Week four of the practice project! If you are following along, how is it going for you? Are you using some of the coaching tools I’ve been sharing with you over the weeks? What is the most interesting or impactful thing you’ve learned about yourself so far?
Well, after four weeks of eating foods free of wheat, dairy and sugar, I can’t deny that I physically feel better. My close friends have even noticed how much clearer my complexion has become. That was my goal, so it’s nice to see that I’m producing results with my effort
The more I practice eating this way, the easier it gets.
When my friend offered to split a sandwich while we were waiting in line for the Annie Leibovitz photo exhibit in San Francisco during the lunch hour, I said no thank you and chose to purchase energy bars at the deli instead. In the past I might have worried about what my friend was thinking, and I probably would have abandoned my self-care to avoid saying no, but now I see it as she gets to take care of herself in her own way and I get to take care of myself my own way, and it’s all good.
When my other friend asked me to pick a restaurant for a belated birthday dinner, I picked an Asian place. After a delicious meal of meat, veggies, and rice, she asked if I wanted a birthday dessert (mochi ice cream). It was an easy no.
As we walked out of the restaurant, there was a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor literally right next door. Still, it was an easy no. My brain is now getting it that I’m not eating dairy or sugar. That inner mind wrestling between one choice and the other was absent. This, I’m certain, is the result of the practice I’ve been doing.
Even fleeting thoughts of “Chocolate sounds good right now” that pop up occasionally during the week don’t have the power to influence me. I wave it away like a pesky mosquito. Thoughts like this have no effect on you unless you allow them to land.
Remember: Thoughts are just sentences in your mind and you don’t have to act on them.
That is a practice in itself—a really powerful one for those serious about making a change in their lives. It’s not about resisting the thoughts that pop up; it’s about becoming a person who doesn’t immediately act on them. It’s about becoming a person who evaluates her thoughts and then chooses her actions on purpose—actions that lead her closer to the results she wants, instead of further away.
Two weeks ago I sent a really powerful email to my list on this very topic. I received feedback that this was one of my best pieces of writing to date (if you are not on my list, you can gain access to my weekly emails by signing up for my free Self-Love Guide here). In the email, I wrote about how change is supposed to be messy, and that even more important than changing the mechanics of your habits, you yourself must change into a new person.
The quote I included in that email was this:
“Every new level of your life will demand a different YOU. Nothing will change if you remain the same.” ~ Unknown
You must become the person who would practice those healthier habits automatically. This is more than just trying out a new habit for a day or a week. This is you imagining the Future Self you’d like to be, and then mimicking her habits as if you were your Future Self already.
If you act like her, eventually you will be her.
How does she take care of her body? Do that now.
How does she dress (colors, fabrics, styles)? Start dressing like that now.
How does she talk to herself? Speak to yourself in that way now.
How does she think? Think those types of thoughts now.
I love how the Universe works: Whatever you focus on, more of that shows up on your radar. Soon after sending that game-changer email, I was led to an archived podcast of an interview with author Joe Dispenza from a few years ago. He talked about how to fully facilitate change, you must create a new personality—a new personal reality—so that the brain gets it that things are meant to be different now. He suggested small things to help your brain make this shift, such as shutting off your alarm clock with a different finger; drinking out of a different coffee mug; or driving a different way to work. Changing up your environment helps to change the patterns in your brain.
What can you do to change up your environment?
Move your furniture around?
Move where you keep your shampoo in the shower stall?
Swap your silverware to another drawer?
Doing this will wake you up out of auto-pilot mode, which is the place you want to be as you practice the habits of the new personality you want to adopt. That new personality is your Future Self you imagine in your mind.
If you can see her, you can be her.
Keep practicing. You got this!
