It’s the last week of the Practice Project! Boy, that went by way faster than I had anticipated. What were the results of my experiment? My skin is clear and glowing, and I’m really impressed at how automatic my healthier choices have become. I know it’s because I kept practicing until my brain accepted my new choices as my new normal.
For example, I went to my friend’s Open House on Friday night where she was serving a lovely cheese platter with crackers and a huge plate of assorted cookies. Though it all looked amazing and inviting, I experienced no incessant mind-chatter, nor internal bargaining about the party food. I genuinely didn’t want any of it. It didn’t bother me that I was the only one in the kitchen not eating or drinking wine. I easily chatted away with the other guests as we all celebrated our friend’s awesome listing.
Another example is that I used to order a regular milk latte, and now I’ve trained my brain to automatically order an almond milk latte. There’s no thinking about it; I just do it. Before the Practice Project I would have had the conversation in my head that goes like this, “Go ahead and order the regular milk latte just this once. Once won’t hurt.”
In the grand scheme of things, one of any kind of treat doesn’t hurt.
But how many times do we say this to ourselves and then consume the thing we intended to avoid time after time? It goes from “just this once” to “virtually every time.” By doing this, you are training your brain to go back to the very habit you were trying to change.
Even stopping saying “just this once” is a practice in itself.
Yesterday I walked into Starbucks and ordered an almond milk latte. The barista said, “I’m sorry, we don’t have almond milk. We can do soy or coconut milk.” I didn’t want either of those options, so I said, “Okay. I’ll just skip it, thanks,” and left without a latte.
In the past, this is when I would have said “just this once” to regular milk, thus stepping foot on that slippery slope many of us are all too familiar with. Choosing to skip the latte yesterday was easy for me because I’ve decided that saying “just this once” is no longer an option.
Imagine if you adopted this practice.
Imagine the results you’d have if saying “just this once” was no longer an option and you followed though with your original intention – time after time.
You can apply this practice to anything, really: Spending money on items you don’t need; skipping workouts; even sleeping with someone you know is not good for you.
Consider removing “just this once” from your vocabulary if this thought takes you away from who you want to be and the life you want to be living.
Here’s one last practice I will leave you with at the end of this Practice Project:
You deserve to have what you want in life. Practice allowing yourself to have it.
Sending you lots of love and encouragement on your journey!
My best always,
Last week I talked about how we’re so used to paying attention to ourselves in a negative way that we don’t even realize how much energy we spend on doing that.
Being kind to yourself takes the same amount of energy and feels way better.
However, to convert your brain, that is going to take some extra energy at first.
Criticizing yourself feels easy because that’s what you’ve trained your brain to do. The words come out naturally and don’t take a lot of thought.
Some of the most common “mean mantras” I hear women say to themselves are:
“I’m so fat.”
“I have no willpower.”
“I’m such a loser.”
You will need to consciously spend some effort to catch your mean words and decide in the moment to switch them to a kinder soundtrack. Think of it like changing the station on the radio.
When you hear a mean mantra in your head or fly out of your mouth, immediately swap channels to station K-IND—“All Love, All Day.”
What’s the kindest, most loving thing you could say to yourself that still feels true?
Instead of “I’m so fat,” try switching to “The current shape of my body is only temporary.”
Instead of “I have no willpower,” try “My brain is currently set on this old set of habits, but I’m in the process of changing that.”
Instead of “I’m such a loser,” say “My habits are driven by my brain, not by my character. I’m a great person with a faulty set of programs in my brain, and I can install new programming that serves me better.”
Notice how I didn’t swap from “I’m so fat” to “I’m so thin.” Your brain is not going to buy that. In fact, it will say, “No you’re not!” which only reinforces the original thought of “I’m so fat.” This is why certain affirmations don’t work. If it’s not believable to you, then your brain will not accept it.
The thought “The current shape of my body is only temporary” is more neutral. Your brain can accept it as truth—plus it feels way better.
When in doubt, think about how you would talk to a friend. You would never talk to her the way you talk to yourself, right? You’d be kind and supportive. I invite you to use that same voice when talking to yourself. It may feel awkward at first, but that’s only because your brain is not used to it.
Just like anything else, adopting a kinder soundtrack is going to be a practice.
Once your brain converts to kind self-talk as the norm, any random mean thoughts that pop up will feel out of place. It’s pretty cool when that happens!
I invite you to do an exercise here to come up with your own K-IND Thoughts. Get a pen and a piece of paper and jot down the top three mean things you say to yourself on a regular basis. Don’t judge yourself for thinking this way; just allow yourself to become aware of your current inner dialogue.
Now, next to each mean mantra, come up with the kinder thought you want to think instead as you choose to switch the radio station channel in your mind. Once you have your new set of kinder thoughts, write them on a note card, a Post-it, or set it as the screen saver on your phone so that you can be reminded to choose the kinder thoughts whenever you hear the mean ones pop up.
As you’ve learned on the Practice Project, repetition is key. The more you repeat your desired thoughts and actions, the more your brain learns to set them as the new autopilot setting. This change can take weeks, so keep up with your practice—even if you fumble. No big deal, just pick up right where you are and keep moving forward.
You can do this. I believe in you.
As you read in my post last week, I found that it took me nine weeks of constant practice to rewire my brain into automatically skipping wheat, dairy, and sugar. I thought that this was really important information to share, as many people with a history of quick-fix dieting tend to give up on a new practice after about two weeks if they don’t start seeing results. Understanding up front that this process can take several weeks may help you stick with your commitment all the way through.
