Category Archive: Uncategorized

Apr 07

This is me. No make-up. No cover-up. No pretense. Just me.

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

Bear with me. Read the whole thing please….. this is from my heart.

This piece was originally written as a Facebook post on the day the photo was taken: a few days after my 50th birthday in June, 2014.


“This is my favorite picture from my photo shoot because it actually shows my hard work. This photo may offend some (in the current anti-fitspo sentiment) and if so, I apologize. That’s not my intent. I am not looking for comments nor compliments. I am comfortable enough in my own skin to no longer require external input, so please don’t feel that you “need” to say anything.

Sincerely, I hesitated to post this but; ultimately I am for a couple of reasons.

First, because I am a figure competitor, this IS me. I haven’t always looked this way.  I worked hard to get to this point.  I’m fully clothed (even wearing more than you’ve seen in my stage photos). My husband and family support me. Many of my friends also participate in this hobby (I love my fitness girls the best – you ladies rock!!!!).

There are three things I want to specifically point out in hopes that I might be able to help SOMEBODY.

(1) This was taken a week after my 50th birthday. It does not matter how old you are.

(2) I am 15 (Fifteen) pounds heavier in this photo than I was at my last competition over a year ago. The scale is a liar!!!   Weight does not matter!!  No, I don’t think I need to lose 15 pounds. If this photo makes a difference to even one person who drives themselves crazy weighing every day, I will be thrilled!!

(3) Several of my friends [and family too] don’t care for the “hard” muscular female body that I appreciate so much…’s not for everybody. Strangers make comments. People sometimes look at me oddly. I wear long sleeves when I teach. Close friends treat me like I’m a freak when I’m in show-prep. It’s all okay. Sincerely. I CHOOSE this lifestyle.

But what I wanted you (my friends and family) to see is that I [we] don’t always appear “overly” muscular. All of the pictures were taken on the very same day and yet my body is different in every one of them. Hard in the first one. Very soft in several of the others.

Nelson_064 edited Nelson_010


People used to make fun of my big legs and I’ve been told more than once that they’re “manly”. Well, I kind of like um!!!

Yup. This is me. No make up. No hair-do. No pretense. No cover-up.  Just me. and I kind of like it.

Apr 03

“Do What you Can” is Not a License to Ignore Personal Responsibility!

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

One of my favorite taglines is “Do what you can, when you can, with what you have available.” It’s quite clear to me and I know exactly what I mean by that statement. I had lunch with a friend yesterday, though, and we talked about it. It never dawned on me that people might have a completely different understanding than the one I intended.

This is one reason why it’s important to be open to receiving others’ input. This is also the reason I adore friends that don’t just agree with everything I say. Our perception is frequently different than that of others and I value discussions about these differences! I LOVE the ah-ha moments when I can say, “oh my gosh! I never even looked at it that way before!!” I learn in those moments, my mind is expanded, and it’s fantastic to see things from a different angle.

So when I say, “Do what you can, when you can, with what you have available”, what do I mean? Do I mean eat whatever you feel like whenever you want? Do I mean, don’t worry about exercising if you don’t feel like? Do I mean, cut yourself some slack, serious slack: don’t hold yourself accountable for anything, and just be happy with your non-action?

Sure, as long as you understand that doing what you’ve always done is going to give you the results you’ve always gotten, and you’ll need to be happy with that.

If you are comfortable right where you are now (and there is ZERO judgment if this is where you are. Cool!) – you don’t need to worry about changing anything. Be happy!!! Truly. But be aware that you have no right to complain about not meeting your goals. My husband likes Mountain Dew and potato chips. Am I going to consume those things? No. Do I judge him if he does? Nope. I’ve had people tell me that they “can’t believe I let him do that.” WTH? He’s a grown man, he makes his own choices but I do make him accept responsibility for those choices. He does not get to complain to me about gaining weight or feeling sluggish.

If you want to make changes, whatever those changes are (lose weight, gain weight, add muscle, get faster, get stronger, get healthier, potentially decrease medication, feel better, etc.) you are gong to need to change things!!!

  • Increase/decrease the amount you’re eating,
  • Get stronger by exercising, and
  • Improve the quality of the food you’re eating OR
  • Stop complaining. Stop saying you “should”


There are three things I ACTUALLY mean when I say, “Do what you can”

1.  Accept yourself as being human. Stop beating yourself up over having a less than perfect day BUT keep working on making improvements.

Here are a couple of examples. First, many clients come to me struggling to tame the soda sugar monster. Do what you can where you are right now means: decrease your soda by 25% the first week, and by another 25% the second. Keep doing this. Switch from regular to diet. Is it “good” for you? No. Does it have sodium and chemicals in it? Yup. It’s not about perfection. It’s about improvement. Drink a glass of water before each soda you have.

Don’t like water? Yes, it’s okay to put in a little Mio or similar flavoring for a while. Use less next week and less the week after. I’d prefer you drink plain water but if you’re only going to drink water with flavoring in it, drink flavored water.

Can’t seem to break the habit of having a bag of chips after work every day? Buy one individual bag on your way home in the evening – don’t keep them in your house, and don’t buy the super king-sized bag because it’s “a better deal”. Remember my waste or waist philosophy? Try sweet potato, bean, baked chips or pretzels one time. Have chips only 3-4 times this week instead of 5, and reduce that by 1 again next week. If it’s crunchy you’re looking for, try a healthy cereal (measure out one serving – don’t eat the entire box. In that case, you might as well have had your chips). If it’s salty you’re looking for, have a few salted nuts or make some baked pita chips.

Baked Pita Chips

Preheat oven to 375. Cut each pita into quarters and then cut each quarter in half to make 8 triangles.  Place them on a cookie sheet or baking stone and spray lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle on a little salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, or cinnamon. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once.


2.  Deal with your limitations by finding a way to work within them.

Look, we all have limitations. We’re all busy and we have lives beyond just diet and exercise. Deal with it. Do what you can with what you have.

Can’t afford to buy organic vegetables? Then buy the bagged greens or frozen veggies (no extra sauce or butter). Can’t afford grass-fed, high quality meat? Buy bagged frozen chicken and tell the “purists” to shut up.

You have no time to cook breakfast, or dinner? You either have to make the time by getting up a little earlier or doing a better job of preparing quick things. I make a dozen protein pancakes on Sunday and throw them in the freezer. I can toss them in the toaster oven in the morning, spread on a little peanut butter (or not) and, worst-case scenario I can eat them as I’m dashing out the door to the airport.

Have a protein shake with almond milk, kale or spinach, protein powder and maybe some fruit. That takes a minute to prepare.

