Instilling “Grit” – Exchange between Renee Stephens and Donald Pelles

Renée Stephens, Ph.D., is the author of Full-Filled: The 6-Week Weight-Loss Plan for Changing Your Relationship with Food and Your Life-From the Inside Out; available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million. She is also the creator of Inside Out Weight Loss, A Mindful and Transformative Approach to Lasting Weight Loss.

Donald Pelles, Ph.D., is a Certified Hypnotherapist who has worked effectively with weight-loss clients for over 7 years. He is the author of Hypnosis and Weight.


I just watched this video about the importance of grit. This is a hot topic right now, especially for parents like me whose kids are growing up in middle class comfort and have lots of support.  How do we help them develop grit?

I also think developing grit would be hugely helpful for my weight loss clients. My program works but you do have to use the tools and stick with it.  I already have multiple mechanisms to cultivate the growth mindset that she talks about (I call it a learning mind), but there is something else too that’s part of grit.

So now I am fascinated by how we could help someone develop grit – the ability to stick with a long term goal through challenges.

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Mantras for Sensible Eating

Here are some of the things I say to myself regarding sensible eating and food.

1. Food is not important.

Really — it’s not (unless you’re in the food business, of course, or you’re malnourished).  Food is (can be) nutritious, it can be fun, enjoyable, tasty, delicious, or interesting – but it is not important.

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Self-Calibration for Controlling Your Weight

“I envy guys like you.”
Dave sits beside me on the bench.  We’ve just finished two sets of tennis and now we are resting, watching a pair warming up on the court we just vacated.

“What do you mean?”  I think I know what he means – the second set we only played to four not six – he had started out kicking my butt but by the end of the first set he was running out of gas.
“I mean,” he continues, “you’re always in great shape.”
“I work out,” I say.
“Yeah, so do I.  Well, maybe not enough.  But look at me.”

I look at him.  Dave carries an extra maybe thirty pounds, mostly on his belly.  I shrug.
“Guys like you,” he repeats.  “You don’t have to worry; you just go along eating whatever you want; you never gain a pound.”
 “Don’t I wish.”  I shake my head, watching the woman on the court as she strikes a crisp forehand.  “I also wish I could hit like that – great form, lots of topspin, and she hits it hard, too.”
Dave nods.
“I’m sure there are people like that out there,” I continue.  “They stay the same weight, don’t even think about it. Like they automatically turn their metabolism and appetite up and down, as needed, week after week, year after year.  But I’m not like that – I still have to work at it.”

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Restaurants – Don’s Tips Just for You

So you say restaurants are your downfall?  You’ve been bringing your weight down, or maintaining it, according to plan.  Shopping, cooking, eating healthy, in control, doing fine.  And then you find yourself eating out with your spouse or a friend, or maybe traveling.
Automatic setback?  Will you pay the check, then pay by cutting back the next two days?  Here are Don’s Tips, just for you.

Go for the Good

Promise yourself that from now on, you are only going to eat food that is delicious.  Put quality ahead of quantity – way ahead.  Order food that is going to taste wonderful, and eat it slowly, … savoring … every … single … bite.

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But do I Still Need to Exercise?

So you are eating less and enjoying it more, calibrating yourself, you’ve learned how to handle restaurants and holidays. Now perhaps you are wondering, “But do I still need to exercise?”


Here is one way to look at it. If you ate nothing, you would lose weight – quickly. Somewhere between zero and the amount you were eating, there is a point at which your weight will stabilize, and just below that, begin to come down – with or without you exercising. So strictly speaking, you do not need to exercise in order to lose weight.


On the other hand, slimming down is only one component of becoming fit and healthy. Even if you are only doing it for appearance, you will look better – and feel better – when you exercise regularly.


Muscle and body tone

Even the muscles you do not directly work on will be firmer, rather than flabby, better toned. An exercised body has a better shape; your posture will be better, your movement becomes smoother and easier.



Your metabolism speeds up, moving your caloric break-even point higher. This is because regular exercise builds muscle, and muscle has a higher metabolism rate than fat. Your body steadily uses more energy. This is more significant, in the long run, than the immediate amount of calories you burn in a single workout.

