Tag Archives: awareness

Why can’t you keep your weight off? — The 8 Essential Rules for Weight Maintenance

29 Oct

Recidivism among dieters has prompted major revisions in treatment methodology as researchers discover the significant contributions of genetics, psychology, and environmental factors to eating behavior. More than 85% of Americans have dieted during their lifetimes, yet the majority of diets offer little flexibility to accommodate the biopsychosocial components of the dieter’s life. Weight regain is virtually inevitable under these circumstances as self-regulation and emotional management deteriorate. No longer can the traditional focus of nutrition from the calories in versus calories out approach; exercise; and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) be considered the gold standard intervention trifecta. Studies report a 98% relapse (weight regain) rate following weight loss. Approximately 50% is gained back after three years and the rest gained back after five years. While discouraging, we can learn a lot from the two percent who are successful maintainers. What do they do? How do they think? Where do they differ in regards to behavior? Research accessing the lived experiences of successful and unsuccessful maintainers offer rich details that those of us who are actively engaged in the weight loss process and preparing to embark into maintenance can begin applying.

 

1.     Be constantly vigilant: The dedication you implement during weight loss must continue during maintenance. The effort you put toward your health cannot stop once you have reached your goal weight. Ask what you are doing now that you are willing to continue with when you achieve your goal. Defensive pessimism, a concept described in the weight loss literature, explains the adoption of an approach with a foothold in reality. Successful maintainers anticipate threats that may occur, know that there will be times they struggle, and plan ahead accordingly. Any goal that is met with commitment is one we will work toward with a “no matter what” attitude. Relying on motivation for goal achievement will lead to disappointment—we will often “not feel like it” or “not want to” do something, but those who keep on keeping on understand the fleeting nature of feelings. With practice, they can more easily move past them and onto how happy and encouraged they will feel if they follow through with what they know is in their best interest. Self-determination theory classifies these types of goals as intrinsic. Weaved into the fabric of our lives, intrinsic goals parallel our core values.

 

2.     Develop a support system: Not only is support the number one factor contributing to well-being and resilience, it is a primary element in maintaining commitment to weight maintenance related behaviors. While research shows that responsibilities in other contexts, such as familial, relationship, career, etc. can create tension that can lead to goal-compromising behaviors, having a support network minimizes the negative effects of goal threats.

 

3.     Challenge your ingrained beliefs and behaviors: Most individuals who have been on and off of diets for most of their lives acknowledge the entrenched beliefs and meanings around food often created in childhood. Food as comfort, food as love, and food as a stress reliever are three of the most commonly held attachments to food. Many of us grew up hearing “clean your plate” or “you can have dessert when you finish your dinner.” Throwing away food was unacceptable. On the other hand, many are brought up in households of abundance. Food was always available and access unconnected to hunger. In essence, it was used as a pacifier when negative emotion was experienced (i.e. getting a cookie from during a time of upset). Successful maintainers become conscious of their motivations to eat and begin rewriting their narratives about food and the relationship they want to have with it.

 

4.     Self-monitor: The National Weight Control Registry is a wealth of information from over 10,000 individuals who have lost and maintained their weight for significant periods of time. Self-monitoring is one behavior you will hear them mention repeatedly as critical to their weight maintenance success. Practical aspects of monitoring include consistent weight tracking, monitoring of portions, engaging in regular exercise, and setting boundaries around eating practices. Emotional monitoring to avoid engaging in stress eating or eating for reasons unrelated to hunger include practicing awareness and management of stress, choosing more effective methods of dealing with negative

emotion, but also being flexible and compassionate with one’s self when setbacks occur.

 

5.     Adopt a growth mindset: Carol Dweck, a researcher from Stanford University, has studied the difference between a growth versus a fixed mindset and its impact on goal achievement. Individuals who take steps toward their goals with a growth mindset focus on discovery and exploration and believe that through learning they can develop skills and enhanced knowledge and proficiencies. It encourages persistence and expectations of failure for the purpose of greater success. We learned to walk by falling! A fixed mindset, on the other hand, encourages one to give up easily and reduces the likelihood that grit will be extended toward mastering something new. The concept of neuroplasticity and the manner in which we can be active participants through adulthood in changing our brains should provide ample evidence and motivation to continue learning! The growth mindset spurs individuals to be on the lookout for opportunities, and expansion of one’s biases and normal ways of behaving increases gray matter in the areas that matter most too. Your prefrontal cortex will thank you! Finally, successful maintainers adopt a non-perfectionistic approach. While they may not like failure, they embrace it and give themselves permission to experience it; they allow versus avoid painful emotions and disappointment, thus positioning themselves toward greater pleasure; and they are grateful for their successes.

