Getting Out of Your Head & Out of Your Way

I am sure we’ve all been told about a million times that we are our own worst enemy.  As a paralegal, one of my favorite expressions regarding our clients is “they make their own problems and they are GOOD at what they do!”  Most of our clients are great people, but they often make their problems worse, and our job as their advocate much harder, because they insist on doing things their way, or they think they know more than the attorney.  They might be rocket scientists or neurosurgeons, but there’s a reason you hire an attorney!

I am no different than anyone else: there are a lot of times I’m freaking out over a late charge on a bill and it usually starts with me asking myself “why didn’t you pay this last week when the reminder popped up on the calendar? Now you’re frantically trying to get them on the phone to make a phone payment so you don’t get dinged another $30!” Yep, it’s my fault and no one else’s, so there’s no one else I can blame for it!

The same thing happens when it comes to weight loss and healthy habits: we often make our own problems and we are spectacularly creative at it! We come up with endless excuses about how we can’t start doing X because of someone or something else. “I have a family and they don’t want to eat the same food I need to eat!”; “I can’t afford to go to a gym!”;  “I don’t have any time to work out!” Most of us genuinely want to get healthier, lose weight and be more fit, but we run into these bumps in the road and we’re stuck there.  We don’t know how to get around them.  They are legitimate issues, but I would not call them actual problems.  Yes, it’s a lot harder to eat healthy when you have a family of kids and a spouse who doesn’t want to changer his/ her eating habits. Gyms are expensive and time is always an issue, but this is when we need to be creative.

One of Elizabeth Benton’s favorite quotes is from Rumi (13th Century Persian poet & theologian): “If all you can do is crawl, start crawling.” We are faced with a problem: our choices are to stay there fretting over the problem or to look for ways around it, i.e. start crawling.  I was blessed as a child by growing up in a household that focused on problem-solving, so by the time I reached high school, it was normal for me and my sister to “start crawling” when we had a problem.  The idea is to do what you can rather than to do nothing at all.

For example, when I was in college, I lived with my dad and I did most of the cooking for both of us. My dad and I like a lot of the same foods, but there are some things I like (lamb) that he can’t stand and there are things he loves (stewed tomatoes- ugh!) that I refuse to eat.  So when it came to dinner time, it was not unusual for me to make one dinner for me and another for him.  I remember my cousin and his wife having a disagreement over this same issue and she asked me if I thought she was being unreasonable.  When I told my regular routine, she asked, incredulous: “you make two dinners each night?” “umm, yeah?” It had never occurred to me that this was unusual: it was how I’d always done it. It wasn’t that I was going way out of my way to accommodate my dad or make extra work for me; it was really just that my dad likes eating XYZ and I don’t, so my choices were either to eat what he was eating or make something different for me to eat, and since I was the cook, it was no big deal.  There were plenty of nights when we ate the same thing and so I only made one dinner.  I didn’t see his wanting something I didn’t like as a problem, and as I grew older I think how we view these everyday issues makes a difference. If you look at every bump in the road as a problem or an impediment to success, then you’re going to have A LOT of problems.  Changing your perspective can make a huge difference.

Allow me to digress (& I promise there is a point): I grew up in the 1970’s and one of the books I borrowed from a friend was about astrology (Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs), and in one of the descriptions of Aries the Ram, the author read the astrological chart for an Aries woman which showed there would be prolonged period of hardship (about two years or so).  At the time of the reading, the woman, her husband and her five young kids lived in a two room apartment with a two large dogs and a litter of puppies, and had been living like this for about a year and half (although the puppies were new!)  The woman anxiously asked Linda if the chart showed when this hardship would begin.  Linda was illustrating Aries’ almost indefatigable optimism, how anyone else would have seen her living situation as intolerably hard, but for Aries, it was just the way things were. They keep believing things are going to get better, and (to paraphrase Linda) the funny thing is that they do! If nothing else, if you keep a positive outlook, at the very least you are not wallowing in misery and unhappiness while you are working to make things better.

Attitude isn’t exactly all, but it’s most of it! How you approach an issue is dictated by how you perceive it.  If it’s an awful task that you dread doing, it’s going to be a lot harder for you to do.  It’s just a fact of life: dreading a task creates negative feelings which you have to get over in order to do the task.  You already have something you need to do, and you’ve just thrown a great big mountain to climb to get to that molehill of a task.  How many times have you dreaded taking an exam: fretted, worried, lost sleep, hated the idea and then after you took it, you realized “that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!”  Of course it wasn’t! Partly because by the time you went to sit for the test, you’d built it up to be the Spanish Inquisition! Your anxiety and dread just made the whole run-up to that test way worse than it needed to be.

A little anxiety is normal.  A little apprehension, especially in a new situation, is normal, but there are people who will allow the worry and apprehension to become monumental obstacles. When you approach each bump in the road as if they are all problems and then proceed to blow some if not all of the problems out of proportion, then you are simply making problems for yourself, á la our clients! This is what I mean when I tell people to get out of their heads and you’ll get out of your way.  If you can get some perspective on the issue (not problem), then you can see it for what it truly is.  FDR said it simply: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Our fear and dread amplifies the issue until it’s an insurmountable obstacle.  Very few obstacles are insurmountable in real life. We do run up against them occasionally, but even then, these true problems do not have to dictate how we approach them.  One example of perspective vs true problems is a fitness coach I have, Bill.  He’s in his 70’s, has heart disease and has cancer.  Until he told us this, I’d never have guessed he has these health problems.  He’s a lot fitter than I am and is one of the most positive people I’ve met. I’m sure he has difficult times regarding his health, but rather than sit and fret over his real problems, he chooses to be positive and do as much as he can.

We are all in pretty much the same boat, whether it’s dealing with something that is difficult, awkward or scares us in some way.  If we look at these issues as hard, scary, intimidating, then we are allowing our perceptions to make these issues much more difficult than they should be.  We build them up in our heads and turn them into real problems. A personal real life example: I commute 2 hours each way five days a week, and when I mention that to people they look horrified: “OMG! how awful! Isn’t there someplace closer you can work?!” Yes, I can look at it as a terribly long trip every day five days a week, and seriously the first few times I drove it, yeah, it was long and tiring.  Yes, it can be inconvenient, but the fact is I like my job very much and I like the people I work with very much.  I also like where I live very much, so moving is not an option. What are my options? Every morning, I line up whatever podcasts I want to listen to or program my playlist on my iPod. I’ve got audio books and I also have a handsfree earpiece for my phone, so while I’m on way to work, I’m singing along to my favorite music, learning something or talking to friends and family.  Sometimes, I am doing none of those: it’s quiet time for me and the phone and devices are off.  Usually, I use this time to learn things and I think of it as an opportunity, because frankly, if I did not have to drive so much, it would make it a lot harder for me to listen to the podcasts and books. I would have to cram them into my day somewhere and since I’m not someone who normally learns through listening, it would be a lot harder for me.  Since I am ‘stuck in the truck,’ and listening is about all that I can do, I listen.

As with everything, it takes a little bit of practice to change your initial attitude.  When something happens that isn’t anticipated or is inconvenient, you don’t have to have the “everything is wonderful” saccharine sweet attitude (it’s okay to get p*ssed or irritated).  It’s where you go from there that makes the difference: this is just a detour or a pothole on your road to success.  What can you do or how can you get around it?  Your schedule changed at work and now you aren’t going to be able to get to the gym until much later, and there are no other classes at those times.  You can find a gym buddy and go on together.  You can go on your own.  Maybe changing gyms is an option.  Are there other classes available that you can get into?  My community college offers ‘community ed’ classes that include fitness and there is a yoga studio near my house that has classes as well as a crossfit gym with classes.  Yes, these are extra money, but if I can’t make it to the gym and don’t go on my own, maybe I should cancel the gym and put that money towards classes I will be attending.  Your spouse/ family has decided he/she/ they are done with this “healthy nutrition” thing.  That doesn’t mean you have to give it up. If you do the cooking, make what they like and make something you like. Just because it’s all on the table, it doesn’t mean you have to eat all of it!  If they like burgers, make the burgers and you can have yours plain or however you like it. If they are eating fries, make yourself a salad or veggies or whatever you like.  If they do the cooking, it’s not a huge imposition to ask them to include a salad or the veggies, or if they are just being obdurate (that’s a fancy word for ‘snotty’), make them yourself.  Opening a bag of salad isn’t a big deal or heating some veggies in the microwave is also not a big deal, and it’s more fries for them! When faced with an issue, start crawling! If you can’t afford a gym, walking is still free! Invest a little money in some resistance bands or second hand equipment, and there are a lot of yoga, pilates and other workouts available on YouTube. See if there is a gym or a program through your employer or insurance that is available.  If you are a college student, sometimes the gym is open to students and if you live in an apartment complex/ condo, they have workout facilities on the grounds for owners.

Too often when things happen, or things don’t go as planned, we get stuck in our heads: one mindset takes over and we let our emotions and fears dictate how we deal with the situation.  This is normal; staying stuck there is a choice.  We choose not to move forward, whether we realize it or not. Taking a step back and getting some perspective (getting out of your head) can help you see what your options really are and what changes you can make. Make the best choice you can with the situation you have; you’ll be amazed at the progress you make!


