Tag Archive for #gratitude365

How I f-ed up over the holidays…and how I won’t anymore.

HHHY FB cover

 Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving.



It’s that day of the year that induces hand-wringing by some (“There’s so much good food and I can’t/shouldn’t eat some/all/any of it!”), enthusiastic and expectant hand-rubbing by others (“Oh yeah, it’s that day to eat whatever I want, ALL DAY LONG.  Bring it on!!”), and just a whole lot of headache for others.



Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the holiday season for those of us in the U.S., and  it also often marks a departure from our otherwise normal and balanced eating habits.  


“It’s the Holidays!,” you’ll hear people say, “Treat YoSelf,” or “I’ll just have a little this time,” or “I can only get this once a year!” or “C’mon, you can splurge a little, it’s (insert name of holiday gathering, meal or event here).”


Growing up, it was normal to me to have tons of special holiday foods around–fudge from Gramma, cookies from everyone, spice breads, fruit cake (but let’s be honest, I didn’t eat THAT), and a ton of other ‘only get them once a year’ treats.


Holiday meals were rich and heavy.  It was the norm to fill your plate, stop for a moment after you’d eaten everything on it, then refill on your favorites.  You weren’t done until you were STUFFED.  Then maybe you came back later in the day for more, or pie.


It’s probably not a huge shock that I wasn’t a super lean kid, and that in my teens and 20s I continued to put on weight over the holidays.  So I’m pretty familiar with the Holiday Weight Gain phenomena!


Then I ‘got fit’ and became a personal trainer.  Which meant I leaned out quite a bit, and was responsible for maintaining a physique worthy of being a trainer.  My abs were my ‘claim to fame,’ lol, so staying fairly lean was a priority.



Except….except I fell into a certain mindset fallacy that happens to lots of us–the ‘post-diet’ fallacy.


You know the one, the “Now that I’m skinny I can eat whatever I want” fallacy.  


The one that causes so many post-diet weight gain rebounds–the one that pretty much keeps the diet and supplement industries in business!!!



Yep, I’d leaned out, ‘gotten abs,’ knew what I was doing, knew all kinds of ‘fat-burning workout tricks,’ and just generally felt invincible because I’d established a maintainable level of exercise: nutrition.



Enter: The Holidays.

Enter:  Arrogance.

Enter: Complete detachment from realistic thinking and behaviors.


For the first 3 years I was a trainer, I engaged in the same pattern of behavior, starting right up on Thanksgiving.


Before Thanksgiving, I maintained my normal eating and exercise habits, right up until that Thanksgiving Dinner–no extra treats, no big breaks from normal routines in the kitchen or gym.


But then…then my old “It’s the holidays!!” mentality would kick in–only it was a little worse than when I was a teen or 20-something.  Worse, actually, because I felt ‘skinny,’ which amounted to License to EAT.


Does anyone else hear me there???


I had a big case of ‘I’m ‘X’ size/weight/body fat percentage, so I can eat whatever I want’ thinking.


Which worked out great for me…for about 3 weeks.  Then I would start ‘wearing what I was eating,’ because for me it takes about 3 weeks for me to feel/notice weight gain.  Um, oops.



Only then I’d be full into Christmas season with all its extra events (parties, dinners, Christmas Markets), so I’d just say “Well, I’ll take care of it after Christmas.  It’s the HOLIDAYS after all, it’s not like I’m going to diet until New Year’s!”



Then New Year’s would come and go, and I’d be uncomfortable with my body and feeling shame about my dietary and body composition backslide.


On top of that, it would take me a good 8-12 weeks of hard work and structured eating just to get back to where I’d started on Thanksgiving Day!


Oh my goodness, how many of us have been there?!?



Finally, I just got sick of the whole pattern, so I spent some time examining what I’d done in past years: the thought patterns involved, typical pitfalls, and unhelpful behaviors that were at work.


Because before we can do better, we have to know better.  Understanding where my behavior comes from helps me know better to do better!


