Quit ‘Should-ing’ On Yourself!: The Top Three Dangers of Feeding that Nasty Inner Critic

Quit ‘Should’ing’ On Yourself!: The Top Three Dangers of Feeding that Nasty Inner Critic

And how to bust your mind’s self-destructive cycle and truly listen to yourself.


I have a confession to make.  I was pretty darn resistant to writing this blog post today.

lism. / Foter / CC BY-NC 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not because I don’t want to connect with you and share some of my experiences and thoughts.  That is exactly what I do it for!  I’ve been blogging for over five years and it’s a significant cornerstone of my practice of self-care and connection with those whom I serve.

Mostly today I found myself playing Candy Crush Saga and scrolling through the internet (instead of writing) because my mind was Should-ing on me.  It told me in not-so-nice terms: ‘you really should blog today.  Why haven’t you blogged yet?  You won’t feel like you’ve done anything productive today unless you complete a [high quality and catchy] blog post.  You will feel like a FAILURE.’  {dun-dun-dun- the F word!!!}

Can you relate?  Even writing this now, it sounds ridiculous.  Of course I’m not a failure (and neither are you!), and WHO gets to determine that anyway, the crabby voice in my head that sounds like it’s sleep-deprived or my own true, authentic self?

Truth is, our minds are sneaky, brilliant, terrifying, invigorating, and powerful mechanisms that play a significant role in the decisions we make each day.

I’d like to share a working definition of “Should-ing”: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act.  People who break the rules anger you, and you feel guilty when you violate the rules.

Our minds can deeply affect the feelings and emotions we have daily also, if we let them.  If I had chosen to listen to the Should-ing Voice (aka: the Critic, or Judge), chances are I would feel pretty low and disappointed with myself (DESPITE all of the other amazing things I could have focused on about myself today) until I fulfilled demands.

Here’s how that conversation might have gone:

Critic: You really had better blog today.  I don’t care if you have no idea what to write about.  It’s time to blog and if you don’t do it, you will feel like a failure at the end of the day. You will BE a failure.  {evil eye stare and sinister laugh} {oh no, now it’s telling me about not just what to feel, but what I am.}

Me: Really? Gosh, you are right.  I really should blog today.  If I don’t, I’m not meeting your expectations and then for SURE I will fail and who knows what is next? Eminent doom! {feeling anxious patterning in my chest}.

I then would have written a blog post, which I am sure would have been fine, but wouldn’t have come from my true genuine desire to write to you all, it would have come from fear.

FEAR of not being enough.  FEAR of failing at expectations (mostly from my own mind).  Then, the Critic would have won and would have come back later with even more stamina in his stride….instead of being put in his rightful place.

Here’s what I did instead:

Critic: Hey. YOU. You’d better blog today. Or ELSE.  F-A-I-L-U-R-E. ~!!!!!

Me:  Hey, Critic.  Nice to see you again.  I know that you’re there, and probably always will be.  Instead of fighting you off today, I’m going to try to take a step back and decide if I really want to listen to you today.  Or if I’d rather listen to someone else.

Critic: Wha?? Good luck with that.  I know everything and it’s only a matter of time before you come crawling back.

Me: We’ll see about that.  {deep breath}

Honest confession:  Part of the reason I am writing this blog post today is to connect with my inner wisdom and tell that Critic to GO AWAY.  It’s healing for me.  Writing about my own human-ness is therapeutic for me, and I hope it helps you too.

Another part of why I’m writing is that I genuinely LOVE writing and get very angry when the silly critic living in my mind tries to take that pleasure away from me.  Because the truth is that the harshest critics in the outside world probably can’t hold a light to the mean things my own inner world can say to me sometimes.  And that just isn’t right!

AlicePopkorn / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I have a feeling some of you out there may relate to my experience today.

Here are Three Dangers of Feeding that Nasty Inner Critic — and how to reclaim your own sweet powerful voice:

1.) Listening to Mr. Meany (or Ms.) and internalizing what they are saying devalues and negates our own true, natural feelings.  Yes, it is ingrained in us to have negative self-talk and to listen to it sometimes.  But can’t it become natural to listen to the positive voices too?  At what university did Mr. Critic earn his doctorate degree?

Try This: Try to name the cycle that happens for you and notice its costly effects.  Accepting the Critic’s voice as truth will overshadow the calm and steady assurance from your Inner Wisdom that “you’re doing just fine”.  By bringing awareness to the cycle that occurs, you’re more apt to distance yourself from it and define a new way of relating to your thoughts.

2.) Getting Stuck in a negative feedback loop in your mind takes you away from your body’s innate signals and needs.  This can be costly in self-care and can distance you from feeding the true hunger inside.

Try this: After practicing #1 and getting good at naming your negative cycle, notice how it feels in your body when you allow the Critic to be King.  For me, I get an intense flutter of nervous energy in my chest that makes it difficult to breathe.

Then, try to separate your mind from your body and ask your body “What do you need right now? What are you trying to tell me?” It may take practice, but it is possible to reconnect in a nourishing and affirming way with your body that helps regulate your relationship with your mind as well.

