A BARE Story

No, it’s not that kind of post, so if you came looking for pictures, you’ll be wildly disappointed. I’ve been talking a lot about my BARE programs lately, and in my blog posts I’ve given you glimpses of what my own participation in BARE has done for me, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really laid it all out for you, really gotten BARE about this stuff myself. So here’s my Sunday confession, my BARE story, shared so you know why I believe so thoroughly in this approach and what it can actually do for real live people.

Slide1A friend of mine was completing her BARE certification and described her program to me. I said I’d love to do it, which startled her because she was not trying to get me to sign up, just describing it. She said I didn’t need BARE. I told her that she had no idea how I felt about my body or what my relationship with food was like. After a beat, she said something like: “Okay, then. Let’s do this thing.” She heard the part I didn’t say out loud, which was that regardless of what other people saw when they looked at me, I was one of the 97% of women who are dissatisfied with their bodies (97%!!). She heard me tell her that my seemingly appropriate weight was not necessarily the result of a healthy relationship with food. What I explained a little later was that the only way I maintained my weight was through a pretty strict regimen of discipline that had made me feel weary, a little beat up, and felt like it was coming from fear rather than self-love.

And so we did our work together. She brilliantly guided me through the steps of the BARE process, helping me to see the ways in which I was beating up on myself (mentally and physically), finding new ways to add pleasure to my days, reminding me of the joy of a body in motion, learning to eat in ways that enhanced my health AND my appreciation for food (what?!). We did a lot of work, and slowly things began to shift. Honestly, I didn’t even really expect them to (I never told her that). I had been having a hate affair with my body for so long that I couldn’t imagine feeling differently. I couldn’t imagine what kinds of thoughts I’d need to have to find acceptance and self-love, not just for my grand and glorious spirit, but for its wondrous home. And yet, the shift came. I finished her program finding new kernels of confidence, new ideas about how to be in the world, a new relationship with food that allowed for experimentation and joy rather than just strict discipline, a new sense of what is possible in all areas of my life. All of that from small shifts.

But here’s the cool thing. I’ve been done with BARE for quite a while now, and the shifts are still happening. As time passes and I inhabit the new space I created with my coach while I went through BARE, all of that new confidence, all of that self-love and acceptance, all of the new ideas about myself, the new relationship with food, it all just continues to grow and blossom. I have added exercise to my day in ways that I haven’t bothered with, much less enjoyed, in years. I have noticed the ways my eating was dictated by things other than hunger and experimented with change and found myself feeling physically better than I have in a long time. I wear nicer clothes and feel spectacular in them.

And you know what else? My body is changing. That body that the world and my coach thought didn’t need any changing… it’s changing anyway. There is muscle tone. There are curves and flat spaces that weren’t there before. My clothes fit better. I am stronger. I feel amazing. And it all came from learning how to love myself more, better, harder. What better lesson could there possibly be?

Slide2You are not broken. You are not ugly. You are not any of the things you think about yourself or your body. All of that stuff is all a lie that keeps us still, keeps us small, keeps us locked into patterns of shame and discipline that we wouldn’t dream of using on another human being. You can learn to change your relationship with food, with your body, and with the world by learning how to love yourself.

Registration for my next BARE class closes on 5/28. Enrollment for one-on-one coaching is ongoing. Imagine how relieved your body would feel if you learned to love it into change. Won’t you join us?

The Warm Fuzzy Food Blanket

So it’s Thanksgiving day, post the big meal, and unlike most of the rest of the day where there was a lot of activity (the hustle bustle of prep and visiting, touch football in the yard, moving chairs to the big table), we’ve reached the part where most people would really prefer to simply lie down and take a nap. There are lots of reasons people get sleepy after big holiday meals, and some of those reasons surely have to do with travel, the sometimes stressful nature of preparing for or attending a family gathering, being generally overtired and seizing an opportunity to actually relax. The rest of the explanation for the sleepies, however, is simple biochemistry.

When we overeat (particularly high-fat, high-sugar, high-carb foods), our parasympathetic nervous system sends signals to SLOW down. This is leftover biological programming from hunter gatherer time. The body is telling you to sleep so that you won’t go get and consume more food. Energy is required to deal with what’s already on board. “We’re kind of loaded up down here; stop sending new material. Sleep.” All that food also jacks up our insulin levels, which then increases our serotonin and melatonin levels. These two can make us sleepy AND happy. Sound about right?

