Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Interested in Developing Healthy Lifestyle? Or Committed to it?

I was thinking this morning again about the difference between interest and commitment.

The differences are stark, when you think about them.

For example, if you are INTERESTED in something, you research it (until it is no fun anymore to do that), you dip your toe in, as long as it is interesting enough to your attention you will play with it for awhile.

If you are COMMITTED to something, you do it even when it gets "boring" or may be inconvenient or lose it's luster.

Take marriage, for example.  Can you imagine if part of your wedding vows were:  "I'm interested in you"?  Are you "interested" in remaining faithful?  If your spouse asks you if you ever plan on straying from him/her, do you say "I'm interested in not having an affair, I'm interested in staying monogomous to you"?

I'm not gonna judge, but I'd wager that many or most or even ALL of you who have been married did NOT go in to your married life with this mentality.  You were COMMITTED to your spouse. 

Interest vs. commitment in living a healthy lifestyle is a similar thing.  Here is what INTEREST looks like:

I am intrigued with the prospect of being healthy.
Therefore, I order the products, because these people over here seem to be getting good results.
I am excited and thrilled at the possibility.  I am in the first "blush" of a relationship.  Giddy even.  Look at the box of awesome things that UPS delivered to my door, frought with possibilities of a new healthy life.  Shiny.  New.  Potential.

Fast forward a few weeks.

Dang weekends are hard.  I do so well during the week when I don't have to think about what to eat or when, I'm so busy with work I just do it in the background and I don't have many temptations.  But Friday night comes around and man does it get difficult because I'm unstructured and I'm always around the yummy food.  I leave the house and forget my Meal Replacements because I think I'm only going to be gone for an hour or two, and then 5 hours later I get home famished and just want to grab something, or else I see that In-N-Out Burger or Taco Bell and just NEED something.  Plus we had an office party and the food just looked so good I couldn't refuse it.  Wouldn't it be rude not to eat the food they provided?  That Costco Carrot would be a shame to throw the rest out.  Sunday potluck at church AGAIN.  Why does this always happen on the WEEKEND!!!  This whole thing is getting HARD.  I don't like HARD.  I don't like challenges and I can't seem to stay on plan.  I can't seem to get my water in consistently.  I know what 7 ounces of fish looks like, I don't really need to weigh it.  Hey, it's vegetables.  How ridiculous is it to get a measuring cup and and MEASURE VEGETABLES.  Vegetables are healthy, right?  Why can't I have fruit?  Fruit is healthy?  This plan must not be healthy if I can't have fruit.  And all the berries and peaches and cherries are almost IN SEASON and I CAN'T HAVE ANY!  THIS SUCKS!  I think I'll just put this on hold for awhile and enjoy my vacation/summer/weekend/life.  After all, I can always start it back up again when I'm less stressed/summer is over/after the 4th of July BBQ.  It will always be here, in my pantry, I can just start again on Monday.  Hard core.  Super hard core.  I'm going to DO it again.  Tomorrow.
Here is what COMMITMENT looks like:

Wow.  This is getting a little tough!  I seem to be having to put more effort in to staying completely on plan.  I didn't know it would be this hard to change my behaviors, those behaviors that turned me into a Super Class IV Obese person.  Ouch.  This is kind of inconvenient, having to take my Meal Replacements with me today because I might not be home for a few hours.  But I will.  Because I said I could, I said I would, and I'm going to do it.  Dang it's sort of awkward being the only person here, at a WEDDING reception, NOT eating wedding cake.  But I'll navigate through the discomfort and put on a smile and know that I am working on my health goals despite what anyone else is doing or what anyone else is thinking.  And I have my Chocolate Mint Crunch Bar in my purse.  I got this.  Shoot, the battery went out on my food scale.  I think Walmart sells them, I'd better go today and replace it so I can weigh my lean protein tonight.  I have been doing so well the last few weeks, I really have had red wine and blue cheese on the brain.  It would be so FUN to have some right now....but I'm not going to, because I am COMMITTED to my health goals and I KNOW that I can do this if I SIMPLY stay ON PLAN today.  Just today.  The girls Bunco night is tonight, and they always have a spread to DIE for.  But eating that doesn't fit in with my plans to attain and maintain optimal health so I'm going to pass with a smile.


