Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

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Comfort Eating: When Food Goes From Yum to Glum

Fat-Bastard“I eat because I’m unhappy… I’m happy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle!” says the lovable character from the Austin Powers movies. Hey, just like with most of these posts, I can relate to the challenge. It’s been a very rough day, I come home, look in my fridge, and I see a delicious batch of kale. Except I’m stressed out, and it’s not kale I want: it’s a large cheese pizza. And maybe a milkshake. And who could pass up those french fries…. Mmmmmm. I gotta say, as I eat, I feel pretty good. Thoughts run through my head like, “You deserve this” and “Eh, you’ll work it off on your run tomorrow”. Except…

What if EVERY day was a rough day, and what if every time I experienced stress, I continued to trade kale for pizza? (And for those of you thinking “what in the world is ‘kale’?!”, it’s a type of leafy green that I often make into ‘kale chip’ form to sub for potato chips like this: But in all seriousness – this is a problem for many people. Food goes from being a form of nourishment to an emotional band-aid, and it can become an out-of-control issue if left unaddressed.


Don’t be fooled! These aren’t the key to happiness!

“Emotional eating” or “comfort eating”  is the use of food to ‘stomach’ (no pun intended) otherwise difficult emotions. If you’ve ever grabbed a pint of ice cream while feeling depressed, or even downed a bag of potato chips while experiencing boredom, then you’ve been a part of this. The problem with comfort eating is that once the food is consumed, the difficult emotions remain. There’s an online resource from, a free online resource for numerous mental health questions from which I found this simple questionnaire to better understanding if you fall into the “emotional eater” category:

Are you an emotional eater?

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
  • Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, it may be time to take a look at your relationship with food. Often times, we “triangle” something into our lives – a person, a thing, a place even – to avoid dealing with the real issue. For example, a husband and wife are dealing with stress in their relationship, but maybe one spends long hours at the office and “traingles” work into the marriage because, of course, working longer hours is less painful than facing marital distress. The same phenomenon happens with food.

If you feel that comfort eating is an issue for you, take a moment to consider what happens right before you pick up that fork. Am I bored? Am I disappointed with myself? Am I feeling blue? I encourage you, too, to consider this key question: What are you avoiding by eating? Is this a product of a relationship, lifestyle, career, or emotional stressor?

If you feel comfort eating has gotten out of hand for you, there are resources available to support you in finding healthier patterns of coping (such as:. Just like I’ve stated in my other posts, I encourage all my clients to consider how negative coping skills, such as emotional eating, is a part of overall unhealthy behavioral or interactional patterns. Being able to identify the problem is the first step to your solution (as my old co-therapist used to say “Like G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle!”), so if you’ve recognized this as a struggle for yourself, you are already on your way. I encourage readers who identify with this post to reach out to me for any additional guidance, support, or resources.

Getting back to that cheese pizza… also remember that we ALL have bad days sometimes. Not to mention, food is great! We SHOULD enjoy it and not be slaves to diets (in my opinion, at least) So, hey, enjoy that birthday cake at a friend’s celebration, and go ahead and eat that extra happy cookie every now and again! Part of a healthy lifestyle is knowing that small indulgences actually help us feel happier in the long run!

Until next time, folks…. Happy Eating!

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Turning “I can’t” into “I did!”: The Power of Positive Thought and Support in Fitness Success

480446_10151481772458950_52293864_nI was recently inspired when I saw this picture on the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Facebook page and felt it was appropriate for this week’s blog post. Part of the work I do daily – both with personal training and mental health clients – involves helping people recognize their potential, ability, confidence, and competence. Far too often we turn to that nagging voice inside our head that says “you never will” or “this is too hard”. One of the biggest challenges people have with overcoming adversity (whether physical or mental) is falling back into a web of negativity. I’ve experienced this, too, during numerous training runs, Crossfit workouts, and even personally stressful moments, so I’m no stranger.

That being said, I feel there are two important ingredients to overcoming the negative psyche. One, is to identify and intervene on what thought or behavioral patterns keep you stuck there. The second factor is to not solely rely on yourself: Identify those in your life who will motivate and support you to reach your goals, and reach out to them when you get stuck. This person could be a coach, parent, friend, partner/mate… whoever. I’ve found that the clients who have gained the most from their work with me were those who found themselves able to turn to others in times of distress, ambivalence, or uncertainty.

That being said, let’s talk about Crossfit and how this all relates in a segment I’d like to call: “The Coaches, the Community, and the New Crossfit-er”

I know when people hear “Crossfit” a LOT of various things come to mind: “those people are nuts”, “you are going to get injured”, “you are in a cult”, “um, are you trying to be good at exercise…?” Maybe I just stumbled across the right home base for my Crossfit-ing… but I’ve had an entirely opposite experience. I’m a member at Crossfit Conshohocken, a gym built from the ground up by owner and coach Jay Ross and his wife, Lori. When I first started, I had never heard of crossfit, let alone picked up a barbell or a kettlebell. I had never experienced trying to get through a difficult workout or group class at a gym with people cheering things like “You’ve got three more reps in you!” or “You’ve got this!” It was a bit daunting at first, and as I watched people power through these challenging workouts, those pesky thoughts came to mind: “I don’t think I could ever do this”.

