All posts in Health

  • Women: Make Peace with Your Body Today (Two Effective Strategies)

    peace goddess
    image courtesy of brdonovan

    Edited March 2017 to say: Wow. I no longer freak out about my body like this; it’s a bummer to read and remember I was once in this place. I’m keeping it up in case you’re currently it this mindset. Hope it helps.

    I’m excited to report a seemingly spontaneous expansion of my thighs. I think the ultimate cause is stress. Regardless, really awesome. <3

    OK honesty: I don’t take weight gain well at all. I’m terrible about it, in fact, and let even the slightest new poundage eff with my mood and ruin my day. I have a long history of this–complete with 5 years of anorexia and bulimia (which had much more to do with OCD than body image, but that’s another post. Or ebook!!!!!!!)–and although it will likely be an endless struggle for me, I’ve invested a significant amount of time into learning (teaching myself, really) how to change my mental state when the bummed-out feeling starts to get ridiculous. And I’ve had success.

    I’ve found that, in general, there are two effective plans of attack for making peace with your body: Act or Accept. With my recent “WHERE did these thighs come from?!!!!!” discovery, I felt inspired to share those with y’all today.

    Act

    Make Healthy Food Choices

    This is both obvious and boring, so I’m not spending much time on it. Personally, I feel a tiny bit better about my appearance when I successfully avoid eating crap and choose something I know is good fuel for my body instead (or, if I just manage to avoid overeating, which is a far bigger issue for me). And a tiny bit is certainly something.

    Work Out

    Also an obvious tactic, but a non-boring one. Here’s why: We know the exercise endorphin rush is experienced by the body as drug-like, and I’d argue some of the mind-altering effects of drugs are felt as part of the rush as well. Not much makes me breathe a sigh of relief about my disappearing abs than the aftermath of a workout. I think the fantastic post-exercise mood coupled with a sense of control over the situation (Shit. My stomach’s getting flabby. But hey! I just worked out! I’m taking care of this problem!) is what’s at work here.

    Accept

    You Can’t Change It By Thinking About It…

    “All I can do is move forward.” I literally say this to myself in my head when I’m ruminating over dumb things like my three new extra pounds. Maybe it isn’t stress; maybe it’s all the wine, dark chocolate, fancy dinners with foodie John, and general bottomless pit-ness that I swear I was born with. But it doesn’t really matter what caused the weight gain; I can’t change the past. It’s there, so all I can really do is go on with my life, and maybe be a little more disciplined with diet and exercise moving forward. But looking at it, talking about it, hating it, etc. will not make it go away, so it’s wasted effort.

    …Or Can You?

    But listen, I think you (and I) need to get real about why the weight is there in the first place, especially if it’s on the lower body. Mark at Mark’s Daily Apple explains why loathing your ass, hips, and thighs could almost be considered disliking being healthy, which is whack, you know? Here’s his summary:

    Women – don’t be concerned about a little (or more than a little) subcutaneous body fat, especially on your lower body. If you’ve been trying in vain to lose that stubborn jiggle on your thigh, consider that maybe, just maybe it’s there for a reason. Even if you’re not interested in having a child, it’s likely that the presence of lower body fat indicates good health. You don’t have to get pregnant, but the ability to do so is probably a marker of good health, and the research outlined above suggests that classically feminine patterns of fat deposition are healthier than classically male patterns.

    (The full article linked to above has a lot great info. Check it out after you’ve read every single page on Alternative Badassery. All my tweets, too.)

    So OK, you can’t change your body by thinking about it. But you can change your attitude by thinking about it, with the above information as your guide. And that’s immediate. And that’s awesome.

    I’m never excited to see a larger version of myself in the mirror, but experience has taught me that acting or accepting are the only ways I can mentally move on. Give ’em a try.

    ***

    Discuss

    Would you say you’re at peace with your body? What else can we do to stop hating on ourselves?

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  • The Simplest Way to Dramatically Reduce Your Appetite

    cupcake
    image courtesy of Earle Hatsumy

    I’m not talking about hunger. Hunger and appetite are different. Let’s get clear on these two words first.

    Hunger (noun):

    1. a compelling need or desire for food.
    2. the painful sensation or state of weakness caused by the need of food: to collapse from hunger.
    3. a shortage of food; famine.
    4. a strong or compelling desire or craving: hunger for power. (source)

    Appetite (noun):

    1. a desire for food or drink: I have no appetite for lunch today.
    2. a desire to satisfy any bodily need or craving.
    3. a desire or liking for something; fondness; taste: an appetite for power; an appetite for pleasure. (source)

    This is not a strategy to reduce the physical need to eat, but rather the mental desire to do so. We good? Then let’s get rollin…

    Why We Eat So Much

    We Use Food for Other Purposes

    I’ve talked about this before, but for many of us, eating has become a habitual reaction to all kinds of stuff besides hunger. We eat when we’re bored. We eat when we’re frustrated. We eat when we’re celebrating or depressed or anxious.

    We’re Eating Adulterated “Food”

    To make it worse, our food supply today is jacked with sugar, salt, and the unhealthy kind of fat, and that shit is addicting. Literally. This crap food serves as a legal drug for many people. Really sad, but true.

    We’re Humans

    We’re programmed to seek calories, which was useful way back when starving and famine were real and common concerns. Today, we have all this food available to us all the time, and we can’t help but load up on calories repeatedly — it’s our human instinct. (How nice/shitty.)

    The Simple Solution

    Stop doing things that suck. Start spending time on cool shit.

