How to Overcome Guilty Pleasures

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Recently I was working with a client who had struggled for years with being overweight. As we talked about how hard it had been for her I could tell she was getting upset. So I said to her, “It sounds like you’re really frustrated by this diet thing.”

“Yeah!” She said, “It’s so hard, because for years I used food to treat myself. It’s been there when I’ve felt lonely or sad. It’s helped me relax after a long days and when I wanted to celebrate something. It’s like without food I don’t know how else to take care of myself.“

We Are All Guilty
We are all like this. You may binge on television, exercise, or hiding from the world inside romance novels. But no matter who you are, you have at least one guilty pleasure or habit of self care you believe that you’re better off without.

And at this point I’m supposed to tell you that true character is built by overcoming your desires and living a clean life on the straight and narrow…except I think that’s mostly bullshit. So rather than give you the age old adage about self control, I’m going to tell you the truth.

The Real Problem with Guilty Pleasures –
The real problem with Guilty Pleasures is that they’re guilty. The guilt makes you feel bad and hide your behavior from your friends, family, and even your own mind. But for the most part there isn’t anything wrong with your guilty pleasures.

You need your guilty pleasures, because they work for you. Food is comforting, a glass of wine at night is relaxing, TV is fun to watch, and hitting the snooze button feels friggin’ luxurious.

That’s why letting go of guilty pleasures is so hard. Because you’re not only denying yourself the TV or bag of chips; you’re denying yourself the relaxation, happiness, and fun they’re associated with.

How to Overcome A Guilty Pleasure

Fear not! There is hope. While letting go of a guilty pleasure is hard, there’s another way. Instead of trying to eradicate this strategy that works, you have to replace and dilute it with other forms of self care. This way, instead choosing between comfort and no comfort, you’re choosing between food comfort and massage comfort. But to make this work you have to get creative.

Here are 3 creative solutions to overcoming guilty pleasures that I came up with to solve problems for myself or for my client.

1. Self Care Snacks
Make a list of 5 – 10 self care activities that you can do at a moments notice. And then write each activity on small strips of paper and put the strips in a tupperware container. Then label the container SELF CARE SNACKS and place it prominently in your fridge.

The next time you go for a snack, open the container and draw a slip. Your task then becomes to do the that activity for 5 – 10 mins. If after you get done you’re still hungry, snack away, but if you notice your hunger has passed, then maybe you weren’t so hungry after all.

Here are some activities you might include:

  • Go for a walk
  • Sing a song
  • Dance around your house
  • Call a friend
  • Write a thank you note
  • Smile at yourself in a mirror

2. The TV/Netflix Delay
Put a note on your remote or a reminder by your computer to do one household chore before you sit down to veg out. Then promise yourself to do this chore before you watch TV.

While doing this chore, reflect on why you want to watch TV. Do you need to relax? Could you read instead? What are you trying to avoid by watching TV?

If at the end of your chore you still want to watch, then go ahead, but this way you’ll give yourself a chance to think about other ways you could relax before you watch TV. Plus you’ll have the added bonus of a cleaner house.

3. The Dollar Email Challenge
Go to the bank and take out $50 in one dollar bills, put some in your wallet and some at your desk. Make a deal with yourself to not check your email except for specified times and at least no more than twice a day.

You can give yourself permission to check your email outside these times, but each time you do you have to give away a dollar before you check. So find your office mate or go outside and give the dollar away.

Not only will this deter you from checking email it will also give you a fun and connective way to offer gratitude and generosity to those around you.

Ok now it’s your turn. Think about one guilty pleasure you have and come up with a creative way to look for other ways to meet your needs. Remember be creative. Your solution should be fun and interesting, because the more fun, the more likely it is that it will work.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Everyone has guilty pleasures and the only real problem with them is that they make you feel guilty. And that makes you less likely to think about them and thus more likely to keep doing them.

What if you stopped trying to get rid of the shameful but effective strategies in your life and instead found creative ways to replace them with “less guilty” pleasures? (e.g. reading a book instead of watching TV, taking a walk instead of having a snack when you’re bored, or giving away a dollar instead of mindless checking email.)

If you simply did something interesting that made you feel better instead of doing the same old thing, you never know what you might discover.


Day 9 – Self Care

There once was a very poor man who scrimped and saved to buy a goose. For weeks after he bought the goose, it laid no eggs. The man was distraught thinking he’d lost his investment. But one morning he went out and underneath the goose was a golden egg. The man couldn’t believe his eyes. He laughed, danced, and kissed his wife.

