Your love of baking is not the problem

Our newest Weighless members have just begun their year-long program. They’re getting to know each other and sharing their stories in the member forum. And several of them have mentioned the same obstacle to weight loss:

“My problem has always been that I just love to bake,”  one said, prompting a rousing chorus of “Me too!”

Man, can I relate.  I was also an avid baker in my 20s. I baked bread, pies, biscotti, scones, biscuits, you name it.  Around the holidays, I turned into a one-woman cookie factory. I took great pride in my creations and got a lot of positive strokes from my friends and family.  Who doesn’t love the friend, sister, or co-worker that’s constantly showing up with fresh-baked bread and cookies? (At least, that’s what I told myself.)

I loved the science and chemistry, the feel of springy dough under my hands, the yeasty scent, the beautiful end product.   All the things that we bakers say we love about baking.

The problem was that I also loved to eat bread, pies, cakes, and cookies.  I baked a lot. I ate a lot of baked goods. With predictable results.

And I finally realized that if I wanted to weigh less, I might need to bake less.

The less I baked, the fewer baked goods I ate. With predictable results.

I still bake for special occasions. Dad gets a rhubarb pie every Father’s Day. I make Challah bread for Easter brunch. (Yes, I get the irony.)   And if I decide to make cookies for the holidays, I’ll choose just one or two of the family favorites instead of all ten.

And you know what?  My family didn’t stop loving me. My friends didn’t stop inviting me over. Holidays are still special. And I have found new ways to be creative in the kitchen.

Time that I used to spend feeding my sourdough, I now spend rinsing my sprouts. Instead of making cookies, I make seed crackers.  Instead of kneading dough, I’m pickling carrots. Instead of trying out new pastry recipes, I try out new soup recipes.

It’s OK to love baking, or cooking, or even eating. But when our pursuit of that activity becomes an obstacle to our well-being, it’s no longer a hobby or an enthusiasm.  It’s a way to abandon ourselves.  A way to excuse or justify poor choices.

Now, you may be one of those rare creatures that can bake up a storm and never over-indulge.  But if you’re more like me, you might want to experiment with the notion that that you can love baking just as much but do it much less often.  You might like the results.

The Power of a Craving Reboot

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.

Why you don’t stick to your plans

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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?

What Makes a Workout?

Photo of an old time gymIn 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:

  1. Raise your heart rate (a little or a lot)
  2. Challenge your muscles (a little or a lot)
  3. 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:

  1. Distance
  2. Duration
  3. Intensity

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!

Self-care for stressful time

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.)

Three Ways Weighless Can Change Your Life

From the outside, the Weighless program probably looks like a weight loss program.

But it is so much more.

Every day we hear from our members that the skills and tools that they are learning aren’t just changing the number on the scale:

This work is changing the way they live and think, how they communicate with others, how they show up at work and with their families, how they understand their own motivations and behavior, even their goals for the future!

Here are a few of the ways that the Weighless program can change your life and not just the number on the scale.

#1. You will finally have your own back.

So often, when we struggle with our weight, it feels like we are literally at war with ourselves. We sabotage our progress. We make choices that know are moving us away from our goals. We are our own worst enemy. The worse we feel, the worse we treat ourselves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are a just few of the notes of that we’ve gotten from our members:

“I have never felt so confident in my ability to take care of my own self and my own needs. It’s actually impacting several areas of my life and I am so so grateful. I have lost weight, but more important is the perspective, skills and confidence I have gained. For the first time in my whole life I don’t feel like I’m my own worst enemy. I’m proud of myself”  Zahra H.

“When I started the program, I was praying that I could get control over my food thoughts and choices. I was always thinking about what I was going to eat next. I was afraid to go to the grocery store because I felt like I had no control. Fast forward to today where the grocery store holds no fear for me thanks to this program. It has totally changed the way I think (or don’t think) about food. I routinely walk past food that once had so much power over me. Today I had a realization about how far I have come. I feel normal and not alone and for this I am truly grateful.”  Terri J.

“Instead of making food choices in order to lose weight, I’m now making decisions that improve my health So my resulting weight loss feels like a welcome side effect to my food choices. It’s a pro-health and pro-me approach to food and life. This non-diet, this Weighless approach, has been free from the backlash, setbacks, binge eating and guilt that has plagued me with diets.”   Gila G.

