Let's talk about technology.

It was 8 pm. I’d just gotten home from a walk, and planned to shower and make dinner. But first, I reached for my phone.

What if you didn’t?

It was a small, kind voice inside of me that asked the question. It wasn’t mean or accusatory. But I also knew it was on to something.

computertime_3.jpg

Lately, I’d started to wonder if used technology too much. Previously, I had always thought of myself as a “slightly below average” technology user — I don’t follow that many people on social media, I don’t text that much, I don’t get that many emails. And yet, I found myself checking my phone or my laptop:

  • When I’ve just gotten home, but was still in my car — before walking into the house.
  • Right after arriving in my home, before doing anything else. I’d set down my bags, and check my email or my phone.
  • When I entered my office, before starting work.
  • In the middle of working.
  • In the morning, right when I woke up.
  • Right before bed.

Of course, there were other times I used the internet, too. A big part of my work is on the internet — it’s how I meet with clients who don’t live nearby, and it’s how I’m sending this letter to you. But that didn’t particularly concern me.

There was something about that first type of internet usage that did feel important to look at, because it seemed like they fell into two categories:

  1. Transitional moments. I’ve talked about transitional moments in the context of eating before, but transitions are often times when we have more feelings than we realize.

    Say that we’re just gotten home from work or seeing friends. We may carry within us some tiredness or even pent up excitement from that past activity. Plus, traveling even short distances can be subtly draining, and then we are trying to focus on doing all the things we need to do when we get home.

    The point here is not that transitions are the most tiring things in the world. Rather, it’s that we are often more tired or overwhelmed than we realize in these moments. 
     
  2. Blow-off-steam moments. You know that feeling when you’ve been working for a couple of hours (or even just 20 minutes), and suddenly checking social media or your email or that blog you like sounds like a good idea? Or suddenly grabbing a snack sounds like a good idea? If we look deeper in these moments, we pretty quickly find something like I’m tired of working and I want to less stress and more pleasure. So we use technology. Or food. Or something else.

 

It’s not that technology can’t be helpful to deal with the subtle tiredness of transitioning, or with blowing off steam. But it seemed like I was spending a lot of my day on technology — sometimes I would suddenly realize I’d been on Instagram for a half hour, for example, even though I just meant to do a “quick check.”

I also felt I had more trouble concentrating than I did when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t have a smartphone and the computer in my bedroom could only do two things: word processing and solitaire.  I felt like my life wasn’t that busy now, but I was getting less done than I’d like, and I felt easily distracted.

I started to wonder if technology was actually the best way to deal with these transitions or blowing off steam.

...

So in that curious moment, when I was hungry and sweaty and really wanted to “just quickly” check Instagram on my phone…I didn’t.

I lay on my bed instead.

I lay on my bed and did nothing. Just lay there. I noticed what it felt like, to have not picked up my phone. It felt pretty intense in my body at first, like I might jump out of my skin. Then it died down quite a lot.

As I lay there, I realized that I had been feeling subtly overwhelmed. My early evening had been busy, and somehow the act of going straight into a shower and making dinner had seemed like slightly too much to do. No wonder I wanted to blow off some steam in that transition.

As I continued to lie there, I noticed other things. I paid attention to the ebbing and flowing of body sensations. I reflected on some things that had been making me feel insecure lately, and found some peace about them. I even had a couple of ideas about articles to write — which was surprising because I’d been low on writing ideas lately.

When I finally got up, I felt calmer and more grounded in my body. It wasn’t like everything was fixed — I still felt tired from the day, for example — but I was able to notice those feelings while also moving onto what needed to be done.

That night was a few weeks ago.  Since then, I’ve been trying to not use technology, at least sometimes, when I can tell that I’m using it for a transition or to blow off steam.

It doesn’t always feel great at first, to be honest. That jumping-out-of-my-skin feeling is usually there. So sometimes I’ll lie on my bed or even on the floor and just notice my thoughts and feelings and body sensations. I’ll let them be a little more intense for a few moments, and then let them ebb away.

I’m just making small experiments so far, but they’ve been useful. Last night, when I was about to browse the internet after dinner, I stayed off screens and read for three hours instead. I was surprised at how refreshed I felt, how much my stress level seemed to lower.  

So that’s my offering for you this week: Is there something that you worry isn’t serving you? Can you experiment with, just once, not doing it? Intense feelings and body sensations might come up, at first. Can you sit with them, at least for a little while?

I’d love to know how it goes.

Why did that conversation escalate?

Why do seemingly simple conversations sometimes escalate?

shoes in portugal.jpg

I’ve been reading Difficult Conversations recently, and the authors point out something that stopped me in my tracks:

In fact, anytime a conversation feels difficult, it is in part precisely because it is about You, with a capital Y.  Something beyond the apparent substance of the conversation is at stake for you.

