One of our Weighless Community members recently emailed with a dilemma:
I recently started hiking 5-10 mi a day and I am now ravenous all the time. I eat my usual sized meal and I’m still hungry…or I’m hungry again 30 minutes later. I have upped my calories a bit, but that didn’t seem help. I also tried eating more frequently. No luck there either.
Eventually, my body acclimates, but if I increase my speed or add more miles, it starts over again. Is there a way to control this? I was hoping to lose 5-10 lbs, not gain it!
In fact, there are some strategies for dealing with this. But first, I needed to know what KC’s motivation was for continuing to increase the intensity and duration of her hikes. It’s usually one of three things.
Exercising to lose weight
If you’re exercising more in order to burn more calories in order to lose weight, then you may be shooting yourself in the foot.
Exercise can stimulate the release of hormones that increase appetite. This is your body’s well-meaning (but perhaps unhelpful) attempt to replace those lost calories. And moderate intensity, long duration activities like hiking, cycling, and jogging are the ones most likely to have this effect. (Consuming a lot of gels and goos during your workout can make it worse).
Exercise has so many benefits–and we want you to enjoy them all! But as a calorie burning strategy, it often backfires. You log more minutes on the treadmill in order to burn more calories but then end up hungrier as a result. And this is why, in the Weighless program, we don’t encourage exercising in order to burn calories or lose weight. (More about that here.)
Exercising to get fit
If the goal is simply to get fitter (which we certainly DO encourage!), you might want to opt for shorter, higher intensity workouts or interval training. These (when combined with a generally active lifestyle) can get you fit a lot faster. And they are also less likely to stimulate the appetite to the same degree.
Training for a challenge
Now, as it turns out, KC was not hiking in order to burn calories or simply to get fit. She wanted to get to the top of a certain mountain. Just for the satisfaction of meeting the challenge (and, of course, enjoying the view). This is an awesome reason to train! But in that case, part of the challenge will be figuring out how to manage the impact of endurance training your appetite without overeating.
We tackled that question on this episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast. But in the meantime, we’d like to hear from you! What is YOUR motivation for the various types of exercise you do? Are you exercising to get fit? Training for a challenge? Or in an attempt to manage your weight?
When I was younger, I worked for a division of the Government in IT. In that crowd, there is a running joke that almost any computer issue can be resolved by “turning it off and back on again.” And all joking aside, it really does work… a surprising amount of the time. Seriously, give it a try next time your computer, phone, tablet or even TV is giving you grief.
The American author and poet, Anne Lamott, also wrote that “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Which is a key point in her TED talk called “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing” which I encourage you to check out.
This restarting strategy is very similar to something we teach in the Weighless program as a way to outwit random food cravings. And no, it doesn’t involve you having to go and take a nap everytime you get a craving for [insert default food here]. It simply involves taking a break from the situation that caused the craving in the first place.
Many conventional diets will simply tell you that you are not allowed to have that food (or will try to sell you on a substitute version) but in Weighless we prefer to be both a little more forgiving and more realistic in our advice.
We know the strength of willpower but we also know its weaknesses – so whenever possible we prefer to take it out of the equation.
So, instead of using a ton of willpower (if you have any left at this point in the day) to resist that urge, we suggest instead to make a deal with yourself to simply take a break for 10-ish minutes and remove yourself from the location or situation that kicked off the craving. Restart your inner CPU, as it were.
Then, the second part of the deal with yourself is that if you still have that same craving after 10-ish minutes of letting your brain reboot, follow through and go ahead and enjoy a sensible amount of that treat. But, and this is important, you REALLY take the time to enjoy that treat!
Don’t eat it distracted.
Sit down, focus on the treat, and enjoy the heck out of each bite until you are satisfied.
You know what? Honestly, more often than not after the restart, our members generally forget about the craving and move on with their day. And even if they don’t, the anticipation, the ritual and the mindfulness of eating that treat with no distractions makes it more enjoyable and often they find that just a few bites is all they required.
