Friday, May 28, 2010

Baby Steps

Baby steps.  That's all you need to do. Take baby steps.  Having the courage to move outside of your comfort zone and current habits can sound intimidating, but it becomes much more comfortable when we realize that all we have to do is take baby steps.  Change is a process that takes time, and the good news is that no one but us decides how quickly we will progress.  We all want fast results in this day and age.  I know, I like them too!  When we work towards a goal, we need to be seeing the fruits of our labor, or else it can be challenging some days to keep moving forward.  At the same time, there is a lot of FREEDOM in knowing that each step that we take is our own decision and we get to decide how quickly to take it.

Let me give you an example.  I was getting a skin rash from time to time on my hands and feet.  My skin just got red and itched like crazy. I wondered if it was because I might have had a slight intolerance to wheat products, as many people do.  I decided to eliminate wheat from my diet to see if it helped. Instead of depriving myself entirely of bread, crackers, and cookies, for a while, I sought out Food of Life Ezekiel Bread which is sprouted-grain bread, Sesmark rice crackers, Mi-Del gluten-free cookies, and other wheat-free crunchy foods from the natural food section of my neighborhood grocery store.  I merely substituted some of my regular purchases for new, similar foods.  I just tweaked my purchases.  I didn't eliminate an entire food group just because I wanted to approach eating wheat differently.  It wasn't stressful.  I just took a baby step that was moving me in the direction I wanted to go.  It was really easy.  It was a piece of (gluten-free) cake!  Personally, my body feels a lot better without wheat in my diet, but I don't expect everyone to do this, of course.  I was trying to find the "cause" for a negative "effect" that my body was experiencing.  Reducing wheat in my diet definitely helped reduce my skin rashes.

Think about what your body may be saying to you.  Do you eat a lot of sugar?  Do you reach for cookies or candy when you are stressed?  Or are you more of a crunchy-food lover?  Do you go for the chips, crackers, and anything you can munch on?  Whatever the case, consider what food you can tweak in your diet.  Just as a first step.  Instead of eating Cheetos to get that crunch, aim for Santitas tortilla chips with only 3 natural ingredients (corn, oil, and salt).  Eliminate all of the additives and colorings and ingredients that you cannot pronounce in foods like your ice cream and choose Breyer's All Natural Ice Cream with only natural ingredients like sugar, cream, and vanilla.  Don't worry about the calories for now - worry about eating pure, clean, natural foods that aren't processed or full of chemicals.  Instead of eating a sugar-filled jelly or jam on your breakfast toast, try a 100% natural fruit spread. Just start with one food in your diet and think about how you can make it a healthier option.  Step out of your comfort zone and try something new that leads you towards your destination.  Then celebrate that you have taken this baby step.  Each time you eat that food, praise yourself for making a healthy decision - and enjoy every bite!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Courage to Transition

In my last blog, I wrote about the importance of shifting your thoughts about yourself and your body from critical self-talk to only positive thoughts.  Although it may feel silly to consciously "talk to yourself", it is important to be open to CHANGING the way you think and moving yourself in that direction.  One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein, and it completely summarizes the point I am trying to make.  He said that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  In other words, in order to get different results, we have to change what we are presently doing.  We have to change our behavior, because what we are doing now is not clearly working for us.  I personally believe that the only way to get the results that we seek is to be brave and to have the COURAGE to move outside of what is currently our comfort zone.

Moving outside of your comfort zone.  I know that sounds scary.  It may sound really scary to some.  As human beings, it our nature to resist change.  We don't like to have to do things differently.  We don't like the uncomfortable or the unfamiliar. We are creatures of habit and we like repetition.  Generally speaking, we don't like surprises. We often like learning about new ideas and fresh perspectives, but we often resist changing our behavior to bring those ideas to life (especially if they weren't our own ideas to start with).  Yet,  in order to achieve a healthier body, have more energy, and reduce stress, we have to find the COURAGE to BEHAVE a little differently.  To step outside the comfort zone.

