I think that if you want to reduce your weight, there’s no magical solution, no one thing, that’s going to do it for you.  There has to be a comprehensive lifestyle shift that addresses the multiple variables that come together to affect how we eat, exercise, and behave in other ways that affect our weight.  So as I’m work through this experience, I want to talk with professional in various practice areas who can contribute.  Enter Candice Trudel.

Originally a nutritional scientist doing research in a lab, Candice moved on to open her own consulting practice, and she specializes in ayurvedic nutrition.  I found it really easy to talk with Candice.  No preaching, no lecturing.  Just a genuine interest in how to help people enjoy food while being healthy and happy.  She’s a pretty cool lady.

“You can’t out-train a bad diet.”

I don’t want to be in a position where I have to feel like I’m killing myself with exercise in order to offset what I’m eating.  That’s not a solution, for me.  I want to create a balanced lifestyle that supports my well-being, and that’s what Candice and I focused on talking about in this interview.

One neat thing that I had never heard anyone talk about before, which Candice refers to repeatedly, is the idea of “discovering your constitution.”  Recognizing that we really are all different, and there’s not going to be one diet or one exercise plan that works for everybody is important to recognize.  It’s easy to agree on that from an intellectual perspective, but a little more challenging to embrace in action.  Luckily, there are people like Candice in the world who want to help.

Follow Candice on Facebook.

After my New Year’s confession, I took some time away from blogging and interviewing and the mechanics of the project, and I got focused on myself.  I realized that when I first started “The Fat Hypnotist” project my heart was in the right place, but my implementation was all wrong.

I initially approached the project as a way to find a solution to a problem.  Sensible, right?  But in doing this, I focused too much on the problem, and my efforts were driven by an intellectual, analytical approach.  That would be great if obesity was an intellectual problem, a simple matter of learning about calories and nutrition and exercise options, but obesity, for most people, is an emotional problem, and I wasn’t diving deeper into my emotions.  Using my brain wasn’t getting me where I wanted to be; it was time to connect, through my heart, to this life challenge.

I spent a lot of hours reflecting on my life, and thinking about all the different factors that could have contributed to my difficulties with food and weight.  More importantly, I spent a lot of time thinking about the emotional themes that came up over and over again.  What kept coming up weren’t actually emotional themes, but behavioral themes.

The first theme is that of comfort.  I consume a lot of things in order to comfort myself.  Food and drink are the primary things that provide comfort for me.  But the reality is that they don’t really comfort me; they just give me pleasure, and the pleasure never lasts, so I have to keep consuming and consuming in order to keep the pleasure going, but it never lasts.  It’s a terrible model.

The second theme is avoidance.  When I get stressed, or disappointed, or have any kind of mental state that makes me feel unworthy, I find activities to do that allow me to focus my attention on something else entirely.  Netflix, social media, video games, and other such distractions allow me to withdraw from my real world experience and dissociate from myself into another world, another story, another experience.  But those experiences are always transient; they can’t last forever.  And when they do end, not only am I faced with the same unresolved feelings and thoughts that I had before I engaged in the avoidance activity, but I now also have the new negative feelings that I just spent a lot of time being unproductive, not doing things of greater value, like building my business, or keeping my home in good shape, or exercising.

Both themes involve consumption.  In one, I consume physical matter, in the other, I consume mental material.  In both cases, I’m firing off neurotransmitters in my brain that make me feel good temporarily, but that will not last forever and eventually put me right back where I was, feeling lousy again.  This is a pattern that I’ve been in for over twenty years.

It’s just not working.

The consumer-based world we live in is one which consistently sends the message that if we have the right things, we will be happy.  If you have a good job, and a good home, and the right clothes, and a cool mobile phone, and, and, and… then you’ll be happy.  And it just isn’t true.  While there are many things that can bring me pleasure, there is nothing outside of myself that can make me happy.  This means that if I wish to be truly happy and healthy, I must reject the model of living that I have worked within for my entire adult life.  And that is sort of terrifying to think about doing.

Human beings love certainty.  We have a deep desire to know that our lives work in a certain way, and that we can continue to count on them working that way, and having that certainty makes us feel safe.  For all these years, I’ve been prioritizing the certainty that I got from consuming the things I consumed over the other things I wanted to have and experience in my life.  I’ve done it for so long, that the repercussions of my behavior now threaten that very certainty.  I don’t have certain health anymore.  I don’t trust my body like I used to in terms of physical activities.  I’m not able to maintain the energy it takes to be productive at a high level, day after day.  It’s imperative, at this point in my life, that I discard my old life model and develop a new one.

I am not saying that I’m going to give up all of my personal belongings and go live like a monk, and I’m not saying that’s what you have to do, either.  I don’t think it’s an issue of having stuff or not having stuff.  It’s an issue of what belief system you’re actively participating in, whether you realize it consciously or not. 