One of my favorite things on the planet is sitting at my lovely Italian neighbor’s kitchen table, chatting with her and sipping on one of her delicious cappuccinos made with love. She and her family were on vacation when I started the 90 Day Practice Project and didn’t know about it, so imagine the moment when she asks her adorable 4-year-old daughter to ask me (in English) if I want a cappuccino. In my mind I am saying “Yes, darling! I would love a cappuccino!” But instead I tell her that I am doing a 90 day experiment, so I will decline for now. No frothy milk. No sugar from their unique blue sugar decanter to be stirred in with a tiny silver spoon. Insert inner sad face here.
But I rallied quickly! I’m not there for the cappuccinos; I just love being in their company! I watched as her son began building a small solar-powered car at the kitchen table, and her daughter sat in my lap as we sang along to a One Direction video on their mom’s iPhone while she cooked dinner. Food and drink truly are secondary to joyful moments in the company of other people.
Remember last week when I wrote about how many food photos I was noticing in my Facebook news feed? Well, the Universe is really testing my commitment and has now bumped it up to videos of ooey-gooey cheese. One was a video of a chef scraping melted Raclette cheese over roasted potatoes, and the other was another chef actually mixing cooked pasta in a bowl carved out of enormous wheel of cheese! Again, I was like, “SERIOUSLY?” This time I actually found it kind of funny, in a “This is absurd!” kind of way.
Sure, the cheesy goodness certainly looked delicious, and let’s face it—it probably was, but it got me thinking about how we can sometimes trade “delicious in the moment” for unwanted consequences that can be short or long-term.
Some people will consume food or drink they know their body doesn’t like and are willing to suffer the after-effects for instant gratification. This is really curious to me. I am not judging because I’ve done it, too. I know that my body doesn’t like dairy in general, yet I was eating it week after week because I was telling myself that I didn’t want to cook. My skin was a mess, my throat was mucous-y, and I had some digestive issues that were hard to ignore.
Since starting this project three weeks ago, I look and feel so much better. So when I saw the ooey-gooey cheese videos, I reacted but I didn’t feel tempted. What I did was what I call the Fast-Forward Technique:
When you think you want to eat a certain food, you fast-forward in your mind to how you will feel after you eat it.
Are you tired?
Do you have a stomachache?
Do you feel like a loser because you are verbally shaming yourself for eating it?
What are the longer-term effects of eating food your body doesn’t need or want?
Skin, joint, or metabolic problems?
A poor relationship with yourself due to chronic self-judgment?
When you stop and take a moment to do the Fast-Forward Technique in your mind, you give yourself an opportunity to make a different choice. For a moment you can mentally experience the after effects and decide to accept them, or say, “No, thank you. I’ll pass.” When I saw the cheese videos and imagined how I would feel after I ate it, it was really easy to allow that moment of “I want that” to wash away.
You can also use the Fast-Forward Technique on foods that are great fuel for your body, too! As you scan the menu, you can fast-forward in your mind and imagine how you will feel after you eat that fuel meal:
Are you feeling light and full of energy?
Is your food digesting well?
Do you feel amazing and thank yourself for taking such great care of your body?
What are the longer-term effects of consistently choosing food your body likes and runs well on?
A balanced body weight?
Clear skin, bright eyes, great mobility, overall good health?
A great sense of respect, trust, and love for yourself?
I invite you to try out this technique this week and let me know how it works for you. Remember that it may take some effort on your part the first several times to actually follow through with the actions that are in alignment with your goal. It’s not a matter of willpower; it’s a matter of switching your brain’s current track of instant gratification to the new track of making conscious choices on purpose.
Success Tip: Keep a Daily Journal
Like any good scientist, you are going to want to track your experiment and take notes on your findings. When you document your Practice Project like a science experiment, you can review the data and make adjustments that will further your success. Keep a notebook and a pen on your kitchen counter, or in your purse, or keep notes in an ap on your phone.
Keeping a food journal—noting the food you eat and the way it makes you feel afterwards—provides valuable information. It’s a log of your body’s communication to you whether it likes what you’re feeding it or not. Energy level, physical symptoms, and your digestion are the ways your body is talking to you. I invite you to check in with your body daily and take action on the feedback it’s giving you.
