Say What?

“Ugh, I am so fat. What is the matter with me? Why can’t I just lose weight?”

Sound familiar? It does to me. This is how I used to talk to myself, and not only did it make me feel like crap about myself but it also kept me from losing weight.

What you say to yourself is so important. Especially if you want to change your body. The words you choose and the questions you ask yourself add up to a silent conversation that you’re constantly having with yourself — and you’re having one, even if you don’t realize you are.

The problem is, it’s the wrong conversation.

Saying harsh things like this to yourself has serious consequences and will keep you stuck forever in the binge/diet cycle.

Also, how you see yourself reinforces your inner dialog. How you talk to yourself makes you think of yourself a certain way, which gives you an identity. Then the identity fuels the constant conversation you have with yourself. (For more on this, read my post “Who Do You Think You Are”:

If you want to change something, you have to be aware of it. So the first step is to spot it. Then — and this is key — ask yourself the right question.

When you ask yourself a question, your brain will always answer. So, for example, asking yourself “Why can’t I just lose weight?” gives you answers like “Because I have no willpower,” “Because I just can’t stop eating,” or “Because I hate working out.” These answers reinforce your destructive behaviors, make you feel terrible about yourself, and fuel your tendency to binge.

But if you turn the conversation around by asking, “What’s really going on here?” you might say, “I have a layer of fat around my stomach that I want to get rid of.” Then you may say, “Well, what’s causing that?” which might result in “I’m fueling myself wrong.” Now you’re getting somewhere, because you’ve given your brain a problem to solve and it will prompt you to look for solutions.

Let’s look at how these two questions differ.

The first question, “Why can’t I just lose weight?”, is emotionally charged and makes it personal — it’s you that’s the problem. The second, “What’s really going on here?”, is unemotional and makes the problem an external one that has nothing to do with who you are.

The first question results in a finality: I have no willpower, I can’t stop eating, I hate working out. These answers leave you with nowhere to go. They make you feel like you’ll never make progress. They make you feel like finding something to binge on.

The second question makes you solve a problem. It forces you to come up with solutions. Coming up with solutions to a problem puts you in control, and this makes you feel confident. The more confidence you get the more likely you are to make changes.

And when you come up with your own solutions, you’re more likely to succeed — because you’re going to pick things that fit your (current) capabilities and lifestyle. You don’t have to use any willpower to make a bunch of drastic changes that a diet demands. And, most of all, you’re more likely to stick with it and change a habit.

Changing the direction of your conversation also stops you from putting labels on yourself — I’m a sugar addict, I’m a meat eater, I’m big-boned. Again, the identities you create for yourself are powerful, so if you’re going to label yourself, at least make sure you’re creating the right ones: I’m a runner, I’m a vegetarian, I’m a health freak.

Once you start asking yourself better questions, you start having more constructive conversations with yourself. And as you keep problem solving, the healthy changes you make reinforce the positive things you say to yourself. And so on. (Remember that shampoo commercial, “And she told two friends . . .”? 🙂 )

An awesome outgrowth of this is that you start to look at your body without shame or judgment and you start being more objective and loving. Sure, you may have an extra layer of fat around your midsection, but now it’s a problem you can solve instead of what happens when you can’t stop eating because you’re fat and disgusting and can’t control yourself.

Notice what you say to yourself throughout the day. You won’t believe the number of times you say just the most horrible things to yourself and how often you ask questions that make you feel like shit and lead you straight back to the refrigerator.

What’s something you repeatedly say to yourself that you can work on changing today? Leave a comment and let me know.

Spotting your negative conversations is the first step . . . then you can change them. I promise you that no amount of calorie counting will come close to touching the benefits your body will get by doing this one thing.

Festive Free-For-All

Is there anything better than loading up a huge plate of food, shoving it down, and feeling like shit after? And then drinking heavily to console yourself?

No, not really. But sadly, this is exactly what we do during the holidays.

We actually look forward to the holidays precisely for that reason. We get to stop being so rigid, discard the need for willpower, and relax into a downward slide that ends in feeling bloated, exhausted, and — for lack of a better word — fat.

We view holiday celebrations as some sort of massively tempting experience, where the food laid out in front of us is impossible to resist. And we get super excited about letting it all go and blowing it out.

Which begs the question: If we didn’t have to use so much willpower the rest of the year, would eating in a normal way be that difficult to do during the holidays?

Forcing yourself not to eat certain foods — in other words, dieting — makes them that much more desirable. So during the holidays, we load up our plates with all the stuff we’re not “supposed” to eat. (By the way, this is one of the worst things you can do: load up your plate with enough food for five people. If there’s less on your plate, you will eat less.)

But the worst thing about a free-for-all attitude is that if you blow it out at Thanksgiving you will continue right on through New Year’s. Here are some strategies to help you do things in moderation this year.

