Best Tips To Stop Emotional Eating


Best Tips To Stop Emotional Eating and overeating

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Even without emotional eating , it is a lot more difficult for us women to lose weight than it is for men .Even at 30 and even more so around and after menopause.  And for some a small number of us there can be other factors like an underperforming thyroid.

However, for a large majority of us, emotions are the driving factor that gets us from the couch to the fridge.

North Americans are not happy.  More than 50% hate their jobs.  Around 50% of marriages end in divorce and of those who remain married a small percentage – some say around 15% – are happy.  Over 20% of the population is drinking to excess or using drugs – and that’s only the ones we know about.

This sad state of affairs has created a world where food has become the legal and acceptable drug of choice.  The term “emotional eating” has never been as present as it is today with devastating consequences for our waistlines and our collective health.

Not helping the situation are the gigantic servings in popular restaurants and the millions of fast food places all over, offering what they say is cheap (I’ll write about that in another post, because no they are not cheap) convenient food-like stuff.

If you recognize yourself as an emotional eater, here are some ways you may have fallen into that habit and what you can do instead – must do – to take care of your physical and emotional health and transform your life.

The very first step is to identify the feeling before you reach for the extra-food.  Try to find out what you are feeling at this very moment?  Sad, bored, angry, lonely, or anxious?  Once you have identified the feeling, take an action that will soothe it, without resorting to extra-food, using the tips below.  Be kind to yourself.  You did not start emotional eating last week.  It will take time to make changes in your eating habits.

Stop Emotional Eating

If you overeat when you feel bored, find your passion.  One of the top qualities associated with happiness is curiosity.   Not surprising.  Look at young children.  They want to see and touch and do everything possible.  People who keep on learning for the sake of learning are some of the happiest around.  To find something that interests you, look around, look back when you were a child or young adult.

Maybe you did not have a chance to take piano or singing lessons because there was not enough money in the family.  Find yourself a piano or singing teacher.  Ever wanted to be a ballerina?  You may never make it to the Met but you can take ballet lessons, just for your own pleasure.  Look here to find a class you might want to take.

If you overeat when you feel lonely, get your list of favourite people and get in touch.  Whether it’s because you are away from family or not being able to see them often or feeling lonely because of a disconnection in your relationship(s), loneliness is a 21st century disease.  If you can call, visit, email, text a loved one, do it.  If you feel lonely because there is a disconnection in your primary relationship, reach out.  Tell how you feel, without accusing.  Hopefully the response will be a loving one.

I know from experience that it’s not easy to reach out – my early life experience has left me worrying about bothering people.  So now I talk to myself into doing it even when it feels uncomfortable.

It takes on person to reach out to possibly repair and re-connect.  Try it.  If you consistently get a no-response or a negative one, see if you need a serious talk or a counselling session to help you decide whether to stay or leave.

If you overeat when you feel unloved (and unlovable), be loving to yourself.  Eating too much or the wrong stuff is abandoning yourself.  If you need love, a cookie or the whole box will not deliver love.  Look at a picture of yourself as a baby and ask what that little one needs right now.  It might be a nap, or a nice walk, or watching a funny movie, or being with someone who you know totally loves you (yes, even your mother counts) and tell them you need a hug or a cuddle.  Ask for what you need from your partner, your friends, your family.

Look at the ways you have been unloving toward yourself: overeating, not sleeping enough, too much tv, no exercise,  not allowing yourself time off, a nice meal, a trip, help around the house, etc.

If you overeat when you feel disrespected, respect yourself and speak up – unless it’s physically dangerous to do so.  In that case, find a safe space.

Not standing up for yourself is one of the worse things you can do for both your physical an mental health.  The stress hormones you secrete are poison.

If you overeat when you are angry, first process what happened.  Don’t take it out on yourself with food.  Anger is a very healthy emotion unless it’s your default place.  Anger can show up when someone has violated our boundaries, or when we see someone else being treated badly.  If there is a cause you feel particularly passionate about, get involved as a volunteer.  If someone repeatedly violates your boundaries, remove yourself, permanently if things don’t change.

If you overeat because you hate your job, make a plan to find work where you will be happier.  Take a class, network to see what jobs are available, either in your present company or outside.  If possible, ask for a transfer to another department.  Investigate what education you would need to get the work you really want.

I did just that when I worked in the government, in administration and I was bored to death and I hated the work.  See this past post where I talk about it.  I can assure you that when I first tried to imagine getting the Master’s degree I would need, I totally believed it was not possible.  Fast forward 7 years later, I had the B.A. and the M.A. and I was in a totally new career.  If I could do it, you can too.

