• 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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    What it means to eat for now

    Feeling it now. Writing it down.

    Mechanical tools and practical magic 

  • 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.

    You might also enjoy other posts in this series

    Wear it now

    When is it time to tell the truth?

    Know it now

  • 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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    Wear it now

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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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  • 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

    Wear it now

    When is it time to tell the truth?

    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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  • 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.

    You might also enjoy

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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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  • Letting my body run the show

    Could it be worse than the job my brain has done?

    Letting my body run the show (just as an experiment...)

    When I was in coach training with the kind, tender-hearted, very ass-kicking Bridgette Boudreau, she very nicely critiqued my coaching by saying this: I don't fight anyone.

    We will draw a veil of charity over my instant regression to 5th grade loser, and go to what Bridge actually meant: You just don't have to make anyone see or do things your way. I was able to meet her there as regards clients, and I now try to bring that approach to my body as well.

    Not a few of my weight loss clients are people whose bodies show us that they need to gain a little weight.

    Especially after a recent brain dump on my body, during which I complained to my Mama Gena "spring cleaning" partner for 10 solid minutes before wondering what kind of complaints my body might have about me.

    Around then, I decided to up my commitment to not making my body do what it's resisting. Not make it eat what it finds unpalatable. Not insist on exercise that it's hating at the moment. Not being the boss of it, and not forcing anything.

    Even if the science seems rock solid. (Doesn't it all? Until it's refuted. More about that soon.)

    Even if it's a prescription no one questions, like eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. (Is it August? Hit me. Is it May? You know, I am not actually that thirsty.)

    Even if someone with beautiful skin, clear eyes and unbelievable energy swears by it. (Hello, NEARLY EVERYONE. You are so pretty but I'm solid on the green smoothies.)

    And especially if I think I know better. For example, we know we're really not supposed to eat cheeseburgers. Fries, also no. Who doesn't know that? But if that's what my body wants...

    Most outrageously, I am no longer setting the alarm (unless I have to get on a plane). I love this so much!

    So I can hear some of you saying Oh, but I'm so lazy! I have to force myself to do things. Eat things.

    If so, you might ask yourself - seriously ask - what is so bad about being lazy? Don't stop with "I'll get fat," because I can refute that one in my sleep. Let me know what you see.

    So, where's the weight loss in this? Maybe there isn't any. Not a few of my weight loss clients are people whose bodies show us that they need to gain a little weight. If you are a restrictive eater, and find yourself struggling to just say No to cheeseburgers, you might experiment with saying Yes the next time your body gives you the cue.

    And what if you don't have a weight or eating issue? There's no big difference here, actually. If you're alive today in the West, you have a lot of people telling you how, how much and what to eat. And they really can't know.

    Have thoughts?

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

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  • Always eating whatever I want

    We are all eating whatever we want, all the time.

    You know those annoying thin people who are forever saying "I eat whatever I want"?

    That's me. I eat whatever I want.

    That's also you. You eat whatever you want.

    If there's nothing but crap in the pantry, it's because we went shopping, and we bought crap, and put it in our pantry.

    It's true of just about everyone in the developed world. We are all eating whatever we want, all the time.

    If there's nothing but crap in the pantry, it's because we went shopping, and we bought crap, and put it in our pantry. Unless shackled to dungeon wall - and maybe even then - the choice to put something in our mouth or not is all ours.

    And you know those other people (or maybe they're the same people) who are always saying I can't eat that! about some food or other? I actually think it's very similar. I always wonder, oh, so if you were in the outback and that was the only available foodstuff and you ate it, you would go into shock and die? That's true of very few people-n-food combos.

    Me, I can barely look at a grasshopper without going into shock, but if I were starving in the wilderness and they were the only nutrition available, I would eat those horrible, horrible creatures because I bet my brain would rearrange to allow that choice.

    Aside: When I was breastfeeding, I cannot even tell you the number of women who said to me, Oh I tried to breastfeed, but I couldn't. And I never said this, but I always thought Really? You "couldn't"? Because in our society, not being able to breastfeed just means formula. I get that breastfeeding isn't comfortable at first, believe. But if not being able to breastfeed meant "dead kid" instead of "Nestle," very few people would find that they "couldn't do it."

    So, back to food for grownups. If we take a grownup approach, and acknowledge that we have the power of choice, we are free to choose something different. If we're always eating what we want anyway, we can take a moment and ask, What do I want?

    Try it. See how satisfying it is even just to ask the question. (It is kinda the million-dollar question.)

    So, where's the weight loss in this? If restriction leads to bingeing for you (and this is common as mud), seeing that you are always eating what you want removes any need to build up to a big rebellion. There's no one to rebel against. You're in charge.

    And what if you don't have a weight or eating issue? You can probably see this restriction -> tension -> rebellion -> remorse -> restriction cycle elsewhere in your life. (Social workers call it the "abuse cycle," because it describes the same pattern we see in spousal abuse.) Maybe in relationship with your manager, maybe in the way you and your partner clash over finances. Just see if you're putting someone else in charge, where the power is actually yours.

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  • Do your own research

    Well, we can still keep calm, right?

    So many diets, so little... dear Heaven, SO MANY DIETS.

    As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'm thinking my Keep Calm and Don't Diet era is kinda over.

    All I've ever meant when I say "don't diet" is really "don't starve." Don't ignore your body's need to eat.

    (And I stand by this. Please don't starve yourself.)

    But I don't mean "don't have any guidelines."

    People ask me about this all the time, because everyone is looking for a diet, or a set of food rules that will yield good results. (Good results being energy, digestive health, stable weight, clear skin, undisturbed sleep, pleasure, satiety and outstanding sex. For starters.)

