I just ate emotionally.

I just ate emotionally. Just now. Well, by the time I post this it will be a Sunday and I’m writing on a Tuesday night, but you get the point.

I’d been feeling emotional and sad and frustrated and insecure all day. Nothing is majorly wrong in my life, but I just couldn’t seem to shake the feelings. I’d talked to my fiancé about it, journaled about it, walked, done yoga, and “let it be” — moving onto other life stuff.

And then I found myself eating emotionally.

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I hadn’t planned to do it. Because of all the feelings, I hadn’t had much of an appetite all day. I even skipped dinner because I just didn’t seem to be hungry. Then, late at night while Gil was playing guitar, I found myself wanting some chocolate.

So I had some chocolate truffles. And then some chips. Then some more chips.

By this point, I knew I wasn’t feeling so good (chocolate + chips does not a feel-good dinner make). I thought about eating something with actual nutrition. I considered just leaving the kitchen.

But in the end, I decided to keep eating. As I was sitting at the table, digging a big spoonful from a chocolaty, cookie dough-y, Ben and Jerry’s pint (The Tonight Dough, if you’re curious), I was very aware that I wasn’t hungry.

And yet, I thought to myself, Wow, eating emotionally feels really good right now.

Several hours later, as I write this to you, I don’t regret it. Even though I feel a little uncomfortable and overly full, I don’t feel like it was a terrible thing — it did help me feel a bit better in the moment. I don’t want to do that every single time I feel a negative emotion, but I don't do it every time I feel a negative emotion. And by acknowledging it and not fighting it, I didn’t continue to eat emotionally out of panic and denial.

It happened. Now it’s over. It’s not a huge deal.

The goal isn’t to be “perfect.” The goal is to be a real, messy human being with a range of coping mechanisms.

In fact, we can sometimes choose to eat emotionally. We aren’t killing anyone by eating ice cream to feel better — we’re exercising our right as adults to take care of ourselves in whatever way we choose.

I wanted you to know this, in case you ever feel badly about eating emotionally or to numb out a little: it’s cool, I do it too sometimes.

Having a Fat Day? Here's what to do.

Let’s talk about Fat Days.

On one hand, fat is not a feeling. Fat is a physical substance which all of us have more or less of. So having a Fat Day isn’t a rational thing because in a literal sense, you are not appreciably more or less fat today than yesterday.

And yet, you knew what I was talking about when you read the title of this post, didn’t you?

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If I dig deep enough, when I am having a “Fat Day,” what I am really having is a “bloated and disconnected day.” Blame it on the fact that I’ve eaten more Boursin cheese and Thai food recently. Blame it on an upcoming menstrual cycle. Whatever the reason, none of my clothes seem to fit right, my whole body feels a little bloated, and I feel a bit more disconnected and numb in my body than usual.

When I’m in the middle of a Fat Day, it’s like I don’t know the dimensions of my body anymore. My body feels less like “mine.”

I could have called this essay “advice for a bloated and disconnected day,” because that would be more accurate. But, for purposes of this post, I’m going to call it a Fat Day. Not because fatness is bad (it isn’t), but because in talking with a lot of people about their bodies, I know that’s how many people refer to these types of days. I want us to all be on the same page.

People have different experiences of what a Fat Day is, and what is helpful. But I wanted to share with you a couple of things that really help me during these times:

 

  1. Stall.

    On a Fat Day, it is very, very tempting to extrapolate — either in the direction of restriction and dieting (I need to nip this fatness in the bud! No carbs for me today!) or in the direction of indulgence that doesn’t ultimately make us feel good (I am so frustrated with my body and so exhausted from trying so hard…I give up. I’m going to binge for the next four days.)

    The most important thing you can do on a Fat Day is stall. Don’t make decisions about your future. I promise you that you will feel differently in 24 hours. Not that you won’t have any problems or dissatisfaction in 24 hours — but you will feel differently.

     
  2. Chill.

    What if the Fat Day was a sign that you and your body needed a bit of extra loving and kindness?

    That’s a rhetorical question. You and your body definitely need some extra love and kindness on a Fat Day. In fact, a Fat Day is basically an invitation from the universe to slow down and connect with what’s going on for you. So don’t just stuff down a couple extra cookies in frustration and push through your to-do list today. Instead, I urge you to feed your kids frozen pizza, tell your boss that you’re going to get her the presentation tomorrow, and take an extra hour or two to slow the heck down and chill out in a way that sounds nice to you.

    If you are a busy person, it’s easy to skim over this piece of advice. But please don’t.

     
  3. Use kindness to decide on movement.

    For most people, one of the causes of a Fat Day is feeling disconnected and maybe kinda weird in our bodies. So one of the most powerful things you can do is move in some way that helps you reconnect.

    I’ll be honest, though. When I am in the throes of a pretty intense Fat Day (or even a Fat Hour), the last thing I want to do is exercise. So, for me, some form of purposeful rest can be a very kind first step.

    But please know that eventually it will be helpful to physically connect to yourself in some way. Stretching or a gentle walk around the block is a great way to start. For some reason, doing a hilariously small number of push-ups (like, three) often helps me start the process of reconnection without overdoing it.

    The key here is to listen to yourself and to be gentle, while also keeping in mind that movement is a great way to reconnect.

     
  4. Eat lightly and deliciously.

    I’ve found that if I eat a lot of food, it is harder to feel my body. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — sometimes I want to eat a lot because that slight numbness feels nice or heck, because I just feel like eating a lot.

    But, again, one of the biggest symptoms of a Fat Day, for me, is that I’m cut off from my body. So it’s not a time, for me, to eat a TON of food — I’ll choose to eat a little more lightly instead. I won’t go hungry, but I’ll probably more consciously choose to be “lightly full” than I might on a different day, because I want to let the sensation in my body back in.

    But I also believe eating delicious food that genuinely makes you happy is important on a Fat Day. It’s easy to get angry with yourself and pledge to basically go on a mini-diet or restrictive series of days (see above). I hope you know by now that a restrictive path usually makes things worse. So focus on making yourself feel happy and good, whatever that means for food selection.

