And sometimes, we are more worried about being right than actually hearing a novel solution that someone might have to our problem (like spending your time working on mindful eating techniques).

Linda Stone writes "Everything we know, our strongly held beliefs, and in some cases, even what we consider to be “factual,” creates the lens through which we see and experience the world, and can contribute to a critical, reactive orientation. This can serve us well. For example: Fire is hot; it can burn me if I touch it. These strongly held beliefs can also compromise our ability to observe and to think in an expansive, generative way."

So one of the bigger question for me is:

Is the lens (or lenses) through which I view my life, causing me to react to the circumstances I find myself in


Are they giving me perspective enough to act on the circumstances I find myself in???

How about you?  Can you see your lenses for what they are?  Are they helping you or hurting you?