It may be something simple. What does it say about you when you talk to your neighbors about their dog [who barks loudly]? It may be that growing up in a small town gave you a strong self-image as a friendly person and a good neighbor, so you are uncomfortable with the possibility that your neighbors might see you as aggressive or a troublemaker.

Asking for a raise? What if you get turned down? In fact, what if your boss gives you good reasons for turning you down? What will that do to your self-image as a competent and respected employee? Ostensibly the subject is money, but what’s really making you sweat is that your self-image is on the line.

(page 16, emphasis mine)

They call these kinds of conversations “Identity Conversations,” and argue that nearly anytime a conversation feels more challenging than it “should” be, it’s because someone’s identity is at play.

Having a simple conversation with your partner about chores but suddenly things get more heated? One of you may feel like some essential quality about yourself — whether you’re a good person, a generous person, a smart person, a conscientious person — is being questioned.

Simply noticing that you’re in an Identity Conversation is a powerful first step.

That way you can discuss the real issue. Perhaps your partner will reassure you that she wasn’t at all trying to say you’re not a hard worker, and you can go back to talking about taxes. Or, if she actually was trying to imply that you don’t work hard enough, then at least you can talk about that directly. 

The Binge-Restrict Death Spiral

Ah, the binge-restrict death spiral.

You know, that thing where you eat a little too much at your afternoon coffee break, so then you try to eat a little less at dinner.

And then because you feel a little deprived at dinner, you end up eating too much… a day or a week or a month later.

Then, of course, you need to “cut back” or “eat more reasonably” or “go to Weight Watchers.”

And on and on and on.

Some of us have been stuck in this cycle for years or even decades. Even when we think we’re out…we discover we’re still in it.

I made you a video this week in which I talk more about this exhausting, painful, frustrating cycle, and the truth about how you can get out of it.


***And pssst!*** If you’d like some help escaping this terrible cycle, you might consider joining a Dessert Club — two start this Tuesday, and won't open be offered again until 2019. 

Tuesdays at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST — SOLD OUT.

Tuesdays at 11 am PST/2 pm EST/7 pm BST — some spots left! Learn more.

And as always, I’m sending you strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this.
Katie

 

p.s. This is the last time I’ll be offering the Dessert Club in 2018, so if you’d like work towards freedom from the binge-restrict death spiral in a friendly group environment, I hope you’ll join us! Here’s more information on the group that still has open spots.

On transformation.

I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath recently, and he makes an interesting argument: some things that we assume are disadvantages end up being just the opposite.

falling apart bread.jpg

Here are two examples:

  • Dyslexia. Dyslexia makes reading extremely difficult and can lead to low self-esteem or depression because school becomes so challenging. And yet, as many as a third of extremely successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. This group includes billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, brokerage firm founder Charles Schwab, and JetBlue founder David Neeleman, according to a study by Julie Logan at City University London.
     
  • Losing a parent as a child. Again, losing a parent as a child is a traumatic experience with far-reaching consequences. And yet, twelve of the first forty-four US presidents lost their fathers when they were young — that’s more than 25%! A study of British Prime Ministers found that 67% of Prime Ministers between the beginning of the 19th century and the start of WWII had lost at least one parent before the age of sixteen – more than twice the rate of parental loss of the general upper class population that these men came from.

Gladwell’s argument isn’t that anyone would wish for these traits. On the contrary, they make life much harder and many people don’t “rise above them.”

And yet, he argues that sometimes these things that we are stuck with turn out to be an astonishing source of strength. The successful entrepreneurs who battled dyslexia learned how to be determined and get comfortable with failure, which helped them to take risks and work hard. Losing a parent as a child showed others that they could survive terrible loss, which made them more courageous and mentally strong.

Can you tell where I’m going with this?

Look, I don’t want to oversimplify Gladwell’s argument. It’s too easy to say, “you should make every source of pain a learning experience!” Sometimes pain and obstacles are just too great.

But, if you’ll let me, I’d like us to be curious together. Is it possible that you have something in your life that is really painful or frustrating or hard…and that the process of learning to battle challenge or obstacle could teach you some of the most important lessons of your life?

I know that’s true for me.  

Consider my relationship with food. It was a huge source of pain. So much suffering and frustration went into worrying about what I was going to eat or what I did eat. I didn't feel in control and sometimes I felt downright crazy.

And yet, the process of figuring out how to stop suffering so much…it changed everything.

Not “everything” as in “everything about how I ate” — though it certainly did that.
I mean “everything” as in “everything about how I lived.”

I often describe my before and after as the difference between living my life in black-and-white, and living my life in color. The skills that allowed me to figure out my relationship with food also completely changed how I made decisions and how I related to and communicated with other people. It radically increased the depth of my knowledge about myself, and made me more compassionate, more spiritual, more authentic, and more sensitive (more on that here). It taught me how to sit in the middle of fear and uncertainty in a way that I hadn’t before.

