Unless You Were Abused

A few years back, my company brought in one of those motivational speakers. Everyone seemed to find his words profound, like motivational speakers are aiming for, but I really only remember one phrase from the whole thing: “Unless you were abused, this will be true for you.”

And he’d repeat it whenever he talked about habits. That qualifier – unless you were abused. It was the first time I’d heard a motivational speaker acknowledge that an abused person’s mind doesn’t work the same way as everyone else’s. As he talked, I realized he wasn’t describing me in his lecture.

And that was a light bulb moment. I just don’t fit in the same categories as the live studio audience. My path was so far off the beaten one I’m not sure I’m in the same time zone. And as for these speakers, and self-help books, and internet wisdom? One size certainly does not fit all.

“Normal people don’t live like this,” my mother would chastise, usually as she forced us to clean the house for hours, ending past midnight.  Normal people were the specter, the boogeyman, these indefinable “others” I could never live up to who were constantly judging me for that failure. She’d quite literally been telling me I wasn’t like other people since I was old enough to listen. But here this guy was, pointing out the obvious: if I’m not normal, all the stuff that works for normal people shouldn’t work for me. He wasn’t pitying, he wasn’t defining me by the horrible things I’d experienced. Just a disclaimer, “Unless you’ve been abused.”

I shouldn’t expect I can simply find a beaten path and walk it, because I won’t. I’ve been through too much. I can’t help but check the path for dangers that don’t even occur to “normal people.” I’ve developed a different skill set for life; of course I require a different set of tools to work with. But I can still get the job done. I just need to find the things that work for me instead of my mother’s “normal people.”

Could I lose weight by cutting out all the carbs and sugar from my diet? No, because my weight problem stems from the fact I often went without food as a child. I get irritable and panicky at the thought of denying myself any kind of food. Should I establish small routines over a long time to ease myself into better behaviors? Not really, because my circumstances changed so often when I was young I learned to drop habits at a moment’s notice. I still have to remind myself to shower and brush my teeth; they’re not habitual for me.

My mother’s rants about “normal people” always seemed to imply they were better than me. They aren’t. They’re just different. Now when I read those self-help books, or run across life hack articles on the internet, I mutter my own disclaimer.

“This works!” the headlines proclaim.

Unless you’ve been abused, I say.

Veggies, I’m Coming For You

Diet, week 2. Veggies, I’m coming for you!

Week 1 went well. I drank much water. Can’t say as I really noticed all that much of a difference, except in TMI ways that aren’t really pertinent to the goal. And of course, since I told myself I was going to do this in easy stages, I find myself wanting to run out and do weeks 1-4 at once, go to the gym, take up jogging, and all manner of “good for me” things.

This is how it begins.

I’m amped up, ready to make ALL THE CHANGES. The enthusiasm feels good! I can do anything! But enthusiasm is a lie. Because eventually it fades, and soon the daily trip to the gym doesn’t feel good anymore, it feels like a just another item on the to-do list. Then, instead of wanting to go, I dread having to go. I’m tired, and hungry and bored (so bored) and no one will notice if I skip just this once. Or twice. Or month. Or…six.

Traditional diets are the same. Figuring out what to eat is work. Denying myself that sweet, sweet milkshake I want so badly becomes negative reinforcement. The milkshake is bad, I say to myself.  I shouldn’t drink it. Then it isn’t a big leap to “I’m bad for wanting it.” Of course I want it! Sugar lights up the pleasure centers of the brain. Calling myself a monster for wanting, or occasionally consuming, high-calorie treats isn’t going to make that craving go away. All it’s going to do is convince me there’s no point anymore, since I’m a horrible person who might as well be fat, since no one really cares about me anyhow.

OK, maybe that last  bit is just me. Thanks, Mom.

So I’m having to throttle myself down. This isn’t an exciting new adventure! This is the new normal. More water, boolean veggie test. Had to catch myself this morning – I made eggs for breakfast and had to figure out the vegetable I had on hand that would go with them. Cucumbers in vinegar. Not quite pickles, they’d only been splashed with vinegar instead of truly pickled, but there was half a cup of them. Threw in a sliced pear sprinkled with cinnamon for a sugary kick.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I’m kind of having fun scouring the internet for new recipes. Especially since I have to be gluten-free now, I got into a rut. I found out what was safe to eat and stuck to it, but that kind of made eating boring. Same old stuff for breakfast, same old restaurants for lunch where I ordered the same old dishes. Comfort carbs at home, since I couldn’t easily get them elsewhere. Yawn. I’m shaking myself out of the ennui of food allergies. I think that’s probably a good thing.

No weigh-in. I’m actively stopping myself from stepping on a scale. If I focus too much on the weight, I’ll obsess over the diet and I’ll rush into making ALL THE CHANGES. Nope, nothing to see here. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along. At least until week 5, anyway.

And veggies, I’m coming for you.

New Year Redux

Despite my normal disdain for such things, I’m setting myself a New year’s Resolution. I’m going to lose weight.

Why? Well, I know you aren’t supposed to go on a weight loss plan to fit into a garment. I’m also fairly certain those people never scored a limited edition Columbia Echo Base Princess Leia jacket that’s two sizes too small. I can’t just get another one in my size; they’ve been sold out since 7 minutes after they went on sale.  But I can’t bear the thought of simply selling it on eBay, either.

