How to Cultivate a Sense of Perspective

There are so many challenges when it comes to losing and/or maintaining weight.

For those of us who struggle to the point where we might be considered “eating disordered” – it’s especially challenging. Whether it’s obsessive thinking about food, binge-eating, bulimia, anorexia or even orthorexia, we can all be helped by cultivating a sense of perspective. This doesn’t replace professional methods, of course, and there’s more to eating disorders than pure psychology. There is habit, there is environment, there might even be underlying genetic risk factors.

But no matter how or why you’re struggling, cultivating a  sense of perspective won’t hurt you and may even help you.

By a Sense of Perspective, I mean Three Things

  1. The understanding that you are precious, that every day is precious, and that YOU are more important than your problems.
  2. The understanding that what you’re facing is VERY common. Probably much more common than you think. The understanding that it’s not your fault and that you’re probably pre-disposed to it in some way.
  3. The understanding that your time is limited, and that there is so much for you to be doing here on this earth than wasting your time suffering.

Why Cultivate a Sense of Perspective

Because a sense of perspective puts space between you and your problems.  And space makes you powerful, because it helps you make logical decisions rather than emotional ones.

How to Cultivate a Sense of Perspective

God, if I only knew!

I’m not an expert on this, just someone who struggles with this and who seems to being doing better lately. But here is what I think.

  1. A sense of perspective tends to naturally come with age. You can’t rush this, but you can allow it to happen and surrender to it. And if you’re younger, you can understand that what seems important now (to the point of torturing you) might not seem so important later. And have faith in that.
  2. Spend time stimulating your brain! Filling your brain up with things gives it less time and energy to torture you.  This leads you to a sense of perspective. I’d recommend a hobby where you can track your progress. Something that challenges you, but is within your skill set. Even if you don’t like it at first, you might grow to like it.
  3. Travel (same reason as number two)
  4. Spend time in nature (same reason as number two).
  5. Read biographies. Learning about the struggles that many successful people faced gives you a sense of perspective. Everyone struggles. EVERYONE. And sometimes those struggles account for their greatness.

These are just a few thoughts.  There are so many others, and I’m always open to more thoughts.

When I feel like I’m going insane about anything (which I often too), I remind myself to have a sense of perspective. These problems, they are not that important – no matter how important they seem.

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Pursuing Your Weird Hobbies: Part Duex

A while back, I wrote a post called “Pursue Your Weird Hobbies.” I’ve since deleted it, but essentially it was about the importance of pursuing your weird hobbies as part of a more holistic approach to healing your sense of self, and thus taming your tendency to stuff pies of pizza down your face every time you experience an emotion.

As a primary matter, weird hobbies take time. Less time = less time to eat yummy num nums. Because essentially, you are a sinner.

Also, weird hobbies instill a sense of (potentially weird) identity. Find a weird hobby, and you are no longer self identifying as a fat-ass, but as a basket weaver, or a stamp collector, or whatever freaky hobbyist you should choose to become.

Weird hobbies can be strange, enlightening, or even disturbing. My weird hobby is making little libertarian movies, and imagining that world enjoys them (when of course my analytics tell me otherwise).

But I’ll keep pursuing my weird hobbies! And in the spirit of #election2016, here is my little contribution. Let me know what you think 🙂

 

What weird hobbies keep you mentally sane?

Thanks for watching 🙂

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Walking in Beautiful Places

I don’t know what goes on in your head, I can only (attempt to) tell you what goes on in mine.

I enjoy everything, and I feel happy. I love being young, and my entire existence feels light and silly. In the same moment, I feel profoundly isolated. I disappoint myself, and I’m disappointed by others. I ruminate and dwell on things that I could probably change but don’t. I feel uncalm, yet strangely unfazed. I’m just watching IT happen, and IT is (for the most part) awesome.

Night time shore walks bring me stillness, especially in the colder months. Usually, I’m  there alone – little Dorit versus the entire ocean and world. I’m tormented by the most intense loneliness and sadness. I’m humbled and silent and reminded of my insignificance.

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Yes, I got soaked. 

Then, suddenly, it all feels like the greatest gift. I have to let it wash over me or I’ll burst. I feel almost unbearably grateful to be living the best possible life at the best possible time. The world is great, and its begging me to make it even better. I can’t be stopped (possibly because I’m having a manic episode?). It’s beautiful and special to feel all of these feelings.

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Night time skyline walks can have a similar effect. 

Then I start to feel that I’m crazy. Then I start to feel that I’m sane. Too sane. Maybe the last sane person walking on earth.