3.) Affirming the Critic distances you from relationships that are healthy, nourishing, and meaningful for you.  If you believe the Critic, and you are just as terrible as he/she says, you are more likely to push people away, or notice people distancing themselves from you.  Would you want to be friends with the Critic? No, he’s smelly and snarky.  So, if you become fused with the Critic’s voice and believe it as your own, it’s going to be more difficult to sustain positive relationships.  And then he will have won :(

Try This:  Be vulnerable.  Talk to your partner, therapist, friend, or mother, about what it’s like to Should on yourself so much, and the pain that causes.  Shed that layer of Expectation to be Perfect, and let your soft side show.  Chances are, that’s where connection and healing happens.

Let me know how this goes.  We’re all a work in progress.  But I’m sure glad I wrote this to you today.

xo ~Kate 

trishhartmann / Foter / CC BY


When You Wake Up and Your Whole World Comes Crashing Down, Try This:

FullSizeRenderWhen I woke up this morning, my entire business had disappeared.  Literally.  My website had vanished, and my business email account had been wiped clean.

It started as a moment of disbelief — I had just finished revamping my site and had thousands of important documents, emails, and connections all hosted through that central technological system.  Then it came to a place of bargaining — okay, what I do is not based on my website, am the core foundation of my business and the avenue through which people find healing and recovery.  However, my website is the primary method that people searching for recovery find me and begin their healing process.  Can I get it back if I promise to not obsess over it so much?

Deep breath.

Maybe the universe was sending me a message?  As the morning wore on and the sense of panic began to rise up inside of me, other events occurred that were out of my control, were difficult for me to grasp, and left me feeling helpless and disoriented.

Sitting at my computer looking at the blank screen, I had a thought: “What am I needing to listen to right now that I am not hearing?”.

I am currently quite intrigued by the concept of ‘non-attachment’.  This is for several reasons, one being out of curiosity because a great deal of the way I work with clients in counseling is through the lens of attachment and safety in our relationships.  So why would we study non-attachment?  Does that mean isolating and disengaging from connection?

A recent blog post on interconnectivity vs. codependence asks the question:

‘How do we balance the innate need for autonomy with the desire for connection and intimacy? We not only enjoy feeling wanted and appreciated but need to have a purpose.’

I discovered that non-attachment doesn’t mean disengaging from ourselves or others.  It means finding the balance in our relationships so that we are able to maintain a safe and secure connection to our own innate sense of self while also being connected to others in a meaningful and sustaining way.

This struck me this morning as I considered my attachments to relationships in my life and the way those relationships make me feel: my relationship with my husband, my family, my body, my work, and to myself.

I realized that this situation that I had no control over — the crash of the server that hosts all of my accounts — offered an opportunity to look at how I attach myself to these things that are important to me, but that I may place too much merit on sometimes.

One thought kept swirling around: am I codependent with my work?

As someone who has so much personal passion and experience that led me into the line of work that I currently practice, of course I am attached to it!  And I feel that can be a huge asset.  However, as in all things, it can be sometimes challenging to find a healthy and sane balance between myself and my work.  I have to remember that I am not my work.  But it is a part of me and I care about it deeply.

Work (like food, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc) can be another distraction from the wound that I most desperately need to address: the relationship I have with myself.

Amidst the tremors and hyperventilating that occurred every time I looked at my computer, I forced myself to shut it down and to take a step outside.  Here is the mantra I repeated to myself and what I did:

take a moment to look around you

surround yourself with the beauty of the earth

breathe it in

the flowers the animals the blades of grass the bright blue sky

notice the energy that fills you with panic, dread, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, worry, anger

notice the thoughts that fill your mind. .  . the negativity, the self-judgment and judgment of others

be kind to it

imagine that energy flowing out through your hands and your feet

be mindful as it leaves your body

breathe, let the negativity, the judgment, the suffering leave you

accept what you cannot change, allow what you can

imagine an orb of white brilliant light engulfing your heart

touch it, feel it, let the warmth of this light fill you

this is your center, your soul

let the light fill your whole body, breathe into it

allow your awareness to fill with the sights, sounds, sensory gifts that surround you

give thanks

imagine an openness to all that can be, allow the struggle to melt away

and experience calm.

FullSizeRender 2

I spent an hour in City Park, my oasis.  After doing this meditation, I felt a renewed sense of connectivity to myself, and a peaceful acceptance of the way things are.  I also knew that it would all be okay.

I am hopeful that this meditation and my vulnerability can be of some support to you.  We all have days, weeks, months where we don’t feel ourselves, or notice something tugging us to look deeper.  Look at your attachments.  How safe and healthy do they feel to you?  Where can you practice non-attachment?

P.S.: the server was fixed! That is how you are able to read this :)  woo hoo!

She’s Better Than Me and I’m Going to Fail: 3 Signs You are Stuck in the Comparison Trap – And How to Get Out of It.

8548913815_be28caa637Ohhhh boy. Have you been there? I know I have. Many times. And it doesn’t feel great. I’m talking about The Comparison Trap. Where you compare yourself to someone else and ALWAYS fall short.

Where did that come from and how did it EVER feel like a good idea?

The truth is, it just never ends well. For me, I notice that I get stuck in a cycle of insecurity and low self-esteem that compels me to compare myself to someone else (whether I really know them or not!). . . which just feeds that self-criticism monster even more.

When I was younger and did not have as much self-awareness as I do now, the Comparison Trap contributed to the development of my eating disorder, a self-destructive way of trying to soothe those feelings of not-good-enough that quickly turned into an out-of-control monster that ruined my relationships, my health, and my life.

