• What's the opposite of an eating disorder?

    A little confession for you: I have been thinking about going back to school. This is something I have said publicly that I was never, no never, not ever gonna do, so I am very slightly embarrassed about it. Or I recognize that not long ago I would have been embarrassed about this.

    Eating local is not the opposite of binge eating.

    Yes, I can see embarrassment from here. In the rear-view mirror. Whatever. Bye, embarrassment.

    Anyway, I am not thinking about school lightly, because I still might have a bit of Please Teacher psychology left, but the truth is I'm not entirely satisfied with my coaching practice. There's lots I love about it, and one of the those things is that, like most coaches, I have the opportunity to make a big difference in a very short time. Sometimes in a single session. A lot of people go their whole working life without that kind of job satisfaction, and I appreciate it very much. Where it's possible. 

    Because sometimes clients need more. Deeper understanding, more safety, longer engagements. And I'm really interested in being able to provide that. Thus, I have been looking at schools. 

    Which brought me to the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, an outfit in Boulder, Colorado, same place I come out of. Now there is good work being done at IPE, and I respect these people. But some of their ideas seem very … well, Boulder, to me. Here's one: They offer a list of 20 attributes of non-disordered eating. So, for example, if disordered eating involves mindlessness, then non-disordered eating means being present. Mostly sane stuff like that. But they also include attributes like "eating local," which made me go Huh?! "Eating local" is the opposite of disordered eating? WHAT NO.

    To me, "eating local" is a Good Person thing to do. You know, a Boulder-style Good Person, which also involves things recycling, meditating, and yoga. I like to eat local, especially when I'm traveling, but for me, overcoming my eating disorder had nothing to do with supporting local farmers, desirable as that is, and everything to do with undoing all of that Good Person crap.

    But I found it a very worthwhile exercise to define for myself the difference between an [my] eating disorder and eating sanity. Here's what I came up with:

    Disordered Eating
    : : :
    Eating Disorder
    Sane Eating
    Neutral Eating
    Delighted Eating
    Chaotic or rigid. Rules-based. Flexible. Guideline-based. 
    Painful Pleasurable
    Distracted or multitasking (reading, tv, "working," tense discussion) Present. Aware. Unitasking!
    Huge or teensy amounts (binge / restrictions) Moderate amounts. The middle way.
    Graze-itty graze! AND ya don't stop... Meals
    Body perpendicular, possibly at the fridge. Sitting down. In a chair. China, silver, napkins: Also yes.
    Fast / Superfast / Champion Competitive-Eater Fast Slow: SUH. LOW.
    Secret, secretive, ashamed Open, convivial
    Defensive. deserve this! Non-defensive because nothing to defend. I get to choose, and if the food police show up, I can teach them about boundaries.
    Quantity rules Quality rules
    Junky  Homemade / House made / Thoughtfully made
    Super-saturated tastes: Fatty, rich, sweet, umami preferred. Full range of tastes, including bitter, sour, sharp
    BEIGE All the colors + beige, which has its place
    Programmed (brain) Choice (body gets a weighted vote)
    Self-hatred, beatings. I did it again! Reflection + response. How'd that suit me? What might be good to try next time?
    Forbidden / prescribed foods. Good v bad. Uh-oh. Might be going to hell... All food is morally neutral. Nothing I eat makes me a bad person. 

    I could put more, but really, you could sum up the difference as being one of eating in service to the body, versus eating in subjugation to the mind, forcing the body into the subject position.

    So I would encourage anyone struggling with their eating to define what the differences are for them. You can just draw a T down the middle of a piece of paper, or you can use this simple blank worksheet I made for you. Download it here.

    I would seriously love to see what you come up with.

    Oh, and by the way,  I ♡ Boulder like a house on fire. It is the best place on Earth, next to Taos. Just so we're clear.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • #reverb2014: Releasing unfinished projects

    Regret not required

    Oh you guys! I am so excited about December this year, and it's not just because it's 60°F out, either. It is because I have begun what I think may be my last-ever bout of decluttering. (I'm very enamored of things that promise "last time ever".)

    And one of the big things I have begun letting go of is the project of expressing love for my children through food.

    Although I do believe that the equation Food = Love, though crude, is really not wrong (and millennia of human neurobiology appears to line up with that idea), my project at Casa Franklin was a little more sophisticated. I aimed to create an atmosphere of love and comfort and safety. I thought food - plus a little live Gilbert & Sullivan - would do that.

    I have enjoyed some success. I can now cook. But an atmosphere of love and comfort? I do not think any of my children would agree, although in my defense I will say that my kids and our circumstances presented some uncommon difficulties, and I worked my ass off trying to keep up. I'm gathering my strength to write about that another day….

    Today I want to write about my wise and funny friend Kat McNally's Reverb project, which is a series of reflective writing prompts, designed to help us release 2014 and get nicely set up for 2015. Kat is in Australia, and I am in New England, so my prompt, which appears tomorrow, is already up. It is this:

    What unfinished projects from 2014 am you willing to release now? (Regret not required.)

    Because decluttering is never just about tossing old pudding molds.

    (Side note: I have never made even one pudding for Christmas, never in my life. I feel that is rightfullly my grandmother's job. But oh! The fantasy. The convenience of clinging to the idea that Christmas would have had that Victorian perfection if only you'd made the pudding.)

    Decluttering is about acknowledging that children can experience disappointment at Christmas. That you will never finish that fisherman's sweater because that color is so ugly, and it would be better to start over. And starting over might take more strength than you have. And that you will never read Moby Dick, because… because! To say nothing of how you will never ever buy love with a cookie, because no one is selling that shit.

    (Maybe a three-year-old. Certainly not my adult children.)

    However, it is absolutely possible to release old projects with relief, instead of regret. I am seeing, not for the first time, that as I release everything whose time has come and gone, relief is what's filling the newly empty space. Relief, and a little wiggle of excitement about new projects. What might they be? I have no idea! How fun! I hope some of them involve my children.

    And that all of them involve love.

    Here's what the lovely Kat says about Reverb:

    "The month of December is the perfect time to reflect on the year that has passed and start to manifest your dreams for the new year. Reverb is therefore a reflective writing challenge that celebrates the successes and honours the challenges of the year that’s passing, then sows the seeds for a rich and rewarding new year.

    "Reverb was started by Gwen Bell, Cali Harris and friends in 2009 as a writing challenge for bloggers to consider the reverberations they sent out into the universe."

    You can sign up to get your December Reverb prompts here. Enjoy!

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • Coming in 2015: Even less

    Every year I take multiples goes at planning for the year ahead, and one thing I know for sure is that January is a terrible time to do this. October, also no. 

    Thanksgiving week, when I'm neither traveling nor entertaining, is looking good. 

    The other thing I know is that in the past I've favored elaborate hours-long enquiries, like the Best Year Yet process or Leonie Dawson's method.

    This year my top priority is to Do Less, so complex approaches are right out. And anyway, I've already done my thinking this year. So I was happy to find Alexandra Franzen's 2015 planning worksheet, which I recommend to you.

    Although Alex's worksheet is brief, I still omitted 50%. And of course, I modified anything that felt Good Person-y (to me). I am sure you will also edit as needed.

    Here is my plan. Feel free to adopt anything you like.

    Starting today, I am devoting myself to the following projects:

    – full declutteration
    – simplifying and strengthening my website and offerings
    – caring for myself, especially my body

    I am devoting myself to these projects because I care about maximizing the spiritual potential of JK! enjoying this precious human birth.

    These projects deserve my full focus, attention, discipline and love.

    Starting today, I am releasing the following [commitments / habits / old projects] from my life:

    – marriage-as-project, by which I do not mean I will be replacing "improvement", however thoughtful, with neglect. More like more love, enjoyment, trust, play - not to-dos.
    – life-support of others. Any others.
    – self-improvement <- haha! stretch goal

    I am releasing these things because I need to create time and energy for enjoying what remains of this precious human birth.

    These things no longer have a place in my life.

    I believe that the world needs more could use fewer needy people and that’s what I am here to create. Just in myself.

    I may not be able to do it perfectly, but I can do my part to help best to stay on my own side.

    The very next step is to do less.

    And then after that, to keep doing less.

    When things feel overwhelming, I will remind myself that my job is simply to: look for a way to do less right now.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment below, if you like. Be fun to know what's on your list this year.

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  • Fear of Missing Out

    Hello, friends! I'm just back from a lovely, calm retreat in San Luis Obispo, where if I told you how little we did from an action standpoint, you would not believe I flew across the country to do it. I return to New Blighty with a strong urge to keep doing less. What could possibly get in the way? 

    FOMO leads either to doing too much or paralysis, and that leads to not being present, and that is, by definition, Missing Out.

    Well, we could talk about fear of missing out, or FOMO, because 1. that's what gets in the way and 2. soooo many of my clients have it. It's right up there with Fear of Becoming a Bag Lady (FBBL, let's pronounce that "Fibble," because why does this not have an acronym already? It's a universal fear, even amongst the wealthy, as just about any coach will tell you. Including tennis coaches.).

    But FOMO is much easier dispatched than FBBL (although you can totally overcome the fear of becoming a bag lady and enjoy life about 1,000,000x as much; let me know if that's something you want). Let's do it right now.

    Here's what I've noticed (another near universal). FOMO produces one (or both) of two responses: 

    1. You say Yes to everything, because you don't want to miss anything
    2. You can't decide between things, because you don't want to miss anything

    In the first case, we sign up for more than we (or anyone) can humanly manage. We oversubscribe, and wind up missing things we've paid for because we're exhausted and can't manage. Or if we drag ourself to yet one more thing tonight, we're too exhausted to be present. Or we're thinking about that other thing we're missing, or that online course we didn't complete, or whatever we just remembered we totally forgot about because we said Yes to so much other stuff. (So we add guilt on top. Yum.)

    In the second case, you don't overcommit, because you dither instead of committing, and events (jobs, boyfriends, other fine offers) pass you by while you're still trying to decide between them. 

    Either way, we're not present. Which is just another way of saying we miss out.

