Self control- How to be the boss of your own mouth. Frustrated by the overwhelming food temptations during the holiday season? Some tips for better self-control and how to become the boss of your own mouth.

Self control- How to be the boss of your own mouth

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in gentle change, habits, weight loss

Part way through the holiday season seems like good time to explore your mouth. Not in a dental hygiene kind of way, but if you need your teeth cleaned, go for it.

Here’s my question: Who is the boss of your mouth?

If you are a grown up, this may sound like a ridiculous question. Aren’t you the boss of yourself? Aren’t you in charge? Don’t you call the shots?

Maybe not.

Four ways you are not being the boss of your mouth
Your eating is controlled by other people.

When the opinions of others are determining or influencing what you put in your mouth, you are not being the boss of yourself. Do you acquiesce to your friends’ plans to spend the evening eating nachos and doing shots? Does your family “insist” that you eat every carby, sugary thing they can squeeze onto the counter? Can an office mate’s enticement to “cheat with me” over of plate of brownies cause you to throw out your better intentions?

Your eating is controlled by tradition.

This is like the ghost of Christmas past, reaching through time to dictate your food behaviors. Do you eat unhealthy treats during the holidays because they remind you of happy days gone by or people you miss? Do you buy and prepare all the old unhealthy foods because “that’s what we always do”? Do you worry about disappointing your lovies if you aren’t the magnanimous provider-of-all-sugar that you used to be?

Your eating is controlled by situations.

You have temperate aspirations, but then circumstances  conspire to force you to eat unhealthy foods, or more foods than you had planned. If your sprinkle happy coworker leaves a plate of decorated cookies in the break room, do you feel compelled to try a few? Will every holiday party result in post-festivity regret? Will a stressful trip to the mall for that hard-to-please cousin culminate in a Cinnabon orgy?

Your eating is controlled by your own cravings.

Every addict knows that giving in to cravings leads to slavery, not freedom and autonomy. This is the most confusing way to be controlled, because, in the moment, your cravings feel like “you.” But cravings just represent a jumbly mess of low blood sugar, unresolved feelings, and wonky brain chemistry bent on a quick rush of dopamine.  When you convince yourself that you just have to have that peppermint bark, despite your clean eating strategy, your cravings are controlling your mouth, not you.


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Self control is a righteous thing. Being the boss of your mouth is a excellent ambition. How can you work toward more control over your eating?

Four Ways to be the boss of your mouth
Make a plan for your food.

You need a game plan for your eating. Everyday. How else will you know you are on track? How else will you know that you have succeeded? Despite the initial work that mapping out your menu requires, planning brings peace and confidence. Time invested in organizing your food will be returned abundantly in the strong satisfaction of matching your actions to your ambitions.

Anticipate situations.

No need to stumble your way through the month, tripping over every social occasion. Going to a potluck? Don’t count on other people’s food to meet your dietary requirements—bring your own. Attending an office party? Eat ahead so you aren’t starved and irrational. Spending the day shopping? Pack a little cooler with healthy snacks so the food court doesn’t tempt you.

Learn to say no to others.

Your mouth is a boundary for your body and you control what goes in it. Unless you are a small child or in prison, no one else should be dictating how you eat. If you haven’t learned to say no yet, this will feel a bit unnerving. But fear not. People of goodwill respect the firmly stated boundaries of others. (“No, I don’t eat sugar.” ” I’ll pass on that ice cream.”) People of ill-will, well, why are you still trying to please them?

Learn to say no to yourself.

This requires some discernment. This morning you were committed to continuing your quest for a healthy weight. But right this minute you want that cranberry scone. How do you know which self to obey? If you are spending any time in prayer, I think you will know. The intentions you made while you were humbly seeking the Lord? Those likely represent your self as a person led by the Holy Spirit, your self as an image bearer of God. Your sudden, random desire to eat more pie? That’s just a craving talking to you and you can say no to that.


See also:

Saying no to food

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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Teri Doughty
National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Women’s Weight Loss Programs
Text me at 360.602.1815 to get started. Or click here.







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Four plans for managing holiday eating (and what I’m doing this year)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in foods, habits, weight loss

The holiday season has arrived. And that means holiday eating. All the food. Happy food. Sugary food. Symbolic food. Food as an entertainment. Food as love. Food as family.

But what if you have been working on your health, eating clean, maybe losing weight. How will you handle this holiday season?

Below I outline four approaches, three worth considering and one common but counterproductive scenario. After that, my own plans.

Plan 1: Make no plans and eat all the things from now until January 1st

This is probably not your actual plan. More like a default. Yup. You have been living your life this way for years. Why change now?

Some advantages to eating everything
  • Requires no planning. You see it, you eat it. Simple.
  • Provides all the pleasures of holiday foods. Pie. Cookies. Chex mix. Yum.
  • Helps you cope with difficult people. Your creepy Uncle Jack trying to sell you a timeshare? No worries, some peppermint bark will soothe that uncomfortable feeling away. Your mom guilting you into visiting grouchy old Aunt Martha? Must be time for some heavily spiked eggnog.
  • Avoids all that explaining and awkwardness about your diet. “Oh really, on a new plan this year? What do you mean you aren’t eating my apple pie? I made it with organic sugar. One little piece won’t hurt.”
  • Helps you fit in. Everyone else is eating everything. You can too. There is comfort in being just like your friends and family. Conformity is easy.
Some disadvantages to eating everything
  • You will feel guilty. Yes, you said you were going to eat all the things. But in the dark, quiet corners of your heart, you know better. You know that heaping plate of stuffing is not good for your health. You know a dozen sugar cookies will sabotage your weight loss dreams. You know this behavior runs contrary to all you have been working for this year.
  • You will feel sick. If you have cleaned up your diet pre-holiday, rich, sweet foods may not agree with you. An interesting side effect of clean eating is that you become more sensitive to junky foods. Treats that you used to eat without a problem now make you bloated, queasy, tired.
  • You will gain weight. Really. Some studies suggest that most weight gain happens over the holidays. You know, between now and New Years. Weight is much more easily gained than lost. And fragile, newly lost weight can be regained in the blink of an eye.

