Posted in connections, mindset, motivation, physical health, thoughtfulness, tips

A letter to my future self

June 15, 2000

Dear 35-year-old Heat,

I’ve finally admitted to myself something that I’ve been denying or avoiding for a long time: I’m fat, and I’m rapidly getting fatter. I’m 70 pounds heavier than I was when I graduated high school just 7 years ago.

I could blame it on genetics, Heat. Mom is fat. Dad is fat. Their siblings and parents are/were all fat. 

But blaming it on genetics only allows me to continue to live in denial. They were all slender in their youths—they just didn’t (and still don’t) take care of themselves. I’m strong enough that I can look at this face-to-face and own it.

It’s my fault I’m fat.

Heat, I decided today that I’m going to eat less ice cream. I hope this sounds ridiculous to you, but I’m going to limit myself to one serving every day. It’s going to be hard. I’m not even worried yet about how much is in one serving. But my eating habits are out of control, and this seems like a good place to start.

I’m doing this for you, Heat. In the here and now, I just want to eat. But—thanks to the generations in front of me—I see what that does. I don’t want that to be my story, too, but the only way to stop it is to start to change now. It doesn’t happen overnight.

I know you’ll appreciate this change. I hope that you’ll pay it forward to 45-year-old Heat.


25-year-old Heat

You’re looking at a dessert menu, deciding whether or not to order dessert. Do you defer to yourself right now, someone you know, someone who is here right now? Or do you honor yourself in the future, someone who is a stranger, someone who’s not sitting at the table with you?

As it turns out, it’s easy to ignore our future selves because they’re strangers. And because they’re not here right now.

A few little studies have popped up—all in the realm of personal finance, but I believe they still apply.

What the studies found was that people who felt more connected to their future selves were more likely to make decisions that benefitted their future selves. People who felt disconnected from their future were more likely to give in to immediate desires.

You can read about those here and here, or watch a great TED talks about it here and here. (That second one is about how language affects future-oriented behavior. I thought it was fascinating!)

What does that have to do with health and wellness?


What you eat has an effect on you … later.

How much you exercise, and at what intensity, and for how long, all affect you. Later.

So how can you become better-connected with your future self to help you make better decisions now?

Well, you can use the website referenced in this article (also linked above) to get a picture of yourself down the line. Or if you have a vivid imagination (or strong family resemblances), use your imagination.

Once you have a picture, either in front of you or in your mind, get to know that person a little. What do they like? What are their values? What are their struggles? What are their fears? Do you feel acquainted?

For me, it’s the struggles and fears that really motivate me now.

I’ve been through chemo, so I know what kind of toll that takes on a young, healthy body. It can only be worse on an older and/or less healthy body.

I see friends, relatives, coworkers struggle against chronic disease. I’ve seen them go through massive surgeries to try to repair themselves.

I don’t know what the life expectancy is of healthy people in my family. No one in my parents’ generation or their parents’ generation have taken care of themselves. One side of the family is littered with auto-immune disorders; the other has a solid disposition to heart disease.

My past self was ever indulgent. Fortunately, a more recent past self decided it was time to do something and did it. And most of the selves in between kept at it. (And the ones who didn’t keep at it have not done too much damage.)

I know a few people who have journals that they are going to pass onto their kids when their kids get older. They are writing down milestones, things the kids do, etc.

You could do this for your older self as well. Keep a little journal, and tell older you what you did for them today. Tell them why you did it and how it made you feel.

Connecting all of this to emotions will make the experience—and the results—more powerful.

Is the path you’re on now taking you in the direction you want to go? Is your future self at the destination you want?

Do what you can to align with Future You. You’ll be glad you did.

You’re bound to your future self. You can’t escape her. You can alter what she looks like, what she feels like, what her situation is like. What can you do to make her happy? To make YOU happy?

Are you going to try to envision your future self to instigate change? (It’s a little scary, isn’t it? All the more reason to do 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!)

Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mindset, tips

Produce bags make no sense

Earlier this week, The Climbing Daddy and I tried a new thing. We ordered groceries online and picked them up.

We knew there would be disposable bags (we use reusable) but the amount of unnecessary packaging convinced us that, except in rare circumstances, we’re not going to use this service again.

Set the stage:

  • 12 items
  • 2 refrigerated
  • 1 frozen
  • 1 glass bottle of sauce
  • 7 produce
  • 1 dry goods

Because I walked in to the store to pick it up (which, as it turns out, you’re not supposed to do), I saw the staging area. There are two refrigerators, one freezer, and a set of wire shelves.


When I arrived, they pulled a bag off the shelves, a bag out of the fridge, and a bag out of the freezer.

Three bags for 12 items.

The room temp and refrigerated bags were both paper, but both were double-bagged.

Five bags for 12 items.

The one frozen item—a bag of broccoli—was in its own plastic bag.

I thanked them, took my bags, and came home.

The jar of sauce was in a small paper bag inside of the larger grocery bags.

Six bags for 12 items.

Each produce item was in a plastic bag.

13 bags for 12 items.

This is why we won’t use this service again. (This is why we don’t use the prepped meal delivery services, either. So. Much. Trash.)

But let’s talk for a minute about produce bags.

There is a time when they’re useful. Buying loose green beans, for example. They need something to hold them.

Everything else—why do you use a bag?

I saw a man put a mini-watermelon in a plastic bag. Why?