I'll let you in on a little secret.  We actually don't mind new behaviors, once we are used to them.  What we really dislike, and often fear, is the discomfort of TRANSITIONING from a familiar behavior to a new one.  Here's why:  Once we adjust to doing something new and we start making that new behavior our new habit, that new habit becomes comfortable to us.  All of a sudden, it becomes our new repetitive behavior and is now the familiar. 

What sometimes holds us back from is the fear that the transition of going from the old, unhealthy behavior to the new, healthy behavior is just too hard or it will take too much time or effort. We fear letting go of the familiar. We fear not feeling safe.  We fear that we will fail.  We fear we will let ourselves down, or let other people down.  We fear that it will take too much energy.  We naturally think of all of the barriers that keep us from achiveing what we want to achieve.  But, if you imagine yourself as a caterpillar getting ready to enter the coccoon, you know you only need to be there a short period of time before you emerge as a butterfly.  If you think of yourself like a caterpillar, you can be in the right mindset to transition to achieve your goals.  This is why I strongly believe that all you need to be on your way to a healthy body is the COURAGE to just show up and be willing to do it. (Just like the caterpillar.)  And, the best thing I can do as a coach is to help make that transition as comfortable and easy as possible.

In short, if you bring the COURAGE to go through the newness and unfamiliarity of a TRANSITION, and that transition is made as comfortable as possible for you, you will CHANGE and get the results you are seeking.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Get the Body You Really Want - Start With Your Thoughts

How do I get the body I really, really want?  This is a question that I have been long asking myself.  Over the years, it has caused me to go on countless diets, follow food plans, eat certain foods, avoid other foods, count calories, and basically emotionally beat myself up.  Like many other women who are constantly dieting, at times I have felt guilt, shame, frustration, and sadness.  I have felt guilty for eating "bad" foods like ice cream (my favorite), cookies, and crackers. I have felt like I haven't had any willpower and questioned why I couldn't follow a simple diet. I always had good intentions and started off well but a week into it I couldn't do it anymore.  I definitely felt like something was wrong with me and that I was failing at this one thing that I had been trying to acheive for years and years and years. Why is that?  I was successful in other areas of my life, so why couldn't I do this?  The more I couldn't do it, the more I wanted to eat.  Why is it that we women  feel like the more that we torture ourselves with guilt and stress and shame, the more we want to eat?

As I became a Life Coach and Nutrition Consultant, I realized that everything I was learning was pointing in the same direction.  When it comes to weight loss and healthy eating, everything always seems to come back to one key concept.  It's not that I didn't have willpower.  It's not that I was a "bad" person for eating "bad" foods.  It's not that I couldn't handle things going on in my life.  It's that I needed a big dose of just one simple, but important thing...Courage.  Courage to step out of my comfort zone when it came to eating - and to stay there.  Courage to create new habits.  Courage to not reach for something sweet when I was stressed, anxious or afraid.  Courage to face the feelings that I was trying to distract myself from.  Courage to stand up for myself like I would stand up for my best friend.  Courage to let myself experience something other than guilt, shame, obsession, or discomfort when I ate. Courage to live in the present and not be defined by the past. Courage to focus on the process, not the outcome.

It all comes down to the COURAGE to change.

Okay, so you may be saying, "I get it.  I get that it is about courage.  But, how do you all of a sudden find the courage?  How do you just decide one day to be courageous?"  That's an excellent question.  I think that what it all comes down to is that you have to have the courage to step out of your comfort zone to THINK and BEHAVE differently.  Because what you intend...becomes your reality.

Let's start with THINK. The one great thing about human minds is that they believe what we tell them.  Completely. Our brains don't distinguish between what is true and what is false when we are talking to ourselves about ourselves.  This is why when you are about to give a big speech, you have probably heard people say to throw your shoulders back and "act as if" you are confident, even if you aren't feeling that way.  "Fake it until you make it."  The reason they say that is because our brains can't distinguish between "acting as if" and really believing it.  Simply put, our brains believe the messages that we play in our heads and takes them ALL as true. So, if you are someone who looks in the mirror and constantly says to yourself "I am fat" or "My thighs are too big" or "I am ugly", unfortunately, our minds trust us and believe what we are saying to ourselves.

