Let’s talk about the importance of letting go in the process of habit-building. Releasing habits that don’t serve you is just as important as starting healthy ones. Without this step your habits will be in conflict, and we want habit changes to be easy to sustain.
Let’s use weight loss as an example. You can add healthy foods to your diet and start exercising, but if you don't examine why you overeat in the first place, you will be in conflict. You’ve got to let go of some things; not just behaviors but beliefs as well.
Let’s consider some examples:
I let go of drinking alcohol in the evening.
I let go of feeling responsible for others feelings.
I let go of wasting my time in avoidance.
Can you feel how freeing that is? It’s not forcing, it's a release. And releasing that which isn't serving you frees up so much energy for the things that do.
When you are ready to let go, fist consider how this habit has served you. Express gratitude to yourself. Perhaps you have felt that everyone’s happiness was yours to provide; your sense of self-worth is linked to being of service. You have worked hard to keep everyone happy, even at the expense of your own health. See the goodness in that. You are a good person. You want to help others. It’s a beautiful thing! But helping others in this way isn't serving you. And loving yourself means creating boundaries. Others’ happiness isn't your responsibility. It’s time to let it go.
Can you feel the difference between letting go and adding habits?
You’ve probably got some goals kicking around from the new year. Consider what you can let go of to help you move those goals forward. Maybe it’s negative self-talk. Maybe it’s spending time with someone who enables you to stay the same.
Think it over, then take action! Commit!
I’d love to hear in the comments, what are you letting go of?
Book Review: Bright Line Eating by Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD
I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with food. I’ve changed my whole life with cannabis, reconnected with my sense of self-worth, and am committed to my health and wellbeing, but I still often feel like I’m not in control with food. I read Intuitive Eating earlier this year, and was so sure it would be the answer for me. It helped me notice and reject diet culture, and see the importance os body awareness and rebuilding trust with your body. Its an amazing plan, but as I began the process of making peace with food and eating what I was really craving, I found it too hard to stop. I gained back every pound I’d lost. I just need that structure. I finally stepped on a scale for the first time in nearly a year, and I’m back at my heaviest. It’s maddening.
When I started studying to be a cannabis coach, I learned a lot about the brain. The way we are and the things we do are caused by events happening in the brain, and we can change them.
I’ve learned about neurotransmitters and the types of behaviors they cause. If you haven’t, listen to The Life Coach School podcast episode #239 Neurotransmitters. Brooke Castillo explains neurotransmitters in a really simple, digestible way. She mentions specifically how sugar and flour affect dopamine levels.
Then I came across the book, Bright Line Eating. It’s like the missing piece I needed to find to help me understand my own issues with food. It’s an eating plan for those of us who are really susceptible to food addiction. This plan is very scientific and makes a lot of sense to me. To understand how it works, we need to understand what’s happening in the brain.
The premise is this: our brains have not evolved to handle the modern diet. Specifically the super proceed foods, flour and sugar.
These foods wreak havoc in two, super-destructive ways.
The author likens the process of resisting this response to the following:
Imagine you run up 10 flights of stairs. You may decide to breathe slowly the whole time, and you will succeed at first. But after a while your body will take over and you’ll breathe the way your body needs you to. This is the same as resisting your body’s hunger. And all this is caused by too much insulin which blocks the hormone Leptin.
So, you have too much hunger.
You also have overpowering cravings. This has to do with a different part of the brain, the nucleus accumbens. This is the seat of pleasure, reward, and motivation. Food and sex release dopamine, which activate this part of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that encourages us to seek rewards. It encouraged early humans to hunt for food for survival. When an early human found a concentrated or calorie-dense food source (like berries), their brains would take notice and remember to seek it out again. But those concentrated foods have become more concentrated, widely available (heck, hard to avoid, really), and addictive in modern times. The constant stimulation caused by these concentrated foods causes the brain to downregulate and remove dopamine receptors. It means you don't feel the reward anymore, so you need to add more and more stimulation. It looks a lot like drug addiction. Addicts don't use to feel great, they use to feel normal. The reward becomes not feeling bad. The in-between is craving. Sound familiar?
The flour and sugar we eat so much of today is refined and concentrated. The author likens it to other concentrated white powders: cocaine and heroin. Coca leaves give you a lift, but they aren't addictive. But when you refine the plant down into a powder you end up with cocaine, which is addictive.
So these super-concentrated foods are flooding our brains with dopamine, encouraging us to seek food all the time. This causes our brain to down-regulate the dopamine receptors, which creates a cycle of always wanting food and never being satisfied. In the book she describes a pattern noticed by doctors who treat eating disorders. Their overweight patients report feeling hungry when they sit down to eat, feeling slightly less hungry half way through, but then they get hungrier as they continue to eat and are as hungry as they were when they sat down at the end of the meal.
The answer? Completely cut out those concentrated, calorie-dense foods and your brain will heal. You won't be subjected to irresistible cravings, you will lose weight, many people feel their moods stabilize. As a person who has struggled with binge eating since the mid 2000’s and depression all my life, this is a big deal.
Some interesting facts:
Of the obese who try to lose weight, 99% fail. Most who succeed in losing weight will end up gaining it back. The average dieter makes 4 or 5 new attempts each year. It could not be more clear that dieting doesn’t work. We can't just will ourselves thin. Why?
