If this is your first time going into the new year without any resolutions to diet or attempt to shrink yourself in any way, you might be experiencing something that feels like a sense a loss. There’s a lot of letting go that comes with ditching dieting, whether it’s clothes or relationships with certain harmful people. It’s normal really normal to have mixed feelings. Read this post for a journaling prompt to complete if this is your first new year not setting a weight loss resolution, so you can focus on what quitting dieting is creating space for.Read More
From a young age, we're encouraged to set high expectations and achieve. But this perfectionism can backfire. Learn why you should lower your expectations to achieve your goals.
I can't hardly believe it, but Anne, Alex and I are wrapping up our very first group of Joyful Eating, Nourished Life this week. It was almost exactly a year ago when we first came up with the idea for the program. It's crazy to think back on how hard we worked to put together a comprehensive and helpful program, and now our very first group of joyful eating babies are launching out into the world!
I think one of the most beneficial parts of our program is a private facebook group for members (which you get lifetime access too btw). It gives joyful eaters access to support, not only from us dietitians, but from the other joyful eaters too. If you're having a rough day, stuck in a negative fat talk cycle, or realized eating was starting to get out of control, there's a place to share, get feedback, empathy, and advice.
Last night I was feeling a bit nostalgic after realizing it was the last week, so I spent some time reading back over the comments. It made my heart flutter with happy to re-read the big (and little!) successes. One joyful eater recently cleaned out her closet and got rid of ill fitting clothes that lowered her body image. So many shared aha moments with finally figuring out triggers for overeating or emotionally eating. They shared examples of honoring hunger/fullness cues, dropping the good food/bad food mentality, and giving themselves grace after a setback. One shared the story of slowly savoring a chocolate milkshake and stopping when she was satisfied, about 3/4s of the way through. Yes, that's right. Drinking a chocolate milkshake is a success in our program!
I also got the chance to look back and re-read comments shared when joyful eaters were struggling or feeling like a failure. When I did, there was one common theme I saw driving those feelings...
Setting unachievable expectations.
Expectations of being fully in touch with hunger/fullness cues two weeks in after years or decades of dieting.
Expectations of never emotionally eating.
Expectations of not feeling tempted by celebrity fad diets or weight loss ads.
Expectations of feeling 100% comfortable in their skin.
Do you set high expectations for yourself? I know my readers are smart, accomplished people....so I'm pretty sure the answer is a resounding yes. From a young age, we're encouraged to set the bar high and work hard to achieve those goals, first by our parents, then teachers, and professors and then as adults, our bosses, spouse, children and, well, most of society. Think of every motivational speech, commencement, and TED Talk you've ever heard. Most essentially boil down to set high standards, work hard, and don't accept anything less. Isn't that supposed to be a good thing?
Not always. While high expectations can push you to achieve amazing things, unrealistically high expectations set you up for failure. Or more likely, feeling like a failure. And when you feel like a failure, you give up.
If you're a high performing, intelligent and driven person, lowering your expectations to make them more achievable might feel a bit uncomfortable. Almost like abandoning dreams.
Lowering expectations is not the same thing as giving up. Actually, setting small, achievable expectations and consistently revisiting and revising them is the best way of actually achieving those high expectations in the long run. By lowering your expectations to make them more realistic, it creates room to fully experience the joy that comes with success.
When I think about expectations, I think of a story told to me by my uncle when Scott and I first got engaged. It has nothing to do with intuitive eating, nutrition or food, but I think it's applicable nonetheless :)
When my uncle was working for a newspaper way back in the day, he was tasked with interviewing a couple that was celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. He asked them about their life together, how they met, growing old together. In their answers and interactions it was clear they were celebrating 75 years of love and joy.
Being recently married himself, there was one last question he couldn't help but ask.
"What's the secret to staying happily married for 75 years?"
The husband looked at his wife, smiled, then looked him straight in the eyes with a 100% serious expression and replied, "Low expectations."
😂 😂 😂
I just love this story. Actually, I wanted to share it as part of our wedding vows but I didn't think the rest of our guests would get or appreciate our off-beat humor! It convinced me that going into marriage, I should set my expectations low - to be treated with kindness and respect, and in turn, treat my husband with kindness and respect. I didn't go into marriage expecting to wake up everyday blissfully in love. By setting low expectations, it's allowed me to feel pure and complete joy when I do, and not anxious and fearful when I don't.
