So you’ve managed to diet your way down to a more ‘society approved’ body size…according to the fairy tale everything should be unicorns and rainbows now, but is it really?
Let’s talk about those ‘lucky’ few who have (for the moment!) forced themselves into what we’ve been trained to accept as ‘good’ bodies.
You’d think these people would be over the moon happy, right? WRONG.
When you catch them at their most honest (not too many will openly say this – it’s like they are killing the dream) they admit that they are not the happy people that we assume they should be.
Consider the bikini competitor who’s gym time is like another full time job. She’s working her ass off, her body is sore and overworked…and then goes home to nothing but vegetables, chicken breasts and protein shakes. All she can think about is the next time she can have carbs again.
Or the fitness professional who feels her job depends on her looking a certain way, and is scared to death about gaining weight so she comes up with all sorts of little tips and tricks to try avoid eating. Everyone comments on her body, so all her self worth is tied up in how she looks – which only leads to more anxiety about gaining weight. Only to those closest to her will she admit how miserable she is.
What about the woman who has gastric surgery? She’s praised by everyone around her for losing weight, but her digestion doesn’t work right any more, and she’s depressed because she physically can no longer eat the types and amounts of food she wants to.
So, knowing what we know about weight loss – that it’s pretty well impossible to permanently maintain a body size smaller than your natural weight – why do we put ourselves through this madness?
Is being obsessed with food, bitchy from hunger, and insecure as hell that you will gain the weight back worth the few months or maybe year or two that you are able to suppress your weight?
By placing our worth and our value in our dress size we are doomed to live life on a roller coaster. When our weight is down (usually for only short periods in our life) our sense of worth goes up, but then when our weight inevitably goes up, our feelings of worth swing an equal amount the other way. And then despair, self loathing, and a sense of failure kicks in.
So either way life sucks. Either we are miserable because we are starving ourselves or we are miserable because we have gained back the weight we lost. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Do you think women should be condemned to a life like this? What about our daughters?
Maybe it’s time for a new paradigm for women.
What if we honoured our bodies natural weight and looked after it in the ways that worked best for our own unique body? If we ate and moved with an emphasis on being healthy and feeling good versus just being thin, think about how much happier and healthier we would be. (As a side note research shows that weight cycling is FAR more detrimental to your health than staying at your set point weight, and that excellent health and longevity is achievable at any size).
This all begins with accepting the bodies that we have been given and coming to peace with the fact that we cannot permanently change them…so maybe it’s time to stop making ourselves miserable and quit trying.
Despite living in a ‘diet culture’, body acceptance is 100% possible and as far as I can tell is truly the only way to achieve lasting happiness. When we stop letting our happiness be based on our size, that’s when life truly begins.
Did the name of this post get you excited…or cause a mix of fear and dread? (If the latter was you, congrats on opening it anyhow!)
Truth of the matter is I don’t have an actual program for you, but I can help you figure out the perfect exercise plan for you!
Historically, the overwhelming reason for a woman to exercise was simply to lose weight. Any other benefits like improved mood, strength, etc., were just pleasant side effects.
Sometimes (ok maybe oftentimes), intense exercising to the point of over-exercising is used like a punishment to our bodies for them not looking the way we want, or maybe because we ate too much and need to ‘burn off those calories’ to assuage our guilt.
There are several issues with this type of exercise model.
The first issue is that this type of activity is not something you truly enjoy participating in – it feels more like you are just paying your dues. If you don’t enjoy your exercise, how easy do you think it will be to get derailed? A holiday or an injury will likely get you off track, and even thinking about getting started again will make your stomach queasy, and you’ll keep putting it off and putting it off…
The next issue is that you are highly unlikely to be in tune with your body’s need for unscheduled rest days. When you ignore your body and push through anyways, you are astronomically more likely to sustain an injury (which could potentially sideline you for a long time).
Another fun fact is that people who exercise strenuously usually engage in ‘compensatory eating’. We tend to overestimate how much extra food we need when we workout hard and therefore actually eat more than we burn off while exercising.
Lastly, this style of exercise can majorly stress your body and cause it to release extra cortisol. I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but high cortisol is associated with overeating, craving high caloric fatty and sugary foods, and increasing abdominal fat stores.
