I saw the backlash and have been thinking about the issue, and realized that I had to share some thoughts on this. I’ve already written about my opinion of counting calories, but I’ve primarily dealt with this issue from the framework of an adult, rather than a teen. I worry (and know) that Weight Watchers for teens can create doshic imbalances and disordered eating in teens.
Caveat: I have to say that I do know multiple adult women who have used Weight Watchers for years and have enjoyed their experience and the community. I don’t want to demean or minimize their experiences. I think that Weight Watchers has been great at creating a community for women to share their experiences with food. Creating community and reducing shame is so positive both psychologically and for actual behavior change. Everyone is allowed to have their own experience. I’m coming at this topic from a behavior change and psychology perspective as well as the history of me and my friends who grew up during the age of Weight Watchers.
If you practice yoga every day with perseverance, you will be able to face the turmoil of life with steadiness and maturity.
We’ve seen the Instagram posts. Sped up videos of chaturangas, down dogs, and chairs. Preferably in front of a wall of plants or a row of huge windows. Hashtag homepractice.
But before Instagram, in 2008, I set my New Years resolution to start a home yoga practice and do yoga every day. I had seen the mental and physical benefits of increasing from 1 day a week to 2 days a week, and then from 2 to 4 or 5. My teachers had talked about how yoga was a daily practice for them. That it was their way to check in with their body and mind. It gave them time to feel their heart beat, their blood pump, and to set an intention for their day.
In 2008, I was in the throws of college courses like organic chemistry and fluid dynamics…I needed an outlet, and daily yoga was a powerful place to start.
Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.
Disclaimer: This story is going to seem incredibly unimportant and petty (plus I kinda seem like a dweeb). I promise there’s an important lesson in it. Keep reading 🙂
Last night, I was at a friend’s house watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics. I glanced at the clock as I left – 11:00pm. And that’s where the resistance started.
I knew I had an early wake up time. I knew that I had had a long day of teaching. I knew that on days when I’ve been working that long and then stay up too late, I’m in cranky Sam territory and any words that come out of my mouth shouldn’t be trusted as kind or real.
I got to sleep before midnight, slept soundly, and woke up at my 6:30am alarm. Hello, resistance!….”I’m so tired. I’m so stupid. I should have gotten more sleep. Why didn’t I get to sleep more? Today is going to be terrible. I’m going to be tired! And then I have to teach today. This is not good. This is going to be a bad day.”
WOAH there. That’s a lot of thoughts. But this is what they were.
All through my meditation.
All through my journaling.
All through my morning workout.
…it was a never-ending stream of negativity and anger.
No matter whom you are or what you do, the ground is always shaky. And, the really good news is that shaky ground is fertile ground for spiritual growth and awakening.
Judgement and criticism seem like skills. We value being the sideline quarterback or backseat driver. Obviously we must have some extra knowledge, because if the person in question had the same knowledge, they would realize that what they’re doing is wrong, stupid, fruitless, or selfish, right?
In reality – criticism is easy. We’re biologically hardwired for judgement. In the animal kingdom, making snap judgements saves your life. Our amygdala and deep/back brain regions (also known as our lizard brain) can take past experience, sensory input, and genetically coded predispositions to make snap judgements.
Lion = bad.
Berries = good.
Mushrooms = poisonous.
Unfortunately, many millennia on, we still think these snap judgements are valuable. She’s taking a boring job. He’s in a bad relationship. They’re misguided in their beliefs. See? So easy to come up with examples. And I’m sure you can think of examples of the judgements you’ve made (I know I have a fair number of them).
If we move up the evolutionary spectrum to the newer parts of our brain, we get the prefrontal cortex. This is where nuance happens. This is a more difficult place to be and act from. In this brain space, we take our snap judgements and then bring a healthy dose of reality into the situation.
