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 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.

An easy way to get alerted to a posting is to subscribe to email updates in the top-right box below my photo. I promise NO SPAM EVER. Just post notifications, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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

Finding Your Enough: Review of Women Food and God Online Retreat Week Four

WEEK FOUR – FINDING YOUR ENOUGH: 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 Course Overview
•    It’s the fourth week and I haven’t lost weight. What if this doesn’t work, just like everything else I’ve tried?
•    Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized.
•    What about exercise?
•    What you’re hungry for and finding your enough.
•    Inquiry and coming home to ourselves.
•    How do we begin inquiry and get in touch with ourselves?
•    This week’s practices / action steps.

Geneen helps us become present by having us practice orienting: looking around the room and staring up and down and side to side like a baby. We can focus on and study an object that maybe we’ve seen a million times before but never really took the time to notice. We can feel the contact our body makes with the chair, with whatever is supporting us. By doing this, you ground yourself, ground your body in the here and now, in the moment.

As hard as it may be, Geneen encourages you to be interested in your body, how it feels. She tells you to hang out with yourself, but don’t judge. Be open. She stresses that we transform through inquiry, not through judgment. We make it hard through judgment and shame, but things get easier when we stop trying to fix and start being curious.

This week, Geneen introduces the concept that when you lose that connection with your body and you spend time instead in your head with that flood of thoughts, judgments and beliefs, you are left feeling homeless and wanting.

Questions: Geneen takes some time to address questions and apprehensions that have arisen amongst the participants in the past week.

I don’t want to give up, but it’s not working and I’m not following practices. It’s the fourth week and I haven’t lost weight. What if this doesn’t work, just like everything else I’ve tried?
Geneen puts everything into perspective. So it’s been four weeks. How does that stack up against the years upon years that you’ve been dieting and shaming yourself and building well-grooved patterns and habits around eating mindlessly followed by depriving yourself?

Insight and “aha” moments aren’t enough. We need to take action with intention and mindfulness, as opposed to habitual unconsciousness. When you commit to an action, you go against your unconscious tendencies.

This question reminds me of a chapter in the book This Year I Will… when Author M.J. Ryan points out that learning happens in three stages. The first stage, POST HOC, is when you realize after the fact that you screwed up. “Oh wait, I just ate that bag of Cheez-its when I wasn’t hungry. What’s going on with me?” We finally realize that we didn’t follow the practice Eat When You’re Hungry once we’re licking salt out of the bottom of the bag.

Before we started this retreat, we wouldn’t have even realized what exactly we did wrong. We would have gone into shame mode, which doesn’t fit into the practices. And even if we do go into shame mode, we are now aware that it’s not productive. So if you’re in the POST HOC phase, don’t beat yourself up! You’re learning!

The second stage of learning, AD HOC, is when you are aware that you shouldn’t do something and you do it anyway. Maybe the eating of the Cheez-its happens when you’re fully aware that you aren’t hungry and you choose to eat them anyway, full-well-knowing before you even dip your hand into the bag that you aren’t following the practice.

The third stage of learning, PRE HOC, is when you’re doing it – it’s like riding a bike, and you have more successes than failures. This is the stage that Geneen is stressing to us we need to move towards; we need to take action in order to progress to this stage. If you don’t get on the bike, you’re never going to learn how to ride it. So get on the bike. You’re gonna fall off. No big whoop.

Ryan says, “Recognizing you’ve blown it is progress! … There’s always a phase in creating forward motion when all you notice is how hard it is and how little you’ve moved forward. … The trick is to learn from the experience without judging yourself…”

Ryan recommends learning what would help you out next time, like maybe placing a visible reminder so we won’t be mindless about our mistakes.

Geneen says that when your actions are aligned with your heart’s desire, then there’s a daily remembrance that you’re acting on your own behalf, out of love for yourself. When you love a child, you tell them they’re going to be sick if they eat candy all day. Treat yourself with that same loving care.

