Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Weight Loss Tip for Emotional Eaters

One of the biggest challenges we face as emotional eaters is developing new skills, tactics and strategies to handle our emotions rather than eating.

Stuffing our feelings down with a side of our favorite food is a habit that we have to break in order to have permanent weight loss success. Not an easy thing to do.

We may backslide from time to time...even after a long period of success. This does not mean that we as human beings are failures, just that we are human!

Weight Loss Tip: write down several options that you have for dealing with emotions and keep that list handy--we must learn to express our emotions, to get them out...and to learn that it is safe to do so!

What should be on the list?

The specifics of your list must be up to you. No one else can tell you what to write on your list, because no one else knows how you feel and what will help you. There are no "shoulds," as in specific things that belong on the list or do not belong on the list.

That being said I have a couple general rules or guidelines that I suggest you follow for the permanent mindset shift that you need for weight loss:

  1. Avoid having food items on the list--not even healthy substitutions. This doesn't do anything to break the habit of eating to deal with emotions. It doesn't retrain our brain or our bodies if we grab a low-calorie something (including carrot sticks!) instead of a pint of ice cream.
  2. Vary the time required: sometimes you might only have (and need) a 10 second diversion. Other times you might need a minute, or 5, or 10 or 30...sometimes a quick attention snap is all we need (and all the time we have!) to make a conscious choice rather than grabbing something to eat without thinking. At other times we can, need to and deserve to take a longer, slower approach to the emotional issue at hand.
  3. Give yourself options. Even when coming up with things to do in different time frames, try to come up with at least 2 different things. Not all activities are suitable for the office, for example, and not all activities will feel right at the given time.
  4. Mix up the solution type. Don't have everything on your list be physical--there will be times where you are not up for a physical solution. On the other hand, don't merely list things that involve talking or are only solitary. By increasing the variety of solutions you increase your chances for success!
  5. Gather your tools. This is basically the Boy Scout motto of Be Prepared. If your list includes going for a walk then you need to have walking shoes available otherwise you will be creating an excuse why you can't do the substitute activity and be more apt to just eat...even if you don't consciously go through the thought process. If you need a timer, a picture that helps calm you, music, whatever it is you need...have various tools with you at work and at home and in your car so you can tap into the strength of your list!
Some Suggestions for Your List (borrow any that feel good, disregard the rest!)

10 second solutions: count to 10; primal scream (either silent or vocalized); squeeze a stress ball; scrunch up your face & stick out your tongue

One minute wonders: close your eyes & take 5 or 6 deep belly breaths; shadow boxing; dance; get up & slam a door or throw a pillow; laugh; pet the dog/cat; think about someone you love; visualize the person who is stressing you as a little child; throw a tantrum (not a real one--but get your body involved in expressing your anger/fear/hurt)

Longer remedies: go outdoors & throw rocks as hard/far as you can; go for a walk around the block/building; meditate (5 min/15 min or longer); listen to your favorite album; engage in a hobby; work on a puzzle; lift weights; dance; laugh; sing; get out in nature; play with your kids/pet

Keep it Handy

Now that you have your list of things you can do instead of eating when your emotions are hitting hard post it on your refrigerator and/or pantry...wherever your comfort food resides.

Keep a copy in your wallet or purse.

Have a copy at your desk at work so if you are tempted to hit the snack machine you see it first.

Make a copy for your car so you see it whenever you are tempted by the drive through or you are going grocery shopping.

Sometimes you don't even need to review the list--especially after you have been at this for a while--just seeing the piece of paper and knowing what is on it may be enough to help you make the shift you need to avoid emotional eating.

Last, but not Least: REFER TO THE LIST
Just writing it down may feel good at the time, but it won't have a lasting effect. To have permanent weight loss success we have to make changes in our behavior...and this is a way to make some small yet very powerful changes that WILL result in a healthier you--if you use it.

This is just a tool...and tools don't do the job by themselves, they rely on the user to pick them up and put them to work!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Double Up for Weight Loss Success

In my last post I talked about the importance of eating vegetables and not hiding them for long-term weight loss success.

