Episode 72: Think Thin Naturally with Renee Stephens
This week Teri interview Renee Stephens, host of top weight loss podcast Inside Out Weight Loss. Renee turns conventional weight loss wisdom upside down and explains how, by shifting your deep motivation, you can not only become slim and sexy for life, but also enjoy it way more than you ever enjoyed overeating. Forget discipline and deprivation. Like nothing you have ever heard before, Renee's approach will shift everything you thought you knew about how to lose weight, and show you an easier and more enjoyable way to the body of your dreams, by changing from the inside out.
Teri Struck: I’m Teri Struck, host of Beauty Now, a weekly podcast that brings you the latest in beauty innovations, expert advice, tips. From tip to toe and from the inside out, we touch shows on skin, hair, every kind of surgery, self-esteem, hormones, cellulite – yuck – lips, lashes, nails, eyes and more.
Teri Struck: Today one of the hardest things for Americans to grasp is how do we get in that zone where we can just live and eat healthy without effort. I’m personally on the quest to get answers, so that we could actually just be healthy from the inside out. This is why I invited Renee Stephens, a weight loss coach and host of Inside Out Weight Loss for our own Personal Life Media, to be on our show and share her top advice. Welcome Renee and thank you so much for being with us today.
Renee Stephens: It’s great to be here, Teri. Thank you.
Teri Struck: So where does one start? I mean I know all of America is always on a quest to be fit, to be healthy, but some days there’s just people that you can’t get out of bed or you want to eat that whole bag of Doritos and guacamole and you just don’t get it. How do you inspire people to get it?
Renee Stephens: Well thanks Teri for that question. You know, I’ll start just by mentioning that my passion for what I do comes from my own struggle and my own journey. I started out with weight issues, struggling with my weight, as early as about 11 years old and soon became a binge eater myself where I’d eat huge quantities of food in very short periods of time. My weight would go up and down, I’d go on extreme diets. I later struggled with depression as a result of my eating issues. So my passion really comes from my own struggle and my own journey. I had a long career in corporate America, and then about nine years ago I dropped out of that and decided to pursue my passion, which is really helping other people with their weight struggle, to end the weight struggle. I had found tools to help myself that I was so astounded with, that I really felt that I had to take these tools out to other people and help them as well. And so I’ve been doing that full time for almost a decade now, and you know, it’s a wonderful thing to do because to me the weight struggle really matters, and the reason that it matters or ending the struggle matters is that it’s not just about, you know, losing a few pounds to fit into your swimsuit or to make it to your reunion – that’s nice, that’s enjoyable, that’s pleasant, but the weight struggle is about so much more than that. What it’s about is our criticism of ourselves. It’s about ourselves not being all that we can be in the world, because anyone who knows, who struggles with their weight knows how incessant the struggle is, how it’s a day to day, meal to meal, hour to hour struggle. And we go through life telling ourselves that “Oh my god, my thighs are too big”, our belly’s too floppy, we’ve got cellulite, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, and then it goes into “What will I eat”, “What should I eat”, “What did I eat”, “What didn’t I eat”, and all of that is taking up our precious mental energy when really if we were to free ourselves of that, if we were to resolve that struggle and bring peace to ourselves around these issues and start to feel good about ourselves, our confidence would grow, we would present ourselves different, and before you know it we start to express our creativity, we start to share what I call our souls gifts. In other words, the things that we have, our special talents, our gifts, that we can share with the world to help make the world a better place. And that’s the exciting part of ending the weight struggle is allowing people to release all that energy to share beautiful things with the world.
Teri Struck: Well how do you come to that point, Renee? I mean seriously, if you’re somebody that is, lets just say, 40 pounds overweight, and they come to you and they’re just like “I hate the way that I look”, where do you start? How do you get self-esteem when you feel so bad about yourself?
