What’s the Best Exercise?

The BEST workout is the one you'll keep doing.The best exercise is the one you’ll keep doing.  It’s the one that challenges you – not because it hurts so much – because it draws the best version of you to the surface.  When you’re finished, you shine; both on the outside and on the inside.  If you’re not glistening with sweat and satisfy action after your workout, maybe it’s time to shake it up.  This brings us to another obstacle in my “Tips for Getting Over the Exercise Hump” series:

“I’m bored with my routine and don’t know what to do.”

About every four weeks, I get bored with my workouts.  It’s like clockwork.  The standard advice from fitness folks is to spice up my routine with new challenges.  Go a little longer, a little faster, a little harder.  These are not bad ideas.  I found tiny improvements – especially when I first started exercising – helped me stay motivated.  Instead of five minutes on the bike, I pushed for seven.  Instead of ten laps in the pool, I stretched to eleven.  These upgrades were like little celebrations on the way to a big party.  In fact, I started chopping up my progress into littler and littler goals, just so that I could have more to celebrate.  It was a fantastic way to keep my aching body moving forward.

Once I ramped up to a level of endurance which could take me farther and allow me to do more, I had to find new ways to keep boredom at bay.  I’ve found two methods quite helpful:

1)      Grow with the seasons.  Use Mother Nature as a guide for defining your workouts.  This works well in places like Montana where we have four, distinct seasons and lots of outside exercise options.  In the spring, I chose to train for a half-marathon.  Early morning training walks became magical as the dew distilled all those fragrant, spring aromas into crisp air.  I felt alive!  This summer, I’m getting back on my bike and combining my daily commute with my workout.  Feeling the wind against my face, and the speed under my wheels, reminds me of being a kid.  This fall, I will awaken my hiking legs and bag a couple of local peaks with some stellar views.  By winter, I’ll be ready to snow-shoe through the powder and bask in the blue skies of February.  Then, next spring, I’ll brainstorm it all over again.

2)      If outside activity is not an option for you, then I suggest shaking it up with special, short-term programs.  My gym hosts a plethora of five-week classes like:  Core Obsession, TRX, and more.  Adding these topic-specific programs allows you to sample new exercises.  Who knew you could get such a surge in your routine out of a giant beach ball?  How is it that a couple of well-placed straps can reveal muscles you didn’t even know you had?  Using your body in new ways can sculpt and trim your frame quicker and easier.

What if you’ve done all this, however; and you’re still bored?  If you’ve celebrated small goals along the way, played outside, and tested new programs – but still suffer from incessant boredom – it’s time to look inward.  I try something new every four weeks, but I wonder…will I just get bored in another four weeks?  What happens after that?  I’d like to understand this habit of boredom and overcome its numbing power.

I found understanding in an astute observation from Marianne Williamson:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Marianne’s words challenge me.  Could I be using boredom as an excuse?   If nothing keeps me engaged anymore, then maybe it’s more than boredom.  After all, I’m the common denominator in all this.  Could I be blaming boredom when I’m really just avoiding exposure by my own light?  If I truly lived up to my potential, then I’d have to admit that I am the only one in my way; I bare responsibility for how my body feels and looks, even for how my life looks.   That kind of accountability feels too stark, too bright.

But, I can’t resist the hope inside Ms. Williamson’s words.  If I could learn to live in my light, imagine what I could do!  Imagine how I could feel!  Maybe I could start with small steps – taking a queue from when I first started exercising – and learn to live in my light bit-by-bit.  Maybe my exercise routine is the perfect place to start.

If I could forsake boredom by insisting upon bringing my light to something as simple as riding a bike, then I could discover what’s on the other side of that weary fog.  Where do I start?  By making how I’m working out just as important as why.  First, I want my workout to be something I love which makes me feel more like my true self.  Then, as I’m breathing heavy, I go inside.  I notice how clean and clear I feel.  I focus on each instant, inhabiting the present.  I sense strength as my muscles meet every flex with vigor.  I hear my heart beat solid in my throat.  I tap into a power source greater than breath and body.  I glow with energy.  In this moment, I am the light, and I find myself smiling.

So, if boredom is an exercise hump that keeps you from your light, let your workouts evolve just as you do.  Change, grow, and become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Take Home Tip

Find a workout which makes you feel more like your true self.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds weight loss eGuides: “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside”  “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters”  “Eat to Thrive”

 

Shelby writes sassy, inspiring stories about weight loss.  In this blog, she chronicles her weight loss journey.    Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.

