Change Yourself? Change Your People.

Whether it be for the environment, one’s health, or other important causes, convincing people to adopt new or uncommon behaviors can be difficult. One reason is that societal norms powerfully reinforce the status quo….What leads people to overturn a status quo?”*

Other people are, of course, a big part of what leads us to overturn a status quo. But the researchers found an interesting twist. So, for example, it was not only being told that some other people are trying to eat less meat these days that influenced participants to eat less meat themselves. Participants ate even less meat themselves if they were told that it’s because other people are changing that they are eating less meat.

That people are changing makes it sound like eating less meat could morph naturally into a norm and, if you don’t fit in with that, then where will you be. Left out, left behind or “counternormative”* as the reference suggests.

Okay, so we like to think we are special. Introverts** I know are great examples of people who may be more comfortable on the edges but don’t exactly want to feel left out. None of us wants to feel so far out that we don’t matter to anyone anymore. Back in the day, many thousands of years ago when our social brains were formed, in what we call the environment of evolutionary adaptation, too far out socially meant no food, no care…we died.

This is why we may feel bad when we don’t get invited to that party or meeting that we didn’t even want to go to. Hardwiring. Alarm goes off when we begin to feel socially left out. Wait. We can use this!

All we have to do is surround ourselves with enough people who live and breathe the ‘me’ we want to be that it feels normal enough to be whatever that is. Affinity grouping. Back to the meat, why not surround oneself with people who for environmental, health, or other reasons also want to eat less meat. Unless you happen to want to eat meat. Then that sense of normalcy and belonging would be provided by eating with some people who also eat meat.

Or the gym. Or spending habits. Or environmental foot-printing. Want to – on purpose – overturn your own status quo. Embed with others who already have. People are everywhere. Meetups. Community or professional organizations… Go where the norm is, or is becoming, the norm you want to be. Opportunities abound. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* “Change behaviors by changing perception of normal” October 6, 2017 Citing Gregg Sparkman et al. “Dynamic Norms Promote Sustainable Behavior, Even if It Is Counternormative,” Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1177/0956797617719950  Provided by Stanford University.

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.




Mindful Emotional Eating: JumpStart to Effectiveness


Newsflash: Emotional Eating is NOT self-destructive. It is a legitimate form of self-care. And it is inevitable because, like it or not, we humans are inevitably emotional creatures. So whether you are eating to celebrate your joy or cope with your sorrow, whether you are eating to spice up your life or numb it out, or eating just because you like it and it feels good – feeling good is emotional so eating for pleasure is emotional too. In other words, all eating is emotional eating. That said, the mindless intake of food is not emotional and it’s not eating either. It is feeding – and feeding isn’t eating any more than taking nourishment through a nasogastric tube would be considered eating. Enter Mindful Emotional Eating: JumpStart to Effectiveness.

Based on the work of Pavel G. Somov, PhD, in this 4-session (1hr/session) program you will learn, interactively with me, how to turn food battles into food peace (and joy) for the rest of your life. Doesn’t have to be a struggle. Practice, practice, practice with me right from your home or office (by Hipaa compliant secure videoconference) and see what happens. Let’s get started. Contact me for details at or 202.617.0821. Would love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

Indulge Yourself. Mindfully. It’s OK. Really.

indulge“Even though [the more mindful] participants were more likely to give in to some desires without guilt, they were also able to discern whether their desire was in conflict with a larger goal they had….If giving into the desire threatened that goal, they had self-restraint. In other words, when it really mattered to them, they could keep their eye on the prize and not give into the lure of instant gratification.“*

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally,” according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. The study here found that people in this sharpened state of awareness were more likely to indulge their desires, and without later guilt and remorse. It is as if, in this mindful state, just thinking about it “You can literally taste that bit of chocolate…whatever it is that you jones for.”* But wait, isn’t mindfulness supposed to put the executive brain in better control of setting goals and the discipline we need to reach those goals. Yes indeed, and that is exactly what the researchers found, i.e., that when it mattered participants who were mindful could exercise the self-restraint to forego the immediate pleasure for a greater good down the line.

