Resolutions that have nothing to do with diet and exercise

It's that time of year again where Oprah suggests that you can become a better person.  You can "live your life AND lose weight."

Besides the fact that I'm disappointed in Oprah, this time of year is really aggravating for me. 

This year especially.

The most un-feminist thing about dieting and exercise is that it takes away from the rest of your life. Even Oprah knows this. 

The famous line from The Beauty Myth is:

"A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women's history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one." -Naomi Wolf

What if this year, you focused on something else besides weight loss?

What if you just forgot about eating a lot of cookies and drinking a lot of wine during the holidays? And, just, you know, moved on. Like Donald Trump does after tweeting. 

Here are 5 things you could do instead of dieting or exercising more: 

1. Volunteer

You know what's great cardio? Getting your ass up on the weekend or even after work and going to do something for other human beings. Did you know you burn calories ladling out soup for other people who are hungry? 

The best part is that you don't have to eat any of the food yourself. In fact, you're not supposed to eat that food at all. Someone donated that food for other people. 

If feeding the hungry isn't political enough for you, you can always volunteer for something else. You could provide tutoring to children who are survivors of domestic abuse. You could volunteer for Planned Parenthood. The sky is the limit. You could also do something to prevent pollution or climate change. 

Idealist.org and Volunteermatch.org are great places to get your search started.  

2. Donate Money

You're saving lots of money on your lack of a gym membership this year because you quit dieting. So, why not put that extra money toward a charity of your choice. 

Syria, for example, isn't doing too hot. You could send money to them. There's also lots of social programs right here in the USA that could use your help. Did I already mention Planned Parenthood? 

Charity Navigator allows you look up different charities that you might want to give to and rates them based off how well they work and use their money. 

3. Meditate

2017 is shaping up to be a difficult year. I know that I might lose health insurance. Some women might be losing reproductive rights. 

Instead of fixating on calorie counting, I'll be meditating as a coping mechanism. My favorite app for this is Headspace. 

You can just spend 10-15 minutes/day exercising your mind instead of your body. Meditating can sometimes be lame or New-Agey in an annoying way. I haven't encountered any mention of chakras or the Divine spirit. It's really just a breathing program.

4. Clean out your house

Marie Kondo manages her anxiety by getting rid of everything in her house that doesn't bring her joy. As an added benefit, you can burn calories and your ex-boyfriend's things. 

If you compulsively fixate on cleanliness or your ex-boyfriend, I don't recommend this one. 

5. Focus on your career. 

Instead of being smaller, focus on being bigger. Your role should be bigger. Your wallet should be bigger. And your office should be bigger.

Losing weight makes you smaller.  

When I'm dieting, I'm usually thinking about the next sliver of cantaloupe. I'm not thinking about how I'm going to get promoted to a C-level suite position. 

So this year: 

I'm reading Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In this year instead of dieting.

I'm dropping socks in the trash instead of LBs. 

I'm counting breaths instead of calories. 

I'm making it rain on charities instead of dripping sweat on the treadmill. 

I'm putting all my blood, sweat and tears into other things this year. 

 

How to stop eating when you're full

I've talked about this before on the blog.

The holidays used to be horrible for me for overeating. I hated going to parties where there was a lot of finger food and nothing too hearty. I'd never get to the flatbread in time. So, cookies being my fave, I ate a bunch of 'em. Well past the point of fullness. 

Nowadays to avoid the terrible overly full feeling, I have a few strategies. 

Here's what to do to stop eating past the point of fullness (if you want to). 

1. Give yourself full permission to eat. 

This is the most important step. You can't do anything else on this list effectively unless you give yourself permission. 

Often times our subconscious minds tell us that this is our last chance to eat something. Meanwhile, our conscious mind is trying to get us to stop. 

This is part of the binge-restrict cycle. When we think we can't have something, we stop eating it. Then, when we face it, we feel like we can't have it. So we go craaaaaaaazzzzzzzzzyyyyy on it. It is, after all, our last chance. 

2. Eat when you're hungry.

 

This one is pretty intuitive. But diet culture teaches us that eating is bad in general. 

The worst line I ever read on a diet website was, "You're on a diet. You're going to be hungry. You just have to learn how to deal with it." 

Why? That's cray. Why would it be healthy to ignore a cue from your body. If I started bleeding out of my face, I wouldn't be like, "I'll just ignore this." So, why do we do this with food?

3. Pick foods that fill you up so you don't get voraciously hungry. 

 You can keep hoping that the ramen noodles you bought will last you until dinnertime. This would be a false hope, Luke Skywalker. (Get it?! A New Hope? #starwars #rogueone #nextweekend #nerdsarecool)

Dietitians love to show people this chart that shows how your blood sugar rises and falls.  In it, we see that carbohydrates spike your blood sugar, then fall. Protein lasts longer than carbs and fat lasts the longest. Fiber helps to sustain fullness for longer. Soluble fiber, found in most fruits and veggies, takes your body longer to digest. So, it hangs out in your stomach for longer. 

