7 Tips for Coping with Emotional Eating Over the Holidays

 
christmas cookies

I know how the holidays can be super stressful, particularly for those dealing with eating, food, or weight concerns.

While I’m a big sucker for the warm and fuzzies brought on by the Christmas season (and any events involving Christmas carols, twinkle lights, and mulled wine), I used to have a ton of anxiety about the constant exposure to decadent foods at holiday events. I would mentally set out rules for myself in advance (I’ll only eat certain foods, I’ll eat in moderation, etc.), only to feel defeated when I failed to meet my self-imposed guidelines and left parties stuffed on sugar cookies and fudge.

High stress and tension (common for many around the holidays) can lead us to eat solely to soothe emotions. Ever had the experience of “eating your feelings?” Yeah, me too. It happens!

But food does not bring the emotional fulfillment or comfort we seek in these instances, and we can wind up feeling even crappier—physically and emotionally—after an emotional eating session.

That’s why I want to share with you some pointers for avoiding an emotional binge over the holidays that have helped me over the years:

Do set aside some time for yourself daily. It could be just 5 or 10 minutes to sit in peace and quiet, engage in meditation, say a prayer, or do some light stretching. But make sure you are taking the time to connect with yourself before getting swept up in the frenzy.

Don’t be reluctant to engage in self-care. If you’re the type that thinks self-care is selfish or indulgent (I used to hold onto some of those beliefs), it’s time to let that ish go. I know it’s cliche to say “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” But it’s TRUE. If you’re in a bad place emotionally, it’s way less likely you’re going to be able to support others in a positive way. So self-care isn’t selfish at all. Take the time to take care of you.

Do tune into your inner voice. If you feel unusual hunger pangs or cravings, ask yourself if you’re actually hungry or experiencing some other emotion. Is something stressful going on that is making you want to eat to deal with that stressor? Or do you actually just want to eat? (Either answer is fine! The awareness is what matters!) If an emotion is driving your urge to eat, give yourself license to feel all the feels. I know, it can be extremely uncomfortable to go there (which is why we’re driven to eat to numb out that discomfort). But knowing that food won’t actually solve the problem might help you approach negative emotions with curiosity and self-compassion.

Do love your food. It’s not “bad” or indulgent or shameful to be a person who loves food (I sure do!). But for some reason, I totally used to think I was flawed for enjoying food so much! Why? Food is pretty amazing, and the act of eating can be a joyful experience if we ditch the shame. Celebrate and savor your food. Experience the nuances of taste, smell, and texture as you eat. When we are fully present during a meal (not multitasking or eating hastily or in secret), we’re more likely to know when our bodies have had enough. 

Don’t restrict yourself. If you go into a situation with a restrictive mindset (like I’m only going to eat X” or “I’m not allowed to eat Y”), you are more likely to binge in the end. (I learned this the hard way. Many times.) Give yourself license to eat whatever looks good to you, but only eat it while it is still enjoyable. If something doesn’t actually taste as good as it looked or it loses its appeal, you have no obligation to eat the whole thing (even if Aunt Patty gets offended by you discarding half a piece of her dry pie—Sorry Pat!).

Do notice patterns. It's often said that the way we approach food is indicative of the way we approach many things in life. So take note of what comes up for you. Do you subconsciously tell yourself you don’t deserve to eat a certain food or you need to repent for it if you do? Do you eat a certain way in public and another way when no one else is in sight? Approach this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and grow. We all have more to learn.

Don’t beat yourself up. If at any point you do find yourself feeling completely stuffed, know that IT’S OK! It happens to the best of us at times. Respect your journey, forgive yourself, and know that by engaging in these practices, you’re on the right path to curbing emotional eating episodes in the future.

xx 

P.S. If you’re already getting nervous about getting “back on track” in the New Year, I’ve got you covered. Only my approach does not involve rules and resolutions that will only leave you feeling like crap when they (inevitably) fail you (apparently over 90% of New Year’s “resolutions” fizzle out).

Instead, I’m offering a brand new program to set you up for sustainable self-love and healthful living in 2017 (and beyond). Your Body Love Breakthrough is a series of one-one-one strategy sessions to conquer your most pressing wellness questions and set up an actionable plan for making 2017 your best year yet. Because I believe so strongly in this program. I’m offering FREE 25-minute flash coaching sessions to give you a taste of the program and make sure it’s the right fit. Click here to book a spot on my calendar now (but act fast because registration for this program closes December 23!).

 

 

20 Ways To Cultivate Gratitude Over the Holidays

 

Thanksgiving (noun) | thanks·giv·ing | thaŋ(k)s-ˈgi-viŋ

  1. The act of giving thanks

  2. A prayer expressing gratitude

Whatever your feelings are on the history of Thanksgiving, the traditional meal, or your plans for this Thursday, the upcoming holiday can serve as a timely reminder of the benefits of giving thanks.

Throughout history, gratitude has been hailed as a virtue. Ralph Waldo Emerson once advised others to “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

It turns out Emerson’s advice was well-founded. In addition to making us more inclined to appreciate others and improving our relationships, gratitude enhances our own well-being.

“Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, [and] regular physical examinations,” according to Professor Robert Emmons, gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, Davis. On the other hand, a lack of gratitude can contribute to stress and anxiety and lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Gratitude is especially powerful because it operates like a feedback loop: the energy we put in comes back to us and fuels further positivity.

Somewhat ironically, the times we are most in need of the wellness-enhancing benefits of gratitude may be the times it is most difficult to conjure up thankful thoughts. That’s why consciously committing to the practice of gratitude can be life-changing.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, here are 20 prompts for flexing your gratitude muscles this holiday season:  

  1. Make a list of things for which you are thankful. This doesn’t need to be done in a fancy journal [though if you want one, here is a favorite]. When I’m on the go, I’ll just write things in the “Notes” app on my phone.

  2. To deepen your gratitude practice, expand your list to include why you are thankful for those things.

  3. Appreciate time off work and devote your free time to things that bring you joy.

  4. If you plan on buying gifts, as you make each purchase, reflect on what the recipient brings to your life. If you’re the crafty type, consider making gifts for loved ones to personalize the expression of gratitude.

  5. Write a letter or card conveying your gratitude to someone and send it via snail mail (admit it, in the digital age, it’s exciting to get a tangible letter in the mail).

  6. Help out around the house: buy groceries, prepare a meal, do the dishes or laundry, or clean up.

  7. Pay someone a compliment (bonus points if it’s not related to their looks).

  8. Go for a run, practice yoga, or engage in some other physical activity. Appreciate your body’s strength and capabilities.

  9. Spend time outside appreciating nature.

  10. Consider donating time or money to a cause you feel passionate about.

  11. Surprise someone with an act of kindness.

  12. Surround yourself with others who express gratitude openly and regularly, and it might rub off.

  13. Give someone a hug.

  14. Catch up with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

  15. Be sure to genuinely thank everyone who does something that makes your day a little easier: the person checking you out or bagging your groceries, your cab or uber driver, a delivery person etc.

  16. Sleep in or take a nap and don’t feel guilty about it.

  17. If you catch yourself having a negative thought, think of how you might replace it with something positive (or even neutral).

  18. Similarly, if you catch yourself frowning, make an effort to smile (just the act of smiling has been shown to boost emotions)

  19. Smile at strangers.

  20. Look in the mirror and be thankful for your beautiful body and what it’s done for you.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, gratitude-filled holiday. 

Xx K

 

Three Tips for Positively Channeling Post-Election Energy

 
"Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.” - Dalai Lama

Wow... What a week.

I apologize for the recent silence on my blog.

I’ll be 100% honest: For me, getting through the past week felt a little like the emotional equivalent of going through a cycle in the washing machine, getting hit by a truck, and walking on shards of glass all at the same time.

I don’t think I’m alone. I sense a collective pain shared by many as we process the results of the election. No matter where we may fall on the spectrum of political views or post-election emotions, the unrest is palpable.

I’ve finally started to loosen my grip on sadness, resentment, and anger and I am now replacing those feelings a sense of hope and determination. But getting here hasn’t been easy or automatic.

I’ve identified 3 things that have helped me start to process all the emotions stirred up by the events of the past week. I’m sharing them with you in case they help you move forward, too.

1. Give yourself breathing room.

It may seem like there is nothing we can all agree on right now. In addition to disagreement over the implications of the election results, I’ve seen many people criticized for their response to the news: “Stop whining. Move on. Accept reality.”

First, whatever your emotions are, know that they are valid. Your feelings deserve to be welcomed and heard. Don’t let anyone tell you that you just need to “get over it.”

Lean into your emotions, but do so responsibly. Be honest with yourself as to how your emotional state may impact others. If you need to retreat in order to protect those around you from statements you may regret later: give yourself license to do just that. Reactively lashing out at others will only serve to widen the divide. Similarly, it is better to give yourself a safe outlet now than to try to “buck up” and have negativity seep out later. You can engage with others productively when you are ready to communicate with an open heart.

2. Adopt heart-opening practices.

In yoga, there are certain poses known as “heart openers.” These asanas ("asana" is Sanskrit for yogic postures or movements) physically stretch the muscles of the chest and are designed to release tensions and bottled up emotions.