What’s so great about this study is the permission it gives to actually enjoy ourselves, particular around this time of year when there is so much joy to be had. Well yes, for some more than others, there is sorrow in the mix too, but sorrow needn’t completely wipe out all joy unless we make that so. No matter what is going on in anyone’s life, somewhere in there is a simple joy to be had. Look around. Fill the senses. So much to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste…ah yes, taste, let’s talk about taste.

The premise of Mindful Emotional Eating is that All Eating is Emotional Eating because all eating feels good – even if it’s ‘good for us’ eating that makes us feel good about ourselves for eating good. And it’s not like we can ever do without eating altogether, let’s say like smoking. So, if we have to eat we may as well enjoy it in ways that do us more good than harm, which requires that we not feel bad about it because post eating guilt and shame tend to make people say ‘what the hell’ and binge eat even more. Reminds me of the gelato cone I had after piloting my 4-session program on Mindful Emotional Eating (MEE): Jumpstart to Effectiveness. Cone to mouth I stopped myself, turned to my friend and said, “Look, I have to concentrate on this gelato now because if I don’t it’ll be all gone before I can even know that I enjoyed it – and really otherwise what’s the point of eating it at all.” Another woman I know** who took the program reported more pleasure, less guilt, and less weight on the bones. To be clear, the goal of mindful emotional eating is food peace and pleasure, not weight loss per se because dieting is said to be a kind of deprivation that is the surest way to gain weight. But as we begin to eat more mindfully, we may experience greater satisfaction on less food so weight loss can naturally occur. That said…

Take control. Take back your joy. Use your sense(s). Actually look at your food before you put it in your mouth. Taste it before you swallow. Pay attention. Put your mind where your mouth is. Pause between one bite and another, so you even know you took a bite and enjoyed it. And, of course, allow yourself to stop, knowing that another eating event is coming soon – and that it will be good. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on Mindful Emotional Eating: Jumpstart to Effectiveness or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “Mindfulness Supports ‘Wise’ Indulgence: A recent study finds that mindfulness may not help us overcome all of our urges, just the ones that count.” Kelle Walsh. November 18, 2016m

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.



Stand Up. Do Something.

standupWhat do most people do? They of course, wait for the New Year to come along. Then on Jan 1st, they want to change everything. Yes they are Superman, and they are confident they can change it all at once. They sign up for the premium gym membership (with personal training) and they clear everything from their kitchen cupboards & refrigerators (only green stuff left in the house). And expensive workout gear from Lululemon (You have to get it from Lululemon to prove that you are working out, right?).  The excitement, motivation is all there. Then what happens. Few weeks later, enthusiasm wanes and things are back to normal. If you don’t trust me, go to your gym during February. Actually things are not back to normal, they have got a little worse – you are still out-of-shape, but now you also feel like a failure.*

Stand Up; Do Something. Yes. Both figuratively, let’s say for post election or other doldrums – and, literally, for each and every one of us and our health. Stand Up; Do Something. Let’s take literally first.

To be clear, actually sitting for too long is no good for us even if we think we are doing something laudable while sitting: working, reading, writing, watching PBS… And, just in case you wondered (I did), lying down for too long is no better – except for during those 7-8 hours of precious and necessary sleep time. The reason is that the 3.8% of all deaths, due to our spending more than 3 hours/day sitting, is at root due to the inactivity of our legs, whether sitting or lying down.

Death due to more than 3 hours sitting? Yikes. I can and do top that regularly. So recently I bought a standing desk below and, although it does everything it is supposed to do, I still prefer to sit.

For one thing, sitting keeps me a better still point for my clients.** I tried a standing video conference with a client once and was fidgeting all over the place. That is, of course, why standing is good, to keep us moving, but not when and where I am meant to be still. And, truth be told, the other reason I prefer to sit is that I prefer to sit. But it’s no good. For one thing, when our “big [leg] muscles are slack…levels of blood sugar and cholesterol rise,” with deleterious effects on our metabolic processes and overall health – diabetes, cancer, heart disease, you name it.

