Posts filed under weight loss

Ditch the Dieting and Meal Planning - What to do instead

Ditch Dieting & Meal Planning - What to do instead

It’s Monday and you’ve promised yourself that you’ll do better.  After a whole week of “bad eating,” you decide that Monday is absolutely the day you’ll get back on track.  You’ve mapped it out already - you’re going to pack salads all for lunch, stop eating sweets, and finally “get clean.

The first day isn’t too bad, the second okay, but by day 4, the sight of your spinach salad makes you gag.  You also can’t tolerate another green protein smoothie, after drinking the same thing over and over again. Your coworker asks you out to lunch and you simply oblige.

Sound familiar?  Yep, while I’m not saying that meal plans aren’t necessary (they can be useful at times), like dieting, they’re temporary and just plain suck after a while.  Then pretty soon you’re off nosediving back into the afternoon sugar pick me up, the afterwork binges, feeling like you’re back to square one.

So what can you do instead?  Here are some suggestions:

TIP # 1: Upgrade 1 thing/meal at a time - The reason most diet sucks is because they do nothing for creating new habits or changing sabotaging ones.  So pretty soon, your life gets busy or throws a curveball at you and because you were using willpower, you soon are back to where you started. So instead of replacing all or nothing, try upgrading one thing at a time such as:

  • Upgrade from processed foods to whole foods

  • From whole foods conventionally grown to organically grownFrom internationally grown to local grown

    Some other ideas include:

  • Upgrade your breakfast from processed foods to whole foods (e.g. Fruit Loops to Whole Grain Cheerios, or instead of 3 lumps of sugar in your coffee upgrade to 1 and some coconut milk)

  • Upgrade your sandwich for lunch to have 1 slice of bread instead of 2

  • Upgrade your after meal dessert from chocolate to a fruit

  • Upgrade your snacks from chips to a handful of nuts

  • Add a hand-sized portion of protein to each meal

  • If you eat out, order a salad instead of the french fries

TIP # 2: Honor your need for variety - Sometimes our efforts fail because simply we are bored with the food we’re having!  All eating is emotional. Let me repeat. All eating is emotional.  So if you’re finding yourself uninspired by the food you have, it’s time to get creative and experiment a little.  There are plenty of foods that are nutritious as well as delicious. Seriously, just google “Health nutritious recipes” and you’ll be bombarded with a plethora of options! Try one new recipe a week. Think of it as a new adventure into honoring your taste buds and your health.

TIP # 3: Focus on improving how you eat, instead of what you eat - So much of dieting gets us to label foods as good or bad, then we feel guilty for eating foods that are “bad” for us, which may set us up to binge on them again.  So instead of improving what you eat, focus on how. Eat slowly and mindfully. Listen to your hunger cues. In tasting the food, you honor the food and your soul by being fully present and focused on it.

For you overachievers, remember you don’t have to go for “all-or-nothing.”  Go for “good ‘nuff” and keep adding on each week. You’ll be amazed how far you go taking it one step at a time!

Common Triggers for Binging and Mindless Eating - When, Why, and What to Do about Them

When I ask my clients to food journal we often see a common pattern in non-hunger, problematic eating.  The good news with this is that because it’s often a habit, it’s predictable and therefore easier to anticipate and plan for.  While you may consciously wish you weren’t eating mindlessly in these times, a part of you is getting a need met. There is always a “gift,” a positive intention being met.  Once you know what positive intention is being met, it becomes easier to replace that routine.

Do any of these patterns describe you?  Here’s the real need and some suggestions on how to meet the need without using food.


You eat to transition between activities.  A common one is transitioning between work and being at home.

  • Real need: A clear routine that helps you wind down and relax, perhaps turn off your mind.  A sense of reward and relief.

  • How to meet it without food: Create  your own transition routine that helps you wind-down between the busy state of work/school and the relaxed state of being at home.  Some ideas include: preparing a cup of tea, meditating, and/or exercising.


You eat when you’re angry

  • Real need: The need to honor your anger and respect your boundaries.  Anger indicates a boundary or expectation of ours was not met.  For example, I once coached a woman who would get triggered to order drive thru whenever she thought about the last job that she was let go from.  It triggered her anger that she did not get a chance to defend herself before the decision. It had all to do with her feeling of being respected and heard at work.  Her anger was valid and pointed to her values - unfortunately, the way she was expressing it was costing her health and vitality.

