How To Nudge Yourself, Part One

complimentMany people encounter speed bumps that slow us down, or could even stop us if we are already moving slowly, and nudging ourselves over that bump into forward motion is essential.

Here is one little tiny thing, the first of a series, that I’ve learned from many mentors in my personal life and out on the interwebs that will help the vault over that bump. Each tiny thing takes a few minutes or less, and could involve getting over some fear to execute. But each are worth it and if you have any of that niggling fear, just tell it to STFU and get the thing done.

ONE. Contact someone in your medium-celebrity list to tell them how much they mean to you.

Your ‘medium celebrity’ list is someone that you admire in a field you are learning, but not necessarily the top of the pile. Let’s say you’re an aspiring chef. Don’t contact Gordon Ramsey or Nobu or Thomas Keller, especially if you are very nervous. (Note – in some circumstances, you could contact the top tier, but that’s another topic…)

Contact a “four star” chef near you – if you live in Austin, it could be one of the Top Chef contestants that was eliminated in the middle of the show. Make sure it’s a chef that you have some personal experience with, like eating at their restaurant, or cooking one of their published recipes. Let them know you appreciate their effort thus far and you’ve really been enjoying their recipe for XX and you hope that they are having a wonderful season full of ideas and customers. Don’t ask for anything. Just drop a genuine compliment that contains a nugget of your own experience.

Do this every day for a week and just bask in the glow that seems to come from dishing out respect.

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A Fair Amount of Kale Involved

Just a quickie today – I read a decent article in The Atlantic about food, our guts, and skin health and a quote popped out that made me smirk:

Maybe if you’re 20 you just have good genes and you can have pizza and beer every day and still glow. But if you’re over 40, often there is a fair amount of kale involved. – Robynne Chutkan, author of Gutbliss

Expectation does not Equal RealityYeah, that’s true – taking care of ourselves is a moving target that can shift from year to year, decade to decade. And yet, it is all to easy to find “inspiration” (or the more insidious varieties called thinspiration or fitspiration) for how we should look or feel or perform in people who do not resemble us AT ALL. They are almost always possessing of several attributes that are conveniently forgotten:

  • young
  • they are fit for a living
  • at the end of a long diet process
  • starving and dehydrated on photo shoot day

… those “amazing” looking women on the cover of Shape are – more often than not – dehydrated and almost about to pass out from hunger. They are likely at their lowest weight point of the previous (or upcoming) six months.

In short, THEY DON’T REALLY LOOK LIKE THAT. Just like you don’t look like the 10 years-old photo on your driver’s license, or the tiny and cute avatar that’s been attached to an email account for eons, or the glamor shot used for your corporate bio at your firm. And that’s OK, as long as you see the parallels in the disassociation from reality in both camps.

Hey, Me: Shit or Get Off The Pot! Love, Me

This blog post is part of the Week of Self-Love hosted by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt of annesophie.us. (Even though the week is technically over, I still want to give her link-love for the great idea!)

Decisions-images

Today marks just 5 days before I am scheduled to venture up into the scrubby hills between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon for an inaugural 100 mile race. Problem is, my body isn’t excited about this prospect, AND there is a much closer, locally-organized shorter event the same weekend. So, as is usual for me, I am torn.

Normally my course of action is to wait until a decision foments on its own, but that is not how I’d like to BE as a participant in this life. Deciding is not a bad thing, not a scary thing, not to be avoided at all costs. So, to make this be an effective behavioral change, I think I should set a hard deadline for the choice (24 or 48 hours from now), and make the choice and deal with it. Lovingly, without regret or self-recrimination, or even too many “but, if….”s in the mix.

Self-assuredness is a quality I could use a bazillion percentage points more of. Here’s my pledge to make that happen, little by little, with care and compassion for my own flip-floppy mental state.

Why One Square of Chocolate is Not Enough

. . . for me, that is.

Tons of health oriented websites and nutritionists and dieticians love to talk about moderation. “Everything in moderation!”, they chirp, “even, sometimes, moderation! (giggle)”.

What if they are dead wrong?

Is moderation what saves people? Some articles in the last few years have started to unravel this concept, stating dramatic reversals like, “Everything in moderation is making you fat!” or “The Moderation Myth“.

Here’s something to chew on: what if they are BOTH RIGHT (or) BOTH WRONG? What if the whole thing is as silly as t elling a redhead they really ought to be blonde; what if moderation success is based on INDIVIDUALS rather than a rule for all?

That’s when I found Gretchen Rubin‘s awesome Abstainer/Moderator theory. It’s simple: some of us are Moderators and we CAN have just a few bites and be done with it, and some of us are Abstainers and “just one” often ends up being “the whole damn package“.

eat-all-the-things

The outcome of this theory is really, really easy. You KNOW which one of the two you currently are (even if you flip-flop during times of stress or hormonal cycles – you’ll still know what situation you are currently IN), and therefore you can change your behavior**.

If you have always, always, been able to have one perfect chocolate square or one bite of ice cream and then stop with no pangs, no worry – you are a moderator. If your eating and sleeping and activity is good, don’t worry one bit and have your bites.

