Nothing to Lose

The following is a condensed version of an actual conversation I had with a client of mine over the course of our last four wellness sessions together while working together for six months.

Prior to reaching out to me about working together, she’d spent her entire adult life attempting to lose weight through dozens of diets, cleanses, detoxes, fasts, you name it. She’d consulted with countless weight-loss experts, worked with counselors/therapists, and done 12-step work. She’d lost weight several times, but always gained it back.

Weight loss was her ultimate desire and defined what “success” and “happiness” were for her. Nothing else in her life, including a satisfying career, robust relationships, and achieving sobriety were enough. For decades, she was convinced that weight loss and finally “succeeding at dieting” was what she really needed to feel complete.

Me: What would you like to work on today?

Client: (pausing to think) I’m not sure. Everything is going really well. (smiling)

Me: Say more about that.

Client: You know, for all those years I was absolutely convinced I had to be dieting and I had to be a certain weight and I had to be a certain size. I could be loving my work, loving my relationships, feeling great in all ways, but not being my “ideal weight” (whatever that is) was always looming over me and making me feel bad about myself.

Me: (nodding in understanding)

Client: And now I’m not dieting, but somehow I feel amazing, my weight is fine, and my nurse practitioner tells me everything looks great in terms of my blood-sugar levels, blood pressure, blood-cholesterol levels, and all of that. She says everything is right where it should be. I’m just really happy and healthy. (smiling)

Me: You feel great, and as far as medical professionals are concerned, you’re a model of well-being.

Client: Exactly! And that’s finally good enough for me! (smiling widely)

Me: (smiling)

Client: I finally realized that I have nothing to lose.

Me: (smiling) I see what you did there.

Client: (smiling) I never needed to lose anything. I needed to gain something. I needed to gain self-acceptance.

Me: As we’ve talked about, you’ve done a great job with that.

Client: All those years, like I said, I was absolutely convinced that pursuing my “ideal weight” was, literally, everything. It was always looming over me and making me feel bad. Without that, it was like I had nothing. Which was so crazy, because I actually had so much.

Me: This is really coming together for you.

Client: I’ve learned to take great care of myself for the sake of taking great care of myself. And it’s working. I feel amazing. I feel so free.

Me: (nodding and smiling)

Client: And my weight is fine. I’m not as small as I could be in some perfect world, but it’s not like I’m huge. Not at all. I love how I feel. I love how I look. I accept myself as I am.

Me: What’s that like?

Client: Well, I mean, it’s everything. I feel invincible. I can live my life know that I’m consistently going to feel good, and that all rests on how I’ve been able to ditch dieting, ditch the idea of an “ideal weight”, and just live my life. I’m free to be myself.

Me: And you’re living quite a life.

Client: It’s true. I’m enjoying my retirement. I’m in a loving marriage. I have great relationships with my kids, my siblings, my friends, and I’m loving being a new grandmother. We’re in a good place financially, and my hobbies and my workouts are fun for me. And we’re excited to get back to traveling more when the pandemic subsides.

Me: (smiling)

Client: (smiling) So what do we do now?

Me: (smiling) How about we talk about how you’re going to take all that you’ve learned these last several months forward with you?

Client: Yeah, that sounds good.

Me: What are some things you’ve learned that are particularly valuable to you?

Client: Well, that I can just eat well because I want to nourish myself and feel great and I don’t in any way have to be thinking of it like a diet.

Me: That’s a huge shift.

Client: Huge. It feels so good. I can just be a regular person. I eat very well. Sure, I’m not perfect, and now I know that’s actually a good thing. Trying to be perfect is a fool’s errand. Sure, I get off track from time to time, but it’s no big deal. I get right back on track.

Me: You really have this down.

Client: I really do. It’s just how I operate now.

Me: It sounds like it’s easy for you.

Client: It is. I’ve known for years how to eat well. But forcing myself to diet always tripped me up. I was always considering myself “good” for being on my diet and “bad” for being off my diet. It was truly a yo-yo dieter. Now that I’ve ditched dieting, all the pressure is off. You see the photos of my meals: I eat very well. And I occasionally have some of my favorite foods that aren’t “perfect” and it’s all fine. It’s just fine. It’s just not such a huge deal anymore.

Me: Knowing how far you’ve come, that’s really cool.

Client: It really is. It really feels good.

Me: What else are you taking forward?

Client: That I can just do workouts I enjoy because I enjoy them and they leave me feeling good. I don’t workout to “offset” what I ate anymore or any of that silliness. You know, I really enjoy moving my body. Some days, I love to walk. Some days, I love doing a high-intensity workout. Some days, I love doing yoga. I really do enjoy it all. And it feels good to be able just to do it and not having it tied to losing weight.

Me: Yes, you’re the kind of person who gets a lot from moving your body in various ways.

Client: I really do. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.

Me: It’s just a part of you.

Client: It is. I love being strong. I love getting outside. I love it all.

Me: And ditching dieting and focusing on your weight has freed you to really enjoy all of this.

Client. Exactly. I’m loving it.

Me: That’s great to hear.

Client: It’s all about trusting myself. The way you’ve guided me, you’ve really helped me learn to trust myself. You never just told me what to do. You asked me how I wanted to approach food and movement and everything else. I learned that I had a lot of good wisdom of my own. This also helped me keep getting to know myself better. I’ve learned that I can make good decisions for myself without having it all be about rules. All the diets I’ve ever been on are all about rules. But when you just follow rules, you never learn to make good decisions and you never learn to trust yourself.