Hitting the Wall: Losing Your Motivation

We’ve all been here: you know what you need to do but you just don’t want to do it.  It doesn’t matter how you try to glam it up or whatever excuses you can come up with (and generally, we’re pretty good at coming up with those!):we know we shouldn’t eat the fast food, the chocolates, the pastries, etc, and that fresh whole foods are just all around healthier, but we just don’t want to do it.  We’re tired of making that little extra effort; we’re tired of fighting with the urge to eat yummy junk food; we just want to take a break from ‘being good.’  Trying to out-think this urge to quit is just really annoying.  We pull up the motivational messages we have saved: “how can our bodies need a break from healthy nutritious food/ activity?  how is eating processed GMO foods a ‘break’ for your body? or lying around on the sofa all a day ‘healthy’ for your body?” Sometimes those motivational messages remind me of empty-headed enthusiastic cheerleaders: “go team go! go team go! you can do it! yay team!”  I really hate enthusiastic cheerleaders. They bug me.

My idea of motivation (at least what works on me) is a good old-fashioned kick in the pants: “quit your whining, stop screwing around and get your butt in gear!” It’s definitely not the “carrot approach” with the lure of something good happening to you; it’s the “big stick upside the head approach” with the promise of another hearty whack if you don’t move quick enough! I know I always say that we should be kind to ourselves and that beating ourselves up is not a good habit to get into, but sometimes, for me, that’s what it takes. I often preach that we need to know ourselves in order to know what works and what doesn’t work, and I can be pretty dang stubborn (it’s genetic! really!) It’s why bribery has not worked for me in the past (you’d’ve thought my mom would have figured that out before now).  Trying to buy me off with trinkets, baubles or gadgets doesn’t work.  It’s like offering my dog a cookie- he’ll tell you no all day long! But you offer him a toy, and he’ll do as many cartwheels as you want!

For myself, when I hit the wall, bribes don’t work but threats usually do.  Appealing to my pride definitely does!  Frankly, a lot of times when I feel the urge to backslide, telling myself “if I lose another ten lbs, I can buy some new slacks, or blouse, or whatever” is the cookie to my dog: “meh, it’s a cookie… I’ll add it to my pile of stale cookies under the sofa.”  But when I look at my weight loss chart or the scale says I’m up a couple of pounds, even if it’s just a normal fluctuation, the thought of gaining back more than a couple pounds is enough to get my butt in gear: “holy expletive! I don’t want to get back into the 270’s! OMG- I’m nearly there now!” More than anything else, the numbers motivate me.  I was looking at my progress chart on MFP the other night and there was a steady rapid weight loss in my first year and then it slowed down, nearly leveling off for my second year.  Even though the trend is mostly downward (there was a little hiccup in November 2015-yay, holidays…), the competitor in me, the do-it-now personality in me, wants to get back to losing as much weight as fast as possible.  But…. (and it’s a big one, pun intended!) THAT TAKES WORK! And it’s not the kind of work you can hire out: hey, Tom, wanna lose 40 lbs for me?  Yeah, right- I wish!! Nope, this is the getting-in-the-trenches-getting-dirty kind of work.  One of the podcasters I listen to (40+ Fitness with Alan Misner) periodically makes a big pitch for commitment.  Saying “I want X” isn’t enough to get it for you- you have to commit to it! “I want to run a 5k” isn’t enough to get you to run it; even if you show up and try, without the training, your body is going to give out on you. You have to train regularly for that race and that means practice- lovely boring grinding day in and day out practice. You can choose to look at it that way: yay….. I get to go run another mile…..whoopity doo…..Or you can look at it the rah-rah cheerleader way: I’m running another mile! That’s two miles this week and it’s only Tuesday! Yay me! (Yeah, I know I hate cheerleaders, but there’s something to be said for the positive approach.  You don’t have to take the “so sweet I’m sending people into diabetic coma” approach, but giving yourself a well deserved pat on the back for being consistent with your practice isn’t out of line.  No one wakes up one day and just qualifies to be an Olympic athlete. They train for a literal lifetime for the chance at a few minutes of competition against other athletes who’ve also trained for a lifetime.  When they win those medals, they have worked for them!  There’s very little luck involved!

It’s the same process with losing weight or getting fit or running a 5k: it may not be a lifetime of work, but there’s a significant investment of time and energy required! If you want the results, you have to make the effort.  It’s this effort that Alan Misner is talking about when he talks about committing to your goals: you can’t just wish for them; you need to do the work. This is also why the average lifespan of a New Year’s Resolution in about 6-8 weeks: it takes work to make significant changes! If it were easy, everyone would do it! It would be nice if we could change our habits like we change our socks, but no such luck.  Making a new habit takes practice and commitment and consistency.  You have to make a promise to yourself that you will change the habit and then you have to do it, and you have to do it again and again and again and again and again… yeah, you get the picture!  You can’t have the attitude that I’ll do it when it’s convenient, because that isn’t going to get you anything.  If you wait for a convenient time, it’s never going to happen.  This is a pretty common excuse: I’ll start when the holidays are over; I’ll do it when tax season is done; I’ll do it when I’ve got more time/ money/ whatever.  NEVER HAPPENS! There is always something going in everyone’s life: it’s called ‘living.’  I don’t want to tell you to try starting a new habit when things are tough, but truly, if you can manage to get consistent when you have kids that need to get to practice, a spouse with a car in the shop and a big project at work demanding a lot of your time and attention, then, honey, YOU ARE GOLDEN!

Most of us are obviously not that together (count me out!) but there’s something to be said for choosing your battles. There are always going to be projects at work and the kids are always going to have some kind of activity going on, so waiting until your spouse’s car is fixed would be a good compromise. You aren’t waiting for the ‘perfect time,’ but choosing a time that’s completely chaotic is just setting yourself up for failure: you need to give yourself the best option available. There’s a difference.

That’s one of the the other problems people have with motivation: constant failure.  If you are repeatedly setting yourself up to fail, it’s a wasted effort.  This is the self-fulfilling prophecy that many people use to reinforce the idea that they can’t lose weight, they can’t work out and they are destined to be ‘unhealthy’ all their lives.  If you tell me you are going to give up chocolate right before Valentine’s Day, my response would be “really? when the stores are full of the stuff?” It’s like saying you are giving up fried foods and then going to the State Fair, where there’s a booth of deep-fried something every ten feet! You are setting yourself up for a very difficult time, if not for outright failure.  This is why I tell people to 1) take baby steps; 2) be as specific as possible in choosing their goals; and 3) aim for improvement and not perfection.  Number 3 is probably the most important.  In fact my gym has that on their app: Progress, Not Perfection!  No one is perfect and certainly not the first time out of the gate.  All those wonderful Olympic gymnasts who nail a 10 on the pommel horse flopped it about a million times before they hit the 10, and the only reason they hit the 10 is because they flopped it a million times! This is how we learn to do anything.  There used to be a commercial with kids and adults flubbing something like riding a bike or catching a football and the point was that before we got it right, we got it wrong a million times.  But each time we got something wrong, we learned how to get better at it.  A popular quote from Thomas Edison: “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That’s why there’s a lightbulb over my desk right now: #10,001 worked!

Motivation isn’t about feeling like a rah-rah cheerleader or even the mad mama with the big stick: it’s about committing to be better (stealing a bit of Alan Misner’s thunder here). Every chance is an opportunity to be better at making good food choices, about keeping your workout schedule and getting better at your workouts.  My favorite quote from Edison is one not seen so much: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  This one is printed on my cubicle wall to remind me that we make our own luck, we make our opportunities and most importantly, we make our own motivation. We build motivation by building momentum: each time we choose the broccoli over the pasta or the lunch we brought instead of the fast food at the office, we make the next choice a little easier.  We are practicing our new habits- we are improving! Yes, it can be boring at times; yes, there are days I really want garlic bread and yes, there are days I really don’t want to work out. But I do it anyway partly, because I want to succeed and partly because I’m too dang stubborn to give up.  There’s a fair bit of vanity involved: I want the big number on the pounds lost chart, but mostly I think I stay motivated (despite myself) because I know how good it feels to be healthier and frankly, I’m greedy for more of that feeling.

You know yourself best and you know what really motivates you, whether it’s a carrot or a stick. The motivation has to come from inside: no one else can give you the impetus to get better but you.  That’s what makes it hard: we’ve got to do it ourselves. Yes, there are a lot of apps and programs and podcasts that are designed to motivate us.  There’s an entire industry of “motivational speakers” whose sole aim in life is to get you moving!  All they can do is give you a shove in the right direction (hopefully), but your reaching your destination is entirely up to you.





















Being Uniquely You vs. Joining the Pack

New Year’s resolutions are running rampant right now as people are doing everything they can to hang on and not give up on the attempts to make positive changes.  I admit that I have never been a big fan of making resolutions based on a time of year.  Yes, it’s convenient to have an unforgettable date but the new year already has so many changes associated with it: new laws and government forms are in effect; you have to change the dates on a lot of items, not to mention every time you date a form “don’t forget 2017!” (we even had court calendaring clerk assign a trial date based on the wrong year: “um, that’s a Saturday, Your Honor!”) In my opinion, the new year already has enough baggage for you to deal without bringing your resolutions with it.

However, now that you’ve made them, there’s no reason not to try and keep them.  It’s not the resolutions that I have problems with- it’s just the timing. Establishing healthy habits is always a good thing! Let me add one little caveat to that statement: provided the habit is healthy for you! In all the hustle to sell their new workout videos and diet programs, the health and fitness industry is not really very concerned about what’s best for you! I’m not going to sit here and say they’re just out to make a buck, but- yeah, that’s what I’m going to do! They are trying to sell you something and if it doesn’t work out for you, then you’re probably going to buy something else they are selling to see if that works for you, so the more things that don’t work for you, the more they are going to make from you.

