Archive | May, 2012

Post Competition Blues NO MORE!

31 May

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It’s time to feel empowered rather than encumbered!



No Mo’ Plateaus!

25 May

My most recent article on self – control (the second in a two-part series found in the Diet Doc May newsletter generated a request for a blog on plateaus. Hmmm…that’s a very open-ended, broad topic. To the “Do you have anything on plateaus?” inquiry, I asked “Mental or physical?” I could hear the chuckle through the words of my follower, but she got it. Any phenomenon like this cannot be examined without considering it from multiple perspectives. So let’s dive into the diverse aspects of plateaus in the context of weight loss.

“My weight’s not moving!! I’ve hit a plateau!” I’m  betting these words have traveled over your lips with frustration, confusion, and discouragement. Especially if you have enjoyed consistent downward movement on the scale in the initial phases of your weight loss efforts, a “stall” can seem disheartening. Plateaus come in all shapes and sizes though– like all the different bodies in the world. You’ve got short, long, lean, lanky, round, rotund, portly, athletic. I’ve had clients email me freaking out that they’re doing something wrong when their weight remains the same for ONE DAY.  “Is this what they call a plateau!?!” Um…no.

Imagine you’re hiking, and you’ve just summitted a small mountain peak. You can feel your heart beating quickly, your respiration rate is high, and you feel like stopping for a little bit to catch your breath. You really want to get to the next mile marker though, so you tell yourself to keep going. As you keep walking, you see you don’t need to stop and rest- the trail levels out and for half a mile or so you’re taking a leisurely stroll through a pretty valley. You don’t feel particularly challenged by this area of the trail and you welcome the respite. The terrain gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery. You feel the sun on your face where it’s peaking through the trees. You imagine the softness of the prairie grass as it ripples in soft waves from the breeze. You realize you’ve not taken the time to appreciate what’s around you and where your panting and huffing and puffing actually got you until now! As you scan the trail in front of you, you notice some rather large boulders and  steps carved into the land as the grade steepens.  Twinging with both exhilaration and trepidation, you adjust your pack and think, “Okay, here we go!”, readying yourself for the upcoming challenge. One step at a time, with a mountain goat-like sure-footedness, you move forward. The trail continues to increase in elevation, and you find yourself leaning forward to increase your momentum. Your backpack feels uncomfortably heavy now but you trek onward albeit a bit slower and with more caution. “I’ll climb to that big tree and then rest” you say to yourself. “Climb”, “climb”, “climb” you chant. The tree seems to be further away than you anticipated! But you’ve been here before and as difficult as this feels, you push through it.

Plateaus, like the trek of a backpacker, come amidst peaks and valleys, rugged and smooth terrain, slow rises in elevation and steep declines. They must be valued in the full context of the journey, with an understanding of what is, in weight loss terms, physiologically normal. Our bodies are not linear and your weight loss won’t be either. Our bodies are dynamic, always changing in regards to fluid balance, intestinal mass and GI function, hormonal balance, etc. Even when you do not see a change on the scale, this is not an indication that nothing is happening in your body. The number on the scale is not always reflective of fat loss. It may take a day, three, or a week or two for it to register losses. I’ve had clients who I call “hangeronners” because they lose a couple pounds, the scale remains the same for a couple weeks, then they have a big drop, and the cycle repeats itself.  In essence, a plateau is what you define it to be, and your definition can change based on how you see your body responds.

If you hear yourself saying “I’ve hit a plateau,” perhaps this needs to be your signal to do the following:

1. Assess what you have been doing up to this point. What have you achieved, specifically? What have the behaviors been that have led to your success so far? Get very specific. Take your time with this. These are the areas you will want to continue and not let fall away.

2. Assess the areas you have struggled with. Honestly appraise the behaviors that could use a fine-tuning. For example, if you can admit to eating the leftovers off your child’s dinner plate a few nights each week, hold yourself accountable with this.  Pretending gets you nowhere. Admit, acknowledge, and then act.  Act= evaluate what you can do differently.

3. Rather than getting discouraged and automatically going to “I must be doing something wrong”, which is a value-laden, emotional response, stay objective. You could be doing everything you know to do–eating the appropriate amounts of food, staying consistent with eating balanced meals, structuring your meals effectively, and getting a good amount of exercise in. Maybe a small tweak is just necessary. Perhaps changing one of your longer cardio sessions to a higher intensity session is in order. After assessing the foods you’ve been eating you recognize that you are consuming quite a bit of artificially sweetened beverages and know that this can get in the way of fat loss, as well as prompt sugar cravings, so you reduce the amount you’re eating.