My new life model must be one in which I am completely devoted to the belief that happiness will only come from within myself.  Happiness is a product of how I think and behave.  So whereas before I was thinking and behaving in relation to my understanding of things outside of me (job, relationships, belongings) I must now focus completely on things inside of me (thoughts and feelings).  So the main shift is moving away from choices to consume things that will make me feel better and instead CREATE thoughts, feelings, and experiences that will bring me joy.

Creator instead of consumer.

It’s the last day of 2019.  The end of a decade.

I haven’t posted anything here since September.  That alone gives you a hint about how things have been going.

It’s been, to be honest, an abysmal failure.

This morning I weighed in at 308.7 pounds, so after seven months I’m .3 pounds lighter than when I started.  I look like shit. I feel like shit.  I’m so deeply disappointed.  But wait, there’s more.

My partner left in August.  I did not see it coming.  I was aware of some struggles in our relationship, but thought it was just the kind of stuff couples have, stuff you keep working on.  She saw it differently.  Now, for the second time in my life, I am working through the end of what I thought would be a lifelong relationship.

I tried, two different times this year, to write a book, and failed both times.  Did I mention that I was an English major in college?

(Sigh…)

There were some bright spots this year.  I did manage to go to Paris in 2019, which was a wonderful trip and something I’ll always be grateful for experiencing.  I also had the honor of performing at the National Guild of Hypnotists’ convention, which was a lot of fun, and well received by my peers.  I met a brother, in person, for the first time, who I didn’t even know existed until a couple of years ago.  I had a television appearance!

All in all, however, this year was really tough.  There was just too much time spent not doing what I know I can do.  Too much time not being the best version of myself.  There’s so much time in a year!  To have so much time, and now to have spent it all, and to feel like it didn’t produce anything of quality that’s representative of the time itself… it feels almost sinful, like I didn’t honor the gift of that time.  I understand that time is precious.  I know what a gift I have in this life.

Part of me wants to delete this whole post.  It’s such an unspoken taboo, in the profession I’m in, to admit that you’re struggling.  Hypnotists help people by coaching them and giving them strategies for success.  We’ve got the mantras and the models.  We’re supposed to have all the answers.  And yet I’m not the only fat hypnotist.

And there are hypnotists who smoke.

And hypnotists that drink too much.

And hypnotists that cheat on their spouses.

And, and, and…

Because hypnotists are human beings, and human beings struggle.  That’s okay.

Here’s the best news about 2019: it’s over.  We do love that feeling of having a clean slate, don’t we?  My clean slate has arrived, and I’m so very grateful, and I’m going to double down on ME in 2020.  How about you?  Is it time for you to do more, and have more, and live life at a level that’s better than ever?

Another week of weight gain, and while I didn’t always make good food choices while traveling, I still think this gain is more about stress and travel bloating than actual food intake weight gain.  The good news is that my busy annual tour is now officially complete, and I’ll be home more often, and can settle back into a routine.  The first thing that needs to happen is I need to drink more water. I’ve been absolutely horrible about my water intake.

I think it’s time to start exploring some new food recipes.  With all the traveling I’ve been doing, I haven’t been cooking at all, and I love to cook.  Normally, with fall approaching, I’d be cooking more comfort food, but I want to break out of that habit and cook some healthier stuff that is still comforting.

What’s your favorite source of healthy AND delicious recipes?

Last week was my busiest week of the fall, as I traveled for seven consecutive days and performed at five different venues in four different states.  When I travel a bunch like this, I find that I get bloated pretty easily, so I’m hoping that the increase is really just water weight, but we’ll see.  I have to continue traveling next week for work, so it could be a bit before my body gets back to normal.

I spent the last week traveling around the country, performing stage hypnosis shows for colleges.  Lots of flying, airports and hotels, and driving rental cars to the performance venues.  It’s not helpful in terms of supporting good eating habits.  You tend to look for food that’s convenient instead of food that’s healthy, and the hectic pace is a bit stressful, which triggers more urges for crappy food.

Luckily, I’ve been doing this annual tour for fifteen years, so I’ve gotten better and better at managing those factors, and the results show at this week’s weigh-in.  I still can do an even better job.  I definitely had some times where I grabbed a cookie or had a drink with sugar in it.

It’s particularly important that I get to that next level of clean eating, as I’m now off the second steroid taper, and my itching has come back a little bit.  It’s nowhere near as bad as it was, and I want to keep it that way.  In fact, I want it gone.  In order to achieve that, I must manage my stress even better, push more water, and reduce the sugar and carb intake.

What are your favorite healthy, natural foods?

The week after the hypnotists’ convention, I began my annual “Back to School Tour” where I travel around the country performing stage hypnotism for colleges as they begin their new school year.  This is always a fun time of year for me, as I get to travel around, meet a lot of nice people, and be in the role of entertainer.  While it’s a really busy time, it’s not something that I think of as stressful.  There’s a definite feeling of relief as I’m at the point in the year where I really just focus on this one thing, and so my stress has definitely reduced.  I’m still on the steroid taper, and I feel pretty good.  Sometimes the steroids affect my sleep, so there’s a little bit of a negative factor there, but overall I seem to be doing pretty well, and it was reflected on the scale.  I’m under 300 pounds!

Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but there’s something about not seeing that “3” at the beginning of the scale read-out that has really lifted my spirits.  I realized, as I was reflecting on it, that it has been nearly three months since I started this project, and while I have lost weight much slower than I hoped, I have also gone nearly three months without ever gaining more than a half pound in a week, and that’s a pretty significant change in my old pattern.  For years, the pattern was to keep going slowly and steadily upward, and now I’m going slowly and steadily downward, and that’s a great feeling.  And again, to have done it without dieting, without aggressive workout plans–just by shifting my thoughts and awareness a bit–is pretty cool.

But there’s still a lot of weight to lose.

So now I find myself debating internally; do I keep going the way I’m going, or do I make a shift that somehow accelerates things, so that I don’t get too comfortable with the way things are?  One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that when I get comfortable, it never leads to anything good.  Shaking things up gets me to create new things, achieve new things, and keep growing.

I mean, at my current rate of progress, it’s going to take me three years to lose the weight I want to lose.  Not cool.  Clearly I have to adapt to some new strategies and practices, and create better results.

The day before my hypnotists convention, the itching was so bad that I wanted to scratch the skin right off my body.  I went to an urgent care, and they put me back on steroids, but a slightly higher dose this time.  Within a day of being on the steroids the itching was practically gone, which was such a relief.

In speaking with the doctor, the possibility of an allergy was discussed, but it seems more likely that I’m having a giant stress reaction, and my body got crazy inflamed from all the stress.  While I did definitely have a poison ivy reaction on my hands, that was the only place where it looked that way.  The rest of me was quite different.  The doctor suggested that I might be having a bout of urticaria.

I only share this because it links to an important issue relative to weight, which is stress.  If my stress is so bad that my skin is breaking out in some kind of crazy reaction, what other ways is my body being affected by that stress?  Surely there are cortisol spikes, increased urges for carbs and sugars, and eating challenges that come from being in that stressed out state.  Not helpful for losing weight.

This brings me to yet another disappointing moment as a hypnotist: why am I not using hypnosis more effectively to manage my stress?!  I know that hypnosis is an excellent tool for stress management, and yet I am not practicing this particular action on a daily basis (most weeks, not even on a weekly basis).  This theme of knowing something, but not practicing it is one of the core issues that I really must face.  My challenges are largely due to avoidance.  I keep avoiding the issue of my weight, and my stress, and then wondering why I’m not at optimal wellness.  Quite frankly, it’s stupid.

So, at the time of this post, just returned home from convention, I’m now on a daily routine of stress management that includes listening to audio programs at bedtime, as a way to get grounded and clear before I go to sleep, and then a morning hypnosis routine so that I start my day with a more clear intention and positive energy.

The poison ivy has mostly gone away, but I’m still finishing my steroids regimen.  I itch all the time, still, and my whole body has a light pink rash.  The itching is so bad that it wakes me up at night sometimes, so my sleep quality is suffering, and there’s a link between poor sleep and weight gain, but I’m hoping the effect for me over the past week has been minimal.  It reminds me that I should get some guests on the show who are experts on the sleep/weight relationship.

In any case, weighing in down to 301 was a relief this week.  I didn’t make any significant changes to my diet or exercise regimen.  I’m still just focusing on only eating when I’m hungry.

This week I’m heading out to Marlborough, Massachusetts for the annual hypnotists’ convention, and that always gets me fired up about the work we do.  Perhaps I’ll start actively practicing self-hypnosis after spending a few days with my colleagues talking about varied strategies and approaches.

After last week’s weigh-in, I went outside to do some yard work, which has been a regular part of my morning routine since I started this project.  I get outside first thing in the morning and get moving, just to start my day with some light activity.  Lately I’ve been doing a lot of weeding in an effort to improve the appearance of the flower gardens around my house.

As I pulled at this particular batch of weeds, I noticed how the roots ran under the dirt in long stretches.  “Gosh,” I thought to myself, “this stuff is almost like ivy, more than a weed.”  And then it occurred to me that that it was ivy: poison ivy.  I immediately went inside, disrobed, and showered with as much soap as possible.  Two days later, I awoke to find that my right eye had swollen shut in the night, and the rash was quickly spreading all over my body.  Apparently my shower spread the oil around on my skin more than removing it.

So I made a trip to the doctor’s office, and I’m on a dose of steroids, which the doctor said can cause weight gain, but I am actually down a pound from last week, so we’ll see how things go.  I spent two days on the couch, moving as little as possible because I was so physically uncomfortable, so my activity level lately has been really low.  I think the discomfort has also reduced my appetite, so maybe it’s all going to balance out.