The point is: I wouldn’t wish an unhappy relationship with food or body image on anyone. But also, the process of battling this painful challenge was, hands down, one of the most useful and transformational experiences of my life.

Of course, the juicy question is: how do we go from suffering to allowing that suffering to teach us what we need to know about life?

That’s too great a question to be answered now, but there are many ways. You can certainly do a lot of this work on your own, or by working with a coach or therapist.

But, if you are also someone who struggles with food or body image, one powerful option is to join a Dessert Club.

Dessert Clubs are 8-week, small-group classes focused on untangling the “why” and “what can we do about it” behind our eating. We meet in a cozy video-conference, so it feels like being in the same room even though we may be across countries or continents. Together, we ask hard questions, laugh and occasionally cry, and take action.

I won’t be offering another round of Dessert Clubs until 2019, so if this is a type of support you’d like, this could be a good time to join. Here’s some information on the two that start in July:

Tuesdays, starting July 10
11 am PST/2 pm EST/7 pm BST 
*Europe-friendly!*
LEARN MORE

Tuesdays, starting July 10
5 pm PST/8 pm EST
LEARN MORE

As always, I’m wishing you strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this.

...

p.s. If you’d like to read them, the studies I cite here are on pages 106 (dyslexia) and 141-142 (losing a parent in childhood) of the paperback edition of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants. 

"Why doesn't my partner tell me what I want to hear?"

Recently, I was telling my husband about some feelings and fears I had about a problem in my life. I knew he wanted to comfort me and I knew that I wanted to be comforted by him, but somehow we were having trouble. It just seemed like my feelings were getting more intense and confusing.

Suddenly, in the middle of the angst, I realized: I know what I want him to say. I know what would make me feel better.

So I told him.
And he perked up, too.

“I didn’t realize you wanted me to say that!” he told me, relief in his voice. “I thought you wanted something else, something that I couldn’t truthfully tell you!”

So then he told me that thing.
And I felt better.

Morrow Bay.JPG

Of course, it doesn’t always work out so perfectly. Sometimes the other person can’t tell you what you want to hear.

But this moment reminded me that, at least sometimes, they can.
They can tell you what you want to hear, and the only thing holding them back is that they didn’t know you wanted to hear it.

This is where it can get a bit tricky, though. Because if even you don’t know what you want to hear, you can’t expect them to know. So if a conversation is going haywire, this can be an empowering first step:

  1. Ask yourself: “What am I wanting to hear?”
    If you don’t know, take a moment to pause and really connect with yourself. It’s worth taking a couple seconds or even minutes to be clear on what your truth is, rather than getting lost in the muck of confusing feelings.  

    Common core desires are things like, “I want to be reminded that you love me” or “I want to know that you still want to be my friend.”
     
  2. Then, ask yourself: “Is this a reasonable thing to request?”
    For example, it might not be reasonable to ask your partner to say, “you look beautiful in every single piece of clothing in the world.” Maybe they don’t truthfully think so!

    Perhaps what you’re really trying to request something like, “I want to be reminded that you love me, even if you don’t always agree with my fashion choices.”
     
  3. If what you want to hear seems like a reasonable request, then tell the other person! Sometimes, even if you think it’s reasonable, they may not agree. That’s okay, too. But if you are clear about what you want, then at least it will be easier for you to see what compromises get you closest to the core thing you are needing.


I’d love to know: When you’re having a tough conversation with someone you love, do you know what you’d like to hear to be comforted? Have you ever tried actually telling them what you want to hear?

There's no gold star for you here.

Just so we’re clear…

Your eating is not a test.

There’s no “success” or “failure.”
There’s no honor roll or detention.
There’s not someone deciding whether you earned an A or a B+ or a C- today.  

IMG_1359_2.jpg

I know that might be hard to process. It might be 100% against how you think about food.

I mean, it’s also pretty different from how our culture generally talks about food:

“I’ve been so bad today! I had fries with lunch.”
“I’ve been so good all week — I had a salad every day.”
“I keep messing up with my eating; I don’t know what to do.”

But it’s true. Your eating is not a test. There is no gold star to be had.

None. Zilch.

It’s just you, having a body, making a choice. Then making another choice.

Sure, those choices have consequences. All choices do. But that doesn’t mean that you did or did not earn a trophy of “goodness” based on that choice.

So just take good care of yourself, okay?

And if you’re having trouble detaching yourself from this “good vs. bad” mindset around food — or if you find yourself frustrated with your eating a lot — you might benefit from joining the Dessert Club.

The Dessert Club is an 8-week, small group class in why you eat the way you do, and how you can feel like a normal and happy person around food. One past participant said, "If you're considering signing up, I'd say, "DO IT". 

There’s two groups starting in July, so there’s a good chance there’s a time that works for you. Learn more here.

As always, I’m sending you strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this. 

It's not sexy, but it's really helpful.

As a life coach, people come to me with all kinds of difficulties.  