For dinner tonight, I ate whole wheat spaghetti and turkey meatballs. One bowl, because I knew I would feel ill otherwise. One small cereal bowl, even though there was just a little bit of pasta left over begging to be finished off.

So I wrapped up the rest and took it to work for lunch today. In the past, I would have known I was going to feel ill afterwards, yet I would have eaten too much anyway. I might not be wholly devoted to my practices at this stage, but I am absolutely making progress.

Geneen reiterates that there will be times that we do eat when we’re not hungry. Use that experience to notice what’s coming up when you’re doing that – is it boredom, sadness, anger, fear?

When you’re conscious about eating sitting down when you’re hungry and stopping when you’ve had enough, your whole relationship with food will change. Geneen says that act of eating mindfully will open up a whole can of worms. What happens when we stop using food to drug ourselves is that the whole NON-food-related side of your life comes forward – and we’re practicing being with that.

So take heart, little campers! We’re learning!

I’m faithful to being messed up and not feeling my fear. I don’t take responsibility for myself.
Geneen says that when we’re kids, we learn ways of being that are usually kind of messed up. We’re raised by humans who have their own skews and perceptions, and so from our human parents, we learn distortions – the messed-up-ed-ness – that we’re faithful to in order to survive and be loved.

There is a “mother” that got installed inside you. This “mother” came from bits and pieces of your actual mom outside, combined with a lot of your own versions of how you perceive her and your own interpretations added and subtracted.

Through doing this work and becoming conscious about food, our messed-up-ed-ness comes up when we realize that we are the child who is less powerful, or a failure, or who won’t get it together. We’re loyal to that learned messed-up-ed-ness because of the love and belonging it earned us. Most of us would rather not be disloyal to our “mothers” because we need that love to survive.

THAT is worthy of questioning. Who are you being loyal to when you are being loyal to the “mother” and loyal to the messed-up-ed-ness?

In my family when I was growing up, I had two grandparents who were very slim. They were capable of being a bit Judgey McJudge Pants with their children and grandchildren who were not on the fit side of the fence. My mom and her mother, both beautiful and curvaceous women, could be victims of the slim camp at times.

I happened to be an athletic kid. I loved swimming competitively from a young age through high school, and I tried other sports over the years like soccer, softball and tennis. I was no bean pole, but I suppose I was fit. It’s hard for me to admit that even now, because it feels disloyal to my mother. My real mother didn’t tell me to “choose sides” or anything like that, so this would be my inner “mother” talking.

When my mom would entertain and cook lavish meals for guests, I would feel as if I were being disloyal to her unless I ate with abandon to show how much I love her, all of her, just the way she is, and her efforts to feed us with her love. To reject her advances with food, in my mind, would be putting myself at risk of being unloved, at siding with the critical and thin family members. I wonder if I still keep myself a bit fleshy to prove that I’m not one of “them.”

Geneen says that when we change, we feel disloyal to that version of ourselves – to the “mother” and to the messed-up-ed-ness that we think we need in order to be loved.

Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized.

Realize that when you’re loyal to the messed-up-ed-ness, that’s the kid talking. Have compassion for her, but realize that buying into coddling your “mother” is not far from feeling like a victim. Nobody else can do it or fix it for you now.

From the adult place, realize that only you can do the hard work for you. Here’s a map of the territory, but you need to walk the territory. Your body, your heart, and your intention needs to do the work.

So again — Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized. Do it, do it! Get on the bike!

Where does exercise, physical movement, come into play?
Just like with food, it’s time to drop the guilt and shame shtick when it comes to exercise. Just because you read that you’re supposed to do cardio for this many minutes per week, and strength training this many times, blah blah blah. If you didn’t know all that, then how do you think your body wants to move, and what would feel good to your body?

If you think you hate exercise, then you need to try a few things and take your mind out of the equation. You’re going to make time for some movement for your sweet body, for yourself. Give yourself some options and see what your body likes to do.

Bodies like to move, they need to. Geneen encourages us to pay attention to the kind of movement that would feel best to your body. Walking? Swimming? Jumping rope? Hiking? What is it that would feel good? Almost every kid, even the bookworm, likes to move and to be outside. Movement is something for us to discover again.

