Posted Date: April 2018
Some Movement Is Better Than None
Some movement is better than none, especially when busy schedules get in the way, and there are countless ways you can get in physical activity. Even small bouts of exercise can add up to big benefits.
Here are a few key exercises that work major muscles groups and improve overall strength. They also can help raise the heart rate, enhance balance and burn calories. Ideally, aim to perform each exercise for at least one minute, depending on your fitness level. Squeezing in multiple sets of these exercises each day will accelerate your progress.
“Office variations” are offered if you’re more likely to exercise daily by sneaking in some movement throughout your workday, commute time or while in line at the grocery store. With some effort and planning, exercise can be squeezed in almost anywhere, so think about the spaces in your day that could be powered up with some movement.
Squats reign supreme as a multifunction exercise. While they primarily strengthen quadriceps muscles, they offer the additional benefit of working the glutes and low-back muscles, improving balance and promoting mobility and independent living as we age. Add pulses, holds and single-leg variations for variety and challenge.
Office Variation: Seated leg lifts also work the quads. Sit upright in a chair and straighten the leg until it is parallel to the floor. Hold for a few counts before lowering and switching legs.
Plank: Though primarily touted for its core-strengthening benefits, the plank also strengthens the low back, glutes, shoulders and arms. Additionally, the plank is good for posture and balance, especially when the side versions are incorporated. Add plank jacks and side planks for variety and challenge.
Office Variation: Seated crunches target the abdominal muscles. Sit on the edge of a chair and lean back so that the shoulder blades touch the top of the chair. Crunch up by lifting both knees toward the chest while bringing the shoulders and head down toward the knees.
Hip Bridge: Lie down on the floor, face up with the knees bent and pointed toward the ceiling. Squeeze the glutes and raise the hips to create a straight line between the shoulders and the knees. This exercise primarily targets the glutes, but the hamstrings, low back and abdominal muscles are all involved in this strengthening and stability exercise. Variations include holding and pulsing at the top of the exercise or raising one leg off the floor for a single-leg version.
Office Variation: While seated, maintain good posture and engage the abdominals. Squeeze the glutes together as tightly as possible and hold for a count of 10 before releasing and repeating.
Tip-toe Calf Extension: Suitable for nearly every location, simply engage the core muscles and raise up onto the balls of your feet to strengthen the calf muscles and improve balance. Hold for a count of 10 before lowering and repeating. Closing the eyes adds a balance challenge. There is no office variation needed for this little exercise gem! It is appropriate for the gym, the living room, the office—and even while waiting in line for coffee, the ATM, and the bus (basically anywhere you can stand).
~ Republished from American Council on Exercise, April 2018 ~
Posted Date: March 2018
Posted Date: February 12, 2018
Celebrating Our Bodies as a Storehouse of Wisdom
We often travel great distances to marvel at the awe-inspiring wonders of this planet when, all along, perhaps our greatest marvel is right here: Our bodies.
We are frequently so preoccupied by the multitudes of people and events clamoring for our energy and attention that we don’t make time to listen to the wisdom of our bodies. In fact, we may be so disconnected that all we hear are its pain signals.
In an effort to escape our bodies’ physical and emotional pain, we numb ourselves with substances and activities. We are bombarded by words and images - spewing forth from the internet, TV, magazines, and even family and friends - convincing us that if we aren’t feeling happy, something must be wrong with us.
Pain is a normal part of living, but it is uncomfortable, and we have been programmed to avoid it at all costs. So, these seductive invitations to feel better often work. That these strategies are only a temporary fix and blunt not only our pain but also our joy seems lost to us.
To complicate matters, pain is inevitable and not easily quieted. And when we refuse to listen, we feel compelled to continually fill ourselves with more of something. That something is often toxic and addictive. Soon, we feel overwhelmed and completely out of control.
Our emotions are biological signals, and when we don’t listen we don’t hear all the wisdom our bodies have to share.
But no matter how unconscious our behaviors have become, it’s never too late to make a different choice. A choice that says we want to know what our bodies are trying to share; a choice that shows we are curious.
To identify what our bodies are attempting to tell us, we need to give ourselves the gift of quiet time. If we’ve been stuffing our pain for years, it may not happen overnight. But it will happen if we are patient and continue to give ourselves the time and attention.
Our bodies are storehouses of wisdom, complete with a brilliant feedback loop from body to brain and back again. Whether we listen or not, they are constantly informing us - through physical sensations, mental images, and emotions - what’s working and what isn’t.
For example, if we experience a feeling of well-being, energy is flowing easily, and the body-mind is working as it was intended. If we feel pain, anywhere in our system, there is an energetic block somewhere. The pain exists to help us notice and resolve the block and return to our natural flow state.
This month we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Instead of stuffing ourselves with comfort substances and activities - or waiting for someone else to shower us with the love, attention and gifts we crave - why not give these gifts to ourselves?
Your Valentine’s Day Invitation: Find something special to do to give your body, mind, emotions and spirit the self-care you long for and deserve: Plan a beautiful evening complete with candlelight, mood music, and some healthy, delicious foods. Treat yourself to a massage or mani-pedi. Take an Epsom Salts bath. Enjoy a nature walk. Dance. Connect with someone you care about - Your Self – and take the time to listen to the messages of your body and emotions by journaling.
