Why we eat when we’re not hungry (and what to do about it)

Ever find yourself searching through the pantry for something to munch on when you’re not even hungry?

How about at a party, throwing back food while thinking, “Why am I still eating?!”

Anyone struggle with eating at night? Even after a nice satisfying dinner??

I’m always surprised by how often I catch myself wanting to eat when hunger is nowhere to be found. From my own experience and talking with friends and clients, I don’t think this is an uncommon problem, but it is a problem.

So I’ve come up with this SWEET method, which is a 5 step process to taking control back and learning how to combat emotional eating. I call it http://mikeoverton.com/copied-it-from-a-catalogue/ the SWEET method 🙂 and here it is….

http://slglawusa.com/category/blog/page/2/ Stop – set the utensil or food down, walk away from the pantry, whatever it is that you’re doing, stop.
Wait – give yourself a wait time 15 minutes before you eat anything else.
Exhale – just breathe…. and remember that it’s just food and it’s not going anywhere
Examine – why are you eating?
Treat – treat yo self….by treating the real issue

When we are in the moment, whether we are already eating or we’re just feeling the craving, it can be really hard to just stop. So the first 2 steps are really just about taking a moment to slow down and giving yourself some time away so that you can think clearly. What I want to focus on is the last 3 steps.

healthy food
EXHALE.

Let’s just be honest, it’s really not about the food, right? It’s not. How do I know this? Because 99% of the time, the struggle is with food that is often sub-par and always readily available at the drop of a hat. Yet it’s been placed up on a pedestal so high that we’ve begun to believe the lie that food is so powerful that it has some sort of control over us!

It’s just food.

This is the time to take a deep breath and remind yourself of this truth. Take it to God, lay it down and ask him for help.

EXAMINE.

This is the big question right? WHY AM I EATING? If you want to improve your relationship with food, I think this is an important question that needs to be answered. Then, even if you decide you are going to indulge because it’s a special day and you’d like to enjoy a little cake with everybody else, at least you are making a conscious decision. All too often, I think we’d prefer not to think about it at all. So instead we get stuck in this cycle of mindless eating, then beating ourselves up for it.

Take the time to dig a little deeper and start gaining awareness of why you’re doing what you’re doing. If it’s not about the food, then what’s it about??

Here are some possibilities…

  • Relaxation: maybe eating is relaxing or it allows you to take your mind off of all the stresses of the day and therefore, relax
  • Comfort: for a short time, food can definitely feel therapeutic and comforting
  • Procrastination: anyone else ever find themselves procrastinating by eating? No? Just me then, I guess. 😀
  • Boredom: eating is an easy and enjoyable distraction
  • Cravings
  • Reward: food is often a means of celebration or reward
TREAT the real issue.

When we know the real issue, then we can treat it. Each time we treat the real issue, we feel a whole lot better both mentally and physically and food loses a little bit of power over us.

“The secret to change is to focus your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates

Instead of just trying to fight the urge to eat, replace it with something else. Take some time to build a list of solutions that you enjoy. For example:

  • Relaxation: bath, nap/bed, walk, journal, read
  • Comfort: talk to a friend, pray, meditate
  • Procrastination: Just get it done! You know you’ll eventually have to do it, so you may as well just do it now. You know you’ll feel better once you do!
  • Boredom: (some of you are like, I wish!! 😉 ) read, puzzle, walk, dog training, insert your hobbies
  • Cravings: two of the most common triggers for cravings are stress (too much exercise or deprivation, not getting enough sleep, or not managing stress well) or habit (craving something sweet just because your body is used to it)
    • For stress, identify what the cause is then go from there
    • For habit, both mint or cocoa are really helpful for easing cravings
      • Mint: gum, tea, or brush your teeth
      • Cocoa: a few squares of dark chocolate, these protein balls, or hot cocoa (1-2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder to hot water or milk, sweeten with stevia or xylitol to taste)
  • Reward – this is a big one…it’s all about the mindset
    • Prayer: as a believer, I believe this is the #1 way to combat emotional eating. At the heart of emotional eating is turning to food for things that only God can truly help you with friend. Don’t ever overlook this. He is here. He wants to help you.
    • Change your perspective: A lot of us feel like we deserve a reward for choosing to exercise or eat healthy because it’s hard, but I’d argue that it’s even harder to be unhealthy. A shift in perspective would be that health is a reward and leads to many other rewards as well.
    • Instead of pinning or putting up pictures of hot bodies, find deeper, more meaningful inspiration for being fit and healthy
    • Practicing gratitude:
      What does gratitude have to do with finding peace with cookies? A lot!When we think about what we are grateful for, and survey all the luxuries we have, it helps combat the feeling that we are being deprived, or living a life that is lacking in some way because we choose to pass on some treats.
      The more we focus on what we don’t have, the more we feel lacking, wanting, craving.

