What you can do right now

I’ll let you in on a secret: The trick to talking me into a big project (like writing a book or hosting a conference or chairing a committee) is to ask me a year ahead of time.  Because although I always feel waaayyy too busy in the present, I somehow always believe that I’ll be less busy in the future.  

Do you share this delusional thinking?

I think that’s why so many people put off taking action on their health or weight. We tell ourselves that once this work project/tax season/kitchen renovation/pandemic is out of the way, we’ll have the bandwidth to focus on building a healthier lifestyle. 

But of course, our lives never really get less busy. A new project or challenge will come along as soon as this one is in the books. Meanwhile, the costs of not taking care of ourselves accumulate and compound.

And the truth is that we don’t really need to spend more time on the problem in order to solve it. We just need to spend the time we’re ALREADY SPENDING on it more productively.

Instead of complaining about all the things standing in our way, we can move just one of them out of the way.

Instead of endlessly researching our next step, we can take imperfect action right now.  

Instead of talking about how discouraged we are about our lack of progress, we can identify one small action that will move us in the right direction. (You’d be amazed at how quickly THOSE things start to accumulate and compound.)

Think of a goal or objective that you’ve been putting off, waiting for a “better time.”  There really is no better time than today. What small step can you take before this day is over?

When the people who should have your back don’t

One of the key strategies in the Weighless approach is to engineer an environment that supports the changes we are trying to make.  Trying to eat less junk food? Stop bringing it into the house! Want to be more consistent about movement?  Bring a yoga mat and some hand weights into the TV room and turn streaming time into strengthening time. Trying to avoid going back for seconds?  Put the excess food away before sitting down to eat.

(In the year-long Weighless program, we devote whole weeks to hacking our habitats!)

But what if the person you live with isn’t on board with the changes you’re trying to make? What then?

This is a very challenging — and very common — situation.

Keep in mind that when people close to you are unsupportive of your efforts, it’s probably more about them than you. The new habits you’re trying to build may make it harder for them to justify their own unhealthy choices. 

Sometimes, you can negotiate some compromises.  Sometimes, you just have to use the challenge as an opportunity to strengthen your own resolve and skills. And having a supportive community can definitely help. 

I have some additional ideas in this video. If this is a situation you’re struggling with, I encourage you to watch it. (It’s about 7 minutes long.) 

I know what to do. Why don’t I do it?

When I was first practicing as a nutritionist, I worked with a lot of people who had health problems related to diet. They were overweight. They had high blood sugar or high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

They (or their doctors) believed that they just needed someone to tell them what to eat and what not to eat. But as I quickly learned, the problem for most people is not that they don’t know what to do.

They know what to do. They just don’t know how to get themselves to do it.

They know that after dinner snacking is resulting in unwanted pounds. They just don’t know how to break the habit.

They know that they are eating a lot more sugar than is good for their bodies. They just don’t know how to stop.

They know that prepping healthy snacks or getting more exercise would be healthier. They just can’t seem to be consistent.

Now, not knowing how to do something is nothing to be ashamed of. But so often, even when people go looking for help, they tend to look in the wrong places. They look for something that will provide motivation or accountability. They look for someone with a new and different solution. They look for someone who will tell them what to do–only louder.

But none of this answers the real question: How do I change my behavior?

And this is the question that the year-long Weighless program is designed to answer.

Of course, as nutrition and fitness professionals, Brock and I have created a program that will help you figure out what eating and movement patterns work best for you. But much of the weekly curriculum and group coaching is devoted to helping people understand why they do the things they do and how to change the things they want to change.

Enrollment for the year-long Weighless program is currently closed. But you can get a jump-start on our approach to behavior change by tuning into our Change Academy podcast. And if you are thinking about joining the cohort that will begin in the Spring, be sure you’re on our mailing list.