My regular walk takes about three to four hours, during which time the ocean regularly lights a fire under my ass. I write short stories in my head (usually about murder) and I think about how the world will end. I’m never very interested in the plot. I like to play with the sentences and scenes, and I text myself the favorites. Later, I’ll adapt them to whatever context.

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Isn’t this shit special?

When I walk all alone late at night, I feel unpleasant things.

I’d love a friend to talk to, but if one came along, I have a feeling I might lie and say I have plans. I need to leave the world regularly, and go to a beautiful place and just walk. Then when I come back, I can function (most of the time). The world is filled with incredible landscapes to walk through and appreciate.  It’s the greatest gift.

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Food and Uncertainty

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Ambiguity intolerance is the tendency to perceive uncertain situations as threatening.

It makes sense – the unknown is scary. But some people have a harder time dealing with it than others.  And these people are more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, especially when faced with a particularly difficult stressor.

Uncertainty and Food

I believe that many disordered eaters suffer from ambiguity intolerance.

Have you ever turned to food to flood your brains with feel-good chemicals in order to avoid feelings of panic? Have you ever done this – even though nothing was wrong in that particular moment?

Fostering a Taste for Uncertainty

If you find yourself threatened by the unknown, fostering a healthier relationship with uncertainty might do wonders to decrease your anxiety.

Who knows, you might even develop a taste for uncertainty. This time next year you could be reading this post while wrestling a shark.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on this hour, this minute, and this day. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the whole entire future. Bring yourself into the present by focusing on what you can do right now. I know this is easier said than done. But try.
  2. Do things that scare you. You have to actively do things that scare you. It sucks, but you’ll (most likely) live. Last year, I jumped out of a freaking airplane! It was the worst thing ever.
  3. Improve a skill. Some people feel anxious because they have an overall feeling of never being good enough. But everyone is good at something. Take something you’re good at and get great at it. Your feelings of pride will spill over into every day life. See my post on pursuing your weird hobbies.
  4. Achieve a behavioral goal. Set a small behavioral goal for yourself, and achieve it. Like number three above, the good feelings will spill over into your every day life making you feel less anxious in general. You’ll also see that things aren’t so hard when you take them one step at a time.  Example: I will go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday for the next two weeks.

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Five Ways to Be Like Amelia on Int’l Women’s Day

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Amelia Earhart = perhaps the most badass person who ever lived on this planet. 

There is so much we can learn from her on International Women’s Day.

1. Do what can’t be done. 

Everything that “can’t be done” actually can be done. It just hasn’t been done yet.  So don’t strive to “be cool” ; strive to “create cool”

  • Being cool means being an early adopter of things that society is already opening up to.
  • Creating cool means doing things fearlessly.

Creating cool makes you a pioneer. It might mean doing things that your friends and family deem reckless. That’s because most people can’t FATHOM living without the fear of other people’s opinions.

 

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2.  Don’t complain about getting no respect. Demand it.  

In Earhart’s day, getting married often meant the end of your identity as an individual human being.  Earhart didn’t bitch and moan about this. She simply refused to let it happen to her.

When a George Putnam wanted to put a ring on it, Amelia was down.

But Amelia was no “ride or die” chick. Because even though she truly wanted to hit it, Amelia agreed only to a trial period at first.

She would agree to a marriage ONLY if he would agree to respect her separate identity. Bitch demanded respect, and so respect was given. And they lived happily together until her disappearance.

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The original Nike spokesperson

3. Don’t hush yourself.

“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart

According to this Mental Floss article, Earhart wrote for Cosmopolitan. But not about topics that most would have found acceptable back in the 1920’s.

In total, she publish 16 published articles. The titles of which include:

  • “Shall You Let Your Daughter Fly?”; AND
  • “Why Are Women Afraid to Fly?”

4. Never Box Yourself In.  

Did you know Amelia Earhart had a fashion line?

..Just because you are a badass pilot, doesn’t mean you can’t look great.

People fear the unpredictable. If they can’t box you in, they’ll keep trying. But don’t let them box you in. And don’t box yourself in. Opportunities are everywhere.

5. Please Yourself. 

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Amelia Earhart was a completely unique human being. A pilot, a pioneer, a writer, a fashion designer, a wife – she was so multi-faceted.

Amelia had a decidedly androgynous flair for the time, and yet was entirely comfortable with her womanhood and femininity.

She didn’t feel the need to please YOU, whoever you happened to be. She felt the need to please herself. And she did it because she wanted to do it.

Wishing you a happy (and empowered) International Women’s Day!

