Bad Taste

When I got my first real job out of college, I lived in Atlanta with one of my best friends. We would slave away all week (at least we thought we did) and then blow it out on Friday night. So a greasy fast-food breakfast on Saturday morning — usually a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit with hash browns and a Coke — was required to start my recovery.

I used to crave food like this. Now? I cannot even image eating a meal like that. The closest thing to a hangover recovery meal I have today is avocado toast. And guess what? Twenty years ago, if you’d asked me if avocado toast would’ve hit the spot after a big night out, I would have done my best puke emoji face.

How I got from point A to point B involved tons of baby steps. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to ditch my greasy biscuit in favor of green toast. I went from craving one to craving the other. But it didn’t happen overnight.

If you’re worried that you’ll never be healthy because you love doughnuts and hate kale, don’t be. I promise you that the Oreos you can’t live without today can eventually become the apple slices you crave tomorrow . . . but only if “tomorrow” is code for “as long as it takes.”

This distinction is the difference between success and failure. You have to learn how to enjoy kale (and if you never do, that’s fine!), not force yourself to eat it because you hate it. To get used to a food, you have to incorporate it slowly into your routine and experiment with different ways of eating it.

You do the opposite when you diet. You throw out the foods you love and make yourself eat the ones you hate — overnight. This all-or-nothing approach not only prevents you from making permanent changes, but it keeps you in a place of “I hate kale,” which means you are not likely to ever make it part of your diet.

It takes time. And eventually you may learn to not only love kale but to crave it. The goal is to take one teeny, tiny step . . . every single day.

As you change how you eat, your tastes begin to change — as does your desire for fat, sugar, and salt. For example, science shows that eating less fat makes you more sensitive to the taste of it. So as you start putting less butter on your bread, you need less to be satisfied. Conversely, if you overdo it, your sensitivity to fat becomes blunted – so you have to keep eating more just to feel satisfied.

What you want is this biological shift in taste so that you don’t have to force yourself to stop eating the foods you love and make yourself eat the ones you can’t stand. You want to actually want to eat it – which you can train yourself to do.

Science says it takes two to three weeks for your taste buds to start changing in response to the foods they encounter. So give yourself a chance to gradually adjust, and make changes that are easy for you to make.

If you douse all your food in salt, don’t try not to use any. Gradually decrease the amount, add another spice or herb (oregano, garlic), add fresh lemon juice, decrease the amount a little more, continue. After a few weeks, you probably won’t be able to physically tolerate the amount of salt you used to use.

You will eventually start to crave the healthier things you develop a taste for. When I’m feeling stressed out, tired, and not particularly healthy, I literally crave something green. If I’m really off track, I get my juicer out and cram it full of dark leafy greens, organic fruit, and ginger – then all is right with the world. (Remember, this is the girl who used to drink Diet Dr. Pepper all day to try to keep from eating.)

If your tastes can change — especially if you don’t think they ever will — imagine how much you can change if you give yourself a chance. Thinking that you will never become a certain kind of person will keep you in the same place forever. You’re not someone who hates to workout, who loves fried food, who has no willpower. You can become anything: a health nut, a marathon runner, a vegetarian — whoever you want to be.

And, as always, lose weight naturally in the process. 🙂


The Non-Food Five

There are five habits I have that have nothing to do with food or eating that make me feel healthy and in control. And no matter how much crap I ate the day before, I know I can wake up and do these five things to get myself back on track.

Before I tell you what they are, let’s talk about food for a second.

I think we focus too much on food — obsessively so. It’s disturbing to me to turn on the Today show or open up People magazine and hear someone talking about how we should be afraid of nightshade vegetables or read about how you should be following a ketogenic diet. The reason it upsets me is because it makes you miss the forest for the trees. Why freak out over whether you should drink matcha tea or bullet coffee when you don’t even exercise?

Plus, being obsessed with finding the perfect combination of foods tricks you into believing that there is some sort of magic formula to health and weight loss. As long as you buy into the “magic pill” mindset, you prevent yourself from taking responsibility for your health, which means that none of the changes you make will stick.