1. Bring a second healthy dish. Whatever dish you’re bringing to the gathering, bring an extra one that’s healthy. Make a fruit salad — and not the one that’s as boring as watching paint dry. Add some chopped cilantro or ginger for more flavor or pomegranate seeds to make it crunchy. Bring some veggie sushi for everyone to try. You can start with a small plate of your own healthy dish before you even eat anything else.

2. Have a good workout that morning. This puts you in the right frame of mind, and it makes you feel energized instead of sluggish, which means you’re less likely to say eff it and go binge. Start your day out this way, and you’ll probably continue doing more healthy things, like drink a bunch of water, pick something more healthy to eat, and eat less.

3. Drink less. I know, I hate the cut-down-on-drinking tips as much as you do. But it’s true that the less you drink, the less you eat. Here are some strategies for drinking less that you can combine with the ones you probably already know (drink water every other drink, etc):

  • Drink sparkling water on the way there (or at your house while prepping if you’re hosting), and meditate on why it’s not worth it to binge drink all day. You’ll eat way too much, you’ll be hungover the next day, and you’ll probably regret saying at least one thing. Plus, pre-loading on water makes you feel healthy, which again makes you do more healthy things the rest of the day.
  • Talk to someone you like while you’re drinking. Only drink while you’re talking to people you enjoy — you’ll be more relaxed and you’ll drink more slowly. If you’re stuck with a nightmare relative, drink water while you try to make conversation and pretend to listen. Side note: if the only way to get through a conversation with someone is to drink, you’re talking to the wrong person.
  • Drink water if you’re doing something active or stressful. If you’re busy playing hostess or making all the rounds when you arrive, you’ll stress drink and won’t pay attention to how much you’re drinking. Wait until you’re relaxed before you have a cocktail.

There’s no reason to view the holidays as a free-for-all where you “get” to binge eat and binge drink. I like to use Halloween as an example. I used to go insane with my kids’ candy when they weren’t looking. Then I realized that I could just go up to the grocery store and buy all that crap if I really wanted it that bad.

Seriously, you’re not getting some unbelievable opportunity to do something truly special. Unless you’re at the Moet and Chandon champagne house outside of Paris, you’re not missing out.

Do you have any tips you use to keep from blowing it out during the holidays? Leave a comment and let me know.

Go ahead and enjoy the holidays, because you deserve to. But try to do things in moderation. Even if you do just one small thing, that is progress. And when the temptation to say “I deserve to binge” comes up, just remember that you deserve to take care of yourself more.

It’s All About the Why

Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to fit into your skinny jeans or because you want to feel lighter?

Why are you trying to quit eating French fries? Is it to cut carbs or because fried food makes you feel like crap?

Why are you doing cardio three times a week? To burn calories or to get the amazing endorphin high that stays with you all day?

Why are you doing any of this? Is it to look good or to feel good?

Look, I know you want to lose weight so you can look better. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I get it. But your why has to go beyond what you look like, or you’ll stay stuck. The wrong why makes it almost impossible to achieve your goal, but the right why will get you there . . . and then some.

That’s because the wrong why — trying to lose weight to look good — pushes you to diet. Dieting prevents you from losing weight, and here’s why.

1. You get close and pull back. If your goal is a number, you’ll never cross the finish line. Dieting is miserable, so as soon as you start to see results, you say “Now I can quit and go back to what I was doing.” You’ll start overeating again and eating the unhealthy food you (currently) prefer. You’ll get close, stop working so hard, “fail,” and find another diet to go on.

2. You have to use willpower. Dieting requires willpower, and willpower runs out. Being desperate to lose weight pushes you to extreme behaviors that require massive amounts of willpower, and when it runs out you give up and binge. Plus, it’s always easier to do something than to try not to do something. Working toward being healthy and feeling good is easy. Dieting to lose weight because you hate what you’re looking at all day is not.

3. You never change your habits. You don’t learn anything when you diet. You only address the surface of the problem rather than get to the root of it. You force yourself not to do things you usually do without getting to the reasons you do them in the first place. When you stop focusing on what you look like and start focusing on what you feel like, you’re nicer to yourself. And this allows you to understand why you have the habits you do — instead of hating yourself for having them. That’s the only way you can change them.

The easiest way to switch to a bigger why is to go from gaining a short-term benefit (losing weight) to avoiding a long-term painful consequence (failing over and over again and feeling like crap about yourself). You want to make it easy to stop doing what’s not working.

Think of something you would never do because you know the outcome isn’t worth it. For example, binge watching Netflix all day is for sure more appealing than doing laundry, cleaning your house, and going to the grocery store. But you wouldn’t do that because it’s not worth it when your kids get home from school and you have to do all that and deal with them too.