For example: the lizard brain says “why is she taking that boring job?!” Then the prefrontal cortex says “Oh, maybe the team is really great” or “her mom is sick and she needs the extra money”. We realize that our snap judgement wasn’t actually based on complete, 100% truthful information.
Getting out of the lizard brain and into the prefrontal cortex
I suffer from the snap judgements just as much as the next person. More recently, my way of getting myself out of the snap judgement zone has been to think about intention. I believe we have a universal intention:
To be happy. To be free. To feel good.
Even if I don’t understand the decision being made or I don’t agree with the action, I can’t deny their intention, which is very likely a pursuit of happiness and freedom. And haven’t we all done things (good and bad) from this same intent?
Judgement and criticism separates, and it’s not a skill. Discerning the intention behind action, seeing the nuance, and accepting other people’s autonomy is.
Ayurveda traditionally recommends that people with kapha dosha don’t snack (such a bummer right!?). This recommendation comes from the fact that kapha digestion tends to be slower. Kaphas hold on to all of the food and calories they eat, so eating too frequently or between meals can cause blockages and slow down digestion even further, leading to constipation, excess weight, and low energy
Unfortunately, in this day and age of long days and hectic schedules, this isn’t always feasible. So if you’re going to snack as a kapha – what should you eat?
Perhaps, we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.
I’ve done a lot of things in the name of self-care. I’ve stopped my work to meditate. I’ve happily gone to 6am yoga classes on vacation. I’ve said no to cakes and venti lattes and foods I know would leave me feeling awful for hours if not days.
But I’ve also used self-care as a reason to retreat. As a reason to meticulously count the number of almonds I was eating. To say no to a party where I’d have to explain too many times why I wasn’t partaking in the cheese dip. To “protect” my energy rather than give it – not realizing that in the right cases, energy is multiplied, not diminished, by it’s use.
A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.
A year or two ago, I was hiring a life coach and I got on the phone with a prospective coach. After the usual hellos and how are you’s, she launched into a monologue about her coaching philosophy and what she’d want me to get out of our sessions. Then the questions began: “So what would you like to improve in your relationship?” “How would you be more successful if you showed up more fully in your work?” “When your mom calls you, what negative reactions do you have?”
I recently got a question about calorie counting and tracking macros, and since I get this question quite often, I thought I would post my answer here.
In cases of non-disordered eating, I don’t recommend calorie or macro counting, and here’s why: calorie counts on foods are approximations. They are imperfect. This is true for packaged foods and is DEFINITELY true for any time your order food out at a restaurant.
On the other hand, calorie expenditure (from fitbits or workout machines or online calculations) are imperfect too. They are approximations. They are imperfect.
So if you’re tracking calories in and calories out, both are measured with a bunch of error! In addition: each day is different. One day maybe you jiggled your leg a little more, or had more restless sleep, or it was hotter outside, so you burned calories at a different rate than usual, and your “calorie needs” for weight maintenance, loss, or gain will be different.
All together, using calorie counts to track your eating is putting trust in imperfect numbers over trust in your body and how you feel.
I find that there’s use in calorie counting for a few weeks or months to get the hang of what’s in specific foods (it can give you great awareness for hidden fats and sugars in foods, plus great sources of protein), but that over time, it becomes a crutch that can lead you to over or under eat based on numbers, rather than how you feel. (Maybe you’ve been in the situation where you’re not hungry, but your calorie counter tells you that you have some extra calories so you go for that cookie or dessert. It happens so often.)
One special case where calorie counting can be useful long-term: for some people with a history of disordered eating, calorie counting can be an important way to help them stay on track before their normal hunger/satiety signals have come back on track. It’s important that this is done with the guidance of trained professionals and therapists to ensure that this tracking doesn’t exacerbate the disordered eating, but helps the path to recovery.
As always, I ask you to inquire about your experience. What’s your relationships to calorie counting and do you feel like it’s a positive or negative force in your eating path? Dig in deep and see if calorie counting is empowering you or disempowering you, and know that your answer might change over time.