Thursday, 28 March 2013

When you eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair

This week’s piece takes its title from a book by one of my favourite authors- Geneen Roth. It’s one of the kindest books I’ve read that tackles compulsive/emotional eating.  For those of you, who’ve ever been on a binge, you will know how powerless you feel to stop.  It's almost like you go into a trance and don’t come out until you’ve consumed excessive amounts of food that you probably weren’t hungry for in the first place! The very act of preparing for a binge, gives you the chance to focus on what you’re doing and decide if it’s what you really want.  If you really want to binge, go ahead, pull up that chair, set the table, get a plate and get going. The one caveat- you’ve got to taste every mouthful.  No mindless gorging, just focused, mindful eating.  Having used this technique myself, to be ‘present’ during a binge, I can assure you that it really does help you to catch yourself and work out what you’re really hungry for.  As busy women, a lot of us feel guilty about taking time for ourselves.  We give and keep on giving, until there’s nothing left for us.  Food and eating are 2 things that we ‘allow’, so that we can take some time for ourselves, but most of us rush through our food, barely tasting it, feeling guilty, lest we take too long to eat it and neglect the 1001 other things we have to do.

During a typical binge, it’s a bit like being on autopilot.  Hands up anyone who’s opened a packet of biscuits/sweets/treat of your choice, finished them all and had no recollection of having actually eaten them all?

The problem is, when you eat for reasons other than being physically hungry, you have no way of knowing when to stop. And not knowing where to stop is the very definition of compulsive eating.  Before I sat down to write this week’s blog, I had breakfast and then made a couple more trips to the fridge to snack on a biscuit and some sweets. It took me a little while to realise that I was actually tired and was trying to overdose on sugar to energise myself.  Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is have a nap!  The truth is, no matter how many sweets I ate, I wouldn’t have been satisfied, because that wasn’t what I needed at that time.

In this piece, I’d like to suggest a different, kinder way of doing things. My suggestion is that when you get the urge to binge or eat when you’re not hungry, that you take a minute to try and find out what’s really going on. This isn’t an easy option at first.  It’s far easier to ‘eat’ our feelings than tackle them.  But I promise you, the more you practice doing this, the easier it will become and the better you will get at identifying what you really need.  Why should I try this, some of you might ask? My answer to you is that by continually stuffing your issues down with food, you are preventing yourself from becoming the fabulous woman that you are.  Managing a problematic attitude towards food and being on a constant diet take time and effort.  Time and effort that you could be directing elsewhere.  Speaking from personal experience, I spent a lot of time, with my life on hold.  Waiting for that time, when I would be at the perfect weight, so I could get on with the life of my dreams.

If any of this sounds like you and you'd like to get on with the rest of your life, why not contact us, to see how the Hungry Heart programme could help?

Until next week, go well.



Thursday, 21 March 2013

Seen one, seen 'em all...

We had a woman once...she was very nice, but we won’t have another one...”  

That’s a line from an article I read on the importance of diversity in the workplace.  The company in question was an engineering firm and having recruited a woman in a senior position for the first time; they quickly decided they wouldn’t have one again.  Closer to home, I was talking to a friend and she said she couldn’t marry a person from a particular place, because in her words “the people there aren’t nice”.  If you haven’t already guessed, this week, we’re talking about stereotypes and I’m sharing my top 3 reasons for why I think they are unhelpful.

My first reason is that stereotypes are untrue.  The inherent paradox of a stereotype is that there are enough people to make it true, but equally, there are enough people to make it untrue.  A classic example of this is the stereotype that says all women want to have children.  A related one is that once women have children, they want to stop work and stay home with the children. If you take a straw poll of 20 women, you will find some who have chosen not to have children, some who want children, but also want to work and some who want to stay home with the children.  In my view, both these stereotypes are at the root of the endless feminist wrangling about what women should be doing with their lives.  The stereotypes don’t leave space for the fact that women may actually want to make a different choice, but circumstances compel them to make the choice they have.  For example, the women who want to stay home with the children, but have to work, due to economic pressures. There is also the fact that choices may change as circumstances of life change.  What may be true of a woman in her 20s may be very different for her in her 40s. Personally, I had always thought that I would want to be a stay-at- home mum for at least the first few years of my daughter’s life. Then one day, I was changing my umpteenth nappy and I thought, “I’m a woman with 3 degrees and changing pooey nappies is just not going to cut it.  I need to go back to work!” Did I have to adjust what that “work” looked like? Yes. Did I have to accept that I might earn a bit less while my daughter is still young? Yes.  Is it hard juggling both roles? Absolutely! Would I have it any other way? No.  Whilst I love my daughter to bits, I also need intellectual stimulation beyond the 99th episode of the Teletubbies!

