Just in time for all of the holiday parties…
Dear Stuffing the Stuffing,
I’m reading your email and doing a halleluah jig! I love it when all of our best efforts have failed us. Why? Because these sorts of letdowns reveal how bankrupt most quick tips are of any real power. That realization is the beginning of change. Truth is, the end of one experiment is often the beginning of a new route not thought of before. It’s through repeated trial and error that I’ve discovered the kind of success that trumps the tricks and leads to lasting results. In this regard, there are no failures. We’re all just learning as we go, peeling the layers away and (sometimes) crying over our onion. Sounds like you’re redy to go deeper and make a hearty, life-stew out of those onions.
Before I reveal the recipe, though, I’m glad you mentioned the Big Three tips for portion control that have been chewed-to-death. You’re right. We are smarter. (Really? Who knew? WE DID!) The truth is, when I want more food, I’ll find a way to get it. Counting calories? Heck, I’ll just do two work outs – tomorrow. Smaller plate? No worries, I just go for seconds. Become Vegetarian before the Christmas Party? Hah! There’s plenty of room in my gullet for red wine and a lick off the ol’ cheese ball. Like I said, we’re smarter than any diet rules.
That’s why I’m working on a new eGuide called, “Ditch the Diet.” Without diet rules, I’m left to my own wanderings and designs. I have to learn to follow my gut instincts. So far, my gut hasn’t failed. It’s not that I’ve totally surrendered and become a fudge whore. Rather, I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat. I want the same for you, so let me start you off with three ways to trust your own gut and bypass the overeating drama throughout the Holidays and beyond.
You may notice a common theme in these ideas. They all create connection. In fact, they’re less about food and more about you reconnecting with you. Carrying too much weight can, over time, cause you to disconnect from your body and your heart. It’s no wonder, then, that when they need attention, they’ll use food to get it. The good news: your rich relationship with food can be your best teacher. This year, sideline the snappy tips — which only serve to keep you disconnected, anyway – and ask more of your food than the same old “should I/shouldn’t I” scuffle. Let food serve as your guru, your mentor, your minister. When the new year arrives, you will have gained so much more than the ten pounds everyone else did while staying in the struggle.
I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat.
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No one joined me at the bar that night, but I still had the time of my life. It was spontaneous. It was infused with inspiration. My covert rescue of neglected road-side rhubarb, plus my midnight trip to town for some funk band assisted writing, was decidedly not boring. This is important for me because a hefty portion of my extra pounds originated from boredom. I don’t mean the, there’s nothing to do kind of boredom. I mean, there is nothing to look forward to boredom, a deeper pall. This numbness greeted me when I woke up each morning and robbed me of my joy. With those kind of days, it’s no wonder I resorted to using food to feel. No meal could feed this craving, though. I craved that geyser of vitality which gushes through the dusty build-up from everyday life and exclaims, “I am alive!”
Whenever I sense numbing boredom, I now understand that I have a choice. I can get small or go big. Personally, I’m a fan of going big. Mostly because I like the thrill of it, but also because I’ve discovered how going big can eclipse gnarly problems and even heal the roots that feed them.
Going big, however, is not always my first instinct. I usually attempt getting small first. How does that look? Well, it’s not so much about how things appear on the outside as the feeling on the inside. In fact, two different people could be doing the exact, same thing, and one would be getting small while the other is going big. The difference is in how they feel while they’re doing it.
Getting small feels like:
Going big feels like:
Given a choice to get small or go big, here are three ways I have encountered that decision in my life:
Open Up to Desire
If I want to learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, all need do only one thing: surrender to desire. I’m a big believer that wanting something is enough to propel me forward. I don’t always have to go mining for childhood trauma, emotional scars, or ugly trolls guarding my bridge to sanity.
Desire is enough. To understand why, all I need to do is realize the hefty effort I put towards conveniently distracting myself from desire every day. It’s much easier to be too busy. Throughout my 100 pounds journey, I’ve learned how staying in that desirous space brings plenty of opportunity for profound work.
