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Our inner dialogue or self-talk can sabotage our goals and health.  Whether negative or positive, it will influence our mood and emotions.  Statements such as “I should be” or “I could have” mire us in the past or future, rather than the here and now.  This particularly holds true when it comes to eating.  The best place to be with regard to food, is to take pleasure in whatever it is we are eating in the present moment.

When we make conscious food choices and eat mindfully we are less likely to overeat or beat ourselves up for whatever it was we consumed.

It’s important to pay attention to the words we use to describe our food choices.  Do any of the following sound familiar?

“I was so good today.  All I ate was salad.”

“I was so bad today—I ate ice cream and cake at the party.”

“I cheated on my diet with a whole bag of chips.”

 “I’m a total failure—I can’t stop eating carbs.”

The words we choose to describe what we eat have a powerful impact on our psyche.  Linking food choices with our self-worth is damaging and destructive.  Berating ourselves for our choices—any choice—is perhaps the most damaging and destructive behavior of all. We aren’t a mess, a disaster, a train wreck. We are simply a person, struggling with a difficult issue.

We are worth more than the food we put on our plate. Our value has nothing to do with ice cream or broccoli.  Thinking of ourselves as a good or a bad person based on our food choice can be a repetitive cycle we are doomed to repeat. Imagine, for a moment, that your food is just food, and that your choices are just choices—good, bad, those words describe your decisions, not you. Imagine how freeing that would be?

We don’t tell our children that they are bad or good based on their choices.  We tell them that they made a not-so-good choice, and then we talk to them about the consequences of that choice and how to make a different one in the future.  We can do the same for ourselves.

To change our relationship with food, we need to develop a new language around our food and to eat mindfully.  Which simple means that we consciously choose what we want to eat and we enjoy our choice.  Making simple statements devoid of judgement is the first step.

“All I ate was salad today.”

“I ate ice cream and cake at the party.”

“I ate a whole bag of chips.”

 “I ate carbs.”

Boiled down to a simple statement we can, if we want, figure out why we made that choice.  Once we know, we can begin the process of making a different choice based on our own values and goals.  Allow ourselves to become aware of our feelings around that choice. For example, feelings like worry, fear, stress, frustration, resentment and anxiety, can profoundly impact our food choice or result in us eating unconsciously.  Mindfulness opens the mind to see opportunity and choice.  When we eat more mindfully, we are bringing our full attention to food and eating. Some ways to do that are:

Give your full attention to the food that is in front of you by taking three deep breaths.

For the first breath, inhale the smells. Exhale any tension or stress.

For the second breath, inhale, knowing that the feeling of hunger will pass. Exhale your  worries.

For the third breath, inhale the present moment. Exhale thoughts of tasks, projects and  deadlines.

Tell yourself, “I can choose to relax and enjoy eating.”

Pause. Let your eyes feast on the food before you and celebrate what you will be eating.

Now, taste the bite directly. Notice everything and anything you can about the food in your mouth. Pause and let yourself fully take in the experience.

We want our food choices to provide variety, moderation and balanced nutrition.  We want our thoughts of food, hunger and weight to occupy only a small part of the day.  And we want to eat for health, pleasure and energy.  And afterward – simply feel satiated.

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May I be filled with lovingkindness

“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.”
– Walt Whitman

There are plenty of reasons for developing a kind and generous spirit for ourselves and others.  Anecdotal evidence has long maintained that by practicing lovingkindness we can reduce our own pain and boost our well-being.  Perhaps now, more than ever, we can reduce our anxiety, with a willingness to practice Metta or lovingkindness.

I am not in a position to solve the world’s problems.  Sometimes I can barely solve my own.  Over the past few months I’ve experienced hate, anxiety, fear, hopelessness and anger.  This is not my usual state of mind.  It has taken its toll on me both physically and mentally.  I know that if I am in the grip of the power of anger and hatred, that it is an enemy that will wreak havoc with my psyche.  I will be less likely to make sound decisions regarding that which is causing me angst.   I’d been practicing Metta and then threw it out the window when I needed it most.  For my own sanity, I’m returning to this practice of lovingkindness for myself and others.  If you’re interested in trying it, here’s an example.

Begin with a short meditation, maybe five minutes each morning, with a recitation of phrases, like the ones below, expressed with the intention of planting seeds of loving wishes over and over in your heart.  Breathe gently as you repeat the phrases directed toward your own well-being.  Let your heart be soft.  Let go of any plans or preoccupations.

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be safe.
May I be happy.