 

6.     Be structurally flexible: Successful maintainers understand how rigid food rules and depriving themselves of their favorite foods creates more cravings, more urges, and the propensity to binge. They realize that they can’t eat whatever, whenever, but they plan for indulgences in moderation. Structured flexibility gives them a sense of control without the belief that willpower will carry them through the tougher situations. They learn to ask questions of their cravings and check in with themselves to understand what might be driving their urge to eat. They practice recognition of black and white/all or nothing thinking as well as distorted thinking that propels them toward mindless or emotional eating. For example, the use of “I choose not to” versus “I can’t eat that” feels empowering and more intrinsically motivating. Being structured but flexible means having high expectations in combination with the understanding that uncertainty is inevitable and will require reflexivity and responsiveness rather than impulsivity.

 

7.    Develop a toolbox of strategies: Different contexts demand different strategies. What is effective in one situation may not be appropriate for another. But successful maintainers know that they have the choice to change their environments or change the way in which they respond to them. In some contexts, an “if__________, then____________” approach can work well. This is called an implementation intention. For example, “If Don asks me if I want some dessert, then I will say ‘no thank you’ and excuse myself.” In other contexts a more flexible, responsive approach is needed. This could mean drinking more water when a cravings is felt; pausing to really assess physiological hunger; repeating a motivational, empowering mantra; asking a question to increase awareness; and/or slowing down during a meal to fully experience satisfaction and reduce overeating. In essence, successful maintainers create rituals—new patterns of behavior that help to create lasting, meaningful change.

 

8.    Master mindfulness: Successful maintainers describe how they’ve acquired a new sense of themselves—about their bodies, about their minds, and about their lives and what is important to them. As they have practiced opening up to new experiences, objectively assessing their circumstances, and observing their behavior less judgmentally, they see their lives through new lenses. They practice being present, more compassionate, paying attention, deepening their awareness, avoiding avoidance, and intentionality. Through such practices, a successful maintainer can recognize that different identities sit down to eat sometimes – identities based on prior learning, on comparisons of self to others, and ideas about what others believe.

 

Don’t miss out on the discussion! Tell us about your emotional triggers and the biggest difficulties you’ve had as you move toward your goal of weight loss OR if you’re working on keeping it off! What bogs you down and gets in your way?

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Starving, Stressed, and Stockpiling

1 Sep

We’re involved in a crisis. It’s epic. It’s huge. Just like we are.

We’re starving. Yet we’re fat. Ironic.

We’re suffering from a severe deficiency. As much as we eat, and we’re lacking nourishment.

Our bodies are deprived and I argue it’s because we’ve lost our minds. Literally.

When I hear “Kori, I’m hungry…all the time”, as a nutrition consultant, I go automatically to the structure of the diet. The nuts and bolts– what are you eating, when are you eating it, how  much are you eating when you’re eating. I’m looking at the blood sugar response they are creating based on these components of their intake. This is not a comprehensive list, of course.

The second place I go though, and the fact that I’m a therapist makes this a bit less daunting for them (or it’s the reason they’ve come to me in the first place), is straight to the heart of the matter. The heart, and what I’d argue is the center of our wisdom. What’s in there is what we’re constantly trying to feed, except the nourishment (or what we’re mistaking for nourishment) we’re giving it often leaves us feeling more empty, more deprived, and more hungry.

So we’re starving. But it’s not for lack of food. We’re starving for contentment, we’re starving for authenticity, we’re starving for connection, we’re starving for competence, we’re starving for worth, we’re starving for freedom, we’re starving for the creative capacity to be ourselves in a world that says we’re not good enough as we are, we’re starving for presence, we’re starving for attention. (By the way, as I was typing this my cat jumped on my lap and didn’t stop meowing in my face until I paid attention to him. The second I met his eyes, even without touching him, and spoke softly to him, he stopped crying, laid down, and fell asleep).

Wrapped up in this spiritual starvation (and by this I just mean the “whole” of who we are) is the stress response. When I say we’re starving for attention, I am not referring to the attention we get from others, although this is likely an unfortunate reality in our automated, digital world, which has us developing less genuine relationships with others; I’m speaking to the attention we’re giving the moments of our lives– the awareness with which we approach each situation, event, person, task, meal. The attention we put into this second, right now determines our embodiment– the essence of our being, how in tune I am to what’s occurring around me and inside of me, and how open I am to experiencing this experience. Sound a bit hokey?

