I Have HUGE News!

I’ve been hiding away, I know. But I’ve been working on something I’ve been very excited to tell you about:

I’m launching a new site — a business, to be exact! It’s called The Monarch Company. I will still be blogging, of course, although, I’m a little sad to say, no longer here at Swell Easy Living. However, I am absolutely giddy about the new venture, and I invite you to come along for the ride! The new site is under construction, but feel free to poke around. I will let you know when the site is closer to complete.

Over the past several years, I’ve known that I wanted to help people, but I wasn’t sure how or what I had to offer. After reading copious amounts of books in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and self-help and doing some training, I made some realizations:

1. I was living the dream, checking off boxes as I went: college degree, high-paying media job, marriage, kids…what was next, retirement and death? I knew there was “something else” out there for me…I wasn’t in tune with my own inner-most desires, what would actually make me feel happy and satisfied in life.

2. After a lot of research and work, I learned how to shed a ton of limiting beliefs, how to squish my inner critic,and how discover and pursue my real dreams and a lifestyle that fires me up.

3. There are tons of people who were living the same way, never finding what the something else was. Now it’s my mission and duty to help others learn some of the tools that help me every day. The new business is centered around classes and events, both online and off. And of course, there will also be old-fashioned (free) articles.

I hope that you’d come check out the new site to sign up for the newsletter (right-hand side) so you can stay updated. Also, please follow me on my new Facebook page, and via my new Twitter handle.

Wishing you peace, love and fulfillment,

Katie Morton

Achieve Your Goals With Two Brilliant (and Slightly Insane) Tricks to Boost Self Control

Call me paranoid, but I suspect the comfy couch, TV and high-speed internet access in our living rooms are deliberate safeguards of the status quo. Why worry about changing anything when you can sink into the cushions and ignore your true desires?

The downside is that when you think a goal is worth pursuing or a bad habit is worth changing, then you feel guilty and wistful when you ignore it. You find yourself wondering, “What if I could beat myself into submission long enough to achieve this? How would my life be better, and what am I missing?”

Bottom line: It’s frustrating to lust after a goal when the willpower to persevere doesn’t materialize.

Let’s stop wishing and get down to business. I use my own weight loss efforts as the main example in this article, but you can have any goal whatsoever in mind, and the rules still apply.

Introducing the Motivating Tricks and Tools

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the steely willpower of a robot. If you’re reading this, then you’re not a robot either. To change a habit or achieve a goal, it requires the self discipline and motivation to make tough decisions consistently over time. Tricks and tools keep me motivated when forever stretches ahead of me and I just want to sink back into that couch.

To stick to your goal, all you have to do is 1) focus on “four day wins” and 2) track your long-term progress.

I’ve read about both of these concepts before, and separately, I couldn’t get them to work for me. Combined simultaneously, operating together, they do. It worked for me this week, and as a result, I’ve lost four pounds.

Let me be clear – for me to stick to a healthy diet for a full week is a miracle. Once I can get over that hump, I feel the benefits and I don’t want to go back to eating and feeling like garbage. Don’t discount the value of a full week on your plan towards your goal, whatever it may be. I you do slip up (and you will) you’ll have a weeklong model of success you can turn to and make repeatable.

My Torture This Week

I was only a smidge into my diet this past week, but it felt like I had been dieting fooooorrrreeeeever. All of those minute-by-minute decisions were making me crazy and wearing me down. From my cup of coffee in the morning (you can’t have the vanilla creamer, there’s sugar in that) to my lunch (no, you can’t have a tortilla the size of your torso) to snack landmines and dinner booby traps, I felt like I’d been saying “no” to myself constantly. It was exhausting.

I won’t lie. I was eyeballing the Ben & Jerry’s. I didn’t touch it, but I certainly considered it. I thought to myself, “This is hopeless. I’ll never lose the weight. I’ve been dieting for a million years with no results! I might as well give up. I have no self control anyway.”  How many times do we choose that as a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I was ready to give up, but tracking my progress combined with four day wins saved my heinie.

Step One: Decide What to Track

In Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Body, he gets pretty excited about how tracking weight loss results over time works wonders for a lot of people. So I figured, what the heck. I have OCD. This is right up my alley. I am going to track myself out the wazoo with several tracking methods.

Tim’s excitement got me to download this Excel spreadsheet that a man used to track his own weight loss that I customized to use for myself, which I keep open on my computer. I also track inches lost and my body fat percentage.

Of course, depending on your goal, you can track whatever you want. It could be how many days in a row you stuck to a habit, or a weekly or monthly representation depending on what it is you want to achieve and how often you need to take steps to get there.

Step Two: Decide How to Track it, and Make it Fun

I followed Tim’s advice and took my measurements. I made a graph so that I can measure myself each week and ooh and aah over a graphical representation of the inches melting away. I printed out the chart and taped it to my bathroom mirror.

Then I made another chart to track my weight and body fat percentage and taped that up next to my inches chart. I pulled out some pretty pink and green markers so that each day I can fill in the square that represents my current weight and body fat percentage.

