Posted in about me, food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

The journey begins with a single step

When I graduated from college in 1999, I was pretty heavy — over 200 pounds on my 5-foot-4-inch frame.

Near the end of my first year living on my own, I decided that something needed to change, so I made a new rule:

I will eat ice cream no more than once per day.

If this sounds silly to you, it’s because you have no idea my love affair with ice cream. I ate it by the pint. Literally.

There was a great little place called Halo Farms right near college, and they made their own ice cream on site. Sold pints for $1. It was fantastic.

In the dorm, there wasn’t a freezer that would accommodate a pint-sized container (those little fridges have even smaller freezers) and I couldn’t waste it, could I? (Well, eventually I lived in a dorm that had a communal freezer, but I didn’t want someone else to eat my precious Halo!)

Campus dining room: soft serve in place of milk in my morning cereal. The best with Cap’n Crunch.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the Freshman 15 (and Sophomore 15 … and Junior 15 … and Senior 15…) came from. I’m not a drinker—it wasn’t from beer.

When I lived on my own, I would keep a half gallon in the freezer. Ice cream for (or with) breakfast remained on the menu. Ice cream after dinner is what ice cream is for. And sometimes, on days when I wasn’t working, there might be a third (or fourth…) serving in between.

Once a day was no easy feat.

It caused me to be thoughtful and to plan a little. If I knew I was going out for ice cream later with a friend, I couldn’t have ice cream for breakfast. Which brought me to the realization that perhaps I shouldn’t keep it in the freezer.

It worked. In the 14 years since then, I have had ice cream twice in one day very few times, and they have been closer to now than then.

I still don’t buy it to keep at home—that helps the most—though by this point I don’t usually crave it. When I do eat ice cream, I can almost always eat a fairly small amount and be content. (Even if I eat too much now, it’s still substantially less than what used to be a serving.) It was hard for a while to stop at “content” and not at “but this is good so I’m just going to keep eating anyway.” It took time, but it worked. 

And it was worth it. Because ice cream is good, but it doesn’t taste as good as being healthy feels. (Yeah, I know that sounds hokey, but I just don’t feel as good or have as much energy when I eat sugary foods. You don’t realize it until you cut them out. False friends, all of them!)

You know what was harder than limiting consumption? Being OK with dropping the “ice cream lover” label. It was part of who I was. One of my badges. Everyone who knew me at all knew I loved ice cream.

The problem wasn’t even that people didn’t change with me. I just had to let my brain catch up to my habits. Not stand in the way of myself.

I do still enjoy ice cream, but I don’t think it would be in the top five ways friends would describe me at this point. Definitely not in my top five for myself.

So. Pick a thing and go with it. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.

Posted in audience participation, connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, thoughtfulness

Know better, do better: your dollars

The short version: my goal is to help people be educated so they can make decisions in an informed way.

I am not trying to scare people or to be a downer, though I acknowledge that these days, most of the news is bad news.

The fact is that in a capitalistic society, the main goal is to make money. The people who produce food, who create processed foods, who make cosmetics, soaps, detergents, toys, furniture, clothes are all in it to make money.

Making money is not inherently bad. We need to make money to function in society as it exists. 

But making money has become The Most Important Thing. More important than families. More important than our own or others’ health. More important than honesty or integrity.

As a result, it’s all gone to hell.

Problems in the food supply are real. Problems with the water supply are real. Problems with the chemicals in our personal care products are real. Problems with the chemicals in toys are real. Problems with the chemicals in our household goods are real.

Most of the time, the exposures are low. (Corn, soy, sweeteners including but not limited to sugar are exceptions—exposures to these are off the charts.) But when you put them all together, they’re not low at all.

Is this reality scary? Yes. Does it mean you need to live in constant paranoia? No. Does it mean you need to throw away everything and start over right now? No.

But if we all keep on living as if nothing was wrong, they’re going to keep manufacturing as if it’s OK. We pay the price with our health, our children’s health, and all aspects of the environment.

One step back from that—we can’t decide if we want to make changes or take a stand if we don’t know what’s going on.

So we need to be educated. (That’s my job! To help educate.)

Then we need to speak out with our voices. (If nothing else, online petitions take almost no time to sign.)

But even more than that, we need to speak with our dollars. Because in America, dollars speak louder than anything else.

Posted in connections, know better do better, mindset, parenting, vulnerability

Dig around for underlying reasons

The Kid was in a bad mood this weekend. Easy to inadvertently poke without any discernible reason.

Sunday night, after another large incident over a benign thing, the three of us sat down and had a conversation to try to figure out what was actually going on.

Turns out, he had read something in one of his books a few days prior that really bothered him and he had been ruminating about it all weekend.

Once we talked through the stuff in the book, he felt much better and went back to being his usual self.

(Also, the stuff in the book was in no way something that he “should” have worried about, but we had a gentle conversation instead of just telling him he shouldn’t be worried, or “I’ll give you something to cry about,” or “man up,” and on and on. It’s important for kids—for people—to know that they’re safe and they’re not going to be dismissed if they are vulnerable with you. Talking about fears is vulnerable.)