Listen to the natural impulses of your body. The body knows what it needs and wants. It wants:

  • Rest
  • Contact
  • Food
  • Movement

When you sense your body wanting one of those things, then give it to your body!

Geneen knows when she’s been working all day or she’s stressed, she needs to get outside and move to give her body relief. Her mind would say, “Take a bath, read a book, get on the internet.” But her body loves to move, so she doesn’t get engaged with her mind, and then it becomes effortless. She says it takes effort to be effortless. Listen to the body over and over, and you will build movement into your day.

What You’re Hungry for and Finding Your Enough
We each possess a soul, a spirit; we possess a true nature or an essence.

However, instead we believe we are made up of our thoughts and feelings, our past and conditioning, our history and our bodies. We don’t realize that we’ve lost track of who we are, of that true nature. And so we feel homelessness. We feel separated from ourselves.

When you feel separated from yourself, you feel empty and wounded. You have that feeling like you can’t get enough when you aren’t connected to who you really are.

We incorrectly identify with our personality, our ego, whether we are smart, pretty, thin, kind, lovable, and what we do for other people. We identify with who we take ourselves to be. When things aren’t unfolding in our lives or we feel stuck, it’s because our beliefs, attitudes and patterns of reaction are in our way.

We don’t question what’s presenting itself to us in that moment: the barriers, the attitudes, the patterns. Instead of focusing on the space between the thoughts, we take ourselves to be the thoughts, and because we don’t question them, we just think it’s the truth.

What we’re longing for is to have ourselves. What we’re hungry for is our own essence and true nature.

Inquiry and Coming Home to Ourselves
Inquiry allows us to question our deeply held beliefs. Inquiry allows us to question what we think is unquestionable. Inquiry allows us to question what we have decided is the truth, the way things are, who we are, and the way life is.

We need a way to question all those things and come home to ourselves. When we do that, we’re able to notice what’s standing in the way between us and who we take ourselves to be. We uncover the wisdom and vastness of who we are, that space of just being.

Until we reconnect with ourselves, we will never get enough from the outside. No matter what external riches we have, who loves us or what we accomplish, we will always feel lonely as long as we remain disconnected from ourselves.

Food is the doorway to inquiry and discovering our true nature. When we give ourselves time to hang out with ourselves, to simply be in our bodies, we get to know ourselves.

This sounds great and all, but how do we actually connect with that part?
The short answer: Inquiry.

And now for the long answer.

When you’re wrapped up in a thought, blaming yourself or someone else, feeling puffed up and huffy over something or collapsed inward and down, then you’re believing something that’s not true. You’re turning to old thoughts and patterns. It’s time to reconnect with yourself via inquiry, and here’s how.

Inquiry steps and basics:

  1. Come back into your body. Ask, “What am I feeling right now?” Remember – the answer is found in YOUR BODY, not your head. If you’re feeling sad, bored or lonely, what does that feel like in your body?
  2. Ask yourself a litany of sensation questions. Where is the feeling in my body? How does it affect me? Is it familiar? How old do I feel right now? Does the feeling have a shape, sensation, temperature, color? What happens as I feel the sensations directly in my body?
  3. Be in touch with what effect your asking all these questions has on your experience. As you ask the questions, it will impact you in the moment. The fact that you’re asking means that you already separated from the total merge with the feeling itself. You are allowing yourself to begin coming home to yourself.

Things That Aren’t Going to Help Inquiry; Things That Interfere With the Direct Experience of Being in the Body
Inquiry involves openness without a purpose. It’s the inquiry itself you pursue in order to come home to yourself and be yourself. The below will interfere with that connection.

1. The Voice. Until you disengage, you believe you are what The Voice says. The Voice says you are your personality, your conditioning, your ego, attitudes and memories. When you believe that, you don’t believe you have true nature or essence.

