Archive for the ‘meaning’ Category

Gratitude

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am exploring the concept of gratitude.

On the one hand, that makes a lot of sense, because that’s how I make my living – studying emotions. But to tell you the truth, I hadn’t ever really thought too much about gratitude. That’s not to say that I was never grateful or, heavens forbid, ungrateful, but gratitude – in and of itself – just wasn’t something that I ever thought a lot about.

Recently, however, gratitude has been popping out all over the place. I get emails about gratitude. I have coaches who talk endlessly about gratitude. And just the other day, I turned my iPod on shuffle and up popped a segment of some random Eben Pagan program that was talking about, you guessed it, gratitude. Heck, for the last six or so weeks, even before all of this prodding started, I had set up a mastermind with my friend, where we start of by saying something that we’re grateful for! And just lately, on the advice of all those coaches, I have started keeping a daily list of 10 things for which I am grateful.

So what is gratitude?

According to Dictionary.com, gratitude (pronouned grat-i-tood), “is the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.”

Unfortunately, thankful refers to the feeling or expressing of gratitude, so things are beginning to get a bit circular, but I would imagine that you get the idea.

As is the same for most North Americans of European descent (or those that celebrate Thanksgiving in any meaningful way), I am more familiar with the term thankful – as in what are you most thankful for, as recited annually around the dinner table in front of friends and family. It is on those moments that we learn that we should be thankful for the good things in our lives. Very rarely do you hear anyone express their thanks for their problems, their miseries, their trials, their tribulations, or, last but certainly not least, their seeming failures.

Seriously, how many times (either as a child or as an adult) have you ever seen or heard someone actually give thanks for a divorce, a job loss, a tumor, or a death of a loved one? Especially in the moment in which it is happening? Despite all of the platitudes that we have also grown up with: “Every cloud has a silver lining…”, “whenever a door closes, a window opens…”, etc. And when we do hear it – usually decades after the fact – when someone actually says, “losing my job/getting cancer/losing my leg was the best thing that ever happened to me…” we generally have a hard time believing it. No matter how sincere they seem.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have that kind of acceptance, that kind of gratitude in the moment?

Is that even possible?

I think it is possible, for some people. Indeed, there seems to be a upsurge of what some people are calling, “Radical Gratitude.”

I first saw this phrase in an email; it was one of those daily motivational things that seem to explode out of my inbox.

I’m paraphrasing here, but it said something like, “It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in your life, but not so easy to be grateful for the things that you don’t like. Pick one thing about your life (or your body) that you don’t like and find the gratitude. Find one thing about this that you absolutely love.”

That was it. No instruction. Just pick the one thing about yourself that you hate, and express gratitude for it.

You know, I tried standing in from the mirror and expressing gratitude for something – anything – that I didn’t like. I’m sure I came up with something, but I didn’t feel it. I would have laughed it off as some silly self-help thing, but the idea kept niggling. Eventually, I realized that I was grateful – really and truly – that I had a bad knee, because it reminds me (by locking up when I don’t) to tap into and take care of my physical body.

It was amazing how good it felt to stop hating my knee.

The very next day, I heard the Eben segment on gratitude. Being Eben, he put his discussion of gratitude in a much more elaborated framework:

1. Why – Why is gratitude important?
2. What – What is gratitude?
3. How – How do you experience gratitude?
4. What if? – What three steps can you do right now to start experiencing more gratitude in your life on a daily basis?

Simply put, gratitude is important because it has the ability to pull us out of almost any negative emotion state. If you can learn to find the gratitude in an authentic way, you can manage your emotional state, no matter now negative or overwhelming that state may me. In this regard, Eben (and other within the self-development genre, industry – whatever one chooses to call it) refers to gratitude as being the “crown jewel” of all other emotions.

What is gratitude? Well, as stated above, gratitude is the experience or expression of thankfulness; it is also a powerful emotion management/emotional regulation strategy. According to Eben, as well as many sociological accounts, gratitude is a tertiary or higher order emotion. In other words, it’s not one that is hard-wired into us via biology; it’s not something that simply occurs, such as fear, anger, disgust, happiness, and joy or is somehow linked to our evolutionary survival. Instead, gratitude is something that we learn – we learn to be grateful for certain things. Gratitude is constructed via the stories that we tell ourselves about the events that are happening to us, especially those events that result in basic emotions (fear, anger, disgust, happiness, or joy) or the secondary emotions (such as jealousy, anxiety, excitement, depression, envy, guilt, or shame).

So, how do you do it? First, you acknowledge that whatever is happening is happening or, if the event happened in the past, that whatever happened has happened. There’s absolutely no point trying to change reality. It is possible to change what happens in the future, but it’s pointless to try to change what’s happening right now or what’s happened in the past. It happened or it is happening. Accept it. Second, ask yourself: “What can I learn from what is happening right now or what has happened in the past? Third, taking that information into account, what can I do moving forward to improve my situation?

Now, Eben, being Eben, takes this to the logical extreme (that is, the death of a loved one) to illustrate that you don’t need to be happy that it happened in order to find gratitude. A loved one died. You realize that life is short and there are no guarantees other than your own death, whenever that may be. You start living your life on purpose so that you can accomplish as much as you can in the time that you are allowed. You’re not happy that your loved one died, but you are grateful that you had the insight regarding your own situation early enough to do something about it moving forward.