If you’re feeling a tightness in your chest (literally) or a hardness in your heart (figuratively), here are a few heart-centered poses to try for physical and emotional release:

Cobra yoga asana
Bridge yoga asana
Wheel yoga asana

 

If you’re seeking a less physical outlet, the practice of Metta (or loving-kindness meditation) might be helpful for you at this time. This is a type of meditation in which we direct positive, love-fueled wishes outward toward other people. Research shows this type of meditation practice can increase positive and decrease negative emotions, activate pathways for empathy and kindness in the brain, and strengthen interpersonal connections.

Click here for a loving kindness meditation. 

3. Act with compassion.

Once you’ve given yourself room to breathe, process, and open up, you will be better equipped to turn compassionately outward. Aim to direct your energy to be a source of help and healing.

The goal isn't to "go back to normal." Instead, resolve to utilize the emotional spark within you for good.

For example:

  • Could you reach out to someone who is distraught and ask what they need?
  • Could you donate time or money to an organization in need of assistance?
  • Might you take action in the political sphere for a good cause? {Calling your representative is one potential action}
  • How can you keep the conversation moving forward?

Ask yourself: How can I be a vehicle for love and acceptance in this world? How can I stand for what is right and just?

If you let an open heart lead the way, there's little chance you'll be led astray. 

xx K 

 

How To Be Sure You Can Trust Your Intuition

 
"Intuition is Seeing with the Soul"

Intuition.

Instinct.

Trusting your gut.

These have become buzzwords lately.

We are each endowed with intuition; that gut feeling of what is right for each of us. And often our intuition guides us, protects us, and leads us to the right answer.

So we should always trust our intuition, right?

Maybe not.

While we’ve carried our sense of intuition for a lifetime, we’ve likely picked up other things along the way. We may become fearful and self-critical as we encounter the hardships of everyday life. Protective patterns of thinking develop, forming layers over our true nature. A shadowy inner voice can cloud our instincts.  

What if the gut feeling you attribute to your intuition… isn’t?

Here’s my example:

As a kid, I dreamed of performing on Broadway. I moved to NYC from Ohio when I was 18 years old without a single friend or connection in the big city. I began my college studies in music theatre and found my program was not particularly nurturing or supportive. At the time, I was on the tail end of recovery from an eating disorder, and I felt alone in a whole new world. I wasn’t confident enough to develop my craft without a safe space where I wouldn’t feel judged. My love for theater languished. I interpreted my waning passion as a gut instinct that I wasn’t meant for the stage. I didn’t perform for much longer. I started to get bored with every role I occupied. I didn’t see a way forward.

True, my boredom was likely a foreshadowing that a performance career wouldn’t last long (and I certainly don’t think it is where I should be now). But because I bowed to my “gut” feelings so quickly–feelings that were likely stoked by fear of judgment and not-enoughness–I would later question if I moved on too quickly.

Don’t mistake fear for intuition.

I believe that intuition can be one of our best teachers. Tuning into our instincts can reveal so much. But fear masked as intuition can trick us into following the wrong calling. Or giving up on the right one.

So how do we hone our intuition? How do we know what to trust?

Over the years, I’ve adopted several practices that help me to gain a deeper understanding of my inner world. Here are a few exercises that can support your journey to becoming more intuitive and help ensure your “intuition” is really just that.

1. Journaling.

First thing in the morning or right before bed, take some time to write down what is on your mind. Through the act of journaling, what is in your mind can take shape outside of you, allowing you to see it more clearly.

I know this might bring back memories of having a diary in your youth and writing KEEP OUT on the cover. What a different world we live in: Now it seems everyone is over-sharing every little moment of their lives on social media. But I’m talking about writing just for you.

Don’t self-monitor, don’t edit. Just write.

2. Meditation

A mantra-based meditation practice helps me ground myself in the present moment by bringing me out of the chatter in my mind.

If you're new to the act of meditation or want to try a new intuition-focused practice, I've created a step-by-step guide to the intuition meditation that works for me.  Click the button below to try it out!

3. Movement

We spend so much time buzzing around in our own minds without really being fully present in our own skin. Movement, be it a workout, a run, or just taking a walk, helps me get out of my head and into my body. At times when I feel completely lost for words or answers, I get my body moving and the right message often finds me.

If you want to get in touch with your instincts, try going for a run, practicing yoga or pilates, or taking a stroll around the block. The answers may meet you there.

 

How to Use Running as Meditation

 
Running as Meditation in Motion

I hate running.

I’m not a “runner.”

Running is boring.

I’m not built to run.

Do any of these thoughts cross your mind when you think about running?

I promise I had all the above thoughts (and more) before I started to see running as a form of meditation and a tool for empowerment.

And these thoughts still creep in at times.

Yesterday, I was running from Venice Beach to Santa Monica and had a moment where I suddenly felt the old urge to stop. Instead of giving into the impulse to halt, I took the opportunity to get curious: Why do I want to stop? Where is this feeling coming from?

By turning inward and examining the situation, I was able to pinpoint the source of my discomfort: my calf muscle was feeling reeeeeally tight.

I also realized I had been running without it being a mindful experience. Rather, I had just been muscling through the run, and I wasn’t really present in my body or in my environment. So when this niggling pain in my calf popped up, my first thought was: “UGH, this doesn’t feel good at all, can I please stop?”

I could have stopped.

If my body needed to stop, I would have.

But I didn’t. Instead, I engaged in a meditation for the remainder of the run. And what could have been the negative experience of a run cut short (focused on the limitations of my body) became a positive exercise in training my mind and body.

Running + Meditation

At first blush, running and meditation may seem at odds with each other. What does pounding the pavement have to do with mindfulness and being fully present?  

The concept of meditation may conjure up the image of sitting completely still on a cushion enveloped in robes. But, meditation can take many forms. And, in the modern world, it is important that we make room for mindfulness in various aspects of our lives.

Today, the mind and the body are too often treated as disconnected entities. We establish systems and methods (such as diets and exercise regimens) focused entirely on one element of being (our physicality) while ignoring the remainder (how we are impacted on a deeper level).

To live a full and balanced life, it is important to devote attention to body, mind, and spirit. We are whole, integrated beings. For this reason, physical activity and mindfulness are perfectly complementary. Studies have demonstrated this synergy. For example, one recent study found the combined effects of meditation and aerobic activity could significantly reduce symptoms of depression (by about 40%).

Meditative running allows us to simultaneously push physical boundaries, reaping the many benefits of moving our bodies, while also staying present in the here and now.

Here’s how to set yourself up for a meditative experience happen during your next run:

1. Connect to your breath.

One cannot deny the vital importance of the breath: Breath is essential for life. The breath is also symbolically significant: Breathing happens involuntarily, so we are assured that no matter what happens, our breath will be there for us. The mind can wander off while the breath remains constant.

By focusing on the breath during running, we focus on an essential element of being alive. More pragmatically, we also ensure that we are breathing deeply and taking in enough oxygen to sustain the continued effort.

Before setting out on your next run, take a moment to intentionally connect to your breath. Take a few deep, expansive breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Set an intention to be mindful and present during your run. And, if the mind wanders off as you run, continue to bring your attention back to the breath.

2. Tune into your body.

As you run, try to establish a mind-body connection by taking note of the changing sensations of the body. Does your body feel tight? Are you becoming warmer? Is your breath quickening?

The hard part is to do this without jumping to any conclusions. It’s easy to think discomfort equals “time to give up” or “I hate doing this.” When we first notice pain or discomfort, the natural response is to resist it: to cease the activity inducing the discomfort. But by leaning into the discomfort (assuming it is not injury-indicative), and embracing it as a temporary and passing state of being, we strengthen both body and mind.

For example, when my calf was being a bugger, I shifted my perspective from a judge-y “this sucks, I want to stop” thoughts to a state of noticing the discomfort and realizing it was a passing sensation. I knew I would feel better if I completed the run.

3. Observe where the mind goes.

Meditative running can be a time to learn about ourselves and our inner worlds.

How does your mind respond to running?

  • Do you relish the opportunity to be active? Or do you have a sense of dread about the miles ahead?

  • Is your mind busy, churning out ideas, thoughts, or fears? Or do you have a tendency to check out?  

  • Are you kind to yourself while running, or is this a time when your inner critic starts to nag?

  • Do you feel confident or self-conscious while you’re out there?

The answers to these questions don't require you to DO anything. Simply be a student of your thoughts and emotions.

4. Engage with the environment.

By the power of our own two feet, we can encounter places we’ve never been before. Even places we’ve seen can bring fresh experiences and perspective during a run.

Take a moment to notice: What is beautiful around you? What is unique or interesting? Observe your surroundings: people, trees, cars, buildings, signs, etc. There is always something to see and absorb. I can run the same route multiple times and learn something new about it every time.

5. Relax into the rhythm.
 

"Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you’re moving.”

- Christopher McDougall, Born to Run (one of my favorite books

No matter how fast you are going, the steady rhythm of your feet touching the earth can ground you in the present moment. Find a cadence that feels natural and sustainable and try to lose yourself in the rhythm.

You might experiment with adopting a mantra or affirmation and repeating it along with the rhythm (try one of my favorite body positive affirmations here).

And, whenever you feel lost, bring your focus back to the breath.


Looking to develop a new running habit or take your running routine to the next level?

As both a wellness and running coach, I can help you implement these mindfulness strategies (and many others) to transform your relationship with running and create an enjoyable and sustainable running practice. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation today!