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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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Find My Purpose? Ugh! I Just Want to Find My Feet!

I’ll never forget an interview with Jillian Michaels (of Biggest Loser fame). When asked why she became a personal trainer, she answered (I’m paraphrasing here): I noticed that overweight people were shut off from many areas of their lives. I want to help them live life fully, and weight loss is one doorway to that.

That’s bang-on with my experience. Losing almost 100 pounds has blown my doors way open. However, they weren’t the double-doors of Destiny guarded by a Butler of Truth wearing white gloves and checking for dust. No, I’ve come through a wormhole of sorts, squeezing through and going where I hadn’t planned. Sure, I wanted to lose 100 pounds, but I had no idea that I’d have to root out the cause of those pounds. Jillian Michaels would probably say, “Of course!” Actually, she’s witnessed enough psychological breakthroughs to know it’s always about more than the weight. For me, those added pounds were tangled up in finding my purpose.

I’ve been searching for purpose most of my life. There are worse things to go OCD over — and everyone wants to be special — but I needed a purpose to feel my specialness. I created tons of pressure for myself, and that’s where I got into trouble. I ate and ate just to relieve my burden, so it’s not hard to understand how something as promising as purpose can become a 100 pound problem.

There’s another problem, though (one uniquely tied to purpose). It’s a closed loop of sorts, setting purpose up as both my drug and my cure.  When food didn’t relieve the pressure, I’d get down and dirty with all my unanswered dreams, as if mud-wrestling with my angst would earn me a victory, and the prize was my purpose. Often, nothing gelled, so I became even more desperate. How convenient, then, when a new prospect supplied fresh desire (“Ooh, shiny!”) The cycle rebooted. I was an addict addicted to rehab.

I’ll admit, this routine became a delicious distraction. It’s more fun to dream than to actually do the work of making those dreams come true. Plus, I wasn’t alone. Most everyone wants to align their work with their passion, and many people think they need to find their purpose before they can be happy.   We get lots of help forming that idea. Experts admonish us to follow our passion, but here’s the rub: they’re usually already passionate about something, and they’re usually talking to people just like them. To be clear, I see nothing wrong with setting goals or achieving dreams, but words like “passion,” “parachutes,” and “out-of-the-box” have become as sour as summer bed sheets to me. These are things that come after, not the things themselves. (Full disclosure: my first email address started with “outta_d_box.”)

What do I mean by “after?” After the wormhole. After the work. Unfortunately, I’ve not found any easy way around either. The only way I’ve found is through. Purpose hasn’t validated my life. It came already embedded, and I was always in it.   It took going through the wormhole to see that. Even when I’ve tapped out, I was still just recouping on the couch – living off a trickle-charge of hope – until I could get up and go again (“What’s next, Kemo-Slobby?”)

My cycle of escalating desperation came to a head in 2006. I got off the couch (Actually, the couch was more like a cliff, and I jumped off.) I quit my full-time job with benefits to make myself “available.” I wanted my willingness to attract fate to my feet, where she would scoop me up in her arms and let me ride that stallion of destiny across the sand dunes of life. Well, the last day of work, I remember thinking, “I don’t care. Even if I go down in a ball of fire, I’m doing this.” Six months later, I smelled like smoke. I hadn’t found anything. Nothing found me. Instead, I grew angry. That’s when I made fiery speeches to the Heavens. They went something like…

“This sucks!”

Silence

“No, seriously, this is not what I meant.”

Stillness

“Whatever.”

Time

“Great. What am I supposed to do now?”

More time

Fine. I quit.”

“We’re going inside.”

Uh, yeah, I think you misunderstood me. I’m going out, not in.”

“We’re going inside.”

“Inside? Heck no! I’ve seen the inside. I’ve had enough of what’s on the inside.”

Silence

Eight years later, inside is exactly where I’ve been. I sank into that place — reluctantly, furiously, and bitching the whole way – at least until I started to see real answers there.  (Learn from my mistakes in my weight loss eGuide, “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside.”)  For sure, the idea of going inside is scary – no one wants more pain – but what I discovered is that all my avoidance was more painful than actually sinking into the hurt. And there was hurt, lots of it. Once I looked at what was there, though, it was a relief. Plus, the hurt did not stay. It didn’t go away, either. Rather, it decayed on a curve. In its wake, healing happened. I relearned that I could affect my world. I owned my pain, and I was doing something about it. I became the healer of my own wound. That was more satisfying than any purpose I could have claimed.