     
  5. Gently attend to your appearance.

    The crazy thing about this whole Fat Day thing is that in reality, we don't look particularly different than we did the day before. And yet, we feel completely different. If you looked inside my brain on a Fat Day, for example, there would be a lot of negative thoughts about my appearance. On a Fat Day, I do not feel cute.

    One thing that works really well for me on a Fat Day is to gently attend to my appearance. I don’t mean that you need to adhere to any particular set of beauty standards, but I do mean that it can be helpful to put in a bit of effort to look nice in a way that pleases you.

    For me, Fat Days tend to be correlated with days when I’ve been wearing my pajamas all day, my hair is in a strange bun on top of my head, and I haven’t showered since Tuesday. (I know, it’s shocking that I might not feel great in my body on those days). So just taking a shower or dealing with my hair or putting on my nice leggings or even a dress (!!!) can make a world of difference.

     
  6. Be more indulgent with yourself.

    This is very similar to #2 above, but it is so important that I want to say it again. If you are having a Fat Day, or a Bloated and Disconnected Day, you might be feeling frustrated, sad, stressed, confused, or anxious. This is a day to be extra kind, rather than extra critical.


If I were to give you a one-sentence prescription for these days, it would be: Cut yourself waaaay more slack, do some gentle things you enjoy, and check back in with yourself in 24 hours.  

I’d love to hear: How do you usually treat yourself on a Fat Day? What helps, and what makes the whole thing worse? Leave a comment below!

How can I love my body more?  

Would you like to “love your body” more? Most people I talk to would.

And with good reason! Hating your body causes or exacerbates eating issues. Plus, wouldn’t it be awesome to wake up every morning feeling like you are the living embodiment of a Meghan Trainor song?

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I want to answer the question of “how can I love my body more?” — but to do that, I have to ask another question:

What does it mean to “love” your body?
Does it mean that you spend every second of every day thinking that your body is 100% awesome?

I know a lot of people who seem to think that this is how they should feel about their bodies.

And, well, they don’t. Not even close.

But I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding when it comes to Body Love. In fact, I think that most people confuse Body Love and Body Infatuation.

Body Infatuation is like romantic infatuation — that head-over-heels, Tom-Cruise-on-the-couch, everything-is-so-wonderful feeling that you sometimes feel about another person, in the very early stages of love.

If you feel infatuated with your body, that’s awesome. But most of us probably won’t feel that way all the time, forever. Some of us will never feel that way, and that’s okay, too. 

On the other hand, true Body Love is something that most people can cultivate.

To better understand true Body Love, it’s helpful to think of any other folks in your life who you truly love, in a long-term way: a partner, a family member, a friend, even a pet.

There are likely many things that you appreciate and adore about that person or animal. There are likely also many things that you don’t prefer, or that even drive you crazy.

You can tell the other person that you’d like to change something about them, and you’ll probably get a clear signal, pretty quickly, about whether you’re going to have any success with them making that change.

I know that’s true for my relationship with my wonderful fiancé. There are certain changes that he is more than willing to make out of love for me. And there are certain changes that…well, I just need to let be. I need to accept that he is his own person who is going to do his own thing.

Isn’t it true for your body, too? Your body is pretty willing to make some changes — like, if you get terrible heartburn after eating tomato products, your body might be mostly willing to tone it down on the marinara sauce.

And then there are other things that your body is just NOT GOING TO DO. Even if some other part of you thinks it’s a really good idea. If some part of you wants to try to lose weight, for example, your body might be willing to try eating less for a certain period of time…but then it might give you a pretty clear signal that THIS IS TERRIBLE AND IT DOESN’T LIKE DOING THIS. Most people I work with have gotten this signal many times over.

The key is that once you’ve gotten that clear signal, you need to let it go, or your relationship will suffer.

I think that true love in a long-term relationship requires the following:

  • Appreciating what you genuinely appreciate
  • Noticing what you’d like to change, and seeing if it is possible to change those things
  • Accepting what you will fundamentally never change about the other person

And that last one is key. Because if you’ve gotten a clear “no” from the person you love about making a certain change, and yet you continue to remind them 18 times a day how much you wish they’d change — it might seriously harm your relationship. They will probably get hurt, angry, or resentful. It might even start to impact other parts of your relationship because they will stop feeling safe or appreciated by you.

And how many of us are guilty of that whole tell-the-other-person-18-times-a-day thing with our bodies? How many of us think, every time we put on a pair of pants or look in the mirror, I would love my body more if I just lost five pounds?

Let’s face it: You are definitely in a long-term relationship with your body. Sure, it might be one of those arranged-marriage situations — and not even the good kind of arranged marriage where your parents take your interests into account and you thought the guy was cool anyway.

You might not have chosen this particular body if you were given the option between yours and Jenna Dewan Tatum’s, for example. But it’s what you’ve got, divorce isn’t an option, and you’re going to have to make the best of it.

And if you want to be in a successful long-term relationship, you need to appreciate what it is possible for you to appreciate (and every body has many things worth appreciating), while laying off trying to change the things that you can’t change.

This philosophy — that you don’t necessarily need to be over-the-moon with Body Infatuation every second, but you DO have to lay off trying to change your body if you want to have a pleasant relationship with it, has many different names:

Body Peace
Body Neutrality
Body Acceptance
Or even Body Positivity or Body Love — though these two terms can sometimes point toward a form of “body infatuation” that isn’t super realistic, in my opinion.

You can call it any of those things. I particularly like “body neutrality,” myself. But I think the most helpful thing is to remember the following:

1. Love is not the same as infatuation, and
2. Love requires some level of letting go, even if some other part of you would prefer to lose those 3.5 pounds.

I’d love to hear from you: What would be an appropriate metaphor for your current relationship with your body? What would you like the metaphor to be? 

 

What if you were more rational than you think?

Do you ever feel like there are two different parts within you, fighting it out?

One part of you knows what’s rational and reasonable. This part of you says things like: “Okay, you can have one cookie, but that’s it,” or “We need to eat a salad for lunch because that’s what reasonable people do.”