Most Americans just don't get their quota of veggies--by a long shot!

How low is our intake of vegetables (if you don't count potatoes*)
...the average American gets a total of just three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The latest dietary guidelines call for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day (2½ to 6½ cups per day), depending on one's caloric intake. (1) For a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, this translates into nine servings, or 4½ cups per day (2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables).
~ source: Harvard School of Public Health

So what is a cup of vegetables? For many vegetables a "cup" is the same as a 1 cup measurement, but for leafy vegetables like lettuce if you are eating them raw then a cup serving should really be 2 measured cups to account for all the space created by the leafy vegetables.

  • Having trouble getting in enough vegetables?
  • Tired of eating like a rabbit?

Here's a weight loss tip for you:

Rather than forcing yourself to eat mondo salads each and every day, get more vegetables in your meals by doubling up the quantity your recipes call for!

Most of our recipes rely too heavily on meat and potatoes, with light attention to our vegetables. If you are making a stew for example you can stretch out the servings by bumping up the veggie content. Start by doubling the vegetables and then adjust from there. I find many recipes I can triple the vegetable content and be quite happy!

This will helping your weight loss success and let your dollars stretch further, too!

*Don't count potatoes as a vegetable. While potatoes have some great nutritional and fiber value, they are much higher in sugar content. Use potatoes as you would rice or pasta or bread--sparingly--to keep your blood sugar and waist line under control.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Don't Hide the Veggies

Vegetables are a challenge for many people working to achieve weight loss success. Maybe they don't like them. Maybe they never learned to cook them. Maybe they think vegetables come in a can or a plastic bag. Maybe they believe vegetables means carrot sticks.

I can see why vegetables would be unappealing!

To combat this, many "experts" advocate hiding the vegetables and sneaking them into our meals, and thereby our bodies, undetected. Often they do this by pureeing the vegetable and adding that puree to other foods.

This can be a useful tactic for getting some extra veggies into our bodies, sure. But it is not a long-term solution--and certainly not the way to handle the majority of our vegetable intake.

Veggies 101: Vegetables fall into the carbohydrate class of food. When people hear that they often thing that if they want to go on a low carb diet they should cut back on carbs, but that's just not right! Most veggies are the best kind of carbs and should be increased in our diet--especially if we want weight loss success!

Veggies have a variety of vitamins that our bodies need. Because they are a complex carb they provide our bodies with fuel that when broken down is a much more stable and long lasting fuel than simple carbs like sugar, breads or pasta.

Veggies also require that we chew. This is good for our teeth and all the muscles in our face. Chewing also stimulates all the juices we need to properly digest our food...going liquid can't do that for us.

Veggies provide fiber--an essential ingredient that aids in keeping our insides clean, and helps us feel full.

Pureeing vegetables breaks down some of that fiber and so we lose one of the key benefits that veggies provide.

What we also lose is the opportunity to retrain our thinking about vegetables. If we consistently hide and disguise them we will never acquire a taste for vegetables. Instead we will reinforce the idea that they are "yucky."

Instead of hiding veggies, have them out in plain sight! One of the good things about veggies is that most of them cook pretty even if you are running late you can chop up a few and cook them as a first course or even have them raw as an appetizer.

That doesn't mean that you want to have a big ol' bowl of broccoli on the table at every meal. Heck, I LIKE broccoli and would get bored by that. Mix it up. Experiment with different vegetables, different spices and how you prepare them. Try steaming, grilling, broiling, stir fry...they are all delicious and quick ways to prepare many vegetables. Just remember to keep them "al dente"...they should have a little crunch left in them or you will lose all the vital nutrients.

When you have small amounts of vegetables left over, either cooked or raw, experiment some more and add them to eggs in the morning for a healthy scramble, or to soup or on top of a salad. Those are simple and easy ways to get more veggies into your daily routine.