Is searching for purpose a worthwhile endeavor, then? I still say “yes,” but if I skip over the obvious, then the search can be more of a hindrance than a help. On this side of the wormhole, more than having a purpose, I practice purpose. I plan. I do. I dream and make goals. I still want my life to have meaning, but how can it not? That’s what I ask now, and that’s the difference. My core desire remains active, but I’m not driven by it. This is a good thing. I am happier.

I don’t have to be all fixed up to practice purpose, either. My wound is still healing from the inside out, so I walk through life with a limp. However, I’m slower to judge and quicker to listen.  Otherwise, I’d probably become like those experts, only more annoying (“Hold my green tea and watch this.”)

I recently discovered the German poet Rilke. He described what I’m trying to explain when he wrote:

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees…This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”

Being overweight is a symptom, but it’s so much more than that. Big bodies can become gateways to healing. Every wound is an invitation to live life large. The hurt won’t disappear, but it will transform into an entry point for joy. The tenderness left behind becomes a safe place. That kind of recovery is contagious. It seeps out the sides, and purpose can’t help but gush from it.

Take Home Tip

For sure, the idea of going inside is scary – no one wants more pain – but what I discovered is that all my avoidance was more painful than sinking into the hurt.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds weight loss eGuide, “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside.”)

The Myth of Finding Your Purpose, by Kris Carr

“Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God” translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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7 Ways I Got My Body Back

January 2nd (and the Monday after New Year’s) are HUGE days for anyone wanting to lose weight.  I’m rebooting this post as a way to encourage anyone shooting out of the starting block today.

Seven years ago, I had a dream which I’ve never really been able to shake. I always wondered what it meant. I think I’ve finally figured it out. At the time, I was working with a therapist. I shared the dream’s details with her. I described the dug-out pit I occupied and how it resembled a sunken site of an old, archeological dig. We surmised why the pit’s fence – which ran along the top of the ground above me, at shoulder height – seemed more like a military perimeter. With its bulky timbers reinforced by steel rebar, I wasn’t going anywhere. Why did it need to be so strong? More intriguing, however, were the holes underneath the fence. Someone had dug out gaps underneath the fence. Just enough space for a torso appeared along the edges every ten feet. Why had no one filled them in? Had hope carved out each escape route, and I hadn’t bothered to replace it? Maybe there was no point, since a pair of army boots stood patrol on the other side of every hollow. Why the necessary precaution? Who was out there, standing in those boots, and why did I stand inside, alone? I felt trapped. My solace was the open, blue sky above me. Puffy, white clouds paraded over me. This brings me to my biggest question…

Why didn’t I just fly out?

All notions of “flying dreams” aside, this seems a legit question. I acted as if the sky was a roof. There wasn’t anything holding me back, except me. In thinking of the top seven lessons I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey, that’s the clincher. I see this self-limiting pattern over and over. Each of these seven ideas healed some element of whatever, or whyever, I was my biggest obstacle.

