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?

Another reason why this "food stuff" is hard.

Last week, I reminded you why this “food stuff” is hard: You receive so much subtle encouragement to eat (from advertising, portion sizes, and even free food), it can be hard to figure what and how much food you actually want.

But there’s another, more important, reason why this “food stuff” is hard: Powerful forces constantly tell you your body isn’t good enough.

Nearly everyone you see in television, on TV, in movies, and in fashion magazines is thin, despite the fact that even for many of these actresses and models, this body type is not natural and requires strict, constant dieting. 

Or, in the words of Julienne Moore: “I’m hungry all the time. [… ] I think I’m a slender person, but the industry apparently doesn’t. All actresses are hungry all the time, I think.”

Also, powerful companies are very invested in encouraging you to lose weight. The diet industry earns more than $20 billion dollars in revenue annually, as of 2012 — a number that is likely higher today. Celebrity endorsers of weight-loss programs make $500k to $3 million dollars. Oprah owns a $77 million stake in Weight Watchers, so she wants you to go to Weight Watchers. These companies want you to want to dislike your body, so you’ll use their products to try to lose weight. 

It’s easy to gloss over this. 

Blah, blah, blah, I get it. So much pressure to be thin

But do you REALLY get it? Or do you just intellectually understand and agree that the pressures put on women's bodies are unfair...but then still secretly think I know I'll never look like Julienne Moore...but I WOULD like to lose those 5 pounds.  

And have you been "wanting to lose 5 pounds" for the past two decades?

Body image has big implications for your eating. If you don’t like your body, you are far more likely to develop an unhappy relationship with food. This, in turn, will make maintaining a healthy weight even harder. 

Bottom line:  It’s hard to like or even accept your body in the world that we live in. Given the pressures we're under, making peace with your body may be an ongoing project for many of us. If you’re struggling, don’t beat yourself up. Just keep trying. 

A reminder about why this food stuff is hard

A reminder: Having a good relationship with food — one in which you use food to “take care” of yourself in all senses (physically, emotionally, etc.) is much harder in the world that we live in. 

Someone who was living 500 years ago didn’t have large quantities of delicious food available constantly. A female farmer in 1517 didn’t have free donuts available at her 10 a.m. meeting, sixteen delicious lunch places near her work, and free candy sitting on her co-worker's desk in the afternoon. 

Also, powerful companies want you to eat as much as possible. In 2012, fast food companies alone spent $4.6 billion on advertising. The number is likely much higher today, and doesn’t even include advertising of chips, cookies, sugary cereals, or soda.

None of this is to say that you can’t or shouldn’t eat indulgent food. I love indulgent food!

But you are under a lot of pressure to eat indulgent food, thanks to the reality of larger portions, the ubiquitous availability of free food, and the messaging of powerful companies. 

Given this pressure, it may be hard at times to figure out what you truly want. Do you want that entire enormous burrito because you are actually hungry and craving that particular food? Or because it’s there?

If you want to use food in a way that serves all parts of you (your body, your spirit, your taste buds), you might need to pay a bit more attention than if you were that random farmer woman 500 years ago. Random Farmer Woman could eat anything that was available, because there just wasn’t that much food available. 

Bottom line: The world in which we live makes this “eating stuff” harder. But you don’t need to obsess or make draconian food rules; you just need to gently stay in touch with yourself.

On being Stoppable

For a long time, I tried to be Unstoppable.

In other words: I tried to pretend that I didn’t need to Stop. If you’re trying to be successful in school or your career, maintain relationships, do “extra-curricular” activities, and keep up normal-human-maintenance like exercise or laundry, there’s often just not a lot of room time left over.

And if there wasn’t a lot of time or flexibility in my day, then I certainly didn’t have time to be Stopped by feelings or thoughts.

Instead, I often had to push through to get the paper or the analysis or the presentation done. My days, too, and nights were often jam-packed without time to Stop: I gotta get home from work, shower, eat something, maybe exercise, and get to that party.

And yet, I wasn’t Unstoppable. No one is.

So many things are supposed to Stop us — intense feelings like fear, anxiety, insecurity, and more, but also more “mundane” feelings like boredom, mental or emotional or physical fatigue, and more. They don’t exist to be glossed over.

But processing feelings — really being with them, feeling the (often intense) physical sensations, and figuring out what to do about them — takes time.

As I mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of time.

So, instead of feeling all that stuff, I often ate. To be clear, it usually wasn’t always a full-on “binge.” More often, it was a cookie here or a mini candy bar there. Oh, did I just eat that slightly stale biscotti from the break room on my way to my next meeting, or was that my imagination?

When I did my own personal examination, I realized that each time I was eating in this way, something else was going on.

When I wanted to eat that slightly stale biscotti, what was actually happening was that I was tired from my day and needed a break to process my frustration and fatigue.

Or, in other words: I needed to let myself Stop.

Acknowledging that we are “Stoppable” means acknowledging:

  • That we are not machines put on this earth to complete to-do lists as efficiently as possible.
  • That we often can’t do as much in a day as our brains think we can or should do.
  • That we might not be able to be as “perfect” a friend, employee, student, boss, partner, girlfriend, or friend as we would like to be.
  • That we might have more feelings than we thought.

Here are some things that you can do when you Stop:

  • Feel your body (is it sweaty? Is your heart racing? Do you have a zinging or a tightness in your chest?).
  • Write in a journal or a random piece of paper (or even on the notes app on your phone).
  • Have a mental conversation with yourself (What are you feeling? What are you resisting? What do you need?)