Plan 2: Consider each holiday day a feast day, then back to reality

This is a variation of eat all the things, but with an important twist. This plan, and it is actually a plan, is to take Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve completely off from your clean eating plan.

Advantages to feast days
  • No extra planning. Since you are eating everything on the holiday day, you won’t have to wonder if there will be anything for you. You won’t have to bring a special plan-approved salad, or log your carbs.
  • Enjoyment of all the foods. On your special day, you can have it all. Pumpkin pie and pecan pie and apple pie? Sure. Anticipation enhances life enjoyment. You have been diligent and conscientious about your health habits for months now. So why not look forward to and savor a fun day off?
  • Probably not gain weight permanently. Sure, your morning-after weigh-in will be a little off, but you can quickly recover from that with some clean eating days.
Disadvantages of feast days
  • You might still feel sick. If you have been eating clean for a while, your body may rebel against unfamiliar food.
  • The taste of “all you’ve been missing” could sent you on a binge that you can’t stop. Even though you planned for just one day, there is a risk of your will power (or won’t power) crumbling once you remember all the goodness of pie crust.
  • Your blood sugar will become deranged and possibly take days to recover. During that time you will experience increased cravings for sweets and need to exert more effort to resist.
Plan 3: Schedule a limited number of indulgences and use moderation.

This plan specifically allows a certain amount of “off road” eating during special times, like holidays. But unlike the eating everything plan and the feast day plan, all less-healthy choices are carefully considered in advance and chosen for maximum pleasure and minimum consequences.

Advantages to planned indulgences
  • Keeps your mind in the game. Feasting, whether for one day or a whole season, takes your focus off the goodness and value of your healthy, restrained eating plan. Given the difficult nature of weight loss and the ease of regain and relapse, you might not want to give your brain any ideas about quitting or giving up on your goal.
  • Forces you to think through how you feel about different foods. What do you actually “love” about holiday food? I bet it’s not everything. Deliberate planning avoids wasting time and calories (or carbs) on foods that are just “meh”  and focuses on your absolute favorites.
  • Increases your enjoyment of the treats you are having. Contrary to current “super size” mentality, scarcity increases pleasure. That first bite of pie can taste amazing, especially if you have been planning for it. The same pie loses some of its charm if you have already overindulged. Your brain actually down-regulates pleasurable experiences for you to prevent overload (which is why addicts need ever increasing amounts of their drug to get the same high).
Disadvantages to planned indulgences
  • You won’t get to eat everything. Your plate will not be crammed with stuffing and rolls and marshmallow topped sweet potatoes. Some items will have to be avoided.
  • You may feel triggered. For some people, abstinence is the only reasonable path for specific, impossible-to-resist foods. If you know that one homemade roll with dinner will result in a late night, one-person party with the leftovers, it might be better to refrain completely from bread.
  • You will have be conscious and vigilant all day. During the holidays, temptations will be paraded before you, maybe even pushed on you. Making good choices uses up emotional energy and brain power.
Plan 4: Stick firmly to your healthy eating plan. 100% compliance. 

This strategy treats holiday times like ordinary days. If you wouldn’t eat that salted caramel on a regular day in September, why would you eat it now?

Advantages to 100% compliance
  • Reduces decision making. Your carefully crafted eating plan, designed for reasonable weight loss and maximum health? Just keep doing it. No guessing, no guilt.
  • Matches biological reality. Your body doesn’t know about special occasions. It digests food the same way every day. What was good for you last week is the exact same thing that is good for you during the holidays. Every day of eats “counts” the same as every other day.
  • Matches weight loss research. A characteristic of successful weight losers and weight maintainers is that they stick with their restrained eating plan every day and don’t make exceptions on holidays. Why not imitate those who have actually reached their weight loss goals?
Disadvantages to 100% compliance
  • No pie for you. At least not this year. Maybe this will be fine—you can always have pie next year when you are at goal weight.
  • Could precipitate that sad, deprived feeling that leads to eating all the things. Or that angry, rebellious feeling that leads to eating all the things. Only you can assess your heart about this one.
  • Requires the most planning. Don’t count on others to provide compliant foods for you. You will need to think through your own menu and probably make special dishes for yourself.
  • Can make you judgy and obnoxious toward those who have chosen a less compliant strategy for the holidays. Don’t be that person, please. Make your own food choices quietly and let others make theirs.

What about me? When I was obese I defaulted to option one—eat all the things. And I experienced all the advantages and disadvantages listed above. Eating all the things, whether for holidays or just ordinary days, wasn’t leading me where I wanted to be.

The last couple of years, feeling pretty comfortable at my goal weight, I used option two—consider each holiday a feast day. I certainly enjoyed those days. Problem was, I enjoyed the next day, and the next day, and the day after that too. Having so many off-plan foods seemed to turn off my rational brain, and I temporarily forgot how hard I had worked to lose weight. And I did gain back a bit of weight, which did not come off easily.

This year, I committed to the planned indulgence approach. I have decided which foods matter most to me and I will be enjoying the heck out of them. For a limited time. And in limited quantities.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

See also:

Saying no to food

Why cheat days are a bad idea

What I do instead of cheat days-Planned indulgences

Strategies for a healthy, happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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Teri Doughty
National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Women’s Weight Loss Programs
Text me at 360.602.1815 to get started. Or click here.
















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How I learned to like walking-the power of daily habits

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The greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale’s type of hero will not likely make the cover of Newsweek or be featured in a television drama. She may never face a defining heroic moment, like in the movies. But her life will certainly reflect the power of daily effort.

What you do daily defines you, shapes you, molds you. You are, in an earthly sense, made up of your daily thoughts and actions. Have you ever encountered that person who is still living in the misty glory of their high school athletic achievements? Don’t you just want to ask, “But what have you done today?”

Bursts of inspiration are lovely, and special moments grand, but real progress mostly happens over time, with daily effort.

Which brings us to the glory of doing everything, everyday!

Of course by everything I don’t mean everything—just the main things. And by everyday I don’t mean everyday—just most days. Hairsplitting aside, I really think a key to moving forward with life and health is doing everything, everyday.

