Lesson from back to school night: changing your habits is uncomfortable

Last night was back-to-school night at my youngest son’s high school. I was struck by what one of the chemistry instructors said. She said that a lot of what the kids were learning was new and that could be  “uncomfortable” She was using that feeling to describe what it’s like having to change your brain to learn new things.

There is something so perfect about the word “uncomfortable”

It’s not painful, it’s not impossible to overcome, it just often feels unpleasant.

And change is often uncomfortable

Whether it’s learning  chemistry or starting a new job, meeting new people or breaking habits like the nightly glass of wine eating popcorn at night in front of the television, change can be mighty unpleasant.

Good news…it will pass

Remember learning new things in school? Remember not getting concepts and then all of a sudden having an a-ha moment? Well, it’s the same with lifestyle changes.

Wait for your a-ha

I’ve heard all kinds of figures like 28 days, 21 days, 30 days, 6 weeks etc. as the time it takes to unlearn old habits and pick up new ones. I’m not sure if any of those are accurate or not but, what I do know is that you will eventually have your a-ha moment if you simply take action every day.

What to do

When you are working on making a change whether it’s a lifestyle change like starting an exercise program or changing your diet to lose weight or develop a new character trait, when you get that uncomfortable feeling remind yourself: I am feeling discomfort right now but this will pass (and I’ll feel so proud of myself later).

I promise it gets easier!

Sorry…no amount of alcohol is safe (and what to do with this info)

A recent study published in The Lancet (one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world) concluded that any small benefit of alcohol consumption is far outweighed by the potential harms including cancer (other risks include heart disease, diabetes, cirrhosis, TB, infections, not to mention alcohol poisoning and accidents).  The guideline published by the Chief Medical Officer of the UK stated that that there is “no safe level of alcohol consumption”. (Link to the article here)

So has this convinced you to completely stop drinking?

Maybe not but, consider this…

Why do you feel that you need to drink alcohol?

So often we open a beer or pour ourselves a glass of wine out of habit. Or, if we are in a social setting we automatically order a drink or accept one from a host. But why do we think we need to do this? If our host offered us something we never would consume (like a drug or a cigarette) we would refuse but what is it about the booze?

I think we believe that alcohol solves a lot of problems

We drink to feel less overwhelmed or to relax or to feel at comfortable in a social situation. Perhaps we drink to fit in.

What to do before you pour that drink:

  1. Give yourself at least a 2-3 minutes to pause before indulging. Remember, that drink will still be there in 2-3 minutes.
  2. Ask yourself: why do I think I need this? What is going to do for me?
  3. Alcohol acts as a buffer so what emotion or thought am I trying to get away from?
  4. What other ways might I relax and enjoy myself without the alcohol

My top 11 reasons to be mindful of using protein shakes for weight loss

#11 many of them have heavy metals and other toxins in in them (even the ones you buy at the health food store) including lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA, used to make plastic), pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions.

#10 They don’t really help with sustainable weight loss. Sure, if you reduce calories you might lose weight BUT what happens when you re-introduce food again?

#9 Many of the claims (e.g. this product will magically help you lose weight or build muscle) are extremely misleading and often times completely unproven.

#8 They typically contain sweeteners which can cause blood sugar issues.

#7 We tend to mix our protein powders with foods and beverages that might increase our blood sugar level (like fruit) or that we might be sensitive to (like milk) or that might be highly processed or sweetened (alternative milks).

#6 They can be expensive. Imagine how much REAL quality food you could buy with that $30, $40 or more that you spend on that powder.

#5 If you tend to rely on protein shakes, you might become deficient in vitamins and minerals you get from eating whole foods.

#4 Too much protein may strain the kidneys.

#3 They aren’t really that much more convenient. We think they are. It’s SO easy to prep a breakfast for instance in 15 minutes (or less) for the WHOLE week. See recipe here.

#2 We often use them as a way to combat our sweets cravings but we are just putting off dealing with our sweets urges.

#1 They are not REAL FOOD. I don’t care how natural/organic/super amazing/gourmet/local etc. the package says it is – it is PROCESSED food not a whole food.

I recommend that my clients eat real, unprocessed one ingredient (e.g. broccoli, avocado, eggs, chicken, salmon, etc.) most of the time but, if you want to have the occasional shake I recommend researching the brand very carefully and choosing a high-quality (I prefer plant-based) powder that does not contain sugar or fructose. Mix the powder with non-dairy milk (unsweetened) or water, some frozen or fresh greens and some (frozen or fresh) berries.


Stop judging the *&@# out of yourself

Are you not where you want to be in life, with your weight, with your relationships etc.? What are you doing about it? If you are like most people, you are sitting around comparing yourself to others or to your own expectations of yourself i.e. judging the HOLY CRAP out yourself.