    Thus, put simply, FOMO leads either to doing too much or paralysis, and that leads to not being present, and that is, by definition, Missing Out.

    Here is what I am seeing in my life since before SLO (oh, hey: clue!) but even more during and since: I can go broad, or I can go deep. I'm gonna plant a flag and say it's impossible to do both. 

    Broad or deep: pick one.

    I'll miss out on many things if I choose deep. I'll miss out on other things if I choose broad. 

    But either way, I'll be missing out less than if I try to do both. I'm going to get more by saying No more often.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • Faking it for fun

    So the other day I spoke on a panel titled "Life Cycle of a Job Transition" for Wellesley College (my alma mater). Someone mentioned in passing the tactic known as "fake it 'til you make it."

    Have you ever employed this little dance move? It always sounds so stressful to me. Like, do you get to just drop the fakery once you've "made it" (achieved your goal)? Wouldn't that be kinda… obvious? And then… aren't you kinda gonna get fired?

    Fake it til you make it. Unless you're having too much fun faking it to stop.

    Obviously, authenticity needs no advertising. Being genuine is just relaxing and feels better than maintaining appearances under stress, unless (important caveat) being real is inadvisable, and oh, golly, there's a lot to say about that. Still, do find value in faking it for fun.

    For example! I get a huge kick out of pretending to be married to someone who's made a mad fortune on the internet. A Silicon Valley mogul. I expect this is a common fantasy amongst the self-employed. 

    (I'm not poor, but you know, we live modestly. In New England, the place that practically invented modesty. Which apparently some part of me does not get very excited about.)

    And when I feel like putting on this identity, I like to go whole hog. This wife, she's got a name and everything. A whole backstory. If that freaks you out, don't read these details:

    Her name is Myfanwy Jones. She's married to mild-mannered internet multimillionaire Joe Jones, so she doesn't have to work. She can totally have sparkling wine at lunch, and sometimes she does. She's a successful serial mum. She appears to be a spoilt spendthrift. However, that is just her cover ID, because underneath, she is a slightly fanatical Welsh patriot with an unpredictable streak.

    Only that's fake, too! Myfanwy's political shtick is just there to throw the world off the scent of her much sexier kinks. To say nothing of her woeful lack of interest in actual politics.

    (NOT that we need defend our lack of interest in anything, or need to throw the world off the scent of our fabulous sexiness, or cover up the fact of our middle age - Myfanwy's clearly not fussed about that - if we don't want to. It's just fun to add an imaginary layer, the way it's fun to wear your most alluring skivvies on some random sunny Thursday, for no reason.)

    Anyway, if there is a day on which I get up and things just seem a bit … drab or maybe totally awful, I ask myself, well, What Would Myfanwy Do with this day?

    I guess you could say this is sort of like asking What Would Joan Jett Do? while adding What would Joan wear? Where would she have lunch? What might she want to read today? What's her schedule like, how is she going to totally subvert it? AndWho's she meeting after work? but subtracting Joan, and putting in your owncreation.

    These are all questions with the potential for playful, inventive, possibly even disruptive (in a good way) answers. No need to wait for rebirth in a better world. Embody it now. Try on a cover ID, for a day, very low stakes, and see if you don't acquire some new permissions, licences, skillz and possibly even superpowers. It's playful, and it's legit.

    And you know what makes this really fun? Doing it with a friend. You can text her the details of your cover along with a picture of your outfit and maybe your op or mission that day. (My friend Havi Brooks, who pretty much invented the cover ID, is genius with ops and missions; you might like to read more here.)

    This is also what my dress-up class, Into the Closet, is about. I recommend it!

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • The Minesweeper Effect

    Lately I have been playing with ways to get what I think of as the Minesweeper Effect. You know when you're clicking away, disabling mines one by one, very painstakingly, and suddenly you clear a vast field? A huge area, free of mines. Feels amazing!

    Clearing away exploding obstacles with one click!

    This is what I am trying to do in life, and it's not because I'm seeking greater efficiency or productivity, because bleargh, I hate that sort of thing (as you know). More because I need the extra time and space for things like Elementary and Longmire.

    Anyway, the Self-Care Menu is one of those ways of getting the Minesweeper Effect. I've been trying out another one lately, and it doesn't have a great codename yet (feel free to suggest one), so I'll just describe it as a tote board for magical spooky guidance*. I'm trying to answer the question, Does it actually spare me grief and create more fun to follow the guidance I get?

    (*You might call this "intuition." I don't. I call it "guidance" because it suits me to regard it as at least partly external.)

    Here is a sample of what my tote board looks like:

    Date Situation Intel Outcome
    9/10 Buy hand-carved Indian printing block? "Wait until tomorrow" Next day, got email about block print class with Lizzy House. Signed up instantly. Made own block. WIN!
    9/13 Get black scarf, or blue? "It really doesn't matter what you do here. You're just afraid your husband will make some remark." Bought them both. Remarks still not made. (But I have an answer ready. Email me if you want to know what it is.) Love my scarves. WIN!
    9/23 Go to Post Office and risk lines and postal employee? Or wait for days for certified letter delivery? "Go to Post Office. Now." Went to PO at lunch hour, no one in line AT ALL, got pleasant clerk, took barely 5 minutes. WIN!

    Side note: There is absolutely no scientific rigor involved here. It's just a memory aid to support a good change. But that's like 90% of awareness, and awareness is 90% of everything.

    So far the results show that basically, when I follow the guidance I get the outcome is good, and when I've chosen some other course, I've recovered. Maybe I'm unlikely to see a disastrous outcome because disasters are rare. But even if all I get from this is avoidance of pointless errands, that's a pretty good Minesweeper Effect right there.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! If you try something similar, I would love to know what you discover.

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  • The Self-Care Menu

    You may have gathered that I don't value productivity per se, and I think striving for efficiency can be a big waste of time.

    I am by no standard an expert in this, but I am trying to dismantle the habits of 1. Being Good and 2. Working Hard to Earn My Keep and Demonstrate My Value, and 3. treating my body like a mule (I wouldn't even treat a mule like a mule, come to that), and all such related rot.

    Turns out, if I handle body, mind and pleasure, the mystery kinda just takes care of itself.

    Instead, I want to make more room for ease, mystery, magic, wonder, pageantry, idling, richness, sparkles and delight.

    Thus, sometimes I try things that might look like efficiency maneuvers but they're not so much about "getting things done" as seeking the most direct path to ease and pleasure and freedom, where "direct" means leaving out any parts where I meander through suffering to earn a reward, or think that I have to accept some bad with the good. (I mean, I might! But I never want to take that as a given. I don't want to start from that position, ugh.) 

    Since I am a practical person who finds mechanical tools useful, I have been tinkering with my self-care routines. There are lots of tools I like, and I like having a variety at my disposal, and I like spending my time actually using them. And I don't mind that I simply must in order to stay (and/or seem) sane.

    However, I don't like my social conditioning that turns helpful practices into obligations. If I let that attitude take over, I'll be meditating at 4am, and finishing my "morning" pages around teatime. In between will be lots of "duties" that might crowd out crucial things like breakfast, puttering and even actual work.

    So I've been experimenting lately with a menu approach, in which I try to make sure I take care of my body, my mind, and my pleasure by picking one or two tools that address each category every day. No more obligation to do something every day, no matter what. (Although I am still pretty devoted to meditating in quiet.)

    Today, my categories look something like this:




    pleasure reading





    the Work





    knee exercises

    spring clean

    The Kathleen Hanna



    scented candle



    trinity report



    Toss 10 Things


    stone skipping



    Havi's YEARbooks


    yoga nidra


    Orphan Black or Elementary

    S factor



    sit spot



    Old Turkish Lady Yoga

    get coached

    trying on clothes in stores

    foam roller


    hot springs!


    BK videos

    You'll see that there's a fair bit of overlap. Proper costuming is a pleasure, and it takes care of my body, and it might challenge utterly destroy some old ideas and thus be good for my mind. 

    Obviously there's no place on this list for bill-paying and dish-washing. Those are fine things to do but this is not a to-do list, it's a self-care list. 

    You'll also note that there's no category of mystery or magic or something like that. That's because if I handle body, mind and pleasure, the mystery kinda just takes care of itself.


    If you're already doing something like this, I'd love to hear what you've got going. And if you aren't, and want to give it a try, let me know how you go.

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  • Points of Pride

    As I've been saying a lot lately, two things:

    THING 1.  My coaching practice is booked through August with clients and a short vacation (the Maine coast, may it be cold and foggy!). In September, I am likely to have three open slots. Drop me an email if you're considering 1:1 coaching this fall, and we can set up a brief chat to see if we want to work together.

    "I have never met a disregulated eater that was not shame-based." -Karen R. Koenig

    THING 2.  I've got more to say about telling the truth and being in the moment, and that series is likely to have a few Columbo moments at the end - oh there's just this one little thing! - but today, I want to take a break to offer you a tool that I learnt from Karen R. Koenig, author of Nice Girls Finish Fat.

    My colleague Cookie Rosenblum and I interviewed Karen last week for July's Body Mind Book Club meeting. (Audio here.) I love talking to psychotherapists; they just have so much treasure to share. We were discussing journals: Feelings journals, food journals, success journals and gratitude lists. 

    Karen said "I have never met a disregulated eater that was not shame-based."

    For that reason, she suggests clients keep a "pride" journal. This is more personal than a "success" journal, which always sounds to me like a record of external validation (aargh) or worse, a productivity diary << hex sign here

    Instead, a pride journal is a record of internal moments of self-approval. Like the feelings journal, it's really simple. Mine is just a list, and looks like this:

    • responded skillfully to the builders' request for a schedule change
    • postponed brainstorming appointment with C because I could feel I didn't have the mental power for it
    • stopped the "not good enough" train, and got out of the way while the menfolks cleaned the kitchen <<<< HUGE victory over all-or-nothing thinking!

    (Little editorial high-fives are a great optional addition.)