I also invite you to log all of your successes. When you change what you put in your shopping cart, make note of it. When you say, “No thank you” to something you’re choosing not to eat right now, acknowledge yourself for following through. Having a list of successes to look at strengthens your belief in yourself and inspires you to keep going. You are also re-training your brain to look for all the ways you’re getting it right—and that feels way better than picking yourself apart every day.
Look for the good in yourself and that is what you’ll find.
Fully sugar, wheat, and dairy-free this week! I really made an effort to set myself up for success by having groceries on hand and that made all the difference.
I was thinking about my prior grocery shopping habit of always adding bread, crackers, cheese, and yogurt to my cart. The thinking behind that was this:
I’m tired of cooking and cleaning up; I want food with minimal preparation.
I want to have go-to items that are quick and easy.
Basically, these items were “instant.” No preparation required except for opening the package.
If quick and easy was the main driver here, then the solution I needed to come up with was how do I make my wheat and dairy-free foods more easily available.
The solution was making bigger batches of food ahead of time so that I always have prepared items ready in the fridge.
First, however, I needed to get over my negative thought about being tired of cooking and cleaning up.
Telling myself that I don’t want to take the actions that create the result I want will ensure that I’ll never have it.
If cooking (and the inevitable clean up afterwards) is a path to the outcome I want, then I need to tell myself the truth:
I want to cook.
I want to clean up.
If I want the result, then I must also want to take the actions that will create it.
Adding the element of fun seems to brighten any task, so I figured out a way to make cooking and clean up more fun for myself: By listening to my favorite podcasts while I’m working in the kitchen. This makes the time fly by and I learn something new as a bonus!
Though I am managing the transition to this new way of eating pretty well, I do think it’s some kind of sick joke that my FB news feed now seems to be filled with photos of pizza, pasta, and mac & cheese! As I scroll down, I see more photos of fancy donuts, frothy cappuccinos, and buttery croissants. I mean, seriously, Facebook??? You’re killing me!
Maybe these kinds of photos were already in my news feed, but because I’ve decided to skip sugar, wheat, and dairy for this Practice Project, suddenly the items that contain those ingredients are more on my radar. Your brain does filter out a lot in your environment and tunes in to whatever you are focused on in the moment—like when you’re in the market for a new car and then that particular car is all you start noticing on the road.
I’m going to take that as a cue to stop focusing on what I’m trying to avoid and instead shift my mind to the wide variety of foods I can have. I will also focus on the results I am moving toward instead of entertaining any thoughts about what I might be “missing.”
Even though I seem to be more aware of food photos at the moment, I find that I am truly not interested in eating those items. Why? Because practicing this this new way of eating for two weeks is already producing results! I look in the mirror and I see that I have no new breakouts on my face, I have more energy, and some minor digestive issues I had been experiencing before have much improved. If I feel this good already, I can only imagine how great I will feel as more time passes!
How was YOUR week?
What did you do that you feel good about?
What are the areas that you can offer yourself some more support?
Here are some prompts from this week’s post that you can use to set yourself up for success:
What are the drivers behind the current habit you want to change? (example: for me, the main driver was wanting quick and easy food options)
How can you still meet that need while staying in alignment with your goal? (example: for me, the solution was preparing bigger batches of food ahead of time and having it ready to grab n’ go)
If you want the result, you have to want to take the actions that will create it. How can you make those necessary actions more fun for yourself in order to follow through?
What are the benefits you will gain by staying committed to your new practice?
Thanks for following along with me this week! I’d love to hear how your 90 day journey is going. Feel free to connect with me and post your weekly progress on my Facebook page here. If the tools I share in these updates are helping you, please let me know. I always appreciate feedback, as it helps me to improve the content I share with you.
Have a great week!