      As it pertains to this habit, there is certainly room to view it from opposing perspectives. We encourage thinking about it as choosing your favorite treats, savoring them and enjoying the experience. (Not limiting, withholding, or focusing on what you are not eating).
      Focus on the abundance you have and not what you lack.” ~Georgie Fear

So there it is: Stop, Wait, Exhale, Examine, Treat the issue….pretty sweet, right? 😀

The fact is that sweets are not going anywhere. We can not just avoid food or cut it out of our lives entirely. Therefore, we must learn how to live with it. Hopefully, we can do ourselves one better and learn how to keep it in it’s proper place & enjoy it in the way God intended.

Monday Motivation #1

fitness motivation

What a gift movement is!

Don’t let it become another burden that you have to fit into your schedule somewhere. Don’t let it become something just to balance out whatever you ate this weekend. Don’t let it become punishment for not having the perfect body shape or size.

You get to thank your body for all it does for you by giving back to it in this small way. And when you give, it gives back to you 100 times over! 😀

What a blessing to have such an ability and freedom as being able to move and exercise! It is a blessing that not everybody has. Don’t take it for granted.

Body Image: Men, Women, and Mutual Responsibility

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Ephesians 2:3-4

I recently saw a post on Instagram where the user was upset about the phrase “Modest is Hottest” because they felt that the phrase teaches girls that they are responsible for other people’s thoughts. While I don’t really have strong feelings either way concerning the specific phrase, it did get me thinking….

First of all, this same user really likes to go after the media for their unrealistic standards of beauty and body image. I have no problem with this, but couldn’t the media just respond to the user by making the exact same point?? Like, “Hey, when it comes to our pictures we are not responsible for your thoughts or how you take them.”
Second, children will learn from us whether we want them to or not, but do any of us just throw our hands up and say, “Hey, I can’t be held responsible for what they think”?? No.
Third, why are we so against the idea of helping each other out when it comes to this topic of modesty??

The fact is that we have some pretty serious issues when it comes to how we perceive health and beauty and body image in our culture and I think we all – men & women alike – share in the blame for this. Just like all the images we’re bombarded with by the media, we’re exposed to our own and other peoples thoughts and words even more so and they do affect u.

body image

 

I think we have every right to ask for better from the media and from each other. Because, while ultimately we may not be responsible for anyone else’s thoughts, we are all kind of stuck in this together.

Call it common curtesy or compassion or kindness or whatever you want, but why wouldn’t we want to try to help each other out if we can?

We may not be able to change the media, but I do think there are a few ways we can start making a change now to help each other out:

1) Talk kindly to and about yourself

“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me: ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. Not one woman has ever said: ‘I am so proud of my body.’….. I never heard positive reinforcement about body image from any female in my life. I only heard negatives. That’s very damaging because then you’re programmed as a young woman to immediately scrutinize yourself and how you look.”
~ Kate Winslet

real beauty

I still remember the first time my littlest sister said something really negative about herself. She was only 8 years old maybe and I thought, where did she even get that?!? Well, she grew up hearing her sisters talk negatively about their bodies and her mom and probably every other woman as well.

When I read this quote by Kate Winslet, I realized I’ve never heard a woman say it either. In fact, it makes me a little uncomfortable thinking about saying it about myself. WHY?? Because like it or not, we get taught how to think about certain things.  No matter how detrimental and wrong that is, it’s hard to undo years of a certain way of thinking. It’s going to take us getting serious about how we talk to and about ourselves. It’s gotta start with us.