Desire, being a deep calling within our hearts, naturally asks us to decide whether we are going to get small or go big. For example, I want to lose 100 pounds. That sounds pretty big, a large number anyway. I can get small, though, even with such a large number as my goal. I can choose diets that promise to work by making certain foods my enemy, thereby amputating the part of me that loves to sink my teeth into a cream cheese danish once in a while. I could force myself to workout until it hurts, pushing my body until I shrink in dread at the thought of another torture session.
In contrast, I also have the choice to go big with my weight loss. One way I did this was to release myself of any and all food rules. I aborted the “eat this”/“don’t eat that” mentality. At first, I didn’t like my idea. It felt too risky. I had used food rules to feel like I was at least trying. What would I do now? My desire was bigger than my worry, though, and I surrendered to each and every craving. This was very scary. And thrilling. My heart fluttered as I tasted food without guilt. I felt physically full. No more deprivation. Not that small, festering kind of wanting. Just big desire and big satisfaction.
Such joy with food delivered me to the other side of my eating struggles. I started to consider how food could help me heal, how it could be my friend. Could I actually break the curse that had been my rancid relationship with food for most of my life? I dared to find out. In this situation, going big helped me expand beyond the tug-o-war and begin to heal from the inside out.
When I released food rules, I discovered one clue that shows me whether I’ve chosen to get small or go big is pretty simple and easy to uncover: talk back. When I get small, I have thoughts like, I should… I’m such a… I’ll never…
Going big still produces talk back, but of a different nature. Often, I’ve thought, This is either crazy or brilliant! In those moments, I like to talk back to my talk back and say, Yeah, well, that’s what they said about Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lennon, so I guess I’m in good company.
Another get small/go big decision moment comes when I face vulnerability. I’m not talking the shallow, self-effacing digs that we use to fish for social acceptance. Jesus wasn’t like, “Dude, I’m totally stressing over these bunions on my feet from all this walking.” Anyone who makes a difference in anything always encounters deep vulnerability, that tender moment between rejection and flight.
As Brene Brown, leading researcher into vulnerability and shame, explains, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of change.” Of course, anyone who’s ever wanted to lose a significant amount of weight – including me – is all about change. I want it off and I want it now! After three rounds of dieting, melting off payback pounds, then gaining it all back, I can see how I always stopped short before hitting that layer of vulnerability.
Of course, I put that layer off as long as possible. Like Brene Brown, I fear rejection. I know she knows how I feel. In her interview with On Being’s Krista Tippett, Brene said (paraphrasing here) “I was afraid of the intense criticism in our world today, so I had engineered my life to stay small.” She got away with it, too. That is, until her groundbreaking TED talk that surpassed ten million views. When her talk went viral, Brene could have chosen to get small. She could have listened to the talk back (You can’t just do that.) and back-peddled on all she had shared. She could have accepted all the Fortune 100 company requests for executive training which came with one condition (“We would love to have you speak! Could you just do one thing? Could you not mention vulnerability or shame?”)
Going big rarely happens without encountering shame or vulnerability. The good news is, rejection rarely happens, too. The good news: my imagined fears are much worse than any actual blow back I’ve encountered. I am my own, worst critic. The take-home message is this:
Which brings me to a question: When I confront my shame of being overweight, what I’ve done to my body, or how I became so apathetic about life, then what do I do? This is another get small or go big moment.
My first instinct tends towards getting small. I squeeze my life into a tight structure of unyielding routine. I toughen up. I stuff my shame down with discipline, like trying to fit a fluffy sleeping bag into the nylon stuff sack it came in (How did the manufacture get it in there?!) Truth be told, I’ve rarely been able to maintain strict discipline over the long haul. Eventually, my edges spill out. When I pop from the pressure, I go ballistic and pack on those payback pounds. This is why mere discipline often fails and compassion is so important. Compassion can head off a reactionary binge. Of course, the last thing I want to do is give up control by getting all soft and understanding, but that’s exactly what I need.