My job as a coach isn’t to tell them what to do. Instead, I help them reconnect with their own truth, so they can figure out their own next steps — now and in the future.

A very common tool that I use for that process is emptiness.

I know, I know, “emptiness” doesn’t sound very sexy or exciting. But I promise you, it is crucial to helping yourself out of just about any personal difficulty you find yourself in.

I recorded you a video – check it out below.

After you watch the video, promise me you’ll take even 60 seconds to do the practice I suggest? Pretty please? I know it’ll help.

They're here!!

Do any of these seem familiar?

  • You’re pretty much “together” in your life, but this food and weight thing has always been an issue. Always. It doesn’t seem like it should be so hard but for some reason you keep messing up. What’s going on?
     
  • You often find yourself making “plans” about your eating or your body. That’s it, I’m going to completely cut out sugar this month…or go to that exercise class four times this week…or lose eight pounds by vacation. You make to-do lists and buy special foods and sometimes it even works…until it doesn’t. Then you are frustrated and defeated and a little panicked. How am I going to deal with this “thing”? It doesn’t seem like it should be so hard! 
     
  • Sometimes — and you might not have told anybody this — you feel out-of-control around food. You’re alone in your kitchen, or in front of the tv, and you just can’t seem to stop eating. It’s almost like you leave your body for a few minutes, or you go into a mini-trance. The word “bingeing” sounds kind of scary…but what exactly is happening to you?
     
  • Sometimes you feel like you don’t even know how to eat. Does everyone spend so much time thinking and worrying about everything they put into their mouth? Does everyone have to put in so much effort to not be “fat”?
     
  • You know that you shouldn’t worry so much about your weight. You’re a feminist! You believe that all bodies are beautiful! Except, it’s really hard to do let go of the idea that your life would be better if you lost a couple of pounds. And you know that’s affecting your relationship with food.

If you resonated with any of these statements, the Dessert Club is for you. 

DSC_3957.jpg

The Dessert Club is an 8-week, small-group course in how to have a happier, less stressful, and less crazy relationship with food. You shouldn't have to worry or think about food so much — really. 

Dessert Clubs take place online, so you can join from anywhere in the world.

I just posted the dates for our summer sessions, and I wanted you to be the first to know! 

Tuesdays, starting July 10
11 am PST/2 pm EST/7 pm BST
*Europe-friendly!*
LEARN MORE

Tuesdays, starting July 10
5 pm PST/8 pm EST
LEARN MORE

Two more things that I wanted you to know:

1. A lot of people have been asking me for a more Europe-friendly group, and I’m excited to be offering one this time! I probably won't offer a Euro-friendly group time every time, though, so keep that in mind if you've been thinking about joining!

2. I will be raising the prices of the Dessert Club next time I offer the group, so if you’ve been wanting to join for a while, this could be a good time. 

 

There’s so much more to know about the Dessert Club. If you’d like to know more about who is a good fit for the group, what we do together, and what past participants have thought, click here.

And, as always, feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions. I can’t wait to meet many of you soon :)

Cupcakes and food sanity,
Katie

On linear things.

I have bad news and good news. It’s the same news:

Your journey probably won’t be linear.

Not for your career.
Not for your relationships.
Not for your confidence.
Not for your eating.
Not for your body size or body image.

DSC_1827.jpg

It’ll get better and then worse and then better and then worse. Whatever “better” and “worse” mean, anyway.

Then it will go sideways and backwards and to the right and the left and the southeast and northwest.

Whew. Do you feel how exhausting it is? All those different directions?

This is bad news because it is friggin’ annoying that your life won’t progress like an arrow, zooming towards its destination.

But it’s also good news. If you feel like you're “off track” today or this month or this decade…it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually going in the wrong direction.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t try to grow in the direction that you care about! I’m a coach, for goodness sakes. I help my clients do that all the time.

But it does mean that just because your journey seems zig-zag-y, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong. You might just need to take a breath, ask for a hug, and buckle up. 

Worried about being high maintenance? Here's a suggestion.

No matter what my clients come to me wanting to work on, we end up talking about their relationships. Relationships with their partners, their friends, their family members.

Something I hear a lot is this: I don’t want to be high maintenance. 

Have you thought that, too? Have you worried about requesting something of someone, or showing someone how their words affect you…because then you’d be high maintenance?

If so, then this week’s video is just for you:

As always, I’m sending you strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this.

It counts.

Here’s a feel-good-in-your-body suggestion for today:

Do one push-up.

Not five push-ups. Not 10. Not 20.
Just. Do. One.

I dare you. I triple-dog-dare you. Are you woman (or man) enough to just do one push-up, and then stop?

Because yes, doing one push-up may be a weird and uncomfortable for many of us. It can be a strange thing to let go of all of the stories you have about what a push-up is — an “intense workout” or “should be done in sets of 20” — and explore what it could be, in a different form.