2) Compliment each other on things other than outer appearance

I love this practice because it forces us to look past the outer layer and go deeper. It also helps the other person by pointing out a great thing about them that has nothing to do with their appearance. I’m not suggesting that we can’t mention when a person looks nice, of course, but getting a compliment on how patient or encouraging or funny you are tends to mean more, doesn’t it? 🙂

body image

**Side note on compliments: I’m not trying to get overly critical; this is just a word of caution. I was trying on dresses with some friends a few months ago, and one of the girls made a comment about how nice it would be if we all had a body like another one of the girls in the group. I know it was meant as a compliment to that specific girl, but it’s kind of a deflating thing for everybody else. It clearly shows that one girl is already comparing herself and can easily lead to everyone doing so. Since becoming more aware of it, I’ve noticed a lot of common compliments are comparative or play into our narrow definition of beauty or put someone down in order to lift another up. It’s just something to think about.

3) Can we all just stop the ogling please?!

I know we are visual creatures. But come on ladies, if you don’t want men to treat you like a piece of meat, then don’t turn around and do it to them. What are we, in second grade?? Ha ha! But seriously….. 😛

Obviously, you can’t help it if you find the guy on the screen attractive. But you know what you can help? Drooling and ogling and commenting on his body in front of your man. Even if your guy acts like it doesn’t bother him, just remember how those comments have affected you. Plus, what benefit is there for anyone involved?

male body image

This goes both ways of course, but in the last 10 years, the media has really begun to target men and define what the “perfect” man looks like…..hairless, six-pack abs, ripped, V-shape, defined jaw. It’s no different than what they’ve been doing to women for years and yet, instead of fighting it, we’re jumping on the bandwagon, saying, “Hey they do it to us!”

I’m not trying to make mountains out of molehills. But, if we want things to change, I just don’t see how giving our men and boys their own body image issues is going to help anything. We have to rise above it and be the change instead.

Practicing these things is mutually beneficial for everyone. If we focused a little less on the outside, I think it could only lead to more satisfied, healthier, and confident people. A satisfaction in things that are not so fleeting and superficial. Health that goes beyond some unrealistic ideal look. A confidence that is not built on what is wasting away, but on our worth as men and women who have been made in the image of God. Whether we are doing it for ourselves, our children, or for others, everybody wins. Someone who radiates love and joy, that is the kind of beauty that draws in, builds up, and sustains us.

So what do you say? Let’s step up and take responsibility. Let’s demand better from ourselves and each other as we work to build each other up. Let’s be the change.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” ~ Ephesians 4:29

Our most powerful motivator

This was actually my email newsletter for the week, but I got such a good response from it that I decided to share it with everyone! 🙂
So last week in my early morning class, I was talking to the girls about how their progress was going. We were talking about some new habits to work on and one of the girls wasn’t looking too excited about it all. So I asked her about it and she said, “I just don’t like reality.”

Later on I was still thinking about that answer, but I wondered if reality was really the problem or if it’s our perception of reality. It’s no secret that most of us perceive health & fitness in a pretty negative way, or in the very least, not as positively as it’s unhealthy counterparts.

My mentor Jill Coleman just wrote an excellent little fb post the other day on this:

“Perception is everything. Two people, both eat one cookie each. Person #1 feels guilty and remorseful. Person #2 is grateful they stopped at one. Same actual outcome!

Aaand … I would wager that person #2 is setting themselves up for long-term success because contrary to popular belief, self-compassion doesn’t condone behavior, it promotes adherence.

How you view the process and how you see yourself are the most powerful motivators on earth.”

Look, I totally get the negative perception around health and fitness. We’ve all got busy lives and the fact is that there are plenty of things that are a lot more fun and interesting to focus on than our health. Especially with the media putting it into such a small, all-or-nothing, perfection-attaining, looks and deprivation-based box…..let’s just say, we didn’t exactly start with a clean slate.

But the reality is that our health is something that demands attention. How we view it and treat it willaffect our lives. Like it or not, your health is something that must addressed. And it all starts with your mindset.

beth burns fitness
***Our perception of this journey is our most powerful motivator.***

So that’s where we start…..

Perception #1. A healthy lifestyle is too challenging.

Truth: No matter what kind of lifestyle you choose, there will always be challenges. Being overweight isn’t easy! Working out isn’t easy! Not being able to stop eating isn’t easy! Discipline isn’t easy! Challenge is unavoidable in this life, but at least we can know that God gives it to us for our good. (Hebrews 12:6 &10-11) Challenges are what sanctify us, keep our eyes on Jesus, and make us stronger.

**We will never avoid challenge in this life. Instead of praying for an easier life, pray to make yourself stronger.*

Perception #2. The only reason to get healthy is to look better.

