Archive for January, 2014

Advice and Feedback

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Kind of a simple idea, but also a bit profound.
in the last few days I have asked for advice from others. One was a small personal crisis, the other whether I should risk driving on roads that were icy.

In both cases, I took the advice given – don’t drive and in the other do not take the additional action I had considered. In both cases, the advice turned out to be very wise.

Last week I used modified advice concerning maintenance of my on-demand hot water heater with excellent results.

Which causes me to consider how often I take the advice I have asked for. I think I have surrounded myself with people who generally give great advice. With a few exceptions, I generally follow it but certainly also give it serious consideration.

I give out a lot of advice, and the feedback I get ranges from “that didn’t work” to “I had spectacular results”. Mostly the feedback is on the positive side.

A couple of insights on advice. It helps to have wise advisers. Find them and cultivate them in advance. Let people know if you will or if you have followed their advice. Then let them know the results.

With that feedback your advisers are more likely to help you again, they’ve gotten feedback which will improve their advice giving, and you’ve actively acknowledged receiving help which is likely to make it easier to ask for and use help again.

I really appreciate that I have a large pool of people who give great advice.

For giving advice my other rule of thumb is to first ask if the person would like to hear my advice. Sometimes people say no. That’s helpful! And if they say yes, their advance agreement I believe affects if they will actually use it. And I’ve gotten used to someone saying no, I’m not going to use that advice. That feedback – especially if they say why – is invaluable.

The result? I get asked for advice on all sorts of things. And if I don’t know the answer, I easily say so and usually have some ideas for someone who does know.

I don’t think I’ve stopped to appreciate how much this makes my life better – to have access to great advice, and being able to share what I know and have learned with others. And the ability to ask for, evaluate, take and use advice is also a learned skill.

It makes life a lot easier, and is part of the value of living in a supportive and extended community.

I lost a lot of weight. Here is what worked for me.

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Even strangers have been noticing that I’ve lost a lot of weight. About 120 pounds over 5 years. Maybe 8. About 30 pounds last year. More in the few years before that. I love the drop jawed responses, I love waking up every morning to feel ribs and hip bones that I don’t remember feeling before. I love being content with my body. I don’t think I’ve ever known that before.

Weight loss is a funny thing. There are a lot of people who want to make money from it. I’m not one of those. There are complex theories and ideas and more and more science about the causes and solutions. I think that is interesting, but I have also found it to be pretty simple and easy once the right things were lined up at the right time. And I’m happy to share all of that with anyone who is interested.

Here are the six primary components I found useful, in brief. I could say a lot more about the food, but also want to keep it simple. Everyone comes to this issue with unique history and body types and health issues. So it is not a one size fits all list – and anyone who says their weight loss plan will work for everyone is giving you the red flag that you should not take them seriously. This worked for me, that’s all. Maybe it will work for you, or maybe you can just take some inspiration that you’ll eventually find what works for you. But you are unique and need to find what will make you happy.

