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Posts Tagged ‘habits’

So, I haven’t posted in AGES (I’m too scared to go check JUST how long that has been…) but after I announced my somewhat geeky flowchart diagramming of “what to do with leftover citrus rinds”, some people expressed an interest 🙂 so here it is! This was inspired by @HipGirls great post , which is full of many great ways to use up those peels – yummy, useful and efficient ways to create less waste. SCORE! I didn’t include all the items (just the main ones of interest to me) but this should be a good visual addendum – post it in your kitchen and let me know how it goes. 😀

Maybe next I will post the one I did for the kids – now required to be followed for all ipad time requests. It’s pretty new, so no word yet on whether this has succeeding in cutting down whining…but I am ever hopeful!

CitrusFlowchart

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This year I am embarking on a slightly different adventure. I thought long and hard about my body, my fitness level, my extra bodyfat, my thoughts on body image and my own internal struggles with a desire to not conform for the sake of conforming. I have long had a desire to get in better shape, but I don’t really act on it. I may think about it a lot, even make a few steps here or there but very rarely have I made an actual push to lose weight. I have not been on any diets save the raw food thing (and that was for spiritual not physical reasons, though it had great physical side effects) although I have certainly pondered many over the years. But in the end, any diet or fitness regime required a level of commitment I just didn’t have, despite not being totally happy with my body. It took me many years to realize that a big part of this is a holdover from my experience with ballet, my strong feminist leanings, and where the two interact.

I had a pivotal experience when I was 15 at my fairly well known dance school, wherein I was told by the director of the school that the reason I had not gotten into the audition-only summer program (that I had been in the year previous) was because “you’ve gotten fat, didn’t you notice?” No joke, those were her exact words. As a psychologically tender 15yo (especially shaky given that I had lost my father a year before), these words were incredibly devastating. I had until that point had every (relatively reasonable) expectation of a career in dance. This turned my world upside down and let me wondering what to do to address this.

I should explain a bit here: I was 5’2″, and had gone from 98 pounds to 108 pounds. I was maybe a size two. I am currently 155 pounds and I am not overly unhappy with my curves. Certainly at 125 (years later) I was very happy, and got a good amount of admiration for my body. However, at that time, somehow 108 was “fat” to this woman, something objectively at the time I knew was absurd. See, despite my love, infatuation, and overall adoration of ballet, I still had a very strong feminist-raised ME inside…and that me saw two choices: 1) obsess over my weight, try to diet and workout to fit a ridiculous and unrealistic ideal pushed on me by others, and give myself an eating disorder and huge psychological problems for life or 2) say FUCK YOU to the ballet establishment. I chose option 2. This meant that I spent several years totally unmoored with no idea what to do with my life, as well as resulting in my eating a ton of junk all the time, no longer dancing or working out at all, pretty much in a direct, quite unhealthy bodywise, rebellion. I gained 50 pounds in a bit over a year. I embraced dating and blossomed in my sexuality now that I had time to be social. Over the years I lost a good amount of the junk food weight and stabilized around 130. However I was never quite okay with not working out, not being able to use my body in the way I was used to. Getting winded easily SUCKS and it hit me like a punch in the face every time it happened.

Quite a few years later, after two pregnancies and a stressful dissolution of my marriage, I am back up to 155, almost as much as I weighed when pregnant with my second – and slightly more than I weighed in my first pregnancy. Still, it took me some time to get to the point where I was willing to let go of my “OMG losing weight = conforming to patriarchal standards” mindset and finally want to DO something about all this excess fat I am carrying around and the non-fit state I am in.

I know from experience that some changes are very easy for me and others never happen. One of the things I do very easily is classes. I am a pretty damn good salsa dancer now after knowing nothing before I started classes. One year, I just decided I was going to take some ballroom classes. Once I signed up, I continued nonstop, finding time and money. Commitment was never a question, it was easy. I also know eating healthy is very doable for me, and the raw food thing I did was a great lesson. I loved it while I was on it, but once social pressures hit, I didn’t have the necessary habits cemented to stick with it, and one of my main downfalls kicked in: my “all or nothing” mindset. Once I started slipping up, giving up altogether happened almost immediately. So I knew any changes I wanted to make, in order to be serious, needed to create commitment for me in a way that was “easy” for me, and needed to be about longlasting, habit-based lifestyle changes that were sustainable and reasonable.

