On Sheeple and Smart Cars

Everyone has an opinion.

For a few years now, I’ve had no car. It’s been moderately unpleasant, but not excruciating.

On one hand,  life without a car in New Jersey can be tricky, especially as a lawyer and as someone who dabbles in local politics.

On the other hand, I live in a very urban area.  My town sits directly on the Hudson river across from midtown NYC, and having a car around here is a pain. Parking is expensive (200-300$ month), unpredictable, and inconvenient.  Even if you can afford parking, good luck finding it.

Despite living in an urban area with a terrible parking situation, I recently came to feel like my lack of transportation was holding me back.

I needed a car, but I needed something cheap and I wanted something tiny. I did my research, and test drove about a billion cars (well, actually just a few). Finally, I narrowed my search further to just two contenders:

  • The Fiat 500; and
  • The 2016 SMART ForTwo

In all honesty, I preferred the Fiat. The Fiat is slightly bigger (which I didn’t like) and slightly more expensive (which I felt was OK). But the Fiat is real car whereas the SMART is *almost* a real car.  So in an ideal world, I would have gone with the Fiat.

Unfortunately, although similarly priced, the lease terms on the Fiat were not feasible for me, while the SMART was very much affordable. Also, if I chose Fiat, I’d have to shell out an additional $200/month for parking (at least!), whereas the SMART parks for free. So I went with the Smart car.

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Here I am in my silly little car.

I really love my little Smart car, but it’s a weird car and it’s not for everyone. First, it’s about half the size of standard car. Second, it only has two seats. To make things worse, previous models have been heavily trashed due to poor performance.

For most people, the SMART is the definition of impractical. But for me, it’s the most practical car I could have right now. I have no children and no need (or desire) for a roomy car. I live in a land notorious for a lack of parking. I like how it drives, and also, I can afford it.  Most importantly, I can park it.  In sum: it works for me.

So why am I posting this on FatGirlsFitness?  Because my car works for me, and it might not work for you. And that’s a metaphor that transcends the automotive realm.

Here Come the Trash Talkers

Since I’ve gotten my new car, I’ve heard nothing but trash about my decision.  A normal thing to say to someone upon the acquisition of a new vehicle might be something along the lines of “hey dude, congrats!”  But be wary my friends.  If you get a weird car, the opinions will come, and they won’t stop coming.  They’ll say:

“Wow – you actually paid for that golf cart?”
“That’s not safe on the highway”
“Did you do your research? You could have gotten a 2003 Acura for the same price.”

Here’s the thing.  I  really don’t want a 2003 Acura, so please don’t make me have one. I want a 2016 SMART. How do I know? Because that’s the car I got. And interestingly enough, every single person who has actually stepped foot into my car loves it. It’s only those who have zero experience with my car who seem to develop such strong feelings against it.

So yes, I actually paid for the “golf cart.” Actually, I find it drives beautifully on the highway – you should try it.  Yes, I did exhaustive research. In fact, it was based on that research that I determined that the Smart is the most practical choice for me.

But still, it might not be practical for you.  And that’s OK.  That doesn’t mean it’s impractical for me.

Teachable Moments

I think there are more than a few teachable moments in the tale of my new adorable car.

  1. People have a hard time wrapping their heads around things that are unusual or new, but most still feel a need to have an opinion on all things. It could be your car, your diet, your job,  or your fitness routine. This is human nature.
    • “CARS SHOULD HAVE FOUR SEATS AND SHOULD BE A OF A CERTAIN SIZE”
    • “Fat is the devil”
    • “If you don’t eat six meals a day, you’ll go into starvation mode”
    • “You can never lose weight without a dedicated workout regime”
  2. What works for you might go entirely against conventional wisdom for any number of reasons. Maybe conventional wisdom is wrong, or maybe it simply doesn’t apply to your circumstances. Maybe conventional wisdom is 100% right, and you are a freaky mutant who just won’t listen. So who cares? Be your freaky mutant self. You weren’t put on this earth to be practical. You were put on this earth to do whatever  it is you want to do. (Unless what you want to do is diss my car).
  3. Peer pressure is strong.  We are hardwired to want acceptance. Why else am I writing this blog post? In some way, I’m still trying to justify my “impractical” decision to the universe, even though I know in my brain that I made the right choice for me

Moral of the story?