For produce that you eat the whole thing, including the outsides, you’re going to wash them before you eat them, right? So it’s not a dirt or germs issue. (And seriously, those things have been in dirtier places than your shopping cart and have been handled by who know how many people.)

For produce that you don’t eat the outsides, some people still wash them, but most don’t care about dirt or germs on the skins, so why do you need a bag?

(There’s legitimacy in washing produce that you cut but don’t eat the exterior—like melons or avocado—something I learned when I was immunocompromised.)

Please. Stop using produce bags.

Plastic is an enormous environmental problem. It doesn’t break down. For a short while, we thought that some of it in the ocean was breaking down, but it just broke into small enough pieces that more aquatic life could eat it.

Some areas of life, plastic is difficult or impossible to get rid of. This isn’t one. Just put your produce in the cart without a bag. Even if it’s wet from the “storm.” Just put it in there. Stack the wet stuff together. You can do it.

Acquire reusable bags. While you’re at it, choose bags that are made from natural fibers. Because a reusable plastic bag is better than a single-use plastic bag, but it’s still plastic. Pick up a few smaller drawstring bags for your produce, if you can’t put 5 apples in your cart individually.

Keep them in your car.

“But I always forget them in the car!”

This used to be me until I made a rule for myself that I was not bringing disposable bags—paper or plastic—out of the store. If I forgot my reusable ones, I had to go back out and get them.

It took twice. Leave the cart in the store. Go out to car to fetch bags. Return to store and finish shopping. Pain in the ass. Learn quickly. Especially in bad weather.

Once you get in this habit, you’ll start bringing your bags shopping in places that aren’t the grocery store.

Create the habit, and report back for a pat on the back.


Posted in food, tips

You are not the food police

Neither am I.

Once again, I’m inspired by a Facebook post (of mine) from a couple of years ago:

So about the Starbucks multi-colored gross-looking thing …

There are a lot of people posting selfies with them. Good for them.

There are a lot of people posting about the sugar and/or calorie content on said posts.

People. You are not the food police. If people wanted to know how much crap was in them, they’d find out. If they wanted you to tell them, they’d ask. The majority of people are not dumb enough to believe that a pink and blue frozen drink from Starbucks is anything less than horrible for your body, and those who are drinking them don’t care. Lay off. Sheesh.

Police your own eating. Police your kids’ eating. If you’re a teacher or otherwise are in regular contact with kids, police what crap you give them.

That said, if someone asks or otherwise opens a conversation, of course I’ll engage.

Every now and then, I’ll ask a question. (“Does eating that bother your [health condition]?”) Because I’m trying to learn. See what people’s experiences are. I can find out what the current medical advice is fairly easily, but I know that many people have needed to find their own path when it comes to diet and health—most doctors don’t actually know much in this realm—and I like to know everyone’s anecdotes.

But being sanctimonious about what other people are eating or drinking? Rarely.

(I admit to being judgy about people who put soda in baby bottles or sippy cups—ginger ale for an upset stomach notwithstanding—though I’ve never said anything when I’ve seen it. There are lots of behaviors that make me a little crazy because I wish people wouldn’t do them—or would do them less—but I’m not sure that falls under judgment? Maybe.)

There are lots and lots of people who are literally killing themselves (and their children) with their diets. We would all be better off in a lot of ways if this was different.

If this is important to you, lead by example. Talk about it when it comes up. Be active politically. But shaming people about what they’re eating and drinking in the moment? Not useful.

Police yourself.

Posted in food, mindset, physical health, tips

Getting a handle on food “treats”

First, let me just say that I hate that the word “treat” is used in describing food. We’re not dogs! I prefer healthy/unhealthy or something else less emotionally charged.

(Also, this post might push buttons and require a visit to the disclaimer post…)

We often talk about treats with regards to food. Some variation in how we define it, but for many people, sweets are treats. Sometimes fried or greasy food. Sometimes alcoholic or otherwise caloric beverages.

“Sometimes foods,” as they’re sometimes referred.

So in the context of how often we consume “sometimes foods” where we’re praising ourselves for not indulging often, most of the time, each item is being counted separately.

“I only have ice cream once a month. And beer just after running club. Wings only when we’re watching football. Cake just at parties. Pie at holidays. Chocolate for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and whenever someone gifts me some.”

For some of us, that would clean up our eating. And I’m not here to say that any of this is double-or-nothing. But if you’re deep enough into this process that the above describes your typical pattern and you’re not happy with how you feel, it might be time to tighten that up a bit.

Lump the treats.

ALL the sweets are one, so “once a week” means anything sweet once a week. (That includes the holiday AND the day after in the same week…)

ALL the fried and greasy are one, so “once a week” means anything fried or greasy once a week.

ALL the drinks are one, so “once a week” means any caloric beverage (beer, wine, milkshake, frappuccino, soda, sweet tea, and on and on) once a week.

If you’re already there and you’re not happy with how you feel, lump some of them: ALL the sweets AND fried/greasy are one, so “once a week” means pizza but not a cookie.

If you’re already there and you’re not happy with how you feel, lump ALL of them. Help your kids do it, too.


Keep them separate and lengthen the time between. Instead of once a week, once every two weeks. Once a month. Only meaningful foods at meaningful times. (My grandmom’s pie at Thanksgiving but not any of the junk at the Superbowl party.)

(The less you eat them, the less tempting they become over time. And many of them eventually don’t taste good any more.)