Finally, look for challenging things in your life which you had been wishing hadn’t happened (or wasn’t currently happening) and find the gratitude.

I must admit that I wasn’t actively following through on this. However, I was thinking about it a lot and I was keeping my gratitude list. You know, the one I mentioned before that had to include 5 body-centric things? Well, things were slipping on there that I have been railing against lately – my core, which might be bigger than I’d like but nonetheless keeps me upright; my bum knee, which keeps me mindful; my autoimmune system that is working really hard (one could say too hard) to keep all of the things that are not me from becoming me….. I’m sure you’re getting the idea. And I was feeling the gratitude, but I was having to reach for it. It felt authentic, but it didn’t feel easy.

This morning, however, after I finished a 45 minute yoga session (which was much easier than it had been the last three times I’d done it) and I just sat there on the floor in awe of how much more balance I have in my life, how much more I enjoy the exercise I do, how much more balance I have in my body, and (yes, I am shallow) how nice my shoulders looked in the reflection of the window pane against the dark New England morning. And then I asked myself, How did I get here? What happened to that stressed out woman who was always in the office by 8:00, usually after having completed a grueling 1 to 2 hour cardio workout, who was stiff, and tended to have difficulty walking in the morning because of her super tight hamstrings? What happened to that woman who used to breathe shallowly, if at all? What happened to that woman who gulped her food down in a hurry without ever tasting it? What happened to that woman who would have thought you had lost your mind if you’d told her she wouldn’t set foot in a gym in over a year, never miss it, and spend hours on end dancing in her living room or on a yoga mat? What happened to her? Not that I miss her or anything, because, you know what, she was pretty uptight and really not that much fun to be around. More to the point, she didn’t love herself, which made it pretty hard for anyone else to love her either.

What happened? Because whatever it was, in that moment, I was truly grateful.

And then I remembered.

My thyroid happened. Or, rather, my thyroid stopped happening.

Did that mean that I was grateful for my hypothyroidism? That there was something that had happened as a result of that malfunction that had actually changed my life for the better? I certainly wasn’t happy that it had happened, but was I grateful for the changes that occurred as a result? And even more important, would I have changed myself if the hypothyroidism hadn’t occurred?

I took out a pen and paper and wrote the following sentence: I am grateful for my hypothyroidism, because it’s changed the way that I relate to my mind, my body, and the world.

I sat with that. It felt true. I breathed into it. It still felt true. I sit here at my desk and read it again and I know in my heart of hearts, it is true.

I’ve found the gratitude (or perhaps I should say, the gratitude found me). Regardless, I am grateful and with that, I am at peace, perhaps for the first time since I realized that sleeping on the couch for five days in a row, crying jags, delusions, and depression weren’t my typical summertime MO.

I am grateful for the life I have now; therefore, I am grateful for the things that got me here.

Perhaps Eben is right; gratitude is the crown jewel of emotions (and one hell of a strategy). Now if I could only move my lag time to real-time.

My ten things:
1. My hypothyroidism
2. My job
3. My ability to communicate with others
4. Waking up in a warm bed next to a man who loves me and who is loved by me.
5. My thumb
6. My liver
7. My pancreas
8. My tongue
9. That I grew up as an overweight child
10. My ample behind (which cushioned me this morning when I fell on the ice).

What are you grateful for?

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Recreating the Closet

One of the most frustrating things about changing your body (either making it bigger or smaller or more toned or less toned) is the havoc that it can wreak on your wardrobe, especially once you’ve got a wardrobe of things that you really enjoy wearing. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse (or more demoralizing) that standing in front of your closet, reaching for your favorite pair of jeans, skirt, or even top and have it not fit.

Now I’ve been listening to a lot of coaches who tell you that you should only be buying beautiful things – quality pieces that will make you feel beautiful. Well, I’d love to be able to go buy everything I want (whenever I want, from where ever I want), but sometimes that’s just not practical. Sometimes, however, you can find everything you want, whenever you want, from the least likely of places.

Yesterday I was having a self-pampering day. I mean, it was really extravagant. I started off with acupuncture, a nice walk down the rail trail, followed by chiropractic, then personal coaching, then belly dancing, and a group coaching call! I actually did about 10 minutes of work, sandwiched between bouts of hooping!

Between the first two “appointments” (which were about 4 blocks from each other) I had about an hour and a half on my hands. Instead of heading over the public library, which would have been another perfectly good option, I stopped in at the local community center, LISTEN. Now, I had just dropped off about three (or maybe even four) bags of perfectly decent clothes to the LISTEN center, and over the course of my time in the community, I have donated over ten or twelve times that amount, but I must admit that I have only on rare occasion gone inside to actually shop.

Wow! First of all, it was swarming with customers. And it was chock full of amazing buys. One of the nice things about living in a relatively affluent, communitarian-minded community is that people give lots of good stuff away. I found a Worthington skirt, a Woolrich shirt, a J. Jill sweater, a super nice pair of pants, and a fun summer top – all for under $3 a piece! Now some were originally $4.75, but it was actually 50% off! Seriously, I got a bag of killer clothes for less than $12.00!