“I have benefited enormously from your program and especially the discussions, support system, encouragements and ideas from the group.  I have lost almost 10% fairly easily and have become a much more mindful and self aware non dieter.  I have found strengths I did not know I had. I never could have gotten here on my own and I am very grateful for your program.”  Fran W.

#2. Holidays and vacations will no longer be a source of dread and anxiety.

“Can I lose enough weight before we leave?”
“How much weight will I gain before its over?”
“How can I stick to my diet with all this temptation?”
“How can I enjoy myself if I’m trying to stick to my diet?”
“This will probably erase all the progress I’ve made and put me back at square one”

These are the kinds of thoughts that vacations and holidays often dredge up. To the point where you don’t even look forward to them anymore.  Again, from our members:

“Yesterday when I got home from being gone for the holidays, I stepped on the scale. I’m the same as when I left 2 weeks ago! A surprise, considering the haphazard schedule and occasional treats. Then it hit me. I’ve shed the yo-yo dieter skin. Last year and every previous year since God created the earth I’ve started some crazy new diet come the New Year. Not this year. I’m happy. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m on the path that will take me there. Thanks, everyone! Happy New Year!”   Beth G.

“I made a goal that I would not gain weight in December. I just got off of scale and am down 2.4 pounds! I ate cookies, participated in family events and a holiday party at work, and bypassed countless doughnuts at work, ‘weighing less’ on the last day of the month. Yay me and this wonderful program!”   Louanne S.

“One of my favorite things about this program is that I do not dread special events.  I’m not waiting to start a diet until all the planets align and there are no special events on the horizon.  I have navigated weddings, vacations and holidays without obsessing over food choices.”    Ellen L.

“I leave to visit my family in Ireland tomorrow. In the past, I would set myself up to fail by resolving to lose 10 or 15 lbs – usually in the 8 weeks prior to a trip like this. The weight loss never happens but the stress and anxiety and feeling of failure leads to the “what the hell” and then you gain a few more pounds!! I am glad to say that thanks to the changes I’ve made in this program, I have not been stressed and I feel  confident that I can enjoy my holiday without feeling deprived.”   Jackie L.

#3.  You’ll have more energy to deal with the rest of your life (not less)

When we’re not happy with our weight, it’s tempting to put other goals on hold until we solve that problem.  Which never gets solved. And so, life stays on hold. In the Weighless program, it’s exactly the opposite. Instead of everything staying stuck, everything starts to move in the right direction.

“The thing that amazes me most is how enjoyable this new lifestyle is. I don’t feel deprived, or like I’m having less fun (which is what I expected). If anything I feel more energetic and joyful. I would never have believed it 6 months ago.”  Kate T.

“Life has been been chaotic the last few months, but I discovered the Weighless principles work no matter what is happening, especially as they become a way of life. I’ve learned so much from Monica, Brock and all of the wonderful members of this group!”  Kathy M.

“Over the last two years, I have gone through some crazy health and family issues, I’ve gone through the mid-fifties dramatic hormonal changes, I’ve traveled a great deal, I’ve been through physical injuries that have limited activity. In the past, I would have easily added 20-30 lbs. Not any more!  I have discovered life in a whole new way. I am eternally grateful to Monica, Brock and our wonderful community for this journey of discovery.”   Manju S.

“The me that is emerging is calmer and more confident. I feel peaceful and easy about my Weighless future.  Nothing needs to be a big deal anymore. It’s very freeing! I think the best part is that a lot of these little philosophies are creeping into other areas of my life as well.”  Lisa C.

Gosh, I didn’t mean for this post to go on for so long! There are so many other things we could tell you about what it’s like to weigh less.  But hopefully, we’ve at least managed to convey that the Weighless program is more than a weight loss program.

If you’re looking for a permanent and proven solution, a chance to put dieting behind you forever, and to experience a completely new relationship with yourself, we start on March 6th.

Stop hitting the pause button

I just returned home from an 8-day business trip. If you travel for business, you know how that goes: your normal eating and exercise routines are thrown completely under the bus, you don’t have a lot of control over what and when you eat, the food is often richer and more indulgent than your usual fare, and you might be getting less sleep. All your healthy habits feel out of reach.

