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Freedom With (From?) Food

Slide1I used to imagine that the best thing in the world would be to be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and suffer no health or weight consequences. Now I’m pretty sure that the best thing in the world would be to have a thriving coaching practice AND be able to travel as often as I like whenever I like. Food, my old friend and companion, doesn’t really figure into it any more.

The thing is that I used to think about food pretty much all of the time. When I was trying to lose weight I spent a lot of time planning what I would eat, procuring specialty ingredients that would allow me to maximize my experience while staying inbounds. I spent a lot of time preparing complicated and elegant dishes that followed all of the rules. I made it a point of pride. And I thought about food all of the time.

In a later phase I pursued food thoughts with ultimate health as the goal and again I embarked on food thinking with vigor. I planned, I experimented, I cut out toxic elements, I cut out unethical elements, I cut out ingredient after ingredient and then searched for recipes that would recreate the flavors I missed. I made it a point of pride. And I thought about food all of the time.

The question a coach would ask is if I felt happy and satisfied, fulfilled in this food obsession. Did I want to be a food writer/health chef/food guru/restaurateur? No, then what are you trying not to think about? Where else could all of this energy go? Is it really necessary to think about food all of the time to achieve goals that are important to you? Are there other goals besides the shape and condition of your body? Have you thought about those lately?

I both had and hadn’t. You see the latter part of the food obsession occurred when my twins were small and I was still staying at home with them full-time, and there was a tugging at the edge of my psyche that told me it was time for me to begin some work again, and I had to face the question I couldn’t ever answer comfortably before then: what do I want to do in the world? How do I want to make a living? I had tried to figure this out many times with the methods our culture supports (spread sheets, personality assessments, guidance counseling, interest surveys) and the results had been, while not a total failure (I did some cool and interesting stuff), I hadn’t found anything I wanted to return to. I felt like there was a better, if not a newer, answer to the question and it terrified me. My inadequacies as a parent (yes, we all have them) frustrated me. My sense that I was losing myself in all of my care taking made me feel like I was drowning. And so I tackled the most concrete problem I could find: feeding myself and my family in the BEST way I could. I was excellent at it, and I thought about food all of the time.

Slide2Flash forward to now. My life has expanded; my soul has stretched. I found something that I LOVE to do (that was a bumpy road) and I willingly put lots of time and energy there. I took my own BARE journey and stopped seeing my body as a collection of flaws to be sneered at. I unearthed a deep and abiding love for the body that carries me through this world. I stopped avoiding all of the stuff that was keeping me from having a better life as a woman, as a wife, as a Mom. And as I stopped avoiding it, as I began to address those worries, problems, concerns, cares; as I began to forge pathways that felt like progress, adventure, and celebration, I stopped needing to think about food so much.

I stopped needing to control it. I stopped needing to eat it to entertain/distract/cheer myself up. I stopped even finding it as interesting as I used to. My pleasure takes on so many deeper and richer forms as I grow new wings and see how much power I can have in all of the parts of my life, not just on my table. Food is necessary to me, and we can be friends, but I don’t NEED it; it doesn’t COMPLETE me (a la Jerry Maguire). Having put food in its place, I can now dream and plan trips and programs and time with friends, and that feels like freedom.

If food is taking up a lot of your time, maybe it’s time to find a little freedom. I can show you how. If you want to explore how to change your relationship with your body to make a shift in your food relationship easier, check out this free MiniBook.

Truth and Dare

On some excellent advice from a brilliant coach (thank you Brooke Castillo), I have been daring myself to take action on my business daily. I choose a task that I know could prove helpful in getting the word out or making potential clients aware of what I’m up to, and then I think about what’s going on internally that’s keeping me from doing said task, including what I’m afraid of and how that makes me feel.

Slide1THEN I look at the whole thing again with the assumption of feeling confident. What would I need to think? What would that do for me? How would it change my action? What COULD the results be? It’s been really powerful. Some of that power, I think, likes in the simple act of reaching for something every day and having it written down as a commitment. I commit to do something just a little outside of my comfort zone every single day. There is power in simply deciding to DO.

