I was at Trader Joe’s with three items in my shopping basket heading towards the express check-out line when I noticed the woman next in line with at least 30 items in her cart. I thought, “That’s interesting” and chose the next line over.
As I was standing there, a man blatantly cut in front of me with his cart full of wine bottles and a bag of bananas. Again, I thought, “That’s interesting” as he continued his transaction, avoiding all eye contact with me.
Then, as I was leaving the store, I noticed the same man loading his car that was parked in a handicap spot—with no handicap sticker or placard. His behavior in the store made even more sense to me because of a coaching term I learned long ago: How you do one thing is how you do everything. I thought to myself, “People are fascinating,” and went on with my day.
When I shared this story with other people, some were impressed with my self-control, while others wondered why I didn’t speak up for myself. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I prefer peace over conflict when it comes to small things like how many items are in someone’s cart in an express line, or someone cutting in front of me. They made those choices because of the way they think, and they are not likely to change their behavior no matter what I say or do. Instead of meeting with defensiveness, I chose to maintain my own sense of peace by quietly thinking, “That’s interesting/People are fascinating,” and going about my business.
I wanted to share this story with you now because Thanksgiving is in two days. You may be traveling, shopping, preparing meals with others, volunteering, or sharing the Thanksgiving meal with people whom you let get on your nerves. Then there is the craziness of Black Friday shopping, perhaps more family time, and then travel back home.
Along the way you are likely to meet with people who are in a hurry or who are not considerate of you as they try to get their own needs met (cutting in line, taking the parking space you were waiting for, etc).
You may also meet with people who are so frazzled by their own holiday overwhelm that they truly are oblivious to others around them (blocking the aisle with their cart, stopping in the middle of foot traffic rather than moving to the side, etc).
And let’s not forget the rounds of Dysfunctional Family Bingo that are bound to played at many dining tables across the nation
Instead of getting mad or frustrated with others, try looking at their behavior as “Fascinating.”
Say things to yourself like, “That’s interesting,” or try to guess what they may be thinking that’s causing them behave a certain way. This will help you not take it personally, as it’s never about you anyway.
To some this strategy may seem passive, but I disagree. When I practice this, I am actively preserving my sense of wellbeing. I know I can’t control what other people say and do, but I can control how I feel about things, and I prefer to feel awesome.
How do you want to feel this Holiday Season?
Fascinated or Frustrated?
You get to decide.
Sometimes you want to overeat.
You want to finish your delicious entrée.
You want to have a slice of the pumpkin pie and a slice of the pecan pie.
You want another helping of your Grandmother’s casserole that she only makes on special occasions.
When you decide to overeat, just like your reason why—and then don’t beat yourself up afterward.
Really savor it.
Be happy that you ate it.
“Be happy that I ate it?”
When you’re happy about your choice to overeat in that moment, you spare yourself the self-punishment that follows when you judge yourself for overeating. That self-punishment usually begins with mean self-talk and then can escalate to either you using that one overeat as a reason to continue overeating (“I blew it! I may as well finish the box/bag/pan.”), or you threaten yourself with restriction (“Absolutely no treats for the next week!”)—which only sets you up for more overeating when you eventually rebel. I know you know what I’m talking about here.
Instead, I invite you to give yourself the space to overeat on occasion if you really, really want to—and when you do, choose to take ownership of it. That puts you in the place of empowerment. There is a difference between saying, “I’m choosing to overeat right now and I’m good with it,” vs. “I don’t have control; I’m such a loser.”
Overeat once and move on.
Overeat, beat yourself up, and overeat some more.
The choice is yours.
Anyone who has been on a diet (or like me, a hundred diets) knows all too well what a “perfect” meal plan for the day is supposed to look like. Here is a typical example:
Egg whites (cooked with pan spray)
Black coffee or plain tea
Salad with grilled chicken and lemon wedge (no dressing)
Plain iced tea
½ cup rice
Totally depressing, right? Unfortunately this is the type of diet plan we’ve been told to follow for years, and one we think we should follow still in order to get results.
Well, those who keep going back to restrictive diets like this are getting results—just not the results they intended. Quite the opposite, actually.
I see this with new clients all the time. Though I don’t offer them a diet to follow, right away my clients’ food journals start off looking like the meal plan above. But then it’s only a matter of time before they crack and the overeating (especially of sweets) starts to fill their food journals. Most of their overeating happens at night—after they have struggled all day to “be good.”
Once the food frenzy is over, they tell me about the shame and guilt they feel for overeating and tend to get down on themselves for having no willpower. I am quick to offer relief by helping them see what’s really going on.
A common theme I have noticed in most of my clients is that in their diet history, they have previously adhered to a diet plan that was so restrictive it caused them to become obsessed with food to the point of uncontrollable binging and/or hiding food and eating in secret.