Mine is a common reaction, according to Dr. Kristen Neff, Associate Professor of Human Development at The University of Texas at Austin. She explains, “I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”
I may betray my best efforts by poo-pooing compassion.
So what would going big look like, after surrendering to my desires and risking vulnerability which brings me face to face with shame? Going big oozes compassion. It honors all the habits I developed to ward off disappointment, whether I numbed myself with food or avoided activities which reminded me of my body. Instead, compassion thanks those habits for keeping me alive. It acknowledges my need for them.
Thank you, midnight pizza run, for getting me through my divorce.
Thank you, broken-down couch, for giving me a safe place to cry.
Then, compassion moves on. In doing so, it validates my desire for more (which has really been my only desire, all along). Compassion surveys my heart and says, “Yeah, we can do something with this.” In the end, I see that I’ve always had what it takes.
I am the space big enough to nurture the biggest of going bigs.
Desire is enough. To understand why, all I need to do is realize the hefty effort I put towards conveniently distracting myself from desire every day.
What do you think? Comment below and you will be automatically entered in a monthly drawing for a FREE 100 Pounds Weight Loss eGuide.
Dear Phat Girl,
I need your help. I’m sick of weighing myself and chasing the needle up and down the scale. I want to be free of obsessive weighing, but I don’t want to lose momentum. Honestly, I need the feedback. How else can I measure my progress without feeling like a slave to the scale?
Ready to Fly in Florida
Dear Ready to Fly,
I love this space you’re in. At times in my life, I have felt like my body was bigger than “me” on the inside. Where you’re at, it feels more like you’re bigger than your body. That feels good! I get the sense that you’re expanding into new possibilities and have the energy to create solutions that work for you. Your weight-loss journey is maturing (Queue the weepy mom: “My little baby is all grown up and ditchin’ the scale!”)
I’m a fan of minimal weighing. Imagine me at my annual doctor visit: “Can I stand backward on the scale? Don’t tell me; just let me know if it went up or down.” Obviously, I agree with your desire to be free of a number. We always hear, “you’re more than a number,” but rarely does anyone follow up with solid ideas for collecting valuable feedback (The reason why we started weighing in the first place!)
What’s great about weighing is that it’s personal. It’s about you and only you. That’s a rarity in the health industry where – in a span of 24 hours – we can hear or read lots of conflicting advice. I’ve learned to take my health advice like I take my religion. I keep it personal by sampling new ideas to see how they work with my life and my body. In truth, most health news applies to a small subset of a very specific population that was studied, so it’s silly to plaster our lives with everything we hear; just like it’s unrealistic for the entire world to express their beliefs with the same, exact customs. (Confession: I used to wander self-help isles, waiting for a diet book to call out to me, much like how I played “Bible roulette” by opening up the book with my eyes closed and landing my finger on some random scripture.) Today, I appreciate solid data – like a number on a scale – as one way to side-wind all the superstition and crossed-fingers that go along with trying to lose weight. There’s other ways, too.
Let’s keep the scale’s benefits (personal, meaningful information in a format easy to gather) but break free from the scale’s oppression. Enter: Weekend Way-Ins (as the way into you!)
Dial in your observation skills. Practice noticing. Notice how you need to work stronger now just to get your heart rate up. Spot little changes in your body, like less puffiness in your fingers or ankles. Note how your jeans feel looser. These tiny victories – Weekend Way-Ins — point the way into that amazing person who has always been inside, just waiting to get out.