  1. Food can transform from currency into contentment. For most of my life, I’ve used food as currency. Food to feel my value. Food to reward my effort. Food to stand in for any desire I could not fill. The problem with this strategy is that I never experienced fullness. By using food as currency, I limited the amount of joy and contentment I could feel because food can only do so much. In addiction terms, I could only get as high as my next hit. I couldn’t stop this limiting cycle until I felt my intrinsic worth. I needed to connect with that unearned merit which abides at depths universal to us all. A Biblical poet put it best: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55) When I experienced my natural worth — which I cannot earn or have enough of anything to pay it back with — that’s when food transformed from currency to contentment.
  2. I do not have to lose 100 pounds before I feel better. When I first decided to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I thought I wouldn’t be happy until I dropped all that weight. In reality, I felt better after shedding just 15 pounds. I can remember having more energy, feeling less pain, and sleeping better within weeks. The 100 pound goal gave me enough hope to launch my journey, but it didn’t have to power me all the way. In fact, the inherent restriction of my goal, as it was defined by a total number of pounds within a given time frame, became a burden. That expectation felt heavier than the extra pounds I was carrying. In order to continue, without the heavy restriction, I had to trade big expectations for tiny victories. It’s those everyday wins which took me the rest of the way, bringing the finish line to me.
  3. “Set Point Theory” isn’t as sexy, but it makes more sense. “100 Pounds in 1 Year” sure rolls off the tongue, but without the pressure of numbers, I made space to learn an amazing lesson, called “Set Point Theory.” Basically, it’s what keeps lost pounds from never coming back. Researchers have found that a slow burn — no more than 5% of total body weight every three months – keeps weight loss below our starvation radar. If I lose weight any faster, then I could be wasting my time and shooting my future self in the foot. According to Set Point Theory, in order to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I would have had to start out weighing over 500 pounds. Indeed, that’s exactly where some folks start. For others, however, patient, compassionate weight loss and a return trip to the calculator and will avoid return trips to the diet isle.
  4. Weight loss is not a straight line but a meandering path through the woods. If I zoom out on my journey, taking a Google Maps view, I see lots of pitfalls and rabbit trails along the way. At first, I hated these obstacles because they slowed down my weight loss. But the hurdles just kept coming. They didn’t slow down until I slowed down. Turns out, I needed the hidden meaning in every detour. I learned to sink into the sand because there was probably something in there for me. If I tried to skip over it, I usually came back to it, anyway. I could only go as fast as my heart and mind could handle. Ironically, once I geared down to soul speed, I found oodles of freedom to play and experiment. Pit stops became hidden treasures and weight loss an adventure in living. My self-limiting insistence on a linear, start-to-finish highway to happiness seems silly and unrealistic to me now.
  5. Relationship brings results. So often, I’ve turned to tips and strategies for results, but copying other people’s fitness success works more like trying to push a button from behind by yanking on the circuitry. Tactics like counting calories, logging hours of exercise, or tracking total steps, these aren’t what cause fitness. They’re what comes after; after the choice to just show up, after frustrating days of missed workouts, and after the next day when I decide to pick up where I left off. All of these moments create a relationship, which is what really brings results. By sticking only to what worked for other people, I actually limited my options. When I drilled down to healing my relationship with myself, that’s when the power kicked in. I found out that I could trust my gut to lead me to my next, best step. Granted, it didn’t feel great all the time. I had walked around like a floating head for years; I was that disconnected to my body. It was scary to reconnect with my heart and mind through my body, even painful at times. But by staying authentic, no matter the circumstance, no effort was wasted.
  6. Get thinner but never stop getting thicker. I want to get thick, in my soul I mean. I want to slather on layers of life. I got into this journey by opening up to desire. I don’t want to stop now. I want to stay engaged with the juiciness of the Big Wow that infiltrates every part of every day. I think back to my days of eating drive-thru in my car on my lunch hour. I remember how utterly bored I felt with my life. To me, becoming thinner has happened more out of a sense of fullness, rather than depriving myself of joy (with food or otherwise.) By feeding awe and curiosity, I continue to uncover reasons to keep making healthy choices.
  7. I decided that I Already Have My Body Back. After losing 62 of my 100 pounds, I came to a crossroads. You may remember a recent blog when I slammed the proverbial table and declared, “I want my body back, dammit!” You know what came up after that release of pent-up angst? A quiet voice humbly whispered, Why not just decide to have it, then? This challenged me. What do you mean? I retorted. I can’t JUST DECIDE.   Turns out, I can. There’s this tune from The Antlers, called “Palace” (totally the sound track to my journey.) One phrase slays me: “…the day we wake inside the secret place that everyone can see.” That’s what this is. It’s inhabiting the beauty I’ve kept hidden from myself but which everyone around me has always seen. It’s the decision to fly out of the pit. This is possible because getting down to my real self wasn’t like peeling layers of rotten flesh from an onion. Not at all. It felt more like connecting with the orb inside. I kept nurturing myself. The onion grew bigger, got brighter, until its paper skin could no longer hold the glowing bulk and had to break off and fly away to make room for more. Granted, I couldn’t have gotten here before now. I needed more than a nice idea to try on. I needed to experience my body in healthy ways. I needed to trade out old clothes for new. I needed to climb mountains. I needed to see muscles flexing in the mirror. Now, though, I am ready to be who I’ve always been.

Take Home Tip

 

Why not just fly out?

