Love your body now

More than coffee, I look forward to a daily email from The Universe to start my day with a positive flow.

There is a message at the end of every email that says, “Thoughts become things, choose good ones!”

It serves as my reminder to not only think positively, but also that my thoughts have real impact on my life.

And this is why you should love your body. Because if you are working hard at the gym, learning to cook so you can feed your body healthy food, you should also love what you are putting so much effort into changing.

Right now. Not after you’ve lost weight.

Most people lose weight because they are fed up with their body or hate their body. But these are just thoughts, and you can choose to love the body you have now instead of being at war with it.

Here’s why and how you should:

1. I have fat friends, skinny friends and in-between friends. All of them have things they don’t like about their body. Weight loss does not mean you will like your body any more than you do now. The only guarantee that you will be happy with your body is to actually be happy with it. Whatever weight or size, make a promise to love your body unconditionally.

2. Be body-positive as often as possible. This means not talking badly about your body to yourself or anyone else. It also means doing body-positive affirmations. Start by looking in a mirror and smiling. Seriously, just smile. You’d be amazed how much that simple act can change your outlook. Then say nice things about your body. Thank it for adapting so well to all the changes you’ve put it through. Praise it for helping you walk, run, lift, dance, or whatever movement you’re into. I, like everyone else, sometimes get caught up in front of the mirror looking at imperfections. It happens. But make sure the opposite also happens. Stand in front of the mirror and admire things you like. It’s not vain. It’s an important part of self care.

3. Don’t be ashamed of your body. Own it. Wear a bathing suit proudly. I used to be that girl who wore t-shirts over my bathing suit. Then I became certified as a lifeguard and for five years of my life did not go more than a day or two without wearing a bathing suit in front of other people. Lifeguarding was not only a great job, but it helped me overcome a lot of my body consciousness. Not once in five years did anyone ever say anything negative about how I looked at the dozens of pools that I guarded. I figure, people know I’m fat. Seeing me in a bathing suit is not some big reveal. Trying to cover up is always more awkward than just being yourself, no matter what.

4. No more “if only…” This is something I really struggle with! I remember looking at girls who were size a size 12 thinking “if only I looked like that.” Now that I’m almost a size 12, I see girls who are smaller and think “if only.” It’s a cycle that can keep going and going if you don’t keep it in check. There will always be people skinnier than you and fatter than you.   Learn to love the place you are in.

5. You and your body are one and will be for the rest of your life, so you might as well learn to like it. Think of loving your body like you think of making any other change. It will take work, you will have to shift your thinking and face fears. It will be worth it. The joy of feeling at peace and content with one’s self – body, mind and soul – is not dependent on a number on a scale. Love and accept who you are now and the rest will follow.

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I wish I had your motivation

This is such a cheesy way to begin a post, but I’m going to do it anyway.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “I wish I had your motivation” I’d be rich.

Filthy, stinkin’ rich!

But that’s not how life works. And that’s definitely not how motivation works.

When someone says that to me, especially someone I know well, I just want to scream, “Don’t you know me?!”

I would not describe myself as someone who is highly motivated at all. But I would say I am someone who is dedicated and willing to work hard to achieve the things I want.

Here are the two greatest things I ever did for myself:

  1.  I gave up on the idea that my weight loss would one day be miraculously be “sparked” by something
  2.  I gave up on the notion of will power/motivation.

Let me clarify.

Motivation is real. I might read something, see something, do something that motivates me or others. But the idea that some people have motivation and others don’t? Complete crap.

And falling back on excuses like “I’m not motivated” really means, “I don’t believe I can do it.”

Motivation becomes an excuse for people to cite as the reason why they fail at achieving their goals. They’ll say things like, “Oh I just don’t have the motivation.”

A few days ago I posted a quote on the blog from Pinterest.

“It’s actually pretty simple. You either do it or you don’t.”

That philosophy is what real change is built on. Not motivation or will power. Just simply doing it and not stopping.