I’m not selling you anything.  I don’t even advertise for other companies on my blog (although WordPress might- I don’t have any control over that.) My concern is that you learn healthy habits that work for you, so you can be as healthy and happy and get the most out of your life. The key phrase is here “work for you” and I am emphasizing that ‘you’ because I don’t care what works for everyone else.

This issue actually began for me as a rant against a podcaster (whom I actually like very much) and another book I was reading about learning to sleep smarter.  Both of them were talking about “prime sleep hours” and the “best wake-sleep rhythms” and so on.  It was really annoying because they are trying to cram everyone into one little box and if you don’t fit, you’re just not trying hard enough and you’re hurting yourself. (Huge eye roll here!) It’s like when the FDA tries to tell everyone that they need to drink 8 ounces of milk each day or eat 11 servings of whole grains daily.  HELLO! I think we all know by now that all those grains led to a huge epidemic of type 2 diabetes and obesity, and that some people are sensitive to lactose (especially if your ethnicity is not Northern European!)

This is where I get really annoying again and tell you that if you aren’t tracking your foods, energy, moods, and sleep, you really should, because that tells you what works for you and what doesn’t.

Those of you who’ve been reading me for a while may recall that I have a really jacked up sleep-wake cycle (‘circadian rhythm’ is the technical term).  When I was in college on semester/ summer break, my sister and I would both turn into vampires.  We would sleep most of the morning, wake up about noon or later and be up until around two in the morning and then go to sleep. It wasn’t because we had night jobs or night classes or had some kind of weird disease: this was normal for us.  In fact, we did most of our grocery shopping around midnight at a 24 hour store.  Even after we moved to separate locations to go to graduate school, we kept the same hours: we’d text each other around midnight or one a.m. and it wasn’t unusual to get back a response in a couple minutes, because, yep- we’re up!  One of the reasons I got a kindle in fact is because I do most of my reading and book-browsing between 11:00 p.m. and two a.m. (Amazon will back me up!)

When I keep my normal hours, I am alert, rested and a little high energy in fact: I sleep when I get tired, wake up without the alarm and feel good during my ‘day.’  That’s how you are supposed to feel and it’s how you know you are getting enough rest.  On the other hand, if I tried to force anyone else to keep my schedule, most people would feel really tired during my waking hours and would try to wake up probably about 6 or 7 a.m. (when I am normally getting my best sleep!) They would get very burnt out in a few days and probably be really irritable and groggy and drained.  It’s because this is not their circadian rhythm; it’s mine.

That is how I feel most of the time when I try to match the rest of the world’s sleep-wake cycle.  I have to wake up at a time when I am normally getting my ‘best’ sleep: between 4-6 a.m., be awake and alert when I am normally sleeping and then I’m supposed to go to sleep when I’m normally awake!  I know that humans are not nocturnal creatures, but my sister and I are about as close to being nocturnal as humans can get! If any of you have ever had a night job, you know how uncomfortable and disorienting it can be to be awake when you’re normally sleeping and sleeping when you’re normally up and alert.  It’s physically painful for me at times to wake up to an obnoxious alarm clock (they are all obnoxious!) and get ready for work.  It’s a long and difficult transition for me to adjust to a ‘normal’ wake-sleep cycle and when I am off for an extended period of time, I revert right back to what’s normal for me.

The point of all this griping and grousing is that so many of us try to do something similar with diet, exercise, sleep and everything else in order to fit the rest of the world’s “healthy habits.” We try to eat 6-8 ounces of meat daily and drink 8 ounces of milk daily and get all those healthy whole grains and we feel horrible.  Our digestive tract rebels and causes all kinds of pain and discomfort but we keep on trying.  We hit the gym and walk the five miles or so three times a week and our knees, back and hips revolt until we can hardly stand up, let alone walk, and we keep trying.”What’s wrong with us?” Probably nothing! We’re that round peg not fitting into that cookie cutter square hole. The point of being an individual is that we are not like others.  Some of us don’t digest meat very well and some of us are lactose intolerant and some of us are sensitive to grains.  Just because we’re humans doesn’t mean we are all alike! It’s like the old syllogism logic teachers love: All poodles are dogs but not all dogs are poodles.  Yes, they are all dogs, but yes, they are all different  and the same truths apply to us. While we are all fundamentally the same, we are all actually very different.  While this may seem like a real “duhhh” statement, how many times have you or someone you know tried the “one size fits all” approach? and how did that work out for you or them? There were a lot of times I tried the latest diet fad and most of the time, if it didn’t outright make me sick, I generally felt pretty horrible.  I know when I tried Nutrisystem, yes, I lost weight and yes, I was hungry the entire time.  I didn’t have a lot of energy either, but I kept with it because I was losing weight.  Weight loss: yes; Energy level: low; Hunger: high; Learning new healthy habits: oh hell no!  But because of that one yes, I stuck with it until I couldn’t stand their food anymore (besides being REALLY expensive!)

The same thing happened with me when I tried exercising.  How can you hurt yourself walking on a treadmill?  It was the bottom line recommendation from my gym and just about every website and blog I read: if you haven’t been exercising, start using the treadmill. So I did.  My feet hurt, my legs hurt, and my knees were killing me.  I pushed through, because I know there’s a difference between discomfort and pain and when you start a new activity, there is usually a little discomfort involved.  When it didn’t go away and started to get worse, I went to my doctor and the treadmill was actually the worst thing I could do.  I have arthritis in my knees (this is how I found out!) and even the low impact from the treadmill aggravated the condition (even now it still does, since I tried it again recently and even just 15 minutes was enough for me to feel it).  My doctor told me to use a pool since I can exercise without aggravating my knees and the water has some good resistance to it as well.  I can easily do an hour’s workout in the water and still not have painful knees.

I don’t want you to get the idea that everything needs to be personalized for you by some trainer or nutritionist or professional.  If you can afford those, then yes, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, but even though most of us can’t afford that level of personal attention, it doesn’t mean that we are out of luck!  When you start a new way of eating or new workout program, monitor how well it works for you.  Yes, this will mean writing down when you eat, what you ate and how you felt afterwards.  The same with the exercise and anything else you start doing differently.  I like to use a paper journal but there are a lot of apps (like My Fitness Pal and Fitbit) which will allow you to track this and those two apps will talk to each other, so you can use them both to combine your info.  Both of those will also sync with the My Health app on iPhones so you can have all your data in one place. The idea is that if there are some things about your new habits that work out for you, then you want to keep those but if there are things that don’t, then you can modify them.  For example, I eat a low carb diet, but I know that if I consistently eat lower than 50 carbs a day, my energy level drops dramatically.  I’m tired and irritable and usually have a bit of a headache.  I try to keep my carbs between 50-100 (a big carb day for me is about 135).  I generally feel pretty good in that range, and actually 135 was my old number (which is in the moderate range).  I knew from experience that eating really low carb (less than 20 carbs daily) really made me feel awful (some people call it ‘keto flu’ or ‘carb withdrawal’) so as I ate less, I found a range that worked for me: I didn’t feel tired or irritable, was getting enough fiber and glucose to exercise without getting exhausted or voraciously hungry, and my mood and hunger/ satiety were still positive.  By tracking all these things, I figured out what range is good for me.

This may sound like complex science experiment but it really isn’t.  If you use an app like MFP or Fitbit, when you enter your meals, the app does all the work for you. You don’t even have to write it all down if you don’t want to.  There’s a Notes section on MFP so at the end of the day (or during the day if you want) you can make notes like “really tired after lunch” or “lots of energy after breakfast” or whatever else you want to say about your mood, energy, digestion- whatever! The Nutrition portion of the app will tell you want your carbs, protein, fats and nutrients were for the day.  I like to write it all down but that’s just me!  It takes a couple minutes each day and at the end of a week, you have a lot of data collected.  If you don’t notice any problems or changes, then boom! you’re all done! But if, like me, you do notice days when you feel really tired or really fat or really hungry, you can take a look at what you did that day, and the next time it happens and the next, until you can see that each of those days you did or ate XYZ- maybe that’s the problem? Make a change! Then note the results: I ate more than 50 carbs and felt better.  I did a bigger cardio workout and I’m probably going to be really hungry tomorrow morning.  Tracking lets you know what you need to change and what you need to keep, so over time, your eating plan and workout program, and even your sleep schedule if you want, is customized to give you the best results for you. You know yourself better than anyone, even before you start tracking.  Tracking just clues you into the signals your body is sending you anyway- the difference is now you’re paying attention.  It’s like taking that “one size fits all” dress or slacks and altering it to fit you perfectly! Tracking also helps you keep making progress because we all know that what works for us now will eventually stop working as our bodies and metabolisms change.  This is why calorie counting methods keep dropping your calories the more weight you lose.  Eventually, your body will get used to your exercise and your metabolism will get used to a certain number of macros.  This is where many people get confused and frustrated and sometimes they will abandon their program and go in search of something different.  They may not need ‘something different’- they just need to make an adjustment to what they are doing now! It’s like altering those slacks again! It keeps your plan personalized for you! You have changed, so shouldn’t your plan change also?