Sorry but you can’t turn off your inner judge

We are wired to judge ourselves and others. That’s how we have stayed alive these millions of years as a species. But, without the daily existential threats that affected our hunter gatherer ancestors, we have turned our judgement internally often finding ourselves coming up short. I believe it is nearly impossible to completely stop judging yourself and, by extension, others. However there is one thing you can do…

Notice when you judge yourself

That’s it…just pay attention and then decide whether or not this judgment is serving your goals or not. If not, why hold on to your judgy thoughts? Instead…

Take action (because judgment is never a substitute for action.)

Take action every day to get to those dream goals. Do you you want to lose weight? Work on your nutrition. Do you want to change careers? Start taking action to make that happen.

Did you gain weight on your summer vacation? Don’t panic!

I recently returned from my summer vacation and, even though I was fairly careful with my food I had gained a few pounds. There was a glass of wine here, some cashews there, a bite of someone else’s pasta (my body loves to turn that pasta right into pounds). In the past I would have gone into FULL PANIC MODE. But, not this time because I have developed trust in myself and my body to return to its natural weight.

Why panic doesn’t work

When you go into panic mode after indulging for a night or a week or even a month your brain is filled with thoughts such as “I’ll never lose this weight again,” “I’m too old,” “this is hopeless.” etc. etc. These are stressful thoughts that lead to stressful emotions like hopelessness, fear, anxiety, despair or the ever popular thought “Screw it, I’ve gained weight I’m just gonna keep going.”

You may not be able stop yourself from these stressful thoughts

But you can fill your brain and heart with loving and encouraging messages such as “I trust myself to return to my natural weight” or “so, I made a mistake, I can restart my diet right now.”

You can’t change the past

And, it’s not even remotely useful to dwell on feelings of regret and guilt (can you think of one single time guilt drove you to feel or do better?). But you can affect the future. If you got off track a bit start over. So, instead of pressing the panic button, press the reset button. Every time you have a stressful thought such as “I can’t do this, it’s gone too far” remind yourself that you are resetting and staying committed to your nutrition plan until your get to your goals.

Afraid of gaining weight on vacation? Don’t be

Many of my clients tell me “I’m terrified of gaining weight on vacation.” They say every time they go on vacation, they gain weight and always regret it.

Is this you? Do you worry ahead of time about vacation weight gain only to have your fears come true?

Some of the beliefs that go into overindulging on vacation…

  1. We think that eating and drinking will enhance our experience. In reality it just dulls everything.
  2. We think that vacation is our one change to indulge. In reality we are GROWN ASS ADULTS who can indulge any time we like.
  3. We think it doesn’t “count.” But…your body doesn’t know if you are vacation, it just sees extra calories.
  4. We think we can deal with it when we get home. But, that vacation “let down” we feel is often because we put a lot of junk into our bodies and our feelings of emotional distress associated with the weight gain.
  5. We think we have to eat and drink as much as possible if we have purchased an all-inclusive vacation because we either don’t want to waste money. The truth is that that money is already spent whether or not you eat AND your body doesn’t care how much you spent it just sees extra calories.
  6. We think that if we worry about it ahead of time we will figure it out when we get there. But worry, stress, anxiety and fear are not a substitute for taking action. In fact, those stressful feelings are more likely to lead to overeat and over-drink.

Instead of worrying about what might happen – TAKE CHARGE

Plan ahead. Decide ahead of time at least 5 days prior to your vacation whether you want to lose weight, stay the same or if you are ok with gaining weight (and how much exactly you are ok with) and then…

MAKE A PLAN: decide ahead of time what you are going to eat, when and how often you are going to have a treat whether it’s dessert or pasta or an alcoholic beverage. Write down and commit 100% to your plan. One tool that will help you stay on track is a travel scale. Commit to weighing yourself as often as you do at home. I got one like this for myself but there are loads of other ones out there. Before your trip test the scale against your home scale. Checking in with your weight regularly should lead to NO SURPRISES when you return home.

And remind yourself why you are on vacation…

Most of don’t travel because we want to eat or drink fancy drinks. We go on vacation to spend time with special people, to see new things and to take a break from our regular lives.  If you take charge of your food and alcohol consumption by planning ahead you will feel much more in control and are much more likely to get the results you want.

Wherever you go whether it’s vacation or stay-cation, have a wonderful time!

I will be back after labor day with new blog posts.

You are SO AMAZING at finding your flaws

One thing many of us have in common if we are overweight or not at our ideal personal weight is that we JUDGE THE CRAP out of ourselves every day, all day. I once counted how many times during the day I thought about my body and my appearance – noticing its flaws and deficits. It was so many times I actually lost count! I have done this self-criticism so much since tween-hood that I’m really really good at it.

What we practice grows stronger

Our brains get better at what we practice. If you practice self-judgement, inner judge will get super good at judging yourself. However, you can catch yourself judging and intentionally start practicing self-love or self-acceptance (or whatever you intentionally want to cultivate).

Self-judgment causes stressful feelings

And, if you’ve read any of my blogs you know I always say that stress causes overeat and overdrink and hormonal weight gain.