Consider the results of a published in Gastroenterology assessing the concept of “dichotomous listening.” (Imagine being at work and trying to listen to the individual on the phone when your boss walks in and starts talking about some new ideas he’s been wanting to share with you– I know you’ve been there). In this study the subjects were given a mineral drink when in a relaxed state, and then again when exposed to the same sort of situation as the one described above. Absorption for sodium and chloride was tested for both conditions. Absorption in the small intestine occurred at a rate of 100% for the relaxed group. Care to guess the rate for the distracted group?

Zero.

Paying attention to two things at the same time resulted in 0% absorption. (Now think about what happens when you inhale your meal sitting in front of the television with your computer on your lap checking for text messages on your smart phone).

Now back to the stress response. Something similar happens when you’re in fight or flight mode. First, remember how this response came about- it was necessary and useful when we were at risk of being eaten by lions. The threats of the 21st century are far from life-altering. Well, let me rephrase. What we are perceiving as threatening in the activities of our daily lives do not necessitate the kill or be killed reaction. Second, digestion stops when we’re in stress mode. There’s a reason that the opposite mode, governed by the parasympathetic nervous system, promotes “rest and digest”, and aptly, the “feed and breed” activities. When you’re stressed out, all you can think about is sex, right? (I had to go there). Finally, the stress response prompts fat storage through an increase in cortisol production which dumps glycogen, then glucose into the blood stream, causing a subsequent release in insulin, and when insulin is released you cannot burn body fat—it prompts fat storage.

Which brings me to the stockpiling effect. Most of us appear to be living in big bodies, yet we’re not at all operating with big minds. We’re not big thinkers– curious, inquisitive, open, captivated by ourselves and others. No, instead we’re mindless automatons just doing what everyone else is or what everyone else says we should, and eating what others say is best for our bodies with no clue as to the effects. So we’re stockpiling fat and we’re stockpiling meaningless information, and we’re doing it in a less than thoughtful or aware way. Fritz Perls, an 1800’s, astute psychotherapist and father of Gestalt Therapy, said, “awareness cures.” I couldn’t agree more. Particularly when you consider what’s involved with assimilation of the food we eat.

Wrap your brains around this: the cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR) relates to the “experience” of eating– the textures, the aromas, the colors, and the satisfaction surrounding a meal. It is,  in essence, a digestive mechanism that originates from the tops of our bodies– cephalic means “of the head.” Recall the last time you were google-eyed over the brownies you saw on your friend’s Pinterest board  or when you drove by Jimmy John’s (their marketing is brilliant) and caught a whiff of their “free smells.” Catching that fresh baked bread aroma wafting through the air and you may have noticed an instant salivary response. That’s the CPDR in action! Just by noticing a food, smelling a food, and then if you actually decide to eat, and are tasting and chewing the food, your body releases increasing amounts of saliva, gastric and digestive juices, pancreatic enzymes, hormones involved in appetite, and so forth. So this is great, right? Our bodies are pretty darn efficient and know what they need to function well. Except, what if we’re not following Fritz’s advice, and we’re operating like we’re living in the Zombie apocalypse?  Oblivious, stressed out, checked out, and maxed out? And what if we’re freaked out about not losing weight quickly enough or the “right” way? And what if we’re obsessed with the Food Network and spend all of our time stockpiling recipes and drooling over pictures in magazines of meals that we “can’t eat” or “won’t fit our macros” or maybe even making them but stockpiling them for later “when we’re not dieting anymore.”

I’ll bring your full circle. Are you paying attention?

You’ve created the optimal metabolic position for fat storage outside of any caloric considerations.

Nourishment travels far beyond food. Our brains and our minds must experience pleasure through the food, by way of awareness and presence to function in a manner that says, “I’m full.” You know what it feels like when you’ve had a heart to heart with your best friend? You feel full. You feel nourished. There is no gnawing hunger ‘for more’.

We can experience the same and cure our deprivation crisis with awareness.

You’re a human if you’re unveiling some crap. You don’t have to like it.

25 Jul

A significant misconception exists among many newbie mindfulness adopters.

It may sound mystical and I think it frequently turns people off because of its perceived leanings toward Eastern religion, but mindfulness isn’t about becoming religious. Perhaps for some, that’s important, but what I find is it’s much more easily accepted when it’s looked at for its tools toward becoming more in tune with one’s self and acquiring skill in concentrated awareness.

wpid-20130718_115011.jpgMindfulness meditation, while it has been around for thousands of years, has been garnering tremendous interest among fitness, health, and medical communities of late. Described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher and founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at UMass, as a compassionate, non-judgmental focus on present-moment experience, mindfulness meditation is among the top six most recommended therapies of complementary and alternative medicine. And it’s evidence-based! According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in 2006 slightly over 9% of Americans engaged in meditation. That same year almost a million children meditated, and school districts across the country are now teaching mindfulness to children in the classrooms.