It's the same with your journey to becoming an intuitive eater. Don't set unrealistic expectations of perfection. Expect to have days when you aren't in touch with hunger and fullness cues. Expect to have days when you don't feel comfortable in your own skin. Expect to have days when you turn to food to deal with negative emotions. Simply expect to treat your body and yourself with kindness and respect. Commit to that simple goal and it'll give you the space to experience joy and surprise that comes with making peace with food and the self compassion to accept and move on from the bumps along the road.
Are there areas where you can see high expectations are leading to failure? How can you lower, and set more realistic expectations?
Celebrating my first half marathon today, plus sharing lessons I learned from my training and race about why weight goals are the actual worst. I promise, it's related!
This past weekend, I ran my very first half marathon in Atlanta. For those who follow me on instagram, I'm sure you're sick and tired of me talking about it, but please allow me just one more post to toot my horn! You see, this was a really big deal for me, because I am NOT an athlete. Generally speaking, I give up on things that are physically difficult. When I ran cross country in high school, I couldn't make it through a 5K without stopping to walk. So yeah, the fact that I went through three months of training and ran 13.1 miles is kind of a miracle. Or a testament to hard work, but more likely a miracle :)
The race itself was a blast, although I was really anxious for two days before it. It didn't help that I got lost in a black hole of googling awful things that can happen during a half (do yourself a favor and DO NOT google image runners trots). Thank goodness for the guy standing next to me in the pen before the race, who was dancing to himself to pump up, but looked so ridiculous I couldn't help but let go of my fears.
The run through Atlanta was gorgeous, and a fun way to explore the city I grew up in. I loved seeing places I recognized, because in a sense, Atlanta is home, but it's changed so much it's a new city to me! The course gave us views of the skyline and went through some of Atlanta's prettiest historic neighborhoods and parks. If anyone is feeling particularly generous and would like to buy me a fully restored craftsman off Edgewood, I would not hate you for it. Most importantly though, I felt REALLY good. My main goal was to be able to enjoy the race, so I ran at a comfortable pace until mile 10, then really pushed myself hard for the last three. The entire time I felt so strong, and at no point was I miserable (except for the 3 1/2 hours in the car driving back home...ouch!). So I'm calling it a success! I said I was one and done, but now I'm working on convincing Scott we need to sign up for half marathons when we travel because it was such a fun way to see the city!
Anyhoo, on to today's post, which is all about how two experiences I had during my half marathon and training reinforced the fact that weight based goals are kind of the worst.
When I first signed up for a half, my main goal was simple: don't die. If I managed not to die, I just wanted to have fun. I really didn't care if I had to walk or if I was the last person to cross the finish line, I just wanted to finish and have a little fun while at it.
So when I started training, I did so with that in mind. Because I didn't have a time goal, I didn't invest in any fancy training watches to track my pace. I just trained myself to run at a pace that felt good to me. Of course, some runs were easier than others, and there were times I had to stop and walk, but mostly, I felt pretty confident. On my first 10 mile run, I blew it out of the water. I felt great the entire time, and when I glanced at the clock, I realized my pace was somewhere in the 9 minute mile range. I had previously estimated my pace to be somewhere around 11 minutes, so I was pretty pumped!
Suddenly, my goal of 'not dying' and 'just having fun' was gone. Now my goal was to be able to run the whole thing without stopping and secretly, I hoped to finish in less than 2 hours. You can see where this is going.
The next couple weeks were filled with setbacks. The next week when I set out for my second 10 mile run, it was awful. I'm not sure why, but I struggled through the entire thing and ended up walking a huge chunk of it. From there, I missed a bunch of training runs with a full work load, travel, and an icky cold that sidelined me for a few days.
When I set out for my last long run of training, I felt totally defeated and that feeling was showing up in my running - I felt awful. But as I ran, I realized that I wasn't upset because I was now afraid of actually dying or that I would be miserable the whole time, but because I was afraid my new goals may not be achievable (if they ever had been). Yet, my initial goals of just running the race and having fun were still well within bounds. I mean, if I was feeling miserable, I could always just stop a walk. I had no shame in doing that in the beginning, so why couldn't I be content with my initial goals? As I realized this, I got my pep back and began to feel that same sense of strength I had in the beginning.