When I do just one push-up, I feel…slightly energized. Like the blood is flowing a tiny bit better in my body. I feel subtly happier, if I’m honest.

goofing around.jpg

Most people I talk to have all kinds of black-and-white, all-or-nothing stuff going on when it comes to moving their body. Either they’re doing a half hour of burpees or they’re taking a rest day. There’s certainly nothing wrong with either of those things.

But please don’t forget all of the rich, interesting, enlivening area in the middle.

1 push-up, it counts.
Taking a four minute walk down your street, it counts.
Holding a plank on your bedroom floor for 10 seconds, it counts.

I’m not saying that these joyful, small movement moments will give you Michelle Obama arms.
I’m not saying you need to do “lots of little movements” so it will “add up to a full workout.”

But I am saying that when I do just one push-up, it’s like a tiny, little happiness boost.

I thought you might like a tiny, little happiness boost, too. 

...

p.s. That picture is me playing around in Brooklyn...five years ago! Remember when I shaved my head? :)

Six reminders you might need

I finally put together an archive of the 100+ past Dessert Club blog posts, and I thought it would be nice to send out a kind of “Dessert Club Greatest Hits,” with some of my favorite reminders + encouragement for your weekend:

IMG_1264.jpg

1. On somatic awareness and living your best life. In my early twenties, in the middle of a quarter-life crisis, my brother suggested I work with a coach. I guess it could be useful, I thought to myself. Maybe she’ll help me figure out what I should do for my next job. Oh, I was in for a treat.

2. A shout-out to the people pleasers reading this post.

3. Why do we prefer to overeat in private? The very bold ones among us might mention our “struggle with food” in conversation with friends, in an abstract sense. But would we sit down at a table with a loved one and say, “I’m bingeing right now”? And then proceed to eat an entire gallon of ice cream while the other person watched?

4. On beauty. When we think that we want to lose 10 pounds (or 5 or 15 or 500), often what we are really thinking is “If I lose weight, I will feel beautiful. So here’s my suggestion to you: If you want to feel beautiful, why don’t you focus on feeling beautiful? 

5. On pleasure buttons. For many of us, food is our easiest, most-used Pleasure Button. It’s fast.  It’s cheap. It’s reliable. So what’s the problem?

6. And finally, this poem. Trust me.

...

As always, I’m sending you strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this. 

I got married! And I have a permission slip for you :)

I got married a month ago!

I keep thinking that I “should” write something to you that is marriage-related, about relationships or commitments. And maybe I will, at some point. I’ll share pictures, too! :)

But honestly, there’s something else I learned from the experience that I’m wanting to share with you. It’s this:

Do you need to radically lower expectations for yourself?

Expectations about how much work you’ll get done,
how thoroughly you’ll prepare for the test or party or meeting,
how “fit” you’ll to be,
how “healthfully” you’ll eat,
how many friends you’ll have,
how on-top-of-it you’ll be in your personal and professional life,
how great a mom or friend or partner or employee you’ll be,
how often you expect be happy.

katiewithbooks_2.jpg

I’m thrilled to be married. My husband (!) is deep and kind and generous and smart.

But also, I’m exhausted. In addition to helping to plan a wedding, we moved across the country, lived in four different homes, and bought a place that needed some repairs. Plus I worked — and my work is deeply important to me.

So, it’s been a great year. But also, it’s been a tiring year.

The #1 most helpful thing I did for myself, during this year, was radically lowering my expectations for myself.

And when I say “radically lowering expectations for myself,” I really, truly mean it. Emphasis on “radically.”

I radically lowered expectations about how much work I could get done, how many people I could help, how much money I could make, how many new friends I could meet, how much I could travel or take on new commitments.

It’s easy to suggest this kind of thing, but living it was sometimes frustrating! There was so much more that I wanted in my heart to do, but I just didn’t have the capacity to take it on. And I was sometimes angry or judgmental about my lack of capacity. Katie, other people do way more than you. Why are you so tired? Why can’t you do more?

Do you recognize that judgmental voice? I find that most of us have it. But when I actually gave myself a permission slip to lower my expectations for myself, it was like landing on a soft, cool bed with really nice sheets.

It was way better.

So more than anything, this week I’m wanting to give you that same permission slip. Here is what it says:

It doesn’t matter if “other people” could do more.
It doesn’t matter if you think you “should” be able to do more.
All that matters is what you are capable of, and what you need in order to thrive.

Can you take the permission slip? Can you land on the soft, cool bed?

 

As always, I’m sending you strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this.

I can’t stop thinking about this recently (or: On Emotional Straightjackets)

“Cool is an emotional straightjacket.”

It’s a quote by Brené Brown, via Caroline Donofrio’s great article. Brown is saying that if you spend all of your energy trying to be “cool,” you cut yourself off from your goofy, weird, messy, awkward, wonderful authenticity. It’s like putting your true self in a metaphorical straightjacket. It limits your ability to connect with others and do your best work in the world.

First of all: amen.

