Tag Archives: Energy

Scale the 3rd Week Wall with These 3 Big Ideas

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.

Take Home Tip

We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds eGuide:  “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters.”

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Filed under Exercise, Principles, Uncategorized

I Know How to Eat Right, So Why Do I Choose Something Else?

Lost So FarI have fallen off The Wagon.  I am on the couch, pulling open a bag of Dorito chips.  I reach in, feeling the pointy ends for a big one.  I stretch my mouth wide and bite down like a lion ripping flesh from the bone.  The crunch rattles my pleasure sensors.  It’s the sound of rebellion, of savory sin.  Except it’s not nearly so dramatic a scene from the couch.  When I take a breather between handfuls, I’m still just one woman in binge and lounge mode.  I feel the weighty guilt of my choice as I sink solid into the cushions.  Then, my mind talk starts.  I remember that I should have more will power than this.  I remind myself that I write about how to not get into this position.  Now I’ve fallen by the wayside, clutching my bag of chips and watching The Wagon move on without me.  Clearly, I don’t always follow my own advice.  Despite all of the health ideas I’ve gleaned, and all the dots I’ve connected, I still make poor food choices.  Why?

I know this question is not for everyone.  Many seem to eat healthy with ease.  For emotional eaters like me, however; it’s exactly where I live.  I believe the answer depends on more than intelligence.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t even be asking this question.  I’d simply adapt my eating patterns to ever-healthier foods as science discovers more and more about nutrition.  I would learn the right way to eat, and I would eat right.  It’s the Scientific Method of eating:  break the whole down into its basic parts, then we can understand how to heal the whole.

This linear, scientific approach is the road on which The Wagon travels.  This road is marked by all the “right” foods experts say we should eat.  When I make healthy food choices, I consider myself on this right road because I’m following their signs:  “Eat more fruits and vegetables.”  “Eat less fat.”  “Eat more fat.”  I use whatever guideposts I can to reassure me that I’m still eating “good.”  However, nowhere on the map of healthy eating is there a sign reading, “Binge and Lounge Rest Area, 10 miles.”  When I’m ensconced in the couch, crunching my chips, I’m squatting at that rest area.  If I want to get back on the road, I have to start following the signs again by making healthy choices.   The Scientific Method of eating tends to feed this idea.  I’m either on the right road, or I’ve wandered off.  I was curious if other women looked at eating this way, so I asked them about their food choices.  They repeatedly referenced one of two extremes, either “being a good girl” or struggling with “bad habits.”  I’m not alone.  But, If it’s all about habit, then why do I switch habits over and over again?

Is habit about will power?  If so, then where does will power come from?  Is there a limited supply? Do I drain it every time I make a poor food choice, like a battery slowly sucked dry?  Or is will power a matter of character, genetically encoded in some and forged by hard-won discipline by the rest of us?  If I can discover where will power resides, then perhaps I can understand why mine comes and goes so readily.  Sometimes I feel like I’m accelerating zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds in my Tesla Model S with a full charge of kick-ass will power.  Then there’s the rest of the time when you couldn’t get me to eat a vegetable, even if you slathered it in peanut butter (well, maybe if it’s good peanut butter).  The more I ignore my best advice, and eat whatever I want any way, the more curious I become about why I do this.  I cannot pinpoint where will power ends and choice begins.  I know the axiom, “You are what you eat.”   However, it feels just as true that “I eat what I am.”  In other words, in that moment of choice, I’m trying to connect with who I am.  Screw “eating right.”  I’m tired.  I’m bitchy.  As Kris Carr said, “I want to go do bad things with bad people.”  Aren’t you glad I chose Doritos instead?

I lick the processed orange powder from my fingertips, and I burrow deeper into the cushions.  I suspect finding the source of will power may not be easy.  It may be a mix of biology, chemistry, Quantum Physics, and even a little desire.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

It Could Be Biology
Neuroscientists have watched the brain in the act of choosing.  They’ve noticed two things.  First, thoughts run in neural pathways, like ruts, in the brain.  When I’m choosing, my first thoughts likely emit from these pathways.  This is the biological equivalent of habit.  Why am I compelled to eat buttered popcorn when watching a movie?  Perhaps because I have established ruts which connect the neurons of these two experiences.  When my “watching a movie” neuron fires, electricity flows on to a neighboring “eating popcorn” neuron.  Secondly, scientists observed the difficulty of choosing outside these neural pathways.   To change a habit, I have to make new choices, over and over again, physically unhooking those neighboring neurons and nudging them into new connections with other neurons.  The experts call this “Neural Plasticity.”  It is difficult but possible, so choice is flexible.  This explains both the power of habit and how habits can change.  Is will power involved in this change?  To find out, I need to look deeper.