If you overeat because you feel old, put on your favourite music and dance.  Watch movies you liked when you were younger.  Treat yourself to a haircut.  If you are still wearing the same clothes you were wearing 20 years ago, treat yourself to a few new pieces of clothing.  No need to break the bank.  Consignement stores hold treasures at basement bargain prices.  If you feel old, stop referring to your age.  Look in the mirror, smile and say an age about 20 years younger than your chronological age.  Imagine yourself being 20 years younger.

Some of the best ways to feel younger is to be physically active through sports, or other activities.  I do ballroom dancing and I just started argentine tango.  I also do taichi, swim and walk regularly.  The other way to feel younger is to remain mentally active.  Read, learn new things.  I learned Italian a few years ago – one year of weekly classes.  I am now learning technical stuff related to my blog and although I find it extremely challenging, it’s keeping my brain active and that’s good.

If you overeat or practice emotional eating because you are unhappy in a loveless, or toxic relationship, and you have given it your best shot, take care of yourself and leave.   Consult a professional to clarify what you want and need to do.   You deserve to be with someone who cherishes you and you cherish too.   Some relationships, through no one’s fault, should have never been in the first place.  Others are abusive and toxic.  Both are hard to leave but your mental, and physical health deserve better.

Finally, there is another reason some of us overeat that is not emotional eating: we love the taste of food and are gluttons!  I know some of my overeating is simply because it’s so good -I am not really hungry but that cake is divine, or the pizza to die for.  I sometimes do this when I bake a cake, or a pie, raspberry pie.  Or with chinese food, my very favorite.  One thing to ask before taking that second helping is “Am I really hungry?  Do I want to regret this?  Will this sabotage my work of the last few weeks? Is it worth it?”  That kind of interior monologue can help, sometimes not. Ideally it does not happen too often.

If you resonate with any of the above triggers for overeating and emotional eating, surround yourself with people who are self-loving and manage their emotions in a healthy way.  They are the kind of people who will not sabotage your efforts at a healthier lifestyle and plan non-food activities with the others: hiking, a movie, an outdoor concert, a play, going dancing, a swim at the lake, etc.

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The 2 biggest reasons we make mistakes when choosing marriage partners

The proof that most of us make mistakes in choosing marriage partners

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When we date in our 20, 30, and even much later in life too, most of us don’t kow what we are doing.  If you don’t believe me, remember that close to 50% of first marriages end in divorce, over 67% of second marriages end in divorce, almost 75% of those in third marriages also end in divorce and of those who remain married, only about 30% are happily paired up. This means of  25 or so couples  about 4 have a healthy, happy marriage.  If you don’t believe me, make a list of all the couples you know who have been married – or living together for at least 4 years and do the math.

People do not marry to get divorced.  Most people endure years of unhappiness before they divorce and many want Continue reading “The 2 biggest reasons we make mistakes when choosing marriage partners”

Emotional Intelligence will make a world of difference, in your world

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emotional intelligence

Do you know what Emotional Intelligence is and, do you rock it?

Most people will answer no to the question “Are you difficult to live with?”  We all like to believe that we are perfect or at least close to it and we all know someone who is definitely difficult to live with (I do).  Or do you find it difficult to live with yourself?  Your moods, your anger or worry, your blues?

Those who are the most difficult to live with usually have the least insight into their behaviour.  We are seeing an extreme example of this during the Presidential elections.  Applying a little more Emotional Intelligence will make a world of difference, in your world.

One way we can be difficult to live with is in how we handle our moods. If you are in charge of people, do your employees fear you?  Do they avoid you? Do you glow in the knowledge that people are scared of you, that they won’t disagree with you?  What about your family?  Do they have to walk on eggshells around you? Do you, overtly or covertly discourage feedback on how they perceive you? Do you justify your bad mood on your stress, your fatigue, the weather, etc. Are you often angry, upset, moody, worried?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you can change and become someone who can learn to manage your moods and improve your relationships at the same time.  Emotional intelligence (EI) is a set of skills that you can learn to practice to make your life (and the life of those around you) less stressful and definitely more pleasant.

Emotional Intelligence has a direct impact on the people around you and it has a very high impact on the quality of your life and even more important, on the quality of your health.

Emotional Intelligence has two major facets: one  about the Self, and one  about others.

Recognize, understand and manage our own emotions

Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others

About the Self

  • Self-awareness – You recognize what you are feeling, what situation, event or thought is at the source of that feeling,   and you see how those feelings make you want to act (or react).  You are aware of what you are thinking and how it either helps or not.   You know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.

