Inside Out

Let it be known that the Traveling Wiburys is the greatest of all supergroups. And this song, Inside Out, in particular, makes me happy any time I hear it. Look at the musicians they completely inhabit their joy as they play. Whatever little step you can take that brings you joy, is a step in the right direction. Weight loss is a long process. You’re going to feel different on the inside before it shows on the outside. That is where I am at these days. But I know, change is on the way, all I need to do is to stay the course and look for the good. Fully experiencing joy along the way, shifts the journey in a profound way. When we experience joy, we no longer need stamina. So, when you think of joy, consider it as a welcome relief to the work that weight loss requires of us.

Beliefs About Body Image

Spinning requires good form. In order to get the most out of the workout, and to avoid injury, holding positions (correctly) on the bike really matter. When COVID hit, I moved away from my gym membership and bought a Peloton. I love my bike, it gives me as good a workout as I got at my local gym. Although, my gym offered a terrific community and I do miss the people. But that is a post for another time… I tend to select classes with explicit instructions for form, and I realized that I needed a mirror to help me make sure I was keeping my back flat, and my elbows bent. The mirror helped, and my form is much better these days. But now, I also get a full view of my profile sitting on the bike. There is a definite disconnect between how I am feeling on the inside, “Go me! I am keeping up, even though it’s really difficult!” and how I look on the outside, “Is that what I really look like?” Then I knew that today’s post had to be dedicated to beliefs about body image.

Ugh… Body image can be a challenge for most people at some point. The other day at work, some friends were talking about how hard weight loss is, the sentiment of the conversation went like this,

You know that you’re doing so good, and it doesn’t show for such a long time. It takes so much work before it starts to show. You feel so good inside but then you look the same. It’s so discouraging.

a lunchtime chat

I was thinking about what my friends said, as my internal critic was hammering my appearance. I put my hands on my abdomen and I actually started feeling sorry for my poor body. This is the body that carried three beautiful human beings into the world. This is the body that made it possible for me to get my degree. This is the body that gave my mother a shoulder to lean on when she was sick. It has served me so well, and I have neglected it so badly and allowed myself to gain back weight. Although I’m not starting completely over, I didn’t gain it all back, it’s difficult just the same.

This is hard, but hating on my body image isn’t helpful. Hating my body is an unforgivable, petty thing to do to myself. I am truly grateful for my strong, capable body. I am trying to be worthy of it by giving it the care and attention it needs so I can continue to live my life. No matter where you are on the journey, I encourage you to love your body and to allow yourself to flood it with gratitude for all that it is to sustain your life. Be patient, stay the course, and just be good to yourself every step of the way.

Erasing Emotional Eating

Emotion: what comes to mind? Maybe, moody teenagers, couples in love, or is it road rage! Emotions have the power to shift perspective and focus in a way that influences energy. Love colors everyone and everything in a generous light and moving through the world feels light and free. Joy makes the energy we all possess feel like a bouncy ball, and clouds out any negative cues. On any given day, how many emotions are there? I can’t even begin to guess.

It only makes sense that emotional eating is an especially hard habit to break. Once a habit has been encoded in the brain and a shortcut link has been formed from cue to habit it becomes a very powerful response. But the good news this response is really just a habit. It’s a habit that can be broken, one that doesn’t have to (as my mother would’ve said) rule the roost. Sound good? Is it easier said than done? Well, yes, probably… but what have you got to lose except for a habit that isn’t serving you well.

The “Research Says” category name for this phenomenon is, “cue-induced wanting.” Self-control doesn’t work in the long term, we tire and succumb to the habit. So learning how to lesson this habit is in our best interest. Let’s say stress is the trigger for emotional eating.

  • Name the habit so it can be known to you: I want to eat, not because I am hungry but because I am stressed out.”
  • First, try to replace overeating with something beneficial. What you decide is up to you. Some possible options might be: walking the dog, meditation, or something creative.
  • Then if that isn’t possible, if at the moment the emotion is too hot, limit the damage. Eat low-calorie options with a big CRUNCH eat an apple, carrots, or celery. Or drink water with a straw that “emptying sound” can be very satisfying when you get to the bottom. Chances are you won’t do much damage to your weight loss efforts.