Me: What’s it like trusting yourself?

Client: It makes life so much easier. I can go anywhere, be with anyone, and keep taking great care of myself. Like when I visited my son and his family. I didn’t need a diet or any set of rules to keep taking care of myself. I thoroughly enjoyed being with my grandson and I also continued to take good care of myself. I want to feel good and I know what keeps me feeling good, so I keep up with that most of the time. I tune into myself and listen to what I need and I meet my needs as best I can. It feels so good to be able to do that.

Me: Neat. You sound so empowered.

Client: I just really accept myself. That’s what this all rests in. Am I at my “ideal” weight? Probably not. But, like I said, it’s not like I’m drastically overweight. People tell me all the time that I look great. And, I mean, I eat great and I workout five times a week most weeks, and I’m doing a lot of other great stuff too. I’m loving being retired. I’m loving all of the projects I’m involved in. I’m loving being a new grandmother. I’m loving all of my relationships. I’m living great and I’m loving life. Maybe this weight is the weight that’s best for me. Why should I stress over my weight when I’m so darn happy and healthy? (smiling)

Me: (teasing) That’s a rhetorical question, right?

Client: (smiling) Yes. It feels good to say it again though! I love the path I’m on! I’m loving my life! And the biggest thing that’s making it so great is that I’ve finally and firmly accepted myself as I am.

Me: Do you know how rare that is?

Client: I wish I could tell everyone out there: “Accept yourself as you are. It’s so awesome.” And it’s not just weight and diets and all of that. It’s so easy to become convinced that it’s about having a certain house or a certain wardrobe or, you name it. There’s always someone selling something that we get suckered into thinking we need in order to feel good, and feel good about ourselves. But none of that stuff is truly satisfying.

Me: That’s interesting that this goes beyond weight and diets for you.

Client: Oh, absolutely. Thinking I needed to be my “ideal weight” in order to feel good was probably the biggest trap I was in, but there was more to it than that. I continually had my better days in the future, convincing myself that when I had X, then I’d feel good. But what I always wanted, and now have, is to simply accept myself. (deeply relaxing sigh) Finally, permanently ditching diets was such a relief for me and brought me to this place.

Me: You seem like you’re in a really good place.

Client: (with a face full of emotion) I am.

Author’s note: When I talk with my clients, I generally use their name quite a bit, but I left my client’s name out of this dialogue to preserve her anonymity.

Wellness Starts with “We”

Everything you need is within you.

Or is it?

Is your sister inside you? Your lifelong friend? Your mentor?

Do you need them?

The platitude “Everything you need is within you,” is everywhere these days. But it isn’t serving us. And it just ain’t true.

Besides air, water, food, clothing, and shelter, we need each other more than we need anything else.

Prisoners in solitary confinement go crazy in short order. Infants in orphanages who are fed—but not held—die.

In fact, we need each other just like we need food and water.

In his brilliant TED talk What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness, Robert Waldinger, while describing the findings of Harvard Medical School’s Study of Adult Development, makes crystal clear what the most important factor in our well-being is:

“But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships with family, with friends, with community.”

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Everything you need is not within you.

In fact, most of what you need you get from—or together with—other people.

Is it any wonder that the word “wellness” starts with the word “we”?

The notion that everything you need is within you, in spite of the good intentions behind it, feeds the toxic values of stubborn independence and proud self-reliance that cause lots of unnecessary suffering.

When you examine humans for our defining characteristic, what stands out is our ability to bond with each other. It’s our ability to collaborate with our close ones in meeting our need that ensures our survival, not sharp teeth, protective shells, or insulating fur. We keep each other safe, and well. Without each other, we’re screwed.

I invite you to question the notion that everything you need is within you.

I invite you to consider two new ways of living: fierce interdependence and eager co-reliance.

When we go through life eagerly relying on others and eagerly giving others the opportunity to rely on us, life transforms from a lonely grind to a rich adventure. When we rely on each other, vicissitudes are buffered and moments of joy and peace are amplified. Everything is better together.

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There’s nothing weak about depending on each other. On the contrary, depending on each other both requires us to be strong and makes us stronger. It makes us more persistent and resilient. It emboldens us. Most importantly, depending on each other makes us happier and healthier.

We Must Stop This Plague

It’s estimated that more than 46,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19.

It’s estimated that more than 1.2 million people in the United States died of DM-2-21 last year. The number of people dying of DM-2-21 has increased every year for decades. It’s projected that the number of people dying of DM-2-21 will grow by five percent or more a year for the foreseeable future.

COVID-19: 46,000

DM-2-21: 1.2 million

Symptoms of DM-2-21 include poor circulation, shortness of breath, and fatigue. DM-2-21 is comorbid with cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, non-alcohol-related fatty-liver disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and glaucoma. But there’s no reason to panic. DM-2-21 is preventable in most cases through simple precautions:

  1. Eat delicious dishes made of whole, natural, real food with your close ones this evening. Talk about your day. Laugh. Tell stories.
  2. Take a yoga class this this week. Or play racquetball with your friend. Or go for a run and enjoy some fresh air.
  3. Fluff your pillows, make your bedroom really cozy, and sink into a great night’s sleep tonight.
  4. Carve out some time this week for some great rest. Maybe read a terrific book. Or watch an amazing movie.
  5. Continually cultivate fulfilling relationships.
  6. Continually cultivate a fulfilling work life.

You don’t need to slather yourself in sanitizer. DM-2-21 can’t be washed away.