Another part of the magic here, however, is in figuring out what I’d have to think in order to have the confidence to do these things that I think might help my business. As a result of going through this very conscious process, I have been reminding myself very intentionally of the things that I really DO believe about my business, but that get buried under self-doubt from time to time: “I have a lot to offer. My clients value the work we do together. People will recognize that value. People could benefit from my programs. I am proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. This is a great program…” The list actually goes ON! There has been such power in this moment of consciously finding those thoughts and pulling them to the surface where they can do some good.

The last bit of magic in this whole truth and dare game I’ve got going with myself is at the very end, when I’ve completed the task in question. I’ve thought my thoughts. I’ve done the thing (sometimes with physical symptoms, but done it nonetheless). And when I have finished I invariably notice two things: 1) actually doing the task is never as scary as I make it out to be and 2) when I describe my business and my programs from a place of confidence and complete these tasks, I actually gain MORE confidence. I feel more legitimate. I feel more like I may actually achieve my goals professionally. This is both logically and emotionally true. I certainly have a better shot at doing well if I’m talking about what I do, but that chance can only be helped by the confidence that comes with consciously recognizing my own value and describing it to other adults. Confidence born in action taken from consciously created confidence. Whoa.

Slide2That’s really how it works, isn’t it. It’s not a fake it ’til you make it, because it’s all real, but it does sort of give some credence to that saying. If you don’t feel like you’re up to the job, the task, the dream, maybe you just need to think something different. And maybe you need to break that dream, task, job into tiny little discreet pieces that you can then consciously create enough confidence to achieve. What would you need to think in order to take a step towards something you REALLY, REALLY want? How could you consciously create the feeling that would help propel you through something scary or difficult? What’s holding you back? Are you sure it isn’t you?

If you know you’re holding back, but aren’t sure how to change that, I sure would love to help.

Resisting Emotion

Monday was the first full day of summer vacation for my kids. Now, the first week of break is often punctuated by adjustment bumps in the road as I try to make my work day WORK for us and the kids realize they will still have to do SOME of the things they don’t really want to do, but this Monday, WOW. My daughter was dreadful. Just dreadful. Everything was an argument. Everything caused outrage. Everything I said or did was unjust, stupid, and mean. This went on all day.

By the time her Dad got home, I was completely finished. I let him know he was welcome to take over and began licking my wounds by giving myself a foot rub with some coconut foot cream (heavenly). He got a taste of it too, which I admit was a bit of a relief. When I went upstairs to say goodnight, she seemed different, quiet and reflective rather than poised for battle.

Slide1I asked her if something was wrong. I asked her if there was something going on that was making her so angry. She took a deep breath and said: “Mommy, I’m just so sad. But I don’t want to be sad, so I keep trying to NOT be sad and be happy and this is what’s coming out instead.” Yep, there it is. We were at a funeral for my uncle yesterday, and while they weren’t close, the echoes to my Dad’s funeral a few months ago were powerful, and she felt them, or almost felt them and then did what we so often do. She decided she was not having it. She decided she would NOT be sad because she wanted to be happy. She did this by simply stuffing that sadness, trying to shove it into a teeny tiny little box, just like UniKitty in the Lego Movie. (For the uninitiated, UniKitty is a determined happy pusher who has a few clear moments of rage resulting from bottled up negative emotions.) It didn’t work for UniKitty, and it didn’t work for my daughter. So instead of being sad for a few minutes, or for a little while, she had a day of rage (rage might be strong, but it was pretty dramatic).

I reminded her that it is okay to be sad. She said, “But I don’t want to be sad!” I asked if she wanted to be angry. And then I told her about the beach ball. This analogy comes from Brooke Castillo and I really think it’s just perfect. Imagine your emotion is a beach ball. When you try not to feel it by shoving it away, it is just like trying to hold a beach ball under the water. What happens? My daughter indicated that she sits on beach balls to hold them under the water (very telling) because she’s not big enough to do it with her arms, so she puts ALL of herself into it. She resists with EVERYTHING she’s got. It’s not just an analogy; she really is that way. I asked her what happens eventually… she admitted that even with her WHOLE self involved, she can’t keep the beach ball under the water and it eventually shoots up, dumping her, and flies into the air. The resistance, holding the ball under the water, just creates pressure. The pressure builds and eventually overpowers us, just like Unikitty.