He went into town sold the egg and bought enough food for his family for a month. A few weeks later, the goose laid another golden egg. Again, the man was so happy. He took the egg to town, sold it, and bought shoes for his children and a new dress for his wife.

For many months this continued, the man took good care of his family, moved them into a new home, bought a new horse and cart, and they lived quite comfortably.

But over time, the man got increasingly greedy and impatient. It became harder and harder to wait the 6 or 8 weeks for the goose the lay another golden egg. One day the man decided he had enough of this waiting and so in the middle of the night he snuck out with a large knife and a plan. He would cut the goose open and get all of the golden eggs at once.

As he sliced into the goose, she awoke and looked at him as if to say, “How could you?”

Soon he was covered in blood and feathers and was full of regret. He fell to the floor weeping, because within the goose was nothing but more goose. He had ruined himself and his family in his greed to have it all right now.

Story Time Is Over

Ok, story time is over and you’re probably wondering why I told you a nursery rhyme.

Too often in our desire to get more done we treat ourselves like a golden goose.

I’ve talked to so many clients who believe if only they could get more done and get it done more quickly they would be happier. Yet I see these same clients work and work until they are stressed out, exhausted, and unable to be very effective at anything they do.

And each time they come to me wondering what happened, I remind them of a very simple truth: You are your greatest resource.

You can make more money, buy new gadgets, and make more friends, but the time and mental energy you have is finite. Which is why if you truly want to live a happy life and help others at the same time, you must take care of yourself.

You won’t get very far eviscerating yourself to get to your golden eggs. Instead you must learn to nurture yourself like you would a precious goose or even more aptly, as you would your own child. If you don’t, you are dooming yourself to a life of stressed out semi joy that won’t help anyone – including yourself – create happiness.

Challenge #9 – Self Care

1. Practice –

Today for practice just answer these three questions:

  1.  What are 4 – 6 things you can do to take care of yourself?
  2. Why don’t you make time for these things?
  3. When is it ok to take care of yourself?

2. Reflect –

Now looking at your list I want you to ask yourself

  • Why do you feel this way?
  • Do you see self-care as essential or as a guilty pleasure?
  • Did you see good self care modeled when you were growing up or not?
  • Do you feel selfish when you engage in self-care? And if so why?
  • Finally: What if I treated yourself more like a valued resource and less like old TV you’ve got to bang around to make it work.

3. Share – As always share in one or all of the 3 following ways.

  1. Blog – Write a post about your perspective on self-care and why you do or don’t do it more often.
  2. Post – Share on social media a short thought about self-care or something you learned through your reflection. Don’t forget #30dayhappy and our Facebook group.
  3. Comment – Write a comment on the post about your experience, ask a question, or share a concern. No matter what it is just share some aspect on your experience.

The Mistake Every Successful Person Makes

Picture of Financial docs, The Mistake Every Successful Person Makes, making mistakes, self-care, self, care, take care of yourself, be nice, to yourself, overworked, underpaid

Our culture and society revere the self-sacrificing individual. The person who puts aside their own desires to advance some cause, effort, or endeavor. They are our revered captains of industry, revolutionary leaders, and trailblazers.

While giving to others, is surely a virtue. If we go about engaging in acts of kindness from an empty tank, it’s bound to cause problems. Giving needs to be genuine, to be meaningful. And genuine giving comes from a strong foundation.

The Trial
I once had a job where I received a ton of criticism. Part of the problem was I had two bosses. Everyone knows that every great organization has two leaders, right? (Insert sarcastic eyebrow raise)

It would have been one thing if they just complained about me. But they also complained about members of the staff in a very unskillful way.

When this happened I had a choice. I could take that criticism and dump it onto the staff. (Knowing that wouldn’t help them perform better.) Or I could absorb the brunt of the criticism. I chose the latter.

The Martyr
I took the yelling and then turned around and showered the staff with encouragement, kind words, and constructive feedback. It worked, for a while, but then I started to get tired.

Eventually, my energy filter was getting clogged more often. At first I got a little snippy with my employees. Eventually,it became when I get yelled at, you get yelled at.

I felt like a failure and started to feel depressed. I was turning into my bosses and it was making everything worse. But I didn’t know what to do.

The Error
Looking back now I can see it was inevitable. I was making a critical error. It’s the same mistake nearly every successful person makes.

No, it wasn’t a mistake to be kind to my employees. And telling my bosses to go to hell wouldn’t have worked either. My big mistake was that I wasn’t taking care of myself.

I wasn’t setting good boundaries with work. I wasn’t sleeping enough. I wasn’t exercising.

I was working myself to the bone, because I thought I had to. I thought I was taking care of my bosses and my employees. But the hard truth was I was really taking care of my ego. I was more concerned about how I looked then how they were treated.

