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Willpower, Visualization, Rebound Eating
Category: Happy Eating


Is weight all about willpower? Maintaining your weight, creating fat loss, controlling how much you eat, is that a willpower thing?

That was the great question in my e-mail last night. The asker was a recovering disordered eater working to let go of the obsession and restriction, but also struggling to control the rebound weight gain. Here's what I said:

Weight is all about willpower only if you're a yo-yo dieter on the brink of failure. Willpower is not a longterm solution. It's like holding your breath. You can only do it for so long and then you inhale absolutely everything. Once the novelty of eating yourself into oblivion wears off, you gather up some more willpower and suffer along until you inevitably fail again.

Willpower can get you through brief, tricky situations, like if you have a horrendous day and then end up alone in the house with trigger foods. You can tough it out for a few hours through pure willpower, but if you're relying on it every day in every situation, you're in trouble. If your appetite and emotions are being honestly addressed and dealt with, there shouldn't be any white-knuckling it. If you're out of touch with those things, then you're in the same boat as every fad dieter, forcing yourself to tough it out for as long as you can, seeing some success but rightly worried about how long you can last.

Eating more intuitively, being mindful of portions, listening to your body, paying attention to results, making adjustments, that's what works. I don't even worry that I might eat too much and gain weight. It's not a possibility. It wouldn't feel good, make me happy, or help me achieve my goals so I wouldn't do it. I might have a big meal or a big day, but then I have a light meal or a light day. I like to feel balanced and relaxed instead of always stressing and overly restricting, which tends to create the backlash of overeating.

The goal is to get to a place where you deal with emotions instead of trying to eat them or diet them away, to a place where you trust yourself, have confidence, experience lasting success, and enjoy the whole process. It's not the scary situation you're in now coming off of the eating disorder. This is temporary. Right now your body is urging you to eat, your hormones are wacky, your emotions are raw, and your mind is trying to keep a lid on the whole thing using primarily willpower. It won't always be that way. Things will settle down. The more you can picture how you want your eating to look, how you want your body to look, how you want to feel each day when everything is working, the faster you can make it a reality. As long as you're kicking yourself and spinning worst case scenarios, you tend to stay stuck in that situation with your fears creating your results. 

At first you may have to "fake it 'til you make it," acting like a confident, naturally thin, happy eater until the feelings become second nature and authentic. Suppose all of your goals are already achieved. You're in your happy weight range, eating your preferred way, looking great, exercising regularly but not excessively. What does your day look like? What do you wear? What's for breakfast? Do you workout? How does the "ideal" you handle various food situations? Restaurant meal? Gourmet gift basket? Family outing? Birthday party? Movie food? Home alone? Bad day? Bored?

You need to be able to picture the new behaviors before you can do them consistently. Anything that has ever terrified you or ended badly, you need to rethink. If you don't give it any thought, you just repeat the same painful patterns that haven't worked. Imagine that you have happy eating super powers if that's what it takes. Changing the way you think is the key to changing the way you eat.


So, questions for everybody:

What are your thoughts on "willpower dieting" and the yo-yoing it creates? Have you experienced it? Conquered it? Are you still struggling?

Have you made it from disordered/restrictive eating to normal eating? Was there a rebound weight gain?

Anybody using visualization, affirmations, vision boards, quote collections, or anything like that to reinforce positive change?


Diets freak me straight out. Even thinking about them can affect my eating. So, I don't entertain the idea of doing them anymore. That way I can read or discuss them without feeling that I have to change everything, give up favorite foods, or follow new rules. 

I gained 35-40 pounds from the depths of the eating disorder to the height of my rebound bingeing. Now, 20lbs of that, I probably needed to gain in order to be a healthy weight, but I just kept going. At the time it felt like a runaway train. The more I tried to muster my willpower and gain control of the situation, the more I cried and ate junk food. I thought my options were either binge eating out of control or going back to starvation. Health and fitness, middle ground if you will, were totally foreign territory but I eventually got there, and then turned my obsession to THAT. Suddenly, I wasn't trying to starve anymore, I was all about obsessive compulsive eating (OCE) as Brad Pilon calls it, trying to count my calories, balance my macros, time my refeeds, cycle my carbs. Gah! That went on for years.

Not to get all law of attraction woo-wooy, but when I heard the phrase, "thoughts become things" I became very aware of my thoughts for the first time. I realized that I wasn't going to punish, deny, and obsess myself happy. I quit looking to other people and programs to tell me how I should eat. I started thinking about how I wanted to feel and who I wanted to be. In an ideal world, how do I look? How do I eat? What is my day like? I didn't want to live in the gym anymore, suffer exhaustion, carry a cooler, eat every two hours, enter everything into software, fear restaurants, avoid social situations. So, I quit it.

Anyway, I'm all good now, but it's been quite an adventure! :-)

Women, Heavy Lifting, Bulk and Size
Category: Fitness
Tags: strength training muscle bulky



I know you have stated that you don't train heavy anymore (not like you used to) and if you did you felt you wouldn't be able to wear your skinny jeans...I know you also mentioned that when you were training really heavy you also ate significantly more calories, so my question is do you think it is the lifting that caused the hypertrophy or the calories? 

I wonder if you would still have leaned out/shrank if you continued with the lifting you used to do but the calories you eat now? 

Anyone else have any thoughts or input on traing and body type outcome I am all ears! 

I am so thoroughly confused and seem to have been for years regarding training styles and results.  Once I feel I have figured it out something throws me for a loop (like the personal trainer I had last week who told me I was lifting wrong form my bodytype and would only get thicker and more muscular, huh)..I'm a mesomorph...

My boyfriend also used to bodybuild and states it is "impossible" for women to grow unless they are in calorie excess, not dieting...