Renee Stephens: That’s a really great question. And interestingly enough most of us start trying to motivate ourselves to lose weight or to make a change by being tough on our self. We do the tough love approach. We say, “You know, it’s just not acceptable. I’m going to get myself into shape, I’m going to use my willpower and I’m going to get on a program and I’m going to be disciplined and I’m going to follow it.” The problem is that when we use discipline and willpower to motivate ourselves, after a while life starts to happen, stress starts to happen, and we want a break, we want to relax, and so we give up. So if someone’s 40 pounds overweight and they’ve probably tried that willpower and discipline approach many times only to go up and down the scale each time. The alternative to that is counterintuitive really. The alternative to that is to start by forgiving ourselves and accepting ourselves exactly where we are right now. So we say, “You know what, I’m overeating for a reason. It’s not accident that I’m eating the extra cookies, that I’m finishing the bag of potato chips. I’m getting something out of it, because if I weren’t I wouldn’t do it.” So once we start by acknowledging that we’re actually getting something that is valuable to ourselves from our eating behavior, from being overweight, we can begin to forgive ourselves. And from that place of forgiveness we move to accepting ourselves as we are, to acknowledging that we’re really doing the best we can. And then we can introduce new tools and techniques to bring ourselves that comfort, that joy, the happiness that we’re, we were hoping to get from the food. And we can find other ways to do that. So that’s really the first place to start, with self-acceptance and forgiveness.
Teri Struck: And how do we do that? So you’re telling me and what I’m hearing you say is that it’s, a person is lets say 40 pounds overweight and they’re going to go to the mirror and say “You know what, I’m just going to look for something good in myself today.”
Renee Stephens: Yes. We can, that’s certainly one great way to start, but I would encourage them to go even deeper than that, to say, “Okay, well there’s a part of me that wants to overeat here. There’s a part of me that wants to be overweight.” And to say, “Now if this part of me were trying to give me some sort of gift, if this part of me were trying to do something good for me, what would that be? What could it possibly be?” And if we go into a relaxed state and we ask that questions sincerely from our heart, we’ll get an answer. And that answer may very well surprise us. It could be that the answer is comfort. It could be protection…
Teri Struck: I get that. That’s totally true. I really get that, and I would think that a lot of people would get that. I mean there has to be a reason why you overeat and not care.
Renee Stephens: Exactly. Exactly, because the eating is actually a behavior, it’s a symptom of an underlying cause, and the underlying cause is that we’re getting some out of this behavior.
Teri Struck: Do you encourage people to keep a journal? I mean how do you get in touch with those feelings and really, on a daily basis when people have jobs and, you know, they’re running around and there’s the economy today and there’s so much on our place, that sometimes I think that their health is the last thing and I think that that’s a problem.
Renee Stephens: I agree with you completely, Teri. In fact that’s one of the number one reasons that people don’t actually lose weight for good, because they don’t systematically and permanently put themselves first, put themselves at the top of their priority list, because we have life, we have jobs, we have, you know, the economy, families, we want to give to other people, we have so much to do and self-care just sinks down to the bottom of the list. And yeah, you know, “I’d like to exercise when I have time.” Well you know what, everybody has the same 24 hours in a day, and if you don’t have time what that says to me is that it’s not a priority for you, right.
Teri Struck: I love what you just said, self-care…
Renee Stephens: Yeah.
Teri Struck: I mean that should be what you should put on your mirror, self-care.
Renee Stephens: Exactly, exactly. And so why would we prioritize ourselves? Isn’t that selfish, you know? Isn’t that, you know, something that we do if we’re not, you know, if we’re not a very evolved human being. And the reality is that if we are truly evolved as human beings, self-care goes first. It’s the old airplane metaphor where you want to put the oxygen mask on yourself first because if you don’t you won’t be around to help anybody else.
Teri Struck: And that’s such a good point, too. I mean that everybody wants to take care of everybody, but what about you, and especially if you’ve let yourself go in a sense of you don’t like what you see in the mirror….
Renee Stephens: Yeah.
Teri Struck: You think, “Well I don’t matter anymore.”