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

For more in-depth, down-and-dirty-details of how I learned these lessons, check out the 100 Pounds eGuides

Listen to “Palace” by The Antlers

7WaysIGotMyBodyBackVisionBoard100Poundsin1Year

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What Flips that Switch Inside?

Lately, when sharing my story, the same question keeps popping up:  What does it take to get unstuck and make the healthy choices we already know to make?  It’s as if there’s this mysterious black box  that we cannot see into, but which holds the key to flipping whatever switch inside, so we can make the choices we want to make — but for some reason — haven ‘t.  I cannot know what will flip the switch for you, but I can suggest one way to feel for it.  I call it “Micro-Meditation.”  I started this practice as a way to calm my monkey mind.  To my surprise, it also helped me make better decisions, including the ones about what to eat and how to move.

I started inside my car, waiting for traffic.  I focused on where I placed my hands on the steering wheel, which finger reached for the stereo, or how I slid my sunglasses around my face.  Then, while getting out of the car, how I grabbed my purse strap before wrapping it around my shoulder.  How I leaned into the door to unlock the car.  Which foot hit the ground first and how my balance changed as I closed the door.  You see what I mean?  It sounds too simple to make a difference (Typing this paragraph took more effort than the actual doing of it.)  However, if I wasn’t practicing micro-meditation, I would be busy worrying, planning, or just being numb.  There’s lots to gain and nothing to lose.

Soon after starting this practice, my insides started to change.  It’s hard to describe, but it was that same feeling when every light turns green, you take curves with the perfect balance of speed and torque, and seas of traffic part with mere intention.  In one word:  flow.

I’ve since fallen in love with “Micro-Mediation” (when I remember to do it).  It works instantly at any moment without extra equipment.  It takes nothing from my day and, in fact, saves time because I make better decisions with more clarity.  When it’s time to choose a meal or workout, the switch almost flips itself.

 

Use Micro-Meditations to Keep Calm and Improve Decision Making from 100 Pounds in 1 Year

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The Christmas Hangover

a tired, Christmas pooch

I’m rebooting a Christmas-time post from 2012, as its a great reminder for when the Holidays get overwhelming and its easy to eat and eat out of sheer exhaustion.  Enjoy!

Flashback to Thanksgiving 2011, when I first committed to losing 100 pounds in 1 year.  This was an unusual time of insight for me.  Not only was I ready to get gutsy and make some major life changes (read more at Eat to Thrive), but I could see myself from outside myself.  Such eye-openers are a gift because they don’t happen all the time, but, when they do come, I try to sit up and take notice.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I snuggled into the corner of the couch with a cool, ceramic bowl of cereal cradled in my hands.  This wasn’t just any cereal bowl.  It was the biggest bowl I could find; large enough to hold leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving dinner.   As I balanced the heavy bowl in my left hand — making sure no milk spilled over the edge — I held an extra-large spoon in my right.  I dunked that spoon three inches deep into the cereal, lifted out a heap of granola and rice flakes, stretched my mouth wide, and shoveled it in.  I plunged again.  And again.  And again.  I snarfed that bowlful in minutes, stuffing mouthfuls as fast as I could chew and swallow.

As I tipped the bowl to my lips to sip the last puddle of milk, I saw my reflection; not in the bottom of the bowl, but inside my mind.  I saw myself, and I was sad.  I wanted that cereal to make me feel better.  I set the bowl down and, not for the first time, felt a familiar bloated feeling expand my stomach into a cereal baby.  I tried to get still.  I asked myself, Why am I so sad?  Once I made space to ask the question, the answer was right there.  Everyone at work – plus most of my family — had the week off, but I was still working every day.  I wanted time off, too.  What about me?

That day, I wrote myself a reminder for Thanksgiving 2012.  It read:  “Ask for Thanksgiving week off (Remember cereal snarfing last year?)”

That act – of noticing my pain and finding a way to change things – sparked a new holiday tradition for me.  This year, before Thanksgiving, and between Christmas and New Year’s, I took time to reflect on how I wanted the holidays to look.  This is a new skill for me.  I always thought that I had no say in how I had to get through this time of year:  stressing out with extra errands, making appearances at various parties, pulling meaningful presents out of the shallow hat that’s our Christmas budget, and muddling through the hollow letdown of the day-after-Christmas Hangover (Not necessarily alcohol-induced, more like “expectation induced.”)  Before last year, it never occurred to me that I have a choice in how the holidays roll.  Surprise, surprise:  I can enjoy this season; it doesn’t have to bully me.

