authenticity

Unpacking My Social Anxiety

Photo courtesy www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

 

Until recently, I couldn’t think about going to a party or even to the grocery store without breaking into a cold sweat. My heart raced, my mouth would go dry and I got tunnel vision.

 

It didn’t matter whether I was meeting family/friends or a roomful of strangers.

 

I remember using the excuse that I wasn’t feeling well because the thought scared me to death.

 

“All eyes are going to be on what I’m wearing.”

“They’ll think I’m fat.”

“What if I say the wrong thing and they think I’m stupid.”

“I might offend someone and then they’ll yell at me or be mad at me.”

 

These are just a few of the incessant thoughts that caused me to become shy, withdrawn and miserable.

 

Even if I did end up going to a party, I would lie in bed playing back the evening in my head so that I could make sure that I didn’t say or do anything stupid. If I thought that I did, I would replay the scenario, beat myself up and then figure out how not to make that stupid mistake again.

 

It took boatload of energy to get myself psyched up not only to walk in the door but also to make small talk. A glass or two of wine helped but it felt wrong using it as a crutch.

 

I’ve lived with this anxiety since I was a teenager. Fortunately,therapy got me on the road to recovery in my 30’s and coaching picked up where that left off.

 

Once I got a handle on it, I began to unpack my anxiety and discovered its lies:

1. “Everyone is judging me!”

Not true. My anxiety was ALL about MY judgments. I made up stories in my head that “everyone” was judging me, and, while some may have been, it started with me not accepting myself.

2. “If I don’t conform to what everyone wants then no one will like me.”

My anxiety was a by-product of people-pleasing. I became adept at morphing myself into who I THOUGHT the person standing in front of me wanted me to be. The thought of walking into a room full of people was overwhelming simply because I knew I couldn’t be everything to everyone in the room.

3. “I can’t make a mistake because then everyone will see that I’m not perfect and a fraud.”

Hello Perfectionism! It made me nauseous to even think about being wrong. The embarrassment of being wrong or making a mistake was enough to make me want to run and hide, and that’s what I did for the majority of my life. If I wasn’t around people then there isn’t the possibility of screwing up.

What I realize now is that my survival mechanism or ego had me convinced that I needed to be perfect to survive and be worthy of love.

4. “Sally’s got it all together, I’m such a loser next to her but at least I’m not a hot mess like Matilda.”

Welcome to my comparison thoughts. These are just another form of judgment. It seems like they would be ok, at least the ones that make us feel good. I’m better than Matilda so I have that to feel good about.

In the end, all of this comparison creates competition and somebody has to lose. It is a constant up and down of emotions as we judge others as better/worse than us. It is a game we cannot win because the rules keep on changing.

 

What an exhausting way to live!
I don’t like to think of myself as selfish but look at the thoughts: they’re all about me!
My anxiety had nothing to do with anyone but ME. Primarily, the thoughts and judgments in my head.
Rather than focusing and connecting with the people in the room, my focus was on me and how I look.
I realized that I’m not alone. Most people are so focused on how they’re being perceived that they don’t even think about me.
I finally learned that I am not going to die if I’m not perfect. I don’t have to be anyone except who I am and I really like who I am. I know myself to be someone who will own my mistakes and do my best to make it right when I mess up. I now practice honoring myself as well as the people around me.

 

My confidence began to rise as I stopped comparing and beating myself up. I practiced trusting me.

 

Does this resonate with you? What can you do?

~ Notice your thoughts. What are you saying to yourself? Meditation is great for helping to put space between you and your thoughts.
~ Question your thoughts. Is it true that Sophie gave you a dirty look across the room so she must be mad at you? Maybe her eyes were bothering her, maybe she had a stomach ache, you don’t know. Stop making things up and stick with the facts.
~ Give yourself permission to start focusing on you. What do you like? What do you want? Separate yourself from the need to make everyone else happy.
~ Have fun! Release the pressure and be who you are. Let life be joyful and begin to flow.

A great resource is Byron Katie’s The Work. On her website you can view videos of Katie working with people to question the thoughts in their head. She also has worksheets that you can download for free to help you through the process.

 

If you find that you need something more, consider working with a therapist or a trained coach. If you’re not sure which is right for you, contact me and I’d be happy to help you figure out what’s best for you.

 

I wish I had a magic wand so I could quiet all of those negative thoughts, judgments and fears but I don’t. You’ll have to do the work yourself.