    Do you know what flow is? John and I recently watched a documentary on the concept of happiness, and flow was discussed, and now we keep nerdily referencing it. Here’s a quick definition:

    Flow (noun):

    the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. (source)

    Have you ever started on a project, only to look up six hours later and have no idea where the time went? At any point, did you think to yourself, ‘Self, I think right now I should take a break from this amazing fuggin feeling I’ve got going, totally disrupt my rhythm and screw my momentum, and go eat something.’? No. No that doesn’t happen.

    If you hate your job, you’re probably eating more than you should. Consider that.

    In jobs I’ve hated, meal and snack times were happy little bright spots in my otherwise cloudy day. But when I’m doing work I love, I forget I’m supposed to eat. It almost pisses me off that I have to stop working to feed myself when the true hunger feeling becomes too strong to ignore.

    Quit doing soul-sucking work. Find your flow. Do that instead.

    And let me know how many pounds you effortlessly drop.

    ***

    Discuss

    Do you use food to satisfy things other than hunger? Have you experienced flow? (I want to hear stories!!!!!!!!!)

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  • Why You’re Failing at Dieting (and What You Can Do About It)

    strict-diet
    image courtesy of Thrice 18/3

    You’re failing at dieting because you’re making it suck, and what you can do about it is make it not suck.

    I could go all Seth Godin on you here and leave it at that, but you’d be like, “Hi. Unhelpful.” So here’s more:

    In December, John and I traveled to my hometown in Indiana to spend Christmas with my family, including my two favorite dieters: my mom and dad. They, like so many other Americans, have started and stopped countless diets over the years, and let me know during our visit that they’re giving it all another go in 2013.

    I love my parents with all my heart and it would make me so fuggin happy if they’d make healthy changes. I returned home from the holiday with all kinds of diet-related notions swimming in my head–things I wished I could be there to explain to them and remind them of every day as they worked toward a healthier lifestyle.

    A couple of weeks ago, I sat down, organized my thoughts, and created a “Keys to Dieting Success” document, which I snail-mailed to them.

    This post is inspired by that document.

    Ways You’re Making Dieting Suck, and What to Do Instead

    Dieting blows, but we make it way more miserable than it actually has to be. Here are four dieting obstacles you’re creating for yourself, and how to get past them:

    1. You’re Being Too Strict

    Don’t get all ambitious and set these ridiculous diet rules for yourself (no carbs ever, no sweets ever, 1200 calories a day only) that ensure failure. People have a finite amount of willpower. That’s important for you to understand. Eating a diet that’s so inflexible–or just plain isn’t enough food–is awful and impossible to sustain long-term. It feels like punishment. Do you like punishment? Would you keep at it, given the choice (which you have, since it’s self punishment)? Right.

    Instead:

    I suggest you cut out nothing. Don’t eliminate anything from your diet, just add a million new healthy things. Start with lots of water, a multivitamin, and fish oil supplements–how easy is that? Now add crazy amounts of vegetables. At every meal or snack, load up on produce. Then we’re gonna add protein, then we’re gonna add healthy fat, and so on… You’re just crowding out the bullshit, you see? Nothing is off-limits; you’ll just eventually run out of room for the bad stuff.

    2. You’re Focusing on What You Can’t Have

    When people start a diet, all they think about is everything they’re no longer eating. This is dumb and a form of self-sabotage.

    Instead:

    No matter if you’re trying to get healthier or smaller or leaner, there are going to be plenty of items you can and should add to your diet. This is kind of fun and should be your focus. Every time you notice you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you “can’t” have something (which, if you’ve implemented my first suggestion, shouldn’t be an issue anyway), make a mental switch to consider what you can have. It’s a lot.

    3. You’re Trying to Make Changes That are Too Big

    You’re not going to go from fast food every night to washing, chopping, and steaming fresh veggies and grilling steaks for every meal. I mean, you’ll do it for maybe a couple of weeks, but you’ll quit, because that way of living is way different and way more labor-intensive than what you’re used to. You’re already dieting, and now you want to make your life suck a little more by using precious free time to prepare this diet you’re not even jazzed about? Stupid. Recipe for failure.

    Instead:

    Pay for convenience. Pay for pre-washed and pre-chopped produce. Pay for rotisserie chickens. You need to pay for these things, because you’re not going to routinely do all this. This is a cost that’s 100% worth it–when you really think about it, don’t you agree? Pay for convenience now or pay for medical bills later. Stop kidding yourself, and start supporting yourself.

    4. You’re Not Replacing Satisfaction

    Eating is so, so satisfying. And we eat for all kinds of reasons other than hunger, because it satisfies many needs. If you’re doing this–and so many of us are–you’ve got to find a way to replace that satisfaction before beginning a diet plan. Otherwise, you end up unprepared for the moment you want to pop a cupcake because you’re frustrated with an assignment or can’t take the afternoon nap your body’s calling for or are just bored and it’s your default reaction to grab a snack, or whatever, and you either feel the unpleasant void of not eating and eventually give up after you feel it too many times, or you give up right away and call it another failed diet.

    Instead:

    Decide on some alternative sources of satisfaction you’ll insert in place of eating. If you’re a calorie counter, just the act of tracking itself is satisfying, and it keeps you from rationalizing food you don’t need (this is true–and a really powerful tactic–for me). Other good eating replacements are:

    • simply taking a moment to soak up your own badassery for committing to making these changes in the first place,
    • reminding yourself of that awesome feeling you have when you get in bed for the night and realize you totally lived this day like a healthy person,
    • dreaming up a sweet (not literally) lunch you can pack for yourself tomorrow, or
    • browsing Pinterest for healthy meal and snack ideas.

    OR, you can do something totally unrelated and just chill on your couch with a book, or watch TV with zero guilt. Satisfying and calorie-free.

    ***

    Discuss

    What do you think sucks the most about dieting? What has caused you to fail at dieting in the past? What has helped you succeed?

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