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.
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.
Remove everything from your closet that doesn't
fit you right now
flip your feel-good switch to ON*
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.
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.)
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.
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.
** 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.
Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think. "I'm with 'Cry me a river' Gal" is fine.
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.
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!
Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.
It's a search for something more compelling than chocolate, more satisfying than sausage, and at least as delicious as pizza.
Clearly, we are talking about magic.
Coincidences (aka Spontaneous Unsolicited Upgrades, aka signs of Forming)
Last time I mentioned our inner Self-Doubt Assassin. I stole that from someone, a sister Mama Gena person, who uses "Self-Doubt Assassin" as her spy name / Goddess name. I hadn't met her or anything; I just wanted to steal her name for my own purposes.
Then I signed up for a coaching session that one of my Sister Goddesses was offering, which I had yesterday, and it turned out to be her! The Self-Doubt Assassin Herself.
It was in fact killer.
Also, I am turning 54 in July. Today the July issue of Oprah arrived, with this top cover story: Upgrade Your Life! 54 easy ways to live better - without spending a penny more. Why thank you for thinking of me, Oprah! If that isn't the uber-meta Spontaneous Unsolicited Free Upgrade, I don't know what is.
And I ran into the witchy Cory Halaby in New York, on the High Line. "No way!" she screamed. I know that voice!, I thought before I saw her.
Still thinking about what I wrote last time, this tension between desire and having and spirituality and Being Good.
Then a conversation with my friend Simone, the Marquise of Manhattan, reminded me how exhausting that tension is for me. And how irritating. I might just want to drop it altogether.
It's been a long time since I had any conscious, deliberate allegiance to Being Good. If there was ever anything in it for me, it was in school. I'm repulsively proud of how well I did in school, and I'm not proud of how proud I am, if you know what I mean. I've written before that I was an insufferable little grade-grubber, and trying to do it differently explains why I took a gap decade instead of a gap year.
Anyway, as I have said to myself a thousand times since leaving Wellesley (where I was pretty happy, mind), "I am never going back to school."
Then I went to Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts, about which more later. Being Good in this school is so profoundly beside the point. I think it may have wrecked Being Good for me forever.
Mama Gena gave me a lot of permission to enjoy the parts of me that I have always been told are difficult: the selfish and the materialistic. The truth is, I am a person that appreciates display, pageantry and spectacle. I love a parade! (If by "parade" we mean +[glitter] -[nationalism].) I glory in the sparkle and color and touch of the phenomenal world.
(And of course, another truth is that when someone calls you "selfish" it almost always means "You aren't doing what I want you to do, and I have no idea how selfish I am being right now." It is not surprising to me that I have heard this all my life. Most of us do.)
So, yeah: Mama Gena. A proud swinger of a hammer that nails shut the coffin of Puritanism.
Which leads me - again - to mantles.
Updates on past experiments
About three years ago I had the luck of assisting Jen Louden at a workshop (She-ro's Journey) she did at Kripalu. I've written before that I've assisted at many such events, but this was the first time I was ever able to participate fully, because Jen deliberately set that up for me. (I will always be grateful - thank you Jen!)
One of the things we did was make a collage of things we needed for our journey. Obviously, a very common thing to do at a women's retreat, and duh, I've made collages before, but I never had such a powerful experience cutting pictures out of magazines to equip myself for a journey. We were to do it, naturally, without thinking too much beyond "Yes, that," so I was a little surprised to see, when I was done collecting, that every single image I cut out depicted an unusual coat or cloak. I understood that somehow they represented a kind of ceremonial mantle, while at the same time standing for provisions altogether.
And ever since I've been thinking about provisioning for my journey(s). I never used to do that, and I would often arrive somewhere having already discovered that I was missing several important things just for the journey, never mind the main body of the trip.
Now I have Evernote checklists for every kind of trip I go on: to the beach, to the dentist, to the salon, to New York, to Portland, to San Diego, to New Mexico. This works for me.
But for whatever reason I also really, really need the mantle. Every day, not just while on journeys.
For the winter, I have a lovely Norwegian puffer I got in Boulder this year when it was -20°F at high noon every day, and I had only brought my elderly 3oz Patagucci down sweater. (WTF? How did I do that?! Not OK! New Evernote entry!)
And in the summer, I find I still need a mantle. I'm just ... uncomfortable now without one. So where once it would have seemed ludicrous and oh, sooooo precious and princessy and even attention-seeking to put a scarf on in the summer, I now simply must.
(Possibly because it is princessy. What would be wrong with that? It's not Good, of course. So that might be enough to make it good.
Maybe one day I'll feel like it's more important to have a crown or a scepter. I don't know. Right now, the mantle, the cloak of protection and especially provision, that's what feels important.)
A while ago, during the time I was clearing my closet of its 70s vibe, Mr Jones was on his way to London, and asked what I might like from there. Since Whole Foods is stocked with Neals Yard cheeses, I said: A scarf from Liberty. He asked What color? And I said Blue. Maybe some pink. Anything but orange, brown, or green. Those are right out.
But somehow all he heard was "orange, brown, pink." And that's what he came back with. And it's actually quite a nice scarf, and I've worn it, but at that time I had nothing blue and was really hankering for it and dear Lord, he was right in Liberty, which is scarf Heaven, so it was kinda heartbreaking.
So when he went to Miami recently, and didn't ask about bringing anything home, I was thrilled to get a really, really good scarf, the blue all-over snakes one. He had picked it out, second-guessed his pick because snakes, bought something with hot-air balloons on it (a weird theme for a scarf, and weirdly, I already have one of these little Hermes twillys in a hot-air balloon pattern), got almost to the airport, had the urge to turn around and go halfway across the city back to the shop where the snakes were and exchange the scarf before making his flight.
And I really liked this scarf, and I was so happy to get something from him that really fit me, so I kinda had to find a way to get over my guilt about having multiple summer scarves.
Which apparently I did, because now I have a whole summer scarf wardrobe, fit for a princess. Or a Kardashian. It is like a scarf pageant up in my closet.
Destination: Date night
What has happened? Mr Jones and I had the best weekend in New York I have ever had there. In fact, it was just about the best weekend of my life. Lots of walking, dancing, friends, food, drink - sadly no shopping - and an especially good meal at Fung Tu, whose chef used to cook at Per Se. That is the closest I have gotten to Thomas Keller apart from his cookbooks. It was a complete pink cloud weekend.
Alden & Harlow
Belly Wine Bar
Myers & Chang
No. 9 Park
That should keep us busy for a while, but please feel free to suggest additions.
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.
IT'S A RELIEF.
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 750words.com, 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.