Stressing your body over a long period of time can often lead to physical, mental or emotional burnout.
Ok so now you see some of the cons of the ‘exercise as punishment’ plan. I may burst a few bubbles here, but an increasing body of research shows that exercise does very little for you when it comes to weight loss.
I’d like you to consider two scenarios and see what sounds more logical for you.
Imagine you are planning on signing up for a super intense exercise class with the intention of going at least 5 days per week and sticking with it indefinitely. I’d like you to look back and consider the other times in your life you started a gruelling fitness program. Did you end up sticking with it forever? I’m guessing not.
Do you think based on your past experience that there’s a pretty good chance you burn out and quit like all the other times?
Now let’s look at an alternative option. Imagine finding a way of moving your body that is enjoyable, doesn’t feel like exercise, and you actually looked forward to doing! And it feels like a self care activity – and not a self punishing one.
Here’s how this works. You decide what days and times you plan to move your body and then based on how your body feels you choose the activity that will best meet your body’s needs that day.
Say you are feeling run down from a stressful week at work; rather than dragging yourself to spin class anyways, maybe some yoga would be more restorative to your body. You’d walk away feeling relaxed and loose, rather than exhausted from pushing your body to do something it didn’t want to.
Maybe another day you’ve sat at a desk all day and are itching to go outside and burn off some steam, so perhaps going for a run that day would best meet your body’s need.
And then there will be days when you feel like ass and the best thing you could do for your body is simply to stay home and catch up on netflix.
By tuning into your body (and taking the focus off gruelling workouts for weight loss – because remember that doesn’t actually work!), you are infinitely more likely to stick with an exercise schedule for the rest of your life – which I’m sure you will agree is better for your health than the on again/off again thing you’ve done in the past.
We can now focus our intentions on moving our body to help us feel energetic, improve our mood, be strong and pliable to resist injury, and to improve our health and well being for years to come.
And since we’ve matched our activity to our body’s need for movement, we walk away feeling restored rather than burnt out.
I know we’ve been fed the myth of ‘no pain no gain’ for a few decades now, but the reality is there is no reason to believe that that is actually the case. By following a more intuitive approach to exercise we keep our stress hormones and injuries to a minimum, but most importantly exercise becomes something we want to do rather than have to because now we genuinely enjoy it.
Watch this first! (only about 15 minutes and might change your life!!)
Instead of my usual blog post I wanted to share what I consider a really important video. In this video neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt discusses weight set point theory which states that our brains want us to be at a certain weight range (10-15 lbs) and causes our body to slow down our metabolism if we restrict our food intake (i.e. a diet) and will speed up if we overdo it around the holidays…all to keep us at a certain set weight.
So I want to discuss the implications of this. The first being that clearly diets are not a long term solution to weight loss -in fact in nearly half of those who were on a diet in the past actually gained weight post diet! And due to dieting, we can actually RAISE our set point!
If you’ve ever been on a diet you know exactly what I mean when I say that diets make you crazy. You obsess over every morsel you put into your mouth, you think about food endlessly, you drink coffee to try to manage your feelings of hunger, and exercise solely to ‘burn calories.’ And then when you inevitably ‘fall off the wagon’ you feel like a failure for not eating or exercising perfectly and that soon leads you to emotional eating and very likely binge eating.
So knowing what we now know…is it worth it??
The second thing that will happen to you once you can accept that your weight really is NOT in your control, is maybe you can start accepting your body. And maybe stop trying to shame it into submission (’cause we all know how well that works!).
You don’t have to be happy about the situation in order to accept it. Imagine if you had lost a limb. You wouldn’t likely be happy about it, but you know that since you cannot grow back a new one you have no control over it. Unless you wanted to waste the rest of your life being bitter or obsessed (remind you of anyone?), at some point you would come to a place of acceptance and move on with your life.
Hmm a life without being crazy around food and without obsessing about weight??? Whoa!!! Can you imagine?
I want you to think about what dieting and weight obsession is costing you in terms of your happiness. Then I want you to picture your life if you accepted that your set weight is not up to you….would you get on with your life already?
That’s it for now, but watch your inboxes for an announcement of the cool training series I’ve developed for you coming very soon!
‘I feel fat.’