Renee Stephens: Exactly, exactly, and that’s the message that you’re giving yourself; “I don’t matter anymore.” The problem is that that strategy doesn’t work very well in the long term because while you may be able to give a lot, you’re depleting yourself in order to do it, and it’s going to show. You’re going to be grumpy, you’re going to have low energy, you’re going to be far less than you could be. So I talk about a concept that I call ‘enlightened selfishness’, that we want to be selfish because being selfish, putting self-care first allows us to have so much more to give to others.
Teri Struck: Well what about if you have a really bad body image from childhood? What do you advise people, how do you get over that?
Renee Stephens: Yeah, again it goes back, if we have a bad image from childhood it goes back to that message of forgiveness, of saying… You know, if I think of myself as overweight, and if I think, you know, “Gosh, I’ve got a terrible body.” You know Teri, I had a client recently and her mother would tell her – this is just pretty shocking – she’d say “You’re nose is too big, your boobs are too big and your ass is too fat.”
Teri Struck: Oh no, that’s terrible. It is. And that’s actually really common. I hear so many parents just really ripping into their kids. It’s terrible.
Renee Stephens: It just, it hurts me every time I hear it. It’s just, it’s hard for me to believe that a parent would do that. I know that they have a positive intention, but it does stick with us.
Teri Struck: It does.
Renee Stephens: So again, it goes back to forgiveness. To forgiving ourselves and saying, “You know what, I may have a big nose and small boobs and all of the rest of it, right. But I’m going to forgive myself for that.” and then once we forgive ourselves for that, we want to go to the person who said it and put ourselves in their shoes for a minute, and say, you know, “Mom was saying that, but let me think about mom. Did mom really accept herself? You know, what did mom need at that time?”
Teri Struck: And did her mom say it to her?
Renee Stephens: Exactly, exactly.
Teri Struck: Yeah.
Renee Stephens: So this is an opportunity that we have to actually break this chain from generation to generation with forgiveness and acceptance. And again when we get to that place of accepting ourselves as we are, then that’s the birth of the desire to make the most with what we have, right. To be the best self that we can be.
Teri Struck: So you’re getting to the point where everyday you can heal your body and can tell yourself good things and do self-care…
Renee Stephens: Yes.
Teri Struck: Where do you go from there?
Renee Stephens: Yeah. And let me just make one more comment about that is that if you are a hundred pounds overweight and you start telling yourself a skinny person, that’s not going to work, right. You want to start with something that’s believable or something that’s gentle, and that is starting with that notion of forgiveness, of accepting yourself and kind of, you know, saying it’s okay that you are where you are because that our psyches can accept, whereas they can’t accept sort of a polyannish affirmation that says, you know, “I’m, you know, 150 pounds when I’m 250 pounds.”
Teri Struck: Great. Do you weight yourself? That’s what I want to ask you.
Renee Stephens: That’s a good question. I do weight myself about once a month, just to have an idea of where I am. But I don’t want it to be any more frequent than that because I don’t want my focus to be on the number on a scale. I want my focus to be how I feel, how healthy and fit I feel and how my clothes fit me.
Teri Struck: So that’s exactly the way I am too because seriously I feel like if I can go out and I’ll exercise or I’ll do something or I might eat too much healthy food that day, I don’t want to get on the scale and have it show two pounds more, whether it be water retention or something else, and then focus on that number and have my day ruined. But at the same time I want to make sure I keep, you know, a healthy number.
Renee Stephens: Exactly, exactly. And the reality is that we don’t have precise control over the number on the scale because the number on the scale is going to vary based on how much water we happen to be retaining at that moment and, you know, where our hormones are and all sorts of things. And so, you know, we have imprecise control. So if we let all of our self-worth and our mood for the day ride on a number on the scale over which we have imprecise control, it’s going to make us crazy, which as you probably know from experience, it does.
Teri Struck: It does. It makes me crazy; that’s my thing.
Renee Stephens: Yeah.