interest |ˈint(ə)rist|
1 the state of wanting to know or learn about something or someone: she looked about her with interest.
• (an interest in) a feeling of wanting to know or learn about (something): he developed an interest in art.
• the quality of exciting curiosity or holding the attention: a tale full of interest.
• a subject about which one is concerned or enthusiastic: my particular interest is twentieth-century poetry.


commitment |kəˈmitmənt|
1 the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.: the company's commitment to quality.
• a pledge or undertaking: I cannot make such a commitment at the moment.
2 (usu. commitments) an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action: business commitments | young people delay major commitments including marriage and children.

Notice definition 2 of "Commitment".  An engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action. 

Are you committed to health?  If so, you may find that you necessarily are RESTRICTED in your FREEDOM of ACTION.  It is a self-restriction, and many of us see that and we don't LIKE that restriction, we don't like ANY restriction on our intake or our activities.  Restriction is thought of almost as a BAD WORD.  But it isn't.  It is a self-imposed discipline that we put on ourselves because we are COMMITTED to something.  Whether it be a relationship/spouse or a lifestyle, being COMMITTED to something will NECESSARILY bring with it some restrictions on our activities.

So sometimes I do a heart-check on myself as to whether I am committed, truly committed, to living an optimally healthy lifestyle?  Because if I start resenting the restrictions I may be tending towards INTEREST instead of COMMITMENT.  And interest comes and goes.  But commitment does not.

How about you?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Little Chuckle, and a Real Life Confession

Anyone observing me go to the gym tonight to swim would have gotten quite a chuckle out of watching me negotiate getting IN to the pool.

There are two things I dislike immensely, being COLD and being WET.  BOTH of those factors play in when I swim.  And tonight, I'll be honest and confess that I did NOT have any love for the thought of swimming.

I dreaded it.

I procrastinated as long as I could, then I drove to the gym.  I put my suit on, then took a LOOOONG hot pre-swim shower with my suit on AS I put on my swimcap and earplugs, and just stood under the warm/hot water.



So I finally got up the nerve and walked to the....


As I sat in the jacuzzi, I told myself I was only there for a few minutes, to save up all the warmth for the DREADED task ahead, the irony not being lost on me that I had just succeeded in making the next task even HARDER by getting all warm and cozy and comfortable in the niiiicceee soooooothinggggg jacuzziiiiiiii.

As I sat IN the nice warm jacuzzi I began to ask myself "who do you want to be today?"

The determination of who I would be today had not yet been made, because honestly it could have gone either way had I NOT begun to REMEMBER WHO I WAS. 

"You went to Paris in April and ran a freaking marathon.  You got up at 3:30 in the morning in the cold and ran over 27 miles three weeks BEFORE the marathon to make sure you could do this.  You are an athlete who is here at the gym to go for a swim and get in her workout today.  You did all that.  You CAN do this.  You ARE capable of just walking over to that cold pool and getting in it.  So what if you only swim ONE lap, at THIS point you have a choice to make.  Swimmers swim.  That's what they do.  Are you a swimmer or are you not?  If you don't do this now, it will be even harder the next time.  Who do you want to be tonight?"

With the words still echoing in my mind "Who do you want to be tonight?" I exited the jacuzzi and walked over the the pool.  I sat on the edge and put my legs in the water.  Yep.  Just as cold as I had feared.  Colder, actually, since I was still nice and warm from the jacuzzi.  I brought that one on myself.  Who do you want to be tonight?  Get in the pool.  Get in the pool.  Get in the pool.  I willed myself to get in to my hips.  Get in the pool.  Get in the pool.  Get in the pool.  Get.  In. The. Pool.  I got in to my shoulders.  Get in the pool.  Get in the pool.