Then there’s another part of you — the part that likes to go a little crazy. The Crazy Part caused you to eat half a gallon of Rocky Road ice cream while you were watching Game of Thrones the other night, when you weren’t even hungry and the ice cream made your body feel bloated and weird afterwards.

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Many people deal with this feeling of having two parts by trying to shut down the Crazy Part. “I just need to get my act together and stop eating so much candy!” is something I hear a lot.

But here’s another — far more useful — approach I want to offer:

Assume that all parts of you are fundamentally rational.

If you assume that all parts of you are fundamentally rational, then that Crazy Part isn’t crazy after all. It’s actually just rationally responding to a series of issues that you are not yet consciously aware of.

If all parts of you are rational, there’s no need to “shut down” the crazy-seeming part. Actually, just the opposite approach is needed — you need to listen to what that part is telling you. If it is having such a strong reaction, there is probably something really important that you need to know but aren’t yet aware of.

At this point, maybe you’re thinking to yourself, I’m a pretty self-aware person. I wouldn’t be missing out on something so big happening.

But here’s the thing. Most people I work with, both in my individual coaching practice and in the Dessert Club, are pretty self-aware people. I love self-aware people. And yet, every single person I’ve ever worked with — without a single exception — had more going on internally than they initially realized.

Maybe this is frustrating. If it were as simple as “I just need more willpower around sugar,” you could throw away all the sugar in your house and make one of those calendars where you cross out every day on which you don’t eat it.

But this “all parts of me are rational” approach requires you to undertake a complex and potentially messy process of self-reflection and self-discovery. What is actually motivating me that I’m not currently aware of?

To be honest, though, I actually think that I’ve given you the best news ever. You aren’t crazy! You don’t need more willpower! There isn’t a binge-loving gremlin living in your brain!

You are fundamentally rational.

And if you are fundamentally rational, but behaving in a way that seems irrational…well, I guess you’re going to have to do some sleuthing, my friend. 

Q&A Sunday: Is it ever a good idea to weigh myself?

This week, I wanted to share a question from a fellow reader. She’s someone smart and thoughtful. Someone like you. Here’s what she says:

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Is it ever a decent idea to weigh myself on a scale? By decent I suppose I mean, constructive/ healing/ helpful.

Several months ago, when I discovered your blog/intuitive eating, I began trying to feel my feelings and eat food when I was hungry, etc. I determined I would weigh myself once a month-ish to check in, and that I'd (try my best to) cultivate an attitude of equanimity, regardless of what the scale said.

I noticed it dropping, the number on the scale, quite slowly but steadily. I felt unsurprised, as I knew I'd spent much of the past year eating for reasons other than hunger. I felt pleased about it at times, I won't deny it; but also, pretty equanimeous. Sometimes I'd forget I'd even weighed myself until a week later (a far cry from the days of seemingly having that number branded onto the inside of my skull).

Then a day came, a month, where my weight had jumped up. Not so slightly. Whereas the decreases had been subtle (½ lb or maaaaybe 1 lb/month), this was a 4 lb increase in a month. And my equanimity ran off.

The number rang in my head all day. All week. All month. I decided never to step on the scale again.

Then I had a doctor's appointment. Another 4 lbs increase. I didn't remove my boots though, so I could tell myself it's not fully real.

I am realizing that whenever I weigh myself, I am, in a sense, looking for external assurance that "I'm okay." When the answer is "yes", it's usually because the number has dropped or stayed the same, though. When the answer is "no", it's usually because the number has increased. And it is often only then, in scenario two, where I'm "not okay," that in my upset I can see the inanity of putting my sense of wellness into something as sterile and plastic as a scale.

The (semi) trouble with not weighing myself, is I've no objective perspective (which I assume the scale does offer) to help mitigate or ameliorate my body dysphoria, which sometimes feels truly out of control.  [note from Katie: body dysmorphia means that a person is excessively concerned with an imagined or exaggerated flaw in their appearance. Sometimes this can escalate to the level of a disorder, but I think that this reader is using the phrase in a sub-clinical sense.] And in which instances, a scale can tell me, "calm down. Not much has changed here." This can be a helpful anxiety-dampener.

But of course, the opposite is contained within this external arbiter of comfort & reassurance-- it has the power to take it away, too-- and it's all unknown until it isn't and then it's too late, to un-know. I would've already stepped on the scale; I would've already asked the question and handed my power over.

On one hand, I want to continue the work of not associating less weight with “Okay” and more weight with “Not Okay” (an ongoing endeavor of the past decade).

But I still wonder. Is it ever a decent idea to step on a scale?

— Lisa


Lisa, thank you so much for this. Even in how your phrase the question, you show how thoughtful and caring and smart you are. 

And you share such a powerful case study for how scales can seriously mess with all of us, even if we are thoughtful and caring and smart. 

In my opinion, the short answer to your question of: “is it ever constructive/healing/helpful to step on a scale?” is, to put it bluntly: is no. 

No, I do not think that it is ever constructive or healing or helpful to step on a scale. 

I’ve written about how harmful scales can be before.

Part of the reason I wanted to respond to your question, though, is that it’s clear to me that you already know this. You wrote so beautifully about how stepping on a scale is really just “looking for external assurance that I'm okay. 

So I know that you know:  A scale cannot tell you if you are okay. It can only tell you the mass of your body. 
The mass of your body is not the same as whether you are worthy or “okay.”

And, even more problematically, a scale can make you not-okay, emotionally or psychologically, by encouraging an unhealthy obsession with being a very precise weight. Because, inevitably, we will get on the scale and at least sometimes not like what we see.

So in that sense, I don’t think it is ever constructive or healing or helpful to step on a scale. It is not even really necessary to have such a precise measure of your body mass. If you’ve lost a substantial amount of weight, you will know without a scale. If you’ve gained a substantial amount of weight, you will know without a scale. You will know based on how your clothes fit and how your body feels. 