 

I promise you, it’s worth it!

 

What’s the Deal with Easily Offended People?

“Humans are nervous, touchy creatures and can be easily offended. Many are deeply insecure. They become focused and energized by taking offense; it makes them feel meaningful and alive.”

                                                                                                                        ~Michael Leunig

 

I believe we should be offended by things like mistreatment of people, animals and the environment to name a few. But lately, I have noticed an increasing number of people who are easily offended.

 

I saw a recent Facebook post where a friend used the term “folks” at an event and their waiter acted offended and asked her not to use that term again. Really?!

 

I bet you have examples of Easily Offended People (EOP) in your life.

 

Why are people easily offended?  Here are my thoughts.

 

First, I think they like drama.

 

I blame TV for some of this, especially reality shows. The “Real” housewives are EOP and definitely NOT real. However, there would be no show if someone wasn’t offended and acting out, after all, drama boosts ratings.

 

EOP have someone or something to take issue with and that means they are upset or angry a lot. My guess is they are the same people who say “I hate drama!” but drama keeps showing up.

 

EOP also like to go on rants to prove how much they’ve been wronged. How many times have you seen those social media posts? DRAMA!

 

I don’t have drama because I choose not to even entertain it.

 

“To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”           ~David A. Bednar

 

Second, I believe being an EOP makes them feel powerful. THEY would never use the word “folks” so they get to feel superior. Although, I think it’s a facade for a feeling of inferiority.

 

Third, when someone is easily offended it immediately stops the conversation. It’s a wall that shuts out any intimate, authentic connection because we’re walking eggshells trying not to offend.

 

I find it’s virtually impossible to cultivate a friendship or intimate relationship with EOP because I’m constantly having to apologize for something I said or did.

 

However, EOP are unwilling to forgive and seem to love holding grudges. At times, we may not even be aware that we’ve offended them. We may be stunned that something trivial, such as using the word “folks,” or an equally benign comment, was offensive to them.

 

If you’re an EOP, you’re probably offended by this post and have stopped reading by now. Or, you are crafting a rant to post on social media or in the comments below.

 

If, by chance, you are interested in changing, I recommend you seek out a professional, either a therapist or a coach. They will help you learn why you keep this pattern of behavior in place and help you shift it.

 

I imagine the weight of carrying around all your offenses must be draining. Think about the time and energy it takes to look for things to be offended by. (You’re probably offended because I ended the sentence with a preposition:).

 

Let go of the Dark Side and join us DOP (Difficult to Offend People)! I promise you that life is glorious!

 

If you’re dealing with EOP, I don’t have much advice. Should you have the courage and bandwidth to call them out on their shiz, then do it.  Just know that there will likely be DRAMA. They will be offended and not talk to you and may even talk shiz behind your back or post something on social media.

 

FYI- If your EOP is a waiter then I recommend you be polite, you don’t want something unfortunate to happen to your food.

 

You need to decide if it’s worth it to keep EOP in your life.  If you’re honest, they probably weren’t a great friend to begin with so no big loss.

“Everyone is so offended all the time. The new police force that we weren’t told about: the moral police. No qualifications, no training, no understanding of actual morality, but they have a degree in the art of being offended.”                                                                                ~Karan Johar

 

Personally, I try to avoid EOP. I find them draining and too much work so I practice what I call, “bless and release.” In other words, I send them a hit of compassion and release them to the Universe. When I encounter them or another EOP, I am polite, keep the conversation light and quick, and quietly wish them well when we depart.

 

If you decide to continue to walk on eggshells around your EOP, you might consider limiting interaction. It’s also not a good idea to be around them when you’re tired or stressed as they will likely trigger you and could end up in drama (do you see a pattern here?).

 

I want to live a happy life so I choose not to be easily offended and these two practices make it possible:

  • Forgive everyone, everywhere, everything
  • Assume best intentions

 

That’s really all I’ve got. If you liked this post, please share and post any other advice or tips you may have on dealing with Easily Offended People, I promise not to be offended.

Begging Your Pardon: 5 Steps to Forgiving

As much as I hate to admit it, I stink at forgiveness.

 

When I was hurt, all I heard was, “You need to forgive and move on.” I was stumped, what exactly is forgiveness?

 

My first stop was the dictionary for the definition of forgiveness; “to grant pardon for or remission of an offense, debt, etc.”