Here’s what I’m doing to avoid any ridiculous holiday-related mindset fallacies or weight changes–things that might just help you ‘stay in the middle’ for the next few weeks, too 🙂


–> Changing my mind:  Trading out the old thoughts for new ones.


There will be no more “I’m ___ size,” or “I worked out so hard this week, so I can eat whatever I want” thinking.


My new mantra:  “I’m staying in the middle, so I can stay in the middle.”


–> Dealing with stress more proactively.


Stress has provoked some pretty strong emotional eating and drinking reactions in the past, so I recognize that I need to head the feelings of ‘dis-stress’ off at the pass.


This means I’ll be writing in my gratitude journal daily, taking short ‘time outs’ when I need them, and using Brendon Burchard’s Productivity Planner to keep my priorities straight.  If it’s not a priority, it’s not getting stressed over!


If you’re curious, you can get your own copy at:  http://www.highperformanceacademy.com/HPA-1pageproductivity.pdf

And the YouTube video that expands on the principle: How Millionaires Schedule Their Day



–> Practicing mindfulness techniques, especially around food.


I’m committed to continuing to recognize and monitor my hunger cues, cravings, thirst and satiation (feeling satisfied and full) as I’ve been doing ALL YEAR LONG.  Just because “It’s the Holidays!” doesn’t mean I have a ‘License to EAT,” LOL.


I’m also committed to recognizing when I’m tired, and respecting my need to chill, sleep more, lighten up on the workouts, or take a walk instead of self-medicating with caffeine, more food or drinks.


–> Planning my Indulgences.


Using a practice I call “Planned Indulgences,” I’ve found a method for enjoying treat foods on my own terms.


Basically, I know all-or-nothing approaches to treats and treat foods–especially your favorites!–leads to a ‘restrict and binge’ behavior when willpower gets low or your attention isn’t as focused on what you’re eating.


As in, when you get ‘caught up in the moment’ at the end of the day or at a special event.


Plus, when you spend so much time and energy fixating on what ‘you can’t have,’ you’re taking energy away from noticing all the other amazing things going on around you, which means less enjoyment of the season or special events.  And isn’t the whole point to enjoy ourselves–to be relaxed and appreciative of the specialness of the season?


  • So when I look at my schedule for the week, I identify any special events going on.
  • I choose what treats I’ll be enjoying that week–keeping the number reasonable.
  • I set an expectation for myself, and then all I have to do is follow through and enjoy my planned indulgence.
  • No fixating, no stress, no guilt, just enjoyment of the treat AND, moreover, then occasion!

scheduling for the win!


–> Practice my ‘Minimum Effective Dose’ approach to eating rich and/or holiday foods.


When it comes to taking drugs/medications, the general opinion is to use the smallest amount to get the effect you seek.

Meaning, if 200mg of Ibuprofen alleviates your pain, there’s no need to take 600mg.  You’re always looking to use the ‘minimum effective dose.’


Same goes for treat foods!


While I definitely use my Planned Indulgence method to have some of the tasty stuff, I also implement my Minimum Effective Dose (MED) approach to enjoying those treat foods.


Meaning, why eat a half a pie when a single piece will satisfy the desire to indulge?


It’s overkill, it causes tummy ache, and all too often a sense of regret or even shame.  In other words, it’s so not worth it.



Figure out what your MEDs are for your favorite treat foods (which requires being mindful when eating and some ‘guess and testing’), and you’ll be on your way to enjoying the treat foods you like best in a way that’s agreeable with both your palate and ‘staying in the middle.’


–> Remembering, and reminding myself, what the true nature and purpose of the holidays and their celebrations are really all about.


It can be easy to get caught up in the ‘enjoy holiday foods’ part of the season, and some of us can really get fixated on those foods as being the center of an event.  Understandable, since the turkey dinner with all the fixings is what Thanksgiving features as it’s main event!


For a really nice change of family Thanksgiving traditions, check out:



Rather than fixate on ‘getting my fix’ of that certain food, I’m focusing on what I’ll really treasure and remember about each holiday and festivity:  the sights, the sounds, the smells, the PEOPLE.