I’m not the only one singing the praises of dailyness. According to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, 10,000 hours of practice is required to become an expert at anything.  Even if your goals are more modest, even if, like me, you are only shooting for ” reasonably able” in any particular area, many hours of effort will likely be involved.  How will those hours ever get done if not daily?

In a more spiritual light, Gordon MacDonald explains, in Ordering your Private World, “If my private world is in order, it will be because I make a daily choice to monitor its state of orderliness.” A daily choice, in this case, to reflect on the state of one’s own soul. Soul work, like flossing, cannot be just squeezed together in one giant effort at crunch time.

The end of excuses

When you do a thing every day, you have eliminated a major source of excuse making. With the decision made to do the thing, be it say your prayers, or eat your breakfast, there is no need to ponder about the importance of it, or worry about the need for it, or try to squirm out of it. Might as well just get down to it and cross it off the list. Think of the time and mental energy saved in resigning yourself to your daily duties, instead of endlessly justifying why today just won’t work. I have personally done some of my “best” creative thinking fabricating excuses. What if I had used that energy to work steadily toward a goal?

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.

Benjamin Franklin

Here’s an example. Say you want to begin improving your health by walking. A common action item for my clients, and seems simple enough on the surface. Everyone already knows how to walk. No special equipment required. But regular walking can be surprisingly difficult.

Several years ago, I decided to walk more myself. I was convinced of the merits of walking. I knew how to walk. I even had a treadmill. But it kept not happening. Why? Was the problem in my legs? My feet? My outfit? No.

The real struggle was in my mind.

I didn’t have a daily goal, so I was constantly deciding to walk. Or deciding not to walk. Or weighing the value of walking with the value of other activities. Or wondering if I felt like it today. Or figuring out if I had enough time. Not surprisingly, many days I didn’t feel like it, or didn’t seem to have enough time. My will power may have been limited, but my excuse-making power was infinite.

This vague non-commitment frustrated me. Walking wasn’t happening. That wasn’t good. But worse, I was experiencing that nagging guilty feeling. The one you get when you know you should, but you don’t. My mind was alternately accusing me and excusing me. Now, I had enough actual sins in my life worth feeling conviction about. I didn’t need an added stressor of feeling guilty about something trivial (in the eternal sense) like not exercising.

Besides being frustrating, the endless excuse making conversation in my head was just wearing me out. You would think I had actually exercised for how tired I felt thinking about exercising, but not doing it.

The psychology term for being worn out by decision making is decisional fatigue. Each time you have to choose, your brain gets a little more tired. And this is partially why temptations are more easily resisted in the morning, before you have depleted your decision making ability.

When you are in excuse making mode, you are potentially making choices about the same darn thing many times a day.

Early morning, “Will I walk? Not yet, I have the whole day ahead of me.”

Midmorning, “Could I walk now? No, I need to get busy on my errands.”

Lunchtime, “I should really walk. Hmm, I don’t really feel like it.”

Afternoon, “Walk? No, I need a nap.”

After dinner, “I’m exhausted. Too bad I couldn’t walk today.” So, so tiring.

The real game changer for me was committing to walking everyday, no matter what.

After I committed to walking everyday, all that internal conversation regarding the possibility of walking basically disappeared. Since I knew it was going to happen, I just had to figure out when. ( I have since tried to eliminate that decision too.)I stopped fretting about how much time it was taking. I stopped explaining to myself how I could make up for it later. I started using my creativity to figure out how to squeeze that walk into a busy day instead of telling myself all the reasons why it just couldn’t happen. I now enjoy walking so much I use it as a reward for completing other, less fun activities.

Do I actually walk every day? Of course not. Life is complex, and sometimes events overtake my day unpredictably. Illness happens, surprise visits happen, interruptions from God happen. And sometimes walking must be put aside.

But each morning I wake up knowing that I will walk, and peace and progress have been the result.

And I stopped feeling guilty about it. Which freed up my mind to focus on better things. I have one less decision to make, so my brain is less tired. And I am bit by bit training my body, so I can be ready for the next challenge. And maybe become just a little bit of a Florence Nightingale  style hero.

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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Teri Doughty
National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Women’s Weight Loss Programs
Text me at 360.602.1815 to get started. Or click here.


Gladwell, Malcolm. (2008) Outliers: the story of success. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Co.

MacDonald, Gordon. (2003) Ordering your private world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.







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How I got motivated to lose all the weight

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in About Teri, gentle change, habits, weight loss
With my supportive, accepting husband..I didn’t know anything was wrong with my health.


My story of motivation: how my heart changed.

I wanted to lose weight. Really, I had wanted to lose weight for most of my life.

Why? All the usual reasons. I felt uncomfortable, undignified, maybe ridiculous. I wanted to be a good role model. I wanted to be “normal” and look thinner. I wanted to fit back into my smaller jeans.

But comfort and vanity didn’t motivate me sufficiently.  Diminished clothing sizes and a vague vision of a slimmer self failed to create a powerful heart desire. I could work up some energy short term, start a new diet, lose a few pounds. Then my puff of motivation would deflate like a day old balloon. My heart’s desire wasn’t powerful enough to change me.

And why would my heart really care?

I had a loving husband, great kids, and an exceptional career. All in all, a fulfilling life. Sure, I wished I was thinner when I looked in the mirror, or bought new clothes, or saw myself in photographs. But I was happy enough with my appearance. And I felt that an excessive focus on my physical self was vain. And maybe silly. And maybe a sin. So I bumped along, on and off diets, maintaining a multiple size wardrobe, trying not to think too hard about my body shape.

A good life, with lots of babies to love. Not motivated enough to change.
Then I was confronted by a health crisis.

I had been ignoring my bothersome acid reflux for a long time. At one point my doctor gently brought up weight loss to relieve pressure on my esophagus. His suggestion felt impossible, and contrary to my personal denial/conviction that I was just “curvy.” I went home and cried. What more could I do? I was already working out at the Y and eating a healthy diet. Time went by and I stayed overweight.