  • How to meet it without food:  Honor your anger. In our society, women are often taught to suppress their anger and ignore their feelings.  Yet anger is an important signal that points to our sense of boundaries and values. Shout, scream, punch a pillow.   Listen to angry music. Journal. Let yourself really feel it and listen to what it has to say. If this is a recurring theme for you, it may be time to express your needs in relationships where your boundaries are challenged.


You eat when you’re bored

  • Real need: Excitement/adventure.  We all crave a certain amount of spontaneity in our lives.  If you’re feeling bored, it sounds like you need something fun and exciting to look forward to, especially after a long day of studying or working.  Trust me, if food is the only thing you have to look forward to - it would make perfect sense to reach for it after a long day.

  • How to meet it without food:  Plan some activities you can look forward to.  Seriously, take a short break from this post and write down at least 10 things you find really fun and look forward to.  Even short 5-10 minute will do as an effective break. Start building these “goodies” into your days and your weeks.


You eat in response to feeling low energy, such as daily tiredness or the afternoon slump.  In the case of long-term low energy (depression), you may use food as way to cope.

  • Real need: You're looking for a pick-me-up.  You also may need more sleep. 
    In the case of long-term low-energy, such as depression, this indicates a part of you is not looking forward to what the future holds.

  • How to meet it without food: Go for a brisk walk for 10-15 minutes.  Or do 50 jumping jacks. Getting your blood pumping will get your circulation going and wake you up more naturally

    If you’re sleep deprived, it’s also time to start making sleep more of a priority - whether that be getting to be on time or making sure your bedtime routine sets you up for success.

    If you're struggling with depression, the 2 tips suggested above are great options to begin to raise your energy.  You also may want to seek the support of a qualified coach or therapist to talk about the root causes of your low energy and depression.


You eat when you feel lonely

  • Real need: A sense of love and connection. Food is a “friend” which keeps you company.

  • How to meet it without food: Make your loneliness okay.  Everyone feels lonely from time to time. Call a friend who you want to catch up with.  Reach out to someone who’s energy you’re drawn to. Join a support group. If there’s a recurring theme that you feel this sense of loneliness, say it’s when you work or study from home, then perhaps it's time to find a group to cowork/costudy with. Or you can consider finding an environment where you are with people.  Go out there and get the love you deserve.

    It amazes we now that I do this coaching work, just how many of my peers shared that they struggled with food and were also starving for connection. Be brave and reach out - you just may be filling a need for them too!


You use food to punish yourself

  • Real need: A sense of significance.  In a strange way, beating yourself up may be the only way you pay attention to yourself.  This one may surprise you - but I have found a large number of people in our society are addicted to self-punishment.  It’s this sense of “guilt” that drives you to work harder, strive for more and more, and feel like you never have enough or are enough.  Food can become a way for you to punish yourself when you feel like you’re not measuring up but indirectly is way for you to actually pay attention to yourself.

  • How to meet it without food: Observe that voice of self-punishment as just a part of you.  Recognize the need is for you to finally pay attention to yourself. Acknowledge yourself for what you’ve done well and forgive yourself for your “shortcomings.” You’re human after all.  This is the opportune time to practice some self-love and self-care in whatever form you’d like.

You eat when you feel overwhelmed and stressed

  • Real need: A sense of groundedness, focus, and certainty

  • How to meet it without food: When we’re stressed, we are in our fight or flight responses.  Have you had any experiences where you were stressed and were able to shift to calm and centeredness?  Which techniques did you try? There are a million and one ways to center yourself but just for some ideas: meditation, EFT, going for a walk or exercise, talking to a coach, therapist, or friend.

Do you recognize any of these patterns in your life? They all are formed for a purpose. If you can learn to meet the real need that eating had been serving, you’ll be well on your way outsmarting the pattern and changing your habits for good!

Above all, love,


Why I’m Thankful for my Cravings

It’s 5 pm Costa Rica time, and I have finally arrived back from work.  Right on queue, I sense a craving for sweets, specifically chocolate.  “Come on, one piece won’t hurt. …” the voice of craving says.  “It’s been a long day at work – I DESERVE a treat.”  In fact, I’ve noticed that the voice has been saying this same message all week.

I'll admit I’m not perfect – even as a coach, sometimes I give into my cravings while other times I walk away (which feels great when I do!).  When my emotional eating was at it’s worst, I found myself at the mercy of my cravings – unable to say no.  What I recognize now is that when I’m not physically hungry, cravings for food often represent another need – perhaps something that my body, mind, or soul is hungry for at the time.