One more heads-up: peer pressure can be enormous, especially if people are telling you you’re doing it ‘wrong,’ or that their plan is much better.  Maybe it is better- for them! Maybe the way you’re doing it works for you! The push to join the pack is extremely hard to resist.  We see everyone else having great success or lots of enthusiasm with their programs and we not only feel the need to be like others, we also want to have the same success.  It’s normal, but before we join the pack, we need to take stock of our current situation.  Is our plan working for us, i.e. we are hitting our goals and we are happy with it? If not, then maybe it’s time to make a change to our plan before abandoning it altogether.  If we do decide to try a new plan, we need to monitor ourselves to see if it works for us.  If not, again, we can try personalizing it to fit us or we can try something new again.  The point is that if we are not being patient and making the changes we need to our eating plans and workout programs, we are just going to keep bouncing from one to another.  That’s not a good way to find success.  One more personal example: when I started college, I took the required Study Skills class that said we should all study in a quiet isolated room with no distractions.  The guidance counselor thought I was crazy when I told her I studied in the living room with the tv on or the cafeteria full of students with the campus radio going full blast.  I knew from experience that the silence of the library was too distracting to me.  A sneeze in a silent room is the same as bomb going off while a sneeze in a room full of noise is just a sneeze.  My brain filters out a room full of noise as junk but one sound in silence is an alarm bell. I still study and read with the tv on.  We are all all our own unique individuals and we should be proud of our differences!  That’s what makes us strong! We need to focus on ourselves and less on what everyone else is doing and what everyone else says is “the best way to go.”  What works for “everyone else” would be fine, if we were “everyone else.”  Frankly, the world would be pretty boring if we were all everyone else and all dogs were poodles.










A Bad Aftertaste: Dealing with Emotional Eating 

Emotional (or stress) eating is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for those of us trying to lose weight. It’s the proverbial sneak attack straight out of left field, the unseen pothole on the path to success, the sucker punch to our healthy eating plan. We can make provisions for just about everything else: the treats that come into the office/ home; the impromptu lunch/ dinner date; the dinner party full of unhealthy choices, but emotional eating? That’s not our heads talking: that’s something more primal, more visceral and more out of control.

All of us develop coping mechanisms to deal with difficult situations and emotional eating is one of many possibilities. Emotions and stress are part of everyday living. We have a fight with a family member; our boss gets on our case; unexpected bills or bad news: our anxiety and stress levels hit the stratosphere and we turn instinctively to our pressure release valve. Some of us chew our fingernails, pace, smoke, go for a run or eat our emotions. It’s a distraction like all of the other stress relievers: we’re so busy being focused on what we’re doing, we aren’t thinking of the problem that just got dumped on us that we don’t want to deal with. That’s the whole purpose: I’m avoiding my problem as fast as I can! All of these avoidance behaviors have drawbacks, some worse than others, but for those of trying to lose weight, emotional eating is a major pitfall.

In addition to distracting us from whatever our problems are, eating just plain tastes good. We aren’t focusing on whatever is upsetting us and we’re enjoying (usually) what we’re eating, so it’s a double benefit to us. The first and most obvious drawback is that avoiding the problem does not solve it, so even after we’ve finished the donuts, potato chips or whatever, we’re still stuck with whatever stress inducing issue triggered the eating in the first place; the second drawback is now we’ve probably overeaten and as result, we feel guilty, so the vicious cycle continues. The third drawback is that when we eat our emotions on top of what we normally eat, we have a tendency to gain weight, and the more problems we have, the more we stress-eat, and unfortunately the poor health that comes with obesity becomes one more trigger: we’re worried about our health, so we eat to relieve stress and the vicious cycle gets even more vicious.

Emotional eating is almost uncontrollable for a lot of us. Even if we try to be aware, how many of us find ourselves staring into an open fridge or pantry looking for anything to eat just because something stressful happened? If we become aware of our behavior at that point, we’re actually doing okay- we still have time to stop ourselves from mindlessly putting food in our mouths, but how many times have we suddenly found ourselves staring at the bottom of an empty carton of ice cream or an empty box of donuts? It’s almost an instinctive behavior that’s become ingrained in us over many years. It’s how we

console/ distract ourselves, when something bad has happened and how we reward or celebrate happy news. Food is our trusty go-to sidekick and even though we know that it’s hurting us to eat our emotions, breaking this deeply ingrained habit is not at all easy. Quitting emotional eating is on par with quitting smoking or any other addiction. Again, we’re running in circles: stress triggers the eating and the guilt over eating triggers the stress which triggers the eating. The band-aid approach is to replace the eating with something less harmful like walking or meditating, but ultimately, we have to find a way to deal with our emotions. Positive action is always the best way: a problem comes up and we move to solve the problem rather than avoiding it, i.e. the boss jumps all over us about

a project, and instead of not dealing with it, we take steps to move forward on the project. Unfortunately not all problems can be solved by us or anyone, i.e. a family member becomes seriously ill. This is the unpleasant truth and we have to learn to deal with unpleasant truths. Bad things happen; it sucks but there’s nothing we can do about it. Eating our emotions isn’t going to change this and it’s only going to compound our problems. Of course anyone who has ever had to deal with emotional eating knows it’s waay easier to say “deal with it!” than actually dealing with it! It’s like telling a lifelong smoker “ stop smoking!” and expecting them to quit cold turkey the next day. “Stop shoving donuts in your face and deal with whatever nasty issue is driving you to eat!” Not terribly effective, is it? Again, it’s a process. The first step is being aware that you are an emotional eater. How can you not be aware that you eat your emotions? Because even though there is the emotional connection (bad feeling + food = feeling better), there may not be the mental connection. I had never really considered myself an emotional eater. I was aware that I ate out of boredom and I took steps to change that behavior (this blog was actually one of those steps), but it wasn’t until I found myself staring into the open fridge after an angry phone call with my mom that I realized emotion was the only reason I was even looking for something to eat (I wasn’t hungry or bored, just upset).
Once you make the connection, it makes it a little easier to catch yourself before you finish the Ben & Jerry’s. When something emotional happens (especially something stressful), you know the urge to eat is coming and this is where you can begin taking steps to counteract it. The band-aid approach is usually the easiest way to begin tackling it: find something else to distract yourself from the negative situation. In my case, after the phone call with my mom, and I realized was looking into the fridge to avoid dealing with the stress, I knew I had to substitute something else for eating. Since I had already done a similar process with evening boredom, I used one of those techniques: blogging, journaling, doing my nails, posting online, etc. Finding an enjoyable new (or not so new) distraction is the key. It’s a baby step, but it gives you a stable if temporary place where you can feel safe while you begin to do the real work of learning to deal with your emotions. When you feel the stress and emotions building and there’s the urge to find something to eat, that’s when you make the switch: instead of eating, open up Facebook, take a long hot shower, practice deep breathing or yoga, Tai Chi or whatever your safe substitute is. If you miss that moment and catch yourself in the middle of a cookie or bag of chips, don’t berate yourself, because learning a new habit takes time. Getting down on yourself is just one more stress that will drive you back to the chips and cookies. When you do catch yourself, put away the food and dig out the yoga mat (if your life is really emotional, just leave it out! I have my go-to MFP on all of my devices, so it’s easy for me to log on!) Awareness is the most important step because you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what the problem is! Once you are aware of your emotional triggers, that’s when you start making the positive changes. Start substituting the better behavior for the emotional eating. Once your emotions start making the connection (stress + yoga = feel better), emotional eating becomes less and less of the go-to pressure release valve. Then you can start dealing with your emotions from a safer place. Instead of feeling guilty for eating, you are actually doing something positive. For example, yoga has its own benefits aside from keeping you from overeating. It really is a good way to center your mind and body, strengthen your core and relieve stress, but sooner or later, you are going to have to deal with whatever problems you have. That may require counseling or some kind of therapy or maybe just a lot of yoga and meditation. Only you can make that decision, but one thing is certain: eating your stress and negative emotions just creates more problems than solutions.

The Carrot or The Stick: Positive v Negative Reinforcement

The simple approach to reinforcement is either the carrot or the stick. You can lure the donkey forward with a carrot or you can try forcing it to move by hitting it with a stick. Maybe these approaches work on donkeys (doubt it!) but the fact is: you are not a donkey!

I am very familiar with positive reinforcement.  When I was freshman in college, my Intro to Pysch teacher covered it and what I thought interesting is the idea that even though negative reinforcement gets all the attention, studies show positive reinforcement is much more effective.  As a result, I went home and started using it on my dog (education in action!)  Over the years, pretty much all my dogs have been trained with positive reinforcement.  My basic approach: every time my dog (or cat) does something I want them to repeat, I give them praise and affection.  He asks to go out to pee, he’s a good boy.  He sits calmly on my lap, he’s a good boy.  The cat uses her scratch post instead of the sofa, good kitty!  When I was out of town last year, my mom babysat my dog and when she told me he was playing chase with her dog, I told her to tell him he’s a good boy.  She called back and said after she told him “good boy,” he was more enthusiastic about playing with her dog.  I told her that’s the point: once he knows he’s doing something that pleases me (and is also fun), he has more incentive to keep doing it!  That’s what positive reinforcement is supposed to do: the action becomes pleasurable because you are rewarded for it so you have much more incentive to keep doing it. 

Negative reinforcement is the opposite, of course: the pup wets on the rug and you scold and spank him. As far as pups go, it’s not really effective because the pup usually doesn’t make the connection between wetting on the rug at 10:30 a.m., you coming home at 6 and seeing it and scolding him.  As far as he’s concerned, he was happy to see you come home and you’re mad at him for being happy to see you.  This is why the positive reinforcement works better for potty-training: he goes out, pees on the lawn, and he’s a good boy.  He has incentive to wet all over the lawn because as long as he does, he’s a good boy.

