Shelby McDaniel

5 False Beliefs About Healing Your Body Image — And How to Make a Real Positive Change

Do you struggle with body image and accepting the body you see in the mirror?

Are you tired of constantly thinking about your body and comparing yourself to others?

Does looking at photos of yourself send you into a negative downward spiral?

So many of my clients struggle with their body image too. They spend so. much. time. and headspace thinking about their bodies.

For many, how they feel about their bodies holds them back from fully living their life. It’s not their fault and it’s not your fault. Body image is predictable in this age. The epidemic of body hate should be headline news, but unfortunately remains a silent epidemic struggle for so many. That’s why I wanted to shine the spotlight right in its face.

Body hate is a big business in mainstream media and culture. Sadly it keeps us small in spirit, consciousness, character, empowerment.

It keeps us from stepping into our potential that is right there waiting to happen. Body hate is a nasty disease. It takes over and is hard to deal with.

Simply put, body image is what we imagine our body to be. Imagination is a tremendously powerful force in the human psyche. What we imagine about ourselves, about life, drives our emotions, our metabolism, our thoughts, and our behaviors.

On a deeper level, a negative body image says, “I reject the body given to me. I am at war against myself. I am no good. I am not enough. I am unlovable as I am. I do not deserve to experience the simple pleasure of bodily existence.” 

A body dissatisfaction is way more than an emotional or psychological concern. It can dramatically influence our health and physiology. It may drive us to adopt a diet that is nutritionally unsound, which can lead to a long list of metabolic symptoms.

The pure, simple, physiologic stress of constantly attacking the body with psychic pressure by itself can lead to a very wide range of symptoms. That includes poor digestion, poor assimilation of nutrients, fatigue, inflammation, mood concerns, immune challenges, diminished energy levels, and lower metabolism and calorie burning capacity.

Our dietary choices driven by negative feelings about our body can further impact eating challenges such as binge eating, overeating, and emotional eating. Daily restriction and “dieting” tactics to achieve “the perfect body” (whatever that is) can give you a 99% guarantee you’ll experience an overeating or binge eating episode in response.

At the end of the day, (in our mind) our attempts to lose weight so we can heal our body image actually work against us. These well-intentioned but misguided efforts push us closer to creating an inability to lose weight, and the likelihood of gaining it, which only further increases our frustration about the body.

Body Image Healing: Do You See Food As The Enemy?

Many individuals experiencing body dissatisfaction have a relationship with food where food is essentially the enemy. Even though they may love food, it is a source of intense stress because it paradoxically gives great pleasure and fulfillment, but leads to the evils of weight and body fat.

This creates a fundamental battle in the mind that cannot be logically resolved. Because of this conundrum, body image-challenged clients live in constant fear, fight, struggle, and frustration. In short, they tend to feel bad because of this ongoing issue. That’s how body image affects happiness.

If you see food as the enemy, then every time you eat, the body will be in some degree of physiologic stress response, leading to a wide range of symptoms mentioned above.

How Do You Develop Body Image?

body image

Body image is determined inside each of us by a combination of factors – culture, religion, family, peers, beauty ideals, media messages, and personal experiences and soul lessons through life.

In my experience, I often hear about stories from clients about how they were bullied, participated in a body subjective sport like dance or gymnastics, had a parent or family member who struggled with their own issues with food, a doctor who recommended a diet for them when they were 9 (and so many more), or that passed along messages that he or she was not acceptable at their current weight.

Hate and body shaming is IMPOSSIBLE for a young mind to successfully process and mount an immune response to. And so, the young mind takes things from the outside and OWNS them. They assume the message. Just ONE experience, ONE comment, can be enough for one to take those words and eat them and introject it such that they repeat it to themselves like a curse.

So, if you are struggling with a negative body image, please know, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. That’s a real and true step to a positive body image.

Body hate and weight shaming are powerful, invisible force fields not just for innocent kids, but for adults. Meaning, just because you can’t measure it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist (like love!). You have EVERY right to feel overwhelmed with these messages.

The exposure to millions of messages about body image is like experiencing paper cuts every day.

– Marc David

To help put you on the path to healing body image and empowering more positive mental health, let’s review FALSE beliefs related to body image. With this info, you can stop wasting your time and energy going down a path that has no victory flag waiting for you in the end.

#1 We Falsely Believe We Can Heal Body Image By Changing the Body

Most people look to heal their negative body image by changing the body to an impossible-to-reach standard. At some point in life, we feel our current body is unlovable and/or unacceptable. NOBODY wants to inhabit a body that is “unlovable”! The first sense that the body is unlovable, it’s our first sense to get the hell outta there.

 Separating from the source (that which is created whole starting at birth) is called disembodiment. Disembodiment leads to shame (I AM not enough, I AM unlovable), which leads to the need to control (food, people, money, weight, etc) because control = safety.

High needs for control leads to a quest for perfectionism and then (surprise) when we cannot achieve the perfect weight or perfect body, perfect whatever, we fall into a downward spiral of self-abuse and self-attack, leading to even more disembodiment.

**Disembodiment–> Shame–> Control–> Perfectionism–>Self Abuse**

The mind believes that “when things are perfect, my weight is perfect, then I will truly have control and my life will be OK forever.” Perfectionism, in and of itself, is a disease. It is an impossible goal that grips people like a bad virus and takes over our minds and destroys our true potential to feel confident in ourselves.

Perfectionism implies we are finished with our work, that means there is no more work to do, no more suffering. “Only goodies in life will I have,” “I am beyond criticism and can no longer be touched by judgment of others.”

Negative self-body attack is like constantly being bombed like in a war. Nobody wants to be in that state, so perfectionism subconsciously leads to safety to get out of pain and suffering.

When you look at it in this light, it seems like a reasonable instinctive survival strategy in your mind. But when you shine the light of consciousness upon it, you see its true colors. Simply put..,having a culturally “perfect body” does not guarantee self-love and a happy body image.

#2 We Falsely Believe We Can Heal Body Image By Losing Weight

Many individuals feel that once they reach that “magic number” — just like reaching the “perfect shape” — all will be good in the world. They will feel comfortable in their own skin, and feel happy with themselves and in life.

But what happens when you reach this magic number? It’s still not good enough, is it? If I had a dime for every time I heard that story. Even at their lowest weight, those that struggle with negative body image STILL self-attack and pick on themselves and their physical flaws.

Are you thinking, “But I remember when I did lose weight before, I DO remember feeling happy”. Sure, you can get a temporary high and ego boost from losing weight via extreme diet and exercise and you can feel great for a while, but then it’s not enough. These experiences are “false positives.” They are temporary blips on the screen that are generally not sustainable and eventually bring us back to struggle and self-attack and dissatisfaction.

Can I just scream that there is NO SUCH THING AS THE PERFECT WEIGHT? There is literally no evidence that suggests for you, your ethnicity, your age, this time or transition in your life, that you should be X weight. If this were predictable, we all would be the same and totally boring.

Unfortunately, weight numbers are shoved in our face, from doctors, to diet programs, to media like “The Biggest Loser”. I’m here to tell you to let go of the magic number of your ideal body weight and relax into your journey.

You don’t know, I don’t know, what that number will end up being when it comes to your “natural weight”. And I promise you, if you can stow away your scale for a few months, you will really begin to see how the number on the scale has been totally numbing you from life. The majority of my clients end up never ever stepping on the scale again once they start working with me. And they end up happier, healthier, embodied, and feeling great.