    So try out the pride journal, if it appeals. And if it doesn't, excellent

    The thing is, when I offer a suggestion and there's something wrong with it, you know it instantly. This is why coaches like to be wrong. We offer an observation, suggest an explanation, propose an experiment, and it shows you immediately what would work even better.

    Then you can just do that.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • Eating for right now, no matter what the scale says

    Eating at any weight

    Please do not wait for the scale to tell you when it is dinnertime.

    Recently in our series on keeping current and telling the truth (for eaters), we talked about

    • not eating for future hunger, as long as we have a choice in the matter, and most of us do
    • and not eating for past unsatisfied hungers, since that will just a little bit never, ever solve the original problem (although you might like to experiment with taking care of Past You using other means)

    So to the flip side, because we also want to remember that eating for now also means eating enough, no matter what our body looks like. As we were talking about last month in "Your Last Diet," there is no restrictive way of eating that can be sustained forever.

    (As my clients will tell you.)

    We can use restraint, and that's often a good idea, with eating as it is with other ways we relate to the world through our mouth, like drinking and talking <<< me

    And we can refrain from eating things that harm our health (immediately or long term).

    But if you're reading this, you're almost certainly the kind of person who can't repress their hunger forever.

    (Which is a good thing! As we all know, the drive to eat when hungry is what kept our ancestors alive long enough to reproduce. If you were indifferent to food, you would have been a poor match for a hungry tiger. So we could thank nature instead cursing our appetite, if we want to shift things a bit. Thank you, hunger, for hipping my ancestors to their need for fuel! Thank you, body, for prioritizing survival over meeting narrow aesthetic ideals!)

    No question, it's more sustainable to satisfy our hunger today, rather than trying to starve today with the promise of post-weight-loss feasting. That could leave you stabbing your fork at hallucinated pancakes.

    Except that's not usually what happens, is it? That's what would happen to our mythical ancestor who didn't care about food, who in reality must have left the gene pool, because I don't meet very many people like that. What really happens is that not getting enough to eat makes us so hungry that when our will gives out and we do eat, we blow right past the body's fullness signals without even noticing, stopping only when we're uncomfortable.

    So please do not wait for some golden future moment when the scale says you've earned a meal. Today, just eat for now.


    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • Whether you think you're too nice or not nice enough

    Feeling it now. Writing it down.

    As some of you know, my book club just read Nice Girls Finish Fat, which is a terrifically useful book, and I recommend it whether you think you're too nice or not nice enough. We had the author, Karen Koenig, with us for the whole meeting, and she was full of ideas. (Recording can be downloaded here.)

    So if you've been hanging around here for a while, you know I strongly encourage keeping a food diary - not as a proxy for counting calories or carbs or anything else, but as an awareness tool. Although a number of you have said "That makes me crazy," I'm not so sure. I don't believe awareness makes us crazy. I think awareness tools show us where our crazy is.

    But because of your feedback, I sat up straight in my squishy retro denim beanbag when I read that Karen actually discourages keeping a food diary, saying that most of her clients focus too much on food already.

    (It's so perfect if you're feeling vindicated right now, and I have entered "ate some crow" in my food diary, just for you...)

    Instead, Karen suggests keeping a feeling diary. I started one today, and as part of my ongoing experiment in being open to how things might be easier, simpler, more... open, this is what it looks like:

    Sad Was thinking about [X] happening, and how it makes me feel like I'll never being able to [Y] again. Like, I can't even feel my way to hoping I'll feel [Y] again. It's not present as a feeling. And I remember that this is very like my oldest (known) piece of conditioning, the story of how "I Never Get What I Want." Wow! Suspicious...

    Simple, right? I find I can do this before or after really allowing myself to feel (whether through breath, movement, touch - all the things we talked about earlier in this series). It doesn't matter which way I go - before, after or both - there's plenty of information available to me. In fact, just remembering an earlier time when I felt like this is enough to loosen the idea that Good Feeling Y isn't accessible.

    So if you're inclined to swap out your food diary for something like this feeling journal, try it, and let me know what you see.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • 90 seconds to done

    Feel it Now

    As I never tire of pointing out to the last few people who will listen, Boulder is just about the best place on earth to grow up. In addition to the majesty of nature, the lack of humidity, the bracing thinness of the air (I mean, people in New England are suffocating on oxygen and they don't even know it!), and the excellence of the breakfast scene, there is the amazing abundance of massage students.

    "You don't want to cause pain when giving massage, because that pain gets stored in the body. Anytime you're causing more pain, you're just causing more pain." *So I have had many fine massages in Boulder, and some exposure to the philosophies of different schools. Here is a piece of massage wisdom that has never left me:

    I felt the truth of it when the therapist said it. I felt the truth of that in my body, with all its stored pain, some of which was visible to the world as extra fat. Of course, he was talking about muscular pain, but it's true of emotional pain as well. We can feel pain, or any other "negative" emotion, and let it find its best path out of our body, or we can ignore it, pretend it's not there, squish it down with food or a pile of additional emotions or often both, and let it sit there under some donuts and self-hatred that just cause more pain.

    Obviously, it's better to feel now, no matter what the feeling is.

    But the reason we try to squish or postpone emotions is no mystery. We are all conditioned to think something like "if I let myself be mad [lonely, heartbroken], the force of the feeling will overwhelm my reason, I'll do something I'll regret, and I'll either get kicked out of the tribe and be eaten by tigers or I'll be a laughingstock until I'm ready to throw my own self in front of the tiger."

    However, even the powerful emotions don't have to scorch the earth. There are many ways to feel terror or rage or anguish without risking your social standing, because it just doesn't take long. Jill Bolte Taylor, author of the medical memoir My Stroke of Insight, found that when she timed them, her very longest-lived emotions lasted only 90 seconds.

    Almost any social circumstance will allow you way more than 90 seconds to go to the bathroom. In that time, you can grab your iPod, get into a stall, and move your body. (For me, Lo Fidelity Allstars' Battle Flag, Emmylou's All My Tears, and Deadmau5's Ghosts 'n' Stuff cover the bases best.)

    Like lightning seeking the shortest path to the ground, the feeling will find its own way out of my body. If I'm luxuriously alone, I will speak my truth at the same time, uncensored. At whatever volume my body wants to speak at.

    Again, letting yourself know the truth about what's happening now, and letting yourself feel it now doesn't need to mean 1. doing anything at all about it or 2. telling anyone else about it. (We will tackle sharing another week.)

    So do this next time you feel an urgent need to eat about 42 minutes after a nice hearty breakfast. It might feel awkward as anything, and if so, excellent! Tell me all about it.

    You can also breathe, with or without fancy technique.

    You could use some form of tapping.

    And you can always just get a good, painless massage. That works, too.

    * If this makes you regard the adage "no pain, no gain" with suspicion, well... that's just fine.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

    You might also enjoy other posts in this series

    Wear it now

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    Know it now

  • What it means to eat for now

    Oui, madame! Of course the meal must be perfect.

    In which I figure out that eating to make up for past disappointments, food-related and not, doesn't actually work

    We've been looking this summer at staying current, and telling the truth by allowing ourselves to know it now, feel it now, wear it now. Today I am thinking about eating for now.

    Most weight and eating gurus will tell you to eat for the moment, not for later, not if you live in the Western world and you're within a few miles of a supermarket. This is not bad advice, and unless you're in a very low-wage, low-autonomy job (and if you are, I can coach you on that), you can probably manage eating when you're hungry, and not before.

    A little hex of visibility on one of my most cherished eating behaviors...

    (Although my manicurist told me recently that she works eight hours without a break, and couldn't eat at all. Every day. If that's legal, it shouldn't be.)

    Anyway, I hope most of you don't work this way, and can take a break at times your body needs it. If you are eating before you're hungry, because you're afraid of getting hungry, even though you do control your schedule, and food is available, leave a comment, and we'll talk here about some things you can do for that.

    Because eating for future hunger, by definition, keeps us too full.

    And I only started thinking about this, but it turns out it's not so helpful to eat for the past, either.

    I used to do that all the time. Eat to feed Sad Past Me who didn't get enough or the right kind of food. In fact, I was doing this up until a few weeks ago. If I had some kind of substandard meal somewhere, I would make sure the very next time I ate, it would be a meal of uncompromising top quality. Or uncompromisingly poor quality, and exactly my kind of junk. Naturally, as the Zen folks say, I was always on the lookout for "something wrong / not enough."

    I was telling my therapist about one of these instances when ...

    (SIDE NOTE: Yes, I am a coach and I see a therapist. (From time to time.)

    I also coach a lot of therapists, actually, which I love doing. It's pretty unusual for a coach to have a lot of therapist clients, but I think it might be because I have more appreciation for therapy than coaches typically do.)

    … so yeah I was telling my therapist about some meal of heartbreak and disappointment I'd had and she asked what I did about it. I said, I ate it, and then I made a little entry in my mental book of Broken Shit That Needs to Be Set Right ASAP!, and the very next opportunity I had, I went out of my way for a much better meal of the exact right specifications.

    She was, I want to say, kinda surprised. Really?! she said.You would need to do that?

    I was like, well, um, yeah. Is that weird? (We talk a lot about that, actually. It's one of my central issues. How WEIRD am I, precisely? Weird enough to be considered crazy? If you want to respond Of course not ya big weirdo!, feel free.)

    So I didn't think it was weird before, but her question kinda wrecked me. I started wondering if I really needed to keep a meal scorecard. For every sub-fabulous meal, a do-over. It's not much different from the scorecard that dieters and bingers keep - for every binge, a fast. For every time they're "good," an indulgence.

    Of course, my therapist wasn't suggesting I was weird so much as acting from, oh how shall we say, a not fully grownup place. And she was right. And, as I say, the discussion kinda put a little hex of visibility on that behavior. I can't not see it now. And when I see it and ask, Hey hon! Is it actually helpful to eat now for a past deficit? the answer is Of course not.

    There's also no reason not to have the best meal possible at every opportunity. I still aim for that. I'm just trying to feed my today body, not Sad Past Me, who, by the way, usually needs a whole different kind of attention.