Stay tuned for the next post for ways to get more veggies into your diet...if you are counting calories then keep in mind that many vegetables while filled with nutrients are so low in calories you can eat as much as you want!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Avoiding Emotional Eating Doesn't Mean Avoiding Treats

Many people believe that to have weight loss success we must forgo all treats. I disagree with this tactic of creating a list of foods that are off-limits. In my experience, it just doesn't work.

Some people respond to my assertion that to have permanent success we must have no forbidden foods that if certain foods are not taboo then it is okay to eat them all the time.

Of course we must eat foods that nourish our bodies...that is the primary purpose of food after all. But the truth is, most of us with weight challenges did not get to be significantly overweight because of eating to nourish our bodies!

We use food for much more than fuel for our bodies. We use food for pleasure and social reasons as well as using food for emotional reasons.

It is crucial for us to distinguish between these 3 types of eating.

Social eating is when food is part of another experience, such as Thanksgiving, birthdays, or enjoying a night out with friends. Social eating may be eating something because it is expected like birthday cake, and it may include overindulging to the extreme--like when we have to unzip our pants or take a nap after Thanksgiving's feast. With social eating, we may not actually be conscious of just how much food we are consuming, because we are more focused on the social aspect.

Pleasure eating may also have a social element to it, the key difference is that when we eat for pleasure, the focus is on the food. It may be sharing the food, sharing the experience, but the food is still in the forefront. For example, you may be having dinner with a friend (or friends) and decide you want to have dessert...and you are sharing the dessert because you want the flavor, but not the full enjoy each bite as it fills your mouth with flavor. You may eat more than you "need" (let's face it, our bodies don't "need" dessert) but because it is savored and the focus is on tasting and feeling good, you rarely will get to the button-popping stage when eating for pleasure.

Emotional eating on the other hand (can you have an "other hand" with 3 examples?) can be unconscious, like social eating, or very conscious, but rarely is it pleasurable. It may start with a thought of how good something tastes, but more often it starts as a pull...a knee-jerk reaction to a thought, feeling or event. Sometimes we are not even aware of the preceding element! We may be sad or angry, or even happy, and we are reaching for food to soothe us, to bring us to a more mellow place. And if we continue this pattern then we will need more and more food to achieve that mellow place--largely because it doesn't solve the problem, it just masks the pain temporarily.

When we go on a diet, we are not dealing with our emotional eating...and we put our favorite foods on a forbidden foods list. This sets us up for a huge negative cycle of deprivation then binge, then guilt. Now we have even more emotions to run from so we eat more, not less! This is why diets do not work.

The secret to weight loss success is to be conscious about our eating and to enjoy our treats--to have some pleasure eating events. This gives our inner child the opportunity to have treats and not feel deprived, while breaking the habits of grabbing food to soothe our inner beast.

Here's how it went in practice for me this weekend: I was feeling quite emotional, for lots of different reasons, some hormonal and some stress related, and so I was craving carbs can specifically chocolate. I had to go to the grocery store and I knew that with all these cravings it could be a dangerous run, so before I went I made sure I had a snack before hand to keep things at bay. Even still, lots of old thoughts went through my head as I entered the parking lot and walked through the store...I can buy these cookies and eat them in the car, or I can buy this and eat some and hide the rest, or...on and on. I know that whenever those sorts of thoughts of eating massive quantities of food and/or eating and hiding the evidence comes up that is a flag that the desire to eat is strictly emotional.

I was able to remind myself that I want and desire a healthy body and that eating in that way would not solve whatever was going on, and that I would address the issue when I got home. That is a big victory--being conscious about my choices--but it is just the first step.

Once home I tried to determine what was bothering me. I talked about it, I meditated on it, I cried, I tried working through it and ignoring it (this rarely works, but I still try!) I just didn't seem to be helping. I ate healthy foods and made sure my blood sugar was even, which helped, but still I had a HUGE desire to eat. I slept on it, I worked more. I finally felt the urge to turn on some music and cook a big healthy meal, play and dance to the music. So I left my desk and did just that and when I was done I finally felt at peace with myself and the desire to stuff my face was gone!