Practice Metta until the sense of lovingkindness for yourself grows.  It is especially important to be patient and kind toward yourself, allowing whatever arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and kind affection. When you feel you have established some stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others.   As you gradually  include other people in your meditation, picture each beloved person, reciting inwardly the same phrases, evoking a sense of lovingkindness for each of them.   You can choose to eventually extend your meditation to picture and include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings and the earth.

Lovingkindness can be practiced anywhere. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in meetings, on airplanes, in the supermarket – any place where you feel anxious.

As you journey through your day, there are simple actions you can take to strengthen your lovingkindness and generosity muscle, so it becomes more natural.

Engage with the people you interact with: the grocery store clerk, a receptionist or people on the street.  Listen when they talk.  Gently smile and silently wish them goodwill.  You might be surprised at the pleasant feeling you will reap.

Offer acts of kindness.   The other day I noticed a young boy rush over to open a door for someone carrying a large box.  He was beaming when he walked back to his dad.  Gestures such as this activate a pay-it-forward climate of generosity in your little corner of the world.

You can practice lovingkindness at various times, throughout your day.  When you shower, notice the feeling of the water cascading down your body and take a moment to relish it.  Set an alarm on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day and when you hear it, take a breath or two and send yourself thoughts of kindness.  “May I be happy and safe.”   “May I live with ease.”  “May I be happy.”

Extending lovingkindness to myself and to others is a simple but powerful expression of mindfulness that makes a significant difference in my life.  I can open my heart and increase feelings of self-kindness and inner calm.

Then I can tackle the problems of the world from a place of peace and calm.

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Hidden Fees

In 2012, a Los Angeles restaurant owner discovered a neon light on his property that had been walled over but never disconnected.  After 77 years of uninterrupted use, it had amassed $17,000 in electric bills.

When I read this, it made me think:

  • What is walled up inside of me that continues to amass spiritual bills?
  • How do I disconnect the power?

No matter how much I meditate or spend quiet time replenishing my spirit, I have not been completely successful in turning off the power of a hidden element with its “red” emission.  Programmed into my psyche, behind a solid wall, is the continually running low-voltage current that quickly changes to high-voltage when I encounter certain triggers.

Unless you happen to be the one who sets me off, you’d likely never know this light exists.  The other day I mentioned that we all have a dark side.  My grandson said, “Not you Lala, you are always thinking about other people and trying to be fair.”  While I admit that this is true, and am grateful that he has that perception of me, I sometimes respond in unkind ways when I feel as though I’m being provoked.

Neon has no stable compounds, much like anger, often used as a protective mechanism to cover up fear, hurt or sadness.  I know that my sometimes automatic reactions are learned.  My father often had intense, emotional responses triggered by a variety of things.  If you happened to be the target, it left its mark.

I’ve done enough research to know that anger can be a useful emotion.  It’s a signal that something’s amiss.  So I will continue to take apart my wall, brick by brick, until I completely reveal the hidden circuits and hopefully rewire them.

A jackhammer does not work because it may demolish important circuitry.  A chisel allows for gradual revelation and the opportunity to really see what is beneath the surface.

Some chisel-like tools I’ve used to crack open my wall are:

Journaling – by writing about the basis of my anger, I can scrape away the insulation and examine the exposed wire.

Breathing – slow in and out breaths give me time to think about what is really happening.  I can experience my anger and own it.  I can think about how I want to respond.  Or if I just want to let this one go.

Listening – What is going on with the other person?  Is he/she really wanting to attack me?  Or is this fear or hurt disguised as an assault?

Neon is an inert element.  That’s what I want for my anger.  I want it to live in stillness.  I want it to be informative, not destructive.  I want it to be a catalyst for change and self-discovery.  I want to honor and respect it.  It is, after all, an important element of perfectly, imperfect me.

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Today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  And as I read commemorative pieces on the internet, I can’t help but think about how meaningful his song Imagine is right now.  Yes, we’re afraid, for ourselves and those we love.  This is the time of year we generally are feeling the love.  But that’s not the case for so many of us.  What seems to be emanating in the world is hate and suspicion.

I’m not advocating for an abandonment of prudence, but we can balance that with compassion.  There are terrorists that we cannot reason with.  But they are in the minority.  Throughout history there have been senseless killings in the name of some religious belief.  But those are distorted beliefs.  I hold on to the belief that we are more alike than we are different.  And in this time of fear and suspicion, we need to find our commonalities and an end to senseless violence and death.

Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer

But [I hope] I’m not the only one

“Merry Christmas!”

“Light the candles and be blessed.
Get a wish and hope that it will be given.
Happy Hanukkah!”