And just in case you are wondering this too (I was), going to the gym does not erase the effects of too much sitting. Yes, it is good to exercise, and lack of exercise contributes also to our deaths. We know this about exercise. But it’s not just how long we move but how often we move as well. So, if we didn’t know before, we do know now that excess sitting is really bad for our health. The trick, however, is to know this when we need it in the moment so we can actually Stand Up; Do Something with those legs. Like what? Here are some tips adapted from the Money Crashers website:

  1. Standing desk or exercise ball chair to keep you moving throughout the day.
  1. Small drinking cups so you have to get up more often.
  1. Get up and move every 15-20 minutes or every hour on the hour for 5-10 minutes or so, walk when you are on the phone, go (walk) somewhere besides your desk for lunch.
  1. Walking meetings when possible.
  1. TV breaks, walking during commercials or doing something instead of TV altogether, like clean the house. We can also do squats and stuff while watching TV.
  1. Doing things the harder, old-fashioned way, like taking the steps instead of the elevator everyday.

Okay, well, that’s a lot of life change all at once. Enter a much more user-friendly approach: The One Degree Shift. We all know how easy it is to make life change resolutions and how hard it is to stick with them. The one degree shift is a paradigm shift on how we approach making change in our lives. The idea is basically, little by little, one baby step at a time. Thanks to our ancestors, we are all wired up to survive and to thrive. We are all wired up for the quest. The bird wants to fly. The tree wants to grow. And so do we. So anytime we find or accomplish some new opportunity or goal, we feel a surge of feel good dopamine that activates our brain’s reward system and energizes us for more. Doesn’t have to be big, one good thing leads to another, one step at a time. And doesn’t matter where you start. So, for example, to overcome the no-good metabolic “chair effect,” any one of steps 1-6 in the tips above, or some other idea of your own, is an excellent place to start.

Which brings us now to Stand Up; Do Something in the figurative sense. If things outside of your own control have gotten you down, stand up, do something, anything, take control however you can. Let’s say it’s election related or something else entirely, what is one small thing, no matter how small that you can do today to get the ball rolling in some constructive way. Some people** I know are taking one small step at a time aimed directly at curing the social injustice they see. “All I can think about now is what I can do,” said one woman whose voice lifted as she declared her intent. Others are taking steps aimed directly at addressing the personal impact of forces outside of their control. As only one example, a perhaps long overdue rethink of where to live and what work to do next. One door closes; another door opens, if we make that so. One step at a time. One thing we can do to motivate us, to move us forward, each and every day. One step at a time over time. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* The One Degree Shift, Nissar Ahmed,

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.


Food Friending in Work and Love

Food friending“How do you build rapport with a new employer or someone on a first date? It turns out that there may be a simple strategy that’s often overlooked: eat the same food as your companion.”*

Who among us hasn’t heard that food is love and eating together is good for us…mind, body, and soul. So, for example, students in families who eat together are generally less obese, are less prone to drug abuse, are less truant in school, get better grades, and feel closer to parents. But we are not talking about just eating together. Here we are talking about eating the same thing together – just as our ancestors did in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, way back when the big brain, aka The Social Brain, was formed to help us cope with the growing complexity of our social systems. Through food sharing of a single carcass we learned together about cooperation, fairness, and trust over who got what, and how we would resolve our conflicts over who got what. And, there we sat around the fire, eating together, telling stories, bonding in community to keep us safe and warm.

In last week’s post we looked at the human love of landscapes, some would say due to their reminiscence of our early days on the Savannah. Here we see University of Chicago researchers* suggesting a beneficial effect with eating behavior (eating the same thing together), possibly reminiscent of those earlier, formative days as well. That is, study participants eating like-foods reached negotiated agreements quicker than pairs who did not eat like foods, and participants who ate similar foods gave more money to individuals with whom they were paired, contrasted with participants who were paired but ate dissimilar foods.