Then, one evening, all dressed up and enjoying date night at a small local restaurant, I started choking. And choking. And choking. I grabbed my water glass and tried to work through it. It wasn’t the first time I had felt some difficulty swallowing, but this was definitely the scariest. I ran to the bathroom with my frightened husband right behind me and somehow managed to get my throat clear. The freaked out waiter hovered anxiously through the rest of the meal while my husband and I discussed whether this event warranted a trip to the emergency room.

The next week I sat nervously in the gastroenterologist’s office while he asked me about my reflux. Was I having symptoms twice a week? Well, more like 10-20 times a day. Was I  taking any medication to cope? Well, no, just ignoring it. (And since I’d always assessed pain by comparing it to natural childbirth, it didn’t really seem like a big deal.) He explained what an upper endoscopy was and added that if I had a stricture (narrowing), he could just ream it out with a fancy surgical stick.

So down my throat he went with his scope and snare. And when I woke up from the strange trip that is propofol (is it weird to think the anesthesia was kind of fun?), he explained just what a mess I was. Super inflamed, eroded, and constricted. Severe erosive esophagitis. Part of my esophagus was smaller than the size of my multivitamin. No wonder I was choking. And no, he couldn’t do his magic stricture stretching trick because my tissue was so damaged he was afraid of tearing a hole in my esophagus.

I started on Prilosec. For a lifetime, he said. I tried to think that was ok, you know, be a good patient for once. I read the long and frightening list of side effects on the package insert. When I went for my refill, the pharmacist expressed concern for my long term bone density. My naturopath added a bunch of supplements to my regime to compensate for the loss of nutrition that comes with suppressing stomach acid.

And then a nasty respiratory infection attacked me while out of town. The plane trip back home with a double ear infection and deep choking cough was lousy. Back at home, my weakness and hacking dragged on and on.

I read the Prilosec literature while soaking my miserable self in the tub. Increased risk of serious respiratory infection: was that why I got sick? I’m not sure. I suppose it could have been a coincidence. But after a month of debilitating illness, I was convinced enough to be truly concerned for my long term health.

I read about everything a person can do to cure reflux. My doctor had sent me home with generic GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) handouts.  In the medical literature online, I tracked down the evidence for each of his guidelines, which seemed to consist mainly of removing all the good parts of life: no alcohol, no caffeine, no spices, no fatty foods. Most of these suggestions appeared to be backed by anecdotal evidence at best. Except weight loss. Strong evidence supported weight loss as a proven lifestyle change for healing severe reflux.

That’s when I finally woke up.  Not just inconvenient and embarrassing, my extra weight might actually be destroying my health. I realized that if I continued to treat my reflux medically, I might just die of being fat. Of course “fat” wouldn’t be my final diagnosis. It might be malnutrition, or pneumonia, or stomach cancer.

That’s when my heart resolved to do whatever it took to get off those nasty meds. And I began with a do-or-die intention to lose all my extra weight.

I was not going to die of being fat.

Changing my heart motivation did not immediately cause all my extra weight to fall off or magically cure my reflux. And I was surprised by how many other heart changes would be necessary to conquer my weight problem.

I stayed on acid reducers for about a year. After losing most of my surplus fat, I undertook other lifestyle interventions for reflux that I hoped would support my weight loss efforts. I strengthened my core, stopped eating in the evening, avoided trigger foods, began some digestive health supplements, changed my breathing patterns.

I shared what I was doing with my GI doctor, who was pleasantly impressed with my efforts, but completely doubted that I could ever get off the drugs. Severe cases like mine did not just resolve. Despite his lukewarm encouragement, I kept up with my plan, continuing to lose weight and maintain the other lifestyle changes.

Eventually I asked to be weaned off the acid reducers. My doctor was willing, but pretty much sure that wouldn’t work. Trying to offer me something besides a lifetime of drugs, he suggested that I could have a surgery to wrap the top of my stomach around my esophagus like a noose. I said, “No thank you.” I started cutting my acid reducers in half, bit by bit weaning myself off the meds. No more heartburn. But was I cured?

I scheduled another endoscopy (my third). Hopefully this would prove the value in all the changes I had made. And it did. My esophagus was completely healed. No further medications required and no followup recommended. I thought the endoscopy clinic staff should throw me a party or congratulate me, but instead I just slipped out of their office wearing a quiet smirk (probably one part thankfulness and one part propofol).

By now I had lost about 50 pounds, gained core strength and stability, and learned a whole different way to think about and interact with food.  Changing my weight really did change my life.

My personal health proved to be the heart motivator enabling me to change when nothing else could.

My success aligns with research indicating that weight loss following a health scare is predictive of long term success. And because I was strongly and primarily motivated by health, I was not tempted to risk my health to lose weight at any cost. I am happy to be healed of reflux, to be at low risk for heart disease and diabetes, and to have reduced stress on my knees.

I did reap a number of non health benefits along the way. I am more comfortable in my own skin. I am wearing single digit clothing sizes (mostly). I do feel more confidence without my overweight body creating its own first impression.

Same happy life, same supportive husband, now normal weight and healthier.


What didn’t happen when I lost weight? Well, I didn’t get any younger. People who didn’t like me before still didn’t like me. And those who loved me, loved me just the same. My closets stayed messy. I continued to struggle on with the same sins and problems I had always had.

But weight loss seriously improved my health, and that was strong heart motivation.

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:2

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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Teri Doughty
National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Women’s Weight Loss Programs
Text me at 360.602.1815 to get started. Or click here.


Granberg, E. (2006). “Is that all there is?” possible selves, self-change, and weight loss*. Social Psychology Quarterly, 69(2), 109-126.














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If weight loss is so hard, why bother?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in habits, health coaching, weight loss
If weight loss is so hard, why bother?

Hmm. Did you know that 80% of people who lose weight fail to maintain that loss? That’s a lot of folks yo-yoing down and up and down and up.  Why bother with yet another weight loss endeavor when so few people succeed in keeping the weight off? Why mess with such low odds?

Did you even wonder why eager students continue to apply to Harvard when only 5% are admitted? Harvard rejects 95% of its applicants.  So why try?

Why try? Because difficult is not the same as impossible. Five percent of applicants did gain admission to Harvard. Twenty percent of dieters do lose and maintain a life changing amount of weight. As part of that 20%, I can testify that it is worth it. So worth it.