Motivation has its place, but like weight loss, it’s the result of action and not the other way around.

For example: I am motivated because I go to the gym every day, but I don’t go to the gym every day because I am motivated.

You see the difference?

It’s about doing. Not wishing, or hoping, or dreaming. And doing doesn’t have to mean go out and run a mile! Doing can be anything from writing about your goals in a journal to grocery shopping for healthy foods.

I didn’t wake up one day after a visit from the motivation fairy and suddenly say “I am going to lose 100 pounds.”

I built my current lifestyle from the ground up. I worked hard to make changes that have resulted in weight loss and I’ve stayed dedicated to my goals by writing and speaking about them often.

Don’t sell yourself short by blaming lack of action on lack of motivation. The power to change is within all of us.

Happy Friday 🙂

Learning hunger cues

As a (mostly) former binge and secret eater, I had to re-learn hunger cues big time. It took me a while to catch on to when my body was actually hungry versus bored, upset, stressed, tired, angry, sad or any of the other emotions I turned to food to solve.

At first the feeling of hunger was really uncomfortable. It was honestly a completely new sensation for me, but over time I learned to tell the difference between the beginning stages of hunger versus needing food STAT.

When I think back to my level of self awareness before I started paying attention to what and how much I was eating, I don’t think I ever really stopped to see if I was hungry before chowing down.

Now I try and wait until I am hungry to eat and I find my meals to be much more satisfying because I am giving my body something it actually needs as opposed to stuffing it with filler.

I don’t believe that all eating has to be purely for nourishment, however. I’m all for eating for fun, eating in celebration or just eating something because food tastes good. But as someone who is actively losing weight, learning and honoring my body’s hunger cues has been a huge success in my journey.

Also, when I think about eventually being in a place where I no longer want to lose weight, I imagine that knowing and relying on my hunger signs will be a huge part of maintenance.

So what do I do when I feel the urge to eat but am not really hungry? So glad you asked!

1. Chew gum. I would estimate that I probably go through about a pack of gum a week. My favorite right now is Trident, but I’m not super picky. I keep some in a drawer in my desk at all times to tide me over when I’m feeling the urge to chew something. I’m not sure if it’s just the act of chewing gum itself that is so satisfying, or something else, but having gum around has really helped me avoid snacking. It’s also a good excuse to turn down food that’s being offered to you.

2. Drink tea or water. On my desk at work I also keep a reusable water bottle and a big jar with lots of different tea bags. Having the items right in front of me and on hand at all times prompts me to drink water continuously throughout the day, which definitely helps keep me feeling full. And nursing a cup of hot tea is really comforting if I’m feeling stressed about a deadline at work, or just pausing to think. I remember when I used to write papers in college, I would keep a giant bag of Goldfish next to me and for some reason the constant hand to mouth motion kept me focus on my work. Now I play with paperclips or simply just hold on to the mug of tea to keep my hands occupied when I’m not typing. My brand of choice for tea currently is Celestial Seasonings herbal fruit tea sampler. All the different flavors are sweet and smell delicious.

3. Read, write, or do something creative. I find that when I’m engrossed in a creative project or enthralling story, I don’t think about hunger. When I’m really in the groove writing the last thing I want to do is break my stride for food. When i’m writing or reading, real hunger will make it impossible for me to concentrate, so I’ll know its time for a snack break. But if I’m not actually hungry, being engrossed in a project takes my mind off thinking about food. Next time you think you’re hungry, pick up a good book or turn to a news site you like, if the feeling of hunger is still nagging at you after 10 minutes, it’s probably time to eat.

Step 1: Love

I’m not a big believer in one “moment” that sparks a journey. You’ve heard it before, someone is sitting on a couch with one hand in a bag of chips and something comes on the TV that makes them reconsider their life and then they start a diet, join a gym, blah blah blah.