    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

    You might also enjoy other the posts in this series

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    Know it now

    Mechanical tools and practical magic 

  • Wear it now

    Waiting is hard. Let's go shopping now.

    If we've been hanging around each other for a while, you've probably heard me talk about shopping before. (Once or twice.)

    This is because shopping is an astoundingly effective magic spell for weight loss, if you do it the right way.

    Weight-loss gold, this is.

    But it's not one of those proverbial "Big If's." Shopping is not that hard, and I will tell you exactly how to do it.

    1. Remove everything from your closet that doesn't
      • fit you right now
      • flip your feel-good switch to ON*

    2. Put those reject items anywhere you want. This is the step that organizers and declutterers spend 90% of their time on, but please don't make that mistake. We do not care. (See prior rule from some other blog post: No elaborate disposal strategies.) This is about feeling good in your clothing, and nothing else. Decisions are overwhelming when you're in a feel-bad space, so looking at a closetful of feel-bad clothes is a great way to paralyze yourself. When you've been feeling good for a while, you'll be able to make near instaneous decisions about what to toss and where to toss it. So for now, a box in the back of your kid's closet is fine. Save the "good stuff" for "when you've lost weight" if you want to, but don't let it give you stink eye every morning. Get it out of sight.

    3. Make a list of what's missing, which, if you're built like me - party in the back - will probably include hot skivvies, trend-appropriate jeans and a nice dress. (I have all the sexy cocktail tops and pump-me heels I need, which fit at any weight.)

    4. Go get the things on your list and don't stint. This is the most important step. Let your body know that you care enough about it to lavish it with quality garments. If you cheap out, you will know it, and the spell won't work.

    5. Only buy things that fit right now. Get the right size, whatever it is. (This is our Tell the Truth Moment of the Week, and the other most important step.) You want to feel luscious and look fabulous every single day right now, not 5 pounds from now.

    This is possible, and many of the world's women manage it, even on a budget. One thing that feels amaze will set you up 1,000x better than your choice of 20 outfits that make you feel "less than."

    I did this a couple weeks ago when I had to admit the weight I'd gained following my Frognado loss of appetite (Inevitable Yet Still Surprising Backlash #863) wasn't leaving in time for me to cover my behind, which is a legal requirement where I live. Yeah, they make you hide your skin in New England, and when I did that with denim, it pinched. I was feeling crappy every day.

    So I swallowed my pride and the suspicion that I was going to have to tell all o' y'all about this, and I went down to Newbury Street, and I forked over the big bucks for jeans in size, dear God, 30.**

    Ouch. One whole inch bigger than 29. <- Painful Truth. And unacceptable to my ego! But you know what? To my body, they felt AMAZE, as promised.

    (In fact they felt so good I went back and got a second pair of a different type, for laundry day. In size... 28. Which I do not normally wear even at my so-called "normal" weight.

    So there. Proof for you that sizes don't even mean anything.)

    So that's the right way to perform this magic spell. Spend the $$$ to get what feels and looks good now, and be prepared to get rid of it before it's worn out, because feeling good now is not only an end in itself, it really helps the weight fall off. It just does.

    * If you need help with this, I think you would find my Into the Closet class very pleasurable.

    ** When I sent this post out to my email list - which, by the way, is a little different from the blog in that it sometimes has nice things like discounts on classes and first dibs on coaching slots, so you might want to get on it by clicking here  - I got some feedback. "Cry me a river" was one comment and I geddit but you know what? LYCRA. People, if you have not tried on jeans even in the past six months, you really must. It's a whole new world.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think. "I'm with 'Cry me a river' Gal" is fine.

    You might also enjoy other posts in this series

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  • Mechanical tools and practical magic

    When I see my hand in a shop trying on a bracelet...*

    Mechanical tools and practical magic and a class that combines them to leave you lighter than you were

    Here's what I've been thinking about lately: mechanical tools and practical magic. As a person with an obsessive, possibly addictive, or possibly entirely normal kind of brain, I'm very grateful for all the tools I've been given over the years. A few of them, like Mama Gena's "spring cleaning" and bragging, Zen meditation, pranayama, and Havi's "Wells," are things I depend on every day.

    For you: A class on dieting and metabolism and the sick, destructive relationship between them

    Some of the more mechanical tools are things I've been working with and teaching for quite a while, and those are tools I'm starting to be a bit disenchanted with. Magic is more what's enchanting me lately.

    Magical Tool No. 1 (for you to try!)

    For example, I like this little sort-of magical hypnotic suggestion tool of the sight of my hand. I use it this way: I might tell myself "When I see my hand on the doorknob, I'll remember to get X and take it straight to Y's house." Saves me tediously programming reminders in my phone, and it's more fun. I've used it for years and find it very reliable.

    Magical Tool No. 2 (for you to try)

    And here's a magical tool I made up in the middle of the night recently. I woke up thinking about something complex I had to do, but I didn't want to take notes at 2am, and I didn't want my brain to think anymore about it. I wanted to go back to sleep. So I built a library in my mind, and put a beautiful trestle table in the center of the room, and put a soft leather folio on the tabletop.

    Then I created a librarian and directed him to collect everything I need, and put it all within the folio. I told myself, "When I see my hands open that folio, everything I need will flow out of it, into my conscious mind, and down my arms to my keyboard."

    This is a brand-new magical tool, but so far I'm finding it very useful indeed. Try it out, if you like.

    Body Mind Magic

    Now, on the more flat-footed, mechanical side, I have a class on dieting and metabolism and the sick, destructive relationship between them. Why it never works out the way you want it to. And why your diet is not an exception.

    If you would like to get a doctor's excuse to get you out of dieting, definitively and for all time, please join me for 90 minutes of solid science in plain English with plenty of time for questions and coaching.

    (I predict the latter will be the magical part.)

    Tuesday July 1 is your last chance to sign upGet your doctor's excuse and details here.

    Body Mind Book Club

    The book club that Cookie Rosenblum and I are hosting met for the third time last week. We read and discussed The Slight Edge, a book about tortoisey strategies for winning the long race. We liked it. You can listen to the audio of our meeting here.


    I posted that picture of me trying on that $235 bracelet on Instagram. A friend saw it, and offered to teach me how to make one. We went and bought matierals today, for a fraction of the price, and got a good start on a bracelet for each of us. Magic!

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • Know it now

    Know it now

    Last week we talked about telling the truth and being present as a way to dismantle the habit of eating when you're not hungry. Eating when you're not hungry (or restricting food when you are hungry) is, by definition, being not-here, not-now.

    Not-here, not-now is where all the friction is. It's where all the suffering and struggle are. In contrast, being here now, present with what is, however unpleasant it may seem, is the place where ease and flow and potency and effortless are found. Martha Beck would call this state "living in constant creative response" to whatever arises.

    It can always be safe to let ourselves know the truth.


(Living in this state, by the way, is about 1,000,000x more thrilling than cupcakes, as you may have evidence for.)


I think of this, in my practical project-manager way, as "keeping current." Not sittin' on stuff, which is a big fat specialty of women with eating issues. It feels safer for us to squish our stuff than to speak our experience out loud or ask for what we want. And I'm not going to pretend here that we live in a world cheering us on, saying, Hey, do you have desires and feelings AND lady parts? TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU WANT WHILE I WASH YOUR HAIR ON THE PATIO, YOU AMAZING CREATURE YOU! 

    Nope. Not a lot of places like this, which is one reason I'm proud to do what I do, and suffer the indignity of being called a "life coach." People just need a safe place to tell the truth. (And I always tell my clients "there is NOTHING you can say to me that will cause me not to like you," which is true.) 

    We can also make that space for ourselves. It can always be safe to let yourself know the truth of what you want. What you feel. What is happening now, good or bad.

    But before we launch into what you may fear will be a revved-up, firewalking, Tony Robbins-style program of slash-and-burn changes, let me reassure you that letting yourself know the truth requires no action at all.

    You may be working very hard and eating a lot in order not to know that your marriage is just a cocoon of anger and sarcasm. If you think that just knowing the truth about this means divorce, and that means war, and frightened children, and all kinds of unhappy circumstances, it'll be easier to bake and eat a cake and make yourself sick.

    However! I have always found, no exceptions, that no matter how painful the truth is, it is always a relief to admit. No matter how many complications you tell yourself will arise, when you stop trying to not know what you know, there is always a proportional release of tension.



And from a more relaxed, more flexible state, you have a better chance of doing things that lead to even more relaxation, even more flexibility, even more relief, even more choice. Or doing nothing at all. Valid choice.

    Now, as you will have guessed, that was not a random example. I did have an unhappy first marriage, and for all the practical reasons I listed, as well as others (What will "Everyone" think?! "Everyone" will say "I told you so!!" And such laughable-and-yet-not concerns as This means no more early morning rowing!) I found it terrifying to think about divorce. 

I could only let myself know it through writing, which is action, but the kind of action you can do a bit at a time, in private.

    If you are unhappy, and overeating, or undereating or dieting, and don't quite know what's bugging you, do this:

    • get a notebook
    • set a timer for 20 minutes
    • and write without stopping

    If you keep your pen on the paper - this is key - you will know your truth in less than five minutes. I can just about guarantee it. If you need more instructions, get a copy of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, or see Buster Benson's excellent, or just Google "morning pages."

    (Oh, and keep your notebook in a super-secure place. Ask me how I know that's important.) 

    So, to sum up:

    Being Present + Telling the Truth = Keeping Current ->


Potent Ease, Flow, Choice & Inspired Action


aka MAGIC + way less Angsting about Eating & Weight.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • When is it time to tell the truth?

    Maybe now...

    Have you noticed?

    All the spiritual teachers say the same things at bottom, don't they? Kindness is my religion. Generosity is the virtue that produces peace. Boredom is the gateway to enlightenment. Be excellent to each other. Forgive your enemies (well, they all say that except Harriet Lerner, who says something a little more complex, for the which I love her).

    There is a collection of very compelling, very right things to do in the moment.

    And mainly, of course: Live in the moment. They really all do say that.