You don’t need to wait for a state-of-the-art, billion-dollar vaccine. DM-2-21 is vaccine-resistant.

You don’t need to watch the evening fear broadcast to keep abreast of the latest on DM-2-21. The evidence-based methods that prevent, and even reverse, DM-2-21 are the same today as they were yesterday and they’ll be the same a year from now.

DM-2-21 is type-2 diabetes, referred to more formally as diabetes mellitus, type-2.

DM-2-21 is one of the real plagues of the 21st century.

4x5 original

DM-2-21 is, in fact, endemic to the United States. The fact that DM-2-21 is so common has strangely normalized it.

Four of your aunts, your boss, and your daughter’s history teacher all have type-2 diabetes. So what?

One Hollywood couple you’ll never know has COVID-19. Armageddon.

This speaks prominently to the fact that reactive intervention is highly valued in our society while proactive prevention is mostly dismissed.

Of course, reacting to problems as they arise and intervening to solve them is useful. Of course, it’s important that we all work together to contain the spread of COVID-19.

But, taking a wider perspective, most of us have an infinitely greater chance of developing DM-2-21 and other lifestyle ailments than we do of contracting COVID-19.

At some point, COVID-19 will have had its 15 minutes of fame. When that day comes, we’re still going be looking straight at the realities of type-2-diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, chromic neuromusculoskeletal pain, anxiety, depression, and related ailments that are cutting lives short—and decreasing quality of life—for millions of people in the United States every year.

The key to reducing the suffering caused by these lifestyle ailments is proactive prevention.

I didn’t invent this idea. I’m just making sure the lights are on right now so we can all see this clearly while everyone is reacting to COVID-19. I think it’s possible to take advantage of this sense of urgency.

What if we put as much energy into making the lifestyle improvements that prevent lifestyle ailments as we put into stocking up on canned beans, washing our hands, and looking at maps showing where the latest person to catch COVID-19 lives?

What if we cared this much about saving lives all the time?

Are more than 1.2 million DM-2-21 deaths a year not a tragedy? Are those people not worth saving?

If we really value well-being; as individuals, families, and communities; it’s time we put as much energy into proactive prevention as we put into solving problems when they become so big that we have no other option.

Some will argue that we need to take COVID-19 more seriously than we take DM-2-21 and other lifestyle ailments because COVID-19 is contagious and it spreads. But DM-2-21 spreads too. It spreads socially in a society that places consumption, entertainment, politics, and other forms of checking out among its highest values. DM-21 spreads in families, schools, and businesses with cultures focused on anything and everything except wellness. DM-2-21 and other lifestyle ailments are spreading like mad in our country.

Others will argue that we need to take COVID-19 more seriously than we take DM-2-21 and other lifestyle ailments because COVID-19 could overwhelm our medical system. Hello! Our medical system was overwhelmed long before COVID-19 arrived. We have medical appointments that never happen on time and last eight minutes. We have medical-insurance premiums with annual increases that outpace inflation by five times or more. Our physicians and other medical professionals suffer from depression—and commit suicide—at alarming rates. Our medical system was overwhelmed a long time ago.

The solution to all of this, individually and collectively, is to make lifelong well-being a priority.

Who’s with me?

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about the virus, but one of the lessons for me in this virus is how easy it us to recognize a threat when it’s all of the sudden and it’s strange, but in the meantime we’re ignoring chronic health issues that are killing millions of people in our societies every year. What does that say about our culture?”
—Gabor Maté (recently)

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
—Benjamin Franklin (over 200 years ago)

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

Are Things Actually Messed Up?

On April 1st, I walked through the heart of Portland, Maine on the way to meet some of my friends to watch the sunrise from the easternmost point of the Portland peninsula.

The streets were dark and uncrowded as they always are when I make these ritual first-of-the month trips.

But something was very different this time. There were handwritten signs on most restaurants and coffee shops telling us what we already know: they’re closed, they’ll open when they can, and they have no idea when that will be.

I felt echoes of the Great Depression, that I’m fortunate to only know from history classes.

I thought about how everything is closed. I thought about how pretty much the only businesess open in public (the kind where you still have to wear pants) are food stores and hospitals.

I felt a sense of despair wash over me. Nearly everything is shut down. How fucked up is that? It’s not anything most of us ever imagined we’d experience in our lifetimes.

I kept walking, buoyed by the fact that I’d see my friends soon, but still mired in despair.

Then something hit me like a ton of bricks:

Maybe this is actually how things are supposed to be. Maybe things aren’t actually messed up at all.

It’s going to take me a few minutes to share with you my lightning-bolt moment of insight, but in real time, I actually downloaded it in a few seconds. This wasn’t me figuring something out; this was something figuring me out.

It occurred to me that we’re mostly doing two things right now as a society:

  1. Providing each other with food
  2. Providing each other with “healthcare”

(The rest of us are in Zoom meetings in our pajama bottoms.)

It occurred to me that maybe there’s a lesson here:

What if we put all of our energy into providing each other with food (an obvious “essential”) and tending to each other’s well-being.

Isn’t that actually all we need?

Not just to survive, but also to thrive. I think that’s all we need.

Look around. We’re doing just fine without most businesses. But, you say, and I hear you: We’re all running out of money, man. We need money, bro.

I get it, but herein lies our opportunity to see behind the veil of our economy:

Most business just move money around. They don’t provide us with anything we really need.

One person from one business gives money to another person from another business and so forth. Why? So they can all buy food and pay for medical insurance so they can get “healthcare” when they’re sick.