But, again, you aren’t a puppy.  How does positive reinforcement work on people, and why isn’t negative reinforcement effective?  You would think associating donuts with bad feelings would make you avoid donuts much more than associating happy feelings with broccoli or exercise.  The difference is that while negative reinforcement is better at getting you to change behavior, it’s the positive reinforcement that keeps you exercising and eating the broccoli.

One of the best ways to get started changing and keeping a new habit is to use a combination of both positive and negative reinforcement.  With my dog, when he does something I want him to repeat, he’s the greatest puppy in the world (which he loves to hear) and when he does something I don’t want him to repeat, I tell him no firmly but without a lot of fuss and leave it alone.  He’s trained by now to look for the praise and he’s focused on doing things that earn him praise and, since the wrong behavior didn’t earn it, he’s moved on to something else.  For example, let’s look at workouts.  If you schedule an appointment with a trainer and if you get charged for missing that workout, that’s incentive to keep the workout (negative reinforcement), but if you are constantly praised and encouraged for your progress while at your workout, that’s also incentive to keep the appointment (positive reinforcement).  So that combination works pretty well: you don’t want to pay for a service you aren’t getting, but at the same time, each time you go, you see that you’re lifting more weight, doing more lunges and your trainer is praising your progress by telling you know how far you’ve come.  You have more incentive to keep going because you can see the benefit; if you didn’t see any benefit or the trainer wasn’t enthusiastic about your progress, eventually you would stop booking appointments to avoid the cancellation fees.  This is what happens when people make nasty comments to you about eating fast food: you don’t stop eating fast food, you just stop eating it with those people.  You avoid the negativity by changing your behavior but not necessarily changing the bad behavior.  Your goal becomes avoiding the negative result, not avoiding the negative behavior.

Most of us are frustrated because we are trying very hard to make positive changes in our behavior to improve our health but the problem is that most of us do it with negative reinforcement.  We can be our own worst enemies.  We eat a candy bar and we berate ourselves like we threw a kitten under a bus! We skip our workout and we’re the laziest, most unworthy person in the world.  We use the stick to beat ourselves over the head about how we aren’t eating healthy, we aren’t working out, we keep eating all the cookies, cupcakes and potato chips and we believe that if we keep beating ourselves, we’ll eventually change.  If our bodies showed the emotional abuse we heap on ourselves, we’d look like we were hit by a semi.  We look at ourselves in the mirror and abuse ourselves: “I’m so ugly it’s a wonder my spouse hasn’t left me.  I look like a monster.  I can’t believe how fat I am!  I’m too far gone to save.”  Any of this sound familiar?  It breaks my heart when friends post things like this online: “I got on the scale, saw I went up two pounds and couldn’t stop crying.”

This is not productive.  This is not healthy, or helpful, and your weight has nothing to do with your worth as a person. Stop beating yourself with the stick! You aren’t a donkey and it doesn’t work! If you want to change your behavior, you need to use a combination of positive and negative reinforcement with a BIG emphasis on the positive!

It’s always best to make this process as simple as possible: 1) Write out your objective simply and specifically; 2) Associate a ‘negative’ with avoiding the behavior; and 3) Associate a ‘positive’ with completing the task.

Let’s say the most important change you want to make this year is to eat more healthy foods.  Write out a simple specific objective, such as “I want to eat at least two servings of vegetables each day.”  That’s specific and it’s a change in the right direction.  So let’s say that each time you finish a day without two servings of vegetables, you put $5 in the Veggie Jar and at the end of the month or week, you give the money to your kids, you donate the money to a charity, or you use it to buy veggies- whatever- as long as the money is not going to you!  You are charging yourself for not changing the behavior!  As a positive reinforcement, let’s say that for each day you finish with two or more servings of vegetables, you get to take $5 out of the Veggie Jar, or you, your kids/ spouse put $5 in your Healthy Habit Jar and that money goes to you for a non-food treat, like a movie, a manicure, or something else you were wanting.  Don’t overlook the power of praise and encouragement either!  Remember when you were in grade school and every time you got an A on a math quiz, the teacher put a gold star on the wall chart next to your name?  You really wanted to get the A, not so you would be good at math but so that you would have as many stars as possible (and maybe beat out some of the kids you didn’t like) You can still do the same thing.  On a calendar, give yourself a gold star for each day that you hit your goals ( 2 + servings of veggies; a workout; 8 glasses of water, whatever your goal is for that month!) Looking at a calendar filling up with stars is really very encouraging.  It’s a sign of your continuing improvement there on the wall for everyone to see. Just looking at it makes you feel good about yourself and your progress. (Looking in the mirror and seeing your body getting fitter or smaller is also very encouraging.)  The calendar also has a little bit of the negative impetus as well: a calendar with only a few stars on it shows that you are not focusing on your objectives and frankly, it stings a little.  It also has the “instant gratification” effect:  the more you hit your objectives, the sooner the calendar starts filling up with stars.  “I hit my goal- another star for me! That’s three this week already! Yay, me!”

Does it seem a little  silly?  You roll your eyes, and tell yourself that you aren’t twelve years old and a chart full of stars is childish.  It worked when you were twelve because frankly it made you feel good. It reinforced your positive attitude towards hitting your objectives, whether it’s making healthy lifestyle changes or getting an A in math.  You can choose whatever positive visual reinforcement works for you but making things too complicated tends to defeat the purpose.  Seeing the days of accomplishment stack up, whether it’s stars on a calendar or money in a jar, the goal is to encourage yourself to make positive changes. Just the acknowledgement of your achievements can be emotionally uplifting and associating the positive feelings with completing the task should not be underestimated. Back to my dog, there are times when I’m very busy and he’s sitting off to the side watching me. I’m not angry, just busy, but as soon as I look up at him and say his name, he ‘smiles’ and wags his tail.  Just acknowledging him makes him happy.  Yes, you are not a dog, but you are not too far from that proud twelve year old who just got another star on the Arithmetic Aces Chart either. Don’t be ashamed to flaunt your successes- you earned those stars!


Going to the Gym: High School Revisited

One of the most intimidating experiences for most of us is walking into the gym for the first time. Is there any other experience that can send you right back to high school faster? You walk in and right away, it feels like everyone is looking at you. Since you’re new at the gym, you’re probably not going to be feeling secure with the equipment or with your work out. In short, you’re that awkward geeky freshman again surrounded by cool confident seniors who know what’s what.

As your parents and counselors reminded you back then, even seniors were freshmen once! But telling yourself that is one thing and being confident in new surroundings is something else. It’s seems like a silly thing: “it feels awkward! I feel dorky! I don’t know what I’m doing!” But this is one of the biggest obstacles people have when it comes to going to the gym. Because we feel awkward and uncomfortable, we make excuses to avoid it, so we pay for the membership and don’t go. We mean to go, but we keep coming up with reasons to avoid the awkwardness. Not only are we wasting our money, we’re wasting opportunities to improve our health. Why? Because we don’t want to be embarrassed! The awkwardness is robbing us of our money and our chance to be healthier.

We’ve coined a new word for this awkward feeling: gymtimidation. It’s actually part of the slogan for Planet Fitness (No Gymtimidation).  I used to belong to PF and it was a very comfortable atmosphere. Most of the people I saw in my local PF were a little out of shape and wearing old sweats (much more my speed). If it weren’t for the fact that it had no pool, I would probably still be a member and I wasn’t as circumspect when I chose my new gym. The atmosphere was less important than my biggest concern: it had a pool. I was willing to put up with the gymtimidation but I started noticing a few things about the people I see at my current gym (In-Shape City), and honestly, they’re kind of amusing. Just like in high school, a lot of the people are more interested in how they look and who’s looking at them than they are in actually working out. Is fixing your hair really what you’re worried about before you exercise? Other than making sure my hair is pulled back and out of my way, I don’t care what it looks like. Ditto makeup. I definitely don’t reapply anything before getting in the pool or using the equipment.  I’m going to be wet and/ or sweaty: do I really want my eye shadow, eyeliner, makeup, etc running down my face?

There are a lot of men and women who spend a lot of time sitting around at the gym, focused on their phones and there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time making sure their workout clothes are stylish, neat and showing off their best atributes. They look more like they spent time getting ready for a date rather than getting ready to exercise and they seem to wander around the gym a lot not-exercising. (I can see a lot from the pool!)

I’m not being judgemental: they pay for their membership so they can use the gym however they want. But you can see the ones who come to work out: they may also have “cool” workout clothes, but they are the ones actually using the equipment and they are the ones who leave (or head for the locker room) looking rumpled and sweaty, usually wiping their face with a towel.  They are the ones moving from station to station in the circuit training or waiting for my water aerobics class to finish so they can swim their laps.  They are the ones who aren’t looking around to see who’s looking at them: they’re looking for the next piece of equipment they are going to use!  They are focused on their fitness, not everyone else. One of the best t-shirts I saw at the gym was on a young woman helping out a friend use a piece of equipment; it said “Gym hair don’t care.”  That phrase seemed to sum up her and her friend’s attitude: they didn’t care who was looking at them.