Slide1Here’s the thing. I’m not really interested in the Thanksgiving nap phenomena itself. What I am interested in is how our bodies respond to overeating. When we overeat, our energy becomes very focused on digestion, at the expense of other functions, like being present with how we feel. When we overeat, we get an extra dose of the hormones and neurotransmitters that make us a little foggy, and a little happy (a reward that reinforces all of this, by the way).

This biochemical reality also allows us to escape the present, creates a warm, fuzzy food blanket that we can hide behind when we don’t like the way that we feel. Emotional eating is not just going on a food binge because you get angry. It can be far more subtle and the body rewards you every time you do it; and every time you do it, you reinforce the connection between negative feelings and eating as a solution. Who wouldn’t want the warm, fuzzy food blanket rather than a touch of loneliness, frustration, sadness, anger, disappointment?

When my kids were younger, I used to dread school bus time. Not the getting the ready for it, but the picking them up from it. I dreaded it. I wasn’t ready for more Mom-ing (especially since I thought Moms needed to be perfect, but that’s a different story). And I felt so awful about dreading it I could barely stand myself. I dreaded the bus, so I would have a snack real quick before it was time to get them. “Just one” of whatever I found was never just one, and I usually picked it back up after they got home to draw that warm, fuzzy food buzz blanket up around my ears while they ran around screaming or bickering. Food let me stop worrying about whether I was a bad Mom for needing more than I had in my life. Food let me stop worrying about whether I loved my kids enough. Food let me stop feeling the discomfort I had about how my life was set up. If I snacked my way to a full stomach, I didn’t have to feel any of that.

But here’s the secret that your parasympathetic nervous system, your hormones, and your neurotransmitters won’t tell you. Feeling your feelings is not that big of a deal. We naturally avoid pain, so many of us sidestep our feelings in order to do that. But the things that we do to sidestep that pain often cause us more, but different, pain. We eat too much. We drink too much. We watch garbage on TV. We get lost on the internet for hours. We often feel bad about doing these things; on some level, we know we’re not helping ourselves, but our warm, fuzzy, numbing blanket makes it hard to connect all of the dots. But we CAN do it differently. We can decide to face how we feel about things. ACKKKKK! NO!!!!! I hear all of the feet running away.

Slide2So now I’ll tell you some more secrets about feelings; maybe these secrets will speak to the reasons you don’t want to feel your own feelings. 1) You do not have to act on your feelings in any way in order to feel them. 2) Really feeling them, even the most painful ones, is purely temporary, often as short as 2 minutes or less. 3) Really feeling your feelings lets your feeling generator (your less than conscious brain) know that you got the freaking message already, calm down. 4) Explaining how you think you must feel or explaining away your feelings with logic is not the same as feeling them. 5) Feelings come from thoughts; you can choose a new one. And if you practice THAT skill, maybe you won’t need quite so many warm, fuzzy, numbing blankets.

If you have been relying on food to get you past whatever you’ve got going on in your head and in your heart, I sure would love to help you with that. Check out my BARE program, or just drop me a line.



The Time My Snack Was Super Personal

I remember a time when the moment I realized the kids would be getting off the bus in 20 minutes, I would get up, go to the pantry, and get some chips. I wasn’t hungry. Hadn’t even really been wanting anything, much less chips, but did it anyway. It got me to thinking about WHEN I am most prone to non-hunger related snacking, and it pretty consistently lined up with times when my kids will arrive soon or when they’ve just gone to bed.

Slide1When I finally looked at it, I found it really interesting. I’m not particularly hungry at those times, especially after they’ve gone to bed. The snacking doesn’t seem tied to hunger at all. It’s something else. I thought and I thought. I also thought about what I was eating, not from a nutrition standpoint, but just to see if there was anything interesting there. Often the things I would snack on as a first or last act of freedom (yes, that’s a clue) were things I wouldn’t necessarily want the kids to have much of (or, dare I admit it, for them to even know about so they wouldn’t eat it all or hound me until the item was no longer even appealing – yep, I’m that Mom). So sneaky snacking Mom makes a desperate and delicious claim in order to have something that is just hers. Hunger is irrelevant. Foods are secret.

To my wise mind, and with the gift of retrospect, I would have to ask two questions: 1) what feeling was Mom trying to avoid, and/or 2) what did sneaky snacking Mom need more of in her life that is hers and hers alone, that she need not share and that she need not rush to consume? Food isn’t just more than fuel in these situations. Food becomes the stand-in for other things, and it can work for a really long time for several reasons.

