Collecting Evidence

Over the last year, I’ve committed myself to transformation in just about every realm of my life:  physical, mental, emotional, and professional. I’m sure a lot of you reading this are not newbies to self-improvement, but man – trying to better yourself in just about every way at once is exhausting.

So the thing is, if you’re going to make changes over a long period of time – let’s say…forever – you’ll need feedback to support you on your journey when things feel impossible. As nice as it would be if were to decide to stop overeating and then just…well, stopped, it rarely happens that way. The trajectory looks a little more like:

 

http://daneecehernandez.internetlifestylenetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/1996/2014/06/success-image.jpg

 

And that’s no joke. When I went to see Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s talk about the mythology of modern day diets, he showed a graph depicting the weight of a woman who had been seeing him clinically for 5+ years. This woman was no doubt successful – she had lost 80lbs over her time with Dr. Freedhoff. But her weight loss wasn’t the point; the chart was speckled with flat lines and increases, as well as drops. In fact, Dr. Freedhoff pointed out an entire year where this woman lost no weight at all.

And yet, she persevered.

As with any change to our condition, it’s easy to keep going when success feels easy and really, really difficult to do so when we feel like we’re flailing. What we often fail to realize is that our current conditions are the sum of all the choices we’ve made leading up to that moment. For example, if you are struggling to lose weight and you ate a chocolate bar for breakfast, it’s pretty safe to say that the single chocolate bar did not derail your efforts (even if you think it did). But, if you are struggling to lose weight and you ate a chocolate bar for breakfast every day for the last month and, realizing this doesn’t fill you up,  you end up overeating for the rest of the day…then that repeated choice is definitely derailing you.

What I’ve realized is that while our choices obviously influence our level of success, it’s the way we frame our choices that matters the most. If you make positive choices about food and exercise 50% of the time and 50% of the time you ‘fail’, I’m willing to bet that the thoughts you have about your failures come through much louder than the ones about your success. For whatever reason, even if we’re making a massive change in our lifestyle, we seem to think of success as the baseline and ‘failure’ as the accent. Which is to say that we rarely reward our successes but are quick to self-flagellate when we ‘fail’, ie. deviate from our success.

Here’s the thing: every success we have in implementing a change reflects positive choices we’ve made one way or another. So while you might beat yourself up for choosing to eat ice cream every night after dinner this week, you have an awful lot of data to support that you CAN stop and in fact, that this is not your norm. Even if it IS your norm – let’s say you ate ice cream every evening for 30 years – I guarantee you have instances where you have chosen not to do so and that is evidence that you are capable and can make a different choice.

It’s easy to feel powerless and out of control in the moment when we’re deciding whether or not to indulge in something that we want SO badly but know we “shouldn’t” have. In those moments – heart pounding, face-flushed, stomach in knots – we feel like the outcome is inevitable. At those moments, it’s important to take a breath and think: do I have evidence to support that this outcome is not fixed? when have I chosen differently? When have I turned down something I want badly? When in my life have I chosen in favour of a long-term goal despite short-term temptations?

 

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By practicing this, you are retraining your brain to scan your memory for evidence supporting a positive choice – to not eat ice cream because you feel stuffed from dinner, let’s say. It could just as easily scan for evidence to support a different choice (for example, the choice to eat ice cream) and probably would prefer to do so because it’s been habitually trained to validate your repeated behaviour (ice cream every night). Essentially, you are setting your brain up to support you in your journey and to offer you proof of your ability to succeed.

This is such a powerful tool – I hope you’ll give it a try the next time you feel like you’re spiraling ‘out of control’. The truth is, there are few things in life we can truly control; your mind is one of them, so take advantage.

 

 

Must-Share Monday

I’ve decided to change ‘Must-Read Monday’ to ‘Must-Share Monday’ because I’m overwhelmed by the  great non-blog post material I’m finding lately – recipes, resources, etc. So without further rambling, here are the things that I’ve been loving this past week:

1. This song. I heard it yesterday and immediately it was fused in my brain and I couldn’t get the catchy background beat (is that what it’s even called) out of my head. So good!