Big lesson--we can't also push through, sometimes we have to listen to our heart and let it direct us to what will help us feel better...and we have to let that voice come through, which takes love, gentleness, and practice.

Later (much later) I wanted a little something sweet...I didn't have anything in the house that sounded right (I actually had ice cream in the house but that wasn't sounding right) so I made a dark chocolate sauce and we dipped strawberries in the sauce. We had a small portion and really, really, really enjoyed the tastes and sharing the experience.

Because this eating was pleasure eating it wasn't "necessary" for my body, but it felt great for my soul and so I don't feel the need to beat myself up over it. In fact, I celebrate it as a success--a sign of true weight loss success--the ability to enjoy a small portion of delicious food, because food can and should be a source of pleasure for us.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who You Calling a Fool About Weight Loss Success

Got an interesting comment on my post "Carbs Cause Obesity?" which was in response to a comment from a reader...since the first comment was anonymous and the 2nd was not, and given the difference in the tone in the two comments leads me to presume that they were from 2 different readers.

In this post, the reader, signed "Donnelly" questions the validity of mindset in weight loss success. While I think Donnelly could have been more polite in questioning my position, and it is quite obvious that s/he hasn't really read much of my blog by the statements, I wanted to respond because there is a very common misconception about losing weight and mindset out there. So here goes an explanation in brief...

Sure, what we put into our bodies and how much we move our bodies has an effect on our physical condition, including weight. However, it isn't simply math...different types of foods are used by our bodies in different ways so it is important that we eat a variety of healthy foods to fuel our brains, our muscles and the rest of our bodies.

Many of us know what we are supposed to eat...we know that eating too much saturated fat isn't great for our heart or our hips...we know that we should eat more fresh fruits and vegetables...we also know that we must get up and move our bodies if we want to be healthy...and yet we don't do it...and sometimes when we DO eat properly and move our bodies we STILL don't successfully lose weight. Why is that?

This is where mindset comes in. And contrary to what Donnelly thinks, this is not me "parroting back the propagandized misinformation that big Agra has indoctrinated you with"--this is my personal experience, having spent most of my life on a diet and not successfully losing weight, feeling bad about my body and myself, feeling like I was a personal failure because I wasn't a size 2 or 6 or 10...

I have found (and have written about in my book) that we will actually retain fat, even if we are doing things "right" if our mindset is such that we believe we are fat, believe we don't deserve to be healthy. On top of that, with this mindset we will find it harder to stick to our healthy choices; we will sabotage our own efforts. Our minds are incredibly powerful and they will do whatever necessary to prove the beliefs we hold strongest are true.

That is why diets don't work...they are short term solutions that address symptoms rather than taking on the REAL issue.

If you don't know that it is healthier to choose an apple over an ice cream cone, then it is important to educate yourself. But if you have struggled for years with your weight even though you know some nutritional basics (you don't have to be an expert, by the way!) then I believe there is an underlying EMOTIONAL component that you need to address.

On top of all this, we are hit with messages about how hard it is to lose weight, especially if you are over 40. We're told on a daily basis that we MUST be thin and at the same time that it is next to impossible to get there! That's just not right--and it isn't true, either!

We must look at what we are currently eating and WHY, and first work on changing our mindset not slashing calories or carbs or fat grams or slaving at the gym. If we don't change the FEELINGS behind the eating and understand why we want to lose weight then we will not keep it off, but we will be doomed to a roller coaster of dieting the rest of our lives until we finally give up.

I know how hard it is to change...but if we focus on changing our mindset about weight loss and learn to believe WE CAN LOSE WEIGHT no matter our past experience, our age, our genetics. I teach about this and know that by making SMALL changes we will get permanent results...but it starts with what you are putting in your MIND not your mouth!

Don't let people like Donnelly bully you into believing that you are a failure or a fool. We are not talking about "mindset alone"...but the truth is that mindset alone will get you a lot further on your weight loss journey to permanent results than any diet.

And if you don't believe that Donnelly, look up placebo effect and you will learn just how powerful the mind can be.