Teri Struck: That’s my issue. I don’t like to weight myself. But I know that it is a good thing to do because conversely the numbers can slip up and slip up and then you don’t get it under control ‘cause you don’t know.
Renee Stephens: Right, which is why you want to keep kind of loose tabs on it through your clothes and maybe weight yourself once a month.
Teri Struck: So what type of lifestyle do you recommend for people wanting to get healthy?
Renee Stephens: What I recommend is rather than a lifestyle I recommend a journey of healing through what I keep talking about, which is forgiveness, healing the causes and self-acceptance. And once you get to that place of accepting yourself as you are, people say, “Oh gosh, you know, I can’t accept myself as I am. Look at me. I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m out of shape. I’m just a disaster. I can’t accept, I’m unacceptable.” And they say, “If I accept myself then won’t I just lie on the sofa and eat bon bons all day?” And, you know, it’s an interesting thought, but the truth is that by accepting ourselves we want, we end up wanting to take great care of ourselves. Who want to take care of someone that you don’t like, right? Why would you want to do that? We want to take care of someone that we like. In infants and children actually there’s a condition called ‘failure to thrive. And one of the causes of this medical condition called failure to thrive is insufficient love. If a baby has all of its physical needs met but doesn’t get enough love, then it will not grow. Whereas its natural state – you know, anyone who has witnessed children growing knows that they grow like weeds, they change at extraordinary rates, and that’s all on the foundation of love and acceptance. So if we accept ourselves as we are, naturally we start wanting to nurture ourselves; our nurturing instinct can be turned inwards. We nurture ourselves and then we have so much more to give others.
Teri Struck: Thank you so much and hold that thought. We’re going to have to take a commercial break. I’m getting, times getting away from me because I’m loving all this information. Hold on. Right now we’re going to thank our sponsors. We’ll be right back with Renee Stephens.
Teri Struck: I’m Teri Struck, host of Beauty Now. We’re talking with Renee Stephens today, and we’re getting lots of valuable information on loving yourself from the inside out. She’s the host of Inside Out Weight Loss, also on personallifemedia.com. Welcome back Renee.
Renee Stephens: Great to be here.
Teri Struck: Thanks so much. You were just talking about, we left off with, about babies getting loved and that has to do with ourselves loving ourselves.
Renee Stephens: Yes, exactly.
Teri Struck: So now that we’re trying to love ourselves, how do you inspire people? What if we’re just kind of lacking that motivation? It’s easy for us to say, “Okay, love yourself”, but you yourself said you struggled with this weight loss and loving yourself. How does it work for you? How did you come to that point?
Renee Stephens: How did I come to the point of loving myself? You know, it was a long journey for me because I didn’t have, you know, a handy program to help me and tell me what the steps were one by one. And so, you know, it took many, many years for me to get to that place of acceptance. But I noticed that with willpower and with discipline I got, you know, I only got so far, but it was really when I started being gentle and kind to myself that the changes that I was making really stuck. I have an equation actually, a formula that is the foundation for my program, and the formula goes like this: unconditional self-acceptance – that’s the acceptance piece we’ve been talking about – unconditional self-acceptance plus behavior change creates lasting weight loss. So the behavior change techniques, not these are the kinds of things that you read about in a magazine. So you read the magazine and it says, you know, “Ten tips to a flat belly”, and it says, “Okay, well when you want to eat go for a walk instead or take a bath”, and it has all of these little techniques in there. And we’ve all tried those techniques and they never last; they’re so frustrating.
Teri Struck: That’s true. I mean and there’s so many different diets and you’re always hearing “Oh my friend went on this” or “My friend did this”…
Renee Stephens: Yeah.
Teri Struck: And there’s no magic diet there.