 An easy way to prevent yourself from overstuffing is by eating MORE at other meals. You can add peanut butter to your apple.  You can add hummus to your carrots. You can add chicken to your salad. You can just have a snack between lunch and dinner. 

4. Satisfy your Cravings. 

See #1 again. 

Satiety can also be psychological. For example, if I'm craving a hamburger, I usually don't feel "full" until I get that burger. I can snack all night on mango slices and never feel "full" because I never let myself just have what I wanted. 

Sometimes it's better to have the real thing. I can tell you from experience that you can eat all the different varieties of vegan macaroni and cheese. It just doesn't satisfy like the real thing. 

 By all means, don't hurt yourself. I do not recommend eating something you're allergic to. Anaphylactic shock can kill you. Overeating is less likely to kill you. 

5. Give yourself time to eat

 

In today's busy world, we often don't have time to eat. We eat while we're working. We eat while we're driving. We eat while we're watching tv. We eat while we're trying to do something else. 

Not only is that a recipe for indigestion, but it's also a way of disconnecting you from your body. Chewing is hard to do while shoveling a sandwich down during a long commute. Chewing is an important part of digestion. Without it, you might feel bloated. 

 If you sit down to a square meal, you might find it more satisfying. 

 6. Make a plate

Sometimes putting food on a plate shows us how much food it is so we can feel like we actually got a square meal. 

When I get a hankering for snackies, I find it useful to fill up a bowl or a plate with said snackies. As with holiday parties, sometimes snacks don't seem like they can add up to a meal. But, they can. It's a fine way to eat a meal. That's why the Spanish love their tapas. 

7. Listen to your body

Overeating is often symptomatic of other issues. 

It could be the result of not feeding your body when you were hungry. It could be the result of not satisfying a craving. It could be feelings. You could be in a rush and not have time to chew. 

Overeating is just eating more than your tummy can hold. Slow down and try to listen to your body when you're hungry and when you're full. 

You don't have to sit down on a meditation pillow and chant oms between each bite of food. Just remember that eating is about taking care of yourself. 

You don't have to feel shame about eating. You don't have to eat in a rush. You don't have to eat food that you hate. You CAN eat food you love. You CAN take time for yourself.  You CAN eat food that makes you FEEL better. No shame necessary. 

Most importantly, don't be too hard on yourself. It's just a little too much food. 

Reasons why you don't NEED to go to the gym on Black Friday

Two weeks ago, I talked about how I got "tricked"into buying a gym membership during the holidays.

I"ve also talked about motivation for going to the gym. If your goal is weight loss, you're just not likely to go. That's behavioral psychology, bitches.

Hey, the holidays can be a great time to hit the gym. It's an awesome way to get away if you're having a frustrating time. It's something to do when you're feeling lonely or stir-crazy. Exercise also releases endorphins. It's literally a way to feel better if you're angry about how your Aunt burned the Brussels sprouts.

BUT........Thanksgiving is  just one of those times when it's too easy for trainers to talk about "burning off" your food. It's just a hot mess of "fat talk" and "preventing weight gain."

In case you are feeling anxious about the Black Friday gym rush, here are some reasons that you can take a break. 

1. Gyms make money off you not going. 

In 2014, All Things Considered revealed how gyms need the people who don't go to subsidize people who do. For example, Planet Fitness has 6500 members, but if all 6500 of those members actually showed up, they would likely be breaking fire code. 

If you're not likely to go anyway, subsidize your self-care, not the diet industry. 

2. Built-in breaks are good for you. 

My old swim coach used to say that you could ramp up your training for up to 12 weeks. After that, however, you might be hurting yourself rather than helping. 

Since this was over a decade ago, the best source I could find to corroborate this was livestrong.com. Bodybuilders do what they call a "deloading week." This actually enhances their performance. 

Maybe Thanksgiving & Christmas could be your "deloading" weeks. 

3. Health is not just about EXERCISE.

Arianna Huffington wrote a whole book about this. In her book Thrive (and on other places on the internet) she explains the importance of rest. She points out that Americans leave "175 million vacation days unused." She writes, "61 percent of Americans confess to working while on vacation."

Not only are Americans not taking their vacation, but they're also working on vacation. And vacations are good for you. 

Sleep and rest and love and family are good for you, too. So, if your gym routine is getting in the way of those healthy pieces of your life, it's okay to skip it. 