So, what are thoughts on this?  I am really curious if it is moreso the training that gives you the body or the diet?



Strength training causes hypertrophy. You can't gain significant muscle from a calorie surplus alone, you have to be using it for something. And you CAN gain muscle while dieting strictly if you're also doing challenging strength training, as anybody who's ever done Body for Life or other "transformation" style diets and workouts can attest.

Here's the big thing I want to convey to all the confused people. It's all totally subjective. That's what causes the chaos and misunderstandings when discussing muscle and bulk. So, you end up with situations like a trainer saying "women can't get bulky from heavy lifting" and he's picturing a giant masculine bodybuilding steroid amazon. He's correct. That can't happen to women without drugs and he's totally sincere when he's saying it. So maybe his client, whose idea of bulky is the visible muscle definition on Renee Zellweger or Kelly Ripa, takes him at his word and then FREAKS OUT when her shoulders widen and her thighs and ass barely fit in her jeans anymore. She was looking for a softer skinnier Jessica Alba or Kate Beckinsale look. It's not that the guy lied to her; it's that they had very different ideas of "bulky."

My ideas and preferences about size, bulk, definition, etc, change all the time. So, I can't expect someone else to know exactly what I'm talking about or what I want unless we have an in depth conversation, and then I might still change my mind a week later. :-D That's just kind of how it goes. So what I'm doing to get bigger or smaller or more defined or more girly only applies to me and my own preferences. What I consider dainty somebody else might consider holy crap huge and vice versa.

You have to come to terms with exactly what you mean, and exactly what anybody offering advice means before you can make any sense of it.

I can say that my fully tricked out heavy lifting quads and glutes would fit in my skinny jeans if I also dieted down to a very low body fat percentage. Do I want to do very heavy strength training on a super strict diet with barely any calories? No thank you, I'll pass. So, then it's a matter of, how big can my leg muscles be with my current body fat and still fit in my favorite jeans? Because if you add too much muscle on top of too much body fat, the overall effect is just big. I'm not going for big. So, I keep an eye on both the muscle and the body fat, and I don't mean I'm tracking it fanatically and freaking out about numbers. I mean I want strong, fit, shapely legs that have some definition and still fit in my favorite jeans. That's all I measure.

Heavy lifting is subjective too. I say I don't lift heavy anymore but I'm routinely pressing a 35 pound kettlebell overhead and doing squats and lunges with 50-90 pounds. Is that heavy? Compared to what? Says who? See the problem? A pink dumbbeller may be horrified by those weights and a crossfitter might roll her eyes all the way out her head at the wimpiness of it.

If I were your trainer last week, before jumping in with boneheaded advice about your shape I would have asked you: How do you feel about your size and build? Do you like a strong athletic look? Who would you consider strong and athletic? Do you like a smaller, softer look? Who has the look you're going for? Who do you consider too thin? Followed by discussing actual fitness goals and not just looks.

At least then you're on the same planet when you start talking about what you hope to achieve. If your goal is long and lean, endurance cardio, and improved flexibility. Maybe you don't want to be deadlifting small cars every day, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't deadlift at all. Or that you should never do any heavy lifting. It's about communicating effectively and finding the right balance.

There's also the part about being the best YOU and not constantly striving to look like somebody else, particularly somebody else with a totally different frame and build. But I do think it's helpful when people start talking about "bulky" to ask exactly what they mean.

To answer your question though. Fat loss is mostly diet related. Muscle building is mostly lifting related. Lift heavy and eat too much and you just get bigger. Undereat and don't lift at all and you get smaller and softer. Lift heavy at a substantial calorie deficit and all kinds of dramatic things happen (dents, veins, striations, abs). Train consistently, hard but not insanely heavy, at maintenance calories or a little lower and you get where I am now. Lean, happy, fit, and my jeans button. All good, so there's no need for me to analyze it much more than that.

Are You Happy?
Category: Happy Eating
Tags: scale weight dieting

Ask yourself if your self-imposed rules, guidelines, and limitations have made you happy or produced the result you want. For most women, it's the opposite. They end up miserable, and struggling every day to be more miserable. This baffles me now. When I was doing it it seemed logical. Like you can deny and abuse yourself happy??? If I just follow all the rules, turn down all the treats, exercise myself into exhaustion, isolate myself from social situations, feel guilty enough, kick myself hard enough, somehow that's supposed to make me HAPPY?

Duh derrrrr dah duh duh DUH...

Here's the thing. You have to be happy first, trust yourself first, decriminalize food first. Then you can achieve whatever fitness or body comp goal you want with your sanity and self-respect intact.

Battling pounds is a fool's game. Find a sport. Something beside scale mathletics. Focus on getting better at something, stronger, faster, more flexible, more confident, more joyous. Lean will follow. When you're happy and busy, enjoying life, enjoying food, and eating less overall you get leaner. You don't have to do the chicken weighing deprivation thing. That's like holding your breath. Sooner or later you inhale. Everything. LOL

Understand that your happiest, healthiest weight isn't necessarily the lowest weight you've ever been. That's what I talked about in the Scale Anxiety post. If you were dieting your brains out and absolutely miserable at your lowest weight, your goal should not be to summon the willpower to make yourself absolutely miserable every day from now on! Focus on being a happy person who has a healthy relationship with food. If you're coming at it from that direction and your weight drops to the mythical low point or beyond, GREAT! Now you can actually maintain it because you didn't do anything stupid to get there.

That's my feeling anyway. I'm kind of passionate about it, can you tell? :-) :-) I just endured so much misery by disregarding myself and trying to submit to other people's food rules. I eat what I like now, just a bit less of it.

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