I’ve had many moments where I said to myself, “Tomorrow will be different” and vowed to change my life. These moments were usually alone, in the dark, after eating too much and drinking from the cocktail of shame, regret and hate.

It’s my experience of having a thousand of those “I’m going to change my life” moments that lead to me believe they don’t exist.

Why? Because when you hear about them, they usually start with some form of realization of disgust in oneself.

What a terrible place to draw inspiration from.

I also don’t believe in those moments, because I think it makes light of the work that goes into creating change.

Change doesn’t just happen. It’s not something that you wake up with one day.

But change does have a beginning.

Step 1: Love

Three fat women helped changed my life.

Lesley Kinzel of Two Whole Cakes

Marianne Kirby of The Rotund

and Kate Harding of Shapely Prose (which I think is now KateHarding.net)

They are all Fat Acceptance writers who have, in my opinion, some of the best insight into our culture and some the best messages to spread.

Kate Harding has an absolutely brilliant post about The Fantasy of Being Thin. If you’ve ever had the thought in your head, weight loss or not, that goes something like “My life will be different when ________” — then you need to read this.

She talks about Fat Acceptance as overcoming the fantasy that being thin will change your life.

Now you might think that as someone who is actively losing weight, I still believe in the fantasy of being thin.

And sometimes you would be right. Some days I let the numbers on the scale get to me. I see a gain and I’m ugly. I see a loss and I’m empowered.

But then I remember the reason I’ve been able to lose weight and my source of inspiration.

Love and acceptance.

In those weak moments I tell myself, “My life hasn’t changed from two seconds ago, before I stepped on the scale.”

It’s not a an easy battle, and it’s certainly not one I want to make seem easy, but fighting it is so, so worth it.

Because when you don’t lose weight (it happens) and when you don’t make it to the gym (it happens) and when you eat too much (it happens) – it doesn’t matter.

You’re still you.

I’ve put a lot into changing my life. Everything I have. As a result, I’ve lost weight.

But the motivating factor has always been love. And I’m here to argue that it has to be. You have to believe you are a person worthy of change before change happens. And to believe you are worthy of everything you want, you have to accept and love who you are.

It doesn’t work any other way.

There simply is no hating yourself thin.

I no longer read those Fat Acceptance blogs as often as I used to, but those three amazing women are the voices I come back to when I need a lift and when I need to remember why I’m living the way I live.

Sometimes my life between Fat Acceptance and actively losing weight can cause a bit of cognitive dissonance, but when I really get down to it I know I’ve changed the way I live because for me, loving my body means feeding it the right food and moving it around, fat or not.

My very strict no-rules un-diet

Let’s talk eats, shall we?

First and foremost, I track what I eat. I really don’t think you can effect change if you don’t know what you’re working with.

Second. If I’m hungry, I eat. no starving allowed!

Annnddd those are pretty much my only rules.

My diet consists of whatever I want it to consist of. Most of the time I eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, salads, beans, nuts, yogurt, and full-fat cheese. Some of the time I eat everything else. All of the time I record it.

Simple, huh?

My meals, while parts of them feature a lot of variety, don’t really change much week to week.

In the summer I was making lots of smoothies for breakfast. They typically consist of a banana, some sort of frozen fruit, 4 oz – 8 oz of unsweetened almond milk, as much spinach as could fit in my magic bullet and either some protein powder or chia seeds or peanut butter. Now that it’s colder out I’ve been eating oatmeal or making oat pancakes.

Lunch is usually the same. Salad topped with whatever I’m in the mood for that week. Lately I’ve been making them with beets and goat cheese and hummus, but I tend to get creative! My favorite toppings are almonds, broccoli, veggie burgers, beans, or even left over dinner from the night before. Anything you can put between bread or on a plate will usually work on a bed of lettuce. I also make my own dressing with a mixture of oil + vinegar, lemon juice, salt + pepper and mustard whisked together.

Dinners are quick and easy. Veggies, protein (sometimes vegetarian, sometimes not) and usually something starchy like a potato or quinoa. Nothing fancy here!