I have lots of 15 minute or less recipes on my Family & Fit FB page. The crockpot can be a lifesaver during busy weeks. Again, on Sunday, my husband grills a giant package of chicken and I cut up some veggies. They’re always in the fridge. Do I want to eat that every day? No. But if it’s been one of those days, dinner is already prepared.  FullSizeRender

The kids take up all of your time in the evening and you can’t cook a healthy meal?Have them help you! I haven’t met a child yet who doesn’t love to be in the kitchen. My grandchildren have their own recipe box and one of Hayden’s favorite things to do is search Pinterest for things we can make.  One of his favorites is:

Fish & “Chips”

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a cookie sheet, or line with foil.  Place 2 cups crips rice cereal into a gallon ziplock bag and crush coursely (this is his favorite part and likely why he picks the recipe).  Put this into a large, deep bowl.  Beat 1 e.g. and 1 tbsp water in a separate bowl. Cut 1 pound of cod, haddock, or other firm white fish, into pieces (3-4″ long and 2″ wide).  Season the fish with 1 tsp Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Dip into egg; drain.  Place in cereal and turn to coat all sides. Place on cookie sheet.  Place cut veggies (zucchini and carrots) on same sheet – drizzle with oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Bake 20-25 minutes.  


What if you don’t even have the time or energy for any of this? My friend, Brooke Kalanack, recommends having a few local restaurants programmed into your cell. Places where you know you can get a healthy decent meal (protein and veggies – not a Sonic hotdog and giant shake). If all you can do is call in a pick-up or delivery order, that’s fine. …and then don’t worry about whether the food was cooked in organic oil or not. It’s about making better choices. It’s not about obsession and perfection.

Can’t get to the gym? Do some bodyweight exercises (squats, lunges, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.) at home. Throw in an exercise video. Chase your kids around the house. Go for a walk. Dance. Can’t do any of that just yet? Do a chair workout: stretch and move every part of your body a little bit. Hold onto your counter and do some small leg lifts or squats. If this is all you can do today, do it. That’s fantastic.


3.  Show yourself some grace and compassion. Rather than obsessing over the end goal, be happy with who you are while you’re working on who you want to become.

My goal is to teach people about health and fitness for their entire lives…..not until they weigh a certain amount; it’s been 8-12 weeks; or any other specific date. Stop the negative trash talk ( If you ate something that wasn’t part of your plan, instead of feeling horrible and putting yourself down, move on. Don’t let that turn into a 3-day binge. Can you do this every day and expect to meet your goals? Nope. But if you make improvements over time, you will eventually get there. Last week you “messed up” 5 times? Okay. Next week, try to get that down to 4. That’s an improvement!

I celebrate holidays and special events with my family. I do eat cake, cookies, chocolate, etc. I am not going to Maine without having a raspberry cream turnover. I go out to eat with friends when I get a chance to do that. I thorough enjoy everything about these experiences. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t try to kill myself with extra cardio….and I don’t want you to either.

Do I eat something “special” every day? No. Does that make me feel deprived and like I should be “enjoying my life?” Absolutely not!! I very much enjoy being fit and healthy! I am a grown woman. I am not a victim. I make my own choices. I can eat whatever I want whenever I want. BUT if I want to reach certain personal goals I’ve set, I have to take action complimentary to those goals.

I have a perfect story about this tip. My sister was at a business meeting a while ago. The company had brought in some coffee and several plates of super large cookies. A co-worker had eaten one or two and said, “don’t tell my trainer that I did this.” I LOVE my sister’s response: “I have lost 50 pounds and I didn’t do that by lying to my trainer, or myself, about what I was putting in my mouth.” Amen!!!!

Do whatever you want, but accept the consequences too. You are a grown up!! Own your actions.

 Do what you can, when you can, with what you have available!!


Mar 30

Yesterday This Was Your Future!!

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.     

I was talking to my daughter-in-law the other day about her desire to travel. I explained to her that I never had a plan to do so much traveling myself!! I love it, but I had never been on a plane until I was 28 years old. Now I am on a plane two or more times a week. Not only have I traveled, literally, around the world but I’ve also lived overseas. As a small-town girl with more than my fair share of family “issues”, I could never – in my wildest dreams – have imagined the life I have now. I didn’t plan any of it.

The fact is; I’ve never had a plan. I’ve had a lot of dreams and plenty of short-term goals but that’s it. My husband would attest that this has frequently bothered me. I’ve always felt like I needed long-term goals. I needed to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was taught that we all needed both long and short-term SMART (specific, measurable, aligned to our personal mission, realistic, and time-based) goals and, more than once, I’ve been distraught about my lack of that very thing. My comment about me being lazy in this week’s blog was because I don’t have everything nailed down in an ironclad plan.

To be clear, this is not the same thing as a lack of ambition. It’s also not the same thing as the vision boards or massive to do lists I have created on numerous occasions. I’ve dabbled in Covey and enjoyed a multitude of strategic planning classes – but I never figured it out. I never created “THE” du, du, duh…..end-state goal. Of course there are things I hope to accomplish but I still don’t know what I want to be.

I guess the difference is that now I know I don’t have to choose just one. I am a jumbled mess of things and I can be any or all of them each day.

I had an epiphany when I was talking to Ash. Every single thing in my life has prepared me for where I am and what I’m doing right now. Plan be damned.

My childhood taught me to fight, and to stand up for others; to compartmentalize when necessary, to petition my mind and to become resilient. Dispatching at the MSP reinforced my “calm under pressure” mentality. Taekwondo taught me peace in the midst of adversity. My passion for health and fitness is now helping many other people, not just myself. Playing Tetris on all of those over-night shifts comes in very handy in storing luggage on the plane. I (sincerely) fight the urge to reposition people’s luggage on a daily basis. If I bought myself a flight attendant suit just so I could Tetris-ize luggage in the overhead bins, would that be weird? I joined Toastmasters in Alabama as a means to meet people at work. I had zero intent for a future in public speaking. I now use those skills on a daily basis.

My point is, you just never know. If you don’t have it figured out, it’s okay.  Do any of us?  Really?  I can count on one hand the number of people I personally know who became what they dreamed of being when they were children.

Even without a plan, somehow everything you have done has prepared you to be right where you are at this very moment.  Maybe we need to stop stressing out about the goal. Have aspirations – yes. Set personal goals – yes, but be perfectly happy with where we are now as we move towards wherever it is that we’rBe happye going.

This sign was hanging in the Durham, NC gym I used last week. I think it’s perfect!!! For physical transformations, and for life!!




Mar 28

“You are Fat, Lazy, and None too Pretty.” The things we think it’s okay to say – but only to ourselves.

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

If you told me I was fat, lazy, and not too pretty, we probably wouldn’t be friends for long. I would find you rude and inconsiderate. I would likely say that I don’t care about your opinion and I don’t need people like you in my life.

Here’s the problem: I have said every single one of those things to myself. Multiple times. And you know what else? I’d like to say that the words were uttered a long time ago before I knew better, but that would be a lie. Just yesterday I told my husband that I’m lazy. This past week I told myself I was getting fat and that I’m out of shape. While getting prepared for my last figure show (June 2014), I told the make-up artist, “I’m not one of the prettiest girls, just do the best you can to make me look good on stage.” I’ve told myself I’m not fast enough, strong enough, good enough: I don’t have enough muscle and I have too many stretch marks…for YEARS.

To quote Jill Coleman of JillFit Physiques, “The actual mental, subjective side of the equation (how you feel about your body) has very little to do with the objective measurements (how your body looks). I’ve seen women at 10% bodyfat who hate their bodies and women at 30% who love every inch. The negative self-talk can act as a distraction from the real issue, which is finding a solution and simply showing up in your life every day and doing your best.”