Now, interestingly, these may not have been clothes that I would have bought if I had been in a normal department store – but I like them and they look great! Also, they were dirt cheap, which means that I can wear them once and if I do decide that they “don’t serve me” (whether they don’t after one wearing or they never did within the context of my life or larger wardrobe) who cares? It’s almost like renting movies, you know what I mean? It really doesn’t matter, because if I don’t like it, I can always take it back and I’ll have gotten one wearing for the cost of a cheap evening’s entertainment. It’s brilliant.

So, what does this mean in terms of recreating the closet and, indeed, recreating myself?

One, I won’t be afraid to experiment.

Two, I’ll be more likely to push my boundaries.

Three, I can upgrade or downgrade (depending on the look I’m going for).

Four, I can also start rebuilding a teaching wardrobe (or, let’s be honest) building one for very little money.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re between sizes, or if you’re bored with the contents of your closets, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, go find a community store (also known as thrift stores or, if you’re willing to spend a little more money, consignment stores). It is worth noting that I’ve been shopping in consignment stores for a while; however, I actually found better stuff in the community center (that is, the thrift store). Why? Well, I’m not totally sure, but one possibility is that the the women who are giving their clothes away – instead of waiting around for a 25% tithe – had more money to spend on clothes to begin with. Think about it.

Now if you live in a community or neighborhood that is not particularly affluent, then it might be worth finding a store in an area that is a little bit nicer than the one you live in. Just go check it out, and you may need to go more than once just to get the hang of it. And if you just have some weird thing about not buying used clothes ask yourself: where did that idea come from? After one wash, how is something that someone else has worn any different from something I’ve already worn? Isn’t it better to spend almost no money on something nice (but lightly used) than spending some money on something not nearly as nice but new? Isn’t it worth rethinking limiting ideologies that in the end might be bad not only for yourself, your wardrobe, your community, and at a more global level, the planet?

Give it a try and let me know what you come up with. You might be pleasantly surprised; I know I certainly was.

Lots to say: cleansing, reframing, and hooping

I have a lot to say and am not totally sure how to say it.

First things first, the cleanse continues. I’m actually in the most stringent part. Green smoothie for breakfast, one for lunch, and another for dinner. Then I have a big salad post dinner with red leaf lettuce, shredded zucchini, beet and carrot slaw, olive oil, lemon, green beans, and cultured veggies. Last night I threw in a cup of roasted delicata squash. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It’s delicious. And more importantly, it’s gorgeous – the plate a veritable explosion of colors, especially give that the cultured veggies is a beautiful bright pink thanks to the red cabbage that turns into flamingo pink after sitting for a week in brine at room temperature.

A few days ago, I had hit an interesting place with the cleanse. I was forgetting my supplements, I was forgetting my cultured veggies (to be eaten at every meal). At the time, I attributed it to ambivalence, but now I’m thinking that it was more like simple forgetfulness. It was almost like I forgot I was on a cleanse.

I haven’t been hungry. I’ve a ton of energy. But more importantly, I’ve had my mind on other things.

Michael was away for several days and I had plenty of time to dig old information products off of my hard drive for recycling. A couple of them talked about making space in your life – by literally throwing shit away. One woman recommended throwing five things away every day. You know, like a game. I decided to give it a shot.

The next morning, I got up, totally psyched. I pulled out every thing that didn’t fit (that was either too big or too small). I also tried everything on and got rid of anything that “didn’t serve me.” Notice I didn’t say that was worn out or frayed, but things that didn’t serve me. The idea of only keeping things that serve you is an interesting one. I ended up getting rid of things that I had worn once, or not at all. Most often things that I had bought on sale in response to an unintended weight gain (as if there is any other type). After pulling two trash bags worth of clothes out of my closet, my next stop was the chests of drawers, which were, I am embarrassed to say, teeming with things that 1) I didn’t remember, 2) I hadn’t been able to find in years, and 3) didn’t serve me. And in that moment, I learned the importance of location based living (I hope Michael’s not reading this, or he might try to hold me to this), because if I can’t find it, it’s not serving me.

I found shirts, skirts, jewelry, slips, socks, hair clips, pony tail ties, jackets, jeans…. It was crazy. Another extra large trash bag got packed for Listen.

I also got rid of shoes, empty shoe boxes, belts, pajama tops, and coats.

And then I organized. For the first time in months, if not years, I can actually see what I have when I look in the closet, in the drawers. It’s glorious.

Then onto stuff: framed posters that have lived in the closet for two years, hangers, shoe racks, concert tickets, show strings, drafts of papers, cook books, a day timer from 2009, the list goes on.

And you know what’s scary? I don’t think Michael even noticed. But every day I get rid of five more things. Sometimes they’re small, sometimes they’re large.

And you know what’s amazing? I can feel the space in the house. As I shed the pounds of inorganic matter of the house, I am less concerned about the organic matter associated with my body…even though I know without a doubt that it’s all related.

And it’s not just the physical junk, but also the emotional and mental crap that I’ve been carrying around for years.

I stepped on a scale this morning: 152 pounds.

And instead of thinking automatically, “I can’t believe that I gained 20 pounds since last August,” I honestly thought, “Wow, I only weigh ten more pounds than I did when I was 16. How frickin’ cool is that?”

Something has shifted and I am so thrilled. It’s fun and easy and for the first time ever, I am in love with my body. I’m also enjoying it in a way I never have before….

Because when I’m not cleansing, or cleaning, or reframing the cleansing or the cleaning, I am hooping!