#3 We Falsely Believe We Can Heal Through Diet and Nutrition

My clients KNOW about nutrition, as I’m sure you do too. Our efforts to get out of the body that is “unlovable” are through diet and exercise, that’s what you know, that’s what the world tells you to focus on. The body changes but what still resides is “I’m unlovable”, making it virtually impossible to love yourself, love your body, and sustain any habits you’ve been trying to create. That’s why

96-99% of people who diet gain the weight back within a year!

This is why negative body image is actually not a “food problem.” The symptoms of negative body image come out often through food and diet-binge cycles or through restrictive eating and chronic dieting behaviors.

Food often times is restricted, it becomes a war of “good vs bad,” and something we HAVE to do versus something we WANT to do. Exercise is also used often as a weapon. It’s not just to “feel good,” rather it’s to burn off the 100 extra calories you “shouldn’t” have eaten that day, or as penance for a “bad weekend” of eating, or because you saw yourself in the mirror that morning and said awful comments about yourself.

Collectively, once again, this creates stress on the body and a plethora of emotional and physiological consequences. When we only obsess about food and exercise to achieve the perfect body, we don’t sense the body and are not truly in it, we check out to some degree.

We think about the body rather than experience it. This is what 99.9% of people are missing when it comes to their success, is themselves! Their body! And being in it!

#4 We Falsely Believe We Can Heal By Having a Body That We Believe is More Acceptable to Others

The world projects that we should look like the movie stars on TV, the models in the magazine, or Spartan warriors or bodybuilders.

They convince us that when you have this “acceptable” body you achieve more happiness, money, dreams, sex, and more. So we go on this quest, to conform to what the world believes is acceptable in terms of body shape while silently cursing the body we’re currently in, triggering the cycle of disembodiment, shame, control, perfectionism, and self-attack.

Did you know that Judy Garland had an eating disorder? Experts believe this is what drove her to her drug overdose in the end. Strong example, but she is one of many examples that pokes holes in your belief that if you achieve the look that the world finds acceptable that you’re going to feel GREAT about yourself and you won’t ever have to worry about it ever again.

I work with a LOT of “fit” individuals who seem to fit the “profile” body of what the world suggests your body should be like and yet, they still body hate.

body image

I attempted to take this path myself. I stepped into the bodybuilding world for years. I had magazine tear-outs on my wall of women who I wanted to look like. I became obsessed with not only looking like them but being BETTER than them (because what they looked like wasn’t enough, right?).

Years later, I found myself depressed and suffocating in the dark world of food and weight. I lost who I was as a person because I was so disembodied.

Today, although I no longer have the fitness model look or all the muscle I worked so hard to achieve, I am literally the HAPPIEST I have ever been because I went on the journey to reconnect with myself and my body again, to heal my body image. And, in that process, I removed all the toxic messages I ate about weight and body image from the world. I want you to know that having the “perfect” body literally guarantees nothing.

#5 We Falsely Believe We Can Heal By Hating the Body into Change

Somehow we think we can hate our body now, attack it, call it names, pick on it, ignore it, dismiss its needs, dismiss its wisdom, try to force it to do all kinds of nonsensical things and then ONLY when it loses the weight will we love it.

That’s called superficial love, my friends, waiting until conditions are met to show any kind of love towards self. Would you love your friend more if your friend would lose more weight??

Of course not! Oftentimes our friends accept us without conditions. They are accepting our body without conditions. And you should too.

The whole purpose (in our mind) of losing weight is for us to be able to love ourselves more and be happy and empowered, but how can you expect to go down the road of self-attack to find a place of self-love? This is LOGICAL ABSURDITY! This is another reason why so many lose weight or change their shape and find it’s still not enough.

Healing body image means moving from conditional love of the body to unconditional love of the body…

Loving your body, this vehicle that you are in now that is literally going to be with you throughout your entire transformation, does not mean that you are “in love” with everything about it. It does not mean you do not wish to shape shift your body. It simply means to stop hating it, and accept it unconditionally. Finding “body neutrality” is another term that is often used that represents the same goal that the hate towards self subsides.

Your journey forms the destination, you must love yourself INTO your weight loss and transformation. You cannot HATE yourself into it. It just doesn’t work that way. Self-attack means, literally, you’re under attack, and what does that lead to?

More emotional and physiological stress and its metabolic side effects so you hating on your body all the time is keeping your body in a state of stress, moving your body AWAY from its metabolic potential and ability to achieve its natural weight!

It is wise NOT to measure your success with body image by how much weight you lose or how you change your shape. Assess, as best you can, if you’ve made an inner shift and have truly moved to a place of more self-love.

Consider this: a negative body image has us constantly in judgement of the body, speaking to it in a hurtful way, and performing acts of diet and exercise that are punishing and unloving. It has us walking through the world in a constant and silent rejection of one’s own self. Thus, every small act of self-love is a medicine, a healing, a reprogramming of the virulent disease.

In Closing…

body image

Body Image cannot be fixed. It can only be evolved, healed, and cultivated. Healing body image is about connecting to a higher purpose for your life.

Consider how much energy goes into attacking and thinking about your body? That becomes your purpose, and when it’s only about ‘changing this part of my body’ we end up robbing the world of US.

Negative body image is, ultimately, a spiritual, soul issue – a challenge to find deeper meaning and teachings and personal growth when it comes to the phenomenon of being a “soul in a body.” See body image challenges as a beautiful area for growth and healing rather than a curse.

Healing body image requires courage, self-inquiry, and at times feeling emotions that are uncomfortable or painful, it’s more of a constant practice that takes baby steps forward. There are no shortcuts.

So relax, this is going to take a little time and that’s ok. I know that doesn’t sound sexy and that isn’t something that sells in mainstream media, but it’s the truth. And it is time someone was actually truthful and real with you about these very painful challenges.

Because you have “inherited” your body image from family, culture, religion, and media – a negative body image is not so much a personal issue as it is a collective one. And as it’s a collective issue to the development of negative body image, the solution also resides as a collective one.

Ask for help. Surround yourself with the right professionals, coaches, support groups, and educational tools about body image healing (and not diets!). Stop following people on social media that feed the toxicity and anxiety around body image. Do not let this dominate and cause you to take it to your grave as so many do.

Sources: The Institute For the Psychology of Eating, Module 02, 1-4 (Accessed 2019)

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How Do I Stop Binge Eating? 5 Steps To Healing

If you struggle weekly or even just occasionally with binge eating, I don’t have to tell you how devastated, shameful, confused, and powerless a binge leaves you feeling. Binge eating is increasing as an epidemic in our food obsessed society, causing many to Google, “How Do I Stop Binge Eating?” in urgent need of a solution. This is actually how many of my clients find me before joining forces to take down their unwanted binge eating behaviors. Today I’d like to help you better understand binge eating itself to better support you in healing your struggles with binge eating.

First of all, I am going to note a few very important points. The first being, that binge eating is a behavior, and going beyond that, it’s a symptom. The bingeing isn’t the root problem, it’s a symptom that something else is going on that desires your attention. Think of it like a headache, a headache could be a symptom of dehydration, lack of sleep, eating poor quality foods, inflammation, stress, amongst many other things.