1- I had to let my body know that from now on we are fit and active. The best way I know to communicate that is to be fit and active. A little exercise here and there a couple times a week did not give that message. Daily repetitive activity of at least an hour was what started to make a difference. I walk, swim, bike, canoe or kayak every day. Mostly I walk. I rarely take a day off.
2- I needed reinforcement , and looked to the science of operant conditioning for ideas on how to create intermittent reinforcement, which has been shown to be the most effective for mammals. I’m a mammal, so I figured it would work for me. Posting most of my workouts on facebook has given me that reinforcement. My friends respond, and especially when I post big milestones I get “jackpotted” with lots of comments and support. Setting up a weekly email to friends who have agreed to help you would have similar results, and be a little less public if you are shy.
3- I didn’t use weight loss as a goal. It is just too arbitrary. It felt as though I had no control over what the scale would read. Instead, I counted my success as did I work out or not. That was absolute, and at the end of the day I could say yes I succeeded or no I failed. Nothing ambiguous about it. And I succeeded day after day after month after year. The weight coming off in fits and starts and reversals and with progress was just extra, and I didn’t worry about it.
4- I ate well. I had already been eating pretty well, but I kept upgrading my diet and adding in more and more good foods. Eating breakfast was a critical change that actually started the weight loss. I don’t like breakfast, I rarely am hungry first thing in the morning, so I created the ideal breakfast and ate it no matter how I felt. I can’t imagine a healthier start to the day. I eat oatmeal with all organic ingredients. That includes steel cut oats, raisins, almonds or walnuts, wild berries (raspberry, service berry, black berry) or blueberries, homemade yogurt from raw milk, local honey, fresh ground flax seed, and a bit of cinnamon. I eat a vegetarian diet and work to include lots of dark green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, simple home cooked meals, and lots of water. I also indulge in chocolate, and some other foods that would raise eyebrows. I know focusing on healthy foods helps, especially the vegetables – most of which I grow myself. I think the important part is to continually upgrade, keep adding great food, and especially base at least half your diet on plants. You do need to eat real and healthy food to lose weight. I think it is the only sustainable way to do it. The trick is to learn the pleasures of it. That’s why I’m writing cookbooks as well. Extremism isn’t sustainable. Upgrading and continually improving is.
5- This is lifelong. And you will need to continually improve. Keep adding great habits, wonderful foods, and restarting what you fail. That’s normal. Upgrade at every opportunity and expect that these are changes you can live with (hurray for living!!) forever. I do tell myself that I’m either active or I will die. It is a life or death matter, and of primary importance. Every day I find the time to be active. I have to now.
6- Love matters a lot. I think this was the key to the whole weight loss and getting healthy process. In November of 2009 I had major abdominal surgery for a fibroid tumor that had regrown to 10 pounds. I came home after one night in the hospital with a 16 inch incision – pubic bone to sternum. Prior to the surgery, a number of friends and clients asked what they could do to help post-surgery. With nearly every offer of support I would start to cry. It felt very intense to have to rely on other people helping me. I come from a family that was close and intellectually supportive. But there was no hugging, no “I love you” ever, very little emotional expression of support and love. I kind of knew I was starving for it, but really wasn’t aware of how much this defined my life. And my body. More than 50 people ended up pitching in over about 4 weeks. They helped me to move, use the toilet, shower, begin to walk again. They fed me, walked the dog, and kept me entertained and happy. My family, who live nearby, responded to the three requests for help that I made (fill a prescription, drive me to an appointment, and one fill-in dog walk) but didn’t initiate any visits, didn’t check up on me, didn’t visit or hang out. I finally realized that I would never receive from them the easy love, affection, nurturance that I craved. But from my friends? Amazing. Wonderful. Overwhelming support and love every moment of every day for those weeks I needed them. This was a pretty simple but profound learning. I got it in every cell of my being. And something changed inside of me, palpably. I just opened up to that love in a way I had never done before and received. It was exhilarating, freeing, humbling, and just the sweetest sort of nectar that a starving person could encounter and enjoy. Nothing has been the same every since. I came out of the experience fundamentally changed, and finally felt safe and loved enough to shed the weight. That was the emotional shift that made it possible.

I need to add a note on an issue that isn’t really part of the how as much as what now? There were times during the process that I felt a bit toxic. I feel strongly that this is no time to do “detoxifications” or “cleansings”. Fat stores toxins, so when it starts to shrink there is some gunk that will be released into your system. The body is amazingly brilliant in dealing with this, with support. So that might mean eating lightly (I start to crave soups) or adding some herbs for support (dandelion tincture for the liver) and certainly decreasing any food that stresses the body (fried foods, heavy meals, white sugar and processed flour, alcohol). Learning to listen to your body and interpret cravings (salt is a need for more minerals, ice is often associated with iron deficiency, etc) is part of this whole process. Believe in the body’s wisdom, and support it as much as you can.

The final word is: tell your body you want to be healthier. Do it through movement, great food, love, and nurturance. I think it will work.