"Your body is your best guide. It constantly tells you, in the form of pain or sensations, what’s working for you and what’s not.” --Hina Hashmi, Your Life A Practical Guide to Happiness Peace and Fulfilment
Posted Date: January 20, 2018
What Are You Actually Committed To? – It May Not be What You Think!
Are you one of the 80% of Resolution makers who said you were 100% committed to finally getting fit and healthy this year, but who have already given up on the behaviors you resolved to in order to successfully achieve your goal? I sincerely believe you want to get fit and healthy. So, what happened?
Before you jump headfirst into the blame game and start passing judgment on everything from apples to zebras, including some nasty thoughts about your lack of self-control, close your eyes; take a deep breath; and think about this: The blame game never solved anything. But an objective assessment and some awareness might.
Losing weight, eating healthy, and increasing our fitness activities are not easy for most people. It takes effort and determination and a willingness to give up short-term gratification for long-term satisfaction. It also requires awareness and a shift in mindset.
But before you jump on the treadmill and start eating a strict vegan diet, let’s explore what you’ve actually committed to. You said you were determined to exercise daily and eat nutritious foods. But, is that what you’re really committed to?
According to Gay Hendricks, PhD and author of “A Year of Living Consciously,” it’s simple to know what we’re committed to: Look at your behaviors and your results.
Hendricks says, “It’s what we do that reflects our commitment, not what we say we want to do.” If our behaviors (lack of exercise and healthy food planning) and our results (our scale and too tight-fitting clothes) tell a different story than what we say we want, that’s the story we need to believe because that’s what our actual commitments are.
Apparently, we can’t always believe the stories our minds tell. So, if you’re not getting the results you want, you need to investigate what’s going on behind the curtain (in your unconscious mind). It’s likely that your inner, unconscious, self-sabotaging ‘No!’ to what you say you want is louder and stronger than your outer, conscious ‘Yes!’
Select a specific issue: To help us overcome this, Hendricks suggests selecting a specific issue that’s been bothersome. Let’s stick with our previous example of losing weight and getting fit because that tops Resolution lists year after year.
You say you want to lose the weight, but month after month and year after year, you don’t. Or maybe you yo-yo: gaining, losing and gaining again.
Claim your unconscious intention: Hendricks invites us to claim our unconscious intention to create the result our behaviors reflect. Instead of sticking with the mentality that we are victims of one thing or another, we would say: “I am committed to eating whatever I want whenever I want.” Or “I’m committed to watching TV and surfing the Net rather than going for a walk.” Or “I’m committed to putting my family’s needs before mine.”**
Hendricks asserts that initially our minds might want to argue with this, saying things like: “It’s not that I’m committed to eating whatever I want, I just can’t help myself;” “It’s not that I’m committed to watching and surfing, I’m just too tired to exercise;“ “It’s not that I don’t want to exercise, but I am responsible for taking care of my family because they depend on me for their well-being.”**
"Don't fall for this," Hendricks cautions. Instead, he says let yourself own your new intention. If you allow yourself to deeply acknowledge this previously unconscious intention, you might notice there is an accompanying feeling of exhilaration when you finally and fully claim it. In the privacy of your own space, shout it to the roof tops: “Ok. You’re right. I am committed to eating whatever I want whenever I want it, and I’d rather sit here and watch tv than go for a walk.” And “Yes, I am committed to putting my family’s needs before mine.”** Try your version of this. When you uncover your true underlying intention, it really is liberating!
We’re not the victims of our unconscious intentions: We are in charge of our thoughts and our behaviors and therefore our results. We just aren’t always aware of what’s happening below the surface of our unconscious minds. But once we make the effort to bring this to light, we get to choose what we put there and what stays there. We may be telling ourselves all kinds of stories that have varying amounts or no truth to them. For example, yes, it’s important to support your family and friends if you want healthy relationships. But when that consistently takes precedence over your own health and happiness, you will eventually run head first into some potentially troubling issues.
Become aware of your unconscious commitments and challenge them: Whatever your intention, if you’re not getting the results you want, start becoming aware of what’s hidden in your unconscious. An excellent way of sleuthing this is a daily review (aka journaling). Try it for even five minutes in the morning before you get out of bed and again in the evening before you turn out the lights. Once you’ve uncovered a hidden intention that conflicts with what you say you consciously want, explore it more deeply and then challenge it.
If your desire is strong enough and you don’t give up, you can reprogram your unconscious intentions to agree with your conscious ones and manifest the results you say you want. If you need support, contact me. I’d be delighted to partner with you in this most valuable endeavor!
**If you’re the sole caretaker of dependent children or adults, there is truth to this, but don’t forget your health is a priority too. Who will care for your loved ones if your health falters? Sometimes, it doesn’t take huge changes. It might be a matter of time management, getting support, and/or re-prioritizing to include your health needs in the equation. Look for a healthy balance of your time and energies with their needs and desires. And remember, activity is energizing, especially when it’s something you enjoy!**
Posted Date: December 10, 2017
A Slightly Different Approach to New Year’s Resolutions
During the past couple of years, I’ve written about New Year’s Resolutions and the numerous strategies for creating compelling visions and developing achievable goals. This year I decided to take a slightly different approach.
