What I learned When I Quit Crash Dieting

what i learned when i finally quit crash dieting _ erin's life bites

Crash dieting used to feel like my full-time job.

Every time I tried to give notice, the insecurity over not trusting myself enough around food stopped me.

It felt familiar.  Crash dieting was second nature.

And so was my self-doubt and dissatisfaction with my body.

I tried every crash diet, pill, potion, cleanse whathaveyou over the nearly two decades of my toxic relationship with food and my body.

So, I tried something radical (for me):  I simply quit crash dieting.

What do I consider ‘crash dieting’? Anything extreme – as in the polar opposite of whatever way a person may have been eating – and with strict parameters (i.e. cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and lemon ‘cleanses’; celebrity juice diets, ‘detox’ pills/shakes, etc.). I’ve worked with clients who would rage over not losing weight fast enough when they lived on celery juice Monday through Friday — and then drank bottomless glasses of merlot and the brunch buffet all weekend long. There is no need to do all of that black and white restrictive crap, and it is the one way I would say you will likely not keep the weight off if you continue your relationship with food in this way.

What I learned when I (finally) quit crash dieting

I got to eat what I wanted without feeling any guilt.

When you don’t have restrictions placed on your diet left, right and centre it gets a lot less stressful when you decide to let yourself eat!

I spent so many years worrying about whether the food had the right amount of carbs, sugar, fats, macros that it took all of the joy out of eating.

Seriously, just making a decision to eat was like solving a puzzle when half the pieces were missing.

Frustrating AND boring.

When I stopped restricting myself, I also stopped shaming and depriving myself.  Deprivation is fuel to the crash diet and food-obsessed person’s inner motivation fire.

Without all the self-policing, I was able to focus on listening to my body and becoming more in touch with what I could eat rather than what I ‘shouldn’t.’

When you take strict restriction out of the equation, your urge to punish yourself for your food choices is no longer.

I saved money even though I was eating more.  

I was a total sucker for energy drinks, diet snacks, and protein bars; not to mention diet pills, caffeine, and fitness-enhancing supplements.

All of these “health” products were slimming down my bank account and doing nothing for my well-being.

I soon discovered that eating whole foods was not only more satisfying but much more beneficial to my overall fitness level.  And because I was eating healthy, flavourful foods like healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and real protein sources, I found that when I did try to eat an odd “energy” bar, I was paying £2 to eat something that tasted like plastic and probably contained it too!

In the same respect, a piece of pie or cake for dessert tasted so much better.  Without eating processed foods, I appreciated the richness and flavour of the items I was eating.

I realised that I was “addicted” to certain foods.

I began to recognise my true hunger cues and my body was able to lead me to a better understanding of my appetite and how to feed it. It made me understand that I was truly addicted to certain processed foods. I now understand that some foods do ‘trigger’ me to eat more and fall into a food ‘rabbit hole. For years I thought that food addiction was bullshit. It’s not. I have read lots of research, I have worked with people who have successfully changed their body and life from cutting out foods that ‘trigger’ them, and I know from my own experience.

So many foods that are on the market today have gone through a ton of testing and trials to make the perfect combination of salt, fat and sugar. For people who are reliant on these types of foods for emotional ease, it can be damaging to eat these products. Highly palatable and processed food is designed to make you want more, and studies show that some people have lower dopamine receptors in their brains, which fire off while eating these foods and the lead to the compulsion to eat more or binge on these specific foods.

I stopped being at war with my body

An arbitrary crash diet is an anchor for shaming ourselves.  When I ceased to shame myself my relationship with food, I also stopped the cycle of body negativity.

A new cycle of rational and healthy give and take begins when you quit crash dieting.

Eating what my body needs for health and vitality, stopped the mental battle I was living through while I was engaging in restrictive crash dieting.

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I stopped continually being in a bad mood which I attributed to two things 1) Arbitrary food guides were no longer screwing with my digestion and bodily functions and 2) I stopped shaming the hell out of myself for not being compliant with a wackadoodle diet plan.

It is incredible how much better you will see your body when you stop punishing yourself for not putting it through unnecessary hell.

Self-compassion is something with which most of us struggle.  You’re only human, and there are enough causes in life to get passionate and fight against, your body doesn’t need to be one of them!