I'm sure people wonder what kind of "willpower" and "determination" and "motivation" techniques I use to accomplish not only attaining but maintaining optimal health.  This is basically it.  Who do I want to be today/tonight?  Do what I have to do.  Get in the pool. 

It's not rocket science, in fact it feels like I'm a broken record trying to convince a 5 year old to eat their vegetables.  I FEEL like a 5 year old who doesn't WANT to eat their vegetables sometimes.

Get in the pool.

I'm happy to report I didn't ONLY swim 1 lap, although to be perfectly honest I would have been just as proud of my accomplishment tonight if I HAD only swam 1 lap.  Because tonight's challenge, apparently, was simply getting in the pool.  And I did.

Rinse and Repeat!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Good Question And a Good Response

I really appreciated this question that was posed by a fellow health seeker on our support boards today, and I wanted to copy and paste both the question and the response.

It was posted to our Behavioral Specialist, and he responded beautifully.  I have read portions of the book "Brain over Binge" but not the entire thing, and he really summarizes it well.

"Hi Nick, It's (Name Withheld), again! So, I am now in maintenance, although, it was very bumpy arriving here. Metaphorically, when considering transition and maintenance I felt a little bit like someone at the end of a diving board, afraid to jump. I knew it would be 'safe', in the sense that I had learned how to swim, that the water was deep enough, and that my coach was waiting for me (I love analogies, can you tell? This is how I make sense of my Life!). Yet, I just couldn't jump. Them came the binge behavior. Finally, I just told myself to go for it. I needed to move past binge, 5&1, cycling. So, I made a conscious choice to just jump right in. I followed (made up?!) some modified version of maintenance. I am hoping that this decision is not the kiss of death for me with maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle...doing your own thing on MF typically does not bode well. In any case, I am on a three day tune up, trying to regain some composure and control. I feel good on the 5&1, more specifically, I feel safe.

Anyway, I can't live on this forever. So please help me to figure out how to stay here! I have managed to graze and binge on healthy things. I am eating like a starving person! There are still some of those compulsive tendencies that I used to exhibit when I was at my heaviest. I eat quickly, I eat secretively, I snap when my husband says something like, 'but you just ate dinner' when I am having a bowl of blueberries 15 minutes after I got up from dinner. It's very scary to me that these things are rearing their ugly head again, and now I am saying, ' well, you are eating healthier things!'

This added layer of 'justification' (I.e. healthy choices, but WAY too many) has me the most concerned. I also want to be done with this heightened level of vigilance. Me realize that I will ALWAYS need to be mindful of my choices, and that the days of eating whatever are out (I am we'll aware of the repercussions of that type of disordered eating). You can also tell me if I am kidding myself that I will ever be able to let my guard down, even a little bit, in the future.

Hope that makes sense. Any insight, observations, and advice would be appreciated."

Response from our Behavioral Therapist Nick:

Hi (Name Withheld), nice to hear from you again.

 Thanks for reaching out for some help with these challenges, I'd be happy to offer up some possible insights. Also... I love metaphors too! So, here are a couple that will help us to understand these challenges in a different light.

When it comes to recovering from disordered eating like compulsions, restriction, binge eating, etc. there are two types of recovery stories out there: The Butterfly Tale and The Tamed House Pet.

The Butterfly Tale goes something like this... the person struggling with disordered eating is the caterpillar. They aren't happy and struggle with all kinds of issues in relationships or with depression or hurts from the past or whatever. Supposedly the disordered eating is all about dealing with this pain but it only makes her more miserable.

Then she enters into a journey of change - the cocoon - and works to resolve all these issues. This is a very hard and challenging process and takes a long time. Finally, she emerges as a fundamentally changed person - the butterfly. She's happy and fulfilled. She no longer needs to hold onto to the disordered eating. She can fly away.