Are the things I say about myself true? Well, let me put it this way. If I met a person who ran 3 businesses, traveled 200 days a year, still got to the gym 4-5 times a week, and helped people when ever she had a spare 10 seconds, I probably wouldn’t think she was lazy. If I told you my closet is full of clothes from high school, and that I can still fit into them, you would likely tell me to go shopping but you wouldn’t think I’m fat.

Why do I allow myself to talk this way, then?

No, I am not shredded. No, I don’t look like I could walk on stage tomorrow. AM I walking on stage tomorrow? No!! So why does it bother me? I say these things because it’s competition season. I have friends and clients competing within the next 6 weeks and I have a touch of the bug. I say these things because I am human.

You say those things to yourself too. Every one of you do at some point, and we need to stop!

I received a text from a client this morning. It read, “I have gained 3 pounds in the last two weeks and I’m frustrated. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to and my body is doing nothing.” Here’s the truth: this girl has already lost over 90 pounds!! Her body has done a lot! She’s accomplished amazing things. None of that makes her feel better. The sad fact is that I get messages frequently from people who have “only lost 3 pounds”. They’re not thrilled with such a small number: they wanted to lose more. Yet, we gain 3 pounds and it’s depressing – if not the end of the world. I’m not exempting myself from this. I get it. I’ve done it too. I do it.

The fact is that no one is truly exempt.

Have you seen this video by Dove?

You might be pretty good at being kind to yourself but we all have those “days” (or weeks, or months, or lives…..) Even Molly Galbrath, fitness professional and kick-ass creator of Girls Gone Strong, wrote this week: “EVERYONE, even fit pros, and even fit pros who love themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin, still have feelings like this on a regular basis. There is nothing wrong with these feelings. It’s what you do with them that counts. Are you letting them rule your life, or are you taking a moment to figure out where they are coming from, and then reacting accordingly?”

I’m working on the later. In that vein, I did an experiment last week. I asked several of my friends to tell me one thing they like about me and one thing they like about themselves. I saw two interesting things. First, not one person said they like me because I have a small waist or curvy shoulders – although a couple of people noted my physical and mental strength. One person wrote, “I like that you never let me beat you when we run together. You make me work.” That made me smile.

No one said they like me because of what I weigh or the size of my pants. This didn’t surprise me but I think it’s a relevant point we should try to remember. Instead, they said things like:

  • You’re such a positive person. I love your heart.
  • You have great perseverance and dedication to accomplish whatever you decide you want to do.
  • You take ownership and responsibility for everything you do.
  • I respect your desire to help others. So much of what you do both in regards to fitness and outside of that is because you want to help. You do fitness group after fitness group and offer advice daily, something you could probably make a decent living off, yet you do so much of it for free and your simple desire to help.
  • I like that you are honest. You tell me like it is. That you are willing to help people get healthy and that you are an inspiration to others!
  • You genuinely make me feel special and loved.

The other thing of interest in my survey – the MOST interesting thing – was the number of people who either didn’t tell me something they liked about themselves. 23% (almost a full quarter) of the people I surveyed said they couldn’t think of anything at the moment. What’s up with that? A throwback to, “if you have nothing to say…..”? I supposed it’s one iota better than the negative trash talk.

Here’s your call to action:

  • Let’s put ourselves in our friend’s shoes.
  • Let’s try to see ourselves through their eyes.
  • Let’s try to treat ourselves as positively as we treat them.
  • List 3 things you love about yourself. Don’t over analyze. Don’t think, “That makes me sound like I’m bragging”.

If you’re not at a point where you’re willing to say this out loud on Facebook or in a blog comment, send me a personal message. I’d love to hear your input!!

Mar 22

Down for the Count: A knockout punch in favor of female body image!

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

Unless you follow Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), you might not know who Ronda Rousey is.  That said; the girl is making some noise in many areas so you might have heard of her regardless.

This is not about fighting, well not the kind you’re thinking of anyway, so if that’s not really your thing, please keep reading for just a second.

This is about fighting for a positive female body image.

Ronda is a 28 year old mixed martial artist. She is the first, and current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion as well as the last Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion. She smashed down the door, and is leading the way for Women’s MMA in the United States.  So far she’s been unbeatable.  Ronda was the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo. That was at the Summer Olympics in Bejing in 2008.

People love her or hate her; there is no in-between.  She definitely evokes very strong emotions.

I applaud Ronda for this interview where she talks about posing in a bikini.

“I walk around at 135 for a couple hours a year JUST before a fight, after cutting weight. The way I look on the scale [for a fight] is not the way I look in real life.  It’s not realistic or healthy for me. I don’t want to do a photo shoot like that. I don’t want people to believe that’s how I really look.”

“I want to be able to take off my clothes right now and get in front of the camera.”   Just the way I am!! Not the way I look after I’ve “prepared”!!


Although you’d hear very few of them ever say it, the largest percentage of body builders, figure and bikini competitors, and models you see in magazines have “prepared”.  They have been air-brushed, photo shopped, and have cut weight for the shoot.  They don’t really look like that.

If you don’t already know, cutting weight involves significantly decreasing carbohydrates, calories, sodium, and water for a few days or a week prior to a certain date (that could be weigh-in for a fight, or the competition date). It is an extreme method of losing weight very quickly.  It may also involve sitting in a sauna and/or taking hot baths as a way to drop as much weight as possible by sweating out all of the body’s sub-dermal water. There is an ambulance at every bodybuilding competition and never a shortage of people who have cramped up or passed out behind stage. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.


I have cut weight for a competition. I’ve helped my son do it for a fight and clients do it for competition as well as wrestling meets.

It’s not fun. It’s NOT healthy.

I have also had the self-induced headache for two days due to severe dehydration and brain fog for close to a week.  Super low carb intake was responsible for that.  As bad of a reputation as they’ve been given, your essential body systems – like brain functioning! – require carbohydrates!!!!

****** THIS is precisely why all of those 3-30 day detox “miracles” you see advertised cause people to “lose weight”.  They really do work.

****** They work just long enough for the after photo to be snapped.

****** One glass of water and 8 hours later, there is NO weight loss!!  There never was any fat loss!!

***** Ask to see the AFTER after pictures!!!!!!!!!!  Ask to look at the photos that were taken 2-5 days later. You’ll find ZERO long-lasting change.

Women in these magazines have been portrayed as the “perfect” for all of us.  How many young girls, adolescents, and women look at those pictures and believe that is what they are supposed to look like??? How many young boys, teens, and men look at those pictures and believe that is what women are supposed to look like???

I can tell you this: I did! I can tell you this: my daughter did! I can tell you this: many of the women I work with now:  did!

And I can tell you this, too: many people still believe they are “supposed” to look like that or they’re simply not good enough.

Ronda kicks some major booty (and breaks arms) in the ring but this is one fight she might need some help with!

I’m joining the fight – and you should too.