Treating the headache with aspirin really doesn’t get rid of the root reasons that cause that headache to appear in the first place or prevent it from reappearing again. It’s the same with bingeing. I like to say bingeing is the Universe’s way of calling your attention to bigger things. So, you are not a “binge eater” definitively or indefinitely. You simply struggle with the behavior and symptoms of binge eating which you CAN change and resolve.

Secondly, many of our food challenges today including binge eating, restrictive eating, yo-yo dieting, weight obsessions, and food obsessions are a collective issue. What does that mean? It means that when one struggles with their relationship with food it’s not completely their fault. The messages and ways of the world, media, family, life events, diet industry, all of them contribute to the formation of your relationship with food. 100% of my clients in their 30s-60s have challenges with food from decades ago, many of them from before they were 15 years old, a time when a child’s mindset chews and assimilates messages from their environment and is highly influenced in the formation of their relationship with food, body, self love and acceptance.

When we struggle as adults, we tend to think it’s our fault because we’re the one’s bingeing, we point the finger at our face, hard. So listen good….it’s not your fault. These collective issues have simply personalized within you and fallen into your lap (lucky you!). BUT…You ARE now Response-Able, which means, you now are ABLE to RESPOND to what you do with these issues. Which is why you’re here, so good job!

What is Binge Eating?

Binge eating, emotional eating, and overeating belong in the same zip code but they are all unique to one another. Binge eating is basically industrial strength overeating. It is intense, and often times associated with the term “compulsive eating”. The term, “compulsion” is defined as “that which we must do”….meaning, it HAS to happen. Negotiation isn’t available. But why is it so powerful over us?

Binge eating is an “out of control” behavior that serves as a balancing act for a place in life where we’re in “tight control”. Please re-read that again. When the body is overly stressed it shifts from parasympathetic nervous system dominance (a.k.a. a relaxation state) to sympathetic nervous system dominance (a.k.a. stress state).

We call this “stress chemistry” because there are so many psychophysiological shifts happening here, just as there would be from the stress chemistry created in response to a tiger trying to eat you! These are the same survival instincts our ancestors had to help them survive, but today, our threats aren’t lions and tigers and bears, it’s overworking, overwhelm, lack of time, lack of help, food restriction, fear of getting fat, pressure to win, fill in the blank!

When experiencing real or perceived (very important) stressors and threats, the body can go into a flight, fight, freeze, OR feed response. Just like the flight, fight, or freeze response, this FEED response happens automatically (compulsively).

It’s the body’s way of trying to look after you and maintain homeostasis. High stress builds = bingeing to reduce stress and regulate emotions. The brain learns that after food is consumed, the body must shift back into a relaxed state in order to digest it so it learns feel bad –> eat food–> feel better. This feed response / balance act happens automatically, similar to when get hot your body sweats to bring your temperature down (homeostasis). That’s why you feel powerless when it happens. Just as powerless as you trying to stop the sweating. It’s compulsive, unconscious, and is a survival instinct, so stop shaming yourself.

Contrary to what you may know, binge eating can happen ANY frequency (once a week, once a month), can be any time, can be any amount, and can be any food. Binge eating is NOT a “brain chemistry issue” and can be worked with, listened to, and transformed without the use of pharmaceuticals. Binge eating again, is the symptom and a band-aid strategy for your body to temporarily deal with undigested built up stress in the body, so, now that you are RESPONSE-ABLE, your goal is to be your own doctor and discover what’s behind this built up stress in the body? What’s causing it? Let’s explore solutions to common stressors that may be feeding your binge cycles.

How Do I Stop Binge Eating?

#1 Slow Down

Now you know that a binge usually happens when the body is in stress chemistry aka that “flight or fight” response. So one of the biggest contributors that can push your body into this stress chemistry is living your day to day life at warp speed.

how do I stop binge eating

Today we tend to never take time for ourselves, live in the moment, appreciate, say “it’s ok” when we don’t cross everything off our list for the day’s tasks. We are a very “type A”, perfectionist-like society in my opinion, and consistently try to shove 1 more accomplishment, 1 more task, 1 more errand into our day, and let our not-so-urgent priorities like our self care and health go by the way side. We are constantly going and constantly achieving. Slowing down doesn’t mean you sit on the couch (although feel free to!). It simply means, taking some moments for yourself, picking up activities or interests that have nothing to do with the “have-to’s” and that bring joy to your life. Joy = relaxation = no stress chemistry. So get out there, and start living and binge on LIFE.

How Do I Stop Binge Eating?

#2 Nourish Your Body

how do i stop binge eating

Restricting your calories because you’re afraid to binge, afraid to gain weight, afraid of fat, afraid of carbs, whatever the reason, puts your body in a stressed state. Many of my clients report bingeing after a period of time when they were restricting. Being malnourished in calories, or simply specific macronutrients, puts the body into stress chemistry and you back at risk for bingeing. The body here is stressed and calling for nourishment (binge = a balancing act to a tightly controlled macronutrient intake). If eating carbs or eating fat in your diet scares you, this is where the action is for you to get working on.

Restriction doesn’t only come in the form of nutrients, it’s also comes in the form of enjoyment. You could eat enough calories technically, but if you aren’t enjoying what you are eating, your brain doesn’t get the full check in the box that you ate, so over the course of the day or week, your brain will send you signals to eat that ice cream, those cookies, any of those pleasurable foods you try to avoid. Why? Because avoiding pleasure in food is like avoiding oxygen to breathe. Hold your breath for two minutes and watch what happens after you allow yourself to breathe…you GASP for air. When you deprive yourself of enjoying any food you put into your body, at some point, you’ll GASP for pleasure, and it will feel extreme because it finding pleasure in food is a psycho-physiologic need as a human need. This is where many create belief systems that they are addicted to food or can’t control themselves around certain foods, when in reality, their body was just acting on their behalf to ensure they ate, survived, and lived another day. 

How Do I Stop Binge Eating?

#3 Stop Trying To Be Perfect!

Us humans REALLY like control and predictability. Those that struggle with perfectionism know exactly what I’m talking about. We like things to be a certain way, according to our timeline, and our standards. We set the bar unrealistically high which continually causes us to feel inadequate or convinces us we are failing, pushing us to work harder, longer, diet harder, and take even less time for ourselves.

how do I stop binge eating

Do yourself a favor and accept that not everything you want to accomplish with your food and weight is a perfect, linear process to which you will and need to be perfect as you go through this process. Life, the Universe, it doesn’t work that way! Improving your physical and emotional health is not like making a spreadsheet and crunching numbers. By doing so, you are putting so much pressure on yourself and creating a personal internal stress bomb that’s about to blow into a binge cycle (remember, binges breed in stress chemistry!) Reset that bar to be one that leaves you excited and eager to achieve, but not negative and inadequate. This is NOT an act of lowering your standards, this is understanding the reality of how making change with your health and mindset works. It’s also a reminder to meet yourself where you are at NOW. We all have our ultimate desired outcomes, but you’ve got to take it one step at a time to get there. 

How Do I Stop Binge Eating?

#4 Remove Toxic Thinking

The brain goes into stress chemistry regardless if it’s a real threat (like you’re about to be evicted or eaten by a tiger) or a perceived threat (you think you’re fat, you fear weight gain, you don’t think you’re worthy). Your brain doesn’t know the difference. SO much of the stress people experience results from their perception of a situation. Examples of toxic thinking include: “I shouldn’t be eating this”, “If I eat that I’ll get fat”, “I don’t want to go, people will judge me”, “I hate my body”, “I’m not good enough”, “No one will love me if I’m fat”, “OMG I binged again! I’m never going to get this!” and the list goes on…

how do I stop binge eating

The good news is this means that you can change your perception and therefore change your level of stress! So notice toxic thoughts that are driving you into stress chemistry and acknowledge they no longer serve you and practice more positive, proactive, compassionate, non-perfectionist thinking.