If you have lost or gained a small amount of weight, yes, perhaps you might need a scale to tell you that. But does it really, truly matter if you’ve gained or lost, say, 2.5 pounds?

But again, I know that you know this.

Part of why I wanted to answer this question was because I think you are not alone, in this icky, frustrating cycle of “I know that I shouldn’t care so much about my weight” and “I really, really care so much about my weight.”

I also think you are not alone in feeling rudderless at times, detached from the anchor that tells you that you are valuable, you are enough, you are worthwhile just as you are.

And indeed, part of the pain of your situation is that you are self-aware and thoughtful enough to see yourself in this cycle.

So if you remember one thing about this letter that I am writing to you, I hope it is this: your desire to get on a scale is a warning signal.

It is a warning signal that you have lost yourself.
It is a warning signal that you feel you are not enough.
It is a warning signal that you feel scared or nervous or excited or some other thing that is a bit (or a lot) too much for you to handle right now.

If we can accept that food issues are not really about food, we also must accept that weight issues are not really about weight.

Just as your desire to eat fourteen 14 cookies after walking in the door from work tells you something about yourself, your desire to weigh yourself also tells you something.

The good news is that if you’re already introspective enough to have done a lot of this personal work with your eating, I think you’re also going to be able to deeply ask yourself, “what does my desire to weigh myself tell me about how I’m doing?”

Because — and again, you probably already know this — only by really sitting in the question of what your intense concern about weight tells you about the rest of your fears, loves, desires, and dreams…can you actually hope to resolve this issue.

I think that this weight thing is telling you that there is some deep, personal work and growth with your name on it.

I think that this weight thing is telling you that there is a world in which you could feel a much deeper, surer knowing that you are on the right path, that you are enough, that you deserve love, right here and now. 

Of course, this is a big journey that I’m inviting you oninto. This Q&A Sunday didn’t fix your problem with a magic wand, even though I wish that it could.

But I want to give you at least one actionable place to start. So it is, Lisa (and everyone else out there):

When you find yourself about to weigh yourself, step away from the scale, go to a different room, set a timer for at least 5 minutes, and answer one or more of following questions. Answer them while writing longhand:

  • What am I afraid will happen — in all of my life — if I have gained weight?
  • What do I hope will happen — in all of my life — if I lose weight?
  • What generally happens after I weigh myself? Do I want that for me, today?
  • Why is it scary to think about not weighing myself?
  • Why do I need to weigh myself at this exact moment?
  • What am I resisting right now?

After that, you make a decision about whether or not to weigh yourself. But if you write each time, at least you will be getting to know yourself and your deeper motivations in the process. And in knowing your deeper motivations, you can question whether your fears are true and what you want to do about them.

Thanks for your question, Lisa. I hope you know that I’m rooting for you, with all of this.

How to eat food and feel like you never ate anything

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There are many ways to eat food without feeling like you’ve eaten it. Any of these sound familiar?

1. Buy a chocolate bar at the supermarket. Eat it when you get in the car, as you listen to the radio and navigate the traffic-filled streets home. You’re talking to your kids in the backseat, who have a lot to say, and the chocolate bar is gone before you get out of the car to carry in your groceries. Did the chocolate bar even happen?

2. Take a late-night trip to your kitchen. Open the cabinet and unwrap a bag of your favorite chips. Put several chips in your mouth, and then several more. Look both ways to make sure no one is coming into the kitchen, then grab a few more salty morsels as you close the cabinet. By the time you make it to your bedroom, there are no chips to be found. Did the chips even happen?

3. Leave a meeting and head to the office kitchen. Donuts were left on the breakroom table, so you eat half of a donut as you make yourself some tea and check your phone. You grab the other half as you respond to a quick email — you want to make sure your colleague knows you’re on top of this new issue. You take your tea and rush off to the next meeting. Did the donut even happen?

4. Meet three good friends for drinks and dinner. You order a couple of drinks and so many different dishes to share. It feels so good to catch up with everyone about their lives, you find yourself reaching for a bite every couple of sentences. At the end of the night, all of the plates are empty, but you can’t remember much of what you ate except that you feel a little weird in your body. Did the dinner even happen?

Of course, there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with eating when you aren’t hungry, eating while distracted, or sneaking foods so others don’t see you eating.

There’s not even anything inherently “wrong” in eating in a way that makes your body feel bloated or numb or weird afterwards.

You are allowed to eat however you like.

But that’s the question, isn’t it: How do you want to eat?

And, as a reminder — if you want help shifting your relationship to food so that you actually CAN eat the way you want to eat…my small group classes, called “Dessert Clubs,” start in just a couple of days! I won't run them again until 2018, so this is your last chance for a while.

There’s just a couple of spots in each group if you’d like to grab ‘em! Learn more here.  

If you're considering giving up sugar or starting a Whole30 tomorrow, watch this first.

In the past six months — or let's face it, in the past week — have you contemplated or attempted to:

  • Completely stop eating sugar
  • Start an intense exercise regimen that you only kind-of enjoy
  • Conform to a pre-existing eating “plan” (e.g., Paleo, Whole30, low-carb, Weight Watchers, etc.)
  • Take on a new habit in a super demanding way (e.g., “I’ll work on my novel for two hours every day, including weekends!”)

If so, there’s something I want you to now. And I want you to hear it from me, so I recorded a video. 

After you watch, I'd love to hear: In what areas of your life do you tend to make "big" or "extreme" plans? 

11 things to do if you suddenly realize you’re standing at your kitchen cabinet, eating pita chips out of the bag

Have you ever had that moment when you suddenly realize you’re standing at your kitchen cabinet, eating Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips straight out of the bag, and you don’t even know how you got there?

Oh, just me?

If you want the pita chips, please have the pita chips. But there are other times when you don’t want to leave the pita chips because A) you don’t know what to do with yourself instead or B) you don’t want to face your feelings/work/to-do list/children waiting on the other side of the pita chips.

In these moments, it’s a smart idea to have something else to do that doesn’t involve going back to responsibilities or work or contemplating your existence. That’s what this list is — 11 things that I think are silly or fun or moving.

