Information Isn’t Action: Weight Loss Requires Activity!

When it comes to weight loss, too many people think the activity I’m referring to means working out, going to the gym or walking or some kind of exercise.  While exercise has its place in weight loss, what I mean is that you must take action to lose weight.  Reading a nutrition or diet book is not action: it’s research.  I can read every diet book that comes out this year and still not lose a pound unless I actually do something such as implementing the strategies in those diet books.

This distinction confuses a lot of people and it’s completely understandable.  We take the time to read the diet/ nutrition books; we buy the yoga CDs (I’ve got dozens of those- still in the wrappers!) and we think we are ‘making progress!’  As in, “I’m planning to lose weight and exercise more and I’ve got my strategy all mapped out!”  But until you put that strategy into action, you ain’t gonna be losing weight!  Take my yoga CDs: I really really want to start yoga, as evidenced by the CDs and books stacked on my bookcase.  How good am I at yoga? Not started it! I’ve got the mat and strap and bolster literally buried in my closet but I’ve not used them. So how good am I at yoga? I’m guessing I pretty much suck since I’ve not tried in the last 15 years or so.  But I really really want to! Little clue here: you have to do it in order to make progress!

So why haven’t I done anything with my yoga practice? Oh, the usual excuses: “I don’t have time”; “I don’t know if I’m doing it right”; “I’m afraid I might hurt myself”; “I can’t afford the classes”; blah blah blah. The point is that while I have all the resources and tools to practice yoga, they are gathering dust and I am making no progress at all really fast! However, I don’t expect that I’ll be magically good at yoga just because I have all the tools and information at my fingertips, but when it comes to weight loss, there are a lot of people who get lost in the research and strategizing.

I’ve got another confession here: I really love research! I love reading a new book or magazine about health or listening to a new podcast about being healthier. The problem is that reading about health and weight loss and listening to other people talk about getting fitter does not improve my health and fitness unless and until I actually put these ideas into action. I can’t tell you how much I’ve heard and read about the ketogenic diet and Intermittent Fasting, but I can also tell you that I am most definitely not in ketosis! Why? Because I haven’t made the changes in my diet necessary to get into ketosis. [I did try keto and decided I didn’t like it very much, ergo not eating keto!]

It seems simple: if you want to make progress, you have to take action. Research, although it feels like you are doing something, really isn’t action. It is accumulating information.  What you do with that information determines how much progress you make. Too many of us get lost in the informational weeds because we want to lose weight ‘the right way,’ or we just plain don’t know what to do or where to begin.  Those are all good starting points but we have to remember they are only starting points! Once we have a plan or a beginning, we have to begin doing something with that information we’ve so carefully accumulated.

Which brings us back to my yoga non-practice.  The honest real reason I haven’t tried yoga? It intimidates the bloody hell out of me! Despite reading all the books and watching the CDs, I truly don’t know if I can get into some of those poses and if I get there, how the hell do I get out of them? What if I get stuck or hurt myself? What if I just look stupid? Hello! That’s why we practice! No one can reasonably expect a beginner to do anything perfectly the first time or even the hundredth time! It’s a progression and until we actually begin doing it, we aren’t making progress!

This is one of the pitfalls of too much information gathering: we are afraid we won’t do it right or that we’ll be unable to do it.  Seriously, not-doing it is the biggest way to mess it up! Allowing yourself to be intimidated is a sure way to keep you from making any progress towards your goals or even from trying anything new.  Aside from not making any progress, it can keep you from doing something you turn out to enjoy.  And as for doing it ‘wrong,’ every professional started out as an amateur.  Mozart may have been a prodigy, but the first time he stepped up to a piano, he still had to figure out which key was what note! Even failure can teach you since now you know what not to do! Everything takes practice!

While we may learn the basic framework through information gathering aka ‘research,’ it only benefits us when we put that knowledge into action. This is why doctors spend years in residence: book knowledge is so very different than actually doing the procedures.  I can read all about Intermittent Fasting and learn all the tips and tricks for getting through a seven day water fast, but again actually fasting for seven days only drinking water is a whole ‘nother experience! And that’s the key word: experience.  Experience is true knowledge and it only comes through action.  The more experience you have with your weight loss process, the more you know about your body, what works for you and what doesn’t (i.e., me & keto). It’s great to read about different supplements, different fasting regimens and different recipes or eating plans, but unless and until you put that information into action, you are only wasting your time and not making progress! If you are serious about weight loss, you need to do something about it, and reading about it doesn’t count! [Now I need to get off my butt and dig that dang yoga mat out of the closet!]

 

Fearlessly Being You: Weight Loss & Liking Who You Are

I am sure we are all familiar with the self-help mantras “you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you,” and the ever-popular Serenity Prayer. I accept that these mantras have merit, but they’re a little too mainstream for me.  I much prefer the somewhat quirky “wherever you go, there you are!”  I feel it not only speaks to where you are in life, but who you are as well.

One of the newer podcasts I’ve been listening to is The Wellness Force podcast with Josh Trent and while I’m still not sure he’s going to fit with my lifestyle, one of the recent podcasts he had was with professional volleyball player Kelly Claes who used an expression that really resonated with me: “fearlessly authentic.”  The inspirational quote app that I use updated earlier this year and now allows me to create tags for my favorite quotes and the first tag I created is “#fearless.”  Simply put: sometimes you need to be fearless to get where you want to go!

Most of us start out life with our parents setting our goals and aspirations.  This is pretty normal: as a kid, you really don’t know what’s what so you look to your parents for guidance and somewhere along the line, you realize you don’t want to be a doctor or a teacher but an artist or a baseball player or an engineer.  You start finding yourself and finding your own way.  Again, this is pretty normal.

But when you’re a kid and you’re overweight, you face some different obstacles. Most parents either believe ‘it’s a phase’ and you’ll ‘grow out of it’ or they start trying to guide you out of it. Sometimes their guidance is encouraging you to be more active, play sports or eat healthier foods.  Sometimes, it’s humiliation and recrimination. Even if they don’t mean to do it, sometimes it feels like their love and acceptance hinges on how much you do or don’t weigh. They may not ever say it, but we feel their disappointment and disapproval of our weight and from those unspoken feelings, we begin to feel that we are simply inadequate, lacking and a failure.

Growing up is hard enough without feeling like you are a failure as a person. While this post is about weight loss and obesity, it happens to kids for all kinds of things: not being pretty enough; not being a good enough athlete; not being smart enough.  Parents don’t mean to do it, but they place their own expectations on their children and when they fall short of those expectations, the child internalizes the disappointment as being their own personal failure. When it comes to weight loss, it can lead to a lifetime eating disorder, among other things. Generally children who feel inadequate either begin to crave their parents’ approval or they go the opposite direction. (Guess which way I went!)

For me as an overweight child, I was constantly being told “if only you lost weight, [insert good thing here].”  If I lost weight, I’d have boys lining up at my door.  If I lost weight, I could wear all the pretty clothes.  If I lost weight, I could have a whole new wardrobe.  Basically, if I lost weight, I’d be perfect.