2. Having an Agenda. When we do inquiry, we can’t be trying to get something, fix something, go somewhere or accomplish a goal. The purpose of inquiry is to answer the longing in your heart and to know yourself before you die. It won’t give you the thing you thought you wanted in the external world. It’s to answer something inside you.

3. Comparative Judgment. In inquiry, you can’t compare how you’re feeling with what you want to be feeling or with how someone else feels. You can’t compare how you’re feeling now to past experience. This is figuring out feeling in the mind, not the body, which means we lose the connection to our experience.

4. Pain Avoidance. If you think discomfort is to be avoided, then that prevents inquiry. We can’t have a fear of pain when we practice inquiry. We need to drop the painful mental stories, which certainly helps. But we need to feel what the body is feeling.

How Do You Get in Touch With Yourself? How Do You begin Inquiry?
You start wherever you are. Food is a great doorway. If you eat when you’re not hungry, if you eat while you’re standing, if you did tonight’s meditation while typing or eating, then be curious. Ask what’s going on.

Start where you are and become curious about that. If you’re all huffy about something, you’re believing something that’s not true. So start there.

Your direct experience right now is the closest thing to true nature that you have. Your life is the one you need to be having. It’s the link to you. Be curious and question your experience right now. It’s how you start.

This Week’s Practices / Action Steps
Although she likes the term “practices” because we need to practice them to become good at them, this week Geneen is calling them “action steps” because we need to take action. Nothing is going to happen if we keep having aha’s and not translating them into what we need to do.

Without further ado:
1. Eat what your body wants.
What your body wants is different from what you think you want. What your body wants has nothing to do with guilt, what somebody else is eating, or what you didn’t let yourself eat two weeks ago.

Eating what your body wants means be in the present moment and ask what your body wants now. Does your body want something hot, cold, smooth, crunchy, salty, something with protein or fat, or something lighter?

If you’re thinking in quantities, like, “I want two pizzas – or a whole carton of ice cream,” that’s not in the present moment. You body can answer with a description, but not with a quantity or an amount because your body only feels in the present moment.

That said, once you’ve had three bites, then you need to keep asking your body, “And what do you want now?” While you’re eating, keep checking in with your present-focused body. You will get satisfied mid-bite. Moment to moment, check in so you know when you’ve had enough.

2. Notice what you are loyal to.
Who are you loyal to? When you engage in those repetitive patterns, or when you find yourself retelling old stories, ask, “How old am I right now? Who am I being loyal to right now?”

Let’s go kiddos! Get on your bikes and start riding!

An easy way to get alerted to a posting is to subscribe to email updates in the top-right box below my photo. I promise NO SPAM EVER. Just post notifications, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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?

What Are You Really Hungry For: Review of Women Food and God Online Retreat Week Three

WEEK THREE: WHAT ARE YOU REALLY HUNGRY FOR? 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 Course Overview
•    You have to work the practices to “get” the lessons. A whole world of insight opens when you practice Eat When You’re Hungry.
•    How do I know what to eat when I’m hungry?
•    How do I eat when I’m hungry within the constraints of my schedule?
•    How do I eat when I’m hungry when I have food restrictions?
•    The definition of inquiry and what inquiry is not. How to begin inquiry.
•    Drop Your Agenda; Question Your Assumptions
•    More Ways to Deal With The Voice

When Geneen begins the meditation this week, I again find myself looking for something else to do. This week, I really fool myself because I’m convinced it’s highly necessary work that needs to be done immediately. Yeah, at 9PM.

When Geneen says, “Notice how much pull there is to not be right here. How aggravated you get to be asked to be present, to be with yourself.” Those words bring me back into the moment.

Within the meditation as Geneen asks us to notice the sensations in our bodies, she mentions two body parts that people are usually unhappy with – thighs and belly.

She asks us to place one palm on the navel, the other palm on top. “Feel movement, your breath, just notice the preciousness of this breath, this life. Allowing yourself to arrive right here right now.”

It’s a gentle reminder that we can notice and feel our body parts for what they are — living, feeling parts of ourselves — without judging them.

