What I Learned When Nothing Was Working and When Life Went Sideways | TMOHP Episode 118

Before you jump into January goal setting mode or dive into another plan to change overeating habits or end emotional eating, it’s always helpful to reflect on what you already know, what works for you, and what you’ve learned from attempts to stop overeating that haven’t worked. As I reflect on last year, there were definitely some lessons learned. In this episode, I’m sharing a few of them, including what helped me through when nothing was working and life went sideways.

In this episode:

  • Satsumas, cuticle oil, and bare minimum expectations
  • Why journaling is such a powerful weapon - and why you might want to try it even if you think you don’t like it
  • What your default should be when nothing is working
  • How I discovered a bunch of mindless eating
  • Wanting to hide and what helps

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Full episode transcript:

Hey, everybody welcome back to the podcast or welcome if this is your first episode. And if you're listening in real time, welcome to the New Year. It is the first week in January as this episode is slated to be released. And it is the end of the year as I'm recording this. And I've been doing the thinking that a lot of us do about the last year and what happened in the year ahead.

And I thought it might be useful to talk about a few things that I learned this year that really were cemented for me, based on some experiences that I had. I feel like January energy is so much about diving in and starting and embracing and, you know, new beginnings. And one of the things that gets overlooked that is so valuable is learning from

What you learned incorporating what happened the year before if you didn't get where you wanted to go. Why was that? You know, what did you learn from the things that didn't go well? And how can you use that moving forward?

So that's why I want to talk about this and let's just dive into it. The first thing I learned last year right at the beginning of the year is that bare minimums are really important. What do I mean by that? So often we have a plan for what we're going to do. Right? I'm going to eat a certain way. Or I'm going to work out, this is going to be my workout plan. Or I'm going to finish this project in this amount of time. Or I am going to meditate every morning as a part of my morning routine. Right? And then things go sideways.

I had some huge challenges this last year. It was a good year, but it was also a really challenging year. And there were some periods where my plans fell apart. My schedule was completely up in the air. Everything was upside down. When stuff like this happens, I think it's not unusual. I'm not unusual that my first inclination is to kind of drop everything and focus on the situation that's in front of me.

But what was happening was ongoing. And over time I started realizing I can't sustain this. I need to take care of myself. I need to do some of these things that there isn't any time to do. I'm not getting outside. I'm not getting my runs in, which if you know me at all, you know, that running and walking outdoors is part of how I, I take care of my mental health.

That wasn't happening. My morning routine that works so well for me had fallen apart. And I wasn't feeling good. So one of the things I came back to really early in the year was this idea of bare minimums. And it was realistically saying to myself, okay, the way you usually live your life is not going to happen right now. The way you usually do your workouts. The way your mornings usually go, these things are not going to happen right now. So, it's important to look at the things that you need and establish some bare minimums.

Absolutely doable ways that you can touch on these things. Even if you can't do the whole big, huge thing that your brain is telling you is, is what normally counts. And I have counts and air quotes here. Right? But you need to establish, I need to establish what's the bare minimum so that I can be paying attention to these things. So that I can feel like I'm honoring these things. So I'm getting at least a teeny tiny bit of what it is that I need.

I'll give you some examples, but first I want to talk about why this idea of bare minimums was so important and helpful to me.

Bare minimums, coming up with something that was absolutely doable that I could actually execute in this area that was important to me. And some of the things were rest and self-care and checking in with myself and getting in some activity. Establishing a bare minimum, which was different from my usual minimum. Allowed me to do the thing, Instead of feeling so overwhelmed by the thought of it that I couldn't even start. It allowed me to touch in with this area that was really important to me.

So maybe I wasn't getting all the self-care that I usually got, but I knew I was paying attention to me. Maybe I wasn't getting all the movement that I usually get, but I was touching on that. I was keeping up with that. I was actually establishing some kind of consistency with that. And you know what?

When you have things that are important to you, it feels good to know that you're showing up for yourself. It actually feels empowering. It builds your confidence, and it's so different from that all or nothing mentality where, you know, you're either getting 100 percent or you might as well just quit. And now you're going to have to start all over again, and you're in that place where you just feel demoralized.