Except I didn’t lose weight.  I stayed obese and after years of failing to win my mom’s approval (she was the most critical), I eventually gave up trying to get something I was so obviously never going to get.  (While my dad wasn’t exactly happy with my weight either, he was more focused on other goals such as college and a career.) This is where I learned to be fearless when it came to being me.

What I mean by “fearless” is that I simply stopped apologizing for being obese and not being perfect. It also means that I accepted myself for the person I was at that time and not who I was going to be at some time in the future.  This is paramount because until we accept who we are right now, we’ll always be stuck putting off our lives until some future time ‘when we’re thinner.’ While you’re probably thinking that’s a no-brainer, this idea sometimes gets internalized with the “I’m not good enough” mentality and before you realize it, it’s part of who we are.  Unfortunately, it’s usually the part that holds us back from living the life we want.

One of the constants on My 600 lb Life is patients saying how they need to have surgery so “I can get my life back” or “start living my life.”  Many of them probably never considered that their lives don’t have to be on hold because of their weight.

Obviously there are a lot of issues behind their compulsive overeating but I think a portion of it comes from that ‘waiting to be perfect’ mentality. They can’t move forward because they believe there is something wrong with the person they are right now. Being morbidly obese- and especially super morbidly obese- is a fact of life that has to be dealt with but when you put your life on hold until you are ‘fixed,’ it can mean waiting forever. Most of are familiar with the ‘perfect outfit’ in our closet that we can’t wear until we lose 20 lbs or so, and we hang onto it until it’s no longer in style and we have to give it away without ever wearing it… and we replace it with another perfect outfit we’ll never wear. Imagine that’s your life: always waiting for it to ‘start’ until you’ve got no time left.

Wherever- and whoever- you are is all you’ve got. There were a lot of times I was rejected because of my weight. I was told I wouldn’t advance or be successful in some jobs because of my weight, that guys wouldn’t find me attractive because of my weight, that my weight was always going to hold me back from doing things I wanted to do. Some of these statements were and still are true.

But I’ve lived all my adult life obese, mostly around 375 lbs. Once I learned to stop apologizing for being fat and imperfect and fearlessly live my life on my terms, my weight took a backseat to the rest of my life. Yes, there were times it got in the way and there were a lot of times I wished I were thinner. FYI: I also wished I were taller, too! But for most of my life I refused to let my weight make me miserable.

When my weight did finally become a problem I had to deal with, it still took a backseat to an even bigger problem, mainly my depression over The Job From Hell. That job seriously made me hate my life and who I’d become and it wasn’t until I dealt with that as well as the mental and emotional fallout from that job that I was able to deal with my weight. When I learned to like myself again, it gave me the strength to take advantage of new and unexpected opportunities which led to some serious weight loss.

Even though I’ve lost nearly 170 lbs, most of the world still considers me obese. There are a lot of family members who would be happier if I lost another 100 lbs. I’m still eating healthy and I’m still being as active as I can be, but my weight doesn’t define me anymore now than it did when I was 375. I am still more than just the number on the scale. For most of my life, I liked and accepted myself for the person I was, and I like who I am now. The difference is that now I’m 170 lbs lighter. It was my acceptance of myself that gave me the strength to grow and succeed and make the necessary changes. My acceptance of who I am gives me the courage to live fearlessly and do what’s right for me instead of following advice that doesn’t work for me, whether it’s for weight loss or anything else. If I hadn’t had the strength and courage to live fearlessly, I’d never have tried the Paleo diet; I’d never have gone to a gym or tried water aerobics; I’d never have joined My Fitness Pal, or started blogging, and I’d likely never have lost the weight I’ve lost. Liking myself, accepting myself and trusting myself has allowed me to continue growing into someone I like better who is happier and healthier than she used to be. But weight loss isn’t what’s made me happier and healthier: it’s the byproduct of learning to like myself again.

Sometimes we think we know where we’re going. We all have an idea of where we want to be but a lot of times, that’s not where we end up. That’s why I like that quirky mantra so much: “wherever you go, there you are!” And if you don’t like where you are, have the courage to go somewhere else!

Keep Your Eyes on the Road! Weight Loss & Losing Focus

This one can be a little tricky because it can look like we are staying focused when we really are all over the place.  The best analogy I can think of is driving.  As some of you know, I spend about four hours on the road every work day so at the end of the week, I’ve logged another 20 hours of driving.  Most of it is on the freeway, and I really don’t mind the drive much because it’s when I listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

My commute takes me down Highway 99 in California and as you leave the Sacramento/ Elk Grove area, southbound 99 goes from four lanes to three and then to two as you move from the urban to the rural. Normally, my drive home is about two hours and there’s usually a little congestion there due to the decreasing lanes and onramps.  There was one day when I was stuck in that area for about an hour in stop and go traffic! It should have taken me about ten minutes to get past the Elk Grove Auto Mall and into the outlying region which also has stop and go traffic (about 20 minutes to get out of the city and into the country).

Being stuck in that traffic for so long was frustrating but I naturally assumed there was construction or an accident ahead of me and since there was nothing I could do about it, I was as patient as I could be.  As I came alongside the frontage road, I started seeing a commotion in front of the little grocery off the freeway and as I grew closer, I realized there were about five police cruisers parked in front of it, all with their lights on.  I remember thinking “what’s going on there?” and kept driving… until I realized the cars in front of me were slowing down, pausing, then accelerating back to freeway speed.  ARE. YOU. FREAKING’. KIDDING. ME?!?!

Nope! Not kidding! That entire hour-long slowdown was due to all the Rubberneckers slowing down to get a look at what was happening on the frontage road. It probably wouldn’t have been so maddening to me except that Rubberneckers are a pet peeve of mine.  It’s one thing to slow down or change lanes if there’s someone broken down on the side of the road: that’s just a safety issue since there could be pedestrians on the roadside.  Too many of them slow down to get a good look at what’s happening: that guy’s changing a tire! There’s an accident!

Yeah, it’s an accident! And if you don’t watch where you’re going, you’re going to have one too!  That’s pretty much what happens with our weight loss if we aren’t careful: we’re too busy watching what someone else is doing, what’s the Hot Trend du Jour, or looking for what’s up and coming.  We are so focused on Someone or Something Else to see what’s happening with us.  In driving, you’re watching the cars on the side of the road and don’t see that the car in front of you has stopped or slowed down until your front end is in her backseat! In weight loss, you’re reading about Intermittent Fasting or trying the latest protein bars or shakes and aren’t paying attention to how your body is reacting to what you are doing today.  Even worse, by the time your body tells you that the new protein shakes don’t agree with you, you’ve moved on to the trendy new supplement! So now, when you get the godawful cramps and bloating, you think it’s the supplement doing that to you.  It could be, but it could also be the protein shakes you were doing before that, or it could be the combination of the shakes and the supplement or it could be that you cut back on your fiber, upped your dietary fat intake and began the shakes and then the supplement.  Place your bet and spin the wheel! Too many “or’s” in the water for me!