In the age of social media, comparison runs rampant and unfortunately fuels so much of our society. “Who Wore It Better?”, “Look Who Lost 10 Pounds and Look Who Just Can’t Stop Eating!”, and endless edited and photo-shopped photos on Facebook of lives that yours simply can’t ever seem to measure up to. You could NEVER be that: happy; rich; successful; thin; perfect; etc…..etc….etc.

I know this because I have been there. And many, many of my clients struggle with the Comparison Trap and yearn to get out of it, get back in their own lives, and feel empowered, confident and strong. The good news: This Is Possible!

Here are Three Signs you may be caught up in the Comparison Trap – and how to free yourself from its grip.


#1You notice that how you feel about yourself is determined by factors that are not in your control. I like to look at this in terms of intrinsic vs external validation. Basically, this asks: where do you get your power from?

Do you place a lot of value in what other people think, say, feel, and how they react towards you? More value than you place internally, asking what do I think? Does that feel true to me? Do I agree or disagree? How could I respond in a way that would feel most authentic to me? When we give so much of our internal worth to the outside world, we are risking feeling out of control, inferior, and set up to unrealistic expectations.

Try this: go through your day and notice feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Ask yourself: where is the power right now? Is it coming from within me or am I giving it away? How can I take my power back in this moment? (I always turn to my breath.)


#2You get that icky, hollow, dark feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Here’s a scenario, maybe you can relate: you go to a networking meeting. You have been to this meeting 5703816801_698cedfdddbefore, and know a few of the folks who come regularly, but don’t feel like you know them super well. Not well enough to truly let yourself be you. As each person gets up to introduce themselves and performs their elevator speech, you notice yourself getting increasingly anxious and nervous. Yes, this is natural to happen in this circumstance. However, you notice that with each person who speaks, a voice in your head says: ‘you could never say it that eloquently’, ‘you aren’t as successful as they are’, ‘why didn’t you try that years ago? Now you couldn’t’ be as good at it as they are!’ and my personal favorite: ‘YOU’RE GOING TO FAIL!!’.  

These thoughts contribute to that feeling in your stomach that feels empty and unsettling. Why? Because those thoughts are draining your unique, awesome, special essence that dwells within you.

Have you felt that way?

Try this: When I notice that empty feeling, I try to bring awareness to what is going on. Why am I feeling this way? What triggered me and where have I felt that before? I try to be gentle with myself, remind myself of why I am there and why I do what I do, and speak from the heart. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes acknowledging that makes it a bit easier. Each person has their own unique gift, story, and purpose in this world. You don’t have to be them. You have to be YOU.


#3You notice yourself Facebook-stalking people that you can compare yourself to. This is one that we all have done, but not many of us admit it. Have you ever noticed yourself looking at people’s Facebook pages – people you know moderately well – and seeing where you can measure yourself up against them? Come on, you know you have. I have! How does this feel? NOT GREAT.

For me, I notice that when I am struggling with some aspect of myself, or something that happened that day or in my life that I feel I don’t have control over, I compare my life to someone else’s. This is in an effort to try to soothe myself that “I am okay”….however, it’s not through the most therapeutic or effective means. It can do more harm than good. PLUS, social media is in essence deceptive and not based in reality, so comparing yourself to the perception of another person’s life based on social media is just pushing you further and further away from what you are really looking for: self-acceptance.

Try this: If you notice yourself going to social media or any other outlet to compare yourself or your life to someone else’s, ask yourself: What is going on? What do I need right now? Is this method the most appropriate place for me to find this? Instead of going toward something that will make you feel worse (comparison on social media), try to go toward an avenue that will make you feel better and more connected to yourself: doing an activity that inherently soothes you and reconnects you to yourself. For me, this is being in my garden.

What is it for you?


#4 – BONUS. This one is one of the most dangerous: when you notice yourself changing inherent, intrinsic, and authentic parts of yourself because “I’m not good enough” as something/one else that you compare yourself to. DON’T DO IT! You don’t need to change ANY part of yourself unless you truly want to. Again, that needs to come from within, not from the outside.

Try this: talk with a trusted friend , family member, or professional counselor if you are feeling this way about yourself. Help is out there and it can feel a WHOLE lot better :)


So, I challenge you to read, internalize, and try these four suggestions. None of us is perfect. You may still find yourself imbibing in the comparison cycle and falling into its deep, dark, enticing trap. That’s okay. Just try to gently notice this, ask how it feels, and try to come up with three things you can do to come back home to yourself.


You are awesome. You have a solid, special, very important reason for being here and the world is awaiting your presence. Go be a rockstar. There’s more than enough room for all of us!!


The Gift of Sadness: How ‘Inside Out’ Shows Us That All Emotions Matter

Kevin Conor Keller / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Inside Out, the new Disney/Pixar movie about a little girl named Riley and some major life changes she goes through, is told through the lens and view of five of her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. It is a delightful feast for the eyes as most of the movie takes place inside of her head and invites us to take a ride on the Train of Thoughts, to play with her imaginary friend BingBong, to build aspects of her personality like Family and Silliness, to delve into her subconscious, and to sing along with the rainbow-haired pony that colors her dreams.

Much has been written by members of the psychology and counseling community (such as myself) about the way that this movie portrays our emotions and the important role that each of them play. It is pretty exciting to find a major Hollywood movie that looks so deeply at the emotional experiences we all feel, normalizes them, and does such a good job at it.