But instead of focusing on the result you’re after, I invite you to focus on the process.
I invite you to focus only on the day in front of you. In some cases, you may need to focus only on the meal or snack in front of you. Even if you need to break it down hour by hour in the beginning, no big deal. Your process is your process. And it’s the right process—whatever it is—because it works for you.
String enough of those focused days together and you will change your brain.
How do I know?
Because I had to talk myself into eating a piece of bread this past Friday at a fundraising event where I was volunteering.
I neglected to pack some snacks with me and I found my blood sugar dipping right before the big auction where I was asked to be a spotter (waiving a pom-pom stick over the people who were bidding to alert the auctioneer). I knew I needed energy to run around the room, and I also knew that if let myself get too hungry, I would end up with a headache for the rest of the day. I chose to eat the bread, but it took a little convincing.
Crazy, right? Less than three months ago, I was eating bread almost daily. I thought it was an interesting test, too, because since I chose to eat it, I paid close attention to how it made me feel. Though I was able to avoid getting a headache, I noticed how tired I felt. I wanted to take a nap in the middle of the day. I also got feedback that my digestive system didn’t like it either, but I will spare you the TMI on that. This is all good information for me to know, as it reinforces my choice to avoid eating products made from wheat. Not because I “shouldn’t,” but because I genuinely don’t want to.
As I was writing the above paragraph, it dawned on me how much attention I have paid to myself during this practice project. It also made me think of the countless women I meet who believe that paying attention to one’s self is selfish. I used to be one of those women, but over the years I have learned to discard that belief. I would never have been able to win the weight war within had I not paid attention to myself, to my body, and to my mind.
If you want to heal your weight struggle, paying attention to yourself is imperative.
You know what’s funny? This just came to me. When you are steeped in the weight struggle, you are paying attention to yourself ALL OF THE TIME.
You are on yourself for what you’re eating.
You are on yourself for how your body looks.
You are on yourself for how your clothes fit.
You are paying attention to yourself all day long. Except your self-talk is mean, and critical, and shaming.
Why is this kind of attention okay in our society, but paying loving, caring attention to yourself is thought of as odd and almost frowned upon?
When you really look at it, don’t you find harping on yourself as odd behavior?
No one thrives when steeped in shame.
Treating yourself with love and care is how you will heal—and how you will bloom.
Maybe believing this is the first practice you must take on. Because believing that it’s okay to pay loving attention to yourself sets the foundation for other practices that will help you heal your relationship with food and your body.
It’s okay to be nice to yourself.
It’s okay to give yourself supportive pep talks.
It’s okay to like who you are.
Try this practice on for several weeks and see if that changes the game for you.
It certainly did for me.
It’s been just over two months since I began this Practice Project, and here’s what struck me as I walked through the aisles at the Farmer’s Market last Saturday: Wow, the art of practice really works!
I say that because I was able to walk by my once-favorite stalls and had absolutely no attachment to them. There was no internal fight of wanting something and not wanting it at the same time. The best part is that I had no mind-chatter going on in my head. That felt like total freedom!
I could still appreciate the sight and smell of the baked goods, and I’m sure the samples of artisanal cheeses I was offered were delicious, but I genuinely didn’t want any of it. I happily spent the last of my cash at the organic stone fruit stand purchasing peaches, nectarines, and plums to enjoy over the holiday weekend.
Looking back, it took me about two months of daily practice to teach my brain this new way of eating. I think this is really good information to know, especially because the diet industry has conditioned us to expect immediate results, and when we don’t get them right away, we give up too soon.
So, I guess what I’m saying here is that to change a habit, you must commit to the practice for as long as it takes—even if it feels hard or awkward at first. Go into it knowing that it could take a couple of weeks, or even a couple of months or more. Understanding this will help you stick with your practice and not give up.
Really think about it though: Say it takes you three months to teach yourself stop overeating at each meal; or to stop snacking when you aren’t hungry; or to build a consistent exercise routine. Three months is a small tick on the time clock of your life. Wouldn’t the results from mastering such a practice be worth three months of your focus and energy?
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying it’s “one and done.” As I mentioned in last week’s post, I still have thoughts that pop up seemingly automatic sometimes. You will have thoughts pop up, too. The trick is remembering that thoughts are just sentences in your mind and you do not have to act on them.
A thought can pop up like, “I want that,” and instead of automatically reaching for the bag/scooping another serving/cutting another slice, that’s the moment when you can choose to check in with yourself.
Are you really physically hungry? Or are you acting out of habit or trying to shut down your feelings? If it’s the latter, you have the opportunity to make another choice—the choice to honor yourself and your body by passing on eating food your body doesn’t need. Not because you should, but because you genuinely want to.
Remember: Thoughts are just sentences in your mind.
You do not have to act on your thoughts just because you think them. You get to choose how you want to treat your body, and you can’t go wrong when your foundation is love.
In any situation, ask yourself: What’s the most loving choice I can make right now?
Then follow through with the action that serves you best. Just this practice alone can change your entire life.
Note: If you are new to my blog, you can click here to read about my Practice Project journey and learn all the concepts and tools I used to successfully change my habits. Perhaps you will find the exact tool you’re looking for that will help you succeed in making the changes you want to make in your own life. I also provide private coaching to clients who want more support in the process of change. If you’d like to work with me, you can contact me here.