Truth: There are so many great things about being healthy! You get to keep up with your kids. Be a good role model to your kids. You feel better, have more energy, and get better sleep. You get the benefit of improved cognitive abilities like memory, creativity, problem solving, etc. You have the ability to do and experience more things. It prevents many diseases. Improved mood/anti-depressant. The list goes on, but most of us just get hung up on our physique.

***When you look at all these things, doesn’t physique change seem kinda small? I’m not trying to poo-poo it, just offering some perspective (especially because for most people, when it comes down to it, it’s not actually a very powerful motivator in the end.) Even if you’re body never changes, wouldn’t the above benefits still be worth it??

Perception #3. If I can’t do it perfectly, I may as well not even try.

Truth: I know I talk about this a lot but perfection is a perception killer. If we think we have to be perfect, it will quickly lead to guilt and self-hate because we’ll never be able to achieve it. 30 days of being “perfect” is nothing compared to being consistent in even a few smaller things for a year! Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself.  Allow good to be good enough, friends.

 **Temper your expectations. “You won’t ever be able to keep up with unrealistic.” ~Lysa Terkeurst

Perception #4. I want to be healthy, but I honestly just hate working out and “healthy food”

Truth: Earlier I talked about the tiny box that most of us put fitness and nutrition in. I used to think in terms of that tiny box myself. It had to be this much time in the gym and I had to only eat these things and I had to get rid of all the fat on my body before I looked “good”….even though, I loved all the benefits I was getting, it still felt like a burden. This is the kind of thinking that will run your motivation right into the ground.

FORGET. THE. BOX.

Getting healthy should enhance your life, not burden it!! If it’s not doing that, then something needs to change. Health is actually a great big world with many outlets and options that can fit into your life with only a few small changes. It’s not about weight lifting and chicken and broccoli. If you like that stuff, that’s great. But it should be more about moving and feeding and treating your body in a way that allows it to function at it’s best…. however that looks for you! (Side note: 30 day cleanses and running yourself into the ground in the gym DO NOT accomplish this.)

**Don’t settle for food and exercise that you hate!! For example, here are 25 Ways to Exercise Without “Working Out”. 🙂

You’ve only got this one life, so you might as well have some fun and enjoy it. Mindset is everything. Get that right and the rest will follow!

“Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it.
The time will pass either way.”
~Earl Nightingale

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A new way to think about food (p.3)

So I’ve been going through a pretty big mindset shift that’s really altered my concept of “healthy eating” and how I relate to food. I gotta say, it’s been a total game-changer in the best way possible. I think a lot of these ideas have kind of been floating around in the back of my mind for some time now, but there were a few missing links that made it so I couldn’t see the whole picture. When I finally did, it instantly resonated with me and made so much sense! I’m so excited about it and have so much to say about it that I’m writing my 3rd blog in a row on the subject! (Here is part 1 and part 2 to read for yourself if you’re interested.)

The biggest takeaway for me has been that in becoming so completely focused on what we eat, we’ve lost sight of all the other aspects that make up a truly healthy relationship with food – which in my opinion, instead of being called “healthy” or “clean”, should just be called normal eating.

Seriously, what IS clean eating anyways?!

 

On the one hand, I knew that strict diets didn’t jive with my concept of what healthy eating should look like. On the other hand, when it comes to food and body image, the black and white thinking is so prevalent that I didn’t realize just how much of it had still imbedded itself pretty deeply in my own mind. That’s what recently came to the surface and allowed me to fill in some of the missing links.

So for part 3, I just wanted to share how it’s been going since this “shift” occurred along with some of the insights I’ve already gained. Changing the way you’ve thought about something and consequently what you’ve been practicing for years doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, but wow, it’s been an extremely freeing and exciting one.

Building self-trust

“I believe that the guilt we associate with food is far more detrimental to us than the food itself.” ~Dr. Eric Cobb

Fully letting go of “good” and “bad” categories and the guilt associated with certain foods is going to take time. But so far, I’m finding that it’s helped me with two really big mindset hurdles:

1) True abundance

The abundance mindset is the mentality that says, “There’s always more where that came from”, whereas the scarcity mindset says, “There will never be enough”. Allowing myself the option to really eat whatever I want WITHOUT GUILT takes away any lingering feelings of the scarcity mindset or the urge to put certain foods up on a pedestal.