Try this strategy next time you find yourself with a random craving and let us know how it works for you. I bet, like my crappy old MacBook, a restart will make all the difference.
We’re hearing a lot these days about the value of planning: A daily schedule to impose some structure to our suddenly formless days. A task list to keep us focused and productive while working or studying from home. A meal plan to keep us from mindlessly grazing all day.
So we dutifully make a plan for the day…and then abandon the plan by 10am. It’s tempting to conclude that planning doesn’t work.
But here’s the thing everyone forgets to tell you about planning. The trick is not in making the plan. The trick is in sticking to the plan you’ve made.
Because I can almost guarantee you that however solid and reasonable your plan, when it comes time to execute it, your brain is going to rebel. It will argue that it doesn’t really matter whether you write that email now or later, or whether you eat this or that. After all (your brain will say to you), you made the plan. You can change the plan. No big deal, right?
And the more often you throw the plan out the window, the easier that “no big deal” moment becomes. Each time you alter your plan, you empower the part of your brain that always wants to give up.
At the end of the day, however, you’re very likely going to be disappointed with the results. A lot of the work you planned to do is still undone. The exercise session you planned somehow didn’t happen. Instead of the nice salad you planned to have for lunch, you ate an entire tube of saltines, 4 slices of american cheese, the cookie you planned to enjoy after dinner plus three more. You’ll wonder how the day got so out of control.
The problem here is that your brain has (at least) two parts: A higher brain that’s looking out for your future well-being and a lower brain that favors immediate gratification.
Which part of your brain do you want calling the shots?
In the Weighless Program, we often refer to that lower brain as our Inner Toddler. And just like a child testing limits, our lower brain is constantly testing to see whether it can get the higher brain to cave in on all those pesky, no-fun plans. But just as a child actually feels much safer and happier when they realize that there are limits that prevent them from doing whatever they want, you will feel so much calmer and more in control when you know that you can count on yourself to stick to the plan. And every time you do, you strengthen that part of your identity.
The art of planning
Whether you are planning your work schedule, your meals, your exercise, or any other habit, you may need to experiment to discover what level of detail is flexible enough to be realistic without being so flexible that it fails to keep you on track. But whatever level of detail you arrive at, it’s helpful to write it down. Because then when your lower brain starts negotiating or you conveniently “forget” what the plan was, you can refer to that document and remind yourself, “Nope, this is the plan. End of discussion.”
At the first moment of rebellion, when your lower brain starts to argue that it doesn’t really matter whether you eat a salad or saltines for lunch, you calmly tell your lower brain, “No, we’re going to stick to the plan–simply because that’s what we planned. If we decide we don’t like this plan, we can make a different plan for tomorrow. But today, we’re following the plan. “
And then you follow through. You trust that what your higher brain planned for you was in your best interests. When you’re tempted to have an unplanned snack or treat, remind yourself that your plan includes a snack and a treat. Just not this one and not right now.
So, you also want to be kind to yourself when you’re making your plans. You want to be looking out for your best interests, whether that’s finishing the work that needs to get done, or eating nutritious foods, or getting some exercise. But in addition to all of these ways of taking care of yourself, remember that your plan should also include ways of resting and relaxing, things to enjoy and look forward to.
It’s OK to plan a food treat but remember there are lots of other ways that we can give ourselves small pleasures through the day, whether it’s a call with a friend, a nap, a half hour with a book or magazine, or an episode of a favorite show. When we include treats in our plan, it makes it much easier for us to resist momentary urges–because we know we have treats coming our way.
If only as an experiment, I want you to see what happens if you stick to your plan all day long. You owe it to yourself to see what it’s like when you actually take care of yourself that way.
There may be a few bumps. You may feel a little grumbly at times. But at the end of the day, I want you to notice how it feels to have completed (most of) the work you meant to complete, to have eaten (pretty much) the way you intended to eat, just moved your body (more or less) the way you planned to, to have enjoyed the treats that you selected for yourself–and to have both the pleasure of anticipating them as well as the pleasure of enjoying them.