At the beginning of the year, I had a family member who had a serious health crisis, and I was the primary caretaker. So I was doing a lot of caretaking. And here's what some of my bare minimums looked like. I was feeling like everything was swirling and I was constantly reacting and taking care of business and I was. And I knew I needed to get grounded.

And I knew I needed to be able to check in with myself and just pay some attention to how are you feeling, Melissa? What it is, what is it that you need? I needed to just breathe and come back into my body. And so one day I opened the refrigerator and I saw we had those little, tangerines, the little mandarin oranges that they sell around the holidays. Right? We had those in the refrigerator and I thought, you know what?

My bare minimum is going to be, I'm going to eat one of those slowly every single day. That may sound silly to you, but you know what? I like the little tangerines. I can't do anything else while I'm eating the little tangerines because you get the stuff all over your fingers. You got to peel them and you got to take the, the white stuff off. I forget what that's called around the outside of it. And you eat them piece by piece. Right?

And so what I had noticed was when I'm eating one of these little tangerines or clementines, I guess they're called. I. I'm paying attention. I'm in my body. I'm actually, it's actually kind of like a mindful eating exercise.

Also, I'm getting some fruit. I'm getting some produce, which to be quite honest, during this time, I was just grabbing whatever was available. So one of my bare minimums was I am going to eat a Satsuma every single day. And while I ate it, I thought about, okay, this is this time where I'm paying attention to myself. And it mattered and it counted. And it helped me feel like I wasn't in that all or nothing place.

Another little bare minimum that I created that again, may sound like the teeny tiniest little thing and it was, but it made a big difference. Was this was a healthcare emergency. I was in medical settings and in the hospital. I was washing my hands a lot with that industrial soap that they have in healthcare settings. And my hands were dry my cuticles were a mess that just felt yucky. And I had this cuticle oil and I, I, I saw it one day and I thought, you know what, that's a bare minimum. And I decided, you know what, every time I wash my hands, I can take an extra minute or two to put this cuticle oil on and rub it into my cuticles and pay attention to myself.

Again, a teeny tiny thing, but every single time I did it, I actually thought, wait, I can take some time for me. I'm doing something for me. And that ended up feeling really important.

Another bare minimum that I set was Melissa, you got to get outside. You know yourself, you have to move your body. But you're not going to be able to do it the way that you usually do it.

And I cut the size of my work out by less than a third. And I said, you know what, if you can just do this a few times a week, instead of most days a week. That's wonderful. You get a gold star. And again, giving myself a bar that I could reach and it wasn't a bar of like, you have to do these things. It was, these are the things that help you feel like you- made such a big difference.

First thing I learned last year, bare minimums are so important. Especially when your life goes sideways or especially if it feels like you just aren't making any progress.

The second thing that I learned last year happened when I made a post in my private Facebook group. I run a private group on Facebook. If you don't know about it, you can just go to Facebook and search Freedom From Emotional eating and Overeating and you are welcome to join the group. Anyway, I made a post in the group about journaling and asking people how they journaled or whether they journaled or something like that.

And I was so surprised to find out how many people hate journaling don't journal. Feel like journaling is a waste of time. Aren't interested in journaling. Okay, you guys, journaling is an underrated secret weapon. Journaling is one of my favorite things. And I've been doing the work that I do for long enough to understand how people get stuck and how perfectionism can make you feel like, I can't journal, I don't have anything to write. I'm no good at it, but journaling, you all, is a power tool.

What I mean when I talk about journaling is sitting down with a pen and a notebook. Doing it the old fashioned way, and just writing. No rules. Just opening the book and writing whatever it is you feel like you need to write. For me, sometimes it's a list. Sometimes I write about what happened yesterday, sometimes I just brain dump all the things that are swirling around in my head, which, by the way, is so valuable. To give that swirling stuff a place to live that is not your brain.

Journaling has helped me through all my most difficult times. Journaling has helped me get clear on things. Journaling has helped me script or think through a difficult conversation that I want to have or I don't want to have, I'm afraid to have. Or it's helped me understand a difficult relationship issue that happened earlier that has me kind of reeling.

Journaling has been really practical in terms of helping me plan what I need to do next. Or how I want to eat or what the challenges are going to be in the week ahead. Journaling has helped me get clear on the reason that I'm spinning my wheels or that I've been stuck on what to do next. And Sometimes it is just the clarity that Melissa you're tired or Melissa, you're trying to do too much.