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Finding Your Happy Chemicals

 

Was this song written about carbohydrates?
Or maybe it’s about that moment when you finally exit the gym.

God knows! I’ve got to make it on my own!

Yesterday I wrote a post about called There is No Such Thing as Emotional Eating.

Today, I want to backtrack just a little bit. Because one of the comments on my post got me thinking (yes it was yours The Farmer’s Diet!)

Eating as an Emotional Crutch

So the premise of yesterday’s post was this: when you think you are eating emotionally, you’re not. You are actually eating habitually. 

This is important because:

  • many disordered eaters believe they must address their underlying emotional issues in order to fix their disordered eating
  • I believe the opposite is true! you need to address your disordered eating first, and then your emotional issues will begin to fall away

The Emotional Crutch

I think it’s helpful to forget about emotional eating, and instead focus on habitual eating.

Even so, there are still three major ways emotions come into play:

  1. Emotions are intertwined with habits. When you do things in a highly emotional state, the behaviors you do are more likely to stick.
  2. Emotions can prevent you from ever starting! Food feels good, and it’s a wonderful crutch
  3. Once you begin to lose weight, you lose a lot of your happy chemicals. You have to learn to make them a different way.

When it comes to emotions, I don’t know how much I can help.

As far as #1, read a book about habit formation. I love “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It might change the way you look at the world

As far as #2, you just have to be strong. That’s all I can say. Make one small step.

Where Did All the Happy Chemicals Go?

As far as #3, dear god I still struggle with this. I can’t personally deprive myself of food constantly and live a happy life.

I also don’t enjoy doing extreme exercise. I lose my weight in “spurts” and maintain for long periods in between. I find that if I lose weight relatively quickly over relatively short periods of time, it’s less taxing on my emotions.

But in general, I don’t think losing weight is “fun” for your body or mind. By definition, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat LESS than your body needs to survive. I don’t care how quickly or slowly you do that – losing fat is taxing on your body. It’s a stressor.

So your emotions might run haywire, and mine often do. It’s better not to become overweight in the first place. Because maintaining your weight can be very easy if you just eat whole foods.

I exercise by walking outdoors and hiking. These things make me feel happy and free. I don’t do exercises that make me miserable, because losing weight makes me miserable enough.

Go easy on willpower. Your willpower is limited. When you use it up, you’re more likely to slip up. And when you slip up, you’re more likely to go hard on yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself for being a freaking human being!!

We all have limited willpower. Fit people don’t keep crappy food in the house. That means they exercise their willpower less. You might even want to plan meals ahead of time. I don’t do this, but it works great for some people. Take away as many bad choices as you can. Making choices drains your willpower, and makes you unhappy.

You have to make sure you’re sleeping enough, and I think having good relationships is important also. I’m very fortunate to have two of my closest friends, Rachel and Val along with me on this journey.

Oh the loneliness! I’m self-employed, which makes things lonely. And I’m single, which makes things lonely. Carbs make lovely friends. So you have to fill up the loneliness.  I do it by getting absorbed in books, and lately by writing.

Your happy chemicals are also another reason to set tiny goals. Reaching goals boosts happiness.  Once you get a little momentum going, it get’s much easier.  Small goals changed everything for me. That’s why I wrote this post: To Lose 30 Pounds, Aim for Eight.

Set BEHAVIORAL rather then PROGRESS goals. You can’t completely control your progress, but you CAN completely control your behavior. And since your progress is a direct result of your behavior, behavioral goals are not only just as valid – they actually WORK BETTER.  They give you something to be proud of no matter what.

  • “Progress Goals” = I want to lose 2 pounds per week
  • “Behavioral Goals” = I will eat a salad every weekday for lunch

When you generally feel good about yourself, happy chemicals are easier to come by. But I won’t pretend it’s easy in the beginning.  You have to slog through it, knowing better days are coming.

In Sum

  • Don’t set insurmountable goals & take it one day at a time.
  • Eat whole foods from God’s good earth, so your body is more satisfied and less panicky.
  • Stay away from carbs or foods that addict you.
  • A small amount of carbs IS good for mental health, eat them together with fat and protein at the same meal.

And if you have any suggestions for how you deal with your emotions during weight loss, please share.

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You Don’t Need a Clean Slate

“Ok, I’m excited to do this.”

“I’m finally going to take the plunge!”

“Awesome, cool. Let’s start Monday.”

The Fresh Start Hypothesis

How many times have you made a decision NOW, but only to start Monday? How many times have you vowed to take up a skill, or to make a big change beginning on New Years Day?