But second of all, it got me thinking about how many other emotional straightjackets we have. Here are some for me:

Success
Being well-liked
Not disappointing people

computer_time.jpg

On one hand, all of these are great qualities! Who doesn’t want to be a successful, well-liked person who never disappoints colleagues or loved ones?

On the other hand…it’s impossible to truly “have” these things. Even if you do your absolute best, you’ll still disappoint someone or have someone not like you. And, of course, there’s always somewhere higher to strive for in terms of success.

Yet, we still strive. And the process of striving often requires putting our deeper, messier, mushier needs or impulses in a straightjacket — locking them up and inhibiting their movements so we can do what we have to do, goshdarnit!

The experience of having all these parts of ourselves put in a straightjacket…it isn’t fun. Most of us crave deeper authenticity, connection, creativity, or more sparkling energy, but we’re also afraid to let ourselves out of a straightjacket.

You probably know this, at least on some intellectual level. That you sometimes “straightjacket” yourself in the pursuit of things that might not be truly worth it. But do you know it in your core or your gut?  

Would it be helpful to remind yourself, when you feel yourself feeling tired or frustrated or anxious:

“Success” is an emotional straightjacket.
“Being well-liked” is an emotional straightjacket.
“Not disappointing people” is an emotional straightjacket.
Or ________ (you fill in the blank) is an emotional straightjacket.

(Of course, this is not to say that you can’t strive to do good work, or to be a good person. It’s more that the level at which we seek to achieve these things can be unachievable.)

Does that resonate? For me, it lands far more deeply than just saying, “you need to let go of trying to be well-liked!”

And I’m curious, what is your emotional straightjacket? Share your comment below!

Other people aren't you.

It was a Saturday night, and I was sitting at a trendy, modern Mexican restaurant. White walls, white tables, white chairs, and beautiful lighting fixtures and candles. I had a mango margarita and four beautiful tiny tacos, followed by chicken enchiladas with mole sauce. 

I’d had a stressful week and was even working that weekend. To be good to myself in the little time I had alone and without work, I’d decided to take myself out to dinner.

When I got to dinner, I found that I was starving. I plowed through three small tacos, and two and a half gourmet enchiladas. Like the intuitive eater that I am, I kept asking myself “am I still hungry?” but the answer always seemed to be “YES.”

When I finished my meal – I ate nearly everything – the waitress looked at me with a knowing smile. “A bit too much, eh?” This is one of those modernist New York Mexican restaurants, filled with rail-thin women with straight hair sipping trendy beverages. It’s probably not every day that a woman comes into this modern, hip restaurant and orders two appetizers and one entrée and eats almost all of them herself.

A little flustered, I said to her, “Oh, no, it was perfect. I was so hungry.”

As I walked home, I reminded myself that it’s okay it’s okay for people to make assumptions about who I am and what I need.

It’s also okay for them to be wrong.

12115685_1039410552768433_4336527125293629434_n.jpg

Do you know that feeling? That moment, when someone else makes an assumption about what you should want or should be in the world? 

Suddenly, even if you didn't doubt your decision before, you feel...wobbly. A little insecure.  

I just wanted to give you a reminder this week: It's hard to stand in your truth in the world. It's inevitable that other people will make assumptions about who you are and what you need.

But, of course, other people will also be wrong. 

And if you ever feel strange or weird or uncertain, you can always think of me, sitting alone at a trendy Mexican restaurant, enjoying my unfashionably large meal. 

I’m rooting for you :)

What’s your if-only-I-were-thin fantasy?

Let’s do something fun together.

We all know that being thinner wouldn’t actually improve our lives in the ways that matter most. I mean, you’re probably a smart, feminist person, right? And yet…is there a sneaky little part of you that would really, really like to lose a couple of pounds?

Rather than trying to shame that part away (stop giving into society’s beauty standards, self!), why don’t we just spend some time with that voice, and really listen to what it has to say.

I want to get really, really literal about it. So: take five minutes, grab a piece of paper, and answer these prompts at least 3x each:

  • If I were thinner, I would…
  • If I were thinner, I wouldn’t…
IMG_1351.jpg

I’ll play!

I’ve done enough personal work to know that my life wouldn’t particularly change if I were thinner.

And yet, I’m a woman who lives in the 21st century — there’s still a part of my brain that can get seduced by that “oh, wouldn’t it be nice to lose X pounds” thought train. I don’t take those thoughts too seriously anymore, and I absolutely don’t change how I eat because of them. But I also think — as I said above — that it can be more useful to investigate them than to push them away because we “shouldn’t” have them.

So in that spirit, here’s my “how my life would change if I were thinner” list as of Friday at 12:13 p.m.:

  • I’d dress better. I’d wear cute but comfortable clothes every day, have just-the-right casual yet pretty clothes to wear for going out to dinner or to a friend’s backyard party, and a small but very well-curated couple of dresses and maybe a jumpsuit to wear when I’ve got something fancy on deck (a wedding, a bridal shower, a night at the opera). 
     