You have to find a better why than not eating sweets so you can lose ten pounds so you won’t look fat in your bathing suit. Then all you’ll be desperate to do is go on the Whole30, which is extremely difficult. (For most of us, anyway.)

However, if you think about how you crash after eating a ton of candy and feel gross and tired, it’s easier to stop doing it so much and eventually quit altogether. Meaning, you change a habit.

It’s counterintuitive, but you need to engage in a bad habit — but only for a while, so you can see how it makes you feel. Then you realize how it’s really not worth it to have this particular habit, which makes it easier to change it.

You have to have a bigger and better why, because that’s the key to breaking through. Wanting to be skinny means hating your body and dieting to beat it into submission. Wanting to feel better and be healthy means changing your habits, making real progress, and having an exciting and fulfilling life — which means you’ll automatically lose weight. And you’ll look good too. 😉

I’ll Start Monday

I adore making New Year’s resolutions. There’s something so energizing to me about starting all over and having a clean slate. I love buying a fancy new journal to write it all down, making a detailed plan for every new thing I’m going to do to become the most perfect version of me.

The only problem is that I have the same resolutions year after year. Don’t you?

My number one resolution for years was — you guessed it — lose weight. So I would get out my journal and write down all the things I was going to do to finally lose 10 pounds. Sample list:

  • No sweets
  • No alcohol
  • 60-min run 3x/week
  • 1,000 calories or less/day
  • No breakfast

It actually felt fun when I was writing down all these changes, because I just knew that if I did all those things for one week, I would probably lose 5 pounds. Then in just two short weeks, I would be at goal weight!

Of course, two days into it I had already cheated. My kids were screaming and they were going to be late for school, so I stress ate a half a plate of scrambled eggs they left on the counter. And they weren’t even really that good, and I can’t believe I didn’t have enough willpower to even do just that one thing. So then I only stayed on the treadmill for 20 minutes, and the rest of my day was downhill from there. So I was in a terrible mood when my kids got off the bus, and they started fighting and I just Could. Not. Even. So I had a glass of wine. And so I started all over on Monday.

If my resolution had been “construct the perfect plan that will set you up for failure in the very first week of the year” I would have succeeded.

The “next week” approach to weight loss is a recipe for failure, and this story illustrates why. Even starting over “tomorrow” is problematic. In fact, your approach should be minute by minute.

Here’s why “I’ll start Monday” doesn’t work:

  1. You tend to blow it out for the rest of the week. You give yourself a pass to do whatever you want for the next several days, so then you have more to compensate for. Plus, you waste time that you could have spent getting back on track.
  2. You keep yourself in the all-or-nothing mindset. If you start next week, you give yourself a feeling of gearing up for something big, which means that you’re going to try and make too many changes all at once.
  3. You take on the “I’ve been good”/“I’ve been bad” mindset. I’ve been good, so I can cheat. I’ve been bad, so I have to go full military. Thinking this way prevents you from making distinctions about your habits that allow you to change them, because you’re so busy feeling bad about yourself.

Of course, diets fit right in with this approach. Here’s how looking at it minute by minute is much more effective:

  1. You get more fresh starts. Allowing yourself to take things minute by minute gives you infinite chances to dust yourself off, get back up, and try again.
  2. You get to be nice to yourself. When you go easy on yourself and give yourself space to make mistakes, you are more likely to ask yourself the questions that lead to breakthroughs.
  3. You don’t have to use willpower. Having to make a ton of changes all at once requires willpower, which isn’t sustainable. So you will inevitably cheat, fail, and have to start all over again. Next Monday. And binge until then.
  4. You decrease the periods where you say fu*k it and binge (see number 3).

The first mindset puts you in a resistant state. The second helps you relax and be kind to yourself. And this difference is the difference between failure and success.

If you go one layer deeper, time really is a man-made construct. Our lives are built around routines that give us a sense of time. We have 9 to 5 jobs, we run errands on Saturday, we sleep 8 hours (hopefully). We even eat because it’s “lunchtime.” But there really is no such thing as tomorrow, and there’s no such thing as Monday.

You have no choice but to take it one moment at a time, so you might as well get started in the next moment rather than waste thousands of them until you start again.

Start right this second making your life exactly the way you want it to be. You don’t have to start all over next week, slashing the number of calories you eat, so you can lose 10 pounds, so you can have a bathing-suit-ready body by June. You can start right now — to try and learn why you eat the way you do, so you can make positive changes that lead to feeling good, so you can live a long, healthy life.

What’s one thing that usually makes you give up and start all over? What change could you make that would help you pick yourself up and keep right on going? Leave a comment below and let me know.

When you catch yourself thinking day to day, don’t wait until Monday. Keep going. Because a year from now, you’ll wish you started today. Right now. In this moment.