Most business are providing non-essential products and services. Crap?

Said with a little more grace and nuance, most businesses don’t provide us with anything life-affirming. And, in fact, many businesss are in the business of denying life, in the name of moving money around, toward them to be more specific.

I’m not here to play God or utopian virtue-signaling politically motivated social designer. I abhor that stuff. I’m not here to say which businesses are essential and life-affirming and which businesses are non-essential and life-denying. There are multiple ways of making those kinds of assessments and I respect everyone’s perspective.

Instead, I think there are two simple, powerful kinds of questions we can all reflect on right now with the extra time we have that used to go to washing our jeans:

  1. Does my work make life better for people? How could I make my work even more life-affirming?
  2. What do I consume from our world? How life-affirming are my decisions around consumption? What do I want to consume going forward?

I think you’ll find that, in some version that resonates with you, we really only do need food and “healthcare” and that most everything else is a waste.

Let me clarify something. I don’t mean that we only need farmers and fishers and physicians and wellness coaches. Nor do I mean that we only need to eat and do that which is seemingly directly associated with our well-being. I mean that I think we’d all be a lot happier and healthier of we aligned both what we brought to our world and what we took from our world with life itself.

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This makes space for so much of what many of us treasure. Maybe you want to be a singer or you love going to concerts. Maybe you love teaching psychology or studying physiology. There’s room for so much that passes the litmus test of being life-affirming. I think we all ultimately only know in our hearts if our life is in alignment with life, or if we’re just moving money around.

Finally, as we consider food and “healthcare”, I think as we start to see how essential these two things really are, there are opportunities to take things up several notches in both areas.

We all know that most of the food sold in this country is vapid at best and toxic at worst. And we know that most “healthcare” is “sickcare”. It’s an amazing irony that we’re the richest society ever (by the definition of money), but we’re not wise enough to live in ways that provide ourselves with the most nourishing food possible or create wellness systems rooted in proactive prevention that truly tend to our well-being throughout or lives. In these ways, we’re very poor.

I think we can move into better ways of living, one day at a time, as each of us considers how we can align our lives more and more with life itself.

What do you think?

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

Is Your Fridge Your New Best Friend?

What is there a massive shortage of right now?

Toilet paper.

What is there no shortage of at all right now?

Stress.

What always comes with stress?

Stress eating.

A Perfect Storm

COVID-19 has created a perfect storm of conditions for stress eating.

For starters, there’s your fear of getting sick.

Then there’s your fear of your close ones getting sick, especially those most vulnerable.

Add to this the fact that you might be looking at being furloughed or laid off.

On top of that, your kids are now home 24/7. For the next five months.

You’re seeing your friends a whole lot less, at least in person, too.

Your sense of safety is shaky right now and your support systems have been pulled out from underneath you.

Making things even more stressful, no one is certain how this will go, how long it’ll last, or how bad it’ll get.

It’s enough to make you want to curl up in the fetal position and hide.

Or have a Girl Scout cookie. Or maybe a whole sleeve.

Is your fridge your new best friend?

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I hear you. Let’s talk about overcoming stress eating

The Essential Foundation

My first invitation to you, if you find yourself stress eating is to give yourself a pat on the back.

Huh?

Yeah, I’m serious, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re doing something to make yourself feel better. What you’re doing is adaptive, in a way, and it’s an act of self-care.

I know that most people tell you that you’re “bad” when you stress eat. I know you might have internalized this cultural tendency have gotten in the habit of telling yourself that you’re “bad” when you stress eat.

But trust me, you can’t berate yourself out of stress eating.

So, before we move on, please give yourself an actual pat on the back.

Okay, good.

You’ve started working with yourself, instead of fighting against yourself, and this is the essential foundation for overcoming stress eating.

Of course, I’m not say that stress eating is an awesome practice.  Obviously, stress eating is harmful in the long run because eating more than you need to eat, eating junk food, and/or eating sugary food eventually leads to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a host of other ailments.

But you already know that. Me wagging my finger at you and telling you that your being “bad” isn’t going to help. You doing the same thing to yourself won’t help either.

Has it worked so far? Has it ever worked?

Being hard on yourself doesn’t help you improve your behavior, and it feels shitty.

In the biz, we call this a lose-lose.

Instead, I invite you to double down on accepting yourself. Acknowledge that you’ve done the best you can so far to cope with your stress and to overcome stress eating.

From this foundation of self-acceptance, I invite you to employ three strategies to start to reduce, and eventually overcome, stress eating.

Lock Your Doors

This is the low-hanging fruit.

As best you can, keep junk food out of your home, car, and office.

If there were a string of burglaries in your neighborhood, would you unlock all your doors and windows? To see how good you can be at calling 911?

Why make things harder on yourself?

Working to overcoming stress eating while keeping junk food around is a form of self-torture.

Self-torture and self-acceptance don’t go well together.

Instead, be your own best friend and set yourself up for success.

Use the Carrot-Stick Test

You can eliminate any confusion between natural eating and stress eating by asking yourself a simple question when you reach for the door of your fridge:

Would I eat carrot sticks and hard-boiled eggs right now? (or whatever your favorite nourishing foods are)

When we’re eating because we’re hungry, our answer to this question will usually be “yes”.

When we’re eating because we’re stressed, our answer to this question will usually be “no”.

More like “Are you fucking kidding me? I want some cookies and I want them now.”

That’s because stress eating isn’t about food, it’s about dopamine. And junk food, especially sugary food, boosts dopamine levels extra fast.