Here’s a suggestion: don’t even click on all the links now! Instead, save this article somewhere easily accessible, and pull it out next time you feel yourself inexplicably drawn to the pita chips that you don’t really want.

Think of it like an emergency care package from me to you.

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11 things that you can do instead of eating pita chips:
 

  1. Watch an SNL sketch on YouTube. If you like The Bachelorette, this one made me cry from laughter. Or you might like this or this or this one here.
     
  2. Play Ballz. To get it, search “ballz” in the app store + download.
    Just trust me on this one.
     
  3. Make a Pinterest board of how you would decorate your hypothetical home if you had an enormous budget. Here’s mine.
     
  4. Do a Google image search for “teacup kittens” or watch this.
     
  5. Watch an Inside Amy Schumer sketch. Okay, I get that this is very similar to #1, but I love Amy Schumer’s work so, so much and it often has such hilarious social critiques of beauty, weight, and women’s roles in general. Check out this or this or this.
     
  6. Read the beginning of a romance novel. I think that romance novels are to the brain what sugar is to the body: delicious, and — if well written/baked — totally worth it. Amazon lets you read the beginning of a book for free, so you might try this or this.
     
  7. Pick out a hypothetical wardrobe of clothes that are mostly made of silk. Well, yours doesn’t have to be mostly silk. This site is fun for out-there daydreaming.
     
  8. Think about what names you would give to your hypothetical children or characters in a novel you’d like to write. You could start here.
     
  9. Read a fun blog. I like this and this and this. Oh, and this is kind of a guilty pleasure…
     
  10. Listen to pop songs that are guaranteed to improve your mood. This and this are basically foolproof for me, and this really takes me back. We also can’t forget THIS ONE. Dancing is optional but encouraged.  
     
  11. Totally random, but this cracks me up every time. And this is so lovely.

 

What is the goal of this list? To get you away from the pita chips for a couple of minutes. Once we have even a couple of minutes of brain space, we can usually make a better decision about how to act in a way that best serves us. 

Finally, there are going to be some times when you know that eating those cinnamon morsels isn’t really serving you, but you can’t quite put them down. It’s best not to beat yourself up too much about that. Kindness tends to be a much more effective long-term strategy. Plus, here’s what you can do the next day.

I know that we have our own list of things that we do in those weird moments when we feel like wewant to do something we don’t truly want to do and have to wait it out. Your ideas might be useful to someone else — will you share them and pay it forward? Leave them below!

 

 

Why eating at social events is so hard

It’s always been 10x harder for me to care for myself with food when I’m in a social setting. 

I’ll think that everything is going great, and then I’ll realize: oh man I just ate seventeen handfuls of tortilla chips and I don’t even like tortilla chips that much, or I wasn’t even hungry but somehow I just half of a large pizza.

I know I’m not the only one. Every Dessert Club, and with nearly every coaching client, we talk about how to eat in social situations in a way that allows you to feel good in your body and connected to yourself and your true needs.

Particularly since we’re heading into a Labor Day weekend here in the US (which often involved plenty of socializing!), I wanted to share with you why I think that social eating is so hard, and the most helpful technique I know for navigating it:

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Why social eating is so hard

Eating in a way that serves all parts of you requires that you listen to internal signals from all parts of you. You need to be able to hear the parts of you saying things like, I’m full!I like cookies but not too many cookies!, and Hearing this person talk about her job is making me feel insecure! — and more.

In other words, eating in a way that serves all parts of you requires turning up the volume on your internal experience, so that these diverse voices are loud enough for you to hear them.

That’s where the tricky part comes in. When we’re in social settings, it’s really, really hard to listen to the voice of your internal experience because there’s so freaking much happening in our external experience — things like:

  • Music in the restaurant
  • A companion — or many companions — to talk to, who may provoke intense feelings within us (love, resentment, attraction, connection, stress, anxiety, boredom)
  • Delicious foods that we don’t get to eat every day
  • A new setting, like a restaurant, with unique lighting, furniture, etc.

 

The best technique I know for dealing with social eating

Do you want to know my #1 tip for social eating? It’s pretty wild. Get ready for it.

Take a break + check in with yourself.

I mean that in a literal sense. Leave the social situation, go somewhere quiet where you can be alone, and check in with how you are doing. It can be too hard to know what you need when you are in the middle of stimulating situation — I’m a pretty self-aware person, and I still find it really hard. Once you reduce the stimulation, though, it’s much easier.

Of course, sometimes in a social situation it can be difficult to find a place to be alone and quiet. But there’s always at least one place….the bathroom!

Maybe this is a slightly weird piece of advice, but I think that bathrooms are awesome for personal check-ins. They are private, they are everywhere, and it’s not socially weird to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. You might have to go to the bathroom anyway!

Once you’re in that private, quiet place — and let’s be honest, there’s a 90% chance that it will be the bathroom — ask yourself about two things:

  1. How am I doing, with food?
  2. How am I doing, in general?

Maybe that’s all you need, just those two questions. But in case you’d like even more ideas about how to check in with yourself, here are some more specific questions that I sometimes ask myself, when I’m having my personal check-in in the ladies’ room:  

1. How am I doing, with food?

  • Am I hungry? Am I full?
    And how do you know? Where are you feeling those hunger/fullness sensations?
     
  • If I want to eat, what do I want to eat? And how much?
     
  • How is the information I am getting now different from what I thought when I was near the food?
    For example, you might have been planning to eat your entire entrée when you were sitting at the table, but now that you are checking in, you realize that you’re full and don’t want the rest.
     
  • If I was _______, would I want to keep eating?
    You could fill in that blank with “alone,” “at home, reading,” “spending time with people who made me feel comfortable and safe,” or whatever is true for you.


2. How am I doing, in general?

  • How is my physical body doing? What sensations am I feeling?
    This could be a good time to notice if you have stress, excitement, tension, or any other sensation in any part of your body.
     
  • How am I doing, emotionally?
    Are you feeling happy, angry, sad, scared, frustrated, bored, lost, stimulated, interested? 
     