As I ran, I thought about my experience and how it parallels what happens when I see people get caught up in the scale. Have you ever made changes to your eating habits or lifestyle in hopes of getting healthy, or feeling better, but secretly (or not so secretly!) you have hopes of weight loss? Then when you make those changes, feel great and lose a little weight (which often happens when you eat a little healthier), the adrenaline rush hooks you. Then all of a sudden, you're on a full blown diet. That initial goal of feeling great is gone - now you will be skinny! But pretty soon, when life and/or biology kicks in, the diet won't be easy anymore and those pounds will stop dropping, or may even sneak back up. So, you give up entirely, and go back to your old eating habits, because in your mind, you are a failure. But what happened to that original goal of just feeling awesome? Weren't you succeeding in that before the weight goals came in?
During the race, I got another reminder of how numerical goals can go wrong. Going in, I really didn't know what my pace was, and really didn't care - I would just run at a pace that felt comfortable to me. That was great and all, until I saw the 2:15 pacer running right in front of me. At first I thought "Heck yeah! I'm running at her pace and I still feel pretty good!" But after a few miles of running in her general vicinity, 2:15 became no longer good enough. I wanted to go faster, and more importantly, I felt like I could go faster, but I had a voice inside my head saying "Don't burn yourself out too early." Just as loud was the voice telling me 2:15 wasn't good enough. Agh!! My head was going crazy trying decide what to do based on this one single number that may not have even been accurate instead of doing what I had trained myself to do - to listen to my body.
That's the scale for ya. It's a distraction from the internal cues that really do guide you to the best decisions for your health and wellbeing. It's SO hard to trust your body, but trust me, it knows what's right for you over any external factor, whether it's a scale or diet guru.
In the end, I was able to let go and run how I felt, and I was happy, both with my time and my experience. I know that if you are able to let go of the scale, build body confidence and get back in tune with your needs with intuitive eating, you will be happy with your body, and feel great, which to me sounds so much nicer than dieting and obsessing over the scale.
Do you agree? I have spots open for my 4 and 8 session packages starting next month. Learn more about my diet-free coaching philosophy and services here, and email me to get started or to set up a free 15 minute phone consult for more information!
Have you ever had an experience where the scale distracted from what your body really needed?
Temptation bundling is a type of planned multitasking that can help you achieve consistency with your health and wellness goals and have more fun while doing it! Learn how to use this strategy in today's Wellness Wednesday post.
Yes, multitasking. Probably not the headline you were expecting from this mindfulness enthusiast.
For years I've been trying to figure out how to stop multitasking. In high school, I studied in front of the TV and in college, I studied while on the elliptical. Slight upgrade? When I worked at the hospital, I chatted with coworkers while charting on patients, often leading to some, um, interesting grammar in my notes. Even since starting a mindfulness practice, I still play on social media while talking with my husband, clean the house while chatting on the phone with family, and sometimes even write blog posts with the TV, like, um, maybe this one. Although in my defense, Jurassic Park II is on and we've already established my love of the trilogy. I know this habit affects my connections with the people I love and my ability to GSD (get s*** done).
I never thought about the benefits of multitasking until last week, when I listened to this podcast on Freakonomics. It discussed the concept of "temptation bundling," a term coined by Katherine Milkman, a economics professor at Wharton School. Studying ways to achieve her personal health goals, she came up the practice of tying together two activities, one that you should do but don't have the willpower, and another that you love, but need to limit. For example, her solution for getting to the gym was only allowing herself to listen to audiobooks of the lowbrow fiction she loved while at the gym.
Temptation bundling reduces the amount of time spent on distracting and unproductive activities (umm, facebook) and increases the likelihood of adopting a more positive habit by making it more pleasurable.
After listening to the podcast, I realized that most of my set-in-stone healthy habits are that way because of temptation bundling. For example, I prepare dinner from scratch almost every night. While I enjoy cooking, like everyone, it's tempting to just order pizza after a long day of work. But, because I use my cooking time to watch the mindless TV shows I love (I'm looking at you Vampire Diaries), it keeps cooking from feeling like a chore and turns it into my time to unwind. I've also recently gotten pretty consistent with running, a habit I've unsuccessfully tried to adopt many times before. As much as I love how I feel when I run and after, it's always been a struggle for me to get out the door. This time, I've found by grouping running and listening to podcasts, it gives me that extra oomph to put on my running shoes, especially on Undisclosed Mondays :)
[Tweet "How Multitasking Can Help You Achieve Your Wellness Goals via @RHartleyRD #goalsetting"]
Want to see how temptation bundling can help you reach your health and wellness goals? Try this strategy. Make one list of healthy habits you struggle with adopting or getting consistent with, then make another list of activities you enjoy, but know you need to limit. Draw a line to bundle an activity from group 1 with an activity from group 2. Here's an example:
The difference between regular 'ole run of the mill multitasking and temptation bundling is that the latter is a conscious, planned decision. Although it sounds obvious, be sure you can physically and mentally do both activities at the same time. While you probably have the brainpower to get a manicure while catching up on old work emails, physically, that would be a bit tricky. Likewise, you could physically start a habit of journaling while listening to a podcast, but mentally it would be a bit distracting.