The point is that you are so busy being focused on “what’s going on over there?” that you aren’t focused on what’s in front of you, namely you, your body and your weight loss! You need to focus on you and what’s working or not working for you. Just because everyone is ‘going keto’ doesn’t mean that you have to go keto too. If what you are doing is working for you, as in you feel good physically and mentally, you are losing body fat, like what you’re eating and aren’t starving all the time, don’t fix what ain’t broken! Especially if  you’re only doing it to keep up with the latest trends!

If you aren’t getting the results that you want, then it’s time to make a responsible change.  Note that Responsible is in italics! That means give your body time to make the adjustment, which can be a week or more depending on your body.  You know how long it takes your body to adjust so make one (or two at most) change and see what happens. That way you’re not playing What’s Up with My Body Roulette and waste more time trying to guess what’s not working.

If you’re getting good results and think you can up your game, that’s something else.  If you’re already Paleo (or low carb) and want to try keto, give it a responsible attempt and see how that works out.  This way, if it doesn’t, you know there’s a proven plan you can go back to, and if it does work out for you, even better!

We all need to be less of a Rubbernecker and more focused when it comes to our weight loss.  I know it’s hard because I have to fight the urge myself when I hear about something new.  My own pet pitfall is Information Gathering, as in there’s always another book I want to read, another podcast to download or another supplement to try.  It’s enticing and they lure you in, just like those cars on the side of the road do to the Rubberneckers on the freeway.  Our curiosity gets the better of us and our ‘commute’ to better health ends up getting bogged down in traffic or sidelined with a major calamity.  Keep your eyes on your own road and avoid the distractions, even if you sometimes have to put on blinders to do it!

It Takes a Village to Lose Weight: Weight Loss & Community

We’ve all heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child.” When it comes to weight loss, our idea of community is usually limited to a partner or an “accountabili-buddy.” What we don’t realize is that support is more than just a workout partner or a diet buddy: it really takes a village (or community).

That doesn’t mean we’re doomed to failure if we don’t have that community; it just means it’s going to be a lot harder than it has to be. A couple years before I quit The Job From Hell and really lost weight, the Associate I worked with told me about My Fitness Pal (MFP). He lost about 30-40 lbs using it and I didn’t. Even though I logged my meals, I didn’t have “friends” or even look at the Forums. Essentially, even though I was using an app with millions of users who could have been supportive, I was alone. After a few weeks, I gave up: I stopped logging, and I stopped trying.

When I went back to MFP, I browsed the Forums, I responded to others’ posts and I made friends. This community I’m now a part of isn’t just “you can do it!”: it’s a resource for new ideas, points of reference and explanations. This community is where I first learned about the ketogenic diet and ketosis, Intermittent Fasting, fat bombs, new recipes and- huge for me- the Primal Potential Podcast.

This is the place where I ask questions about how to try something new, if I’m not sure I’m doing it correctly, if I’m not sure about my results, or anything at all. If I need a recommendation about a product (like MCT oil), this is where I go. If I’m not getting the results I want with IF (Intermittent Fasting), they give their recommendations for what’s worked for them. Even if I’m not having an issue, they still provide new ideas or perspectives.

I also don’t want to minimize the importance of the “you can do it!” support. This is a safe place to vent frustrations, rants and feelings of all kinds. Naturally there’ve been times when I feel like I’m completely screwing up and losing control, so just posting on MFP for me is therapeutic. I don’t have to keep negative feelings inside where they can fester and I can share happy feelings as well. What I sometimes forget is that when we’re buried in the middle of a difficult situation, we lose perspective. There’ve been times when, after I’ve posted about it, I get a Reality Check from my friends letting me know that, yes, this is really a hard situation and I’m doing pretty good, all things considered! This was especially true the last four months of 2017. My sister was getting married out of state, I was originally just the wedding planner, ended up being the officiant, all of which meant getting everything arranged and myself certified- all in under ninety days! On top of that, my mom had major surgery which necessitated a three month stay in the hospital, which meant my dad (her ex-husband) and I had to take care of her two dogs (one a puppy) and her house. Then there was my own life: my pets, my house, working, commuting, weight loss, working out, friends and commitments. Yay, stress??

Posting my frustrations, stress freak- outs, rants and just “I feel incredibly overwhelmed!” helped me keep my focus where it needed to be and it also helped validate that: 1) I’m not crazy; 2) it’s okay to feel stressed; 3) I don’t have to be perfect; and 4) I’m going to get through this. The support I got from my friends on MFP was (and is) invaluable!

It also gives me the opportunity to support them. It may seem backwards, but being able to offer my support to them reinforces my focus on my own weight loss. There’s also something truly uplifting to be able to help someone else. These kinds of exchanges create an network that makes it harder for our goals to fall by the wayside. The community, diverse as it is, has a common focus on health and weight loss and it’s committed to reaching common goals.

I know it might seem touchy- feely but just knowing there’s a safe supportive place where you can vent about what the family did, how the job is screwing up our workouts, or how we’re having overwhelming chocolate cravings is an awesome stress reliever! It’s also the first place to go when we’ve got questions and the combination of support and information is unbeatable. The benefit of a ‘village’ is diverse generations of knowledge, experience and support to draw on. Why not use it?

Hang On- It’s Going to Get Bumpy! Weight Loss, Chaos & Staying Motivated

It would be nice if weight loss were smooth and linear, and while I’m wishing for the impossible, how about a million bucks, too?  We all know it’s easier to lose weight when nothing crazy is going on at work and you can eat the healthy lunch you brought without phones going off and people popping into your office asking “where are you on the Saunders project?”  It’s the same thing at home: when it’s calm, it’s easier, but usually the boys’ ride to soccer practice has to reschedule, the dog loses the fight with the neighbor’s cat and your spouse’s trip to Boston gets bumped up a couple of days to today.  Yay, chaos- also known as the Real World! This is pretty much how it is for most of us at home and at work.

It’s so so tempting to tell yourself “I’ll lose weight when it’s less stressful!” So…. let’s put it on our calendar for the second Tuesday from Never? Because that’s when it’s going to be ‘less stressful.’ There will always be fussy, high-maintenance clients, bosses and coworkers who hijack your time, and fly balls coming out of left field to disrupt your carefully orchestrated schedule.  And that’s just at work: when you have a family, especially with kids, you’ve pretty much joined the circus with every day being opening night until they move out.  Yup: the Real World is pure chaos!