2. Are You Giving Away Your Power?- The F-It Diet. A great blog post about learning to listen to and trust our bodies. You know I’m all about that.

3. Why You Can Never Hate Your Body Into Leanness and How To know If You’re Addicted to Drama- Jill Coleman.

4. This recipe for Zucchini Noodles with Squash, Turkey and Cheese from George Fear. Maybe I’m biased because I worked with Georgie last year and love her recipes, but this looks delicious. I plan to make it this week if my zucchinis don’t get eaten up before then.

 

 

Asking ‘Why?’

I recently learned of a tool that has add a whole new layer of “Woah” to my weight-loss journey. Even now, as my goals have shifted from “must lose weight ASAP” to “must be nice to myself and my body and not care if I only lose 1lb in 6 weeks,” this tool has given me pause just about every time I’ve used it.

Brace yourselves – this is probably the simplest, and yet most effective, tools ever! In the world! In all of history!

Step 1: Eat something. Or, notice you want to eat something.

Step 2: Ask why. Yup, just “why.”

Well, more specifically, “Why am I eating ____” or “Why do I want to eat _____”

Step 3: Assess

Say what?

I’m sure some of you are thinking “But Danielle, obviously if I’m eating something it’s for good reason.” Well, it’s certainly for a reason but whether or not it’s a good one is up to you to decide.

If you try this exercise, you’ll come up with one of two answers: 1) “Because I’m hungry” and 2) Because of some emotion/thought/feeling. If you’re eating because of Reason #1, then I invite you to keep eating! If you’re eating because of Reason #2, I invite you to keep asking yourself why until you understand what you think that the food is going to offer you in relation to that emotion/thought/feeling. Eventually you’ll hit a nugget.

This takes some digging! If you aren’t hungry, you initially might give yourself a superficial reason why you want to eat. For example, you might say “I’m not hungry but I want to eat because I had a shitty day at work and I deserve some crackers, cheese, and wine.” That’s not enough – keep digging. There is an emotional reason WHY you believe that eating when you’re not hungry is the best self-soothing mechanism for a shitty day at work, and why you equate deserving with eating rich foods when you aren’t hungry. What do you actually deserve? Comfort? When you eat the crackers and cheese and drink the wine, will your day at work have been less difficult?

And yes, sometimes a girl just wants to taste the cheese and crackers and wash it down with a glass of wine for sheer pleasure, and I get that. But I think more often than we realize, we are using food to suppress a feeling, support a belief or avoid a thought.

This is a topic that I can ramble about for pages and pages, but I’d like to offer that if you challenge yourself to ask “WHY” more you’ll be stunned at some of your answers. What you do with your answer will vary, but here is a morsel of wisdom to guide you:

 

If hunger is not the problem, then eating is not the solution. www.BridgesAZ.com

Source: Pinterest

 

 

Monday Must-Reads: How to Overcome Fears, Grief, and More.

Since my last Monday Must-Reads post, I’ve been collecting great posts as I see them. Here are some of my favourites! If any stand out to you, I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

Reflections on 3 Years of Sobriety – Andrea Owen. A great post from Life Coach Andrea Owen celebrating 3 years of sobriety. Andrea suffered from Anxiety and Panic Disorder, an Eating Disorder, and has a history of substance abuse. In this post, she discusses how the reminders of her past struggles creep into present life and still cause shame, despite her recovery. I like this post because I believe that many of us who’ve lost a large amount of weight carry shame that clouds our pride in our weight loss.

You Don’t Have To Like Me – Sas Petherick. Sas is a life coach and I recently discovered her blog. I loved this post about her coming to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like her – nor should they. As someone who has struggled with the need for approval in the past (and sometimes still) I thought she articulated the approval-addict’s mentality beautifully.

 How To Tame Your Fears – Martha Beck. I just LOVE Martha and I dare you not to love her too. Go on – try.

Ask Me Anything: Grief –  the Darwinian Fail. Not related to weight or even self-esteem, but this is a beautiful post (that makes me want to hug my dad extra tight) about the process of grieving the loss of a parent or loved one.