If you believe meditation in its various forms, and mindfulness in general, is just a rather fruity way of achieving some sort of transcendental spacing out, think again. It is being used  by millions to achieve optimal wellness; to cope with anxiety and stress; to manage emotional pain; to decrease the debilitating effects of depression, insomnia, and chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease; and to manage the psychological effects and treatment of disordered eating and substance abuse, just to name a few. The children who practice it are more emotionally aware, concentrate better in class, and exhibit greater resilience in the face of setbacks. Spacing out has no place in mindfulness—it is all about tuning in!

ReflectIn a lecture I gave recently, while discussing the benefits of “leaning in” to our discomfort– taking a curious approach to it to peel back its layers and discover its underbelly– I was met with a concern from an audience member. She said, “Kori, how is that not wallowing in the pain?” A valid question. The story she had written as a young girl through experiences by her caregivers held the message of “don’t show your emotion, it’s inappropriate to feel, and if you express pain, you’re weak.” Great. So pain = wallowing? Except, we all experience pain- it’s part of the human condition. Can you imagine the difficulty this woman was having as she attempted to navigate difficult circumstances in her life? Mindfulness doesn’t mean wallowing. It means taking notice of what’s there, observing it, acknowledging it. There’s a responsibility-taking in this. An acceptance. And when you accept it you may not like it! Whatever you discover could be like stepping in crap- ew, yuck, gross! But the important piece of this is in the non-judgment of the result. So you don’t like it. Are you bad because you don’t like it? “SHOULD” you be experiencing it differently? I could give you a million examples of self-judgments and recriminations that I’ve heard throughout my work with clients, and I’m no stranger to them in my personal life. “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” Except you do.

“Because of the human tendency to perpetuate old emotion, almost everyone carries in his or her energy field an accumulation of old emotional pain… ~ Eckhart Tolle from A New Earth

Another client email exemplified this well. She said, “As I was digging to the bottom of the issue, I was not proud of what I found…” I got stuck on this statement of hers. It was honest, real, and captivating to me. Her disappointment, anger, and fear were all over the place. As I read her description of the situation though, these were the words I got hung up on.  She wasn’t keen on the issues she found at the root of her emotion…

Herein lies that which is at the heart of mindfulness. Being aware, non-judgmentally. Discovery isn’t “supposed” to be enjoyable all the time. Enlightenment doesn’t mean that we like what we find or that we illuminate beauty. Oftentimes we uncover some pretty ugly crap. But are we not blessed to have done so? The crap itself may stink, but it’s what we choose to do with the crap that matters. Attentive awareness brings to the forefront what we may never have been present enough to see before. It’s not just about inner peace all the time. It’s about understanding so we’re not being guided blindly by falsehoods and irrationality.

You’re a human if you’re unveiling some crap. You don’t have to like it.

The Wisdom Within Us

17 Dec

“I need….”

“I should…”

“I want…”

“I can’t…”

Does the pushing, pulling, clawing, scraping, scrapping, and suffering ever end?!

The things we cannot change end up changing usAt what point do you recognize that you’re incapable of controlling everything in your tiny, little world?

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I DO that.

And I realize the futility in it and how much valuable time and experiences I’ve missed because I’ve glossed right over the present to push for the future or grapple with the past.

The events that transpired this past Friday put at the forefront how fleeting our lives are. “Hug your children tighter tonight” were the words reverberating through the minds of  every parent who was target locked on the television to get every morsel of information possible.

Horrible. Tragic. Senseless. There is no making sense of events like this. The detectives do amazing work because people wants answers and the law demands it. They search for the truth in order to sew the events together to create something meaningful from them. If they can connect the dots it might help them feel a sense of closure. If you “know” something, there is at least the illusion of control.

I am not minimizing any of what is happening in CT, and I honor the individuals who have lost their loved ones. One of the reporters asked, “How long will it take the town to get over such a tragedy?”

Concentrate the  mind on the present momentReally? Again, we’re brought back to pushing and fighting and clawing and grasping for what isn’t.

I was discussing the events with my co-worker this evening, both of us commenting on what seemed an unreal composure demonstrated by some of the individuals shown in Newtown. He asked me, “If you were a parent of one of the children who died, what would you do?” I said, “I’d break down. I’d be incapacitated with grief.” I said this as I sobbed, my heart feeling like it was being wrung out to dry. And I do not have children.

