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Structure Produces Freedom

It seems that every week has a theme in working with weight loss. Last week that theme was resistance. In talking about food and what to eat, I suggested to write down your meals the day before so you know exactly what you are going to eat the next day. This way, there is structure and you are mindful about what you are going to eat instead of leaving it up in the air.

The reaction to this idea was surprising because a lot of people had an immediate negative reaction. There were statements like “I have no time” or “I already plan it in my head” and even “I can’t possibly do that!”

The next step was to discuss the resistance and come up with a plan of eating for the next day that was written down in the INSTRUCTION part of the chart. The goal here was to have people actively think about their choices and write them down. There is no judgment as to what foods they choose to eat, merely the act of putting it on paper. In every case, we were able to accomplish this in minutes and it was seen that this was a productive way to stay mindful and that there was no wrong answer.

What I understand is that asking this question produces a lot of fear and anxiety. WE have been programmed for so long to think that our recovery relies on someone else to “tell me what to eat”. There is no confidence that you already know what to eat, only the overwhelming panic that if you were truly in control of what you were eating then you would fail.

THERE IS NO FAILURE!!! There is you deciding what to eat and doing the best you can. When you have a food plan based on your world and the foods you enjoy that make you feel healthy or happy, then you are creating your own success. Trust your knowledge of nutrition. If you have been on any “diet” you already know what to eat. Start with very small sustainable changes that you find you can make with confidence. Evaluate every week what went well, what should stay the same and what needs to be tweaked. Again there is no right or wrong here.

STRUCTURE PRODUCES FREEDOM!

Patrice French, RNP

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I Want Freedom!

“I want freedom to eat sugar, but when I eat it I’m not free at all. It takes over and I can’t stop!”

 A patient said this to me once and spoke for so many people. With Thursday being July 4th, freedom is a fitting topic to focus on. When it comes to food and eating, some of us feel anything but free. This is because certain foods and ingredients such as sugar, salt, fat and starch change our brain cells and result in the experience of cravings. The experience of cravings feels the opposite of freedom. Certain eating behaviors can do this too, such as mindless munching or binging. The paradox is that in order to be free FROM these foods, ingredients and eating behaviors, we have to be free OF the foods, ingredients and behaviors. The price we pay to be free FROM them is we need to be free OF them.

Most people find in 5 days they are 80% free, after 21 days about 90% free and after 90 days, 100% free. This is true for the cravings caused by the food. There are also cravings caused by mood. For those, we need to face our stuff so we don’t stuff our face. The price we pay for freedom from stress eating is to either go to counseling, learn mindfulness coping skills, follow the twelve steps, or some path that helps you find peace of mind that protects you from piece of cake.  So as you celebrate freedom this holiday week, I hope that You experience freedom as well. Freedom from the pain of out of control eating that results in freedom from excess weight, freedom from medical problems, freedom from fear of your clothes not fitting, freedom from the regrets of having eaten too much.

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Help Another, Help Yourself

Sometimes we know what to do but we just can’t do it. Then the light bulb goes off and we are able to do the thing we couldn’t get ourselves to do.

The other day, a woman who had been feeling a bit stuck in her ability to change her behavior shared an inspiring story. She had invited a younger woman to her home, a woman for whom she is a bit of a mother figure. The younger woman presently carries much more excess weight than the patient. The patient felt deep empathy and compassion for her young friend. With the friend in her home, she began to see the contents of her kitchen with new eyes, as if for the first time. She saw many processed foods lacking nurturing macronutrients and micronutrients. She heard herself say silently, “you would not feed this to this dear young friend, why would you have it here and feed it to yourself?”

When her young friend left, she was propelled by the love and wise thoughts that had entered her heart and mind. Even though the not so nourishing food may have been there for months or years, it was gone in a matter of minutes. In performing this act, and sharing it with me so that I can share it with you, she demonstrated that when we truly help another, we help ourselves, we cannot find where one ends and the other begins. Also, this story teaches us that when we try so hard to force changes in our behavior without change in our thoughts and feelings, we often end up frustrated and “beating ourselves up”. But when we do change our thoughts and feelings, behavior change can come much, much more easily.

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Can we ever make sense of the scale?

One day a woman told me that she and her friend went to Boston on a Friday night and ate dessert and the next morning when they went to Weight Watchers, she had lost 4 pounds. She felt she had gotten away with eating the dessert. And like many people, she felt that the scale just doesn’t make any sense and that when she was “good” the scale went up and when she was “bad” the scale went down. The conclusion was, “why even bother?!” 