Participant Questions About the Guideline “Eat When You’re Hungry”
Geneen kicks things off by telling us that we have to do the practices to learn this work. She says that if you did last week’s practice of actually eating when you’re hungry, you would have gotten a glimpse of what you’re actually hungry for that isn’t food.

Jump right in at any time to begin only eating when you’re hungry, and a world opens up. When you only eat when you’re hungry, you stop dampening your heart’s desires and drowning them with food; you discover what you want besides food.

I got a glimpse that I’m hungry for neatness, organization, a sense of well-being in my home. It’s easy to procrastinate by eating when I’m tired and bored and don’t want to clean up. But when I resisted that urge to eat, I saw that what I really wanted was the mess to go away. My home is neater today for it, and I finally began cleaning out my closet yesterday. I’ve been putting off that project for months.

I wonder what else I can accomplish when I don’t use food as a procrastination tool.

Geneen is firm that each action step, every practice she gives us, relates to all that we’re doing, so you can find out your hidden needs in just one of the practices.

I’m Confused About What to Eat When I’m Hungry
Geneen says it’s natural that a lot of us are confused about what’s right and wrong in the realm of food considering our lifetimes of dieting.

The first step in learning what to eat is tuning into the body. Remember that if you think you want junk food, then that’s what your mind wants, not your body. Your body doesn’t want to be fed loads of grease and sugar, because too much junk food makes your body feel bad.

Tuning into your body means using the direct experience, feeling the sensations and the feedback that your body gives you. See what happens when you eat certain things. Do you feel fueled and energetic? Do you feel sick or tired? See how your body feels when you eat certain foods and you’ll discover what it is that your body wants.

If you think you want something sweet to cap off a meal, and you are truly and honestly unsure whether it’s your mind or body talking, then try a small eating experiment. See what happens. Maybe you try eating a little something sweet and see how it makes your body feel. Conversely, you can try not eating something sweet and then see how that makes your body feel.

Experiment and stay tuned into your body to learn what your body wants and how it reacts to different foods. For most of us, this is going to be a learning process after spending so much time ignoring what our bodies need to feel nourished. Take the time and attention to tune into your body to learn about its needs.

Geneen refers to the way a kid eats, before he discovers sugar. He gravitates towards foods like broccoli, fruit and sweet potatoes. Before we were inundated by commercialized food and our taste buds were polluted by advertisements, what did your body want?

How to Eat When You’re Hungry Within the Confines of Your Schedule
In today’s world, not many of us are able to have access to the food we want, whenever we want it. We might start working at certain times and only get breaks at specific times. Since we all need to respect the reality our routines bring us, we need to make the guidelines our own. Figure out, realistically, how the guidelines can work within the constraints of your day-to-day existence.

If you aren’t hungry now but you won’t have the chance to eat later, then you have to use honesty combined with problem solving and figure that out, whether it means eating something small now, or bringing something portable with you that you know will nourish you later.

For example, if you aren’t hungry at 8am but you know you won’t be able to eat for hours on end, and within that timeframe you are going to become ravenous and light-headed, then you have to acknowledge that reality and take care of yourself. The guidelines are not iron clad rules meant to constrain your behavior. They are meant to help you evaluate situations honestly and do the right thing for yourself.

If you’re only given a meal break when you aren’t hungry, then just eat a little bit at break time to sustain you, and then have a snack when you’re actually hungry. Use the guidelines to help you best take care of yourself while listening to your body.

Learn Your Signs of Hunger
Working with the eating guidelines means understanding your body and giving your body what it needs as fuel when it needs it. To do this, you need to know the signs of being hungry for you. Not everyone gets a rumbley tummy as their first sign of hunger. Some of us get spacey, cranky or headaches.

Track your own hunger and know your beginning hunger signs, and then decide when to eat. If you think of the 10-point hunger scale, 10 being stuffed and 0 being starving, then maybe you want to eat something when you’re a 2 or 4 on the hunger scale. If you wait until 0, you are in famine-I’m-going-to-die mode and it’s extremely difficult to make wise decisions about food in that state. Geneen doesn’t recommend getting that hungry.