I also usually crave something sweet after dinner and fulfill that with either some sort of fruit/cocoa powder combo to get a chocolate fix! I try to limit bread and sugar for no other reason than I find it doesn’t sustain me as well as other food. I also happen to really enjoy fruits and vegetables. Really. So it doesn’t feel like any sort of sacrifice eating fruit for desert, or having veggies as a snack.

This is what works for me. Over the last year, I’ve transitioned from eating a lot of processed foods (ie. lean cuisines) to cooking 99% of the food I eat. It’s helped me save money and made me healthier!

I wanted to give a quick overview of how I’ve lost the weight so far, but I promise…more detailed posts about all of these topics are coming soon!

How to go overboard without jumping ship

The last few weeks have tested my commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Since Thanksgiving, the gatherings and access to plates of sweet and savory food have come weekly, with delicious dinners and rich deserts around every corner.

I’ve indulged, a lot. I didn’t restrict the amount of times I filled my plate or how many deserts I chose to consume during this time. In the moment, it was great. The next day? Not so much.

I am the type of person that easily falls victim to the “all or nothing” mentality that so often accompanies a diet. I still struggle with rebounding after a big meal and especially after I eat a lot of sugar. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I might as well eat whatever I want the rest of the day” when you don’t track the calories for a couple of meals.

And while I did gain a pound or two over the holidays, there are a few things that kept me motivated throughout the past month so those two pounds didn’t and don’t turn into 10 or 20 pounds.

1. My personal trainer. I meet with my trainer about twice a week and he always asks me about my eating habits. Over the past month, I tried to schedule sessions with him for the day of or day after a big event. This ensured I either started my day with healthy habits, or had an early morning session looming over my night of eating and drinking. Believe me, a hungover workout would have been miserable. Having scheduled appointments also meant I was at least going to the gym twice a week and made it less likely that I skipped on solo workouts.

2. Eating healthy when I had control. I really tried to make most of my meals healthy when I could, so when I did indulge it was only during one sitting and didn’t carry over into days or weeks. I didn’t take leftovers from anyone and I didn’t bake too many of my own sweets. Having fresh meals packed with fruits and veggies to look forward to really kept me on track and feeling good after too much salt or sugar intake.

3. Setting fitness goals. Thanksgiving 2011 marked my first 5K race! Running the 3.1 miles has been a lifelong dream of mine and it was finally accomplished this year. While I plan to discuss how I got started running in another post, I will say that having a fitness goal really kept me from gaining weight. Knowing that I had a race to run provided the motivation to wake up and go to the gym when it was cold, head to bed early when I wanted to stay out and kept me from slacking on strength training. I knew that if I measured my success on eating perfectly during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, I would end up feeling like a failure and being frustrated. Instead, I focused on my other healthy habits. Running the race also gave me a sense of accomplishment when the numbers on the scale weren’t dropping.

—–

I would say that I’m ready to jump back into calorie counting full force now that the holidays are over, but for the next three weeks I will be traveling in India. Like I mentioned in this post, I have some anxiety about not having access to a scale or being in control of what and when I eat. My healthy goals for this trip are simply to not eat too many sweets. Other than that, I’m really hoping to relax and practice intuitive eating, which for me means turning down food when I’m full. A lot of my meals will be with other people, so I won’t really have control over the times I eat, but I will be able to control how much.

I’m also taking my sneakers and hope to get in some early morning workouts when I have the time and the space. In reality, I know this may not happen, but my intention is to get some kind of movement in on the days I don’t do a lot of walking and sight seeing.

By the time I come back, I know I’ll be more than ready to make my own food again and get back into a routine. It’s also when I’ll be setting my goals for 2012.

My plane takes off tomorrow night and I couldn’t be more excited! I plan to continue blogging during the trip as much as I can – so check back often!

I hope everyone had a good holiday season, and I’m sure many of you were like me and are glad to get back to normal!