Choose any physical representation of the steps you’ll take to reach your goal, but make it something fun that you’ll look forward to playing with. Once I made a paper chain out of construction paper – the kind that kids use to count down the days until a special event. I wrote one step on each part of the chain and got a thrill out of removing each link when I completed a step. When my goal was completed, the chain was gone. It was an amusing way to watch my progress.

I’ve heard of people using charm bracelets and adding a charm for each milestone. You can take two vases and move poker chips, coins or wads of colorful tissue paper from one to the other to mark achieved objectives. Try more than one method to see what’s more entertaining.

Step Three: Decide How and Where to Display it

This part is key: Display your tracking method so that you will see it and be reminded of your goal throughout the day. Exhibiting your tracking in a visible location will not only make other people afraid of your serial killer behavior, it will help you stay on track for longer, and help you get back on track after slip-ups.  Being able to see my progress at a glance keeps me feeling in charge, even after I make a mistake. A mistake becomes a mere blip on the big picture, rather than a reason to trash the whole project.

How Did all this Freaky-Deaky Tracking Come in Handy?

When I was going to lose my mind this week and attack the ice cream like a comet was heading for Earth, I was able to pull back for a moment when I caught sight of my crazy charts in the bathroom. I noticed two things upon witnessing my madness. First of all, yes, my weight was headed in a downward trajectory … and second, I had only been dieting for two days. TWO DAYS!? Why did I think it was an eternity? Why was I being such a wimp?

When I saw that I’d hardly put myself through the ringer with a mere two days of restraint, and that I was actually making progress, my mindset changed. I thought, “I can do this. I just have to get to four days, and it will get easier.”

Why Four Days? What the Heck Is a Four Day Win?

In Martha Beck’s book The Four Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace, she writes that people who have lost a ton of weight and kept it off said the hardest part for them lasted about four days. Beck says four days is about the length of time it takes for the body to adjust to new habits that affect circadian rhythms (such as sleeping and eating. Logically, this four-day theory could extend to caffeine intake, sweets and exercise.)

Beck urges that four days of victory can break a barrier for any type of goal whatsoever, not just dieting. After four days, changes stop feeling torturous. If you can stick with a habit that long, it will begin to feel natural and the momentum will pull you forward, if you let it.

If you’re white knuckling it past four days or you fail completely, then you might need to take a step back and commit to a smaller change for your first four day win. If you continue to flounder, then keep committing to smaller goals until you achieve a four day win. Then proceed with a slightly larger goal for the next win, and so on.

The Four Day Win and the Lure of Short-Term Focus

The four day win strategy by itself in the absence of long-term tracking didn’t work for me in past. The smallness of four days didn’t thrill me. I loooooove to focus on the big picture, the finish line, the major triumph. Focusing on the big picture is fun because that’s where the juiciest payoff lies. The smaller butt, the pile of money, the fancy ladies or whatever the heck your goal is.

However, while we’re focused on the end zone, we’re not present in the moment-to-moment to decide how to tackle the very next obstacle that’s right in front of us. When we’re staring so far ahead into the future, it’s easy to ignore the impact of the small decisions that are right in front of us.

It’s those small decisions, strung together moment to moment and day after day, that actually make a difference and pave the road to our success or failure. A four day win helps bring the short-term into focus so that we can take pleasure in the smaller accomplishments.

Using a four day win, I resisted the Ben & Jerry’s, which confirms once and for all that I actually do possess self control after all. Success begets success. If I resisted the ice cream, that means I can also resist the chocolate. If I can beat that craving, then I sure as heck can pass on the mashed potatoes at dinner.  And so on and so forth. I’m not even thinking about the size of my butt in a month. I’m thinking about the unfortunate size of my butt right now when I’m good at the very next meal.

Combine Long-Term Tracking With Four Day Wins for Max Effect

Even though I appreciate the benefits of focusing on the short-term, still, there’s a delicious allure for me to daydream about my final goal of weighing less than 120 pounds. The energy I have, the way my clothes fit, how much better I feel about myself…there’s no doubt that my final goal holds a certain sway over me. It’s why I decided to diet in the first place.

However, I don’t want to start thinking about how far away my goal is or how much work I have to do to get there. That’s not productive. Besides, I want my diet and exercise routine to be sustainable forever. This isn’t a crash diet or some crazy race to get skinny. This is a lifestyle I’m after, so bemoaning the time it will take to lose weight is counterproductive. All I need to know is that I will get there eventually, as long as I continue to be consistent.

So that’s where my four day wins come in, although they aren’t always four days long. This week, as I gleefully stepped across my first four day win finish line, it occurred to me that I only needed to go three more days to get to my cheat day. Every Saturday is a free day where I get to indulge all of the cravings I’ve had all week, should I choose to do so. I consider it the pressure release valve. I don’t have to think, “I can never have ice cream again.” I can just think, “No biggie. I can’t have ice cream on Saturday, if I still want it.”

Small Choices Over Time Add up to Big Results

Motivation to achieve a goal involves constant focusing and refocusing between the long-term payoff and short-term decisions. When you look at your tracking method, you will be able to see the long-term trajectory of your big picture, and the minutiae of your day-to-day and how that’s affecting your outcome.

At the end of the day, all I ever need to do is to make smart choices at the next meal. That’s all I need to think about. In moments of weakness, at times of mental conflict, when I refer to my nutty tracking documents, I’m clearly reminded where I’ve been and where I’m going so that I don’t lose the plot.