 

The word that intrigued me was “pardon.”

 

I suddenly pictured a judge sitting behind a court bench pounding her gavel or, the president signing a presidential pardon saying, “You have received special dispensation and thus you are hereby pardoned of your offenses!”

 

This hit home the fact that I have the power and a choice to make.

 

I imagined someone with whom I had been holding onto some hurt. I pictured myself signing a decree that, from heretofore this person is officially pardoned.

 

“Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” ~Anonymous

 

I wasn’t condoning what they had done, I simply was saying I will no longer hang on to the negative energy that resulted from their actions. I felt the hurt begin to melt away.

 

I also pictured signing that executive pardon for all the embarrassing, hurtful and stupid things for which I judged myself.

 

If you’re struggling with forgiveness, give these steps a try:

  1.  Make a list of the people with whom you’re currently holding a grudge. Don’t forget to include yourself.
  2.  Go through the list and write down (or state out loud) what they did to hurt you. Dig deep, and don’t forget yourself.
  3.  Before moving to the pardon, ask yourself, “What did I learn from this experience?” Don’t skip this as it can help you see patterns of behavior and/or help to avoid repeats of the situations and people that you are now trying to forgive. Again, don’t forget yourself.
  4.  One at a time, imagine them standing before you. Declare that they are officially pardoned and bang your pretend (or real) gavel. Move on to the next person and, you guessed it, don’t forget yourself.
  5.  This takes practice. You may have to run certain people or situations through the courthouse more than once. However, if there are people and things you just aren’t able to forgive and move past, consider seeking support from a licensed therapist or counselor.

 

By taking a few minutes to forgive, we can free up energy to begin again with a clean slate. What a great way to say good bye to 2018 and welcome 2019!

 

Did this work for you or do you have another way that helps you practice forgiveness? Please let us know in the comments below.

Finding Strength In Our Struggles

chrysalys

 

It can be difficult to watch people struggle, especially someone we love and care about. Our first response is likely to want to fix or save them.

 

However, consider the following:

 

    • In our struggles are lessons. If we rescue others (or wait for rescue), they (we) can miss the lesson that is waiting for them (us). That lesson may keep them (us) from making the same mistake over again.

 

    • When we practice taking responsibility for our lives, we learn that we are strong and resilient as we come out on the other side. We not only rob someone of that feeling of accomplishment when we rush to rescue, we keep them from building their self-confidence.

 

    • We are not the Happiness Police. It is not our job to make sure everyone around us is happy.
      Sometimes we need to be unhappy or angry or frustrated or …insert feeling here…  Sometimes we need to let others be in and work through their stuff.

 

    • Rescuing creates dependence.  Are we afraid if this person becomes independent they won’t need us anymore? Do we get our self-worth from taking care of them? We need to address our motives when creating this dynamic in a relationship.

 

    • Rescuing and trying to fix sends the message that they are not capable of taking care of themselves.

 

What CAN we do?

 

Let them know that they are not alone and the door is open if, and when, they need support. It’s up to them to walk through that door, it’s not our job to carry them through.

 

Allow them to practice asking for what they need rather than trying to figure it out for them. Be empathetic, listen and try not to “fix” their problem.

Coutesy of Fabquote.co

Courtesy of Fabquote.co

 

What if YOU are struggling?

 

 

Ask yourself, “What do I need to process these thoughts and emotions?”  Then practice reaching out to someone who is “holding the door open” and make a request for support.

 

It’s amazing what happens when we are given the space to feel how we feel with no judgement.

 

I’m reminded of the story about a butterfly. (Take a moment to read Paulo Coehlo’s version of the story below)

 

If we want to fly, we must first be willing to struggle out of our cocoon.

 

What’s harder, sometimes, is we must allow others to do the same.

 

The Lesson of the Butterfly
December 10, 2007
By Paulo Coelho

A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.

The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.

The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.

What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.

Sometimes, a little extra effort is precisely what prepares us for the next obstacle to be faced. Anyone who refuses to make that effort, or gets the wrong sort of help, is left unprepared to fight the next battle and never manages to fly off to their destiny.

(Adapted from a story sent in by Sonaira D’Avila)

Ask Linda: What do I do if others won’t change?

Photo compliments of eastbrooklyn.com

Photo compliments of eastbrooklyn.com

Q: I would love to switch to a whole food, plant-based diet but I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get my family on board. How did you handle that?