    Some of the diets and gurus that clients ask me about, or try for themselves, or wind up swearing by include:

    • 5:2 fasting diet (Michael Mosley)
    • Paleo (Whole 30, Gary Taubes, my former boyfriend Tim Ferriss)
    • Raw 
    • Dukan 
    • Diet Recovery (Matt Stone)
    • Ayurvedic (including eating one big meal in the middle of the day)
    • Mediterranean 
    • Slow Down diet (Marc David)
    • Macrobiotics (speaking of the Paleolithic era)

    Some of these diets are pretty extreme, by Western standards. And a lot of people who try one of these extreme things get some extremely good results. (For a while, anyway.)

    Even though some of these diets are close to the opposite of others.

    Other people's research is not necessarily helpful in sorting this out. You will already have noticed many times that anything you read, even the most well-intentioned and thoughtful studies, can be countered with other perfectly good science. And usually is, within the year.

    So what I tell my clients, along with "please try to join up with your body, instead of fighting it," is that there is no one prescription for eating that works for all bodies at all times.

    Yet most of us are doing the same old thing we always do, whether that's dieting, bingeing, cycling between, or even eating "healthy," whatever that means today.

    All the diets listed above are successful, or we wouldn't know about them. But their success doesn't show that fasting, for example, is good for everyone (or that it could be bad for everyone). What this shows is that changing stuff up once in a while is probably going to yield some interesting results and uncover some useful information.

    Possibly even some guidelines you can use for a long time.

    But you have to do your own testing, and be open to any results.

    On the other hand, if you are struggling with emotional eating, and not merely the mechanics, I can help. I will be taking new clients starting in May, so drop me a line if you'd like to talk with me about how I work and what we can do together.

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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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  • Body Mind Book Club

    Newspaper hats optional.

    Please join me and Cookie for Body Mind Book Club. Sign up for dates and other info here.

    Body Mind Book Club

    Hi friends! Just a quick note this week to let you know about the Body Mind Book Club, a free monthly reading group I'm starting in April with my friend and colleague Cookie Rosenblum

    Our plan is to read and meet monthly, via teleconference, to talk about eating, weight, body issues and the mind-body connection. Some of the books we read will address these topics directly. Some will be books that are more like fellow travelers with our topic. 

    The first meeting of the group will be on Monday April 28, 2014, 12pm Pacific, 3pm Eastern, 8pm GMT. The call will be recorded, so no worries if that time doesn't work for you.

    Our first book is Gay Hendricks's 2010 work The Big Leap. Gay tackles the "upper limit problem," which describes how we can be doing so well in some parts of our life, and so …. not well in others. (Like we get a promotion, and immediately put on 10 pounds. I've done it.) The book offers a way to accept more pleasure, more happiness and more success in our lives.

    (By the way, Gay doesn't talk about it specifically in this book, but as a young adult, he weighed over 100 lbs more than he does today. So he's got some experience in our area, and if you're curious about that, here he is in a short video.)

    If you'd like to join in, you can get information and reminders by signing up on this mailing list. (Signing up for this list will also put you on my mailing list, and Cookie's, if you're not already. Neither Cookie nor I will spam you, and you can get yourself the lists with one click.)

    I recommend this book even if you prefer to read it on your own, outside the group. But I think we'll have a lot of fun talking about it, and experimenting with Gay's suggestions.

    PS  Our next book will be Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body, by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby.* That should be at least as much fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.

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    * Those are Amazon affiliate links, by the way. If you buy books this way, I'll get… oh, I dunno 6 or 8 cents? Your price is the same.

  • How do I know if I'm hungry?

    Would a chicken breast solve this problem?

    Here's a good question for you: 

    So we have been talking about hunger the past few weeks: Eating in response to hunger, exploring the edges of hunger, seeing what's it like not to eat when we're hungry, and so on. And some of you have reminded me that by far the most frequent question asked by a new client is this:

    How do I know if I'm hungry?

    This is a really good question.

    Unless you're a person without eating issues, in which case this is about the biggest "duh" question ever. For us eater people, though, it's a tricky question with a not-obvious answer.

    For example, I have clients who think that "if my stomach has capacity, which includes every sensation other than overfull, that's hunger, right?"

    Or if my stomach is making noises. If my throat is making noises. 

    (Or me, if my husband or my kid is making noises. Gah! Impulse to EAT!)

    Or if my stomach has sensation. Or if my chest has sensation. 

    This confusion is common. We haven't learnt to distinguish the physical sensations that go with physical needs from the physical sensations that go with emotional needs. There's a reason we talk about heartache as much as any other sensation, and that's because we feel it, in the body.

    Emotions are an enormous topic, but they're only one example. There's a whole class of physical sensations that come with simply wearing clothes. Belt too tight?OMG I must be hungry! Believe me, I've done it - a lot. As I've written elsewhere, I even used to confuse the sensation of fullness with hunger.

    So I could make you a whole flow chart of how to figure out whether you're...

    • hungry or heartbroken
    • hungry or full
    • hungry or coming down with the flu
    ...but I have never found a more direct tool than the one I got from my teacher Brooke Castillo. It is a single question:

    Could this problem be solved with a plain baked chicken breast?

    (If you're a vegetarian, ask yourself about a bowl of unseasoned, unadorned lentils.)

    That'll get you right there, because while you might think that cupcakes can fix heartbreak (and maybe you even have a little evidence), nobody has ever had an emotional problem that can be solved with near-tasteless food. There's only thing that a plain chicken breast can fix, and that's simple, physical hunger.

    Next week, we'll either have exhausted our questions about hunger - or there'll be new ones. If you have new questions sparked today, let me know, and I'll address them.

    Meanwhile, if you'd like to solve this food and hunger thing, and are thinking of coaching, make a time to chat (free) with me. We can quickly see if my coaching is right for you.

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    It's been a total Frog Tornado around here lately

    What we're talking about when we talk about "diets"

    Yay, no boomerang effect! 