2) Owning my food choices

We put so much guilt & pressure on ourselves when it comes to the way we eat, myself included. This truth was big missing link for me. Once I had this piece and realized how it had impacted my own choices and others, I’ve adapted to it pretty easily. Not only is it incredibly freeing for me, but I think it’s important for people to see me eating normally and owning it. No comments about “being bad” or “cheat day” or what I “should” get. I know what works for me, what I can get away with, what else I’ve had that day, as well as how I’m feeling, and that means that sometimes you will find me digging into a salad and other times it’s pancakes and eggs. I don’t need to explain my choices to you and I want you to know that you don’t need to explain yours to me. I don’t eat perfectly and that’s OK.

Aaahh, the sweet taste of freedom…nom nom nom. 😀

Taking a break from what and focusing on how and why 

If you read part 2, then you know that for a while I got caught up in what this professor or that magazine was saying is best and I basically put aside any signals from my body in favor of what I thought I should be eating.

I have always been a naturally slow eater, so I’m pretty good at that how. However, during the last few months, I’ve been practicing tuning back into my hunger signals and eating only when I’m actually hungry (which is my why). What this looks like for me is a lot less snacking, but more enjoyment of the meals I do eat because I’m actually hungry for them. Whodda thunk?? Duh. 😛

Finding the balance

The idea of no longer feeling guilty about any foods is so incredibly freeing that it can be easy to swing all the way over to the other side of just eating whatever you want, whenever you want. BUT, just like how viewing healthy eating as black & white and constantly restricting yourself and feeling guilty is not freedom, eating out of compulsion isn’t either.

Moderation is freedom from extremes…. and guilt, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still discipline involved.

I’m not completely ignoring the what. After all, I’ve put a lot of time and work into focusing on that and building habits around that. But I’ve also spent SO MUCH TIME thinking about the what that I’ve found a much needed mental break by easing up on it for a while. I can eat anything I want, but only when I’m hungry and I must stop before I’m full. That’s what I’m practicing right now.

So to be completely transparent, I had pizza 3 times last week and I enjoyed it guilt-free every time (mostly…like I said, work in progress. ;)).

According to this study, when you eat foods you enjoy, you feel more satisfied! I’m pretty skeptical of most studies these days, but this one sure seems to just make sense, right?!

Appreciating my body

As I talked about in my last blog, the illusion of the perfect body lends itself to unsustainably strict eating practices. I honestly believe that the best way to improve your health (whether it be your body or diet) is from a place of love and not self-loathing. Plus, I can’t stand the idea of spending my whole life only being able to appreciate my “bodies” from the past and never my current one. So here are a few of things that help me fight for contentment now:

beth burns fitness

*Become an expert in all the great things about your body and what it does for you. Do not allow yourself to talk bad about yourself. Seriously, stop that and start a running list of why your body rocks!

*Fight comparison. When I say fight, I mean it’s on. It’s an all-out war and your health and contentment are at stake. If you’re not fighting it, you’re losing.

*Remember that your identity and worth are so much more than the outer shell. My $0.02? You were made in the image of the almighty God – which makes you beautiful. And you are worth so much that He sacrificed His son in order to save you. Remind yourself of this every day.

 

I saw this blog the other day where different health professionals were defining normal eating. So to sum up, here’s mine:

Normal eating is enjoying food in a flexible way so that it enhances your body, mind, and life…
…which means sometimes having more and sometimes having less, sometimes having the treat and sometimes not.
It is free from guilt, idealism, and extremes, but not discipline.
It is listening to and honoring your body by feeding it when it needs to be fed and stopping when it needs to stop.
It’s being able to enjoy a wide variety of foods while owning your food choices because you know that food does not define you.
It’s knowing and believing that food is just food.
Nothing more and nothing less.

That’s my definition. What’s yours??

One of the biggest reasons we struggle with food

In my last blog, changing the way we think about food, I discussed how the idea that healthy eating is a black and white issue leads to an all-or-nothing mindset, ignoring our bodies’ signals, a lack of self-trust, and a lot of food guilt and stress. (If you haven’t read it yet, you can jump over HERE real quick and do so.)

With this being such a big issue in our culture right now, I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here?

I’m sure there are multiple layers to such a complex thing as the human psyche. In my last post, I mentioned diets and food zealots, but what I think what it all comes down to is something I felt needed it’s own blog….