4. Whatever you define a plateau to be, use it to get real with yourself. Take stock, assess, appreciate how far you’ve come, identify what has gotten you there, and pay attention to the process for a bit versus being fixated on the end result. Of course the goal is important, but don’t discount what you’re learning as you put one foot in front of the other. With each challenge you are harnessing willpower, self-control, self-esteem, self-trust, self-wisdom, confidence, growth, and practicing viewing the difficulties not as setbacks but as opportunities to learn.

Plateaus are as much about your mindset as they are your body. We all have a metabolic set point at which getting underneath to achieve the lean physiques we desire requires a bit more digging, perseverance, and patience. Imagine plateaus as a barometer for changing your mental set point too!

Get Real

24 May

When I wrote my “Interviewing Myself” post, settling over me was a dense, almost suffocating fog of creative yet anxious urgency. I was supposed to be doing something, being pushed to commit or move or finish something. Times like this inevitably lead me to intentionally exhale and search for a comfortable spot to rummage around a bit for the driver.  Comfortable, I come to find…over and over and over again… is the key word.

Often I come to one or a few conclusions — 1. I’ve  had too much caffeine; 2. My hormones are out of whack; 3. I’m hungry; 4. I’m trying to do too many things at once; or 5. I’m putting far too much pressure on myself to ‘figure it out’.

At the end of the Interviewing Myself post, I said I would ponder the following questions:

In 5 years, what will you look upon as your greatest achievements?

I’m picking this question because I feel a drive, a sense of urgency, and perhaps it will lead me to understanding the values I am about to put this energy toward.

My second question will be this:

What are my emotional dependencies?

I was obviously grasping for answers.

It seems that a discomfort with uncertainty could be a significant fear of mine. Kind of.  But it’s often not conscious. It creeps in when I least expect it. Honestly though, most of the time I am thinking, “Uncertainly is inevitable. Nothing is permanent.” I am okay with not knowing everything. I am okay with not having my entire life planned out or being able to look into a crystal ball and predict that in 10 years I’ll be the CEO of a coaching development firm, have 3 books published, have won The Voice and released at least two Grammy winning songs….Really, I am! I think.

Just yesterday though I said to my business partner, “Oh my gosh…there are times when we have these conversations and we’re planning and scheming and getting so galvanized and passionate about our projects, that I just start feeling frustrated, like I’m spinning. I can’t devote the time, the energy, the effort necessary to make them come to fruition quickly enough. Do you ever feel that way?!” He nodded. I know he does.

With this question though, I realized I was answering the second interview question from my previous post. What are my emotional dependencies? Recognizing that most of my life has been a push for more, for accomplishments, and for achievements, I have hung on to the belief that if I don’t do “something”, I won’t be “anything”. And I have to be someone. I MUST be someone.

Do you know when I don’t HAVE to be anything or anyone though and I just am, and that’s fine…it’s perfect actually? When I’m not thinking so far ahead, and when I’m not pushing away parts of myself that I’ve labeled as “bad” or “unbecoming”, I feel freer, liberated, and imperfectly honest!

I will always be an achiever, a doer, a go-getter, and one who will never stop learning and growing. But through that growth has risen the drive also to reveal the tattered, bruised, and ugly, shaded, less than attractive, base corners of my soul. We’ve all got them. And we suffer the most when we reject them. Maybe life is about learning not how to ‘figure it out’ , but how to be real, to claim all parts of yourself, to remove the masks, and see that whatever you have defined as dark and ugly can be transformed.  To get real I believe we must run toward that ugliness rather than away from it.


Get Out of the Meat Locker

12 May

My last blog was a rant about the poor state of affairs our society is in regarding personal responsibility. I got more comments on that blog than I have in a while. Perhaps it resonated with others. Perhaps I said something that others are afraid to? One comment was just a “Wow.” When I saw the person who commented this way he said, “I think you were a bit harsh.” But that’s as far as he went. I don’t know what he meant by that, but if harsh means that I was straightforward, blunt, to the point, and expressed an emotion, yep, I was harsh.