I’ll be stopping to take it all in, to make memories, to take pictures, give hugs, be in the moment.



We don’t get any guarantees about where we’ll be or who’ll still be with us next year, so it’s worth taking that moment in and appreciating all we DO have in the here and now.



By reflecting on past motivations, mindsets and choices, I’m able to create a new, more agreeable experience for my present–and you can , too.


If how you’ve navigated the holiday food waters hasn’t been agreeable with you in the past, try a few of my tips:

  • Trade out the old thought pattern for new, helpful ones
  • Deal with stress more proactively
  • Practice mindfulness techniques, especially around food.
  • Plan your indulgences
  • Remember your treat food MEDs
  • Remember the true essence of the holidays


And stay in the middle to stay in the middle–happily.



To get more tips, mindset tweaks, and done-for-you workouts to keep you ‘in the middle’ and happy, sign up for my weekly email newsletter here:
A new tip, technique and workout goes out every Friday!





Trading in Fear and Angst for Gratitude and Appreciation.

Practicing daily gratitude.

Practicing daily gratitude.

Sounds more like a psychology/counseling blog than a fitness one, right?  I hear you.


But a few years ago, I started to really see how much one aspect of living affected the others.

I really believe in a Mind-Body-Spirit connection, I’ve dubbed it the ‘Human Trifecta,’ and that when one part is out of whack, the others suffer.  I also believe that bolstering one aspect of the Human Trifecta can bring the others up as well.



What does this all have to do with trading in fear and angst for gratitude and appreciation, and where does this fit into a fitness context?


Here’s my belief, based on my past and current experiences in fitness and living as a whole:  fear and angst will shut you down, gratitude and appreciation will open you up to the greatness and possibilities that are out there.


And in the context of fitness, I’m talking about the fear and angst of not being thin enough/lean enough/hard enough/good enough versus appreciating the body you have and all the amazing things it does already, as well as the amazing things you can become capable of doing.



Angst will ‘hang you up,’ make you feel like you’re carrying a ton of bricks. It will blind you to the good fortune and abundance of possibilities before you–you will only see what is ‘wrong’ and be preoccupied or even obsessed with what you fear.  



In a fitness/aesthetic context, this can take the form of always needing to lose those ‘last 10 pounds’ or fixating on your ‘muffin top,’ ‘saddle bags,’ ‘back fat,’ body fat percentage, observable 6-pack, etc, etc, etc.



How many of us can relate to those feelings, or have had that experience?



Let me ask you this, has any good ever come out of those feelings or preoccupations?


Did putting energy into that fear/angst get you closer to your ‘goals’ or give you any sense of relief?




“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
― Jack Canfield




Gratitude and appreciation allow you to acknowledge your gifts, blessings and physical abilities and attributes–just as you are/your body looks at this very minute.



Appreciating what you have will put a little more ‘pep’ in your step; it will allow you to move forward with purpose and hope.



Knowing these ideas to be true is different than putting them into practice–believe me, I know.



In the past I thought once I was a certain weight, a certain leanness, had a certain amount of muscular development, was a legit personal trainer and fitness instructor THEN I would be confident, satisfied–I would have made it.



Only…it never happened.  



–I’d reach one goal, then there would be another flaw or fixation to work on.


–I showcased my abs and got attention for those, then I felt a massive pressure to maintain them in a visible state (be super lean) or I would be looked at as a fraud.


–I started comparing myself to other trainers who had other physical/aesthetic assets I felt I didn’t, and I felt I paled in comparison–which led to some ugly, ego-driven, fear-driven thought processes.



“Comparison is the thief of joy,” someone once wrote.  Boy, is it ever.



Comparison is also the fueler of fear.



So instead of appreciating what I had, what I could do, what I brought to the table, I lived in the place of ‘not enough’ for longer than I care to admit.



And then I just got TIRED.