First of all, food is obtainable; it is concrete (well hopefully not really concrete, but you get me). When we want something, we can just get food and maybe that will take care of it. Secondly food is very distracting with all of its big flavors and dopamine hits. We don’t have to pay attention to the fact that we’re not hungry or that what we really are is bored/sad/angry. We can just avoid the whole thing with some chips and guacamole. Finally, food is socially acceptable. Heck, it’s not just socially acceptable, it’s socially promoted. That’s not quite enough either. It’s socially pushed.

We are a bunch of food pushers. We introduce food into every activity that we do as a matter of course and see offering food as necessary at every turn. Snacking is fun and exciting. You can even be creative with it and make an edible stadium for your Super Bowl party! We love us some food. And hey, there are lots of great reasons to love food. Believe me, I know this. But sometimes we’re not eating for the food. We’re turning the food into something else: a comfort, a distraction, a buffer, a habit, an activity, all kinds of things that it was never intended to be.

Slide2One of the things that clients in my body programs discover is that when they start to address some of those other things, they don’t want to eat so much. When they face some of their feelings; when they add things to their lives that they deeply desire; when they admit to boredom, loneliness, and longing they stop craving the food substitutes, buffers, distractions. Eating too much and carrying extra weight does not come from a lack of math skills in calorie counting. It starts with the things that we think and the actions we take when we feel how we feel. I have been astonished by how going through BARE has changed my perspective on myself, on my needs and goals, and on what I need and don’t need to feel great in my day. My thoughts have changed and my day is now full of goals, ambition, hard work, and pleasure rather than self-doubt and chips (which would make a great album title).

unspecifiedIf you’d like to change the way that you think so that you can change the way your body feels, I’d love to help you. I promise you I will challenge you; our work will bring up your stuff; and, if you let it, it just might set you free from body shame, dieting, and using food as a weapon against yourself forever.

You’re Right; It’s Up to You

A client I’m working with reminded me so much of myself I had to stop and sort of shake my head around to stay the me that I am now and answer her from THAT place instead of returning to the me I was then and answering her THAT way. What? I know, that was really confusing sounding. Point is, she is having a struggle that I remember so well, so viscerally, that it took some ninja concentration to stay focused.

You see, she has a LOT to do, and when I say a LOT I mean she has an infant a LOT, not just “I’m a busy person” a lot. She has a full time job and an infant. Those two make for a special kind of busy. The thing is, she really wants as much of her life as possible to stay the same as it was before the kids… clean house, orderly nutritious home cooked meals, time to exercise before work. And who wouldn’t want that, seriously, who wouldn’t?

Slide2I remember when my twins were infants… okay, no I don’t. I don’t remember that at all because I was averaging about 3 hours of sleep, but I do remember when they were still less than a year old. And I remember feeling discontented with the way things were. I was SO tired and SO busy, so occupied with all of the obvious required activities. When I had a moment to look up from feedings and diapers (and the occasional shower for myself), dinner prep, and dog care, I would notice how much needed to be done around the house. And I would try to do that too. As the kids grew older, I expected more and more of myself. Because I didn’t go back to work right away, I created other jobs for myself. I made all of our food at home with organic this and that hand harvested under fair trade conditions. I began making my own cleaning products and soap, lotion, etc. I still maintain that my homemade deodorant was the best I ever used. I adopted cleaning schedules so my house would be drop-in ready and so I would feel content with how it looked. I ran myself ragged making everything as perfect as I could, no evidence of the chaos that really was our daily lives. I never once stopped and asked who all of that was for. I never once questioned the need to do it ALL. Instead, I had this feeling that I was responsible for everything. And that feeling filled me with anxiety and resentment.

At some point I shared all of this with a brilliant coach and described myself as holding stacks and stacks of dishes in each hand, carefully moving through the world trying not to break them. She asked what would happen if I didn’t carry them all. I indicated that they would break. She smiled and gently asked if I couldn’t put some of them down… Oh, right.

Now here’s the tricky part. When we think about putting responsibilities down, we are so often tempted to give them to other people, preferably the people we think haven’t been doing their fair share. “I can’t do all of this. You need to do more.” Sometimes that is totally appropriate. When I went back to work and my husband gave up one of his two jobs, we needed to rebalance the domestic load. That makes sense, but as for all those other dishes I was carrying?  Here’s the question that I think should have come first, before handing off responsibilities: are all of these dishes (tasks) really important? Why are they important? Can I lighten my load by making them less important? Is it more important for the distribution of effort to look fair to me or for the amount of stuff that needs doing to become more reasonable?”