I have learned to be thankful for my cravings.  They are clear messengers that something is off-balance in my body or in my life.

Perhaps it is a physical craving – such as the body’s call for water when it is thirsty or for a certain food if I’m lacking the vitamins/minerals.  Or perhaps, the craving is emotional and spiritual. “If I’m not physically hungry right now, what is it that I really am needing?”  For me,  the 5 pm call-for-chocolate represented a way to relax and turn off my mind.  I wanted a sure-fire way to feel good after a stressful day at work.  Frankly, if it weren’t for the side-effects of weight gain and bloating emotional eating caused, I would be all for using chocolate as a primary means of stress relief!

In that sense, it’s important to recognize what positive purpose food is really serving for us - after all, we as humans always act from a positive intention no matter how self-sabotaging the action may seem.  Would eating give us an energy boost, a way to zone out, or perhaps a sense of reward after a long day?  Once we recognize the need being met, we can then find a non-edible substitute to replace the act of eating.   After all, if food is the only thing we know to look forward to after a long day, no wonder it’s so hard to say no when the craving strikes!

So what might you make your non-edible replacements?  Here are some questions to ponder:

1.     What positive purpose is food serving in the moment?  [energy boost, reward, sense of adventure/fun after a long day, way to zone out, etc. are just a few common ones]

2.     What are the consequences of continuing to use food in this way?

3.     How else might I fulfill the positive purpose without turning to food?

So this week, I invite you to watch your cravings when they do arise and be grateful when they do.  You’ll often find they follow a predictable pattern each week and carry some valuable messages to bring your body and your life back to center.

“I wish I could stop eating, but I just love food too much!”

A few years ago, I was at Vegetarian Fest in Seattle where a vegan chef and author, Alan Roettinger shared what he believed it meant to truly love someone or something.  He shared that when he fell in love with his wife, he found himself paying attention so intently on how she moved, what she said, and what she did.  To him, to love meant to give complete focus and intention.  He brought that same focus to the food he made with love.

“I wish I could stop eating, but I just love food too much!”  I am guilty of uttering these words and have heard them countless times from friends and clients, who deep down are frustrated with the weight loss process.  Chances are though if you identify as an emotional eater or someone who is overweight, you probably don’t pay much attention to your food or at all.  In fact, you may find that you eat distracted perhaps in front of your phone or the TV.  Perhaps you may find that you are using food to go unconscious and to soothe, as is common in emotional eating.

So what if you agreed with Alan Roettinger’s definition of what it means “to love.”  What would it look like to truly love food?  Perhaps you would make your meal times special.  Perhaps you would place the food nicely on the plate, focus fully on how the food tastes, and be grateful for what it provides you.

Or perhaps, you’d discover what foods you truly like or dislike -  as one of my clients had in a mindful eating meditation.  Her infatuation with potato chips soon died after she fully tasted them and realized she didn’t enjoy the greasy residue it left in her mouth!

Latent within the excuse of “I wish I could stop eating, but I just love food too much!” is also the belief that we are powerless over food – that perhaps we don’t deserve our desires or that we are powerless in honoring both our desire for pleasure and enjoyment in eating and the desires and goals we have for our bodies.  But what if it didn’t have to be so black and white?  What if it was possible to honor both the experience of eating and desire to love and nurture your body?  It is in finding this sweet spot that we can begin to move closer to our goals in a way that is sustainable.

So readers, I invite you this week to notice what you’re noticing. 

If love means full presence and focus, where are you consciously and unconsciously sending your love?  What in your life are you focusing on and caring about that really does not deserve your time?

If you truly loved your food this week, how would you your eating experiences be different?  If you truly loved yourself, what would you do differently?

I would love to hear your comments below.

The Real Cost of “Free Food”

There are many variations to this story – perhaps it’s free samples at the grocery store or an abundance of different food at a party.  In the case of “free food,” the mind often defaults to how great the opportunity is.  However, in choosing “free food,” you may find that in exchange you are giving up something- perhaps sabotaging your commitment to your health goals or just that feeling of vitality.  In my case, I found myself feeling sluggish after all my “free food fun” in Costa Rica.

So how can we make more conscious decisions that best serve us?  The first step is to bring awareness and learning to the situation.