It is not uncommon when a new client starts working with me, by week two or three she starts feeling frustrated that she has not mastered the concepts she just learned.
“I should have this figured out by now.”
“I just can’t get the hang of this.”
“I’m never going to get this.”
Do you do this, too?
It’s a pretty common way of thinking, but is it really serving you?
Should you be able to master a new concept immediately?
Knowing how the brain works, I think it’s not helpful to put this kind of pressure on yourself. The frustration you create is likely to cause you to quit, which would then provide proof for the thought, “I’m never going to get this.” In this case, you’d be right.
Let’s take the example of chronic overeating, shall we?
Say you’ve been overeating for a significant span of time (for some of you it may be years or even decades). Acknowledging this is not for you to now judge yourself; instead I invite you to look at this through the lens of science. Plain and simple, your brain is well practiced in the skill of overeating. This is the pattern it knows.
Now say you want to stop overeating and set out to quit cold turkey. You try for two days, and by the third day you overeat. You get angry and frustrated with yourself and say, “I totally blew it.”
Listen, you didn’t blow it. All that happened is your brain slipped into the groove it knows very well. If you’ve been overeating for years, it’s going to take weeks, maybe months of practice to carve in the new groove of not overeating.
Do you expect to learn how to play a song on the piano without making mistakes? No, you are going to flub and skip some notes many, many times, right?
Do you expect to learn how to juggle tennis balls perfectly without dropping them right out of the gate? No, dropping balls while learning how to juggle is expected.
It should be the same with practicing your new skill of not overeating.
Expect that it will not be perfect.
And guess what?
You can make mistakes and still succeed.
You do this by not giving up.
So, when your brain happens to slip into the groove it knows and you overeat, remind yourself that this doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. All it means is that you need more practice. And you have several opportunities to practice each day. You can try again with your very next meal or snack.
It really helps if you give yourself the time and space to practice. You do this with your thoughts and words. Try these alternative thoughts on for size:
“I haven’t figured this out—yet.”
“I haven’t got the hang of this yet, but I will.”
“I’ve learned how to do many things in my life, and I can learn how to do this, too.”
When trying to change something as sensitive as overeating, you do not need your harsh inner voice reprimanding you along the way. This is not helpful.
Instead, I invite you to treat yourself with kindness and patience, always supporting yourself with your words:
“You can do this.”
“I believe in you.”
If you are a veteran of the diet war, speaking kindly to yourself probably takes practice too, but since you are likely able to say these words to a beloved friend or family member, your brain already knows how to do this. All you’ll have to do is direct those words towards you.
We all know that Self-Care is good for the body, mind, and spirit, but how much of a priority are you making it in your life?
When I ask my clients to write out a list of their top five priorities (Work, kids, their marriage, their pets, volunteering, etc.), many times they look down at their paper and see that they forgot to add themselves to their own list.
When they do manage to squeeze self-care on to their list, the next hurdle they tell me is “time.”
I don’t have time to exercise.
I don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.
I don’t have time to meditate/write in my journal/quiet my mind.
We all have the same 24 hours.
We all get to choose how we want to spend it.
For many us, we choose work as our number one priority because the income we make ensures a roof over our heads and food on the table. This is totally understandable.
But what about the rest of your day?
When clients tell me they don’t have time for themselves, I invite them to keep a Time Journal. Much like how a Food Journal increases awareness in what you’re really putting in your mouth every day, a Time Journal is also an awareness tool to see where you are really spending your time.
Many Time Journals tend to include a lot of “screen time” in the form of social media and TV (your phone and tablet count, too!).
One client of mine kept a Time Journal for a week and saw that she was spending three hours a day on the computer between Facebook and browsing online shopping sites. This was a big eye-opener for her. She remedied this by removing Facebook as the home screen on her computer. By not going on Facebook first thing in the morning, she was astounded to see that she got everything done by 8:00 am, which in the past would have taken her until 11:00 am. By making this one change, she now had three hours to use on herself.
Here are six other Time-creating Tricks you can experiment with:
1. Instead of getting sucked in when scrolling through social media, save the videos you want to watch or the blog posts you want to read in a folder to view/read after you’ve taken care of yourself first.
2. Record your favorite TV shows and watch them later when you can fast-forward through the commercials.
3. When waiting for your kids while they are at sports practice, walk the track yourself or march up and down the bleachers rather than just sitting.