If you are like most women you’ve said or thought that at least a few times in your life. It’s so common in our culture that we accept ‘feeling fat’ as a genuine state of being. However what I want you to notice is that feeling fat is not a feeling at all! Feeling fat is like changing the station of our thoughts when something unpleasant starts playing – it is a distraction from what we are really thinking or feeling.
Have you ever been having a great day, not thinking about your weight at all, and then out of nowhere you have an attack of ‘feeling fat’? The reason you feel fat is not that you are suddenly 10 pounds heavier than you were 5 minutes ago, but that you had a judgemental thought about yourself that caused you to feel an emotion that you are not comfortable with (this varies from person to person, but women tend to struggle most with feeling anxiety, anger, shame and loneliness).
Instead of letting yourself feel that emotion, you quickly avert your thinking to your body and how awful it is, rather than dealing with the feeling or situation at hand. As painful as this thinking is, it is familiar (and therefore more comfortable) and we feel like there is an easy solution (losing weight), rather than venturing out into the unfamiliar place of changing our thoughts/behaviours/actions to something new, which may be difficult.
You can see that this is for sure the path of least resistance when it comes to a short term solution to distract you from what’s really going on in your life, but I think you can at least intellectually recognize that not dealing with our issues does not make them go away and does not lead to the growth and change we want in order to be happy. This lack of progress in life keeps us stuck where we are and actually leads to greater long term suffering (never mind that feeling fat is not enjoyable either!).
I’m not saying that this choice is necessarily going to be easy, but do you really want to still be unhappy about the same things in your life 10 years from now? I do promise you that once you start making progress in your life and changing the things you don’t like about it (aside from your body), you will feel alive and happy in ways you didn’t even think possible.
So….I’d like to challenge you to an experiment with me, just for 1 week. Every time you feel fat I want you to ask yourself a few questions. First – ‘feeling fat is not a feeling, what am I really feeling?’. Once you’ve identified the real feeling then ask ‘why am I feeling this way and what do I need to do about it?’
Be really still and silent and let your inner wisdom come out, I promise you that you have all the answers you need inside. If it is difficult for you to figure out your game plan you can try journaling or seek out some guidance from a therapist or coach.
Many women go through this cycle for their entire lives, and stay stuck and miserable and wondering why nothing in their life ever gets any better. Now you have the tools to break this pattern and go on to live the life you really want, and if you haven’t figured out my stance on that yet – your level of happiness has nothing to do with the size of your body 😉
So I was at a dinner event the other night and I overheard the women beside me talking about someone they knew. One said something like ‘she’s like a round little ball’, and the other said ‘she used to be so skinny, there’s pics of her on Facebook in a string bikini’. They then proceeded to scroll through her Facebook page to find the bikini picture. The one woman knew about my business and blog and said ‘we should ask Leanne what she has to say about this,’ but before giving me a chance to speak said ‘I feel like we’re being mean girls’ and the topic was changed after that.
What I wanted to say was there are many, MANY good reasons why someone gains weight (I would argue they are all good reasons, and NOT because they are lazy or lacking discipline), maybe she’s battling depression after having something really traumatic happen in her life, maybe a loved one has a terminal illness and she is spending all her time looking after them and not looking after herself, maybe she has a serious health issue related to her hormones, or maybe she’s on medication that makes her gain weight (there are several that are notorious for this). My point here is there are a million reasons why people gain weight.
Just think for a moment if you were having a rough patch in your life, you would only hope that others would treat you with compassion and understanding, and not harsh judgement based on external appearances. Imagine how you might feel, if you were going through something really difficult that was causing you to gain weight (despite your best efforts) and then topping that stress off with feeling ashamed of yourself because of the comments and looks you are getting from others who don’t know what you are going through. (I had one bout of severe depression in my early 20s where I used food to cope with my difficult emotions – as I had no other tools at the time- and gained a lot of weight. Then the shame I felt about my weight gain caused me to spiral even further into depression, so this is a topic I fully relate to.)
I don’t at all condemn these women for having this conversation, in fact it is a pretty ‘normal’ one in our culture, however this is a symptom of what’s wrong in our society. We are taught to judge and further ostracize each other by this competition we are ‘supposed’ to be in with other women. Tell me how that is good for us?