When I wonder why I’m avoiding vanilla creamer, I can think of my long-term goal for inspiration. And I can also think about how Saturday, my cheat day, is never more than a week away.

The Weight Loss Advice That Is Finally Working for Me (Video)

Click here to watch the video.

When I was pregnant, I was a total animal in the gym. Several days a week I attended a high intensity bootcamp that was a big ole ass whoopin’ no matter what kind of shape you’re in. The instructor, Raquel, who I totally fell girl-crush in love with, is the hardest trainer in these here parts.

Last summer, I had the baby. Even though I was taking it easy and I was no longer working out, I got back into great shape super fast. I was back into my pre-pregnancy clothes within a few weeks. But it didn’t last.

Now I’m Fat

Fast forward to a year later. The toll of sleep deprivation and new-baby-overwhelm meant that my diet went to crap. Over the last several months, I put on 15 pounds.

In an effort to lose weight, I went back to this bootcamp class, but at a different gym with a different trainer. I wasn’t losing any weight. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and my diet was terrible. I wasn’t treating myself well, and as a direct result, I’m looking more like trash and less like royalty.

I walked into my bootcamp class last Tuesday and who should I see there, but Raquel, who was subbing that day for the usual guy. Her class was on a whole ‘nother level from what I’m currently used to. It was HAAARD. The warm up alone had me beat.

Diet Advice, Please?

After the class, I approached Raquel to seek some advice. You know how sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to eat? That was my intention when I went up to her.

Raquel didn’t recognize me. I jogged her memory, you know, the really pregnant lady who used to take this class at the other gym? She remembered: “Oooooohhhh yeaaahhhhh. Wow. Huh. You look really … different,” she said.

Watch the video reenactment of THE FACE she made. Priceless, funny … and painful for me.

Different indeed. I explained that I’ve actually put on weight since having the baby because I’m not taking great care of myself.

Lose Weight by Shifting Your Priorities

Raquel looked me in the eye and said, “It’s hard. It’s hard taking care of a one-year-old. It’s hard taking care of a two-year-old. A friend of mine is a mother of 13-year-old triplets, and she’s still recovering. I’m not sure when it gets better. But here’s the thing. The earlier you make yourself a priority in your own life, the easier it is. You have to make yourself a priority if you expect to make any progress.”

There was something about how she grabbed me by the lapels with her gaze while she spoke; her words knocked me upside the head. It was clear that her message was super important for my well being, and I needed to hear it.

My Weight Loss Plan

Raquel was right. This is it. This is the week I’m making a huge lifestyle change. I’ve been more consistent this week than I’ve been in forever. I finally feel the momentum carrying me, and I’ve lost a pound or two.

I’m using Tim Ferris’ Slow Carb Diet to overhaul my eating habits, with the modification of cutting back on dairy instead of eliminating it entirely. Continuing to eat dairy will slow down my weight loss, but I will be more likely to stick to the plan long-term that way. The slow carb diet is healthy, balanced and gives me energy throughout the day. Tim has been eating this way for eight years, so it’s a sustainable lifestyle.

Plus I’m following Raquel’s recommendation to attend a BODYPUMP™ class twice a week. I’m still taking my daughter for walks every day — briskly for 30 minutes if I carry her in the Bjorn, or a long slow walk if we use the stroller.

Unlike in the past when I’ve lost a little weight, I’m not getting too comfortable – and I’m also not getting discouraged at the amount of work ahead of me. As long as I continue to make myself a priority, I know I will lose the weight. This is the inspiration I’ve been waiting for.

Click here to watch the video! :)

How Taking My Daughter for Walks Changed My Life

I’m now blogging for TLC’s Parentables! I will blog the post introductions here at swell easy living so you can keep updated on new content as it becomes available. Just click through to read the full post on parentables.

baby bjorn

Picture it: You show up to a party. The room is dim and a disco ball throws annoying splashes of festive color at the walls. You would rather be home in bed, but people have been telling you that you need to get out more. You see people socializing and having fun. You want to join them, but you are too hesitant to approach.

You feel unsure of your rusty conversation skills. You marvel at that one. You were never so keenly aware before that conversation required skill, let alone the whole possibility of a “rusty” factor. Your clothes are 24-hour clothes, meaning they involve a stretch fabric or perhaps a drawstring, and they can be worn day or night.

You can’t recall the last time your body felt shower spray. Your hair has been falling out, and you didn’t brush it today. You press your butt, your inflated butt, which doesn’t even feel like it belongs to you — it’s someone else’s butt, yet distinctly your butt — you press that butt up against the wall so you can try to make yourself appear smaller in an effort to hide.

You are a wallflower. A smelly, fat wallflower. Such is the experience of some new moms showing up at the party of life.

Why Bother Leaving the House? :: keep reading …

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How I’m Losing the Baby Weight: Making Friends With My Inner Rock Star

I’m now blogging for TLC’s Parentables! I will blog the post introductions here at swell easy living so you can keep updated on new content as it becomes available. Just click through to read the full post on parentables.