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I lost some weight (and it has stayed off)

Emotional and physical weight can be present in our lives in equal measure.  When I quit my crash diet cycle and began embracing self-compassion, it enabled me to shift weight without conscious effort.

As an eating psychology coach who utilises neurolinguistic programming, I can tell you that when you spend life thinking negative statements, you will also spend your time fighting against those thoughts and get the very thing you don’t want.

When you say to yourself “I can’t eat sugar,” your mind will only hear, “eat sugar.”  While you think you are commanding yourself into not to doing something, you are talking yourself into obsessing over the very action you are trying to avoid

What I learned when I (finally) quit crash dieting. #health #eatingpsychology #coach #motivation Click To Tweet

Enjoy and appreciate your body every single day that you have it.  Feed it with love and compassion.

Have you ever been on a crash diet? How do you feel about highly restrictive food plans?

Why a Revenge Body is Bad Motivation

A Revenge Body Is Bad Motivation _ Erin's Life Bites

As a wellness professional, I encounter various forms of personal motivation when it comes to fitness.

Some people want to be fit enough to run a half-marathon because it is something they have always wanted to do.

Some people have specific health concerns and are advised to start a fitness regimen.

And then some people come to me looking to “make their ex-significant other regret the day they broke up with them” by getting a “revenge body.”

Any tabloid magazine, on any given week, will post a story about the “revenge body” of a celebrity who is going through relationship woes or bad times.

Khloe Kardashian was paid a bunch of money on her E! show aptly titled, Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian to assist people in obtaining a ‘revenge worthy’ physique, and I’m not the only person who thinks this show is bad news.

I have a policy that I won’t work with individuals with body revenge goals.

Instead, I ask clients to focus on the power of a growth mindset; to have them take their desire for revenge and turn it into an exercise in self-compassion and forgiveness.

Why having a revenge body is a lousy motivator

Simply put, working towards a revenge body infringes upon your innate ability to embrace healing.

Kevin Carlsmith, in a 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, discussed that by seeking revenge we inflate the event or issue to a level of obsession, where it’s no longer something that can be “laughed about later.”

You’re willing to sacrifice your well-being to seek punishment towards somebody else.

When a client comes to me with a goal not based on self-care, my concern is that the individual runs the risk of possible long-term consequences.

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I am not making this claim based on speculation. I once sought out to change my physical appearance after being called fat. Before it was a buzzword (I’m ageing myself here), when I was fifteen years old, I started a revenge body diet and exercise regimen, and it turned into a fifteen year battle with bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder.

We see this scenario all of the time in the movies.  An individual gets rejected and, soon after, their mission is to rise from the ashes and make this person regret their decision to abandon or hurt them.  So, they falsely believe the best way to go about this is to become more physically desirable.

But what tends to happen in the end to our protagonists? They realise that they do not need nor desire to change for that person, and in sacrificing so much to ‘improve’ themselves, they understand that the individual wasn’t worthy of their affection and, ultimately, they are the better off without them.

Why do these characters finally realise, within a 90-minute time frame, that they need to accept who they are and be okay with it?

Because revenge inevitably brings us down to the level of the very thing we are fighting and compromises our integrity.

As humans, one of our most compelling traits is our ability to forgive ourselves and others.

So, when we apply our actions with the intentions of proving our worth or getting one over on others, we keep the pain associated with it alive and well.

We cannot heal and grow to our full potential if we are doing things for the benefit of needing to prove our worth to others.

For this reason, when I meet a new client now, and it is clear that they are in a vulnerable and transitional point in their life, I ask them to reassess what is upsetting them and the areas of their life they should focus on strengthening.

There are not many things that we as humans have control over in our lives.

Revenge dieting and bodies, as well as the entire concept of improvement based on outside justification and approval, limits what control you do have over your present and future well-being.

It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.

-Tony Robbins

We cannot control how people treat us or the decisions they make about who we are.

That’s on them.

However, we can control how we respond to things and grow from the experience.

Breakups, for the most part, tend to be multi-dimensional events and, upon reflection, there is much more to their demise than how our partners feel about our bodies.

Why a 'revenge body' is bad motivation. @beetsperminute Click To Tweet

So my advice is this:   Focus on living the best life possible on your terms because you’ll be living well and if it still matters enough, living well truly is the best “revenge”.

This post first appeared on Huffington Post.