I’m not telling you this so you get discouraged: I’m telling you this because most of us like order and schedules and plans.  We plan our healthy meals; we schedule our workouts and we make grocery lists full of nutritious whole foods.  Sounds lovely! We’ll be losing weight so fast…. until our meticulous plans meet our actual lives and suddenly, we’re doing the Seat of Our Pants Weight Loss Plan.  Instead of sauteed broccoli with meatballs and marinara, we’re suddenly doing frozen bunless burgers with bag salad.  Instead of the turkey lettuce wrap for lunch, we’re having hardboiled eggs with carrot sticks.  Instead of our water aerobics class on Wednesday, we’re doing laps in the pool on Thursday night.  It feels like we’re running to catch up and, even worse, it feels like we’re failing at weight loss.

Not true!In Real Life most of us pride ourselves on being flexible when it comes to work and family life.  That’s pretty much the way life works- things happen, we make an adjustment and keep on going.  Rigidity is what happens right before something breaks!  But when it comes to our weight loss, healthy eating or working out, we stubbornly adhere to a rigid plan of How It’s Supposed to Be, and when it breaks, we’re surprised, disappointed and think we’ve ‘screwed up royally!’  I will admit that in the beginning of a new lifestyle, routine and predictability are a true benefit. It makes it easier for us to make the adjustment, but we all know it’s going to be short-lived at best and before long, we’re going to be bobbing and weaving as usual.  The trouble is that no one has ever told us that changing our weight loss and work out plans on the fly isn’t failure- it’s adaptability! We all know and accept that sudden changes happen at work and with family, so we need to write that into our weight loss plan too!  How many times do we get stuck working through lunch? Is that going to stop just because we decided to ‘eat healthy?’ Not hardly! So plan for it: when I have to work through lunch, I have X planned! When I have to work late and don’t have time to fix dinner or go to the store, I’ve got X in the freezer. When I can’t make my scheduled workout, I’ve got my gym bag in the car so I can stop in the next day that I do have time. This is how the Weight Loss meets the Real World, and it’s not much different from how we deal with other Real World occurrences. When the ride to soccer practice gets canceled, instead of canceling your plans, you make a shift and do your errands or shopping after you’ve dropped them off and then swing back to pick them up. You probably don’t even think about this as a problem: it’s a normal occurrence! When you have to work through lunch, you probably have a similar shift in your repertoire: either you skip lunch, eat later or have something delivered. So when you start bringing something healthy, you still have the same options either to skip lunch or eat later and if you do opt for delivery, order a salad or veggie wrap or something similar to what you brought.

It seems fairly obvious but our mindset gets in the way and tells us we’ve failed or screwed up because we’re ‘not sticking to our Weight Loss Plan’! That would be that rigid inflexible plan that can’t exist in the Real World. This is inflexibility is why so many weight loss plans are unrealistic- they don’t allow for adjustments. Making healthy high protein breakfast smoothies for breakfast is great until we don’t have time to make them because ‘something comes up,’ as it always does, and if we’re supposed to changing our smoothie ingredients on rigid schedule, we just blew our plan. (My mom gave me one of those smoothies-on-a-schedule diet books!) I know my schedule: I didn’t even try it! Too inflexible and too complicated!

Staying flexible with our healthy eating, weight loss and activity plans lets us continue to make progress. We have to approach our weight loss goals with the same mindset we have towards everything else in our lives. If we didn’t make adjustments in our jobs and families, would we still have jobs and families? Would we throw up our hands and say “I just blew it with the kids! Guess I have to give them away!” Or quit our jobs when we missed a deadline or didn’t hit it out of the park on a project? That’s extreme overreacting and no one would seriously consider giving either of those actions. But that’s exactly what we do when we’re talking about weight loss. Allowing ourselves to adjust not only keeps us on that bumpy road to better health, it gives us a fighting chance to reach our goals, so bob, weave, and hang on!

Weight Loss & The Sympathy Junkie: Just Say NO!

I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about “sympathy junkies” in some of my posts. I have a lot of experience with people who have this disorder.  While I know one of the terms for it is Munchhausen Syndrome and others call it narcissism, I usually boil it down the “Look at Me!” mentality.  Whatever it is going on with them, these people want to be the center of attention.  They are firm believers in the motto “there’s no such thing as bad publicity!” Hah! I can think of a few celebrities and corporations that would disagree: it’s not always a good thing to have people focused on you.

There’s nothing wrong with positive attention.  If you’ve done something good, we all like the pat on the head and the “attaboy/ attagirl!”  But most of us are also familiar with the schoolyard bully who’d hit kids just to get the teacher’s attention because he wasn’t getting any at home. For this kid, any attention was positive attention because it was better than NO attention.

For some of us, this idea of attention has become connected to our weight loss and health improvement goals.  Most times, it’s a good thing: we lose weight, we become more fit, we eat healthier and we get a lot of positive attention from our family and friends.  They’re proud of our success and the positive attention encourages us to keep making positive changes and to continue to do well.  That’s how it’s supposed to work and most of the time, that’s what happens with us.

For some of us, mainly the sympathy junkies, they’re like the schoolyard bullies: they want any kind of attention, and if they can’t get it by doing something good, they’ll get it for being helpless or having some kind of problem.  We all know people who have problem after problem and their lives are one trainwreck after another. “Poor Mimi! Nothing good ever happens to her!”  The irony is that Mimi and others like her are only happy when they’re miserable, while the rest of us just silently groan and ask “what’s wrong with Mimi today?” There is no real sympathy left because she’s cried wolf every day since you met her.

I gave serious thought before writing about this topic and I had put it on the back burner for several weeks, because, really, does it relate to weight loss?  The very day I had reviewed it and decided I was going to table it indefinitely, something happened that reminded me that yes, this is a topic that can affect our weight loss.

For starters, we definitely do not want to be Mimi the Munchhausen Moaner whom no one wants to be around! There’s a reason no one likes her: she’s always complaining, always helpless and always wants all of your time and attention.  (For the record: it can be Mike the Munchhausen Moaner, too!)

For most of us, when we hit a snag with our workouts or a plateau in our weight loss, we bring up our problem because we are looking for a solution. We’re obviously not doing something right or we’ve injured ourselves or we need to make a change, so we’re asking for help.  Sympathy is nice, but it’s not going to help me recover from my injury or make progress with my weight loss. Solutions only, please!

The sympathy junkies don’t want solutions- they just want your sympathy and attention! When you start coming up with alternate workouts or changes to their eating plans, they usually start coming up with reasons why that doesn’t work for them. They can’t change their workout because of this ailment or other injury; they can’t change how their eating habits because of blah blah blah.  That’s a huge clue you are dealing with a sympathy junkie: they’ve got an infinite number of excuses or failing that, they’re great at failing! They tried and failed and now they’re just doomed. (Cue the melodramatic music!) It’s also a huge clue if you find excuses tripping glibly off your tongue: you are not looking for an actual solution to your problem!

Most of us don’t have this problem: we want a solution so we can move forward.  Mimi (or Mike) is our real problem: we have one or more of them in our lives! To be blunt, they are giant sinkholes. They waste our time and our energy and frankly, they wear on our nerves.  It would be different if they wanted to improve or a solution to their problem but they don’t.  They just want you either to do something for them or pay attention to them.

