Just in time for all of the holiday parties…
Is your fitness routine fading? Is that promise you made to yourself getting harder to keep? Welcome to the “3rd week wall.” There’s something magical about making it through the third week, and its common to get stuck just as you thought you were doing great. Don’t get down on yourself. Instead, read ahead for some tools and tips to help you clear this hurdle and go even farther (first published in Living Well, 2013).
We know what they’re going to say: eat better, exercise more. As soon as health experts open their mouths, we hear their advice like an overplayed pop hit. Our eyes glaze-over. Our minds go numb. Yet, knowing the latest research hasn’t kept us from a nationwide Obesity and Diabetes epidemic. Why? Is there a missing link between what we’re learning and what we’re doing? Or, is it how we’re learning? Maybe we need easier ideas, something we can do right now that translates all that advice into real results. We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives. While we’re at it, let’s demand something we can do and still be ourselves. Make it not too far out of reach but still inspire us to be our best selves. In that spirit of uncomplicated accomplishment, here are three revelations which can revive any mission to become and stay healthy.
First, Take a Step Backwards
Alyssa Schrock, Mrs. Montana 2013, recognizes that gap between knowledge and know-how. At a young age, she was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. “Here’s a pamphlet, go figure out a plan,” she quips, mimicking the limp advice she received from her doctor. “No one took the time to explain, ‘This is how you cope. This is what you do.’ As a result, it’s taken me all of fifteen years to learn how to manage my illness.”
Today, Alyssa lectures and educates others about how to navigate health challenges by developing a personal care plan. “I like to work backwards by starting with the end results.” Asking people to envision a fuller life, Alyssa poses questions like, “What do you want?” “Why are you doing this?” “What do you want it to look like?” For her, the answers included reducing her prescription medications, becoming strong enough to care for her family, and increasing her overall stamina. With those kinds of long-term desires in mind, Alyssa then considers short-term actions. “They need to be small steps, things we can do right where we’re at today,” she explains. Every time she progresses to the next step, Alyssa claims a win. It’s those tiny victories which keep her focused, so much so that she now has energy to support others. “I still have tired days when I have to remind myself this is normal for me, but I’m feeling good enough now that I can make my bubble bigger by reaching my arms out to the community, so that others won’t have to walk out of a hospital with a pamphlet and no idea what to do next.”
Think Big, Then Think Even Bigger
Just as Alyssa has learned how supporting her community helps her stay healthy, we may need to unite our health routine with a larger purpose. Often times, we find more motivation when connect with the “why.” Nurturing wellbeing can be an expression of our commitment to something bigger. This bigger picture provides fresh purpose to pluck us from stuck places and create momentum again.
The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center of Missoula – one of the nation’s first women’s only gyms which started 30 years ago – takes that bigger purpose to heart. “TWC women don’t separate caring for their health from caring for the Missoula community; to them, it’s all connected,” explains Camie Evans, Manager and Co-Owner of the club. Their latest investment is a saline pool and hot tub. Recently, The Women’s Club converted to a salt water system. “We hear how important environmental stewardship is to our members, and they’re happier when they know their workout supports their values” says Cathy Schwenk, Facility Maintenance Leader. “We’ve been looking at a saline system for years, but it’s only recently that the technology has become compatible with our facility. We like to say, ‘We’re going green, so your hair won’t have to.’”
Get off the Guilt-Go-‘Round
I once heard a young mom with a large family lament her sedentary lifestyle. “I know I need to get me and the kids exercising more, but it’s not easy,” she groaned. “They say this town is such an easy place to be active, but you either have to have lots of time or lots of money, and I don’t have either.” I nodded my head. She indeed was one of the busiest moms I knew. I also knew, however, that there was a public trail system just minutes from her home. Spotting the gap between what she said and what she could do, I surmise her frustration served more as a deflection of guilt.
Come to think of it, criticizing the sometimes conflicting health advice we receive is an effective deflection, as well. Resistance can cover up guilt over not being healthier. Here’s the good news: guilt doesn’t work, so you can let it go. Guilt is a disconnecting force which short-circuits our best intentions. Guilt acts like static to our souls; keeping us judging ourselves and arguing with those judgments. It fuzzes that heart/mind connection where creativity and motivation abide. So let go of guilt about not exercising enough or eating bad food.
You can create a vibrant lifestyle when you cultivate these ideas. First, begin with your vision for a healthier you. Then, support that vision by connecting with a bigger purpose. Finally, release energy-sucking guilt. Now you can harness all that energy you’ve been using to simply survive the stuckness and shift your focus into drive.
We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives.
Seven years ago, I had a dream which I’ve never really been able to shake. I always wondered what it meant. I think I’ve finally figured it out. At the time, I was working with a therapist. I shared the dream’s details with her. I described the dug-out pit I occupied and how it resembled a sunken site of an old, archeological dig. We surmised why the pit’s fence – which ran along the top of the ground above me, at shoulder height – seemed more like a military perimeter. With its bulky timbers reinforced by steel rebar, I wasn’t going anywhere. Why did it need to be so strong? More intriguing, however, were the holes underneath the fence. Someone had dug out gaps underneath the fence. Just enough space for a torso appeared along the edges every ten feet. Why had no one filled them in? Had hope carved out each escape route, and I hadn’t bothered to replace it? Maybe there was no point, since a pair of army boots stood patrol on the other side of every hollow. Why the necessary precaution? Who was out there, standing in those boots, and why did I stand inside, alone? I felt trapped. My solace was the open, blue sky above me. Puffy, white clouds paraded over me. This brings me to my biggest question…
Why didn’t I just fly out?
All notions of “flying dreams” aside, this seems a legit question. I acted as if the sky was a roof. There wasn’t anything holding me back, except me. In thinking of the top seven lessons I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey, that’s the clincher. I see this self-limiting pattern over and over. Each of these seven ideas healed some element of whatever, or whyever, I was my biggest obstacle.
Why not just fly out?
For more in-depth, down-and-dirty-details of how I learned these lessons, check out the 100 Pounds eGuides
Lately, when sharing my story, the same question keeps popping up: What does it take to get unstuck and make the healthy choices we already know to make? It’s as if there’s this mysterious black box that we cannot see into, but which holds the key to flipping whatever switch inside, so we can make the choices we want to make — but for some reason — haven ‘t. I cannot know what will flip the switch for you, but I can suggest one way to feel for it. I call it “Micro-Meditation.” I started this practice as a way to calm my monkey mind. To my surprise, it also helped me make better decisions, including the ones about what to eat and how to move.
I started inside my car, waiting for traffic. I focused on where I placed my hands on the steering wheel, which finger reached for the stereo, or how I slid my sunglasses around my face. Then, while getting out of the car, how I grabbed my purse strap before wrapping it around my shoulder. How I leaned into the door to unlock the car. Which foot hit the ground first and how my balance changed as I closed the door. You see what I mean? It sounds too simple to make a difference (Typing this paragraph took more effort than the actual doing of it.) However, if I wasn’t practicing micro-meditation, I would be busy worrying, planning, or just being numb. There’s lots to gain and nothing to lose.
Soon after starting this practice, my insides started to change. It’s hard to describe, but it was that same feeling when every light turns green, you take curves with the perfect balance of speed and torque, and seas of traffic part with mere intention. In one word: flow.
I’ve since fallen in love with “Micro-Mediation” (when I remember to do it). It works instantly at any moment without extra equipment. It takes nothing from my day and, in fact, saves time because I make better decisions with more clarity. When it’s time to choose a meal or workout, the switch almost flips itself.
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 ready 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.
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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.