Does it feel better or worse than you feel when you abandon your plan because it doesn’t seem appealing or important in the moment?
If you didn’t stick to your plan, think about why your plan failed. Was the plan too strict? Simply unrealistic? Maybe your work plan needs to include an extra hour to handle unexpected stuff. Maybe the meals you planned weren’t quite enough to satisfy your hunger. Or, maybe you needed to leave a little more time for preparation. How can you adjust tomorrow’s plan to make it serve you even better?
In an article I wrote over on my coaching blog, I gave a brief history of the gym (or the “health club” as it was known). In my research, I discovered that it was in about 1977 that the majority of the population slowly started to be introduced to the idea that gyms were a place that you could go to “get fit.” But it didn’t really catch on until the 1980s.
I was 6-years-old in 1977 (and honestly didn’t step foot in a gym until the 1990s) and yet, many of you reading this and many of my peers still have the idea that you can’t get fit if you can’t afford, don’t like, or don’t have time to get to the gym. Or more recently, don’t have a Peleton, treadmill or visit a yoga studio (real or virtual).
Interesting, eh? It really didn’t take us very long to somehow lose our innate ability to maintain our own fitness without outsourcing it to someone or someplace. And never has this lack of understanding been so pointed and obvious as it has been during this current viral lockdown.
Everyone and their dog is currently sharing their workouts on social media, asking people like me to teach some workouts they can do at home, and online workout services are gaining more traction than ever because of this lack of understanding of how to stay fit on our own. And I am not trying to shame anyone. This is a good and natural reaction but …
Give a person a workout video and they are sweaty for a day.
Teach a person how to exercise and they are fit for life.
So, I want to make it simple for you. Are you ready?
The three criteria that a movement needs to fill in order to qualify as an exercise are:
Raise your heart rate (a little or a lot)
Challenge your muscles (a little or a lot)
Move your body beyond your comfort level (a little or a lot).
That is all.
Here’s an example: let’s say you are carrying the laundry basket up some stairs, how can make that into an exercise?
Go up the stairs quicker or two steps at a time,
add more weight to the basket,
hold the basket in a different way than usual,
go up some of the stairs sideways.
Boom – you are exercising! And getting the laundry done!
Now you may be thinking, “that sounds too easy, what if I am more fit than that?”
Well, there are three factors that need to increase to create fitness, and they are:
That is all.
Here’s an example of this: let’s say you have been carrying that same laundry basket up the stairs for a few weeks and it is feeling easy now. Then you could:
increase the intensity (by adding more weight to the basket),
you could increase the distance (by going up and down the stairs a few times),
you could increase the duration (by taking each step slower and more controlled).
Boom – you are getting more fit from the same task!
Sure this is overly simplified. There are a lot more factors you can add in (like which body parts you want to develop) and more considerations that are fun to focus on (learning to do a pull-up) but when it comes to doing nothing (because you feel so lost) and doing something simple like this (because let’s face it, we all need to do laundry during the pandemic) I would choose this every time!
How many times in the last 24 hours have you said (either outloud or to yourself) “I’m so stressed” or “This is so incredibly stressful!”?
And it’s true: We are all going through something completely unfamiliar and unknown. We have to do things we’ve never done before, We have to find completely new ways of doing things that we’ve been doing all of our lives.
This is the textbook definition of stress.
For most of us, the word “stress” has a very negative, even harmful connotation. And when we hear and say and think it over and over again, it enhances the sense of doom and disaster.
But stress is not inherently bad or good, positive or negative. It’s just challenging. And simply replacing the word “stress” with the word “challenge” can ratchet down the anxiety. And help you reclaim a sense of control and resilience.
Challenges can be energizing. They may cause us to discover strengths and talents we never dreamed of. We may have ideas and inspirations and experiences that we would never have had otherwise.