The Attainment of Perfection

“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.”

In college, my diet wasn’t anything spectacular in terms of what we think of today. I was simply really good at listening to my body. I had gotten to the point where it felt automatic and easy and I was maintaining a good physique. Then I was told that the best way to eat was to have 5-6 smaller meals every day and that you should never get to the point where you are feeling hunger.  So I decided to try it. Long story short, it worked for a little bit, but then my body stalled and after that, it reversed and I actually gained some weight. I did it for years, but it never got to the point where it felt easy for me and gradually I trained myself to almost completely ignore most of the signals my body was giving me. Now, I’m practicing and getting back to what works best for me.

So you might be wondering why I would ever change up my eating in the first place! Looking back, that’s what I had to ask myself and here’s what I came to:

I had swallowed the lie that if I could just find and stick to that perfect diet then I could have a perfect body. See, even though I was in probably the best shape of my life, all I could see were the “flaws” and the parts that still didn’t look like the picture perfect image I had in my head. If I’m being honest, I think that deep down I honestly believed I would be prettier and happier and that then, and only then, would I be really worthy of calling myself a fitness professional.

Yikes, right?? 😉

Like so many trainers that I know, when I first got into fitness, magazines seemed like one of the best and easiest places to get information. Well, when all you ever see in magazines is perfectly proportioned girls with glowing skin and not a dimple or blemish in sight, it’s hard not to think that it’s the norm and even easily achievable.

Here’s the thing about magazines:

*They use a few of the best pictures chosen from hundreds or even thousands of takes. Pictures that have been taken with the perfect lighting & angles, make up, professional stylists and photographers, and Photoshop to top it all off.

**Then they tell us what these women eat to look like that by giving us an example of ONE DAY. One day, folks. First of all, do you guys know anybody who eats the same thing every day?? If you do, you should tell them to go see a doctor because chances are they are probably really deficient in some important nutrients. Second of all, if I’m being featured in a magazine and they ask for my diet, you better believe that I’m going to give them an example of what my best day looks like!! (Celebrities are just people too, so you better believe that they struggle with self doubt and insecurities just like the rest of us.)

***Then they tell us that we can look like that if we can just eat these foods or do these 4 exercises every day.  food guilt

As if we’re a bunch of Mrs. Potato Heads that can just pick and choose how we want each part to look…. with just 4 simple moves, of course.

bikini body

 

I’m not trying to blame magazines for all our problems, but to think that we are not influenced by this stuff is only doing yourself a disservice.

“In 2014, Media Dynamics, Inc. revealed in a study that a typical adult’s daily consumption of media has grown from 5.2 hours in 1945 to 9.8 hours in 2014. Our media consumption per day… In that 10 hours a day that we’re in this media consumption, the study summarized that the number of ads adults are now exposed to across the five media outlets (these are the five major media outlets: TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, and magazine) is about 360 ads a day.” ~Matt Chandler

360 times a day we are exposed to ads that portray a very narrow definition of both beauty and health. Ads that tell us that we need to look a certain way to be able to wear a bikini and to be considered beautiful and for men to want to have sex with us. These lies are toxic to our souls and yet, in this day and age, it’s everywhere we look and it’s the very air we breathe. So, even though we know it’s an illusion, we know about Photoshop and we’ve seen the before and afters, we still secretly hold out hope that we will one day look like that. And we believe that the only way to get there is by eating these good foods and not those bad ones.

The truth is that this idea that there is a perfect diet that leads to the perfect body really only leads to discontentment. We spend years, if not a lifetime, on and off of different diets as we cycle between trying to achieve perfection and frustration when we can’t. Those who have attained it, soon realize it doesn’t deliver all the things they’d been promised. A perfect body doesn’t fulfill us, which is why 99% of women, no matter what shape or size, have body issues!

The media tries to tell us that health looks like a flat stomach, slim thighs and a firm butt. The truth is that, depending largely on your genetics and body type, the healthiest version of you might not be the leanest.

When a perfect body is the goal, your life will be enslaved to the never-ending search and marked by anxiety, frustration, and discontentment because it’ll never be enough. And one day you’ll look back and realize you spent way t0o much time focused on the wrong things and not enough time just enjoying food in a healthy way and learning to love and appreciate your body for everything that it does for you.

