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 …

For new post notifications, subscribe to email updates in the top-right box below my photo.
I promise NO SPAM EVER. You can unsubscribe quickly and easily at any time.

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 …


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?

Recharge Your Fitness Goals: Get Swimsuit Ready With a New Fitness Routine

Bathing suit season is around the corner and it’s time to shed that layer of cold-weather chub. My chub will continue to grow until this baby is born, but I will live vicariously through all you hot studs and studettes. Spring is the perfect time to start a new fitness routine or revamp your old one, so make Mama proud.

I’m pasty after a long winter of working out in a gym and I am dying to get outside into the sunshine. It’s time to plan some exercise that will allow me to enjoy the newly fabulous weather. Plus my fitness goals are different now that I’m preggo, so I need to shake things up.

Here are four steps we can take to create a new fitness habit:

1. Set your fitness goals. Is your goal to lose fat? Gain muscle? Improve your cardio or run a race? Burn off steam and have fun?

My goals are to get stronger and to gain more endurance. Carrying around extra weight means my back and legs get tired faster than they used to. I would like to have energy that takes me all the way to bedtime every day. As a bonus, my doctor told me that women who exercise during pregnancy gain less excess weight, have smaller babies and therefore tend to have fewer complications during delivery. Sweet.

Think about how fitness can improve your life to help form your aspirations, whether that means more confidence on the pool deck, feeling good in your shorts and knowing your lawn chair will survive another summer, or having more energy, better sleep and improved moods.

2. Choose your activities. Based on your goals, it’s time to choose your activities.

Fat Loss: If you want to lose fat, consider a combination of cardio and strength activities. Cardio combined with dieting can cause a loss of muscle tissue, which results in a slower metabolism. What does this mean? If you blow your diet for a night and hit up the all-you-can-eat-and-drink-margarita-and-nacho-madness happy hour, you’ll store more fat from your transgression than if you had some muscles to burn through the excess food.

Preserve muscle and boost your calorie-burning by adding some strengthening moves to your work-out. Lunges and squats are compound exercises, meaning they work many muscle groups at once for greater strength gains. Squats and lunges also work the largest muscles in your body (your booty!) making these exercises an efficient way to build muscle and amp your fat loss.

Gain Muscle: Obviously weight training is the way to go. Remember that to show off those muscles, you need to have a fairly low body-fat percentage. Many bodybuilders swear by high intensity interval training (HIIT) for their cardio. You can do this in a quick 20-minute cardio workout that alternates a heart-pumping, wind-sucking pace with a recovery pace.

Improve Your Cardio: If you’re bored by the treadmill, then find a race to train for and a running club to join at Running in the USA (apologies to my non-USA readers). If you can’t handle the high-impact of running, then swimming and water aerobics are a relaxing alternative. Search for a pool near you — anywhere in the world — using Swimmers Guide.

Blow off Steam and Have Fun: If you prefer to get your exercise in a social environment, then find a group with Meet Up. Find friends to hike or walk with. If you enjoy team sports, find groups that play kickball or softball. From bootcamp to badminton, Meet Up has you covered.

As for my own workout, I’ve hung up my running shoes for the foreseeable future as I’m soon to be a champion waddler. I’m taking up walking and swimming instead, and I’ll continue weight training.

3. Decide when you will exercise. How many days per week do you want to exercise? What time of day works best for you? This seems like a “duh” kind of step to add, but if you don’t look at your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself to workout, there isn’t a huge likelihood of it happening. Deciding when signals true commitment.

An important note about this step: do not fall prey to an “all or nothing” attitude. If you look at your schedule and you can only comfortably commit to a day or two per week for now, then that’s great! It’s a day or two of exercise you weren’t getting before. Enjoy the activity that you get, and don’t let the guilties bug you.

A second important note about this step: most people favor either cardio or strength training, but it’s rare to find somebody who loves them both equally. If you find yourself thinking in terms of “should” do this or that, there is a possibility that you won’t do anything at all when it comes time to choking down the “should” part of your workout. Commit to what you love doing for as many days as you can realistically handle, and don’t look back. Get out there and do it.

4. Follow through. Each day, think ahead to what you will need and when. If I’m serious about taking a brisk walk on my lunch break, then I should put my sneakers by the door with my work bag so I don’t have an excuse to bail. Look at the weather. Is rain forecast? What alternate plans do you need to make? I might decide to walk the halls at work or the nearby mall. Or maybe I just want to suck it up and make sure I wear a rain jacket and bring an umbrella and take my walk outside anyway. Ask what you need to do to get it done, and don’t get tripped up by the unexpected.

Before you know it, you’ll be sucking in your nicely toned gut when that cutie walks by and you’ll be happy you can. Trust me, this comes from someone who is sucking-it-in impaired.