Yes, I have realized the futility in dismissing the present, in operating with self-imposed blinders to my truths, and in bowing to fear or shame or guilt or embarrassment. Realization does not mean that I am able to live my life constantly in a state of intentional awareness though– open to what is, to this moment. No, there are times when I realize I’ve been walking around like a zombie, operating automatically, less than privy to what is going on in my body and mind. It’s during these times when I start to feel discomfort, anxiety, and dissonance. There’s a disconnect between who I am and what I’m giving my attention to. And when I do finally realize I’m in “this place”, and I ask myself, “What is wanting your attention right now that you’re not honoring, Kori,” the pain may become greater…for a second or for much, much longer, but it dissipates. For without acknowledgment, it will continue to grow. It becomes a cancer that eats away at our insides, unfulfilled and bleeding.

the most precious giftsSo many of us are striving for such perfection. All of our needs, our wants, our shoulds, and our have-tos amount to an unforgiving, absent, dismissive emptiness. We often miss what is right in front of us. Your child is saying, “Mama! Look!…Look!…Mama, looooook” while you’re typing away at your computer, getting annoyed with each tug on your pant leg. This is a small example of a moment–a piece in time that you can stop withIN, and before turning around with an exasperated sigh conveying the all too common, “I’m busy; I can pay attention to you later,” pause and recognize where you are. Pause and recognize what you are being held hostage by. Pause and accept the moment. No judgments for what you just felt toward your child. You felt it. You’re human. But feel. Pause. Accept. And then respond.

To me, this is wisdom– honoring what is inside of you but realizing you do not have to act on it. I’ve said before that the faster you run away from your feelings, the harder they will hit you when they catch you. And it’s not a matter of “if” they will catch you. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a book titled, “Wherever You Go, There You Are”. The premise is the same. We have this  now. We have this here. Can we invite this in? Can we honor it? Can we let the families whose children died this weekend grieve and not try so hard to get them to feel better? Can we let them find their internal wisdom while we stand by their sides?

To Think or Not to Think…That is not the Question

4 Dec

Brain as a ComputerEver have those days when you wish you could just CONTROL-ALT-DELETE your way to new thoughts, a different situation, or varied emotions?

I’m certainly not immune to moments of feeling frazzled and tired, maxed out, emotionally overloaded, or otherwise just wanting to left click on my hibernate button. At the end of each day I usually go into power saving mode, but I know well when it’s time to power down for a full battery re-charge.

During the work day I’m conscious of making sure the necessary downloads and back-ups are performed. I’ll need a lot of the information I create and collect later on. Fortunately, I also possess a pretty high tech machine that auto saves and regulates many of my running processes on its own.

You know what it also has though?  A bunch of default programs, many of which I am unaware of. And they surprise me sometimes.Those little pop-up warning boxes suddenly appear, and a noticeable shift in my usage level occurs. The list of running applications  gets longer, and I’m forced into either making a decision, freezing up, or short circuiting.

I used to choose what I believed to be the path of least resistance. I’d log off. I’d pretend that whatever was happening just wasn’t. I wish I could say it gave me the reboot I was looking for and everything ran more smoothly afterward. Instead, I just got bogged down, my RAM got closer and closer to the red, and viruses infiltrated my system  until I was forced to pay attention.

What I needed was a lesson in caring for my software, but also the skill to recognize and manage my hardware. I needed to learn how to regularly run the disk defragmentation and update processes.

Here’s the deal: like a computer with an operating system, we have background programs running constantly. These background programs- the lessons we learned as we grew up, the messages we absorbed that were conveyed to us by our early relationships, the environmental influences and genetic inheritances that exist for us that created our biases, limitations, fears, and conditions of our thinking– block our ability to fulfill our potentials. Rather, we fulfill our programming.

Unlike computers, however, we have the gift of consciousness. We can be critical and we can be vulnerable. But we also have to be willing to be these things. We can be more than empty operating systems just being run by the background applications, or we can engage our awareness, access our capacities, and grow our abilities and our sensibilities.

We can choose to install new programs, even a new operating system, but unlike a computer we can never erase what we were programmed with at the start. This makes our jobs quite a bit more interesting because it means we must develop a greater sense of our selves to live more  authentically. Those moments when you’re hitting max capacity or getting bogged down in details and you surmise,  “I think too much” , perhaps it isn’t that you’re overthinking. Perhaps it’s that you’re not thinking effectively. Perhaps the wrong questions are being asked. Perhaps the problem hasn’t been identified. Perhaps we haven’t thought enough to decide what  program we really need or how to write it.

effective-mind-controlIn essence, if the conscious mind becomes aware that the program isn’t good, you must do the processing to get a new program in. You must be aware of where you want to go, but also be conscious that you must act in another way for the program to work. All the while, your old circuits ( those self limiting, self sabotaging beliefs) will come into play. Slowly but surely, however, you can override them.