Self-management – You’re able to control acting impulsively, talk to yourself to lower the intensity or directions of your feelings, manage your emotions in healthy ways, (take time to breathe, leave the situation to see more clearly),  take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.

How it affects your life

Your physical health. If you’re unable to manage your emotions, you probably are not managing your stress either. This can lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. The first benefit of improving emotional intelligence is to help lower your stress.

Your mental health. Uncontrolled emotions and stress can also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand, be comfortable with, and manage your emotions, you’ll be at risk of being unable to form strong relationships which can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.

Your relationships. By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.  Learning to recognize the emotions of others helps you avoid thinking the worse when conflicts arise.

Your performance at school or work. Emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career. In fact, when it comes to gauging job candidates, many companies now view emotional intelligence as being as important as technical ability and use EQ testing before hiring.  Studies have shown that people usually their employment because of the boss, not because of the work itself.

First step to increase EI

  • To recognize, understand and manage our own emotions we have to learn to be more mindful, to take the time to assess what we are feeling, link to what’s happening in our life and how those emotions translate into body sensations. This requires that we slow down and stop being on the automatic pilot.  This in itself is most difficult in our fast-paced-always-on-the-go life.

    I believe that EI was greater in previous generations when there was less distraction of all kinds and the pace of life was slower.  I just had a thought that what we used to refer as common sense was the result, not of more reading and learning, but of living mindfully and having the time to reflect on what was happening in the life of the people 50 or more years ago.  And reading on the subject just confirmed what I thought: common sense is what we see in people of high EI. (see article).

    Practicing being mindul

    I don’t meditate so I won’t tell you how to do it.  What I practice is living mindfully, which means to stop and listen to how I feel in my head and my body.

    Being mindful can be practiced when we perform everyday activities, like brushing our teeth, eating a meal, peeling vegetables, washing dishes, taking a shower  or cleaning the house or gardening, listening to music or walking to work.  It’s first about paying attention, keeping our mind on the task instead of thinking about the million things you have to do later or what happened earlier.  It’s about just being with the sight, smell, feel, sound of what is happening right now.

    Because new behaviours can be challenging, you can use different ways to help you practice throughout the day.  Being mindful or paying attention,  needs to be practiced before a crisis happens.  It can be as easy as to set an alarm on your computer or watch or cell to ring every hour or two hour and take 30 seconds to see how you are feeling (relaxed, upset, happy, worried, angry, etc,) and do a body scan to see if you are feeling hungry, tired, have a backache, have a headache, etc. and to do what you need to do to feel better.  Some things you can do right away – have your meal, get up, go for a walk, take a nap or go to bed. Some other actions may have to wait because they are linked to a situation or problem we cannot solve right now but by identifying what is happening we are better empowered and we can choose to set at time to deal with it later.

    When you learn to practice being mindful in times of peace, you will be better equipped to do it when a crisis occurs (a time when we easily lose our capacity to think clearly).

    Let me know if you find this article useful and if so, please share it with your network.
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Don’t shop for love on an Empty Heart

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choosing from an empty place

If your emotional fridge is empty, you could make a mistake and end up with a more bitter than sweet sweetheart.

 Do you know how to choose a watermelon?  That’s something I did not know for years, so I would do what I saw other people do.  I would look at how people did it.  Some would smell it, others would knock on it.  Still others would turn it around and give it a good look.   The problem is even as I was imitating the melon pickers, I had no idea what it was I should look for or avoid.  In fact if I saw some yellowish dirty patch on the watermelon, I thought it was bad and did not choose that particular one. A few times,  I even asked a few people who seemed knowledgeable to choose one for me.  I have since learned, from one of the people I asked to choose for me, that it’s a good sign for a ripe watermelon!!!!

We often follow the same method to choose a sweetheart.  We look at what others (our parents did), we assume that’s what we should do too. If we belong to the minority who saw their parents have a healthy and loving marriage, our mate picking radar is well calibrated.  Otherwise, when we really don’t know what is truly important and healthy, we buy based on appearances and we often avoid someone who is right and just ripe for a good relationship because they lack the shine factor.

Or sometimes, we don’t spend much time choosing.  We take the first person who shows interest, while it would never occur to us to grab the chicken or bag of apples because it was the last one on the shelf.  Unless we were really starving.