Along with that new body, you’re going to need a fresh body image. Otherwise, you risk regaining the weight. So you need one more — but critically important – step beyond just noticing. You need to retrain your brain. Marking tiny changes can literally rewire your neural net by breaking the old, “I’m fat” ruts and forming new thought pathways which accurately reflect the emerging you. Unfortunately, brains don’t speak English. Repeating positive statements about becoming thinner won’t get the message across. Visualization – ideas and feelings — is the brain’s language. You’ll need to use an image to celebrate your tiny victory. Sometimes, that “one great picture” is all we need to undo self-criticism. I suggest you pare your tiny victory with a picture from the internet or a magazine. Post it (along with a proclamation of your victory).
You can become free from the scale while still measuring success with personal, easy to gather feedback. Weekend Way-Ins are a fun, creative way to feel like your efforts make a difference. Plus, they do the legwork of consistently, persistently retraining your brain. By using Weekend Way-Ins, you’ll continue to feel your best long after the weight comes off.
These tiny celebrations of sassy victories – Weekend Way-Ins — point the way into that amazing person who has always been inside, just waiting to get out.
Comments or questions for Phat Girl? Remember: every comment you enter below automatically submits your name for the monthly drawing of a FREE eGuide.
Please enjoy this short-story, which I’ll be reading this Thursday, Sept 25, at The Starving Artist (a coffee shop!) Come by for an hour of inspiration and yummy treats from Missoula favorites like Big Dipper and Bernices.
I finish your latte with a wispy furl across the foam: a fancy heart on top.
“Here you go,” I smile and glide the hot cup towards you. Will you notice my heart? Don’t get me wrong; it’s nothing romantic. You’re not my type. . I just wonder if you’ll notice, but your eyes drop, as usual. Your head nods in silent thanks. I glimpse that notebook — the one you always carry tucked under your arm — and you shuffle for your favorite table in the corner. I sigh then go back to work wiping the foaming nozzle clean of its milk mustache. This is the routine. Smile. Concoct. Serve.
That may be the routine, but it’s my habit to make it always about the customers. I’ll flavor our conversations but never go beyond chit-chat. Whatever words I have I serve sparingly. Of course, in Customer Service, I have to leave a bit of myself behind. I work on the periphery of a hundred lives moving in and out of this shop every day. It’s about them, not me. Still, in this place of a thousand encounters with no connections, I wish they would smile a little longer. Not a fake, thank-you-but-I-have-a-million-more-important-things-to-do-than-this, kind of smile. A deep smile that sees all the way through (like dolphins – did you know dolphins can see our bones when we’re underwater with their echo clicks?) I want to be seen like that.
I’m tired of recording my thoughts in this notebook and not seeing any change in my life. I feel like a bottle of champagne stored in a cellar. I’m ready to bubble over if I could just find the right twist and pop the cork. I know my best self is inside, desperate to get out, but apparently these pages aren’t out far enough. I need to do more than just scribble secrets between the lines. I just saw a TED Talk by Brené Brown. She said, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” I guess that’s what I want: courage. Courage to change, but the idea of vulnerability sounds scary.
It could end badly, like the time I tried to join that cycling club. I wanted to reach out and find more girls like me who like to get outside and ride the hills, so I showed up at their meeting (with a pan of brownies as an offering). When it came time to introduce myself, “Hi, my name is…ya-da,ya-da…and I like to ride the trails around here, but I…just….WOMEN!” My arms flung themselves from my sides, like I had just returned from a dessert island to discover a whole, new race of humans (these ones with bumps on the front). Eyes dropped and shoulders angled away. After introductions circled around the room, I grabbed my pan and disappeared.
That’s my experience with vulnerability, but — if it helps me find my best self — I think it would be worth it. Honestly, if I can’t connect with myself, the best I’ll ever do is use others to reflect back to me who I am. I want to be truer than that.
What would the true me look like? I’d spend Saturday mornings trolling the farmers’ market with feathery carrot tops poking out the top of my bag. I’d buy cucumbers so sweet and crisp I’d have to eat them while I shop. My clothes would fit better. I’d give off a high-frequency friendliness. I’d catch myself smiling. I want to be there, instead of here, hiding in my notebook with a latte. Could it be different? Could it?