How Do I Stop Binge Eating?

#5 Evaluate Areas of Your Life You Are Trying to “Control” Too Much

This is a biggie. The “tightly controlled” something else that is feeding your binge eating can be found, yes, in the nutritional realm but also your personal and emotional realms as well. So you need to sit back, and reflect honestly. What are other areas of your life, your inner world, that are calling for your attention to let go a little bit?

how do I stop binge eating

Money, emotions, work, communication, deeper personal desires, truth speaking, sexual energy, and other people are areas many of my clients experience tight control. Maybe you keep to yourself a lot and never express emotions honestly, or perhaps you’re constantly trying to please your boss at work and you’re not establishing boundaries for yourself? I always say my work and coaching personality is a combination of Dr Phil, Jillian Michaels, and Tony Robbins because I have to wear a lot of hats and see big picture when it comes to helping big problems. How we do food is how we do life, and again, food is just the symptom so I’m always on the lookout for, where is life calling my client?

In Closing…

I hope you found sound, realistic solutions to your question, “How Do I Stop Binge Eating?”. Take a deep breath and begin to look at bingeing as a gift, rather than a curse. When a negative power is revealed such as binge eating, it means there’s a positive power calling to be unleashed. Power is good, it’s desirable, and changes form within you. There is much to be gained in this journey, don’t be afraid of it, instead lean into it.

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Eating After Fitness Competitions: 7 Tips to Healing Your Relationship with Food

This blog is directed for those of you who have competed in fitness & bodybuilding competitions. It doesn’t matter whether it was one show or 5 years of shows. The fact remains is that there is a conversation NOT taking place about eating after fitness competitions and how hard it is to transition back into simply eating healthy and exercising for the joy of it again. And let’s not to forget mentioning all the negative body image issues that can arise too, right? I’m 35 years old and my last show was 10 years ago as an IFBB Figure Pro (back when they still did the 2 piece rounds –> haha I’m old) and you better believe that I still strike a quarter turn pose on occasion in the mirror to simply judge how my body has changed….

The sport has so many amazing positive reasons to get involved:

  • To challenge and push oneself to the ultimate limit
  • To provide a sport and competitive arena for athletes post college
  • To condition the body to its best physique and conditioning year after year
  • To take our love for health & fitness to another level
  • And the list goes on….

Many of us find interest in the competing that stemmed from the joy of eating healthy and exercising. You meet a competitor in the gym, you read about it on or similar forums, it seems to be everywhere these days. This sport is TOUGH in many ways. It will challenge you and it can absolutely change you, it can change relationships you are involved in-hopefully for the better, however I’ve seen a lot of break-ups and divorces throughout the years amongst competitors.

But there are many, MANY competitors that come out of competing struggling to find their way back to simply loving healthy eating and exercising again without bingeing, anxiety about eating anything less that what was acceptable as an in season or off season competitor, or working out any differently that what was expected of you as a competitor. It’s hard to also accept our body when they are not in peak condition as they once were, causing us to feel “fat” which only fuels the cycle to want to be “good” with one’s eating. The transition to finding “normal eating” again after one concludes competing or who is taking a temporary pause from competing is really really tough. My friend and TNT colleague Tracy Sisson (also former competitor) have a saying that “if you go into competing for the first time without an eating disorder, you are likely to come out with one”. Sad but those of you who are reading this know that it is a bad problem.

Eating after fitness competitionTrust me, I went through this myself. This was where shit really hit the fan for me with food and body image and working out was when the shows were over. You’re so use to being so on point, like you’re training for the Olympics for 16 weeks, sacrificing everything to look your best come stage day that when you aren’t competing for a while or any longer, it’s hard to all of a sudden find that happy place with food. It’s hard to stay disciplined, which is crazy because you KNOW you are disciplined with food-you proved it when you went to the movie theatre and ate your 4 egg whites and asparagus half way through the movie. You become accustomed to only be allowed a few staple foods on your diet: oatmeal, chicken, fish, sweet potato, asparagus, steak, eggs, rice.

So after a show, if you’re like me, you never want to look at chicken ever again (or tuna!). But you still do because it’s protein, it will keep you from getting fat, or because you simply don’t know an alternative way. When I stopped competing, I still kept trying to keep up with my workouts I did when I competed. I felt lazy or weak if I did anything less. But the more I tried to keep up with the bland, rigid foods commonly found on competition plans and my competition training plan, the more unhappy I seemed to become. The less fulfilled I felt on a daily basis with my health and personal self worth. The more cheating and overeating that took place. And as I kept cheating and bingeing, that totally didn’t help my body image, and the cycle continued to refuel itself.

First off, finding balance and stability with food and exercise is not just happening inside the industry, it’s happening outside the industry too. I am so passionate to help people renew their relationship with food on a day to day basis in my Diet Freedom program, changing people’s mindset about diet and food and helping people escape a lifetime of struggling with food and weight. My passion lies here. My competitive drive is now put into this area of my life versus the stage life. And it all stemmed from my experiences as a competitor. But now it’s time to really time and important to start a conversation within the competitor community.

Why is healthy, stable eating after fitness competitions such a difficult task? Well, it’s a sport of rule following when it comes to food and working out. Coaches continuously are giving rigid meal plans and setting additional “cheat meal” rules or other daily intake rules they must follow. You’re constantly on a diet, in season or off season. Prepping your meals every night, lugging your 6 pack bags where ever you go, whether you’re flying domestic or abroad. I’ve seen some CRAZY eating and training regimens that basically starve competitors and over train them which completely crushes competitors mentally AND physically post show. I mean no wonder why it gets harder and harder to stay on your diet after you’ve been through the ultimate ringer!

Unfortunately over time, the reason behind WHY you eat is because someone else told you to do it, or because it’s what will help you win. You become a COMPLETE rule follower, macro counting expert, protein and carb intake follower because without these strict rules, you don’t trust yourself to not shove your face with Cold Stone ice cream or a jar of peanut butter. So over time, you stop listening to your body, your own needs and wants regarding food, and you don’t give yourself permission to add variety, moderation, or even think twice about what to eat outside of what you feel you “should” be eating as a competitor.

Once you lose that disconnect between you and your body and you keep going on meal plan after meal plan, food logging after food logging, things get dark. You become dependent. Unconsciously you don’t even realize how restrictive you are being. This restriction is what spirals many competitors to binge for large meal, sometimes it’s a whole day. And once that happens, you go back to the rigid “clean eating” diet, something not too far from a competitor diet. You return to your hard core competition training plans too perhaps.

But the spiral keeps happening with eating “clean”, and then overeating, cheating, and bingeing. Again. And again. And again. You label competitor friendly foods as “good” and you see other non-competition diet foods like fruit, bread, and pretty much everything else as “off the diet” or something you “shouldn’t” be having. Food is no longer just food that you intake to fuel your body which was perhaps it was at one time prior entering the competitive world. Your food becomes a passive check in the box for the day. You do it to regain that sense of “control” or  because you know it’s “good for you” and you “should” be eating it, or because it meets a goal of 40% macro intake your trainer set for you.