4. Listen to your favorite podcasts while exercising, commuting, or cooking.
5. Practice saying NO to volunteer requests unless they don’t impact your self-care routine.
6. Wake up even just fifteen minutes earlier so that you can quiet your mind with meditation, a deep breathing practice, or simply setting your intentions for the day.
When it comes to Self-Care, you don’t find the time—you make the time.
Because you are worth your own time.
Because you are worth caring for.
If you think about it, if you don’t take care of yourself and your body, who will?
Feeling upset over something can often lead to emotional eating. We want to distract, avoid, or numb ourselves from feeling our feelings, but did you know that feeling upset is a choice?
The feelings you feel are driven by the thoughts you think.
So, in order to manage your feelings, you need to manage the way you think about things.
Did you know that you get to choose the thoughts you want to think?
I didn’t know this for the longest time. I always believed that the thoughts in my head were just the way it is. This is not true.
Yes, thoughts can pop up in your mind automatically, but you don’t have to believe every thought you think.
See, thoughts are simply sentences in your mind.
Sentences are things, and things can be changed.
You can decide what you want to think.
You get to decide what you want to make things mean.
Say something happens: Someone cuts you off on the road; your friend forgot your birthday; you step on the scale and see the number. These are just circumstances. A circumstance has no meaning until you assign it meaning with the thoughts you choose to think about it.
Here are some examples of thoughts you can choose to think and the corresponding feeling each thought creates:
Circumstance: Someone cuts you off on the road
Optional Thought #1: What a jerk! (or in my case, %&#$@!!!)
Optional Thought #2: Wow, he must be in a hurry.
Circumstance: Your friend forgot your birthday
Optional Thought #1: She doesn’t care about me.
Optional Thought #2: I know she loves me; she must be really busy.
Circumstance: You step on the scale and see the number
Optional Thought #1: I’m so fat. I’m such a loser.
Optional Thought #2: This number is simply data on my self-care journey. The scale does not measure my worth as a person.
When you generate the feelings of anger, hurt, or self-hate, these feelings feel terrible in your body. It makes sense that we as human beings have come up with ways to distract ourselves from feeling these feelings. We do this by overeating, over-drinking, over-spending, etc. Anything to not feel the crappy feelings we feel.
But now you know that you are creating those feelings in the first place. This is very empowering! When you make the conscious choice to redirect your feelings by choosing to reframe the story you’re telling yourself about a circumstance, you directly change the feelings you feel.
When you generate feelings of forgiveness, self-kindness, or even feeling neutral about something, there is no need to distract yourself with food to shut those feelings down.
The less you upset yourself with your own thinking, the less you overeat.
If you really think about it, most of the time when we make ourselves upset, we get over it in less than a day, and sometimes within the hour—even without the numbing mechanism of overeating. Why? Because our mind has moved on and is now focused on other things.
So, if you’re not going to be upset over it tomorrow or even a week from now, why make yourself upset about it today?
It will take practice to catch your thoughts and actively swap them out for another, but making an effort to change how you are looking at a situation can definitely help you avoid all of those unnecessary extra calories you’re likely to consume if you don’t take any action at all.
Perfectionism is a cruel trickster. It promises us the world but it never delivers. Why? Because perfection is unattainable.
The rules of beauty are always evolving and every season a new product is marketed to offer a remedy to something we didn’t even know was a “problem.” I’ll never forget the day I saw an ad for an underarm deodorant that contained a bleaching agent. OMG! Now we have to worry about what our underarms look like? Are you kidding me???
I was so angry.
For about a minute.
Until I realized that buying into this idea was a choice, and I was choosing not to shame myself over my underarms.
Even though body shaming is rampant in our beauty-obsessed culture, we do not have to participate in it.
Life is offers its share of challenges to each of us; let’s not heap even more pain upon ourselves by judging our bodies on a daily basis.
Our bodies are valuable.
So very valuable.
When my mom had a stroke and could no longer bathe or dress herself, I remember kneeling down on the floor to help her put her pants on and then one sock at a time. That was a life-changing moment for me.
There I was in a body that could kneel down on the floor. I was in a body that allowed me to help my mom when her body stopped working. My body’s value was never more apparent to me than in that moment, and I have seen it through new eyes ever since.
Be willing to see your body through new eyes.
Be willing to see its value and treat it like the treasure it is.
What’s the kindest thing you can say to your body today? Start there, and slowly begin to replace any body-shaming thoughts with thoughts of gratitude and love.
Trust me when I tell you that your body will respond to your kindness, and you’ll feel ten thousand times better without all of that negative gunk in your head.