This is the attitude we need to work on if we do feel awkward at the gym.  We’ve paid our dues (literally) and we are just as entitled to use the facility as anyone else. Confidence, like everything else, gets better with practice.  If you aren’t confident with the equipment, ask one of the trainers to show it to you. You pay for their services and it’s to their advantage that you use the equipment safely.  Especially since the more you use it, the more you come, the longer you stay a member and the more you refer others to their gym.  (Being an unhelpful unfriendly place is not going to boost their ratings on Yelp!)  So, if you have a question, ask someone.  Most gyms have a website (or an app) so spend a little time both at the gym and online.  Classes have their pros and cons.  There’s not a lot of individual attention from the instructor, but then you also have the opportunity to blend in with the crowd.  Sometimes watching others can boost your confidence: you can get some pointers on how the exercises are done and there’s usually a little reassurance that you aren’t the only ‘newbie’ in the class.  If you are doing circuit training or another individual workout, it may be helpful to make note of the times when the gym is less crowded so there’s less competition for the equipment and fewer of those non-exercisers who might want to giggle at your rumpled sweats.

Clothing is also something to consider.  While it’s nice to have workout clothes that match (I’ve got a couple of outfits that do), the most important thing is that you’re comfortable.  You need to be able to move freely and hopefully, the clothes breathe so you can cool down and not get overheated.  My outfits match because I bought the tops and pants at the same time so, why not get a matching set?  They breathe and fit well- not too tight but not too loose so I trip.  When I leave my water aerobics class, I merely put on some dry clothes over my bathing suit since I live nearby and would rather shower at home. The clothes I put on are an old t shirt with a frayed collar and an old pair of sweats that have a safety pin permanently attached because they are too big for me now.  Now that it’s colder, I also put on a worn out hoodie with a hole in one sleeve.  As you can see, I don’t care that I don’t look cool (or maybe look a little homeless) because I’m there to get in my workout and go home.  I don’t hang around the gym to see who’s looking at me or who I might be ‘looking at.’ Unless I’m chatting with a friend from my class, I get in the pool, do my workout and then go home.  I would never work out in my old pool cover-ups because they don’t fit well enough for that but that is the only reason. I don’t want my worn out t shirt or sweats getting caught in the equipment which is why I invested in some work out clothes.

You remember when you were in high school and your parents told you that you need to learn to stand up for yourself? Ditto what mom and dad said! You own that gym. You are a paying member and the staff are your staff, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions. One of the issues that comes up occasionally in my water aerobics class is non participants trying to use the pool when class is in session.  Sometimes this is a problem because our class can be a bit large and sometimes we use the entire pool.  Our trainer is not shy about telling people who are getting in our way of working out that they need to exit the pool area until class is over at 6:30 p.m. But on at least one occasion, we had a less confident (code for b*tchy) trainer subbing in and the group of young people in the corner, while staying out of our way, were getting so loud we couldn’t hear the trainer’s instructions.  After she had to repeat herself louder and hearing others grumbling about the loud kids, the teacher in me took over and in my loudest ‘teacher voice,’ I told the kids to “keep it down over there!” and they did.  I wasn’t embarrassed about it (I was more embarrassed for our sub who was not much older than the kids).  It’s my time they were messing with.  I pay to use the gym and take this class so, knock it off, guys!

The same holds for the trainer.  It is not unusual to have a substitute trainer for our class and one of the most recent trainers was an enthusiastic young woman who was very fit and very strong.  (By the end of the session, most of us were dying to ask her when she left the Corps or if she was still a reservist!) Generally, most of us like having the occasional sub since it gives us an opportunity to try something a little different, but some of the exercises she wanted us to do were frankly out of our league.  One of them was a ‘pool-side plank’ in which we swim to the side and hoist ourselves out of the pool and hold ourselves there for 20-30 seconds.  It doesn’t sound like a long time or a difficult move, but as one of my classmates mumbled “if I could do that, I wouldn’t be in this class!” It was only one of the exercises our class had trouble with, and we were not shy about letting her know what we couldn’t do and what we were willing to try.  Most of us in this class are retired and have been doing these classes for a few years (I’m still considered a bit of a newbie).  Being shy about voicing our opinions is a rarity for us.

Thinking back to when we were those awkward scared to death freshmen, did we ever stop to consider just how those seniors grew to be so cool and confident? (I know I didn’t!)  It came through practice and familiarity.  By the end of their freshman year, they knew which teachers were hard-nosed, which could be snowed, where the best tables were in the cafeteria and where to sit in the auditorium if you didn’t want to be seen.  In short, they learned the ins and outs of the school because they were there everyday.  Unlike going to the gym, school is not exactly optional (if you want an education, at least) and it’s in showing up regularly that we learn how to use the equipment, when the gym is super-crowded and which trainers are the most helpful.  We have to put in the hours to become the ‘cool seniors’ and like being a freshman, there might be a little bit of growing pains.  The trick really is in the attitude. If your focus is on how you don’t fit in and you worry more about the cool kids liking you rather than just being yourself and working on getting good grades, you are going to have a tough time in high school.  It’s a little awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. Just like high school, you can make friends and develop healthy habits that will last you a lifetime (and no one will give you a wedgie in the locker room!)

Being Skinny Will Not Make You Happy 

For most of my life, I have been overweight, and while I was younger, it often felt like everything in my life would be wonderful if only I were thin.  As I grew older, I realized that skinny people have problems too and being skinny won’t solve all of our or anyone’s problems.  It seems pretty obvious, but while our head might acknowledge this fundamental truth, the rest of us might not.  We still work at being skinny like it will solve everything and make our lives perfect.

“Being thin” is right up there with “being rich” and “being with the perfect spouse/ partner.”  We think these external accoutrements will fix the problems in our lives, and if the problem is “not having enough money,” “being alone,” or “being obese,” then yes, they probably will go a long way to fixing those problems.  Too often, however, these outward problems are symptoms of something deeper that needs to be fixed in ourselves.  Emotional eating is a prime example of this.  Most of us who are emotional eaters eat because we don’t know how to handle our emotions: either they are too painful to deal with, we don’t want to face them or we don’t know what to do with them, so we eat to soothe the pain, fear or just to avoid dealing with them.  There are dozens of examples of this on My 600 lb Life: the patient is able to control their eating long enough to qualify for bariatric surgery, and then they are surprised that they still have cravings.  Dr. Nowzaradan sends most of them to meet with a therapist because he knows from experience that the compulsive eating is only a symptom of a deeper problem.  Until the patient resolves those issues and learns to deal with whatever is driving them to eat, they will regain the weight.

While many obese people struggle with ‘food addiction,’ it’s not the real problem.  Mind you, obesity is a real struggle and unless successfully managed, it will kill its victims, but food is only the mechanism the addict is using to manage the real problem.  ‘Food’ can be substituted with a variety of distractions, such as alcohol, sex, shopping, drugs or anything else that can and does keep people from thinking about their problems.  Whatever the problem really is, the outward ‘addiction’ starts as a distraction: “my spouse is cheating on me but I don’t want to think about it so I’ll eat/ spend money/ get high/ whatever.”  Eventually, the addiction becomes a problem itself as we become addicted to the drugs, alcohol and even the high from spending money.  This is usually the problem that most people see because it is the one that is most visible.  If the guy in the cubicle next to you is always drunk and smelling of mouthwash, our first thought is ‘alcoholism,’ not ’emotional problems resulting in alcoholism.’  The same thing is true for obesity: we see someone weighing 400+ lbs and we think they have a problem with portion control, not there is something deeper pushing them to eat.  But whether it’s food, drugs, gambling or whatever addiction they are struggling with, there is something deeper inside creating the problem.  The outward addiction is only the symptom: it’s the first layer of the problem, and until that deeper internal problem is dealt with, the real problem is still there.  This is why I say that being skinny will not make you happy.

For some of us, finding out what that deeper problem is and dealing with it ranks right up there with getting a root canal minus the anesthesia! Of course we don’t want to deal with whatever the problem is: that’s why we’re 400 freaking pounds! We can change behaviors, and we might even manage to get our eating under control, but the emotional issue that caused it usually manifests another way, and rarely is it healthy. In many cases, they have panic attacks or they become anorexic.  They go from soothing their anxiety with food to soothing their anxiety with a sense of control, and they do this by controlling what they eat.  Obviously I am not a psychologist, but my grandmother and my aunt both died from anorexia.  In my grandmother’s case, the more her health deteriorated and the less she could do for herself, the more she refused to eat.  Refusing to eat was her way of exercising control over her life.  She needed a walker to get around, she couldn’t carry most items because of the walker and almost everything else she used to do on a regular basis had to be done for her by someone else.  What she was eating was the only left under her control.

In my aunt’s case, she was chubby most of her life and had a gastric bypass that I personally think she did not need, but for the first time in her life, she was skinny and she was thrilled.  Then the problems started: not eating enough, malnutrition and eventually the anorexia that left her too weak to continue living.

Not everyone who is obese has some kind of emotional issue. Really, there are just some of us who enjoy eating or really like some of the more fattening foods.  Sometimes, people are overweight because all they have to eat are the more high carb/ high calorie foods.  In a lot of cases, the obesity itself becomes the source of the emotional issue.  Whatever the reason we gain weight, once we become overweight, we begin to face backlash over our size.  There’s a lot of disapproval and passive discrimination that goes with being obese because the idea is that “you did this to yourself.”  There is also the idea that there must be something wrong with you or you wouldn’t be overeat. When you are told explicitly and implicitly over and over again that there is something wrong with you, you begin to believe it yourself.  My aunt was one of those people who implicitly let me know that I was defective because of my weight.  She also believed that she was also defective because of her weight. Incidentally, she barely weighed 200 lbs while I weighed 400!

