Exercise Reengineered

When you hear the word, “exercise,” what comes up for you? This is what used to come up for me:

  • It’s a hassle.
  • It’s too time-consuming.
  • It will hurt.
  • I won’t be good at it. 
It’ll just remind me that I’m not an athlete.
  • I have to do it to make up for all the junk I just ate.
  • It has to be intense or it won’t count.
  • I can’t enjoy it or I won’t get results.
  • People will look at my fat.
  • I can’t hide in workout clothes and they make me feel frumpy.
  • It won’t be effective enough to even put a dent in my thighs.

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking. Usually the only positive thought you can muster is the thought of being done after having accomplished something that was awful, painful, a hassle, time-consuming, awkward, intense, boring and demoralizing.

When you think of exercise in this way… it’s part of a larger “diet mentality” where metaphorically, you’re fighting in the corner of a mental boxing ring while food and exercise outnumber you in the other corner, gloves on and ready to punch. Ouch!

When you think of exercise in this way…you’re also likely to start to argue and negotiate with “exercise.”

 “If I run 3 miles, 3x this week, I better lose a few pounds or else…”

And when you think of exercise in this way…it often encourages you to continue berating yourself while at the same time, reinforcing that you can only be happy when you’re thin because you’re hating yourself while exercising and trying to lose weight and you’re hating yourself for being overweight in the moment. Good times, huh? NOT!

STOP! IN THE NAME OF LOVE (…before you break my heart!)

It’s time to wave the white flag in that boxing ring because after all, why the heck are we fighting with ourselves? Isn’t life hard enough? Make friends with the opposition so these perceived sides of you can be united in your pursuit of ultimate health and happiness! Here are some tips on how to make friends with exercise.

Try these new thoughts on for size for just one week. Think of it as an adventure, a mental field trip if you will. You can go back to the battle afterwards with no judgement if that’s what you prefer, but just give these tips a whirl, notice with curiosity what changes for you and then after the one week, decide what to keep and what to ditch.

  1. Try on a new hat – Think of exercise as something you could possibly like and sit on that thought for a while. Answer the question, “How can I make exercise something fun and something I enjoy?” Really think beyond the step class, the aerobics class and the Jane Fonda VHS!
  2. Rock your mindset – One of the more entertaining ways to change a mindset is to take the desired result and start acting, “as if.” If you loved to exercise, what would you do? What thoughts would you think? How would you feel? (Sometimes it’s fun to pretend you’re an Olympic athlete and answer these same questions.)
  3. Bring on the joy – This is based on the assumption that you let yourself do something you may actually find joyful! 😉 What if you let go of any tortuous, vigorous methods and let your weekly exercise be walking, yoga, Pilates, gardening or dancing. What if you put a fun class like Zumba on the top of your to do list because you just deserve to have fun?
  4. Do the unthinkable – Consider leaving the heart monitor, the pedometer and the itunes at home and see if exercise could possibly turn into a form of mindfulness and possibly meditation. Let go of any woo-woo fear factor, get in nature and just think, and appreciate the trees, the smells, the sounds, how things feel and think about whatever comes to mind. You’ll be utterly surprised to find that you’re likely to come up with your most creative ideas, solve problems and experience eureka moments when you allow yourself to have this time.
  5. Do it only if it’s fun – So if you’re running for example, the second it doesn’t seem fun or pleasurable, walk, or even sit. Relax. No one is cracking a whip. Notice, what it’s like to not feel a whip.
  6. End the negotiations – Don’t make demands on what exercise will give you or what it will owe you. Avoid the thinking that if I exercise then I better lose weight. Think of exercise as your friend so ask yourself, would I make these kinds of demands with any of my other friends? “I enjoy exercise and exercise enjoys me!”
  7. Gift yourself – At the same time, appreciate and think of exercise as the most beautifully packaged gift for yourself, no strings attached, packed with goodies that make you feel good, that clear up your thinking, that make your body move with ease, that connect you with a fire hose of confidence, self-love and mojo. And this isn’t a gift exchange. You don’t owe it anything. It’s there for you whenever you want it and it’s not selfish to accept it either. It’s for you.
  8. Reinvent – If after hearing or saying the word, “exercise” you still find that you break out in a rampant rash, consider renaming it to something that’s more neutral in your world. Perhaps something like, “I’m going to drink in life” or “I’m getting some soul power.” Get creative!
  9. Keep it real – Honor your values. If getting exercise in daily is high on your list, make it a morning date. (Notice I didn’t say appointment, because a date is so much more fun!) When we respect our values daily, we pack our spirit with high octane fuel and then nothing can stop us.