A friend and I had a conversation about an incident with her kid. The kid came home from school cranky and withdrew. It took several hours before the kid talked about it; it was concealed simply by cranky and withdrawn behavior.

Cranky and withdrawn behavior is easy to see as “that person is being a jerk.” Especially if the person is an age where sulking is expected.

We build bridges in these situations when we meet the cranky (or angry, or withdrawn) person with love.

We sat down with The Kid, first with him on The Climbing Daddy’s lap and later on mine. We talked calmly, we expressed concern, we let him write things down when he wasn’t comfortable talking. And we were patient in both his grossly unfounded fears and the amount of time it took to work through it. (And we suggested, since he agreed that talking helped, that he volunteer next time to talk about things that worry him instead of steeping in them for days.)

My friend met her kid with love. Went and snuggled. At first she was rejected, but instead of leaving, she stayed. The walls came down and the tearful story came out.

Back in the day, the first really big argument between The Climbing Daddy and I wasn’t really about what we were arguing about. The incident had strong ties to underlying things, and those were the things we needed to have a conversation about, instead of an argument about the surface stuff.

I’m 100% certain that that wasn’t the only argument for which that was true. Does it sound familiar to you?

In that case, meeting the anger with affection would have both calmed the anger and gotten to the heart of the problem. (I don’t fault him for not doing that, in part because that’s not how most people react most of the time, and in part because I was pushing his buttons just as well as he was pushing mine. But we’re getting better at it. Especially as we have more practice with The Kid.)

Anger and withdrawal are defense mechanisms, fueled by anger in return. See if you can diffuse them with love.

Posted in education, know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting

Shaming isn’t useful

A few years ago, I bought a course by Brené Brown through Udemy. The course is no longer available for purchase, but I still have access to it and go through part or all of it from time to time.

At one point, she said (paraphrased), “85% of adults interviewed remember something so shaming from school that it forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners.”

That’s a lot of power. “Forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners.”

Forever.

I know more people than I’d like who were explicitly told by their music or choir teacher that they can’t sing. My mom was told to stand in her spot and lip sync.

That horrifies me.

People discouraged from taking certain classes or career paths, regardless of content or grade level. (I know stories kindergarten through grad school.)

(There are just as many stories of people who were totally lifted up, inspired, or saved by teachers as well. And there’s a difference between “these are skills you need to work on and it’s going to be a lot of work” and “you’re not good at this and shouldn’t bother.” The second is both mean and pedagogically lazy.)

Of course, it’s not just teachers. Parents use shame all the time. There are awful (and, unfortunately, widely celebrated) videos of parents publicly shaming their children.

Culturally, shame is a national pastime.

The thing is: shaming is not an effective means of punishment. It doesn’t work—not the way we do it. And it’s strongly connected to addiction. (Coincidence that we have an enormous addiction problem in this country?)

My therapist told me once that we’re the only animals who shame their offspring and don’t follow up with love. The shame becomes internalized. We learn that this failure is who we are instead of something we did.

Unless you’re feeling secure in what that love follow-up ought to look like, bypass shame as an intentional attempted motivational technique.

What people feel shame about varies; different people feel shameful about different things. Your family of origin is typically where those seeds are planted, though as we just learned, school can do it as well, or really anywhere/anyone influential in childhood. So something that doesn’t seem shaming to you could feel very shameful to someone else. (There are oodles of cultural examples of this, no? Ask people if they change by their locker at the gym…)

As teachers, as parents, as people in a civilized place—skip the intentional shaming. We’ll all be better for it.

 

Posted in follow-up, know better do better, podcasts, tips

“I don’t know how to interact with women any more.”

In blog writing, I have a few rules I’ve set for myself. Always proofread at least twice (once immediately and once after walking away, ideally for a day, but an hour will do in a pinch). Don’t share identifying information about people or share other people’s stories that aren’t mine to tell (unless I have permission). And listen to the whole podcast (or read the whole book, or whatever) before sharing pieces of it.

I broke the last rule yesterday. I had 20 or so minutes left of Michael Gervais’s interview with Abby Wambach when yesterday’s post went live. Because I listen a lot less in the summer than during the school year (less time in the car; more time with The Kid in the car), I didn’t get to finishing it until later.

While the quote I picked out was indeed a good one, if I was going to choose one bit of that interview to focus on, it wouldn’t have been that one … if I had listened to the whole thing.

What might I have focused on instead?

They talked about the plight of men right now, and how so many are lamenting that they don’t know how to interact with women any more since the rules are changing. (To be honest, they had a lot more empathy in that than I do.)

Her advice?

“Mind your own body.”

Simple. Largely effective. Keep your hands, eyes, and body-based comments to yourself. Doesn’t address systemic issues or things of that sort, but for your basic, daily interactions? It should get the job done.

She also talked about inequalities between men’s and women’s sports. If your argument is “men’s sports make more money!” this would be a good clip for you to listen to. (I believe Freakonomics also addressed that a bit, but I couldn’t tell you what episode … or even what season…)

So if these pique your interest, listen to maybe the last half hour. Or just listen to the whole thing. It was interesting.

(And I will stick to my rules in the future!)