At the ripe old age of 41, I bought myself a huge multi-colored hula and we (my body and I) are having a blast! I have plenty to say about the hula (especially how it ties into my femininity), but suffice it to say that I’m having too much fun looking for the next five things and swinging my hips to whatever music strikes my fancy to worry too much about arbitrary numbers. In other words, I’m more interested in how many times I can get the hoop around my hips, how many songs I can last through (whether it’s Led Zeppelin, Sade, Linkin Park, or Melissa Etheridge) than I am the numbers on the scale.

Happy Hooping!

Mind Over Matter: The Brain Really Does Control The Body

I have really been struggling with my recent diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Although I realize that it is quite common and easily treatable, I’ve found myself scared, frustrated, and resentful.

Part of this stems from the fact that I had just gotten where I wanted to be physically and then, week by week, I’ve been watching it slip away – not without a fight mind you, but with a fight that seemed pretty darned futile.

I’ve been doing my best to stay positive, but my attention is increasingly drawn to my inability to remember simple words, my ever expanding waist line, the water retention, the lethargy, the depression, the irritability, the increasing irrationality.

In an attempt to retard those frequent trips down the rabbit hole – and in some cases to reverse them all together – I remind myself of all of the things that I am grateful for…a list of things that are really too numerous to recount, but can include such big things as my family and friends or such small things as the warmth of my tea cup in the one hand in which I still have full feeling.

Several of my friends – again, those people for whom I am extremely grateful – tell me that my body will respond to my mind (or more specifically, to my thoughts), thus I should stop saying things like, “hosed,” “toast,” “broken,” “fat,” etc. And although I know that, intellectually, I hadn’t quite got it. Like, really got it. Like, in my body.

This morning, however, I got a glimmer.

As per usual, as soon as I got up, I grabbed my glasses. No big deal there.

But when I looked down at them, I thought they looked funny.

They didn’t look like my glasses.

In fact, I was convinced that they were an old pair. (Did I mention that hypothyroidism is often accompanied by brain fog?)

I was so convinced that these were not my glasses, that when I put them on, I couldn’t see. And I immediately started getting that headache that you always get when you try on someone else’s glasses or have to wear an old prescription.

I went back into the bedroom, turned on the light, searching for my glasses – not sure why I couldn’t find them.

I looked and I looked. I looked under the bed. I looked in the drawer. I looked under the table and under my pillow. They were no where to be seen.

On a whim, I checked my iPhone. (No, I wasn’t that confused.) And I found a recent picture.

And you know what?

Those were my glasses.

My vision immediately cleared up.

And my headache disappeared.

From here on out, I am going to be much more careful about the thoughts that I am directing to my thyroid – not to mention the rest of my body.

And, just as a friendly word of advice, I suggest you think about doing the same.

Yes, It’s True – I Changed the Tagline

I was reading a book the other day on the law of attraction (don’t ask!) and it stated quite simply a principle that I have heard, yet stubbornly ignored, my whole life: you get what you focus on.

Or, to put it another way, that to which you give your undivided attention grows.

In this particular book, there was one line that struck close to home. It said very clearly – if you focus on losing the last ten pounds of fat or body weight, your body will automatically create situations for you do that. In other words, if you focus on losing the last ten pounds, you will always be losing the last ten pounds – because “the law of attraction” will bring to you that thing upon which you are focused.

In order to get what you want, you should focus on what you want – not what you don’t want.

In fact, the authors go on to say that you should live your life as if the thing you want is already true (which, in my case, is a flat, toned, size two tummy) and feel all of the good feelings (which, in my case, is confidence, higher self-esteem, higher sense of self-worth, accomplishment, health, pride, etc) that you feel now that that thing that you want it actually true.

Make sense?

Well, I stepped on the scale today.

And despite that I am only about a half size up, I have gained 16 pounds since last March.

Yes, you read that right, meaning that once again, I have 8 pounds to lose (which is pretty darned close to 10) if I want to get back down to my desired goal weight of 140.

Argh!

Believe it or not, I decided not to beat myself up over this.

Instead, I thought about that book.

And I asked myself what I’d really like to happen – to keep losing the last ten pounds or to have a flat, toned size two tummy.

It’s a no-brainer. But just for those of you who know that I have a history of being dedicated to struggle, I did indeed choose the latter.

And I imagined how much more secure, happy, comfortable, confident, and energetic I would be if it were true.

So, from here on out, it’s going to all be about getting my flat, toned size two tummy and letting the last ten pounds take care of themselves. And, as always, I’ll keep you posted.

Namaste.

Cultivating a Mindset of Abundance (as Opposed to Scarcity)

A few nights ago my partner, Michael J, and I ran into an old acquaintance.

Over the course of the conversation, the man commented on how much weight he’d lost – 100 pounds this last year.

Michael J, who typically never comments on people’s weight, replied: “Yeah, I noticed you’d really trimmed down. Did you have a plan for that? Or do you have one moving forward?”

“Well,” he began, “I started over eaters anonymous and cut out sugar and bread. You know, no pasta, no bread, no burgers, no pizza, no cake, no pie…..”

As he continued to list off all of the the things that he “can’t eat,” I found myself thinking, “Wow, that’s intense. There’s no way could do that.”

Uh, hello?