Statistics show that about 50% of us make Resolutions each year, including weight loss, exercise, negative habit cessation, financial improvement, and more family/friend time. We start out in January energetic and full of hope, but by mid-February the majority of us have already started backsliding or given up completely. And by year’s end, it’s estimated that only a mere 8-10% of us have succeeded.
With odds like these, it’s no wonder half of us are no longer choosing to make Resolutions. But research shows that good strategies lead to greater success, so maybe we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.
Strategies that contribute to greater success include:
Even the best strategies, however, will not help if we are trying to power our way through a behavior we have no desire to do. A theory called ‘will power depletion’ has emerged to explain that, for a variety of reasons, will power is a limited resource. According to the various researchers who have studied this phenomenon over the past decade, it works something like this: When life starts to feel overwhelming - and it eventually will for most of us - stress quickly depletes our will power. When this happens, our ‘to do’ listed behaviors – which we didn’t want to do anyway - are the first to fall by the wayside. And we subsequently become another Resolution statistic. No wonder lack of will power is cited as he number one reason people don’t follow through with their resolutions.
So, how do we deal with this? One option is to choose a behavior you enjoy. For example, let’s say your goal is to lose weight. If you hate gyms, engage in other activities that you do enjoy (dancing, walking, biking, swimming, yoga, buddy or community-supported activities). If you’re a ‘foodie,’ look for recipes with healthy, nutritious ingredients that also taste good. (If you have difficulty with this, and you might, you may want to ponder whether your brain might be sugar-addicted).
There are lots of options for tasty, nutritious eating as well as enjoyable activities. And while it may take you a little time to adjust, if your commitment to your goal is strong enough, and your behaviors enjoyable enough, you’ll be willing to invest that time.
Depletion researchers also suggest that we review our underlying attitudes and beliefs. If, for example, you think exercise is boring, hard, sweaty, and no fun, you’ll be less inclined to do it. If you believe eating healthy is a four-letter word and you’ll have to deprive yourself of the only pleasure you have in life, you’ll likely be a Resolution statistic before Valentine’s Day. (Personal experience speaking here).
But if you’re sincerely committed to success this year, schedule time to discover your underlying beliefs and then replace them with a curious, open attitude. Pay attention to your body’s cues and start thinking biologically: Our bodies are designed to move; they need high-octane, healthy fuel in order to function optimally; and sweating helps us regulate our temperature and release toxins.
Start thinking positively: “My body enjoys moving;” “It wants to be healthy and chooses nutritious foods to energize me;” “Sweating is my body’s way of staying healthy;” “I’m stronger than the stories my brain is telling me;” and “I listen to my body and give it what it needs to feel happy, healthy and energized!”
After your review, ask yourself: “How does the thought of doing this behavior make me feel?” “Am I energized and excited at the idea of both the process and the achievement of it?” If your answer to the second question is yes, then power on. If you still feel a sense of dread at all the hard work you’ll have to do, you need to go back to the drawing board and dive deeper into your attitudes and beliefs. (This may seem like a lot of effort, but it will be worth it!).
What if, during your discovery process, you find that you don’t believe you can accomplish your goal? Then, dive even deeper. Whether you think you can or think you can’t; either way you are right! If you keep trying and ‘failing,’ there is a deep-rooted, self-limiting, and most likely unconscious belief that is sabotaging you. If you continue digging, you’ll expand your awareness in ways that will greatly increase your odds for success. Start looking and don’t give up until you’ve found it! If you need help, get it.
Once you’ve changed your mindset and settled on an intention and the supporting behaviors that you feel positively motivated by, put it in writing, schedule it, and treat it like you would any other important event. Show up consistently and, eventually, if you don’t give up, you will be successful!
Posted Date: August 12, 2017
Do Our Beliefs Influence Our Health and Well-Being?
When it comes to health and well-being, most of us are taught to think primarily about our physical bodies. We’re told to “Eat ‘right’, exercise, and reduce stress.” And there’s substantial research supporting this. Unfortunately, we aren’t told how to do all this and juggle our busy everyday lives. So, we often end up overwhelmed and self-medicating, or doctor-hopping – both of which typically treat our symptoms while ignoring our deeper issues.
Let’s explore this for a moment. Symptomology has its roots in the 16th century with Descartes’ Dualism argument that mind and body are separate entities and don’t influence one another. Consciousness was virtually written out of the equation by most experts as impossible to measure and thus too nebulous to even consider. This essentially reduced us to machine parts without any conscious ability to override our instinctive responses to stimuli. Fortunately, this paradigm is now shifting, and we’re beginning to look at health more holistically.
Contemporary science views the mind and body as an integrated system. Research shows that what happens in our minds directly impacts our bodies and vice versa. It doesn’t deny that external factors can affect health, but recognizes that internal issues are equally important.
For example, there is now compelling evidence that our beliefs and expectations - what we think and feel - may actually have more of an impact on our well-being than many of our modern-day potions, pills and procedures.