Remember. Really notice how your feelings and your experiences change. These tips can redefine not only what exercise means to you, but it can also help to reposition exercise as an act of self-care vs. a form of self-beating and learning how to love and care for yourself is absolutely one of the essential keys to permanent weight loss.

Now go on with your great self and show the world how beautiful you are!

Before and After

I just came back from a terrific bariatric support group meeting. A participant mentioned that a friend of hers posted a photo of herself, 100 lbs. heavier, on her fridge. She was curious about what we thought.

Here’s what I thought. It all depends on why you’re posting the photo and what feelings that photo creates for you.

If you’re posting it to scare yourself into discipline, to threaten yourself with an undesirable outcome, then I think it’s a bad idea. In this mindset, you’re reinforcing the struggle and reminding yourself of the horror that lurks with one extra treat. You’re also likely reinforcing that somehow you don’t have control and that you can’t be trusted and this just isn’t true. We always have control and we make certain decisions and choices, but we are certainly in control.

Living on your toes, in fear of yourself, fighting yourself, is a horrid way to exist and just perpetuates the mental beatings you’ve grown so accustomed to, no matter what you look like. This is a big dose of yuck!

It also encourages rebellion. If you’re constantly fighting yourself, eventually you’ll want to act out and what’s a perfect way to act out? Just ignore that picture, open that door and go ballistic! I know. Been there. Done that. Remember, it never works to beat yourself thin. Never.

Now on the other hand, if you’re posting the picture to remind yourself of how self-care and self-love have become your best friends, to remind yourself that you were actually beautiful even though you weighed 100 pounds more, of how far you’ve come in your journey and to reinforce the role that each part of your past played and how it was all perfect and got you to where you are today, then I say go for it. That’s a big dose of love.

The answer to whether posting that picture on your fridge is a good thing or not comes down to how it makes you feel. And if you feel struggle, diet mentality and/or fight, put it in that box with all of the other pictures you say you’ll scan and file one day!

If it makes you feel terrific and proud, blow it up, frame it and celebrate it!

You’re awesome beyond measure, a deliberate creation and everything you can do to remind yourself of that fact is a good thing!

Losing Weight And Keeping It Off Is An Inside Job!

We’re an overweight nation because we eat more fuel than our bodies burn. So then, why are we eating beyond what we need?

I believe one of the main reasons is that we’re so tuned-out from our bodies and its signals that many of us don’t recognize what “full” is and some of us eat so regularly that we never even allow ourselves to feel hungry.

This comes as no surprise since we’ve been conditioned over time not to trust our bodies. We’ve been encouraged to focus on external programs to show us how we ‘should’ eat and as a result, have become unconscious eaters. We eat because it’s lunchtime, because of an event or gathering. Or, we embrace a promising diet program that tells us exactly when and how much to eat by counting points, carbs, calories or fat grams. We’ve pursued pills, fasts and have even undergone surgery all in a quest to be thin. At the same time, we’ve amassed an encyclopedic knowledge base as it relates to food and nutrition. We’re a smart bunch.

And while many are able to lose weight with one or more of these strategies, the unfortunate truth is that most gain the weight back, and then some. We brush ourselves off, experience shame, berate ourselves, drum up some new enthusiasm and look to the diet industry to provide another promising approach. Wash, lather, repeat. Yuck!

The reason diets don’t work is because they address overeating without addressing the root cause of why we’re overeating in the first place. Overeating is a symptom of being overweight. Permanent weight loss involves getting to the cause of overeating and the cause lies within us. No diet can substitute for the wisdom of your own body.

Attaining and maintaining your natural weight requires conscious connection both physically and emotionally, and it requires you trust in yourself.  The good news is that with practice, you can learn techniques for mastering this connection and therefore empowering yourself to end the war with weight and permanently thrive.

The key is to recognize whether you’re emotionally hungry or physically hungry. Physical hunger is a sensation in your body. It’s a cue you feel inside whether it be a subtle recognition that you’ll need to eat soon or a more overt stomach growl. You feed physical hunger with fuel.

Emotional hunger is a feeling with an accompanying thought. You feed emotional hunger by allowing it and embracing self-care. Instead of food, you may really need rest, a walk or a conversation.

In our culture, many of us never learned how to feel our emotions. We either feel nothing or if we feel something, we’ve learned to turn to food for immediate comfort. But what you resist does persist. Those emotions will creep back in and many of us will eat more, shop, drink, or embark on some other distracting behavior. The good news is no emotion will ever kill you and when you allow yourself to experience it, on average, it will only last 90 seconds!

How do we process our emotions?