  • What is true for me, right now, that I am resisting acknowledging?
    Maybe you don’t want to be where you are. Maybe you are tired. Maybe you are so overwhelmingly happy to be with the people that you are with, that it’s hard to even notice your body and its needs.

For some people, it can be hard to check-in in their minds alone. If that’s true for you, you could try writing down your responses to some of these questions, either on a scrap of paper or in the Notes app on your phone.

If you are particularly nervous about a social eating event coming up and want to be super prepared, you could even write down some of these questions on paper or in your phone and bring them with you. That way, you’ll have some prompts in the moment to get started.

Of course, you don’t need to ask yourself all these questions every time! But they can be a good jumping off point.

That’s it!

To summarize:

1. Social eating is hard because you lose touch with yourself.

2. To reconnect, go to a quiet, private place (bathroom) and check in with yourself, food-wise and non-food-wise.

 

I’d love to know: what do you find helpful, for eating in social situations? Leave a comment below + let me know!

Frustrated with your eating? Here’s why you shouldn’t beat yourself up.

Do you ever feel completely, at-the-end-of-you-rope frustrated with your eating? I have been worrying about this for too freaking long and why haven’t I conquered it already?!

I have something that you need to hear. I wanted you to hear it directly from me, so I recorded you a video.

What do you think? Does it give you hope? Can you feel the hug that I'm giving you from across the internet?

Good luck for the week ahead, my friend. 

Some advice for the scary beginning

The scariest part of healing your relationship with food is at the beginning. At the beginning, your desires may feel bottomless. 

They sure did for me.  

Maybe I just like sugar too much, I worried. If I let myself eat pie when I want to eat pie, why would I ever stop? 

But once I actually legalized all foods — bringing them into my house and letting myself eat them, while listening to feedback from my body — I began to slowly realize that these desires weren’t bottomless.  It turned out that there were lots of good reasons to stop eating pie.

And, though I did consumer a lot of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups from fall 2010 through summer 2011, more nourishing foods gradually took up a larger and larger portion of my diet.

I find that this adjustment period occurs for most people. Most of us have spent years or decades trying to eat less ice cream and fewer onion rings. So if someone tells us that we’re allowed to eat ice cream and onion rings…well, sign us up!

I’m here to say that this heightened-junk-food-interest is pretty normal, in my experience. Most people who stop restricting themselves find that, in the short-to-medium term, they have over-inflated interest in indulgent food.

It makes some logical sense, too. If you don’t sleep enough for a long period of time, you’ll sleep a lot when you finally get the chance.
If you deprive yourself pleasurable foods for a long period of time, you’ll eat those foods a lot when you finally get the chance.

So I’ll say it again: a particularly intense interest in indulgent food often occurs when we start to release a previously restrictive relationship with food.

Because this is often at the beginning of our journey towards, it can be scary. I wanted to share a couple of things that can make this less frightening:
 

1. Resist the tendency to extrapolate.
Just because you want a lot of cookies for lunch today doesn’t mean that you are going to eat cookies for every meal for the rest of your life. If you notice yourself panicking about an intense craving for sugar, try to just focus on listening to your true desires in this moment, and responding to them. Then do it again the next time you eat.

2. Use solid eating skills.
“Legalize all foods and listen to yourself about what you truly want” is not the same as “please go on an unlimited binge.” I mean, you can overeat or binge whenever you feel like it, but most of the time, most of us will feel better in our bodies and enjoy the food we eat more if we try to eat when we are hungry, stop when we’re full, check in with ourselves about what we’re truly craving, and pay attention to our food.

3. Security blankets are legit.
For the first year after I stopped trying to control my eating, I kept some chocolate or a cookie in my purse wherever I went. That’s not a joke, though my boyfriend at the time did make fun of me for pulling out a fancy chocolate bar in the middle of a subway station and offering him a bite.

Having something delicious always available took away the fear of being deprived later. I could turn down those just-okay cookies at a catered work lunch, for example, because I knew I had something genuinely delicious in my purse whenever I wanted it.
 

4. Notice your "shoulds"
Do you have an opinion about how long this phase "should" last? Some people are okay with craving more indulgent foods for a week or two, but think that after that, it should go away. 

I just want to emphasize that everyone's process is different and will depend on your personal preferences and history with food. I've seen some folks find their equilibrium after a relatively short amount of time, while other folks took a longer amount of time. Personally, I was definitely eating a lot more indulgently for at least 9 months to maybe a year. But I listened to my hunger and fullness, paid attention to my food, and adjusted based on the signals from my body (e.g., sometimes, even in a more indulgent phase, your body gives you a clear signal that it's had enough of chocolate. It's a good idea to listen.)

It may be wise to question your ideas about "how this process should go." Can you let go of that idea for a little bit, and instead pay attention to what's already happening for you? 


5. Make sure that you are regularly checking in with your inner landscape.
There are many, many factors that are likely influencing your eating, so you need some way of figuring out what’s going on for you, on a day-to-day basis — so you don’t find yourself eating food you don’t actually want. Journaling can be great for this. Sitting and doing nothing can be great for this. You could work with a therapist or a coach. In the Dessert Club we talk about a couple of different ways of getting in touch with your inner experience.

But whatever you choose, you’ve gotta do it. We cannot resolve our eating issues if we are not in touch with our personal issues. Period.



Of course, this is not to say that you will be uninterested in pie and onion rings once you pass the "scary beginning." I certainly still love indulgent food!

But for many or even most people, that interest seems to calm down a bit, and we reach a personal equilibrium. 


— 

If you are feeling scared about the idea of letting your guard down around food, I hope this helps.

And please know, it’s not just you. You’re not alone. And you’ve got this.

Do you need to worry *less* about nutrition?

When I’m standing in the checkout line at the supermarket, it is hard not to notice the deluge of nutritional advice from magazines:

The four foods to cut out of your diet for flat abs!
The 10 superfoods you should be eating right now!
Shelly from Virginia lost 80 pounds — see what she ate!