If we don’t think, we don’t feel. “Maybe that’s  good,” you may be thinking. A lot of feeling “hurts.” Except without emotion then we become robots. Without emotion we can’t experience empathy. Without emotion we live incomplete and disconnected lives.  Without emotion we can’t experience love. Without emotion we can’t be in real, genuine, raw, and fulfilling relationships. For you can’t share with others that which you cannot yourself understand. Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

How we think and what we think embody our perceptions and our attitudes, and these result in our emotional selves. The biochemistry of our bodies is altered with the feelings we experience. Fear produces cortisol, norepinephrine, and histamine, for example. And love? Well, love produces oxytocin and dopamine. Rather than the cells acting protectively like that password protection screen that pops up, they are enhanced, they grow, and they expand!

Love is expansive and all encompassing. You know what it feels like to be loved, to “feel felt”, to feel nurtured and understood. Can you imagine life having never felt love?

So we don’t want to do away with emotion. Other benefits exist besides becoming a more self-actualized person, however. Take, for example, the evidence that people who cry live longer than people who don’t, that gene activity is altered via the blood chemistry that changes as a result of emotion, & that love and compassion creates the optimal environment for neurogenesis. Yes, the cortex of the brain grows and expands. This is the area of the brain critical for our thinking and processing! But you’ve likely heard that we only use approximately 5% of our consciousness. That means that 95% of our behavior is based on the subconscious–those background programs, our ‘old stuff’ as I’ve referred to in previous blogs and articles. It’ll hang on, just sit back and watch, and see if you’ll respond when it pops up every now and then. And sometimes you will. Sometimes you’ll have what you consider to be an odd or extreme reaction and upon analysis realize that you were perceiving something that wasn’t there. In essence, the feeling wasn’t “real,” but the way in which it manifested in your body was!

“But what does all this mean?” you ask.

AuthenticityI’ll break it down into what I believe to be the keys to an authentic life:

  1. Learn to step away from your conditioned responses.
  2. Your old programming is what has been downloaded by others. You often didn’t choose it. Do you want to operate according to you or to others?
  3. When you live ‘consciously’ you empower yourself to create the life you desire.
  4. By paying attention, staying present, defragmenting, and constantly updating, you gain control.
  5. Authenticity means that you are not living in denial of who you are. Acknowledge and accept the old programs, and decide what you’d like to convert to a new file format or override with new programming.
  6. Ask yourself: “What is the highest standard I can hold myself to?” And update accordingly.

In my mind it’s not about thinking or not thinking.

I will think, and I will think often. But I will think well. And I will think critically. I will control-alt-delete my way to my task manager.

Stuff the Turkey—Not Yourself!

30 Oct

This blog went out recently in my newsletter, but I wanted to get it out to those of you who are not on that mailing list. (You can email me if you’d like to receive the newsletter each month — you’ll receive articles related to food/nutrition, mental edge and health tips and strategies, and recipes for healthy living.)

The recent events on the Eastern sea board I hope have given each of us a reason to pause and acknowledge how much we have, how fleeting the moments of wonder in our lives can be, and to be more present for those who may need our help in the wake of the disaster. You can apply the tools in this blog to just about every situation you might encounter in life that feels difficult– not just Turkey Day.

New research presented in San Antonio, TX at the September 24 Obesity Society Annual Scientific Meeting indicates that our feelings of fullness are somewhat governed by how much we perceive we have eaten. Wait, what? Seriously? There is psychology involved in our eating behavior? HOLD THE BOAT!

Research findings like this make me laugh. Perhaps it’s because of the nature of my every day work—psychology and nutrition consulting—that I easily go straight to “Um, that seems like a no-brainer!” But when I consider the general population’s goals and overall tendencies; the terrible state our nation is in; and how the holidays are quickly approaching and represent one of the riskiest periods for dieters and those who are working on losing weight and getting more fit, I take a step back and value the work going into parceling out the intricacies of eating.

Studies have shown that the amount we eat is guided by multiple factors—we’re humans with a prefrontal cortex and emotions that have made eating behavior about much more than fueling our bodies. If we’re talking about one meal in particular, portion size and plate size influences how much we consume. A small plate with no real estate showing appears to us as a lot more food than the same amount of food put on a large plate with the edges of each food item cleanly separated.  In a similar experiment, individuals drinking from a tall, thin glass thought they consumed more than those drinking from a short, fat glass. What does this data tell us? Well, a number of things, but importantly, that we’re pretty poor judges of our own consumption. Secondly, and perhaps even more compelling is the evidence demonstrating how our expected satiety, how full we think we will feel following a meal, influences how much we decide to eat. Similar results have been found just based on how a food item is labeled. Most people will think twice if something is “high calorie”, but they will eat more if it is “low calorie.”