Renee Stephens: Yeah, there really aren’t. I know that the whole low carb thing seemed like the magic solution and there was just a mania about it, but the results show that over the long term they’re the same as any diet. If you get really excited about a program that your friend went on and quickly lost a bunch of weight, the statistics tell us that there’s a 99 percent change that your friend’s going to gain that back again. And so if you follow suit and are as successful as your friend, there’s a 99 percent chance that you’re going to gain it back again too. So there has to be another way. There has to be a better way to make the change, that changes last. We start from self-acceptance, as I was saying, and then we want to add our behavior techniques from that foundation, our behavior change techniques from that foundation. So the unconditional self-acceptance, the forgiveness creates a fertile soil, like a really rich and fertile soil, into which we plant the seeds of behavior change, which now in this fertile soil will take root and grow. It may seem easy at that point in fact. Many of my clients will say, “You know, it’s amazing. I never thought that losing weight would be easier than overeating and being over weight, but it actually is. I’m enjoying it more. Who knew?” But when you think about it, if you have a program that you enjoy more losing weight than you ever did being over weight, isn’t that going to be the most sustainable? ‘Cause you’re going to be attracted to that.
Teri Struck: Right. Yeah, it does make sense, and also I think to if you do slip up not to beat yourself up. I had a girlfriend the other day who said that her husband brought home the Halloween candy and she went actually in the trunk and got out only a few pieces and then she was just beating herself up calling me for about two hours, and I said “Move on.” If you’ve actually done something like that and you don’t like it, it’s fine. Just move on and make up for it, and if you’re going to eat something like that I would say enjoy every bite.
Renee Stephens: Well I completely agree with you and I’m really glad you brought that up because this is actually one of the keys to making the transition, to making the change stick. And I call it a technique called self correcting. In other words the, you know, if you’re at one of those unresourceful moments and the Halloween candy’s in front of you, the holiday treats are in front of you and you’re like a train just go barreling down the tracks to eat it, that’s not really a moment to intervene because it’s going to be a lot of work and it’s going to feel really hard and you’re probably going to, you know, get it right, you know, once in a while. So forget about that. Instead of that focus on being kind and forgiving and accepting of yourself after the fact. Focus on bringing yourself back into balance. And so what I tell my clients to do is to see how quickly they can bring themselves back to center and back into balance after a slip, after life throws them off. And when they can do that within 24 hours or less, they’re there.
Teri Struck: That’s so true. ‘Cause, I mean, we just had a weekend where I, we ate so much for the weekend, probably more than I have in three years. But I came home and just went right back to my routine and it’s all fine and good now.
Renee Stephens: And it’s all fine and good, exactly. So you want to focus on self correcting, on bringing yourself back into balance. The reason that that’s so effective is that, you know, if you look at why we’re overeating in the first place – I call it the cycle of overeating. At some point in life we feel some kind of pain – it could be emotional pain, it typically is emotional pain – and we hate feeling pain. We want to stop feeling pain immediately, as quickly as possible. And so we get this idea that well if we eat that might solve the pain. And certainly by eating it distracts us, and we might get a sugar rush, we might get a carb rush, we might get a caffeine rush. And so it’s effective at making us feel better very, very quickly, sort of instant gratification. So we’re eating because we want to feel better, we don’t want to feel pain. But after we eat, then we start feeling guilty, we start beating ourselves up, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I did that. Why did I do that? I’m so fat”, and we go on and on. We start railing at ourselves in a way that we would never rail at anybody else, mind you. Well that’s really effective at making us feel bad again. Well we hate to feel bad. And what is our number one coping mechanism to feel better when we feel bad? Eating. So in that way the guilt, the beating up on ourselves actually furthers this cycle, this negative cycle of overeating. So the first place to intervene according to most diets is to say, “Oh, you know what, don’t eat.” Instead of eating the cookies eat the celery, you know. Just don’t do that thing that makes you feel good.
Teri Struck: You know, that’s so true and I think that’s where the term ‘comfort food’ came from, ‘cause you know, it’s macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes and all those things like that, is comfort food and that’s comforting your pain.