In case you haven’t been following this blog, I am, for all intents and purposes, a newly raw vegan, who happens to also be gluten and (processed) sugar free. By definition, I can’t have any of those things either. But as soon as he started off on the list of what he couldn’t have, I got all internally defensive. And I started setting myself up for failure. I literally starting to tell myself that I couldn’t do the very things that I had been doing for the last 8 weeks. It was intense. And a little funny. And a little sad.

But do you want to know what’s really funny? I rarely think about what I can’t have on my raw food diet. In fact, I was 4 weeks into it before I fully realized that I was now an acting vegan – something else I swore I would never be able to do.

I’m not totally sure what the take away point is here, but it definitely warrants some thought. It may be that there are just so many ways that we set ourselves up for failure and that one way to do it is by focusing on what we can’t have as opposed to all of the things that we can. I’ll give it some further consideration and get back with you.

And if you have any suggestions, let me know.

The Power of Framing

I was driving to work this morning and the odometer flipped to my – up until that exact moment – least favorite number in the world: 232.5

For those of you who know me (or have been following this blog from the beginning) 232.5 is my all time highest weight. I remember clearly stepping on the scale at a Weight Watcher’s meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and having my classmate’s mother (who must happened to be the leader) call it out like it was no big deal. I was absolutely horrified.

To this day, I see that number – or at least the 232 part – on digital clocks, odometers, timers, cardio machines, etc, weekly, if not daily! And every time I would get this sick feeling in my stomach that was probably the result of some residual of the self-hatred, embarrassment, and shame that I felt then.

When I saw that number today, however, instead of the sick feeling that I normally experience I thought, “Wow, that’s the number that changed my life!” It was that number – that 232.5 – that launched my 24 year (more or less) journey of healthy eating and exercise.

The 98 pounds in third grade hadn’t managed it, nor had the 188 in eighth grade. But for whatever reason, 232.5 in eleventh grade did. I’m not sure if it was my age, the officialness of it, the way it was delivered (so casually, slotted in between questions about my classes), or the fact that I had a social connection – albeit a weak one – to the bearer of the “bad” news.

So this morning, I actually felt gratitude when I saw that number. Because if I hadn’t seen that number so many years ago – in that manner and at that perfect point in time – my life could have been very different. And chances are, it would have been a heck of a lot less healthy, rewarding, and fun!

The next time I see it – probably sometime tomorrow if the pattern holds – instead of closing my eyes and waiting for it to pass, I will close my eyes and, instead, offer a moment of deep and heartfelt gratitude.

New Thought Experiment

For one week, I am not going to engage in any negative self-talk, most of which I am sad to say tends to be centered on my body and or my appearance!

Why? When you focus on the negative (regarding anything) you oftentimes end up manifesting the very thing that you’re trying to avoid! Sounds messed up, doesn’t it? But it’s true! Similarly, when you beat yourself up over your body or a food choice that you’ve made, you are, essentially, inviting feelings of sadness, disgust, or guilt – all of which invite more feelings of sadness, disgust, or guilt, which, in turn, invite eating even more crap and other forms of self-sabotage!

All that aside, I don’t like like it when other people are mean to me or judge me negatively for my choices or my appearance, so then why should I do it to myself? Simple answer: I shouldn’t! In this case it’s the Golden Rule turned inside out: treat yourself as you would treat others! Because, trust me, I’m much nicer and more accepting when it comes to my friends than I am when it comes to myself, which is totally messed up! This is not to say that I should be any less nice or accepting of them mind you, but I should at least give myself the same courtesy and respect!

Further, there has been so much written about the laws of attraction – about how what you focus your energy on comes true (or rather, you draw it to you at an unconscious level) that there must be something to it! Wouldn’t it suck to be creating – even at the subconscious level – the very thing that you want to avoid? So, I am only going to focus on the positive and, in the process, I am going to create the body I want – both consciously and subconsciously, live the healthy life that I want, and love myself unconditionally (always a plus)!

I am going to stop focusing on the negative and reduce the guilt and self-loathing that focusing on the negative brings! I am going to stop beating myself up, because doing so only makes me feel bad about myself, which is also no fun! Instead, I am going to focus on how wonderful my body is – how amazing it is – because no matter what I’ve done to it in the past, it gets me through the day, houses my spirit, allows me to communicate with friends and family, allows me to enjoy the world at a sensory level, etc. I know it sounds silly, but everything I am I owe to my body! Shouldn’t I be a little nicer to it? Shouldn’t I love it a little more than I have been in the past?

So, what does this mean exactly? Quite simply, it just means that whenever I start to have a negative thought about myself (particularly about my body), I am going to stop it and replace it with a positive thought.

It’s pretty simple – at least in theory! I figure it’s going to be a lot like meditation.

I used to think that meditation was about imagining yourself in a white room while being in a total state of transcendence – whatever that means! Once I started meditating, I realized that it’s really about clearing your head of thoughts and focusing on your breath. Whenever a thought comes in, you immediately let it go and go back to your breath. You may find yourself going down some thought road, but the minute you realize what you’re doing, you let it go and follow your breath. As you get better at meditation, your forays down thought roads become shorter and shorter and you periods where you are able to clear your mind and focus on your breathing get longer and longer. I imagine that this is going to be the same thing.