I am not going to give away any major spoilers, as I highly recommend that you go see this movie for yourself, but it is widely known that each of the emotions is given a personality and a role in determining Riley’s state of mental being.

Riley experiences a major life change in the movie, moving to California from Minnesota, and Joy, the brightest and most exuberant emotion, is determined to keep Riley a “brave and happy girl” even though other emotions are along for the ride.

Sadness is a star player in the movie too, and initially gets painted as a lazy and annoying emotion who Joy tries to keep away from Riley’s memories and feelings in order for her to stay a “happy girl” (sometimes we just don’t want to or can’t be happy. . .and that is okay).

Trying to keep Sadness in a corner where she cannot touch anything, as Joy attempts to do in the movie, causes all sorts of problems. As Riley plummets into depression, she risks losing things that are dearest to her, like her morality, family connections, friendships, her love for hockey and her sense of silliness.

Sadness didn’t just stay in the corner where she was shoved. She knew that in order to save Riley from the depths of depression, she needed to help.

Really? Sadness can help to relieve depression? Yes, if sadness is allowed to be felt.

As Anita Sanz, clinical psychologist says:

“Not being able to feel what is normal to feel in a situation is what causes problems for all people, just as it did for Riley.
If you’ve been abused or traumatized, there are all kinds of feelings that you don’t get a chance to feel or “process” because you’re too busy trying to survive. If you’re trying to feel something other than what’s really inside, or trying to be someone you’re not, same problem: There’s incongruence or a mismatch between the inside and the outside.”

Furthermore, the movie helps to identify the feelings of loss that Riley is experiencing by allowing Sadness to ultimately be part of the control panel in her mind.

The loss of childhood, the loss of her home and friends, among other losses, are not fully realized or digested if Sadness is shunned to a corner. Only when Sadness was allowed to touch some of Riley’s memories was Riley able to define the loss she was feeling and begin to form a new identity that could help her move forward and connect to what really matters to her.

Researchers who study emotion concur that all emotions (not just Joy) play their part in allowing us to move through and process our experiences.

Drs. Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman echo:

‘And toward the end of the film, it is Sadness that leads Riley to reunite with her parents, involving forms of touch and emotional sounds called “vocal bursts” — which one of us has studied in the lab — that convey the profound delights of reunion.’

One message I took home from the movie: Embrace sadness. Embrace Anger. Even embrace Disgust.

Because these, along with our other emotions, make up who we are, allow us to construct aspects to our personality and help us to build deep, intimate, meaningful relationships with others.

That, and go back and reconnect with your imaginary friend ☺

What about you? Have you seen Inside Out? What did you think and how do you feel about how it portrays emotions?

When Weeds Suffocate Your Seedlings: The Secret to Harvesting What Really Matters

Everything in life I’ve learned from my garden.

Tjflex2 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Here in Colorado, we have had torrential downpours, golf ball-sized hail, flash floods, and even some snow almost every day since early May. That’s right – in the month of May there were only three days without some kind of moisture from the sky, which is quite abnormal for our typically arid spring climate.

While many of us were lamenting for the sun, turning our faces upwards in hopes of catching a glimpse of a ray, seeds began to wiggle beneath the surface.

But what kind of seeds? And what will they produce?

As an experimental and somewhat overly impassioned gardener, I gazed out with a grain of exasperation at my garden and wondered: What will sprout? Will the seeds and seedlings I planted amidst the rain sprout roots or will they be washed away in a newly imprinted “river”? Will there be “volunteer” seeds that sprout into something I didn’t intend for?

I did not know. But, I had hope. I also had a very clear understanding that Mother Nature is much more powerful and enormous than I or any other gardener is, and we are at the mercy of her force.

So I sat and waited.

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny 85 degree day, I peered over the picket fence guarding my garden (“guarding” feels like a facetious term, as nothing seems to protect my sprouts from the ravenous and assertive squirrels. . . but that is another post for another time).

What did I see?

Lots of green! Yay!

But….which were weeds and which were seedlings I tenderly planted to grow eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, or other goodies??

A few green sprouts were pretty easy to discern which was which. . . and after an hour of pulling the weeds out, I decided I would never win that battle.

There were dozens (and dozens) of other sprouts of which I could not clearly and certainly define their nature. I would just have to wait and see until they grew bigger. (Patience is a virtue, right? Agh!)

As I pried myself away from the soil and sat contemplating this conundrum, I was reminded of another couple of blog posts I wrote last year in a similar fashion as Mother Nature again reminded me of the necessity of letting go (read them here: Mindful Gardening: Six Seeds to Sow to Nourish a Thriving Recovery and Disorderly Mindfulness: When it Hails on Your Freshly Planted Garden).

Gardens are metaphors for life. For recovery. For healing. For ACCEPTANCE.

Weeds will always come back no matter how much time and energy we spend pulling them out. Just like intrusive or negative thoughts, we will never be able to truly eradicate them from our minds, our lives.

We can spend time noticing them, trying to identify them, and bringing mindful awareness to their presence and impact on our emotional well-being.

However, if you will not be able to fully weed them out. . . . are there more fruitful and fertile places to focus your energy and awareness?

Weeds in my garden will grow exponentially bigger and faster than my seedlings, encroaching upon my plants and stealing their nutrients. This parallels the experience of painful events, thoughts, and beliefs about ourselves or others sucking away our positive and nurturing energy and leaving us little room to grow.