The experience of extreme deprivation and subsequent rapid weight gain was so traumatic for them that their internal alarm bells go off the minute they put themselves back on any kind of regime that resembles a diet. They instinctively rebel by overeating. It’s not a lack of willpower—it’s a protective reflex.
When I look at meal plans like the one above, the first thing I notice is that it’s not that much food. I also notice that it’s plain and boring. For many, just looking at a diet plan like this brings up feelings of scarcity. That feeling of scarcity is the very thing that drives overeating.
And let’s be clear: they are not sneak-eating grilled chicken and broccoli. They are choosing foods like candy, cookies, chips, or ice cream. They eat the very foods they tell themselves they can’t have. Does this sound familiar?
If this is resonating with you, let me share with you what I teach my clients:
- Start with a clean slate. Leave all those past diet-y meal plans in the past. Those meal plans were never your meal plans anyway. They were created by someone else and do not take into account your personal likes and preferences.
- Focus on NOURISHING your body. Dieting equates to the removal of food choices (scarcity), but the act of adding in nourishment feels abundant. You know your body best, so build your personal meal plan based on foods your body thrives on. Be sure to incorporate your favorite fun foods, too! Knowing you can have them feels good and eliminates the need to fixate on them.
- Eat luscious food. Luscious food is the kind of food that not only satisfies your need for fuel, but that also satisfies your palate. When you eat boring, tasteless food, it’s not long before you are rummaging through the cupboards for something else with FLAVOR. It doesn’t matter if you are not hungry; you want to feel satisfied. By eating luscious foods to begin with, you end up eating less overall than if you ate junk food on top of diet food.
Switching from a scarcity (diet) mindset to an abundant (nourishing) mindset will take some practice and the transition is not meant to be perfect. You may still overeat from time to time as you are figuring this out and that’s okay. When this happens, I invite you to be kind to yourself and remind yourself that this is a process. Just keep moving forward, focusing on abundance and nourishment.
Did your body relax just now when you thought of abundance and nourishment?
Mine sure did!
About a month ago, I started a new album on Facebook called “The Cats I Meet on My Walk.” Almost every day I add to it because it seems that I’ve moved beyond my role as the Thought Whisperer to now include Cat Whispering. Cats who have never met me before come running up to me to get some loves and rubs. Over time, I have collected a few regulars. Toby, the big orange cat with the cleft palate is probably my biggest fan. He is usually the last cat I see as I head up the street towards my car.
Last week I was passing Toby’s house and I didn’t see him. I was almost to the top of the hill when I finally spotted him sleeping on a slope in the sunshine. I thought it was the sweetest thing! I started snapping photos with my phone as I normally do, moving closer and closer with each one. I stopped at about ten feet away to take in how content he was. And then I saw it…
Standing right above Toby on the other side of the fence was a small deer. She was just as interested in the cat as I was, but she must have froze as I walked closer. I didn’t even see her at first because I was so focused on Toby. She was right in front of me the whole time. Had I not looked up, I would have missed her. I stood there enjoying both of them for a full five minutes, until she decided it was safe to move and she walked away into the trees. Wow. What an awesome experience.
I believe in signs and messages from the Universe. After the deer left, I asked what her message was. This is what I heard:
“Broaden your view. There’s more to life than just what’s in front of you.”
How many times are we so focused on one thing that we miss what else is around us? This makes me think of the weight struggle and how singularly focused we can be on what we weigh. We design our day around it for goodness sake!
“I should eat this”.
“I shouldn’t eat that”.
“What am I going to wear today?”
“Does this make me look fat?”
We’re so busy focusing on our weight that we’re often missing out on life.
And there is so much beauty and goodness to drink in if we just looked up and noticed it.
The interesting thing about that is that for my clients who practice shifting their focus to noticing the good that’s already in their lives, their need to focus on their weight naturally begins to fall away. By broadening their view, they soon find that they don’t need to look a certain way or be at a certain weight to feel happy.
Then the ironic thing happens: When a woman shifts her focus from her weight to how much joy she can create for herself each day, she feels so good that her weight tends to shift on its own without much thought or effort.
For this week, I invite you to keep a journal and write down three awesome things you noticed each day. It could be anything—a beautiful sunset; something amazing that happened at work; even the crinkle of a loved one’s nose when they laugh. Broaden your view to include anything that lights you up! If you have more than three, include those as well.
At the end of the week, read back over your journal entries and see how you feel. If you enjoyed this practice, I invite you to keep going. By doing this day after day, you train your brain to automatically look for the good in your life. Not only does this lift your mood, it tends to reduce emotional eating, too.
You get to choose what you focus on each day.
Your weight? Or the goodness in your life?
What is it going to be for you today?