Believe it or not, they do affect our weight loss because they are sapping time that could be put to working out or meal planning or another activity.  They sap our energy so that by the time we are done dealing with their “Drama du jour,” we’re too mentally or physically exhausted to take care of ourselves, and they add to our stress since we are usually expected to drop everything to deal with that Drama du jour again in the middle of our day or week. So much for our workout/ walk/ grocery trip! Goodbye healthy lunch since now we’ve got to scarf it (or something else) on the way to deal with Mimi or Mike! Not to mention keeping us up nights either with resentment or just fretting over what they’re going to drop on us next!

Lack of sleep and chronic stress trigger our bodies to hang on to our energy stores, aka body fat.  We’re fighting the tide when we don’t get enough rest or are always stressed out. (Haven’t we all got enough of our own problems?) Not to mention the sabotage to our healthy meal planning, eating habits and workouts.  We might have something healthy at home ready to prepare but then we get stuck at Mike’s house because of another disaster he needs our help with so by the time we get home, it’s either eat nothing at all or what’s quick? (Too often, ‘quick’ ends up being the healthiest option at the drive-thru.) It interferes with meal planning or meal prep for the same reasons: we set aside time to do it and then Hurricane Mimi hits and all that goes out the window! So when we go to bed that night, we may not have accomplished all we needed to, so now we’re fretting about “what do I do for meals the rest of the week?” and “what’s next with Mimi?”

Obviously, if Mimi / Mike is not a relative, removing her/ him from your circle of friends is easier, but if they’re relatives, then it’s more problematic. Telling them you’re too busy may not be a viable option, but ultimately you need to understand that while he and she are not doing you any favors, you are not doing them any favors either by jumping every time they call.

One of the issues Dr. Nowzaradan (My 600 lb Life) has to deal with on a regular basis is his patients’ enablers.  These are the people who make it easy for his patients to eat 10,000+ calories daily because they either buy it for them, bring it to them or both! Obviously, if it’s hard for you to walk or drive, you’re not going to be wandering around the grocery store filling your cart with brownies, chips or candy and if it’s hard for you to fit behind a steering wheel, you’re not going to be hitting Dunkin Donuts, Sonic or KFC multiple times a day.  His patients get to 500 lbs or more because there are people who do this for them, and they are obviously not doing these super morbidly obese patients any favors.  This is what an enabler does: make it easy for the bad behavior to continue.

Every time you come when Mimi or Mike has their daily disaster, you make it easy for them to continue this attention-seeking behavior. When their toilet gets stopped up or their cell phone dies or they have a flat tire, they can do what everyone else does and call a plumber, the auto club or take the phone to the wireless store. When they have a problem and call you, give them a solution and go on with your day.  When they keep calling with excuses or why they need your help, you do not have to answer! They’ll either take your advice or eventually stop calling you. FYI: be prepared for a tantrum and a lot of passive-aggressive retaliation about how you’re too busy to help them out.  The answer is “Yes, I am too busy! Sorry about that!” I know this sounds harsh, especially if Mike/ Mimi is a relative, but the more they lean on you, the more dependent they become.  Unless they are an actual invalid, this is not good for them because when the time comes for them to act on their own (and it always does), they won’t know what to do because you (or someone else) has always taken care of them!

The Mimi in my life sparks a lot of anger and resentment which not only keeps me up nights, but I’ve recently learned that I do not make the healthiest meal choices when I am angry at her. When dealing with her daily disaster, I am more prone to grab something that I know is not good for me because I am not paying attention to what I am doing: my focus is what she just dumped on me and how angry I am. While blaming Mimi for my bad choice is one excuse I can make, the truth is that it’s my fault for not dealing with Mimi. Allowing the Mimis and Mikes in our lives to run roughshod over our plans and goals is simply an excuse we make for our own failures and in the end we become mini versions of them by blaming them for our behavior: “I’d have reached by goal by now but Mike/ Mimi kept getting in my way.” Sound familiar? Sounds a bit scary to me!

 

 

Motivation & Weight Loss: Getting Through the Background Noise

I know a lot of people who always want to know the “why” behind your or my weight loss.  On one level, I think it’s a stupid question, especially when the person who’s losing weight is as big or bigger than I am.  I once saw a dietician ask one of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients “why do you want to lose weight?” Ahem– the woman had been bedridden for at least a couple of years and weighed around 500 lbs! While I really think this patient did herself no favors by not following the doctor’s treatment plan, I also think this question was pretty stupid.  The obvious response– for me anyway– would have been “Because I don’t want to die!”

For those of you who don’t weight more than double your ideal weight, the Why behind the weight loss might seem a little vague and it’s probably a viable question even if it doesn’t feel like it to you, because it’s really about your motivation.  Keeping your Why foremost in your thoughts is one way to keep yourself motivated.

The problem is that once that Why gets buried in every day minutiae it gets harder for you to stay connected to it.  Some people post their Why in a prominent location so they can see it daily, like the wallpaper of their phone or on the mirror in their bedroom or on the dash in their car.  The idea is that if you are reminded of Why you want to lose weight, you will stay motivated!

It’s a good idea and for some of us, it probably works! For a lot of us,  though, it becomes background noise. It’s like that bus bench ad that we see on the way to work each morning when we stop at the light by the Starbucks.  We see it but we don’t really look at it anymore. This is the problem with motivation: unless we keep ourselves motivated, our motivation evaporates. It’s like trying to hang onto the smoke slipping through our fingers!

We naturally look outside ourselves to keep our motivational motor revving.  We’re used to finding inspiration outside ourselves, so why not motivation? Inspiration by definition comes from outside ourselves, but motivation is something different.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines Inspiration as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”  It defines Motivation as “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.”  It’s a subtle but important difference. When I go to PetSmart, they almost always have cats or dogs available for adoption and looking at those adorable little faces, I really want to bring one home with me.  So why don’t I?  Because I don’t have a reason to do it beyond ‘they’re so cute!’

I had a reason a couple of years ago: my old cat Belle passed away and her buddy Yzma was not getting over the loss.  Then I took an impromptu trip with my dog so Yzma was left at home for the weekend by herself, which was a little scary for her (she’d never been alone in the house).  Once I got back, I started looking for a cat to adopt! My reason for bringing home Ursula was that Yzma needed another cat for companionship.  Although I always wanted to bring home a new kitty (the inspiration), there wasn’t any reason (motivation) until the situation with Yzma arose.

This is the problem so many of us run into when we want to lose weight.  We see something or someone who inspires us and so we really want to do it, but what’s our reason for doing it?  This is our motivation or, as others call it, our Why.  What makes us get up off the sofa and do something about being 20, 40 or 50 lbs overweight? It may be that our health is being affected by our weight or that we have an upcoming event or it may be something more personal, but odds are until we have an actual reason that smacks us in the face, we are just ‘inspired’ and once that inspiration evaporates, we’re back in our same old lifestyle.