What to do?

Pay attention. Start catching yourself as many times per day as possible negatively judging your body, your face, your hair, your clothes, what you said or did. Then, decide to intentionally create a thought that creates a feeling of acceptance. This is a very personal practice. Some of my clients say “I love you” to themselves, some do a practice that will bring them to the present moment like noticing the feeling of the feet on the floor. Some find this practice useful. Simply noticing this habit may even be enough.

You might judge yourself for judging yourself

Often times we are so amazingly practiced at judging that we when we notice how often we self-criticize we judge ourselves for judging ourselves. Guess what…that’s just another form of judgment. Like any other form, just observe your judgy thoughts.

Yes, you can eat treats and still lose weight

You are going to be at a party or on vacation, at restaurant or at the movies and you are going to want a treat that is not on your diet plan – chocolate, popcorn, soda, candy, alcohol, cake, pizza, pasta, chips etc. Instead of the painful “should I / shouldn’t I” debate do this instead:

Decide ahead of time

Yup, decide ahead of time when you are going to have a treat and how much you are going to have. Then commit to this plan and take action. You will be making a plan with the part of your brain that plans ahead. This is not the same as a spontaneous eat which comes from the impulsive part of the brain that tends to get us into trouble. If you do this, you are less likely to overeat and will feel more in control.

How much should I plan to eat?

I get this question all the time. It’s very personal. Some people can eat a small treat every day and not gain weight (I am not one of these people) and most people can have a reasonably sized treat about once a week (yes, even pizza, ice cream or brownies) and continue to lose or maintain their weight.

The should I or shouldn’t I debate causes STRESS

And stress causes weight gain through hormonal imbalance and also because when we are stressed we often overeat and/or overdrink. So stop the drama and just DECIDE. Decide what your treat is going to be, eat it, enjoy it and then get back to your regular eating plan.

Want to lose weight? Focus on ADDING not subtracting

So much of our inability to maintain weight loss is because we follow a diet plan for a few weeks, months or even longer but then start to feel deprived and restricted. The feelings of deprivation and restriction are just that –  FEELINGS that we ourselves create with our beliefs and thoughts. But, I want to share with you a secret of sustainable weight loss: focus your thoughts and actions on ADDING not subtracting. If you focus on adding it brings a feeling of abundance, satisfaction. If you focus on subtracting (I can’t eat this, I want to but I can’t, I’m removing this or removing that) you feel are more likely deprived and restricted.

It’s all about mindfulness

Notice when feelings of deprivation come up and stop and remind yourself you can feel abundant instead of deprived then decide to intentionally add something.

Some things to add to bring a feeling abundance

  • Drink more water (but don’t overdo)
  • Eat more non-starchy veggies (broccoli, asparagus, kale, collards, leafy green lettuces, etc.)
  • Make your foods look more beautiful…add lots of color to your plate with radishes, tomatoes, carrots, etc. and serve your foods on beautiful plates
  • Add more movement to your day (notice I say “movement” not exercise)
  • Spend more time outdoors – even just 10 minutes per day is beneficial
  • Spend some time each day doing an activity that sparks joy
  • Add a gratitude practice (I know this is very popular right now but it is very useful) – ask yourself: what are 3 things or people that you are grateful for right now?
  • Add a meditation practice

What are you doing in your life to bring a feeling of abundance? I’d love to know!

Shame and Guilt don’t help with weight loss

Shame and guilt: why do we feel them?

I believe we experience shame and guilt when are JUDGING ourselves –  making a value based observation of ourselves (like our behavior, our appearance and so on). Most of us feel badly about ourselves if we hurt other people. However, many of us feel shame and guilt about our bodies and by extension the food we do or don’t eat. I even have clients who feel guilt and shame about just THINKING about food. This is how powerful the inner judge can be.

The futility of guilt and shame

  1. Guilt and shame are not a substitute for action
  2. Guilt and shame will not change the past
  3. Guilt and shame will not improve the future
  4. Guilt and shame will not benefit anyone you have hurt (other people or yourself)
  5. Guilt and shame affect your brain functioning
  6. Guilt and shame are thought and feeling habits that you have repeated so many times you are good at them (but you can UNLEARN these habits and learn new patterns)
  7. Guilt and shame lead to stressful feelings which will cause WEIGHT GAIN

What to do? Take action…

  1. If you hurt someone with your behavior, if possible, go make amends.
  2. If you feel guilty about your food choices, acknowledge that your made a mistake in the past, decide to make different choices starting RIGHT NOW and MOVE ON.
  3. If you feel shame about your body, first notice how many times per day you shame or criticize yourself. Second, make a conscious effort to bring yourself into the present moment by either practicing the 54321 technique, OR by connecting with the breath in and out OR by consciously connecting with part of your body (feeling your feet on the floor, sensing the feeling in your heart or belly). All of these actions will help take your brain away from regrets of the past and anxiety about the future.