Over the course of my weight loss, I have seen too many people who are not happy with how they look and they somehow equate that with who they are.  What you look like is not who you are, and until you are happy with who you are, being skinny will not make you happy.  I don’t think that getting your loose skin cut off will make you happy until you are happy with the person living in that skin.  Once I started losing weight, I started getting all kinds of hints from my mom about skin removal: have I talked to the doctor about it? when can I get it done? etc. Every time I look in the mirror, I see the skin on my arms, on my legs, my belly, all over.  You can literally fit another grown adult into the loose skin on my body! I think it bothers my mom more than it bothers me, since she mentions it every time I see her. It wasn’t until this last month that it’s actually become a problem physically, and if it continues to be a problem (ie, I don’t find a way to deal with it), then I will probably call the doctor and see what my options are.  Frankly, I think I will try compression garments before I do that!

We’ve all heard the platitudes about loving yourself first and accepting who you are.  They are trite and they are also true.  It isn’t that I’m totally content within myself and I have achieved some kind of inner peace or inner strength: I have listened all my life to people tell me that there is something wrong with me, and at some point, I just stopped listening.  They became the dull roar in the background while I decided I can sit there and moan about “what’s wrong with me?” or I can get on with my life despite being ‘defective.’  Now that I’ve lost a lot of weight and my new ‘defect’ is my loose skin, I still handle it the same way and get on with my life no matter what the dull roar is roaring about now.  There is a lot that’s wrong with my life and with me, but I am happy enough with what I have and with who I am.  Until you are happy with the person living in your skin, nothing else is as important in your life.



Quick Tips for Making Your Resolutions into Reality 

Every year thousands of us make well- intentioned resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight & get into shape. The average lifespan of a New Year’s Resolution is about 6-8 weeks. By the end of February, most of us have exhausted our resolve and give up. We’re just destined to be fat and out of shape, or it takes more willpower and time than we have. Giving up leaves most of us feeling like failures and a little embarrassed, although we have plenty of company.

But the truth is we aren’t destined to be fat or out of shape and it’s not that we need more willpower. There’s nothing wrong with our resolutions either. Our intentions are great: it’s our execution that stinks! We try to make too many changes at once: giving up sugar, drinking more water, getting more sleep, exercising multiple times a week, eating more vegetables, getting 10,000 steps a day, etc. It’s the equivalent of walking into the gym and trying to deadlift 150 lbs! If you’ve never lifted before, you’d think I was nuts if I asked you to try that, but that’s what you tried to do when you tried making all those changes at once. It was just too much all at once so it’s no wonder most of us are overwhelmed but because it’s not actually trying to lift 150 lbs, we think we’re hopeless and give up. 

Shortly before Christmas I did a post on resolutions but this is when the rubber meets the road and we’re in the thick of resolution- wrestling. We’ve made our resolutions and are putting them into action, however difficult it may be for us. So let’s make sure we give ourselves the best advantages that we can.

Quick Tip #1: Baby steps. This was my primary advice in the pre-Christmas post and it definitely bears repeating. Suppose you did make a long list of resolutions and are thinking maybe it was a bit much or you’re already starting to feel overwhelmed. Pull out your list and choose the one that’s most important to you, then rank the rest in order of importance. Get ready to make progress! Now that you’ve identified #1, focus on that one resolution only! You are going to make it a habit by devoting your energy only on that one behavior change. Once you’ve made it part of your regular routine, move on to #2.

Quick Tip #2: Break it down to bite size chunks. Some of you might remember that I used to be an English teacher and one of the things we’d tell our students-repeatedly- is when you’re choosing your paper topics, narrow your topic! “The death penalty” (a perennially popular choice) is NOT a paper topic: “Implementation of the death penalty in California since 2000” IS a topic. It’s specific and tells the reader what you’re writing about. “The death penalty” is way too broad: what are you going to focus on? Constitutionality? Implementation? State laws? Federal laws? Racial breakdown? You get the idea.

The same thing happens when you choose a resolution like “lose weight.” How are you going to do it? Do you have a plan? Like every overbroad topic, “lose weight” lacks focus. “Eating low carb to lose weight” has focus. “Getting fit” is also too broad; “building strength through weight training” has more focus. Being specific about your resolution/ goal helps you find and keep a direction. Even so, breaking your resolution into steps and a plan of action makes it more actionable and therefore achievable. It helps you plot and measure your progress towards your goals.

For example if your resolution is to lose weight by eating low carb, you can map out a plan like first cutting out processed foods, then move on to cut out starchy vegetables, then cutting out refined sugars, etc. You can do the same thing with the weight training goal: maybe getting some DVDs or meeting with a trainer to map out a safe timetable to move you forward.

Quick Tip #3: Give yourself the right tools. This has a little overlap with #2. Once you’ve figured out what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there, you need the right tools to get there. This could include the trainer, DVDs, equipment, or the right resources for eating low carb, like a book or diet plan.

If you’re going to try eating better (whether it’s for getting fit or losing weight), a food scale is a great tool. Weighing your food isn’t the point but learning portion size is. “Portion inflation” is a major issue  in our culture: restaurants routinely serve double or triple portions per serving and as a result, most of us think 12 ounces of meat is a “portion.”  Depending on the meat, 3-4 ounces is a portion size. A portion size of vegetables is generally around 6 ounces or a cup, depending on the vegetables (fresh spinach is 2 cups; a sweet potato is about 6 ounces).  A calorie counter book or app can help you figure out what the correct portion size is (calories aren’t the point) and a food scale can help you learn what the correct size looks like.

Another great tool is a journal. It doesn’t have to be to record your food (although that can be a great advantage); but if you’re trying to lose weight,  you need a record; or if you want to change your eating pattern, keeping a record of what you ate and how you liked it is helpful. If you’re trying to build muscle, it’s also helpful to record your workouts and any measurements you’ve taken. (A measuring tape is an inexpensive tool.) You don’t have to use an actual book: an app is just as good, besides having other advantages, such as a food database and/ or a supportive community. Having a great support group is another important tool: not only does it keep you motivated, it can also be an information resource.

Joining a gym is also an option that tends to overwhelm people. You don’t have to join a gym but if getting fit is your resolution, then it might be something to consider. Most gyms have trial memberships. If a friend/ family member belongs, see if you can visit on a guest pass. I would suggest avoiding a contract until you are sure this is the gym for you. Don’t choose a gym based on what you plan on using but what you know you will use.

Other great tools can be things like a lunchbox kit, home workout equipment and a reliable bathroom scale. These tools help keep you motivated and make it easier for you to plan ahead. Knowing that you’re prepared really does make it easier to stay focused when it comes to making a lunch, or doing your workout at home and if you’ve got a reliable scale (or measuring tape), there’s no reason not to weigh/ measure yourself.

Quick Tip #4: Keep moving forward. This is extremely important because a lot of us give up when we fail to reach our first goal or milestone. We also have the “start over” mentality. We plan on losing ten pounds in the first month and when we come in at less than our goal, we want to start over or choose another strategy. This is why a journal comes in handy because we can see maybe we were eating too much or eating the wrong foods or maybe we were “off track” more often than we thought we were. The same goes if we plan on lifting X lbs by our first month: if we look and see we missed about half our scheduled workouts, we know what the problem is! Charting our progress helps us refine our program, whether it’s eating better or getting fitter.

Whether we use a journal or not, giving up or ‘starting over’ isn’t helpful. If we don’t hit our goals, we need to keep going forward. We aren’t markers on a board game because our life isn’t a game. If we mess up, we need to find out where we messed up, find a way to fix it and move forward! Our focus should be progress, not perfection.  The more we keep making progress, the easier it gets! (Really, it does, because we keep practicing!)

Some of my favorite tools include a Dietminder journal (they do diet, exercise and maintenance journals).  I have an Ozeri food scale (it’s an America’s Test Kitchen best buy) and an EatSmart digital bathroom scale. My lunch kit is from Lunchblox via Amazon. I’m also a fan of the My Fitness Pal app/ website. It’s got a food database and a great support community. (It’s like a fitness oriented Facebook!) I generally recommend Nutrition for Dummies, since it’s easy to read and it gives you the basics for healthy eating.

Final Quick Tip: Keep a positive attitude! Focusing on the negative will not help you move forward. If you’ve only lost 5 lbs instead of 10, telling yourself you fell short isn’t helpful. You need to be your own best advocate. If you gained weight, telling yourself you’re a loser or hopeless isn’t helpful either. If it’s really how you feel, this is where the support group comes in! Reach out for support or motivation because believe me, we’ve all been there! If you tell yourself you can’t do it, then you’ve already made the decision to quit. We all need support at times. There’s no shame in reaching out, but in giving up, you’re only hurting yourself.

You can do this! As always, I’m here if you have any questions and I can be reached at

A Letter from the Dark Side: Weighing Nearly 450 lbs.

Many of you know I’m a rabid fan of My 600lb Life on TLC but you may not know why. Yes, it’s a great ongoing reinforcement for me, but in order to be on the show, patients have to weigh a minimum of 500 lbs. In June 2014, I weighed in at 438. I think that’s the highest I ever weighed, but since I never weighed at home and avoided doctors as much as possible, I’m making an educated guess. I never looked at the scale when I got weighed at the doctor; I had to look up that number in my records. But judging by the way I felt physically, I’m pretty sure that was my highest weight.