Bon Voyage!

– J

Tips for staying sane in a world of diet tips

Diet tips are not hard to find. In fact, if you’re a woman of any age who regularly uses the internet or watches tv or reads magazines, I’d go as far to say that diet tips are probably hard to avoid!

That’s why I’m not going to give you any.

Instead, I offer for you my tips for staying sane while being bombarded with diet tips:

1. Don’t pay for anything. 

Please, I beg of you, don’t pay for diet advice. There are better ways to spend you money. Like on fruits and veggies, cookbooks and fitness equipment. If you’re really serious about making a lifestyle change, put some thought and creativity  into your meals and do some research! There are plenty of free calorie tracking sites out there, my favorite is myfitnesspal. At some point you’ll realize that pills, shakes, frozen meals and the like are not made for a sustainable lifestyle. Also, if the goal is to have a healthy, happy body (which it should be) you don’t want to put that stuff in it anyway!

2. Eat free samples.

Whether at Trader Joes or Costco – I always take a free sample if I want it. Why? It’s a perfectly portioned bite of something I probably don’t eat very regularly. Because I don’t keep much snack food or sweets in my home, free samples are a way for me to indulge without any risk of overeating. Also, It just feels so diet-y to turn down a bite-sized piece of something because I’m trying to lose weight. Sometimes I track the samples, sometimes I don’t. Typically I estimate about 50 calories per sample, depending on what it is of course.

3. Tea. lots and lots of tea.

I love tea. Iced tea, hot tea, herbal tea, black tea, green tea. All of it. It also is my saving grace when going out to dinner. Yes, I might be ordering salad without the cheese and salsa as a dressing, but I have this delicious unsweetened iced tea to make up for it. I don’t drink soda (never have) so no-calorie beverage options are pretty limited. Iced-tea or water. It helps me feel like I’m not missing anything in my meal such as, ya know, french fries. Ok, it won’t make up for french fries, but it does fill a flavor void sometimes. I also keep a wide variety of hot teas at work to turn when guzzling water gets boring. Telling you to not drink your calories is such a cliche “diet rule.” So I won’t do it. But I will tell you to drink  tea to your heart’s content! It’s also a good option when you’re at Starbucks and everyone else is ordering frappuccinos. Stick with unsweetened iced tea and save the calories and sugar crash.

4. The food you like is the food you’re going to eat

This may sound like a no-brainer, but I think a classic mistake when getting starting on any healthy journey is to fill your fridge with foods that you think you’re supposed to be eating. I’m a sucker for all those lists that say “9 foods for glowing skin” and “15 snacks that will fill you up” but at the end of the day, if you don’t like any of the foods on the list, you’re not going to eat them. There aren’t many vegetables I don’t like, but for some reason my taste buds just don’t get excited about peppers or celery. Two foods that are constantly pushed as healthy snack options. But sorry, slathering them in nut butter or hummus is not going to make it any better. I also once made a huge batch of lentil soup after reading some article about how great lentils are knowing full well that I don’t really love soup or lentils. Eat the healthy foods you already like, and not just the ones on lists that promise to help you “drop 5 pounds in one week!”

5. Try new things.

This may sound like it contradicts the last point, but I DO believe in introducing new foods to your palate in small ways. I never ate zucchini before starting my healthy journey, so the first time I cooked it, I grated it up and added it to meatballs. The second time I made zucchini I cut it the vegetable into sticks, covered ’em in whole wheat bread crumbs, and stuck them into the oven to bake and served them with a side of ketchup . Slowly I became more comfortable with the flavor, and now zucchini is one of my favorite foods. My point is, use flavors you already like to introduce new foods into your life.

Try new things also means, break the rules! There is no one way to lose weight, so don’t get it in your head that if you don’t follow a specific plan exactly, you won’t be successful. There is so much advice out there, trying to follow all of it will drive you crazy!

Do what you like and like what you do.

That’s all folks!

– J