  • It's been a total Frog Tornado around here lately

    That's me, in a rain of frogs. Only without the umbrella.

    Not a real Frog Tornado, like in the Bible or The X-Files...

    ... because while tornadoes have increased on our planet, we're kinda running low on frogs. This has been a metaphorical Frog Tornado, but just like in a real rain of frogs, the first one smacks you upside the head, and you're all Wha???? Frog?! And then two or three more fall (plop! PLOPPLOP!), and suddenly the skies are dark and you're a believer in a storm of frogs, praying for an umbrella.

    So I was cleaning up frogs yesterday when I should have been writing you. Also I'm nervous and still watching the sky. That's why this is a bit late.

    But we have some stuff to address because last week I got several energetic responses to what I said about hunger.

    To recap, last week I wrote that if you want to remove excess weight, it's not a good idea to go hungry too often. Going hungry too often leaves you in a tight spot where it's hard to make good food choices.

    And I said that I had come to accept my friend's statement that "If you want to be thin, you need to be willing to be hungry." I said that I thought of "thin" in this equation as being "thinner than your body wants to be," which is what our hunger is telling us:Not enough food up in here! Get some meat on your bones, sister!

    However, one of the exchanges I had this week was with my smart and funny friendLisa Spencer, a very knowledgeable nutrition coach, who I often recommend to clients. She asked: What is the difference between being a little hungry here and there, and working out until your muscles feel a little burn?

    There are a lot of differences between eating and moving, but one of the things Lisa is pointing at is this: What kind of body knowledge have you got if you're not willing to feel your body's limits? The right amount of burn means you're there. More exercise will give you a diminishing return and proceed to injury. If you stop exercising before your body communicates We're there now (which is the burn Lisa's talking about), then you didn't get what you came for.

    So I don't mean extreme limits out near starvation, but edges. Where does my hunger start? When does eating start, under normal circumstances? The witty saying "Never eat on an empty stomach" is advice I took for years. But you do have to be willing to experience hunger if you want to know when and how much to eat. 

    Lisa says, "If I think being a little hungry is a terrible self depriving thing, then it will be." Instantly she opened my eyes to something else, which is (ulp) that I go hungry pretty regularly. 

    Because I hate going to bed with anything in my stomach. I want to be empty when I lie down. I also hate to floss twice, so I have to be at death's door to eat if I'm already ready for bed. And I dislike disrupting my rhythms by eating at a weird hour. (Unless we're in Spain, which of course means midnight dining. Do your worst, Spaniards!) 

    So I'll go to bed hungry and never even think about it, because it's not a sacrifice or a trial.

    And, importantly, I'm not on a diet. I'm going to eat again real soon.

    But … here's another crazy thing: The Frog Tornado has caused me to straight lose my appetite. 

    Which, let us pause for this, because: !!!!!!

    I don't think I've ever before encountered a set of difficulties (which I blogged about) that didn't cause me to run straight for the fridge. Lunging at the fridge is my most reliable clue, for Pete's sake.

    I realize that, again, it's only been about 28 minutes, but still. I never lose my appetite.

    And this impossible appetite loss has shown me yet more about what my body wants and needs, and what's extra. Tell you what: I wouldn't wish a Frog Tornado on anyone, but I can say, even now, I'm grateful for the new awareness.

    So, I await your further thoughts about hunger. Pop your comments down below, friend.

  • What we're talking about when we talk about "diets"

    What do you mean, "diet?"

    I spend a lot of time slagging diets, don't I...

    ...but no time defining them. Let's do that, because clients have asked straight out,"what do you mean when you say 'diet'?"

    (Also "And how come when I ask you what you eat, what you say sounds like a diet?" That was just the one time, though.)

    Well, the word means different things to different people, and here's what it means to me:

    Any plan for eating, set up for the purpose of losing weight, that's too rigid to satisfy your body's hunger. 

    So, plan. A diet is deliberate, and forward-looking. (Not always a bad thing.)

    Its purpose is weight loss. Also not always a bad thing, but typically not a motivation stronger than hunger (which is survival).

    And it's rigid. Our body's hunger is a response to our activity, our health, the weather, and other forms of reality - which is what most of us meet up with by at least 8 in the morning. 

    (And too many collisions with reality wreck a diet by 3 in the afternoon. As we know.)

    In a fight between the body and the mind, the body will always win. Always, even if we're truly anorexic, because the body is aligned with reality. Only our brain wants to fight the reality of our hunger.

    Do that enough, and the body goes on a rampage. Do it a little bit, often enough, and the body goes on little rampages. 

    I have a friend who likes to say, If you really want to be thin, you've got to be willing to go hungry some of the time. I used to think that was a terrible, terrible thing to say. And just plain wrong.

    But now I think that might actually be true - at least for me and people put together like me. You know, eater people. A lot of us only get to "thin" if we're hungry and under-eating; "thin" (which our bodies would call "too thin") represents the gap between our bodies' needs and our willingness to satisfy to them. 

    And again, this never lasts. (My standing record for time at "too thin" is under 28 minutes.)

    Now if you're reading this, you've probably stopped Dieting with a big D. But you could look at all the smaller ways you might be trying to squish your body's hunger, and instead, just work with it. 

    Because there is really nothing more relaxing then getting lined up and signed up with reality.

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  • Yay, no boomerang effect!

    My eyes were THIS BIG. Horrible!

    Join me for 4 weeks of not dieting. Best resolution ever!

    I got new jeans! They're not a reward.

    Oh, you guys! I missed writing to you yesterday because I couldn't put off getting my eyes dilated any longer. After that I was limited to watching very blurry Mindy Project episodes. (And avoiding mirrors. Gah.)

