Respect your hunger (but ask to see ID)

Chronic dieters often tell me that one of the hardest things about losing weight is constantly being hungry.

In the Weighless program, we don’t go hungry.

The correct response to the biological cue of hunger is to seek food. We don’t override or suppress this response.

But we also don’t eat constantly, either.

What we do instead is learn to recognize whether we are truly hungry–or just feel an urge to eat for some other reason.   And if we realize that the impulse to eat is actually out of boredom or stress or habit, we practice responding to those needs more appropriately.

We tackle this skill in month 2 of our 12 month program and many of our alumni look back on this as one of the most transformational parts of the program.

Want to give it a try? Here are some tips to help you decide whether it’s actually time to eat:

  • Consider when and what you last ate. If it’s been several hours since your last meal, or your meal was very small, you may actually be hungry. But if you just had a meal an hour ago or just ate a snack, you probably don’t really need food. Try drinking a glass of water and see if that removes the hungry feeling.
  • Consider your emotional state. If you’re feeling bored, anxious, stressed, lonely, or if you’re procrastinating doing something you don’t want to do, be skeptical of that feeling of “hunger.”
  • Consider what you want to eat. If you want to eat a bag of chips or a cookie, but you don’t want to eat a salad or chicken with broccoli, you’re probably not really hungry.
  • Try distracting yourself. Call a client, do a little work, or take a short walk. If you still feel hungry after 10 minutes, it might be time for a (healthy) meal or snack.

With a little practice, you’ll get a lot better at distinguishing true hunger from the urge to eat–giving you the opportunity to respond more appropriately.  You really can weigh less without ever feeling hungry, deprived or resentful.

Stop exercising to burn calories

I just saw yet another infographic showing how much exercise is required to burn off various fast foods: a Krispie Kreme donut,  McDonalds French fries, five Oreos, a grande Starbucks frappuccino, etc. (I’m not going to link to it here because I don’t want to encourage this sort of thing!)

Fitness trackers and calorie counters make it seem like the only reason to exercise is to burn off those pesky calories.

A couple of years ago, there was even a serious discussion about adding an “activity equivalent” to the calorie count on our nutrition facts labels.

But all of this just reinforces the dieter’s mindset: the idea that we have to offset “bad” eating choices with “good” behaviors like exercise.

Burning calories is NOT the primary benefit of exercise. Nor should it be the primary goal.

So what’s the point of exercise, then?

  • Increased strength, flexibility, and balance
  • Strong bones
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Enhanced immunity
  • Reduced chronic pain
  • Better mood

And by the way – exercise isn’t just the 20, 30, or 60 minutes you spend at the gym or doing a workout video in your living room.  Your day is full of opportunities to move, stretch, and strengthen your body.  You just need to get into the habit of noticing and taking advantage of them!

The human body was designed for movement, and learning to move more can truly improve the quality of your life–and also help you weigh less in the long run.

How can you add more movement into your day today?

How to stop the guilt/deprivation cycle

We’ve been talking lately about the many choices that we get to make about what, whether, and how much to eat, and working on making these choices more intentional.  But I want to caution you against framing these choices in terms of Want vs. Should.

“I really WANT to have a bowl of ice cream. But I SHOULD say no.”

This is a lose-lose scenario!   If you give in and have what you want, you feel bad for not doing what you should.  And if you stick to your guns and do what you should, you don’t get to have what you want.

If this is how you are setting up your choices, your whole day becomes a depressing and exhausting series of decisions that either lead to guilt or deprivation.  Who wants to live like that?

As you’re considering what to choose, avoid loaded words like want, need, should, and shouldn’t. Focus instead on the fact that you have options, and that each option has pros and cons.

“I could have a bowl of ice cream. Or I could have a piece of fruit instead.”

“I can have ice cream tonight or I can look forward to that as a treat at the end of the week.”

“I can have two scoops or I can have one scoop.”

“I could eat ice cream until I feel better or I could take a walk and see if I can find a way through this feeling that doesn’t move me away from my goals.”

Consider what you get from each.  How much and what kind of satisfaction or pleasure would you get? How long will that last? (5 minutes? 10?) How will you feel after that? (Stronger? Calmer? Regretful?) How long will THAT feeling last? (A day? A Lifetime?)

Even the difference between saying “I get to make so many choices every day!” instead of “I have to make so many choices every day” can be so empowering.

This week, I invite you listen to your self-talk a little more carefully.  Instead of setting yourself up for a lose/lose situation, see if you can frame your choices in terms of which presents the more meaningful win.

