Are All Diets bad? - How “Dieting” Set me up for Binge Eating Later in Life

I started “dieting” and heavily exercising to control my weight when I was 11 years old.  A few years before that point, I saw my mother and her friends rave and preach about the Atkins diet.  “Wow, you look sooo great!” they’d all say.

So to my 11 year old mind, dieting was how you got thin and if you were thin, people like you.  Simple enough! For my first round of this, I didn’t pick an official diet book but I made sure I slowed down my eating to a snail’s pace and that I had tiny portions on my plate.  If I slowed down enough that my family didn’t notice, I would end my meal at the same time as they did and no one would comment on how little I ate. I also started working out 2-3 hours a day so that anything I did eat I’d burn off easily.  It affected my sleep and my mood but I was proud of myself for being "so disciplined.”

Then as they say, with every restriction is an equal and opposite binge.  A year after, a part of me realized food was pretty damn tasty again, and I began to gain weight pretty heavily.

So next, I read “Eat to Live” by Joel Furhman, a mostly plant-based diet that if you were able to follow promised to get my weight down to about 95 lbs.  “Wow, how proud I’d be of myself if I could get down to that weight” I’d say. Except at 13, I wasn’t in charge of the grocery shopping nor did I cook much.  My dad was concerned when I turned down a pretty healthy Filipino nilaga (beef stew) to just eat raw lettuce for dinner... yeah, that lasted about 3 days.  The program did allow wheat bread though - and I found myself compensating for my restriction by eating almost a full loaf of bread each day. I actually GAINED weight trying to follow the plan and it wasn’t until I just “gave up” that I heard comments I had actually lost weight.  Really???

The funny thing is I repeated this pattern several times - with calorie counting, excessive running and exercise, intermittent fasting, etc, etc.  Time and time again I’d get excited about my new plan and succeed for a few days only to dive head first into a bowl of cheetos that night while I was beating myself up for screwing up yet another time.

Back then if you’d ask me, I’d blame it on lack of willpower - that I was lazy and incapable.

A few years ago, I had joined the anti-diet train.  “It’s not my fault!!! All diets are all bad - RESIST! RESIST RESIST!”

Nowadays, I realize it was neither - it was my “consciousness,” my set of beliefs and perspectives at the time that set me up to fail over and over again.  You know the “dieting consciousness” - it’s the "all or nothing approach."  It’s the thought: “I follow this perfectly or I don’t follow this at all.” It’s restricting then binging.  It’s telling yourself that every time to “fall off”, you’re broken, wrong, lazy, and incapable.

What I’ve found in my experience in losing weight sustainably and in coaching men and women in this space for the past 3 years is that it’s our consciousness that really determines our success.  Diets aren't "bad" in themselves.  Choosing a diet is just choosing the tool/strategy to solve a problem. The problem is that we often choose the wrong tool for the problem we want solved.  Choose the wrong tool and it’s hard and miserable. Choose the right tool and it’s effortless. It’s like trying to hammer a nail in with a screwdriver - you’re going to have to work REALLY hard to do that.  Then it's even worse if you blame yourself for your laziness, weakness, incapability to hammer the nail in....  But if you used an actually hammer, just a few easy taps and the nail is completely in.

So instead of trying to overhaul your life completely with this next diet plan, here is what I recommend if you are SICK and TIRED of this dieting-binging cycle:

  1. Instead of following a new diet plan right away, start with awareness:  This can be done by journaling on your current eating habits.  Get a journal and write down: “When,” “What?,” and “Why?” you ate.  You may find you will naturally start to make changes just based on your awareness.

  2. Some people are hares, some people are tortoises with changes.  If the “cold-turkey” approach hasn’t worked for you, try taking it one step at a time: Based on your food journal, make incremental changes.  This could be as simple as swapping “empty calorie” foods with “whole foods” each week.  Slow may not seem sexy but consistency is what gets results.  Make your new belief that "Consistency is new sexy."

  3. Think inside-out, rather than outside-in. Rather than relinquish your full power to a “diet guru, doctor, etc., create your own diet - The best diet is the one that aligns with your goals, values, and life. The best diet is the one that after some initial effort, you can easily stick to. Think of meal plans and diet books as inspiration for your choices. Diet books can be great for finding new recipes and tools to incorporate your life. But remember, whatever strategy you pick should FIT you, not you FIT the strategy. You are in power here. Never give over your power to anyone else - whether that be a diet book, a lover, a coach, or friend. You always have a choice.