 

 

12 Body Positive Affirmations For Beating A Case Of The Body "Blahs"

 

I know the feeling all too well:

You’ve just started to make peace with your self-critical demons of the past and put body shame behind you. You are almost beginning to forget the last time you had a negative thought about your body.

Then, something sets you off:

Maybe you catch yourself at an unflattering angle in the mirror or see a picture of yourself that doesn’t look how you imagined. Or perhaps it’s a comment from a friend, family member, or even a stranger that stops you in your tracks. Whatever the trigger, the spiral has begun. Suddenly you can’t STOP being preoccupied with your appearances.

You wonder: what happened to that version of me who felt so secure? Has all the work toward her body confidence been unraveled?

Take heart, brave soul, and know that the journey toward body positivity is not linear.  We’re bound to encounter setbacks and body shame relapses on the road to healing. That’s why a strong support system and a set of effective tools are so important for navigating bumps in the road.

Next time you're experiencing a case of the body "blahs"—try using body positive affirmations.

Through affirmations, we consciously replace negative thoughts with positive words, with the ultimate aim of genuinely adopting the thoughts that are in our highest good. Over time and repeated use of the affirmations, positive thoughts are more likely to come to the surface unconsciously and automatically.

Now, I’m not talking about telling yourself a bunch of fluff and stuff. The key to an effective affirmation is that the words are TRUE. They aren’t outlandish statements that you have to trick yourself to believe. Rather, the affirmations are drawn from what you, in your most grounded, centered, and loving place, could state in truth about yourself.

Put these 12 mantras in your self-love arsenal for the next time you feel a spiral of negativity coming on.

Pick and choose the ones that resonate with you. Write them in your journal, speak them out loud in front of the mirror, or simply think them to yourself.

Rinse and repeat.

The thoughts you repeatedly affirm can become your truth.  

1. My body is a gift and my vehicle for experiencing this life.

2. My body is the only one I have in this lifetime. It is deserving of love and respect.

My body is the only one I have in this lifetime. It is deserving of love and respect.

3. I refuse to waste my time on this earth obsessing about my body. Instead, I choose to devote my energy to the things that are important to me.

I refuse to waste my time on this earth obsessing about my body. Instead, I choose to devote my energy to the things that are important to me.

4. Bodies inevitably change. I accept my body the way that it looks today, and I will accept it the way it looks tomorrow.

5. Food is nourishment for my body, mind, and soul. I grant myself permission to eat without guilt or shame.

Food is nourishment.  I grant myself permission to eat without guilt or shame.

6. I exercise to be kind to my body, not to punish it.

I work out because I love my body, not because I hate it.

7. I love these three things about my body: _____, _____, _____.
 

8. I cannot be confined to numbers: my weight, measurements, or size do not define me. My worth and value are beyond measure.

I cannot be confined to numbers: my weight, measurements, or size do not define me. My worth and value are beyond measure.

9. I am grateful for the things my body allows me to do. 

I am grateful for the things my body allows me to do. 

10. What other people think of my body will not affect my opinion of myself.
 

11. I am more than my body. I am greater than my appearances.

I am more than my body.

12. I am a kind, loving, strong, and intelligent person, and these qualities shine out of me regardless of how I look.

 

5 Reasons Kale Isn’t “Good” and Cupcakes Aren’t “Bad”

 
Stop giving food moral labels. 

Take a moment and think about this: have you formed judgments about certain foods?

Deep down, do you believe spinach is “good” while cookies are “bad”?

It’s hard not to form certain beliefs about food (even unconsciously) living in a world where we are constantly exposed to diets and meal plans and cleanses.  

The snap judgments we make about food can be rooted in many past experiences. Our parents can impart the notion that foods are acceptable or unacceptable by forbidding certain foods in the house and allowing others. Perhaps a diet plan you adopted allowed certain foods (“good”) and prohibited others (“bad”). Or maybe you’ve read some of the (often conflicting) information about nutrition out there, which designated which foods “should” be either sought out or avoided. Even the term “clean eating” implies foods that don’t make the cut are unclean or “dirty.”

Many think that creating and maintaining constructs around food can set us up to make healthier choices. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Here are 5 reasons why no food is “good” or “bad” and labeling food in that way can be harmful:

1. Labeling leads to shame and guilt if we eat “bad” foods.

By thinking of food as good versus bad, we set ourselves up for feeling either obedient or guilty based on what we eat. While this may seem benign when we’re eating only the foods that have been deemed virtuous, it invites feelings of shame and guilt whenever we perceive that we’ve veered into the naughty zone. Guilt (or the avoidance thereof) may help a person stick to a diet in the short term. But eating and living based on guilt and avoidance is detrimental to mental health and wellbeing in the long run (and we know that diets don’t work anyway).

You are not “bad” because you ate french fries.

You are not “good” because you ate a salad.  

A person’s self-worth is not tied to what that person ate in a day. We are all inherently worthy of love and respect, regardless of what we eat. Labeling food as “bad” can lead us to cast the same moral judgment onto ourselves when we eat that food. That’s just one reason to let the labels go.

2. Labeling leads to fear even when eating “good” foods.

Even by eating only foods on our “good” list, we set our minds in a restrictive mode and live in a state of fear of doing something “bad” based on what we eat. It’s like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop; when the temptation will just be too much to say “no” to something “bad.” In contrast, finding food freedom means listening to our inner wisdom about what we want to eat and when; not leaving it up to labels and rules.

The notion that only “good” foods deserve to be eaten also conveys a message that eating must be justified and explained (i.e. food must be “good” to be eaten or a person should only eat if they eat “good” food). This is false. You deserve to eat when you’re hungry, and you are entitled to have a range of experiences with different foods whether or not someone deems them "good" for you. 

3. Labeling over-simplifies nutrition.

I think we can all agree there is a LOT of information about food and nutrition out there, but much of it is confusing and/or conflicting. Nutrition isn’t a simple matter of “good” and “bad." Research is constantly being done on the health implications of the consumption of certain foods. And foods can cause very different reactions in different people: The same food item may make one person feel awful and make another person feel awesome.

One thing is for certain: No food is “healthy” in isolation. No one food on its own provides all the nutrients we need. And any food can be unhealthy if consumed in excess. If a person were to eat nothing but kale (often deemed “good” or “clean”), that person would become sick and malnourished.

Balance is key.  Variety is essential.

Openness to trying new things, and discovering the range of foods that make you feel best (and continuing to be open to discovery) will allow you to establish confidence that you know what is best for your body.

4. Labeling gives away your power.

Who decides which foods are "good" and which are "bad"? These are often arbitrary labels given by an external source. By accepting these standards defined by someone else, we allow decisions about our health and wellness to occur outside of us.

No one knows what foods are going to make you feel great better than you do. Don’t give away your authority to make choices that will only impact you. It could be that a cupcake makes you feel joyful or makes you feel icky. It could even depend on the day. You are entitled to the freedom to make the decision that is right for you at the time.

5. Labeling assumes food has a purely utilitarian purpose.

Food is fuel. But it is also much more than that. Food can have cultural roots and family ties. It can evoke feelings, emotions, and memories. It is the common thread in many shared experiences.

Think of some of the foods that are often demonized. The “bad” label is commonly slapped on many celebratory foods or drinks: birthday cake, wedding cake, cocktails, champagne, Halloween candy. Now think of the occasions during which these items are typically available: birthday parties, weddings, holidays, celebrations. Probably NOT the time you want to be feeling shame and guilt around your choices!

Enjoy the moment. Let the labels go.

***

What are your beliefs about the relative merits of various foods?

How could you shift your perspective to make choices from a desire to nourish yourself rather than to control yourself or be "good"?

 

 

5 Tips to Maintain Health and Balance (and Not Worry About Weight) While Traveling

 
Tips for healthy travel. 

Do you love to travel and explore new places, but worry about it throwing you off your healthy routine? 

Maybe you stress out about gaining weight on a vacation or getting out of shape while you’re away?

From jetlag, to unfamiliar surroundings, to limited food options; even what is meant to be a relaxing vacation can also bring on some stress.

Traveling used to cause me a lot of weight-related anxiety. I would stress about where and when I would be able to work out, whether I could find food to fit my diet, and what getting off my routine would do to my weight. These thoughts detracted from my experiences. Big time. 

I recently returned from a two-week trip, and it made me thankful that I’ve found how to maintain balance (and my sanity) while traveling. By putting the following tips into practice, I am now able to avoid falling into the old trap of weight-related stresses, and actually be fully present during my experiences.

Here’s how to be sure that stress and weight concerns don’t compromise your travels:

1. Plan ahead... but not too much.

Make some basic plans to take care of your wellness-related needs while you’re away, but don’t go overboard or let rigid plans get in the way. 

If you’re the type of person who knows you need to get in a good workout to feel energized and on top of your game (like me), it just takes a little planning. For example, I’m a ClassPass member, so if the city I’m traveling to also has ClassPass, I might do a little research into the fitness studios I could visit for a good sweat sesh.

Here’s the trick, though: I’m not talking about traveling all the way across town, or going to classes at odd hours. If you’re spending too much time on your workout plans, making others wait on you, or missing experiences: you’re doing it wrong. If a class is nearby and fits into your schedule, great! If not, there are other options….