Luckily for me, there’s a program that I already knew of from my years of reading. Fitness and nutrition, as well as all sorts of random body-function fun facts, have long been a huge archair interest for me, unsurprisingly. Years ago I discovered http://www.stumptuous.com, a website about weight lifting for women that I adore for both her vast knowledge and her hilarious, uncensored approach to writing about it. Through Krista I learned about Dr. John Berardi, and was impressed with his focus on basics first, and his article on the compliance grid which I thought was brilliantly simple. Several years ago when Krista left the academia world to work for Dr. Berardi at Precision Nutrition, I knew a better endorsement could not be found. Still, I was not ready at that time to act. As the year came to a close however, I just knew…now is the right time. Spending $99 a month for a year – a previously “crazy” sum – now seemed perfectly reasonable. See, at the end of the day, I don’t need someone to creat a “perfect plan” for me. In fact I have quite enough knowledge to do so for myself. No, what I really need is someone to check in with my, every day, and say “hey, did you do simple step x today? Great, do that again tomorrow!”

And that is exactly what I have gotten, and I couldn’t be happier! I thought I would blog about this experience over 2012, however I probably won’t post overly frequently. I don’t want blogging to become more important to doing, and I know I need to be especially careful that I don’t let “oh well I didn’t post today so I may as well not bother doing this” stinking perfectionist thinking into my head! So, that’s all for now. 🙂

Comments welcome!

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If you’ve ever had an inbox full of newsletters you inadvertantly signed up for and never bothered to remove yourself from the list, you’re familiar with the fact that going along the default, easiest route is human nature. It’s just easier to delete the email (or just ignore it…) than to take that two extra steps to open it and click the “remove” link. Even if all those newletters bother you, chances are excellent you STILL go with the easiest (aka laziest) option. This is just how we’re wired.

So, why is this relevant in life? Because you can USE this “weakness” to your advantage.

I’m very fond of saying “If it’s not easy, I’m not doing it!,” but that doesn’t mean things don’t get done. What it means is, I am always looking for ways to turn “difficult” tasks into “easy” ones, ways to train my default behavior into one that serves my *long-term* interests. Sometimes this involves editing my internal dialogue to reflect a new mindset, but just as often it involves creating barriers. Or, more to the point, HELPFUL barriers.

For example, if my goal is to stop eating ice cream, how do I make that easy for myself? Well, ice cream is yummy, so trusting my willpower is NOT a good plan here. If it’s in the house, I’m going to want to eat it! Constantly! So, instead of having to constantly fight my own impulses (and inevitably fail!), I make it easy on myself: I don’t buy it at the supermarket, period. Now, I only have to exercise my willpower ONCE, while grocery shopping. (And the easiest way for me to do THAT is to avoid the ice cream aisle TOTALLY.) By making this one small change, I was able to drop a fiendish (several pints a week) ice cream habit pretty easily.

Now, I didn’t ban myself from going to the store to get ice cream should I desire it one night, but the fact is, my inherently lazy self would rather NOT take an extra trip just to go get ice cream, 97% of the time. And if I really REALLY wanted it, enough to go out and buy some, than hey, I’m okay with that.

So basically, previously (ice cream in the freezer) all I had to do was “opt in” to having ice cream – it was already there, it was the default. Having it was the easiest thing. Now that the default is NOT having it, to “opt out” of my default requires enough steps that I generally won’t bother.

What happens if those few steps are “too easy” for you? Add some more barriers.

Let’s say that now, once you’re home, you’re ok, but you now buy ice cream at work. You can create a barrier there too: Stop bringing your bank card and limit the cash you carry. This works wonderfully too if you’re struggling to stick to a budget: keep your debit and credit cards HOME. You can’t spend money you don’t have access to, after all!

There are many MANY ways to make your default match your desired actions and make it HARD to veer from the desired default. Think about the habit that you want to change and start brainstorming. Keep in mind that it will probably take some tweaking along the way, and don’t forget that your mindset is an important aspect as well (that is, if you’re trying to eat vegan but still identify yourself as an omnivore, that’s going to be a conflict and your default won’t change that easily). The more ways you can make your desired default EASY and your old default HARD, the better!

Aside from the grocery shopping trick (which I’ve used to cut out junk food of all types as well as “boxed mixes” of any sort) and the cash-only trick, some others I have used include:

– keeping mail in my hand until I sort it over the garbage (otherwise it ends up on a surface…and not dealt with)
– getting dresses and making my bed in a 1-2 punch immediately on waking up (makes it quite a bit harder to snuggle in bed for “just five more minutes”!)
– fold the laundry while standing at the dryer (why it’s easier to put the already-folded laundry away ASAP when I get upstairs versus folding it upstairs and putting it away I could not tell you…but when I bring it up unfolded I am 82% likely to leave it in the bag for AT LEAST a day before dealing with it, so I’ll take whatever trick works!)

I have quite a few more I plan to try soon. 🙂

Do you have any ways to trick your brain into a new “easy” default? Let me know!

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