These are both features of what social scientists call the “Fresh Start Hypothesis.” This hypothesis states that we have a general tendency to correlate changes in behavior with temporal triggers or changes in environment.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

If you understand more about human nature, you understand more about yourself. And if you understand more about yourself, you have greater control of your outcomes.

We can recognize the “Fresh Start Hypothesis” for what it is, and consider how we can exploit this natural tendency to our benefit. On the other hand, we can also think about how such tendencies might create psychological barriers to success.

In other words, the desire for a “clean slate” can be helpful. But it can also block you. And there is nothing more tragic than someone standing in the way of their own success.

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Know Yourself. 

There is no right or wrong answer here. Everyone is different. We all have different motivations at different times in our lives.

A “fresh start” may be just what you need!   On the other hand, if you find yourself making a “fresh start” every Monday – it might be time to recognize that this approach isn’t working for you.  You have too much emotional baggage, and it’s associated with the Fresh Start.

“But it will be different this time!” Maybe it will. Who am I to say? But maybe you are simply sabotaging yourself.

  • Example 1:  It’s December 27th and it’s a Friday. You are miserable. Kids throw jelly donuts at you, and at 5’1 you weigh 220 pounds. You have never attempted to lose weight before, and in fact your weight hasn’t really bothered you until recently. You have zero healthy habits, and you barely know where to begin.
    • Solution: If you’re going to do a major life overhaul, you can start on January 1st. But until then, see if you can substitute one meal a day with a salad.
  • Example 2: At 5’2′ you weigh 160 pounds. You aren’t happy with your weight, but you’re always dieting. Almost every Monday you find yourself vowing that this week will be different. By Thursday or Friday, you’ve usually fallen off the wagon. You feel guilty and you binge all weekend. Next Monday you know you’ll get it right!
    • Solution: Stop starting Monday. Start right now. For you, the BREAK from starting on Mondays is the REAL fresh start. Don’t be hard on yourself, either. Just make one change for the better.
    • Alternative solution: start Monday, but also start implementing one specific change right now.

The Power of Now

If you need to make a change, it’s best to start RIGHT NOW. But maybe don’t start all the way just yet..

You DON’T need:

  • a funeral procession for your last meal
  • ritual binge before your “purge.”

The more you see fitness as a “project” the more likely you are to see it as deprivation or hard labor.  It doesn’t have to be this way. It could just be simple – eat less shit.

On the other hand, the more you see your fitness journey as a “project” the more likely you are to take it seriously.

So what can we do about this contradiction?

Make a Fresh Start WITHOUT a Fresh Start

  1. Understand that most people have a tendency to correlate behavioral changes with temporal markers.
  2. Understand that our habits do not exist in isolation. They are intertwined with the concepts of time, and also with our physical environments. This will make it easier for you to change them.
  3. Understand also that an absolute NEED for a “clean slate” can be detrimental. And it’s also an illusion. You never need it, you only think you do.
  4. Use this knowledge for good! And Not for evil.

“Starting” can mean taking one small concrete action beginning right now. It could be as simple as replacing one part of dinner with veggies.

Do this PRIOR to taking a big plunge. You can still take the big plunge when you’re ready.

More Ways to Use the Fresh Start for Good

Start NOW!

But use temporal triggers and environmental changes to enhance your efforts.

Examples:

  • I’m beginning to replace one meal with a salad each day TODAY.
    • But beginning on Monday, I’ll start tracking my weight once weekly
  • I’m going to begin cut down on processed foods TODAY.
    • But once the semester starts, I will go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • I’m going to add more veggies in my diet beginning TODAY.
    • But starting on January 1, I’m going to begin my meal plan.
  • I’m going to try to make as many healthy choices as I can TODAY
    • But starting Monday, I’m going to do a 30 day weight loss challenge

The Struggle

I write this post because I struggled with this for a long time. I was always making a fresh start, and I was always failing.

My TRUE fresh start was when I recognized that my need for a clean slate was holding me back. It was crazy and delusional. I would NEVER have a clean slate. And I would never stick perfectly to a diet plan.

And even so, it was difficult to break the pattern. It took time. My brain kept going back to it. I had to break the pattern by reminding myself over and over again that my mind was playing tricks on me.

Remember this: the universe doesn’t have major plans for you. It’s apathetic. It doesn’t care about your clean slate. Only you do. And that’s because it’s a part of your human nature. Forgive yourself. Your slate is as clean RIGHT NOW as it will ever be.

You can use your need for a “fresh start” for good, or you can use it as an excuse to self-sabotage.

I say, if you’re not happy – then start this minute. In whatever small way you can.

Have you struggled with this?

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