How do you know if your emotional fridge is empty?  First, your fridge could be empty because you have just been dumped, or because you have not been in a relationship for a while or your last partner made you believe you were flawed and nobody would ever want you.  Maybe your fridge has been empty since childhood because that was a time when nobody could fill it well.  When our emotional fridge is empty, we think this is our only chance to have a relationship, we tell ourselves that we are too old, that we are not pretty enough, that this is the last boat.  We become clingy.  We obsess over our looks.  We do too much.  We give too much.  We let our life and our interests go.  We excuse poor behaviours.  We obsess over everyting. We become insecure and jealous.  We don’t inspect to evaluate whether this is the same kind of “love” that got us sick before, or if it shows signs of toxic mould (people who criticize you, your appearance, put you down, make off-hand jokes, use you, laugh at you, how you look, what you are trying to accomplish, etc., etc., etc.)

Is  your emotional frideg empty? What would fill it?

-The first way to fill your emotional fridge is to learn to love your own company. I know, you probably heard this before.  I can assure you it’s true. Learning to love your own company is more than spending your evenings vegging out in front of the tv.  It means getting to the point where your time alone is so precious you will not give it up unless you are getting quality company.  See how this is important.  You will not accept a date or to go out just because you are bored or lonely.   It won’t guarantee that you will find your sweetheart, but what it will guarantee is that you will be happy, even without a sweetheart.   This is the foundation and there is no shortcut.

-The second thing you need to do is to find activities that you love to fill your days.  Activities with others and activities and creative pursuits you can do alone, when there is a snowstorm and you are trapped in the house for the whole weekend.

-Nurture your family relationships.  Visit and invite your family over for brunch or a game of cards or to watch a movie.  Make time to call your kids or parents regularly.

-Grow a small group of friends.  Here quality is better than quantities.  I distinguish friends from activitiy buddies.  Close friends are those you can confide in and count on and they can also count on you.

-If you like group sports or activities, find a group to walk or play bridge, or go to movies.  Meetup has thousands of different groups, for all ages.

-If you have the time and energy, get involved in your community as a volunteer.  Some require that you commit for a number of months, others need volunteers once in a while, for a few hours, or a day.  Volunteering is also a great way to meet new potential friends.

-If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of filling your emotional fridge, get support.  Find a good therapist to help you heal what’s keeping you stuck.

Loving your own company and enjoying your life will help immunizing you against “buying” out of fear, boredom or loneliness.

Did you ever settle for the last “chicken”?  If you find this post useful, please share on social media and with your friends.  Please let me know how it was useful for you in the comments section.


From negative to healthy self-talk for more energy

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Self-criticism can be a real downer.  The trouble is if you are someone who does it, you have come to believe it’s ok to talk to yourself in a way you would never think of talking to someone you love. Negative self-talk has become like emotional abuse is: almost invisible but often the most lethal.  You may continue to do it because it was done to you, a a child or in a relationship and you may actually believe you are not too bright, or not pretty enough or any other “enough”.   I regularly hear and read how some people talk to themselves out loud using words that are cutting and amount to character assassination: “I am so dumb, I am so stupid, I’ll never get it, I am so fat, I am so ugly, I don’t have what it takes to succeed, to be loved, etc.”

While you may think that it’s no big deal, I can assure you that it negatively reinforces your insecurities and your feelings of not being good enough.  I remember at the beach last Summer I heard a young’ish, 30 or so woman, keep on telling the man she was with that no she would not get into a bathing suit because she hated her legs.  She was wearing pants.  This seemed like a “dating” couple and I felt so sorry for her and wondered how the fellow with her felt at her constant self put-downs.  When she finally did change to a bathing suit, she looked perfectly fine, legs included.

You may argue that it would not help you to change if you simply ignored your mistakes or other flaws, imperfections,  and that reminding yourself that you need to improve is the way to go.

Well, let’s try another way.

First no one is perfect.  We all make mistakes, klutzy things, our bodies do not resemble that of a photoshopped model or that of the 18 year old or 25 year old we see in magazines, because most pictures are photoshopped.

When we are down on ourselves through negative self-talk, it’s usually as a result of some kind of comparison (the 18 year old’s body) or the successful colleague, or the glowing energetic neighbour, or someone’s car or holiday or bigger house.  Up to there, there is nothing wrong with seeing others have what we want.  Or with feeling dissatisfied with some of the things we have, whether it’s success, love or better health.

The way to start is to ask “is this something that I really want to change or am I reading too many glossy magazines, comparing my 45 year old body with that of an 18 year old or comparing my success as a beginner, dancer, entrepreneur, blogger, to someone who has been at it for the last 10 or more years, even 1 or 2 more years.  The same way, if your friend was born “into money” or married someone who makes double or triple your salary, you can’t compare.  It’s like comparing oranges to something else.