 What do you get when you lose weight?
  • You get health! Obesity is now the leading cause of premature death worldwide. Even a modest 5% decrease in weight reduces the risk of progressive diabetes by 50%. Losing 7.5% of excess weight can stop the degeneration of knee cartilage and halt osteoarthritis. Personally, by losing about 25% of my body weight, I cured my severe gastro-esophageal reflux disease and basically eliminated my risk of dying from esophageal cancer or the side effects of my reflux medications. Now I know I am going to die, but I would like to not hasten along that process. God gave me this body to live in for now; I want to take good care of it while I’m here.
  • You get clothes! The fun of eating a cupcake lasts maybe 5 minutes, but the fun of wearing jeans in your high school size lasts all day long.  All day long. After I reached normal weight (which for me is still pretty curvy, no danger of anorexia or fashion modeling here), I kind of went nuts buying pants. After years of frustration and struggle shopping for a cute plus-size wardrobe, the novelty that ordinary sized jeans would fit and look decent delighted me.  I’ve been at my goal weight for more than two years now, and the thrill of the wardrobe has not worn off. Appearance isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing either.
  • You get achievement! The positive psychology movement identifies achievement as one component of the fulfilling life. (The other components are: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, and higher purpose.) If you have been overweight for long, weight loss is a significant accomplishment. Maintaining significant weight loss is associated with improved quality of life and an increased sense of competence. If you have kept off a bunch of weight, I applaud you. (I recently met a man on the train who had lost more than 200 pounds—he was proud of himself and deservedly so.)
  • You get more enjoyment from your food! Ironically, more controlled eating increases the pleasure of food. Overeating, particularly of hyper-palatable foods (think pizza, ice cream, cake, candy), causes your brain to turn off some of the circuitry responsible for feeling pleasure. So, the more you eat, the less fun it is. Conversely, food restriction and weight loss signals your brain to turn up your reward pathways. This process, called hedonic adaptation, protects your mind from excessive pleasure and is part of the mechanism that drives drug addiction.
  • You get the quiet pleasures of character. It’s empowering and satisfying to see the development of your own character. Working through what peace and patience and self control can look like relative to your food is gratifying. Can you imagine experiencing zero guilt and zero anxiety regarding your eating? And the confidence that comes from controlling one area of your life seems to spill over into other areas. Once you conquer your weight, who knows what’s next?

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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Teri Doughty

Women’s Weight Loss Coaching

Text me at 360.602.1815 to get started. Or click here.


Williamson, D. A., Bray, G. A., & Ryan, D. H. (2015). Is 5% weight loss a satisfactory criterion to define clinically significant weight loss? Obesity, 23(12), 2319-2320.


Wluka, A., Teichtahl, A., Tanamas, S., Wang, Y., Strauss, B., Proietto, J., . . . Cicuttini, F. (2013). THU0504 the relationship between weight loss and reduced cartilage loss in the medial knee joint is non-linear in obese people. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 72


Brantley, P. J., Stewart, D. W., Myers, V. H., Matthews-ewald, M., Ard, J. D., Coughlin, J. W., . . . Stevens, V. J. (2014). Psychosocial predictors of weight regain in the weight loss maintenance trial. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37(6), 1155-68.


Kenny, P. (2011). Reward mechanisms in obesity: New insights and future directions. Neuron, 69(4), 664-79.


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What is the best weight loss plan for me?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in gentle change, habits, weight loss

If your social media feed is at all like mine, you are being barraged by weight loss advertising. Additionally, multi-level marketers may be plying you with information about the magic bullet that only their company can sell you. Your friend lost 20 pounds drinking chocolate shakes. Another swears by her high profile, celebrity endorsed program. All these options, all promising quick results and easy success. How can you be wise in choosing a weight loss plan?

Be very careful.

Your next weight loss attempt should be considered very carefully. As a culture, and as individuals, we are doing a poor job of maintaining healthy weight. Given the difficulty in losing weight and the even greater difficulty in keeping it off , you should think hard about your next weight loss strategy. After all, the point of this effort is to be normal weight, not just to lose weight. In fact, weight loss is at best an intermediate goal.

 The real goal is to achieve and maintain normal weight.

Certain people should be even more cautious about weight loss, given their higher risk of regain. Those include: older adults, folks with lots of previous dieting experience, people with a high starting weight, and those with a history of binge eating.

Beware of anything that sounds easy or quick. Beware of anything that promises no suffering and no changes—those successful weight maintainers from the National Weight Loss Registry, those who maintained an average weight loss of 75 pounds for multiple years, look like they changed everything! I would beware of any plan, including the low carb plan I prefer and recommend, if no provision has been made for making the plan permanent, permanent, permanent.