My Ego
I stopped taking care of myself because I thought I was tough. I was the man in charge after all. I had to rise to the challenge.

I thought self-care was simply selfish. But even that was just my ego getting in the way of the reality. I imagined overworking made me a sort of secular saint.

The Help
If I had really wanted to help, I would have taken better care of myself.

If I had been well rested, I could have been more patient. If I had exercised, I would have been less stressed. If I had set good boundaries with work I could even have helped my bosses set boundaries of their own.

But instead, I got caught up in the ego game of self-sacrifice. And because of it, I suffered and so did everyone around me. Instead of having a calm levelheaded boss, they had an exhausted, cranky boss.

I realize now that if I really want to help my partner, friends, and colleagues one of the best things I can do is take care of my self. I know that by learning to access my own resources I have more space to be present with others.

In addition, by engaging in self-care I show others that self-care isn’t selfish. It is in fact one of the best things you can do to help those around us. If we can’t take care of our selves, no one can do it for us.

MindFitMove Practice
Engage in at least one act of self-care this week.
Then come make a comment or send me a message and tell me how it went.
Here are some simple examples of self-care.

Take a walk/Run
Go for a short 10 min walk or run by yourself. Go without an ipod or other stereo. Be clear that you are taking a walk for you and no one else. Listen to the birds, breathe in the fresh air, and just enjoy moving.

Take a Long Bath/Shower
Set up some candles, grab your favorite book, and turn on some soft music.
Take a long soak or rinse and relax completely.
Notice the sensations of warmth on your skin and let it help you let go of your day/week.

Do Body Work
Go to a restorative yoga class, get a massage, or see an acupuncturist. Whatever your flavor, go see someone who is trained in caring for others. Sometime paying someone can remove the guilt of self-care. And it’s always nice to be pampered.

Let’s Talk: What’s you favorite type of self-care?


Thank You, Stress!

It Begins With a Thought
I was walking to meet a client and a thought popped in my head: “There is something wrong with me.”

My low back had gone into spasm over the weekend. I had experienced a ton of pain and discomfort. I had a few nights of little sleep.

Now a few days later I was experiencing some localized numbness in my low back. As I walked, my body felt weird. I wasn’t sure how exactly, just weird.

The Spin
As soon as the thought entered my head, it happened. I was sure my whole body was going numb. My breath shortened. Thoughts spun in my head.

Stressed Out Girl

What if I slipped a disc?
What if the numbness was permanent?
Should I even be walking right now?
I’ll need to get an MRI.
My insurance sucks.
How much is an MRI going to cost?
How long is it going to take to pay off?
What if I need surgery?
What if I can’t exercise?
What if I can’t walk?
I just started my new business.
I feel like I’m on the right track.
I’m doing something amazing with my life.
Why is this all falling apart?
What am I going to do?
What am I going to do?
Oh my god, I think it’s getting worse!

Fear sits underneath so much of our lives. Just stepping out of our house everyday we face a thousand fears.

When we give in to those fears, others follow. To live we have to face our fears. Facing our fears leads to stress.

Working on my dreams meant, I was facing my fears. The stress built up. Then the dam burst.

Was the injury the result of fear and stress? Or did it give me space to finally feel it?
I’m not sure. I do know we must face our fears, but we must also see our stress.

MindFitMove Practice
(I’ll be doing the following practice this week to respect my stress.)

-Everyday when you come home from work or before you go to bed, write down one stressful event that happened today.
-Write down the fear you faced.
-Accept that this event was hard.
-Accept that you did the best you could.
-Accept that you can’t go back and do it differently.
-Thank yourself for facing this stress.
-Then write down one thing you can do the next day to thank yourself.
-A few suggestions are: Tell a friend about your stressful situation, engage in a small act of self-care, forgive yourself for not being perfect.

No matter what we choose to do, we must see the stress in our lives. Then we must honor our stress with attention and care. If we don’t, if we deny our stress, it will find us in our weakest moments.

What are you afraid of? What stressed you out?


5 Practices When You Are Sick

This Post Was Originally Published On (Thanks to Lori Deschene for publishing my work)

Getting sick is rarely, if ever fun for anyone, but we all get sick. You can cheat on your taxes, but you can’t cheat on sickness.

When we get sick, we all have a choice of how to work with illness. We can choose to be miserable or we can choose to learn about ourselves and grow from the experience. Since I have had such a hard time with the latter, I’ve investigated 5 ways to practice with illness.

1. Reflect on the benefit of health.
Often illness brings into focus what we wish we could be doing when we feel healthy.