 

A:  This is a question I get a lot lately.

 

My children are adults and on their own so I only cook for my husband, Mike, and myself.

 

When I told Mike I was thinking about giving up meat and dairy, he was supportive. He also made it clear that he had no intention of following suit.

 

I have a tendency to rebel when something is pushed on me so I knew better that to fight him on this.

 

We made a deal that I would still cook meat for him and not judge or guilt him when he ate cheese or his nightly bowl of ice cream. He agreed to try the food I made for myself.

 

He was also supportive by asking me to share what I was learning in my CHIP classes.

 

We were both shocked to learn that not only is there more cholesterol in chicken than there is in beef  but that our liver produces all we need. We do not need to ingest any additional cholesterol to survive!

 

At that point, Mike was eating at least 2 eggs for breakfast most days.

 

Even though this alarmed me, I said nothing.

 

One day, he said, “Dear, I think I would like to cut down on the number of eggs I’m eating. Could we maybe find something more healthy for me to eat for breakfast? But it has to taste good.”

 

Music to my ears!

 

The first hot cereal we tried was a miss.

Breakfast in the 1000 Islands

Breakfast in the 1000 Islands

Then we tried a hot cornmeal cereal that has dates, lemon zest and pumpkin pie spice (see photo above). That was a winner for both of us!

 

Now, most mornings, he has the cereal topped with berries. And he loves it!

 

He has also started snacking on raisins and peanuts instead of cheese.

 

Most of the food I make for myself, he enjoys. There have even been times when I’ve had to ask him not to eat all of my food.

 

If I was constantly preaching, trying to guilt or push him to change his diet, this probably would have gone a completely different direction.

 

Just like it had to be my choice to change, I have to give him the space to make his own choices.

 

As a coach, it’s not my job to tell my clients what I think they should do. We all need to choose and own our choices.

 

Giving others the space to make their own choices can be challenging. Especially when we think we know what’s right for them.

Courtesy of RunForYourSole.com

Courtesy of RunForYourSole.com

 There are times when we learn best by making our own mistakes. And sometimes the mistakes that others think we are making turn out to be the best decisions ever.

 

And if I judge others for not following what I’m doing, then they will likely do the same to me.

 

It’s not up to us to police the world. It’s up to us to do what we think is right and allow others to do the same.

 

Good luck with your new lifestyle!

Dealing With My Inner Critic

Inner critic

Thanks to all those who have shared with me either through Facebook or in person, what has come up for you as a result of me sharing my weight loss journey.

I’m grateful for the honesty and for the opportunity to know that we are in this together.

 

Here’s my update:

 

-I have been consistent with my exercise, running or walking 2.5 to 4 miles at least every other day.
-I have drastically reduced my consumption of sugar, flour and meat.
-I have increased the number of vegetables and fruit I eat.
-I am down 9 lbs.

 

I even went to NYC for a few days and was able to come home without having gained any weight.

 

I’m glad I’m writing all of this down because the voice in my head has been very active lately and this is how it has been going:

 

Me: “I lost 9 lbs!”
Voice in my head: “You need to cut down even more so you will lose more, faster. Stop eating sweets and snacks all together, you shouldn’t be eating any of that stuff anyway if you’re really serious about losing weight.”
Me: “But I’m ok with how it’s going…”
VIMH: “You’re not doing good enough! Look at those people on Facebook who are posting pictures of all the weight they’ve lost. And you’ve only lost a measly 9 lbs.! You have at least another 15 lbs. to lose! You might as well give up now, you know you don’t have the willpower and besides wouldn’t some peanut M & M’s taste real good right now, but you can’t have them because you need to lose weight…”

 

And on and on and on!

Photo courtesy www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Photo courtesy www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

 

Needless to say these thoughts caused a downward spiral as I let them take control.

 

This felt so familiar.

 

I could feel that sense of wanting to give up, feeling helpless and hopeless, the feeling that I can never be happy eating food that was good for me and that I will never lose AND keep this weight off.

 

The next step of this pattern is letting myself have cake to celebrate a birthday, after all it was just one small piece. Then it’s having ice cream 3 nights in a row just because I wanted it.

 

Suddenly I felt terrible. And I don’t just mean psychologically, I mean physically. I wasn’t sleeping well. I felt bloated.