For instance, my most recent trip was not conducive to attending any classes nor did the hotels have on-site gyms. So instead, I planned to go for runs and also packed a couple resistance bands to do a bit of strength training. Resistance bands = lightweight and easy to pack (here's the kind I use). I even led a circuit training session on the beach since a couple family members wanted to join in! The only pieces of equipment necessary were the resistance bands I brought and a frisbee. Easy peasy.

Beach workout with resistance band: easy to pack!

Beach workout with resistance band: easy to pack!

I also spent time hiking or taking walks in each location to stay active. The best part about running, hiking, or walking is you can take in the new surroundings while you exercise. It’s the whole two birds, one stone thing: You’re having an immersive experience, seeing the sights, and working up a sweatbonus!  

Hiking in Ireland!

Hiking in Ireland!

Even if there's no opportunity to work out on your vaca, don't sweat it! You'll likely be more physically active than usual on your trip, and your fitness levels won't decline significantly in the span of a week or two (it usually takes a month or two to notice a real dip in strength and endurance). 

2. When in doubt, bring snacks.

Ever find yourself feeling famished in the middle of a flight where the only options are tiny packages of airline snacks? Yeah, me too. But those suckers aren’t that satisfying (even though I have a little bit of a thing for the Delta Biscoff cookies). 

Now, I bring a bag of snacks to stave off crazy hunger pangs. Here are a few of the snacks I like to pack:

  1. Justin’s All Natural Peanut Butter packs (this time, I put the peanut butter on celery sticks, and it was like a flashback to having ants on a log as a kid!)
  2. Kind bars or Larabars
  3. Raw almonds (or other nuts of your choosing)
  4. Rice chips
  5. Apples, Pears, Bananas (or any other fruit you prefer)

Snacks are also great to have in a pinch during the trip. For example, if you’re with a group who doesn’t want to eat yet or you have to wait for a dinner reservation but you’re already hungry: snacks to the rescue!

If you aren’t able to bring your own snacks and you think you might want to order something on your flight, do it early! I’ve found many flights sell out of the best food items pretty early on. If you wait until you’re starving later, your only options may be a can of Pringles or the aforementioned tiny packages.

3. Embrace once-in-a-lifetime tasting opportunities. 

Is the location you’re visiting known for a certain food or beverage? I was just in Ireland and (of course) HAD to try fish and chips and draft Guinness straight from the source! The same went for pasta when I was in Rome during my honeymoon. Because these were once in a lifetime opportunities to have the best of the best, I went for it and enjoyed every second of it (even though I know fried foods and pasta can make me feel lethargic, and so don’t eat them frequently).  

When in Ireland...

When in Ireland...

The key to making these choices without regretting them after the fact is to be fully present during the meal, eat it slowly, and savor every bite. There’s a big difference between relishing a piece of pizza in Italy and wolfing down a slice of Domino’s mindlessly. 

4. Say no to the scale. 

Do not. I repeat, do not, weigh yourself before and after the trip (better yet, don’t weigh yourself ever).

First, it's practically impossible for a person to gain weight over the length of most vacations. And, even if you do gain some weight during your travels, it it likely retained water from traveling, or weight that your body will drop naturally when back to your normal life. Weighing yourself is dangerous because an increased number could set you up for wanting to "repent" for your actions on the trip, when your body would otherwise just re-adjust on its own. It could also lead to looking back on your trip with regret rather than appreciation. Just don’t go down that path. 

5. Take time to be still.

Time can seem to fly by while traveling. Whether you’re having the time of your life or feeling overwhelmed, taking a moment to steer yourself into the present moment can make all the difference. If you catch yourself losing track of time, stop where you are, take some deep breaths, and try to take in everything you can with your senses: the sights, smells, and emotions brought on by where you are. Store the intricacies of the present moment in your memory. You'll be glad you did.

xx K

If you're looking for more support in implementing healthy habits into your life and seeking greater balance and a heightened sense of wellbeing: Let's find time to connect! Click here to book a complimentary strategy session with me. I can't wait to meet you!

 

What is a Wellness Coach? (Answered!)

 

One question I get asked quite frequently is: what exactly do you do as a wellness coach?

Fair enough. Wellness coaching is a relatively new field, and there is a LOT of variety in coaching styles. So I wanted to shed some light on the topic!

Note: I am speaking solely from my own perspective here as I break down my own personal approach to wellness coaching.

What is the purpose of coaching?

You know those days you just feel “blah”? Or when you feel an internal pull toward something different; something more? You know something in your life needs to change, but you can’t quite put your finger on what. Or maybe you have pinpointed the “what” but you’re having trouble with the “how.” You’ve tried different methods for self-development, but nothing sparked real change.

When there’s a gap between where you are now and where you want to be, that’s where a coach comes in. Depending on your specific goals, it could be a life coach, a career coach, a lifestyle coach, or a health & wellness coach. Coaches inspire, guide, and encourage clients to face their life challenges and live to their fullest potential.

Now on to wellness coaches specifically...

What does a health & wellness coach do?

As a health & wellness coach, I support clients in making changes that make them feel their best while optimizing their well-being. I take a client-centered and holistic approach that can cover fitness, eating & nutrition, mindfulness, mindset, stress management, and/or self-care practices (among other things), depending on where the client needs support.

Within the coaching relationship, I’ll provide you with education on health-related topics, cultivate a safe space for you to explore your deepest desires, help you work through the obstacles holding you back, and hold you accountable while simultaneously acting as your personal cheerleader.

The end goal is to help you discover how to get the most out of your life while empowering you with the tools necessary to keep moving forward.

Who do you work with?

I work primarily with women seeking greater body confidence, self-love, and balance in their lives. While I am qualified to coach anyone, my unique perspective, expertise, and experience are particularly well-suited for this type of client.

If you can identify with any of the following statements, I’ve been there, and I would love to help:

  • You’re suffering from a case of the “blahs” or you feel exhausted and stressed most days.

  • You feel lost when it comes to fitness and nutrition and you don’t have the time to sort through all the conflicting information out there.

  • You have a nasty inner mean girl telling you that you should just be able to stick to a diet and whip yourself into shape.

  • You hate working out, but you feel like you “should” do it to “burn off” calories.

  • You’ve been on and off the emotional eating roller coaster. This may include eating frosting out of the jar with a spoon or downing an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s and feeling disgusted with yourself after the fact. (Yep, I’ve been there. Many times.)

  • You have anxiety about what eating certain foods might do to your body.

  • Your strict diet or dedication to eating “clean” make it difficult to eat out at a restaurant or do anything that will throw you off your routine.

  • You’ve given up on fitness because you think it’s just not for you.

  • You find yourself comparing your body to everyone else’s.

  • You have a difficult time discerning when you’re full, and often eat to the point of feeling sick. It’s either that or you have to stop before you feel satisfied.

I’ve been to the extremes on both ends: from extreme binge eating to severe restriction, from a completely sedentary lifestyle to working out hardcore in an effort to lose weight. As a coach, I want to help you find balance in the in between: to love your body without focusing on what you want to change, to eat what makes you feel nourished without rigid rules, and to embrace movement & fitness because it feels good and is awesome for your mind and body.

What does your coaching entail?

I start all of my coaching relationships with a 30-minute Discovery Call to get to know the potential client, find out if we are a good fit, and ensure I can help address the potential client’s needs. This initial call is totally complimentary and obligation-free, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

I’ll help you identify your sticking points.

As we move forward, we’ll dive into your vision for the future and explore what might be holding you back. What is keeping you from living your best life? I believe every change begins with awareness (you can’t squarely address an issue you don’t even know exists!). As your coach, and both an outsider and a confidante, I am uniquely positioned to help you see the big picture and separate the forest from the trees. While family and friends can be huge sources of support, they’re not always able to offer expertise, undivided attention, or an unbiased viewpoint.

I’ll help you shift out of the mindsets that are keeping you “stuck."

If there’s a gap between how you want to be feeling and your current frame of mind, there may be some internal barriers holding you back. Often times, it is what goes on in our heads that keeps us stagnant (our negative internal chatter or inner “mean girl”). Whether it be a belief about your body, food, fitness, or another aspect of living a balanced life, my goal is to help you put self-limiting beliefs to rest and develop new, supportive ways of thinking.

I’ll keep you accountable.

Change is difficult: it can feel uncomfortable and scary. It’s easy to fall back into old habits when no one is watching. As a coach, I am there for you every step of the way to help you stay on track. There are no mistakes, only experiments. So even if you feel you’ve gotten off track, I’m there to support you, explore why things didn’t go as planned, and encourage you to move forward.

I’ll show you how to get in touch with your body and to eat and move in ways that feel right for you.

I don’t believe in diets or weight loss programs (see here for some reasons why). I encourage you to be wary of any one-size-fits-all approach. Because every body is unique, every person has individualized needs when it comes to nutrition, fitness, and eating habits.

The problem is that we’ve been exposed to strong and conflicting viewpoints as to what our bodies “should” look like and what we “should” eat and do. Many of us completely lose touch with our ability to appreciate when we’re hungry, when we’re full, or what our body needs. I help you cut through all the BS out there and focus on what is right for YOU. You’ll get back in tune with your body and learn how to adjust your attitude toward food and fitness so you feel at your best.

I give you actionable steps and tools for moving forward.

I’ll share with you the exact practices that helped me cultivate a sense of inner peace and balance after years of feeling at war with my body and mind. I’ll also develop homework and exercises specific to your unique challenges and concerns. 