Then the second question is to ask “what am I willing to do to get better at this, and do I value it enough to give it my all?” or can I just accept that I will never win a dance competition but want to continue for the exercise and the fun (that’s one of mine), accept that I am not the greatest houskeeper around, but I prefer to read and to blog instead of having a spotlet house, or that I should not compare my starting blog to that one that has been around 5 years or my body has changed because I have had children and I could be the grandma to that 18 year old!

Then, commit to first stopping the abusive self-talk and accept that it will take some time to get it (perfect).  Second, do a reality check every time you catch yourself comparing yourself to others.  Third, commit to making the changes you want.  Whether it is to put more working hours in your business, or getting a cleaning lady if you really want a spotless home, or taking better care of your health, both with nutrition and exercise.

Finally, end each day with writing 3 things you are grateful for in your life, whether it’s your health, your kids, your partner, your best friend, the country where you live, today’s sunset.  And appreciate yourself for 3 things you did today: caught yourself about to insult yourself, ate better, took a walk at lunch, had that talk with your spouse to clear a misunderstanding, cleaned the fridge, talked kindly to yourself, made for time to accomplish your goal.

Just like toxi relationships are the greatest energy suckers, so is self-abuse, and negative self-talk is self-abuse.  When you change the way you talk to yourself, you will have more emotional energy and this will translate into more physical energy.  It may feel imperceptible at first, but one day you will wake up and be totally in awe of the wonderful human being that has emerged.

You may want to enlist the help of a friend, or a partner to remind you when they hear you being hard on yourself.  Changing an ingrained habit takes time.  Be patient with yourself.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know and share with your friends.

P.S. Check the EFT link (Emotional Freedom Techniques) in my resource page – you can use it to stop the negative self-talk




Energy: 7 drains and a simple 5-Step plan to stop the leaks

emotional energy

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Energy is essential for a great quality of life, yet even with enough sleep and good nutrition and vitamins and all kinds of supplements (and a clean medical checkup), many of us go through life without much of it.   And when we don’t have it, life feels like hell.  You don’t care to go out and meet friends, you stop working on your favorite project, you feel grumpy, blah.  Pessimism is your new best friend and you wonder if this is all there is.  You think it’s because you are getting older, but there is a part of you who still hopes for an answer that brings a solution.

I have good news for you.  Energy is not age-dependent.  All things being equal – you can have more energy at 40 than 30, at 60 than at 50 and I can go on.  You probably know a few people who have more energy than many people their age. They are vibrant, active and have many interests.  They can’t wait to get up in the morning.

What is that missing ingredient that has nothing to do with sleep, nutrition and exercise?  It’s emotional energy.  Mira Kirshenbaum, author of The Emotional Energy Factor has defined it as “a special energy that’s all about feeling young and deeply connected to the fun and hope in life”. I would add “it’s like being 20 again”, whether or not you slept enough the night before.  Yes lack of sleep and age will slow you down but emotional energy will keep the twinkle in your eye.  Annie Perrin, of the Emotional Energy project, says “the greater the alignment between what you say you value and how you actually live, the more energy you have available to you”.

What we value is what we find important.  However, we do not always live in accordance with our values.  Here are some ways we unconsciously sabotage ourselves and end up depleted and exhausted.

Energy drains

  • the one I put first is the failure to set clear boundaries, which is usually due to not feeling good enough to assert ourselves.  So we tolerate bad behaviours, intrusion, lack of respect, lack of mutuality – which makes it hard to look forward to tomorrow, since you can’t envision a change in the future
  • lack of being clear on what we want  (again not feeling we have the right to say so) which leads to do things because of what others expect or what we expect we “should” do.  “Should’s” then become our mantra, instead of asking for what we truly want.
  • we are hard on ourselves – we totally lack self-compassion (again based on not feeling good enough).  This often leads to ignoring your pain, minimizing it and not seeking help when needed.
  • we don’t recognize the voice of intuition – that little persistent inner voice- or we ignore it.  Again not feeling good enough runs the show.
  • we worry about what people will think – Again this can be bundled with the “should’s”.  We dress, live, and show up to either impress or to avoid criticism, confrontation or anything potentially different from your colleagues, friends, family, etc.
  • we are unhappy but stay in relationships, marriages, friendships out of obligation, for fear of displeasing, making waves or being seen as the “bad” one.  Because close relationships – marriage and other family connections,  are what feeds or destroys our soul on a daily basis, this energy drain is a biggie.  The closer the relationship, the more it takes our energy if it is not a healthy and loving one, or worse a toxic one where there is emotional, mental, verbal or physical abuse
  • we go through life on the automatic pilot, never asking ourself what we are feeling, what we want, because it has never occurred to us to treat ourself as well as we treat others in our life.  Learning to live consciously is essential to be mindful of what is going on in our life and to see how it affects us.