Pull out the weeds that you can identify: the thoughts, experiences, or people, who drain your life energy instead of energize it. Do as much of this as you have time and space for.

Overall, acceptance of our entire experience releases us from becoming entangled in our weeds and allowing them to spread over our inner garden.

Weeds are just as natural as the tomato plant I have cautiously and maybe somewhat obsessively tried to protect from the recent downpours.

Can you appreciate your inner weeds?

The secret to harvesting what really matters isn’t about pulling out the weeds from the pepper plant. What really matters is noticing the inner struggle and suffering that we so often find ourselves in. . . and asking: how can I let go? How can I slow down? How can I find acceptance?

So….I am going to let the weeds in my garden grow a little bit longer. Full disclosure here: this will not be a simple or anxiety-free task.

However, if I observe them, try to learn from them and, if possible, understand what they are, I will more accurately and peacefully be able to pull them out when I am ready. That way, I am more apt to pull out their entire roots instead of just their surface leaves.

Or I’ll get some of them, anyway.   I realize that tirelessly trying to weed out ALL of the intrusive buggers is akin to believing that I will be able to save my Cinderella pumpkins from the squirrel family that lives in the neighboring Elm.


But hey, choose our battles, right?


So what about you?

Cuckooclock / Foter / CC BY

Where are your weeds?

How can you learn from them and find some way of accepting them?

Which will you pull out and which will you let stay?

How would that shift your inner dialogue. … your inner struggle?

Can you re-seed your inner garden?

Leave a note below to share!

Can I Really Trust My Body? Three Common Concerns About Letting Go of Your Diet

What if your body is trying to deceive you?

harold.lloyd / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Try to think back to a time in your childhood – maybe you were celebrating a birthday, having a picnic in the park, visiting friends in another state – a time where you remember feeling completely free and safe to enjoy what you were eating.

…This may be tough, but spent a few moments thinking back into your memory.

What was your favorite kind of food? What did you crave eating? Remember, this is before all of the “should’s”, “can’t”, “must”, and other rigid rules around food surfaced. Just a time where true joy was associated with eating.

Now think of today and of the rules that you have created around what you can and cannot eat (or rules that were imposed on you by a diet or influences in your environment). Can’t eat past 7pm. Shouldn’t have carbs or gluten. Must eat under XXX number of calories every day. Should exercise every day for X amount of time….

Why? Who are you listening to?

These rules are most likely not borne of internal signals, but are enforced on you by external sources. In other words, they are rules that are not about listening to your body.

When you think of these two different scenarios, check in with your body. Which one does your body respond more positively to?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make an assumption — probably the first one.

I don’t think any body truly wants to be controlled by someone else’s guidelines.

Since we are all unique and have our own genetic make-up, environmental factors, and personalities, it doesn’t make sense that we could all conform to a similar diet mentality.

So why do we diet? Here are some of the common answers:

  • to lose weight
  • to feel better about ourselves
  • to be healthy
  • to appear more attractive for a potential mate
  • to have some sense of control
  • …..

I am sure there are many others that you could come up with. Yet research shows that diets don’t work, and that over 90% of people who diet will regain the weight (and then some).

Why? According to Dr. Traci Mann’s article You should never diet again: The science and genetics of weight loss,

Weight regain after a diet is your body’s evolved response to starvation. When you are dieting, it may feel as though you are about to starve to death, but you know that you can open the fridge at any time and find more to eat, if you really wanted to. Your body doesn’t know this, however, and you have no way to tell it that you just want slimmer hips or a flatter stomach. All your body knows is that not enough calories are coming in, so it kicks into survival mode.” After your diet is over and you begin to eat normally again, your body will naturally put weight back on (and then some) as a way to survive.

Diets are the antithesis of listening to our bodies, and are one of the biggest risk factors to eating disorder development and body image distress.

In my work over the past six years with people who have experienced a disconnected, destructive and unhappy relationship with their bodies, I have heard many fears of letting go of their diet sand listening to their bodies. I get it – I have myself been on the diet rollercoaster, and for me that tipped into the dangerous territory of an eating disorder for ten years.

But I know intuitively, from my own experience and from witnessing others’, that your body is wise and you can trust it.


Here are three common fears about letting go of the diet mentality – and how to overcome them:


  • My diet is helping me lose weight to be healthier. This is a very common reason to go on a diet – to be healthier and lose weight. Look out for: no flexibility with the “rules”, cutting out food groups for no health related reason, and feelings of deprivation. Try instead: ask your body what it is really hungry for right now. Broaden your definition of “healthy”.


  • My diet helps me have a sense of control around food. My guess is that if you are feeling out of control with food, that going on a diet is not going to solve that problem and may actually result in a more rigid and extreme form of controlling food. Try instead: Ask yourself what else is feeling out of control in your life that you are using food to try to soothe?


  • If I am not on a diet I will feel completely out of control with food. Again, a common fear around dieting/not dieting. I believe this is founded from a deep disconnection between mind and body – one in which you do not feel connected to your body and like you can trust it. In truth, going off a diet may result in binge eating – the mind goes from rigidity to chaos pretty quickly in response to a perceived trauma. Try instead: eating all foods in moderation to begin listening to your body and getting out of that all or nothing mindset.


Above all else, honor your body. Listen to it. Ask your child-like self “What sounds good right now?” “Am I truly hungry or am I feeling something else”?

And if you need support in this process of listening, connecting, appreciating, I can help.