I want you to be happy with yourself. I want you to be able to walk on the beach, or run if you prefer; to play with your children and grandchildren; to be strong enough to take care of yourself. I want you to be healthy for a long time!!!  There is no perfect size, shape, or weight.  You most certainly don’t need to look like those ladies in your magazines.  Especially since most of them don’t even look that way.


Mar 21

Stressed Spelled Backwards is DESSERTS. 5 Strategies for Dealing with Emotional Eating.

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.


We all have “those” days. Things don’t go as planned. You’re running from the very moment you wake up until late that night when you finally fall into bed, exhausted and stressed. The day has been a blur. You accomplished nothing you planned. Thank goodness for those quad Starbucks triple mocha cappuccinos or you probably wouldn’t have made it through!

These are the days you seek comfort wherever you can find it. Many times that comes in the form of chocolate, cookies, or four helpings of pasta with a loaf of bread for a side, washed down with one or two bottles of wine. We try to drown out our emotions with food and beverage.

I know it’s not just me who seeks to fix my problems by sticking my head inside a half-gallon of butter pecan ice cream. What’s your comfort food?

Nobody craves a piece of tilapia and asparagus at the end of one of these days – I can promise you that! Well, unless it’s asparagus hidden under a pound of melted cheddar cheese and sprinkled with bacon, anyway.

I am an emotional eater. To be honest, I was raised that way. My mother thought food was the answer to everything. Sad? Here’s a sugary treat to make you feel better. Happy? Let’s get something yummy to help us celebrate. Made the honor roll? We get to go to McDonald’s for breakfast tomorrow. Angry? Let’s get something to eat and take some time to calm down. We can talk over a plate-sized cinnamon bun. I remember her cooking an entire loaf of bread as French toast and having a competition to see how many slices I could eat. She helped me gain 63 pounds when I was pregnant with an 8 pound baby because, “this is the one time when you can eat anything you want and you don’t have to worry about whether you’re gaining weight”.  It actually goes back even further than that though. When I miss my grandmother, I automatically crave the coconut macaroons, Dunkin Donuts, and Baskin Robbins ice cream she used to bring me.

Actually it can go one of two ways. I surveyed some of my friends and clients the other day. It seems like about 90% DO eat when they’re stressed. The other 10% do not eat – anything – when they’re stressed. Clearly, neither of these extremes is ideal.

What can we do about it?

The stress isn’t going to go away. Our lives are not magically going to be rainbows and sparkling tiaras from this point forward as long as we will it. People we love pass away. Relationships we want to work out, end. Things we wanted to do, we can’t. Things don’t always go our way. We don’t get that promotion. We have too much to do. We get in arguments and have disagreements. It’s the human condition.

We need to prepare ourselves to be ready to deal with these difficulties in a better way. We need to plan how we’re going to handle the next crisis when it comes. We need to think about it now before we are IN the situation.

5 Strategies to help with Emotional Eating
  1. Start by trying to take your mind off food.

 Rather than walking into your house, grabbing the first sugary, fatty, salty thing you can find; crumbling onto the couch and stuffing it into your face, take just a few minutes.

 Have a glass or two of water. DO something. I know you don’t feel like going to the gym. That’s okay. Just go for a short walk. Call a friend while you’re walking, or listen to music (an audiobook or short podcast). Look at your to-do list and resolve to get one or two quick things checked off. Crank your music and dance around for 5 or 10 minutes. Don’t sit down. Don’t get on the computer. Move for a few minutes and get your blood circulating. I know it’s hard at first – especially if something has happened and you’re depressed, sad, or angry. You owe this few minutes to yourself though. AND this will make you feel better than food will.


  1. Face the emotion.

 We’re taught by our parents, teachers, and even in the workplace, that there are “good” (joy, happiness, pleasure) and “bad” (anger, fear, jealousy) emotions. We’re continually told (and/or we tell ourselves) that we need to suppress “negative” emotions. Don’t be angry. Don’t be sad. Don’t be depressed. Be happy. Be calm.

 In fact, every emotion serves a purpose! Emotions themselves are not “bad”. It is how we choose to act upon or respond – or even worse, NOT respond – to our emotions that may cause problems.

 Think about the emotion without the food. Ask yourself questions like these:

  •  How do I feel right now? Be specific. Name the emotion. “I feel angry, sad, frustrated, belittled, depressed, over-worked, under-appreciated, unloved, stressed……”
  •  What led to this feeling? Was it a specific situation? Is that an on-going situation or something that just happened this once? Was it a specific person? Was it that you responded poorly because you said something you didn’t really mean or you didn’t listen? Did you take on too much?
  •  Can you / what can you do to fix the problem? Not the emotion but the cause of your sadness, anger, frustration, etc. Can you do anything about THAT? What? Could you talk to the person, could you explain your feelings, could you decide to take a few things off your too full to do list? Could you ask someone for help? Do you just have to deal with it?
  • If you can’t do anything about it, because things do sometimes happen TO us that are outside of our control, how can you deal with it? Can you think of some way to positively handle the situation if you can’t change it? Would it help to talk to someone? Would it help to write your thoughts down? Would it help to clear your head by finding something to do for a few minutes? Could you allow yourself 5 or 10, or 15 minutes to cry, to scream, to melt-down? AND then take a few minutes to just breath.

 You might think I’m weird but I’m going to be completely honest. Don’t knock it until you try it once or twice. I take 5 minutes to just sit or lay down. I close my eyes and I take a deep breathe in. As I slowly exhale, I imagine that the breathe (instead of “just” being exhaled) is being pushed throughout my body. I can feel it going to my lungs, then to my stomach, my arms, my legs. It takes up all of the space inside my body so as it is expanding, it pushes all of the negative energy out – through my shoulders, my finger tips, my toes.   This does not take my problems away but it does typically calm me enough so that I can re-center again. I can think more clearly, and I can have a fresh approach.


  1. Eat intentionally.

IF you’ve tried to get it off your mind but you find that you really, really want the chips (or whatever “it” is for you), have them. If you’re an emotional eater, you should NOT keep these things in your house. That makes it much too easy for you. Instead, make the foods you want to limit as inconvenient as possible. At the very least, put these things on the very top shelf of your pantry so you have to expend the effort of dragging out a chair to get to them. I bury stuff in the bottom of my freezer. Unless it’s been a really, really bad day, I’m not going to take the time of digging all the frozen food out just to get to the Thin Mint cookies.

 Better yet, if this stuff is not in your house, you’ll have to drive to the store. On these days, once you’re in, you’re not likely going to feel like going back out. When you DO go to the store, buy one individual serving size of what you’re craving. Don’t give yourself that BS story about how the larger bag is the better deal, it’s more economical and you’ll save a lot of money by buying the King-sized. That is true but here’s what you need to remember – it’s not a better deal unless you eat the entire thing. You can either waste your money buying the smaller bag OR you can put the extra chips on your waist. One or the other. Waste or waist.  You choose.