“Trying to be perfect is trying to fail.” ~Jill Coleman

Don’t worry, I’m not just going to leave you hanging. Check out part 3 HERE, for my personal insights and my definition of normal eating. 🙂

Changing the way we think about food (part 1)

“Healthy eating” isn’t about only eating “healthy” food. It’s about having a healthy relationship with ALL the food you eat. ~Angela Doll Carlson

For the last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a healthy relationship with food looks like and why it is so important. After doing some reading on it, I’m amazed at all the things I’ve never really considered and I’m seeing the connection between how we relate to food and many of our most common food struggles.nutrition

The thing is that food is not in and of itself a moral issue and yet, “we’ve convinced ourselves that the definition of healthy eating is black and white—and that we, by association, are either virtuous or sinful, depending on what we’ve eaten recently. Never mind the fact that this completely ignores what else we’ve eaten that day, what we will be eating, what our specific medical conditions are, and what our individual health goals are.” (Robin Hilmantel)

In all fairness, it’s hard not to think this way when every diet and magazine has a list of good and bad foods and every food zealot out there acts like you are an idiot or a terrible person if you do or don’t eat certain foods. I’ve definitely been guilty of this kind of black and white thinking. While this way of thinking might not seem like that big of a deal (in a lot of ways it feels easier), in the end it leads to a number of issues.

Here’s why I think we need to get rid of this way of thinking and why it’s actually NOT easier…

1) The all-or-nothing mindset

I think we can all agree that the all-or-nothing mindset does not serve us when it comes to building healthy and sustainable habits. Yet, so many of us struggle with it!!

This idea that you’re either on or you’re off based on whatever makes the good list in your mind makes each meal and everything you eat seem like a big deal. We start thinking that we are always just one meal away from failure. In other words, no matter how well you might have eaten the rest of the day or week or month, most of us can easily get completely thrown off by one bad meal or day.

No one is good at handling that much pressure and stress day in and day out, every time they sit down to eat, without eventually cracking. When the stress becomes too much, we go “off” our perfect plan until we get sick of how we feel and/or look, at which point we go back “on”, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of binging and depriving.

2) Focusing only on what 

Here’s the thing: what you eat isn’t as important as we’ve all made it out to be and how you eat is more important than most of us tend to believe.

The human body is an awesome thing. It’s incredibly smart, adaptive, and resilient. It was built to survive. It only makes sense that it would already come with a built-in system that’s really good at letting us know how and what to eat. Unfortunately, instead of listening to our body, most of us eat based on what we’ve heard or think is “best” and have completely lost the ability to tap into the natural signals our body is sending us.

Because guess what….there is no one-size-fits-all! Our bodies are different and therefore, can handle different things. All we have to do is be willing to pay attention.

“In fact, experts agree that we were born with the ability to eat based on our body’s cues. But often, we train ourselves to ignore what our body is telling us because it doesn’t fall in line with what we feel like we “should” eat—or what others are telling us we should be eating.” ~Robin Hilmantel

This leads us right into number 3….

3) Food guilt

food guilt

“I believe that the guilt we associate with food is far more detrimental to us than the food itself.” ~Dr. Eric Cobb

For most of us there is a huge amount of guilt and shame that goes along with eating and food choices.

When I became a personal trainer, I noticed that people were all of the sudden starting to pay more attention to what I ate. Some were just curious, while others were definitely judging. But then I realized this wasn’t just a problem for trainers. Everybody was paying attention to what everyone else was eating and debating between what they wanted versus what they thought they should get, then feeling the need to explain their choices or comment on other people’s choices.

This is the good or bad list coming into play again. It creates this severe lack of self trust, so that we’re either choosing things based on what we think the people around us will approve of or we feel guilty about what we got. Since guilt and enjoyment can’t really co-exist, most of us have lost that true enjoyment that should come from eating.

This is not the way it should be, and yet, it’s the norm for most of us. Health is supposed to enhance our lives, not make it more burdensome. This is why we need to start changing the way we think about food.

I hope this stuff is as eye-opening and fascinating and helpful to you as it is to me. This stuff is so prevalent and there’s even more to it that I can’t wait to share with you guys, so check out part 2 (about one the biggest reasons we struggle with food) and part 3 (my experiences with a new way of thinking about food and my definition of normal eating)!