I guarantee that you will have more sustained happiness in life if you are kind and compassionate to others compared to the fleeting moments of feeling ‘better than’ when playing the comparison game (after all if you are judging others, you have to worry about who is judging YOU). Imagine how powerful we would become if instead of feeling like we are in some kind of rivalry or hierarchy with other women, we could see each other as equals – everyone with their own struggles and their own unique gifts to offer the world. And what if when we saw one of our sisters having a hard time, we would instead band around her and offer our support to help get her back on her feet again – how beautiful would that be for all of us?
Feeling compassion towards others comes with the handy side benefit that you also become less critical of yourself. Plus getting out of the business of constantly comparing yourself to others (either favourably or unfavourably) will make you feel more comfortable with being yourself and help you become more connected to others. Another bonus is you don’t carry with you that niggling sense of guilt that you feel when you speak unkindly about others.
My challenge is for you all to try to go one week without judging others. When you are tempted to judge someone unfavourably please try put yourself in their shoes and, if it helps, you can imagine that something really bad might be going on in their lives to really help stir up a sense of compassion for them. Maybe if the topic of someone’s weight comes up with your friends or co-workers you could say something like ‘we don’t actually know what’s going on in her life right now’, and see if that’s enough to change the topic of conversation to something different. Take note of how you feel about yourself at the end of the week and post in the comments below, I expect you’ll see some pretty big shifts if you stick with it.
I’m playing around a little here with doing a video blog this week. I personally am more comfortable writing more than speaking so this was a little out of my comfort zone, but supposedly video is the way to go to reach more people. So if that means getting this message in front of more people, then that’s what it takes! Please watch, share and let me know what you think – do you prefer video or written blog posts?
Ok so you have these amazing plans of following the latest and greatest fad diet to a T, going to the gym 5 days per week and looking like Jillian Michaels in 90 days from now…and everything goes according to plan for the first couple weeks and then…
You get invited to your best friends birthday party. You go with the plan of sticking to your guns and eating only a salad with a chicken breast (dressing on the side!), but then the dessert comes out and it looks so damn good that you just need a taste – after all you’ve been soooo good lately – and then it tastes so good you have another bite, and then another, until you’ve eaten the whole gigantic piece of cake on your plate.
Your inner critic starts talking it’s talk telling you that you are a big failure, that you can never stick to anything, and now you are doomed to being fat and miserable for the rest of your life. And never mind the diet, that’s out the window so you might as well have another 2 pieces of cake while you’re at it, and maybe some wine to wash it down with.
By the time you get home you feel horrible and go drown your misery with a pint of ice cream. After all you have fallen off the wagon, you’ll start again tomorrow…
But then tomorrow comes, and the next day, and then the weeks and even months roll by and you feel worse and worse with each passing day. You don’t even want to try because you’re just going to fail again. All of this was because you expected yourself to be perfect and didn’t take into account that you are a human being, and by definition human beings are not perfect!
So what’s a person to do to avoid this scenario? I’ll give you a hint and it has nothing to do with willpower!
Enter the 90/10 principle. The 90/10 principle simply states – eat foods you enjoy and make you feel good 90% of the time and indulge yourself 10% of the time. Human beings were not meant to live without pleasure, and that goes for food too! You can see that by following this principle for the rest of your life you will be much further ahead than by eating perfectly for 2 weeks once or twice per year until you ‘fall off the wagon’ again and then eat everything in sight for the next month.
By making allowances for something less than healthy from time to time, you avoid triggering your inner critic from derailing your efforts and setting you back further and further each time you ‘fail’ at your healthy eating plan. And really, is eating junk on occasion really going to make that big of a difference in your health in the long run? Nope! Plus the added benefit is you can eat the cake and drink the wine when you are out with friends, it’s written into the plan!
While we’re talking about eating healthy, I maintain that healthy food can be extremely pleasurable. I won’t eat anything that tastes like diet food. I think food needs to be about health and pleasure, after all life is short!! Any eating plan in my eyes has to be something you can maintain for life and if it’s boring, bland and tasteless what are the chances you will eat like this for the rest of your life? As part of my one on one or group coaching programs I teach my clients to make clean, healthy food that makes them feel healthy and energized, and doesn’t feel the least bit depriving!