To that end, I’d like to share with you my simple reflection routine for the holidays.  I use the following questions to frame my intentions.  Things don’t always go as planned, but that’s o.k.  Feeling centered matters most.  That way, when things do change, I don’t create a story in my head that I’m helpless or pushed; I just adapt to find another way towards my intentions.

Before I dive in, you may wonder, How does all this relate to losing weight?  First, consider the fact that stress (especially six weeks of it during the shortest days of the year) almost guarantees weight gain (read more at Chronic Stress and Weight Gain).  Also, planning ahead can mitigate some of my mindless munching because I’m more present, more centered.  There’s nothing like a party platter to shortcut my best intentions, especially when I didn’t have time to eat dinner because I had to stop at the post office to mail gifts.  Lastly, there’s a happy spillover effect from creating intentions and watching how they change my reactions to circumstances.  Intentions are like built-in homing beacons.  They become reference points to help me track where I’m at on my mental map.  Experiencing that level of control – even the extent to which I let myself get out-of-control – can fuel my self-esteem and store up some seriously good ju-ju for the coming year.

O.K.  Here’s my holiday reflection routine, plus my intentions from this year…

Thanksgiving Week

  • What tradition(s) do I look forward to?  What tradition(s) would I like to let go of?
    • This year, make it a priority to bake with hubby.  Driving around and gawking at Christmas decorations for three hours can disappear from my list faster than a burnt bulb can take out a whole string of lights.
  • How do I want to feel during the holidays?  What activities fuel this feeling?  What activities take from it?
    • I want to feel relaxed but excited.  I want to feel like I have enthusiasm and that all of me can show up for what comes next.  I want to sit down with a calendar and gift idea list and prioritize my time and money.  I will keep my finished list of priorities with me in my purse, as a reminder of how much I am already doing and what’s important to me.
  • Gift buying – how do I want to feel, standing in line at the store or clicking through the Check Out online?
    • I want to be happy enough to give the cashier a smile and complement him/her.  I want to not feel burdened by money, so I will make some homemade gifts this year (go to Christmas Treats that Won’t Make Me Fat? for hubby’s Cranberry Walnut Bread recipe.)  I want to feel smart and efficient by being picky about online shopping, so I will do some research before rushing over to Ebay.
  • Gift giving – after all the presents have been unwrapped, and all the “thank you’s” said, what thoughts do I want running through my mind?
    • This was the best Christmas ever!  I love what I got!  I’m sure glad _______ liked their __________.  It’s sure going to be fun to go (insert activity here) tonight.
    • Sidenote:  its amazing how buying an inexpensive gift for myself on Christmas Eve actually left me free to enjoy each present for what it was.

After Christmas

(The day after Christmas is a juicy time for reflection, since that hangover feeling still stings strong.)

  • What did I like best about this year’s holiday season?  How can I do that again next year?
    • This year, I sure enjoyed connecting with my brother who visited from Chicago.  Next year, if he can’t make it, maybe I could skype him or play some online game with him.  Or maybe we could levy a bet on a Steeler’s game.  I’d love to visit him in Chicago someday.
  • If I were Santa Claus, what would I do on the day after Christmas, after delivering billions of presents all around the world in 24 hours?  Can I make time/space to do that for me now?
    • I would get a haircut and schedule a deep, soothing massage.

Feel free to change up these questions and make them work for you.  Also, be sure to print out your answers and keep them in a safe place for next year’s reflection.

Happy Holidays!

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.  

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Infographic: Prevent Holiday Over Eating

Just in time for all of the holiday parties…

3 Tips for Preventing Holiday Over Eating from 100 Pounds in 1 year

 

 

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Dear Phat Girl: 3 Ideas+1 Big Ass Principle to Prevent Overeating During the Holidays

Dear Phat GirlDear Phat Girl,

The Holidays are just around the corner, and I’m already cringing at all the food and sugar and drinks there will be. I want to enjoy the season, but I’ve got a history of overeating. I’ve tried all the advice you read in magazines like counting calories, eating off smaller plates, and having a salad before a party. Thing is, I’m smarter than the plates or the calories, and I know how to bend the rules. Isn’t there something else I can try that will work better – preferably with alcohol? Thanks for your advice.