Kathy Crabbe Art / Source / CC BY-NC-ND

Five Things to Say to Your Daughter When She Tells You She Feels Fat

Billy Wilson Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC

Spring has finally sprung here in Denver!  After several weeks of frigid temperatures and snow, we are melting and the crocuses are poking their sweet heads out of the dirt.

Along with warmer weather comes increased sunlight and a desire to be outside, and with that can come more focused attention on body image.  Your friends may be sporting shorts, planning for spring break, shopping for tank tops, and talking about their bodies as we come out from ‘winter hibernation’.

Does this bring up any insecurity for you?

If you have a friend, daughter, son, mother, or loved one who looks at themselves in the mirror, grimaces, pokes their belly, and then mutters “I feel SO fat!!”, then this post is for you.

Five Things to Say to Your Daughter (or son, or loved one) When She/He Tells You She Feels Fat

1.)  Fat is not a feeling.  Facebook recently removed the “feeling fat” emoticon from their status bar because fat is NOT a feeling and proposing that it is a feeling further adheres to the thin ideal and shaming anyone who has fat on their body.  It also can be triggering to those who have eating disorders or body image struggles.  Fat is not a feeling — what are you REALLY feeling?

2.) Talk to her about normal things that bodies do, look like, and feel like.  Everyone has a different body and whatever the number on the scale says, our bodies are amazing and deserving of respect.  Talk with her about what your body went through as you were growing up, normalize some of the uncomfortable things that can occur (i.e.: puberty), and discuss this in an affirming, accepting and empowering way.

3.)  Discuss the ‘thin ideal’ and how thinness is glorified in our culture.  Explore the effect that the media and society have had on her and on others and what message that sends.  Fat is stigmatized in our culture and many people fear being judged, bullied, rejected, or hurt by not fitting into the thin ideal.

Help her get educated and stand up for herself amidst the immense cultural pressure to look a certain way.

4.) Find out what is going on in her life.  Chances are, if she is obsessing about

Jack Mallon / Foter

body image, weight, or food, there are other factors affecting her stress level and wellbeing.  How are her relationships?  How does she feel about school?  Is she pushing herself too hard?  Does she compare herself with her best friend?  Explore the deeper meaning to “fat” and what it is truly trying to express.

5.) Dance.  Invite your daughter or loved one to put on a favorite song and to check your judgments at the door.  Dance with her and invite yourselves to feel the miraculous, fun, strong things that your body can do for you, and does for you each day.  Carve out time each day to focus on what your body DOES, instead of how it looks.

Warmer weather invites the birth of spring, which in turn offers an opportunity for rebirth, renewal, and release.  Ask your loved one and yourself: What would you like to release this spring that is not serving you?  How can your body help you do it?

Seven Things to Try When You Can’t Lose Those Last Five Pounds

What is really weighing you down?

Do the number of inches around your waist measure the amount that you are worth?

Let me tell you something.  You’re never going to lose those last five pounds.

What?? How do YOU know?, you might be thinking.  That’s none of your business! And then: Yes, I will, and I can!

You are right; maybe you can and it is not my place to assume what your diet and body can and can’t do.

But I am here to ask: why is that so important???

I have met so many people who are suffering every day because they have not asked

Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

themselves that question.

It’s the end of February.  How’s your New Year’s Resolution going?  If it involves weight loss it has probably been thrown out the window by now.   How are you feeling about that?

How are you feeling about yourself?

I hope the answer is “great!”, but I am bravely going to dare to suggest that if a weight loss goal is connected with how you feel about yourself and your body, then you’re probably struggling with some self-criticism right about now.  You are never ‘perfect’ enough…

You may be one of the thousands of men or women who ‘wants to lose those last five pounds’ and then you’ll feel ‘confident’ in your body.

I get it.  That elusive yet seemingly doable goal of weight loss as a way to feel better about yourself and your body is so tantalizing.

The ads on television and in the magazines throw out all the stops to convince you that going on a diet and counting your calories is the solution as to why you don’t feel so great about yourself. (And they make it look so damn easy!) They promise you if you lost five pounds (or more) you will find…wealth…popularity…success…happiness.

I’m not sure about you, but I receive dozens of spam email messages each day.  Here are a few of the most delicious titles:

‘Ellen DeGeneres’ Ageless Look! She looks 20 again just by taking this pill!”,; and from GetSkinnyNow: ‘READ THIS OR HATE YOURSELF FOREVER!’; and from BetterThanBotox: ‘[Secret Revealed!] Arctic Glacier Eliminates Wrinkles Forever!’. And good old Dr Oz promises me: ‘#1 Brand New Diet Tip of 2015: This Miracle Pill Will Burn Fat Fast!!’

C’mon, really?

Since when is deprivation, shaming, and rigidity a path to inner peace and self-love?

Yesterday marked the beginning of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015.  The last week of February each year is designated nationally as a time to flood social media and our society with lots of information, resources, and hope for eating disorder recovery.  The theme this year is: “I had no idea… “that some of the things we do and say each day to ourselves or to others can trigger an eating disorder to develop.

One of those statements is “I had no idea…that my quest for health was making me sick.”

Not all diets trigger eating disorders, but rigid and perpetual dieting increases the risk of developing disordered eating behaviors like binge eating.  Did you know that statistics show that people who consistently diet are thirteen times more likely to binge eat?