There’s no longer a deeper level of satisfaction you get from eating nutritious food. Food becomes passive, and just an empty non-fulfilling activity. So when the cookies, the “free meal” come along which actually DO interest you, and actually DO taste good, it’s like Yippee-ki-yay and you go to town and wake up with regret the next day, only to start with a rigid breakfast you “should” be eating.

I’ve worked with many competitors to help them find their way back to joy of healthy eating and working out, even if that means discovering that in the end, competing is just not the healthiest activity for them. Never is that my mission is to steer one from competing again, but it does happen. I personally could never enter the competitor world again because my food and my mental state becomes an absolute freaking train wreck and it’s not worth it to me. If you are struggling to find you way back to healthy eating and love for the gym again, here are 7 tips to help support your way back to healthy eating after fitness competitions:

Eating after fitness competitionsEating After Fitness Competitions #1: Stay Off of Social Media

You cannot deny what triggers you wants to continue to fuel the restrictive-overeating cycle. Competitor selfies and conversations about competitor meal prep, macro counting, the latest and greatest supplement or workout to get shredded serve as distractions when you’re trying to find your way back. We all have phones, so keep an inner circle of those who you may need for support close by and communicate by phone or text only until you feel comfortable returning to social media. You could also simply block or unfollow special people or groups. I had one of my competitors unfollow Figure Olympian Nicole Wilkins due to the messaging that was being sent to her in this group. Do what you need to do.

eating after fitness competitionsEating After Fitness Competitions #2: Stop Food Logging for 2 Weeks

The only way to learn how to trust yourself again is to practice without depending on a person or application. You were born with innate abilities to know when you’re  hungry and when your body no longer needs food, we call this intuitive eating. It just needs a little dusting off.

Your goal with this recommendation is to NOT aim to hit daily intake goals such as carbohydrates, protein, macros. Instead, your goal with this exercise is to simply start listening to your body again, trying to fuel it when it’s hungry, to listen to what foods you may actually WANT to eat, nutrient dense or not. You’re going to consume some things you maybe wouldn’t while following a strict regimen so don’t panic, it doesn’t mean you are going to go off the deep end. When you’re not being told what NOT to eat and instead, you’re in charge and it’s up to you to CHOOSE what you feel is best for you, it’s usually a different outcome.

eating after fitness competitionsEating After Fitness Competitions #3: Read Up on Mindful Eating

Get introduced to mindful eating. There are great books out there to help you get introduced to mindful eating. A book is a great start, it may not resolve all the issues but it’s a great step! I’m also here as a resource, I do intensive consulting so know that you’re not alone, there is a way out, and it’s not through following another one of your coach’s meal plans.

eating after fitness competitionsEating After Fitness Competitions #4: Exercise Your Way

Take a week and drop all that you know about how to build your front delts that need to pop more for your next show. What do you WANT to do? Whether it’s something that competitors do or don’t do doesn’t matter. What do you want to take a break from? If you want to just go for walks outside for a week because that’s what you feel like doing, do it. If you want to take a group X class you haven’t taken in a few months or years, do it! If you want to do a full body workout, your way, for the time and duration of your choosing, DO IT.

I remember when I got to this point where I realized how unhappy I was in the gym doing my typical split training, I was in between sets for leg extensions. I had tears in my eyes. I texted my husband Adam “I just can’t be here anymore” and he replied with “then leave”. So I did. And that was the day I made a promise to myself that I am only going to move my body MY way.

I had to swallow the possibility my IFBB Pro Figure look my not be as sharp, ever again. I had to find my joy again with exercise again, I mean this was really fussing with  my personal happiness! I started walking with my dogs, I did yoga in my living room, nothing structured really, I just gave myself the space to decide what I felt like doing that day. As I evolved to find happiness with movement again, today’s working out looks pretty different. I walk, I jog, I lift twice a week, but I do it for me.  I go in the gym and sometimes I have more aggression than other days. Some days I’m just glad I made it and do what I feel like doing. I exercise now for my own reasons, it’s now my time and space.

eating after fitness competitionsEating After Fitness Competitions #5: Watch Your Food Labeling Verbatim

Unconsciously you may not be aware of how your talk or refer to food. Restrictive undertones such as good, bad, clean, should, shouldn’t actually fuel your restrictive eating cycle. Also, watch for phrases such as ‘that will make me fat’ or ‘that’s against my macro goals’. Let it go. Right now, all foods fit when it comes to eating after fitness competitions. Really embrace that and drop the judgement. You’ll find your way back, it won’t be overnight, but you HAVE to let go of what is “good” and what is “bad” when it comes to food right now.

You may also find others you’ve been hanging around with (including your coach or trainer) may unintentionally fuel the food labeling war. Be kind and respectful if you  need to have a conversation. He or she probably has a clue that their words are having a negative reaction within you, so help them help you better by having a discussion. The point here is, you need more positive talk that supports the notion that “all foods fit” into your life and less negative food labeling, so stay alert.

Eating After Fitness Competitions #6: Only Positive Body Image Talk

You feel what you think. If you look in the mirror every morning and think “ugh, look at that gut…” do you think you’re going to feel confident and empowered for the day? Do you think that helps you accept and respect your body? It’s like telling yourself you’re a bad person, over and over, to the point where you actually start believing it. So stop it. Only permit positive self talk after looking in the mirror. What are you thankful for? Also, make a commitment to lessen the amount of times you stop to look in the mirror during the day, as hard as that may be.

Eating After Fitness Competitions #7: Explore Other Unmet Needs

Competing involves a lot of sacrifice. To the point where we stop listening to other needs and wants because we have ultimate tunnel vision about competing, winning, food, and our physique. These unmet needs are big time triggers for why you may be overeating and/or bingeing. Have you missed out on precious family time? Do you need to pick up date night again between you and the hubby? Hang out with friends more? Get involved in other activities? Church groups? Don’t lose who YOU are. You are not ONLY a competitor. You are your own person, with your own kinds of interests and needs.

This was a BIG problem for me. I threw myself into competing 100%. I was so focused on getting to the top in my early twenties that I didn’t even pay attention to anything else. And I made it, a very young IFBB pro, but it came at a great cost. I completely lost who I was. That, combined with a divorce, lead my ass to therapy years later, which is where I feel my life finally began again.

I truly hopes this helps open a conversation and helps bring peace to eating after fitness competitions. Share it with those who you know may be struggling with their eating after fitness competitions, whether they have voiced it or not. We need to create a movement towards fixing the chaos with our mind and bodies post competing.  

And if you are looking for a hands-on approach to finding peace with food and body again that has NOTHING to do with reverse dieting, PLEASE inquire about personal coaching. I know you like the back of my hand, and you do well with coaching and taking one’s guidance. You will be more successful with a personal coach vs trying to navigate your own way through this. You can learn more here: 

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Fears About Committing to a Weight Loss Transformation

Weight Loss Transformation: What’s Stopping You?

Committing to a weight loss transformation can be really exciting and also really scary at the same time. You want to lose the weight, but then “the chatter” begins…”What if I fail?” “I don’t want to starve to death” “I don’t want to waste my money”…the list goes on. We hear it all the time, in fact, it’s a question we ask everyone that inquires about our coaching services. Why? Because we need to understand where you’re coming from, what experiences you’ve had in the past, we need to address those fears because if we don’t, then they will manifest and be extremely disruptive to your success. Here are our top common fears about committing to a weight loss transformation reported to us by our clients, and tips on how to overcome them.