4 SIGNS YOU MAY BE IN A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

four signs you may be in a toxic relationship with food _ erin's life bites

Ah, toxic relationships.  Chances are you’ve had a few of those or maybe your suspect you might be in the grips of one right now.

One relationship that many people struggle with is a toxic relationship with food, and it is easy to see why this happens.  Everybody has to eat to survive.

Most people, particularly women discuss food and weight at multiple points in any given conversation.  Talking about weight, diet and bodies is a part of our culture.

So, what makes a relationship with food toxic?

Have you ever wondered if the way you think, view and discuss food is affecting how much and what you eat?

Truthfully, many traits can help you determine if your relationship with food is toxic, but for this post, we will focus on four specific characteristics:

  • Blaming 
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Self-judgment
  • Bad feelings

four signs you may be in a toxic relationship with food _ erin's life bites

4 SIGNS YOU MAY BE IN A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

Blaming

When we are young, it’s understandable that we would blame ourselves for the traumatic things that happen around us.  Self-blame is a way to make sense of things that quite frankly are not for us to explain or figure out.

You may be thinking; of course, you are going to blame yourself when you emotionally eat or feel out of control with your eating habits – you can’t blame the slice of pizza.

But we do blame the food, and by blaming the food, we give it an incredible amount of power (or “say”) in our ability to cope with stress and trauma.

“But if the food weren’t so delicious or comforting, I wouldn’t turn to it.  I mean, I’m hardly going to cram entire stems of broccoli florets into my mouth when I feel bad!”  Well, you might if you found broccoli comforting.   It’s not the food being too delicious or comforting that causes you to eat it when you’re upset.  It’s the need to shut off discomfort or to cope with a stressful situation.   The food isn’t going to fix anything, but if continuously turn to food in times of distress it sure might seem like you depend on it to do something it isn’t equipped to do.

Listen, there are way worse things, in my opinion, that a person can do when they are stressed or upset than eat something.  However, when eating something leads to eating something else and then another thing and turns into a manic cycle of feeling powerless and shameful while hitting up multiple drive-thrus, then your relationship with food is toxic.

Lack of autonomy 

Autonomy is a basic human need.  We need independence to feel that we can make the best choices for ourselves and our lives based on what we need without the influence or approval of others.

“I can’t eat that because I’m on a low carb diet.”

“I can’t have dairy because I’m paleo.”

If you choose not to eat carbs, that’s fine.  If you decide not to eat dairy, cool, but the thing is you can have carbs, dairy and sugar — unless you have an allergy or medical condition that prohibits you from consuming them safely.  If Sally, from accounting, lost 15 pounds and cured her irregular period by cutting sugar out of her diet, that means it is a suitable choice for Sally, but that doesn’t mean that you should try an elimination diet yourself.

Pursuing dietary “lifestyles” that restrict you or limit you because you believe that it will “fix your body” to eat a certain way or that you have to abstain from entire food groups to “eat right,” you could have a toxic relationship with food.

Judgment

A judgment is an opinion.   We live in a judgmental world.  People judge a book by its cover all of the time.  Is it right?  No.  Nine out of ten times the judgments we make are based on a very skewed and limited amount of information and are inconclusive at best.

We don’t reserve judgments for other people – we also judge things.  Food is always under scrutiny.  Some foods are bad.  Some foods are good.  Some foods are even labelled “super.”  The bottom line is they. Are. All. Just. Food.  

True, some foods are more nutritionally dense than others, but to believe that one food is terrible and another food is good is an arbitrary judgment that creates dysfunctional relationships with how we eat.  There are many reasons we consciously and subconsciously choose the foods that we eat when we decide to eat them and how we judge food has a significant impact on those choices.

Having a healthy and objective attitude towards food is #goals when it comes to your relationship with food.

Bad feelings

Counting celery sticks and not participating in events because you can’t be around the temptation of food is something many people do every damn day.  If the very prospect of being around food or being in an environment you can’t “control” causes you distress, you’re not alone.  So many people spend their days feeling wrong about the foods they choose to eat or not eat.  It is what happens to our thoughts and feelings after we eat that can show our actual relationship with food and our bodies.

“I’m a failure because I ate a cheeseburger,” this is a sentiment most people will think – if not say – to themselves when they decide to eat a particular food item.