I started my 90 Day Practice Project on my birthday last Tuesday (click here for the original post). It was a low-key birthday being a workday, so after my last coaching session ended, I headed to Trader Joe’s to pick up some dinner.
Now remember, in last week’s blog I mentioned that the mind-chatter began the day before. Well, it was still there in high gear on Day 1.
Here’s a sample of my mind-chatter as I went up and down the aisles in Trader Joe’s:
This is too hard. There’s wheat and cheese in everything here!
If I cut out wheat too, there will be nothing left for me to eat! (Scarcity thinking)
Dairy is probably the real culprit in my skin breakouts. Maybe I’ll just commit to no dairy and still eat wheat.
I was surprised to hear how much I was bargaining with myself. The thoughts came in rapid succession, one right after the other (there were more, but these were the stand-outs). No wonder my clients feel so overwhelmed when their brain does the same thing.
As I tell my clients: Thoughts are just sentences in your mind and they can be changed.
I stopped, took a breath, and reminded myself of my commitment (“For 90 days, I choose foods free of sugar, dairy, and wheat”). I then backed it up with reminding myself of my WHY (“I want healthy, radiant skin, and I want to be free of relying on makeup to cover my breakouts”).
Since this is The Practice Project, I consciously chose to practice replacing the bargaining mind-chatter with these more encouraging thoughts:
I can do this.
One day at a time. I only need to succeed today.
I only need to focus on this one meal.
I left Trader Joe’s empty-handed and went a few blocks down to another market where I bought some sushi for dinner. No wheat, no dairy! I did not feel deprived, and I felt proud of myself for following through with my practice.
Other grocery store thoughts and actions during the week:
Wow! This actually simplifies things. Since there are fewer choices to think about, it actually makes decision-making so much easier. My brain is less taxed when I go straight to the choices I say I want, and I don’t have to wrestle with the other foods I’m choosing not to eat right now. Notice I didn’t say, “Foods I can’t have.” No one is forcing this on me. It’s my choice and I am in control of what I eat.
Practicing passing the cheese & yogurt aisle: This is easy; I don’t eat that.
Practicing walking by the bakery department: It smells good in here, but I’m more interested in having good skin.
Practicing stepping outside of the box and trying new wheat-free items: These rice tortillas look good.
Ummmm, no. Oddly chewy. Eating the rice tortillas made me feel a little bit sad.
I won’t be buying those again.
I still stand by my belief that you should enjoy the food you eat.
Which leads me to my birthday dinner with one of my girlfriends on Thursday night.
Earlier in the day, I rehearsed in my mind how I was going to follow through with my plan. I even looked at the menu online and scoped out some wheat and dairy-free options. To be honest, what I was looking forward to ordering before I decided to start this journey still sounded good to me, even though it contained some wheat and cheese.
Once at the restaurant, I ultimately chose to order the meal I was looking forward to. I also chose not to beat myself up over it. Since I no longer entertain thoughts like, “I’ve blown it; I may as well go to town,” I did not join my friend in ordering drinks, and I had absolutely no interest in dessert even though the “It’s my birthday” card could have easily been played here. I left the restaurant feeling happy and satisfied, and went right back to my wheat & dairy-free plan the next day.
I share this to show you that you do not have to be perfect to make progress. You also don’t have to fully abandon your self-care in response to one off-plan moment.
It’s like that analogy I love so much: You wouldn’t slash your other three tires if one went flat. You’d fix the flat and keep on driving.
Don’t slash your tires!
If you make an off-plan choice, be kind to yourself about it and resume your self-care with the very next choice you make (no need to “start over” tomorrow or Monday).
How did YOU do this week?
Did you declare your goal?
Did you make it specific enough? Your brain likes specifics. The more detailed you are in your goal, the more your brain will work to create it for you.
Saying, “For the next 90 days, I will eat better” is too vague.