Food Restrictions
Many of us are diabetics, have celiac disease, are lactose intolerant, have food allergies or other restrictions surrounding what they may eat. (Or if you’re like me, then just looking at sugar puts you into sleepy time mode.) It’s easy to fall into a mindset of deprivation when you think “I can’t have…”

But there are different ways you can look at it. You can think how the deprivation comes when you eat the foods that make your body sick. When you eat these restricted foods, then you deprive yourself of feeling well.

You can flip the scenario to think “Either way, there is a chance for me to have what I want: I can feel well. Or if there’s an instance where I really want to eat the food, then once in a blue moon, I can go for it.” Then you have the best of both worlds. You can feel well in your day-to-day life without telling yourself you can’t have the food as long as you live.

Geneen, who is gluten intolerant, had baklava when she was in Greece. She made a conscious choice; she knew wouldn’t feel good, but she went with her eyes open rather than feeling like a victim.

Lots of people, either verbally or mentally, do a lot of whining around food, “I don’t get to eat what I really want!” However, the big question is, what do you want more than you want that food?? What do you want most of all?

The Voice Can Crush Your Dreams
The Voice makes it extremely tough to discern what you are really hungry for. The Voice can influence our beliefs, and it’s our beliefs that often prevent us from putting into practice what we cherish. It’s your beliefs, often driven by The Voice, that keep you from asking for and receiving what you’re really hungry for.

For more information about The Voice, read: WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken

Most of us are blended with The Voice, meaning we haven’t yet picked it out as a separate entity; you might experience it as you talking to yourself. When we feel confused about what’s good for us and we feel afraid we’ll fail, we’re often being influenced by The Voice.

The thought of learning to play piano, traveling to China or going on a bike ride can cause nervous anticipation or excitement. The Voice can jump in and tell us we can’t do it, which quells our excitement. When we feel deadened to these new possibilities, it makes it hard to figure out what we’re really hungry for.

More Ways to Deal With The Voice
When you notice The Voice talking you out of your efforts, here are some tactics for handling it.

  • See The Voice small and powerless like a mouse and put it in a jar with a lid on it.
  • Picture a volume knob and turn down the volume on The Voice so you can’t hear it.
  • You can change the channel so you tune out to whatever The Voice was saying.

Do whatever you need to do to make sure you separate yourself from it.

What if I Think I Need to Lose Weight Before I Practice the Guidelines?
Geneen addresses the instance of what happens when someone feels anxiety or desperation about her health and feels she needs to lose weight first before trying to practice the eating guidelines.

Unfortunately, Geneen has seen many come back to her later heavier than they were when she first saw them. She says it takes discernment and honesty to see where you’re coming from when you ask a question like that. It’s new and unfamiliar and scary to trust yourself to ask what you’re hungry for and what you want.

The Voice berates you and says you don’t know when you’re hungry. There’s often a thrill or a fear when we start this process. We often think we should go on a diet and then come back and do this later. Geneen says it’s a common theme.

However, Geneen says if you truly feel that your weight is imminently life threatening, then you need to go inside and be very honest about what’s going on when you’re in a place that’s so precarious physically. What goes on when you overeat? What are your thoughts, beliefs and feelings? What is food giving you and doing for you?

Geneen would never say don’t see a doctor – it’s crucial we work with health practioners in regards to our health. Of course if your doctor feels and you feel that your life is in danger, then that needs to be addressed.

Geneen says the caveat is if you don’t stick to the doctor’s program, you could feel like a failure and rebel. And even if you do stick to the program and lose the weight, but you don’t reach the issues that are putting the weight on, then you will turn to food once again. So the best way is to be with what’s going on at the same time that you protect your health and your life so you can be here on earth to look at your beliefs. Looking at your beliefs is important regardless of what you decide.

What is Inquiry?
Inquiry is the practice where the rubber meets the road in terms of discovering our beliefs. Inquiry allows you to be curious about what you really believe, and what you feel as a result of what you believe.