 Sincerely,

 Stuffing the Stuffing in Newport, CT

 Dear Stuffing the Stuffing,

I’m reading your email and doing a halleluah jig! I love it when all of our best efforts have failed us. Why? Because these sorts of letdowns reveal how bankrupt most quick tips are of any real power. That realization is the beginning of change. Truth is, the end of one experiment is often the beginning of a new route not thought of before. It’s through repeated trial and error that I’ve discovered the kind of success that trumps the tricks and leads to lasting results. In this regard, there are no failures. We’re all just learning as we go, peeling the layers away and (sometimes) crying over our onion. Sounds like you’re redy to go deeper and make a hearty, life-stew out of those onions.

Before I reveal the recipe, though, I’m glad you mentioned the Big Three tips for portion control that have been chewed-to-death. You’re right. We are smarter. (Really? Who knew? WE DID!) The truth is, when I want more food, I’ll find a way to get it. Counting calories? Heck, I’ll just do two work outs – tomorrow. Smaller plate? No worries, I just go for seconds. Become Vegetarian before the Christmas Party? Hah! There’s plenty of room in my gullet for red wine and a lick off the ol’ cheese ball. Like I said, we’re smarter than any diet rules.

That’s why I’m working on a new eGuide called, “Ditch the Diet.” Without diet rules, I’m left to my own wanderings and designs. I have to learn to follow my gut instincts. So far, my gut hasn’t failed. It’s not that I’ve totally surrendered and become a fudge whore. Rather, I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat. I want the same for you, so let me start you off with three ways to trust your own gut and bypass the overeating drama throughout the Holidays and beyond.

  1. Make friends with food. The Holidays are about celebration, and when we go to work in the dark and get home in the dark, we need a reason to celebrate. When I realized most of my Holiday snarfing was out of this simple – yet critical – need, then I embraced the buffet.
    Practical Idea: Give yourself permission to celebrate with food. See the spread as a gift rather than a burden. Then rejoice with a few of your favorites. Relish them. Let them sing Christmas carols to you as all that merriment melts on your tongue and drizzles all the way down.
  1. Less is more. When I feel deprived, I eat more. When I feel content, I eat less. Contentment, however, comes in many packages. Self-care is one form. When I discovered my tendency to put myself last in the storm of holiday busy-ness, I started tracking my contentment level. Turns out, a lot of my overeating stemmed from a latent sense of neglect. I literally came to the table starving for attention. As I learned to cull the herd of holiday to-do’s, I made space to do something special for me each day, however small. My contentment level rose and my overeating lessened.
    Practical Idea: Brainstorm tiny things that bring you joy and unwrap these moments like a petite present to yourself each day. You’ll be less inclined to stuff the stuffing because you’re already full on the inside.
  1. Give Baby Jesus a break and stop demonizing your food. When I label a food “bad,” I judge myself a “failure” when I eat it. Feeling weak or lazy is the quickest path to giving up, which means I’m primed for a gorge session. I can reroute this whole vicious cycle by ending the good/bad labelling of food and asking instead, “How will this bite make me feel?” At the very least, this makes me more honest with myself. At best, I create just enough space inside to make an intentional choice and accept the consequences.
    Practical Idea: Next time you’re holding a paper plate of goodies, examine each one and imagine how it will make you feel. The next step will be entirely, deliciously yours.

 You may notice a common theme in these ideas. They all create connection. In fact, they’re less about food and more about you reconnecting with you. Carrying too much weight can, over time, cause you to disconnect from your body and your heart. It’s no wonder, then, that when they need attention, they’ll use food to get it. The good news: your rich relationship with food can be your best teacher. This year, sideline the snappy tips — which only serve to keep you disconnected, anyway – and ask more of your food than the same old “should I/shouldn’t I” scuffle. Let food serve as your guru, your mentor, your minister. When the new year arrives, you will have gained so much more than the ten pounds everyone else did while staying in the struggle.

Take Home Tip

I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

More ways to make friends with food inside the 100 Pounds eGuide, “Eat to Thrive”

Comments or questions for Phat Girl?  Remember: every comment you enter below automatically submits your name for the monthly drawing of a FREE eGuide.

Yo, Phat Girl, I Gots Ta Ask..

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