It Could Be Chemistry
I remember science class, when my teacher explained that everything – including us – contained mostly space.  This was hard to believe until I saw that fuzzy image from an Electron Microscope.  A swirl of electrons, protons, and neutrons buzzed within each atom, like leftover Cheerios floating in a cereal bowl.  Yep, mostly space!  Common sense, however, says that when I bite into a chip, I feel the crispy crunch of something solid between my teeth.  Now, with new instruments, I saw a deeper truth.  Unfortunately, nutrition theory hasn’t adapted to this new reality.  We’re still focusing on only the solid elements of food.  In reality, I am not a stagnant, solid-state being.  I’m changing all the time.  Electrons pass from atom to atom, changing electrical charges within all of that space inside.  Food has the same, basic chemistry.  Is the secret I seek hidden within these changing charges?  Do they trump my best intentions with their dynamic interplay between food and body?  Or, if I’m mostly space, then is there something about that space that generates my will power?

It Could Be Quantum Physics
Let’s dive into the weird, or the really real (depending on how you view it.)  What’s inside all that space?  One idea is called “String Theory.”  This foundational theory of Quantum Physics says that space is not empty but filled with “strings” of energy.  They behave much like guitar strings, each vibrating at their own frequency.  According to Wikipedia, “Every form of matter or energy is the result of the vibration of strings.”  These vibrating strings combine, separate, and recombine in patterns which create a kind of energetic harmony.  That harmony becomes reality.  Think of the strings as a group of instruments and the realities they create as songs.  In one moment, the song could be jazz.  The next, it could be blues.  The same instruments play both songs; they’re just combining in different ways to make different harmonies.  String combinations are infinite but precise, giving rise to flexibility (in everything, from the brain to food choice.)  Therefore, will power could be a product of how these strings of energy combine at any given moment.  I know, weird, right?!

If this is happening in me, then could it be happening in everything, including my Doritos?  What if I eat to match my energy level?  Even when I know all the “right” things to eat, I choose Doritos because they’re vibrating at the same level as me.  We’re in harmony.  I’ll never look at string cheese the same again.

What Next?
Wherever will power begins, my next, best step will be the same.  I must connect.  Connecting with myself — whether with food, music, or any other practice — will only move me towards my ultimate desire.  Sure, I want to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, but I chart my weight loss by the connections I make.  I don’t need to coax my path into something I think it should be.  I don’t need a road.  I am the road.  My body is already the perfect vehicle for where I am today.  What makes me want it to be different is not what experts say I should be, but how I change on the inside.  My work is to learn how to trust that change.

Take Home Tip

I’m going to eat whatever food matches my energy.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Introduction to String Theory (AKA M-Theory)


4 Ways to Join the 100 Pounds Community: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or submit your guest poset

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Dang! I missed my workout – again!

62 pounds lost so farI’m crashed on the couch, and it’s not the good kind of crash.  The cushions lack that indulgent give I enjoy after a tough workout.  Instead, the weak squish reminds me of the laziness I sense inside.  I’ve fought to avoid this feeling most my life.  This limpness of will saps my energy.  I’m too tired to exercise but too desperate to be OK with it.  I want a rest, from both my lethargy and the guilt of missing yet another workout.

Fact:  I don’t always feel like exercising
“I’m just too tired today,” I tell myself as I roll onto my other side to quiet the gnaw at my lower back.  My exhaustion makes sense.  Forty years have escorted me to the other shore of life, and I’m ramping down into peri-menopause.  Hormones are ebbing.  Energy is waning.  Plus, since I manage Bi-Polar disorder, it’s taken a few months to recalibrate my meds.  Another “guinea pig” phase.  I haven’t located that sweet spot again.  It occurs to me — while becoming part of the couch – that, although I’ve adjusted my meds, I haven’t adjusted my thinking.  I still hold the same exercise expectations I had when I was twenty.  Those ideals loom far from my new reality.  Honoring them has actually backfired by creating too much space between who I am today and the healthy, happy woman who has always lived inside.  In reaching for my goals, I’ve actually pushed myself farther from her.  No wonder I don’t feel like myself.