The last rush of customers for the night is gone, so it’s just you and me in the shop. I like to watch you there, leaning forward like the pen is pulling you into your pages. Every so often, you stop to think and take a sip. I wonder, did you notice the heart pattern I carved into the foam for you this time? Which pattern would it take for you to stay a little longer at the counter? I just want someone to linger. I want to be seen, and have someone stay in grateful thanks, like they would if I coasted through a campground peddling doughnuts. I’d cruise a slow loop in a retrofitted car – something ironic, like a black hearse – and raise droopy campers with wafts of fresh fry dough. They would shuffle towards me – half asleep and half in awe – as I lurch to a stop and pop open the back. I’d sneak that guy a maple bar and that girl a fritter. They would stick around, in blissful loiter, as if to say “Oh, that you’d wake up early to make doughnuts for us. Oh, that you would come all the way out here. Oh, please can you come tomorrow?” They’d ask questions about me. Random, really, but their momentary interest would trade just as well as any currency.
It’s silly, I know – and you should know — I realize I cannot ask for all that and expect to avoid risk. It doesn’t work like that. I’m the one who hasn’t taken the conversation deeper. I haven’t exactly volunteered for vulnerability, even the mild kind. I know this about myself. I also suspect that’s why life pretty much has to slap me alongside the head to offer me a chance to change (which — now that I think of it – only makes me more skittish to risk anything).
The coffee came with a heart in the foam this time. How do they do that? I’d probably not even order a latte – think of all those calories – except I like the surprise etched on top every time. It’s something special, just for me. The fact that it’s a heart this time seems to me no accident. I’ve been thinking that finding myself might be about more than losing weight or becoming some ideal. I think it goes deeper than that. I think I need to learn to love myself. I mean, I don’t hate myself. I don’t even not like myself. I think I love myself so much that I’m steaming mad about not being able to experience that love. I have no idea how. Instead, I eat doughnuts.
I’ve got friends who insist that, “You’re perfect, just as you are!” I want to agree, but something feels off about that. Not the perfect part; the insisting part. If I really love myself like that, why would I have to convince me or anyone else? Feels like trying too hard.
I get the same wonky feeling about unconditional love (the whole “I love you, no matter what” thing). Every time someone says that, I think, What’s the “no matter what?” No matter the 100 pounds I’ve gained? Sure, “no matter what” can numb the sting for a time, but worry festers in the background. What if I gain the weight back? I need something that trumps all that. I want to look in the mirror, see a happy person, and – oh, by the way – I just happen to be my best self. That’s how I want love to come.
Behind the counter here, cups want washing. Out there, spoons crowd the dirty jar, but I don’t care. I’d rather watch you, in the corner, scratching your ankle with your shoe while you write. Mosquito bite driving you crazy? I wouldn’t care if you took off your shoes to douse the itch. If I told you as much, would that be awkward? If I risked invading your bubble, would you respond? I’m not sure you would. I don’t believe it. I’m like a fish who doesn’t believe in water simply because water’s all that’s ever been and, so, all that’s never noticed. Am I the fish or the water? In this book I’m reading by some French philosopher named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, he says, “Everything that rises must converge.” I’m not sure I want to converge, but I do want to poke my head up out of my protective, liquid layer with clear ears to hear the meaning of conversations that have sounded only muffled to me before.
When I think about connection and vulnerability and courage I think about risk or freedom. They’re related somehow. If you think of all the great freedom fighters, they all seemed to start with having the courage to be vulnerable and risk something. There were stakes involved.
