Sorry, Not Sorry

I consider myself to be a strong, confident woman . . . I do now, at least. But it took a lot of work to get here. And one of the most destructive habits that I had to get rid of to become this new person was the habit of always saying “I’m sorry.”

I don’t mean saying it in the authentic, meaningful way when you really are truly sorry. I mean saying it when it isn’t called for (Are we out of clean towels? Yes, I’m sorry). Or worse, saying it because you don’t feel entitled to even take up space.

Like when you’re at the grocery store and it’s crowded, and you come face to face with someone and one of you has to move for the other to get by — and you automatically say, as you move out of the way, “Sorry!”

This is related to weight loss, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But first I want to say that this is an epidemic among women (especially in the South), and it has got to stop. I still work at not reflexively saying this, but trust me, it’s like giving yourself a confidence main-line when you do.

When you constantly move out of the way, you make yourself small — physically and psychologically. When you physically negate yourself this way, it trains you to do other things to deny your body, like constricting yourself in rigid positions to hide what you look like. You suck it in, cover it up, and literally make yourself “less than.”

This is how it relates to weight loss. It is impossible to change your body when you do these things. If you want to change your body, you have to inhabit it first.

Incessantly apologizing also drains your confidence. It makes you feel weak and small and therefore highly unlikely to have the motivation to set goals, much less the drive to go out and achieve them. And when you keep yourself small, you create a small life — a life that is focused on losing weight.

This keeps you stuck in the dieting cycle, because if all you ever try to do is lose weight, you will be desperate to do it, you will diet, you will fail, and you will keep starting over. And your life will stay small, and you will keep apologizing for your existence.

Finally, saying sorry and moving out of the way all the time feeds into the concept that all we as women have to offer the world is what we look like. That’s because weakening ourselves this way reinforces a societal standard of female powerlessness that leaves us with no choice but to determine our worth physically.

Before you think I’m about to go off on a militant feminist rant, just consider this for a minute. We live in a culture that teaches women that they’re supposed to behave in a certain way. Generally speaking, we’re supposed to be less powerful, less forthright, less opinionated, and less, well . . . there.

When we absorb this message (and if you’ve been watching this since day one it’s hard not to), we have no choice but to make ourselves visible by altering ourselves physically. We make ourselves beautiful to be seen, and and we shrink ourselves down to attract attention. The only way we’re not invisible is when we conform to a strict standard of physical attractiveness.

So when we defer to the other person (even if it’s another woman), we reinforce the concept that all we have to offer is our appearance. Because when you don’t have enough power to even take up space, your looks are all you’re left with. And when you’re constantly focused on your looks, your desire to be thin, tight, toned, and flaw-free is intensified — which fuels your obsession to lose weight.

I’m not saying that you have to block the doorway and refuse to move when someone wants to go through it; I’m just saying that you don’t have to immediately cower, move out of the way, and give an apology that isn’t warranted. At the very least simply say, “Excuse me.” (It’s sort of like just saying “thank you” when someone compliments you, instead of giving them a list of reasons why they’re wrong.)

Not giving the knee-jerk apology gives you license to take up space both physically and mentally, and this gives you confidence to live a different kind of life. One where you go out and do something — instead of trying to be something for everyone else.

You have as much right to be here as the next person and you have just as much value. You have more to offer this world than what you look like and you don’t have to conform to an arbitrary standard you had nothing to do with creating. You don’t have to be less, feel less, or weigh less just to be acceptable.

Maybe one day we won’t feel like we have to lose weight to be good enough. But in the meantime, refusing to always be “sorry” is a great place to start.

Free Class: How to Lose Weight Without Dieting

I’m teaching a free class in January on how to lose weight without dieting. I’ll be at the Duke Mansion on Wednesday, January 16th, in Charlotte to explain why dieting doesn’t ever work and how you can finally reach your weight-loss goal without ever having to suffer through another one. Message me if you’re interested or have a friend who is. It will be a great way to start your new year! 🙂

Drinking and Eating

It’s the holidays . . . woo hoo! Ready to eat, drink, and be merry?

I used to totally blow it out during the holidays. What about you? Most of us eat too much, drink too much, and let it all hang out because it’s “that time of year.” But eating, drinking, and being merry — all at the same time — usually just leads up to one big binge.