The message that they are sending, explicitly or implicitly, is this: If you are frustrated with your eating/weight/body composition, you need to know more about nutrition.*

Except I don’t agree.

I mean, yes, nutritional information is useful. There’s nothing inherently wrong with learning more about how certain foods affect your blood sugar or mood, for example.

But what these magazines never seem to acknowledge is that there is a many complex factors that influence our eating. If we reach for a chocolate bar instead of green beans, “not realizing that sugar might spike our blood sugar” or “being unaware that chocolate bars have a lot of calories” could be one contributing factor. But it is very unlikely to be the only contributing factor.

Given the many factors that can influence our eating, it only makes sense that we need to develop an integral set of skills to eat in a way that best serves us:

  • Somatic skills. Are we able to notice our body’s sensations on a regular basis, or are we just floating heads in the world? Physical sensations include eating-related sensations (hunger, fullness), but also sensations that tell us other things (e.g., my chest is tight during this meeting and it is because I don’t want to be here)
  • Emotional skills. We need to be able to notice and process our emotions and thoughts on a moment-to-moment basis. What is going on in our minds and our hearts, when we have a cookie in front of us?
  • Cognitive skills. We need to have knowledge that helps us make eating decisions that are best for us. Part of this will likely include some knowledge of nutrition.
  • Relational and environmental skills. We need to be able to notice how the people we are with and the environment we are in are influencing our eating.  
  • Societal skills: We need to be able to notice how the society we live in is influencing our eating. Are you afraid of that chocolate bar because you are afraid that you’ll get fat? If so, why are you afraid of getting fat?

It has been my observation that most people who are frustrated with their eating are significantly unbalanced in terms of these skills.

More specifically, they tend to be overdeveloped in terms of knowledge of nutrition, portion sizes, etc. — and underdeveloped in two or more of the other skills.

Again, this doesn’t mean that nutritional information isn’t useful. It can be.

But.

But, if you are significantly unbalanced in terms of your eating-related skills, you might need to think less about nutritional information for a little or long while. It might be a better use of your time and energy to, for example, spend your time and brain space exploring how your emotions or your physical sensations are influencing your eating.

I wanted to write about this because I’m not sure I’ve ever read the advice “you might want to worry about nutrition less” in any mainstream online publication or magazine. Many of the people I work with are worriers, and worriers often worry about nutrition because magazines and articles tell us that we should worry about nutrition.

So I will say it again: Honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Do you really need to think about nutrition (or “clean eating” or “wellness” or whatever you want to call it) right now?

* When I refer to “nutrition,” I am also including related topics such as “clean eating,” portion sizes, calorie-counting, etc. 

On Pleasure Buttons

For many of us, food is our easiest, most-used Pleasure Button.

It’s fast. We have cookies in our cabinet. We can quickly grab a delicious beverage at Starbucks across the street.

It’s cheap. Those mini candy bars in the office candy bowl are free o’clock. The chips in the vending machine cost $2.

It’s reliable. We know exactly how good that sugar or salt or fat will taste. 

It’s not disruptive. We can eat a chocolate bar while responding to email, driving our kids to soccer, or polishing off that presentation.

It’s justifiable. “We have to eat.” 

Of course, there are many non-food Pleasure Buttons. But generally they take money or time. And often we can justify an indulgent cookie more easily than being "indulgent" with our money or time.

With good reason!

Taking an hour to lazily read a home decorating blog might feel as good as eating a bar of chocolate, for example, but we might not have an hour to spare. So instead we eat the bar of chocolate and get back to work — or eat it while we are working. The chocolate helps take the edge off so we can get that last thing done.

But you know how this ends. If food is our only source of pleasure, we will inevitably suffer because we aren't truly nourishing our bodies or listening to our holistic needs.

If we want to have a less dysfunctional relationship with food….

  • We need a diverse toolkit of Pleasure Buttons. There's nothing wrong with enjoying food, but we need other options as well.
     
  • We need to acknowledge that other Pleasure Buttons may not be as fast and cheap and reliable and un-disruptive to our lives.  
     
  • We may need to get brutally honest + make some changes or even “sacrifices.” If there is no free time in our lives, for example, then of course food will be our main (and maybe only) Pleasure Button. 
     
  • For some of us, it may be true that no other Pleasure Buttons feel as good as food tastes. If that's true for you, that's okay. But you may need to accept slightly lower "doses" of pleasure, at least as you transition.


What's stopping you from pressing other pleasure buttons? It might be fun if you shared your personal insights in the comments below.

On Fatphobia

Let’s talk about Fatphobia.

Fatphobia is the reason why — for many people — saying “I feel fat” is the same as saying “I feel depressed” or “I feel insecure and anxious.”

For the record, “fatness” is not the same as depression or insecurity or anxiety.

“Fatness” isn’t an emotion. It’s a description of a physical reality. All of us have some quantity of this physical substance — adipose tissue — on our bodies. We might have a lot or a little, relative to the rest of the population.

Being “thin” or “fat” is not inherently good or bad. Those words are descriptors. Just like “brunette” or “blond” or “tall” or “short.” Most of us don't say "I'm feeling so brunette right now" and expect people to understand that we are upset.

And yet, almost every woman I know lives in fear of being “fat.”
Even those really enlightened, fabulous, smart women who know that beauty standards for women are unreasonable.

On it’s most basic level, that is fatphobia. Many — potentially most — of us are afraid of becoming fat or staying fat. We don’t like or want fatness.

Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that you didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be unfair or mean towards people who have more adipose tissue. Most of us want to be kind towards ourselves and others.

In general, we feel negatively towards fatness because of the society we live in (not all societies feel this way — here's one drastic example). Fatness is one of the last remaining ways in which it is socially acceptable to judge and discriminate against people.

To give just a few examples from one metastudy on weight bias:

  • 28% of teachers in one study said that “becoming obese is the worst thing that can happen to a person.”
  • 24% of nurses said that they were “repulsed” by obese people.
  • Parents provide less college support for their “overweight” children than for their thin children, even after controlling for income and grades.