  1. Be mindful of how much you’re eating.

 If you come into the house, grab that large bag of chips, plop onto the couch, pull out your 

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 2.58.19 AMiPad or turn on the television, that bag is going to be gone and you won’t even remember putting your hand to your mouth. That doesn’t even count the can of dip you cleaned out with these chips, either. If you’re eating – because of stress, emotion, or just because you’re eating – be mindful of how much you’re eating. Don’t carry the bag to the couch. If you don’t have an individual serving, get out one serving in a bowl. When it’s gone, it’s gone and you’ll notice it. Even if you go back for a second helping, there’s no denying it – you’ll KNOW what you’re doing and you’ll have to decide whether you really want to have more or not.


  1. Please remind yourself that YOU ARE IN CONTROL.

 I know it might not feel like it at that very moment. Life seems so difficult and you feel like crap. Who to hell cares? YOU will! Even if you don’t right this moment, you will later. You have been through difficult times before. You have been stressed. You have survived. Can you tell me of one time when food or alcohol fixed any of your problems? Personally, I can tell you how many times they’ve helped me. Zero! Not even once. A loaf of fresh sourdough bread slathered in butter, and a six pack of Guinness is not going to make anything better this time either.

 If you over-consume, you end up feeling guilty and sluggish. You’ll feel like you let yourself down. You’ll be disappointed, sad, angry, AND you still have the original issue/stress. If you don’t eat, you will feel exhausted and “disconnected”. It’s hard to concentrate on anything and you become even more emotional when you don’t have food in your body. AND you still have the original issue/stress.

 We think comfort food is going to comfort us. For me personally, once that last bite is on its way to my stomach….I feel no comfort. I need to either keep eating or realize that my problems are not going to dissolve into a piece of Hershey’s death by chocolate cake.

You are in control

Mar 14

GET OFF THE CRAZY TRAIN! Stop this diet & exercise insanity.

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

I’ve received a few e-mails over the last couple of days that I feel I need to address publicly.

There are a billion “nutritional programs” out there.

MOST of them will work if they cause you to change your normal eating habits; cause you to (a) eat fewer processed foods and/or (b) eat fewer calories than you’re burning. Some of these “miracles” will also trash your metabolism over the long term, make it harder for you to maintain your weight-loss, lead to yo-yo dieting, binging and any host of problems.

I lost a bunch of weight by going on a cigarette, coffee, and Suzy Q (chocolate, cream-filled cake) diet when I was young and foolish. I went on a grapefruit only diet; a skim milk only diet, and a “drink vinegar before every meal” diet. I’ve done high fat, low/no carbs, Paleo, Atkins, Beverly Hills, IIFYM, and everything in between.  I lost weight on every one of them……..temporarily!!

I’ve also done the exercise insanity! At one point, I would only sleep 2 or 3 hours a night because I had to be in the gym doing cardio for an hour before work. I lifted weights for an hour and did 30-45 more minutes of cardio in the evening after work. Six days a week.

I felt like crap. It didn’t matter. My priority was to lose weight.  I would get off the plane at 10 or 11 o’clock at night and not go to bed until after I had worked out. If my flight was at 6 or 7 a.m., I had already spent at least an hour in the gym before I headed to the airport.   I maintained memberships to three different gyms so I could be sure to find a place to work out no matter where I was.

My body fat was so low that I did not have a period for over a year. My energy was so low that more than once my husband found me sleeping in our home gym, on the foam roller where I had been trying to ease some of my soreness and I had fallen asleep. My emotions were so messed up that I would cry at the drop of a hat. I was grouchy. My relationships sucked: if they took time away from my workouts, I simply couldn’t fit them in my life.

Does any of this sound healthy over the long term to you?

 …. Before you say, “no”, remember that I DID lose weight.

This is the very thing that some people want me to suggest to them now. People want me to tell them to eat 1,000 calories a day. People want me to write super low calorie and super low carb plans for them. I WILL NOT DO IT.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 3.37.19 PM

You do NOT need to change your nutrition every week because 

  • There is a “new” program out
  • You haven’t lost any weight in the last week
  • Your best friend (or some celebrity) lost 20 pounds on this new program
  • You saw some shiny new program in a magazine
  • You watched an infomercial
  • You’re bored
  • You saw something on Dr. Oz
  • or you’re impatient and expect to lose 15 pounds in the next few days.

You do NOT need to change your exercise program every week. Your muscles do not perform better if you “confuse” them.

STOP THE CRAZINESS of this exercise and nutrition A.D.D.!!!!! Please. I am begging you.

You lose weight – you get healthy – you get fit, by applying common sense and consistency. Nothing less than that!!

PS you might also have to apply just a little bit of patience.

Mar 12

Into the Danger Zone: How to travel with food and not be arrested!

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

As I began writing this, I was on yet another flight, headed to yet another location and tomorrow I’ll be back at the airport. Since 2004 when I started my consulting and training business, I’ve spent at least 200 days a year on the road. I have traveled around the world and provided training in multiple locations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. I have had many people tell me that I have their dream job; this lifestyle is so “glamorous” and that I’m incredibly lucky.

I love to travel. I love to teach.  I’ve seen some phenomenal things and met some amazing individuals. In those regards, people are correct. I’m lucky.

I also see in my newsfeed, though, comments like “I haven’t seen my husband in 11 days.” “I haven’t been home in two weeks.” That is a routine schedule for me, nothing out of the ordinary at all. When I AM home for 11 days in a row that is news! I don’t go home at the end of the day when I’m done working. I spend a lot of time surrounded by people yet all alone. I spend a lot of time driving. I spend a lot of time flying and running through airports. I have been known, due to flight delays and cancellations, to sleep for 30-60 minutes in my car in the parking lot prior to teaching all day. I’ve slept in more than one airport. Trust me when I say, it’s really not “glamorous”. I’m not on vacation and most people would not want to do this if they knew what it actually entailed. I hear people say, “I love to travel but I love to get home and sleep in my own bed.” To be honest, the Hilton bed feels more like “my bed” than the one I have at home.

I’m not sharing all of this so that you will feel bad for me. I own the company. I am doing this 560126_3460823671844_576210077_n-2by choice – in theory at least, but that’s another story. I am sharing it to make the point that I’m somewhat of a travel “expert”. I, though, like many of you also have fitness goals I am trying to attain. It’s competition season and all of this travel makes preparation quite complicated, if not downright difficult. The choice to compete is also a personal one. I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m just saying it’s not easy. It’s not for any of us.

Travel never is. In fact, it’s something I get a lot of nutritional questions about.   Many of my clients do fantastic as long as they are in their typical environment, with a set schedule. Going out to eat or traveling is when they start having problems. That’s when many panic or just give up. I hear things like, “Oh no, we’re going out to dinner. This is going to be a disaster!” “I’m traveling for the next two weeks. It’s going to be really hard to eat nutritiously and there is no way I can exercise.” “What do you have for ideas of healthy choices that don’t need to be refrigerated or warmed up?”


I’m not talking about going on vacation, kicking back for a while, and enjoying yourself. If you’re doing that, relax!!! Have desert. Get a drink, or two. Try the local cuisine. Don’t worry about it.  I’m just saying, don’t use travel, or going out to eat, business meetings, office events, or anything else as an excuse to “have to” eat poorly. You never have to. You are a grown person. You are in charge of your decisions. Own them.