Stress eating isn’t about satisfying your hunger and need for food, it’s about alleviating the nasty feelings associated with low dopamine levels.

I invite you to use the carrot-stick test to guide you and when you’re answer is “no”, realize you don’t need food right now. You need dopamine. Then boost your dopamine levels with one of these approaches:

  1. Get some fresh air.
  2. Get some sunlight.
  3. Get in nature.
  4. Listen to music you really enjoy.
  5. Play some music you really enjoy (on your guitar, piano, etc.)
  6. Take in or create some other art.
  7. Move around. (This can be a full-on workout or something as brief as a 10-minute walk.)
  8. Connect with another person in a way that feels really good to you.
  9. Do some deep breathing.
  10. Get a massage.
  11. Do a short spiritual activity that feels really good to you (anything that amplifies your connection to the spirit of life).

When you experience low dopamine levels and respond accordingly, you’re taking a really cool step in upping your self-care game.

The beauty of helping yourself feel better with these approaches is that unlike stress eating, there’s no downside. No one puts on extra pounds or gets sick from giving and receiving more hugs.

In fact, with these approaches, you curb stress eating in the moment and do something that has ripple effects that improves your overall well-being.

Be Needy

The deepest antidote to stress and therefore to stress eating is to be needy.

That is, to get real honest with yourself about what your needs are right now and get real honest with yourself about what steps you can take to meet your needs.

In our culture characterized by stubborn independence and stiff-upper-lipping, it’s easy to forget that we all have needs from birth to death. It’s easy to pretend we’re “bad-asses” that don’t need nothing from nobody.

But it just ain’t true. We’re quite needy people. Or “needful” people if you prefer a term less loaded with negative connotations.

Have some needs. Have lots of needs. Embrace the experience of being fully human.

To do so, I invite you to ask yourself two very simple, very powerful questions on an ongoing basis:

  1. What do I need right now?
  2. What steps can I take to meet these needs?

Engaging in this process day by day, hour by hour, even moment by moment when it’s necessary, is self-care graduate school.

It’s also the real work of overcoming stress eating.

Most people try to try to overcome stress eating with willpower, but trying to overcome stress eating with willpower is like trying to drain Lake Erie with a spoon.

We have needs, needs that have been baked into us over millions of years of evolution. When our needs go unmet, we experience stress. When we experience stress, our dopamine levels plummet. When our dopamine levels drop, we feel terrible and need to do something to get them back up.

Your willpower doesn’t stand a chance against millions of years of evolution.

People try this every day, and people fail at this every day. Then they feel like and call themselves a “failure”. This is a common viscous cycle.

The only way to truly free yourself is to gradually build the skills of better identifying and meeting your needs.

Consider the two important questions again:

  1. What do I need right now?
  2. What steps can I take to meet these needs?

There are infinite possible answers to these questions, of course. As example answers, a person might say:

  1. I need more loving touch. When I finish my workday, I’m going to offer my life partner a 10-minute hand, foot, or neck massage and ask for the same from him/her.
  2. I need more financial stability. I’m going to reach out to my financial advisor tomorrow and set up a time to talk with him/her about my situation and make sure I have a good strategy for the coming months.

Engaging in this process helps put you back in control of what you can control, while simultaneously not requiring you to control what you can’t control. As you get better and better at this, you’ll meet more of your needs more of the time and you’ll experience less stress.

This will greatly reduce your tendency to stress eat.

And it’ll give you so much more. It’ll give you truly holistic well-being. And it’ll give you the experience of being in harmony with yourself instead of fighting against yourself.

How does that sound?

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

From Harsh Taskmaster to Best Friend

Several years ago, I was having a conversation with a woman at a party and the topic of wellness came up. She bemoaned the fact that she wanted to lose weight and improve her well-being. She emphatically declared, “I know what I need to do: I need to eat less and move more.”

There are several aspects of this common statement that are technically unhelpful to anyone wanting to lose weight and improve their well-being, but what made me sad was something much deeper.

There was a crystal-clear look in her eyes when she said these words. The tone of her voice and her body language firmly backed it up. What she really said was:

“I know what I need to do: I need to eat less (because I’m a gluttonous pig) and move more (because I’m a lazy slob).”

I’ve heard people make this same declaration hundreds of times since, and nine times out of 10 I sense this same type of adversarial inner relationship.

When I meet someone who’s fighting against themselves, I can smell it right away. I have a special knack for this. That’s because there was a time in my life when I fought against myself as fiercely as anyone on Earth ever has.

It started when I was teenager and had become fat. My best friend teased me relentlessly. My parents failed to support me. I was devastated.

Betrayed by those closest to me, and with nowhere else to turn, I embraced the solution society shouted emphatically at me:

“Eat less (you gluttonous pig) and move more (you lazy slob).”

I did as they said, and I did it well.

In subsequent years, I damn sure wasn’t fat. At one point in graduate school, I had four-percent body fat and was well on my way to becoming a high-level triathlete. That fat teenager was nowhere in sight.

“Eat less, move more,” worked.

Until it didn’t.

In my mid-20s, I broke down hard. Just weeks after coming in the top-100 of over 20,000 competitors in the prestigious Boston Marathon, I found myself exhausted, in pain throughout my body, and depressed.

I’d been tired before, no doubt. But this was different. I couldn’t shake it. I wasn’t sleeping well at all. I was tired all the time. I first had pain in my knees. Then my hips and back. Then all over. It was hard to tell if I was depressed because I was exhausted and in pain or if this tendency was there all along and was no longer buried. I experienced it all as one messy disaster.