4. Diet and exercise are not preventing weight gain in the long run. 

People often talk about spiraling out of control whenever they're off their normal "routine." 

Weight gain after periods of "routine" might be a signal that you are restricting too much. There's actually more correlation between dieting and weight gain than dieting and weight loss. 

5. If you're not restricting, set point theory will protect you from ballooning. 

Genetics play a big role in determining your weight.  You might have noticed that your weight doesn't fluctuate too much even when you diet. I know I've gained and lost the same pounds over and over again.

I've talked about set point theory a lot.

But if you still don't believe me, listen to this scientist explain it

Set point theory means that your body has a certain weight it wants to be at. If you eat extra stuffing, your set point will keep your body at homeostasis within a certain range. 

6. Gaining a little weight might keep you warm in the winter. 

If you're into seasonal foods, why not be into seasonal weight gain? Our ancestors  wanted a little extra to keep them warm during cold winter cave nights. Winter foods tend to be heavier. They tend to be more "caloric" and lower in fiber. You might even find yourself craving something with extra fat when it's a really cold day. 

If you were a caveman living in Scandinavia, you'd be hella grateful for that extra turkey fat. Maybe you can save a little money on not buying cashmere this year. 

7. WHO CARES IF YOU GAIN WEIGHT? 

 I can't emphasize this enough. Your weight is not an indicator of health

So what if you're not getting swipes to the right because you gained a free sweater's worth of weight? That person doesn't understand economics and they're shallow. 

So, put on your sweater, skip the guilt, and skip the gym if you want to. 

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

You can still exercise without hating it

You can still EXERCISE without hating it. 

Last week I talked about why you hate going to the gym. Focusing on weight loss, turns out doesn't actually help you go to the gym. 

 Focusing on the process instead of the end goal can help a lot

"Being healthy" or "just feeling like you can walk a mile without getting winded," is still an end goal. 

Which is why "lifestyle change" doesn't necessarily work either.

Here are some tips:  

1. Think about what you ACTUALLY ENJOY doing. 

Go ahead make a list of 20 things you like doing. It can include Netflix. Or crafts.  I'll wait. 

*Pro-tip: Nobody is reading this list except for you so you don't have to write things that you think I want to see.

2. Does anything on the list include some form of movement? 

Movement doesn't have to be running, hiking, or swimming. Is it stretching? Is it standing? Is it having sex? 

Boom. You like exercise! You're welcome. 

 

3. Is there anything you like about "exercise?"

Making the switch from going to crossfit 4x/wk to just gardening and going for walks can be scary. 

Especially since we feel like we SHOULD exercise. 

So, let's say you're one of those people that thinks you're going to literally die if you don't go to the gym.  

There's also hope for you. Just because you HAVE to go doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. It doesn't have to be a torturous experience. 

Now write down a list of things you like about going to the gym. 

Again, I'll wait. 

Does it clear your head? Does it change your mood? Do your muscles feel all juicy and awesome? Do you see your friends? Do you get the runner's high? Do you finally get some time to listen to your favorite podcast or Discover Spotify playlist? 

For example, I like ellipticals. They are silly and I can usually comfortably watch television while on one. 

So, there you go. 

Instead of exercise. Have a ball.

Not giving a fuck about being "fat"

Hi. I'm Noel. 

And I don't give a fuck about my cellulite

It didn't always used to be this way. 

 This is me eating churros in a bikini. And I don't give a FUCK. 

This is me eating churros in a bikini. And I don't give a FUCK. 

I remember when I  learned about the shame of weight.  I overheard one my handsome male classmates describing Lizzie McGuire as "a fat cow." 

I was subconsciously aware that I didn't want to be fat. Until that moment, I was suspicious that other people cared. This classmate confirmed it. People are watching and even if you're a cute Disney star, you're still not good enough. 

 If Lizzie McGuire didn't measure up, I certainly did not. 

I felt the shame of not looking like a cover girl. 

And that shame stuck with me for years. Through high school. Through college. Through a few years after college. I felt like I always needed to show how sorry I was about not measuring up. Dieting was the easiest way to repent. 

This is an unspoken part about dieting. Dieting isn't just a way to lose weight. It's social and cultural capital that represents your desire to be better.

When you don't measure up to the standard, your only recourse is the act of trying. "Sure, I may not weigh as little as supermodels, but I'm trying to". It somehow makes us "better" to people who might feel disgusted with how we look. 

If we quit dieting, we quit apologizing.

We quit easing the tension. We quit the people-pleasing. We have to own who we are and not give a shit about somebody else noticing our zits, our belly rolls, our cellulite. 

This is terrifying. 

Embracing intuitive eating and embracing your natural body shape requires courage. 

But, on the other side of this courage is freedom. 

Freedom to not give a fuck. 

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