July 2012: the first time I publicly unveiled my abs
Photo Credits to Paige Kimball Photography



I can’t pinpoint exactly when I chose to change my mind, aside from knowing it was in the early part of 2014, but I do know it came from a sense of exhaustion–just being worn out by competing in the fitness instructor/personal trainer rat race of who ‘looked better’ or was ‘more shapely’ or more popular…I just could not do it any longer.



I remember thinking “What if…”  What’s the worst that could happen if I stopped being so scared and anxious and fearful of paling in comparison?



What would happen if I said (and accepted) that I was okay ‘as is’–not complacent or defeatist like ‘this is the best I’ll ever be’–but just that I was at peace with where I was at in that moment.


  • Would I gain 20 pounds?
  • Would I stop working so hard?
  • Stop caring about my physical appearance?
  • Would it mean I was less invested, less passionate than my peers?
  • What would happen if I stopped looking at and loathing my ‘flaws?’


Maybe it was turning 40 last year, maybe it was enduring another deployment (having my husband in Afghanistan, always being a little ready for that phone call or knock on my door), maybe it was the realization that the fitness center I worked at no longer served me or my needs–and in fact took far more from me than they ever gave me in terms of support and positive energy….



I think it was the sum and total of it all, and all happening at the same time.  



Whatever the impetus was, I realized it just wasn’t worth living with that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach or with the negative/’less than’ self-concept ruling my daily existence.



So I let myself off the hook and began to try a new approach.







I decided it didn’t matter how I ‘stacked up’ against my peers, it mattered how well I felt in my own skin.



I stopped allowing myself to wonder what other people thought because it didn’t matter anymore.



How I felt others viewed me wasn’t going to be a motivator any longer.



I started actively taking note of my strengths and abilities, and to focus more on growing those, on learning more and becoming more skilled as an athlete and a trainer.



I also acknowledged both the strength and aesthetic aspects of myself that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with and on which I would continue to work.  I acknowledged them, and then made a plan of action and moved on.



And I realized fully how much I love moving, the liberty of being able to move more, lift more, DO more.



The results of my appreciation/gratitude paradigm shift?



NO weight gain, better muscular development–because I do what I love to do, not what I think I need to do to look a certain way–and a feeling of having lost 1,000 pounds off my shoulders, of living with a feeling of peace in my gut rather than a hard lump of fear.



I can’t even explain adequately the personal liberty and peace this change of mindset and thought processes (now a daily practice) have given me.



What I can say is that THIS way of thinking, this way of life, is where it is at.

This is 40.

This is 40. After my mindset paradigm shift.


smiling ghd 1

And this is 42, about 3 years after my paradigm shift.



Recently, a dear friend sent me a copy of The Five-Minute Journal, and it’s helped me to structure my practice of acknowledging the good in my life, and showing gratitude, into daily morning and evening events.



Making this a daily, regular practice helps keep me ‘in the zone,’ because little fears still try to creep in and it’s this practice that keeps in me an open heart, appreciating what I have, what I offer as a person and a trainer, rather than dwelling on what I am not.




Stronger and better at 42.


It’s not necessarily easy, and it takes a bit of mental training/practice, but WOW is it worth it.





So maybe you’ll consider starting your day or your week with appreciation practice, especially if you’re someone who’s been focused on your ‘flaws’ or living with anxiety and fear.  


Try this:  Name/list 3 to 5 things you like or appreciate or feel grateful for about your body (or your life in general).

It could be a certain body part, a certain feature, or an ability or talent.

And if it’s hard for you to find nice things to say about your body, it could be as simple as the fact that you’re still breathing, that your heart is still beating, that you’re still mobile/able to move freely under your own power.


Whatever it is, write it down.


“Cultivate Gratitude: Gratitude is the opposite of depression and anxiety. It’s the conscious experience of appreciation of the gifts in our lives and the results are tangible.”

~ The Five Minute Journal


Starting each day or each week with gratitude and a positive self-concept will free you from your fears and angst; it frees you to move closer to your goals and to a more ideal or harmonious way of living.


Get gratitude and get busy really LIVING.  You’ll never want to go back.