  • My hair would look fantastic, all the time. It would be smooth, yet curly. I would know how to do a bunch of great hairstyles with it.
     
  • I would feel more “pampered.” (note from rational Katie: Wait, what the heck does being more “pampered” mean?) Well, I seem to be extremely well moisturized in this fantasy, and I’m not wearing month-old nail polish that’s 60% cracked off. I seem to go to yoga somewhat regularly, and I have somewhat-frequent massages. 
     
  • I would be more productive. Interestingly, it’s not like I work a million hours, but I seem to just be more diligent about getting everything done.
     
  • I would be glamorously social. Somehow in this fantasy, I am laughing with a flute of prosecco at a hip bar with a bunch of lady friends. I’m wearing a great going out top and skinny jeans. We’re all so funny and fabulous. 

...

I realized two things, reading this list. Maybe you’re already noticed them, too:

1. NONE of these things require losing weight.

I can do my hair, moisturize my hands, drink prosecco at a bar, wear cute clothes or just freaking get work done without losing an ounce.

Some people feel that because they have a larger body, they can’t wear cute clothes. I would ask if you’ve ever seen Tess Holliday? Or Kellie Brown? I’ve also been told by some past clients that their bodies are too large to find a good romantic relationship, but I’ve met people of all body sizes in very happy and fulfilling relationships (and I bet you have too).

2. There are a lot of good reasons why I have chosen to not strive for many things on this list.

For example:

  • Really good hair is high maintenance. I like to sweat while I exercise and walk outside without worrying about my hair frizzing.
  • Massages and a lot of new clothes sound really nice, but my financial situation will probably be the same regardless of my weight, and I feel good about how I allocate money to clothes and indulgences right now. I can enjoy these things in smaller ways, over time.
  • When I hang out with my friends, we do occasionally drink prosecco in bars, but more frequently we eat cookies on couches in their apartments. And I like it that way.
  • Also, I’m a huge introvert, and the idea of being “glamorously social” kind of exhausts me. It’s one of those things that sounds nicer in the theoretical novel of my life than in reality.

...

Is it possible that our “if I were thin” fantasies are:

(1)    available to us, right now, and/or

(2)    things we have chosen not to pursue?

Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy and amazing?

 

I’d love to hear from all you! What are your “if I were thin” fantasies? And do you really have to lose weight to achieve them? Share with all of us in the comments — I think it’d be fun to see what everyone gets up to! 

Here's a photo I think about a lot.

What do you think, when you see this photo?

Portugal.png

For me, this photo evokes beauty and lushness and spaciousness. Those rich colors, that empty water and sky.

When I think about being there, I assume that all of that sun and ocean and majestic natural beauty would make me feel calm and joyful and juicy.

And yet, I was there when this photo was taken, and I wasn’t feeling any of those things. Here’s what I actually felt:

  • Exhausted. This was our last day of vacation and I was pooped. And I felt guilty about feeling so exhausted. Why do you get tired so easily, Katie? Why can’t you just have FUN?
  • Dirty. My body felt salty and sandy and grimy because we’d spent a lot of days at the beach, and even though I showered each day, some sand always seemed to remain. (I think this was definitely influenced by being tired, too).
  • Anxious. We were on a small boat, and my very sweet husband (then boyfriend) kept leaning over the edge with my phone, to get the best angles for photos. I was afraid he’d drop my phone overboard!

At our AirBnb that evening, I looked at the incredible photos Gil had taken and could see what beauty and majesty and juiciness the photos evoke. And I definitely wanted that!

But did I want to be back on that boat, feeling the things I had felt? Nope.

It made me realize: We don’t always want to be where those photos are. We want to feel what those photos evoke.

 

When we’re in a self-aware mood, most of us know that comparing ourselves to other people’s social media pictures isn’t fair. We’re seeing their peak moments, and everyone has anxious or sad or not-cute days that they don’t post on Instagram.

But for me, this realization about the vacation picture took it a step further. It forced me to really ask the question:

Do I really want what this picture is showing? E.g., a gorgeous beach or a fabulous breakfast or a romantic photoshoot?

or

Do I want what this photo evokes in me? E.g., adventure or freedom or pleasure or love or beauty?

I love vacations and delicious meals and spending time with my husband as much as the next girl. But, honestly, those things don’t always give me that peak feeling that a picture can evoke.

We can spend time with our significant other and feel grumpy or unattractive.
We can have a delicious meal and be worrying about a work deadline.
And, as I mentioned, we can be on vacation and feel tired and grimy and anxious.

On the other hand, totally mundane and un-sexy things can sometimes evoke those feelings that those pictures represent.

Remember how I said that I didn’t feel beauty and spaciousness and joy when that photo of the beach was taken? Well, you know when I did feel that way? Last Friday, when I took the afternoon off, bought myself sushi at Whole Foods, and read a romance novel for two hours.