I’m not one to necessarily get extremely vigilant or worked up about anything.  It’s just not worth it. What’s the point? Unless that intensity is going to lead me to take action, as it did in this case, then it’s better to leave well enough alone. If I’m going to feel something I want it to mean something.  As I was reading the headlines I could feel myself getting more and more worked up. Maybe “angry” isn’t the right term. I wasn’t hurt. I wasn’t offended. I was incensed. I felt “strongly” let’s say. And I needed a constructive outlet for my thoughts. Ode to the KP blog, and each of you was at the receiving end. So thanks for listening.

I want to take my rant a step further though and dig into the foundation of personality responsibility. I’ve had quite a few interactions of late with females in particular who demonstrate  severe self-loathing and shame, and I’ve noticed a few behaviors that accompany these characteristics, which I believe, at their core, represent a dysfunctional level of personal responsibility.

  1. Indecisiveness
  2. Perpetual uncertainty
  3. Low confidence
  4. Lack of trust
  5. Hoping and wishing
  6. Asking “why?”
  7. A focus on the not-so-great, ugly, negative, “wrong” stuff of life
  8. A vocalized need for change

I’m finding that most people operate on extremes. I’ve got these ladies who throw themselves in the meat locker, suffer through hypothermic temps,  insist on carrying the devil on their backs, and start every sentence with “I should.” Then I’ve got the individuals who refuse at every turn to believe that they play any role in the situations in their lives. Hapless victims, whatever happens, the fault resides with someone else.

So we’ve got the “I’ll never be good enough” camp versus the “yeah buter” camp.  The former runs themselves ragged, wreaking havoc with the belief that they must not be trying hard enough, being who they should be, getting as much done as they really could, or accomplishing what they’re capable of. They strive for ultimately what can never be achieved– perfection.  The latter, well, they are just victims of circumstance.

Of course it’s never all or nothing, folks. The world is not black and white, and neither are people. But they can act this way, believe this way, and ultimately what it leads to is dissonance. Which is exactly what these camps have in common. Discomfort. But it’s coming from different sources.

I don’t want to address the less-than-responsible people today.

You meat locker people– those of you have decided that there is inherently something wrong and bad about you. You’re right. We’ve all got facets of our personalities that are less than becoming….downright ugly at times. And the sooner we can accept that, the more self-compassionate we can be. Self compassion doesn’t mean self-pity. What it does mean is letting yourself off the hook– the one you’ve hung yourself on in your own personal meat locker. The meat locker is that “I’m my own worst critic” voice. How about rather that our own worst critic we welcome in a friend who we can sit in front of like a mirror and let her reflect was she sees. Not in a judgmental manner but one of genuine care, acceptance, and an expectation of understanding.  If you’re searching for change or you are uncomfortable, it’s not change you’re actually looking for. You’re desperate for things to remain the same. But understanding that change is inevitable, that everything is fleeting, that nothing right now is the same as it is right now, can do a few things for you.

a) It can create in you a perpetual student– keep asking the why’s, but do so like a scientist, an observer

b) It allows you to relieve yourself of the need to push too hard toward some things and to push away other things. In other words, you become skilled in being right here, even if right here is not ideal

c) It allows you to trust in the uncertain nature of life- -not a thing remains the same; we live in the unknown; most of what we want answers for, there aren’t any answers for, and our suffering is a product of clawing our way through what we think will create answers.

d) It gives you the ability to treat your life like a great expedition. You’re an explorer. Explorers don’t “hope” and “wish”. They navigate. And yes, they may run right into some storms and suffer setbacks, but they expect them.

e) It teaches you not to force change. Change is going to occur whether you want it to or not.

What a gift! If you’re in the meat locker right now oh how lovely the transformation can be!  The melting self-forgiveness and the transcendent nature of coming to terms with our frailties and ugliness, but also the beauty that we can extract out of life when we’re not so hung up on what’s wrong with us …….thank you Mr. Blog Follower for giving me the word to end this blog with: Wow.

Where has Personal Responsibility Gone?

10 May

Okay, I’m angry. I was on the treadmill this morning reading the NPR Health headlines, and every page had an article related to nutrition.

  • Food deserts and the impact of low availability of and access to nutritious foods in low income neighborhoods
  • the continuing rise in obesity (big surprise) and its influence on soaring health care costs
  • a rant by an author about how some states are banning bake sales because of how unhealthy they can be (I love this, but the author was not happy about it. Oh the places I could go with this.)
  • an article about how mothers of infants who are obese (yes, you read that correctly– INFANTS) misinterpret how fat their babies are, oftentimes rating them as normal or underweight
  • a description of the rising tide of childhood type 2 diabetes and how the typical meds given to adults are ineffective, in addition to how apparently lifestyle interventions don’t work either to relieve the condition

Am I the only one who is freaking livid about how people are choosing not to take care of themselves, much less their freaking children?!