If you are interested in learning more about coaching or my programs please sign up for a no obligation complimentary consultation where we discuss your health related challenges, what you’d love for your life to look like, and learn how health coaching can help get you there.
You may be one of those people who thinks ‘I could never possibly love, or even like my body until I reach my ideal weight’.
I would like you to think back to a time when you were at, or closer to, your ideal weight. Did you no longer have any criticisms of your body? Did you love her unconditionally, and take the utmost care of her? I would venture to guess that the answer to at least one of those questions was no.
So if getting to your ideal weight doesn’t magically make you love your body, what then does it take?
I bet, at least conceptually, you can imagine that by loving your body unconditionally you would be more likely to look after her by eating clean healthy foods, and making sure she had enough rest and exercise – and you would do this without a second thought, because that’s how you take care of those you love. (I often point out to my clients how much better they look after their children, spouses or even pets than they do themselves…because they love them of course!)
I am fully aware the current zeitgeist tells us (women especially) that we are totally unloveable if we don’t look like supermodels or actresses (who incidentally aren’t usually in love with their bodies either…plastic surgery anyone?), and that our duty is to carry around this sense of disgust for our bodies if we don’t measure up.
However I’m pretty sure we’ve all met and loved some pretty amazing people who were not a size zero; so at least consciously we can all agree that a person’s ‘loveability’ or value is not linked to their size. (Do you have any friends who you think are beautiful and loveable, but they themselves don’t think so? That’s how you look to your friends and loved ones too).
Now as a culture we need to start questioning the ‘rightness’ of the belief that we cannot love our bodies unless they are perfect. Clearly we can see the benefits of loving ourselves – increased confidence, increased sense of peacefulness and joy, and truly wanting to look after our body – so let’s figure out how to get there.
Change only comes about through the willingness to question the beliefs we have that do not serve us. When you start hating on your body, ask yourself ‘who says I’m not ok the way that I am?’ (It’s the diet/beauty/cosmetic surgery industries, but that’s another rant for another day, or read this to learn more). There are plenty of people in the world who would love you just the way you are (there are entire cultures who prefer larger women, so again size is not linked to loveability). By finding evidence to contradict what you believe in, you all of a sudden realize that your belief isn’t true at all – because real ‘truth’ holds up under scrutiny.
This isn’t a shift that happens overnight, but by bringing it to the forefront of your consciousness you can learn to change your thinking. Start reducing the amount of mainstream media you consume (as it’s only feeding these inaccurate beliefs), and when you come face to face with it remind yourself that you know better than to buy into that anymore.
I hope that helps you start to see things in a slightly different light, let me know in the comments below what was the one thing that you found most helpful in this post.
Do you ever catch yourself fantasizing about how all the things you will do in the future…once you lose weight?
Do you imagine yourself to feel more confident in talking to people?
Or maybe wearing beautiful attention-getting clothes?
I have a bit of a wake up call for you. If you keep putting your life on hold waiting to be the perfect size, you are letting days, months, years pass you by that you could have been out creating, and living a life that you love (instead of living life on the diet/binge roller coaster). By ‘waiting on the weight’ you are also using up valuable mental space and emotional energy obsessing about what you don’t like about your life now.
Two quotes I am forever reminding myself of are ‘what you resist persists’ and ‘what you focus on grows’. What I’d love for everyone, is to redirect their time and attention to is first figure out ‘what was I put here on earth to accomplish?’ and then go out and do it! I believe everyone has a calling or a higher purpose to contribute to mankind in a meaningful way, and the sooner we figure out what that is, the sooner we can start living our lives. (Incidentally when we start living our lives and our purpose, the weight falls off because we aren’t feeling stuck and hopeless anymore, but I’ll get to that.)
This can be a hard question to answer and one you’ve maybe never even thought of. I’ll give you a hint. The desire to lose weight or get healthy alerts us to the fact that deep down we yearn for something more meaningful, more fulfilling for our lives. Weight loss (or more broadly ‘health’) is not a destination, it is simply a vehicle to get you to something bigger you want for your life.
Some examples you might ask yourself to get a little more insight are:
“Why do I want to lose weight?”
Perhaps the answer might be “I’d be more confident and have more energy”.
Then you could ask further:
“What is being more confident and having more energy going to help me do?”