New Year’s Intentions

It’s a new year–and a time when many of us like to set intentions for things we’d like to do or achieve in the coming year

But for members and alumni of the year-long Weighless program, this process feels a lot different than it used to. The reflections they’ve been posting this week in the member’s forum have been so inspiring to me–I  have to share some of them with you, too: 

“I have not had a New Year’s resolution related to weight since I joined. I’m still working on the healthiest me I can be, but there’s no big change to dread. Just keep on moving forward.”

“What a mindset change this program is! While I still have health related “goals”, they’re more like things I want to explore and additional habits I’d like to experiment with. So the goals end up being more like mindset shifts and habit changes rather than simply hitting a number on the scale by any means possible.”

“I realize looking back just how much I have changed! My outlook on health, eating, and activity is VERY different it was 2 years ago. and for the better.”

“I liked starting the new year with things already going for me and knowing that I will keep adding as time goes on. I also know that small changes that build upon things that are already in place have the chance to be permanent.”

“I was able to take on a 30-day yoga challenge and aspire to reading one book a month in 2021–because I don’t really need any new tools for weighing less.  I already know them and know I can lean in a bit more when I feel like I’m not making progress. It’s more of a habit than a resolution.”

I particularly love that last one, because it underscores how much energy we can free up for other things when we stop focusing on losing weight and start learning how to weigh less.

If your goal for 2021 is to lose weight, it’s not too late to convert that into a goal of becoming someone who weighs less. We’re here to help.

Does your week always start strong and then fall apart?

“I start out strong every Monday, sticking to my plan, making healthy choices, checking off my daily wins…but then the week just wears me down. By Thursday, I’m completely off plan and making poor choices. I’m tired and stressed and can’t find my motivation.”

Sound familiar? 

What if we redesigned your week? Instead of  a 5-day slog  followed by a 2-day collapse,  what if your week were a 2-day sprint, 2 days of rest and recovery, followed by a final 3 day effort?  Would that make it easier to sustain your focus and motivation?

This doesn’t even require talking your boss into an alternate work schedule. All it takes is mental reframing.

Even those of use who work non-traditional schedules have been culturally conditioned to think in terms of 5-day weeks and 2-day weekends. We’ve also been trained to think of Monday as the day we “start fresh.”  with a renewed intention to make healthy choices,  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Whatever your work schedule, trying thinking of your “personal work week” starting on Thursday.  If you set weekly intentions or keep a habit- or goal-tracking chart, have it run from Thursday to Wednesday.  

On Wednesday night, set aside an hour to prepare yourself mentally and logistically for what you want to accomplish personally in the week to come.  Write down your goals, intentions, and objectives. This would be a great time to listen to a podcast or read a book that inspires you to live your best life.  (Members of our year-long Weighless program sometimes use their Wednesday nights to listen to their weekly materials or to spend time problem-solving with us and their fellow members in the forum  )

 You head into Thursday calm, motivated, and prepared.for two days of solid effort. After two days, you get the weekend to restore and reset your intentions.  When you start again on Monday, your “week” is already half over. FInish strong!  And on Wednesday evening, assess your week and get ready for the next one. 

If you are tired of starting every Monday feeling strong and finishing every Friday wondering what happened to your health goals, this simple shift could make a big difference.  Even if you doubt that something so simple could help, what do you have to lose?  Let’s try it together this week and see how it goes.

How to be more consistent

Monday Morning Motivation: Finish What You Start - The Young Mommy LifeConsistent action is the key to lasting change.

And the key to being consistent is not biting off more than you can chew. A small action that you do every day will ultimately get you further than a big action that you do once.

But here’s the trap:  It’s easy to underestimate the impact of a small action. Which means we underestimate the impact of not doing it.

I learned this lesson (again) recently. A few months ago, I signed up for a program that teaches you how to use bodywork and alignment to improve your mobility and reduce stiffness and soreness.  (Ah, the joys of middle age.)

What attracted me to the program (other than the promise of relief) was the bite-size commitment required. Just ten minutes a day, five days a week. But a couple of months in, I realized that I was only doing the exercises once or twice a week.

Obviously, it wasn’t that I didn’t have enough time for a ten minute session. I think, sub-consciously, I didn’t quite believe that ten minutes a day could really make a difference. So I just wasn’t making it a priority.