I suggested that maybe just being sad for a little while would be better than being furious ALL DAY (like, at me, kid). She was dubious but didn’t yell at me, so that felt like progress.  It was so interesting to me to see such a clear example and to have it laid out in such simple terms. Adults go through much more trouble to hide from their feelings, and usually throw some exceptionally good storytelling in on top of it: “I don’t have time for that. Feeling bad isn’t productive. I should be more positive. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just get over it?” We throw those stories on top of the feeling to be sure we get the double beat down of feeling badly AND berating ourselves for it. And then maybe we overeat or drink or get lost in a social media rabbit hole to numb out, or we explode like my daughter and take it all out on the innocents (or mostly innocent) around us. It’s like a rotten onion, layer after stinking layer.

Slide2And for what? Just so we don’t have to feel a feeling, a vibration, an emotion. Doesn’t that seem like an expensive trade-off? What would happen if we just stopped resisting how we feel? What would happen if we just felt it for a minute or two? I know, we’ve got all of these stories about why that’s a problem, but I have to say, this other way, holding the beach ball under the water, it isn’t working. Maybe all of those stories are wrong. Maybe you can trust yourself to feel for a minute or two. Maybe there’s a reason we work like that. Maybe you’ll feel better if you let that happen. Maybe then you won’t yell at your Mom and have to apologize at bedtime.

If you are pretty sure that you haven’t been feeling your feelings, but you are unsure about how to begin, I’d love to help.


Freedom Walk

Summer vacay has officially begun for my twin ten year olds. We were about 1 hour into the day when the first strains of boredom were played by one of the two; he shall remain nameless. I made a few suggestions, then visibly shrugged when he dismissed them all as inadequate. “Sorry, kid. You’re on your own.” And they are. The three of us decided we are going to have a meeting today so we can lay out some basic parameters and expectations (so I don’t have to take heat EVERY time I ask for a chore or ask for presence at meal times), to give a little structure (very little) to our days together, and to keep this from becoming Mom’s maid service, but the truth is that they are now going to face the hard part of the freedom they’ve been anticipating for so long.

In my last post I discussed the deliciousness of the anticipation of freedom and the importance of seeing possibility, how that helps our creativity and our ability to come up with great ideas, great art, great everything. Using our freedom can be a whole different ball game, and it often trips people, not just my son, up.

I remember my mother, who had just finished her graduate degree at the age of 48 telling me: “You can be anything.” She was offering that take in wonder, having grown up in a time when careers for women were discouraged and limited to just a few options if they were absolutely necessary. She was reminding me how much had changed. And I remember exactly how I heard it.

Slide1Something in me recoiled at the size of that decision. “If I can be anything, how will I ever pick? How will I know? What will I ever do? What if I change my mind? What if I pick the wrong thing? What if I’m actually not good at that choice that is now open to me?” I did a number on myself. In college, I took several classes to “keep my options open” that were unnecessarily torturous and awful for me. My sense of the possibilities was unrestricted even by my own preferences. The vastness of the freedom that was presented to me terrified me.

Now, let me say something. I acknowledge the privilege in that statement. This is not a woe is me tale about the fact that I had a parent who believed I could be anybody I wanted to be. I realize that is a good thing. What I’m interested in is this dynamic that seems to play out when we sense freedom, if we’re lucky enough to even get to that point. “I’m free to do what I want, any old time… so I’m going to just keep doing what I’m doing because THAT is scary and a lot of work and I don’t really want to figure it out, besides I might fail, and then what? I’m fine. Really, it’s just a mood. I get restless sometimes, but I should be grateful.” Ever done that to yourself? Sensed a moment when you could make a big, bold choice that might actually make you happier, more successful, more FREE, and you shy away from it because you’re scared, or tired, or uncertain?

For most of us, there is a big gap between seeing that greater freedom, or sensing possibility, and actually taking steps to do anything about it. Taking those first steps can feel SO difficult. We talk ourselves out of it, using our very best strategies and arguments. We find fault in our own ability to be satisfied. We take on a gratitude practice (which can be great sometimes) so we can recognize what’s good even if we’re miserable. We do  A LOT to avoid taking a step toward something that feels like a buzz in our chests and occasionally wakes us up extra early. We say a LOT about what’s realistic and what’s not. We prevent ourselves from moving forward because it just seems too hard.