Over the years this has caused me to think you could win a Nobel Prize or something if you could determine when what you consume today actually, really, truly shows up for real as more or less body fat on the scale. Well, one of you may deserve the Nobel Prize as far as I am concerned! (You know who you are). 

The person I am describing actually gained 30 pounds in the first 3 years of coming to me. She could not make heads or tails of food, eating, appetite, weight or much else. Every time she thought the scale would go down it went up and every time she thought the scale would go up it went down. 

Since then a lot has happened and her body today weighs nearly 140 pounds less than that highest weight. She has learned many things. One of the things she recently learned and taught me was that, at least for her, the scale reflects her eating, drinking and moving as much as 10-14 days after those behaviors take place. She happens to be an extremely detailed oriented person and tracks her consumption and activity in relationship to the old “number on the scale.” 

I personally believe she has sort of “cracked the code”, that there may be at least a one week lag time between what food and drink we consume today in combination with the amount of movement we do, and when all of that really, truly, and yes finally shows up on the scale.

How many of us have made the mistake of throwing in the proverbial towel because we thought we were “good” and the scale went up, or we thought we were “bad” and the scale went down? How much would it change this journey for you if you cultivated a little bit of patience and simply waited another week before changing things, so that you could stop chasing your proverbial tail and finally have a weight that supports your health and happiness?

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Judging vs. Judgement

When it comes to food, eating and weight there seems to be a lot of judging going on. Are people judging you for eating or not eating certain foods? Are you judging others? This type of energy just leaves us feeling badly, which can leave us vulnerable to comforting ourselves with food.

So what is the difference between judging and judgment? When we use our judgment, we do what is best for us or for another. If we are allergic to strawberries, we use our judgment not to eat strawberries. If someone we care about is allergic to nuts, we use our judgment to remind them to be cautious because we care.

It is also using our judgment when we choose not to eat a food that seems to cause cravings in us, so-called “trigger” foods. Likewise, we use our judgment to avoid offering those foods to someone who has told us about their own trigger foods. 

Judging ourselves or another for our weight just leaves us all with negative feelings. However, using our judgment, we might want to lose weight because it has created problems for us. We can use judgment to say to someone we care about, I am worried how your weight is affecting your health. 

I invite you to be aware of this difference between judging and judgment. I hope this small mental shift helps you with your wellness and weight goals.  

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Are you too busy driving to get gas?

One day, someone asked me this and I thought it was a great question. Of course, she meant it to be figuratively and not literally. (Although admittedly in the past, when I was more human doing than human being, I often would literally run out of gas. It happened one day on the coldest night of the year and I was chased by what I assume was a rabid opossum!) But I digress…

Figuratively, we can be too busy doing, running, working, helping, etc, that we don’t refuel ourselves.

Flash forward to last week when a new patient, who herself is a helper and healer, declared to me, “I am here for GAS! I am here for Guidance, Accountability and Support!” Like so many of us, she knows what to do for her weight and wellness. She knows how to eat, she knows how to exercise, and she even knows how to reduce stress. Also like so many us, she realizes that although she alone can do it, she can’t do it alone. And therefore she needs Guidance, Accountability, and Support.

And so I ask you, are you too busy driving to stop for gas? Are you too busy working, running, and helping that you aren’t getting GAS (Guidance, Accountability, and Support)? Even yours truly gets GAS from friends, family and paid support people on a weekly, nearly daily basis. And not coincidentally, has never since been chased by an opossum on the coldest night of the year.

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I have lost weight, why can’t I accept my body?

There are two aspects to weight loss. The physical piece; involving tracking, moving, prepping and planning. And the emotional piece, which is far more complex.

We know how we may feel about our body when it is heavy and most people can relate to not feeling good or looking good. But what happens with our self-perception with weight loss?

For a lot of people, summer is a time that exposes us to more vulnerability in terms of what we are wearing. Wrapping our head around our weight loss and how we look at ourselves can be a very hard thing to do.

I have a lot of patients who are still wearing the same size clothes as when they first started to lose weight. The thought of transitioning to something that fits them better exposes them to feelings of fear. Fear of how they will be perceived. Fear that this body is a fraud and they will regain. Fear of being looked at differently and being paid attention to.

Feelings of the past whether it is trauma or other incidents can trigger feelings of wanting to hide behind their clothes rather than find confidence in the body they have worked so hard to change.

Weight loss is often a double edged sword. Small changes can be made if that makes it easier for you to adjust. This period in time can often require some tricky navigation to the point where some people go back to the comfort of regain.