I imagine that some negative thoughts will creep in and when they do, as soon as I am aware of them, I will stop them in their tracks and replace them with something positive. It’s going to take practice, but eventually, it will become a habit, just like following your breath becomes the habit for those who regularly meditate. I think it’s all going to boil down to really tuning into my self-talk, recognizing the negative stuff as the garbage it is, remembering to stop it instead of just internalizing it (which, again, is the last thing you want), and replacing it with something new.

My goal is to try this for a week and then for another week and another week until it comes habit.

And it really shouldn’t be that hard now that I am aware of it, because my body is amazing! It’s amazing now and it was amazing when I weighed 232 pounds at age 16!

I mean think about it. Think about what it does for you every single day, every single minute of every single day! Think about all of the crap that you put into it and all of the things that you do to it – and it’s still there for you!

Think about that for a change and acknowledge what a good friend it’s been to you! Even if there have been times where you’ve felt betrayed by your body or you developed a condition or disease that you wish you hadn’t or that is somehow embarrassing to you. I mean cut your body some slack, because, truth be told, how many times have you betrayed your body? I, personally, can think of at least a couple of times (cough!) that I have treated my body like crap, most of them – but not all – involving a toilet and the expulsion of copious amounts of alcohol. The point being is that my body hasn’t abandoned me over that, so I really don’t feel that I have that much room to complain!

Regardless of the challenges you’ve faced in your relationship with your body in the past or the ones that you’re still facing, your body is an amazing machine…an amazing friend. Try treating it as you would any cherished friend that you’ve had since birth. Try treating it with the respect and admiration that it and that you deserve and see what happens.

Feel free to join me in this and let me know how it works for you! I’d love to hear about it!

Don’t maintain – transform!

I have never liked the idea of maintenance. For starters, I can’t spell it! It usually takes about three tries before I can get rid of the automatic spell check line! But the real reason is that it’s not motivating, at least not for me!

So, why is maintenance, other than being hard to spell, not motivating?

I am a goal driven person. I like to make progress and to achieve my goals. It’s literally how I get my kicks. But it’s hard to view maintenance as a goal. You don’t achieve maintenance, it’s just something that you do. Much like housework, which I also dislike intensely, maintenance is undervalued. It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It’s not awe-inspiring. In fact, most people don’t even notice that you’re doing it…that is, until you stop! Did you ever notice how housework is invisible until it doesn’t get done? It’s the same thing with maintenance. It’s typically overlooked until you start routinely setting it aside in favor of brownie hot fudge sundaes with Kahlua infused whipped cream.

If you’re like me and you think that maintenance is somewhat of a bum goal or you just don’t like doing it for whatever reason, I challenge you to change your perception of what it means to maintain your ideal weight (or whatever weight at which you find yourself currently if you’re stuck at a plateau). Don’t think about it as maintenance; instead think of this as an opportunity to transform.

Transformation. Now, that’s sexy. That’s motivating. You can set some goals around transformation. More importantly, the goals that you set around transformation are going to be a heck of a lot more compelling than, well, another week down, another 2,240 to go (assuming, of course, that you plan to live for at least another forty years)!

So, what types of transformation goals can you set for yourself while you’re either at your ideal weight or in the middle of a plateau?

  • You start working out with weights or adding a couple of pounds to the weight with which you already working
  • You could start doing yoga, which would improve your balance and flexibility
  • You could stop eating processed food, which would improve your digestion
  • Similarly, you could start incorporating more live, raw, or super food into your diet
  • You could start drinking more water, which would help return the elasticity to your skin
  • Similarly, you could moisturize
  • You could start a daily meditation practice, which would help you become more comfortable in your body and in the moment
  • You could change your exercise routine to work different muscles
  • You could stretch more, which would help your muscles rebuild after workouts
  • Similarly, you could take a day off
  • Or you could simply chose to get more sleep

For goal-oriented people who love to strive, the idea of maintenance is about as motivating as coffin! So shift your mindset and transform your body! Heck, don’t just stop with your body. Why not transform your entire life while you’re at it?

Living an undivided life – Part 2

( Part 1)

At the end the the King talk, on honesty, he challenged us to a 24 hour challenge, during which you could only be unflinchingly honest. No lies. Not even the little white ones. Total and absolute honesty.

Okay, I thought. I’m pretty honest. How hard can it be?

At the break, I went a product table, where they were selling all kinds of things ranging from Time Management Tools, Leadership CDs, Relationship Programs, and Weight Loss Products. I had a couple of questions about a 10 Day Cleanse that I had bought the day before. I’d never done one before — still haven’t the truth be told. There was also a weight loss supplement package that I was curious about, but eventually didn’t buy.

The person behind the counter was a woman who I had noticed at the beginning of the weekend. She was skinny (and therefore I had written her off as relatively stupid and bitchy; see Part 1). But, if that wasn’t bad enough, she was also very feminine. One of these ultra-feminine girlie girls. Make up, scarves, gypsy pants, low cut tops, exotic jewelry. She didn’t walk, she glided. She didn’t make sudden turns, she flowed. She was dramatic. She was also truly drop dead stunningly gorgeous.

I, of course, hated her on sight and was horrified at the thought about having to ask her anything about my weight issues.

“May I help you?” she asked in this fabulous British/Welsh accent. (Could life be any more unfair?)