Fact:  my reactions don’t usually help
Whenever I miss a workout, I usually react in one of two ways:  do more or do nothing.  Doubling tomorrow’s workout seems a reasonable reaction.  I won’t lose anything, and I can rest easy today.   When I’m too tired tomorrow, however, then I’ve got three workouts to do the day after.  Not likely to happen.  Double-up discipline usually leads to quitting.  I call it the “Bible in a Year” Syndrome.  You know the ideal:  read x number of pages every day, and by day 366, you can say you’ve read the entire Bible in one year.  Good intentions; faulty plan.  After getting bored with Deuteronomy — and tacking on yesterday’s readings for the third day in a row – I’m up to 30 pages and hundreds of “begats” to sludge through.  Too much expectation guarantees give up.

Fact:  I still want an active life
My other reaction involves a hefty dose of guilt.  Guilt loves to hang with me on the couch.  It maintains power because, honestly, I love being active, and I don’t like it when I’m not.  Guilt puts me on the stand and cross-examines my resolve, so I have to prove my loyalty over and over again.  Consequently, I walk around half-heartedly threatened, like I’m only one missed workout away from a remote control lodged between my fat rolls.

Fact:  I’m ready to think different
I want to get creative and figure out what it would take to avoid this moment the next time (‘Cuz I know there’s going to be a next time.)  I need new tenets which allow me to be who I am today and encourage me to move, without doubling expectation or feeding guilt.  After some thought, I’ve got an idea:  fitness tiers.

Using fitness tiers is like moving among floors of a house.  The top tier can be for more energized, “power” days; the second tier for medium “recovery” days, and the third tier (or ground floor) for easy “incubator” days.  When I’ve got lots of energy for a challenge, I could take the stairs to the upper floor and clock a sweaty workout.  When I’m dragging a bit, I accept my lower energy level, move to the second floor and enter my “recovery” space.  Here, my day’s goals are framed around maintaining my fitness, no pressure to improve.  When energy drops to couch-worthy, I’ll call for room service on the ground floor and retreat into “incubator” time.  I’ll still move for a short bit, just to stick a bookmark in my psyche, but I’m giving myself permission to rest until energy returns.

Once my levels are established, then I can envision the kind of movement I want within each tier.  For example, this is how I’m defining my tiers so far:

  • Power Day:  move 60 to 100 minutes and include some extra-challenging intervals (I’ve worked up to this level, after starting out moving just 10 minutes each day.)
  • Recovery Day:  cut my time in half, move 30 to 60 minutes
  • Incubator Day:  move 10 minutes, doesn’t matter how, just move

I bet fitness tiers could help remove other exercise obstacles besides energy level, like limited time or inconsistent travel.  If time keeps me from exercising, then I might define three different tiers of availability.  If travel nixes my options, then how about three different tiers defined by modes of travel?

Fitness tiers are less about the intensity of moving and more about keeping me motivated.  Still, that doesn’t mean I’m settling.  I’m disciplined, but I answer to me, not the workout.  I bet, after using my fitness tiers for several weeks, I’ll actually move more.  Without trapping myself in expectation or guilt, I just might finish more workouts.  I may have a couch moment, but you can bet I’ll be flexing my core or doing some leg raises while I’m there.

Take Home Tip

Fitness tiers are less about the intensity of moving and more about keeping me motivated.

Explore It More By Following the Links BelowSave Me from Myself: a Freakonomics podcast which explores
how a commitment device forces you to be the person you really want to be.
What could possibly go wrong? 

Guilt Free Fitness with Fitness TiersCheck out more fun vision boards about Shelby’s journey at her Pinterest page.

100 Pounds in 1 Year

100 Pounds in 1 Year


Filed under Exercise, Principles

3 Ways to Get Small or Go Big

60 pounds lost so farFacebook status, 10:15 pm:  Can’t sleep.  Executing inaugural mission of RLF: Rhubarb Liberation Front.  Will post pic of rescue and relocation. 

Facebook status, 10:40 pm:  Mission Accomplished! (see pic at vision board, below) 

Facebook status, 11:45 pm:  Still not sleeping.  Heading out to the Top Hat to write.  Anyone want to join me for a brew?  Just come on down.

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 and energy.  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, 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:

  • Settling
  • Amputating
  • Shrinking
  • Anything with the word “should” before it
  • Half-nourished while half-starved, like eating a picture of a salad and being bummed I’m not satisfied

Going big feels like:

  • Expanding
  • Stretching
  • Inspiring
  • Heart fluttering
  • Totally full, with lots of room for more

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

In my last post, Why You Already Have What You Desire, No, Really, You Do, I mentioned that if I want to learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, I 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 tranquility.  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 will 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.

Be Vulnerable

One experience those three icons shared – each in their own way and time – was 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.”  Rather, 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 said.  She could have accepted all the Fortune 100 company requests for executive training that 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.  More often than not, vulnerability has opened up my world, built loving connections, and taught me that it’s safe to go big – all things that eluded me when I avoided my shame of becoming obese.