    And this always used to sound to me like 1. an impossibility and/or 2. becoming a lump, while possibly still breathing. It sounded … very formless and unappealing, because how would you ever get anything done? How would you ever get to Hawaii? How would there even be the right ingredients for dinner?

    Of course, these are all ego concerns, as you quickly find out. Because there is a collection of very compelling, very right things to do in the moment.

    They all involve being with the truth. (Or you could say "living in reality.")

    For us bingey types (or compulsive types - whatever you have going on), telling the truth in the moment is something we commonly avoid.

    So I'd like to look at that over the next few weeks. In particular, I want to look at being truthful (now) by allowing ourselves to

    • Know it now
    • Say it now
    • Feel it now
    • Do it now
    • Wear it now
    • Eat it now

    Because I have always found, no exceptions, that when I am willing to tell the truth in the moment, the compulsions and obsessions and nasty habits fall away, without any effort whatsoever. Which just gets you sooooo much further, sooooo much faster than trying to mule-drive yourself there.

    So! Look for that starting next week.

    In the meantime, I have been doing more of these dream-and-journey-and-altar shaman sessions. If you've been thinking about doing one, or gifting a session to someone you love, well... you totally should! Click here for details.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • Something else about stress

    Ironing is exercise. (Some people even enjoy it.)

    I can't believe I forgot to mention this.

    So last week I wrote that most of us will see a bigger health payoff from attending to the basics than we will from trying to make a big new change. By the "basics," I meant sleep, rest, conviviality, exercise and sex.

    There will be one open spot in my coaching practice starting in July, and one starting in August. If you would like to get on the wait list, let me know. I'll offer those spots in the order you respond.

    Thank you all for keeping me so busy!

    Except I forgot to mention exercise.

    (Sex I left off on purpose. But we should talk about that sometime, don't you think?)

    If you're a natural born athlete, you can dip now, and come back next week. You're all set.

    The rest of you, like many of my clients over the years, are most likely not exercising regularly, probably because you've been told that exercise has to be strenuous to be worth anything.

    And a lot of you don't enjoy strenuous exercise.

    Well, good news. While it is true, , that exercise has to be significant (regular, long-term and strenuous) to directly affect body weight by burning calories (it's so much more complicated than this, but that's a tar pit we'll jump into another day), no one disputes the stress-relieving mood benefits of more mild exercise.

    (It still needs to be regular. Like bathing or breathing. Sorry about that.)

    But pleasurable exercise, by which I mean anything you like, anything at all, releases stress and lifts depression, and, over time, can become more enticing than cupcakes.

    I suggest taking any activity that feels good and calling it "exercise" or "movement."

    Ellen Langer, a positive psychologist teaching at Harvard, once did a study on everyday exercise. In the study, hotel maids who were educated to regard making beds as beneficial exercise showed all kinds of health gains that a control chambermaid group did not. (Awareness! It changes everything - another universally accepted scientific finding.)

    These maids were getting paid (well, something) to make beds, but you should do anything that's actually fun. This could include shavasana or restorative yoga or petting the cat. Whatever feels like pleasure to you. (And it probably won't be a "big new change.")

    So, where's the weight loss in this? As we said, mild exercise won't result in weight loss. But think about the way you eat when you're in love, compared to the way you eat when your job, family and love life all suck. The right kind of movement, combined with awareness, can feel a lot like being in love.

    And what if you don't have a weight or eating issue? Same thing. We're built to move, and we suffer if we don't, no matter what size we are. Do something you like and call it "exercise."

    Let me know what happens.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • Me and Stress: We are never, ever, EVER getting back together

    Like, EVER.

    As Taylor Swift said, this is exhausting.

    If you are drawing breath and/or have internet, someone will have sent you the TED talk about making stress your friend.

    The video that made me say: "Enough!"

    I'm sure they meant well.

    But that is the video that made me say: I'm done. That's enough keeping up with the research. That's definitely enough TEDfotainment (not a word).

    (But if you feel like possibly stressing, you can watch it here.)

    Disclosure: I only got a few minutes into the video. Nothing against the researcher; I'm sure she's as smart, sincere and hard-working as she is sexy, animated and social-media savvy. But I'm a bit tired of sexy research.

    Some of you may know I used to work in web and social analytics for a large and prestigious institution. We published a ton of studies - solid, legit science, mind you - and one of the things I got to see was that people are most interested in research when

    • it confirms what they already know or believe to be true (example: overeating makes you fat)
    • it flies in the face of common sense; it's a surprising finding (eating late doesn't make you fat)
    • it makes a recommendation that promises a lot for a little (take Vitamin X daily for a 99% reduction in risk of death)
    • it gives you permission to do something you (me) had been feeling guilty about (drink red wine for longer life, ditto dark chocolate)

    These are also the kind of results that lend themselves to sexy clickbait headlines, such Make Stress Your Friend!

    (My friend - an actual friend, not a "friend" like stress - the UC San Diego professor Isaac Martin, recently remarked "I'm going to start giving my sociology papers titles like Buzzfeed headlines: 'These twenty pages will change how you see society - and Table 5 will melt your heart!'")

    As you have surely noticed, links with sexy labels lead to dubious "findings" more often than they lead to sound scholarship. Again, I don't know enough about McGonigal's research to responsibly evaluate it, but I know that as Taylor Swift said, this is exhausting. I am tired of following advice that gets reversed, with added alarm, six months later.

    (Take Vitamin E! Stop taking Vitamin E!)

    To conclude, you don't necessarily need a specialist degree to identify research that's lame or even deceptive. But what about research that asks you to make a big change? If you were my client, I would say that your efforts are probably better spent on attending to the basics: sleep, rest, oxygen and regular communion with genuine friends.

    And as regards stress in particular, I'm going to go with what the Buddha said 2,600 years ago, and cultivate a little peace and quietude. Can you really go wrong with equanimity?

    So, where's the weight loss in this? See above. Sleep, rest, the breath, authenticity. Increase those, and watch the weight fall off. Unless you like the feeling of stress.

    And what if you don't have a weight or eating issue? Same. If you don't like being stressed, I don't think you have to make it your friend. Treat it like any other optional relationship, and let it know you have other plans.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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  • What change actually looks like

    The clouds part, and the angels descend with cans of spray glitter.

    It doesn't look like big drama. At least, not until the angels descend.

    Virtually everyone I coach (regular ol' coaching, not the shamanic kind) wants some kind of accountability, so that's always one of the the first things I ask about in a session. Recently a client reported to me that not much had been happening - except she'd started doing some "little" things like blowing off housework to draw in her sketchbook and lie around contemplating trees. 

    To her, maybe, that was a little thing. To a coach, this is the signal to start the parade. When the hard-driving, high-achieving kind of client starts lying around communing with trees, well, that's the moment when the clouds part and the angels descend. And spray my client with glitter. And then dress her and do her makeup and exclaim at her hotness and get her ready for her party. 

    Because that's actually what change looks like. Real change doesn't usually look like completing all the exercises in a self-help book and checking off items from a list of improvements we need to make. Change definitely doesn't look like declaring a goal that's 180 degrees away, and sprinting toward it without a warmup.

    Especially if we're a Type A box-ticker, a Good Girl, a teacher's pet (that's me) or a relentless striver, it probably looks more like taking a nap. It often looks like removing things from your list, or throwing the list out altogether. Dear heaven! It may even look like having a cupcake for breakfast. 

    So how do you know whether you're making positive change, or descending into a pit of doom? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, but if the voice in your head says trees are stupid, and is screaming at you to get up and do the housework, I think you can safely roll over and go back to dreaming.

    In fact, it's probably almost always a good idea to do the opposite of what That Voice is pushing for. 

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  • Nothing to be ashamed of


    The other day I had a stomach ache.

    So naturally I got sucked into a shame spiral about it. (I think we need a special word for this state. Something like, you know, Sharknado. Frognado, in my case. Shamortex? Prize for best entry!)

    Anyway, I had been sucked into shame and was just about to go to Step 2: Administer self-beating, when I thought to ask Why? How come I was feeling shame about having a stitch in my stomach?

    If you're learning new ways to eat, it's got to be safe to fail.

    Easy! Because almost every time I've ever had a stomach ache, it was because I ate too much. Too much, too fast, definitely without niceties, possibly leaving a mark on my shirt. 

    So my habit of mind is like this: Stomach pain? Why, I see right here that's associated with bad behavior. Go directly to self-hatred, and keep the cycle of abuse going. (Notwhere change happens, as you know.)

    I then thought to ask Why do I have a stomach ache? Did I eat too much? 

    Well, no. I had some lobster ravioli. (Heart-shaped lobster ravioli, so you might think I was taking a risk right there. Valentine's Day was a while ago.) Maybe I ate three little raviolis. Maybe three-and-a-half. Not a lot. Not "too much."

    And certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

    Good thing I do a lot of awareness practice, which I must, since that's what I teach. It's only taken me 30 years to get to this point, where I can stop a shamenado (oh!Shamenado, I think I like that) with a couple questions. 

    It takes most everyone a while to break a pattern like that, but you can do it faster than me. If you want to speed up the process, you can work with a coach. (If you want to slow it down, only talk about it with your bingey girlfriends.)

    Either way, if you're here to stop emotional eating, I suggest stopping the shaming first. Even if you do eat too much.

    And by the way, it's really worth decoupling stomach discomfort from the shame response, because ending overeating means a lot of experimenting. Not everything's going to work for you. You've got to have permission to fail without being punished. Skip the shamenado.

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    Getting the better of your urges (Part 1)

    It's been a total Frog Tornado around here lately 


  • Keep Calm and Ask for More. And then some.

    Lame CEO confession #402

    I am all out of business cards.

    And I have been for weeks. Because I just do not know what to put on them.

    They used to say Keep Calm and Don't Diet, in the classic British Ministry of Information format, which, I think, is kinda played.

    I had another set of cards that said Keep Calm and Ask for More, which were much more popular, right from the start. And I'm not sure why.

    (Well, the Don't Diet cards were pink. So there's that. And dieting, what a topic, gosh, it's just embarrassing.)