    Once, back when I was a pack-a-day smoker, I got food poisoning, and I remember the smell or thought of cigarettes made me feel so much worse. At that time I vowed not to smoke anymore. I felt the frailty of my body and I didn’t want to live a life that hurt my body. I saw how much I needed my body, how bad it felt to not be able to rely on it.

    Unfortunately as soon as I felt better I forgot what I knew when I was really sick. Being sick gives us the chance to reflect on the value of health and what you want to do with your life energy when you do feel better. People who are in hospitals only have time to sit around and watch TV; is that what you want to do with your free time?

    We only have so many hours and days of health. How can we use each hour of our lives to benefit the people we love the most?

    2. Take time to do little things.
    Write letters, reorganize your closet, or read a book of poetry. We often take small simple tasks for granted. Their simplicity can seem too easy for us when we are in the midst of a busy life, but when we are sick they might be at just the right pace for us.

      I tend to “veg” in front of the TV, but reading that book I’ve been meaning to finish or writing an email to my sister wouldn’t take much energy either.

      Sickness makes us slow down, so it’s a great time to do the simple things. We can use this change of pace to change perspective.
      3. Reflect on the frailty of life.
      So let’s face it: We aren’t going to be here forever. There is no way to avoid old age, sickness, and death. Our willingness to acknowledge impermanence can either bring anxiety or help us focus on what we want to do with our lives.

      Being sick is a great time to reflect on the meaning of our lives. Sickness can be a wake up call to remind us that we aren’t made of Teflon. Alas, all sorts of stuff sticks to us in life and it’s up to us what we want to work to let go of.

      What principles do you want to adhere to in life and what small things could you let slide? If you only had a year to live, what would you do with the time you have left? If someone you care about got sick, what would you want to say to that person? Why are you waiting?

      Sickness reminds us of the frailty and preciousness of this life. It brings into focus that we can never know when things will change for us. We can greet this truth with fear and annoyance, or we can greet it with gratitude for the wisdom it brings us.

      4. Let others take care of you.
      If you are like me, you are often in the role of caring for others. Many people get stuck in the role of the capable and strong person, especially the kinds of people that read blogs aboutmindfulness and self-improvement.

        I have often said of myself, that I make a very bad patient. I can sometimes think that if I’m not the capable one, people won’t want to be around me. Somehow, if I need them instead of them needing me, that will be the end of our connection.
        You may have had this thought process that arises for you when you are sick, or need to ask for help. Maybe when you were growing up asking for help was met with accusations of selfishness, or perhaps not met at all.

        No matter what the situation, it’s important to remember that letting others help us is a wonderful gift to give.

        Just reflect on how good it feels to help someone we care about. Being sick is a great time to practice asking for and receiving the help and care of others. This can be especially true if we express gratitude to those helping in a way that doesn’t involve a sense of guilt or discomfort with their offering.

        Accepting help authentically and expressing gratitude whole-heartedly, helps us remember how both parities benefit from the exchange of kindness.

        5. Reprioritize self-care.
        When we are not receiving help from others, being sick is a great time to learn the value oftaking care of ourselves.

          Sometimes when I am sick, I can trace back to the imbalance that may have led to the illness. We often push ourselves very hard either out of desire or obligation.

          This pushing can work on occasion, but each time we get out of balance we risk falling into ill health: by becoming sick, overwhelmed, or injured. We get so busy that forget about the essential art of taking care of ourselves. Illness is one way we can be called back to value of this art.

          Being sick is a great time to give ourselves permission for self-care. It’s a time to get in touch with what we find soothing. It’s a time for long baths and hot tea, for listening to the rain and curling up underneath a blanket, for eating soup and reading a good book.

          All of the little pleasures that we have a hard time finding time for can be enjoyed (hopefully without guilt) when we are sick.

          Of course you don’t have to wait to be sick to reflect and engage in any of these illness practices. These are all nourishing practices to engage in no matter what the state of your health.

          Here are some suggestions for healthy folks:

          Reflect on what you’d miss most about being healthy if you were sick.
          How can you use you health to benefit yourself and others?
          Take some time to do one little project that would bring more peace and order to your life.
          How would your life change if you did one of these a week?
          Reflect on your own death and what you want to do with the life you have left.
          If you only had a year to live what would your priorities be?
          Ask for and receive help from someone this week, then express real gratitude for their help.
          What if you exchanged kindness with others, more freely, and more often?
          Finally, take time to do one act of self-care this week.
          What if you regularly scheduled time to do something to bring your life back into balance?
          Whether in sickness or in health, life calls for us to pay attention. Every practice that helps us pay attention lengthens the life we have left.