So can we really erase emotional eating? I’ll tell you, but first a story. I love to draw. Sketching that perfect line is extremely rewarding. However, I don’t always get the line perfect on my first try. Many times I’m pulling apart my gummy eraser to blot out a section of the line to make an adjustment. Changing a line’s direction, depending on how sure I was in my initial attempt, can be difficult. Sometimes even with my best efforts, I can still see traces of my misguided lines. Cue-induced wanting (stress=food) also makes deep grooves in the brain. Remember, habits are powerful – but the human spirit is a mighty force. I say yes, we can “erase” emotional overeating and make it virtually invisible, just as a heavy line on the page is erased traces of it remain upon closer inspection. Sometimes the beauty of a thing is in its imperfections.

Clicking and Sticking

There comes a point in most weight loss journeys when habits start to become automatic, they are “clicking” and start happening with little effort. It is very important to be self-aware of this phase. With that self-awareness comes room for better decision-making and confidence, and these are two essential qualities for long-term weight loss success. When we recognize these qualities in ourselves, we know the process of weight loss is (you already know where this is going) “sticking.”

Many people give up on their weight loss journeys because they failed to reach this poing. Finding your way to that pivotal phase when habits begin to click so weight loss starts to stick can be very difficult. Here are three helpful tips that have been helpful to me.

Habits Reveal your True Identity

Who are you? Chances are good, that if you’re reading this blog, improving health and weight loss are important to you. If you identify as a person invested in health and weight loss, consider whether or not if the habits you keep make it so. Our habits are the actions we take day in and day out. A habit tracker can keep you honest:

Every Habit Needs a Home

James Clear writes extensively about the role one’s environment plays on the successful acquistion of habits. He asks us to consider our relationships to the objects around us and to use these objects as a cue to engage a habit. That really captured my thinking. I like the idea of having relationships to objects. I have begun to associate objects with particular habits. Meeting my daily water goal – my water bottle is home to that habit. Take a look:

Reflect and Refine What’s Working

Keep an open mind, and monitor how well your habits are serving you. If your happy with your progress, and your habits are proving to live up to your preceived identity, then great don’t change a thing. However, if this is not the case, do not be afraid to change things

If you’re not sure about how to build some momentum start with these tips. Before you know it you’ll have a whole system of habits that will help you to grow into the person you want to be. Thanks for reading.

Of Willpower and Whirlpools

Do you ever blame yourself for not having enough self-control? You think, “If only I had enough willpower and resolve, I would be able to push through this and stay on track.” For those of us who are working to improve our health, it can be very confusing when it comes to willpower. Sometimes a challenging situation will arise, like bagels in the breakroom, and it is easy to navigate that situation. But then, there are other situations that completely deplete our reserves of willpower and bad habits take over. Driving us backward, and then comes the dreaded vortex of shame, “I can’t believe I did it again!”

Let’s start this post by saying, falling into the groove of a bad habit is normal, and should not be received as a source of shame. I hope that by the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what is really going on when we (all) fall back into bad habits from time to time.

Sometimes habits become encoded in the brain, and they are activated by a situation. If I am attending a holiday with my extended family, I will eat and drink much more than I would at home. That response is an encoded habit for me. If I go to the movies, I’ll want popcorn – another encoded habit. Think about yourself, what situation would activate an encoded habit? You find yourself in a situation, and internal forces wake up to trigger a response. The situation and the habit work together and suck you in as if you were in a whirlpool on the ocean.

Imagine the rotating current is the encoded habit. The opposing arrows represent a situational cue that puts the habit into action. Willpower is no match for that amount of force.

Top 5 Strategies for Breaking Bad Habits

  1. Avoid the situation – if you don’t want to eat the bagels don’t go into the staff room.
  2. If a situation can’t be avoided, make a detailed mental story – if I’m going to a wedding I will wear an outfit I feel great in, I will eat 3 hors d’oeuvres and my entree, and spend the rest of the time socializing and dancing.
  3. Create a network of others to draw strength from, I am going to face a challenge next weekend like going to a winery, so I will talk about it with my weight watchers community to help me focus on what I really want.
  4. Disrupt a situation by inserting a new cue – I come from work and sack out on the couch but no – my workout clothes are there waiting for me to put them on. I work out instead.
  5. Find new rewards that will develop healthy habits – Instead of rewarding myself with a latte for a job well done, I put the money in a jar and let it collect there as a reminder of all I am accomplishing. Then spend it on something bigger and better.

Beware, bad habits. Steer your ship away from those insidious whirlpools. For they have no choice but to suck you back into the old lifestyle you are trying to escape. This journey is all about making the most of the situations you find yourself in, avoiding unhelpful situations, and building momentum for the good. You are the one who decides how this will go – never doubt that you are powerful! We got this.