If this sounds like it would take “a lot” of time, you’re not wrong. Stopping will take a some time, especially if you are inexperienced with checking in with yourself on a moment-to-moment basis.  

If it frustrates you to think that you might not be able to “do” as much as you thought, I feel you. That realization was tough for me, as well.

But please know that I am here with you, just another normal woman with a barrel-ful of feelings.

And I promise: Stopping is worth it.

 

It’s okay to love food!

I recently threw away some papers from my teenage bedroom, and I found a list of “things to bake” on a small Winnie the Pooh pad of paper. The list included quiche, sourdough bread, and cinnamon rolls.

It reminded me of two things: 

  1. I love food, and I have always loved food.
  2. The way that I love food now is so much better than the way I loved food back then. 

Back then, my deep love of food felt kind of dangerous, like a liability. I always had to keep it under control — only three bites of that slice of cake, Katie. I was usually pretty good at keeping everything moderate … except when I wasn’t (like when I'd eat a ton of cookie dough while baking and then take a walk afterwards and think, I’m never eating cookie dough again. Ever.)

The way that I love food now feels like a happy and well-adjusted relationship. I feel like I can express my love without causing some kind of crisis or problem. 

As I ate a small piece of chocolate peanut butter pie for a snack this afternoon, I realized that I write a lot about what a relief resolving our “eating issues” can be, how it can reduce the mental clutter and make us happier. But I wonder if I explicitly say something else frequently enough:

Loving food is not wrong. 

Loving fresh bread and warm cookies and baby back ribs that are covered in barbecue sauce is not wrong. 

And eating bread and cookies and baby back ribs is not wrong either. 

What’s “wrong” is that you’ve spent so long messing with your eating that you’ve convinced yourself that your cravings can’t be trusted.
What’s “wrong” is that you’ve gotten lost in the restrict-and-overindulge cycle so often that you’ve forgotten that true satisfaction is natural and achievable.

Loving food can be a natural and awesome expression of sensuality, pleasure, and humanness. 

So I want to remind you, in case you forgot or never learned: 

You don’t have to be afraid of your love of food. 
It’s okay to love food. 
It’s okay to eat food that you love.

You might just have to do some personal exploration to figure out how

 

Maybe you’re wrong about what you want

Imagine that that I told you to “eat whatever you want.”

What do you imagine?

Are you sitting at a table surrounded by food? A box of deep dish pizza, a six-layer chocolate cake, chips with bowls of dip and guacamole?
Do you envision eating and eating and eating?
Do you envision eating until any reasonable person would be sick?

Even if this isn’t your exact fantasy, when most of us are faced with the thought of eating “whatever we want,” we envision frequent, large quantities of rich food.

And that’s why I can’t eat whatever I want, we tell ourselves. Because I would eat till I got sick and till I got fat.

But can I offer a reality check?

Why is “eating whatever you want” the same thing as “eating until you feel sick” ? Does it have to be?

I mean, yes, something that I “want” is a deep dish pizza with Italian sausage, sautéed peppers, and onions.

But something else that I “want” is the energy to take a gentle walk, do my work, and spend time with the people that I care about.

So I don’t really want to eat so much pizza that I can’t do the other things I want.

Is it possible, if you’ve always thought that you could never “eats whatever you want,” that you’ve just been defining “what you want” too narrowly?

If “eating whatever you want” means “eating only junk food, forever” — it probably wouldn’t make anyone feel great.

But if “eating whatever you want” means doing a nuanced calculation in the moment, balancing all of your complex needs — to satisfy your taste buds, your body, your soul, your emotions….isn’t this something that we all can do?

p.s. If you’re reading this and thinking, “I guess I might feel good and relatively healthy if I ate in this way, but it wouldn’t be good enough because I wouldn’t lose weightthen let’s talk about that elephant in the room. 

p.p.s. If you'd like to work on figuring out how to actually do that in-the-moment calculation to figure out how you truly want, I'd love to invite you to join a Dessert Club.

 

My body image “shame”…and what I learned

As much work as I’ve done to accept and embrace my body, I still sometimes find myself having negative thoughts about my weight.

Thoughts like, “Maybe you would look better if you lost a couple of pounds, Katie.”
Or: “Maybe you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable at that party if you were slimmer.”

For a long time, I felt embarrassed about even having these thoughts. I knew that they weren’t true, but I kept thinking to myself: I’m a coach and I help women make peace with food and their bodies! I should be 100% past this!

Eventually, I realized something really important about these negative body thoughts, and what to do about them. I wanted you to hear about it from me, so I recorded a video.

After you’ve watched the video, I’d love to hear what you think. Have you ever tried the technique I suggest to deal with having negative thoughts about your body? Comment below the video or even hit reply to this email and let me know!

A weekend reminder.

A reminder: You can’t rush your own process. 

It’s going to take the time it takes.

Even if some intellectual part of you thinks that you “should” have enough rest, hugs, love, money, chocolate, or French fries by now….

…It doesn’t matter. You need what you need. Lying to yourself doesn't do you any favors.

(Of course, you may not be able to meet every single one of your needs right now — if I'm wanting a croissant from Paris, that's not really possible at this exact second — but at least acknowledging it is an essential first step.) 


p.s. If you'd like some support on learning to sit with your needs + figure out how to best meet them (with food and with life), you might be interested in joining a Dessert Club (summer sessions are now open for enrollment!)