What are the qualities of a good weight loss plan?
  • Quality 1: Sustainability. Studies have shown that virtually any weight loss plan will cause weight loss for about 6 months.  In fact, most diets can induce a 8-10% weight loss  maximum in 6 months if followed faithfully. So, if you weigh 220 pounds and you follow plan X, you could lose up to 22 pounds with six months of hard, consistent work. But after 6 months, the odds are that you will experience the dreaded regain. For many folks, all the lost weight will return and maybe more. So, the first component has got to be sustainability. You really will be doing a variation of your weight loss plan for the rest of your life. Repeat: for the rest of your life. Successful losers stay on their diets indefinitely. So figure out how to be happy with it.
  • Quality 2: Long term focus. Maybe another way to emphasize sustainability. The real goal is not weight loss, that is just the means to the real goal, which is healthy body size forever. Obesity is now classified as a chronic relapsing disease. So your plan to control your disease (or problem, if you don’t like disease talk) must be a lifetime plan. This is why I prefer low carb plans. Not only do they produce slightly greater loss initially, but also have greater compliance long term (since steak with butter is so much more satisfying than dry chicken breast with steamed broccoli).
  • Quality 3: Not health destroying. If health is actually the goal, we need to work toward that in a healthy way. Successful losers eat healthy food and move their bodies in healthy ways (Registry folks average more than an hour of walking a day). Which is why methods involving drugs, surgery, or eating chemicals (diet foods, shakes) should be considered only as a last resort. What is the point of losing weight for your health if you destroy your health in the process? Meth users usually lose weight in the process of ruining their lives, but we can all agree that drug addiction is not a healthy choice for weight loss. Remember, you will still need to develop lifetime healthy patterns to stay thin even if you get thin by a risky method.
  • Quality 4: Emphasizes behavior and emotion. Achieving and maintaining more than minimal  weight loss requires substantial behavioral efforts.  You will need to change, really change, to lose and keep off weight. The behavior changes that successful losers use include: food journaling, regular weight monitoring, portion control, avoiding fast foods and junk foods, catching slips or gains quickly, and learning to manage emotions directly. These behavioral changes do not happen automatically, when in a hopeful moment of resolve,  you buy the jumbo pack of diet bars at Costco.
  • Quality 5: Provides professional support. Studies of weight loss diets show that support from a medical professional helps enable weight loss and that regular followup after weight loss prevents regain. That professional support works partially because it encourages a long-term, behavioral approach to weight loss and creates an ongoing monitoring and accountability system. Research indicates that 2 years of careful monitoring after initial weight loss is predictive for permanent success. Because of this, I now recommend monthly followups for my own weight loss clients for 2 years after reaching goal weight.
  • Quality 6: Moves slowly. This is the most debated point. Medically, even a 5% reduction can be significant for improving health. But as I learned during my own weight loss journey, fat minus 5% is still fat. Your mirror and your friends will not be providing much encouragement at the beginning of your slow weight loss. Conversely, quick loss is energizing and it’s hard to argue with that. If you have watched a friend joyfully announcing their initial success on Facebook (I lost 5 pounds! #bestlifeever #loveit!), you can feel the excitement of quick success. But more moderate loss increases the chance of permanency. And moderate loss  is the only kind of loss you can reasonably expect. Most diet programs expect a loss of .5 to 1 pounds a week, while you are carefully following the plan. Slower loss gives you time to really change your behaviors and your heart. (Notice how your friend got silent when she fell off the wagon of her overly ambitious diet plan that left no room for her real life?)

In the end, weight loss and weight maintenance must be about your real life. Eating happens everyday, in the real, complicated, messy world. The most important two questions to ask yourself about a weight loss plan are: “Can I follow it?” and “Can I follow it forever?”

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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Teri Doughty, Women’s Weight Loss Coaching. Text me at 360.602.1815 to get started.



Johnston, PhD Bradley C. “Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs.” JAMA, American Medical Association, 3 Sept. 2014.

Ulen, Christina Garcia, et al. “Weight Regain Prevention.” Clinical Diabetes, American Diabetes Association, 1 July 2008.


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The Possibility of Weight Loss

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in gentle change, habits, weight loss

Weight loss, can you do it? 

Over the last couple years, I have seen a veritable epidemic of articles  discussing the futility of weight loss efforts and dieting. I read that The Biggest Loser contestants have mostly gained back all their lost weight. I learned that a famous cookbook author, while successful in publishing beautiful and tasty recipes, personally gained 60 pounds in one year, all the while touting the glories of a ketogenic diet. Various body awareness movements, like “Healthy at every size” have emerged, suggesting that weight loss may not be necessary or desirable. I have watched my friends expand and contract, only to expand and contract again. And I have experienced this pattern myself.

Is it even possible to become normal weight after being fat?

Many factors conspire to keep us fat. Some factors are unchangeable: increasing age, history of obesity, genetics. Some factors are environmental: the eating patterns of your family, the pressures of a busy lifestyle, the availability of fast food, the temptations of engineered hyper-palatable snacks, the giant serving portions at restaurants. And still other factors are personal: your food preferences and habits, how you deal with emotions.

Statistics are also against successful weight loss. About eighty percent of individuals seeking to lose weight fail to lose or fail to keep it lost. We can see the outworking of this failure dynamic in celebrities who have a permanent place as the face of weight loss because they always need to lose weight. If weight loss were easy, said celebrity would just lose all her fat, become a thin person and get on with her healthier life.

When diet shakes and weight loss programs add the little disclaimer at the bottom of their ads: “results not typical,” that is when they are telling the truth. Most people do not have success in weight loss.


“What one man can do, another man can do.” This is a line from The Edge, a grim, and in my mind, otherwise forgettable movie. In the movie, this mantra spurs on group of desperate men stranded in the wilderness to kill a bear without any hunting gear. I’ve never needed to face down a bear, but this encouraging little bit of truth has stuck with me.

A task may be difficult, but if one person can do it, another person can do it.

Are there people out there who have lost weight and kept it off? Yes! Were they that different from you? No!

You probably know a few of them. I do too. The National Weight Loss Registry keeps records of over 10,000 individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year.  Their average registrant has lost 73 pounds and kept it off for 5 years.

The registry tracks and queries weight-loss winners, searching for patterns of success. What have they learned? While these folks have lost weight using a variety of methods, some common themes have emerged: regular meals, frequent weight monitoring, lots of movement (76% walked for 1 hour a day), sticking with their meal plan everyday including weekends and holidays.

And these people continued the same behaviors into maintenance, which makes a ton of sense. The activities and habits that got you thin will be the same activities and habits that will keep you thin. And if you can maintain your weight loss for 2 years, your chances of continuing as a slim person greatly increase.

So, can you lose weight and keep it off? Yes! What one woman can do another woman can do. Weight loss is not a special ability or gifting, but it does take time and hard work.

Next up: “What makes a good weight loss plan?”

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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Are you overweight?

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Are you overweight?

A simple question. But one that provokes a complex answer.

Why even ask? Shouldn’t we all know if we are overweight, just like we know how tall we are? Maybe not.

We fool ourselves. The Bible says the heart is deceitful, and that we can look at ourselves in the mirror, turn away and immediately forget what we are like. I think this applies to weight as well as spiritual matters. Judging by the amazing increase in fatness and obesity in our country, we may all be fooling ourselves.