Be Compassionate

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.

What might that look like?  Well, that’s for you to decide for you.  If I gave you a picture, wouldn’t the very image itself confine your limitless possibilities?  We all accept as much “big” as we can handle in the moment.  It is more than enough to get us where we want to go.

Take Home Tip

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.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability

Listen to Krista Tippett’s Interview with Brene Brown

The Science Behind Acceptance

3 Ways to Get Small or Go Big

Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Principles

Why I Already Have What I Desire, No, Really, I Do


Trigger: /ˈtrigər/ (verb) Cause (an event or     situation) to happen or exist; to touch off.

60 pounds lost so farDo you have a trigger?  No, the better question is, “What is your trigger?”  I can’t imagine anyone NOT having some sore spot that opens wide when the perfect storm of circumstance fires an arrow fast through all those layers of self-protection and hits a hard-core bulls-eye, as if the armor didn’t even exist.  Has that ever happened to you?  It has to me.  In fact, it’s happening right now.

I’m writing this post at Bernice’s coffee shop, seven hours after my trigger hit.  I still feel a residual burning in my stomach.  I’ve tried all my go-to work-arounds:  talking it out, deep breathing, asking for hugs, fresh-squeezed juice, looking at the big picture, exercising into exhaustion.  Yet, I have a cup of coffee and a cream cheese Danish next to my computer.  Hold on a sec… just took another gooey bite.

Damn, that tastes good.

This is my world of emotional eating.  This time, I’ve not quite descended into the gorging nightmare that used to be my stress response, as I have collected some back pocket understanding along this journey  For example, I know I’m a “sensual” comfort personality type; meaning, when I stress out, physical comforts like food or massage can chaperone me back to sanity.  Knowing this, my danish doesn’t have near as much guilt sprinkled on top.

Hours before, however, I got a big bite of stress.  I knew pulling out the get-er-done stick wouldn’t work because that’s what caused my panic in the first place.  There was too much to get done already.  Too many people wanting too much time.  I couldn’t keep all my commitments, let alone the promises I’ve made to myself.  No time to work out.  No time to write.  No time to do the things I know to do in order to shape my dreams into reality.  My brain went flat line, overheated by the pressurized push and pull between responsibility and desire.  My body kicked into fight or flight, and I couldn’t do either.  I spent the day stewing in a toxic brew of cortisol, which – I also know – is the ideal way to stay fat (learn more at my post, Chronic Stress and Weight Gain).

This I know for sure:  if I want to outgrow my emotional eating — learn, heal, or do anything worth doing — all I need to do is begin to desire.  I’m not talking about craving a danish.  I’m talkin’ Big D Desire.  I’m unpacking that secret box, the one we all keep buried in our heart’s closet of best intentions, collecting dust like unused sports equipment.  Desire laden with regret as hard and cold as a bowling ball.  For years, I moth-balled my desires.  Then I decided to lose 100 pounds in one year.  That was a big deal for me.  Surrendering to this desire was scary, vulnerable, and very, very brave.  Desiring is a courageous thing to do.  To understand why, all I need is to notice how much I distract myself from doing exactly that.  In my worst years, I chose denial over desire because I thought that would keep me from my pain.  On most days, though, it’s much easier to ignore Desire and stay too busy with everyday life.  That’s why Desire is enough to get the healing process started.  I don’t have to go diggin’ and scrubbin’ for something to fix inside.  Keeping myself in that desirous space will bring plenty of opportunity for profound work.

Most of my life, in order to keep me too busy, I’ve used my Story.  Just like everyone has a trigger, everyone has a Story.  It’s the play of thoughts and emotions we act out, sometimes knowing what we’re doing, sometimes not.  In our Story, we are — at once — the lead, the audience, and the critic.  The stage is our life.  The circumstances may change, like this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park players, but the script reads the same.  This morning, my Story had me as its captured audience.  It would have had you hustling to the popcorn machine during intermission.  Would you have ordered extra butter?

As I was getting ready for the day, familiar thoughts appeared like titles for each act.

Act 1: There’s too much to do.

Act 2:  I can’t do it all.

Act 3: I am not enough.

I can slather a balm of sooth-sayings atop those cutting thoughts.  There’s lots of understanding responses to every Story.  The problem is, a Story must stick to the Story.  Caring words are often rewritten to bring the play back ‘round to plot.  It’s like having an OCD automaton for a script writer.  For example, if I believe I’m not enough, then I’ll edit the kindest thought and boomerang it around in my head until it establishes that, once again, I am not enough.  I’ll prove my point, even to my own detriment.