I knew immediately that I needed to put myself back together. I took steps to eat, move, sleep, and rest in much more life-giving ways. Very slowly, I started to recover.

As important as these outward efforts were, what turned out to be most important in my healing were my inward efforts. I gradually began to develop a relationship with myself characterized by doing things for myself, not to myself.

That didn’t come easy at first. Fighting against myself had become my default. When I struggled with being fat, I created an inner relationship that went like this:

  1. I don’t like you the way you are.
  2. I’m going to make you change.

In a sense, it was a master-slave relationship. The voice in my mind that got me to watch what I ate and workout all the time was the voice of a harsh taskmaster.

This voice permeates toxic diet culture and toxic boot-camp culture that are at the heart of our society’s mainstream approaches to wellness:

  1. “If it tastes good, it’s bad for you; if it tastes bad, it’s good for you.”
  2. “No pain, no gain.”
  3. “Eat less, move more.”

Ending this misery begins with a powerful mindset shift.

If you have adversarial relationship with yourself in your approaches to wellness, I invite you to try out a new mantra to help you initiate this shift:

“Nourishing food, nourishing movement, nourishing life!”

Practice saying this to yourself as a reminder to nourish yourself with food, movement, sleep, rest, fulfilling relationships, fulfilling work, time in nature, solitude, taking in and creating art, and whatever else you find truly nourishing.

Play with mindset shifts like these:

  1. I eat well and exercise well to nourish myself, not deny and punish myself. (I proactively meet my needs.)
  2. I eat well, exercise well, and otherwise take great care of myself as a way of doing things for myself, not to myself. (I advocate for myself.)
  3. I take care of myself the way I take care of my friends and children in my care. (I accept myself as I am and help myself meet my needs.)

Say, “Nourishing food, nourishing movement, nourishing life!” to help keep yourself on track.

Can you see how this mantra helps shape an approach to wellness that’s much more well-rounded?

More importantly, can you see how the “gluttonous pig” and “lazy slob” are no longer anywhere in sight?

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That’s because, “Nourishing food, nourishing movement, nourishing life!” is said with the inner voice of a best friend, not a harsh taskmaster.

Making this internal shift was more important to me in my healing than anything I did externally.

Relating to myself this way remains at the core of how I stay well.

I didn’t replace my inner harsh taskmaster with an inner best friend overnight, but I did do it.

If I can do it, you can too.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
—Oscar Wilde

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

This Shit Just Got Real

“It’s fucking ridiculous,” Alex exclaimed. “He’s my age.”

“I hear you,” I said.

“We went to college together. He used to be in such great shape,” Alex continued. “I don’t want that to happen to me.”

Alex was telling me a about a friend of his who had stopped by his home recently. His friend has type-2 diabetes and was talking about having to have the tips of some of his toes removed surgically.

I appreciated Alex’s raw, not-hiding-anything declaration: “I don’t want that to happen to me.”

I felt for him.

Alex was already motivated to improve his lifestyle and was off to a good start in doing so. And now he was looking me right in the eye with a new level of conviction. The look in his eyes, his body language—his entire being—said more than any words could:

This is my life for crying out loud. I don’t get a second chance at this.

So true.

This has been happening with my clients a lot recently. The shit is getting decidedly real.

Dana surprised me this week when she started telling me about her mom.

“She struggled with cancer the last eight years of her life,” Dana told me. “It was awful. She suffered so much.”

“I get it,” I told her. “My mom died of cancer. She was only 60.”

Her look back at me said everything that was in her heart:

I need to do my very best to make sure that doesn’t happen to me. And the time to do so is now. Not someday. Now.

“I run my own business,” she remined me. “My kids are young. I can’t afford to be sick like that. My family needs me.”

She wasn’t messing around anymore. This wasn’t about any surface-level bullshit. This was about her one precious life.

“You’re off to a good start with everything you’re doing so far with your meals, your workouts, with getting to bed earlier, and with using relaxation techniques,” I told her.

“Thank you,” she replied. “Let’s keep working on this. I appreciate your help.”

It’s so satisfying to be with people who are being real, asking for guidance and support, and doing the inner and outer work to improve their self-care and well-being.

Frankly, getting real is what it takes.

I’ll leave you with four powerful questions to help you do just that:

  1. What does it mean to be well?
  2. Why is being well important to me?
  3. What can I do to maximize my well-being now and for decades to come?
  4. What kind of support do I need to make this happen?

I invite you to spend some focused, undistracted time with yourself answering these questions.

I challenge you to be radically honest with yourself.

I’m confident you’ll get to know yourself more deeply and tap into some motivation you didn’t know has been inside you all along.

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“This life is more than just a read-through.”
Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers (Song)

Author’s Note: My clients gave me permission to share these stories with you. I also changed their names and some irrelevant facts to preserve confidentiality.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

Release Your Phone Addiction for Good

An addiction is something you can’t stop doing despite the fact that it harms you and doesn’t give you what you really need in the first place.

Addictive substances, behaviors, and thought patterns give you almost what you need. That’s what makes them addictive. They never actually satisfy you, so you keep going back to them to get more of what they provide. Over time, you need more and more exposure to get the same effect, and no matter how much you get, you’re always left craving more.

Young Cell Phone Addict Man Awake At Night In Bed Using Smartpho

That’s why your 10 minutes on Facebook so often turns into an hour and leaves you bleary-eyed and wondering, “Where did that hour go?”