Choose to Say Yes More Often

Last week, I talked about the many choices that we get to make each day about whether, what, and how much we want to eat. Becoming more aware of these choices is one of the first thing we work on in the year long Weighless program.  But our members are often confused about this at first.

They think this means self-policing every move.

They think doing it “right” means always doing what they “should.”

But it’s more subtle than that. It’s about noticing how often we actually have an opportunity to make a choice. (Remember: A habit is just a choice we don’t realize we’re making.)

Because when we can tune into the fact that we’re actually making a choice, making a different choice suddenly becomes an option!

So, before I reflexively order/serve/grab/eat something, I take a moment to consider: Am I actually hungry or just responding to a cue? Do I really want this or would something else be more satisfying?

The other big misunderstanding is that your only two choices are Yes and No.   (And that the right choice is always No.)

But these are not your only choices!  Other great choices include:

“Yes, but just half that much, thanks.”

“Yes, but not right now. I think I’ll save that for later.”

“No, I’d actually much prefer ____________ instead.”

And, of course, every once in a while the right choice is: “HELL YES!!”

So, as you continue to tune in to the many choices you get to make every day, try to enjoy the freedom this offers you. See if you can find ways to say Yes more often, but in ways that are more aligned with your goal of weighing less.

The difference between losing weight and weighing less

If you’re not happy with your current weight, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about how to lose weight.

“I will eat 1200 calories a day.”

“I’ll ban all carbs.”

“I’ll drink protein shakes for breakfast and lunch.”

“I’ll do Whole 30. (Again).”

But these are not strategies that lead to weighing less. These are strategies that (sometimes) lead to losing weight, and then (usually) regaining it.

I want you to stop focusing on how you’re going to lose weight.  Instead, I want you to imagine that you weigh less right now. Really picture what that looks and feels like. And now, I want you to walk yourself through a typical day. What sort of habits and lifestyle does that version of you have?

For example, as a person who weighs less, you’d probably:

  • Limit your intake of sweets, refined carbohydrates, and fried foods. (Note: I didn’t say “never eat sweets, refined carbohydrates, or fried foods.”)
  • Avoid eating in front of the television or computer.
  • Eat more vegetables and fewer starches. (In other words, gravitate toward foods that fill you up for fewer calories.)
  • Take slightly smaller portions.
  • Stop at a single cocktail or glass of wine.
  • Have fruit for dessert—or no dessert, most of the time.
  • Drink water or tea instead of soda.
  • Make time most days for a 20-30 minute walk at lunch or before dinner, or both.
  • Take time on weekends to shop and do a little cooking so that you’re not as dependent on take-out and prepared foods to get you through the busy week.

The Secret is to Start at the Finish Line

Can you picture that trim, healthy person? Can you imagine what a typical day looks like? Can you see what’s on the dinner plate, shopping cart, and kitchen cupboards? Good.

Because that’s what I want you to start choosing right now.  Start practicing the mindset, habits, and lifestyle of someone who weighs less and you will become someone who weighs less. (Instead of someone who is constantly trying to lose weight.)

This is not some sort of law of attraction baloney. It’s pure (and proven) cause and effect.

So, who are you going to be today?

The Magic of Making Choices

How many food or beverage related decisions do you make in a typical day? Most people estimate that number to be around 15. In reality, the actual number is closer to 200.

Whether or not we are conscious of it, we are constantly making decisions about whether or not to eat, and what, where, how, and how much to eat. We make a similar number of decisions every day about whether and how we use our bodies.

This is great news.

It means that hundreds of times a day, we have an opportunities to choose something different.

  • We can choose to sit down for lunch without a phone or tablet and enjoy the benefits of eating more mindfully.
  • We can select a smaller plate or bowl.
  • We can choose to stand up while participating in a conference call.
  • We can order a side salad instead of fries.
  • We can choose to pour a glass of seltzer instead of a second glass of wine.

The great thing about having so many opportunities to make choices is that we don’t have to nail every one, every day. Seizing just a handful of these opportunities every day can start adding up to a different sort of lifestyle and, eventually, a different set of habits.

And, as we see over and over again in the Weighless program, that ultimately leads to weighing less…without dieting.

But before you can start making different choices, you’ve got to tune into the fact that a choice is actually being made. A habit, after all, is just a choice that you don’t realize you’re making.

As you go through your day today, try to notice when you are making a food, beverage, or movement-related choice. What are you choosing? What else could you choose? How would it feel to make a different choice, just this one time?

This is just one of the many techniques we use in the Weighless program to gradually develop habits and behaviors that lead to weighing less without dieting. Try it for a week and see what you think!