    But if we're prone to embarrassment - and who isn't - what's cheekier than wanting? It's pretty hard to get more outrageous than adopting a global policy of Ask for More.  

    Don't Diet is a bit (haha)... restrictive. I guess we could say "Don't Starve" or "Don't Hang Back," and apply it to more than eating, of course. But all of those are just not … asking for enough.

    "Ask for More" is so comprehensive. Whatever you've got, whatever you want, Ask for More just covers it.

    With emotional eaters, I like to use the idea that when we say we want to lose weight, we really always - no exceptions - want something that we think a smaller body will give us. Things like social acceptance, physical comfort, and maybe most especially the room to live life more creatively. I always like to ask them for more: What do you really want? Really, really?

    You can ask yourself this question a dozen times a day, starting before breakfast, and trust me: It never gets old. Your wishes and desires are endlessly creative and if you make room, some of them will be very compelling. Much more compelling than some random - yes! it's probably random, and meaningless - number on the scale.

    So, if you're inclined to hear the call, I have a couple homeworks for you this week:

    1.  Ask yourself What do I really, really want? Start, literally, before breakfast. Don't stop. Keep asking. See where it goes, and let me know.

    (PS  Me, I like to write this stuff down. There's lots of magic to call on in conjuring your wishes, but if I had to name the single most powerful piece of alchemy we can each pull off on our worst day, it's Writing Stuff Down. I do that every week in my Wayfinder's Quest Posts, which you're welcome to follow.)

    2. This week my friend Andrea Schroeder of the Creative Dream Incubator is offering a free course in growing your dreams. There's a 10-minute lesson each day for 10 days. No need to wait until time, money or ducks are lined up.

    Andrea has also pulled together some bloggers sharing how they give their dreams wings - what they do that supports, nurtures and encourages their tender dreams to come to life. You can find out about the e-course and read the other posts in this Blog Hop here.


    Isn't she cute? I adore her, and I think you might, too.

    So to sum up: Ask first. Ask for more. Let yourself hear the answers. (Of course, do nothing you don't want to do. Of course!) Get some support.

    And, as always, let me know how you go.

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  • Getting the better of your urges (Part 1)

    Yes, these scarves are delicious. But I have scarves I ain't even worn yet.

    Getting the better of your urges, Part 1

    Something I've learnt working with weight-loss clients is that the more urgent her need to "lose weight now", the less likely she is to follow through.

    Urgency is inversely proportional to perseverance. It leaps up and dies so fast you could set your watch by it. 

    Or your weight goals.

    Urgency is what leapt in my breast the other as I was passing Selletto, the Italian textiles capital of Harvard Square. In the window was a scarf that I needed. Urgently

    Fortunately I was awake. I heard my brain call for scarves, and remembered this: I already have scarves. I got scarves I haven't worn this year. As I walked on past the shop, my urge passed too.

    One of my Zen teacher's favorite axioms is Urgency is a sign of egoWhether you call it ego, social conditioning, or the inner lizard, take note of what that voice is saying. You can pretty safely ignore it and, if you want to see how good it can get, do the opposite.

    This is good for any habit we want to dismantle. For example, urgency is of course what we respond to when we eat something our body doesn't want. Urgency comes from urges, or more specifically, the gap between feeling an urge and obeying it. Urgency is veryuncomfortable. (It's fine if you're saying "durrrr" right now.) 

    Want to lose some weight? Try this:

    1. Ignore the urge to eat when you're not hungry and

    2. Do the next thing in front of you. Carry on.

    My clients and I have observed very rapid results using a simple urge-ignoring process put together by the neuropsychologist Jeffrey Schwartz.  He details the process in his book You Are Not Your Brain - a useful read.

    Immodestly, I will just declare that with my clients' help, I have improved a bit on Schwartz's process. I'll step you through that process in the next Tools post, and distill the book, in case you don't read it today. 

    You might also enjoy

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    Scarves: Faliero Sarti

  • 4 simple steps to getting rid of urges (like, 4 eva)

    Awwww - what cute little serving of maple syrup, eh?

    Getting the better of your urges, Part 2

    As many of you know, I was once a bigtime compulsive eater who weighed 50 pounds more than I do now. Today, I have a lot of clients in a similar boat, with 50-100 pounds to lose. (And some, like me, with the proverbial final few.)

    Recently I mentioned that my clients and I have been getting great results using a simple habit-changing process developed by psychologist Jeffrey Schwartz.  

    He details the process in his book You Are Not Your Brain. It's a good read but a bit long. As promised, I'm going to describe his method in a short form that you can try out right now.

    Next time you have an urge to eat something you'll regret later, use these steps:

    1. Identify: Label that urge. Your body didn't arrive at the fridge without an impulse from your brain. Notice, recognize, identifythat impulse. "My brain is telling me to walk to the fridge."

    2. Separate: Now disidentify. Is that actually your best self urging you to stand at the fridge, one hand tipping the maple syrup jug to your lips*, the other rummaging for leftover pancakes? No, that's not you. That's a primitive, and very uncreative part of your brain. "That's not me; that's my lizard brain."

    3. Dismiss:  That part of your brain has been saying the same thing ("Eat! Run! Hide!") since the earth's crust cooled off, and it's not going to get creative and come up with something good today. You don't need to listen. "Thanks for sharing! Buh-bye." 

    4. Focus: On something else: The present moment. Reality. Your feelings, your body, your breath. Any activity that produces positive feelings and eases the urgency, such as a mental review of what's working. "Okay, my lungs are working and I'm drawing in air. I'm working and so I've got a roof over my head. My plumbing's working and I can go take a bath."

    And then give yourself an A: Attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection. Put your attention on praise for yourself (you may have heard me suggest this before) because a reward of good feelings is crucial for wiring up a new habit.

    I'm not gonna front; this isn't easy at first. As you know, giving in to your urges relieves the urgency, and that is no small relief.

    Unfortunately, giving in to urges also strengthens the urge.

    Doing this process will weaken your urges. Over time, ignoring your urges causes their neural pathways to wither, which is what we really want. Right? We want them never to bother us again.

    So let your urges die of neglect. Withdraw your attention from them. Start with one habit. Are you eating too fast? Eating to overfullness? Just start with one thing, and let me know how you go.

    This is good info, y'all. Please do share!

    PS  Here's how I remember the process: Identify, Separate, Dismiss, Focus = ISDF, which sounds like "is deaf," as in, "Lizard brain, I is deaf to you." Feel free to improve on that :) but I'll tell you what: You will not need to remember this for long. It works fast.

    * Just me, huh? Okay, one or two others, may we all be born in a completely pure realm.

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    Pancakes photo: Daniel Y. Go via Compfight cc

  • Of course I want to be happy! But first I need to lose some weight.

    (Just FYI: If you're on my newsletter list (and if you're not, you should be, because it's awesome), you'll have read the piece below already. The newsletters are chockablock with good tools and actionable knowledge, so I've started adding some here.)

    The other day a client and I were doing the exercise "What are you waiting for?" This is a list I have my people make, and it contains all the things they're postponing "until after they're thin."

    (You can do this if you're at your ideal weight, too. Just substitute whatever milestone you feel is just this side of happiness: a certain job title, a particular bank balance, last child leaves for college - or kindergarten.)

    Often, the things on our list make no sense to postpone. For instance, anyone can wear perfume at any size. (Professional wrestlers, you already know this.) But unconsciously, we tell ourselves things like, "Oh, I don't want to call attention to myself with perfume … at this weight."

    Or, heartbreakingly, "I don't want people to think that I think I'm sexy." (And risk having them tell me I'm not.) 

    Or, worse, "I don't want people to think I want to besexy." (And risk having them laugh and tell me there's no earthly way.) 

    Or, what it so often really boils down to is lies like these: I'm fat, thus I don't deserve pleasure. I'm fat, and that's why I can't have what I want. I'm fat, so I haven't earned my perfume.

    Waiting for what you want until you "deserve" it is a perfect prescription for unhappiness, isn't it? We can argue our case for "deserving" with our internal judge, but we'll tire long before he ever does. 

    Better plan: Just go straight at it, signing our own permission slip, which is what I encourage my clients to do. 

    Whatever's on their list, I offer my strongest encouragement to do those things NOW. Like, go to the beach in a bikini. Figure out what it takes to get up Kilimanjaro, and find out who wants to come along. Tell the truth to their husband. Whatever it is, doing these things now - and this is the whole point - transforms us into what we think we'll be when we're thin.

    There is no need to postpone happiness. Ever. It's a scam.

    Furthermore, I hope you will not believe me when I say that transforming ourselves into the person who climbs Kilimanjaro wearing her sultriest perfume before losing the w eight magically causes the we ight to come off. I don't want you to believe me; I wish for you to go and collect your own evidence.

    Try this

    Make the list, just for yourself. No one has to see it. Pick one thing you 1. can do now and 2. really like the sound of. Do it now, see how it feels, and if it feels good, repeat liberally.

    If your item involves a bikini, you might want to listen to my interview with Susan Hyatt for added encouragement. And fun.

    Next week, we'll look at stuff on that list that, actually, you don't like the sound of. Gee, how'd it get on there? We're gonna talk about that. 

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  • Wayfinding Week 43: Horses and cowboy boots

    What is this Wayfinding? It's a series of experiments with Martha Beck's "technologies of magic," as described in her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World." They are Wordlessness, Oneness, Imagination, and Forming. We do the experiment together!

    Coincidences (possible signs of Forming):

    Do you ever get the feeling that someone you admire must be reading your blog, because they couldn't possibly be reading your mind?

    And then you dismiss that because, helloooooo, insanely egocentric?

    And then you wonder if somehow you are just incredibly attuned to each other, or at least, to the same thing? That could happen, right?

    But then you start wondering if you're really just imagining the whole thing? All the coincidences?

    I'm tremendously fucked up about this right now. But I expect it'll pass.

    On the less freaky side, I got a postcard from Yosemite that was a wonderful Coincidence, and I am Expressing Appreciation for that right here. 