Renee Stephens: And that’s comforting your pain, exactly. So a diet’s going to say, “You know what, don’t eat that. Stay feeling bad. Don’t get yourself to feel good. But don’t worry, in a week, in a month, in a year, you’ll feel great when you’ve lost all that weight.” Well gosh, that’s a long way away. So rather than intervening at the point of what actually makes you feel good, how about intervening at the point of what actually makes you feel bad by forgiving yourself instead of beating up on yourself, just finding activities, finding things that self correct you, that bring you back to center; time in nature, time with your cat or your dog or your child or your loved ones. Use it; talking to a friend, going to a movie that you enjoy. Something that really renews your spirit and helps you feel good.
Teri Struck: There’s nothing like a best friend to do that too. I really think that turning to a best friend, even my girlfriend calling me and, you know, beating her own self up and I’m just like “Let that go. Big deal…
Renee Stephens: Yes.
Teri Struck: You had a candy bar, get over it.”
Renee Stephens: Exactly, exactly. Find what works best for you – your best friend, whatever it is – that really renews you and focus on that rather than beating yourself up.
Teri Struck: So that’s good advice. I mean make yourself a list of, you know, your iPod or your music, walking, whatever you really like to do…
Renee Stephens: Yes.
Teri Struck: Instead of what you don’t like to do and force yourself to do, that what you really like to do.
Renee Stephens: Exactly, and I, that’s exactly what I ask my clients to do is to make that list. And I have, actually a three tier list, things that you can do on your own is the first tier. Things that you can do with a friend is the second tier. And the third tier is when you need to get professional help because, you know, it’s really serious. But…
Teri Struck: Lets talk about that for a second. If you feel like, what would be the, you know, perimeters of somebody needing to get professional help?
Renee Stephens: Well when you cannot bring yourself back into balance on your own, you cannot bring yourself back into balance with the help of a friend or doing something in a community, if those methods don’t work then it’s time to look outside of yourself and find someone professional who can help you.
Teri Struck: And how do people go about finding the right professional for depression, weight, all that kind of stuff? How do you know to choose the right person?
Renee Stephens: Well, you know, I get a little, I don’t know, philosophical or spiritual about this. The first thing that I would recommend is that you really set your intent, that you kind of put the invitation out there that you want to find the right person, that you find that person. And then when you start looking on the internet – and I would recommend looking for a life coach, a hypnotherapist or a therapist to help you – and as you start out there looking find someone who’s website speaks to you. Find a referral from a friend where you think “Yeah, that’s kind of what I want, you know. That really resonates with me.” I think that there needs to be a real connection between the professional and the person being helped for it to be effective. So actually when people come to me I take them through an extensive process – it’s actually a free consultation process – but it’s an extensive process where they go about finding, you know, really looking inside to one, determine their motivation base and the process helps them become really clear about their motivation and increase their motivation for lasting change. And then two, to really just check inside and tune in to their higher guidance to see “Is this a match? Is this the right thing for me to do?” Because, you know, personally Teri I only want to work with people who feel really called to work with me, and when we finish this process and someone actually start with me we’re already halfway there because they feel really called to work with me and my work and I feel really called to work with them, and so it’s a great match. So I encourage people to go through a process of self reflection and look for someone that they have that resonance with, that real connection with.
Teri Struck: You know, that’s really great advice. I like what you just said. I mean if you can connect with their website and you can get the essence of who they are…
Renee Stephens: Yes.
Teri Struck: And speaking of that, we’re running out of time. And Renee, we’re going to have you back. I mean this has been great, great advice on self-esteem and connecting with your self. And you could find Renee on personallifemedia.com. We’re going to link our website to hers, and you can check out her podcast, Inside Out Weight Loss as well. Thank you so much for being with us, and we’re going to have you back. And Renee where are you located? You’re located in the Bay area, aren’t you?
Renee Stephens: Yeah, I’m in San Francisco, but most of my clients are actually by phone.
Teri Struck: Oh great. So if you want to hook up with Renee, you can have phone consultation and check out her website. And we’re going to have her back. Thanks for all your great tips today. We really appreciate it. This is Teri Struck, Beauty Now, and I’ll check back with you.