The Secret to Sustainable Success

front door standing welcome

I spent the better of Sunday pondering the secret to sustainable success as I sliced and diced and cordoned off portions of dietary staples for the upcoming week.
In terms of sticking to my new eating plan, the unequivocal answer is preparation. From shopping to chopping it’s all about the prep. This explains the impressive collection of colorful ceramic knives I scored for my birthday along with some bamboo cutting boards and mixing spoons.
Had you asked me a year ago if I would be spending weekends frequenting farmer’s markets, foraging around local food co-ops, attempting to plant an herb garden, figuring out how to compost, consorting with nutritionists, or getting needled by acupuncturists, I would have assumed you had me confused with my Santa Fe friends.
The truth is I didn’t embrace this lifestyle until recently when I discovered that eating well is the fundamental secret to success.
Please don’t confuse eating well with eating extravagant meals, preparing elaborate dishes, or coupling exotic spices with complicated and hard to find ingredients.
Eating well in my book means eating whole foods you can easily pronounce, readily find, and effortlessly digest.
We’ve gotten carried away with convenience, making it the number one reason we eat what we eat, when we eat it, even why we eat it.
I get it. We are busy people. Convenience soothes a stressed out soul.
But it wreaks havoc on our health. It was certainly messing with mine and I knew better. Yet I felt incapable of competing with its allure. Until I decided I must.
It’s been a year long journey into learning how to nourish myself. I’ve experienced as many setbacks as successes. But I am profoundly changed by the lessons learned and transformed by my training as an Eating Psychology Coach.
How I previously defined success has been seriously called into question. I didn’t spend forty years wandering around the desert only to get to my personal Promised Land and decide I liked it better where I came from because it was more convenient.
Oh no. There is no going back. Not even for mango margaritas.
I haven’t reached my Promised Land before because it’s incredibly hard to get here. It’s even harder to stay. Consequently, I’m determined to set up shop.
The secret to sustainable success is we are responsible for sustaining it. We have to pay attention and work with intention every day, course correct, scratch some of our best ideas, begin again, ask for help, be generous, have fun, and remember to give thanks for living in the land of milk and honey – even if it comes with a few mosquitoes.
I couldn’t have arrived here before because, admittedly, I wasn’t ready. If I got too distracted, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, all bets were off. I had no healthy snacks and I had no Plan B – or options for the rest of the alphabet, for that matter.  In other words, I was not prepared.
I couldn’t recognize success for what it was because I couldn’t recognize myself for who I was becoming. Suffice it to say, it’s been a work in progress.
And now that work is cut out for me. It may appear to some as the same work I’ve been doing all along.  However, coming from a new vantage point makes all the difference.
After 8 months of intense training, I’m thrilled to be able to call myself an Eating Psychology Coach and passionately practice the work that’s been a guiding force throughout my life.  
In the next couple of months I’ll unveil my new website along with opportunities for you to join me in challenges and adventures that invite you to sustain your idea of success. 
Sound fun?  Hope so!  Leave your questions or suggestions in the comments below.

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If You Give a Moose A Muffin…