Once I recognized what was going on in my brain, I got serious about my daily ten minutes. And after several weeks of consistent practice, I can’t believe the difference it’s made.

It was humbling to have to learn this lesson (again) because it’s something that we are constantly coaching our Weighless members on.

When you join the year-long Weighless program, we don’t require you to change everything about your life on Day 1. Instead, we start from wherever you are and begin making small shifts that move you steadily–and sustainably–toward your goal.

Sometimes, our members struggle with consistency. Not because anything we’ve suggested is too difficult. But because at first, it’s hard for them to believe that small actions can ever add up to big results.  Until they do.

This week, see if you can identify one small action that you could take every day that would move you a bit closer to your goal.  Make it small and commit to being consistent. Let’s see what kind of compound interest we can earn by January 1st.

What will your small action be?

Making meal-planning easier

One of the folks currently going through the year-long Weighless program recently asked for help with meal-planning. As this seems to be a sticking point for so many of you, I thought it might be helpful to share some of our problem solving here.

“Roger” was getting overwhelmed trying to find recipes that were compatible with weighing less–but also relatively easy to make. He felt like he needed to find 10-20 main dish recipes plus an assortment of vegetable recipes to accompany them but wasn’t sure what to look for or where to look.for them. He was spending a lot of time and getting really frustrated.

But I think we often make “meal-planning” way more complicated than it needs to be.  You don’t need to prepare 30 different dinners every month any more than you need to wear 30 different outfits.   As with your wardrobe, you can mix and match a handful of well-chosen items into dozens of simple but satisfying combinations.  If you get the hankering to dress up or cook a fancy dinner, you can do that. But it’s optional.

As I told Roger, rather than trying to assemble a few dozen recipes, you’ll get more mileage out of mastering a small handful of basic cooking techniques. This will give you far more flexibility and offers plenty of variety–without needing a whole bunch of recipes. 

For example, if you know how to roast, saute, and braise, you can make an almost infinite variety of delicious meals from whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand that week. And all three techniques are very simple, involving very few ingredients.

Here’s a typical week of meals at our house.

Monday: Grilled salmon, sauteed spinach with garlic, roasted root vegetables

TuesdayRed lentil stew with rice

Wednesday: Oven baked pork chops, roasted broccoli and carrots

Thursday: Steamed shrimp, roasted asparagus, roasted acorn squash

Friday: Braised collard greens with black eyed peas, baked sweet potatoes.

SaturdayPureed butternut squash soup, vegetable frittata with any leftover vegetables from the week.

Sunday: Homemade veggie pizza or socca

I’ve included links to a couple of recipes for you but for the most part, this is recipe-free cooking involving little more than olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs. (And not to be immodest, but I don’t get a lot of complaints…). 

My point is that meal-planning does not have to be a big complicated affair — or an insurmountable hurdle. It took me less than 10 minutes to come up with that meal plan and it’s based on what I have in my fridge, pantry, and freezer right now.  Next week is likely to look very similar, except that all the nouns and adjectives will be in a different order!

Have you been making meal-planning more complicated than it needs to be? Developing a  “capsule wardrobe” of basic cooking techniques can make your life (and your quest to weigh less) much simpler.

Let us know how we can help,

Getting to your goal faster

I am not much of an (American) football fan. But because it was always a part of our family’s (American) Thanksgiving gatherings, turning on a game while cooking dinner always feels nostalgic. Especially this year, when nothing else feels normal or familiar. 

As I was half-listening to the game this year, I got to thinking about the difference between passing games and running games. Some teams throw lots of long passes in order to move the ball down the field and into the end zone as fast as possible. Passing games are exciting because the score can change rapidly. They’re also exciting because there’s a much greater chance of turnovers, incomplete passes, and interceptions.

Other teams prefer to play a running game. They rarely go for big yardage. Instead of putting the ball in the air where it can be picked off, they keep the ball on the ground. They may only move a few yards each play but they rarely turn over the ball. It’s a lot less flashy to watch but teams that do this well can be unstoppable. 