Burning fat

A vigorous 30-minute workout will burn 400-500 calories, which your body will take from your stored fat, unless you make up for it by eating more. That is a big temptation – a vigorous workout tends to make you hungry. Keep in mind that a large blueberry muffin adds 350 – 425 calories; a 16-ounce frappuccino adds about 410. If your goal is to eat/drink these things with impunity, your 30-minute workout may just do it. But if you want to lose weight, don’t waste your sweat in this way.

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Book Review: The Cortisol Connection Diet, by Shawn Talbott, Ph.D.

by Donald Pelles, Ph.D., Certified Hypnotherapist

I heard Shawn Talbott speak on a teleseminar a couple weeks ago, about cortisol and testosterone and their role in stress, weight reduction, and health.  I was impressed – the man seemed to know what he’s talking about and everything he said resonated with things I already knew, half-knew, or suspected:

·         Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, is a potent appetite signal for high-calorie, high-carb foods; it tells our fat cells, especially those in the belly region, to store as much fat as possible, while dialing down the body’s calorie burning rate and slowly shrinking muscle tissue.

·         Stress management leads to reduced cortisol, reduced fat – especially belly fat – and an increased metabolic rate, to burn more calories.

·         Testosterone goes up as cortisol goes down (yes, in women too!), and that’s a good thing.  We should aim to balance these two hormones, and that’s what exercise does for us – this is the main benefit of exercise, not burning calories per se.  Walking three times per week will do it!

·         Hydrate! – We need plenty of water to melt away fat; it’s a chemical, metabolic thing..

·         High cortisol (high stress) leads to lowered sex drive, bone loss, and suppresses your immune system.  Talbott noted how college infirmaries fill up with sick students at the end each semester, because the stress of exams and papers has reduced their immunity.

·         Eat flavinoids (bright colored fruits and vegetables) and a balance of complex carbohydrates, healthy proteins, and healthy fats to combat cortisol.


Talbott, trained in sports medicine, health management, exercise physiology, and nutritional biochemistry, is an associate clinical professor of nutrition at the University of Utah, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Dietary Supplements (for health professionals) and SupplementWatch (for consumers).


An earlier book, The Cortisol Connection, How Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health And What You Can Do About It, is a more general treatment of stress, its effects, and how to control it.  In The Cortisol Connection Diet (2004), Talbot concentrates on diet: what to eat and how much, including recommendations for supplements (such as Green Tea Extract).  He recommends three meals and three snacks per day, and introduces The Helping Hand – your hand – a readily available physical measure for how much proteins, carbs, and fats to eat.  This is not so much a diet as it is a common-sense guide – that common-sense being informed by an understanding of the role of cortisol and other hormones in metabolism as it relates to weight and health.

Talbott also critiques popular Diets: Atkins, Ornish, Zone, Weight Watchers, Ephedra (herbal stimulant), liquid.  Here is what he says about the Atkins Diet:


Q: What are the side effects associated with the Atkins Diet (low carb / high protein)?


A: It depends on how the diet is approached.  For example, an “Atkins” meal composed of salmon and green salad has no side effects (and obviously has many health benefits) – but an “Atkins” meal composed of a bacon double cheeseburger (hold the bun) is not good for your heart or your waistline.  Eating too much protein, which can be a problem with some versions of low-carb diets, can lead to dehydration (water loss is often confused with weight / fat loss) – and dehydration can slow the metabolic rate and make weight maintenance more difficult.  Too much protein in the diet can also displace other important food sources: If you’ve filled up on meat and cheese, you may not have room left to eat your salad, so the diet may fail to provide enough of many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and may also be lacking in fiber.


Any diet will work, especially at first, but as you progress, many of the popular Diets become counter-productive, especially as you try to lose those last 10 or 20 pounds.  Expect Talbot’s recommendations to take you all the way, and allow you to maintain that target weight for the long term.


The Cortisol Connection Diet is short – 130 pages with appendices, index, sample meals and snacks, and food log forms, all in a small page format – easily read in one or two sittings.  I found it straightforward and easy to understand.


I have always known that stress is important in weight control; containing emotional eating is a major part of the WHY Weight Reduction Program (© by Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.) that I use with my weight clients.  But in part because of Dr. Talbott, I am coming to understand that stress is central, not only to weight issues but to most of the issues we deal with in Hypnotherapy.