As I was running I thought, “You know what? My health insurance premium is going to go up again. Each year I see it rise. Each year I take better and better care of myself. I’m not paying for MY health care! I’m paying for everyone else’s! I’m paying for the hospital visits of people who have a heart attach because they are among the fastest growing members of the obesity population– the people who are 100 lbs or more overweight! Are you kidding me?!”

At what point do you look down and recognize that you have a responsibility to do something different. It’s not just individual lives that are influenced by each of our decisions. It’s society! It’s time to wake up and look around. Just because 70% of people are overweight doesn’t make it OKAY! What happened to hard work, effort, and responsibility for our own health being the norm? I grew up poor. One parent. One amazing mother who sure, could have done some things different (we call can look back and say, “Wow, I messed that one up!” and we SHOULD!), but who also worked her fingers to the bone, didn’t sleep many nights, but put food on the table (and yes, made sure the meals were as balanced as possible, even if the vegetables came from a freaking can), and showed me what it meant to be self-determined and to not expect things to be handed to me.

Personal Responsibility- how has it disappeared? How do we get it back? Are you implementing a level of accountability in your own life? Getting support from trusted individuals who can help you develop this if it’s lacking?

What’s In Your Feed Bag?

6 May

My life revolves around food. I’m surrounded by it– figuratively and literally. Preparing for a competition, tracking is imperative. Planning of meals, anticipating the day ahead, identifying what needs to be prepped ahead of time and how much to set aside….all of these things are the normal daily occurrences of a competitor.

As a nutrition consultant, however, I am neck-deep in food-related activities with my clients as well. We talk about what is in food, why it’s a more or less healthy food, what foods might be good substitutions, recipes, grocery shopping, food label reading, supplementation, menu dissection, and travel planning.

Aside from these more practical aspects of food, we delve into the emotional side of food. It should not come as a surprise that many individuals who are struggling with overweight or obesity have emotional eating and addictive type behaviors related to feeding.  How many people do you know who binge eat who say they enjoy every moment of the binge? That they taste, with precision and clarity, the various high notes and low notes of the food, like an avid wine connoisseur, and feel the tantalizing textures of each morsel as it is consumed?

Emotional eating is the opposite of clarity, of presence, of in-the-moment mindfulness. Emotional eating takes one away from experiencing the right now.  Emotional eating clouds our minds, beats up our bodies, and is a message (and you won’t likely hear it until you’ve put down the peanut butter) that we need to listen more closely, REALLY listen, pay attention, and be WITH our selves.

Are you  lost? If you’re an emotional eater, I’ll answer that question for you. Yes, yes, you are. You’ve strayed so far away from who you are, that when you do experience yourself, you don’t trust that you can handle it. When you’re uncomfortable, what do you do? When you’re anxious, where do you turn? When you’re discouraged, what’s the first thing you think of reaching for?

How come food is the go-to? Does it help? When you’re done eating do you feel better?

What if you could learn to manage rather than masticate when your recognize your discomfort?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you  know I’ve written numerous articles on binge and emotional eating, and the necessity of becoming more emotionally intelligent through emotion recognition, acknowledgement, and effective management. Mindfulness is a key component of this process and includes learning how to sit with the feeling in a nonjudgmental manner, understanding that it will pass, that it doesn’t define you, and that you are not the only one who has had it. In essence, it’s a process of destigmatizing it and neutralizing the power  you give to it.

Part of healthy coping, however, is also a form of distraction. No, there is nothing wrong with sometimes getting busy, taking your mind off of something that is bothering you, and giving yourself a “time out.” Distraction can be nurturing if it’s not an activity that is inherently damaging. It can “feed” you in a healthy way, without the use of food, and it’s good to have some activities that you enjoy and can eat up when the need arises.

I like to close my eyes and just breathe, come up with new ideas for my blog, read the magazines that have stacked up , surf the internet for creative recipes that I can eat and then also share with my clients, and make notes for the upcoming Diet Doc books that we’re writing.

Consider creating a bag of token items  that will remind you of your favorite emotionally nurturing activities.

It may just be what’s needed to move you away from asking “What’s in the cupboard?”

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