That’s why you spend half an evening on Instagram, then put your phone down vowing to be done, only to pick it back up immediately.

Have you ever reached for your phone right after you put it down?

If so, you’re not alone. (This three-minute animated musical is so worth watching.)

Phones and the apps on them, like everything addictive, give you almost what you need. Phones and the apps on them give you the experience of almost connection. Almost community. Almost friendship. Almost family.

What these shiny metal faux-connection boxes provide is a simulacrum of connection. It’s virtual reality. Like a video game.

Someone sends you a witty text with a winky-face emoji. This is literally a simulation of the experience of being with someone who said something witty and lovingly teased you. It’s not the real thing. It never will be.

And you, me, all of us, we need the real thing as much as we need air to breathe. We literally need it to survive. Prisoners in solitary confinement go crazy in short order. Infants in orphanages who are kept in a comfortable setting and are given plenty to eat, but aren’t held, die within weeks.

As humans, we’re highly social animals and something very important enables our ability to connect with each other: our senses.

In a real experience, we look into the eyes of that specific person we love and they look into ours. We see into each other.

In a real experience, we give that specific person we love a foot rub or a hand rub or a neck rub in just the way that feels good to them. Or they pat us on the back, give us a fist bump, or hold our face in their hands, while telling us they love us.

In a real experience, we see that specific person we love winking, not like the emoji, but in that way that only they do. Or biting their lip. Or brushing the hair out of their face.

In a real experience, we hear that specific person we love laughing as only they do. Or sobbing as only they do. Or whispering in our ear at the movies to tell us something. We hear their voice that we know so well and feel their breath in our ear and feel their hand on our leg, all at the same time.

There’s no emoji for that.

Real connection is rich and deep. Real connection is full of texture and nuance. Real connection is personal. Real connection is real.

Real connection gives you what you really need and is the key to releasing your phone addiction for good.

Try an imagination activity with me.

Imagine you’re having dinner, or playing a board game, or otherwise doing something you really enjoy with three relatives you have deep, abiding bonds with. People you know through and through and who know you through and through.

Imagine your favorite music playing. Imagine the smell of soup simmering on the stove. Imagine the moonlight bouncing off the street outside your window. In your imagination, make it as rich of a sensory experience as you can.

Imagine greeting your cousin at the door and the way she hugs you and always holds on for just one more moment to make sure you really feel it. Imagine the way your aunt looks at you when she’s reading your mind and can tell you’re about to say something hilarious. Imagine the way your uncle calls you by your nickname and the way he says it because he’s from Jersey.

Take your time. Use my example and make this activity personal to you.

Really use your imagination and experience an evening like this evening as vividly as possible. Add any and all details you want to make the experience as rich and textured as you possibly can.

Stay there as long as you like. Bask in the experience.

Now assess how strong your drive is to pick up your phone to see if you have new e-mail.

If you’re like most people, that drive is probably very weak or even non-existent right now.

The feeling of connection with your peeps is so pervasive, and so satisfying, that there isn’t anything else you could possibly want right now.

These feelings of true bonding are a million times more powerful than the tiny, transient dopamine hits of a notification, text, or e-mail.

We’re made to overlap. To bond. To be better together. We’re made for interdependence. Not just with our life partners, but with our friends, our children, our parents, our siblings, and those in our communities.

This is why truly interdependent connection feels so good. It’s why the lack of it feels so bad.

And it’s why phone addiction is so common and growing at an alarming rate. It’s not because the phone and app makers are making their tools more addictive, it’s because substantive connection is increasingly rare.

Most people will tell you that the solution to your phone addiction is “discipline”*: “Just put it down!” they say in a stern voice.

Others will tell you that you need to outsmart your phone addiction. They think that the app on your phone that monitors your phone use is really clever. They can’t see that this is like when Phillip Morris puts out anti-smoking commercials.

No, you must outheart your phone addiction. The only effective way to get off-line more is to get on-life more. The more you immerse yourself in the real thing, the less you’ll crave the mere patina of connection your phone provides.

Our society is in a fallen state; there’s no doubt about that. None of us walked out of our homes this morning as members of thriving interdependent villages. It’s normal in our society for people to live alone. It’s normal in our society for people to be estranged from their parents/children/siblings. It’s normal in our society for people to be divorced. It’s normal in our society to be a child of divorce, often more than one. It’s normal in our society for children to spend most of the day with a hired caretaker instead of their family. It’s normal in our society for people to not know any of their neighbors. Layers upon layers of disconnection and separation from each other, and the ongoing breaking of bonds and loss of relationship, has become the norm.

As such, getting off-line and on-life requires a shift in mindset more than anything else. It starts by de-normalizing disconnection, separation, breaking apart, and loss and re-normalizing loving interdependence. This involves prioritizing deeply intimate, deeply harmonious connection and making commitment to community, friendship, and family important again.

Here are some ideas for putting this into action:

  1. Make it a practice to always maintain great eye contact with people.
  2. Make it a practice to always listen to people impeccably.
  3. Make it a practice to always lovingly touch your close ones when you greet and part.
  4. Meet one of your neighbors.
  5. With one of your friends, commit to spending time together at least once a week for a year.
  6. Ask a colleague to collaborate with you on giving a talk or writing an article.
  7. Before you fall asleep at night, tell your life partner one thing your grateful about in your relationship and ask them to do the same.
  8. Ask someone in your field who you respect who has more experience than you if they’ll spend two hours a month with you a month and mentor you in some aspect of your work.
  9. Ask someone in your field who you respect who has less experience than you if they want to spend two hours a month with you being mentored in some aspect of their work.
  10. In one of your relationships, ask for something you need and allow yourself to really enjoy it when it’s given to you.