Following dinner last night, I was tempted by the aroma of fresh, buttered popcorn wafting through the kitchen. As I loaded the dishwasher, I absent-mindedly said, “I wish I could have some of that.”

My husband, Steve, said, “What do you mean? Of course you can have some.”

I answered, “They don’t serve popcorn on The Fat Farm.”

“Say what? The Fat Farm?”

“Yes, I’ve gone and put myself on The Fat Farm. It’s time for me to play some serious mind games with myself to lose weight. I’ve been starting and stopping for so long now, it’s ridiculous.”

Then the difference between men and women made a dramatic appearance as Steve told me, “You don’t need to play mind games; you just need to eat less and exercise more.” Insert eye roll, which could have come from either one of us.

I argued with him on that point. I’ve been exercising daily like a complete maniac. Steve countered with evidence of pizza and ice cream indulgences. I don’t remember my answer to that, but I’m sure it was a very well-thought-out and careful treatise that went something like, “BOOGA BOOGA! Look over there!”

Knowing Is a Quarter of the Battle :: keep reading …


How to Avoid Getting Fat and Wasting Money With Weekly Dinner Menu Planning

This Sunday before I went grocery shopping, I peeked into the fridge to see what I needed to add to my shopping list. Much to my annoyance, I wound up throwing away a rotting five-pound bag of lettuce and last week’s splurge of some pricey stuffed pork chops from the butcher. I also had to freeze chicken breasts that I was convinced would next see the light of day once they were good and frostbitten and on their way to the trash.

Dinner Blundering: A Big Fat Waste of Money
So what the heck did we eat instead last week? Impulsive choices of pizza and pasta on nights we simply didn’t feel like cooking, or didn’t feel like eating something healthier. These reckless decisions weren’t the greatest for my waistline or my rear, and I’d rather not head into the holiday season facing a losing battle on the diet front.

We had selective memory when it came to our dinner plans, even though I had the best intentions when I grocery shopped. Aside from the fact that this scenario is fattening, it’s not an option for us financially to toss food in the trash while we spend money on takeout.

I hate to admit it, but while this week’s dinner blundering is an extreme example, it’s not the first time something like this has happened. And I’ve spun my wheels when it comes to solving the problem.

The Solution Search
Time and again, I’ve researched different meal planning tools that are already out there.  Unclutterer has a nice, clean chart you can download.

In fact, if you search Google Images for meal planner, you will see a glorious sea of creative ways of laying out your meals for the week.

But for all my searching and fiddling, I’ve never been able to settle on a solution that would actually work for us. Without x-ray vision into the depths of the meat drawer combined with photographic memory, I’ve been at a loss.

My Own Dinner Planning Chart: Download the dinner planner as an Excel spreadsheet template
So today I decided to create my own dinner menu planner that I can display in plain view so we’ll never again have to wonder, “What’s for dinner?”

Now, I don’t know if this sort of thing is widely useful. However, for the first time in my color-coded chart-making history, my husband didn’t imply that this chart was my wacky OCD shining through, and in fact, he said it seems like it’s going to help us with easy planning and follow through.

I put the menu planner in a plastic sheet protector that I can write on with a dry-erase marker. If I don’t need to print out a new planner each week, I’m way more likely to use it to write down our menu and follow it.

Let’s take a tour, shall we?

Theme Nights
I broke the days of the week into themes. Beneath each day and corresponding theme, I put a list of dinner ideas so that when we’re choosing meals in the planning stages, we don’t have to think too hard to come up with something.

This planner serves as guidance, but we’re allowed to veer from the themes. You can see that this week I put “fajitas” on Tuesday, which will usually be our Asian-themed night. The key is following what I write in the blanks, since that’s what came home from the grocery store.

The themes are as follows:

Sunday: Big Batch or Traditional. We’re talking meals like stews or roasts, since those tend to take more time than we’re willing to spare on a weeknight.

Monday: Leftovers from Sunday night’s big batch, or if there are no leftovers, then we’ll wing it. Winging it basically means we’ll forage in the pantry or freezer. This can mean eggs and waffles, chicken patties, grilled cheese and tomato soup – whatever sounds good.

The themes for the other nights of the week are ethnic in nature for variety.

Tuesday: Asian. This means quick, few-ingredient dishes like chicken stir fries with veggies.

Wednesday: Mexican. Again we’re looking at fast and easy fare such as tacos or quesadillas.

Thursday: Italian. Thursday is one of the toughest nights of the week to hold the course on planned meals, since we’re getting tired from the work week by then. Seeing as pizza and pasta are our weaknesses, I might as well purposely designate that day for it. We have a delicious pizza recipe we rely on now that saves us both calories and money.

Friday: Comfort Food. I’m thinking hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, BBQ and the like.

Saturday: Fish or a New Recipe. If I hit the store Saturday we’ll be eating fresh fresh. Or we can try a new recipe that night, since I’ll have the time and energy to create something new.

Keep it Simple
If I make a dinner planner full of elaborate weeknight meals, then the task of making dinner would either consume me or I’m likely to abandon the planner altogether. So instead I made this planner with the attitude that I’m still a working mom.

I’ve made the planning such that I won’t have to change course once I do get a job, and so that currently I’m still free to pursue job leads, blog and take good care of Alex.