Aaahhh — dang mosquito bite, itches like a –
They probably didn’t realize it at the time, but I think they needed to risk something, just to counter all the blowback that would come. That way, amid all the questions and criticism, or even their own self-doubts, they could say, “No, I did the work. I gave what it took.” What should I give? What are my stakes? I’m not out to change the world, but I would like to lose some weight and feel better in my skin. Where does that start? Should I trade treats for celery sticks? Should I give up my lunch hour for a long walk? All that seems tiny, like it’s not enough. No, that’s not it. Dieting and working out help but they’re what come after; after the vulnerability, after the risk, when that cork pops and energy bubbles into action. I mean, when I’m on my deathbed, am I going to say, “By golly, I ate right and exercised!” I don’t think so. Whatever I say, the words will be there because I was vulnerable enough to risk speaking my freedom.
You look lost in thought. Do you need a refill? Should I offer you a free one on me?
How do I speak my own freedom? I don’t have the words yet, but I don’t have to write anything down to know what’s next. The very thing I try so hard to avoid, that’s where I gotta go.
If I came over with a pot and smiled…? I wish I was more of a conversation starter. I’ll just grab the dirty spoons and see if you look over.
I have to look inside, be vulnerable enough to see what I fear most. I must fuse my guts to the backbone of the fear. Understand it. Know it. Sit with it.
Is it a good time to sit down across from you? Too much? Too soon?
Even if it’s uncomfortable, I must let others see me. If I can’t do that, how will I ever see myself?
What if you don’t like what you see? I’m not a friend, just a half-life accessory in this coffee shop. You don’t need to open up your life story to me.
How could I open up? How can I make space for something to break open? I know. This is it.
You’re stopping. You’re closing your notebook, sticking the pen in the spiral edge. Oh, you’re putting on your coat.
Yes, I’m going to do this. This is perfect. Just lay it down.
You’re getting up. You’re leaving.
You’re headed for the door.
Let the door shut. Don’t look back. Just leave it there.
Wait, wait, you left your notebook.
Change requires risk.
100 Pounds eGuides
What do you think about being vulnerable and the need for connection?
Comment below and you will be automatically entered in a monthly drawing for a FREE 100 Pounds Weight Loss eGuide.
When I share my 100 pounds story, people always ask, “How did you keep your will power going to lose all that weight?”
That’s when I nod. I know exactly how they feel.
Find out how I maintained my will power and cleared common hurdles in, “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside,” the 100 Pounds weight loss eGuide which answers the question, “How do you keep going?”
If you’ve been riding the weight loss roller coaster most of your life, then the last thing you need is someone telling you it’s going to be easy this time. I’ll admit it — straight out – easy would be great. Hard sucks. Too hard to lose weight. Too hard to keep it off. Too hard to live with that undying dream of feeling comfortable in my skin again. That dream never goes away, though, does it? Even people who’ve lost a lot of weight will admit they have trouble matching their new body to their old body image. Even they want their inside to match their outside.
This eGuide stays true to that dream. In witty, practical terms, I cover the mental hurdles I faced while losing 100 pounds in 1 year. In this digital pdf download, I untangle obstacles (It’s never as easy as all the diet gurus want it to be.) I tell stories of how I crossed the gap between what I wanted and my inability to get there. In charting the not-so-straight line from fat to skinny, I unearth the wisdom that taught me how to become a bridge across that gap. Today, I experience life with greater focus, more energy, and expanding joy, no matter what the scale reads. That, in itself, is a huge lift of weight. I hope this eGuide inspires you to launch your own lift.
Curious why “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside” is different than everything else you’ve tried before? Try this on for size…
To wet your taste buds, here’s a sneak-peek at the Table of Contents:
Your 100 Pounds weight loss eGuide is a handy, electronic download. You can take it anywhere you go: your phone, your tablet, your computer, the Cloud!
One reader says:
Get More Results Out of Less Effort: Learn from the mistakes I made, and the lessons I gleaned, through my 100 pounds journey. Packed with lots of smart, time-saving ideas to keep you motivated.
What do you think? Comment below and you will be automatically entered in a monthly drawing for a FREE 100 Pounds Weight Loss eGuide.