Don’t give in to those who will shower you with haterade.  If you do anything in this world, you’re going to get criticism that you probably don’t deserve, even if it’s something as seemingly inconsequential as leasing an unusual car.  Take the criticism, and use it only to the extent that it benefits you.

But if you do give in,  that’s ok too. You might end up with a 2003 Acura. And maybe (just maybe) that would be the perfect car for you.

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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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How a Blank Calendar Can Help You Lose Weight

Dun Dun Dun! Introducing, one of the most powerful (and understated) weight loss tools in the known universe. A blank calendar for the month of November 2016.

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The Power of a Blank Calendar

You might have read my earlier post about the fresh start hypothesis.  If so, you know that a clean slate (for example, a new month or week) can either help or hurt your weight loss efforts, depending on your own circumstances.

The blank calendar is mighty.  Why?

  • It’s a great way to leverage the positive psychological benefits of “starting fresh.”
  • It forces you to break a large daunting goal into smaller, more immediate goals (which translates to a higher rate of sustained motivation and success).
  • The concrete action of writing your goals down might alone be enough to keep you sticking to them
  • It can serve as a visual reminder of the bigger picture, which helps when motivation starts to wane
  • It’s effectively free! (Provided you have access to a computer and printer).

How to Use a Blank Calendar for Weight Loss

Step One. Find a printable blank calendar (I googled “blank calendar 2016”) and print said calendar
Step Two. Choose an achievable weight loss goal for one month (for example, 8 pounds). Subtract this goal from your current weight, and write your new goal weight the last day of the month.
Step Four. Create weekly weight loss goals, and write each new weekly weight at the end of each week.
Step Five. Surrender to the blank calendar (optional).
Step Six. Tape the calendar somewhere visible.
Step Seven. At the end of each week, reevaluate your goals. If you lost more than your weekly goal, you can change your next weekly goal post to reflect your current weight. If you lost less than your weekly goal, you can do the same. The key is that you can keep adjusting your goals as you get closer to the end of the month. (For more details, see this post.)

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Your calendar might look something like this.

But How Do I Actually Lose Weight?

Obviously, the calendar itself is not a weight loss plan.  It’s just a tool to help you stay organized and to improve your stick-to-itness.

As far as losing the weight itself – there are plenty of different ways.  The right way will depend largely on your own circumstances and preferences, but removing processed foods and focusing on a plant based diet will likely go a long way.  In any event, you need to do what works for you.

Additional Uses of the Blank Calendar

In addition to using the blank calendar to plan your weight goals, you can also use the blank calendar to plan concrete actions on specific days to help you reach those goals.

These actions can be related to food intake or to exercise. Just remember to keep your actions achievable.

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Example of calendar with concrete behavioral actions

Also, keep in mind that missing one day doesn’t mean you should give up on the rest.  In fact, you will be better off if you plan for failure.

Rewards.  You can also use weekly or monthly rewards for making your goals (mani-pedi, anyone?).  Just remember not to be too hard on yourself if you miss a week.  Weight is weird, and it’s not the best measure of fat loss. On my own weight loss journey, I found that I lost weight 3 out of 4 weeks.

If you try this method, let me know how it works out for you.

If you have any thoughts on modifications, I’d love to hear those also.

Happy calendaring 🙂

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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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There is No Such Thing as Emotional Eating

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Hear ye! Hear ye!

I come bearing wonderful news.

What we call “emotional eating” – it doesn’t exist.  You actually just have terrible habits.

Who are YOU really?

A lump of clay? An eternal soul?
A child of God?
A descendant of Ancient Aliens????

I say you are a BRAIN. And maybe an alien also. I guess in some sense you’re a lump of clay too.

Whatever. But what you perceive, what you think, what you do – they are the all the same. They all originate in your brain, and they also shape your brain.

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Your neuroses, your hangups. And yes – your eating disorder. These all happen to your brain. The people you love & hate. All of it, all of them – they only APPEAR to live in houses and apartments. Really, they live in neurons that fired together.

As Woody Allen once said, “the brain is my second favorite organ.” If I had a penis, I might agree. But since I have lesser genitals, my brain comes first.

Some small portion of my brain is conscious. That tiny portion wants to be dictator, and I don’t even know why.

But even though my conscious brain wants to be dictator, it can never be. It’s too small, and too powerless. The rest of my brain is less conscious, but quicker. It knows it can do better than “I” can do. It’s been around millions of years longer, long before I was a reptile-fish.