Well, it’s been over a year now, and not only have I become stronger, fitter, and healthier because of Crossfit, but I’ve been amazed by how the coaching staff and community at CF Conshy creates an environment of support and motivation as we tackle the daily workouts or “WODS” (workout of the day). Relating back to my second ingredient in overcoming one’s negative psyche, the coaches and members of CF Conshy work together to put a positive spin on fitness. My fellow athletes know I am struggling to get an unassisted pull-up, so when those show up in workouts, you can best bet they know when to cheer me on. When I see fatigue and defeat on the faces of my friends in those last minutes of a WOD, I know they need to hear my voice say, “You can do it!”langanclean

Head coaches Jay Ross and Nick Tini take the time to get to know each member and identify where the “positive push” needs to occur. Struggling with a rope climb? Jay recognizes where you seem to be stuck and instead of yelling like a drill sargent to “get the hell up there!” encourages you to recognize where you are strong, and play off that. “Put in your best effort, and we’ll get you stronger from there” is a common theme. Frustrated as hell you can’t get that annoying “double under”? Nick relates that he’s been there, too, and helps you bring your focus back just when you feel like slamming that jump rope through the wall behind you. You can be sure the next time you are faced with these challenges, the coaches voices ring loud over the booming workout music: “You can do this! Nice work, Caitlin!”

Eventually, with time, the words of your supporters become your own internal thoughts. You realize that others see something in you that you may not see in yourself – after all, we’re often our own worst critics. This is why when I work with families, couples, or even individuals, I strive to help people recognize the patterns of negativity we get tangled in – whether it’s how we communicate with each other, or how negative thoughts fuel our actions. It’s amazing what happens when a child who thinks he’s doomed to be the “bad kid” hears his mother say “I’m proud of you”, or when a family recognizes that years of conflict have derailed what used to be healthy, happy functioning. I’ve seen personal training clients have the same look on their face I did when I walked into CF Conshy that day: “Wow, you will never catch me doing that!”…. But I did, and they will, and soon enough, that nagging, negative voice becomes quieter, and we recognize that even our small successes are a step at intervention from old, unhealthy patterns of being.

Take a moment and consider the areas of thought you struggle with, as well. Why is it so hard for me to think, “I can!”? Who in my life believes “You can, and you will!”?  I’d like to take a second to promote Crossfit Conshohocken and Crossfit Fort Washington (same ownership) and encourage everyone to try a class, especially if you’ve struggled with adherence to fitness in the past (for whatever reason!) I can’t put a price on how my experience here has changed my physical and mental strength for the better. And hey, you can best bet if I’m there at your first WOD, I will be yelling “You’ve got this!” all the way ’til that buzzer beeps “time”.

Happy Crossfitting, and until next time….


Mind over Matter: The Distance Runner’s Mental Challenge

“Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself.”
John Bingham

disney run 3Back in January, I completed my first full marathon! That’s right, folks, all 26.2 miles and nothing less! It took me 4 hours and 38 minutes, but I never stopped once, and my body totally worked with me (thank you, legs!). I had completed 5 and 10ks, a 10-miler, and had three half-marathons under my belt by the time my corral crossed the start line that day, but I learned quickly through this experience that when it comes to marathon training – the challenge isn’t just physical!

I picked the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon for my first. I’m a huge Disney geek, for starters, and always said “If I’m going to do it for the first time, it’d have to be a place like Disneyworld”. We decided to make a family event of it. My sister ran her first half-marathon that same weekend (go, sis!), and I also had my parents, brother, brother-in-law, and boyfriend there to cheer me on (and believe me, just knowing they were there at the finish line was HUGE motivation in itself!) What struck me, however, leading up to race day and during the run, itself, is how it seemed my brain was working just as hard as my legs.

Many people use running as a form of therapy, and I can understand why. Considering the typical “long run” for training is 10-18 miles, you have a lot of time to be alone with your thoughts. During training runs, you find yourself running distances that most would find you silly to attempt. There are no cheerleaders on the sidelines, no fellow competitors to keep you going – just you, your music (if you even use music), and your willpower. It’s because of this, I truly believe that running can be healing. I cried like a baby when I crossed the finish line because I proved to myself that I was strong enough – both physically and mentally – to do something I never once imagined. On my training runs, I taught myself to shift thinking from negative to positive and learned to be my OWN cheerleader in order to keep going. A good skill to use that I often teach my clients is “self-monitoring”, which requires you to do constant “check-ins” with yourself to curb negative thinking and keep yourself focused. An example is, perhaps, starting to feel angry or frustrated with yourself, taking a moment to say, “Wait – why am I feeling this way?”, recognizing the true issue, and replacing that thinking with something positive, “I’m just nervous because this is a long run. I’ve done this before, and I can do it again. I am strong!”