My second reason is that stereotypes often have the effect of leaving people in some kind of ‘no man’s land’- neither here, nor there.  Not fully accepted by the new ‘community’ that they find themselves in and no longer accepted by their old ‘community’.  When a minority person ‘makes’ it- i.e. transcends the stereotype, they may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being a ‘token’.  They are seen as being somehow ‘different’ from the new community, facing feelings of fear, insecurity and often discrimination.  And yet, within their old community, they may be viewed with suspicion and mistrust, judged as somehow being a ‘sell out’.  There’s a pejorative word which is sometimes applied to Black people, by other Black people, which illustrates my point.  The word is ‘Bounty’. Like the chocolate, it means black on the outside and white on the inside. Sound too well spoken for a Black person? Aspirational? Wanting to achieve something beyond what is expected in the community? Any of these things might lead to the suggestion that you are a Bounty.

My final reason is linked to the one above and it’s about the weight of expectation that is placed on the one who has beaten the stereotype.  You don’t have to look far for examples of how this plays out.  Barack Obama, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, all pioneers.  Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, 2 of Silicon Valley’s most powerful women.  When Mr Obama won the presidential election back in 2008, I must confess, I thought, “wow, now we’re going to see how differently a Black president does things”.  There was a feeling of ‘it’s our turn now’.  But then, like a lot of other people I had to catch myself and recognise that he was the President of the whole of the United States- not just Black people!  My hope was (and still is) that he will have more of a sense and understanding of how discrimination has adversely affected Black people in America and try to work for solutions that begin to redress the balance. Mrs Mayer and Mrs Sandberg have both been in the press recently for different reasons (a ‘controversial’ change in HR policy and a book urging women to ‘Lean in’).  The commentary around both women has focused on the fact that they are women and the expectation, that somehow they would do things differently just because they are women.  For the record, I don’t believe that the current pattern for career success works for a lot of women.  However, I don’t believe that (a) successful women need to become the voice of all women and (b) that just because someone is a woman, she will automatically understand gender and how gender stereotypes affect women negatively.  I wonder how much of the criticism these women are facing is because they are women? Would the rhetoric be different if they were men?  Should the fact that both these women appear to have beaten the stereotype, mean that they should be held up as the standard for all women? My answer is no. Success looks different for each of us.  Each woman has to make the choices that work best for her.  Sometimes those choices may be between bad or worse, but those choices have to be left to each individual woman and we need to respect those choices.  Otherwise the wrangling and unhelpful comparisons will continue and we will stay stuck, instead of finding a way to move forward.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the midst of a recession, a large number of start ups are spearheaded by women.  We are creative and resourceful and starting our own businesses is a great way to find a balance between the different parts of our lives.

As I end this week’s piece, I invite you to think of the common stereotypes that have or are still affecting you.  I invite you to examine them and see how they may have affected the choices you have made.  Lastly, I invite you to discard them and begin to see how the change in your thinking opens up possibilities for you.

Do you need help finding out what success looks like for you? Do you want someone to walk through some choices with you? Contact us through the website, for a free 30 minute consultation and see how coaching can help.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Are you happy with your weight?

Ever since I mastered the art of doing a full push up, they’ve been an important part of my exercise routine and I love doing them.  I was at the gym the other day, doing said push ups and 2 women walking past, noticed what I was doing.  I heard them say, “look at her, she’s doing push ups like a man”.  As I’ve said before, inspiration comes from the oddest of places and it made me wonder: can push ups be a metaphor for life? And if they are, what do they signify for women?