  4. Give yourself credit & challenge the "inner perfectionist" - If you sense you are beating yourself up, this is the time to show yourself the most compassion. Give your credit for even the tiniest wins and use each "slip up" as an opportunity to learn and recommit.

  5. Get support and accountability - Sustainable weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s so common to get excited and do well in the beginning. But when things get tough and your commitment feels low, it’s very easy to fall back into default patterns. Get some support to help you stay accountable and troubleshoot any problems that you come across with along the way. After all, you are changing your lifestyle! That is not an easy task at first!

    Looking back, one of the biggest pieces of advice I would have given my younger self would be to get some support. We need to challenge the belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Instead, it is an act of courage. It's saying, "I'm willing to be brave and vulnerable to ask for the help I deserve. I deserve a healthy and happy body and life."

In my coaching practice, I help my clients with all of the above - building awareness, picking the strategy that works for them, and getting the support and accountability they need to be unstoppable.  If I can be of service to you, please let me know! I am always happy to offer a free “Jumpstart to Food Freedom consult” to help you get clear on your goals and get momentum to start moving forward. Feel free to schedule with me here if that aligns with you:

Posted on May 1, 2018 .

The Importance of Self-Care & Living Your Values in Troubled Times

The violence on Saturday in Charlottesville, VA, where a white supremacist protester drove his car into the opposing crowd was disturbing and shocking.  Having attended the University of Virginia for undergrad myself, it was incredibly alarming and sad to think that this had happened in a place I had called home for 4 years.  I also recently watched the documentary “13th” which depicts the insidious systemic racism and bigotry that has led to the mass incarcerations of blacks, Latinos, and other minorities in support of private prison labor and other corporate interests.  For me, this news painted a shockingly negative, self-serving view of humanity that frankly got me down for a few days.

I am guilty of doing the on again, off again thing with the news.  I’ll plug in and try to stay involved but find that the negative coverage would bring me down.  I would then disengage for some time choosing ignorance in search of peace.  As I become more aware however, I recognize how privileged it is for me to be able to turn a blind eye to that which is going on in the world, especially when it does affect those in my own community.

I’ve found this week particularly hard; however, I also recognize that I am not helping anybody if I succumb to the despair.  The world and the number of problems are overwhelming.  Where do I focus my attention first?  Who do I help?  How do I stay centered in times when everything feels like it’s  falling apart?  It is quite easy to begin to feel powerless amongst it all. 

I have seen in my own experience and those of my clients that these are the times where your SELF-CARE is of PARAMOUNT importance.  It’s perfectly normal to feel disengaged and depressed after all the negative news but at the same time there is no use in you taking on the suffering of the world yourself to the point that you are ineffective, neither serving your higher good nor the good of others.   We live in a world that is always REACTING to the latest news.  When we take on that same energy, we get stuck in our fight or flight responses, often not able to see the big picture and make more conscious and effective choices.  Self-care at the most basic level is allowing that we pause to take a breath, to stand our ground instead of fighting or fleeing.  In fact, since the majority of the world resides in the energy of REACTION, it is quite valiant and brave to take a breath, take a step back, and then CHOOSE how we want to show up in response.

Times of turmoil also call us to bring our VALUES to the forefront.   Shocking news such as the event in Charlottesville may shake us at our core because we value equality, peace, progress, etc.  It is often the absence of something that notifies us of how important it is to us.   Times of turmoils can also  prompt us to feel inspired and to courageous defend and live our values.

This week I have been challenging the voices in my head that tell me the world is messed up and broken.  At my core, I do believe all things happen for a purpose.   While it’s easy interpret that the world is full of hate, blame, and bigotry, at the same time we are also seeing a world where people are rising up in defense of love, compassion, and equality.  I see it in the people around me and in my own clients – many of whom after the election for example, took a breath and found a way to defend their own values and the values of others in their own work and communities.

So while it’s easy and quite common to feel powerless in situations like these, we must also remember that we have so much power to make a difference in the communities we are a part. Through self-care, we can first alleviate our own suffering and then with more calmness of mind, we can begin to help those around us by whatever means are available and make sense to where we are at the present moment.

 So now it’s your turn…

How do you find your balance in recent times?  When things feel tough and out of your hands, how do you remain centered in it all?

What values are you being called to live in present moment?

How might you use self-care to serve not only to the highest good of yourself but the highest good of others?


Posted on August 16, 2017 .

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.