The gradual nature of weight gain encourages this self deception. That slow scale creep may not register as significant. Our clothes might get tighter, but maybe those clothes just shrunk in the wash. Maybe we threw out the scale in a righteous fit of body acceptance, and we imagine our weight hasn’t changed. Maybe we switched to leggings and tunics. Maybe we just got used to our bigger selves.

The increasing size of those around us serves to deceive us as well. Our bigger bottom and rounded tummy fits right in with our friends and family. We feel reasonable, normal, maybe a bit plump, but certainly not obese or in any danger.

Does it even matter if we are overweight, or even obese?

In my obese days, I really didn’t consider the health consequences of my weight, but only worried about my size in terms of appearance (and even that concern was suppressed by an incredibly accepting spouse). Ironically, as a health care worker I should have appreciated the link between weight and health. But my passion as a midwife was natural childbirth for all, and my vigorously defense of the right of all sized women to have a natural delivery blinded me to the health risks of obesity.

But weight really is a health issue, not just an image or ego issue.

Excess fat contributes to every major chronic disease and most of the top ten causes of death in the US.

Including cancer. (The possible exception being lower respiratory diseases, which are linked to smoking.) In fact, obesity has replaced smoking as the number one preventable cause of death worldwide.

Additionally, newer studies show that the extra roll around our collective waistlines functions as an active organ, not just inert baggage.  It secretes hormones that mess with our metabolisms and moves the body chemistry towards increasing chronic inflammation.  Inflammation, in turn, fuels the fire and disorder of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

How can we define overweight?

When I was a teenager, I though I knew what overweight was. Anything over 120 pounds. That was it—a simple line separating thin from thick. Ridiculous, yes, but many of us have not changed our thinking beyond that High School obsession with a particular number. One number cannot possibly define normal for all people, and completely ignores other factors like height and build. (I probably exceeded that magic number around sixth grade, and then commenced upon lifetime career as an on-and-off dieter. Thankfully, I finally found a better way to achieve and maintain normal weight.)

There are better measures of fatness than my magic number. We will look at two of them.

BMI-Body Mass Index

One way to account for the reality that people are different heights is to use the body mass index, BMI, which is a simple mathematical formula comparing weight to height. You divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters (kg/m²). This number can then be compared to all other people your height. Ranges for underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese have been established for each height.

In one way, BMI is very accurate for determining obesity. If your BMI is over 30, the incredible likelihood is that you are obese and your health is in serious danger from your fatness. Between the 25-30 range, the overweight range, BMI is less accurate. Many individuals in this range are also clinically obese, while others are actually not overfat, but just extra muscular.

Part of the problem with BMI is that your weight is a combination of muscle, bone, fat and water. Athletic people may have higher BMI’s and not be fat, and sedentary folks with smaller muscles may not weigh as much but still be fat.

Waist Circumference

A different way to measure fatness is with waist circumference. Studies of this measurement show increased waist circumference to be associated with negative health. This measurement is at least accurate as BMI, maybe more so, for predicting health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Because waist circumference measures at the spot where visceral fat accumulates, this measurement may also help distinguish between more harmful fat (around your abdominal organs) and less harmful fat (on your thighs and behind).

Some debate exists about how to measure the waist, but there is reasonable evidence for using the spot halfway between your lowest ribs and the top of your hipbone (at the side). Then all you need is a tape measure, or even a piece of string and a ruler. For women, waist circumferences less than 31.5 inches are associated with good health, 31.5-35 inches with some increased risk, and over 35 inches with greatly increased health risk.

Are you overweight?

A simple beginning to that question would be to step on a scale and then compare your weight and height to a BMI chart. If you BMI is 30 or more, you can confidently assume you are obese and at serious risk for all the bad diseases. And really in a position to die from fatness. BMI numbers between 25-30 (the definition of overweight) indicate a more moderate risk.

If the BMI doesn’t convince you, measure your waist. A number of  about 35 inches or more means you should definitely take action about your weight for the sake of your health. Waist measurements between 31.5-35 inches indicate more moderate risk.

What’s the point of knowing this? Well, it is certainly not to make you feel bad about yourself, or worse about yourself. This is a reality check. A health check. Body fat, despite, our early childhood indoctrination, is not primarily an issue of appearance, but an issue of health.

Thinking about your weight as a health metric instead of a measure of beauty, helps create better motivation for achieving normal weight. While I was thinking of my fatness in terms of appearance, I could never quite muster up the motivation I needed to change. In fact, I thought excessive focus on my weight was just vanity. But when I realized that my fat was a real health issue leading me to an early death, I found strength to persist in getting thinner and healthier.

BMI chart  here.

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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The Very Best Cauliflower Mash-Smooth as Silk, Firm enough to Stand up to Gravy

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in foods, recipes

Here’s my confession. I did not want to like cauliflower mash. In general, I am resolutely against pretend foods. You know, desserts concocted from artificial sweeteners, breads baked with mystical “no net carb” ingredients, Tofurky. If you are working to develop a taste for nutritious foods, the last thing you need is the lame taste of fake food in your mouth, reminding you of what you are giving up.

So I resisted cauliflower mash. Because I thought it was a fake food, pretending to be mashed potatoes. (And I have nothing against mashed potatoes, for those who can handle the carbs.)

Then I tasted a heavenly smudge of cauliflower mash at an upscale restaurant in San Jose. It was the snotty sort of eatery that taunts you with dribbles and drops of luscious sauce that never lasts through your entree. Beneath my tiny, artful piece of fish, was the thinnest layer of cauliflower. And it was delicious.

Back home I determined to replicate that heavenly mash. My early attempts were just too. Too wet, too runny, too cauliflowery.

But this recipe, born from a fair bit of tinkering, and the memory of that heavenly smudge, is sublime, like a poem on your tongue. Clearly not mashed potatoes, this cauliflower mash is no pretender, but its own lovely deliciousness. You should make some!

Let’s make cauliflower mash.


one head cauliflower, separated into florets

1/2 cup coarsely cut onion

1 clove garlic

1 chopped parsnip (about a cup) or 1 chopped carrot (about 1/2 a cup)

1/2 cup salted butter

1 egg yolk


Place veggies in steamer. I have this huge pot with a steamer insert, but you could use one of those collapsible steamer insert thingies, or the steam function on your Instapot.