A story told by one woman I know comes to mind. We will call her Mary.** Mary loved lamb chops. Her mother did not make them too often, both because her mother did not like to cook and because her family did not have the means to buy too many lamb chops too often. Mary grew up remembering her brother as quicker and somehow more entitled to take as many lamb chops as he liked, always getting more. One day, as adults, her brother said, “I remember that you never liked the lamb chops so there was always more for me.” Mary was stunned to learn, not only how wrong they had both been in their perceptions, but what an opportunity for this little family – to talk, to learn, to grow, to love, to build trust, to cooperate and bond together – had been right there on the plate before them – but missed.

In the workplace, “People tend to think that they use logic to make decisions, and they are largely unaware that food preferences can influence their thinking,” says Ayelet Fishbach, a professor in the business school at the University of Chicago. “On a very basic level, food can be used strategically to help people work together and build trust.”*

Some suggestions from the researchers for the workplace include limiting food choices at group luncheons to encourage eating similar foods, or purposely ordering food similar to the other at a business lunch. Can you think of others? Other ways in love and work to build trust and cooperation, maybe to heal wounds, to resolve conflicts, to remind us of our humanity, to build bridges…with food. Practice, practice, practice, and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “A recipe for friendship: Similar food” July 8, 2016 This study will appear in the January, 2017 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

We Eat What We Are. What?

How to Keep Your Resolutions Whatever They Are

You say you want to start exercising, stop snacking, start saving, stop spending, start traveling, stop slothing, start meditating, stop stressing… You can do it. You know you can. You say you can. And then you don’t exactly, well not for long anyway. By the end of January, for many folks, the whole thing goes bust. Help is on the way. Brouwer and Mosack (2015) found in a new study that participants who created an identity of ‘self as doer’ had greater success with healthier eating. In fact, those in the study who did not use the identity technique ate unhealthier over time, even though all participants were given the same nutritional information and kept food diaries too. Still, participants who thought ‘I am a fruit eater’ actually ate more fruit. Easy, Peasy, right? Not so fast.

What I see with my clients is not that they don’t really mean it when they say they want to stop/start whatever it is. And it’s not at all that they are weak. On the contrary, there is simply something else they very much want, very much more. And the strength of whatever that is overpowers everything else, no matter how sensible and desirable the everything else is, e.g., healthy eating. Let’s say someone is packing on the extra pounds for a reason that has little if anything to do with quality of food or health. What if it’s emotional? Emotional Eating. You’ve heard of that. What if, without even knowing it, wrapping the self in that extra layer, makes the self feel safer somehow. And what if that sense of safety matters more than whether one becomes a fruit eater. You do the math. Cheese and crackers wins all. Now, since this self-identity technique showed some promise, what if we just dig a little deeper than self as fruit eater and designate self as safe, self as successful, self as whatever you deep down really want your self to be.

A client, we’ll call him Mark,* told me that the better things got in his personal and professional life, the more he wanted to be someone who takes care of himself so he can be around for a long time to come. With this mindset, Mark’s extra pounds just melted away without even thinking or talking about dieting at all. Mind Over Matters. And speaking of mind, here’s another example. The benefits of mindfulness meditation are touted everywhere these days, a training I offer to all of my clients. An achievement-oriented woman, let’s call her Jane, said that although she wanted to meditate regularly it wasn’t happening. What is it that Jane wanted much more than she wanted to be sitting in meditation? She wanted to be up and active on her feet. Woman on The Move, a self-identity she loved. Now Jane can run a couple of days a week and meditate every day too.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. So what is yours? What self-identity do you love more than you love the one the bards and sages (read: other people) think you should? When you figure out what that self-identity is, you may close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and gently through your nose; belly out on the in-breath, belly in on the out-breath. Continuing with the breath, sit with this image, fill yourself with it, become it, breathe into it everyday, breathe it into every day. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, call or write at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:  202.617.0821

Amanda M. Brouwer et al. Motivating Healthy Diet Behaviors: The Self-as-Doer Identity, Self and Identity (2015). DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2015.1043335

*Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2016. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.