But we have a perfect model for how moving towards freedom can go, right? We’ve done this before; we’ve faced the fear of the first steps towards freedom. They are wobbly; they are uncertain. They often end abruptly and with a thud, maybe even a few tears, but that end is not an END. The baby who is learning to walk doesn’t shy away from the freedom. The baby learning to walk tries once and then tries again and again, and it is in the trying, in the repeated pulling up and falling down that leg muscles develop enough to make the walking steady, faster, less prone to ending with a loud thump.

Slide2The road to greater freedom has bumps, and we see them. We have stories about bumps in the road that deter us. We have stories about our ability to do difficult things that stop us. But what we forget is that we don’t have to know how to do it all; we don’t have to have the strength to do it well. We just have to be ready to take the first steps that will build our muscles and teach us how to walk that road.

If you have a sense of greater freedom, a little whiff of possibility in the breeze, but can’t seem to get yourself walking, I’d love to help.

The Lessons of Summer

I know, I know, it hasn’t really started yet for those of us in this part of the world, but having been through a few of these, I have some confidence in drawing some lessons in advance, in hopes of remembering the learning as we go…

My kids are so excited for school to end. And as I put them on the bus in the morning, I am continuously grateful that I am no longer a teacher. Those last few weeks are completely ridiculous. As I talked to a friend who has older kids who are NOT excited about not having this daily scheduled meeting with their friends, I started to wonder this morning exactly what it is that my kids are so excited about.

And I think it boils down to one thing: freedom. There is a lot of other stuff too, like the anticipation of repeating some of the good stuff from summers past (pool trips, lake trips, vacation), but mostly it’s about freedom. So much of their time is spent in activities that are mandated, required, forced. We sort of chuckle at that as adults (especially if we don’t like our jobs) because to US school looks FUN. We also spend so much of our time in mandated, required, forced ways. But the kids know better.

Slide1The kids know that they are being forced by us (well, and by the state with its pesky truancy laws). The kids also know that we adults force ourselves into our own daily prisons. We get to make the choices that get us stuck; they don’t have that luxury. So they see summer as a vast expanse of unfettered time, a chance to explore, a time to stretch the boundaries on bedtime and regular meals, a time to read a whole book from start to finish, a time to finish the whole Monopoly game in one sitting. They see limitless possibility unfolding before them. They invent the best games, have the most creative fun, and learn all of the things.

The reality is usually a little more fettered, a little more encumbered. The realities of summer camp and childcare, the realities of working parents and conference calls, the realities of waking up in time for school by biological habit. But still, that sense of freedom persists in the most gentle hot sticky afternoon in a hammock kind of way. And in this they find great joy, sheer happiness in imagining a greater level of freedom in a time when we both speed up (running, swimming, batting, swinging) and slow down because the air is thick with heat and humidity. They experience the freedom in savoring the notion that summer is free, that they are free, that their possibilities are unlimited, even if it doesn’t turn out to be quite that simple, they get to experience that feeling and dream.

Slide2When do we allow ourselves this luxury? When do we anticipate more freedom and drink in the delicious taste of doing precisely what we choose (even if for us, just like them, it doesn’t quite work out that way…)? When do we look forward and, in assuming limitless possibility, come up with the greatest thing we’ve ever done, seen, made, learned, written, read, thought of? The luxury of summer break is available to all of us; we just have to see it. And when we can see that unlimited horizon, drink it in regardless of the limits reality may impose upon us, regardless of how it all may pan out in the end, regardless of the adjustments we may have to make. We will be richer for having dreamed that freedom in a hot, slowly swaying hammock.

Dying and Being Born

A few days ago, my uncle passed away. So quickly on the heels of my Dad’s death, there is this sense of a larger shift in our family. I had a moment the other day when the thought: “My family is dying,” just drifted through my head. I grabbed it for a second to see what THAT was all about. And it really did give voice to this sense that I have of the end of one set of experiences for us. And then it struck me that there are rarely endings without something else beginning.

