Preholiday Survival Plan

I love the change in seasons, but with it comes the busy holidays and the desire to gorge myself with artery-clogging treats. I can feel my body drifting into hibernation mode, enjoying the fire pit, roasted marshmallows and lazy evenings at home. It gets harder and harder to make it to spin class. Interaction with friends and family often involves food, which offers gratification – until I step on the scale the next morning. Succumbed to temptation, yet again! But why?

For many reasons, we disregard rational thought for that heavenly slice of cheesecake. Habits, patterns, cravings and pleasure all play major parts in the cycle that takes us away from our wellness goals. It’s challenging to change old habits, and it seems to take forever to develop new routines. We have cravings, are tempted and seek relief to satisfy our bodies and minds. It’s a vicious cycle. But how satisfying is succumbing to immediate gratification? What do we say to ourselves to justify this behavior? These questions play a part in the creation of habits.

You’ve likely heard that almost anything in moderation is okay, but that’s not true for everyone. Understanding what impacts craving, motivation and behavior – and setting goals – will help you break bad habits and make positive changes in your life. The effort requires making incremental changes, while learning why changing the behaviors is hard, and why it’s important to practice self-compassion during the process. Be as kind to yourself as you would a friend who needs support during a challenging situation. In her book on self-compassion, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author and associate professor of Human Development at the University of Texas in Austin, states that when we try to “beat ourselves into shape,” we become overly emotional, anxious, depressed and impulsive in our behaviors. We react, rather than respond rationally. She states that self-compassion changes our way of dealing with situations and can counteract the stress.

Many experts discuss motivation, change and habits – it’s important to find the message that resonates for you. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, offers many YouTube videos on “willpower,” motivation and the neuroscience of change. Deepak Chopra, in his book What Are You Hungry For? discusses how underlying emotions lead to unhealthy eating. This expert in mind-body healing says that understanding why we reach for food helps us deal with the underlying issues directly. Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, in Discover Your Optimal Health, states that setting primary goals and developing strategies to resist temptation are important. You have a choice to eat that piece of cheesecake, but that decision should be intentional, not impulsive. Keep your eye on your main goal (losing weight, feeling healthy). The question “Why?” will help guide your behavior: Why do you want what you want – be it good for you or bad for you?

Reporter for The New York Times, Charles Duhigg talks in his book, The Power of Habit, about the “habit loop” – consisting of cue, routine and reward. Once you recognize a habit loop, and the reward (pleasure) you seek, you can work backward to identify how it contributes to the unhealthy patterns – you can change the loop. For example, if you crave soda, what pleasure do you derive from it? Is there a substitute for that pleasure? By analyzing the reward (sugar, energy boost, stress reduction) that’s driving the behavior, you can create substitutes that will give you that boost without the undesired consequences. Then, work backward to change your routine to fill that need, which will lead to a different, healthier reward. Duhigg states: “If you identify the cues and rewards, you can change the routine.” It’s actually a very simple concept when broken down and analyzed.

It’s also important to identify what needs changing in your life and the obstacles to that end. How can you support yourself when making the change? For example, if you know that you eat poorly when you are stressed, take a route that avoids your favorite fast-food restaurant after a hard day. Try to identify the stress leading to the craving, and deal with that stress. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

By identifying the underlying trigger (stress) and the familiar behavior (eating fast food for relief), then practicing stress-reduction techniques while supporting yourself (taking a different route to avoid temptation), you will feel a sense of accomplishment. When you succeed even once, you will realize you are stronger than your urges. It’s all about choice in the moment, and identifying your triggers. Then, if you choose to eat that cheesecake knowing it’s not because of negative emotions, you can enjoy it. You regain control by making conscious choices, rather than reacting based on emotion. This power will lead to more positive changes in other areas of your life!

(published in 12/2015 Spirit Seeker Magazine)


Celebration of Life

Are you having trouble regaining interest in everyday life after losing a pet?

Is taking care of pets who have chronic issues taking a toll on your own well-being?

Are you taking better care of your pets and neglecting your own self-care?