In Plain Sight
I placed the planner in a prominent place on the wall next to my desk so that I can always see what’s for dinner that day. Just now, I took that chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow’s fajitas! You have no idea what a victory that is. The effort of using my planner is already paying off.

Download the dinner planner as an Excel spreadsheet template

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Relearning Loveliness: Review of Women Food and God Online Retreat Week Five

Catch Geneen Roth on Oprah today, July 12, 2010 as they talk about the Women, Food and God phenomenon. Geneen and Oprah explore 7 Ways to Keep the Weight off for Good! Oprah says, “This is the summer to end the battle forever.” Check back at Swell Easy Living later this week for my review of the show.

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[And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.]

WEEK FIVE – RELEARNING LOVELINESS: This is a review of Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God Online Retreat, which takes place over a 6-week period. Read the following for more information:
•    Introducing the Women, Food and God Online Retreat
•    WEEK ONE: Ending the War
•    WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken
•    WEEK THREE: What Are You Really Hungry For?
•    WEEK FOUR: Finding Your Enough

Week Five Course Overview
•    Meditation in detail: Why? How? The three steps: Orienting, Grounding and Centering.
•    If we eat “what the body wants” then aren’t we depriving ourselves of junk food?
•    What about weighing ourselves?
•    How do I change a habit that’s so ingrained like using food to numb myself?
•    When is inquiry what I actually need to face my feelings? What if I think I need therapy?
•    More clarity on who and what you are being loyal to.
•    How do we treat ourselves with loveliness?
•    How do I balance focusing on the good stuff while examining my limiting beliefs?
•    This week’s practices / action steps.

Meditation can sometimes seem tedious or boring, but what it does is help you become aware of the sensations of your body. Meditation teaches you to live within your body rather than allowing your mind to constantly flit away and ignore how you feel physically. Becoming in tune with our physical selves is paramount to learning how to treat our bodies well. Being with your physical self takes practice, but you’re rewarded when you’re able to notice sensations of fullness and hunger when it’s time to eat (or not to eat.)

Geneen explains that the progression of our weekly meditation is orienting, followed by grounding, and then centering.

Look around the room. Look with child’s eyes, astonished at everything. Up down side to side. See where you’re located. Geneen says, “There’s a lot you’re missing when you’re seeing without looking. Take in an object and really look at.” She tells us to let ourselves have it. Take it into your body, in through your senses.

Geneen has us become aware of the earth, the ground. Become aware, “that the earth supports you without your having to ask, continually, every moment of every day.” Be aware of your feet and what they are touching. Feel the points of contact between your body and the surface that supports it.

Become aware of your body. You’ve been running around all day. This is time for you. Geneen says that if you’re looking at Facebook or email, you’re putting out, not taking in. There’s stillness in taking in, in just being. Notice if this is hard.

Geneen isn’t asking you to deprive yourself of something you love, instead, she’s asking you to widen your experience of love. Multitasking isn’t love and it doesn’t give you more time for yourself. Geneen points out that the more technology we have, the less time we have.

Bring your attention again to the point of contact your body makes with the surface you sit on. Are you sitting alertly or slumped? Gently straighten so you’re awake and alive.

Geneen then asks that we bring our attention to the direct sensations in our bodies, starting with our feet and toes. She then asks us to move our attention like a flashlight beam up through our bodies. With each part, ask yourself what you feel. Pulsing, tingling, vibrating, hot, cold? Do you have any emotional reactions to any body parts? Just notice that.

Notice the impact this exercise has on you. Are you bored with your own company? Are you anxious, angry, calm, relaxed? Impatient? Do you think being aware of your body is irrelevant? Are you biding your time? Allow the reactions without jumping on them or becoming merged with them.

Notice your breath. Place your hands over your abdomen and feel the movement in your belly with each breath.

Geneen invokes the 80/20 rule. 80% of your focus is on your body, on the inside. 20% of your focus is outside, your awareness of the retreat. Stay with yourself. Nothing else is worth it. It’s more important to stay with yourself.

Questions From Participants

A participant points out that back when Geneen first began the process of learning to eat again after years of dieting, that she ate whatever she wanted, junk food and all. But the guidelines say to “Eat what the body wants, not the mind.” Are we skipping the part where we get to eat cookies and go nutso before we buckle down and eat for our bodies?
Geneen tells us that when she stopped dieting, she started eating what she hadn’t allowed herself to eat. When she told herself there were no strings attached and she could literally eat anything she wanted, she went straight to the foods that had been restricted and forbidden in her childhood.

She noticed that she went to those foods as if it would fix her childhood. She ate like those foods would give her a second childhood with June & Ward Cleaver as her parents. She knew she would never diet again, but for that time when she was indulging the whims of a child, she was bumping around in a sugar haze. Then she realized that those foods were no longer forbidden. And she didn’t want cookies – what she wanted was to feel welcome, deserved and adored. And cookies couldn’t give her that.

Geneen changed the guideline to say, “Eat what your body wants,” because she learned from her experience. After years of working with compulsive overeaters, she took the benefit of her experiences and refined the guidelines.