    Today, back to normal, with a couple things to tell you about. One is a thing we learnt in coach training. "As a Martha Beck coach, you need to be able to make a significant permanent improvement in a client's life in 10 minutes or less." (Martha said that to my class. I'm pretty sure she stands by it.)

    And I have done just this, on numerous occasions. Which is awesome.

    However, not everyone has issues that can be vaporized in one session. For example, women that have been binge eating since adolescence. I have heard from a number of you that you actually want regular coaching that lasts 3 or 6 months, or even more. So I am putting that together, and will let you know here when it's ready.

    * * *

    Now the other thing: How are you all doing? Hanging onto your willingness not to diet, despite the pressures of the season?

    I hope so. But that pressure's about to come off, anyway. Because I figure by the end of January, most of the world has given up on their over-strict resolutions, and the pendulum has swung the other way.

    (Well, that's what a lot of the anti-diet experts say. Me, I think folks have forgotten that that pendulum thing is a metaphor, and that people are actually not built very much like clocks at all.)

    Still, it's not unknown.

    So if you have Just Said No to dieting - a diet being an external program of eating having nothing to do with your body - you are likely better off than anyone who's gone on a diet, resisted their healthy hunger, and set their body up to boomerang back in panic. Many of those folks will spend February gaining the weight back, and then some. 

    But if you have bravely gone all the way to living as if you're already at your goal(and make no mistake - that takes guts), I am very interested to hear about your experience. What's life like, without dieting, obsessing and goals?

    What remains, when you clear that stupid diety stuff away? This is what I really want to know about, for you. If you're into it, drop me a note.

    * * *

    PS  Want to hear what I did at my "desired weight?" I got new denim. Two pairs! They're comfy. And they're hawt. (Yay, Lycra!) And they're not a reward

    I live in New England, so I need pants to 1. stay alive in winter and 2. stay out of jail. (Which, come to think of it, is probably where we get the phrase "cover your ass.")

    Anyway, if you've spent the last week or so living as if, but your jeans aren't comfy and hot, try a new pair. And OMG, no need to earn them by hitting some number. You already did it already, remember?

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  • We're here now

    If you get on the scale, you see the "right" number.

    Join me for 4 weeks of not dieting. Best resolution ever!

    Let's act as if, and see what happens

    Last week, you will remember, I suggested putting a couple things into your life now that - up until now - you've been waiting for until after you lose weight. 

    But if you'd like to go a little further, and make things downright perfect, I have another "exercise" for you:

    For the next week, act as if you are already at your goal weight. This means that:

    1. If you get on the scale, you see the "right" number. You do a little dance of joy, and hug yourself for being right where you always wanted to be. (You can write your number on a sticky note and post it on the scale, if you like.)
    2. If you exercise, it's not with a view to losing fat. You do it because it lifts your mood and your body is asking to move and you're falling in love with your hot, hot muscles.
    3. If you eat "healthy" food, you do it because it tastes good in your mouth and feels good in your body - not because it will make your waist smaller. Your waist is the right size now.
    4. If you eat "unhealthy" food, you do it because you're no longer an "all or nothing" eater, and you don't go crazy because you've "blown it," and you're going on a diet tomorrow (because you're not) and you've probably stopped thinking about food as "unhealthy" anyway. Food either serves you, or it doesn't.

    You can write responses to the following prompts, if you want to get deeper into this:

    Yay! I'm at my desired weight, which is ......…. .

    This is what I think about weighing [that desired weight, which is] ......… :

    This is how I feel about weighing [that desired weight, which is] ......… :

    This is what I'm going to eat today, because I've arrived at my goal, and this is how I eat at [that desired weight, which is] ......... pounds:

    1. ...
    2. ...
    3. ...
    4. ...
    5. ...
    6. ...
    7. ...
    8. ...
    9. ...

    This is how I'm going to move today, because it's what feels good at  [that desired weight, which is] ......… :

    1. ...

    This is what I'm going to do today, because I don't need to postpone anything until after I lose weight. I'm here!

    1. ...

    Let me know what you discover, okay? My wish for you is that you find relief from suffering in this exercise, and pleasure, and some nice surprises.

    And if you like how it feels to live at your "goal" weight, no need to stop after a week.

    (Along with some clients, I've been doing this experiment for a few weeks, and it's been fantastic. Today I went to yoga (first time in a couple years!) and I had the experience of looking in the mirror and really liking what I saw - without a weight change from last month. I've noticed some other things too, which I'll tell you about next time.)

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  • Still waiting for the pageant to begin?

    Let's not wait any longer.

    Join me for 4 weeks of not dieting. Best resolution ever!

    Waiting for life to be an epic pageant of fabulousness? Well, no need

    As mentioned last week, I am not a big booster of 

    1. Self-improvement
    2. Goal setting
    3. Giant efforts in January
    4. Diets 

    However, I do like to exercise my imagination. And I love to make lists and draw pictures.

    These are simple hip-pocket tools I find work great to close the gap between where we are (because it's just us, remember, so we can tell the truth about that) and where we want to be (because it feels delicious, natch, and not because it's a big ol' battleship-grey mountain of "should" or "ought").

    So if you're looking to close a gap of some pounds (and I include you readers who are not here for weight, eating or body image issues, as I have a hunch that you, too, have some number in mind that's slightly south of reality), try this thing that is a little too fun to be called "an exercise":

    Get a notebook you love, and a pen that's luscious to write with (mine: PaperMate). Be in a comfy place where you can write uninterrupted. (And for every one of you who dresses up for this, a kitten will get a tenth life.) 

    Grab hold of your willingness to write the truth (just us!). You can write with intent to burn (thank you for that idea, Grace Kerina). For sure you will want to keep this private.

    You'll need about 30 minutes, if you want to do this in one go. You can do this one question at a time, too - nothing would be lost. Whatever works is the right way.