And did you know that more than 65% of people who have lost weight on a diet will gain it back (and then some) within the next year?  If weight loss is connected to your self-worth, how is that ever going to point you in the direction of feeling better about yourself?

So instead of focusing on losing weight or counting calories to cultivate a relationship with yourself that is loving and pleasurable, how about trying these seven ideas instead?

1.) Take yourself out on a date.  When you have been dieting and controlling your food and body for so     long, you may have lost touch with what your body really needs or wants.  Spend an evening listening …and then giving.  If it wants a pint of ice cream, yum!  If it wants to go salsa dancing, sounds fun!  This helps to foster a sense of acceptance and connection, allowing you to build on developing a mutually enjoyable relationship with your body.

2.) Ask yourself what five pounds would really change about your life – and if the dieting is worth it?  Is losing weight really the way to get there?

3.) Did you know that muscle weighs more than fat?  Those extra five pounds may be comprised of muscle and strength…helping to make your body awesome and capable of doing so many things.  Why attach a number to that?

4.) Focus on your strength and capability of your body and not your blemishes.  What does your body do for you each day that you are not aware of?  For example, did you know how complex our digestive system is and how our body facilitates so many essential daily processes that we are not consciously aware of? Amazing!

5.) Ask your body if it is truly hungry and if so, what would taste good to eat right now.  So much of the diet mentality is not listening but formulating what you should eat based on someone else’s guidelines.  Somebody who is not in your body and doesn’t know it as well as you do. Your body is wise and when it is well-fed it will shift to a place where it naturally feels healthy.  That may be losing weight…it may not.

6.) Let go of that negative, judgmental, critical monster voice in your head. You may never be able to make it go away completely, but you can change your relationship with it and the influence it has over you. Focus on what you love about yourself, your body, and food…not what is ‘wrong’ with those things.

7.) Follow Your Bliss. Life is too short. We don’t get a dress rehearsal for our life— this is it! How do you want to spend your precious time here? How can you invite your body to join the party?

I invite you to attempt to get off the rollercoaster of ‘loving yourself WHEN….I lose five pounds…when I can bench press X amount…when I don’t have wrinkles on my face anymore’….and trying to love and accept yourself as you are today. I have tried it and it is so liberating! See how that feels on your body.

The One Surprising Thing I Never Knew About Yoga and How It Healed My Disordered Relationship With Food

I am honored today to share a guest post to my blog by Annette Sloan, a health coach and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering teens to embrace healthy living through her business, (w)holehearted.  She is gifting us today with her story about how yoga helped her offer herself something that is so integral to its essence: compassion.  Even when you’re struggling with food or body image issues. Especially then.


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Have you ever been to a bad yoga class? Maybe it was a class where the teacher wasn’t sure of her instructions and kept fumbling over her words.

Or maybe she talked too much, which made it hard for you to quiet your mind, or she talked too little, which made it hard for you to know what you were supposed to be doing.

6427108983_8c8777c9d0Bad yoga classes are the worst. You take the time in your day to get to your mat, hoping to move your body and calm your mind – and then the instructor ruins the whole experience.

I am a yoga instructor, and I have a confession to make: I once taught the worst yoga class ever. Ok, maybe not the worst class ever. I didn’t make fun of anyone or tell them their body was wrong. No one got hurt. But, I did do an absolutely terrible job of leading the class. I forgot my sequence, mixed up left and right multiple times, and fumbled over the instructions on pretty much every pose.

Not even halfway through the class, I could tell that my students were just humoring me. They wanted to roll up their mats and leave, but they were too polite. It was my first class out of yoga teacher training, and I was screwing up it, big time.

Even worse, this wasn’t just a regular class – it was an audition. One of the polite yogis in front of me owned a yoga business, and I was supposed to be proving my chops as an instructor.

When the hour finally ended, my students gratefully rolled up their mats and departed. I was left with Bonnie, the yoga business owner. Telling myself that I could cry in my car in a few minutes, I looked her in the eye and waited to hear my fate.

Bless Bonnie. Instead of diving into the long list of everything I had done wrong, she kindly asked, “How do you think it went?”

I was honest and brutal in my self-appraisal. Bonnie waited patiently for me to finish, then nodded.

Without agreeing or disagreeing with me, she said, “But did you see how they stayed around to talk with you at the end? If they hated you, they would have left immediately. They liked your energy.”

Once again, bless Bonnie. Talk about compassion.

I didn’t get hired for the job that night. But I didn’t get dismissed either. Bonnie recognized that my nerves had played a huge role in my less-than-stellar performance. She gave me a list of areas to work on, and suggested that I do another audition in a few weeks. Later, she hired me.

The moral of the story is that on the night of my worst yoga class ever, Bonnie embodied an essential component of yoga: compassion.

In my opinion, when a yogi steps onto his or her mat, everything that takes place is in service to a higher goal: to connect mind and body to the present moment – and to be compassionate with whatever comes up.

Downward-facing dog too rough on your shoulders today? Try table instead. Table isn’t feeling good? Child’s pose is always available. The underlying message is: wherever you are, right now, is valid. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Honor your journey.

I started practicing yoga in high school, and continued through college and my twenties. During this time, I was struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food. (Learn more about my story here, or here for a more detailed version). Thankfully, I’m now on the other side of the struggle. And I can honestly say that my practice of yoga was essential to my healing.