Of course, challenges can ALSO be difficult. They may be frightening, or painful, or sad. We may feel fatigued or anxious or numb. I’m not denying that.
But we can work with those feelings (and our responses to them) much more effectively if we can name them more specifically.
So, instead of saying you feel “stressed” and diving for the chocolate, see if you can be more specific. What actual physical sensations are you aware of? What emotions are you feeling?
And then consider how you can relieve that sensation, or address that feeling.
If you’re hungry, fix a meal that will nourish both body and spirit.
If your muscles are tense, try a gentle stretching routine.
If your breathing is shallow, try some deep breathing.
If you are tired, try taking a nap.
If you are feeling grief, allow yourself to mourn.
If you are keyed up, try releasing some energy by taking a brisk walk.
If you are worried about someone, try reaching out to them.
If you are anxious about having too many things on your to do list, do one of them. (Or, remove one of them!)
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help.
If you’re depressed by news, turn it off.
If you’re anxious about the future, bring your focus gently to the present, which is the only realm in which you have any agency.
If you’re lonely, reach out to a friend.
We are all stronger, more resourceful and more resilient than we ever imagined. I don’t think any of us would have chosen to be in our current circumstances. But every challenge is an opportunity for growth. And massive challenges offer the opportunity for massive growth.
Who can focus on their health goals when the world is falling apart? Who can resist comfort food when all of our normal comforts have been pulled out from under us?
Who has the bandwidth to work on behavior change right now? Who could blame you for stress eating your way through the next few months?
If thoughts like these have been running through your head, I want to offer you a completely different possibility.
Not only has it never been more important to work on our mindset and habits, it’s also never been easier.
This unprecedented set of circumstances offers an unprecedented opportunity.
After all, what is it that has always kept us from making progress in the past? We’re too busy. We’re running from thing to thing, over-committed and over-extended. No time to think, much less plan.
Well, many of us just became full-time telecommuters. Most of our social lives and recreational activities have ground to a halt.
With nowhere to go, we suddenly have more time on our hands. Almost too much time. We’re bored and restless.
When else do we have time to slow down and observe our thoughts? To insert a pause between the moment we feel an urge or impulse and the moment we respond to it–and see what’s really going on in there?
To be more intentional about what, when, and how much we are going to move, eat, work, and rest. To put some real thought into how we are going to execute our plan. To try it out, analyze our results, tweak, and try again?
None of us have ever experienced anything like this. And it will not go on forever. But we can absolutely exit this crazy episode with better habits and mindset than we went into it with.
And, fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone.
In addition to the intensive work we’re doing with our members inside the Weighless program, we’ll be in the Weighless Life Facebook group every day, teaching you how to use the Attention – Intention – Action cycle to manage your mind, take care of your body, and live the best life you can. No matter what’s going on in the world.
I don’t have to tell you that we’re living through some particularly stressful times right now. And for many of us, eating is a tried and true response to stress.
I take that back. It’s certainly well-tried. But is it really true? Does eating relieve the stress? Only for a moment, at best.
It obviously doesn’t do a thing to change the circumstances. And often, it piles on more stress in the form of regret, self-judgment, or other negative consequences.
One day–and hopefully soon–the current crisis will have passed. Things will get back to normal. The stock market will recover. We’ll go on with our lives. And when that happy day comes, let’s make sure we’re not 10 pounds heavier!
Better stress management skills would probably help. Unfortunately, most of us don’t start thinking about learning how to manage our stress until we’re virtually incapacitated by it. And trying to master a relaxation technique in the midst of an anxiety attack is a little like trying to read the instructions on the fire extinguisher when the kitchen is already on fire.
If you’re seriously stressed out, sitting down to meditate or practice yoga or do a body scan–if it’s not something you do regularly–may leave you feeling even more stressed.
I’d like to suggest a two-step approach.
#1. Leave a note for your future self. “Dear Self, now that everything has calmed down a bit, and it doesn’t feel like your hair is on fire, wouldn’t this be the perfect time to sign up for that meditation or yoga class, listen to that online course on stress reduction techniques, or create a daily relaxation routine?”