Now for what my coaching is NOT:

It is not a diet disguised as a “non-diet” (like so many diets masquerading as “lifestyle changes”). As part of my coaching, I give you license to eat whatever you want (no food is off limits!). You’ll learn how to to get in touch with yourself and generally come to seek out the foods that make you feel good and nourished.

It is not a “quick fix.” The coaching relationship requires you to be honest with yourself, and willing to dive in and explore what has been holding you back. If you’re looking for a band-aid that doesn’t involve any commitment or work on your end, coaching is not what you’re after!

* * *

Are you sick of feeling stuck and ready to commit to real change?  It would be my honor to help you:

  • shift your mindset from one of self-criticism to one of self-love;

  • see radical improvements in your life balance and peace of mind; and

  • love how you look and, more importantly, how you feel.

I am opening up space for 3 more private coaching clients starting October 1, 2016. If you’re interested in snagging a spot, sign up for a free, 30-minute consultation with me here. I can’t wait to get to know you!

 

 

How to Ditch Dieting and Find Your Ideal Weight: The Top 5 Questions Keeping You Stuck

 

Here it is: The fourth and final post in this series exploring how to get out of a diet and deprivation mindset and find your body’s ideal weight without restriction.

These topics are near and dear to my heart, and I sincerely hope you found the last three posts informative and uplifting.

We covered:

Have lingering questions?

To conclude, I’ll take on the top five inquiries I’ve encountered that keep people stuck in the diet cycle: fearing certain foods, terrified of gaining weight, judging what they eat, and doing things just because they think they “should” but not feeling satisfied.  (If you have questions of your own, don’t hesitate to ask!)

1. In light of all this anti-diet information, why are diets still promoted?

Because money is powerful, my friend. The weight loss industry is valued around $60 BILLION. That gives them a lot of financial weight to throw around to make you feel inadequate and to upsell their products as the solution. Not only that, weight loss and pharmaceutical companies have been devoting a lot of money to lobbying efforts influencing policy: the weight loss message runs deep. The perfect storm occurs when we are exposed to an “ideal” in the media, our insecurities are exploited, and then we are promised the “solution” in the form of weight loss or some other body alteration.

Here’s the sad truth: no one else profits monetarily from your self-love. You don’t see tons of advertisements telling you to accept yourself as you are because then, no one gets paid.

2. But don’t doctors recommend dieting and weight loss for "overweight" patients?

Yes, but one must also consider the paucity of education physicians receive in nutrition. The majority of medical schools do not require aspiring doctors to take any special courses in nutrition, and practicing physicians often express concern that their nutrition knowledge is insufficient

It may be out of this ignorance that doctors continue to prescribe dieting for weight loss and we continue to be told that being "overweight" itself is a “health concern.” More and more evidence points to the conclusion that weight alone is not a reliable indicator of health. In fact, a number of studies show the lowest mortality rates among people whose body mass index (BMI) puts them in the “overweight” and “mildly obese” categories. (Don't even get me started on the limitations of BMI calculations...) “Overweight” people generally live longer than “normal” weight people, and the lowest life expectancy is among those defined as “underweight.” And certainly a bigger “health concern” is the effect of yo-yo dieting, which can play a role in heart disease, insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), higher blood pressure, inflammation, and, ironically, long-term weight gain.

3. Don’t people become fat by overeating? And can’t they become thin by eating less?

It’s not that simple. In fact, many studies show that large people, on average, eat no more than thin people. (Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size). It’s simply that some people are genetically predisposed to store fat while others metabolize calories more efficiently.

If someone has put on weight by binge eating or emotional eating, dieting is certainly not the solution. Rather, that person’s relationship with food and other emotional concerns need to be addressed first, and her or his eating habits will hopefully become more natural and intuitive through the healing process.

4. By tuning into your body’s hunger cues and gravitating toward whole foods, aren’t you just subscribing to another type of “diet.”

Nope. While eating the foods that feel best for your body may cause you to seek out foods prescribed by one diet or another, this way of eating will be coming from a different place. You’re listening to your body, not the mandate of an external authority on what foods are best. And, because you’re making choices that make you feel good, you’ll actually enjoy and sustain this pattern of eating.

The best part? There are no hard and fast rules here! No particular food is off-limits. There is no need to secretly binge on Ben & Jerry’s with the lights off because you can eat as much as your body is craving.

5. Doesn’t being "overweight" or "obese" lead to [insert diseases]?

The causal link between "obesity" and various diseases has been exaggerated. “Many ‘obese’ people are healthy and don’t suffer from the diseases that we tend to blame on weight, and a considerable proportion of ‘normal weight’ people are prone to the cardiac and metabolic abnormalities that we blame on obesity.” (Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size).

It is more likely that the diseases we blame on "obesity" stem from poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or chronic stress. These factors may also cause some (but not all) people to gain weight. In other words, weight gain is likely a symptom of other causes that lead to the diseases we’ve associated with obesity. So it's those causes that should be addressed, rather than focusing on weight.

Again, dieting is not the solution: studies have failed to link weight loss to improved cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood glucose levels. For example, a review of multiple weight loss studies “examine[d] whether weight-loss diets lead to improved cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose” and concluded: “Across all studies, there were minimal improvements in these health outcomes, and none of these correlated with weight change.”

Using size as a proxy for health is a lazy and inaccurate approach that causes larger people to suffer social oppression and body shaming for no legitimate reason.

Let’s get a little more accurate for everyone’s benefit, shall we?

*  *  *

Now you may know all these things intellectually...

But when you truly embrace and live out a life free from dieting and restriction, you can start to get on with your life.

When you stop focusing on weight loss, you create space to find your ideal weight.

Let me show you how.  

Through my 1:1 coaching, I can help you:

  • Break negative thought patterns keeping you stuck in the same defeating cycles of restricting and overeating.

  • Start to love the foods that love you back: those that make you feel energized and allow you to function optimally.

  • Stop tying your self-worth to your physical appearance or eating habits.

  • Learn to embrace physical activity (which is far more crucial to longevity and well-being than your size), and move your body from a place of self-love not punishment.

  • Make health-promoting lifestyle changes because you want to, not because you “should.”

  • Find and maintain the weight that is optimal for your unique makeup.

Want to learn more about how I can best support you? Let’s find some time to chat! Click here to book a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call with me.

 

 

How to Ditch Dieting and Find Your Ideal Weight (Part Three)

 

You now know that dieting can be detrimental to your wellbeing and hell, diets don’t work anyway!

We’re now on part three of this series devoted to letting go of the diet cycle and finding the weight that is right for your unique self. A brief run-down if you missed the first two posts:

STEP ONE: Get the Facts.

There’s a fact pivotal to weight management that I find few people know about: the concept of “set point.”

Every person's body is pre-programmed to stay within a certain weight range (known as that person's set point). Your body is constantly working to defend your set point, in large part to protect you from starvation. This was great news for our hunter-gatherer ancestors who were unable to plan where their next meal would come from. No food for a day? No problem: the body would just slow down its processes and use as little energy as possible. Dieting mimics starvation, triggering the same reaction (slowed metabolism, increased fat storage,etc.). So if you’re on a diet and trying to drag your weight below your set point range, your body is going fight against the weight loss you’re going through misery to achieve. This is likely why more than 95% of dieters gain back any weight lost within five years. Not to mention that dieting can wreak complete havoc on your mental state. 

Not. Worth. It.

So what is your unique “set point”? If you can, think back to a time before you put your body through various diets; a time you were physically active and ate a balanced diet. Your weight naturally hovered around a certain number, right? Voila, that’s probably your set point!

But maybe you can’t remember a time you were diet-free. Or maybe you’ve spent a long time living a sedentary lifestyle or subsisting on fast food and Coke (no judgies, I’ve been there), so it’s impossible to discern what your natural set point might be. Sustained unhealthy lifestyle choices, as well as a pattern of yo-yo dieting, can certainly cause a person’s body weight to get out of whack. But you can get your weight back to where is supposed to be through Step Two!

STEP TWO: Tune into Yourself.  

Respect your hunger signals, move your body, identify and seek out the foods that are nourishing and make you feel good, and let go of trying to control everything. Discovering how to eat and move intuitively and with your highest self in mind will lead you to your natural, ideal weight (and if you need help with this discovery process, I would love to support you!).

Now let’s address the elephant in the room:

What if your set point is troublesome to you? What if you can’t seem to come to terms with the size your body wants to be: you think you should be smaller? Even if you have an intellectual understanding that diets don’t work, it can be difficult to give up attachment to a goal weight that your body just isn’t meant to sustain. How do you get past this point?

STEP THREE: Challenge Societal Standards & Create Your Own Values

First, don’t beat up on yourself if you’ve internalized the thin ideal: it is completely understandable in our size-obsessed culture where we are constantly fed the myth that our worthiness is dependent on the lightness of our being.

The link between thin and all other good things is ubiquitous. We rarely see anything else. Think about the body sizes you have been exposed through in media depictions that are supposed to mimic real life (movies, TV shows, etc.): There is a glaring absence of body diversity in the stories we see. And the less conventionally attractive characters we do see are usually there playing a side role or for comedic effect, not in the leading role. [Edit: I tried to find a stock photo depicting diverse body types to accompany this blog post and was hard-pressed to do so, reinforcing my own point!].