Case in point: You’ve probably heard of the Placebo Effect. It’s now accepted in mainstream science that positive expectations often produce health benefits. Also well-established is the Nocebo Effect, wherein our health is adversely affected by negative expectations.
There is a wealth of convincing research on emotions, including that from the Harvard School of Public Health, showing that negative emotions increase systemic inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, contributes to a variety of chronic conditions such obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis - all of which have a huge impact on our health. And our economy.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is significant research from prestigious labs, including UNC and Duke, that positive emotions – optimism, enthusiasm, hopefulness, and the sense of engagement, meaning and connection – all reduce the risk of disease and increase our quality of life.
It may then seem that the key to well-being is to think happy thoughts and feel only our positive emotions, but neuroscientists caution this is not true, and can actually be dangerous. All our emotions, they assert, are important, even the uncomfortable ones, including grief and anger, because they play an essential role in learning and memory.
The literature is filled with examples showing that beliefs and expectations often become self-fulfilling prophesies, especially when they are fueled by intense emotions. Perhaps you know of one or two examples in your own life.
Taken together, these studies clearly show that our thoughts, feelings, expectations and beliefs affect our health and well-being. But to what extent?
Are you ready to take a quantum leap into a world of magic and mystery? Then fasten your seat belts and hold onto your hats as we enter a domain where solid matter doesn’t stay solid and fluid waves can change into solid particles in the twinkling of an observer’s eye.
Poof! It’s now 1998. We’re in a lab in Israel. What has now become known as the Observer Effect is born, revolutionizing the absolutes of classical physics by showing that atoms can behave like waves and particles and that our observations determine which they will become.
Jump to 2005. Bruce Lipton, renowned Cell Biologist, writes the book The Biology of Belief, in which he shows how Epigenetics is transforming the link between mind and matter and describes how all the cells in our bodies are affected by our thoughts.
Now, we leap to 2002 - because we can! - and a conversation with eminent Princeton physicist John Wheeler. Wheeler, a colleague of Einstein and Bohr, states that the boundary between an objective "world out there" and our own “subjective consciousness” - that seemed so clearly defined by classical physics - breaks down at the quantum level of atoms.
To Wheeler, we are not simply observers on a cosmic stage; we are co-creators living in a what he terms a “participatory universe.”
Moving on to 2006: Seth Lloyd, pioneer in the field of digital physics and designer of the first feasible quantum computer, states unequivocally that the Universe is a giant quantum computer and “As (it’s) computation proceeds, reality unfolds.”
Another surge and we’re up to 2008: Greg Braden, computer systems designer in aerospace and defense, likens our brains to computers and our beliefs to the instructions of the computer’s program. For him, and other cutting-edge leaders, we are the programmers of our experiences and therefore our lives. Believe it or not?
Returning to 2017 and we’re back to reality, sort of. But we’ve brought back some intriguing new data with us: We now know that a stimulus doesn’t have to mindlessly produce a habitual response. We have a large pre-frontal cortex, which is the seat of our conscious behaviors, and when we pause and allow it to work, we now have a choice how to respond to stimuli. This is what distinguishes us from machines. We still need to exercise, eat well and reduce stress, but the key to our overall health and well-being, may be to finally acknowledge this internal interplay and learn to express our thoughts and feelings in safe and healthy ways, rather than suppressing and projecting them onto the external world and then acting out with destructive behaviors.
And while this hasn’t yet reached prime time, ancient seers, indigenous cultures, and leading- edge scientists from the diverse fields of quantum physics, neuroscience, epigenetics, computer science and artificial intelligence, say we are, in all likelihood, living in an interactive universe. And our beliefs, like computer programs, are creating our experiences.
What do you think? Might this be the key to achieving well-being and all the things we most value and want to accomplish in life?
“WHATEVER YOU THINK, YOU’RE RIGHT.” HENRY FORD
Posted Date: June 2017
Break Free of Chronic Back Pain—Natural Ways to Feel Much Better
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 25 percent of Americans, or 76.2 million, are suffering from pain that lasts more than 24 hours at this very moment: Ouch!
Lower back pain alone keeps Americans from going to work a total of 149 million days each year, costing the US economy $100 to $200 billion, reports the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Other common types of chronic pain affect musculoskeletal tissues, knees, hips or the neck. Migraines and severe headaches plague 16.6 percent of adults over 18, per a National Health and Nutrition Survey. Neurological discomfort can reach as high as 12.4 percent, estimates a study from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota. Even visceral or organ pain associated with heart disease, cancer and pelvic diseases occur in at least 20 percent of the global population, according to the International Association for the Study of Pain, in Seattle.
If chronic pain is affecting you, you feel it and want relief—right now.
To read the entire article on breaking free of chronic pain, go to page 38 of the June 2017 Issue of Natural Awakenings.
Posted Date: March 2017
Change Your World from the Inside Out (Reprinted article from themindfulnesssummit.com) —The Head-Heart-Gut Check In
Did you know you have one hundred million neurons (also called nerve cells or brain cells) in your intestines? The gut is now being referred to by many scientists as the gut-brain. Your heart, in addition to its other functions, also acts as a heart-brain. It’s made up of about 40,000 neurons, all of which can sense, feel, learn and remember.