So the question is, can you embrace your new skin? Start with one new outfit no matter what your size or your future goals for weight loss. Have someone help you at the store if you need assistance. Buy one outfit that flatters your figure and get used to how you feel and look.

Communicate to Dr. Beth and/or myself how you are feeling emotionally and let us help you explore these feelings. As you shed the pounds, it is time to shed the shame, guilt and fear. You deserve this! This is a time for self-compassion which is self-kindness. Remember that this is you right now ~ You are no longer defined by your past!

Celebrate your beauty and success, no matter what size you are.

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Fill, Drain, Empty

Sometimes we fill up on food we don’t need.

It seems we do this most often when our “battery” is drained. Is this why most of us can “do well all day and then eat too much at night”? Some of the answers to the problem of overeating come down to “battery care.”

The solution is to take charge (haha) of your battery. What fills it up vs. drains it for you? Think of sleep, rest, food, exercise, sunshine, fresh air/breathing, nature, water, relationships, spiritual connection, alone time, reading, journaling, time with pets, quantity and quality of work, service/giving, creativity, thoughts, emotions, space/environment, medical problems/medical care, money (spending, shopping, saving).

I invite you to take some time and write whatever comes to your mind about each of these factors. Write about what fills your battery and what drains your battery, and even where it may leak.

What small changes can you make to care for your battery so that you don’t fill it with food when what it really needs is something else?

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Recovery Vs. Relapse

Each patient encounter reminds me of the incredible work I do every day. This story, I believe will really resonate with many of you who struggle between losing and gaining.

I recently met with someone who has been coming to the office for years. She had not been seen for some time and had regained. She described to me in great detail all the things that had happened to cause the weight gain. She could identify the behaviors, (not tracking, not exercising, emotional overeating/stress eating and going back to the same comfort and trigger foods).

Before she left, she said to me “If I could focus on my recovery the way I focus on my relapse then I would be able to feel better again and lose the weight”. I thought this was brilliant insight and it made me wonder about the 100’s of other stories I hear.

Patients can become very attached to the behaviors that lead to relapse. For some this is more wine at night, more comfort foods, less activity. This leads to avoidance of all the recovery behaviors. The relapse behaviors are more comforting and feel like an old friend you have invited back into your home again. On some level whether conscious or unconscious they are safe and provide some purpose.

So, how do you shift the dynamic of time and effort spent in relapse to recovery?

If you feel as if you are relapsing, try to take a look at what your behaviors are during this time. What was the trigger that precipitated these behaviors? How do these behaviors serve you and how do you get back to the mindset of recovery?  What was recovery for you before?  Was it coming to the office, tracking, moving, prepping, paying attention to yourself and your stressors?

You are not your relapse. This is only a stepping stone on the journey to peace with food. The tools are there for you to get back on track. Shift the focus back on self-care and self-kindness.

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Healing Happens

This weekend I served as an invited speaker at an Integrative Mental Health Conference. I spoke on a holistic approach to eating and weight. I am sharing this with you because, I struggled for 25 years with food, eating, weight, body image, diet & exercise. Those were just signs I was out of balance mentally, emotionally, socially, behaviorally, medically and financially.

I found a solution in a program for recovery from compulsive overeating. The essence of the program is one step beyond behavioral, physical, social, mental, emotional or even medical solutions. After another 15 years, what is coming into focus is that there are many paths to recovery from compulsive overeating, obesity, dieting, exercising etc. The essence for lasting recovery must be truly integrative, inclusive and unifying. This means combining medical interventions (“pills & surgery”) with holistic ones (physical, mental, emotional, social, behavioral). The details are less important. (Don’t lose the forest for the trees!).

As humans we all have the same needs. How we meet them is unique to us. Also as humans if our needs aren’t met, we start to show signs of imbalance due to trying to meet those needs in other ways. Again, those signs of imbalance are different.

So, I am sharing this message with you because in giving we receive. In giving service at this Integrative Mental Health Conference, I received this increase in clarity about what the problem really is and what the solution really is.

I invite you to embrace the Integrative approach (biomedical & holistic). If you have already embraced it, I invite you to expand your embrace. You can continue to meet with me, Patrice, and/or Nancy Sceery, our Dietitian. Perhaps Ideal Protein will get you some distance from your food. You may also consider a visit with Elaine Grant, an experienced healer, who we are thrilled, is renting space in our office!

To your happiness & health! Dr. Beth