 

I felt old. I know I’m getting older but I have never felt old.

 

Suddenly I realized I had lost track of why I wanted to lose weight in the first place.

 

After reading Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map a couple of years ago, I started setting my goals with the idea that it is not the goal I’m actually after, it’s the feeling I will have once I reach that goal.

Posted on my office wall, my vision, how I will feel when I achieve this vision and what I can do to feel those feelings NOW!

Posted on my office wall: my vision, how I will feel when I achieve this vision and what I can do to feel those feelings NOW!

 

Since then, I have not only reached my goals but I have actually enjoyed getting there.

 

The reason I want to lose weight is because I want to FEEL better! I want to feel confident and empowered.

 

I noticed that when I eat good healthy foods that is exactly how I feel, confident and empowered both physically and psychologically.

 

When I binge on cookies, candy, chips and cake, I feel better, temporarily. Then comes a wave of regret and the after effects of all those carbs which includes mental fogginess, bloating and the path to diabetes.

 

I’m eating healthy whole foods again. I have more mental clarity and feel happier.

 

I also like going to bed just a little bit hungry. I sleep better and seem to dream more, which I love!

 

A lower number on the scale is just a result. The real reason I want to lose weight is to feel happier, more powerful and confident. And I can achieve that right now just by the food choices I make.

 

How will you feel when you reach your ideal weight? What can you do right now to connect to that feeling?

 

Beginning to breakthrough my fear of self-promotion at the Women Of Focus Trade Show, March, 2016

Beginning to breakthrough my fear of self-promotion at the Women Of Focus Trade Show, March, 2016

Without my precious food to numb me,  I recently came face to face with the

thoughts and beliefs that could keep my business stuck.

Specifically, my thoughts and judgments about marketing, selling and

promoting myself and my business.

I resist promoting myself because I’m afraid I’ll be

perceived as arrogant, manipulative or self-serving.

However, if I don’t promote myself then I will either not be in

business very long or I’ll only reach a small number of people.

“… pay attention when you want

to eat a box of Oreos,

drink a bottle of wine or

whatever your drug of choice is.”

What can I (we) do with these thoughts and beliefs rather

than divert them with food, wine or keeping crazy busy?

I chose to look deeper rather than going for the distraction and found

there was a message for me.

Below are 4 steps you can use when you’re stuck:

1. Notice your negative or limiting thoughts and beliefs.

If it’s hard to recognize your thoughts, check in with how you’re

feeling then back track to find the thought that created it.

Your thoughts create how you feel.

Use your feelings as signposts to point to what’s going on

in your head. And definitely pay attention when you want to eat

a box of Oreos, drink a bottle of wine or whatever your drug of choice is.

My limiting beliefs were:

“I can’t promote myself or my business because people will see

me as arrogant, manipulative or pushy. They’ll get angry and not want

to have anything to do with me.”

“When we carry negative thoughts, fear

and limiting beliefs from childhood,

we aren’t able to be who we truly are.”

2. Once you realize your negative thoughts or limiting beliefs, ask yourself,
“Who is this coming from?” and “What is the message it has for me?”

My beliefs came from this scared little girl inside of me. A little girl who,

when she dared to be who she was, was often met with disdain and the question,

“Who do you think you are?” and with statements like “You’re stupid,” 

“You’re ugly,” or “You’re a girl so you don’t count.”

My inner little girl came away feeling like the world was against her

and had to “be a good girl” and not standout in any way. This was

the part of me that was afraid to shine because it had been

met with pain in the past.

The message she had for me, was that she wanted to be accepted

for who she was and she wanted to come out and play.

3. Ask yourself, “What do I need?”

When we carry negative thoughts, fear and limiting beliefs

from childhood, we aren’t able to be who we truly are.

There was a part of me that wanted to come out and play but

every time it tried, I pushed it down by telling myself not

to get “too big for my britches.” 

I wound up feeling like I betrayed myself.

What I need in these moments, is a shot of reassurance

along with a large dose of self-love and non-judgment.

I need to be more worried about taking care of myself and less worried

about what others think.

Photo credit: H.Armstrong Roberts/Getty Images

Photo credit: H.Armstrong Roberts/Getty Images

4. Give yourself what you need.

It’s not enough to ask yourself what you need. You actually have to

give yourself permission to have it.

That little girl is part of me. It’s the part that wants to have fun and play.