Consider another experiment that had two groups of participants drink fruit smoothies made exactly the same way, and containing the same calorie counts. One group was told that their smoothies contained a lot of fruit, and the other group was told that theirs had just a little. Can you guess which group reported feeling fuller for a longer period of time?

With the holidays on our heels, I have clients already discussing their desire to plan ahead for how they will approach the parties, the baked goods brought into the office, the incessant flow of goodies given as gifts, and even the grocery store aisles laden with decadent desserts. Top this off with their concern regarding the pressure they may feel from others to partake in more food than they may want to.  We all know how tough it can be to “go against the grain”, and when everyone else is stuffing their faces with sweet potato pie, mounds of gravy- laden dressing and mashed taters, and piles of turkey, sometimes it just feels easier to “go with the flow” than to resist being poked and prodded and told “Oh, c’mon, have some more!” Yes, the gluttonous person next to you is right, “Thanksgiving only comes once a year”, but how badly do you want to spend the next year working off your holiday weight gain?

Most people don’t engage in this amount of consciousness-raising. We just eat when it’s time. We eat what’s familiar. And we eat when everyone else eats whether we like it or are hungry for it or not. We are creatures of habit, but we are also creatures of connection. We want to be accepted and if we expect that we’ll be looked upon unfavorably or teased for being more discerning about our food choices, we’ll avoid doing so. Essentially, we are on automatic pilot around food.  But we can reprogram ourselves to respond more intentionally, and it’s the only way, save for wiring your mouth shut, to avoid becoming a holiday heavyweight.

Ready? Follow these guidelines for mitigating mindless munching. Holiday meals do not need to end up with you lying on the couch in a carb coma thinking yet again, “Why did I do this to myself?”

(I get sarcastic with myself, and yes, I talk to myself…out loud sometimes. Keep in mind there is a specific reason I use each of these thoughts).

1.  Really? You’re THAT hungry that you would actually compare yourself to a starving child in Africa? (Brings me back to reality and out of emotional reasoning).

2. You do realize that you just ate, right? You consumed ___ protein; ___carbs; and ____ fat. I think you’ll be okay. (This is an objective, just-the-facts assessment of the situation; we can easily get carried away by our emotions and make poor decisions as a result. Think about the years past when you’ve just eaten a plate stacked high with food and then decided to dive in for a second round when you already felt full).

3. You can always eat again later. (Another objective statement; no emotion attached. Most holiday meals end up in leftovers for a week or two).

4. You could have pumpkin pie anytime. Why is it imperative that you have it—or 3 slices of it– RIGHT NOW? (Changes my perception of the situation; when I’m craving something or feel a sense of urgency to eat it, reminding myself that it’s always available takes away the thought that “if I don’t eat it now, I’ll NEVER be able to eat it,” which just isn’t true).

5. They’ve got their goals and you’ve got yours. You’re seriously going to justify eating that because everyone else is? (We are easily swayed by the actions of others. We want to fit in, we sometimes don’t want to explain ourselves, and let’s face it, when everyone else is doing the same thing, it can be more difficult to stay true to our convictions).

6. It’s not that you can’t have it, Kori. You could have it any time you want. You choose not to. (When we feel limited and caged and like we do not have a say, we want to break out of our box and prove that we have control. Think of the last diet you were on that mandated you eat a certain time, in a certain way, with a certain recipe. How long did it last? Structure is good– we thrive with it. But make it too rigid –”you can never eat that food again”– and you’ll likely want to bend the rules. Get back to reality and recognize that you can have any food you want; yes, you really can. But you are choosing not to have certain foods because you feel better without them, mentally and physically. Don’t eat every holiday food just ‘because it’s there’. Would you eat it anyway? If not, leave it well enough alone.)

7. You’ve been down this road before. Is it worth it? NOPE. (If your immediate, impulsive, no-pause answer moves you in the direction you desire, great. Impulsivity is a problem for most people here– I want it, so I eat it. Instead, develop some rules or standards for yourself. Rules are appropriate in some situations. For example, “I don’t walk into the break room” or “Cheetos give me a stomach ache. I don’t like them.”

8. You know the negative consequences far outweigh the short-term pleasure. Walk away. (Here I’m thinking of similar situations I’ve been in and where they have led when I make a certain decision. I love pita chips, but I don’t even go down the pita chip aisle. Why test myself? It’s like a recovering alcoholic going into a bar, sitting down, ordering a drink and willing himself not to take a sip. Why risk it?)