Journaling helps me get there and get that understanding and get that clarity so much faster than if I'm just thinking about stuff inside my head. I am absolutely certain that us smart women and high achievers, we overvalue the importance of thinking about things. Thinking things through in our head. There is something miraculous that happens when we take this stuff in our heads that we have been thinking to ourselves, and we either say it out loud or we write it on paper.

Have you ever had that experience where you're talking to a friend and you hear yourself saying something that makes perfect sense to you until you hear yourself saying it out loud? And then you realize, Oh, this I'm missing something. Or, Oh, I'm being too hard on myself. Or, Oh, I'm being too hard on that other person or. Oh, that's really not practical or possible.

Journaling is like that. And journaling does not need to be complicated. Like I said, get a notebook, get something to write with, set a goal of writing for a couple of minutes every day, forget the pages and pages. Three minutes. Just writing what comes to mind, just noticing what it is you're feeling or what the thoughts are in your head.

It will make a huge difference. Give it a try. Experiment with it. Alright, that's my, that's my pitch for journaling.

The third thing I learned last year was that when nothing is working, I'm going to speak for myself, but I think it's true for you too. If nothing's working, I probably need rest or some high quality self-care. And numbing isn't self-care. So actually let's change that when nothing is working or all I want to do is numb out or zone out or doom scroll or not pay attention to anything. I probably need rest or some real self-care.

Over the years it has amazed me to watch other people because it is always easier to see things in other people than it is in ourselves. Right? It has amazed me to watch the lengths that smart, busy women will go to avoid the fact that they need rest and they need some self-care or to deny it. How much eating happens at the end of the day because you're really just exhausted? You're really just done. You really just need to stop. You really need a break.

And yet there's this part of you that says, I'm going to keep going. I need to keep going. I should be the energizer bunny. And so you eat to try to fuel yourself or try to push down your resentment. Or to try to reward yourself because you have to keep going. Right? When stuff isn't working, when all you want to do is numb, you probably need self-care or rest.

And that fits really well with my first learning about bare minimums because it doesn't have to be dramatic. Sometimes bare minimums will do the job. Sometimes just checking in and saying it it was really powerful for me at the beginning of the year- to own the fact that I needed some self-care and. I was going to do this nice little, you know, rubbing the cuticle oil in my fingers.

Did it change my life? No. Did it absolutely take away any need I had for self-care or for me time? No. But it did help me feel attended to. It helped me feel respected. It helped me feel like I was having some compassion for what was going on around me. And that need for rest, whether it is rest or actual sleep, honoring that is so important.

I mean, that is just one of the highest level needs. And so when nothing is working, giving yourself the grace and the gift of rest and sleep, that really is the formula for getting back to feeling focused and productive and high functioning. Start with small, bare minimums, if that's what you need to do. But honor the fact that that is what's going on. That was a huge, important piece of what I came back to last year.

Okay, the fourth thing that was really reinforced for me last year was how sneaky mindless eating is. I got Invisalign this last year, those invisible braces, and you can't eat when you have the Invisalign in. So, you are supposed to wear them 22 hours a day, and then you take them out to eat, and every time you take them out to eat, you clean them, you brush your teeth you've, you've got to do the whole oral hygiene thing. And then you put them back in, uh, very quickly, and that's how it works.

Well, I knew when I got the braces that I am a snacker. I like to eat little meals. I'm not a three meal a day and that's it kind of person. But I have to admit, I was surprised by all the invisible snacking that I was doing. All the little grabbing things or having one or two or going to the cupboard and trying a little of this and trying a little of that.

So what I learned is that I was doing more mindless eating than I thought I was doing. I like to snack. But also it turns out that I snack when it's not really what I want or need. And I do that more than I would have thought. If you had asked me at the beginning of last year, before I got the braces, I would have underrated the amount of times I was just eating something because it was there.

And when I was put in a situation where I have to be deliberate about, am I going to eat or am I going to not eat? Am I going to go take these things out of my mouth? Or am I going to say, yeah, no, I don't want that right now. What I found was that 90 percent of the snacking I'm not doing right now because I don't want to take those things out of my mouth. I don't miss.