I’ve also come to realize that the normal advice doesn’t work for me, so I’m thinking about using some bad advice to help me achieve my goal.

Yes, bad advice.

I shall adopt a diet that defies the normal conventional wisdom of dieting. One that requires me to eat, rather than reduce my eating. That limits my exercise. That doesn’t require weighing myself or any of that horrible calorie counting that tends to encourage me to binge-eat. Skeptical? Oh, but you should have more faith. “Normal” diets don’t work very well anyway, so why should I follow that advice? I think I have a better plan, and it’s all scientifically sound, too. So there, conventional dieters!

Here’s my plan to lose weight by avoiding dieting:

Week 1 – Drink at least 32 oz. of water per day.  NOT 64 oz, per that terribly misunderstood study everyone quotes. That study found we need 64 oz of fluid a day, but get approximately half of that from food, so really you only need 32 oz of straight-up water. I have a lovely Star Wars water bottle. Fill it twice a day and I achieve the goal! If i want to unlock the bonus round, I’ll add a fiber supplement to my water. Oh, ambitious!

Week 2 – Layer in the veggies. Every meal has a fruit or veggie included, and I don’t count those other botanicals masquerading as veggies, either. Potatoes (aka tubers), corn (aka grains) or mushrooms (aka fungi) don’t count as part of the recommended daily allowance. I can still eat them, of course. But I have to eat the veggies, too. Or first. Probably first to make sure. Absolutely NO  tracking calories – this is a boolean operation. Is there at least a serving of fruit or veggie? Yes or No are the only answers allowed.

Week 3 – I’m going to give up my gym membership and limit myself to 15 minutes of strength training per day. Forget the treadmill. If I want to walk, I have a dog more than willing to make that happen. Insistent upon it, actually, whether I want to do it or not. No fancy-schmancy workouts or special classes. Alexa has a 7 minute workout I can get literally for the asking – do that once in the morning, once in the evening with a couple of 10lb weights and the achievement is unlocked!

Week 4 – Half the portions. I can still eat whatever I want, but when I sit down to eat I only have half as much as I think I want on my plate. I have to wait 10 minutes from the time I finish before going back for more. Note, I don’t say I can’t go back for more, only that I have to wait for 10 minutes. Paired with my water intake and the veggie requirement, this shouldn’t be all that difficult to accomplish. I think I need Star Wars Tupperware to squirrel away the extras for more motivation. more Star Wars is always motivating.

Week 5 – Take a picture. No, really. I’m going to put on the jacket and take a picture. I might weigh myself, but really, who needs that? The important thing is: does the jacket fit better than it did 4 weeks ago? I can also take the week to figure out how ELSE I’m going to not diet for the next 4 weeks. That’s the Agile way.

So here I go, taking the bad advice. Oh, and I plan on drinking more alcohol. I hear tell a glass of wine every day or two is good for me. Not sure that’s going to help me lose weight, but it sure sounds like fun.

Before Picture:

Overcoming Inertia

Inertia – it’s not just for physics anymore.

I’m having a bit of trouble with inertia. Had a bad week at work, and once I came to a mental stop after all the effort of the week, I found that I couldn’t get going again, not even to do things I liked. I was meant to do some writing this weekend. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Yet.

A mind at rest tends to stay at rest, but just as in physics, one in motion also tends to stay in motion. But the real trick is expending the energy to get back into motion. Mostly to motivate myself I’ve collected a few tidbits I picked up from various sources to apply to getting back on the writing horse.

Lessons from Depression: I need to remember my body is an instrument for writing as much as my pen. I find it too easy to neglect myself. Forget to eat. Take a shower. Brush my hair. But taking care of my body will make it easier to gear up my mental energy for another task. (P.S. Ericka, this also works if you’ve been working too long. You don’t do your best work with an instrument in less-than-optimal condition.)

Lessons from Psychology: I need to find the minimum enjoyable task. Instead of being overwhelmed into inaction, I can pick the smallest amount of work I can stand to do and just do that. Reduce my expectations and it’ll reduce the start-up energy required to overcome my inertia.

Lessons from Agile: Shoot for the minimum viable product. I need to direct my energy toward a task that matters, rather than wasting time on tasks that need to be done, but aren’t directly contributing to completing my work. While it may feel good to complete something, ANYTHING, unimportant organization or background tasks waste energy that could go toward getting the important parts done.

Lessons from Housecleaning: I can’t clean the whole house at once. On the same note, I can’t write the whole book at once. It’s like trying to clean the kitchen, and the living room, and the bathroom simultaneously. Focus on one room and resist the urge “pick up a few things” while I’m moving an item from one room to another.

Maybe the most important is to remember to do the thing I like. Treating my creative work like a chore is the fastest way to turn it into one. Sure, I’ll have the write the parts I don’t like as much eventually, but staring down that boring scene I feel no desire to write isn’t going to get me to write it any faster. Or better. Or give me anything other than a mediocre result.

All right. Back away from the blog post, Ericka. Any more self-pep-talk and you’re just wasting energy that could be going towards writing your novel.