Become the watcher – Become a compassionate observer of yourself. Start by noticing, like a scientist, what you’re thinking and feeling without any judgment. Get into the habit of checking in with yourself. I advise some of my clients to set alarms in their online calendars every four hours with a simple prompt, “What are you feeling?” This awareness is new ground for many of us.

Allow the feeling – When you recognize an unpleasant emotion, give yourself the gift of a few minutes to process it. Stop and notice how your body feels. Is it hunched over? Is your stomach tight? Are your muscles tense? Is your throat constricted? Describe it. Give it a name. Acknowledge that you’re experiencing the feeling and let that be ok. It’s normal and part of being human. More often than not, once you allow the feeling you will find that it will begin to loosen and won’t have such a grip on you the next time.

Reframe the thought – Ask yourself, what is the one thought that’s creating that emotion? For instance, if you’re feeling hopeless the thought could be, “I’ll never lose weight.” Try to create a better feeling and believable thought such as, “Even though I don’t see it yet, I’m currently in the process of losing weight.” Our thoughts create our emotions, which drive our actions and lead to our results, so coming up with a better feeling thought can dramatically shift your daily experience.

By practicing these techniques, you will empower yourself to give your body what it truly needs and be one step closer to achieving and maintaining your natural healthy weight for good.

You can do this!

Lessons From My One-Year Old Niece

There we were, family gathered to celebrate the first birthday of my beloved niece, Tatum. I’m fascinated with this gorgeous little girl and can’t help but wonder what’s going on in that beautiful little head of hers.

With that same sense of wonderment, I noticed everything about her. What she looked at, the noises she made, how she behaved, how she reacted.

And as I studied her expressions, movements and gestures, it dawned on me that although she’s not speaking in sentences yet, through her actions, she’s teaching us all a great deal. Here was her “birthday lesson plan.”

She’s starting to walk with the help of her lawn-mower-like toy. This “walking thing” is new and a stretch for her and as she makes progress, you can see her pride as she smiles from ear to ear.

Lession #1: Take chances, push yourself physically and grow beyond your comfort zone. Your achievements may actually surprise you.

Tatum lives with a gentle and beautiful golden retriever and most times as Tatum is crawling about, she and the dog have the chance to look eye to eye. While parents are cautiously monitoring, the dog licks Tatum’s ear and she does her best to pet the dog in return. There’s no doubt in my mind that the dog would protect Tatum if ever needed.

Lession #2: Reach out to those who are unlike you, beyond your circle for friendship and support. You may wind up with a friend for life and you’ll be reminded that you’re not alone in this world.

Then little Tatum began to get hungry. She was given a few crackers. She grabbed one and for 15 minutes, she nibbled at it, she licked it, she broke it in two, she got one half wet and held the other half seemingly, just to appreciate it for several minutes.

Lesson #3: How many of us appreciate our food today? We shovel food as we’re driving, while we’re running around the house. Enjoy your food. Taste it. Smell it. Research suggests that when we actually sit and appreciate a meal, we absorb more nutrients from that meal, become more satiated and experience more calm and enjoyment. Yup. She did all of that in her own way.

Tatum, in her attempts to walk, fell smack-dab on her butt. Dare I say, the fall was even funny as there wasn’t much space between her butt and the floor and it didn’t seem to hurt her at all. What did she do? She giggled and then got up and tried again. She’ll probably be speed-walking in no time.

Lesson #4: Don’t let a setback stop you from trying again. In fact, don’t make it mean anything other than you just fell on your butt! Imagine if you fell as a child and then thought, “Oh well. I must not be a walker so I’ll just crawl for the rest of my life!” Just giggle at yourself and try again!

For the grand finale, she was presented with a very special birthday cake. She very gently dragged a finger over the icing and then slowly and deliberately licked her finger to enjoy that little taste of sweetness. At a certain point, she was done and had absolutely no interest in any more cake, despite it’s decadence.

Lesson #5: Joy foods are terrific and worth enjoying but there comes a point when it just doesn’t taste that good anymore. You’re done. You’ve had a treat and it’s not going anywhere. You can have more tomorrow. No need to stuff yourself tonight or “clean your plate.”

Lastly, Tatum had a lot of presents. What I loved watching was her appreciation of each present as if it were the last gift on earth. She had no idea there were more. She was excited, thrilled and grateful.

Lesson #6: Gratitude brings joy. Her delight in opening each gift reminded me of a wonderful quote, “When I want what I have, I am deeply satisfied.”

Can you believe a one year old is so wise? Well she is my relative ;-)! Here’s the point. We’re born with the inherent tools and skills to thrive and live healthy lives. It’s just that as we get older, we forget a lot of them.