Slide1My family is dying and simultaneously being born. As the older generation passes, the younger step up and help them through the door, make arrangements, comfort each other. The next generation below them work and play to discover inspirations and aspirations, find love, make commitments. And as the oldest generation passes, the youngest among us learn to walk, pack their lunches, and ask even better questions.

My family is dying and coming to life all the time. And likewise the ways that I exist, learn, love, and define myself die and are brought to life and maturity all the time. The passing of my former selves, of the things and qualities I used to define myself, can be painful, drawn out or shockingly sudden, and full of new challenges and opportunity: opportunities to let go of that which has had its time and is done, opportunities to love and live that which is birthing itself in me, in my life, in this time.

Slide2We have rituals to say goodbye to family members. We have traditions welcoming new ones and marking milestones. How can we mark the changes within ourselves that will allow us ease and gratitude in letting go of that which no longer serves? Can we accept and welcome the changes we experience with delight and joy, just like when we watch a toddler take first steps? Can we offer ourselves and others the grace necessary to navigate in a world (or sometimes just a room) full of people who are changing and growing all of the time, just like we are?

Slide3We can do all of that the same way we get through these moments of grief and sorrow. We breathe deeply. We do what we feel we must in order to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. We drink in the connection and warmth of the group if it soothes. We find the time for quiet reflection. We surrender to love and all of the joy, beauty, and grief that it can bring.

Contradictory Thoughts? Yes!

“Can I think those both at the same time?” she asked, with a little wonder and a little doubt, my client who wants to both love her body and desires to change its shape.

Yes. Yes, you can.

I’ve been encountering this a lot with clients and with myself in the last week. A theme of growth and contradiction, so I figured it was a good time to bring it up with you.  Let me tell you what I mean by way of an example.

My Mom is getting ready to move. It’s a big move, not geographically, but in terms of downsizing and letting go of the stuff that has been a part of her life for a long time. There are a lot of tasks associated with this move, a lot of junk to get rid of, a lot of furniture to distribute between siblings, a lot of planning for trucks and heavy lifting. Ugh. All of it. Ugh. I know it’s ugh for her. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to choose what to keep and what to shed. I can’t imagine simply facing the size of the task. But the truth is, I don’t want to do my part either. I don’t want to help clean out her basement or load my van with stuff or discuss who gets what with my siblings. I don’t want to do any of it. I acknowledge that thought. I really don’t want to do it.

Slide1But I DO want to support my Mom. These thoughts are a little contradictory. They don’t line up very well. In the past, I would have stifled the “bad” daughter. I would have gagged her and put her in the closet until the job was done. There is no room for your opinions here, “bad” daughter. Only “good” daughters are allowed. But that wily “bad” daughter would have found a way out. She would have been rude to someone or snapped at somebody else, or just oozed under the door in the form of a contagiously bad attitude.

So now, instead of trying to shut her up, I just acknowledge what she’s saying. Yep, don’t want to do it. Who would? Sounds pretty miserable. Does that mean I won’t do it? No, it does not. It DOES mean I might be a little nicer to myself, making sure I’ve left enough time for those tasks, making sure I’m getting enough rest, taking a few minutes to just sit with the muck of going through all of this old family stuff. I want to support her, so I will do that. My action is a choice, but I can hold a thought that doesn’t support that. If I don’t work so hard to stifle that thought, it actually feels lighter. I can just see it there, give it a little pat on the head and go back to moving boxes.

It takes practice. It takes patience. It takes being open enough to recognize the possibility of holding more than one thought about something and choosing to love and respect both. “It’s okay less good daughter, you can stay. You don’t have to throw a tantrum; you’re right. This sucks, but we’re doing it anyway. If you’re good maybe we’ll stop for one of those fancy teas you like so much.”

Slide2This is how we respect ourselves, right? Acknowledging what we think and feel, allowing the dissident voices within to continue to exist, seeing them for what they are, just a part of the whole, a part of a growing changing whole that can be complex and cherished.