How does this relate to pounds on the scale?  Consider, if I believe I am not enough, plus I’m a sensual comfort personality type, then I’ve got two options when it comes to my relationship with food

  1. Eat until I’m stuffed, creating a physical sensation of more than enough
  2. Keep weight on, building an actual barrier of body fat between me and the world, thereby making up for the weakness of my lack

There’s only one way I know to short-circuit my Story.  Compassion.  Self-understanding is a form of forgiveness which can disarm the toughest triggers.  Ironically, it’s also one of the last tools we think of when it comes to weight loss.  Jean Fain, a psychotherapist at Harvard Medical School instructor, talks about the importance of compassion in her book, “The Self-Compassion Diet.”  She explains, “Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.   Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan,”  OK, Jean, I’m going to experiment with compassion right now, in this coffee shop, with this post.  Here goes…

First, compassion begins by asking me to resist the temptation to label my Story as a villain.  “Why not choose gratitude?” it suggests.  I can thank my Story for serving a needed purpose.  O.K.  I’ll try it out…

I want to be enough.  I can see how my Story of “I am not enough” holds the promise that someday – maybe even this time – I will be enough.  Thank you, Story, for keeping that desire alive.

O.K.  So far, so good.  Next, compassion dares me to believe that I already have my deepest desire.  This is hard to see.  No, actually, it blows chunks.  Here’s what I want to say to that lovely nugget of wisdom…

Don’t tell me I am enough when, obviously, I’m not.  You can’t tell me what to do.  Everyone is telling me what to do.

Compassion isn’t putting up a fight.  It’s just there, quiet, letting me rant.  I’m staying angry.  I’m imagining a backstory of tiny offenses to support my victim identity.  I’ll do this until I’m ready to not do it anymore.


After all that, compassion still won’t condemn me for my tantrum.  This level of unconditional acceptance calms my defenses, and I feel safe enough to look deeper.  At these depths, stuff just seems to leak out unguarded, like it almost wants to be seen.  If I’m honest with myself…

I want to be not enough.

It’s what I’m used to.

It’s what I’ve always known.

If it wasn’t this stress today, I would find something else tomorrow.

I think I am addicted to my Story.

Compassion is nodding, not with condemnation but with caring.  I hear, in a soft, motherly voice, “That’s not all you are.”

I want to lean in.  If compassion had a shoulder, I would rest on it.  Finally, the acid in my veins is disintegrating.  I can take a deep breath.  This time, each expanding inhale reminds me that compassion is right; there is more to me than this.  I am looking around.  I remember my day.  I see a new reality…

I did get a workout in today.

I am writing, right here, right now.

I will encounter understanding when I explain why I had to ditch out.

While I’m being honest…you should know that I just deleted two paragraphs that I had spent 15 minutes writing.  At this point, I’m tempted to lift my struggle up into a hopeful, insightful bundle of lessons learned and bridges crossed.  If I could send this post to you via snail mail, I would wrap it in a pretty bow.  That’s what I was doing with those paragraphs.  Then, I thought…does it have to always end on an up note?  Sometimes, sure, yeah.  This time, though, I would be cheating you and me both out of a truer truth.

No matter how stressed I feel, how enlightened I might sound, or how messy the space between those two extremes becomes, one thing remains:  I am.  I am not enough, or I am enough.  But I always am.  I am stressed, or I am at peace.  Still, I am.  What if I am is the point of it all?  What if I don’t just set the standard in my life, but I am the standard?  If that could be true, then there is no such thing as falling short or not being enough.  Neither is there such a thing as wanting too much or being too this or too that.  I am is the benchmark.  I am is flexible, too.  It measures exactly enough while still holding limitless potential.  When I start arguing with that paradox, or devising a method to skip over it, then I get into trouble.

My methods usually depend on judging some part of me “good” or “bad,” then making adjustments from there.  In contrast, compassion refrains from judging.  It sees me as whole, even as I birth another sub-species of angst in the diverse ecosystem called “me.”

Where do I want to end this?  No bows in sight, so I’ll just say that I am.  There is no right me.  There is no wrong me.  Sure, I can gain more traction with some choices more than others, but always, I am.  What I really desire, what I truly want, if for this I am to taste sweeter than any cream cheese danish.

Take Home Tip

This I know for sure:  if I want to grow, learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, all I need go do is desire.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges

“The Self-Compassion Diet” by Jean Fain

You Already Have What You Desire, No, Really, You Do

Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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