Stop Your Emotional Eating

This is an blog post that I wrote today for Albany.com

Your work deadlines are overwhelming, your kids are whining and you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep all week. Yes, those chocolate frosted cookies will make you feel better!

More often than you’d like, you respond to work frustration, family demands, everyday tension, sadness or other feelings with emotional eating. Why? Because it does make you feel temporarily better.

Any habit that is rewarding, despite it’s temporary feel-good, is reinforcing. You can break that cycle and weaken the habit. But you have to retrain yourself to respond differently when the not-so-fun emotions arise.
So, the next time you feel tense, sad, angry, bored, frustrated…
  1. STOP! It often helps to visualize a big red stop sign in front of you.
  2. Then, take several deep abdominal breaths. Practice these when you are calm so you can more effectively do them when in a higher emotional state.
  3. Next, rate your physical hunger from 1 (ravenous) to 5 (no hunger). By now a few minutes have passed and waiting is often enough to break the craving.
  4. Write down just one word about how you feel. Not too overwhelming, is it? Putting a name to the feeling is sometimes enough to stop the pattern.
Remember that turning to food to comfort yourself is truly a patterned behavior learned from being rewarded sometime in the past. Each time you stop the pattern, you weaken it. If you see a pattern of wanting to eat every time you are bored, you can now make a plan for those times. Whatever you have previously learned, you can replace with more effective patterns of behavior. Serious woman with stop gesture, isolated
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Listen to Your Body

Life happens. You get caught up in the everyday adventures. Kids, aging parents, health, finances, job responsibilities… And sometimes you forget to listen to your body.

Your body does this amazing thing when you don’t pay attention. It hurts. Sometimes the hurt is just a dull ache and sometimes it’s a sharp pain. I became aware last night that maybe I wasn’t paying close attention to my body because my back was aching yet another night.

Now I will put in a disclaimer that I have two disorders that cause pain anyway (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) but this dull ache is familiar. It is my warning signal that I have been ignoring my core strengthening exercises. It happens… we just get busy and overlook our most precious gift… our body.

So I decided to share a few easy things I do when my body is talking to me:

  • I sit on my balance ball a couple of times during the day. Gaiam adds a DVD with their balance ball showing other exercises to do on the ball. Great for core strength.

  • I noticed in a photo that someone took of me that my posture was slouched. Easy to happen when we are not aware. So now I am aware and make a conscious effort to sit and stand with a straight spine, visualizing a string through my spine being pulled up through the top of my head.
  • I also keep my shoulders in better alignment by practicing scapular or shoulder blade squeezes. Standing tall and straight, arms by my side, I gently bring my shoulders back and squeeze. Hold for 3 seconds and release. I do about 5 of these a couple of times a day.
  • This breathing exercise tightens your belly muscle- the transverse abdominis to be exact. Take a deep breath in and let your belly expand with the inhale. As you exhale, pull your belly button in toward your spine (using your belly muscle) and hold for 10 seconds as you breathe normally. I repeat this 3 times and do it 2-4 times a day.

See? These are not tough exercises. Even my fellow Masto buddies and EDSer’s should be able to do these if they start slowly.

Just as with the Mindful Eating that I teach, if we listen to our body, we can make the changes to feel our best. If you like this post, please share using the buttons below. balance ball

Too Cold to Drink

As I was sitting at my desk catching up on some email, I realized that I had not been drinking very much water the past few days. For any of you “lucky” enough to live in the northeast, it has been downright frigid! Who wants to drink water in these more than freezing temps? It’s just been too cold to drink.

What? I’m the first to tout the importance of adequate water intake and good hydration. Maybe this is why I have had a bit of a headache for a few days. Funny how this stuff can sneak up on you even when you know better. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, dry skin, muscle cramps or bad breath. Yikes! I can check off the first four… I apologize if I have halitosis.

We have forced hot air heat in our new house that is very drying, plus I’m a chilly willy, so I keep the heat warmer than most. That dries out the air even more. Whether you have the same heat, old fashioned radiators or baseboard heat, it is most certainly drier in your house too. That adds to your dehydration level.

So… starting today, I begin with the basics…again. I filled a 64 oz. container with purified water to fill my glass. That way I can keep tract. I don’t like cold water, so I am keeping mine on the counter. Plus, I’m adding some yummy herbal hot teas throughout the day. They warm me up and taste so delicious.

Oh, and before some well-meaning friends suggests alcohol to keep warm and hydrate, it actually drops your core body temp by dilating your surface blood vessels (so you may feel warmer) and it has a diuretic effect, causing you to actually lose more water.

So don’t forget to drink in the cold weather. I’d love for you to share your favorite cold weather drink with me.drinks

Better Than New Year’s Resolutions

From article I wrote for albany.com

Every January, so many of you make New Year’s resolutions. You have a clean slate with the beginning of a new year. There is something refreshing and reassuring about starting anew. You are certain that this year you will finally accomplish your goals… lose those 20 pounds, work out at the gym three times a week, straighten out your finances, quit smoking or manage your stress. Unfortunately, most of you will have given up by the end of January and the rest by February. A very few will continue on through the spring.

I gave up New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago. That doesn’t mean I don’t continually work on improving the areas that I still find challenging. But I learned a valuable lesson from B.J. Fogg, the director of research and design at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. I was lucky enough to be in one of his early online classes called Tiny Habits. I will pass along to you the most important lessons I learned to change any behavior long-term.

To add a new (hopefully positive) behavior, begin by selecting a Tiny Habit. A Tiny Habit is a behavior:

  1. you do at least once a day
  2. takes you less than 30 seconds
  3. that requires little effort

You add the new behavior you want directly after an existing habit. And the key is to keep it very brief initially until it becomes a habit. I wanted to reinforce my meditation habit first thing in the morning, so I sat in my meditation chair for 30 seconds every morning as soon as I finished my last sip of coffee. Because I drink one cup of coffee every morning, that is my morning habit. Attaching my meditation to that habit is a good fit, but the key to making it work is 30 seconds only, every day. I initially wanted to sit and meditate longer than 30 seconds since I was already there, but B.J. cautioned us to only follow the new behavior for a very brief time. 

Your existing behavior (i.e.drinking coffee) is you anchor. So choose your anchor well. Give it some thought. What do you do every single day, without fail? And what new behavior do you want to change/add? Remember to make it small and then you can build on it as it becomes a habit. Some examples:

  1. After I turn off my morning alarm, I will take 3 deep breaths and relax before getting out of bed.
  2. After I brush my teeth, I will write down one thing that I ate.
  3. After I walk in the door from work, I will get out my work out clothes

You can clearly see that one is a de-stressor, one is working towards better eating and one is working out. Only when you have these Tiny Habits imbedded as part of your daily routine, do you add the next step. And of course, it is incremental. As B.J. cautioned us, you need to make the new behavior super simple because as he says, “simplicity changes behavior.”

If exercise is your number one goal, start super simple. An example would be after I get out of bed, I will do 2 push ups. When that becomes your Tiny Habit without even thinking about it, much like brushing your teeth, it’s time to move it up a notch.

So toss out the New Year’s resolutions and try a Tiny Habit instead. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Tiny Habits, especially if you give it a try.  Closeup on young woman brushing teeth

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