Heck, I felt so downright joyful that day, I literally skipped in the parking lot of Whole Foods. (And an older man gave me a strange look.)

There’s no glamorous photo to capture that day. I’m pretty sure it was overcast and I was wearing old leggings and my hair wasn’t cute. There was nothing good to capture. But I felt far more of the feelings the picture evokes for me than I felt on the actual day it was taken.

 

Here’s a fun question for your Sunday: What’s a photo that captures how you want to feel today? Do you need to do that thing (e.g., go on vacation, have a photoshoot in the park while wearing full makeup), or is there something else that would be just as effective? 

A reminder

A reminder: it’s going to take the time it takes.

You can’t rush your own process. Even if your brain thinks you “should” have had enough rest, hugs, love, tears, chocolate, or french fries by now….

…it doesn’t matter. You need what you need. Denying it will only get you stuck in a cycle of frustration.

DSC_0348.JPG

As always, I’m sending you strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this.

How to have less exhausting arguments

You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever met.

...

...

How did you feel when you read that? How would you feel if someone you cared about said that to you?

Would you feel a clenching in your stomach?
Would you think, Oh god, what did I do? I’m so sorry!
Or, she has no right to say that!

Marshall Rosenberg, in his classic (and really fabulous) book Non-Violent Communication, points out that we have four potential responses whenever someone says something negative to us. We can:

  1. Blame ourselves
  2. Blame others
  3. Sense into our own feelings and needs
  4. Sense into other person’s feelings and needs

Which of these four we choose have a big effect on how messy and painful our arguments get. But many of us default to one or two of these responses — and not always the good ones.

DSC_3409.jpg

Let’s say that someone you cared about made a painful accusation about you, something like “You’re an extremely selfish person.” You could respond in one of four ways:

1. Blame yourself: Oh man, I am such a selfish person! I am the worst! I immediately need to apologize for absolutely everything I did to this person!

I don’t know about you, but for much of my life, this was one of my go-to responses. Apologize, apologize, apologize. And there’s a certain good intention there — we want others to feel better, so we accept blame and responsibility.

But, as Rosenberg points out, in doing so we accept the other person’s (negative) judgements of ourselves – which may not always be true. And down the line, this can really mess up our self esteem, and lead us to feeling chronically guilty, ashamed, and depressed.

 

2.  Blame others: She has absolutely no business telling me that I’m self-centered! If anything, she’s the self-centered one!

This is also something that I’ve done. I mean, haven’t we all? The problem is that this response just generates anger, rather than helping to necessarily resolve the conflict.

If we just say that the other person “shouldn’t” feel that way, rather than having any empathy for how they are feeling, it’s hard to connect and truly resolve conflict.

 

3. Sense into your own feelings and needs: Wow, I feel really triggered right now. That accusation brought up all the self-judgement that I already have when I try to take care of myself instead of automatically doing what other people want.  

Instead of assuming that the other person is right or getting mad at them, with this approach you simply notice what’s happening for you.

You notice how this one accusation brought up other negative thoughts and self-judgements that already existed in your head. You notice how this particular statement triggered all kinds of other, deeper fears.

When you start from this place you’re not blaming anyone — either the other person or yourself. You’re just giving yourself the chance to notice all these feelings that are already happening, so you don’t get overwhelmed by them and react inappropriately.

 

4.  Sense into the other person's feelings and needs: I guess that she was really wanting to feel supported by me, and because I attended to my own needs instead, she wasn’t able to get what she wanted. It seems like this was really painful for her.

With this approach, you try to assess what the other person was feeling or needing. Again, there’s not any judgement here — she’s not a “bad person” for wanting or needing something, or for having a particular reaction to not having her wants or needs met.

At the same time, you’re not blaming yourself. It’s not that you’re a bad person because you didn’t meet her needs, or because she had a particular emotional reaction .

You’re just noticing what seems to be happening for her.

Rosenberg points out that when our main reactions are #1 or #2, we tend to have more painful or messy conflict with others. We either feel guilty and take on blame that we may not wholly deserve, or we get angry and blame the other person. Either way, we’re throwing a lot of blame around — and that tends to make things worse.

On the other hand, either #3 or #4 are awesome starting places. When we can have empathy and understanding for both ourselves or another person — again, just understanding how both of us are feeling without judgement — we can begin the conversation with kindness and are more likely to be able to diffuse the situation.

Even more powerfully, we all respond more positively when we feel heard and seen with empathy. For example, maybe you couldn’t have behaved differently. But when the other person knows that you hear their pain, and you would like to help them resolve their pain, they tend to relax.

On a personal note, it’s hard to overemphasize how much more kind, relaxed, and safe my arguments with loved ones feel when I can remember to start with #3 or #4. I can’t recommend them enough.

Over to you! Think of a recent conflict you’ve had: which of the four reactions did you have? Which of the four did you completely forget about?