“Habari gani”

“Umoja”

“Kujichagulia”

 

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There are plenty of reasons for developing a kind and generous spirit.  I think its foundation springs from the wish that other beings are well and a willingness to see the world from another’s point of view.  And anecdotal evidence has long maintained that by practicing kindness we can reduce our own pain and boost our well-being.

By sending genuine wishes of kindness to someone, we can open our hearts and perhaps increase feelings of self-kindness and quiet our inner critic.

As you journey through your day, there are simple actions you can take to strengthen your kindness and generosity muscle.

Engage with the people you interact with: the grocery store clerk, a receptionist or people on the street.  Listen when they talk.  Gently smile and silently wish them goodwill.  You might be surprised at the pleasant feeling you will reap.

Offer acts of kindness.   The other day I noticed a young boy rush over to open a door for someone carrying a large box.  He was beaming when he walked back to his dad.  Gestures such as that can activate a pay-it-forward climate of generosity in your little corner of the world.

And practice self-kindness.  You can do this at various times, throughout your day.  When you shower, notice the feeling of the water cascading down your body and take a moment to relish it.  Set an alarm on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day and when you hear it, take a breath or two and send yourself thoughts of kindness.  “May I be happy and safe.”   “May I live with ease.”  “May I be healthy.”

Extending kindness to oneself and to others is a simple but powerful expression of mindfulness that can make a significant difference in your life.

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Reprogramming my brain so that food is something I enjoy without guilt or remorse started with a plan for what, where and how I eat. I have always been a planner for the important things in life. I have a spending plan, so why not an eating plan? Just as I don’t wish to be careless with my money, I don’t wish to be careless with my eating.

My plan requires discipline. I believe that discipline can be as strong as it can be flexible. I don’t think of it as punishment or restraint. I think of it as a creative way to accomplish my objectives. And I feel that each discipline may be different, but without discipline in food we will never be healthy for long.

My discipline includes loving kindness, understanding and compassion when I stray from it. It includes deep looking to understand why I eat out of emotion rather than hunger. It includes food rules.

Rules do not take the fun out of eating. They put the fun back in. I had to ask myself if I was really enjoying food. I ate quickly without tasting more than the first bite. I automatically ate whatever was in front of me, whether or not it was something I really wanted. I ate too much sometimes, leaving me uncomfortable and guilty. I chose to replace unconscious eating with conscious rules.

My eating rules include three E’s:
Eat when I am hungry
Eat mindfully
Eat healthy

Before I start to eat, I ask myself why I am going to eat. Am I truly hungry? Am I using food to feel better? Is there something in front of me that I really like?

If I am truly hungry, I eat. If I am using food to feel better, I find something else that will make me feel better. If there is something in front of me that I really like and I’m not hungry, I might take a bite or set it aside until I am hungry. If I’m not at home, I reassure myself that this will not be the last time there is a piece of carrot cake in front of me.

By giving myself permission to do what I feel is best for me in the moment, because it’s a conscious decision, I eliminate guilt and any chance of me thinking I’ve been “bad.”

By eating mindfully, I really enjoy the taste and texture of food. I choose food that I really enjoy. I eat more slowly, by putting my fork down between bites. I stop when I feel full, even if there is food left on my plate. I know this will bother my mother if she reads this:)

My rule to eat healthy is a result of loving myself enough to feel I deserve it. Just as I would take good care of anyone I love, I choose to take good care of me. This is how I’ve reduced the power ice cream had over me. Gradually I’ve reprogramed my brain so that ice cream now resides in the same category as any other food. I eat it consciously, slowly and only when it really appeals to me in the moment.

Thanksgiving is a couple of days away. I will apply all my rules I will eat mindfully. I will enjoy the food. I will balance between food that is healthy and food that is less so. I will celebrate abundance.  I will not surrender to it.

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Can you remove the mask you wear?

And reveal yourself to those who care?

Many of us use a “mask” to hide our true persona. We fear that we won’t be liked or accepted, so we journey through life hiding our true selves. It eats away at our spirit. We smile when we are unhappy. We don’t speak up when we disagree. We don’t ask for what we need. All to fit in. And sometimes we don’t even know what we are fitting in to.

In my Brave Heart talk, I tell my audience to brand themselves. I’m not talking about the painful brand used to identify livestock. I’m talking about a marketing brand. How do you really want others to perceive you? Corporations do it!  You can too.

Here’s what I discovered when I dropped my mask. I attract people of like minds. I discovered my strengths and people appreciate them. I’m contributing in my own unique way. It feels amazing!

I’ve branded myself an empathic, humorous, clever and sometimes crazy woman.  If you need someone like that in your life, I’m your Life Coach

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