We think we’re not supposed to let ourselves feel; we’re afraid of pain. That’s why inquiry is a practice like learning the violin. We won’t be good at it at first. Inquiry allows you to question the beliefs on which you’re building your life, your sense of self and the feelings that come from that.

Geneen says that most beliefs are unconscious, and she gives us a list of examples:

  • Other people are special.
  • Life is hard.
  • I always get the short end of the stick.
  • I’m smarter than everyone else, and why can’t they see that?
  • If they really saw me, they would love me.
  • I’ll always be separated from what I need and want in life.
  • Life sucks.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’ll never get it right.

Remember from last week: beliefs lead to feelings, which lead to actions.

We can feel these beliefs weaving through our days from when we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night. We’re loyal to these beliefs unconsciously. We act out a combination of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and how we see ourselves. We don’t question what we believe about ourselves and our lives, because we take it to be true.

Inquiry is the process of questioning what we believe is truth. Inquiry has us explore the fundamentals of who we think we are, what we have, what we’re supposed to be, how we define success and failure, how we react, and the feelings we have.

To inquire, you have to want to know what you don’t know – you have to be curious.

We need to question our resistance to the way things are and to what we’re feeling. Often when we’re sad, we want to push it away. In inquiry, what do you do when you feel sad? Be curious about it!

We’ve long since buried our curiosity. Think how your curiosity was treated when you were a child. Maybe people got annoyed with all the questions you asked. Maybe you were ignored. So as you get older, you stop caring why. You just want it to be different, and you’re no longer curious. It’s time to revive that curiosity and start wondering and feeling again.

The Opposite of Inquiry
Feeling like a victim is the opposite of inquiry: “Someone wronged me and someone else has to make it better.” This stance takes yourself out of the equation of your own life. It makes you powerless to facilitate your own circumstances.

Conversely, inquiry puts you at the center of your own life. No matter what’s going on, you can be curious about it and understand what’s happening.

We often internalize and repeat what’s said to us: “So and so was mean to me.” That’s the victim mentality, and whatever was said to us is in the past. Now in the present, no one else has the means to shrivel us or make us small, to make you feel that bad, unless you believe it yourself. Your feelings are your own. Inquiry is ability to question those beliefs and feelings.

How Do You Practice Inquiry?
When you ignore your body and eat what your mind wants instead, or you eat and make yourself feel bad – that’s a doorway, an opening, a chance to know yourself better. It opens the door to the inquiry process. If you feel sad, then inquiry is being willing to be curious about your sadness as if it’s the very first time you’re feeling it.

Inquiry means you will go ahead and feel the sadness and explore it rather than struggling to suppress it. To practice inquiry, you aren’t repressing emotions (judging, being cranky) nor are you acting them out (stomping, sulking, shouting, etc.) To do inquiry, you will be with the direct feelings of the sadness. Be in your body physically in order to explore it.

To really explore an emotion:

  1. You can’t have an agenda or preferences as to the end result. Don’t analyze the emotion. Don’t try to figure it out. You can’t think, “Okay, I’ll feel the sadness now so I can feel happy afterwards.”
  2. Drop any and all judgments about what you’re feeling. Judgments are The Voice chiming in. Disengage from The Voice, because it will tell you you’re going to mess up.
  3. Ask yourself where you feel the emotion in your body. What is the sensation like? Describe it in physical terms.

Be curious and open. You can do this alone, you can do it as a written exercise or with a buddy. Any way you do it, be kind to yourself.

Geneen gives the example of being out with friends and becoming a bit sullen and cranky. She realized she was pushing herself down in the group. She was having responses to people, but she didn’t want to say them. The crankiness was a result of judging and pushing herself away.

When you sense an emotion, ask yourself kindly, what’s going on? Where do you feel the emotion? Your chest, your stomach, your head? This is the sensation location. Ask what is the sensation? Is it burning, pulsing, tingling, aching?