I’m hopeful others who are getting into running can find this useful or familiar, especially those with thoughts like “WHY did I sign up for this, again?” or “I’m not sure I can do this!” running through their brains.

The Mental Marathon Breakdown (as experienced by Caitlin Langan):

Mile 1: Okay, breath. Does my ankle feel funny? No, you’re good. You’re ready for this. Wow, it’s really early out. I can’t believe I’m about to run a marathon. Is that my knee acting up? No, you’re just nervous! Keep going…

Miles 4-6: Wow, this is great! I feel so energized. Those last few miles flew by. This is so cool. I can’t believe I’m doing this!!

Mile 10: Um, I have to pee. If I stop, am I going to cramp up? I’m starting to feel my knee. I hope that goes away. (Stops and pees) Okay, whew, I still feel good. Yup, that is my knee, though. I’m getting nervous. Keep going, you can do it.

Mile 13: HALFWAY THERE!!! Hmmmm, I hope my pace is okay. I’m going slower than I want, I think. Should I push myself? Wow, I can’t believe I have another 13 to go. Keep going, you’ve got this!

Mile 16-18: Okay, this is starting to suck. I’ve been running almost three hours. I’m tired. Is that hunger? I hope they have food. I hope there’s a water station soon. I hope I can do this. ——-> NOTE: Runner’s notoriously hit “the wall” around mile 18-22 during marathons. The power of positive thinking really needs to take over at this point, and that inner strength you work so hard to build comes in here. I often tell family/friends who are going to come watch me to position themselves close to mile 20 to get that extra “boost” of support to keep going. You CAN do it alone, but having cheerleaders is incredibly helpful. A great strategy is to develop a personal mantra you can repeat to yourself when the going gets tough. For me it was: “You’ve got this. You will own this race!”

Mile 20: I feel everything. My breathing hurts. I’m tired. I can’t believe I can another hour of running to go. I hope a good song comes on my I-Pod (come on Eminem, I need you, now!). You can do this, you can do this. You’ve got this. You will own this race.

Mile 22: disney run 2 This picture is from the 22 mile mark of my race. My brother-in-law captured this pic and yelled “you’re almost there!” Oh my god. Only four more to go. Don’t think about the race. Sing along with your music. Don’t think about your IT band or your hamstrings. Where is the next *^&**(! water stop? Nevermind… You’ll be fine. You’ve got this, you can do this. 



Mile 26.2: You did it! You rocked this! You OWNED THIS RACE!! (cue streaming tears as you hear your loved ones cheering at the finish and receive your medal) (Crossing the finish line in the picture below!!)

disney run


I often tell my clients that if you can anticipate the problem, you’re already prepared. The same goes for the mental challenge of distance running. You know you are going to fatigue, and if you’ve been training, you can guess when. You know that, at some point, your body will say “um, stop please!” and you have to keep going. You also know that the sense of pride and accomplishment you will feel crossing that finish line outweighs the negative. Knee pain goes away and sore muscles are treatable. The fact that you pushed yourself beyond expectation, however, is a feeling that doesn’t go away. I once said, “I could never run a marathon”, and now I’m already planning my second. To those of you who say, “I can’t”, I challenge your mind to think, “Well… could I?” 🙂

Happy running, everyone!





Welcome to My Blog!

Really excited to be kicking off this blog! I encourage visitors to click the “Who Am I” tab on this page to get a feel for this website’s purpose, but I’ll use my first post to express what you can expect from “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Blog” on a weekly basis:

It’s no surprise when I mention that there’s an epidemic of unhealthy children and families across the nation today. I experience this first hand in the work that I do every day. It’s a vicious cycle: Money’s tight, unhealthy food is cheap, kids are overloaded with electronics, and life stress takes precedent over health considerations. What’s worse, you can best bet that once families are faced with obesity and health issues there are numerous physical and emotional repercussions to boot.

I came across youtube video this morning that really struck me, and I’d like to take an opportunity to share it:

Simply stated, I’d like to use this blog to provide you with resources, professional information, and personal experiences that are aimed towards a “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body” lifestyle. Each week, I’ll be posting entries related to the mind-body mash-up, from overcoming a challenging run, to getting yourself motivated for exercise, healthy eating, all the way to how relationships play a role in our health.

That being said, I’ll be providing you with mental health information and resources to address the “mind” side. After all, individuals with health concerns are often plagued with anxiety, guilt, depression, self-esteem issues, and bullying (yes, even adults get bullied!). What’s encouraging, however, is that it’s never too late to make even small lifestyle changes! With each new client I encounter, I am hopeful they recognize just how much leadership and resourcefulness they have inside them. I encourage readers to ask questions related to fitness or mental health (or both!) and I look forward to kicking off this blogging adventure with you all!

To close, please take a moment to visit my good friend Lauren Knobloch’s blog, located in the menu to the right of the page: “Paleology 101” – It’s a great resource for healthy cooking tips and recipes. Eating Paleo has greatly improved my health (more on that diet later!) and I encourage everyone to do some research 🙂

Happy Sunday everyone!

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It doesn't have to be paleo - just has to be worth sharing