    Almost all of my clients are located outside Cambridge. Most are pretty remote: California, Australia, Europe. I do have a few in neighboring towns, and more in New Blighty, but even the relatively close clients I usually meet with by phone. 

    Once in a while, though, I have a client who's right in the neighborhood, and that is fun, because I have a little garret office at the top of my tall skinny house, and we can have tea, and lie down On The Floor and take imaginary journeys and Call the Future and whatnot. 

    And then sometimes we pull out the kraft paper and the magazines and the scissors and glue and make "vision boards." And that is mad fun. My client Ulrike (obviously: not her real name) and I did that this week. We both had horses in our visions.

    My horse (above) seems especially sentient, don't you think? I'm going to interview that horse; see what it has to tell me. I feel certain there's more to know.

    I am also seeing pottery. A potter is about the last thing I would have imagined myself becoming, but it keeps coming up and pulling my attention. I'm watching and listening...

    And of course, there's the usual hot springs, ocean, surfing and convivial scenes. YES to all that.

    Updates on past experiments:

    I have been long wanting more Friends Right Where I Am. Last week an old and dear friend was in town for one night only. We had a fantastic meal at Sportello and I had a glass of wine with a superlong Italian name that contained the word "vulture" and it was a memorably complicated taste and just being in my friend's company, side by side at the counter, was so priceless delicious and wonderful. More please, more please!

    Also, excitingly, cowboy boots! Cowboy boots with eagles with hearts on their chests. They have a wonderful history: they come from the Acme Boots of the 70s. They are legit and they are the shit and OMG they fit! Which is amazing, because as you may know, my feet are short and wide. They are essentially square. You could put them right into a Diego Rivera painting of feet, they are that blocky. 

    Yay! And thank you, L, for thinking of me, when you were deciding what to do with these beautiful boots.

    Your turn!

    If you're doing a similar wayfinding experiment and want to report results, or reading Martha's book and want to talk about it, leave a comment below.

  • The first of 4 types of eating: Fuel

    Last week we talked about the hunger scale, and tuning in to our bodies' signals to know when to eat, and also when to stop eating.

    (And how are you coming with that? What do you notice? I would LOVE to hear from you; my email is right over there in the left - the little envelope.)

    This week I want to introduce the idea of different kinds of eating. They will all sound familiar to you, because most of us practice each of them to some degree. You may have different names for them, and feel free to use those, or make up new ones.

    In fact, do that with everything I write or say, as you will! The topics of food and eating can be so loaded and challenging that the slightest wrongness in a description can trigger a firestorm of furious reaction. Please know I never mean to deliberately stir the pot. Just observing our eating is  more than enough to get us going. So if I ever use terms you don't like, replace them with impunity!

    The most basic kind of eating is what I call "Fuel." Fuel is food that your body is calling for; what it needs to stoke the fire to run your engines. Fuel food is quality stuff that feels good in your body and leaves you satisfied.

    For me, that means meat and vegetables. For vegetarians, it means other protein sources. Those are broad categories, and the details are unique for each of us.

    Fuel excludes food that leaves our bodies feeling burdened. For me, grains aren't good fuel. They leave my body feeling like I've tossed something in that will demand extra effort to process. It doesn't mean I don't love or eat grains; it means I limit them and don't regard them as necessary to sustain life.

    It would be a very helpful act of self-care to have a list of fuel foods handy, and add to it as you're inspired to experiment and observe. I like to carry some emergency sources of fuel with me at all times, so I can stoke the fire without resorting to something that will leave me worse off than before.

    Important note: Fuel foods are not tasteless items to be consumed for virtue alone. They are foods that taste good to you.

    Next week: There's a place in our eating for Fun. I will show you its location.
    Last week: The hunger scale. Nicer than that other kind of scale.

  • The hunger scale. Nicer than that other kind of scale.

    Most of us food people have trouble knowing when to eat - when to start, and when to stop. That blindingly obvious advice "Eat when you're hungry; stop when you're full" is not necessarily helpful (although, gosh, we're grateful!) if you don't know what hunger feels like. And a lot of us don't actually know - even some of us who think we do, and I would have to have included myself in that group until not too long ago.

    As I've written here before, I was disconnected enough to regard the signs of physical hunger as any sensation located between my teeth and my abdomen. Things like thirst, sadness, loneliness, tight clothing, digestion, indigestion, and even fullness - I routinely interpreted all of those things as hunger.

    I started working with a hunger scale when I encountered Geneen Roth. At that time, I was very rarely hungry, so I didn't have much (um, any) data for comparison. I had to be willing to wait to eat until something unambiguous was happening in my stomach, and to observe closely and take a lot of notes about the sensations.

    I will own it took some time.

    Geneen uses a 10-point scale, with 1 being perishing, and 10 being painfully overstuffed. These days I teach either the 21-point scale used by Brooke Castillo, or the 11-point scale used by my nutrition counselor/goddess Lisa Spencer. You could use any of them; it just depends on how sensitive you want your measurements. What Brooke's and Lisa's scales have in common is a neutral "zero" point in the middle, and I just like the shapeliness of that.

    Whichever one you pick, here's how to use it: start filling in the physical sensations that occur in your body, which will be different from what happens in your husband's or son's or mother's or nutritionist's body, at each point along the scale. With a neutral point in the middle, you'll be able to get yourself oriented, so that -1 on the scale is probably just the faintest whisper of hunger, and -2 the first - not painful - unambiguous signals of need. On the positive side, +1 would be the first sign that you could be approaching satiety, and +2 is the signal you've had enough. A +3 reading might be a couple more bites than your body was really asking for, and +4 is fullness.

    As you go further out on either end of the scale, the physical sensations become more extreme and more uncomfortable. If you are like me, you may experience a sort of "dead zone" if you ignore the first signs of hunger, only to have the symptoms come back at triple strength. (This is when you find yourself eating the out-of-date packaged chicharrones at the Circle K - seems like the only thing to do, under the circumstances, because you're experiencing primal hunger and the panic that goes with it. Hint: we want to avoid reaching this extreme.)

    You may find, as you make your observations, that you have to rejigger the scale. What once seemed like +2 now feels like +4, as you become attuned to the physical differences between enough and full - because those are two different states, and learning to tell them apart is one of the golden keys to weight loss. When we give our body what it needs, rather than give in to our mind about what it wants, extra weight just disappears, often with amazing speed.

    Next week: Different types of eating. (They're gonna sound familiar...)
    Last week: What are you waiting for? I want the list.

  • What are you waiting for? I want the list.

    What are you waiting until after you lose weight for? 

    If you're waiting to lose weight to wear what you want, don't. Just don't wait. As I've written before, nothing makes the weight come off faster than the magic spell of buying something you really love for the body you really inhabit right now. And don't stint! Spend the money to get what you really want. I can just about guarantee you'll be taking it to the consignment shop before the season is out.

    If you're waiting to be thin to eat what you really want, especially in front of others, just don't. There is no better way to encourage yourself to sneak food, and sneaking food - somehow - isn't very compatible with maintaining our natural weight. Eat the food your body is calling for now. And, to a lesser degree, eat the food you really want for pleasure, now. (Just stop when it's not a pleasure anymore. Watch for that moment - it can happen fast.)

    If you're waiting to be thin before saying what you want, don't! It works the other way around: we ask for or simply say what we want, and we eat less food we don't want. Not speaking up on our own behalf is major cause of the kind of resentment and fury we binge in order to stuff down.

    If you're waiting to lose weight to start doing what you want, will it really be easier? If it's running or rock climbing or horseback riding, just start now - you'll inspire half the people who see you, and the rest of them are too busy thinking about more important things, like where's their Avengers DVD? If it's going to the beach, belieeeeeve: the water is going to feel so good it will truly start rinsing off unquestioned thoughts like "Flesh like mine shouldn't appear in public."

    Above all, if you're waiting to be thin before feeling how you want, has that ever worked? I suggest you be kind and loving to yourself right now. Like, way more kind than you think you "deserve," as if there were any such accounting. 

    We've all been thin and hard on ourselves; we've all lost weight and still felt bad. There's no number the scale hits that presses a lever that delivers the feel-good that drops from a trap door. It doesn't work that way.

    Instead, feel good now. Do those things that feel good now. And that will turn you - just like magic - into the person you think have to be thin to be.

    So, then, tell me: What are you waiting until after you lose weight for? I really want to know. The things on it aren't necessarily easy, but they aren't necessarily easy for thin folks, either. So send me your list, start doing the things on it, tell me how it goes, and if you want help with that, I'm available. 

    Next week: The hunger scale, and how to use it
    Last week: The diet/binge cycle, and the easiest place to get off the wheel

  • Wayfinding Week 35: Got guidance?

    Detail from Brown Squirrel And White Squirrel by David Wagner

    What is this Wayfinding? It's a series of experiments with Martha Beck's "technologies of magic," as described in her book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World." They are Wordlessness, Oneness, Imagination, and Forming. We do the experiment together!


    I keep coming back to the meta-purpose of this whole experiment, which is a connection with and reliance on the Wayfinder equipment I hope I was born with. The equipment I'm increasingly trusting I was born with and am learning how to use. Guidance! Direction! Confidence.

    But I'm also starting to think of Wayfinding as more than just learning my way around a control panel and figuring out how to interpret feedback. I am also OH DEAR LORD Iamwritingthisinapublicforum starting to wrap my being around the idea of working with "guides."

    (Note to my guides: Sorry for the quotation marks! They're lame. And they won't even help because everyone already knows I'm a freak anyway.)

    My sister has been trying to get me to work with my guides for about 35 years, without success. Too freaky, even for me. But Martha Beck is talking about working with guides now, too, so I have pricked up my ears.

    On her quarterly coaches' call a couple weeks ago, Martha bluntly admitted she'd gotten on the crazy train and wasn't even getting off to stretch her legs anymore, and after announcing there was no time to waste, said she thought we were all being, oh, let's say, encouraged into a new style of consciousness.