The same part of the brain that controls willpower also governs our ability to focus, make choices, and regulate our emotions, and these resources are finite. When you’re tired, and you’ve made 10,000 decisions, and you’re trying not to lose your shit on your kids, you are using this part of the brain. It's called the anterior cingulate cortex, the seat of rational decision making. This area of the brain is also particularly affected by changes in blood sugar. It doesn’t work well without enough glucose. So when the day draws to an end and we’re tired and have low blood sugar, we won't make good decisions. It’s not willpower, its your brain.
The plan is more specific than just cutting out flour and sugar. It’s a totally regulated plan that you do not break from. That’s why its called bright lines. The bright lines are boundaries. It’s a commitment. But, if you could be free from food addiction forever, wouldn’t you do almost anything? I would.
I don't follow the plan to the letter, at least not yet. I simply cut out sweeteners of all kinds, most flour, and use a calorie-counting app to stay accountable.So far I’m two weeks in and I feel fantastic! I have tons of energy and almost no cravings at all. I feel in control for the first time in a long time. If at some point this isn't easy to maintain I might commit to the Bright Lines eating plan as written. The science seems really solid.
Have you read or followed Bright Line Eating? Let us know what you thought in the comments!
Building Awareness of Self-Talk
Let’s talk about the way we talk to ourselves.
Let’s face it, it's not good. We flood our minds with thoughts; about our bodies, parenting skills, worth, finances, etc. All the time. Here’s the thing. The brain strengthens in the areas that you use it. Have you heard the phrase, ”What you resist, persists?” Active resistance is actually concentrating your attention on the very things you don't want. You are telling your brain that this thing you don’t want is very important and to look for more of it.
Let’s look at how that relates to self-talk.
When you are constantly telling yourself you are terrible, you are telling your brain you are terrible. It gets easier and easier to think it, because you are strengthening those neural pathways. It gets HARDER to disagree with those thoughts, because they become so automatic, we may not even realize we are having them. This is a great reason to hire a coach. We are trained to identify this type of thinking and help you see it and stop it. Your brain is trainable, and you can fix it. All you need is a plan, and practice.
Shauna Shapiro, PhD, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University has some interesting videos about the effects of meditation on the brain. She says you can actually raise your happiness baseline by mediating daily on positive, loving things. And it’s because you rewire the brain to think those things more.
I think a meditation practice is super valuable, particularly meditating on self-acceptance and love. But changing your self-talk is an all-the-time thing. You’ve got to build an awareness about the kind of things you are saying to yourself. Pay attention. Many of us, especially women, habitually shut down and avoid negative feelings. We stay super busy, we eat, we drink, we medicate. Anything to avoid them. Notice when you are in avoidance, and tune in to your thoughts. Managing your thoughts will literally allow you to feel however you want.
Okay, so you noticed you’ve been scrolling on your phone for half and hour because you’re avoiding something. You focus on your thoughts. You realize you’re worried about something you said earlier and you’re telling yourself everyone hates you and you're fat. Don't judge yourself for thinking it. Celebrate the awareness and the opportunity to change!
Acknowledge your thoughts. Then let them go; gently, lovingly. Say instead, I no longer believe I’m a horrible, fat monster. This acknowledgment piece is important. You're not shutting down the old thought and avoiding it or judging it. You are saying I no longer believe this___.
Next, create new thoughts. And I’m not saying affirmations are the answer here. Your new thoughts need to be believable to you. So a new thought may be just a bit kinder than the old one. I now believe I’m an ok, overweight human. Say it to yourself whenever you notice that thought:
I no longer believe I am a horrible fat monster
I now believe I am an okay, overweight human.
Do it and over and over. As you notice yourself getting more positive, amp it up.
Say I am a badass woman in a normal body. With amazing hair. Love on yourself!
Another tool for checking negative thoughts is body awareness. Take a breath and notice icky feelings in the body. A tension in the chest, or butterflies in the stomach. When I feel those things I pay attention to my thoughts. Then I usually realize Im hating on myself.
Your brain is an incredible thing, my friends. Taking responsibility for it and mindfully working to create more positive thoughts creates epic change in your life.
Does any of this resonate with you?
Let me know in the comments!
The Path to Wellness
Today I want to talk to you about what wellness looks like. What do you think about when I say wellness? I think about thin, radiant yogis. About eating plates of veggies and being thrilled about it. Headstands are in there too, for some reason.
We compare ourselves to others and try to make wellness a destination.
But it isn't. It’s a practice.
It’s something that needs to be tended. It’s the most important relationship you have. The one you have with yourself. There are ups and downs in every relationship. That’s life. The key to wellness is the commitment you have to your relationship. Are you willing to work at it even when its hard? When your own mind is screaming that you are a worthless piece of shit and you just want to sink down into a hole and hide?
I bring this up because Winter Break (I feel like the experience of the past two weeks deserves capitalization) was unexpectedly devastating to my wellness. I’ve come so far in the last year, but all it took was two weeks at home with my kids to really knock me down. I was surprised by how quickly I settled back into bad habits. Which led immediately to cycling negative self-talk and self-destructive behavior (which for me is binge-eating). I was exhausted and miserable in like, three days. And I blamed the situation I was in. I took no responsibility for my thoughts or reactions. I did not tend to my relationship. I sat in my muck. Once I became aware of this, I immediately took responsibility for how I was feeling, and made the choice to change.
This is what wellness is. It’s a daily practice. You need to make that choice over and over and over. The choice to feel better. To do the things you need to do to feel good. Loving yourself enough to believe you deserve to feel fucking amazing, as often as you can.
How do you get unstuck?
Let me know in the comments!
I am Jessica DaCosta, I'm a proud cannabis enthusiast, advocate, and mom of two.