It’s Easy When It’s Easy: How To Cope When Things Feels Hard.

Some things just feel easier when they feel…well, easy. You know, like when you wake up feeling like you’re already wearing your skinniest sassy-pants  (or your tight pants perhaps?) – and they feel loose! Or you go to a gym class and feel like you could go for hours or until you drown in your own sweat. When we feel on top of the world – whether it’s because our tightest pants fit perfectly or we’re being praised for our performance at work – doing the necessary things to maintain those feelings seems like a breeze. But how do you cope with wanting to lose weight when losing weight feels – well, hard?

There’s no mystery here, really. I mean, these are the basics of positive reinforcement: reinforce the continuation of a positive behaviour by rewarding said behaviour when it occurs. Or at least, that’s my layman breakdown.

[Cue ominous music]. Lurking around the corner, though, is the downswing – the day you wake up feeling like a frumpy mess, or when you sleep in way too late even though you promised you were going to wake up every day at 6am and work out.

Basically, the days when stuff just feels HARD. I’m talking about those moments when the idea of brushing your teeth seems tantamount to doing a full Ironman, untrained. How do we keep momentum on days when we just feel like a bag of…you know.

This is what I would consider a ‘realtime’ post. As I type this, I have woken up for the third morning in a row feeling like I’ve gained 20lbs overnight and might have undiagnosed narcolepsy (it’s taken me 6 hours and 2 naps to write what you’ve read so far). These days of fluff have been preceded by a week of feeling like a svelte goddess, where it was soooo easy to throw away my half-eaten frozen yogurt (even with cheesecake bites left in the bottom. CHEESECAKE BITES, PEOPLE!!) and I got a glimpse into what Gisele feels like when she gets dressed in the morning (ok, maybe Gisele after 1000 trips to Menchies).

Today, though, I doubt it all. Maybe last week was a fluke. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that cookie on Sunday night. Ok, three cookies on Sunday night.

Maybe I should have stayed at the gym a little longer yesterday. I should have worked harder last week to compensate for these frumpy days in advance (retrospective Danielle is psychic, by the way).

These days used to break me. I would stumble through my day (if I made it out of bed), angry at my body, chewing out innocent bystanders, and collapsing into a pile of tears and self-hatred at the end of the day. Over time, and with a lot of research, I’ve figured out a couple of tools to help get out of these funks and get through these days more easily (notice I said ‘more easily’…we all have days that are tougher than others).

1. Accept. The first thing I do when I wake up and feel like crap is to accept that I’m not feeling so hot. Shake off the notion that you “should” feel good all the time, and focus on learning to accept that we are human and we all have days when putting on our shoes feels like climbing Everest.

2. Scan Next, I scan my memory for other times I’ve felt this way and what preceded and followed that time. For example, I distinctly remember that I felt this way a few weeks ago for a period of 3 or 4 days. What followed? Last week, when I felt confident and at peace with my body. There are downs, but there are also ups, and the more you practice seeking evidence to contradict your fear-mongering beliefs about what this day means (“this means I’m a terrible employee!” or “this means my diet isn’t working!!) the more automated it becomes. I promise.

This is also helpful for making connections between why you feel a certain way. If you scan and remember that the last time you felt this way was when you OD’d on ice cream, and – hold the phone – you also ate a pint of ice cream last night, you can further probe: is it possible that my body can’t handle massive quantities of dairy? Or maybe I can’t eat dairy before bed. Or maybe it’s just too many calories for me in one day, on top of all my other food choices? Forging these connections also helps with future decision making, so that the next time you are halfway through a pint of ice cream, your brain can pipe up with “hey remember those last 2 times you ate a whole pint of ice cream and you felt like garbage the next day?”. Actually listening to your brain is a whole other game requiring self-love, of course.