These “reptile-fish” parts, they are my instincts. On top of that, I have a bunch of “mammal parts” – my habits. They are stronger than my human parts. And the only way to control them is to help shape them. 

The Power of Habit

What is your brain?

Is our “life” the current? Or the synapse? Or the things on both sides of the synapse?

I don’t know. It seems though, that whatever it is – it learns.  In the evolutionary past,  we couldn’t survive if we didn’t create shortcuts. We had to learn by making conscious associations, and then, by repetition, our brain made those associations unconscious.

Thus, we became habit machines!
We became so good at it, that we lived to tell the tale.

One of my favorite books is called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. You should give it a read. If you’re not familiar with this area, empower yourself.

Whatever you are –  you are a bundle of habits. Your brain only leaves precious few things to its limited conscious control.

So when you are eating emotionally, are you really eating emotionally? Or are you eating out of habit? I say, the latter. And I’ll tell you why it matters.

..Why it Matters

Many emotional eaters feel they need to address their emotional issues in order to stop their emotional eating.  But you’ll never address your emotional issues. You’ll always be fucked up. You have less than zero hope.

Does this sound cynical? Because it’s not. Be empowered. To me, this sounds like freedom.

I promise you this. You don’t need to address any issues in order to stop overeating. You need to address your habits.

You can be fucked up beyond belief, and still be a size 6. Or 8. Or 10. Here are just a few examples of people who are fucked up beyond belief:

  • every single size 6 on earth
  • every single size 8 on earth
  • every single size 22 on earth
  • every single nudist, nun, attorney and/or doctor on earth
  • me
  • you

If you’re fucked up, that only means you experience emotions. We all do that.

Of course there are extreme outliers. But 1/3 of the population having depression?? Give me a break.

Is a basic condition of being human really something you want to “fix”? 

Maybe you do. But in any event, you don’t NEED to fix your emotional issues to fix your over-eating.  Believe it or not, skinny people have emotions too.

Do Emotions Have Anything to Do With Your Eating?

Yes! They have everything to do with it.

Emotions trigger your habits, they help form your habits. The emotions you feel while doing an activity make certain habits “stickier” than others.

But you don’t eat because you’re emotional. You eat because of habit. 

Habits are all about triggers. And even if you *THINK* an emotion is the culprit, usually that emotion is brought on by some kind of environmental trigger.

Mindfulness versus Fixing Everything

Maybe you should try to deal with your issues. I don’t know.

I tend to think that things sort themselves out when you focus on them less, not more. The less neurons fire, the more their connections atrophy and die off. That’s just my approach. So go ahead: ignore your problems. Repression is kind of a  bullshit sham anyway.

Instead, be MINDFUL of your issues. Don’t try to fix them, just know what they are, know what your triggers are, and focus on a new behavior you can use to replace an old behavior:

Example:
Issue: I am fat and no one loves me because they are afraid I’ll eat them. When I sit on the couch and watch TV, I am reminded of my overwhelming size and sweatiness, and so I just eat more to cover my sad emotions.

  • Classic solution that is pointless: I’m going to talk to a therapist about how fat and sad I am. She will probably refer me to a psychiatrist who will diagnose me with depression. Instead of recommending exercise or more time outside, they’ll recommend a drug. The drug might work, or on the other hand, it might make me suicidal. I’ll probably end up even fatter.
  • Mindful Solution: I know that I FEEL fat and sad and that no one loves me. But I also know that plenty of fat people are loved, and that losing weight is possible, even if I haven’t done it yet. I know there is nothing INHERENTLY FAT about me. It’s only temporary. Every time I start to feel sad, I’ll go for a 20 minute walk, and see if I feel better. Even if I really really really don’t feel like walking.

What Happens When you Try The Mindful Solution?

You stop trying to fix things, which only reinforces their very existence.

Remember, the things you want to fix live in your brain! A brain that wires itself based solely on past experiences.

Instead, you focus on a concrete behavior that not only begins to REPLACE the prior bad habit,  but is also a small step towards your goal. This kills two fatty birds with one habit-stone.

Because of the power of habit, if you repeat a behavior enough times, you’ll begin to WANT to do the new behavior.

Your new behavior won’t ever completely replace your bad habits. They’re already wired, and may always lie dormant.

But your new behavior will make it MUCH easier. And it will change your brain for the better.

..all it takes is a little bit of repetition.

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