how to lose weight

3 Common Healthy Eating Approaches That Actually Keep You Stuck

photo by Bethany Michaela Photography.

photo by Bethany Michaela Photography.

Eat clean. Stay on track. Make the right choice.

The diet industry is full of popular catchphrases designed to keep us “in line” in regards to food. 

These narratives dominate how most people -- possibly you included -- approach nutrition and body transformation. 

Unfortunately, these approaches set you up for failure. They prevent you from reaching your goals. And they (potentially) leave you worse off than where you started. Psychologically, physiologically, spiritually.

For this reason, it’s worth exploring why conventional diet dogma fails, and more importantly, what to do instead. That way, you can implement your healthy eating and weight loss strategy long term.

At a fundamental level, mainstream diet talk promotes a black-or-white eating philosophy. To use three popular catchphrases as examples:

  1. “Eat clean” = some foods are good (“black”), while others are contaminated and will make you fat (“white”). Keep your body purified by eating the non-offensive stuff. 
  2. “Stay on track” = there’s one path you want to be on (“black”), and it’s mutually exclusive with everything else (“white”). Don’t veer off track, because you’ll lose control.
  3. “Make the right choice” = in every food choice, there’s an objectively “correct” one. Be a good little dieter and use your willpower to select it.

Black or white. All or nothing. All in or all out. Yes/no, good/bad, clean/dirty.

The problem with black-or-white dieting -- besides the fact that it inevitably becomes miserable -- is that it makes no sense.

Think of it this way. 

We all know that eating is something we have to do until the day we die. So if we want to eat healthy long term, we need a healthy eating strategy that matches the longevity.

But here’s the rub: no one, not one person, is capable of “eating clean” or “staying on track” forever.

LIFE HAPPENS. Carbs happen, birthday cake happens, 4am pizza on your girls trip to Vegas happens. It just does.

If you’ve developed a healthy eating philosophy that accounts for these inevitable occurrences, you can navigate them with ease and grace.

If you haven’t yet integrated these realities, the transgressions can feel haunting. When you “mess up,” you probably devolve into guilt mode. You’re rife with shame. You might even feel horrible about yourself. Gluttonous and perhaps obsessive. (See how dieting can actually set you back from where you began?)

Some women end up binge eating. Others get anxious. Some pound out extra cardio to repent.

And then to “undo the damage,” we start restricting again -- back to the black-or-white. 

Repeat cycle.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to live! So, the question becomes: what should one do instead? 

In a phrase, devote to gray. The middle ground. The unsexy-seeming, “imperfect,” no-instantaneous-results gray.

Gray is where sustainability lives, because it accounts for us being human. It accounts for life happening.

To be clear, embracing the gray is not to discredit the importance of eating healthfully and taking care of your body. It's definitely not a license to eat mindlessly. It is to say that our commitment to eating well must be tempered with realism.

Here are 3 tips for overcoming black-or-white thinking and living in the gray:

  1. Let go of the idea that weekdays are a time for discipline (“black”) and weekends one for indulgence (“white”). The “gray” option is to eat as similarly as possible each day of the week. Sometimes, this will mean eating a brownie on a Tuesday. Others, it’ll mean ordering chicken and a green salad when everyone else at Saturday night dinner is getting pasta and cheesecake. The day of the week should not define what you put on your plate.
  2. Use empowering language. Your body hears everything your mind says. Words like “cheat,” “bad,” and “clean” (the flip side of “dirty”), reinforce the good/bad food binary. Neutralize food and describe it for what it is, not by a value judgment you’ve ascribed to it. 
  3. Make food choices on a moment-to-moment basis instead of based on past ones. Just because you were "bad" this morning ("black") doesn't mean the day is ruined, giving you free reign to keep eating poorly all day or week. (This thought pattern is common, and often results in bouts of unhealthy eating followed by severe restriction, or the "white" zone.) The "gray" option is to be present, check in, and remember that every moment offers a new choice. Otherwise, you'll lock yourself into an oppressive cycle that ends up feeling like food prison. Ain't no one got time for that.

Living in the gray takes guts. No doubt about it. It requires digging in, facing your fears, and being a perfectly imperfect eater. Go there anyway. The freedom that awaits is so worth the work.

-V

The pooch. The flabby arms. The tummy.

Most women have The Thing

You know, the thing.

The one they always focus on in the mirror. 
The one they hope other people won't notice.
That aspect of their appearance they'd most like to do away with. 

Fully. Forever. Never to come back.

I bet you already know what your thing is. The common ones I hear from my clients and community are:
"My pooch."
"My flabby arms. I wish they wouldn't jiggle."

"My belly. I feel self-conscious in dresses."

Chances are, this thing is draining you. Taking up brain space. Pulling you toward small and away from expansive

It's potentially even changing how you do life: who you feel comfortable interacting with, how you participate in conversations, how you think about what opportunities -- big and small -- are available to you.

It may be subtle but it's not insignificant.

I know because my thing -- my abs -- used to take over my life.

During the height of my body image and eating disorder, every single time I'd walk into a bathroom or pass a mirror, I'd lift up my shirt to scrutinize my abs. No matter how lean I got, they were never good enough. 

...Which meant I spent an incredible amount of energy wishing my abs were different, lamenting that they weren't, and organizing my behavior around trying to transform them.

Such a drain and not an embodiment of the goddess I subconsciously wanted to be.

Today, I'm sharing a tool to help you feel better about your thing. 

Because at the end of the day, no one enjoys feeling like their "pooch" -- or their "flabby arms" -- or their "belly" -- holds power over them.

Simple as that.

 

Here's the practice:

  1. Get a piece of paper and a pen. 
  2. Sit somewhere quiet where you can be alone.
  3. Make a list of the physical attributes you love about yourself. Include things that other people often compliment you on.
  4. Next to each attribute, write why you love it and if applicable, what it lets you do in life. (Ex: "I love my quads because they let me do heavy deadlifts, which make me feel empowered.")
  5. Notice how you feel about your thing afterwards.

Spoiler alert: I think you'll feel it quietly recede. Fall into context. Seem less glaring.

That's because most of us focus on one insecurity for every handful of things we feel great about. The insecurity takes up all the space.

This pattern happens in all areas: with our bodies, in work situations, in friendships.

That is, until we consciously choose to break the pattern and back that up with action.

Just to be really clear, this practice is not about vesting more power in appearance. It's about training your brain to notice the good, so that the "bad" gets put in its rightful place.

Give the practice a try today. I think it just may change your game.

Love and light,
Valerie

Should You Add Protein Shakes Into Your Diet?

There's a lot of talk about protein supplements these days. 

Will drinking protein shakes help you lose weight? Should you drink a shake for breakfast, or after you work out -- or both? How do you choose a protein powder?

I answer all of these questions and more in today's video, "Should I Add Protein Shakes Into My Diet?"

Specifically, I cover:

0:45 - Why choosing to supplement with protein shakes is a 100% personal choice
3:27 - The most important question to ask yourself when choosing whether to incorporate shakes
4:27 - Why supplementing with shakes in order to eat less food is a flawed nutritional approach
4:54 - A rundown of the foods the human body is *designed* to eat
6:20 - How the supplement industry creates fear of food and why that's counterproductive to your goals
7:15 - Why it's a good idea to incorporate more protein in your diet and how to choose what *kind* of protein to eat
9:14 - Example use cases for adding protein supplements into your diet
12:37 - How to choose a protein powder


Take a gander and let me know your thoughts!

Love and light,
Val