Even with a legitimate reason, such as “my knees hurt so much I can hardly walk,” unless we pay attention we can lose motivation.  Think about it: the first time we realized our weight was hurting our knees, did we make positive changes to lose weight? Or did we take some Advil instead? When they kept hurting, did we make positive changes then? Or did we take more Advil? We probably figured we’d take the Advil until we lost the weight and our knees stopped hurting, but once the pain went away, so did our motivation. The Advil took care of the reason for losing weight, or at least the reason that got our attention (painful knees).

Before too long, even though we may have great reasons to lose weight, they get buried in that background noise of every day living.  We aren’t bad people! We’re just busy people! We’re going to look up some healthy recipes just as soon as we get off this phone call. We brought a healthy weight loss friendly lunch but our client is taking us out to eat today.  We have a healthy dinner planned but suddenly you’ve got to take the kids to basketball practice so there goes that! We want to make weight loss a priority, but somehow it keeps getting pushed farther down the list until it’s ultimately forgotten.  At least until something brings it back to the forefront again, like the Advil stops working on your knees or your jeans are getting too tight to zip or– horrors!– you see a picture of yourself from your friend’s birthday party last week: OMG!! That’s what I look like?!

Most of us know our failings pretty well and try to find work arounds.  When I go over to my friend’s house and she has things for me, she puts them on the table by the door so we don’t forget.  I put my stuff for her (or for the office or wherever) in a bag by the front door. I use a reminders app on my phone for other things (like a list of errands) because I know I’ll get home and– danggit! I still didn’t pick up the stupid dry cleaning!  Staying motivated is a constant battle to keep your reason from slipping into the background noise.  That might mean changing things up every couple of weeks or months so that your reason keeps getting your attention.  Once it becomes ‘every day,’ it’s background noise. It’s like driving home every day thinking about every thing you still need to do and–WHAM– pot hole! That brought your attention back to the road!

My latest work-around for motivation sits on the end table next to my recliner.  It’s a photo of me from my ill-fated Disney trip in 2012– the one where I weighed about 440 lbs! It avoids becoming ‘background noise’ because #1) I really hate photos of myself!; and #2) my face and body are so fat and puffy, it’s scary.  Seriously. Scary. Every time I look over at the table where I keep the remotes, my drink, my pens and all the other stuff I use just about every evening, I see that awful photo. It got shoved behind a stack of books for a couple days and tempted though I was to leave it there, I moved it back out where I can see the ugly thing. It’s not that I’m trying to beat myself up mentally or emotionally, but I don’t want to forget how miserable I was at that time, even though I’m smiling in the picture. It was a painful and embarrassing trip because my weight made it that way. This photo serves as the jarringly piercing smoke alarm that breaks through the background noise of my daily life. It reminds me of my reason for losing weight. (Oh, yeah, I was totally miserable the whole trip!) Nothing is as motivating as NOT looking and feeling like that ever again!

 

Yay, Whole Foods!: Supplements, Nutrition & Weight Loss

I’m a huge fan of whole foods and I don’t mean the supermarket chain.  (I’m not knocking them; I’ve shopped there before but there isn’t one in my town.) I’m talking about the real as-close-to-right-out-of-the-ground whole foods. Apparently, they are one of the hot trends right now in the food and nutrition arena. One of the other hot trends is biohacking.  Biohacking is a loose term for finding ways to get what you want from your body (or from something else organic) by using some kind of quick trick or other means.  One of the most well known biohackers is Dave Asprey, ‘inventor’ of Bulletproof coffee.  Essentially, Bulletproof coffee is a high energy drink you make yourself that keeps you full and can keep you in ketosis if that’s your thing.  (Ketosis can also be called another biohack by some people.) While I found a lot of descriptions and examples of biohacking, I didn’t really find anything that defines it.  The best example for me is what I used to do when I couldn’t get to sleep at night: I used a placebo of sorts. I’d take a couple of plain ibuprophen.  (Not the PM version because it didn’t exist then!) Generally, within twenty minutes of taking the generic Advil, even if I wasn’t in pain, I’d start to get sleepy and be out before I knew it.  It worked every time.

One of the drawbacks to biohacking is that sometimes people try it with nutrition, which usually comes out to taking handfuls of supplements, smoothies or protein shakes.  I have heard Dave Asprey on podcasts talking about taking about 20 or more supplements and while I don’t want to malign supplements or those that use them (I take a few myself!), I do want to point out that just because you take 2000 mg of Calcium every day, that doesn’t mean you have all your Calcium needs covered.  One important issue that gets marginalized– with both supplements and whole foods– is the subject of bioavailability.   Bioavailability is pretty much just what it sounds like: the nutrients in the supplement or food either is or isn’t available to be absorbed by your body.  This is important because if you’re eating bushels of spinach thinking you’re getting your iron RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance), then you’re sadly mistaken. While the nutritional information label on that bag of spinach may say it’s loaded with iron, it’s not in a form your body can absorb!

Example: being a bit of a geek-groupie, I watch The Big Bang Theory and in one episode Penny was out shopping with Sheldon, who in typical Sheldon fashion, criticized her choices of vitamins and supplements.  He told her (paraphrasing here) that he could help her get her vitamins and minerals because what she had in her hands was “a recipe for expensive pee.” We think we’re getting enough vitamins and minerals and all that good nutritional stuff because we’re popping those supplements daily, but the fact of the matter is while we may be swallowing the pills, they may not be staying in our bodies!  Some nutrients need ‘helpers’ to be absorbed and others may just be plain unavailable! This is what Sheldon meant when he told Penny she was making ‘expensive pee.’ We can take all the supplements and protein shakes in the world and if the nutrients aren’t available, they just pass right through our bodies and do nothing for us but drain our wallets.

Supplement manufacturers usually take a big hit on this topic because while a protein powder label may say it had 25 mg of protein per scoop, what’s actually available to be absorbed is maybe half of that.  We need to check labels for the amount that’s bioavailable.  The protein is there: we just can’t use it. The same is true for supplements: just because it’s there on the label doesn’t mean we actually get the benefit.  Unfortunately people tend to think that whole foods have ‘solved’ this problem which isn’t the case, although they do have a slight advantage. Many whole foods- like spinach- have lots of nutrients, minerals and vitamins, but plants have defenses too, and a lot of their defenses rely on keeping their nutrition unavailable to those who eat them.  For example, while spinach, broccoli and other dark leafy greens have calcium, they also have oxalic acid which binds to the calcium so we can’t absorb it. So while we may eat  five cups of broccoli, we may only end up getting less than half the calcium we think we got.

The advantage to choosing to rely more on whole foods than supplements comes from tradition, in my opinion.  We tend to prepare a lot of foods in ways to make them more bioavailable.  Take creamed spinach: that oxalic acid doesn’t care if it binds to the calcium in the spinach or the calcium in the cream, so we’re getting more calcium in that creamed spinach than if we ate plain spinach.  There’s a similar benefit to eating the traditional beans & rice that come in many cultures: legumes and rice both contain incomplete proteins so if we ate them alone, we wouldn’t get any protein benefit, but by eating them together, we get the proteins.