Elk in the woods
There is a series of children’s books written by Laura Joffe Numeroff  and beautifully illustrated by Felicia Bond detailing the outrageous shenanigans that follow when a child takes a seemingly innocent first step like giving a moose a muffin, a dog a donut, a cat a cupcake, a pig a pancake, or giving the mouse who started the whole thing a cookie.
When I stepped into this experiment called getting my groove back a year ago, I had no idea I would be stepping into a similar situation as the unsuspecting character who gave the moose, the dog, the cat, the pig, and, of course, the mouse what they wanted.
As we’ve all learned even if we haven’t read these fabulous fables, one thing leads to another and another ad infinitum.  Some of these things are hilarious, some are mischievous, some are expensive, some are silly, some are unfortunate, and some are surprising.
And surprise, it turns out, is one of the things that most of us try to avoid.  But according to the authors of the fascinating book called Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected, it’s one of the things we should embrace in order to spark the best kind of change in our lives.
The thing about my journey or any journey is that we don’t ever really know what we’re in for, even if we think we do.  The brilliance of our ignorance or beginner’s mind is absolutely essential if we are to be open to what lies ahead.
Preconceived notions or assumptions of how long it is going to take, how much it is going to cost, how easy or difficult it might be are usually based on our past experience or that of someone else.
Even though that experience may serve as a helpful guide, it will continually pull us out of the here and now if we are not open to the element of surprise and the many gifts of an unpredictable present.
For example, at the end of my How to Get Your Groove Back class I wanted to give participants the opportunity to physically experience what we had been discussing and understand what it felt like to change eating habits, improve energy levels, curb cravings, reduce hormonal fluctuations, etc.
So five of us embarked on a 21-Day Purification with the assistance of a functional medicine doctor and me, their newly certified Eating Psychology Coach.
Having done something similar six months ago, I thought I knew what we were getting into.  Suffice it to say, I did not.  Surprise!  The first day my predominant thought was, “What was I thinking?”  I’m sure the others were wondering the same.
But as the days progressed and we figured out what we could eat, found our comfort foods and figured out how to prepare them, and started losing weight and noticing a difference in our energy levels, skin, moods, and stress levels, we were amazed at how quickly we were adapting to the new world order.
In a very short time, we were able to make significant shifts in our outlook and health that previously none of us thought would be sustainable. Ironically, as much as we looked forward to Day 22, that’s when the real work started.
Like the unlikely actions that follow feeding a moose a muffin, I’ve become this version of myself I’d only imagined I could be.  I’m actually excited about kitchen knives and cutting boards, joining a co-op, and spending  the weekend tackling the clutter around every corner (while listening to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo).
As Einstein said, No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It wasn’t that I was unhappy before.  I just knew if I wanted to get to my own personal Promised Land, I was going to have to take a different route if I intended to get there this lifetime.
So I did what we all need to do from time to time.  I did what graduates and retirees and entrepreneurs the world over are urged to do.  Give a moose a muffin.  And let the adventures begin!
Share if you dare in the comments below. What grand adventures await you?

How To Get Your Groove Back

Beautiful woman enjoying life

Long before Fifty Shades of Grey there was Stella.  And Stella had issues.
Despite her highly successful career, Stella had lost her mojo and was determined to get it back.
She was of a certain age and just not feeling as groovy as she once did.  So what did Stella do?
She did what any woman cast in a starring role opposite Taye Diggs would do.  She went to Jamaica and had a wild, passionate affair with this hunk of burning love.  She definitely brought her sexy back.
But that was Stella, played by the beautiful Angela Bassett, and her story was fictional.
Even if you could afford to whisk yourself away to a romantic locale and discover a smoking hot lover (surprisingly this may be the same person who snores beside you at home), often this kind of reboot(y) is a temporary fix.
What I’m looking for is the real deal.  If I’m feeling funky, frazzled, and fatigued, the farthest thing from my mind is suiting up in sexy lingerie and stilettos. (If you’ve seen my shoe collection, you know I’m taking creative license here.)
What I really want is for the brain fog to dissipate, the chaos to transform into clarity, and the fatigue to turn into sustainable energy.  While a powerful love connection can do that, so can understanding and practicing the basics of mind-body nutrition,  the phases of nourishment, and the soul lessons you came here to learn.
Yes, you read that right.  I went from sex to science to spirituality in six sentences.  Because you and I are whole beings and the only way to get our groove back is to stop pretending we aren’t and to get in touch with all of who we are, not just the easy parts.
One of the key concepts I’ve learned in my outstanding Eating Psychology Coaching program is we must step into our roles as kings and queens at midlife.  Staying stuck in our roles and princes or princesses does not serve anyone. It may be fun and it may be encouraged by our society at large, but evolving into our higher selves is really where it’s at.
What do I mean by becoming kings and queens?  I mean rightfully taking charge of and owning our challenges as well as our areas of expertise.  It means contributing to our communities, serving those we are uniquely equipped to care for, and understanding the  value of our experience, connections, and failures as well as successes.
It means we are no longer plagued with such silliness as, “Does this tiara make my butt look big?” or “Does this Jaguar impress you?”  It means we now have time to make sure others have safe drinking water or proper child care or the ability to read and write.
The best way to get my groove back is to get in touch with what I am passionate about and actively pursue it.  It may start out as a physical desire that turns into a mental pursuit that becomes a spiritual quest. Or it may just be all that at the same time.
This week I’m inviting anyone in or near my location to join me for an 8-week discovery into this topic.  I’m teaching a weekly class called “How to Get Your Groove Back” on Tuesday nights from 6-7:30pm at my workplace, Clinton Community College Maquoketa Center.  I would love to have you join me.  If you are interested, call me at 563-652-5000 and I’ll fill you in on the details.
If you don’t live near me, never fear!  This is Step One in the grand plan of creating an online course so you may take the class wherever you happen to be.
I am in the process of redesigning my website and offering several exciting options for you to participate in from free classes to 30-day challenges to group coaching. The plan is to have this ready by June 1, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, if you have suggestions or ideas about what you would like to see more of, let me know.  There is still time to develop these for you.
So, groovy guys and gals, share if you dare and leave your comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Detox Take Away #9 – Invoke the Sacred