It’s also the part that has been trying to protect me from being hurt

AND the part that has been keeping me stuck.

I need to give this part of me love, acceptance and reassurance

that we can handle anything life throws at us.

Then trust myself, relax and enjoy the ride!

Lather, rinse, repeat! This is a constant process of bumping up against

our fear, negative thoughts and limiting beliefs.

We are never finished.

When I choose not to numb or distract myself with food,

I open myself up

to fun, joy and endless possibilities.

What negative thoughts, fear and limiting beliefs are ready for you to transform?

 

Uncomfortably Numb

My Favorite Novocaine

My Favorite Novocaine

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to a client, “Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just want to be expressed…”

I’ve wasted so much time numbing myself with food because I didn’t want to deal with certain thoughts and emotions.

I use food to help me relax and even celebrate making it through the day. It’s as if it helps me take a deep breath and relax.

Of course, I know better.

When I am in my “I can eat anything I want whenever I want” mode, it isn’t long before I’m numbing my anger, shame, sadness, frustration, boredom, overwhelm etc… and packing on the LB’s.

Then I use even more food to try and feel better. It’s a set up for disaster.

The thing about numbing emotions is that we can’t pick and choose which ones to numb.

When we numb one emotion, we numb them all.

We numb our emotions with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping or today’s most popular numbing activity, being crazy-busy.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown says, “…research taught me that there’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light… We can’t make a list of all of the “bad” emotions and say, “I’m going to numb these” and then make a list of the positive emotions and say, “I’m going to fully engage in these!”

When I numb myself with food, alcohol or busyness, I feel like my world is painted gray.

It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t really enjoy what I’m eating because if everything I eat is special then nothing is special. Do you get what I mean?

As soon I stopped using food to numb my feelings and dull my thoughts, I began to feel and hear everything that I didn’t want to deal with. It was uncomfortable but I survived.

I started by not judging myself. I began meditating again so I could practice separating who I know myself to be from the thoughts in my head.

Choosing to run away from my thoughts and feelings, comes at a cost.

India Arie’s song, Break The Shell, talks about this. She says, “life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt…” because “we have a choice to live or truly be alive…”

In order to truly be alive, I have to break the shell that I put up to keep the pain away.

Lat Saturday night, we went to a dinner party and the food was amazing! I ate everything I wanted, even a bite of the homemade ooey-gooey, chocolatey, butter and sugar-filled Paula Deen brownies that our hostess made.

I took a bite and savored it. Did I want more?

Hell yes! But I knew that another bite was not going to taste as good as that first bite.

I have a ways to go before I reach my goal but I’m learning that overcoming my issue with food and my weight (and any other issue) starts with looking at what’s going on inside of me, not judging it.  Then I can give myself permission to feel it all.

What is your favorite way to numb yourself?  What is it you’re not allowing yourself to feel?

I’m Afraid Of Food!

The delicious cake my niece made for my mother's birthday. I didn't have enough sense to be scared!

The delicious cake my niece made for my mother’s birthday. I didn’t have enough sense to be scared!

When I decided to tackle my weight thing once and for all, I went back and did an “autopsy” to determine why things went sideways in the past.

The last time I got to a weight where I was happy and comfortable, I was following a low carb diet. Not South Beach, Atkins or even paleo but one that included lean meat, fish, poultry and dairy and lots of vegetables, some fruit and grains. I ate carbs like cookies, cake, crackers and bread very rarely.

After about 8 months, I reached my goal weight and kept it off for about a year and a half.

I seem to be good at losing weight but I stink at keeping it off.

Step one in the “autopsy:” Tell the truth.

I used the excuse that I had a bad case of shingles, was basically bedridden for 3 months and the inactivity caused my weight gain.

Not the truth.

My eating habits had started to fall off before I got sick.

I had begun allowing myself a taste of cake here, a spoonful of ice cream there. Then it turned into a cookie here and a candy bar there.

At first the scale didn’t move so I didn’t panic. But then it slowly began to inch up little by little and before long I had put on 6 pounds.

My workouts became intermittent.

I was pushing myself to succeed in my business and volunteering a lot of my time. I was stressed and tired and I began to use food, mainly sweets, to make myself feel better.

I now see that it wasn’t the shingles that caused me to gain weight. It was my lack of self-care that brought on the shingles. And that led to many bags of Doritos trying to take my mind off the pain.