Whole foods also have a slight advantage because of the ‘whole package’ deal.  For some foods, like white potatoes, there are a lot of vitamins in the skins but once those foods get processed (say into potato flakes), the skins are discarded and we don’t get those vitamins.  We’ve heard a lot of similar stories about other fruits and veggies: eat the whole fruit/ veg rather than just part of it (apple sauce or veggie juice). This also why people advocate eating the whole egg instead of just the whites where the protein is concentrated: the yolk has beneficial nutrition such as vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

There are a lot of diets that rely on nutrition bars and protein shakes to promote weight loss, but again bioavailability bites you in the butt! There might be 100% of all your RDA on those labels but how much remains in your body? How many times does someone you know who relies on those bars and shakes complain of being tired or not feeling great? Yes, they’re losing weight but is feeling cruddy a great trade off? Are they hungry a lot? I know I was when I was on those diets- tired and feeling really blah. Not the benefit I wanted with my weight loss!

I am not saying you should throw out your bottles of vitamins and supplements. I’ve got quite a collection of those myself but I don’t depend on those bottles to make sure I get all my vitamins and minerals. Remember the word ‘Supplement’ means to ‘add to’ something else. I try to get most of my vitamins, minerals and nutrition from whole natural foods and then use vitamins and supplements to make up any differences that might be lacking.  I’m sure my diet has some holes in it. No one’s is perfect, I’m sure! The point is that I feel better eating mostly whole foods and- not to brag- but a lot of people have been asking me what I use on my skin because it looks so much better.  Umm, nothing? No lotion, no cream- just soap and water! Unless broccoli, eggs, fish and butter lettuce count!

 

 

Monday Morning Disease: Weight Loss & Motivation

Yes, there really is a syndrome called Monday Morning Disease, although it mainly affects horses.  I came across it many many years ago reading James Herriot’s books.  For those of you who have never read him, he was a vet who practiced in the Yorkshire dales (northern England) beginning in the 1930’s. His own description of himself was “a shaggy cow doctor,” because most of his clients were farmers and his patients were livestock. If you ever want to know how to deliver a calf that’s a breech birth, he’s the go-to guy! Because my dad and I are such pet people, his books were part entertainment, part history and some super practical pet first aid.  I learned how to wrap a cat from him, how to lance an abscess and a few other practical bits that sadly included diagnosing canine distemper.

Monday Morning Disease (Equine exertional Rhabdomyolysis) was fairly common when a large portion of farmers still used horses to farm. They’d be pulling equipment Monday through Saturday and take Sunday off. On Monday morning the horse’s legs would be swollen due to the constant exertion followed by the sudden lack of movement. It’s a muscle disorder usually from poor circulation or problems with glycogen storage. While rhabdomyolysis happens to people too, this post is less about muscular disorders and more about motivational problems.

Most of us hate Mondays (at least those of us who aren’t perky or insane).  I am a devout Monday-hater and have been since I was a kid. Growing up I had a collection of Garfield comic strips taped on my bedroom door and most of them were in the I-hate-Mondays vein.  (My favorite was Garfield grousing that the world will probably end on a Monday because it’d be a real shame for God to end the world right before a weekend!)

Pretty much every Monday morning, I moan and groan and hide under the blankets for as long as I can. Even though I love my job and sincerely don’t mind the long commute, I really really hate getting up early in the morning and I know each Monday that it’s going to be another five days before I can sleep in, stay up late and do what I want all day long.  What makes it so much worse– for me, at least– is the same concept as the Monday Morning Disease in horses: we’ve been going and going all week long and then we come to a sudden stop.  It’s like everything catches up with us so it’s as if Mondays are actually de-motivational! During the week, it’s Getup-Getready-Takecareofthepets-Packlunch-Grabbreakfast-GetGas-Drivetowork-Workallday-Drivehome-Runerrands-Hitthegym-Takecareofthepetsagain-Makedinner-Dohousework-Getreadyforbed-Gotosleep-Getupanddoitalloveragain.

It’s not a horrible schedule but it’s long for me because I live alone.  Pretty much anything that needs to get done, I have to do it and if it doesn’t get done during the week, it has to get done over the weekend or it just doesn’t get done.  The flip side for families or couples is while there are more people to handle things, there are just more things to do! There is no ‘easy option’ when it comes to working, managing a home and everything else that goes along with modern life.  Pretty much all of us are in this Go-Go-Go lifestyle and then we get a chance to catch our breath…..Whew! But once we’ve gotten our second wind, it’s hard to get back up to speed.  We’ve lost momentum and suddenly everything feels so much harder than when we were bouncing off the walls to get things done.  This is what I mean by Monday Morning Disease.

And it doesn’t have to happen only on Monday mornings.  Getting back up to speed and re-building that momentum is damned hard.  When you’re going along as fast as you can from one task to another, it doesn’t feel like it’s hard because you are so focused on “get this done- move on the next one!”  When you slow down or stop, you’re having to start again from that dead stop. It’s the difference from starting your car in the morning after it’s been sitting dormant all night versus starting it up after you’ve stopped just long enough to fill it with gas. The cold engine takes a long time to get warmed up: the air coming from the vents is cold; the windshield needs to defrost and the car doesn’t respond as quickly as it normally does when it’s been running for a while.  By contrast, a car that’s warmed up starts quickly and smoother than one that’s cold.

We can remember what it was like when we were kids and how awkward it felt going back to school after the summer long vacation.  Where’s my backpack? Where’s my lunch box? Where are my uniforms? Ugh…school…. It’s the same when it comes to weight loss, nutrition, and exercise: we stop or slow down long enough to lose momentum and get out of the habit and suddenly it feels like we’re pushing a boulder up the mountain.  Everything feels so hard and it seems to take such a long time so we start looking for any excuse to get out of it!

Pretty much every Monday morning, I start thinking of some reason why I ‘can’t’ go to work, just like every Monday and Wednesday evening, I start manufacturing reasons why I can’t go to the gym. I do the same thing on Sunday afternoons: “I’m too busy to go to the gym today!” I know what the real problem is and it has nothing to do with how busy I may or may not be or how tired I feel: it’s because I slowed down long enough to take a look at my schedule. I’ve got a lot going on (don’t we all??) and it can feel overwhelming at times, so I start justifying reasons why I ‘can’t do XYZ ‘when the real issue has nothing to do with what I can and cannot do: it’s what I want to do that’s my problem!