Energy fill-up

Continue reading “Energy: 7 drains and a simple 5-Step plan to stop the leaks”

Drop your guilt to lower your stress


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Stress and guilt and forgiving yourself

Guilt, like any other emotion, is your internal GPS.  It’s your conscience speaking when you have not respected your moral compass.  It’s a sign to do something different, and to apologize for the misbehaviour.

Unfortunately, many of us, while born with an intact moral compass, have grown up in ways that put that compass out of whack.  It overfunctions so we find ourselves feeling guilty even when we have not done anything wrong because we inherited our parent’s guilt.  It’s passed through generations and it shows up as toxic guilt.

We can feel guilty for not meeting the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves, whether it’s about something we did when we did not know better or how we don’t manage to keep up today, also called the Superwoman or Superman syndrome.  We can so so feel guilty when we get involved with people who are masters of manipulation, have unrealistic expectations of us and always blame others.

One particularly insidious form of toxic guilt (the non-real type), comes from having grown up in a dysfunctional home – home with either parental alcoholism, mental illness, violence, neglect, etc.  This makes us prone to feeling responsible for others because it was a responsibility put on us (being parentified) when our parents were less than able to mentally and emotionally take care of our needs.

This inherited toxic guilt (and shame too) makes us work harder and harder to please and to take care of other people’s emotions, leaving our needs out of the equation.

I worked in the field of addiction for over 20 years.  Mostly with women, addicted to alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs, including prescription drugs.  One common theme in addiction is guilt – about 100% of my clients carried guilt.  For having used, i.e. done drugs or drunk, for having neglected their kids, spouse, friends, jobs, finances.   Guilt figured highly in the time we spent together.  Guilt also figured largely in the lives of my clients as it was often a huge trigger for a binge or a relapse.

While they had an extremely hard time and strong resistance to forgiving themselves, these same women were extremely generous – sometimes too generous – excusing other people’s behaviours.  Often very abusive behaviours.

This difficulty forgiving ourselves is not limited to the world of addiction.  If you ask 10 people around you whether they have a hard time forgiving themselves, most will say yes.  And those same people will say it’s a lot easier to forgive others.  Maybe you too will admit you find it easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself. I often have to talk to myself when I see myself starting to beat myself up.  The good news I now catch it pretty quickly and you can too.

Holding on from truly forgiving does affect more than our moods.  Whether we don’t make peace with what someone did or we did, those repressed emotions of anger, hurt, pain are stored in the body and it affects our health.

What is the difference between forgiving and making excuses, also called pseudo-forgiveness?  And why is it important to know the difference and make sure we truly forgive ourselves?

Why does self-forgiveness sound so self indulgent to so many people? Like I said at the beginning, when we grow up we have to be responsible because we cannot count on the adults in our life, there is a good chance we don’t always succeed and this unfair burden sets the stage for not feeling good enough.  This in turn makes us feel we have to try harder to feel worthy and not feeling worthy makes it very hard to even think about letting ourselves off the hook when we don’t reach perfection.

You don’t need to be abused or like Rhonda Britten, author of Fearless Living, to see your dad gun your mother down and then turn the gun on himself.   It can be living day in and day out with a workaholic dad, or an alcoholic mom, or dad,  like losing a parent in childhood, or like me, being sent to live with relatives for a year because my mom was sick.

For someone else it can be because money was tight and they did not have as much as the neibourhood kids or being the youngest of a big family and feel like an afterthought.  Or a thousand other reasons you felt you did not measure up.  So instead of believing you made a mistake, you start feeling you are a mistake.  A loser. A no-good nobody.

Imagine the fear of looking inward when you believe you are a mistake or that you are so bad (because that’s what abuse led you to believe) that you don’t deserve to feel good, to let yourself off the hook, to find some peace and happiness.

What real forgiveness is not is minimizing what happened  “it was not so bad”, making generalizations “it happens to everybody”, too early “understanding” “he was doing his best”, “that’s how it was done then”, etc

Real forgiveness involves a very profound reflection and holding our pain, touching it and grieving the loss of what did or did not happen and the effect it has had on our life.  It’s a painful process – although it does not have to be long.  I remember the moment I did it for my being sent away from from my parents when I was 9 years old.  I cried what I had not cried at 9.  I extended empathy for the child I was then, feeling alone and scared.  It left me raw for a couple of days, then it started healing.