If you notice that you’re angry, become curious about it. Where do I feel it? Name the body part. What does it feel like? Wind? A Hammer? What color is it? It is red, blue or grey? Is it like a pounding or a floating sensation?

The feelings that come when you don’t use food — if you don’t push the feelings away — the feelings have something to tell you. If you notice, “I don’t like what’s going on.” Then ask, “What does it feel like?

Start by wanting to know. Begin within your body and the sensation. Don’t involve your mind. Your mind has a story about the emotion, and a story can be clouded by beliefs and The Voice. Shake the story, and just focus on the body.

What Does Inquiry Do?
Geneen tells the story of a woman who eats at loneliness. The woman would often eat and read by herself. She had the belief or the story that people who live alone at her age are losers, and eating kept her from feeling like a loser. Geneen posed the question, who told her she was a loser?

Sometimes we tell ourselves stories about the pain, which can intensify our ideas of what emotions are like. We say things to ourselves like, “This means I’m unlovable, I’m a loser.” Ask yourself, “Is that true?” Question your assumptions. Be curious about who told you that. Question the beliefs that keep you from being yourself and having your life.

Inquiry deconstructs the self by questioning the assumptions that come up and the reasons we use food. We think if we feel our sadness, it will rip us apart. Sadness doesn’t actually feel like that, and inquiry helps us figure that out. When we discover that sadness isn’t what we think it is, but sadness might be calmness or clear space, when you feel into it, you feel more alive. What if, to you, sadness feels like openness? It might, or might not, but we wouldn’t know unless we allow ourselves to feel it.

Drop Your Agenda; Question Your Assumptions
When we practice inquiry, we must learn to be in the process in the moment, and stop trying to fix things. In inquiry, you are in touch with essence itself and with what’s true, just the physical sensations in our bodies, without stories or agendas. There’s nothing to do afterwards. What happens next happens naturally and spontaneously, and you become open to the truth.

Inquiry starts by wanting to know the truth. If you have an agenda instead, then you want to know what to do, as if there’s some place better to get to. What we really want to do with inquiry is to simply be with what your deepest truth is in that moment.

Compulsive eating attempts to avoid what’s there because we make the assumption that the truth, our emotions, will destroy us. And sometimes our emotions do hurt. Sometimes there is huge grief to be felt. So then the answer is to get support and allow yourself to feel it. But if you eat to avoid the grief, then you actually wind up with a double portion of grief. The grief is still there, and you heap the problem of eating on top of it.

Geneen has worked with parents who have lost their children, people who have experienced loss beyond all loss. These people can be with their pain and feel it. Yes, it’s staggering grief, but they live through it. Through inquiry, you learn that allowing yourself to feel your emotions won’t destroy you. Emotions ebb and flow. They come and go, moment to moment. No situations are unbearable or unworkable.

This Week’s Practices
1) Third Eating Guideline: Eat without distractions.
Distractions include radio, TV, reading material, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

2) Inquiry: start developing your curiosity.
Start being curious when you’ve done something you told yourself you’re not going to do. Ask, “What was that about?” Be curious and be kind to yourself. Don’t think you know the answers.

Intend to follow through on these two practices and see what happens. If you don’t follow them, then be curious why.

Past Week’s Practices
Intend to do these on a daily basis for the rest of your life.

Eat When You’re Hungry
Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry, eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you’ve had enough. Be willing to be uncomfortable and know there are times you won’t feel like refraining from eating. If there are times that you decide to eat even though you’re not hungry, be curious and notice what happens.

Be Astonished
Each day, notice what you already have — not what’s wrong or what needs to be changed. Think about the abundance that’s in your world already.

Living “as if”
Live as if you’re worth your own time, love and attention. Live like you like yourself. Live like you like your body.

Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
Eat as if you’re worth your time and attention. You wouldn’t eat standing up, in the car, or tasting the food on your way from the stove to the table. You wouldn’t eat a meal in hiding before everyone else sits down so that you’re full when they get there.

One More Practice From Me
Be aware of and disengage from The Voice to help all of your practices become easier.

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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