I used to just mentally hit the “pause button” when trips like this came up and resolve to get back to eating healthy when I returned.

The problem is that something was always coming up to prevent me from sticking to my healthy routines: A vacation. A special event. A huge deadline at work. A hospitalized parent. A friend in need. An unexpected guest. (Or, in this case, a stomach bug that hit the day after I returned.)

The truth is, my healthy habits were “on pause” a lot more than they weren’t. Because life.

I finally realized that the only way to live a healthy life was to figure out how to make healthy choices even when I was out of my normal routine.  Because it turns out that my idealized notion of what a healthy day includes (aka, my “normal routine”) doesn’t actually happen all that often.

So, instead of “hitting the pause button” during my business trip, I continued to make the healthiest choices I could. I realized I didn’t have to eat every time we took a snack break. I didn’t have to sample every dessert. I didn’t have to drink wine with every meal. I stood through presentations in the back of the room instead of sitting all day. I talked some folks into walking back from dinner instead of taking the shuttle van.

My point is, if all the conditions need to be perfect in order to lose weight, we’re not going to make much progress toward our goals.

So, the next time you’re tempted to hit the “pause” button, commit instead to making the best choices you can under the circumstances. Don’t wait for life to get back to normal. It won’t!

When are you most likely to hit the pause button? How could you navigate that situation as someone who weighs less?

What are you saying no to?

What am I saying No to by saying Yes to this?

I love this question because it allows me to be a little more conscious of the trade-offs I am making.

If I’m just trying to decide whether or not I want dessert, the answer is always going to be Yes.  But if saying Yes to dessert means I’m saying No to weighing less, then I’m forced to consider which is worth more to me.

Similarly, by saying YES to working late. I’m also saying NO to working out.  Which is more important to me today?

By saying YES to a second glass of wine, I am probably saying NO to a sound night’s sleep.  (Alcohol definitely degrades my sleep quality.)   Which do I want more?

By saying YES when my sister calls and asks if I have time to chat, I’m saying NO to catching the news or taking a walk.  Often, that tradeoff is 100% OK with me.

Try this question out for yourself and see what you discover. Even if it doesn’t change your decision, I guarantee it will give you more insight into what you’re choosing and why.



Staying on track in the evenings

Do you ever feel like there are two versions of you?

There’s Morning You that’s totally committed to a healthy lifestyle. The you that makes a smoothie for breakfast, packs a salad for lunch, takes the stairs instead of the elevator, fills up your water bottle several times a day (from the furthest possible water cooler), and takes the dog for a longer-than-necessary walk before grilling fish and vegetables dinner.

And then there’s Evening You. The you that starts rummaging through the snack cupboard as soon as the dinner dishes are done. The you that just wants to relax in front of the tube with a bag of pretzels or bowl of ice cream. The you that wants another glass of wine, thank you very much, instead of a stupid cup of herbal tea.

The you that doesn’t care about eating healthy or losing weight. (Morning You can get back to that tomorrow…)

But it’s hard for Morning You to make much progress when Evening You basically undoes every good choice you’ve made in the first part of the day.

Here is a way to get Evening You more on board with the program

The Evening Ritual

You’ve heard of Morning Rituals but an Evening Ritual can be just as powerful.

A morning ritual helps you start the day on the right foot.  It might be a few minutes spent journaling or meditating, exercising, reading, or listening to a motivating podcast.  And that sends you into the day with a lot of positive momentum, making it easier to make good choices.

By the end of the day, that morning clarify and focus may feel very far away. You’re worn down and frazzled by the day’s challenges and motivation starts to slip. But you can refresh your intentions by taking a few moments at the end of the day or beginning of the evening to check back in with yourself and your goals.

Your evening ritual doesn’t have to be long or elaborate. It might be a ten minute session on your yoga mat, a few minutes reading something that inspires you, or even just sitting quietly, closing your eyes, and taking some deep breaths. Acknowledge the day’s successes. Let go of the day’s frustrations. Remind yourself what’s important. You’ll go into the evening feeling much more relaxed and in touch with what you want for yourself and from your evening.

(And tomorrow, Morning You will thank you.)

What sort of evening ritual can you create for yourself?  Where and when will it take place? What will it include? How will it conclude? Share your thoughts in the Weighless Life Facebook group