Girl on swing at sunset

It’s easy to count our blessings on days designed for giving thanks and celebrating the abundance of good food, good health, family and friends. Anyone can find something to be grateful for on the good days.
But how many of us regularly give thanks for the ordinary, the mundane, the million little things we couldn’t live without yet take for granted every day?
I’ve kept a gratitude journal for years, writing down the things, relationships, and experiences I am thankful for on a daily basis. Noting them has helped me recognize these moments of grace as they are happening. It has also made me aware that they are happening all the time.
During the detox I realized that while I’ve learned to appreciate many moments, I seldom experienced those moments around food. Given the number of people involved in growing, producing, shipping, marketing, and selling it, food is worthy of an abundance of appreciation. It also sustains life, putting it right up there with oxygen and water as one of the essential elements to be extremely grateful for.
I found that if I took a few moments to breathe, get present, and acknowledge the source of the course before me, I felt nourished in an entirely different way than when I attempted to multitask during a meal.
This prompted me to invoke the sacred not only when I consumed a meal, but also when I consumed someone’s creative or intellectual outpouring, when I attempted something new, or made a difficult decision. This required much more practice than I initially assumed.
I was curious as to why we are wired to be so cavalier about anything that requires us to slow down and get present in order to invite a fresh perspective – especially when it comes to food.
In his fascinating book, The Culture Code, cultural anthropologist Clotaire Rapaille asserts that we all acquire a silent system of codes as we grow up in a culture, making us uniquely American, French, German, Japanese or whatever nationality we happen to be.
In America, for example, the code for food is fuel. We think of eating as refueling and want to “fill up” on food fast, making fast food a favorite. Like a self-service gas station, all-you-can-eat buffets provide plenty food available immediately.  We devour our food without making the connection to where it came from, how it was prepared, or even how much we’ve eaten.
Whether we personally feel this way or not, growing up in a culture that unconsciously embraces the idea of the body as a machine and food as a way to keep that machine moving influences our choices.  If we go against the code, we’re bound to experience internal conflict.
Unfortunately, most of us chalk up our inability to buck the system or break bad habits to lack of willpower or some other deficit on our part instead of looking to the cultural waters we’re swimming in.
Enter mindfulness.
By mindfulness I mean paying attention.  I mean allowing yourself to breathe, center, focus, collect your thoughts, feel your feelings, give yourself a moment to get present in your body, not just your head.  It doesn’t have to take long. Remember Ten Zen Seconds?
From this place you can invoke the sacred.  And when you do, ordinary moments become extraordinary.
Your Turn
I’d love to hear how you invoke the sacred throughout the day.  I’d also love to hear how you view food or what you think the code for food is in your country.
Leave your comments below.