However, on the flip side, the good news is that our brains also believe us when we say positive messages to ourselves even if we don't BELIEVE them at the time.  When we say to ourselves "I am beautiful" or "I am attractive" or "I have a strong, healthy body", our brains are listening.  So, the first step to weight loss and getting the body you want is to CHANGE the messages in our brain.  If you find yourself beating yourself up, just stop and immediately say to yourself, "You know, Self, the negative thought  I just had may not be true.  I am actually an attractive person."  You may feel silly doing this because you think you are "lying" to yourself and you don't believe it.  But, it is important to state your message to yourself in the positive. Remember that you are listening to yourself and say "I am beautiful".  If you say "I don't want to be fat", all that our minds hear is the word "fat".  Keep it focused on what you want to achieve.  Why should you do this, especially when you might feel silly or untruthful for saying it?  What I have found to be true is that when you send positive messages to your brain, the Universe automatically will lead you in that direction.  In coaching, we say that you "attract" certain results to yourself because you have put that intention out into the world by thinking it.  Some may be familiar with those who say "what goes around comes around" or know of the recently famous book, "The Secret", but it is all talking about the same concept:  The Principle of Attraction. If you change your thoughts and how you talk to yourself, the rest will follow.  You just have to trust the process.  All it takes is practice and repetition.  Catch yourself every single time you put yourself down and change your internal dialogue so that you are sending loving messages to yourself.  Practice, practice, practice.  Even if you don't believe it yet.  Just do it.

This is the first step.  But, it is an important and critical one.  When you shift the energy in yourself in a positive direction, everything changes. It's a very simple concept, but it takes practice.  Going forward, I will talk more about how Courage = Change, and I will talk more about the BEHAVIOR portion of weight loss.  For now, I will leave you to chew on these THOUGHTS for a while and really digest them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Land of Zzzzzzs

Sleep.  It is so incredibly important.  Yet, so many of us do not get enough of it.  Not only do we spend our days, but we also spend our nights, attached to Blackberries, computers, ipods, televisions, DVDs, iphones, and so on.  We are constantly easy to reach, text, call, e-mail, and instant message.  We are constantly in demand, and we are running on empty. Unlike any other generation before us, we can be contacted 24 hours a day, by anyone, from anywhere. Even if we try to tone it down and turn off the gadgets, the world is never too far from our fingertips.  This constant communication is hurting our sleep patterns, and that, in turn is harming our health.

The perfect amount of sleep that each of us should aim for is 7-8 hours a night.  The most sound sleep comes in surroundings that are cool (but not cold - around 62 degrees), completely dark (even free from the small blue lights of our gadgets and gizmos as they recharge), and totally quiet.  If you wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time getting back to sleep, lie in bed and try to quiet your mind with deep, slow breaths.  If 30 minutes have passed and your deep breathing has not gotten you anywhere, get up, read a book or a magazine or have some herbal tea, but try not to over-stimulate your mind. Avoiding computers and TVs can be helpful.  I have noticed that sometimes, if I give into the fact I am having trouble sleeping and just accept it, rather than lie there trying to fight it or be angry about it, I get tired again an hour or so later and climb back into bed.

Our bodies do a lot of work while we are sleeping, particularly between the hours of 11:00 pm to 2:00 am.  Our biorythms change, our cells regenerate, our digestive process prepares us for morning, and we rebuild our immunity.  Getting enough sleep is really critical to good health.  My husband and I need a full 8 hours to operate at our best, even 9.  We love our sleep.  Going to bed consistently around the same time and waking around the same time are best for the body.  Try to consciously aim to get to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. You might surprise yourself with how much more energy you feel, how much less food you want, and how much more relaxed you approach life when you have had a full night's sleep.  Your mind and your body will thank you.