Your Little Internal Dictator

We all have stories we tell ourselves about who we are, about what we can be, and about what we SHOULD do. If you’ve been playing along for a while, you know I have a lot to say about the word “should.” I was talking today with a client who also has a lot of should-ing experience, and who referred to that voice as the little dictator. Brilliant.

Slide1And then I noticed something as she was talking. I noticed that the internal dictator seemed to get really active when things weren’t going well, when emotions were high, when life was throwing curveballs, when rest was in short supply and flexibility was most required. Because what helps more under times of stress than a little autocrat telling us what to do, right?! I’m already upset and overwhelmed and then this little voice in my head starts whipping off guilt-tinged commands.

And so I wondered what the little dictator is trying to do. What is the point of all of that should-ing? What is the purpose of all of that freaking out (because that is really what’s happening there, the little dictator is losing its ever-loving mind)? Knowing what I know about people, I think the answer to that is actually pretty simple. It doesn’t necessarily make things easy, but it’s pretty simple. The little dictator wants a few things: first and foremost is safety, which is typically interpreted as sameness. How is sameness safety you ask? You are alive. THAT is what the little dictator cares about. Sameness means you stay alive; difference means risk. Done. Stay the same; stay alive. So when we begin to grow, change, move around the mental furniture, the little dictator freaks out. So we tell the little spastic autocrat: “I know you’re scared. You’re safe. I’ve got this. I know you think I should stay the same, keep everything just as it has been, but that’s not working so well for me. I will make sure changing things doesn’t kill me. I promise. Sit down little dictator; I’m still in the driver seat.”

What else does the little dictator want? The little dictator wants to avoid pain. Same logic really. When we avoid pain, we avoid risk of death. To little dictators all pain is the same. Emotional pain is the same as hitting your thumb with a hammer. Both should be avoided at all costs. So when we are over-scheduled, under-rested, over-burdened, experiencing a major life event or stressor, having a conflict with a loved one, there is pain/frustration/anger/sadness. So the little dictator comes rushing to the rescue. Because the little dictator has a long list of things you should do to avoid feeling that pain, and a little judgment for putting yourself in the position of feeling it in the first place. The little dictator will demand that we punish ourselves physically (with diet and exercise, with accomplishing tasks instead of resting), occupy ourselves mentally (with obsessing about how our words and actions impact other people, second guessing ourselves, talking ourselves out of feeling things), and buffer with whatever we’ve got (food, alcohol, Facebook) in order to avoid feeling that pain. That’s a very busy little dictator, and a very busy you if you take orders from tiny autocrats.

What happens if we just decide to feel how we feel? What happens if we sit down for 2 minutes and search for a feeling in the body, a vibration that reflects what’s going on rather than an intellectual thought about how we should feel, or how “one” would naturally feel at times like these? What happens if we actually allow the discomfort for two minutes? Well, we experience discomfort for two minutes, and then we FEEL BETTER, and then the tiny dictator can calm the eff down. “I know you’re worried about me. Thank you. I’ve got this.”

Slide2The little dictator, that little should shamer, is just like a 4 year old trying desperately to get your attention: tugging at your sleeve, pulling on your wrist, tapping your upper arm, and saying: “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom….” It’s just trying to get your attention because it is freaking out. When we jump into action using the tiny dictator’s list, we just buy into all of it. We agree that we should avoid how we feel. We agree that staying the same is the priority. We decide that growth is probably dangerous. We feed the idea that everything will be better if we just do more, do right, do faster. What if we treated the tiny dictator the way we treat the nagging child, in a supremely excellent parenting moment? We let the dictator know that we hear the cries for action. We let the dictator know we see the feelings and concerns. We treat that little dictator with a little bit of love. We let the dictator know that we are in charge and that, mostly because of that, we are safe. “I hear you. I understand you’re upset. I’ve got this.”

Rest little dictator, rest. You don’t need to should me. I don’t need you to revisit my ToDo list. I don’t need to rethink those conversations. I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t need to hide. I don’t need to keep doing what I’m doing if it’s not making me happy. I can change and still be loved. I can change and still be successful. I can change and stay alive. I can feel my feelings and not have it be a disaster. We’re okay. I’ve got this. I’ve laid out a mat for you. After you have your snack, you can go take a nap. Let me drive for a while.


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.