The other story, The Tamed House Pet, goes something like this... the person dealing with disordered eating - the untamed animal - lives a self-destructive life full of binge eating, restriction, compulsive behaviors, etc. and struggles through every day. Then she enters into a program of change and begins the long, hard process of taming her disordered eating behaviors.

After much training, practice, attention, and patience she learns how to reduce the episodes of disordered eating and thinking. This type of recovery is like a wild animal who is taken into a home, trained diligently and painstakingly, given attention and care, and learns to live a better life. IN this type of recovery, an occasional binge is excused and she gets back on track afterwards. This type of recovery eventually becomes fairly secure; however the recovered person can never get too comfortable. She has to take it "one day at a time."

Can you relate to one of these tales? From my perspective, you're going the Tamed House Pet route of recovery... right? There's no doubt that this is a possible path to recovery, that many people have found success with, but it is certainly not effortless - it takes constant maintenance. Sounds like this is what is troubling you, correct?

Over the years of working with people with disordered eating I have seen both tales play out. Some people become tamed house pets and others become butterflies (though, not very many... in fact, I'm having trouble even thinking of one!). However, there is another way. One that deals more directly with the actual disordered eating behaviors and has a clear path to recovery.

Note: this method doesn't help you become more assertive, spiritual, emotionally satisfied, or happy, or solve any other problems, or recovery from past hurts. However, it can help to end destructive eating habits.

Let's first get clear about why these binges happen. You don't binge to satisfy deep inner emotional needs (as the butterfly tale suggests) and you don't binge because you have a disease that you're powerless against (as the tamed house pet tale suggests). Instead, there is only one concrete and clearly identifiable reason:

You binge because you have urges to binge.

The problem is that you have strong urges to binge eat, at many different times and in many different places; and giving in to those urges again and again solidified this behavior as a habit. Once this behavior became habit it would send out more urges to binge. You would give it. The cycle would go on and on.

Therefore, this third and alternative way to recover is to learn how to manage and eliminate these urges. This is a five (5) step process that I briefly outline here but if you want more information I would suggest that you read the book Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen.

1. View Urges to Binge as Neurological Junk – In order for her to stop acting on your thoughts (such as "well, you are eating healthier things!"), feelings (such as anxiety or boredom), that are part of these urges, you have to see them as essentially meaningless. These thoughts, feelings and urges encouraging you to binge are nothing more than junk emanating from the depths of your brain in order to maintain a self-destructive habit. These urges are completely separate from your true-self, which brings me to the second step.

2. Separate the True-Self from Urges to Binge – Your urges to eat aren’t truly yours – you are not your habit. You want a better life for yourself than stuffing large amounts of food in your mouth. You have goals for yourself that you know are inconsistent with binge eating. You know you want a healthy life but your habit keeps you trapped in destructive patterns of behavior. Now, your true-self is the seat of your consciousness and identity. It holds your values and goals and self-image. It won’t be until you separate the most sophisticated and most uniquely human part of your brain from your urges to eat, and really feel that separation, that you will feel capable of saying no to binge eating. You will need to recognize that any thought or feeling that encourages you to binge eat is something completely apart from your true-self and is merely a product of the habit. In other words, disconnect from those thoughts and feelings instead of getting so wrapped up in them. The thought "I'm eating healthy so I can overeat" is not truly you but merely a product of your brain trying to maintain a habit of overeating.

3. Stop Reacting to Urges to Binge – Once you separate your true-self from your urges to eat, it will become possible to stop reacting to your urges, meaning that you will stop letting your urges affect you emotionally. I am sure, currently, you are emotionally overwhelmed by your urges. You probably feel mad, frustrated, depressed, anxious, desperate, even – when your on the brink of giving in – excited. Reacting emotionally only gives your thoughts and urges power, strength, and the ability to influence your choices. When you let your urges make you mad, frustrated, depressed, anxious, or excited, you allow them to take over your whole body and state of mind – and that probably leads you right to food. However, if you separate your true-self from your urges to eat, you can be aware of them but you can stop paying attention to them and reacting to them. With distance between yourself and your urges, you can experience them as if they’re playing on a tape recorder, as if they’re not your own thoughts and feelings. They were only the result of your brain trying to maintain a habit.