Having bad feelings such as guilt, shame or anger after eating specific foods or quantities of food could mean that you have a toxic relationship with food.

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So, how do I manage my toxic relationship with food when I have to eat to survive?

Well, the first thing to establish is that it is not the food that is causing the toxic relationship, it is the associations and attitudes you have created surrounding eating as behaviour and the stigma you have assigned to particular foods.  Let me add, any shame attached to a specific food could have been designated by a parent, a friend, or just from society in general and is not necessarily an original association created by you.

The four signs you may have a toxic relationship with food – blaming, lack of autonomy, judgment and bad feelings – all come from how you have been conditioned to view food; as a coping mechanism.

Let me be clear:  I believe there are far worse things a person can do than eat a cupcake when they are sad, angry or stressed.  In those cases it is usually only in small quantities and when the individual has an established healthy attitude towards food.

However, eating as a coping mechanism – or as a response to an emotional trigger – is what leads the behaviour to have negative associations which over time can become harmful not only concerning physical health but mental health as well.

When food becomes an automated self-care method, or a mechanism to soothe stressors or trauma or is used as a reward system is when toxic emotional associations with food and how we eat start.

It is important to know that you are not alone.

Many people I have worked with over the years both as a personal trainer and nutritional therapist have communicated the same frustration when it comes to food and stress; they feel as though they have no control over their lives and the food is a way to distract themselves from the moment.

Some clients express feeling as though they had an ‘out of body’ experience where they feel in the moment that they are no longer in the driver’s seat of their life.

Other clients say that they know that what they are doing is “wrong”, but they feel like crap, so what’s the point in doing anything positive – it’s not like it matters at the moment.

Regardless of a client’s specific account of what they experience, the message is the same:  they are using the food to escape a discomfort.

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As a result of this association, the foods they consume while feeling upset, angry or out of control are branded as ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ and exist as a response to an emotional or an environmental trigger.  At that moment, they need to pull the ‘escape hatch’ on reality and escape even if it is just until they reach the bottom of the chip packet.

Nobody deserves to be in discomfort or to experience crippling stress.  Every person deserves the opportunity to heal from trauma, and that is why recognising not only how we react to stressful situations but whether or not the way we cope with these situations is healthy and not causing secondary physical or mental health issues.

People are feeling much more comfortable these days discussing their struggles, and breaking through the stigma and shame that emotional eating and toxic relationships with food while giving you the tools to successfully manage stressors, anxiety, and emotions in a healthy and healing way.

Is your relationship with food healthy or toxic? Read my post on the four signs you could be in a toxic relationship with food. Click To Tweet

I offer clients one-on-one coaching programs to work through rebuilding their relationships with food, stress and help them find their way to the healthiest lifestyle specific to their needs and struggles.  Everybody is unique and has their history, and while signing up for my coaching emails and blog posts is a great start to rebuilding your confidence with food, some targeted work could help you better reach your goals.

If you are interested in working with me one-on-one, please email me at erin@erinslifebites.com and follow me on social media.

3 Ways Being An Expat Is Like Being 15 Again

three ways being an expat is like being fifteen again _ erin's life bites

It’s been almost four years since I moved over to Glasgow from America, which is cah-ray-zee. 

Living in a new country is exciting and terrifying at the same time.  Being an expat has its ups and downs as well.  I moved to Scotland for love, and there’s plenty of that in my life, but I still have many days when I wonder if I’ll ever really feel at home over here.

It’s the little things that make being an expat so tough.  Like, you know, everyday things that you learn to take for granted as part of your life that are missed once you are without them.  The other day I got to thinking after having to add 90 minutes to my travels  — because I had missed the train I needed by one fucking minute — that being an expat is pretty much like being 15 years old again.

I don’t know how being 15 worked out for you, but I’d have to say, without ANY hesitation, that my version of 15 sucked pretty hard.

Am I dramatic?  Of course, I am.  That’s what I sometimes do, though.  It’s how I cope.  So, you might be wondering specifically in what ways being an expat is like being 15 years old again.  

Three Ways Being an Expat is Like Being 15 Again

You have to learn how to drive, take lessons, and pass a test and shit.  I have to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road.  Every time I’m even a passenger in a car over here, I find myself in a panic about how ass-backwards the whole Scottish driving experience is.  This country is full of rotaries (roundabouts) and chaos.