Geneen asks, “Will you be missing something if you deny yourself what your mind wants, or the forbidden foods?” She points out that the question implies “deprivation.” It implies that if I don’t eat forbidden foods, I won’t feel truly free. We mistakenly think, “I can eat what my body wants, but I will still be a crazed food monster wanting to eat everything in sight.” Geneen says it’s important to understand that NO FOOD IS FORBIDDEN. Know that, feel that.

You can’t pretend to be good and healthy and happy eating healthy food if there’s a pulsing, throbbing desire to eat cookies and sundaes. This approach is about being free, and doing what you need to do in order to be free. If that means eating forbidden foods, then good to know. It’s probably not important or necessary for everybody to do. A lot of people are already sick of torturing themselves with junk food and know that they feel terrible when they eat crap, and they don’t need to plow through forbidden foods for the sake of allowing the experience.

My thoughts — we’ve had the experience of eating “forbidden” foods. Ad nauseum. To be frank, allowing junk food to have its way with our bodies — that’s why many of us are already here, seeking Geneen’s counsel. So ask yourself why you’re still worrying about not getting to eat junk food, as if you’ve never done it before.

At the end of the day, Geneen says it’s your life, and your guideline. You are freeing yourself from obsession and there are no conditions. She’s talking real freedom. If you want chocolate, and it’s 10AM, you eat the chocolate. If every part of you wants it, you don’t look at your watch. You eat the chocolate. It’s freedom.

Geneen notes that if you’re eating with abandon for longer than a week or three, then you’re binging and using the guidelines to further your compulsive eating! So be mindful of that. Feel your body and if your body feels bad and you eat until it doesn’t feel good, then it’s time to check into your body and see what you’re feeling.

Geneen says that when starting out with this process, you might gain weight at the beginning. Not everybody does. But you might. If you eat via the mind with no regard for the body, the quantity and type of food, if you’re eating for something else you want, then sure, you might gain weight.

Geneen warns that if you decide you want forbidden foods and you gain weight, The Voice could pop up and say, “This doesn’t work. You’re a failure. You’ll never stop gaining.” This could send you back to the binge-diet cycle. To halt that line of thinking, instead say, “I’m gaining weight. Am I eating what my body wants?”

Geneen says that as she gets older, her body isn’t as resilient as it once was. She’s very careful now about what she eats so that she has energy. She doesn’t eat for quantity. She eats for taste, but not to make up for something.

She asks us to be mindful and to use inquiry. If we’re gaining weight, then we’re not following the guidelines. Instead, we’re following something that’s in the past. Your body is in the present and wants to feel good and alive. Geneen says to stop and ask what’s going on so you don’t go back to dieting and binging.

What about scales? What does Geneen think about weighing ourselves?
Geneen doesn’t believe in scales. “You’re asking a piece of lifeless junk, ‘Am I allowed to have a good day?’ You know whether you’re losing or gaining weight by your clothes. You don’t need numbers to tell you that. Throw out or give away your scales.”

I’m a weigher. I weigh myself every day. When I think about the numbers, even though my daily weigh in doesn’t impact me much — I often forget what the number was within 2 seconds of stepping off the scale — I know that I have preconceived notions of “good” weights and “bad” weights. I might think that I automatically look good when my weight falls below a certain number and that I don’t look good when my weight is above a certain number.

What’s interesting to me about this is that as we age, our muscle definition changes, our bodies change. So we’re attempting to use numbers to put a qualifier on something that’s shifting and changing each day of our lives.

I wonder what the number on the scale means to you? It’s probably not clinical. There is probably a judgment there of good and bad. There’s a possibility we’re casting aspersions on ourselves, the first thing in the morning, more often than not when we weigh in. Just a thought, if you’re a scale junky like me.

I’m not saying I am going to immediately break myself of this compulsion, but I will be reflective of why I intend to maintain the habit and what exactly I’m getting out of it. I’m clearly clinging to something.

I bolt to the kitchen before I know how I’m feeling. How do I go from not wanting to be with myself to being with myself? How do I change when the habit of leaving is so well developed that I can’t help bolting?
How do we change? Slowly. Bit by bit. By not bolting once. By staying with yourself one time. Do inquiry or be curious about what makes you want to bolt. Is it bolt-worthy?

What you bolted about will still be there after eating, and now you feel bad about eating. So we eat more to avoid the sadness, failure or judgment that comes from overeating. It’s an endless cycle of suffering.

Geneen says we begin to change by having the desire to change. Ask yourself, what do you want your life to be? How do you want to live your days? How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. You have a choice moment to moment.

We’re all ingrained with the fight or flight instinct that shows itself when we’re under duress. The problem when it comes to emotions is that fleeing them is maladaptive. We act like we can’t feel feelings. Turn it around by seeing what you want in a big way from life and keep it close on a daily basis.

I know what I want is to live a life of joy, ease and comfort. That’s not to be confused with a life of laziness — quite the contrary. As Geneen says, it takes effort to be effortless, and that’s what Swell Easy Living is all about.

I want to wake up in the morning and look around my beautifully curated bedroom, step on a carpet free of dirty laundry, and make my family a wholesome, satisfying breakfast. I want to go to work at my job and feel focused and refreshed. I want to come home at night and spend loving, peaceful hours with my family over dinner in a warm and comforting environment.