So here are the five habits I practice that instantly give me the “it’s a brand new day” feeling I need to keep going:

1. Sweat. Tell yourself that all you need to do is break a sweat. You don’t need to have some hour-long, hard-core cardio session. Just break a sweat. Sweating makes you feel like you’re getting things moving and getting the clean-out process started. Taking a steam or a sauna counts.

2. Hydrate. There’s nothing easier than chugging a bottle of water to make you feel like you’re doing something healthy. Put bottles by your bedside table, in your bathroom, in your car, next to your computer, or anywhere else you spend time.

3. Exfoliate. This is one of my favorites. Scrubbing off all the dead skin makes you feel like a new person, and it’s super relaxing. You don’t need anything fancy — sugar and olive oil is perfect (that’s what I use).

4. Nap. If you feel tired, please promise me you will take a nap, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes. A quick nap refreshes you and helps you keep going. Don’t treat yourself like a drill sergeant like I used to and push yourself until you collapse. That is a sure way to generate a ton of resistance that you will eventually neutralize with food.

5. De-stress. Feeling constantly stressed keeps cortisol flowing through your bloodstream, which makes you more likely to binge eat and store fat. As soon as you start feeling overwhelmed, irritated, or stressed, access your mental list of three to five easy things you can do to calm down. Light a candle, listen to classical music, go sit outside. (You also produce cortisol when you don’t sleep, by the way.)

All of these care-taking habits help you feel more loving and less resistant of your body — which translates into eating to fuel yourself rather than shove down food to make yourself feel better. And doing healthy things makes you want to do more healthy things.

If you feel like you’re constantly back to square one with your eating habits and it’s keeping you in the downward diet spiral — binge, gain, diet, lose, binge — try making one of these a habit first. It’s easier to do something (like a body scrub) than it is to try not to do something (like cutting carbs).

And doing something positive that has nothing to do with food takes the pressure off you and how you’re going to eat today. Plus, it’s really hard to do all this and then want to binge on Oreos.

I would go so far to say that engaging in these habits daily is arguably more important than having the perfect diet (if there were such a thing). Because what’s the point of eating perfectly healthy if your life is complete chaos and you’re not sleeping?

It’s so important to give yourself consistent small wins that make you feel like you’re making progress. These simple actions give you immediate small wins, which eventually compound and accelerate your results. Most important, they make you feel good about yourself — and you should. 🙂

Forever Stuck

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I spent a large part of my life dieting. None of the diets ever worked — but I blamed myself for the failures. I felt like I kept taking one step forward, one step back, forever stuck and never getting anywhere.

When I finally quit dieting, I immediately realized what a waste of time it was. And I felt sad about all those years I wasted. But I realized something important: it took me all those years to get to my breaking point, and it was what I learned through all the dieting failures that finally pushed me to quit doing it. I realized that each time I failed, I learned something new. And all the lessons I learned added up to a big decision that changed my life.

Dieting repeatedly makes you feel stuck. You diet, lose weight, gain it back, fail, and do it all over again. It feels like you’re never making progress . . . but that’s actually not true.

You’re never in the same place twice. You’re always making a new distinction with every experience you have, even if you don’t know that you are. That’s why there’s no such thing as failure: because when you “fail,” you’re actually learning what doesn’t work.

Really stop and think about this, because it’s life changing when you do. Even if you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again, you are never the same. When you shift your thinking to realize that you’re always moving forward — even when it doesn’t feel like you are — it gives you momentum to continue. You can choose to believe that you’re making progress. Because you are.

But having this mindset is really hard when you are in the diet/failure/shame loop. That’s because dieting never ever works, and as long as you keep doing it, you are going to fail. And then you’re so busy feeling like a failure that you can’t see that you’re actually getting somewhere.

You have to free yourself from the dieting trap by dedicating yourself to slowly and consistently taking small steps forward. You have to commit to a slow deliberate journey for the rest of your life — not a race to a weight-loss finish line. You have to see that you’re always moving forward; as long as you believe yourself to be stuck, you will never get un-stuck.

Here are three steps to change your perspective when you feel this way:

1. Stop judging yourself. Give yourself a massive break. You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got. Ease up on yourself, and keep going.