Losing Motivation

You are all excited, over-the-top 100% committed, and then *poof*…it magically disappears. It feels like pulling teeth to help you get back on the wagon again when you feel defeated, perhaps disappointed, and your goal of losing 10 more pounds doesn’t seem as important or urgent anymore.


  • Have a clearer vision of your goal. What is the goal behind the goal? It must go deeper than weight loss. Is it keeping up with your kids? Not die of early age of diabetes like a family member? To have more self confidence?
  • Acknowledge that motivation usually doesn’t come FIRST. It comes AFTER taking action. Usually people wait to feel all “rah rah rah” before taking any steps in action. If you want to feel any kind of motivation or moment, you MUST take a step. Action = progress=momentum. More than likely, you are NOT going to feel 100% all in on that first step, that’s why change is hard! The doubt, the fears are all laying in a pool of “don’t do it”. A skill that you naturally learn (when supported properly) is how to continue to stay engaged when that momentum you feel quiets a little. It’s an important muscle to grow if you’re truly looking for long-term success! 
  • Acknowledge positive effects of healthy eating in your life, how does it make you feel? How does this align with your goal(s) behind the goal? Looking at food in this perspective helps you build a respectable, healthy relationship with food.
  • Own your own imperfections. It’s ok to make mistakes, THEY ARE GOING TO HAPPEN. These are the moments that you learn the most, be thankful for them! Don’t be embarrassed and stop caring what other people will think of you. Accept that you are not on a DIET but rather a process, or perhaps a new “awakening” about food and health as I call it.


You are perfect all week, but then, you deviate from your normal eating routine on the weekend and have something you “shouldn’t”. You feel guilty, and instead of not beating yourself up, you let this influence your decision making processes about what you eat for the rest of the day and continue to have a pity party for yourself.


  • Recognize that there must be a balance between eating for nourishment and eating for pleasure, regardless that you are trying to lose weight. Eating for pleasure is a NEED of all humans, a need for moderation/variety, but we tend to not listen to this instinct and we slap a label of “cheating” when we want to listen to it.
  • Trust your instincts. If you mindfully want a small piece of chocolate every day right now while keeping everything else healthy and nutrient dense, what is the problem with that? If that’s what YOU feel you need to help you not feel overly restricted from food, do it! DEPRIVATION IS THE NUMBER ONE TRIGGER TO OVEREATING. You just don’t simply need to mindlessly over-consume your favorite foods simply because you’ve given yourself loving permission to have it.
  • If you find yourself mindlessly eating at times, next time you have the urge to eat, ask yourself, “Am I Hungry?” This will help draw awareness to 1) body wisdom 2) triggers. Asking this pause and reflect question can help serve as a solution to some of those autopilot eating moments and also help you feel more in charge of your eating. Aim to feel better AFTER the meal (no matter what you choose to eat) than before you started.
  • We’re always talking about balance and intuitive eating with our clients, it’s the only way to achieve long-term results and truly achieve your weight loss transformation! I recommend you also read our supportive blog article Reasons to Not Use the Word Cheat Meal 


This isn’t your first rodeo trying to lose weight, why should this time be any different? “Weight loss transformation” sounds like a pretty big task and you remember that terrible feeling of falling short of your goal from prior attempts.


  • The first thing you need to do is recognize from the past what doesn’t work for you: DIETING. You need to approach weight loss not as a diet, but as a process. I’m sure there were things you DID like about past attempts when it came to the kinds of foods you incorporated. Great! You just don’t have to be 100% one way or no way. Find a flexible middle ground with your approach, you’re in charge now. There’s no pass or fail days or weeks. You just take things one moment, one decision at a time. Here is a helpful article, Why Diets Don’t Work.
  • Get assistance in improving your relationship with food as a whole. This will help remove the diet mentality and fear of failing. Here is a helpful article on Dynamic Eating Psychology that exposes what we eat is only half the story of good nutrition.
  • Don’t judge yourself! We’re our own worst critics. The goal is not to strive for perfection, rather gradual progression with your eating and overall self care practices.
  • Be cautious making “weight loss” one big event rolled up into one. You don’t just achieve your weight loss transformation by simply “getting there”, it’s composed of many little victories along the way, AND a lot of experiences to learn and practice from. Acknowledge the little victories and break down your big goals into more daily or weekly achievable action steps, such as having 1 fruit per day, or increase your water by 8oz a day.
  • Are you going to let the past define you? Just don’t keep hitting the diet repeat button. Shift your mindset per these recommendations and approach it in a fresh, less aggressive way.

You Like Food

Perhaps you’re a “Foodie”. The thought of weight loss means that you have to give up your favorite foods, and you’re just not sure if you’re will to make this ultimate sacrifice.


  • It’s ok to like food, I like food too! Enjoy it, pay attention to how it makes you feel,  and the quantity of it and how it makes you feel.
  • Eat when you’re hungry, try to stop when you’re content for most meals.
  • Take off the restrictions. When you take restrictions off you will be so surprised at what your choices end up being (in a good way!). Using a (probably horrible) example: it’s like the you really like a guy and he’s married and you can’t have him so you want him more and obsess about him, then he gets divorced and becomes available and now you’re like ‘yeah you know you’re really not the best fit for me’. It’s the same with food, take the restrictions off and you’ll start to pay attention to what role it really plays for you.

Being Wrong

What if I don’t have my calories right? What if I’m not suppose to have all these carbs? How do I know if I make the right choices for me?


  • The best diet for you is one that works for you on all levels. The only way to truly know if it does work for you, is to allow yourself to listen to your body wisdom and trust yourself. I know, sounds weird, but it’s true! Do you feel deprived? How’s your energy levels? Are you gaining weight or losing weight (over time, not overnight!)? What about your digestion? Bloating? Over time we lose the ability to trust our own instincts, it’s time to start listening in more. Many times our clients DO KNOW what they feel is “right” for them, but they don’t give themselves permission to trust these instincts. It’s ok to log your food if that’s helpful for you, but don’t create a crutch with it and don’t negate tuning into your body.
  • And wrong according to who? Stop worrying about everyone else for once, and just focus on yourself. You’ll figure it out, just be patient. And if you need guidance, we are here for you!

The Over-Investment of Energy

Many of our clients have invested a high amount of energy and effort into losing weight, and they feel this is the only way it ever works for them. The thought of suffering and “sucking it up” for the sake of losing more weight is not appealing and is a huge obstacle for many.


  • Use the above to remind yourself that you need to stay flexible. NO ONE can sustain a restrictive diet. Find that middle ground with your approach to your weight loss transformation. Letting go of the perfectionism and not putting yourself on a pressured timeline to lose the weight by will help tremendously! 
  • Remember that restrictive eating is literally the number one trigger to overeating and bingeing. So if you backed off the restrictiveness just a bit, you’ll avoid such opposite emotional swings and therefor have more consistency with your eating. Consistency will create results (not perfection!)

Fear of the Unknown

The fear of the unknown can sometimes be very difficult to describe because this fear is nothing more than a mental obstacle. More than often, it curbs an individual’s ability to perform to the fullest in various walks of life, including one’s weight loss transformation.