It’s not just people in the largest bodies who suffer. Another study found that, all other things being equal, a woman who is average weight earns $389,300 less across a 25-year career than a woman who is 25 pounds below average weight.

Though women of all body sizes face a financial penalty for any weight gained, the study found that very thin women actually faced the greatest per pound penalty for their first few pounds of weight gain. The researchers hypothesize that because society so richly rewards women who conform to the unrealistic female standard of thinness, it also “mete[s] out the stiffest punishments for the initial “rebellion” from this standard.”

In other words, gaining any quantity of fat is literally costly for women.

Even writing about these studies makes me feel sad and frustrated. Do you feel that way, too?

Fatphobia is a social justice issue, and there are many activists now working towards a world where all bodies are equally respected and have equal access to opportunities — a movement that is alternately called fat acceptance, fat liberation, fat positivity, body positivity, or body liberation.

I can’t fully do these movements justice in this piece, but I think it’s important to mention for two reasons:

  1. If you struggle with your eating, a conscious or subconscious fear of fatness is likely contributing to your struggle.
     
  2. Your “body image issues” are not only a personal issue, they also exist within a larger social context. No matter how much inner work you do, if we continue to live in a fatphobic world, accepting and making peace with our bodies will be harder.

This is a deep, complex issue. And on one hand, that’s a bummer — this stuff goes so deep!

On the other hand, I hope it gives you hope that it’s not just you. If you are struggling, it is also because of factors beyond your control. But by getting aware and hopefully vocal, you can help  contribute to progress.

Here's a small challenge for you: The next time you think, man, I'd love to lose some weight, ask yourself: "Would I feel this way if I lived in Mauritania?"

Sometimes things have to get really bad before we’re ready to change. 

I was talking with a friend this week, and she was telling me how she had procrastinated getting help for personal things she was struggling with. It was only after her inner turmoil started manifesting in her body — intense stress in her back, muscles freezing up, and occasional panic attacks — that she realized she really needed to do something.

It was a story I really related to, and I thought you might, too. How many of us wait until things get really bad before we’re willing to take action?

Especially about issues — like our eating or our inner lives — that we know are going to be thorny and painful, and may take some time to resolve?

(I bet everyone reading this is mentally raising their hands.)

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On one hand, I wanted to share this story to remind you that if you are wanting help or support, you should go get some! There’s no need to wait until things get worse (as they inevitably do).

Sometimes it can feel overly indulgent to deal with personal issues when there are more “real” issues at hand — like the need to earn a living or make dinner for your kids or clean your apartment.

Sometimes the things we truly need — like eight hours to veg alone, a massage once a month, or to talk to a professional once a week for four months — seem unfathomably indulgent.

Please consider this your permission slip to get what you truly need.
Please consider this your permission slip to revise your personal definition of “indulgent” and “necessary.”

But on the other hand, I want to remind you that if you know in the back of your mind that you need to deal with something, but just aren’t ready to face it yet…that’s fine, too.

I mean, yes, most of us would suffer less if we acted sooner on things that we know we need to deal with.

Like our food issues.
Like our personal issues.

But, on the other hand, most of us got into many of our personal struggles because we stopped listening to and trusting ourselves.

To rebuild that trust, we have to start somewhere.

If nothing else, I want you to know that you are allowed to trust that voice that says oh man this is a big ol’ bag of crazy that I’m just not ready to open right now.

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

Really, really good relationship advice

Sometimes you read something so good, it’s like the author handed you a nugget of gold.

I read some golden-nugget relationship advice recently, and I wanted to share it with you:

You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough.

Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all.

Be brave enough to break your own heart.


— Cheryl Strayed (Full text here)

Whew. "Be brave enough to break your own heart." That hits me hard every time I read it. I never dated many “bad boys,” but I’ve definitely dated my share of nice, good men…who just weren’t quite right for me.

And those same thoughts that Strayed describes — Am I incapable of commitment? Am I incapable of truly loving someone? — definitely crossed my mind.

Maybe you’ve been there, too. I find that many of my readers are kind, good people…and I find that kind, good people often have trouble walking away, especially if things are “mostly good.”

So I just wanted to send this today, in case it is what you were needing to hear:

1.     You are allowed to leave, just because you want to.
2.     Honoring your true needs may require breaking your own heart.

(And for the record, this doesn’t just apply to relationships).

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

My natural "antidepressants"

Last winter, I went through a mysterious multi-week “down” slump. I felt sad, down, depressed, and I didn’t know why.

As someone with a lot of feelings, I wasn’t necessarily concerned that I felt sad or down. But usually, my feelings will pass in a day or two or three. And this “down-ness” just stuck around.

Eventually, out of the blue, I came upon the idea of a natural "antidepressant” — and it really turned things around for me.

I wanted to share this concept with you, so I made a video.

After you’ve watched the video, I’d love to hear: what’s your natural antidepressant? Comment below the video and let me know!

Here’s a good trick for when you’re feeling insecure about your weight.

Whenever you feel insecure about your weight, remember this: underneath almost every weight-based insecurity is another deeper and truer insecurity about life. 

For example:

I wish I could lose 10 pounds before my college reunion.
The truer and deeper feeling might be: I want to be respected, admired, and liked by my former classmates and I think they might respect a thin person more.

I wish my dress were looser for this wedding or party.
The truer and deeper feeling might be: I worry that my relationship status/career/appearance/self is not “good enough.”
Or: I worry that my brother/aunt/friend/random acquaintance is “better" than me.

Maybe I should lose weight before my doctor’s visit.
The truer and deeper feeling might be: I worry that a person who I respect will judge me and tell me that I am unhealthy and irresponsible.  

Do you see a pattern? When we feel like our weight is not good enough, we are usually worried that we are not good enough.

Even if we claim that our concerns are about “health," it’s never just about that; we can be healthier without losing a pound.

If we assume that feeling insecure about our weight is actually about our weight, we never get to address these extremely important, core issues.

So the next time you feel insecure about your weight, try going a bit deeper.

Ask yourself: what is the deeper and truer feeling, underneath my insecurity about my weight?