There’s a lot of examples of this mentality on My 600 lb Life. The patients sincerely want to lose weight and be healthier, but they sincerely don’t want to be inconvenienced with annoying things like eating healthier, giving up junk food, and -ugh!- exercising! We’ve all heard about things like ‘decision fatigue,’ and how willpower is a muscle, and I think that’s part of Monday Morning Disease.  Most of us have problems with healthy eating and keeping our exercise routine over the weekends simply because they are less structured and there’s more opportunities to socialize. Giving ourselves a break from choosing healthy options and making it to the gym is normal.  We’ve been busy all week so we reward ourselves with a little relaxation.  How lax we want to get is up to us, but come Monday morning our routine is staring us in the face. Again! Like those horses James Herriott wrote about, our decision and willpower muscles don’t want to work! We’ve been working them really hard all week and now that they’ve had a chance to rest, they’re rebelling!

It’d be great if we could do like those English farmers did: ring the doctor and have him take care of our problem! But our ‘muscles’ are really part of our motivational anatomy so no doctor can ‘fix’ them for us.  We need to find reasons to skip the croissants at Starbucks and opt for something healthier, and why it’s important that we keep our workout schedule. When we bargain with ourselves to give the ‘muscles’ a rest, we’re buying what we want now instead of investing for something better in the future. There’s a reason we chose to eat healthier, work out and lose weight and when we feel our willpower/ decision muscles starting to give up, we need to remind ourselves of what those reasons are.  It might be something as serious as improving a major health issue or something as benign as looking good at your brother’s wedding, but whatever the reason is, it was important enough to start you down this road in the first place, so I’m sure it’s way more important than the raspberry cheesecake cookie at Subway or the everything croissant at Starbucks!

 

The Most Important Rule: Rule 28 & Weight Loss

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post incorporating “rules” from NCIS, one of my favorite shows.  After posting “Sometimes You’re Wrong”: Rule 51 & Weight Loss, I realized I’d not mentioned probably THE most important rule: Rule #28 “If you need help, ask!”

While we really don’t need to think of this as a “rule,” the concept alone is incredibly important in our lives, whether it’s weight loss or not.  Not asking for help is what gets so many of us in trouble and usually it’s our own fault.  I don’t want to assign blame (as attorneys say) mainly because we don’t ask for help because we don’t realize it’s an option.  Obviously, if you’re moving a sofa, you ask for help because there is no way one person is going to be able to carry a sofa and unless you’re pushing it to another spot in the same room, you’re going to need help. But when it comes to things like weight loss, it’s not like your friends and family can do it for you! “I’m totally on my own here! Right?”

Not necessarily! While you can’t ask your family to not-eat those marshmallow peeps for you, you can ask them not to eat them around you.  I know my Rule #52 post was about not expecting your family to eat the same things you eat and not making “rules” about what they can bring home, so it might sound like I’m back-tracking a bit here, but it’s okay to ask for help even if that help is “please don’t eat the Oreos I love in front of me.”  It’s one thing to make rules but it’s another to ask for someone to be considerate, which means you have to be considerate too! If your family is having movie night and everyone’s eating popcorn, you may have to sit on your hands to keep from eating it yourself because making a rule that “no one eats popcorn in front of dad!” is unfair to the rest of the family.  Ordering everyone not to eat snacks after dinner is inconsiderate to everyone in your home; asking them not to do it in front of you is a little different, and sometimes it means that you have to bite the bullet and resist your cravings, as in movie night.

Of course, asking for help means you need to admit that you need help controlling your impulses with foods like those. For some people, that’s a hard thing to do.  Just asking for help for anything is hard for some people including me! It means admitting that you can’t do everything on your own.  Really, I don’t know why that should seem so hard, but as I just admitted, I have a problem doing it! “No I don’t need any help washing my pickup!” “No I can wrangle both these crazy dogs on my own!” “No I don’t mind going out to Chinese- I’ll be okay!” And I am okay with the Chinese, until I start munching on the fried won tons! So maybe asking them not to order those would have been a good idea…

For some of us (like me), being independent is pretty important.  I remember I severely sprained my back one summer moving a bookcase.  It never occurred to me to ask for help- I was just sliding it three feet down the wall! Over the years, I’ve come to realize that not asking for help is literally asking to do things the hard way. No one can be expected to know everything or do everything on their own and to expect someone to do it all on their own is frankly unreasonable. I know that and I really like helping others, but when it comes to asking for help myself, welllll I’m not so good at it. I have to remind myself that asking for help is not the same as saying “I’m incapable!”

For a lot of people, asking for help where information is involved is equal to saying “I’m not smart enough to find out on my own!” We’ve all met people like this: they’re the ones who ‘know everything’ about a topic even though it’s fairly obvious that they didn’t until you brought it up. Admitting ignorance is not the same as admitting stupidity! When I was a teacher, I’d regularly meet students who were afraid of asking a ‘stupid question.’ I would always tell them the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask, because if you thought of it, so did someone else!

When I went to work for a probate attorney, one of programs I needed to use was Excel, of which I knew nothing other than it’s the green icon on my computer screen.  I went out and bought Excel for Dummies. (I usually recommend Nutrition for Dummies when people want to eat healthier.) I’d had some experience with those books and a hallmark of their set up is that they assume you know nothing about the subject of the book.  That was pretty much my starting point!  What surprises me the most when I recommend them is how often people are offended by the title or embarrassed on my behalf when I tell them I read it. There is no shame in admitting you don’t know everything about a topic! Don’t forget that wisdom begins with a question!  Years later I am now fairly competent in Excel, though by no means an expert, but I’ve made worksheet that we use for calculating our settlement costs. It adds up our fees and costs, subtracts them from the settlement, shows the net settlement and reconciles the amounts. It does what I need it to do and it’s something I put together myself in about half an hour. When people ask me ‘what class did you take?’ I tell them it was a Dummies book and they look shocked or offended.  I’m not: I didn’t know how to do it and now I do! Why should I be embarrassed?

Asking for help is hard. I still remind myself.  That’s how I came to be writing this blog and this post in particular. I started this blog was to pass on information I’ve learned over the last couple of years because if I had known most of this stuff when I was in my 20’s or 30’s, I would not have gained nearly 440 lbs! There was no almost no information available beyond naysayers who were too busy promoting the low-fat, high-carb diet aka the Diet That Nearly Killed Me! As for this post in particular, I have a lot of boxes and furniture in my house that need to be moved around and I finally that if I’m going to get it done without hurting myself and in a reasonable time frame, I’m going to need some help doing that.  I bit the bullet and asked my dad if he could bring his dolly and truck to help me out.  While I was ‘rationalizing’ why it was okay to ask for help, I came across Gibbs’ rules and while reading through them again, I saw #28 “If you need help, ask!” Duhhhh.   Asking for help or information is not admitting weakness or stupidity: it’s common sense! It’s how we learn to do anything and it’s how we get things done. It’s true when it comes to moving furniture, learning a program, losing weight and even building stronger bonds with your family.  Even if your family never decides to ‘eat healthy’ as a group, asking them to help you lose weight can strengthen bonds and create a sense of unity.  Many times people are surprised to learn that family members are often eager to help. Losing weight is hard enough without having to go through it alone. Why do it the hard way?