Yep, that’s right. We have three brains communicating together at any one point in time—The more official names are- the cephalic brain (head), the cardiac brain (heart), and the enteric brain (gut). Each organ has complex neuro-networks and is able to store and process information, and each has the capacity for neuroplasticity.
Many ancient wisdom teachings have put great emphasis on checking into one’s own innate intelligence, speaking about following the wisdom of the heart and gut feelings. In recent years technology and neuroscience have finally advanced enough to prove these wisdom teachings to be correct so we now know for sure... our bodies have not one, but three brains. Each of which has different ways of ‘knowing’.
You can use the intelligence, wisdom and intuition of your three brains to make better decisions and stay more in touch with what really matters with this simple 5 step 'Head-Heart-Gut' Check In and meditation.
Posted Date: January 2017
Self-Care—What are you waiting for?
I’ve frequently heard clients and friends say they are too busy to exercise or prepare healthy meals. They say that massage is too expensive and they’re too tired to have fun! They don’t stop to give themselves what they need: healthy movement, nutrition, support, rest, and relaxation (play).
We are often driven (by the choices we make) to produce, perform and/or ‘succeed’ at much higher than optimal levels. We all need to pause and remember: We are humans, not machines!
Stress, we are told, is a key issue in chronic illness. Stress results when we’re so busy, we don’t take time for self-care. This leads to exhaustion, overwhelm, and burn out. Sometimes, we get sick just so we can take a break! But that doesn’t need to happen if we will just pause and consider the pros and cons of our current mindset.
I was recently talking about this to a client who shared that she felt selfish when she took time for herself. Many of us have been taught to put others’ needs above our own. But when we suppress our needs, we can feel angry and resentful. And from this state, we might find ourselves acting out by either passively-aggressively lashing out at others or by doing the same to ourselves. We might, for instance, find ourselves overeating to stuff down the resentments, sorrows, or angers we don’t allow ourselves to feel, leading us further down the proverbial rabbit hole.
This is NOT an effective strategy. So, instead of stuffing in or acting out, try one or more of the following:
And above all, don’t wait until you have time. Or energy. Or money. That day may never come. Instead, choose one, or more of the above options (or create one of your own) and do it tonight!
Posted Date: December 26, 2016
A Message From Michelle May, MD, founder of Am I Hungry?®
The last week in December is the time when many of us begin looking forward to the fresh start of a new year. We might set goals to clear out clutter, clean up our act, or create a life we love - but as we are often reminded, most resolutions will be just a distant memory by February.
So why are most resolutions doomed to fail? As you'll learn in this short video, it's because most people make a critical mistake...
Learning about TFAR literally changed my life! Once I finally understood that following a diet was merely an action that didn't address the underlying thoughts and beliefs that drove my habits, I stopped making resolutions that were doomed to fail.
For more information about the 'Am I Hungry®' program, please click on the Mindful Eating page.
Posted Date: November 20, 2016
Let There Be Peace with Food—By Michelle May, M.D.
A combative approach is counterproductive and gives food even more power over you—the opposite of what you want: Peace.
You’ve probably heard the sayings “What you resist, persists,” “Where your attention goes, energy flows,” and “Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.” When you’re focused on avoiding, fighting, or resisting your urges to eat, you are still directing your attention and energy toward food. Could that be why food is frequently on your mind and why the foods you “shouldn’t” eat seem to show up everywhere?
Let go of the struggle!
What you may not realize is that the phrase “Let there be peace” means that peace is already here and all we need to do is let it be! And that’s true of food too: You were born with the instinctive ability to manage your eating effortlessly, without all the struggle. Admittedly, you may have forgotten those skills, but trust me, they can be relearned. In fact, that is the mission of Am I Hungry? – to change the way the world thinks about eating.
And there’s an enormous bonus: When you relearn how to cultivate peace with food, you also learn how to cultivate peace in other aspects of your life and create space to focus on what you really want!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS FROM ALL OF US AT AM I HUNGRY®!
Posted Date: July 12, 2016
Celebrating Our Independence from Self-destructive and Unhealthy Habitual Behaviors.
Life in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson
Does any of this sound familiar? Most of us have walked down the first three chapter streets a number of times and many of us feel helpless to change. Thus, we never make it to the final chapters, or we do for a while and then, before we know it, we’re back in Chapter 1. That is the nature of habits.
A habit is an automatic behavior; something we’ve repeated so often that it now happens without conscious thought. Some habits are life-giving, such as going for a walk or quick jog before you remember all the reasons you don’t want to. Others, not so much: like instinctively reaching for that bag of chips or carton of ice cream the moment you feel angry, sad, bored, lonely or just want to celebrate that the sun came up again this morning.
As most of us can attest, it can be quite challenging to break an old habit or establish a new one. Science tells us that the behaviors we continuously repeat become hard-wired into the neural pathways of our brains. But don’t think that bit of biology lets you off the hook because, while it may often be challenging, it is not impossible to replace unhealthy habits with healthier ones. It just takes practice: and that means doing it over and over until it becomes your new ‘go to’ response.