So was the mindless eating a problem? Not necessarily. I was pretty happy with my relationship with food. I was pretty happy with how I was eating and the kinds of food that I was eating. I was very happy with my weight. However, what I learned this year is not only is mindless eating sneaky. But like I said, 90 percent of the snacking that I was doing.

I wasn't really paying attention to. I wasn't getting enjoyment from the food. I didn't need the food. I don't miss the food when I'm not eating the food. It was just mindless. It was a habit that I was using to fill time or kind of deal with a transition. Or maybe sometimes push down a feeling. Or most of the time, I think it was eating that was happening because I was in a place where I wasn't quite sure what to do next. And so, I would go to the cupboard.

I also realized that there is a whole category, I guess, of groceries that I don't buy anymore because I was just buying them for those kind of grabby kind of snacks. And I'm not doing that kind of grabby snacking and so they just don't get eaten. When I have to take the time to take out my Invisalign trays and make a decision to eat these aren't even really things that I want to eat. So interesting. So mindless eating is sneaky.

The last thing that I want to tell you about that I learned this year is that the times that I most want to hide are the times that I usually need to connect. Or ask for help or connect and ask for help. My wanting to hide is a signal that actually what I need is connection. And to be honest, when that hit home for me, and it actually, it didn't, it wasn't a one-time thing, it hit home multiple times this last year.

It really left me thinking about the women who I've talked to who are thinking about joining my group program. Because one of the things that is so common is to have that voice in your head that says, I should be able to do this on my own. Nobody wants to hear about that. Or, I'm not a group person.

Which often means I'm not going to fit in here. Or these people won't understand me. Or nobody else is dealing with this. Or they'll think that the way I'm dealing with it isn't right. Why would I want to be in a group?

What I learned this year is the times that I most want to hide and the times when I most feel like this is something hard that I need to do on my own. Those are the times that I am stuck in my head with a pattern of thinking or a set of beliefs that is telling me I need to isolate. That is keeping me stuck and that is probably making solving whatever that problem is harder than it needs to be to solve.

When we're thinking. When we are working out a problem inside our head, so much of the time, what we're doing is we're just going in circles. And every time we go through that same set of beliefs or the same set of this is what I have to do. We just get more entrenched in the idea that that is the only way to do it.

And this year I had some incredibly powerful experiences of talking things through with somebody who I trusted, who then was able to say, "Huh, that's interesting. I see it like this." and just like that, they were able to reframe something that seemed impossible to me or that seemed entirely my fault to me. Or that seemed like it was going to have to be so difficult and was clearly going to be a 25 step process to get out of and they were able to say, Huh, you know what?

I don't think so. Maybe I'm wrong, but it looks like maybe it could be like this instead of the way you're seeing it.

Those kinds of conversations. Changed so much for me this year. Those kinds of conversations were so incredibly valuable for me this year. It's something that I get to witness over and over and over again on the coaching calls or our coaching meetings inside Your Missing Peace, my six month coaching program.

That experience of feeling like what you are dealing with is so isolated, so unique to you, so overwhelming and so unsolvable. Being able to dissolve that by talking it through out loud. By being able to get another perspective. And let me tell you, if you've been stuck inside deprivation thinking, if you have been raised inside of diet culture, which is all of us. The idea that there's a different perspective, it can sound really good in theory, but when you are circling around ideas in your head, it can it can feel impossible to find. And I really think that is one of the values of being a part of a group or giving yourself permission to connect.

I hope that sharing these things that I learned last year, I hope that sharing this is helpful for you. I know it's helpful for me. Because Also, I learned these things last year, but some of these things I knew before. Right? Some of these things I relearned last year and some of these things I'm going to continue to relearn this year.

Saying what I learned out loud, doing a review like this, reminding myself of what has worked is also something that was really helpful for me last year. And will be really helpful for me this year. January has such an energy of doing. What are you going to do? How are you going to do it differently? What are you going to start?

And I really want to encourage you before you jump into doing, take some time to think about what you already know. What have you learned and what do you want to do with the learnings that you have accumulated? Because you are such a smart, incredible person. What do you want to do with those learnings in the year ahead?

I'll talk to you soon.


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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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