Back when I was twenty-four, I imagined my Dream Guy—what he looked like, how he dressed, his haircut, and even his tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses. Well, the Universe is powerful, y’all, because less than a week later, this very guy walked into the flower shop where I was working. We hit it off instantly, and I fell hard. Really hard.
He was everything I asked for—except I forgot to ask for “Available.”
Big mistake. HUGE.
He was dating other girls, and I was a hot mess in the prison of jealousy I had made for myself. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. In my dream scenario, I had only focused on what he looked like, not on how I wanted to feel when I was with him.
It’s the very same thing with weight loss.
How many times do we only think about how we want to look, but forget about how we want to feel?
How many times have we starved ourselves into a thinner body, but created a tumultuous relationship with food, or ramped up the self-hate to shame ourselves into losing weight and keeping it off?
What’s the point of being thin if you hate yourself or feel crazy around food?
Personally, I’d rather like myself and have a healthy relationship with food, even if that means that I carry a few extra pounds. The peace I have in my life now feels way better than the craziness that accompanied my lowest scale weight.
If you’ve been focusing only on how you look and that’s not working for you, I invite you to change your focus to how you want to feel.
What’s your Dream Scenario?
“I feel nourished and energized by the food I choose to eat.”
“I feel beautiful in the pretty clothes I choose to wear.”
“I feel strong and flexible as I move my body on a regular basis.”
“I feel confident in my abilities and in who I am as a person.”
“I feel loving to myself and others.”
It’s important that you give yourself at least three to six months to build this new Dream Scenario. You might feel tempted by the voice that still wants to focus on how you look, but I invite you to lovingly remind that voice that focusing solely on your looks wasn’t working and that you are trying something new. Then gently refocus your attention back to how you want to feel.
Cultivate the feelings you want to experience like you were tending to a garden.
Water them with focused attention.
Feed them with supportive thoughts.
Pull the weeds (negative thoughts) and discard them.
Hmmm… I kind of like that imagery… tending to my “Feelings Garden.”
What will you grow in your Feelings Garden?
I hope this post has helped you plant some new seeds.
You’ve been there. We all have.
You’ve set out on a plan to get healthy and you’re doing great. You’re making wise choices that feel good to you, and those choices are creating the results you deeply want for yourself.
Then someone offers you a drink or food that’s not on your plan, and you are faced with a choice: Take care of yourself by saying “No, thank you,” or abandon your plan and accept the food or drink being offered.
A high percentage of people faced with this choice will default to the latter.
Why do we abandon ourselves so easily?
It’s a weird form of self-preservation, really.
Here’s how the inner dialogue goes:
“If I refuse, I will hurt their feelings, and then they will think ill of me. I want to be liked, so I will sacrifice my health goals and eat or drink what’s offered.”
“If I refuse, they will think I’m on a diet. I don’t want people to think that, because then it means that there is something wrong with me that I’m trying to change. I want to fit in, so I must join in with the eating and drinking to appear “normal.”
“Well, now I’ve blown it. I may as well eat everything, because tomorrow I’ll go back to being strict again.”
What I invite you to see here is that these are just stories in your mind.
You can’t hurt other people’s feelings—especially by taking care of yourself.
If someone decides to feel hurt because you choose to stay true to your health goals—that would definitely be a friendship worth evaluating.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy, and great health is created by small choices made in the moment.
Too many women are worried that the thoughts other people will think about them when they say “No, thank you” are going to be negative—BUT—what if by saying “No, thank you,” you are actually offering inspiration to others because you are providing an example that it’s okay to be totally yourself, which includes taking care of yourself in the moment.
We need more women like this in the world.
I invite you to be one of them.
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.