  • Remind yourself of the true risk. Will not losing weight shorten your lifespan? Take away your ability to teach your kids how to be healthy? Increase your risk for diabetes? Lose the opportunity to improve your quality of life?
  • Visualize success! In your mind envision how you are going to fight your fear step by step. Imagine different ways to combat your fear at least once in a day. Habitual practice of this activity will make you feel better. In this manner, you will already win the battle in your mind, before you set off to take real action.
  • Focus on the good that could be, not on the bad that might be. Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from experiencing a life greater than you have ever known.

I hope the above helps address some of yours. A soft starting place that will help you take change slow and easy is our Diet Freedom™ Membership. It’s super fun, informative, no strings attached, and you get to experience amazing content, a supportive community, and get help and support from some of the best experts in the field of mindful eating and eating psychology! 

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Reasons to Not Use the Word Cheat Meal

Cheat Meals We’ve All Done It…

It’s Saturday! The time has come to have a cheat meal. You’ve been thinking about it all week, or perhaps the unexpected occurred and the opportunity to eat something “off your diet” appears before you that you were hoping you could avoid. Regardless, you eat it and consider the event “cheating”. 

But why use the word “cheat meal” at all? I hear it ALL the time from my clients as they recall their past few days of eating to me, followed by the sense of disappointment and shame. They have no idea how their inner dialogue and perception of “cheating” is hurting their relationship with food. Here are reasons why I believe there is no need to call it “cheating” at all…

“Cheat Meal” Doesn’t Even Fit the Definition of “Cheat”…

The most applicable definition of the word “cheat” is: “to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something”. What LAW are you breaking because you want to enjoy a slice of pizza? The law that you made up? Since when do diets have laws? What rules are you breaking?  Even if you are trying to lose weight, you should be following guidelines and suggestions, not rules. RULES SUCK… and who wants to stick with a diet for the long-haul that’s full of all these obnoxious rules anyway?  When individuals receive a new meal plan or format to eating to follow by the latest “expert” in the media, it’s assumed one “shouldn’t” be eating specific foods outside of this and when they do it’s “cheating”. Many consider cheating a failure and say “screw it” and continue the overeating episode which takes them far opposite of their health and wellness goals.

The advantage that you are gaining by having something you truly enjoy MINDFULLY is plenty: variety, taste, moderation, interest, glycogen replenishment/extra calories/sodium replenishment for athletes, you feel like a normal human being, and more. The “rule” or “law” you are breaking is nothing. A healthy diet, whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle, includes moderation and variety. It’s normal that not 100% of the foods you eat 7 days a week are from only nutrient dense sources. That goes for me too! My house is not obsessive about being perfect with eating only nutrient dense foods every single day. If you are following a diet that involves zero flexibility, then I suggest you leave that circus right now because trying to “control” every aspect about your eating out of fear of weight gain or fear of overeating or binge eating is negative, exhausting, and unsustainable. Remember, attainable doesn’t mean sustainable!

You Aren’t Doing Anything “BAD”…

Holy cow is the world going to come to end if you have a freaking piece of cake?? NO!!! Why do we beat ourselves up about it? We are so hard on ourselves! The expectation for perfection with our diet I always hear about is astounding. It is so unachievable and unrealistic!  In our efforts to “be good” and lose weight we tend to ignore our need for moderation and include a few favorite foods. 


Maybe right now you are thinking, “But Shelby, if I eat what I want I will gain weight!” Wrong. If you are mindless about it and eat it impulsively all the time and don’t stop when you have had enough fuel and ignore your body’s needs, then yes, you probably will. You must find balance between mindfully eating for nourishment and mindfully eating for pleasure.

Eating for nourishment means what it sounds like, you are choosing foods that meet more physical needs: medical conditions, food allergies, energy, digestion, performance, etc. When we are trying to lose weight, we tend to spend all our time in their world of eating for nourishment… ‘MUST KEEP OUT ANY EATING FOR PLEASURE’ (imagine I’m saying this in a robotic voice). Eating for pleasure plays a very important role in your long-term success with your eating too, even if you are trying to lose weight. We ALL have needs for pleasure, variety, and balance when it comes to our food. Sometimes this comes in the form of healthful foods, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Eating for pleasure allows an individual to not feel deprived or restricted. Deprivation and restriction are actually some of the top emotional triggers for people to “go off the wagon” so to speak. By being mindful that you would like to keep one piece of dark chocolate in your day, every day because that is the pleasurable amount of variety and moderation you need right now to feel comfortable and not restricted, then that’s what you do, that’s not cheating, that’s knowing what you truly want and need to be successful. You’ll find by giving yourself permission to meet these needs you’ll naturally find the balance between eating for nourishment and eating for pleasure, a must-have for both short-term and long-term success!

Cheat Meals Can Lead to an Overeating Episode…

Hyper-focusing on a cheat meal all week can cause you to go into the meal in the mindset of needing to “take advantage of it” because it’s the only ONE meal you “get” for the week that you really want and don’t want to waste it. For others, the unrealistic expectation that they should not be consuming any unhealthy foods ever causes them to feel like they have zero willpower and that all their success and efforts up to that point just went down the toilet so they say “screw it – might as well enjoy myself!” and continue spiraling out of control. 

Remember, IT’S JUST FOOD. And you’re not going to jail if you have something you really enjoy. The more you deprive yourself of what you want, the more you’re going to want it and eventually, have it but in a mindless way. So you might as well just enjoy it mindfully!

Can Take Away Your Ability To Enjoy Food..

cheat meal

Let’s face it, by the time your “cheat meal” gets under your eyeballs you’re eating so fast that you act like you can’t wait to get rid of it and move on! 

Rarely do we eat slow, with appreciation, and free of any negative thought. Instead, many times we are faced with thoughts such as “I don’t want this to end”, “I don’t want to waste this”, “How much more cardio will I need to do to work this dessert off?”, “I’ll start back on 100% on Monday” “I’m so fat right now” thoughts. 

By eating so fast and mindless (your mind is elsewhere other than the meal) we also are negligible to our body wisdom telling us when we’ve had enough AND we’re unable to fully enjoy the meal causing us to (drumroll) eat more to feel more satisfied. We usually keep going until we are past the point of being content. Sometimes we are left feeling physically uncomfortable.

Cheat Meals Can Create Unhealthy Relationships with Food…

“Cheat” = “bad” “naughty” “shouldn’t be having” associations with food that we don’t need to have. When we are in a mental state where we are feeling negative or not being “good”, we lose the pure pleasure that non-healthy foods in our food abundant society can actually bring to our lives, and again, ignore the needs of eating for pleasure that we all have. It also creates a stronger restrictive mindset surrounding food. 

Other restrictive talk and mindset easily begin to build, and words such as “rules” “good or bad” “perfection” “rationalizing” “failing” “willpower” “guilt” and “shame”, “clean” vs “dirty” begin to emerge. You keep this up you will be eating healthy foods only because you feel you “have to”, so you’ll continue to “cheat” more often and the vicious cycle will only continue to get worse. Before you know it you’ll be working with us to unravel all of it and reset your mindset surrounding food and renew your relationship with food!

I’ve been in your shoes, MANY times. I come from a restrictive eating background myself and let me tell you, it has done a number on me mentally through the years. Luckily by working through my personal experiences and undergoing formal training in mindful eating and eating psychology, I have made 100% turn around with my eating and am able to enjoy food without all the guilt. 