What are some ways you can incorporate temptation bundling in to your life?
By turning failure into a learning experience, it ensures you'll never fail at anything, ever.
In the days since Thanksgiving, I've heard a lot about failure from my clients and friends. Failure when they said they wouldn't get second helpings, but ended up eating thirds. Failure over not eating all the pies. Failure when they stuffed themselves to the point of undoing a pants button. It seems most people woke up Friday morning feeling a little guilty.
I see it a little differently. You see, I don't believe failure is an actual thing. Or, let me rephrase that. It is possible to fail, but there is not one situation in which someone has referred to him or herself as a failure or stated that they have failed and I have agreed.
It's pretty hard to fail. To demonstrate that, let's look at an example. Say you're an adrenaline junkie and decide to walk a tight rope across the Grand Canyon. Halfway through, you lose your focus, make a misstep and plunge to your death. Besides being a horrible tragedy, guess what? You failed. You'll never have a chance to hop back on that tightrope, apply what you learned and make it across. Except for in heaven, where I presume adorable little angels will serve as your spotter, so that doesn't really count. This was your last chance to succeed.
But in just about every other situation I can imagine, you have future opportunities for success. There will be more Thanksgivings. Tomorrow, you can make the decision to go for a run instead of bingeing on Netflix. At some point in life, you'll be presented with a box of donuts again and have the choice to shovel them all in, pass, or take one and savor it.
I hate the word failure. It feels so negative, when really the slips and stumbles we make on a daily basis are actually a positive thing. After all, it's the only way to truly learn. People commonly say "I learned that lesson the hard way," but isn't the hard way the only way?
Perfection isn't the goal. The goal is to take something away from every slip and stumble you make. Granted, that ideal is about as unattainable as perfection, but you'll gain a whole lot more by striving for it.
So, how do you turn the feelings of guilt after a perceived failure into an opportunity for growth? By taking these four, simple steps:
1. TAKE A DEEP BREATH.
It's easy to let a tiny slip spiral into a black hole of shame. When I first became a dietitian, I would feel incredibly guilty after overindulging. That guilt would build into something so much deeper. It became "proof" that I was a horrible sham of a dietitian with a complete lack of willpower. Logically, I knew this wasn't true, but who has ever felt rational when trapped in a cloud of guilt?
When you catch yourself falling into this trap, stop and take a deep breath. Breathe in and out through your nose, counting to 4 each time. Repeat as needed. Breathing deeply will snap you back into the present moment and allow you to see the slip for what it is - quite minor in the grand scheme of things. With a clear mind, you'll be able to reflect and prepare yourself for step 2.
2. REFLECT AND STRATEGIZE.
If you "fail," it's not because you are a failure. Never. There is always a reason for your slips and stumbles, and usually it has to do with with your plan. Spend a few moments reflecting, looking back at what when wrong. Maybe you didn't anticipate a barrier. Or maybe you were tired, wearing down the willpower you normally rely on. Figure out the why.
Since what you were doing didn't work, you need to find another way. Imagine you had access to a time machine, what would do differently? What will you do the next time you're in the situation to prevent the undesirable outcome. Figure out your strategy.
3. Take the first step.
So, you've come up with a great plan, but it does you no good if you forget what it is. Take the first step immediately and it will ensure future success. The first step doesn't have to be anything major. Something as simple as telling someone else your goals to build accountability and support. Or you could set up prompt, like a cell phone alarm or a strategically placed post-it note as a reminder. Any action you take will replace that feeling of failure with a feeling of success.
My favorite quote about failure is from Thomas Edison. He said, "I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won't work." At the end of the day, it's the start of a new day, and you always have a chance to start anew.