3. Question. I’m inquisitive by nature and always want to know why things are the way they are. This has served me well in my weight-loss, but lately I’ve been learning about how to ask better questions. By better, I mean questions that empower us and force our brains to work for us, rather than against. When you wake up feeling fat, it’s easy (too easy) to think “Why am I such a pig? Why did i eat so much last night? Why can’t I stay on track? Why does my body hate me so much?”. Your brain thrives on the questioning method, but self-deprecating questions are not getting you anywhere. When is the last time you made better choices because you beat yourself into submission?

Instead, think about some ways that you can take your questions and make them more empowering. For example:

“What can I do today to help myself comply with my eating plan?”

“How can I make choices today that I will feel proud of tonight?”

“How would I talk to myself if I was feeling great today?”

“What tiny steps can I take today to show my body love?”

Sounds a little out-there, I know. But over the course of the day,  the time will pass whether you spend it hating yourself or being kind to yourself. It can be hard to drum-up self-love when you feel as far as possible on the other end of the spectrum, but let your brain do some of the work for you. It’s your biggest ally on this journey.

 

 

 

 

 

The Time I Mastered Halloween

I never buy Halloween candy. I moved away from home in 2003, and that was my last Halloween with boxes of treats in the house. Living in an apartment until last year, I never had trick-or-treaters and I’ve never felt the impulse to hoard cheap Halloween candy come November 1 because I could never be trusted not to eat it all in one day (seriously).

It’s funny how if you don’t ‘go’ to Halloween, Halloween comes to you. The week before and month after October 31 are pure blisstorture (I feel like that could be one emotion) for those of us who end to overeat candy/chocolate – and if it’s free, bonus!. In the past, I would practice building ninja-willpower in the face of Halloween candy on every cabinet/desk at the office but come 4:30, I’d prowl around like a cat burglar, obsessively making sure there was no sour patch kid left behind.

11 months ago, Matt and I moved into the home we purchased together. We narrowly missed last Halloween, but this year I was faced with the reality that I was going to have to buy and hand out Halloween candy, given we live in an area with lots of young kids. That, or hole myself up in the house with the lights off and hope no one notices the cars in the driveway. For the health and safety of the pumpkins we delicately carved and that now adorn our front stoop, I thought Option 1 was the way to go.

My initial thought: I’m going to buy all the things that don’t tempt me. lollipops and mars bars. anything but the fun pack with Smarties, Areo, and Kit-Kat. and god, no gummy candy. I’ll send Matt to the store so I don’t even risk it.

Matt returned from Wal-Mart with a box of 50 Smarties, Kit-Kat and Aero bars, and a variety pack of gummy candies. Essentially my candy kryptonite.

It’s fine, I thought. With so many kids in the neighbourhood, we were bound to plow through the candy anyways, right?

We got 12 kids. Even when I resorted to dumping handfuls into each princess’ bag, I was still left with a big bowl of my favourite candy at the end of the night.

Did I indulge? Yup. I probably had 6 mini chocolate bars and 4 gummy packs.

The thing is, I went to bed without a stomach ache and woke up yesterday morning without hating myself. At no point did I feel sick from eating too much candy. And for the first time ever, I woke up in the days following Halloween without regrets and shame.

There is no feeling like self-pride. Sometimes we need proof, but the truth is that every choice, no matter how small,  offers us the opportunity to build our self-trust and self-esteem.

We just have to choose in our own favour.

Question: I’d love to know what you handed out for Halloween and how you handled having all those treats in the house!

The Overeater’s Guide to Halloween

Halloween is a bit of a peculiar holiday. Somehow, it simultaneously evokes feelings of pure joy and excitement in young kids and many adults and a paradoxical reaction of fear and excitement in those of us who have struggled or are struggling with our weight.

In my prime dieting years, I felt I was living a one-woman stage production of Jeckyll and Hyde when Halloween rolled around:

Dieting Danielle (Dr. Jeckyll) would think “oh, Halloween. I am going to be so virtuous because I’m on a diet and this year is going to be different”

Fat kid Danielle (Mr. Hyde) would think “Excellent, Halloween. I’m going to eat everything I come across and I’m going to troll all the best places to find treats (office cabinets, common rooms, etc.”