But before that can happen, there must be a moment of awareness when you open your eyes, as in Chapter 3, and realize that you are not the victim of your habits. Now, you have choice. Now, you can begin to make the change you want to see. Don’t convince yourself that change isn’t possible. The difference between success and failure is not that successful people never fail; it’s that they never give up. You aren’t the victim of your unhealthy habits. You can change. You can create new, healthier habits. You just have to keep trying. Each time you succeed in making the choice to do something other than unconsciously reaching for something to eat, you are re-wiring your brain, and, eventually, this will become your new habit.
The next time you want to eat that whole bag of whatever is calling your name, make the choice to walk down a different street!
Posted Date: June 2016
A Compassionate Response to Emotional Eating
Edited version of an article written by Michelle May, M.D., Creator of the award-winning Am I Hungry® program, www.amihungry.com
If you eat for emotional reasons—when you’re sad, mad, glad, stressed, or lonely—you probably eat in order to feel better. And eating works! Temporarily.
Unfortunately, you usually feel worse afterward—emotionally and physically. That may cause you to beat yourself up—quite literally adding insult to injury. The guilt and shame become yet another trigger for emotional eating, feeding the eat-repent-repeat cycle.
What if the first step to breaking this cycle is self-compassion instead of self-criticism? How might that help? And more important, where do you start?
How does self-compassion help with emotional eating? As difficult as it may be to fathom, being understanding and forgiving of yourself for overeating will help you take the next step to finding other ways to meet your emotional needs. After all, you don’t eat for emotional reasons because you are “weak-willed,” “stupid,” or “out of control.” You do it because it works!
Blaming, shaming, criticizing, and finding fault for attempting to care for yourself only backfires. Imagine you were teaching a young child something new… would blaming, shaming, criticizing, and finding fault help or hurt? The way you speak to yourself has just as much power! (You may be afraid that if you are “nice” to yourself, you won’t change, but the opposite is true! You care for yourself because you accept yourself, not so you’ll accept yourself).
So how can you begin to respond with self-compassion when you overeat?
Three Ways to Nurture Self-Compassion
Gently acknowledge that you were doing the best you could in that moment. Validate your thoughts, feelings, and actions as being normal and understandable given the circumstances. As Dr. Kari Anderson, co-author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, says, “Of course!” It’s like saying, “I totally get why you thought, felt, or did that!”
Of course you ate! Who wouldn’t want to feel better when you’re sad, mad, stressed, or lonely—or magnify the pleasure when you’re glad? This validation and unconditional acceptance creates a safe environment for experimenting with new thoughts, feelings, and actions.
When you overeat, validate the choice as being rational at the time: “Of course you ____________!” This gentle, understanding self-talk will open the door to exploring how you might do it differently next time if you don’t like how it turned out.
Bring nonjudgmental awareness to the situation. Mindful eating is all about bringing nonjudgmental awareness to your choices and experiences with eating. Nonjudgment is essential because it provides a more objective understanding of what happened and why.
AIH Facilitator, Camerin Ross, PhD, suggests writing about an overeating or binge eating episode and identifying the “voices” that show up. Nonjudgmentally recognizing how these voices drive the cycle affords you the opportunity to cultivate your Self-Care Voice.
Cultivate Your Self-Care Voice. Your Self-Care Voice wants the best for you. It is unconditionally compassionate, affirming, and accepting. Your Self-Care voice is the voice of kindness and wisdom. It is like a loving parent who guides you to learn from your mistakes, face your challenges, and loves you unconditionally, faults and all.
Posted Date: May 21, 2016
It's About TIME!
Think you don’t have time to exercise? Think again!
“I don’t have time!” is our favorite, go-to excuse when we don’t want to exercise. We’ve used it so often, it’s like a beloved, well-worn book. We don’t even have to think before we say it; it rolls easily off our tongue. And with all that’s going on in our lives, who’s to question us?
Well, sorry, that would be me. And I’m about to blow holes in that approach.
“I don’t have time” is a great excuse and sometimes even a valid reason for not exercising. But it isn’t true all the time. Could you find the time if it were a hair, nail or massage appointment; a TV show, video game, or fun time with friends? Most likely. And if not, you might want to reconsider. We all need time for pampering, connecting and relaxing. It’s part of a balanced well-being program. And, as we discussed last month, it’s very difficult to run a life if you’re not in good health (See Archives).
So what’s really happening? Perhaps it’s because we tend to find time for things we enjoy and not so much for things we don’t - unless we have to. But in a balanced program, we make time for things we want and need. To function optimally the human body needs to engage in regular physical activity, so how do we make exercise something we enjoy?
We could start by asking ourselves a few questions, such as:
You get the picture. Exercise doesn’t have to be a despised or boring imposition, and it doesn’t have to leave you sweaty and exhausted. There are numerous options that come to mind when you change your mindset. Let your No!” become “Yes,” and discover these new possibilities. Once you create a movement habit and start to feel better, you may find that you genuinely look forward to this time with your body!