I wrote about the tendency to binge over the holidays in my post “Festive Free-For-All,” and this week I want to continue talking about the tendency to overeat when you drink alcohol and give you a few more tips to keep from going off the deep end.

Before I go any further, I want to say that if you think you have a problem with alcohol, please get help. Also, I want to give a shout-out to my friend Robbie Shaw (a_light_in_the_addict on Instagram — great videos, check him out) who is a recovering alcoholic and who has a really interesting viewpoint on alcohol in our society. His take is that we have a sort of cultural brainwashing around alcohol that gives drinking an acceptance that is never questioned, despite its harmful effects. Just something to think about. . . .

Anyway, if you do drink and you’re also an emotional eater, keep in mind that you will eat more when you drink — unless you do it the right way.

When you’re drinking at a party, you probably eat to “soak up all the alcohol,” as I frequently hear people say. I used to do this all the time. And the foods I gravitated toward were very filling — fatty meat dishes, things loaded with cheese, or anything fried. I felt compelled to be completely full while I was drinking so that I wouldn’t overdo it.

But then I would overdo it, because I was so busy talking and socializing that I didn’t pay attention to how much I was drinking. Then, when my rational thought process went out the window, I conveniently forgot all about being healthy and sticking to my diet and started listening to the voice in my head that said, “Come on, it’s the holidays.” And I would keep eating. Then, with a big buzz going, I would go home and eat some more.

Okay, so if it’s a given that you’re going to have some holiday cocktails, just be smart about it so you don’t go completely crazy and feel totally gross by New Year’s. Here are some tips to keep you in moderation mode when you’re eating and drinking.

Have half a drink before you socialize. Full disclosure. Cocktail parties are incredibly stressful for me. I would much rather be standing in the corner, talking to one or two people I adore than doing the cocktail party chit-chat thing.

I used to carry a full glass of wine with me to stay relaxed if I was ever forced to make the rounds. And I usually drained it in no time flat. Now if I know I have to do this, I have a half a drink to loosen up before I walk in and then get a sparkling water to walk around with. That way, I won’t throw my healthy habits and good intentions completely out the window. And yes, I work the circuit as quickly as possible.

Take a day off. Quick science lesson: Your body has multiple enzymes that break down alcohol, and they are produced in proportion to the amount of alcohol you consume. If you drink more, your body produces more enzymes. So the more you drink, the more you are able to drink without feeling the effects of your drinking. In other words, the more often you drink, the harder it is to catch a buzz.

This is important, because it works in both directions. If you drink less, your body doesn’t make as many of the ethanol-metabolizing enzymes. So after a few days of no drinking, your tolerance goes down. That means that when you get to the party, you can enjoy yourself with fewer drinks — and you will probably eat less. (Also, if you’re used to having two drinks on a regular night, you’ll have five at the event.) So go at least one day, preferably more, without drinking before a party.

Load up on raw veggies. I know, celery sticks and cherry tomatoes are lame as all get-out. But make a full plate of something similar and eat it before you drink anything. (Or have it while you’re enjoying your pre-small talk half glass of wine.) You will feel full, I promise. And you’ll have something healthy instead of unhealthy in your stomach to “soak up” the alcohol.

Set your drink down in between sips — and make them small sips. You will not pay attention to how fast you’re drinking when you’re talking and socializing, it’s just a fact. So make a point of setting your drink down in between sips so you go slower. And so you eat slower. And so you eat less. Another trick I use is to push my glass away from me a little, so I don’t just keep mindlessly picking it up for another sip.

Sit down while you eat. If you’re standing or moving around you’re more likely to eat and drink too fast. Double whammy if you’re drinking next to the buffet. Don’t do it. Make a plate, sit down, take a breath, and then eat and drink — s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y.

The main thing to remember is that drinking creates artificial hunger, makes you oblivious to what you’re doing, and fuels your tendency to binge eat. So if you’re going to drink while you eat, just remember all of this and take steps to modify your behaviors.

Who knows? Maybe with practice you can continue and create some amazing new habits for yourself. And you will for sure feel lighter, be more clear-headed, and have more excitement for life.

Which is exactly what you need if you’re going to set a better goal for yourself — one that of course has nothing to do with losing weight!

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.