OK, here comes the analogy you knew was coming!!

Diets that promise fast weight loss are a lot like passing games. The score (on the scale) can change quickly!  But there’s also a big risk of failure, burnout, or rebound weight gain–which is the equivalent of fumbling the ball on the 1 yard line and having the opposing team run it all the way back for a touchdown.

In the Weighless program, we play more of a running game. We have seen over and over again that playing the slow and steady game of sustainable behavior change gets our members into the end zone more quickly, and with far less chance of fumbles and interceptions.

At first, they might miss the adrenaline rush of seeing those first five or ten pounds come off in a few weeks. But they soon learn to appreciate the reliability and security of a good ground game. Especially when they realize that its the only way to win at sustainable weight loss. 

So, ready to try out your running game? We’ve put together some ideas that you can put into practice this month (yes, even during the holidays!). You can download it here.

Staying in the game

As the winter holidays draw near, there’s a temptation to put our goals (and ourselves) on the back burner. With so much going on, we don’t feel like we have the time or energy to focus on ourselves. So we decide to let ourselves off the hook for the rest of the year and regroup in January.

It feels like a relief at first. One less thing to worry about. But then that low-level anxiety creeps in. How much further from our goals will we be by January? What does this say about our chances of ever actually reaching this goal?

The thing is: It takes so little to stay in the game. It’s not about spending the holidays on a diet. It can be as simple as not finishing a cookie that doesn’t taste as good as it looked. Or putting on an extra layer or two and going for a walk even if it’s frosty. Or setting aside just 15 minutes for a morning warm-up. Or, checking in with others who are working on the similar goals.

Even if you’re not making rapid progress toward your goal, these small actions can reinforce your commitment to your goal, and help to strengthen the mindset and habits that will ultimately get you there. You may be on the bench taking a breather but you’re still in the game.

And here’s the crazy thing: Staying in the game won’t make your holidays any busier or more overwhelming. To the contrary, you’ll probably feel a bit calmer, more in control, and less stressed.

If over the next few weeks, you find yourself tempted to throw in the towel until January, see if you can find one tiny way to stay in the game for another day.


There are better ways to avoid wasting food

“I often eat things because I don’t want them to go to waste. I may not even like them that much, but they cost money and I don’t want to be wasteful.”

Can you relate?

One of our Weighless program members posted this in our forum this morning. We’ve heard hundreds of variations on this theme over the years. I shudder to think how many millions of excess calories are consumed every year by people who just can’t stand to throw food away. Or the kids who are being indoctrinated into this unhelpful mindset with things like the Clean Plate Club.

Don’t get me wrong. Food waste is a huge problem that deserves our earnest attention. But guess what? Eating food you don’t need–or don’t even want–does not reduce food waste.

It doesn’t feed starving children. It doesn’t recover the resources that were used to produce it. It doesn’t put the money back in anyone’s wallet. It doesn’t really even keep it out of the trash. It simply turns your body into the trash receptacle.

Once we recognize the sheer folly of eating food just to prevent it from being wasted, it opens up some really useful alternatives:

  1. We can truly commit to an essential Weighless principle: If you’re not hungry and/or you’re not enjoying the food, stop eating!

  2. We can truly commit to meaningful action to reduce food waste.

The best way to reduce food waste is to stop buying, cooking, ordering, or serving yourself more food than you want or need. (We have specific strategies for this in Weeks 3, 6, 8, 9, and 12 of our year-long program)

If you do find yourself with more food than you want or need, share it with a friend, stranger, or even with your future self. Split an oversized portion with your dining companion. Donate excess food to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Pack it up and put it in the freezer for later.

If none of that is possible, throw it away or compost it. If it feels bad to throw it away, let that motivate you to redouble your efforts to avoid the situation in the future.

It is everyone’s job to help reduce food waste. But it is not your job to be a human garbage disposal.

I hereby disband the Clean Plate Club.