In a big way, I already have these things. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of procrastination and neglect so that things don’t operate like they should. We often think we’re escaping our responsibilities when we check out, but what we’re really doing is making our lives harder and then we don’t want to check back in.

When we eat to escape, it’s a moment of life left behind. It’s a lost opportunity to be with yourself and to see what’s there when you’re with your feelings and to see what’s beyond the feelings. If you allow yourself to feel sadness, then the sadness may turn into a soft sweet feeling in your chest. When you feel your impatience, that feeling might become bigness or strength, but you won’t know if you keep running away.

Geneen says take baby steps with this at first. Don’t go way past your comfort zone. Go to the edge and be with your emotions once a week or once a day instead of bolting. See what happens when you don’t bolt and you stick around instead.

What about when you’re afraid of facing feelings without food? When do we need therapy?
Geneen gives examples of garden-variety, every day feelings like boredom, sadness, rejection, discomfort. These emotions come up regularly for everybody. Usually when you’re feeling these things, your mind is telling you things that are not true.

You’re working on a story you tell yourself when you invoke these emotions. And then you think, “If I let myself feel this, then this would happen.” We don’t realize we’re telling stories. Sometimes if we’re feeling tired, we’re just tired. Instead we’ll give it meaning, like how put upon we are, or that we might have a life threatening illness. We tell stories when we feel simple sensations.

It’s helpful to be able to tell the difference sooner and sooner when you tell yourself stories about feelings. Catch yourself, like when you catch The Voice – sometimes you’re already at the mercy of the story and the melodrama. Sometimes you’re knee-deep in the story and you don’t know it. But the more you question those stories and the more you’re willing to feel sensations and discomfort as it arises, then the more we can separate out the sensation and the story, which diminishes the need to bolt and eat about it.

On the other hand, with trauma, with abuse, with pre-verbal, early, big abuse, then Geneen recommends a therapist. If you’re dealing with trauma or abuse, see a licensed therapist who can be with you as you parse through the feelings, memories and beliefs that arise related to those situations.

While Geneen believes in therapy, she also believes in knowing when you’ve had enough therapy. You can get addicted to fixing yourself and seeing yourself as broken and it becomes a way of life.

Inquiry, the process of being with direct sensations, takes practice and support. Being with trauma and abuse takes a different kind of support with a good therapist.

Can you please clarify last week’s concept of what and who we’re being loyal to?
We’re loyal to ways of being in the world that we learned early in relation to the people we depended on for love. We needed love to survive. Children are loyal to those who love them, even a tiny bit.

These ideas of how we need to behave in order to be loved could be sparked from impressions we were given based on punishment or reward, whether intentional, implied or imagined.

Geneen provides some examples of ideas we get into our heads when we’re little, such as:

  • I need to take myself down so I don’t threaten anyone around me.
  • Being powerful equals being abandoned.
  • It’s better to be liked than to be envied.

So the upshot is that you want to be liked and loved, and in order to achieve this, you want to be the same as everybody around you, not different or separate. You get comfort and safety in being the same rather than standing out.

One perception I have that began to really trouble me from my mid-teens to mid-twenties was:

“If you’re too confident in yourself or sure of yourself, then people won’t like you. They will think you’re cocky and they will reject you and try to cut you down.”

It’s hard enough to remain confident during those turbulent years … what a bad time to be afraid to be confident, thinking people wouldn’t like me if I were! [And also, what a crock!]

Ask your parents, and they will disagree with your version and your assessment of these unspoken rules. They might have never even said or meant these things, but we create stories based on what we perceived regardless, and then we behave accordingly in ways we think will gain us love and acceptance.

The truth is, when you abide by these old ways, you’re being loyal to an idea that’s based on the past – not the current moment. Many times we act as if we’d be abandoned if we were happy!

You become afraid you’ll lose love if you’re different or you have more than anyone else. Many people have a fear of success because then they would feel like they are a threat to people if they were successful. Some unconsciously think, “If you keep yourself small, then you’re not a threat and therefore more likable.”

If you don’t question these beliefs, then you act automatically in ways that shut you down. The only way you know to be happy is to be miserable, and it only feels like happiness because you’re not threatening anybody.

How do we change and how do we treat ourselves with loveliness? How do you re-teach yourself if you’ve forgotten it or aren’t paying attention to it?
First, you must question the belief that you aren’t lovely. Question the belief that you’re damaged or that you’re a failure.

You are lovely, so question the beliefs you have that tell you otherwise. We’re all born lovely, but learn to distort ourselves to survive. You’re born as lovely, and in true nature, you are loveliness. Examine the beliefs that obstruct that view of yourself, and then you see you.

Our beliefs destroy our “in-touchness” with who we are, and inquiry works to help us regain touch with ourselves. With inquiry, you question your beliefs that keep you from yourself so you are revealed.

Realizing that you believe “I’m damaged” opens the door for you. This is not intellectual or something you figure out with your mind. When your mind stops, your being can be. Your mind doesn’t work in this domain of feeling the direct experience of our emotions. This is beyond the mind: the realm of being, essence, true nature. Our memories, beliefs, and identity, which are found in our mind, obstruct our view to ourselves.