Be mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth. Don’t obsess over it. You don’t have to count every calorie or worry about every tiny morsel, if you’re not preparing for a competition. You do need to be aware that your choices (including food, water, sleep, and exercise) do have an impact on you, though, and it’s not merely physical.


I realize that I am neither typical nor “normal”, and that’s okay. You can say that I’m crazy. Lots of people that I love, do. Though my niece says I’m, “just a little eccentric” and I prefer that 🙂  If nothing else, maybe this post with make you laugh.

If I’m not on vacation, traveling requires a little bit of forethought and planning. With time and travel, I simply can’t always pop into a local restaurant for something to eat. Believe it if you want to, but there are not a lot of options in some of these very rural places, especially late at night!!

I never check a bag so all of my food has to be carry-on approved. I have been stopped very, very few times by TSA, but I make sure that I am following the rules. I do not carry liquids or creams – that means no peanut butter, cottage cheese, or yogurt. Knives are not allowed!!! Forks may be frowned upon on international flights too (both Spain and Italy had issues with my fork).

As an aside, TSA also frowns upon metal dumbbells in your luggage. Evidently a 10-pound weight “makes a very good bludgeoning tool”. They will question weighted handle jump ropes (which might look like “dynamite”…..I’m not sure who carries that on the plane, but, okay….) but you are allowed to have them so long as you explain, “what you plan to do with them.”


I.  Plan ahead. If I am going to be on the road for 5-7 days, I bring most of my food with me. If it’s longer than 7 days, I will need to make arrangements to restock my cooler at some point.  The food is pre-cooked and partitioned out into servingIMG_9638s. I have a food sealer that I use because it makes the food flat, and I don’t have to worry about leakage. I carry a pair of nail clippers to open the packages.

II.  Lean protein is typically the hardest thing to find on the road. My go-to options include pre-cooked chicken/turkey breast, ground meats, or meatloaf. Know that you can make just about anything into a pancake or muffin. I make egg white and veggie muffins, mini loaves from eggs and oatmeal; and these minced broccoli, tuna, and egg white concoctions. They freeze, they’re easy to pack, and they’re easy to eat even if I’m on the road.

Craziest TSA moment: There are two when it comes to protein. (1) I bought a couple pound turkey breast somewhere in my travels but didn’t end up eating it so I was carrying it home. TSA said that because it showed as a solid mass on the screen, it looked suspicious and “almost like plastic explosive”. Fair enough J (2) I was traveling through a very rural part of Montana one year right after Easter. The grocery store was selling colored, hard-boiled eggs on clearance so I picked up a dozen. I probably had 6-8 in my carry on. Those, evidently, “look a little like hand grenades.” It does appear evident to me that given this input, perhaps I should be a little concerned about all of this travel!!!

If I am near a grocery store, I will grab some tuna or salmon packets (not cans unless I can find them with pull tops). I sometimes also pick up a whole rotisserie chicken from the deli and keep that in my hotel fridge for a few days. Note that the best place to find a grocery store is typically not too far from the airport, so that’s my first stop off the plane.

III.  Finding carbohydrates without a ton of fat is probably my second biggest challenge. This is easy to fix by bringing pre-cooked sweet potato fries, plain instant oatmeal, cut up veggies, rice, or quinoa.

Craziest TSA moment: More than once I have carried an entire spaghetti squash in my carry-on. One time in Los Angeles, I was pulled out for supplemental screening. The TSA agent and I talked about spaghetti squash for about 10 minutes and I gave him two recipes before I left IMG_9637the security area.

If I am near a grocery store, I may pick up some rice cakes, Minute Rice cups, black beans, fresh (or frozen – no sugar or additives) fruits and veggies, or tortillas. I don’t typically carry a lot of fresh fruit with me merely because it bruises easily and can be messy.

IV.  Finding fat is always easy but healthy fats vs saturated can be a challenge if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I carry unsalted nuts in my suitcase (typically almonds, although sometimes also brazil or walnuts). Shredded coconut is easy, and can be mixed into fruit or yogurt.

If I am near a grocery store, I may pick up some olive oil, nuts, cottage cheese, yogurt, and natural peanut butter.

V.  If your hotel has a refrigerator and/or microwave, you’ve got it made!  Let me tell you, though, that I am living proof that things need to be refrigerated far less than we think they do. I’m not giving you advice here; I’m just saying that I personally think nothing of carrying chicken, turkey, eggs, etc., in my suitcase cross-country. I freeze most of it before I leave home, and do carry it in an insulated cooler bag, but none-the-less. Depending on where I’m teaching, I may or may not have access to a refrigerator for several days. This really freaks my sister out so last year she bought me a small cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter in my car. It’s fantastic for road trips but I don’t bring it on the plane.

If I am near a grocery store, I will pick up a cheap Styrofoam cooler, and a bag of ice to use for a few days.  If I’m not near a grocery store, I have extra gallon zip lock baggies in my luggage. I fill those from the hotel ice machine and put them into my cooler bag with my food.

VI.  I bring protein bars (and powders) in my luggage but many grocery stores and even gas stations carry them these days. The important thing is to read your labels! Some of those bars are just high calorie candy bars with the word “protein” on the label so you’ll buy it – you might as well just buy a Snickers and be done with it.

I am working on a review of my favorite protein bars now. That will be going out to the e-mail list within the next few days.

VII.  If I’m on a long drive, I’m not a fan of stopping at restaurants for a lot of sit down meals. That simply chews up time that I don’t have. Chipotle, or Panera are my favorites for hot, healthy, and fast food. Subway also works (my favs are chopped chicken or tuna salads) as does Wendy’s (chili and a side salad).


Vanilla Greek yogurt, fresh raspberries & water

VIII.  Drink your water!!! I drink lots of water every day but especially on days that I’m flying. I may buy one at the airport and refill that bottle for the week; or I bring a deflated and flattened bottle in my suitcase.

IX.  Use the hotel and think outside the box. Most hotels have a complimentary breakfast of some sort. I can pick up fruit, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, bagels, and individual servings of peanut butter here.

I’ve asked to use the front desk’s microwave when there isn’t one in my room. The glass plate in the bottom of the microwave (once washed) makes a perfect dinner plate. The small coffee pot serves as a bowl. On road trips, I have discovered that in addition to cooking protein waffles in my waffle iron, I can also cook 99% fat free burger meat!

X.  Buy extra cooked food when you are near a restaurant. If I have a chance to get to a restaurant, I will order one meal to eat there and another to box up and bring with me. Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback, Panera and Chipotle are a few of my favorites. Many of the Whole Foods have hot bars where you can pick up fresh cooked food as well.


If you have no control over WHAT you eat, you can still control HOW MUCH you eat. Be mindful of portion size and choose the best alternative among those available to you. Again, don’t obsess. Don’t stress about it. Do the best you can do. I just want you to be aware that the excuse, “but I was traveling and had no choice” is just that – an excuse.  You are in control.  


Mar 04


Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

I originally wrote some of these thoughts as a FB post months ago. They’re important! They’re relevant! Please indulge me for a few minutes and let me restate what needs to be said.