    Martha went on to say that she didn't know everything about this new consciousness, but she knew three of its components:

    1. an experiential conviction that your physical being is maintained via living joyfully, and not through selling your soul to the company store
    2. we are all guided and have ready access to guidance via guardian angels, or whatever you want to call them
    3. we are all connected, and we do this [the consciousness upgrade, I guess] together, not alone 

    Item #1 is essentially what I've been Imagining here all along: trading the grinding way I've habitually done everything for an easy way. Ease.

    And Item #2 the way I've been trying to get there. Wayfinding my way to ease, via ease. Now with added backup from, um, guides.

    Martha adds about working with guides that if you ask for aid and keep an eye out for statistically improbable coincidences that serve to help you out, you will start experiencing a "sense of having backup in a magical way that is incredibly calming and comforting." 

    So that is what I have been practicing with this week: Asking for help, chiefly around shutting down the project of seeking out company stores that might give me a little cash for my soul, and finding joy and ease in work and life.

    Coincidences (possible signs of Forming):

    The other thing I asked for backup on was finding some missing earphones. I really thought I'd looked everywhere, several times. A bit humiliating for Soi-Disant Finder, you know? At the end of the day, somewhat despairing, I remembered Martha's suggestion to ask for help from my guides, which I did then and there.

    What happened next was I opened my eyes and saw a jacket in the rumpled bedclothes. Without thinking, I put my hand in one of its pockets and pulled the earphones right out. It made perfect sense that the earphones were there in that jacket, but I had no memory of having stowed them as I drew them out - just a sensation of my arm and hand moving without conscious direction on my part.

    You know what? I love that feeling.

    It was legitimately freaky. Comforting, too, as promised. 

    Also this week, not a coincidence, but just an interesting animal sighting while out on Walk-n-Coach, we saw a white squirrel. I gather there are areas where white squirrels are commonplace, but Brattle Street in Cambridge is not one of them. It was fun! I often see black squirrels in that neighborhood; equally cool. 

    About squirrels, the freakishly awesome Sarah Bamford Seidelmann says in What the Walrus Knows: "Play on purpose. Chatter, chase and goad recruits into your game."

    Actually, ok, that's a pretty darn good coincidence right there. And it's straight out of a Friendly Book.

    Updates on past experiments

    We're coming up on the autumnal equinox, and we've just passed the opening of the acadmic year here in New Blighty. This is the time of year that I really think of as The Big Beginning, and it always makes me want to take stock.

    I'm reviewing all the things I've been Imagining, and how most of them are proxies for something deeper. Pot racks, Sunday lunches, more clients, holidays in Wellfleet: They all boil down to a few feeling states that I want to spend my days in:

    • Ease, warmth, comfort, conviviality, connection and cosiness
    • Ease, flow, mastery and power

    So whether in repose or in activity: Ease. Confidence. And it's happening. Here are some ways:

    • Comfort via Friendly Books and guides
    • Conviviality via Sunday lunch
    • Warmth and connection via working with the exact right clients
    • Flow in work via asking for guidance (when I've remembered) and putting in my easy 10,000 hours...
    • ...and work flowing in to me, more all the time. Thank you!

    Your turn!

    If you're doing a similar Wayfinding experiment and want to report results, or reading Martha's book and want to talk about it, you can leave a comment right here on this page. Tell me about your white squirrel sightings, your own work with guides or your number one Friendly Book. I want to hear it all!

  • Red letter day

    Here I am in Santa Cruz about, oh, 10 years ago? Eight? You can tell I hadn't just left the maternity ward, anyway, by the fact that my youngest is fixing to get on his bike. I remember that day, because I felt so slim. It was the first time I'd been able to wear jeans off the rack in many years. (Thank you for that, Ben Davis!) I probably weighed 40 pounds more than I do today.

    Today is a red-letter day for me. It's my first day of official self-employment. I've gone down to half-time at my day job, and I've got wall-to-wall coaching clients. It's what I have deeply wanted for many years, and today I'm observing how normal it already feels.

    Note to Wayfinders: Feeling that the thing you want to Form is normal is key. We're taught that we need to get really pumped to make something happen - to vibrate all over with high-pitched excitement, and use that energy to pull us forward. But that way is too hard, I think. Excitement isn't sustainable in the way that calm assurance is. (Can be. That's my goal, anyway.)

    As Martha Beck said during the Wayfinder Workshop, "[First,] I had to make going to Africa all the time normal. Now I'm a person who goes to Africa all the time." It's normal!

    Making what you desire feel normal doesn't diminish the pleasure when your desires come about, though. Today I'm feeling quite pleased, me. But in a calm, "of course; this was meant to be" sort of way.

    Anyway, I have a little more time now. And part of what I want to do with this time is write about how I went from weighing nearly 190 pounds (I'm 5'4", just so you know) to weighing less than 130. I've been so enchanted with Wayfinding and magic and coincidences and calling whales that I've neglected writing about food and eating, but that transformation - from being what I thought was permanently overweight to being thin, and from being a compulsive eater to being a devoted one - is about as magic as anything that's ever happened in my life.

    I want to write about this because if I can do it, anyone can do it. Let's do it together! I'll meet you back here next Wednesday for the first instalment: Why diets suck and make you fat and how they kinda just a little bit will never ever work.

  • Simple ways to say "No, thanks" to unwanted food

    I have some scripts to help you refuse food without scorching any earth - your own, or your family's.

    They're a little late for Easter or Passover, but have you noticed how, for us food people, the special occasions don't really ever stop coming? I feel sure there will be an opportunity to use these emergency-eating techniques sometime soon. And if not, you can use the time to practice so that when you whip them out at Thanksgiving, you'll sound totally natural.

    So here are some phrases to use when turning down food from important friends or relations - people whose feelings you don't want to hurt. (And just know that we're going to treat the topic of whether it's possible to hurt anyone else's feelings at a future date. You will guess that I think the answer is "No. Not possible.") Here you are:

    • You know you've spoilt me for life, right? I think I have already broken the ecstasy meter, but thank you.
    • Thank you, but I'm not hungry. I love your food, but I love you even more. And I'm really here for your company.

    It may be a little different if we're talking about people you don't love - perhaps co-workers or clients; people not of your innermost circle. Even so, you may think you have social obligations or reasons to eat. For those occasions, you might try these phrases:

    • Thank you, but the doctor wants me to cut back on X, and I want to be able to report my good behavior to her.
    • You know, I think I might be developing a sensitivity to X. I'd better not.
    • Thank you, but I've got a yoga class in an hour. 
    • You know I'm really not hungry! I just really wanted to see you. 

    Or, and this is my favorite:

    • I'm experiment with something new: I'm only eating when I'm hungry. It's amazing. I've lost a fair bit of weight, too. Want to hear more?

    If you think it's "too weird" not to eat, and will draw attention, try it out. 

    See what it feels like to get the attention. I mean, really feel it. And compare that to the feeling of food in your body that it didn't want.

    See how much attention you really get, and compare that with your worst fears. 

    Or think about how much you really think about other people. In truth, most of what we think about when we think about other people is imagining what they think about us. And that's not really thinking about other people. That's thinking about ourselves. 

    Which, on the whole, is what others are doing. Thinking about themselves.

    Remembering that basic fact about people is what enables me to get by on just one phrase now. It starts with "No" and ends with "thanks." And there's nothing in between. 

    And I can't even tell you the last time that phrase presented a problem for someone. Because if it did, it wasn't about me and I didn't notice. Which is a great place to be. 

    I would love to see you there with me.

    Now as I was writing this, Martha Beck was publishing a piece on shame and What Everyone Thinks. I've given you some go-to phrases; Martha will give you an extra dose of perspective. Enjoy!

  • Coach Week: it's like Restaurant Week, only for coaching

    Last week, in order to collect recordings I could give to my teacher, showing off my coaching chops (i.e., for certification), I opened up free coaching sessions to all comers. I posted the offer once on Facebook and once on Twitter, and said Yes to everyone who responded until I was overwhelmed. That took about two hours.

    And then I was looking at seven solid days of coaching. On top of a near-full-time job. (And three kids, and a household to run, blah blah blah, but I am no longer cleaning the place! Oh, no. I have a housekeeper and I'm never going back.)

    I thought such a full schedule of coaching would be hard, but it wasn't. It was dazzling. I All kinds of people signed up. Several I hadn't talked to in years. Several I'd never spoken to before. A couple that live around the corner. And every single one of them was lovely. And I think every one of them got something they could really use.

    The whole week was luscious and spacious and easy. And holy crap I think I have to say it: more, please! Yep, I'm going to do it again.

    I'm thinking early August. It'll be like Restaurant Week, or dineLA, or whatever it's called where you are. Maybe I'll come up with a clever name. So if you didn't get in this time, mark your calendar, and I'll talk to you in August.

    Now, how about those food journals?

    I was thinking this morning about how to ask you how those food journals are going. I didn't want to set off   feelings of angst, rebellion, or horror. Or missing homework, heaven forbid. And then I saw Miss Martha Beck tweet her Quote of the Day:

    Attention is a powerful nutrient. It amplifies and accelerates the situations on which it is focused.

    And there is the secret of the food diary revealed. It's just attention. There's no effort at all; you just write down what you eat. I spend less than a minute a day on it. I don't even write the amounts of what I've eaten, unless they're somehow notable.

    Then I sit back and wait for attention to transform the entire process. Which it unavoidably will.

    A client told me this week that Jonah Lerner (author of How We Decide) writes that the worst thing you can do to a master golfer is ask how, exactly, she accomplishes her stroke. The minute you ask, she starts thinking about it, and thinking leads straight to wobbles.

    This is exactly what we do with the food diary. We just bring our attention to what we're doing, and instead of ruining our golf game, we utterly disrupt our overeating. It falls apart just from the looking. It is inevitable. It is effortless. It is free of suffering. (It includes weight loss. Just FYI.)

    And if you can adopt an attitude of kind curiosity to go with your observation, you will soon find the process fascinating. You might even go all the way to gratitude for what you get to learn about yourself.

    So, yeah! How are you going with those food diaries? Tell me.

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