4. Stop Acting on Urges to Binge – Not only does separating yourself from your urges give you the power to stop reacting emotionally to them; more importantly, it gives you the ability to stop acting on them. Once you can stop acting on your urges to eat, you will break the cycle. You don't have to substitute any other activity for binge eating habit or distract yourself with a hobby, work, phone calls, or journaling. You don't have to find a way to your her emotional needs. All you have to do is recognize those thoughts, feelings and urges that encourage you to binge eat and disconnect from them, as if they aren't even a part of her. You don't need to struggle with these thoughts and urges if you can see them as not really you. If you lose that separation and think that it is really you who wants to eat, then you will get wrapped up in your urges and you may binge eat again and that’s okay. This will take some practice. Just go back to listening to your brain as a detached observer.

5. Get Excited! – This will actually speed along your brain changes. Praise, from others (such as a coach) or from within, and enthusiasm for learning something new cement that learning on a physical level in the brain. In short, “Celebrating a new discovery increases the likelihood that it will be remembered.” – Thomas Czerner. Every time you allow yourself to experience a craving without acting on it, every time you have thoughts and feelings encouraging you to eat and don't act on them, every time you have powerful urges to eat but you remain detached and unaffected by them… GET EXCITED! Brain functions that are given attention and significance strengthen, and brain functions that are not given attention and significance weaken. Focusing on the power of your true-self to remain detached from your urges to maintain a habit and congratulating yourself for it serves to strengthen new connections in your brain and weaken the old ones.

Following these steps doesn’t mean that you will never have urges to engage in binge eating again because it is possible for neurons to remember old patterns of behavior. However, if your habitual brain sends out an urge to binge eat in the future, you will know exactly what to do: Listen to it with detachment, and don’t react emotionally to it or act on it. Then, your habit will never develop again!

I hope you found this information helpful and should you have any follow-up questions please feel free to write back anytime. Again, this information is taken from the book Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen. So, if you want to learn more pick-up that book. Thanks!

Take care,

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Making the Fundamental Decision to be Ultra Healthy!

That Dr. A is a genius! 

Now that I've attained OPTIMAL HEALTH and maintained it for some time now, I have made the FUNDAMENTAL DECISION to move in to ULTRA HEALTH.  I didn't make the decision lightly.  I am enjoying Optimal Health immensely, and have been "able" to hold on to a few of my favorite things in "maintenance" that I was hesitant to give up. 

But I'm ready.

What is ULTRA HEALTH?  It is described in Dr. A's Habits of Health, Part III.  Begins in Chapter 22 and continues to the end of the book.

I have to admit, although I've skimmed these sections in order to read the entire book, these sections didn't appeal to me at the time because I was not yet living life in OPTIMAL Health, or WAS living in OPTIMAL HEALTH but did not yet desire ULTRA HEALTH so it seemed like information I didn't quite need in my journey yet.

Now I need it.  Now I want it.  Now I'm making the life-changing decision to even go farther into health than I have previously been.  Like, EVER.

And I'm keeping focused on what I want to CREATE with this process.  When I do that, what I will necessarily need to GIVE UP pales in comparison.  Instead of looking at "what I can I eat (read "get away with") to maintain my optimal health (weight)", which occasionally included a piece of milk chocolate or gummi bear, I am looking at the bigger picture of "what awesome things will being in Ultra Health allow me to bring into my life?".  When I look at it like this, when I consider those possibilities, the milk chocolate and occasional gummi bear truly pale in comparison.

It is a hopeful and optimistic process, one that I've practiced daily for the last 4 years.  So this is just the next step on the process, it doesn't involve learning a brand-new way of thinking.  It is one step further in the thinking I have already intentionally developed daily over the last 4 years.

Wow.  I'm freaking excited.