The important aspect is we must acknowledge the effect, acknowledge the pain and often the anger,  instead of using humour or other means to push it away.  The same holds true for forgiving ourselves.  Which is not like saying “oh, well, it happens”, or “too bad”.  Forgiving ourselves also involves an interior voyage to touch the guilt and often the shame associated with what we either did or did not do.  It involves acknowledging our responsibility for what happened and then choosing to forgive ourselves for our own sake and that of those around us.

In the process of forgiving ourselves, it’s important to take responsibility only for our behaviours and avoid taking the responsibility of others.  This is especially important for those of us who have a big tendency to feel responsible for everything.  Most likely if you are reading this, you may fall in that category since people who never feel responsible seldom read personal growth material.

So, how are you going to do it? To forgive others but first of all, to forgive yourself ?   The first step is to look at whether you are guilty of anything. Did you do something wrong and did you do it willfully?  If you did not do it willfully, you are still responsible but you are not guilty of anything. Guilt implies that there was an intent.  No intent no guilt.  Second, do you tend to feel guilty and to take on the sins of the world, or your family and friends?  Here you have to look at whether you are the scapegoat of the family or whether you are dealing with a narcissist or a sociopath.  Those are the people who never, but never feel guilty.  How to recognize them: they never apologize or do it quick without feeling, with a “whatever” thrown in to signify they are just placating you.   Then go gently, very gently.  You are going to have to make the decision to love yourself unconditionally – that is with all that you find wrong and ugly in you, including those things you don’t want to forgive.

If you did willfully commit an act that constitutes a crime, then as Mira Kirshenbaum explains, put yourself on trial and decide on an appropriate sentence.  If you can repay or make amends to whoever you hurt, do so if it is safe to do.  If not you can make a donation to a charity or commit to doing volunteer work for a certain amount of time.  And then, you have to let it go.  The same way you let go and make peace with other people’s misbehaviours, you do with yourself too.

The bottom line is it all starts with loving yourself and that requires a big decision.  There is no way around it.  And blindly.  With a leap of faith.  Trusting that what you have done up to now has not worked and trusting that what I say is true and is backed by science: self-compassion and self-forgiveness is essential for your health.

While alcoholics and addicts go and relapse when they don’t forgive themselves, you may just continue stuffing yourself with junk food .  Sweets (and alcohol) give a physical energy spike which translates into an emotional energy spike.  It’s also called medicating your emotions.  Or maybe you will continue shopping too much, sleeping too much, or not enough, or gambling, or  somehow sabotaging yourself and your happiness.

If you find it difficult to do the self-forgiving, give yourself a gift and find a qualified counselor, psychologist or psychotherapist to help you so you can unload that unfair family baggage.  You will breathe easier and you will have more to give to your loved ones.

Let me know how you plan to unload that heavy “guilt” baggage.

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Prepare to change career at mid-life

Changing career at mid-life and beyond

retour à l'école - stock photo

Do you feel stuck in a job you hate?  Do you think you are too old to learn something new?  Are you afraid of leaving the security of a job, the prospect of loosing that retirement pension? Do you dream of changing career?  Do you secretly envy someone because they did it?

I did not think about changing career throughout my 20s or 30s because I thought it was impossible.  I did not have a Bachelor degree and never thought I could get one.  Much less a Master’s degree.  At 39,  I was a single parent, working in the government with good chances of promotion but I was not happy in my job.  I distinctly remember the day I realized I still had 25 years before retirement and how I could just not see myself doing this kind of work for another 25 years. It was a scary thought.

I was lucky during a course to meet a teacher who was doing the work I thought I would enjoy.  But then it required a Master’s degree and I thought it was out of my reach.  Then I met a fellow about my age who was doing a Master’s degree part time and I figured I was as intelligent as him and if he could do, so could I.  And I could

That year, when I was 39, I decided to risk it all.  I took an unpaid leave of absence (from my $15,000 a year safe job!!!), mortgaged my home and went to University full time for 2 years to complete a Bachelor degree I then added another year to start a Master’s program. (While I did not finish that M.A., I started another one part time, which I completed in about 5 years)

How did I pull it off, with 2 young kids and very little financial support?  Luckily, I was able to take a line of credit against the equity in my home.  For one semester I also worked part-time.  What really helped was that I was able to live very frugally during those years.  Money was spent on essentials: mortgage, food, clothes for the kids.  I did not buy one single item of clothing during those 3 years and what really saved me was that I did not own a car, lived close to downtown and loved walking.  My biggest extravagance was buying a bottle of wine every few months, and having a glass once in a while while cooking on the bbq.  The sacrifices were well worth it as I enjoy a great career as a psychotherapist for 20 years and never regretted my decision.