I gave her another look and figured that she certainly looked like she’d know what she was talking about and asked her about the weight loss product, which consisted mainly of various dietary supplements, herbs, and teas.

She looked me up and down. “And how much would you like to lose?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I weigh 151 now.”

“Well, what would you like to weigh?”

I looked her up and down. “What do you weigh?”

She glanced down and then back at me. “I weigh about 135.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to be that skinny!” I denied, suddenly mortified that I had asked this beautiful woman how much she weighed!

(End flashback!)

Whoa! As I told my partner about the exchange the following week, I realized that not only had I been ruder than hell, I had also told a bald-faced lie. Twenty-four hours? Sorry Mr. King, I hadn’t even made it twenty-four minutes! I’ll come back to this later.

(Resume flashback)

She looked nonplussed for about a sixteenth of a second. “Well?”

“Maybe 140,” I ventured, thinking surely that she’s laugh.

“Well, you’re almost there then aren’t you. That’s just ten pounds.”

She then proceeded to sketch out a weight loss plan on the back of a note card; turns out she’s a fitness coach, among other things. A very generous one at that who gave me a lot of free advice. Free advice that worked! She also gave me her phone number to call when I was done in six weeks (her estimate, not mine, of how long it would take).

I’ve mentioned this before, but she essentially told me to cut my calories to 1,200, keep exercising, and when I’d lost five pounds, gain three back, then lose another five pounds, gain three back, and so on. So, since I was at 151, stay at 1,200 calories a day until I hit 146, then pop up to 1,500-2,000 until I hit 149, then go back down to 1,200 until I hit 144, then back up until I hit 147, and so on! It worked. In six weeks, I’d dropped 12 pounds. And using the same technique, I have maintained a two pound spread around my desired weight for over a month!

So let’s get back to the lie: Just in case you hadn’t figured it out, I didn’t think she was too skinny. In fact, I did want to be that skinny! Hell, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that I wanted to look just like her, gypsy pants, high heeled boots and all! But I thought that if I expressed that, she’d take one look at me, laugh, and snort (elegantly, of course), “And what makes you think you could ever look like me?”

Why wouldn’t she? Hadn’t I said the same thing to myself on several occasions with a lot less compassion? Hadn’t I said the same thing every time I had looked at someone I thought was attractive and called them a stupid, skinny bitch? Hadn’t I said the same thing every time I looked at the mirror and called myself fat? And, albeit less harshly, hadn’t I said the same thing when I said that I was only losing weight to be fit? Hell, I was fit. My resting heart rate was (and still is) 48! Why hadn’t I ever been able to admit the truth: I wanted to be skinny! There was some part of me that wanted to be a little, skinny, girlie girl. There, I said it!

And for the first time in my life, I had been honest about why I wanted to lose weight.

And, perhaps not coincidentally, for the first time in my life, I have been successful in reaching and maintaining my desired goal.

(Continued in Part 3)

Living an undivided life – Part 1

Back in March, while crewing a Tony Robbins event, I went to a workshop by a former racer Gary King. Essentially, his shtick, if you will, is that “there is no such thing as an inconsequential lie.” You should be honest with others and honest with yourself. If you aren’t honest all the time — and this means no “little white lies” either — than you are living a divided life. When you live a divided life, it is impossible for you to meet your goals, you have lower self-esteem…. The list goes on and on.

Now, I had been thinking about this a lot lately, as it was. For example, I had gotten back to that place where I was stuck in my diet — this was the weekend back in March, by the way, when I finally decided that enough was enough and took intense and massive action in my fitness and lifestyle regimen. I had been thinking about this — the divided part, not the honesty part — because I had realized that whenever a skinny person would annoy me, I would think — sometimes subconsciously and sometimes not — stupid, skinny bitch!

Essentially, I had realized that I had created a negative association with being skinny, especially if you were female. I assumed — wrongly, I realize — that if you were skinny, you were also a bitch! And, more importantly, given the high value I place on intelligence, you were also stupid.

Now, you’re probably wondering, what about all your smart skinny female friends?

They’re exceptions.

Just like people make exceptions for other stigmatized groups — oh, some of my best friends are X — I, too, embarrassingly enough, had exceptionalized all of the the smart, skinny, non-bitches that I actually know and love.

I know this sounds terrible, but bear with me.

Though I hadn’t fully grasped the extent to which this was a problem, I began to have the sinking feeling that part of the reason I couldn’t lose weight was because I viewed myself as being relatively intelligent, kind, and compassionate woman — at least where non-skinny people were concerned, obviously! 😉

So, how could I want to be something (that is, skinny) that I at so many levels obviously disdained?

The answer is simple. I couldn’t.

Step One: Change my attitude about skinny women.

How did I do this? I began to focus on my skinny friends and how wonderful and smart they were. I also stopped myself every single time I caught myself thinking something negative about a skinny person. I didn’t necessarily think anything nice about them (I haven’t changed that much). But at least I stopped linking bad things to being skinny. After all, it’s just as easy to think someone is a self-centered, obnoxious, cow when they set their yoga mat up directly in front of your perfect yoga spot as it is to call them a stupid, skinny, bitch.

Once I figured that out, I thought I was golden. Oh, how wrong I was.

To be continued….

(Part 2)

Talking Myself Back Down From the Edge (or at least from a chocolate croissant)!