Has not reaching a goal in dog-related activities (earning a title, certification), having to “retire” a pet early or facing rejection in the dog show ring impacted other areas of your life?

Our pets are an important part of our lives. They provide unconditional love, greet us with a wagging tail and they enjoy just being with us. Unfortunately, they leave us way too soon. The loss can be very difficult and the hole it leaves, impacts us in different ways. Besides having to handle the grief, we may also second guess the decisions we are suddenly forced to make.

I’d like to help you work through the grief and celebrate your special pet’s life in a unique way that will honor the relationship you’ve had together.

Both individual and group sessions available.

Individual sessions: Monday-Friday (after 5:00 pm), Saturdays

Allison White, ACSW, LCSW, CCDP-D


Access Your Inner Child and Have Fun!

Life’s simplest moments are experienced watching kids play. When young, we played outside until bedtime, with few cares in the world except responding to our parents’ calls.  Wonders of youth were lost between childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. Exercise helped shed pounds accumulated during college, raising families, and our careers.  Health was equated with boring food, endless hours at the gym, and drinking water until we drowned.  I miss the activities from childhood.  So, I decided to relive some of them.  I mean, exercise doesn’t have to be boring, does it?  I pictured myself as a child, active with endless free time.  What will I choose?  Aha…..I’ll buy a bicycle!

Fun, exercise, and surprise benefits……

Buying the bike was an adventure.  At the bike store, I revealed my desire about riding again to a young salesman.  A very “fit” young salesman.  I  admitted my fear of crashing and breaking bones at “my age.” Then, something unexpected happened…..instead of cracking a smile, he praised me for this brave venture to be healthier.  Wow!  Then, he had a game plan.  In preparation for my test rides, I was measured for proper fit and safety.  This was a new experience; similar to buying tennis shoes at New Balance.  I jumped on the test bike, hung on for dear life, and conquered my fear of crashing.   Away I went…..  My childhood memory took over and my fears went along for the ride.  It was like I had last ridden only yesterday.  I smiled after realizing I had overcome my fear.

Choosing the bike and assortment of accessories, invoked the child-like excitement as years before.  I had a helmet this time, strictly for safety – no fashion statement here – and decided Creve Coeur Lake would be the perfect place for my first ride.  The trails were level and the weather was perfect.  My excitement mounted as I started pedaling.  I admit that there was fear, but this quickly disappeared on the trail.  I was surrounded by people having fun.  Their energy was contagious.  I experienced a sense of mindfulness and the power of being  in the “here and now.”  I had no watch; time was suspended like when I was a child.  What a fantastic feeling.

Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment as it is, without judgment or worries about the past or the future.  I was focused on not crashing or falling.  No cellphone, no “to do” list.  Just right now.  I relaxed into the ride, noticing the sailboats, the rowers, families riding together, family reunions, the smell of grilling, ducks swimming, birds and bees buzzing by.  I was in nature, I was relaxed, exhilarated.  I couldn’t get lost here so I focused on myself, the trail, and my surroundings.

Being lost in the moment is something we should add to our lives.  The energizing music in Spinning class gives me a similar feeling.  How often do kids lose track of time, even when they are being called for dinner?  Their activities relax them, reduce their stress, give them peace. What do we do?  We get caught up in spreadsheets,  “to do” lists, time.  Balance is so important.  Our responsibility to ourselves is to find activities that lead us to peace, to healthier lifestyles, to enjoying life, like children.  Keep this mindset  and… surprise…. you won’t know you’re exercising!

What was your favorite childhood activity that you can incorporate into your adult life?

Allison White

My first bike helmet. I look like a Storm Trooper from Star Wars!

My first bike helmet. I look like a Storm Trooper from Star Wars!

Live For The Moment

Hi!  Writing this blog is a whole new experience for me, but one I’m looking forward to sharing with you!  I believe in the importance of living for the moment, practicing mindfulness, expressing gratitude and compassion. I value all aspects of my life including my friendships, family, pets and career. My hobbies include music, writing, spending time in nature, traveling and just hanging out…… I hope to share some thoughts that you can relate to.  If so, please let me know!