The biggest financial mistake I made then was to not investigate whether I could have been eligible for student loan or grants – while the line of credit was great, for me who was not very financially savvy, it cost me money.  Since I only had to pay the interest I did not see the need to pay the principal for a long while – today I know better and I would work hard to eliminate that debt as soon as possible, and I would definitely look at grants, bursaries or student loans.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I was now close to official retirement age and eyeing a 3rd career.  It became obvious that if I was going to start this 3rd career in a private business and did not want to work 7 days a week, I had to make some changes regarding paid employment.

I was working in social services where the rate of pay is historically poor.  I was also working with a coach as part of my coach training and I continually heard myself tell her “I did not have the time”.  Finally I made a big decision: to go from full time to a 4 day work week, with a corresponding 20% pay cut.  As scary as it was, this new schedule was fantastic and it gave me some breathing room and a chance to work on my business.

After a year or so of this new work arrangement, I had the chance!!! to further cut one day of work, and yes, another 20% pay cut.  At that point my coaching business was making up for the lost salary and I was also being careful in the way I spent money.

Finally, in 2008, due to health scares, a poor work environment and the fact that I had lost 3 colleagues to cancer, I chose early retirement.  That’s a 100% pay cut.  Fortunately my coaching business was making up part of my lost salary.  Having lived on 60% of my salary for a while, I had become quite good at not wasting money.

I remember the first few months – it was in the Fall – the pleasure of really enjoying my boss (myself), of sipping my coffee slowly, of scheduling my first client after 10 a.m., of scheduling my work around my bi-weekly swimming.  Pure heaven. Exactly what they mean when they say “money can’t buy happiness”.  Would I like to have more money? Absolutely!  Would I change any of the choices I made?  Absolutely not!


The only regret I have is not to have done it earlier.  The early retirement I mean.  Honestly everything – from the going to University to complete the degree to cutting the workweek to early retirement.  Except, we do things when we are ready.  I obviously was not ready before I did take the plunge.

Life has been great.  I have enjoyed every minute of my new careers and, another surprise, I am on the brink of starting yet another career: professional blogger.  It’s exciting, I am learning a lot.  I am meeting new people, I feel my brain is growing again.

Should you take the risk?  Only you can answer the question. There is a good chance you will be poorer.  There’s a good chance you will have to work hard, whether to get a degree  or to start the new career.  Are you willing to cut expenses?  Are you willing to have to say no to the luxuries you take for granted, at least for a while, whether it’s eating out, traveling, nice clothes.  Depending on what career you are moving to, you could also make a lot more money than in your old job.  Many bloggers for example make six figure income and many make very little.  Many corporate executives who are now business and life coaches also make as much if not more than they did in their paid employment and many barely make enough to survive.

If you decide to make a change, do your homework.  Talk to people who do what you want to do.  Look at the employment opportunities in the new field.  I admit I did neither which seems a bit reckless.  However,  my leave of absence from the government also included the option of returning to my old job or a similar one.  That was my safety net.  I am glad I never needed it

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Let me know what you are dreaming of changing in your life

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You are NOT too old


not too old, dreams, goals, realize your dreams

What lights your fire? You need to follow your heart and intuition.  And you are not too old to do what  you want to do.  Whether it’s to wear your hair long, to fall in love, to wear a two-piece swimsuit, to color your hair, to let a little grey show, to get married, to learn to dance, to swim, to learn another language and I could go on and on: do it.  In fact I did most of the above at a time when many people feel it’s no longer appropriate to do so.

If you are in your forties, or even fifties, you still have at least a couple of decades to not only dream but to actually build an entirely different life for yourself, either in your personal life or professionally.  You could easily live well into your 90’s and it’s not uncommon to find women in their 80’s and even 90’s still actively involved in some form of work.  This yoga teacher is a great example (she is around 96).

The reason I decided to write about this today has to do with a conversation I had with a potential coaching client last week.  The person was quite desperate to find employment but she kept getting rejection letters although she had quite an impressive resume and higher education.  One skill would have helped tremendously in her getting a job commensurate with her education and experience.  When I suggested she devote time to acquiring that skill – Continue reading “You are NOT too old”