Posted Date: April 11, 2016
It’s officially Spring! Don’t you love the way you feel after you’ve opened your windows, cleaned out your closets, purged what you no longer need, and organized the rest? Everything seems new. You have more energy. You feel lighter, happier...
Spring cleaning is not just for homes. It’s is also a great time to clean up your unhealthy behaviors, boring diet and exercise routines, self-limiting thoughts, negative attitudes, and self-sabotaging beliefs. In fact, like pollen, any habit that no longer serves you is fair game during the spring cleaning season.
It’s a perfect time to open your inner closets and start assessing. What stays and what needs to go? If you feel stuck and are procrastinating about what to keep and what to toss, it may be because you’re not clear what you really want.
To determine where to start, ask yourself what you most value. What are the main themes that drive your behaviors? Health? Career? Relationships? Spiritual Life? Creative Pursuits? Hobbies, Special Interests, Leisure Activities? Prioritize these in order of importance.
Choose the one that matters most in this moment and concentrate your efforts there first. Next, determine which aspects of this particular area are positively driving your life and which are draining your energies. Get specific by asking:
What’s working for me here? What energies me? What do I want more of?
What‘s not working? What depletes me? What do I want less of?
If you’ve tried the above suggestions and are still feeling frustrated in some area of your life, it may be because you haven’t gotten specific enough with what you want or because you’re afraid to let it go and move forward. Question if the habit is still serving you. If not, it’s time to pitch it and bring in something new. If you’re feeling fear, try being curious about it. Curiosity moves us forward; fear keeps us stuck.
If you’re willing to do the work and trade your unhealthy habits for healthier ones, you’ll no longer be running on empty and will open a space to create what you truly want.
Posted Date: March 10, 2016
It’s time to check in and honestly assess where you are. Are you on target with your Vision and Goals or do you need a jump start? (See Vision and SMART Goals posts in archives).
If you’re still motivated and accomplishing your goals: CONGRATULATIONS! Celebrate your successes! Then, revisit your Vision, develop new Goals (if you need to), and Keep on it!
If you are still struggling, take heart, you’re not alone. In our fast-paced, commitment-filled world, it’s often challenging to keep up. Let’s talk about some things that might help.
Click HERE to continue.
Posted Date: February 14, 2016
Reaching Your Vision – Part 2: Designing a SMART Goals Program.
Goals are supportive behaviors that help us stay on course to achieve our aspirations. Goal setting involves developing an action plan that will provide the day to day direction for reaching our Vision.
NOTE: If you haven’t yet created a compelling Vision, stop here and read January 2016’s FFT on how to create a personal vision before starting to develop your goals.
Without action, our dreams are often never realized. It’s therefore important to create goals that support our larger vision and help us stay connected and motivated. If you remember that the purpose of these small behavioral steps is to help you reach your Vision ~ and your vision is compelling enough ~ you’re more likely to stay committed to them. And if you make your goals SMART, you’ll be even more likely to succeed.
Click HERE to learn more about designing a SMART GOAL PROGRAM.
Posted Date: January 10, 2016
It’s the Perfect Time to Create a Personal Vision to Energize Your Goals and Empower Your Actions!
It’s January again, and many of us are getting back to our normal routines and feeling ready to make some changes in our lives. For some, this includes New Year’s Resolutions. But research shows that most of us don’t stick with even our best intentions for long. The majority of diets don’t last more than a few months; most people who join a gym are ‘no shows’ by mid-February; and desires to spend more time with family, make new friends, reduce stress, or get out of debt don’t fare much better. If you’re tired of trying to change certain lifestyle behaviors and not succeeding, take heart and keep reading: You may not have had the information you need to support and sustain these changes.
So what is the key to success when it comes to lasting lifestyle changes? Experts say it starts with a powerful vision; one that connects us with what we feel as well as what we think we want in life. Apparently, feeling deeply connected to what we most value is more motivating than just devising a set of behavioral goals that can get lost in the shuffle when life shifts into overdrive.
If you believe you don’t have time to create a vision; or you’ve tried it before and it didn’t work; or perhaps it feels like too much effort, consider this: If you don’t have a vision for your life, it’s highly likely nothing will change.
But if you take time now to (1) Create a vision you feel deeply connected with; (2) Use it to inspire your specific goals; and (3) Stay committed to following through with actionable steps, you can be sure things will change. You may even find yourself living the life you previously dreamed about.
Creating your vision may take an hour, several days or a couple of weeks, but it’s key to making behavioral changes last. And since we’re more likely to achieve our goals when they are rooted in a powerful vision, it’s important to carve out some time to foster this essential first step.
Click HERE to read the entire article.
Posted Date: November 15, 2015
Tis the Season...
Wherever you go this holiday season, my guess is there will be food. And lots of it. All with a variety of tempting sights, sounds and spectacular aromas to entice you to open your mouth, and -all too often, gobble some or all of it down before you even know what just blindsided you. Ah yes, tis the season of temptation.
And in the midst of all those tantalizing delights, we sometimes get so caught up in the whirlwind that we become too exhausted, overwhelmed, or over-extended to see what is going on ‘behind the magic curtain' of this food extravaganza.