Coaching, in many ways, is about raising the level of consciousness so that we can separate our social roles, jobs, responsibilities, our stresses, the untrue stories we tell ourselves and get back in touch with who we really are and to remember the simple keys to living a healthy and vibrant life.

In this case, it’s about remembering that:

  • You can physically stretch yourself
  • You can ask for help in this world without making it mean anything
  • It’s o.k. to stop the world, leave your computer and actually eat a meal at a table
  • A setback is just a “step back” and that you can certainly keep moving forward
  • Respecting our bodies to know when we’ve had enough to eat is a gift to ourselves
  • Gratitude is the key to happiness

This week for fun, notice what the little ones in your life are teaching you. As for my niece, from now on, I’m going to have to call her “Coach Tatum.”

Fire Willpower. Hire “Skill Power.”

So many people think that if they just had more willpower, that they would lose weight permanently. So let’s explore, what is willpower and is that really true?

Webster defines willpower as: the ability to control oneself and determine one’s actions. The big takeaway here is that willpower is all about our actions.

A lot of people see willpower as the key to weight loss and think that those that struggle with their weight must have no willpower and no ability to control themselves. My friends, this is not only incredibly insulting, but it’s a huge, blatant lie!

The reason that most people struggle with their weight is not for lack of willpower. After all, I’m sure you can think of many people who are overweight but are highly accomplished in vast areas of their lives. There are beautiful, generous overweight people doing magnificent things all over the world. Losing weight is not an issue of willpower. They’ve got willpower nailed.

The truth is that in order to change any outcome in our lives, including weight, we must first start with our thinking vs. our actions because here’s how our minds and bodies operate:

  • Our thinking…
  • Creates feelings…
  • Which generate actions…
  • That lead to results…

Every. Single. Time.

Think of willpower as the momentum behind our actions, so if we want to change our results, we need to go back and change our thoughts, not try to muster up different actions and more willpower.

Our thinking not only influences our actions, but it can make momentum either work for or against us:

  1. When our thinking is in alignment with our intended actions, we create momentum and willpower.
  2. When our thinking conflicts with our intended actions, willpower becomes a struggle and a fight with ourselves.

Let’s put it together with an example.

  • The thought, “I can get that promotion” allows me to
  • Feel empowered
  • And I can take actions like pitching myself for the job, demonstrating the skills needed
  • To get the result I want

Since my actions support a thought I believe, I can leverage willpower to create more momentum with my actions. But the result I get is based on my original thought, not based on willpower.

On the contrary, when I have a thought that conflicts with my intended action, my “will,” in willpower gets confused and it doesn’t work.

For example:

  • If I believe the thought, “I’ll never lose the weight”
  • I feel hopeless
  • I’ll likely eat whatever I want
  • And then my result will be to either stay the same weight or gain weight

When I am expecting that I’ll be able to act by following a diet and exercise when my original thought is “I’ll never lose the weight,” I’ve just created cognitive dissonance, a.k.a. a big mental conflict. Willpower won’t result in any actions with momentum because I’m fighting with my own beliefs. Further, my brain is designed to prove my thoughts true so thoughts will always trump desired actions and willpower when there’s conflict. Willpower literally loses its power.

But fret no more. I assure you, there is a much better way to stack the deck for success and generate the change you want! Stop relying on willpower and embrace, “Skill Power.” Skill Power is the ability to use tools and techniques that empower your success and here are just a few examples:

  • Go right to the source and replace those negative thoughts and beliefs with ones that resonate and support your intended actions so you can use willpower and momentum as a catalyst to get the results you want.
  • For instance, “Even though I don’t see the number on the scale I want right now, my body is actually in the process of losing weight.”
  • Or “Each choice I make as it relates to fueling and moving my body is an opportunity to be my personal best.”
  • When you choose a positive, believable thought, you’re likely to feel empowered, your actions will come with willpower, you’ll make healthier choices, and consequently have more positive results which then can reinforce your new positive belief. Much better way of living, don’t you think? Try it on yourself and notice how your feelings, actions and results shift.
  • Excavate other negative beliefs that aren’t serving you. Hire your very own internal private eye, someone who works 24/7 and sits on your shoulder and is your best and most loving friend. Job description is to just notice, with curiosity and compassion, what’s really going on for me right now? What do I need? Am I hungry for food or am I hungry for connection, a nap, a walk etc.

And lastly, never again berate yourself or question your willpower. You ooze willpower. This is about your thinking and with just a little practice, you can start to end the struggle over your actions and willpower, align with positive thoughts and become your own friend again, be on your own side, while losing weight. Imagine actually loving yourself and losing weight! I dare you 😉