Neither of these were conscious and neither was distinctly separate. No, they would merge together in an exhausting storm of eating myself sick and then beating myself up for eating myself sick. Rinse and repeat until November 1…or 4th.

5 years on the other side of losing 100lbs, I’m here to tell you that you’ll be ok no matter how you handle Halloween.

There is no horse, no wagon, and no “track” for you to hop off today (October 31)  and hop back on when you feel so disgusted with yourself that you can’t bear to be still. It’s all just you and your journey – which, by the way, doesn’t end for as long as you live. This is life and Halloween is a day. Even if it’s 3 days, it’s just a series of days where you made choices. On day 4, you can wake up and make totally different choices. Really!

And so, a few thoughts to help you navigate Halloween so you wake up on November 1 feeling awesome (which you are, by the way):

 

  • Taste your treats. I mean really taste them. By all means, eat what you want, but what message are you tossing into your self-feedback loop when you gorge yourself on candy you don’t even like. If Twix is your favourite and Crispy Crunch is just ok, then dang – get yourself some Twix and love the crap out of every one.

 

  • Believe there’s more. Seriously – there is always more candy at the store. In abundance. Never-ending!! Yes, Halloween is a time when candy is all around you and if you’re someone who is used to wrapping candy in duct tape and locking it in a safe, then you’ve likely convinced yourself that candy is something you “can’t” have around. Truth is, you CAN always have candy. If you aren’t, it’s because you’re choosing not to, but the tipping point is whether you are choosing not to eat candy from a place of fear or a place of love. Sounds a bit granola, sure, but really think about whether your choice to limit your candy consumption is rooted in fear that you’ll eat way too much (which results in believing you can’t be trusted and locking it away to restrain yourself) OR knowledge that having candy at that particular time will lead you to feel gross – because maybe you’ve already eaten a lot that day, or already had a bunch of mini chocolate bars – and therefore making an executive choice to show yourself love by NOT eating more than you know feels good in your body.  Which leads to my next tip…

 

  • Believe you deserve to feel good/proud. Because you do. You are worthy of being nice to yourself, and this applies whether you eat ALL THE CANDY on Halloween or not.  If you’re used to self-flagellating, this will seem crazy, but I guarantee you that you can do no harm by taking this approach rather than making yourself feel like shit, throwing out every sugar-containing item in your kitchen and vowing you’ll never eat chocolate again…until you binge. After all, we know that self-forgiveness is a key to long-term weight loss.

 

  • Own your choices. This stems from the tip above. Whatever you choose, own it. You ate a whole box of fun-size chocolate bars? Oh well! Tune into your body afterwards, and the next day, and use your sensations as feedback for next time. Approach yourself with curiosity  and fascination, replacing “You gross pig, I can’t believe you did that. You’re so disgusting,” with “Huh! I wonder what was going on that made me feel like I wanted to eat all of those at once even though I knew deep down I would feel gross afterwards!” and get on with your day. And yes, you can even have chocolate again the next day. Just commit to making the choices that feel good to you in your soul and body and I promise that the balance will come naturally

 

  • Practice. All of your choices are just practice for the next time you’re in a similar situation. If you overeat on Halloween, you did not “Fail Halloween.” And this does not mean you are consequently going to “Fail Christmas” too. You made choices about food on one day or a few days out of many in your life. If you eat in a way that you aren’t proud of, then that is practice for the next time you’re in a situation where your favourite foods are available in abundance – what can you do differently? How can you allow yourself to truly enjoy the foods you absolutely love but in a way that doesn’t send you down the shame rabbithole? There is no end-point where you have mastered food and you are some sort of diet Ninja; the only end-point is your best-self and all we can do is make choices that take us closer and avoid choices that take us further away.

 

A Few Other Resources

Do You Have FOMO Around Food? – Jill Coleman

What To Do When You Have an Endless Pile of Candy at Your House – Sarah Jenks

The 9 Best Ways to Avoid Overeating Halloween Candy – Psychology Today (these are more superficial but good if you’re someone who knows you won’t overeat chocolate if you’re well fueled).

 

Happy Halloween!

Danielle