In real life not everyone has a body that is meant to be super lean, and that is more than okay.

Why do we accept society’s skewed standards and try to change ourselves with diets and “detox cleanses” and exercises we hate instead of challenging the unrealistic ideal? Rather than seeing diets for what they are (deprivation and misery with a failure rate over 95%), we construe the failure of our diets as evidence of a personal failure, reinforcing the belief that we are unworthy.

It’s time to say enough.

You can be a champion for body acceptance by taking on a new outlook where you refuse to measure your worth by your waistline.

It starts with accepting yourself entirelyyour body includedwhere you are right now.

If this seems too hard, know that I’m not asking you to be head over heels in love with your body all of a sudden. Perhaps there is an aspect of yourself you absolutely despise right now. That’s ok! You just need to be open to making peace with those feelings and not letting your body image demons control your life.

It's a process. I certainly still have days where I catch my own reflection, take note of a wrinkle, or tummy roll, or a varicose vein and think: “man, that isn’t ideal.” But the difference is that these thoughts no longer ruin my day like they used to. I now know how to snap myself out of the negativity and get on with life.

Life doesn’t begin five pounds from now. It’s already happening. While you’re obsessing over wishing you were thinner or wanting to change your [insert body part], the world is still spinning.

Only by accepting where you are now, can you make the most of the time you have on this earth.

The world needs more of you. You have something special and unique to offer (something no one else has), and you’re depriving everyone of that magic if you’re obsessing over your weight instead!

You are so much more than your body. Your unique perspective, kindness, integrity, courage, authenticity: these things mean so much more than whether you wear a size 2.

Societal standards be damned: you can define your own worth.

And baby, you are worthy.

Want to continue on this journey? My Three Steps to Spark Body Confidence mini-course will give you the first foundational steps to rocking a body you love. You’ll learn what to do when body-conscious thoughts arise, how to how to stop those self-sabotaging thoughts in their tracks, and a new way to view your body in a positive light: through a lens of gratitude and appreciation. Click here to find out more.

 

 

How to Ditch Dieting and Find Your Ideal Weight (Part Two)

 

Looking to end the defeating diet cycle and find your ideal weight without deprivation?

If you read Part One in this series, you now have some insight into why dieting can make a person feel kind of awful, both physically and mentally (if you didn’t read last week’s post, catch it here). Our bodies do not respond well to deprivation, and limiting our caloric intake can lead to obsessing about food, binge eating when food is available, social isolation, and even depression.

Now what if I told you diets don’t work anyway? You’d be pretty mad right? If you experienced any of the above-mentioned misery, it would be quite infuriating to be told it was for naught. When I look back at the grief I caused myself to be X pounds lighter or to try to address [insert perceived “issue” with my body], it makes me pretty sad and, frankly, pissed off. 

So go ahead, get angry. Because I’m telling the truth: Diets don’t work in the long term.

If they did, why would we be sold so many of them? Why would we try one, have it fail us, then be told the next one is the answer? Don’t you think we would have gotten to the bottom of what "works" by now?  

“Not one study has ever shown that diets produce long-term weight loss for any but a tiny number of dieters. Not one.”  (Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size)

The key is in the phrase “long term.” Sure you can lose weight for a few months by restricting your calorie intake and exercising like a maniac (shows like “The Biggest Loser” exploit this potential). But it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to keep the weight off through dieting. The statistics don’t lie: Somewhere between 95%-97% of dieters gain back any weight they lost on their diets within five years, and often gain back more. 

Why don’t diets work?

Here’s a fact that is hard for many people to digest (it was for me at first): Your body is essentially pre-programmed to live at a certain size, known as your “set point.” Some people are biologically prone to live in bigger bodies while others have naturally smaller frames. No one questions that humans fall on a spectrum of height (some are shorter, some taller) due to factors outside our control. The same principal applies to weight: There is a weight range that is natural for your body given your unique genetic makeup, bone structure, hormones, metabolism, and other factors.

Your body fights to defend its natural size: If your weight gets below your set point range, your body is going to do everything in its power to try to get it back, including by slowing your metabolism, increasing your hunger cravings (especially for high-calorie foods), and decreasing your desire to be physically active. On the flip side, if your weight moves above your set point, your metabolism revs up and you may feel an urge to get moving.

That said, your body has a much stronger drive to hold onto weight than it does to let it go. This is because there is an evolutionary advantage to storing fat (to protect against famine or times of starvation), but there is not as strong of a benefit to being lean. (If you’ve ever wondered why it seems so much easier to gain weight than to lose it, now you know!)

The concept of set point impacts the “success” of dieting: As soon as your body weight dips below your set point range, your body starts fighting like hell to get back there. But this is a good thing: Your body is working properly to protect you and make sure you survive!

Now, all of this information is not to say that your current weight is necessarily your body’s “ideal” weight or set point. Our bodies (and our body weight) can get totally out of whack through unhealthy eating patterns, a diet of processed “food” lacking in nutrients, a sedentary lifestyle, or by—you guessed it—dieting.

Finding and maintaining the weight that is right for you can be done, and you can get there.  

That brings us to Step Two: Tune into your body.

By listening to your body, respecting its hunger and fullness signals, and identifying foods that make you feel good, you’ll be on target to find your body’s ideal weight without dieting.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially if you can’t remember the last time you let yourself eat whatever you wanted without feeling guilty. Do you sometimes eat until you’re practically sick, feeling too stuffed to move? I can relate, and that is a classic symptom that you are out of touch with your body’s signals.

So how do you tune back in? Let’s start with an action step:

This week, take note of when you feel the desire to eat. Ask yourself: do you want to eat because you are hungry? Or is the desire to eat linked to experiencing an emotion (stress, boredom, sadness, etc.)?

If you’re hungry, honor that biological urge! Stop fighting your hunger signals and trust your body to tell you what it needs.

Remember: it’s a process. But the good thing is, you don’t need to go through it alone! As a health and wellness coach, I specialize in helping those who have lost touch with their bodies to tune into what they need. I would love to support you as you embark on your diet-free life.

Want to learn more about how I can best support you? Click here to book a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call, and let's chat!

 

 

How to Ditch Dieting and Find Your Ideal Weight (Part One)

 
How to ditch dieting and find your ideal weight (step one): Get educated about how the body responds to food, eating, hunger and deprivation.

Diets are bullsh*t. (Pardon my French.) 

I know that now, but I didn’t always have the inside scoop. There was a time I thought that weight loss should be “easy” or a matter of simple math: consume fewer calories than you burn, right? As a kid, it seemed like women were either on a diet or had the mindset that a diet was the answer to hitting a goal weight. It took a long time to uncover how flawed this manner of thinking was.

Countless studies point to the conclusion that we can’t control our weight through willpower and deprivation.

No wonder my experiences with dieting made me feel so coo-coo and defeated.

I’m currently re-reading Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon and it is re-igniting my anger about common misconceptions around dieting. But on a more productive note, this information fuels my desire to support others impacted by the diet myth. It is my great hope that by sharing my struggle with food and body image and breaking down how I was ultimately able to reconnect with my body and find peace in my skin, I might be able to connect with other women facing the same issues.

I want to share the things I’ve learned with you: how I got out of a diet and deprivation mindset for good and how my body settled at its ideal weight without dieting.

Step One: Get the Facts.

Seek real information about how your body responds to hunger, eating, and deprivation. Learn why diets don’t work.

I first started to gain essential knowledge about human biology as it relates to food and nutrition while partially hospitalized for an eating disorder. I wonder why it had to get to that point? Why was it so difficult to find real, straightforward information about these topics outside of a clinical setting? Instead we are inundated with diets and weight loss programs and products and methods promising the next “fix” but never delivering on the promise. Where do we find real information about health, weight, and nutrition?

In the next few posts, I will share some information that was particularly instrumental in healing my relationship with my body and food. I’ll also point you to resources for your continuing education.

The first big “aha!” moment in my journey came from learning about the “Minnesota Starvation Experiment” conducted by Ancel Keys in the 1940s. 

A brief backstory on the experiment:

At the end of World War II, amidst reports of starving populations in war-torn countries, Keys’ study was aimed at examining the physical and psychological effects of a prolonged restricted diet. The participants were 36 physically and psychologically healthy adult men ranging from 22 to 33 years old. During the first three months of the study, the subjects ate normally and their behaviors were observed. The subjects then moved into the six-month “semi-starvation” phase of the study, during which the men were placed on a restricted diet of 1560 calories a day. (Note the number of calories these men were consuming daily was similar to what is prescribed by many diets, and it was classified as “semi-starvation”!)

Beyond the physical effects of the diet (including decreased basal metabolic rate, reduction in strength, loss of coordination, and the inability to tolerate cold), its psychological ramifications were profound.

Many of the men became absolutely obsessed with food: they dreamt about food, fantasized about food, talked about food incessantly, read about food in their spare time. It was difficult for them to sustain conversations that did not revolve around food or to concentrate on their usual activities. About half of the subjects began compulsively collecting recipes, cookbooks, or kitchen utensils. (“Stayed up until 5:00 A.M. studying cookbooks,” wrote one participant.)

A number of the participants experienced depression (“I just don’t have any desire to do the things I should do or the things I want to do.”), fatigue (“This week of starvation found me completely tired practically every day.”), as well as social withdrawal and isolation. “They were not interested in the ideas or activities of others, except as they were related to food-getting activities," observed a researcher. Few participants were able to continue romantic relationships throughout the experiment, and many found themselves disdainful toward those who were able to eat at will.