Collecting the Evidence

It’s frustrating to see how persistent our bad habits can be. Maybe it’s the 9 pm snacking free-for-all that happens every night.  Or your seeming inability to drive past the drive-thru on your way to work without pulling in. Or always succumbing to temptation and pouring that second glass of wine, despite your intention to stop at one.

Whatever it is, you can clearly see that this habit is standing between you and progress. But you can’t seem to change it. Day after day, despite your best intentions, you repeat the pattern, making you feel like a failure. It seems pretty obvious that you simply don’t have the ability (or will power or strength or resolve or whatever) to change this habit.

It’s hard to keep believing that change is possible when all the evidence seems to point to the contrary.  And that’s why it’s so important to collect some evidence that a different choice is possible.

If you have a long-standing habit that you want to change, not doing it for a single day is obviously not enough to undo years of daily reinforcement. But it is the beginning of showing your unconscious brain that change is, in fact, a possibility.

It’s not enough to know what we want to choose.  If you have a long-standing habit that is getting in your way, start by collecting some evidence that it is possible for you to make a different choice. Even once.

Choosing something else may be uncomfortable at first but will get more and more comfortable with practice. Also, remember that habits get momentum the more you practice them – both good and bad – so make sure you fuel the good ones and starve the unwanted ones.

The Limits of Will Power

One reason that diets don’t work is that they rely too much on willpower.

Willpower is like a muscle: it can get fatigued.

In the Weighless program, we don’t count on willpower as the main ingredient for success. Instead, we develop an entire suite of strategies to keep us moving in the right direction even when our willpower fails.

Here are three tips for relying on strategies other than willpower to make healthy changes.

1. Use positive redirection. 

When we’re trying to make healthy changes, we often focus exclusively on what we need to stop eating – fast food, candy, soda, chips.

When we instead of focus on what we want to eat more of, our brains relax a bit and we feel less deprived.

Instead of swearing off dessert, why not splurge on some particularly luscious fruit to enjoy after dinner? Instead of forking your way through a boring pile of lettuce and cucumbers, make your lunchtime salad something to look forward to by topping it with some fresh avocado or a few shrimp. If you’re trying to wean yourself off that nightly glass of wine, be sure to have some sparkling water on hand to sip on instead. Put it in a nice glass and garnish it with a sprig of fresh mint, dash of bitters, or wedge of lime.

Using positive redirection is a lot more fun than white-knuckling your way through a diet that requires a ton of willpower.

2. Have a plan.

It’s a lot easier to stick to your healthy eating plan if you actually have a plan! It’s easy to set the intention in the morning of “eating healthy” that day – but then things can quickly go downhill when you impulsively order a giant muffin with your coffee, work through lunch, and order pizza for dinner because you’re starving when you get home.

Tonight, take a minute to think about your schedule for tomorrow and plan what you’ll eat. Pack a salad or container of soup to take for lunch, thaw some chicken to cook for dinner. Or, if cooking isn’t your thing, decide in advance where you’ll order lunch and what you’ll have, and where you’ll pick up dinner.  You’ll almost certainly make better choices ahead of time than you will in the heat of the moment.

3. Keep it simple.

For some reason, when we make up our mind to lose weight or get in shape, we’re often attracted to complicated regimens that have lots of very specific rules and requirements. Subconsciously, we seem to believe that the more elaborate the program — and the bigger the departure from our current habits — the more likely it is to be the one that finally works.

This is a trap!

The bigger the departure from our normal routine, the more likely we are to crash and burn.

In the Weighless Program, we start where we are and make small, sustainable changes to our routines and behaviors, gradually building the lifestyle and habits that lead to weighing less. We suggest you take the same approach!!

Who is your support network? (And are they really supporting you?)


Change is hard. Even when it’s the best kind of change. The kind of change that you know is making your life SO MUCH better.

Even when you’re totally committed, it still takes effort to uproot ingrained habits and patterns. To recondition our thoughts. To rethink our environments. To lift ourselves out of those well-worn grooves.

Having the right support network is essential.

People who understand what you’re doing and why. People who share your vision and your commitment to weighing less. People who can hold you up when you feel tired and cheer you on when you soar.

Because the truth is, some of the people in your life don’t want you to change. It’s not that they don’t care about you. But they may feel threatened or challenged by the change in the status quo. Or, they may simply not understand what you need.

One of the most powerful tools in the Weighless Toolkit is our amazing community.  People committed to the same goals, experiencing similar challenges, sharing resources and support. A warm, caring, and wise community that is there whenever and wherever you need it.

It makes all the difference.

Being willing to do what it takes


Missed the first two installments? You can catch them here:

Knowing what you want and why

What will it take to get what you want?