Maybe you might say “Well then I’d have the nerve to quit this dead end job, go back to school and start the business I’ve always wanted to”.
Typically the thing that you’ve ‘always wanted to do’, we know deep down, will be something that fulfills us and nourishes us at a soul level – and that my friend is pointing towards your purpose in life. We need to find something that feeds us in a way that food can’t, and fill the emptiness you feel at having a life without purpose. We want to replace that depressing void with the excitement you feel when you have a big dream for your life.
This ties into losing weight in several ways. As I mentioned before, discovering and pursuing your bigger life goals will be food for your soul – a way to fill that aching emptiness we feel when our goals are too small, without using food. You will stop mulling over what you don’t like in your life (remember, what you resist persists) and instead put your energy into creating something amazing (what you focus on grows). By doing this you are going to crowd out that crazy obsessive thinking that runs your life (and causes your emotional eating), and shift into spending your time and energy focusing on something exciting!
A practice I would like you to consider playing around with once you have figured out what your purpose is, is to regularly ask yourself ‘is this decision going to take me closer to or further from my dreams?’ If getting healthier is a goal for you, constantly reminding yourself what your big picture goal is will make it so much easier to pass up the junk food, and stick to an exercise program – not because you want to fit a certain size, but because you want the confidence and energy to create and live your dream life.
So I’d like to know what is YOUR purpose? I will go first – my purpose is to free women from their self inflicted prison of obsessing about their bodies so that they can create a dream life for themselves and help to change the world in the way that only women can!
“You’re not good enough.”
“Who do you think you are?”
“What will people think?”
Any of these thoughts sound familiar? Yep it’s that nasty little voice inside that I call the inner critic. Just when you start feeling good about the healthy eating and exercise program you are on, one comment from the inner critic sends you running for the nearest cupcake before you can even say WTF?? Next thing you know you have given up on the whole idea of being healthy and resign yourself to being a big fat failure, once again.
So what just happened here? Most people aren’t consciously aware of our inner critic – it’s so melded with our sense of self that we don’t even realize what it’s saying to us. We only know that we felt fine 5 minutes ago and now we feel so fat and disgusting that we don’t even want to leave the house – we’d rather just stay home and binge on whatever we can get our hands on.
Our inner voice is formed by the time we are about 4 years old. It is an amalgamation of the authority figures we had in our life (and often not the best parts of them). We needed this inner guiding voice as a child so that we knew not to run into traffic and how to behave in public. It kept us small, safe and subservient, and not likely to push boundaries. Carrying this around with us as adults, makes it really hard to make lasting changes to our lives – the inner critic wants us to stay securely in our comfort zone to keep us feeling ‘safe’. It was necessary as a child, but as adults we no longer need our parents telling us what to do.
Despite what our culture tells us (so that billions can be made off of our feelings of inadequacy) we cannot create lasting change by hating or shaming ourselves to get there – it only comes from kindness, acceptance and love. And the first step is to ditch the inner critic who constantly tells us we don’t measure up and that we are repulsive slobs. This is very counter-intuitive I know, but has hating yourself thin worked for you in the long run? Probably not.
There are several ways to go about this, but the easiest way to take the power away from the inner critic is to simply disengage from it. When you go from feeling fine to feeling powerless, hopeless or even just ‘feeling fat’, that’s the work of the inner critic. So the next time you recognize this is happening simply tell that voice to STOP! GO AWAY! I DON’T NEED YOU ANYMORE! And repeat, repeat, repeat every single time it says something to you. This will take some self awareness and some practice but I promise it will change your life. Your joy and happiness will increase immensely as you get better at it. And you know what? Happy people are way less likely to eat emotionally, and if they happen to do it once it doesn’t derail them for the next 3 months because they aren’t beating themselves up over it.
I see the handiwork of the inner critic in all my clients (the severity varies but the effect is the same), and have experienced myself how crushing it is listening to that voice, so this is something that I almost always address with my clients very early on in their program. This is the one thing that is most likely to get in the way of successfully making lasting changes in your life, if you don’t deal with it. Most clients who have done the work report feeling a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders, and they can finally quit spending all their time and energy obsessing and hating themselves and their bodies and move on with their lives instead.
So I want to know what do you think you would do differently without the harsh judgements of your inner critic?