I love health and fitness. I don’t think anybody’s surprised by that statement. What you might not know though, is that I think there are levels of health.

Competition is a step beyond fitness; fitness is a step beyond healthy; healthy is a step – a huge one – beyond where many people are today and that’s sad.

I want to start with the two extremes.

First, while it’s not popular to say this out loud today, many people have allowed themselves to become (or to remain) unhealthy and unconditioned. Considering obesity rates have more than doubled in both adults and children since the 1970s (National Center for Health Statistics, 2009), and that more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese (Ogden, 2014), the numbers make my point. Do I care what anyone weighs? Not one bit! Do I try to change anyone? Never! Do I believe in body shaming? Absolutely not! Do I think we all need to weigh a certain amount, be a certain size, or fit a mold of what we “should” be? Hell, no!

I do think we need to take that hard look, though, and be honest with ourselves. We need to face the factual reality that many of us don’t take care of ourselves – especially as we get older (and by that I mean from 18 to 25 and 30 to 40…..I don’t mean “old”….whatever to heck that means anyway). The numbers back me up there too.

This table shows the percentage of people diagnosed with highChronic conditions blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes from age 18 to age 90.  

Is health going to decline as part of the normal aging process? Yes. I’m not going to be as healthy at 100 as I was at 18. Does that mean I should just let myself go, become increasingly sedentary, and stop taking care of myself at 30, or 40, or 50, or 80? I’m not going to!

Please understand that “unhealthy” doesn’t always mean “overweight” though. Been there. Done that. I have always been relatively thin but there was a time when I was not taking care of myself. I was living on nicotine, caffeine, and sugar. I wasn’t working out but I was definitely stressing out. I wasn’t healthy. Doesn’t matter what I weighed.

On the other extreme end of the spectrum, you find elite athletes and competitors. Here, too, I have something unpopular to say. A lot of people talk about competition as if it is a negative. “We shouldn’t compete against one another.” Well, I can tell you this: I am my biggest competition. I am always trying to be better, run faster; lift heavier, to do more than I’ve done before. I compete with myself all the time. I get a kick out of being on stage and competing against other people too, though. There, I said it out loud. Yes, if you hop on the treadmill or the rower beside me at the gym, I am going to race you. It’s a fact. I don’t feel guilty about it. Join me in the race and we will be fast friends! (Pun intended.) In my favorite 5K, another racer and myself sprinted to the finish line – competing with one another until the very end. It was fun. Had she not been there, I wouldn’t have pushed myself so hard. She’d likely say the same.

If we back off of the extremes, most people want to be somewhere in the middle. These are the people I want to work with!! In fact, last year I was provided an opportunity to learn to coach figure and bikini athletes with a prestigious team in Las Vegas. I turned it down. I like to compete and it’s fun to play a part in getting a competitor to walk onto stage for the very first time. I work with some competitors. I like it. The difference is that I LOVE helping people get healthy.


And it’s not helping people lose that I strive for (though dropping weight, if that’s what the person is striving for; losing inches, decreasing medication and blood pressure are all very cool).

It’s helping people gain: confidence, self-esteem, knowledge, and health.

Moving from wanting to be healthy to being healthy is a huge step. Actually, it’s a bunch of little steps covering a huge distance! First you need to be tired of living at the unhealthy level. (Let’s face it, it’s exhausting and frustrating anyway! You hate it there.) You have to want to make a change; you have to want to learn and then apply the things you learn. You have to begin making changes incrementally and consistently. It requires work. The journey is absolutely worth the investment! When you feel healthy, when you are healthy, that carries into every aspect of your life.

The fact is that getting healthy is NOT easy but it is simple.

That means that as you start to eat healthier, there will be times you’re hungry – and that’s okay. There will be days when you’re not hungry but you need to eat anyway. There will be days you won’t feel like doing what you know you need to do.Its not easy


To get healthy you need to be conscious of your nutrition (it’s not a diet) and you need to get your body moving!!

It is simple



If you’re looking for a quick fix, or a miracle weight loss secret, that’s it. Re-read the previous few lines and don’t bother going through the rest of the blog.

Truly! That’s it!

  • You don’t need a bunch of supplements or pills.
  • No special gadgets, videos, and not even a gym membership.  [I use all 3 because I want to, not because I need to. Each adds something different].
  • You don’t need protein shakes or meal replacements.  [I use these because they are a convenient way to fuel my body when I’m traveling, teaching, or super busy. They’re also an easy way to add protein to my client’s programs since most Americans are seriously deficient in protein intake, but, again, they’re not required and whole foods are always best].
  • You don’t need a program, or another useless diet plan.  [I write programs for folks and work with clients but I prefer to teach people how to do things for themselves! I am most proud when they don’t “need” me anymore. That’s the teacher in me I suppose. You need to learn how to eat, not what to eat].
  • You don’t need a coach or nutrition or fitness expert to get started moving in the right direction! [A trainer can be awesome, especially if you’re just starting out; you’re not sure what to do and you’re not comfortable yet working out by yourself. Trainers are amazing people [most of them…but that’s a different rant]. I am one and I have several as personal friends but you CAN do this on your own].

 I don’t believe in miracles or quick fixes.

Being healthy is not something you want to do for 6 or 12 weeks.

Health is for LIFE.

 Start with your nutrition.

  • Take baby steps if you need to. Try to cut your soda in half the first week. Then in half again the next, and the next, until you either stop drinking it all together or you have it once in a while as a treat. I drink a Diet Dr. Pepper once every couple of weeks.
  • Decrease the sugar in your coffee a little bit at a time. Stop getting that venti frappuccino (you know who you are…..) and get just the grande this week; go for the tall next.
  • Drink water!!! If you can’t do it plain at first, put some Crystal Light or Mio in it and work to taper that off as you go through time. I hear some people now, “Oh, the chemicals. How could you even recommend that horrible stuff?” I’m recommending that you make the changes you will actually make to begin with. If you’re not going to drink water unless it has some flavor in it right now, mix in some damn flavor. Fruit infused water is also something you might want to try! Yum. Check out for ideas.
  • Same thing with the sweets/treats. Trust me. I have a HORRIBLE sweet tooth and I love to bake – a bad combination. So, one day a week I’ll have a special meal. Gasp!! It might be going to the restaurant, Bailey’s in my coffee, carrot cake, or whatever. Throughout the week when I’m not eating that stuff, instead of acting like a victim “Whoa is me. I can’t have a treat, I’m dieting”…..I remind myself that I am in control. “I can have anything I want but I can’t have everything right now if I intend to meet my goals.” When I do have a special treat, I savor it. I sit and eat it. I don’t play on my computer, talk on my phone, or do anything except enjoy the taste, smell, texture, and flavor of my food. I don’t feel guilty about it and I don’t try to compensate by doing extra cardio to “negate the calories” I just ate. That’s ridiculous!!! I also bake treats but try to find ways to make them healthier (applesauce vs oil; ground oats instead of white flour; using egg whites, adding protein powder, etc).  
  • Eat enough food! Crash diets don’t work and you are not going to be healthy eating one salad or a piece of fruit all day. We’ll talk about protein, carbs, and healthy fats next time.