I have, in times of overwhelm, asked my husband to pick up my dishes without determining whether or not they need to be dealt with at all, whether my standards make any sense. Sometimes asking my husband to do more to meet my standards would just mean making us both miserable. My standards didn’t take our reality into account. My standards were making things harder for all of us. I thought a fair distribution of misery was the solution; now I think a measured move towards ease makes more sense. And only I could make THAT shift.

Slide1I needed to stop worrying about what other people thought of my lawn, my home, my children’s clothes. I needed to create the life that I and we want rather than the one I thought we were supposed to have. Misery that is equally distributed is still misery. Making room for the imperfection that a full life brings also makes room for things like playing a game with your kid, sitting on the porch with a glass of ice water, reading FOR FUN, all of these wonderful things that nobody has to suffer for first, in hopes that they MIGHT have time at the end. What if we don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect to relax and have fun? What if all we have to do is believe we’ve done enough?

If you suspect you’ve done enough, but can’t quite get there without feeling a little queasy, or a little guilty, or a little resentful about what someone else isn’t doing, please do get in touch. I’d love to help you with that.

Just a Few Life Lessons

Slide1This last couple of years has been a whirlwind of personal development for me. So much has changed that I thought maybe I should write some of the big learning down. I had to stop myself at 10 because I could go on for a long time… These are not necessarily in order of importance, just in order of when they came to mind.

1) Self care is not selfish. I am solely responsible for making sure that I feel my best and looking out for my physical mental health is not only not selfish, but is required and helps me give more and give more freely to those around me.

2) It’s not what happened in the past that bothers me, it’s how I react to it today. Everything that already happened is not happening now. What makes the pain continue is the way that I think about what occurred. I have the power to change how the past impacts me today.

3) You don’t have to play small to be polite. Being polite is not the same as never taking a turn, never speaking up or never letting anyone know what you think about things. I can be myself and still be polite and kind to others. Continue reading → Just a Few Life Lessons

Want to Really Change How You Feel?

Meme after meme the message arrives: “Being happy is a choice,” or some version of that. And I don’t disagree with that message except that it doesn’t really get anybody anywhere. I guess this is the problem with relying on memes as life guidance; limits on the number of characters make real help hard. So, in the interest of a wider audience, we get: “Choose to be happy.”

OK, here I go. I’m choosing it. I’ve got my chooser on (as one of my favorite pre-school teachers used to say), and I’m going to turn it to happy. Great! Done. Perfect.

Not so much. Okay, if that didn’t work, I’ll smile until I feel happy. I understand there’s actually some evidence for this strategy.  I’m willing to bet it’s because when we smile, more people smile and are nicer to us. For our purposes, this example actually shows the problem with the more minimalist “Choose Happy” meme. In order to choose to be happy, we may have to do something different, and while you are welcome to start with smiling, or any other fake it ’til you make it approach, I’d like to suggest something a little more difficult that has the added bonus of lasting longer than that fake smile (maybe that’s just me, I just can’t fake smile for long). Continue reading → Want to Really Change How You Feel?

Do You Have to Get an A?

A few months ago, my mentor told me that I should be aiming for B+ work.

Slide1Insert noise of record scratching.

Nobody has ever told me to aim for B+ work. The mere suggestion causes the mental machinery to seize up and steam. Why on earth would anyone shoot for a B+?

I’ll tell you why.

Because when you are adulting, oftentimes YOU are the grader. I can’t speak for you. I won’t speak for you, but I WILL tell you that I am a tough grader. My former students can tell you it was true in my classroom, and they don’t even know the half of it. As tough as I might have been in grading their work, I am SO much tougher grading my own. Continue reading → Do You Have to Get an A?

When Is It Time To Let Go?

In response to my last post, on the magic of the word “yet,” a wise friend advised that for many the challenge is not “yet,” but “still.” She explained this in the context of aging, that there are times to let go of things that we can’t still do, that letting go of those things in favor of appreciating what we can do or finding new things to do is more fulfilling than desperately clinging on to what we STILL think we should be able to do. I thanked her for her addition to my list of single words that can totally change a sentence and I have been thinking about “still” ever since.

Slide1For many people, persistence (as described in the post about the magic of yet) is not the problem. For many people (and I daresay I know some of those people really, really well), persistence is a way of life and it becomes more necessary to examine what we are STILL doing, STILL thinking, STILL believing, STILL feeling so we can let go of patterns, behaviors and thoughts that are holding us back. Continue reading → When Is It Time To Let Go?