 

Lies that keep us unhealthy and unhappy (part 2)

In part 1, I discussed a few popular misconceptions that I believe have really hindered folks in actually achieving their health and fitness goals. Believe it or not, I thought of a few more 😉 So here are 3 more lies that keep people frustrated and unhealthy.

beth burns fitness

Lie #5. Eating protein will make you bulk up.

Protein is a macronutrient which means it’s essential for life and growth and it’s needed in larger quantities than most other nutrients. Protein aides in just about every metabolic function in the body and promotes a healthy immune system. It also takes more time and energy to digest, helping you feel full for longer!

Moreover, most weight loss is a combination of losing fat and muscle. Since most people don’t want to be soft and weak, the goal is to lose fat while maintaining as much strength (and muscle) as possible. Protein helps your body hold onto the muscle so that you end up with a tighter, leaner bod. It also helps fuel your muscles during a workout, so if you’re looking for a way to feel more energetic during your workouts, make sure you are getting enough protein.

Protein also happens to be sorely lacking in most American diets.

For all of these reasons, you’re probably used to hearing every fitness pro consistently bring up protein. HOWEVER, protein by itself is not some insta-bodybuilder nutrient. Eating too much protein will not make you bulk up (unless you mean gain fat, in which case, eating too much of any macronutrient can make you gain). For fat loss and a healthy lifestyle, there still needs to be a balance of macronutrients and you will still need to perform muscle-promoting exercise in order to maintain (or increase) strength and definition.

Lie #6. Running is a great way to lose weight

Some people will lose weight while running. However, for the most part, long distance endurance-style running is not great for fat loss. In fact, many runners will actually notice that they tend to get a little softer when focusing solely on endurance running. There are 2 big reasons why this happens:

1) Your body adapts quickly to doing the same things over and over. The only way to vary your running is by changing the speed, which most people don’t do. So over time, even if you’re running longer distances you will burn less calories even while doing more work!!

2) The other reason is too much time in the “fat burning zone”. Sounds like a good thing, right? The only problem with this is that when you make fat a primary source of energy, your body is smart enough to realize that it’s burning through a lot of fat and will start storing it so that it has enough for the next run.

Truth: If you’re looking to lose fat, stay away from a long, slow, steady-state running. You need to be switching up the intensity levels with things like intervals, sprints, and ideally, some strength training. For more ideas on how to do this, go here or here. 😉

Lie #7. Strength training is just for building muscle (and will, therefore, make you bulky)

Here’s the deal, unless you want to look like a skeleton, you will have some combination of muscle and fat on your body. That’s normal and healthy! 😉 So obviously, we want more muscle and less fat….or at least, that’s what I always thought. Let me explain…

Since your body works on a “use it or lose it”-type of system, strength training is meant to improve your strength so that your muscles continue to work for you and you continue to have the ability to do the things you want to do. This makes sense right? We like to be able to go up the stairs without feeling like we’re gonna have a heart attack.

Yes, strength training can help one increase muscle mass. I’ve written about this already here and here and here, so I’m not going to go into why it’s really hard for women to “bulk up” from strength training. But what I’m amazed at is how quickly and how often the term “bulky” still gets thrown around with such disgust and fear. “I don’t want to get bulky,” or “Careful, you don’t want to get too bulky”.

As a culture, we have gotten so far away from what health actually is that I’m not sure we’d recognize it if it came up and smacked us in the face. With the emphasis on size above all else, we are quick to think of “bulk” as the ultimate evil. As if the worst possible thing would be to be a little bit bigger or a little more defined than the media has determined is suitable for women. Forget if I’m strong or healthy, gotta fit into that size 2 if I want to be considered beautiful/healthy/feminine/worthy. What’s sad to me is that we have become so obsessed with size that most women really would rather be skinny and weak than have a little definition and be stronger.

I get that everybody is entitled to their own definition of beauty, (I myself admit that I’ve had a lot of time to work through my own process with this whole idea) but this just does not sit right with me.

The thing is….there is beauty in strength, in training your body and your mind to be strong and resilient, in discipline, in confidence, in taking care of yourself, and in being able & capable of doing the things you want or need to do.

Whether we want to believe it or not, we are all products of our culture. I’m not saying that you have to like the look of women with definition. What I am suggesting is that we all think twice before throwing around the word bulky. There are a lot worse things than being muscular!! And strong is beautiful, too. 😀






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