So what should we call this event then you say? Well, you really don’t need to call it anything specific at all. You can just say, “I had an awesome dinner, tasted great!” or nothing at all and let it be. Mentally and quietly you can remind yourself of the importance of having BALANCE and VARIETY, and the role it plays in the big picture and that there is no guilt that needs to accompany you for eating something you truly want and enjoy.

I hope the above information hits home and helps you revise any negative mindset surrounding these meals into one with positivity, purpose, and without guilt or shame.

Your language creates your reality, so this week, practice catching that restrictive talk and check it at the door! Here is another helpful article to support you with your toxic thinking patterns.

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5 Steps to Create Mindful Eating Habits

Before we talk about mindful eating, let’s do a quick review of what mindless eating is:

  • Finishing a meal or snack yet you don’t even remember eating it
  • Not tasting your food
  • Eating for other reasons other than biological hunger such as boredom, stress, sadness, because you saw it on the counter, or because habitually it’s “what you do” while watching tv, scrolling on your phone, etc
  • Speed eating through your meal or snack
  • Not being in tune with your fullness cues and eating until you’re overly full, stuffed, or sick

Sound familiar? 

Let’s face it, today’s world operates at warp speed. With all the to-do’s, distractions, and stress levels rising in our daily lives, it’s no wonder that our eating gets sucked into the survival tornado too and we find ourselves totally out of touch with who we are, where we are, and what we’re eating at the plate.

This is where mindful eating is so very powerful. It is your braking system at the plate to slow down, tune in, and reconnect with your body and mind and keep your brain from keeping you from going down the unconscious path of mindless eating again. 

Mindful eating is simply a practice of placing your full focus on the present moment, listening, and noticing without judgement. It is NOT about restricting food intake. For example, having a cookie instead of an apple does not make this “mindless”, rather HOW did you eat that cookie or HOW did you eat that apple is what matter.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take a few mini time-out’s during the day to just have a nice relaxing meal? And the return on 10-15 minutes of your time would include:

  • Feel satisfied with less food
  • Not feel like crap after you eat
  • Reduce your cravings later in the day
  • Increase your energy 
  • Improve your digestion
  • Shift your body into relaxation state which primes the body for weight loss

Yes, mindful eating is THAT powerful! 

If you want to have ANY chance of reducing your overeating, reducing cravings, reducing digestive upset, reducing STRESS, and enjoy your food and simply stop when you’re satisfied (symptoms that block your weight loss), mindful eating is a MUST. It’s like the sun for the universe, it’s the nuclei to the cell. It’s the center for everything that makes eating simple again. 

Here are 5 steps to helping you create more mindful eating habits!

mindful eating habits
1. Stop and Pause Before Eating ANYTHING

This is a HUGE step, and probably one of the most important of all mindful eating habits. Sounds simple right? Not so simple to implement. This step is asking you when you have the URGE to eat, to stop, pause, and ask yourself, “Am I Hungry?”

There is a difference between having an urge to eat, and actually being hungry! This step will help you identify if you are eating for other reasons other than hunger, and what those reasons or triggers could be…maybe it is the sight of something, the free offer, the fact that it’s simply the time you ALWAYS eat. 

It will also point out if you can really tell if you are truly hungry, maybe it has been a while since you experienced this because you have been trying to prevent feeling any kind of hunger at all.

This is a re-learning process about your body wisdom and its ability to detect hunger, and WHY you are eating in the first place. For many, this step alone does wonders for people, why? How can you create healthy eating habits if you do not even know why you are eating in the first place?

2. Take 3 Deep Breaths Prior to Eating

Give your body the chance to calm down. Deep breathing is one of the most common practice cultures around the globe use to calm the body and the mind. Injecting a few deep breaths before a meal is a great new ritual to build, and ANYONE can do it. 

Here are the perks to relaxing the body prior to eating:

  • Increases pleasure of your meal
  • Helps you tune into your fullness cues
  • Improves your digestion
  • Slows down your speed of eating
  • Reduces your cortisol levels
  • Increases nutrient assimilation
  • Improves your mood
3. Give Yourself Permission

Many think healthy eating habits “should not” include decisions where a non-healthy choice was made. And when it happens, they mentally freak out, feel they are “off their diet” or “off the wagon”, and totally over-indulge with a “what the heck” attitude. 

The reality is, if you were to just mindfully eat whatever it was that you truly crave, that isn’t going to hurt you or your goals. What hurts your goals MORE is the extreme overeating response that YOU create after you have something you feel you “shouldn’t”! So give yourself permission to have some moderation in your diet, and eat it with mindfulness. This is way BETTER than adding a few hours or days of mindless overeating because you’re feeling guilty and stuck in self-loathing. 

And please, do not call it a “cheat meal“, ugh, this is a personal pet peeve of mine! Variety, balance, and moderation are very important underlying needs for EVERYONE. You’ll find that by giving yourself permission to have something you enjoy something every once in a while, everything will feel so much lighter and sustainable around your eating.

4. Do Not Wait Until You are Famished to Eat

One of the keys to conscious, mindful eating is to keep your body adequately fed to avoid becoming ravenously hungry, which increases the likelihood that you’ll slip into an overeating cycle. Once you hit the ravenous level of hunger, your body is stressed and mindfulness is replaced by reaction and speed to ensure you eat – NOW.

It is difficult to simply stop when you are bouncing from meeting to meeting and check in to see if you are hungry or not. To get started, I recommend you set a timer if necessary, as a reminder to simply check in, take yourself out of hyperdrive and just be in the present moment so you can give yourself a chance to check in and see if your body needs to refuel. This timer does not serve as a “time to eat”, it is just a reminder to check in so 6 hours don’t go by and you’re ready to eat anything put in front of you .

What are the times of day you typically find yourself in a situation where you are hungry and could eat but did not HAVE anything to eat? Having something to eat is a key player  in avoiding getting too famished. What is one snack you could have with you, that you could either buy or prepare to help give you some fuel to pull you through? 

5. Gauge Your Fullness Levels

Just because you eat healthy foods does not necessarily mean that you are consuming the right amount of fuel for your body. It is very easy to overeat with healthy foods too. If you do not want to rely on a meal plan or food logging the rest of your life to tell you how much to eat, then we better get going on understanding more about our body’s own ability to gauge how much fuel you really need.

This may be difficult for those that have relied on anything but their own, born-with innate fuel gauge to help them determine when to stop eating, but I promise with practice you’ll get it. Many use rules (diets), food logging, or other external reasons to help them determine when to stop eating (your plate is wiped clean, movie is over, etc).

We help clients relearn their hunger fullness levels using a hunger fullness scale. On a scale of 1-10, numbers 1-4 represent hunger, 1 being completely ravenous and virtually starving. Numbers 6-10 represent fullness, 10 being physically sick because you ate so much. 

The goal for meals is to feel a level 5 of fullness after meals. 

  •  5 = neutral, a comfortable place where you are neither “full” nor hungry, rather you are simply “content”.  You can’t feel your stomach at all sitting heavy with food.
  • 6 = full, you can feel the food in your stomach
  • 7 = very full
  • 8 = uncomfortable
  • 9 = stuffed
  • 10 = sick

I encourage you to get curious and try to rate YOUR fullness levels after meals!

In Conclusion…

Mindful eating habits take time to develop, so give yourself time, it is a process! If you are a little hesitant to try it on your own, we can help. I wish you the very best and hope that these 5 steps to mindful eating habits provide insight to a long-term strategy to success!

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