I think they are and they represent three important areas where women, need to be able to ‘carry their own weight’: physically; financially and emotionally.
First up, I think that it’s very important for women to be able to carry their own weight physically.  I’m not talking about the pursuit of an unrealistic body shape.  I’m also not talking about getting the perfect body (whatever that is deemed to be).  I’m talking about women being healthy.  I’m talking about women doing whatever they need to; to be strong enough to live the lives they dream of.  A body that is weak from a diet of deprivation and restriction is just as bad as a body that is under pressure from excess weight.  Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes are just some of the diseases where women are unfortunately catching up with men, in terms of poor health.  You know the areas, where you need to make changes, to become healthier. My challenge to you this week is that you pick just one thing and start to do it.  No matter the length of the journey, it always starts with one step.
Secondly, it’s very important for women to be able to carry their own weight financially.  Do you have a financial fitness plan or are you lurching from pay check to pay check, trying to make ends meet? Women live longer, but are poorer.  The wage gap, working part time or in lower paying jobs and taking time out for caring responsibilities all contribute to more women being financially worse off in retirement. Domestic violence can also have a serious impact on a woman’s finances.  Being prevented from working, not having control over your own money or a perpetrator whose misuse of credit puts your own financial situation in jeopardy are all part of the cycle of power and control that survivors of domestic violence experience.  The practice of consistently spending less than you earn and saving at least 10% of your pay check are 2 things that could set you off on your path to financial freedom.
My final question is, are you carrying your weight emotionally? Are you emotionally whole or are you still looking to someone to complete you?  Do you have a sense of who you are or are you still relying on the image of you, being reflected back by other people?  Being emotionally needy makes you vulnerable and at the same time prevents you from getting what you want from a relationship.  All relationships are about give and take.  When you are in an emotionally needy state, you are likely to be taking more than you are giving and that puts a serious strain on any relationship.  This question isn’t about judgement; it’s about encouraging you to be honest with yourself.  It’s about helping you to see the areas that need to be worked on, so you can be the strong, powerful woman that you were created to be.
Writing this week’s post is uncomfortable, because I recognise that I have work to do in each of these areas.  But that’s the great thing about life; it’s always offering you the chance to change-if you are brave enough to step out.  As long as you’re not dead, you get the chance to keep trying, until you get where you want to be.
Feeling a little stuck? Not sure how or where to start? Contact us at the website, for a free 30 minute consultation and see how coaching can help you.
Until next week, go well.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Message in a bottle...

Has anyone ever done one of those time capsule things? It’s where you put significant things from the present, into a capsule and bury it, so that it can be dug up, sometime in the future.  The idea is that it will give the person who opens it later on, an idea of what things were important, when the capsule was created.  Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and I thought I’d do a virtual time capsule, with some of the messages that women receive in the 21 century.

The first message is: don’t drink too much, don’t flirt, don’t wear suggestive clothing and above all, don’t get yourself raped or sexually assaulted. Because if you do, the chances are that you will be blamed for the violence, on the basis of any one of those reasons that I’ve listed.  In spite of the fact that perpetrators choose to use violence, women are routinely blamed for the violence that is done to them.  Questions like ‘what were you wearing?’, ‘how much did you have to drink?’, ‘did you lead him on?’ are all asked, in order to determine whether or not, you’re the right kind of victim- The one with a case worth pursuing!

Secondly, I’d say, ‘try not to live too long’. Women tend to earn less than men over their lifetimes and when you factor in women living longer than men on average, you can see how we end up being poorer.  The wage gap opens up pretty quickly and just keeps getting larger.  More women are likely to be employed in lower paying jobs and/or part time work.  Women also bear the brunt of the caring responsibilities for children and elderly parents.  This leads to gaps in women’s careers, whilst the preferred model is an unbroken trajectory- which tends to favour men.  The net result is that women earn less during their working lives and in retirement too.

Thirdly, I’d say: if you happen to find yourself in an abusive relationship, first of all start by blaming alcohol or drugs or stress or mental illness or anger issues as well as yourself.  Because, in spite of what we know about the root causes of domestic violence being power and control, people will tell you that it’s about one or more of the issues that I listed. And that if you tackle those issues the violence will stop.  That’s one of the most common and harmful myths about domestic violence.  Survivors of domestic violence will tell you, that the abuse happens when the perpetrator is drunk and when he’s sober.  They will tell you that it happens when he’s stressed at work and when he’s not.  The violence is arbitrary because the perpetrator chooses when, where and what kind of violence to use, as well as what ‘offences’ merit the use of violence.

Even though all these messages are true, I’d actually like to leave some more hopeful ones.

I’d like to tell women that they should find and take their place in this world.  We are valuable and have every right to speak up and be heard.  We shouldn’t place limits on our ability to soar and we shouldn’t allow anyone else to limit us either.

I would say that we are stronger and more powerful than we think.  We are more than what we look like or what we weigh.  Our value is not dependent on our looks and exchanging our bodies for money, status or position is always a bad move!

Finally, I would say to those women grappling with abuse: don’t try to numb your pain with food or alcohol, or drugs or sex.  It doesn’t work and leaves you with more issues to deal with.  A better way is to acknowledge the pain of your situation, determine that you won’t be broken by it and move forward into healing, trusting that you will come out stronger on the other side.

I know that IWD is about more than violence against women, but violence affects so many women's lives, that we can’t afford not to speak up against it.  As we get ready to mark IWD, I wish you a safe and happy day.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this piece or you would just like to speak to someone in confidence, contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.