But while it's easy to lose sight of what else might be going on, tis the season of much more than yummy foodstuffs. So, let's take a moment to focus on and connect with the magic that's there too—behind the stress and exhaustion, and in addition to the food. Look with the eyes of a child for what's really going on. It's there beneath the food and the gifts and the chaos and confusion. Yes, even beneath all that. Because even beneath that is a human being just trying to get his or her needs met in the best way they know how at the moment. So instead of giving presents this year, let's give the gift of our presence.
Giving the gift of presence means that, in the midst of all those tantalizing delights, we take a moment to connect with the magic of being human. We check in with ourselves (and/or another), to find out what's really needed in the moment. We ask some questions: Do I need to rest? If we're honest, we can all find 5-10 minutes to close our eyes and deeply rest. And studies show this can be as restful as a full night's sleep! Am I thirsty? Drink a glass or two of water and then see if you're still hungry. Do I have actual physical hunger sensations like pangs or growling? If so, eat mindfully and savor the full experience (see Dr. Michelle May's suggestions below or visit www.amihungry.com). Feeling lonely? Call a friend or connect with an animal. Sad, angry, bored? Cry. Hit a pillow. Get up and move. Write about it in your journal. There are numerous strategies that can be used for most any possibility. Just take a moment and check in with your body, mind and feelings to see what you really need.
No matter how overwhelming things are during the holidaze, find five minutes to be fully present. Ask yourself some questions; determine what's really needed in the moment; and then, in the best way you can, give yourself what you really need. As soon as you notice the whining and complaining and the feeling sorry for yourself (that we all do)—and that you are using food as a temporary fix—stop, breathe, and choose one of your healthier strategies to give yourself what you need. Like most of us, you will probably have to do this many times. You are rewiring your brain, and like toning a muscle, it takes repetition. (BTW, this process works very well with others too!)And when you do eat, take a note from Am I Hungry's Dr. Michelle May (continue on next page):
Click HERE to continue reading...
Posted Date: July 28, 2013
Is Your Inner Rebel Sabotaging You?
It's July, over half-way through the New Year, and a good time to check in on those resolutions we made in January. If you didn't make any, why not? Studies show that we are more likely to be successful when we have written goals that are specific, realistic and measurable with attainable timelines. If you did make some, how are they going? This is not an invitation to judge yourself, but the opportunity to mindfully and non-judgmentally assess where you are compared to where you wanted to go 7 months ago. Are your goals still the same? If not, have you objectively assessed why? If you've already reached them; CONGRATULATIONS! Do you have a plan in place to maintain them, or do you want to set some new goals? If you haven't yet accomplished your intentions, are you on your way to doing so by the end of your timeline? If not, have you devised some strategies to help you get there?
If all of this feels a bit overwhelming, have you thought about getting some assistance? We are interdependent creatures, and most of us need help from time to time. I have learned over the years that I do much better with support in place and can downright flounder without it. Hillary Clinton wrote a book entitled "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child." I believe, at certain times, we all respond to the various challenges of life with the energy of an ‘inner' child and/or teen that needs attention. And if it doesn't get it, we can find ourselves continually feeling stuck or even sabotaged. As much as we might like to blame others or life's circumstances, it is not ‘something out there that is doing this to us.'I recently read an article by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, MEd, entitled “Are You A Rebel Without A Cause? The article is about internal conflict and how we often sabotage ourselves while trying to get what we want. Take, for instance, the person who wants to lose weight, tone up and get healthy, but continually finds 'valid' reasons why s/he can't exercise or maintain a healthy, balanced food plan. Or the person who can do all that for a while, but then all of a sudden quits. Or the one who just wants peace in the world but continually beats herself up when s/he doesn't feel perfect - only to down a whole bag of chips right after finishing off a pint of ice cream and half a chocolate cake. Sound like I know what I'm talking about?
If you do too, CLICK HERE and continue reading for some insights and strategies that might help…
Posted Date: April 5, 2013
The following FOOD FOR THOUGHT was written by Dr. Tim Brieske and excerpted from the 3/8/13 Depak Chopra Newsletter/Awaken to Your True Self. For the full text, see Chopra March 2013 newsletter at http://www.chopra.com/ccl/emotional-spring-cleaning/
Emotional Spring Cleaning
As a natural life force, emotions are intended to flow freely through our bodymind, then dissipate once we have fully experienced them and assimilated their valuable message. As we were growing up, however, many of us learned that certain emotions – such as anger, sadness, or even joy – were unacceptable, and we subconsciously began to push them out of our awareness. Over time, we may have accumulated a large load of emotional toxicity that takes a toll on our mental and physical health.
Tune into your feelings: There are two main antidotes to emotional repression: openness and acceptance. If you stay open to all of your feelings and not just the “nice” ones, you won't have to repress anything. It helps immensely to remember that feelings are so named because we feel them in our bodies. Your mind may be an expert at hiding from itself and denying feelings, but the body can't fool itself. It has no access to denial. When your body registers an emotion, there is an accompanying physical sensation.
Every feeling has an important message, and when we let ourselves feel them and flow through us rather than shoving them away, we can begin to experience greater emotional well-being.
Reviewed/Updated: January 25, 2019