Just for fun

Remember when we were all watching videos of sea chanties?

If you’d like to learn more about Whirlpools, this is a great video:

Make it Obvious

Pretend you were able to walk into the home of someone you didn’t know. Once inside, you decide to look around. You walk into the living room and there on a chair in the foyer were some workout clothes folded neatly. You looked down at the coffee table and you see a half-filled habit tracker and some colored pens. In the kitchen, you see a food scale, and a bowl of grapes cleaned and trimmed into little bunches. Down the hallway off the kitchen and to right there is a small alcove and scale. A 64-ounce (pink) water bottle sits on a table, and it is almost empty. All of these objects tell a story about the person who lives here – this person is living a healthy lifestyle.

Environment is the invisble hand that shapes human behaviour.

James Clear Atonmic Habits

Are you making it easier or harder to achieve your weight loss goals?

Leaning Into Weight Loss

Last night was a total “fail: for the implementation intention I set to work out. I wasn’t home by 8:15 pm and then it felt like permission not to do it by the time I did get home. Maybe that’s a dark side to the technique or maybe I was just too tired by then to do it. I have been thinking about it today, and it is possible that I might sneak in a workout tonight, but I’m not willing to commit to it because I want to keep my options open.

Now is the time when I need to fully dedicate myself to the weight loss goals I have set for myself. I say that because I need to hear the message. My weight is fluctuating and it feels like I’m spinning my wheels. When I look back at my data I see that there is a pattern: I have a loss followed by two days of slight gains. Right now is an important moment in my journey. It’s time to be consistent and maintain my resolve. Here is my mantra:

I am strong! I am smart! I have the skills I need to be successful! I can do this but only if, I don’t give up. I will not give up on me.

March 10, 2023

If you had to write a mantra for yourself, what would it be? Let’s inspire each other to keep going. We don’t even fully realize how amazing we truly are yet. That day is coming.

What drives weight loss?

Today we celebrate women! March 8th is a global holiday called, International Women’s Day. It is a day we set aside to honor women. If you’d like to read more about how this holiday came to be: click here. As for me, I celebrated by taking a 20-minute Peloton ride this morning before going to work. I loved the idea of earning this badge in my Apple Fitness App because it was a nod to empowerment.

So find what motivates you. Find what makes you feel accomplished and good about the journey. There are so many parts to this process that have the potential to not only transform your physical self but also define the core of who you are in the world.

It Worked!

Yesterday I set an implementation intention to work out before work. I wrote it down taking care to note the behavior, the time, and the location. For some reason, when we write down our goals with that degree of specificity we usually meet them.

It felt great to get a workout in before work and that I kept my promise to myself. I battled the candy again today and I was victorious! When I got home from work it was unseasonably warm and took my dog for a walk around the neighborhood. In short, it was a very active day.

Spring is almost here!

Planning Ahead

What if instead of focusing on how challenging weight loss can be, we focused on how the journey can be a testimony of our inner power and strength? How would that other narrative make us feel? Who is telling your story? Is your story being written by others, or are you the author of your own life? I say your life is your story to tell. I am tenacious. I will perservere. I am optimisitic that I will acheive my goals. Who do you choose to be on this weight loss journey? Think on that for a moment.

Weight loss is a complex issue, and unfortunately, there are many people out there who think it’s as simple as not eating so much. This is (in my opinion) a mean spirited and very unwelcome message the world sends out on the daily. It is especially hard for those of us who are giving so much care and attention to weight loss goals. If it were so simple it to lose weight, the weight loss industry wouldn’t have a projected a market share of 3.8 billion for 2023. Incomprehensible!

So here is a tip to keep you working your healthy habits. In the book, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes about “Implementation Intention” this is a percise plan about the behavior, the time, and the location. Does that really work? Could it be that simple? I don’t know but I’m going to give it a go. Here is mine, and I promise to let you know if it worked or not:

Here is a weight loss tip I can share that I know for sure works, it is planning ahead. My husband and I went to the movies to see Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Movie popcorn is very, very delicious. Many times, I have gone to the movies and said, “I will tough it out. I just will not have any popcorn because it’s too many points.” I can tell you, that doesn’t work for me. So instead, don’t tell, I made popcorn and home and snuck it into the theatre. I would buy air-popped popcorn at the theatre if they sold it. Maybe they should since we Americans are spending 3.8 trillion on weight loss! My husband and I snacked on the popcorn, and I remained true to my goals for the day. Win-win!