    Here are some questions for you:

    • My current weight:
    • My desired weight (write it down, but let's leave a mental space for the possibility that your body has a different number in mind - could be more, could be less):
    • What I feel now:
    • How Desired Weight Me feels:
    • What I eat now:
    • What Desired Weight Me eats:
    • What I wear now:
    • What Desired Weight Me wears:
    • Who my friends are now: 
    • Who Desired Weight Me's friends are: 
    • How I play now:
    • How Desired Weight Me plays:

    I suggest setting a timer for 2-3 minutes on each question. Let your pen take you wherever it wants to go, however far-fetched. 

    Results are unpredictable, which is the beauty of this exercise (frolic / caper / romp). It could be that some of your answers are the same. Maybe Current You and Desired Weight You have all the same friends. Maybe not. Writing prompts are powerful, and bring up the unexpected.

    Again, this is private, just for you. You might find out that Current You is stuck on the Missionary position (and nothing wrong with that; it's one of my all-time faves), but that Desired Weight You is very interested in a more Cowgirl-driven romantic life. 

    So, you see, you could find out anything, and you'll want to have a safe place for your notes.

    When you've got the information, look over the desired-weight side for one or two items that jump out at you. You're looking for the items that feel delicious - warm-delicious or electric-delicious. They might glow on the page, and when you read them you have a little shiver of pleasure mixed with some nawwww-that-could-never-happen.

    But pick at least one, and make it happen.

    Because it's a scam to think we have to reach a goal weight to live a luscious life. Living a luscious life now both sweetens and shortens the trip to your goal weight.

    Next week, we will work more magic to bring us closer to our desired weight. 

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    Week 1: Start as you mean to go on

    Week 3: We're here now

    Week 4: Yay, no boomerang effect! 

  • 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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    We're Here Now

    Wayfinder's Quest Post #104: My ship came in, and it had earrings in the hold

    Body Mind Book Club

  • Start as you mean to go on

    You know you don't actually have to get on, right?

    Join me for 4 weeks of not dieting. Best resolution ever!

    Let's start January as we mean to go on. Go on not dieting, that is.

    Anyone else stunned again this year by how much rest we need after the holidays? I'm not just talking to Christians and pagans here, either - the general holiday-time cheer (and angst) rolls democratically over all of us. Honestly, I plan to put my feet up for much of the month. I can't be tackling goals like "deadlift 8,000 pounds" or "redo the bathrooms," to say nothing (dear heaven) "lose some dadgum weight."

    January reminds us to "start as we mean to go on." I get that. Here we are again, hopeful that this time a good intention and a bit of will is going to take us all the way to next December. Even though we can't ever remember getting beyond Groundhog Day.

    (On our best year.)

    Therefore, I am continuing my anti-self-improvement tradition this January, and not setting any crazy goals. This will put me way out ahead of the ultimate backlash (in the form of even more weight gained, if I were trying to lose some), and save time and fingernails to boot.

    And I invite you to join me, if you're inclined. Just… don't even get on the merry-go-round. If you don't like the free-and-easy feeling that follows, well, you can just go crazy with the goal-setting come February 1.

    But over here in Keep Calm and Don't Diet Land, we're going to spend January doing just that. So look for a series of emails this month in aid of, gosh, I just can't say it any simpler: keeping calm, not dieting, and losing weight effortlessly.

    * * *

    I also want to tell you about what I plan on doing this year, which is writing much more about weight and eating than I have in the past.

    (It is very fun to offer classes on things like dressing up Italian aristocrats and rocker divas, so that could happen again. But it probably won't be my focus.)

    One of the reasons I have had a hard time focusing my work on weight and eating is that it means talking about my own past as a binge eater and failed dieter.

    And, hey! That stuff is hard to talk about. At least the Bingey McBinge-Eater part. It doesn't matter if you're recovered or not, it's not what you want to lead with when you're sticking out your hand.

    (Which, while we're on it, welcome new readers! I am really glad you're here.)

    Anyway, most of my friends and even my family do not think of me as a crazy bingey kind of gal. My own husband snorts when I mention my former pain around this issue.

    Sometimes people even say things like, Aren't you a bit thin to be a weight loss coach?

    (Others say stuff like Aren't you kinda too fat to be a weight loss coach? Sometimes in the same week…)

    However, I like to think of you reading this and me as "just us." So just between us, I want to let you know about my focus on weight and eating going forward. I will still be giving you tools and ideas you can use elsewhere in life, and jokes as well (of course!).

    But if you're not into the weight and eating content, I'll understand if you dip. We can still be friends.

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    Week 2: Still waiting for the pageant to begin?

    Week 3: We're here now

    Week 4: Yay, no boomerang effect! 

  • 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

    The thin are not that different from you and me

    Exercise: What is it good for?

    The post-diet life: "Food prison," or just life?

    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.

    You might also enjoy

    Getting the better of your urges, Part 1

    The thin are not that different from you and me

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    Pancakes photo: Daniel Y. Go via Compfight cc

  • The post-diet life: "Food prison" or just life?

    Fill-ups, oil changes, detailing: You're so high-maintenance!

    Yesterday a friend sent me this article by Rachel Zimmerman: I’m Finally Thin — But Is Living In A Crazymaking Food Prison Really Worth It? I'll summarize: Middle-aged mom gets thin on diet, discovers maintaining new weight requires vigilance.

    (Continued attention? Ongoing effort? Wtf?! Why didn't they tell me this...?)

    Zimmerman offers evidence that weight maintenance is, well, high maintenance. Here are some pieces:

    "I spend an inordinate, and frankly embarrassing amount of time thinking about food, planning meals and strategizing about how to control my weight.

    If I don’t exercise (Every. Single. Day.) I get depressed.

    If I stray from my short list of accepted foods, I can spiral out of control."