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 Also, and this could be a category of its own, I am at the mercy of train schedules and other people who own cars.  Either that or I walk everywhere; which is fine, but, not always the most convenient option when it comes to the weather.

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You have no credit history.  Trying to get anything that requires any credit reference without having a viable credit history doesn’t happen.  The computer will say no.  Always.

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You have to make new friends, and it’s super tough as an adult.  Remember your first day of school?  How much easier it was to make friends amongst your peers?  Being in your thirties and moving to a new country makes it super challenging to meet people.

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Call me a crybaby, but feeling like I’m 15 again can mess with my head.  At least I don’t have to worry about dating.

 If I had to worry about dating in a new country, I would be a whole other level of mess.  Dating sucks enough on your home turf, am I right?

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Don’t get me wrong, being an expat is super fun in many ways, but it’s not exactly all rainbows and unicorns (despite the national animal of Scotland being a unicorn, yes, not joking.)

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Somedays you feel like a lost 15-year-old, and sometimes you even need the  Clearasil to go with it.  Also, remember when Mark Ruffalo was the face of acne-free skin? 

Now I am showing my age.  

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Ever wondered what moving to a new country really feels like? Read my post on the three ways being an expat is like being 15 again. Click To Tweet

Would you move to another country for love, work, or just for the hell of it?  

Am I the only adult who finds it difficult making friends later in life?


Try This At-home CrossFit ‘WOD’ Workout

Try This At-home CrossFit ‘WOD’ Workout

There is no denying that one of the most popular fitness trends these days is CrossFit. CrossFit is a workout designed to use functional movements (real-world situational biomechanics) that encompass principals from sports such as rowing, running, gymnastics and more.

Just a little background on the CrossFit brand; It was created by Founder and CEO Greg Glassman over several decades and is explicitly designed to improve fitness and health. The workouts are designed to challenge different parts of your strength and condition level to improve your overall level of physical fitness. Traditional CrossFit workouts have names like Cindy, Barbara, and Nancy also referred to as “benchmark workouts.”

What I love the most about CF-style workouts is that they are varied and scalable to help anybody get into the best shape of their life. I never get bored of finding out what the WOD (workout of the day) challenge will be!

But, not everybody has the luxury of getting into a CrossFit centre or gym to get in a workout, and that’s okay, you can still challenge yourself and fit in this style of fitness right in the comfort of your home (or backyard if you’re so lucky to have one!).

Components of a WOD

WODs can be performed for time or as many reps as possible (AMRAP). If the WOD calls for moves to performed “for time” you would complete all of the moves, reps, and rounds and record the amount of time it took to finish the workout. The idea being that as you progress you will improve on the amount of time it takes to complete the exercises through the program.

AMRAP workouts are prescribed a specific timeframe when you are to complete as many reps as possible of the moves provided before the final buzzer sounds! This method is also to measure progress but this time, measuring the number of circuits you can complete within the time frame versus improving the time in which you complete them.

Designing a WOD

So, you’ve got 10 minutes to fit in a workout, and you’re interested in getting the most bang for your fitness buck –great! So, you are probably wondering how you can create a CF-style WOD that you can complete with limited time, space, and equipment? Here’s what you will need to include in your WOD to get a killer workout and the motivation to start building your personal best:

Bodyweight Movement (Non-equipment, resistance, and flexibility based moves.)

Equipment Movement (Equipment based moves (dumbells, etc.)

Condition Movement (Moves that improve your cardiovascular fitness.)

Static Movement (Moves that require little to no movement while contracting muscle fibres.)

If you don’t have dumbells at home you can use full water bottles or food tins, however, purchasing a set of dumbbells ranging from 1.2 -4.5 kg will be a great investment! For the rest of the exercises, you will only need your body and a safe/comfortable workout surface!

CROSSFIT STYLE WOD AT HOME _ erin's life bites

Examples of exercises included in this WOD:

There you have it! A beginning CF-style WOD you can do anywhere at your convenience! Add this routine up to 3 times per week over the next 30 days for best results. For beginners, start with a 5-minute WOD, slowly challenging yourself to add a minute on as you progress.

Try this fun and fast at-home CrossFit style WOD for a challenging, full-body workout! Click To Tweet

As with any fitness routine, please check with your physician before starting this or any exercise program.

Happy sweating!