During meals, the subjects took on strange ritualized behaviors like licking their plates, playing with their food, making odd concoctions, diluting food with water so it would last longer, or holding bites in their mouths for a prolonged period of time. Many experienced increased irritability, especially annoyed at the strange behaviors of others around food. One annoyed subject wrote about others: "They would coddle [food] like a baby or handle it and look over it as they would some gold. They played with it like kids making mud pies."

Some subjects chewed up to 30 packs of gum a day or drank excessive amounts of water, coffee, or tea desperately seeking the sensation of fullness. A couple men secretly binged on sundaes, cookies, or candies, then felt disgusted with themselves after the fact. At least one subject engaged in an act of self-mutilation, amputating three of his fingers with an axe. He later stated: “I admit to being crazy mixed up at the time . . . I am not ready to say I did it on purpose. I am not ready to say I didn't.”

After the starvation period, the men went through a three-month period of rehabilitation, during which their caloric consumption was gradually increased. The psychological state of some men continued to decline during rehabilitation. Many were no longer able to behave “normally” around food, often engaging in extreme overeating to the point of sickness. They had lost their ability to perceive internal hunger and fullness cues. For some, this persisted up to eight months after the experiment had concluded.

These findings have important implications for dieting.

Here’s a thought exercise for emphasis:

  1. Consider that the “semi-starvation” diet imposed in Minnesota Starvation Study experiment is strikingly similar to many diets promoted and adopted today in terms of caloric intake. (WebMD defines a “low-calorie diet . . . usually used to achieve weight loss” as “reducing calorie intake to 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for men.”) 
     
  2. Now, if you’ve been on a diet, ask yourself if you experienced any effects that were similar to the symptoms exhibited by participants in the study:
  • Obsessing about food?

  • Thinking about nothing except when, where, and what you’ll able to eat next?

  • Neglecting relationships?

  • Constantly working food or your diet into conversations?

  • Lack of energy?

  • Losing interest in things other than food?

  • Irritability?

  • Smoking, chewing gum, or drinking lots of water, coffee, or diet soda to distract yourself from hunger or to try to feel full?

  • Playing with your food or other eating habits to make your food "last longer"?

  • Overeating, then feeling disgusted with yourself for overeating?

  • Never feeling satisfied or the inability to discern when you are full?

  • The sensation that you’re not really living, just waiting until when the diet is over?

It’s not you, it’s the diet.

Depriving ourselves of food can change us, and not for the better. If the Minnesota Starvation Study teaches us anything about dieting, it is that we probably cannot restrict calories without experiencing physical, mental, and social side effects.

Is the diet really worth the sacrifice?

Spoiler alert: Probably not.  

Next week I’ll explore some of the reasons diets don’t work and what you should do instead... 

If you’ve been burned by the diet myth and want to find a healthy way to love your body without dieting, I would love to support you. Click here to book a FREE, 30-minute discovery call and get started on your diet-free life! 

 

 

Seven Reasons You Should Cut Comparison and Mind Your Own Body Business

 
"Comparison is the thief of joy"

You know that comparing yourself to others is “bad.” Perhaps you’ve pinpointed that comparing your physique to another person’s leaves you feeling like crap and distracts you from experiencing gratitude for the body you have. 

Even knowing these things, it can be exceedingly difficult to remove ourselves from the comparison game. We have an instinctual drive to want to define ourselves in relation to others. In addition, social media gives us an endless stream of material for comparing our looks to others. 

In last week’s blog post, I explored one reason why (even brief) exposure to idealized images in the media can be harmful to our body image (more on that here). I proposed we use August to clear our lives of images that drive comparison.

Have you purged your social media feeds of this material yet?

Apart from making you feel shitty about yourself, here are seven compelling reasons you should try to retire from the practice of comparison for good and mind your own body business.

1.  Comparison takes you out of the present moment.

The present is all we know we have; the only time we are guaranteed on this earth. Do you really want to spend those precious moments worried about how your body matches up with someone else’s?

If you’re beating yourself up for how you look comparatively, you’re living in the past, likely fretting about what you ate or how you spent your time up until this point. (This script goes: “If only I had the willpower to get up at [fill in the ungodly hour] to work out every day, I could look like that too...”)

In contrast, if you’re worried about how you’re going to meet a beauty standard set by someone else, I bet you’re jumping into the future, creating mental lists and plans for how you “should” be living. (“I swear I’m going to start waking up at the buttcrack of dawn to run, starting tomorrow… “). By spending your time looking outside of yourself for targets and goals, you miss out on the here and now.

Do you ever look at old pictures of yourself and think: “Wow I looked great, what was I so worried about?” Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell a former version of myself to RELAX. I wasted so much time worrying about nothing.

All you can do is appreciate where you are right now.

2. Comparison robs you of memories.

To this day, I have vivid memories of being around family members or friends while stuck in a spiral of comparison. I was not able to enjoy this time with others (and I’m sure I wasn’t a bundle of laughs to be around either) because I couldn’t snap myself out of the negativity brought on by comparative thinking. I can’t get that time back.

During one particularly bad episode while I was in high school, I recall being at an amusement park (Cedar Point, aka “America’s Roller Coast,” for those of you who are familiar) with friends. This was a day that should have been full of fun, sun, rides, and fries, but I spent the entire day fixated on how unattractive I felt. Literally the whole day. I looked at every other female in that park through a lens of comparison (I’m bigger than her, she’s so much cuter than me, I could never pull off that outfit, etc.). I don’t recall any conversations with friends that day. Not a single one. That day (among many others in that phase of my life) was ruined by comparison

3. In comparing, you limit yourself.

By comparing yourself to someone else, you fail to honor that your body is unique and the only expression of you in this world. So much beauty lies in differences: why should we all strive to fit the same plastic mold we are told is “ideal”?  

4. Comparison is counterproductive.

Some people turn to “fitspo” or “thinspiration” as a means of defining a goal, but this behavior is often more detrimental than it is helpful to goal-setting. Since comparison typically brings on negative emotional states (feelings of inadequacy and insecurity), achievement of goals is hampered. Don’t you think you’d be more likely to go on that run if you’re feeling good about your body and its capabilities rather than hating on yourself? So stop looking outside yourself for motivation, and show yourself some love instead.

5. Comparison ignores the big picture.

By comparing yourself to someone else, you are judging yourself based on a superficial understanding of another person’s life. You fail to acknowledge that you know nothing of the other person’s struggles and sacrifices.

Often, if we experience envy of another person’s body, it is not just that person’s physical form we are after. It is what we imagine comes with that body; what we imagine that person thinks and feels because of how they look. We assume that physical attractiveness (whatever that might mean in the context) equates with a better life, greater success, and more positive state of mind. But that is not necessarily the case. The person whose body you are coveting may be miserable; trapped in a comparison game of her own. It’s impossible to know for sure.

6. Comparison is a losing game.

There will always be someone more [fill in the blank]. Keep chasing that carrot and you will never be satisfied.

7. Comparison says more about YOU than the other person.

Using someone else’s looks as a measuring stick for your own pride can be just as harmful as looking at another through a lens of envy. While you may get a temporary boost by thinking you look “better” than someone else, ultimately your self-worth is hinging on the perceived disadvantage of another person. If you’re judging someone else’s body as less worthy than your own, it’s time to ask yourself why.

What are you afraid of? What is threatening about the other person’s body? Why do you feel the need to judge the way the other person is showing up in the world? Are you making assumptions about the other person’s lifestyle or “health” based on how they look? Where are these beliefs coming from?  

More often than not, judging another person based on her looks speaks volumes to our own fears and insecurities. For example, if I were to experience disdainful thoughts about an “overweight” person, I might want to examine (a) why I had formed a connection that being overweight is “bad” and (b) whether my snap judgment of that person stemmed from my own fears about my body.

Because if I truly felt good about myself and secure in my own skin, there would be no reason to be thinking nasty thoughts about someone else.

Do you find yourself getting stuck in the comparison trap when it comes to body image? Click below to download my cheat sheet for getting out of comparative mode quickly.

 

How A Couple Minutes Can Hurt Your Body Image

 
A New Study on Perception Calls For a Body Image Reset

Did you know that your perception of your body size can be altered in as little as two minutes?

Neither did I.

My mind was just blown by a recent study I read which examined the effect of exposure to different body sizes on self-perception (you can read about this Macquarie University study here).

In the first segment of the study, subjects were presented with images of bodies that had been digitally distorted to look thinner or larger than the true size of the people in the photos. Subjects were also shown similarly distorted images of their own bodies.

The effects were surprising and profound.

In both experiments, the subjects reported perceiving their own bodies as “abnormally fat” after they were shown images that had been contracted to look thinner. In other words, "being exposed to images of skinny people doesn't just make you feel bad about your own body size, which has been known for a while, it actually affects the perceptual mechanisms in your brain and makes you think you are bigger . . . than you really are,” said a co-author of the study.

And, even though the subjects were considered psychologically healthy individuals, their self-perception could be altered in as little as two minutes of exposure to the distorted images.  

This new evidence speaks volumes to how susceptible we may be to media images manipulating our self-image.  