Try these things first. Once you start to feel better (and you will), add in some exercise. Begin going for a walk every day. Build from there.

The important thing is to do something.


This is a formal call to action: Do one positive thing for yourself this week.

Feb 26

Throw your Healthy Habits in the Freezer!

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

What to heck does snow & ice have to do with establishing healthy habits?  Actually, more than you might imagine!  Give me a second to explain.

To get better at anything, even if you have some natural ability, you have to spend time practicing, learning, and honing your skills. We’ve all heard, (as if we haven’t said it a million times, ourselves), “practice makes perfect”. In fact, if I said, “The more you practice something, the better you’ll get at it,” I doubt many would disagree. But have you ever wondered why this is true? I have a natural curiosity and try to understand how and why everything works – not merely that it does.

Clinicians say this happens because we create neural pathways in our brains. The rest of us typically refer to it as creating “muscle memory” or “habit”. If you practice something repeatedly, it becomes second nature. It becomes natural and effortless. You don’t even think about it. You jump the way you’ve trained to, twist the way you’ve trained to, lift the way you’ve trained to, kick the way you’ve trained to. Practice makes everything easier and more intuitive.

Ever pulled into your driveway after a long day and not remember anything about the trip or how you actually got from Point A to Point B? You’ve done it so many times before, that today you just did it on autopilot. Ever left the house headed somewhere only to find that you automatically drive your typical route and forget that’s not where you intended to go this time? Please tell me I’m not alone in this!!

The automatic responses can apply to all areas of your life and aren’t always positive. Grab a snack when you walk in the house in the evening? Every single day. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, over time, just pulling into your driveway and putting your key in the front door elicits a digestive system response. You are already salivating. You’re not thinking about it consciously, but your body knows it is soon going to have that hit of sugar it gets every day when you pull into your driveway and open the front door. Changing habits can be hard. Really hard! I used to smoke and always had a cigarette with my coffee. Even now, 20 years after quitting, I sometimes still crave a cigarette with my coffee – the habit was ingrained that deeply.

Did you know, though, that the brain is capable of changing, adapting, and re-organizing neural pathways as a response to changes in your environment or situations? Norman Dodge, a physiatrist and author, wrote in The Brain that Changes Itself, “The brain, far from being a collection of specialized parts, each fixed in its location and function, is in fact a dynamic organ, one that can rewire and rearrange itself as the need arises.” How phenomenal is that idea? How positively amazing is it to realize, from a scientific perspective that we can literally – change our minds? Wow!!!

Since I’m sitting in Michigan watching more snow fall, it seems especially appropriate, that Dodge explains this to the layperson by talking about sledding in the winter. The first time you try to take a sled down the hill, it can actually be quite difficult. You hitch, dig in occasionally, and try to create a path. You have to work at it. The snow hasn’t been packed down yet. Where you actually end up at the bottom of the hill is determined both by how well you steer and the characteristics of the hill itself. The second time you slide down the hill, it’s easier if you stay in the tracks you just made. If you spend your entire afternoon sledding down, walking up, sledding down, at the end of the day you will have a path that is easy and fast. You just sit on the sled and it takes you to the bottom with very little effort and you end up very close to the same place each time. If you decide you want to end up in a different location, you’re going to need to take the time to create another path.

Changing pathways, and habits can be hard. Really hard! Have I said that already? Yes, change is difficult even when you know it is what needs to be done. It’s uncomfortable. Here’s where the ice comes in.

The key to creating a new neural pathway is not in just forging a new trail – trying to force a new habit – but rather in solidifying it so that it becomes the “norm”. When I was studying Organizational Leadership in college, I came across an explanation of Lewin’s theory, which completely resonated with me! Okay, at this point I realize I have no chance of convincing you that I’m not a nerd so I guess I’ll own up to it. “Hi, my name is Debbie, and I’m kind of a nerd.” J

Who Kurt Lewin was, is irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion. It’s what he taught me about change that is important. Let’s say you are getting ready to have a party. You really want a ring of ice to float in the punch bowl but your store only sells blocks of ice. You could be incredibly motivated for that block to turn into a ring. You could really want it; really need it to happen. You could get frustrated about it, curse at it, and try to force the block to change. You can apply as much pressure as you want by squeezing, pushing, or even pounding it with a hammer. The ice will resist the imposed change because it is a system of firmly established items (in this case water crystals, rather than previously formed habits but they solidify just as strongly don’t they?). Push or pound too hard, and rather than conform, the ice is just going to shatter.

Can you turn a block of ice into a ring of ice? Absolutely! But only if you take some time to thaw the block first. If you continually heat the block, it’s going to eventually start to soften and then turn to a liquid. Once the block of ice is melted, and it’s been poured into a ring-shaped mold, it’s still not the ring of ice you was hoping for, though. It’s just a bowl of water! You have to throw the mold in the freezer. You can’t make it happen. You can’t rush it. You have to wait for it to freeze into the new shape but if you leave it in the freezer for a while, that WILL happen.

What to does all of this crazy (and wonderful, and phenomenal, and amazing….) talk about neural plasticity, sledding, and floating ice rings have to do with you? Everything! Don’t like the habits that you have right now? Change your mind! I mean, literally, change your mind!! Unfreeze your current habits. Decide what you want them to look like and pour them into that mold. Then refreeze!

I see examples of this all around me! I do a happy dance when I get messages from friends, family, and clients telling me about their work on creating new neural pathways. To be honest, they probably didn’t even know that’s what they were doing until right now as they are reading this blog!!

Yup, this was Karen when she wrote, “I got to the gym this morning. The parking lot was packed. In the past, I wouldn’t stop. That would be all the excuse I needed to just keep driving. This morning I didn’t allow myself to do that. I pulled in and parked. I walked in and did 100% of my workout. I feel great!” This was Alexi when she wrote, “I went to the gym this morning and I planned to work upper body. There were a lot of guys in the free weight area. In the past, when that was the case, I would just turn around and go get on a treadmill. This morning, I heard your voice inside my head: ‘stick to your plan’. I went into the free weight area, picked up some dumbbells and did my workout!” This was Florence when she said “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle”, and Sylvia when she said, “I’ve stopped drinking Dr. Pepper every day and even ask for water at restaurants! I don’t know who I am anymore!” This is Courtney who has made so many new habits (e.g. working out, drinking water, shopping only in the outside aisles of the grocery store) that I had to have her mom tell me what she’s doing differently because to Courtney, “this is just normal.”

I LOVE that. Yup, these things put a smile on my face that is pretty hard to remove!

“This is just normal!” In fact, this is far, far from what normal used to be but it IS the new normal!

Nathan sledding

I am very tired of winter but I am not tired of this snow and ice.

Every single time you refuse to go down that old, established trail, it will get easier and easier. You’re building a new trail. Once you’ve used the new trail for a while, the old one will start to grow over – going back will no longer be the path of least resistance. It will no longer be your normal. Throw these new habits in the freezer, ladies.  You got this!!

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