#2. And starting today: practice precovering. Instead of waiting until you’re feeling stressed to start looking for a release valve, find ways to pre-release the pressure. Make a little extra time for activities that you find relaxing and calming and use these as a way to “precover” from the stress that each day is sure to bring. Even 10 or 15 minutes a day of effective self-care can make you more resilient.
The difference between numbing and relaxing
Let me also share an insight I have learned the hard way. Distracted is not the same as relaxed. Numb is not the same as calm. Ice cream, Netflix, Chardonnay, and eBay are all great ways to distract and numb. They are not great at generating peace and resilience.
Don’t feel like you have to stick to the cliches. Bubble baths and lavender oil may not be your cup of (herbal) tea.
Maybe for you it’s line dancing. Or playing piano. Or puttering in the garden. Or playing laser tag with the cat. (What is it for you? I’m always looking for ideas to expand my repertoire.)
Whatever it is, try to do it on a daily basis, whether or not you feel you “need” it. If it feels like recovery, it’s too late. (That said, better late than never.)
A day or so after one of my favourite runners of all time came in fourth in the USA Marathon Olympic trials, Boston Marathon Champion, 2-Time Olympian, and NCAA All-American, Des Linden, posted this on Twitter.
I share this for a few reasons:
Des had every reason to feel defeated and down after barely missing a spot on the 2020 USA Olympic Marathon team but instead she focussed on the fact that she didn’t quit and kept pushing through.
The idea that we can actually make a decision like “no quit” into a habit in our daily life is one that lends itself to success in many areas of life.
If we don’t quit, we can make our worst days into barely a hiccup rather than a disastrous cascade of choices that don’t align with our goals.
You know, before folks join us in the Weighless program, one of the prevailing issues that we see repeated again and again, is that when a person hits a bump in the road and makes a misstep (like eating a cupcake at the office birthday party or being too busy to make it to the gym) that instead of accepting that they slipped up and get immediately back on track, they quit and throw caution to the wind for the remainder of the day – or the week – or the month – and they resign themselves to start again when they are “really ready.”
But what if they added “no quit” as a habit?
What if they simply shook off that momentary lapse and got right back on track? Well, then they would join us in taking their worst day and make it “not that far off their best day.” A day that would have otherwise turned into a stream of regrettable decisions would instead be a day where you missed your workout but went for a lunchtime walk instead. Or you ate the cupcake but then had a lovely piece of fish and a salad for dinner.
The truth is that every time we give ourselves an excuse to quit, we get better at quitting. But every time we don’t quit, we get better at pushing through.
But if you’re STILL not feeling like you have the confidence to pull the trigger … we want to make this decision a bit easier for you.
We want to help you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether this program can help you finally leave behind the yo-yo dieting cycle and become someone who weighs less.
8 Ways to Know Whether Weighless is Right For You
1. Solving this problem is important to you. This needs to be something you really want for yourself and not because someone else, like your doctor, spouse, kids, or society, thinks you should care about.
2. You’re willing to try a different approach (after all, how is the old approach working for you?)
3. You want something that’s grounded in science and not hype, woo, or magical thinking.
4. You’re ready to take a closer look at the ingrained patterns keeping you stuck
5. You’re willing to take ownership of the process. Don’t worry: you won’t be alone, we are there to guide you. But this is ultimately your journey.
6. You’re willing to make your health a priority. Even if that means that others in your life might have to step up.
7. You can commit 30 minutes a week. We know life can get crazy. But if you can set aside 30 minutes each week, you can reap the rewards.
8. You’re OK with losing weight more slowly in exchange for never having to lose it again. We’ve been trained to expect fast weight loss. But the truth is, slower weight loss is easier on you, your body, your metabolism, and far more sustainable. (Plus, you actually look better faster.)
If you feel you can say Yes to all (or even most) of these questions, we would love to have you join us.