When you watch the show, you listen to the patients talking about the pain of standing, walking, moving around; how difficult even the easiest everyday activities are; how hopeless and overwhelming everything feels. My mom (a retired RN) watches the show also and I usually get a text from her during the show saying something to the effect of “just wire her mouth shut!!” usually while the patient is talking about her physical difficulties. My mom has no empathy for these patients and I don’t think she understands why I’ll repeatedly watch the reruns. It’s because they were me and I was them. I was the chubby kid, the pudgy teen, the obese adult. My weight was a slow steady relentless gain throughout my life. I spent most of my twenties in the two hundreds, most of my thirties in the three hundreds and by my forties I was fighting to stay out of the four hundreds: a fight I lost in my late forties. When I was 48, I was the highest weight I had ever been. Most of my adult life I was between 370-385. (If any of you have seen My Big Fat Fabulous Life with Whitney Way Thore, I was her size.) I didn’t like being that big, but it had become “comfortable” and by that I mean, there weren’t a lot of things I wanted to do that I couldn’t do but I had gotten pretty good at judging my limits. I could get around pretty good, but I knew when to stop and how to take shortcuts to “maximize my mobility.” I took several trips to Disneyland (one of my favorite places) and my strategy was to hit the rides I could fit on (that was my reality) and when my friends went on rides I couldn’t get on, I’d wait someplace with all our stuff while they rode the rides. I was a convenient meeting place. They didn’t push me to do more because crossing the park was hard on my knees, back and feet. It was a big effort for me to walk any extended distance: I was carrying 375 lbs.

When Dr. Now’s patients talk about the pain of standing and walking, I know that pain. My weight ruined my knees: I have moderate to severe arthritis in both of them (my right is worse than my left). My large lower abdomen (my panniculus) put quite a strain on my back so just standing hurt my knees, my back and my feet. Maneuvering around the house or office or anywhere was usually a challenge since I was twice the size of a normal sized person. Fitting in chairs with arms or cars was always hit or miss since they’re not made for someone the size of two people. I was often afraid of breaking chairs (toilet seats included) and there were a lot of times I wasn’t able to wear the seatbelt in a friend’s car (they were nice enough to not comment).  In college, I was too big for some desks and I had to use the “disabled” desk made for students in wheelchairs.  In auditorium classrooms, I had to sit next to an empty seat, since the little foldover desktop would not lay flat enough across my stomach for me to write on it: I had to use the one next to me.  Getting up from any chair or seated position was always a strain on my knees, back, and hips, (lifting the equivalent of at least two adults) but staying seated for a long period of time was another source of pain on my low back.  My weight even affected my sleep: I had apnea because my weight was essentially beginning to smother me.

Clothing and shoes were another challenge.  It’s extremely dispiriting to realize that the blouse that fits you is big enough to double as a king size pillow case or that when your slacks are folded in half, they are the same size at those for normal sized people.  It’s even more embarrassing when you’re shopping and people think your slacks (folded on the store hanger) are a skirt. When you lay out your clothes for the day and your shirt is the size of a small throw, it’s pretty demoralizing. I know my nightgowns/ nightshirts were that size. I’m guessing a skirt would be that size but I never wore skirts or dresses because getting the slips, nylons and camisoles were next to impossible in my size. Let’s not even discuss lingerie! Shoes are a lot of fun because while there are some stores that normally carry double-wide shoes, when you need triple E, you almost always have to order them.  Getting shoes a size larger doesn’t help much because your foot just gets wider, not longer.

My mom doesn’t mean to be callous when she makes comments about wiring the patient’s jaws shut (I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt here), because she doesn’t understand how insidious the weight gain is. It’s like quicksand: you know you need to get out, but you don’t know how to extricate yourself. Fighting it just seems to make it worse and cause you to sink faster but doing nothing doesn’t get you out either; you just keep slowly sinking. You try making small improvements, but while they may seem to help, it feels like you’re bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon: it’s working but the improvements are infinitesimal compared to the sheer magnitude of the problem.

I tried diets but dieting seemed to make the problem worse since it was the “fighting the quicksand” scenario: limiting my calories slowed my metabolism so when I gave up the diet (infinitesimal progress), I gained back more weight pretty rapidly. (In all honesty, I didn’t try a lot of diets because I knew they didn’t work, but at the same time, I was desperate to try something! Unfortunately with most of the diets, the more I limited the food, the slower my metabolism became, so I’d have to limit my food even more, á la The Biggest Loser ‘winners.’  I did try some of the “food subscription diets” where you buy the pre-packaged diet foods and eat according to their plans.  Generally those plans & foods worked for me, but even while I was losing weight on them, I kept asking myself “so what happens when I stop eating their food?” That was an easy call: I gained weight again because their “meal plans” hadn’t taught me anything.  The idea behind most of them seemed to be to eat their food until I reached my goal weight and then they’re going to teach me how to stay there.  I never got there because- again- it limited my calories and slowed my metabolism.  I simply had too much weight to lose.

One of the first questions Dr. Now asks his patients is “how did you get to this weight?”  For most of my adult life, the answer is simple: I ate as much as I wanted of whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  Sometimes I will tease others (and my pets) with the phrase “I want! I want! I want!”  I know how that feels: gimme what I want NOW!! It’s easy to ignore the consequences, and frankly that’s what I did for most of those years when I weighed 370+.  But it wasn’t like I woke up one morning and “wow! how did I get so big?! yesterday I was only 150!” It’s that insidious weight gain I mentioned earlier.  Part of it I can blame on the explosion of cheap processed foods: they are easily metabolized, full of calories and actually designed to make you keep eating more.  The fact that most of my generation and those that followed have problems with obesity and type 2 diabetes backs this up.  But most of us who grew up eating these cheap processed foods do not get to weigh 400+ lbs, though sadly there are a lot more of us than before. A lot of the blame has to be placed at my door.  I didn’t want to be active (I was never good at running or sports) and I spent a lot of my time with sedentary pursuits (reading, writing, watching tv, etc).  It was an amazingly awful combination: the more I ate, the bigger I got, the less I wanted to move so the more I sat and hey, how about another bag of cheese puffs? I tend to give myself credit for not hitting the 400s until I was over forty years old, but I was definitely on track to hit the 500s in my fifties (I noticed the numbers were paralleling each other and it was a frightening realization!) It’s along the same lines as giving yourself credit for breaking the chair but not falling through the floor: “well, the disaster could have been a whole lot worse!” Either way there is nothing good about weighing what I weighed.

It’s a hard situation to confront when you are that large and steadily gaining weight.  The solution seems simple: just go on a diet! But when those diets are based on calories in vs calories out, they don’t work.  All it does is wreck your metabolism and leave you constantly hungry, so you are not only miserably famished all the time, eventually your metabolism settles at your current calorie intake and you stop losing weight.  So while you may have lost some weight, you are right on track to gain it all right back, unless you drop your calories further.  I read in an article last September that one of The Biggest Loser ‘winners’ has to keep his calories under 800 per day in order not to gain the weight back.  To translate that into food, 800 calories is approximately 24 ounces of plain grilled chicken breast or 1.77 Starbucks Grande Mochas with 2% milk and whipped cream.  Sounds filling, doesn’t it?  So when you weigh over 350 lbs, are still gaining weight no matter what you seem to try, it feels pretty hopeless. Somehow, you walked right into this quicksand and now you can’t get out. You try making healthy changes: eating less and exercising more (again calories in vs calories out) and for a while it works, and then when it seems to stop, you try something else, but again, bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon. It’s easy to see why people like me, Whitney and Dr. Now’s patients just accept that “I’m the fat one in the family!” Defeat with dignity seems better than the constant failing and disappointment. A phrase from The Simpsons would often pop into my head: “Can’t win- don’t try!” I was just destined to be fat so I might as well accept it.

Except it was killing me in so many painful ways. There was the physical pain that comes with lugging around two full sized adults on a body built for one.  There was the constant ‘helpful’ comments from family and the stares and ridicule of strangers always wearing on your spirit.  You feel embarrassed, helpless, inadequate and stupid almost every day, always asking yourself “how the hell did this happen to me?!” You are angry at yourself, at everyone in your family who tries to ‘help’ (because although they mean well, all they are really doing is reminding you of what a screw up you are), and you’re angry at all the jerks in the world who make rude comments about ‘fat chicks’ and other overweight people. It’s physically and emotionally draining to fight the weight and it’s physically and emotionally draining just living with it and all the limitations that it carries. I know in my case, the only way I found to fight it is to keep living my life as best I could.  It seemed as close to defeat with dignity as I could get. I had resolved to do as much as I could as long as I could, much the way I believe Whitney Thore has come to terms with her weight: try not to let it get in the way.

It’s a hard life, and I wish I could give everyone the keys to the secret passage out of it, but there are no easy solutions. For some, bariatric surgery is the best solution.  My mom used to try bribing me to get it done but I have never had any interest in getting my insides remodeled, although if I had reached 500, I think I would have seriously reconsidered. For others, radically changing their eating habits works, or weight loss medications or other devices (they have a permanent stomach pump now). Most- if not all- of these solutions sound a little desperate, but when you weigh in that neighborhood, desperate is exactly what you are! For me, the solution was radically changing my eating habits: I went from a diet that was 80% simple carbs to a diet that is 35% protein, 35% fat and 30% complex carbs. I now eat as few simple carbs as possible (fruit is as simple as it gets most days). It’s not as drastic a change as getting your gastrointestinal tract rearranged, but it sure wasn’t an easy transition to make.  I’m just happy and relieved that it worked and that it allows to me to live a lifestyle that is still normal and satisfying, both mentally, physically and spiritually. I have finally found my way to a happy place after a very long and desperate sojourn on the dark side.