9. Is what you are thinking of doing in line with what you’ve said you want to accomplish? (We’ve all been there. We say we want one thing but then we act in a way that is incongruent with those wishes/hopes/desires/goals. Pause for a second and ask yourself if you want to be the broken record. Aren’t you tired of asking, “How come I self-sabotage?” I will answer that for you– because you don’t stop and RESPOND. You are impulsive and act without thinking.)

10. Are you even hungry, Kori? Genuinely, physically hungry?  (If I have to ask myself this question, there is a high probability that I’m not. And in that case, I am not going to tarnish my winning streak of positive decisions!)

Finally, follow these practical tips for keeping a food fest at bay:

  • The likelihood is higher that you will eat more if all the food is spread out in front of you. If you’re preparing the holiday meal, how about asking everyone to get what they like and then sit down at the table.
  • Put your fork down between each bite and take a drink of water. This will help you to slow down and for you to more easily register satiety.
  • When you’re chewing (rather than swallowing whole) your food (while your fork is out of your hands) focus on your senses. Tune into the smell, taste, texture, and sound of your food. Mashed potatoes make a “plop” sound on your plate and a “slosh” sound in your mouth. Crusty bread “crackles.”

The big takeaway here—if you are going to eat, just eat.

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. But when we discover that we know what we’re unaware of, we can start to take notice and begin changing our behaviors accordingly. I’d use the next month to start practicing the skills involved with operating in a more emotionally intelligent manner so that when the holidays roll around, you more skillfully stuff the turkey rather than yourself.

The DownLow on the D-Lo: Her Life as a Magic Bullet

28 Apr

D-Lo recently underwent a renovation- a spiritual revival of sorts. Imagine your good friend, the navigation lady, in her helpful tone saying, “Recalculating..” D-Lo has been recalculating, though not consciously, for quite a while.

Last month she was hit by a renovation revelation. She could see more clearly that what she had been working toward for so long was no longer necessarily what she was interested in. The direction she was driving was leading to a destination of disinterest. It was time to make a change, she thought, but what do you do when  you’ve done the same thing for so long? What if there is no road except the same one you’ve been on to take you in another direction?

Even though she knew that her current direction didn’t feel right, she had no idea what direction actually would. Now that’s some angst. How often have we asked ourselves the same questions? “Now what?” or “How do I know what to do?” Maybe we’re trying too hard to have the answer. Maybe not knowing the answer is exactly where we’re supposed to be because in that space of uncertainly is where it will be revealed.  The discomfort has to be there in order for us to become more observant and open to discovery and exploration.

In fact, research demonstrates greater well-being among individuals who can effectively restructure their goals. In a recent study conducted at Concordia University, breast cancer survivors showed significantly greater life adjustment, increased physical activity, and fewer physical symptoms as a result of goal redirection.

“By engaging in new goals a person can reduce the distress that arises from the desire to attain the unattainable, while continuing to derive a sense of purpose in life by finding other pursuits of value,” says Wrosch, one of the study authors.

“Abandoning old goals allows someone to invest sufficient time and energy in effectively addressing their new realities.”

D-Lo has been experiencing her new reality, the space, as boredom. “I’ve been bored…” She told me. “I feel listless.” She described how she has been searching for things to throw her energy into and she ends up landing on situations that she realizes aren’t at all what she knows she wants to change. Not bored– uncertain. She’s reaching, grasping, clawing for assurance. And she realizes it.

D-Lo is one of the most empowering women I know. Her life’s mission is to show young girls how capable they are and help them to find their inner drive and spirit to be the best they can be. She’s unbelievably inspiring. Ironic that she is now having to dig in and restructure, recalculate, and redefine who she is in the same manner as she asks many of her mentees.  Her tweet to me this morning said, “It’s time to shake up my life and be mmmeeeeeeeee!” (If you’re counting, there should be 9  “E”s).

D-Lo has made a decision to get lost. She’ll be recalculating quite a bit now, but she’s embracing it. She’ll set new goals, stick with some, give up others, and through each experience practice being true to herself. She’s creating her life as a Magic Bullet!  She’s popping the lid off; throwing in a variety of colors, tastes, and textures; and she’s ready to push the button to blend it all together. No doubt she’ll concoct some combos that are hard to swallow. Others will be smooth, creamy, and leave her yearning for more. But each one will be a stepping stone to an amazing D-Lo Supreme.

D-Lo, thank you for allowing me the pleasure of  knowing you, a woman of substance. I’m in the blender of life with you.

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