    The piece also treats subjects like body dysmorphia, self-hatred and the culture of dissatisfaction. But it doesn't really consider the idea that devoted attentive caring for our bodies could be anything other than weight obsession.

    To me, this is kind of like buying a brand-new car only to run it into the ground. This is like saying to your once-beautiful car, Wtf?! I took you to the carwash every month! Now you're telling me you needed oil changes, as well?!

    Not eveyone who diets is overweight, obviously. Not everyone who diets has a health issue to begin with (although if they keep dieting, they surely will develop one. Or more.).

    But everyone who's truly overweight - yes, I'm just going to say it - is neglecting the needs of their body. Is running their body into the ground. Is going to start getting help! messages from their body in the form of all kinds of difficulties.

    And is going to face a choice: Find the willingness to do what people of optimal weight do to take care of their bodies, or not. 

    People who are overweight are not special. They are not exceptional. They are not victims of some shitty lottery draw, just as people who need to exercise to avoid depression are not exceptional.

    We all have bodies, and bodies need exercise. People with bodies who don't exercise get depressed. People with bodies who never exercise and who eat a lot of junk food get really fucking depressed.

    We all have bodies, and bodies need nourishment. Bodies vary, and so does their need for nourishment. Being given a body means learning how to take care of it, your specific body. That's not optional, if you want health.

    What's optional is the resentment and self-pity and white knuckles that Zimmerman describes. 

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    The thin are not that different from you and me

    Exercise: What is it good for?

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

    Photo emdot via Compfight cc

  • Exercise: What is it good for?

    The November Project folks filling Harvard Stadium. 

    As some of you know, I've been exercising lately. In fact, I've been getting more exercise, more regularly, than I have since I was 25, living in Denver, and riding my bike to Morrison (see below) and back every morning. (You know, for a semester.) Me and my friends Grant and Greta have been stealing moves from the November Project folks, and hitting the Harvard Stadium about three times a week. We are getting pretty darned predictable about it. And we are getting more fit. And - speaking only for myself of course- we are getting to be a bit less of a bitch. And all this has led me to conclude that 

    Exercise is super important

    There's just so much research about this. Regular exercise, even the minimal recommendation of a brisk 30-minute walk three times a week, does so much to lift your mood and keep your mind sharp. (See Stephen Ilardi's excellent and brief book The Depression Cure for more about this.)

    So I give clients my strongest encouragement to exercise regularly, and to commit to a defined minimum, so they know whether it's happening or not. But I also tell them this:

    Exercise doesn't do much to make the needle on the scale move down. Not directly. 

    Very little of our body's energy needs represent exercise-driven replenishment. Most of what we eat, like 60-70% of it, is burnt up by things like thinking, tweeting, flossing and keeping warm. Maybe another 10% (tops) is used up in digesting the very food we're talking about. And that leaves only about 20% of what we eat to be burnt up by exercise. (You know, unless you're a hardcore athlete. Real November Projecters: RESPECT.)

    Now if you believe in calories, which is a fraught concept and I think a not especially useful one, you'll arrive at equations like this one, from my boyfriend Tim Ferriss, who points out - and this is just heartbreaking - that if you're a 220-pound male, you'll want to climb 27 flights of stairs to burn off half an Oreo. (Tim Ferriss: Also not a big believer in calorie counting.)

    Or, as my mentor Susan Hyatt might put it, you just can't outrun your food choices.

    Morrison, Colorado, site of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, one of the country's other truly great stadiums.

    So most of our weight is represented by what we put in our mouth. It's kinda the worst news ever, for some of us. But it means we have so much control. We can change.

    And change is hard, but not so hard that we can't make it a whole harder by adding a little depression on top. So if your mood is low, and you've been using food to manage it, consider joining me at the Harvard Stadium. I'm there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:00 a.m. Or start a November Project where you are.

    These guys'll cheer you on.

    You might also enjoy

    Interview with Susan Hyatt: Love your booty, love yourself.

    Exercise, and why we do it. (Hint: it's not to burn calories.)

    What are you waiting for? I want the list. 

    Photo of Harvard Stadium: YoavShapira via Compfight cc
    Photo of Red Rocks: messycupcakes via Compfight cc

  • How many senses do you need for eating?

    Squirrel makes it look so ... ordinary, doesn't he?

    The other day I was talking with a client who used the term "intuitive eating." I knew what she meant, of course, but I don't really like the term. (I do like the ladies who came up with it: Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. They're a hoot, and their approach is based on sanity and kindness. The good stuff, obvs.) 

    But I don't use the term "intuitive eating" in my work because "intuition" seems like a sixth sense to me. It feels kinda woo-woo, kinda magical, kinda witchy, and, as you know, I live for that shit. That is what I live for.

    However, eating need not be intuitive. Most of the time, for most people, it's the most simple, ordinary thing in the world.

    I don't mean ordinary in the sense of "no appreciation." Ordinary doesn't have to mean no pleasure, no fabulousness, no delight, no ecstasy, no chocolate-based orgasms.

    "Ordinary" eating just means having a simple, sensate, unmediated, totally direct experience of our bodies' needs and desires, and serving them. I don't think you actually need intuition for that. 

    In fact, I'm pretty sure we can do it with the first five senses. Or however many of them we possess. They're ready to go to work in service of nourishment anytime we can get out of their way.

    Still time to get into class...

    Do you know about my weight loss class? It's called "Final15: Finishing School for the Last Few Pounds." It will help you get them off. It will be illuminating, it will be fun, and I predict it will provide massive relief.

    Please consider joining us. We start on the 18th.

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    Photo: Tomi Tapio via Compfight cc

  • Looks like lunchtime in Pompeii here

    You know how folks in Pompeii are said to have leapt up from the table when they heard the volcano, leaving their lunch half-eaten? That's what I want to be able to do.