Saying, “For the next 90 days, I commit to bringing my lunch to work four times a week” or “For the next 90 days, I commit to eating a serving of vegetables at every meal” gives your brain a solid task to execute.
Did you also declare your “Why?” Having a powerful driver behind your actions makes all the difference.
If you haven’t already, you’re welcome to join us by posting your goal and your why over on my Love Yourself Lighter Facebook page (here). I’ll be sharing this blog post on there too, which is where you can post your update in the comments. Don’t worry if your timeline doesn’t match mine or anyone else’s; simply state whatever week you’re on (Week 1, Week 2, etc.) when you post your update. I would love to hear how your week went!
Though this group is totally informal, there is something to be said about being in a group of like-minded people supporting each other towards their goals. It reminds me of those pods of dolphins who surf and frolic in the ocean waves. Fun, right? Come be a part of my pod!
The way you create different results in your life is to take different actions than the ones you are taking now.
In order to do that, you have to change your brain.
Specifically, you have to change the patterns of habit your brain is used to performing on a regular basis.
If you’ve set out to make a change in your life, my guess is that you have felt frustrated when you easily fell back into old habits. You probably labeled it as “lack of willpower,” but what was really happening here is your brain was just doing its job—being efficient.
Your brain oversees many functions each day, and it wants to conserve energy where it can. There is so much outside stimulation that the brain filters out what it doesn’t need, and it prefers to use “tracks” it already knows.
Those tracks are called neural connections. The thoughts you think and the habits you perform on a regular basis form these tracks in your brain. The more you think certain thoughts and the more you practice certain habits, those tracks get strengthened until they become the tracks your brain likes to use on autopilot—even if they lead to results that are unhealthy for you. Your brain doesn’t care; it’s just wants to be efficient.
When you set out to make a change, your brain doesn’t like it. It wants to use the tracks it knows, so that’s why you “cheat on your diet,” “fall off the wagon,” or “blow it.”
You didn’t blow it. You didn’t fall off the wagon. Your brain simply slipped into the groove it’s most familiar with.
This is why it’s imperative that you stop blaming yourself when you are not “perfect” on your new health plan. Any time you get frustrated with yourself and feel discouraged, you set yourself up to quit too easily. Your brain is probably happy when you quit, but you’re not happy because you’re still stuck with results you don’t want.
Creating real change takes PRACTICE.
When I work with my coaching clients, I teach them the Art of Practice. I invite them to exercise patience in this process because their brain is bound to “slip into its familiar groove” many, many times. The point is not giving up.
The only reason why your current habits are in place now is because you practiced them enough times until your brain set them on autopilot.
This is great news! You already know that you can succeed!
If your brain was able to set your current habits on autopilot, with enough practice you can reset your habits to whatever you want!
To take my understanding of the Art of Practice to an even deeper level, I’ve decided to embark on a 90-day personal health project. I will be blogging about my journey each week, sharing any challenges that arise and how I work through them. I invite you to follow along, as something I share may help you on your journey of changing your habits for the better.
If you want to do this with me, the first thing you want to do is set a goal and be clear about why you want to reach it. A strong “Why” will inspire you to keep practicing your new habits, especially when your brain does not want to cooperate.
Here are my personal examples so you can see what I mean:
MY GOAL: For 90 days, I commit to practicing the new habit of choosing foods free of sugar, dairy, and wheat to see if that clears up my skin.
MY “WHY”: I want clear, radiant skin. I want to be free of relying on make-up to cover the breakouts on my face. I want to look and feel more vibrant and healthy than I already do.
The minute you set your goal, do not be surprised if the feeling of resistance pops up. Remember, your brain does not want to change. It’s comfortable with the pattern it already knows and it’s going to try to talk you out of it. There will be mind-chatter! Expect it. This was mine:
“You haven’t posted your intention yet, so you can still bail on this experiment and no one will know.”
“You don’t believe in cutting out foods, so just quit sugar and still eat wheat and dairy.”
“This is going to be really hard.”