Steam veggies until completely tender. Definitely check the carrots or parsnips to make sure they are soft.

Remove veggies from heat to drain and cool off a bit. I just prop my steamer insert up on the edge of my pot.

Remove veggies to a clean kitchen towel draped over a bowl.

Now put on some clean gloves (the veggies are hot), wrap the towel up tight and squeeze the heck out of your cooked veggies.

You will be amazed at how much water squishes out.

Empty your squeezed out veggies into a food processor fitted with the wicked sharp blade.

Blend until totally smooth. Do not settle for sort of lumpy.

Whirl an egg yolk into the mash. If you are worried about undercooked eggs, just leave it out. This is the least important ingredient.

Add butter. In this version I melted the butter. On other occasions I have used clarified butter to accommodate the lactose averse. The last few times I didn’t bother with melting at all, just threw the whole chunk in. Whirl until butter is totally incorporated. If you use unsalted, you will need to add salt to taste. But Kerrygold salted works perfectly.

Revel in the glory you have just created.

With parsnip


With carrot

Serve as a side dish.

Or under a meaty, gravy thing.

Or in a bowl with an extra little pat of butter as a decadent snack.

Or use it to top shepherd’s pie.

This recipe doubles easily. Just squeeze the veggies in two batches. We always make double now because we eat it up so, so fast.

Here’s a printable version. Cauliflower Mash

Really, you should make this. It’s wonderful.

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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A Mindful Dinner Out–Enjoying a Restaurant Meal without Regrets

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in habits, mindfulness, weight loss


Last night my husband and I went out to dinner as a pre-Valentine’s Day date. In general we are super practical. We never go out on Valentine’s Day, to avoid crowds. Or for that matter, we never celebrate  our anniversary at a restaurant, since it falls on Saint Patrick’s Day. So we weren’t planning a meal out.

The previous day I had traveled to Salem for an overnight adventure. Before leaving my husband for one whole night, I had prepped days worth of food and it was all sitting in readiness in the fridge. Sausage with spaghetti squash and Mexican pork stew. So Kirk had plenty to eat while I was gone and we had no pressure to cook when I returned.

But I had just driven 4 hours home from Salem and was in a glorious mood. The sun was out, the snow was gone. On the way home I had listened to the radio and simultaneously outlined in my head a book about the intersection of healthy living and gospel thinking. Not sure why, but life was feeling pretty much perfect.

My husband, who is always glad to see me, greeted me with, “I know there is lots of good food in the fridge, but…” and we said together, “let’s go out.”

We chose Brix 25 in Gig Harbor for several reasons. Mostly because the food is great. And partly because I wanted to wear a dress. In particular, my black sweater dress from Talbots that works well with a brown leather belt and tall boots. For a formerly overweight person, wearing a waist defining belt feels like a bit of a deal. And I’m always looking for ways to enjoy my new trim body. And wear more of my new clothes.

So, I dressed up and we took off.

After losing about 50 pounds, I think about all my food choices. I have no illusions that I am healed of my heart’s tendency to want to overeat or my body’s tendency to gain weight easily.  In the car I assessed my current condition. (In my head, ok. I chatted charmingly about other stuff with my dear husband, who has heard enough about diets to last two lifetimes.)

I hadn’t eaten for about 8 hours. After breakfasting with my daughter in Salem, (bacon and eggs), I drove and shopped my way home. (Shopping was entirely at Penzey’s Spice shop in Clackamas. Pure delight to buy new seasonings and imagine the great dinners they will become.)

So two obvious warnings for my healthy living plan. First, going out to eat itself. Restaurants are an obvious setup for overindulgence. The plates are huge. We usually order wine. Which lowers my inhibitions. And second, I was empty, no food onboard.

Oh, and a third potentially pitfall. It was a holiday. Valentine’s Day. The day before, but still. Not on my list of occasions worth going off my eating plan for, but I was concerned I might think so in the moment. I particularly wondered about dessert. After 2 glasses of wine, I could persuade myself that dessert was an excellent idea. I made a deal with myself in the car that the only acceptable dessert would be a small portion of strawberries and chocolate.

The first concern, just going to any restaurant, was partially addressed by choosing a fine dining restaurant. In general, the better the restaurant, the less food they serve.

The smartest thing to do about the second concern, empty stomach, would have been to pre-eat before we left. I didn’t do that, but I was on high alert.

The dessert issue I left unresolved.

Once seated, I perused the oh-so-yummy menu and decided on two strategies that I had employed previously. I stuck with seafood, which is light (if you don’t pick fried or breaded), and I ordered two appetizers instead of a dinner (avoiding the carbs that usually accompany full meals).

Next potential hurdle, the bread basket. My rule of thumb is to only eat bread at restaurants, and then only if it is exceptional. Hmm. This bread was pretty fine and came with two compound butters. I settled on one small piece, torn slowly into even smaller bites. I made a game of making that little piece of bread last until the main course was presented.

Dinner time. The first dish was a tiny handful of scallops decorated with smidges of various flavorings—preserved lemon, watercress, tomatillo salsa. And maybe a single drip of super fine olive oil. Delicate, subtle, and definitely not a large portion.

The second dish was cucumber tartare with king crab. Lovely and tiny, with artful drops and smudges of wasabi.

Ok, no problem with overeating this food. My husband had a gorgeous steak with blue cheese, potatoes and asparagus. Much more food. Much more. If I wasn’t careful, my petite meal would be gone before his second bite of steak.

Eating slowly is a strategy I have used many times. Savoring each bite makes the experience more memorable and extends the fun. Slow eating gives your stomach time to register that you have had enough. And, when you’re with other people, taking your time prevents you from finding your plate empty before your companions are finished.

So I ate slow. Small bites. Fork down and hands in lap between bites. Lots of talking. Lots of listening. Kirk finished first, and by the time I was done (and I ate every scrap of that precious little meal), I was satisfied.

No strawberries on the dessert menu, so I just skipped dessert. Back at home, we each had a square of dark chocolate. A fine evening, with no regrets.

Wishing you great success as you gently improve your health.

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