2. Make a distinction. Ask yourself what you can learn from your “failure,” and use it to change what you’re doing that isn’t working.

3. Make a modification. Make one tiny modification to what you’re doing. Don’t try to change everything at once. This is unsustainable and results in an “I quit” mindset when you run out of willpower. Instead, give yourself a small win by making one small, easy change. And then build on that.

You have to remember that you are making progress, even when you “fail,” because progress isn’t just achieving a goal — it’s also figuring out what doesn’t work. You are in this exact place because of what you’ve learned and experienced so far. It may feel like you’re stuck, but you’re not.

Keep moving forward, and choose to love what you see even if you don’t like what you see. Because that’s the only way to change it.

The Dieting Disconnect

When I was in college, I signed up for Nutrisystem. If you don’t remember, that was the program that delivered prepackaged meals that you ate for a few weeks to lose weight. Each meal came in a microwaveable plastic container that was about the size of an iPad. There was no preparation — you just heated it up, ripped off the cellophane, and ate.

There was no enjoyment in eating these meals. I was completely and totally disconnected from the food I was eating. The food was actually an afterthought. My only motivation for doing the program was to prevent myself from overeating so I could lose weight. (Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very well when you come home wasted and eat three of them. Needless to say, Nutrisystem didn’t work for me.)

This is an extreme example to illustrate how dieting disconnects you from the food you eat — even if you are eating real food. That’s because dieting sets up a fear-based relationship with food, which then prevents you from enjoying the eating experience.

In our culture, we tend to separate things into categories rather than integrate them as a whole: body parts, nutrients, food groups. Thinking of food in categories and as being either good or bad takes all the joy out of eating, which makes you more likely to binge.

Why? Because when you really enjoy what you’re eating, you are relaxed and engaged with the whole process: preparing your food, cooking it, sharing it, eating it. When you make eating an experience, you appreciate the food you’re eating, which makes you eat slowly. If you eat slowly, you are more aware of feeling full, and you stop when you are.

When you set up a fear-based, adversarial relationship with food, it makes you feel resistant. Feeling resistant makes it more likely that you will binge. If you’re trying not to eat, you’ll shove food down when you finally do. And feeling disconnected prevents you from being fully present when you eat, so you’re more likely to eat past the point of fullness.

By the way, dieting also disconnects us from our bodies. It focuses you on parts of your body rather than seeing yourself as whole. (I wrote about this in another post, “Body Parts,” if you want to read more: Then the media reinforces this. And in case you think you’re immune, my 10-year-old daughter has already started asking me about teeth-whitening treatments. 😦

Ok, now I’m going to get a little deep here. Think of how you feel when you garden, walk on the beach, or watch the rain fall. You feel peaceful and relaxed because you’re immersing yourself in nature, which you are part of. Food is part of this energy, just like you are. So when you set up a fear-based relationship with food and you try not to eat — which is what you do when you diet — you literally disconnect from yourself. And if you disconnect from yourself, you will never be able to change the body you live in.

Being aware of how dieting creates such a powerful disconnection is critically important. If you don’t ever see this, you will remain forever stuck in the dieting loop.

So how do you escape?

  • Stop dieting. Nothing more to say on that.
  • Cook more. Make preparing your food a process. Cooking helps you really enjoy the food you eat, and it prevents you from grabbing whatever you see when you’re hungry — which is usually something out of a package. Cooking also means you’re going to eat more healthy, because you’re going to incorporate more foods into your diet.
  • Spend more time at the grocery store. Don’t blaze in and out, buying the same stuff over and over again. Browse the aisles and find foods and ingredients you don’t usually use. When you get creative and get out of your rut, you’ll feel inspired to make more positive changes.
  • Eat outside. Being surrounded by nature makes you feel relaxed. It keeps you present when you eat and helps you focus on what you’re actually eating. It makes eating an experience rather than a mindless check out where you unconsciously shove your food down.

Food is meant to be enjoyed — not avoided. You should never be afraid to eat or resist eating. Dieting keeps you doing both.

Stop dieting, and make eating an experience. It’s such a relief to make peace with eating and with your body. And when you do, you will naturally lose weight.