Detox Take Away #6 – Trust the Process

discovering new places

When I used to teach fitness classes, I remember thinking how much more motivating it might be for students if they could immediately lose a pound or two after completing a workout. Sure they felt better after having mobilized their bodies and activated their endorphins, but wouldn’t they be more willing to stick with it if they experienced instant weight loss?
We all know the real work of shape shifting takes time and consistent effort.  When goals are attained too easily or quickly, we can miss the message or sabotage the results. For many of us, weight is an incredible teacher. It certainly gets our attention and packs a wallop of emotion when we gain it or lose it.
Detoxing not only our bodies but also our brains is bound to take some time. We carry a lot of toxic beliefs about what we should weigh, how we should look, and how much of our value depends on an arbitrary number on the scale. Despite all my training, I’ve held on to some rather insidious beliefs about my weight that simply don’t serve me or anyone else.
Changing these beliefs and patterns of behavior is not easy.  There are a lot of variables to consider when attempting to make or break a habit. Factors like how often we automatically or unconsciously engage in the current habit, what benefits we get from continuing with the current habit, and what kind of habit we are attempting to change all impact the speed at which we can progress.
At the outset, 21 days seemed like a long time for a detox diet. However, I kept telling myself that 21 days in the course of a lifetime was not too much to ask. I reminded myself that I would gladly do this if it could save the life of a loved one. Hitting the reset button for myself might just save my own life.
I will not lie.  Some days were difficult. Every day I counted down the days until I would be done. Social situations were like land mines because they required special preparations and explanations and more effort than would be required if I just stayed home and kept the whole process on the down low.
The up side is that I felt better, cleaner, and lighter than I had in years. My brain fog lifted, my energy surged, and those few stubborn pounds melted away. But it didn’t and couldn’t happen overnight.
About half-way through the detox process I realized the only way out was through. I had to keep going. No matter how much I thought I knew, there was more to learn.  And that meant trusting the process.
Trusting the process meant relaxing into life. Trusting the process meant letting go of how I thought it should go. Trusting the process meant no matter what happened, I would be able to handle it. Trusting the process meant allowing the universe to have my back.
When I could do this, eating this or not eating that did not seem insurmountable.  Such a simple idea in theory.  But one that takes a lifetime of practice.  Or at the very least,  21 days.
Have you done a detox diet?  What lessons did you learn?
I’d love for you to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.

Detox Take Away #1 – Freedom through Discipline

sign direction risk - reward
As a former free-spirit, if anyone dared to suggest my life might be easier by imposing a few more rules or a little more structure,  I would have laughed. Wanting to be free to move at a moment’s notice or leap whether the net appeared or not, I was all about keeping my options open.
Eventually all that uncertainty takes its toll.  Ironically, the kind of freedom I was really craving came through discipline.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in my approach to eating.
Years of pretending to be eating healthy while skipping meals, over consuming carbohydrates, and leading a more sedentary lifestyle was a definite detour from the wellness way I thought I was following.
The detox provided a much needed GPS.  Life became so much easier once I knew what I was going to eat, when I would need to eat it, what I needed to buy, and how to prepare for various contingencies.
Prior to the detox, the daily “What’s for dinner?” dilemma opened the door to all kinds of bad choices, especially if I waited too long to answer it. Then anything and everything was fair game.
The detox forced me to plan my meals, plan my snacks, frequent the grocery store more often (because fresh foods don’t last too long), and bring order to the food court so poor choices were no longer an option.
Once I implemented the plan, I was rewarded with consistent energy throughout the day, an even temperament, and a better ability to find the center of calm when chaos threatened to reign.
Those of you who have been preparing family meals already know the importance of planning. But for someone like me who has been making meals mainly for myself, planning seemed unnecessary.  Especially when popcorn or soup could suffice.
The detox forced me to take a disciplined approach to everything from meal planning to meal timing.  We all know what happens when we get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Hangry.  And all kinds of whacked out.
So I got to treat myself like I would treat a small child left in my care.  I had to purchase, plan, and prepare the most nutritious meals I could given a specific set of criteria.
In order to keep it interesting, I placed the food on colorful and appropriately sized plates. I used cloth napkins. I relaxed and tasted the foods, savored the smells and spices, and allowed myself to feel nourished not only by the food but the effort that went into the preparation.
The results were profound.  After one too many meals consumed in the car on the way to a meeting or at my desk while replying to emails or in the kitchen in a quick and unconscious attempt to stuff the stress of the day away, this was a game changer for me. So was salmon for breakfast, but I’ll fill you in on that in a couple of days.
For now, I’ll leave you with this question. What’s nourishing to you?  How can a little prep time or planning pay off  and allow you to feel really nourished by what you are eating?  Especially if you live alone, how can you make meal times sacred?
We all have to eat.  It’s a requirement for being in a body.  Why not make it a pleasurable event?
Next post I’ll share with you Take Away #2 – Eat High Quality Foods.
Until then, eat (good food), drink (lots of water), and be merry (or whatever you happen to be feeling)!
Share if you dare below.  I’d love to hear your questions or suggestions.