    Over the years, I've dismantled a lot of the patterns that kept me overweight. I no longer have any of these tendencies:

    • ignoring all but the grossest body signals
    • eating while not conscious of the fact I'm eating
    • eating without considering how the food in question will affect my energy and mood
    • having distressing conversations while eating
    • eating in secret (Oh, I'm telling you what! I will eat half a chocolate cake in front of a room of weight-loss coaches, if that's what's for lunch breakfast)
    • finishing my kids' meals 
    • eating in the car
    • oh, lots more! I had tons o' crap habits

    But there is one habit that has not fully let me go, and that is cleaning my plate. You know how a lot of people believe that Food is Love? (The chef Jasper White emphatically uses that as his slogan: Food IS Love.) I think I grew up believing that Food is Money, and it is not for wasting. 

    Actually, I'm starting to question and dismantle that whole thing, money included. Can you have too much money? Yes, you can. Can you have too much stuff? Oh, I have absolutely proved that. And although they differ, in that extra money and stuff can't be taken with you, and extra food, if you insist on eating it, will most definitely be going with you, they're both pretty unrewarding in excess. 

    Which is not to say "Don't bother about the future." Not at all. Just: the only place satisfaction is to be found is in the present moment.

    Anyway, I eat a lot less now than I used to, but still: I do not carelessly leave things on my plate, and sometimes it's downright uncomfortable. So I've been working on wrecking my plate-cleaning imperative, one meal at a time, with the new brain-management tools I'm teaching in my upcoming class, Final15.

    Tell you what: it's working! I am getting so I can leave a plate looking like I stopped eating because I heard the volcano erupt. I will report back when it feels natural, and I don't have to think about natural disasters to get there.

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  • 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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  • Interview with Susan Hyatt: Love your booty, love yourself.

    1. Interview with Susan Hyatt: Love your booty, love yourself.


    Susan Hyatt: Coach. Author. Defender of bikini-wearing. I bet you'd like her slumber party....

    Yesterday I talked with the generous, smart and sassy Susan Hyatt, a life coach. Susan is the author of Create Your Own Luck, the co-director of the Weight School, and an energetic and hilarious champion of the idea that our bodies, whatever their size, are nothing to be ashamed of. You may have seen her over on Facebook recently, proudly rocking a bikini in defiance of the woman who proclaimed that Susan needed to lose another 10 pounds before hitting a public beach. 

    Well! As Susan herself says, Haters to the left. (An excellent motto; please feel free to adopt it for your own use.)

    So we talk about that. Haters, and the relationship of the mean-girl phenomenon to self-hatred. (Hint: it don't gotta be.) We talk about projection, and self-care, and loving your booty - as well as this beautiful, delicious life.

    We also talk about how sometimes, when we think we really need to lose 10 or 15, we might actually need to gain weight. It's kind of a contrarian interview.

    And (SPOILER ALERT) Susan hints she might not be done buying bikinis. 

    Susan, who's a native of Savannah, is hosting her Weight School's Slumber Party in that city this October. There will be Southern hospitality, surprises, lusciousness, hilarity and big shifts. There are three slots left, and you can get the details here.

    If that sounds delightful but you'd also like to get going before October, you'll want to have a look at my September class Final15: Finishing School for the Last Few Pounds.

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    The final 15 pounds: Just a vanity project?

  • Bigger meals, earlier? Don't mind if I do.

    Inside Passadis del Pep, my favorite place in Barcelona.

    When I was in Spain, every day I would wake up excited, thinking, What kinda crazy shit will I find to eat today?! Every meal brought new thrills and - sometimes - disbelief. One day I was in a little bodega that sold bonbons. Choosing the one that called to me, I found I couldn't identify the taste right away. Sometime later, I got it: sour milk. I thought, No one will believe me if I tell them about this, but when I got home, sure enough, someone asked me Hey, didja get to try those sour milk truffles?

    But more than any crazy foodstuff, the thing that startled me the most about eating in Spain was the timing of the dinner hour. It really does go through midnight - provided you start by 10pm or so. I witnessed families with children being seated for dinner after midnight. In October.

    On a school night. 

    These people eat late. And they are not built, let us say, like Kenyan long-distance runners. But they are also not fat.

    So that is what I always think of when obesity researchers tout the weight-loss benefits of getting your day's calories in early via a substantial breakfast, as a study released this week does. (You can read the abstract in the Wall Street Journal.) 

    What explains the discrepancy here? If eating late causes weight gain, how come the Americans are the World's Fattest People, and not the Spanish? Is it another "paradox," like the famous French one, wherein one's diet includes indecent amounts of butter, full-fat cheese, and, if Dorie Greenspan is to be believed (she is), a bottle of wine, per person, before the end of every evening?

    I don't think that eating late makes you fat. I think consuming more energy than your body requires makes you fat, and it doesn't really matter so much what time you do it. (A Harvard study a few years ago found this too - it's volume, not timing.)

    People vary, and some folks prefer to eat early. I am a morning person, and most days a protein breakfast is the only thing standing between me and a 10:30am hissy fit. If you know your breakdowns occur later, and if they're preceding late-night binges, you might experiment by starting your day with more protein and more calories. Doesn't have to be a huge meal. See how it goes. (It works for Tim Ferriss.)

    But if your social life is more fabulous than average, or you plan to move to Madrid, or you're just not a morning person, eat what your body is asking for, and stop when it's had enough. Whenever you're hungry, whatever time it happens to be.

    If what, when and how to eat are bedeviling you, we're going to be covering this sort of thing - and so much more - in my September class Final15: Finishing School for the Last Few Pounds.

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  • Becoming a picky eater

    A week ago I was in Beaufort, North Carolina, which was voted Coolest Small Town of 2011 by Budget Travel Magazine.