It's no mystery that the average woman presented in the media is exponentially thinner than the average woman (the average model wears a size 00 to 0, while the average U.S. woman is between a 12 to 14). Not only that, media images are many times altered (photoshopped, "facetuned," what have you) to make the women depicted look even thinner than they are.

This new study suggests that exposure to these impossible creatures can make us perceive altered, ultra-thin body types as the new “normal."  

We then see our own unaltered bodies as “abnormal.”  

In as little as two minutes.

Just spend a couple minutes looking at certain magazines or social media accounts, and it’s like you’re looking at yourself through a distorted funhouse mirror.

If this is possible after only two minutes, think of the effect of a lifetime of exposure to distorted media images. 

Everything we think of as normal is really just the result of a lifetime of exposure and stimulation. 

Crazy, huh?

I propose we use the month of August to hit the "reset" button.

For the next 30 days, I challenge you to clear your life of images that may negatively influence your self-perception (to the extent this is within your control, of course). You know what that means...

Put the magazine down.

I know, I know. Those glossy pages. The cute outfit ideas. The fun little perfume samples. They catch your eye on the way out of the supermarket or at an airport convenience store.

I used to buy fashion or fitness magazines “just for fun.” But, trust me, the effect was not so fun... (more on that another time). Knowing what I know now, I would rather sit through a transcontinental flight twiddling my thumbs instead of subjecting myself to the crap in most magazines.

Read a book instead. And furthermore...

Chill out with the social media scrolling.

If you follow accounts that constantly offer up unrealistic images (I'm looking at you, "fitspo"), or users whose posts make your inner critic start yelling "why don’t my abs look like that?" or "I need to start eating zucchini strings instead of pasta," it is time to say goodbye (at least for now). 

Here are a handful of Instagram accounts that I follow instead. These body positive accounts will leave you feeling inspired rather than inadequate.

Replace your exposure to distorted, unrealistic images with positive messages of self-love for the rest of this month, and I bet you’ll feel a little more at peace in your own beautiful body by September.  

If you want to take your body confidence to the next level, sign up for my mini-course: Three Steps To Spark Body Confidence and Ditch Your Inner Mean Girl. It’s totally free and will teach you real, actionable steps to transform your relationship with your body. Click here to enroll.

 

 

How I Went From Couch Potato To Marathon Runner (And You Can, Too!)

 
Trust the process: my couch to marathon story.

It was a little bit of boredom; there was some loneliness in there, too. But mostly it was a startling realization that got me running:

If there ever came a time I needed to run for my life, I probably wouldn’t make it … YIKES!

A dark thought, for sure, but a natural one, given I had just moved hundreds of miles from home to a town where I didn’t know a soul. Regardless of why I thought it, it was a spark. And it was what I needed to get moving.

To be clear, I am not a natural athlete.

Growing up, I was the type of kid that hated—I mean, HATED—gym class. I was impossibly uncoordinated, and I had asthma that caused me to cough until I puked. Needless to say, I was picked dead last for nearly every team.

But, as I got older, I really wanted to be more athletic. I envied others who played sports or went to the gym, earning able bodies and lungs that didn’t feel like they might explode going up a flight of stairs.

So I joined the high school track team. And I. Was. TERRIBLE.

I stubbornly stuck it out the whole season, ending each embarrassing race several paces behind all the other runners. But after that season, I never went back. I decided I wasn’t built for “sports.” Even so, I thought I could go to the gym and get in shape! That’s what most people do, right?

I couldn’t get into that either. I saw the gym only once every blue moon. I would hop on the elliptical or treadmill for 20 minutes out of a sense of obligation, motivated only by a vague desire to “burn off” whatever I ate that day. But I dreaded it. Eventually, I just made peace with my sedentary existence. For years, I did little to no physical activity.

That is, until that moment when I realized I probably couldn’t run to save my own life. (Literally.) 

Now, I didn’t acquire a lot of street smarts growing up in the ‘burbs in Ohio, but I lived in New York City for a few years and gained a bit of know-how. But in NYC, I was used to being around other people all the time. Now, my new apartment (where I lived alone) was a few blocks from any major thoroughfare. One night that seemed particularly dark and creepy, I wondered what would happen if I need to make a dash for my door (sadly, as a woman, you have to think about these things). That train of thought didn't end well.... 

I knew it was time for a change.

I did some research on running and took a leap. Even though I had never moved more than a mile outside of a vehicle with an engine, I signed up for a 5K race. Admittedly, I was largely motivated by the promised beer garden at the finish line. Still, it felt like a big deal.

For the first few weeks of my training, I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. I feared this endeavor would end up like all my past physical pursuits—with me feeling like a failure.  

Until one day, it hit me: I had improved. I could run for more than 30 seconds! After consistent and gradual practice, my progress started to become more and more apparent. Almost as if it had never been difficult before, I could run for one mile. Then two. Then three.

And then I was running on race day—sailing into that beer garden at the finish line like it was the promised land.

 
Woo, where's my beer??  [My first 5K race]

Woo, where's my beer??  [My first 5K race]

 

Perhaps the most remarkable part of this journey was that I actually started to like running. I discovered that running can be cathartic. And meditative. And a celebration of being alive. At some unceremonious juncture, I stopped viewing running as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.  

So, I took on a 10K. Then a half marathon. Then another half marathon. And ultimately, the New York City Marathon.  

New York City Marathon

At an indiscernible moment, after continually putting one foot in front of the other, I—the self-professed non-athlete who formerly spent more time running into things than running anywhere—became a runner.

Of course, there were times during my training that I got off track. I loved french fries and wine, and some mornings it felt physically painful to get out of bed. But, I fought discouragement and the desire to give up. I realized I didn’t have to be a teetotalling vegan who springs out of bed singing at 5 AM to make a fitness transformation.

I still love french fries and I still love wine (and sometimes I still run into things), but I’m also an RRCA-certified running coach and I specialize in working with individuals who want to develop a new running habit, like I did, or those desiring to take an inconsistent running routine to the next level. I’m here to help you keep going—because if I can go from a couch potato to a marathon runner, I believe you can too.

You just might be shocked by the transformation you see. :)

Are you ready to start your personal fitness transformation? I’d love to support you on your way. Click here to schedule a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call with me, and let’s get started!

 

Getting in Shape Without Shame

 

I don’t feel at peace in my own skin.

Sometimes I’m hyper-focused on my (perceived) flaws and can’t seem to snap myself out of it. 

I can’t be fully present in the moment because I’m worried about whether my stomach is sticking out or if my cellulite is showing. 

I wish I exercised more frequently or made more balanced food choices, but I haven’t been able to stick with a healthy routine. 

Sound familiar?

It sure does to me. 

At one point in my life, I identified with these thoughts at least several times a day. 

At first, my pursuit of a healthy life was not, in fact, grounded in healthy desires. I had many body-focused demons to overcome before I could engage in a sustainably active and balanced lifestyle.  And unfortunately, I’m not the only one.

I’m just going to come out and say it: There is a bit of a dark side to the fitness industry. Many fitness professionals and enthusiasts put forth a message that is focused on physical appearance and aesthetics above all.   They try to capitalize on the vulnerability of women by inferring (or outright telling them) they need to be fixed.  This concept is reinforced by “fitspo” images of barely dressed women flaunting the “ideal” body type, by fitness instructors chanting that students should “think about how your butt is going to look,” and by truisms reciting that changing your body is just a matter of willpower. 

One of the fitness truisms I’ve come across many times is: “Think about why you started.”  The problem is most people are starting from the wrong place—a place fueled by self-loathing and focused on shallow results.

Don’t get me wrong — there is nothing inherently bad about appreciating the physical results of hard, healthy work. The problem arises when this is the primary motivator behind a love of fitness. The incentives are skewed, increasing the danger of unhealthy and disordered habits forming.

Given my own demons, I went through brief periods of pursuing fitness or altering my diet that were driven by vanity. In a past life, I tried working out because I wanted to “look good” (as defined by mainstream society). I dieted. I experienced disordered eating and a VERY negative body image. I compared myself to others. I internalized the “ideal” flouted by the media.

I was miserable.

And, in the end, I gave up. Every time. The pursuit of fitness motivated solely by physical appearance is largely unsustainable. It is a shallow motivator. It does not get to the core of why we do what we do.

Now, I want to run a little farther or faster than I did last time.

I want to pick up something heavier than I could manage before, or hold a pose that I once couldn’t sustain without shaking.

I want to feel boundless energy and the ability to conquer new things.

Today, I am driven to exercise by the appreciable benefits an active lifestyle brings to various facets of my life. For example, being active gives me more energy, helps me focus, and empowers me to achieve goals I never thought were within my reach. Before, I felt like I was going through life tired all the time. Now, I am energized by challenge and growth.

Sure, I also want to feel confident in a bathing suit.  But that confidence comes from within.

I became a wellness coach and personal trainer largely because I believe in an approach to exercise and eating that starts from a place of wholeness, not a place of inadequacy.  I believe we should seek healthy habits because we believe we are worthy of living our best lives, not because we already feel we are less than enough.  We shouldn’t be looking at our bodies as objects that need to be fixed, but rather as wonderful vehicles capable of doing great things.

It’s time to move beyond vanity-motivated fitness. It’s time to focus on wellness instead of our waistlines. And it’s time to be motivated by support, not shame.

Want to learn more about how I can best support you? Let’s find some time to chat! Click here to book a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call with me.