Today was interesting. Today I realized why I am writing a blog. At first I thought it was just public accountability (assuming anyone’s reading). Second I thought it might give me a creative outlet so that I’m not always rattling on to Michael about nutrition, exercise, and weight loss. Today, however, I realized that I am writing a blog to remind myself of what I know is true.

While I was crewing a Tony Robbins event in New Jersey in March, I struck up a conversation with this gorgeous woman who just happened to be a weight loss coach. She gave me some free advice on how to lose ten pounds and told me to call her (in six weeks) when I’d done it. I have more to say about her and our conversation in future posts. Feeling a little skeptical (but hopeful, as she certainly looked like she knew what she was talking about), I wrote it down word for word. I even drew a little chart. I shared it with Michael. I shared it with a couple of close friends. That was March 18.

Today, after teaching a spinning class, I stepped on the scale and realized that in less than a month, following this woman’s advice to the best of my ability, I have dropped 9.6 pounds. It hasn’t even been four weeks! And these are technically 9.6 pounds of the “hardest” ones to lose!

Unfortunately for me, the number that I saw on the scale this morning just happens to be the one that in the past has always been a stumbling block. And this time was no exception. Immediately I started thinking about new blog post titles: This is Where the Rubber Hits the Road. Or thinking, ‘Wow! This is going to be a really short-lived blog! Bummer.’ I also started thinking about all of the other times that I got to this number and promptly put on 5 pounds (it’s happened at least twice before, why would this be different?) I started wondering if I was too skinny, ignoring the fact that I thought I looked great yesterday, before I stepped on the scale.

If I were going to be analytical about this situation, I would have to say that this particular number is a trigger for me and, like Pavlov’s dogs who always salivated whenever the bell rang, I started running my old patterns–you know the ones. The ones that we all have that, for whatever reason, work against us, rather than for us. If you don’t think you’ve ever been triggered by anything, you’re wrong. So, when you’ve been triggered and you didn’t know it, some of the key signs are that 1) your breathing gets more shallow, 2) your thoughts get louder and faster, and 3) your thoughts start repeating themselves. And we can get triggered in any domain in our lives–work, relationships, friendships, holidays, Mondays…. You name it, you can get triggered by it. The trick is to notice when you’re triggered before you do something you regret (like quit your job, walk out on a lover, or, my personal favorite, go to Dirt Cowboy and get a chocolate croissant).

So, in the middle of my triggered state, the thing that pulled me out of it was that random thought about my blog. And when I thought about my blog, I remembered why I started in the first place. I also remembered that these two pounds are not going to be any more difficult than the last 9.6. I remembered that I don’t need to change my behavior. I don’t need to eat less. I don’t need to exercise more or at a breakneck speed that might lead to injury or binge eating. I don’t need to do any of the things that will set me up for failure. And now that I have recognized that, I won’t.

What I am going to do instead is stick to the plan. I am also going to enjoy every healthy, nutritious, and delicious bite. And, assuming I can find her address, I may send that weight loss coach a big bouquet of flowers!

Be Careful What You Ask For (or at least how you ask it)!

Over the last few days two very good friends of mine–on two separate occasions–made the following statement: Sometimes I just look at myself and ask, ‘How did I get here?’

For the first friend, her focus was on weight. She had previously identified herself as a jock and an athlete; however, as she’s developed her professional identity, which is for the most part sedentary, she has put on a few pounds. She’s been struggling with this for at least five years.

For the second friend, her focus was more on life in general; though, she too, also struggles with her weight.

One of the things that I have learned through my studies as a social psychologist, as well as listening to coaching programs, is that when you ask yourself a question, your brain will provide you with an answer, even if it’s only subconscious. Try it. What day is it? You automatically know: it’s Friday. What color is the sky? Without looking, the brain supplies the answer: it’s blue. However, the brain is like a computer, or a really basic search engine: the quality of the answers it supplies are dependent upon the quality of the questions you ask!

And why is this important? When you’re unhappy about the state of the world (or your body) and you ask, “How did I get here? Or what happened to me?” your brain will provide you with the answer. And if you’re disgruntled about where you are, inevitably the brain will start cataloging all of the setbacks, all of the mistakes, all of the bad decisions, it may even provide you with a couple of new labels, which is the last thing you need.

So instead of asking, “How did I get here?” I would challenge my friends, and whoever else might be in the habit of asking themselves bad questions to try the following: Instead of asking “How did I get here?” ask “How do I change this?” Instead of asking “What did I do wrong” ask “How do I make this situation better?” Instead of “How could I have done this to myself?” try “How can I reach and maintain my goals?” or better yet, “How can I get the body or the life that I really want?” Because just as your brain searches for the answers about what you did wrong, it also has (or will find) the answers on what you can do right.

Words Matter

So, how many times a day do you think to yourself, ‘I’d really like to lose some weight.’ Or when someone offers you a bagel and cream cheese, how often do you say, “No, I’m trying to cut back.” Or when someone asks you what you’re doing tonight, you respond, “I hope to go work out.”

Well, I’d like to be the Queen of England, I’ve been trying to be a nicer person for years (my sister can tell you how well that’s working for me), and I hope that I’ll win the lottery!

Try this on for size. I am going to lose weight. Feel different? I am cutting back. I am going to the gym.

Words matter. Choose the ones that serve you, not the ones that perpetuate your struggle.