    The reason was not immediately apparent. Beaufort has no particular "streetmosphere," as my sister-in-law in the travel and tourism industry would say. And I didn't see, in the hour we were there, the kind of amenities that make a place "cool" to me.

    What I can tell you, for sure, is that the Beaufort Grocery Company has the best pecan pie available anywhere, and I know pecan pie. (Growing up, I never chose cake for my birthday. I always asked for, and got, a great pecan pie. My mother swears it was just the standard recipe on the corn syrup bottle, but I think she added some kind of extra kid crack.)

    Anyway, the Beaufort's pie is tall. High and mighty. Wider than decent. A beautiful, rich, black-gold color. They didn't stint on the pecans, either. They only sell one flavor of pie, and they only need one.

    Back at Casa Franklin, we have a pie shop at the top of the street. They make pecan pie, too, but it's sad. Short, withered and stingy on the pecans.

    (This is the place that wouldn't sell my stepdaughter a piece of cherry pie because they hadn't cut into the cherry yet, causing us to wonder, "Wouldn't you sell more pie if you, you know, sold more pie?") 

    In my angstier, bingier days, I would totally have eaten this pie shop's sad pie. More than once. Now I wouldn't give it a second glance, even though I know I might never be back in Beaufort, North Carolina again. It's helpful to have standards for treats, so I've become a picky eater. It's useful to ask myself, when I'm contemplating eating something that's purely for pleasure, and won't be doing my metabolism, my liver, or my skin any good, Is this [highly palatable and magnetic "food" stuff] going to be as good as [whatever my gold standard, currently Beaufort's pecan pie, is]?

    Sometimes the answer might be "Not quite, and I'm going to have this treat anyway." That's okay, if a conscious choice. But it's good to set the bar high, if I'm going to bargain with my body and health.

    And when people start commenting that you're a picky eater, as they've done with me, you can do as Mama Gena does, and smile, and sincerely say "Thank you. It's true."

    Upcoming class

    If you would like to achieve your natural weight without suffering, while eating your cake (or pecan pie) too, you might want to learn about my upcoming class Final15: Finishing School for the Last Few Pounds.

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    Fat acceptance ... and then some 

    Accepting my wobbly thighs

    Food should be 90% fuel, 10% fun 

  • The final 15 pounds: Just a vanity project?

    Before and after. On the left, me in my late 30s. The size of my son next to me on the carousel reveals that I hadn't just left the maternity ward with that weight. Here I am today on the right, in my early 50s: Not a supermodel. Wouldn't be honest to suck my gut in. (Although I did kick aside the clothes on the floor, special just for you.) Some people might even think I'm fat, and to them I say, "I feel good."

    Perhaps you saw the Time article earlier this week? I actively avoid popular writing about "obesity" (I always put mental quotes around that word), so if you're like that too and haven't seen the article, the crib sheet is this: 1. the AMA has declared obesity a disease and 2. research shows that obesity doesn't correlate reliably with ill health.  

    Since that piece was published, a few people have questioned me closely about my position on health at every size (HAES). What's my reason for offering a course to help people lose the proverbial final 15 pounds? Do I actually think that trimming so few pounds does anything to improve health? 

    Or do I believe that our worth will rise if we lose the last little bit of padding? Is this all for vanity? Am I - and my clients - really so self-involved? 

    Or is this driven by something even more sinister, like self-hatred and internalized misogyny? 

    Here's the answer: 

    Binge eating. Binge eating, people. I spent years thinking obsessively about food and compulsively consuming it, far more than the "10,000 hours" required for expertise. And I was not loving life. I was suffering as much as any junkie, and anyone who says different is butt-ignorant. (I'm being polite as fuck when I say that; I mean genuine ignorance, not stupidity or malevolence.) I regularly drank maple syrup out of the bottle, thinking the end of pain might be in there. But that was just my top-grade favorite. I would eat anything. I weighed more than half again as much as I do today and I wore clothes that would make a plumber wince to see. 

    In other words, I didn't overcome a big fat eating disorder only to adopt some stupid, brain-dead anti-obesity stance. That I embrace radical body acceptance (which actually needs no "radical" in front of it, since all body acceptance for women is radical by definition) should go without saying.

    But body acceptance means something specific to me these days. In particular, it means telling the truth about a couple of things:

    1. How much I weigh correlates directly and inescapably to what I eat. It's what I eat. (You cannot believe how long and hard I resisted that fact.)
    2. I need to eat for health and for pleasure, not for pain. Eating out of pain is just going to cause more pain. (You cannot believe how long and hard I believed that food would stop the pain.)

    Body acceptance also means letting my body tell me how it feels. How do you feel, in your body? What does it feel like, this body, at this size? You know whether you feel good or not.

    As I've written elsewhere, I weigh as little as I ever have in my adult life. In fact, I was in sixth grade, still living in Albuquerque, the last time I was this size.

    I didn't get this way because some doctor told me I fucking needed to lose weight, and it's just in my nature to take medical advice.

    I got this way because I accepted my body and started paying attention to it and you know what? It has rewarded me. 

    I don't wear clothes that truckers would find heartbreaking. Regular stores have jeans that fit me, not just earrings. My knees don't hurt the way they used to. I don't have sciatica anymore. I don't have to spend time in traction over a medicine ball at the end of the day to reverse the curve north of my ass. 

    And the vestigial dinosaur-brain nerve cluster near the second chakra? That shit is ON FIRE. It's lighting up like a Fourth of July chrysanthemum finale on a regular basis and that was not available to me when I was wrapping my body up in a cocoon of extra padding. I only felt my body light up when I started telling the truth.

    And truth-telling, so far from being a vanity project, is about the most spiritual journey I can think of.


    If you want to know when my class Final15 is open for enrollment, you can sign up here.

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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.

  • 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!

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