However, if you have always been the EAT ALL THE THINGS kind of snacker, then you are an abstainer. Avoid the things that start as delicious indulgence and often end up as guilty regret – it is far, far easier to just not start. This makes it simple – you don’t have that shit in the house, you don’t order dessert, you keep your mitts off the french fries. If you have a rare indulgence, go into it with joy and pleasurable acceptance. You might eat the “whole thing”, whatever it is, but piling on guilt and regret is honestly the last thing good to load on top of your aching belly. Drink some water, go for a walk, forgive yourself, meditate, and go to bed early. Done.

**P.S. I do actually think that your “type” is not set in stone, and that you can, through some other behaviorial changes like better sleep, high-nutrient diet, and such, you can influence to some degree which of the two camps you fall into.

Procrastinating Is Easy When You Are Not Suffering

I recently found myself in a quasi-challenge with a friend to remove a few things from our daily eating habits that were making us generally cranky, or were bothering our guts. No problem, right? Sometimes you are totally ok to walk by the ice cream at the store?

WRONG.

Here’s the thing. We are both very, very healthy. We feel good a lot of the time, AND we eat well, move around, and sleep a decent amount. Therefore, what we are doing is just the window trim, or the fluffy frosting rose on the otherwise done wedding cake. We are fine-tuning.

Dinner Option 1

Dinner Option 1?

And, fine-tuning sucks.

That’s a lot of the source of resistance to “whole food eating” (whether you call it Paleo or primal or ancestral or vegan+bacon, whatever) to average/normal people: normal people feel FINE most of the time. Sure, we have allergies, or we get sick, or our necks hurt a lot, or we poop weird a lot of the time, but hey, that’s just getting older, isn’t it?

Why the hell should we adopt this very specific diet because whatever we are eating now will/might/could make us disease-riddled in 30 years??? Fat chance. And thus, perhaps, we ensure some negative consequences down the road. But they are down the road.

Folks who have MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, or any auto-immune condition – THOSE are the highly motivated who turn their life outlook around when they use diet and lifestyle to fix themselves. They have everything to gain and only some minor inconvenience to deal with as they transition away from ramen and fried cheese balls and Pop Tarts. When they feel better, they feel GREAT.

And then they tell everyone about it. But, those they tell – the rest of us – are not highly motivated, usually. Normal folks are not-so-thirsty horses that don’t really care to be led over to the water, thanks.

Dinner Option 2

Dinner Option 2

I still think the “whole fooders” are right (whatever that means), and they are doing great things like:

But. Hmph. Sometimes the only marginally motivated just want some damn ice cream. Challenge? Hmph.

Nudging The Ones You Love

idea generation

Effecting change is a wish of many of us. But usually it remains a wish, and often it can become a burden, an annoyance, an irritating behavior, and a pestilence. Why? In the way-smarter-than-me words of Seth Godin (from his book Tribes, and from his blog):

People don’t believe what you tell them.  They rarely believe what you show them.  They often believe what their friends tell them.  They always believe what they tell themselves. 

I think the biggest long term impact is to somehow change their behaviors without forcing the issue. Nudge-like stuff. Change is hard. Really freaking  hard – James Altucher says so. And I like James. Because he writes silly and interesting things about dead bodies, sometimes.

In the realm of changes toward more physical activity, especially in the evening, here are some ideas I’ve had recently. Start by setting positive context for behaviors that will lead to better health, happiness, mobility, and on (which doesn’t have to mean weight loss, but could):

  • after a meal, “I feel like a short walk – want to come with me?”
  • at the end of a meal (regardless how you actually feel), “Wow, that was filling. Definitely no dessert for me.”
  • walking the dog, “want to come with me?” If NO, then other nudge-like methods, “I’m taking the dog out, want to come and talk about that house project we are working on / that crap that happened to you at work / your parents’ upcoming visit / what we want to do on vacation?”
  • either all at once or gradually, get rid of or fix visual reminders of unwanted behavior: messy environment, snack foods, dirty exercise clothes
  • YOU DO the habits that they will need to do. Set a visual, rather than verbal, example.
  • start training for something. Warrior dash, office arm-wrestling, whatever.
  • don’t personally do the bad habits they should not do: popcorn at movies, extra appetizers, watching TV all night, saying you will workout or do something physical and then bailing out. If you say you are going to work out, fucking go work out.

For lasting change, they really do have to want to drink even if you’ve led them to the water. I don’t think there is much way around this. Again, see Seth’s quote above. Robb freaking Wolf could not change members of his family who had chronic and very uncomfortable diseases that might have been reversed with lifestyle changes. That should not be depressing, per se, but rather help all of us to understand that folks need to come into knowledge from their own divination.

It has to be their idea.

Even if it’s your idea. It has to be their idea.

Let them steal it, and honestly, you BOTH will win. Honestly, isn’t what you wanted for them to change –  not for them to bow before you as a fountain of lifehacker knowledge?