The mind-chatter you hear are just sentences in your mind. You don’t have to succumb to them.
I decided to counter my mind-chatter with these thoughts that I chose to think on purpose:
“I’m doing this experiment on myself so that I can better help my clients. I am willing to feel uncomfortable so that I can learn more about the process of change. The more I learn, the more I can teach others.”
“Actually, I do believe in cutting out foods. I don’t eat trans fats because chemically it’s like ingesting plastic. I don’t eat anything made of soy because it messes with my hormones and causes awful PMS. I don’t eat foods with chemical preservatives or food dye because of the damage it can do to your brain and body.”
“Yes, it’s probably going to be challenging at first until I train my brain to accept these new habits as the new autopilot setting, but once I do, then it becomes easy!”
If you want to join me in this 90 Day Practice Project, come on over to my Facebook page (here) and post your goal and your “why”! Then follow my weekly blog posts and apply the lessons I will share from my journey in your own life. By committing to practicing our new desired habits daily, together we can make the changes we want to make and ultimately enjoy the results we eventually create for ourselves.
Let’s do this!
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.
Your brain is awesome!
Every time you think a thought or practice a habit, a neural pathway is created in your brain. The more you repeat the thought or habit, the stronger that neural pathway becomes. Your brain is naturally wired to be efficient and it wants to take the neural pathway that you’ve practiced the most.
Sometimes those thoughts and habits serve you, sometimes they don’t.
When you decide you want to make a change in your life (whether it be a physical change or a change in the way you think about something), there is a period of time that this is bound to feel uncomfortable because you are now needing to construct new neural pathways that support the desired change. Your brain doesn’t like this. It wants to take the path it already knows.
You may get frustrated with yourself when you easily revert back to old patterns, but instead of telling yourself that you have no willpower, I invite you to be compassionate with yourself and say this instead: “My brain is efficient and this what it currently knows how to do. I need to keep practicing my new desired thought/habit to lay down new neural pathways.”
Why am I asking you to be so specifically scientific with your inner dialogue here? Because it’s giving your brain clear directions that a change is taking place. If you blame yourself for lack of willpower, you will give up too soon. Creating new neural pathways in your brain takes time and effort, and it helps if you keep reminding yourself of your intention. It ceases being about your character and puts the focus on the thing you are trying to build.
And building new neural pathways can be done.
You already have it!
All of your current thoughts and habits were practiced enough times until they became routine.
You weren’t born knowing how to mindlessly eat chips in front of the TV.
You weren’t born thinking thoughts like, “I will always struggle with my weight.”
You weren’t born with a dislike for yourself or your body.
You had to learn that.
The good news here is that if you were able to program thoughts and habits like these into your brain, you have the exact same power to program something else entirely.
Your brain is a powerful tool and it’s designed to turn the thoughts you think the most into your reality. It’s always working, so why not use its power to your benefit? Just because you’ve been thinking a particular thought for a long time doesn’t mean you have to keep it. You can harness your brain’s power by consciously choosing new thoughts and habits to focus on.
They key to making your new thoughts stick is believing the replacement thought. Maybe you can’t jump from “I will always struggle with my weight” to “I’m so skinny,” but your brain will probably accept a thought like, “I am learning how to take great care of my body.” Since your brain turns what you believe into your reality, believing a thought like this will lead to a very different result than if you believe that you will always struggle.
The key to making your new habits stick is repetition. The more you practice the new desired habit, the stronger that new neural connection becomes. With enough practice, that new neural pathway becomes the one your brain prefers and you will eventually begin to perform your new habit on autopilot.
In both cases, give yourself plenty of time. And more importantly, allow the transition to be imperfect. It’s totally okay if your path to success is not a straight line. It’s probably not going to be anyway, so don’t get hung up on the idea that it should be. Just keep the image of paving that new neural pathway in your mind and soon enough it will take root, and the outcome you will create with it will be your new reality.