But the main thing I realized was, I got cocky. I thought that I would never go back to being addicted to sugar and carbs.

I even remember saying the words, “I’ll never go back!”

Words that came back to haunt me.

I see now that I lost the fear of the weight coming back. I forgot about the tired, wrung out feeling when I eat too much crap. And didn’t even consider the possibility of not only getting sick but contracting a chronic condition like high blood pressure or a disease like cancer.

I got cocky and the weight came back.

I’ve lived most of my life worrying about what others think and I’ve done a lot of work to break through that. I don’t believe I should live in constant terror and worry about becoming obese.

What I do now believe is that there is nothing wrong with a little healthy fear to keep me on my toes and out of trouble.

This fear includes a healthy respect for things like alcohol and food. It is an awareness that I have to be careful not to let my guard down too much.

I need to set my own limits and be clear where the line is.

I’m back to cutting down on processed carbs and sweets and eating more whole foods. And I’m always paying attention to what makes me feel like I want to eat and drink a bit too much.

That’s working for me right now.

Do you struggle with keeping weight off once you lose it? What have you learned from your past experiences when it comes to losing weight? What do you think about having a “healthy” fear of food?

Breaking The (Food) Rules

Here's one of the few photos of me. Notice me trying to hide behind the kids.

Here’s one of the few photos of me. Notice me trying to hide behind the kids.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to take a hard look at my relationship with food. It was time to figure out how to eat without it turning into an internal emotional battle.

I stopped following my “food rules” and noticed the thoughts that ensued:

“What am I doing???”
“I am going to lose control and end up weighing 300lbs!”
“Everyone is going to see that I’ve gained weight and judge me for it.”
“People will think I’m lazy and a loser.”
“Ok, I can do this for the holidays but as soon as they’re over I’m going on a strict diet.”
“I can NOT permit myself to eat any cookies, meatballs, crab dip (insert any food that is not a raw vegetable here).”

After the holidays were over, it turned into:

“OMG! I gained 10 lbs! I’m fat!”
“I look terrible and I need to lose weight!”
“My family loves me no matter what size I am.  Who am I kidding, they’re probably as disgusted with me as I am!”
“I just want to hide out at home.”
“I can’t buy any new clothes until I lose weight.”

There they were. The thoughts that have come out of my longtime struggle with food, weight and body image. And I know exactly where these thoughts were created.

They came from people in my past who thought they were being cute by calling me pleasingly plump when I was in that awkward stage right before puberty hit. And the words of the boys on the school bus who knew exactly the right buttons to push by calling me fat and ugly.

As with the many attempts before, I knew if I put myself on a diet, eating or fitness plan it was doomed to fail because I was not doing it for the right reason. I would be losing weight because I was afraid of what others thought, not because it was something I wanted.

Then I thought, “What if these thoughts aren’t true?  What if I wasn’t a loser or lazy? What if I’m just me, not what I look like?”

So I asked myself the question, “Who do I know myself to be?” (A question I often ask my clients)

I know myself to be: kind, funny, smart, generous, loving, strong…

Does the size or shape of my body change any of that?

No! Hell NO!

If someone judges me or doesn’t like me for the size or shape of my body, it hurts. But quite honestly, they are not someone I would choose to be friends with anyway.

By replacing negative thoughts of my body with positive ones about the whole me, it not only made it easier to walk into a room full of people, I felt gratitude for the body that has brought me through 54 years and carried and birthed two healthy children.

I would love to say that the angels sang and my eating habits were suddenly transformed.

That didn’t happen. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I inherited my dad’s muscular build and not my mom’s thin beautiful legs. And, I’m likely addicted to carbs.

I have also learned to listen to the shouting in my head rather than pushing it down and hoping it goes away. Now I ask myself, “What am I really looking for these cookies or this bag of peanut M & M’s to do for me?”

I have learned I like the way I feel when I eat healthy, whole foods rather than processed, sugar laden food.

It would be easy but miserable to go back to my automatic routine of forcing myself through a diet, losing weight, keeping it off for a while, rebelling against the diet and then regaining the weight.

Right now, I’m in an unknown space and it’s really uncomfortable. I don’t know what’s around the corner but I do know I am committed to breaking up this pattern of self-abuse.

Are you struggling with the same thing? What are you doing to break through your old patterns? Let me know I’m not alone.

I’ll keep you posted…