When you see that you believe you’re damaged, you can stop protecting, pretending and defending yourself against that belief, stop making up for it and compensating for it without questioning the belief. When you stop trying to compensate, you can become interested and curious that you believe you’re damaged.

Question where you heard such a thing. Name the belief, and then become curious and see what sticks to the belief “like Velcro” … what are the feelings, associations, memories or things people said that made me think that? To be with it and process it takes commitment. What else is there to do, pretend you don’t have the belief, and then keep trying to compensate for it?

You can use a buddy, a coach, a shrink or a partner to help you look at what keeps you from knowing yourself.

The second step to treating ourselves with loveliness, the step beyond noticing the limiting beliefs and obstacles, is to focus on loveliness itself.
This is where astonishment, amazement, and living “as if” comes in. Be aware of the wonderful things you already have in life. Examine the goodness and loveliness that are here now. Right now in this moment, we each have at least 10 lovely things and lovely ways about us and around us in our world now that we don’t focus on.

What you pay attention to grows. If you focus on the negative, then guess what: you keep seeing more negative.

So re-teaching loveliness is a two part process: 1) discovering the beliefs that are the obstacles to our true nature, and 2) immersing ourselves in the goodness and the loveliness that’s here already.

Awareness itself is miraculous. That awareness, clarity and stillness is indestructible and makes all of this possible. But we rarely even notice our awareness, which is inherent goodness.

I want permission to feel this happy feeling as an underlying current in my life. The teachings you gave about “The Voice” and “To who and what am I being loyal to” helped with that. But I also noticed this universal law: What you pay attention to grows. How do I balance focusing on the good stuff while examining my limiting beliefs?
There’s a balance between: A) the need to focus on the good stuff, and B) the need to pay attention to the snags, beliefs, obstacles and energy drainers and ways you make yourself small and take away the goodness. Unless you’re already 100% enlightened, then some of your attention needs to go towards your mistaken thinking. Most of us spend a lot of time believing what’s not true about who we are and what we need and don’t need. So you have to pay attention to that when you feel small or bad or caught in an old pattern. We can’t only look at the loveliness all the time.

However, if it’s enough for you to notice the patterns and not get involved in the content because you’ve already worked through a particular pattern hundreds of times — you’ve explored it, felt through it, and you really know it’s not true — then when it comes up, it’s enough to simply notice the pattern and consciously focus on something else. So then go ahead and focus on the positive instead. Focus on something this is true and good, and ditch the old beliefs.

Geneen says she believed for many years that success equals abandonment. Every time she would write something she loved, she would feel fear. Since she has already explored that fear, and she has explored her and family’s relationship to success, now she knows the content of that pattern, where it comes from, and she knows it’s not true.

So if it comes up again, she already knows it and can shove it aside. It’s already been explored, and there’s no need to rehash it. There’s nothing new to learn. It’s just an LP that needs to play to the end and so Geneen can tune it out and tune her mind to something lovely. She can change the channel to something truer than success equals abandonment.

She could focus on her dog and playing with her dog to get her energy up. She could read an inspirational book or say something positive to herself.

The time positive thinking doesn’t work is when you fill yourself with positive sentences that you don’t believe. So you have to already not believe that bad pattern in order to just notice the pattern without getting sucked into the content.

It’s a wonderful and important thing to focus on loveliness every day. But there’s a balance between focusing on the obstacles and focusing on the loveliness. You need to focus on the obstacles when you get caught or when you hear The Voice; you need to notice that so you can disengage. And THEN you’re able to really focus on the loveliness.

This Week’s Practices:
Loveliness Practice

The Loveliness Practice, the Astonishment Practice and the Living “As If” Practice are all oriented towards same thing: — immersion in what you already have, in the goodness that surrounds you, is you and is abundant in your life.

When you wake up in morning and a few minutes before you go to sleep at night, become aware of the loveliness. Choose three “lovelinesses” you have in your life, right then, right there. Think about three each time you wake and go to sleep. It can be as simple as laying in bed and thinking about how the sheets feel good. You can reflect on the day and think of three good things.

It’s a way of focusing on and laying down new wiring in your brain, because what you pay attention to does grow.

Eating Guideline: Eat until you are satisfied. Stop when your body has had enough.
Notice the correlation between noticing the loveliness in your life and having enough food. Those two things are correlated. When you feel like you don’t have enough or can’t get enough of the good stuff or the loveliness, then there’s a turning to food to get that.

If you have a body and ears and a yearning to understand yourself, then you have loveliness in your life. Notice that and notice how that correlates with stopping when your body has had enough. In order to stop when you’ve had enough, then you need to actually pay attention to the food and to the eating. If you’re distracted, then it’s going to be hard to tell.

Being aware of your “enough” is a function of being both physically present and emotionally, psychologically and spiritually present. It’s not just a quantity, it’s a quality of presence. And that’s the same quality that you use when you get touched when you notice the loveliness.

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Read the following for more information:

•    Introducing the Women, Food and God Online Retreat
•    WEEK ONE: Ending the War
•    WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken
•    WEEK THREE: What Are You Really Hungry For?
•    WEEK FOUR: Finding Your Enough