Yoga connected my mind and body in the present moment. It regularly reminded me to practice self-compassion and to honor my journey. My subconscious received the message that I wherever I was, it was ok for me to be there. I was worthy, just as I was.

Eventually, my journey led me to yoga-teacher training, where I found the courage to share the story of my struggle with food.

It was terrifying to make myself so vulnerable – but in airing my shame, I found healing. I summoned up the courage to share my story with others, and eventually, with everyone I knew. Today, I have my own business, (w)holehearted, which specializes in compassionate health coaching for teen girls.

I have yoga to thank for it all – and for that, I will be forever grateful.


Annette_Greeting_WebAnnette Sloan owns (w)holehearted, a Denver-based business specializing in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Her work as a coach and speaker empowers teens to discover their happiest, healthiest, most authentic selves. Soon, Annette will also debut a program called Empowered Moms, Empowered Daughters, which will help moms to heal their relationships with food, body, and self so that they can be positive role models for their daughters. In addition, Annette co-leads a workshop called “Yoga, Food, and Love: A Compassionate Journey to Healing your Relationship with Food.” Learn more at www.healthyteengirls.com and www.fb.com/healthyteengirls.

The Surprising Reason You Don’t Feel Confident in Your Body

Here’s a fun guest post I wrote for nutritionist and counselor Stephanie Small‘s blog.  She’s an awesome inspiration in helping women “boost your mood and transform your relationship with food’!  Come back next week to read a guest post from Stephanie on my blog!  Check it out:


If you have found this post, you probably are someone who has struggled with body image issues in your life. You may have had negative thoughts towards parts or all of your body, like: “Ugh, why do my thighs jiggle and touch each other like that?”, or, “My stomach is so flabby I feel like I’m going to burst out of my pants. How disgusting.” Sit for a moment and really let the effect of hearing those statements ooze into you. Do you feel even more yucky after reading them?

I could feel the tinglings of gloom as I wrote them and they are lingering even as of now.14041647615_7d1cb56b96_n

You may have also experienced behaviors that are violent towards your body as a result of some of the feelings and thoughts that have been directed its way. Perhaps you binge eat to a point of extreme discomfort; perhaps you binge and then purge to get the feelings and the food out of your system; maybe you restrict what you eat to try to sculpt the body you think you’d really love.

I’m here to give you some bad news: you’re never going to feel confident in your body.

What? How could those words come from a therapist who spends every day (in and out of the office) offering support to those struggling with eating disorders, body image struggles or who for various reasons feel disconnected from and not at-home in their bodies?

Bear with me. I’m going to suggest that we can never be confident in our bodies until we detach from our bodies. Just for a little while. And then we can come home to them.

As a society, we are afraid of fat. We value thin. We put thin and people who are thin up on a pedestal. You are bombarded with messages that tell you this directly and indirectly hundreds of time each day. It takes conscious, concerted effort each day to notice these messages before you internalize them. And even if you do, you still will internalize them. They will cause you and others lots of suffering because you can never be “enough” of what society tells you that you should be (thin, rich, popular, funny, smart, etc). The point is not to try to stop them, because we never can, but to change the way that you react to them.

I have had many, many clients come to me and tell me about their struggles with food – perhaps they binge eat, or feel out of control in some way. They just want to stop the behavior and they will feel so much better about themselves. This part I totally empathize with – I know how destructive and painful these eating disordered behaviors can be.

Then usually they slip in – ‘I just want to lose some weight and then I know I will feel more confident to [date] [go out for a new job] [stop isolating] [love my body].

They are fused with the thin-ideal as a surefire way to love themselves more. And they don’t realize it or are in denial. I get it – I have been swayed by that campaign as well.

Sometimes we are able to notice that this is happening and step away from being body-centric for a bit and examine what is truly going on for us – fear of not being accepted unless us look a certain way, deep-seated shame, fear of not knowing who we are without being body-obsessed, discomfort with confrontation, etc. – so that we can sort through it, find healing, and then move back to applying that acceptance to our entire being.

But sometimes we can get so stuck on the thin-ideal that we cannot see out of the ‘I must be thin [or lose some weight] to be self-confident’ blinders. We can get on a rollercoaster ride where self-worth is in the same car as ‘physical appearance’, and we are zooming at a frantic pace with seemingly no way to get off the ride.

That’s where I try to stop us (or slow down at least!) and divorce the body for a moment. What is truly going on inside? What are you truly hungry for that has nothing to do with your body? Without looking at that, you cannot be truly confident in yourself or your body (and you won’t be able to actually stop the eating disordered behaviors).

After some time focused away from the external parts of the body and delving deeper into the inner parts of the self, we may discover what that deeper hunger truly is. And we can feed it – without food being the answer.

Then we can re-enter the body work in a holistic, integrated, authentic way where the focus is not on weight but on being embodied – or “at home in your body and yourself”. As you stand on your own two feet, you will radiate confidence from within your body, a confidence that has nothing to do with what your body physically looks like.

When these pieces are integrated back together, you may have thoughts like “I love the way my knees curve that way as I bend down”, or even “My hips are strong and womanly”. Your body may not actually be at the top of your mind as often because it is now a fully connected part of you and the hunger that your body feels is purely physical, or, if you have emotional hunger, you will have the awareness to decipher the “food” that you’re really craving.

What do you think? Have you noticed yourself getting hijacked by the thin-ideal and getting taken away from what really matters to you? How can you find self-confidence without focusing on your body?