What if you did two or three of these and made time for connecting in these ways for one year? How much better would your life be?

Oh, and that pesky phone: It won’t bug you anymore. You’ll be too immersed in life. Real life.

* I put “discipline” in quotes because the word has been hijacked in our society to erroneously mean making yourself do what you don’t want to do because it’s good for you. True discipline is knowing yourself really well, knowing what you really need to be your most alive, and settling for nothing less. True discipline has a spirit more like self-advocacy than self-punishment.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

Are You Hoping to Be Well?

I hope not. You can do a lot better than that.

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“Hope” is very tricky:

  1. Used well, hope is invaluable in keeping us going through the certain vicissitudes of life.
  2. Used poorly, hope is suffocating and absolutely crushes us.

As such, both of these statements are true:

  1. Hope is so powerful. Hope is a massively powerful catalyst for making things better. Hope is often the only thing that keeps us going during our darkest times.
  2. Hope is completely useless. More than useless, hope is extremely harmful. Hope cripples us and keep us from ever really thriving.

How can hope be simultaneously powerful and useless?

Hope actually can’t be simultaneously powerful and useless. Hope is really two entirely different experiences, both with the same name. That’s what makes it so tricky.

These are my two definitions of hope:

hope | noun | a spontaneously emerging feeling of the opportunity for better well-being

hope | verb | a distraction and procrastination tactic used by a person to avoid taking action to create better well-being

Noun Hope

We’ve all experienced noun hope. We’re in a tough spot. It feels like there’s no way out. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a powerful feeling emerges that we’re going to be okay. Even if we don’t know how we’re going to do it yet, we know in our heart there’s a way out.

Noun hope is incredibly valuable. It’s often the only thing that keeps us going when our life has become dire.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”
—Howard Zinn

Verb Hope

Most of us have tried to use verb hope. We want things to be better in one or more areas of our life. We have opportunities in our life to make things better. But instead of stepping into these opportunities, we keep hoping things will get better. Instead of taking action, we hope.

Verb hope is incredibly dangerous. It keeps use from the very things we want most, while allowing ourselves to trick ourselves into thinking we’re doing our best and that we’re on our way to getting them.

“Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue—if you care for yourself at all—and do it while you can.”
—Marcus Aurelius

The Trap

Because noun hope is so powerful, it’s very easy to accidentally give power to verb hope. “Hope” (noun hope) and “hope” (verb hope) are the same word after all. But let’s look at what happens when people give verb hope power.

In just the past month, I’ve witnessed people using verb hope in all of these destructive ways:

  1. “I’m hoping to start my own consultancy one day.”
  2. “I’m hoping he/she calls me so we can heal the damage I did to our relationship.”
  3. “I’m hoping I don’t get dementia like my grandmother did.”
  4. “I’m hoping to start a family one day.”
  5. “I’m hoping ‘we’ [‘the world’; anyone but me] fix ‘healthcare’.”
  6. “I’m hoping to finally lose this weight and keep it off.”
  7. “I’m hoping I don’t get divorced like my parents did.”
  8. “I’m hoping I don’t get diabetes like my dad did.”
  9. “I’m hoping to get really fit this year.”
  10. “I’m hoping ‘we’ [‘the world’; anyone but me] figure out how to fix climate change.”

My sense in my conversations with these acquaintances is that they’re not very likely to ever experience what they want to experience.

Not that it might be a ways off, but that they’re never going to experience what they want to experience. Because they’re never going to take the action that would help create what they want to experience. They’re too busy hoping.

Life has limitations. The platitude, “Anything is possible,” is very popular and it’s patently false. You can damage a relationship so much that it becomes irreparable. You can get sick in a way that you can’t heal from. After 35, it’s much harder to get pregnant and there are increased risks to the child. No amount of hoping changes these facts. Some things aren’t possible.

When we neglect to make things right with someone we wronged, eventually they fade away forever. When we keeping hoping to someday lose weight and keep it off, it gets harder and harder each month we put it off, and someday never comes. When we put off starting a family, our window for being able to do so permanently closes. When our song, our book, our TED talk remains a dream, it eventually becomes a regret.

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior

Time runs out.

This isn’t mean, it’s the truth.

This doesn’t make life grim, it makes life sacred.

It means giving our gifts to our world really matters. It means our work really matters. It means our relationships really matter. It means our lives really matter. It means our lives really matter now.

This is what makes verb hope so terribly damaging.

Verb hope is a distraction and procrastination tactic. Distraction and procrastination tactics are things we do to make sure we avoid taking the action that’ll likely lead to experiencing what we want to experience.

What makes verb hope so tempting, and so common, is that it so easily gets confused with noun hope. And this confusion has led to verb hope being a highly socially endorsed distraction and procrastination tactic. Millions of people are running around every day patting each other on the back for hoping that there’ll be less cancer, for hoping Earth will come back into balance, for hoping countries will stop waging war on each other, for hoping less kids will suffer with anxiety and depression. This virtue signaling makes everyone feel like they’re living benevolently, like they’re involved in the healing that’s needed so badly. But, horrifyingly, hardly anyone who is hoping is actually doing anything, and the healing that’s needed so badly isn’t happening.

Hoping is doing nothing with the pretense of doing something.

Because noun hope is such a beautiful, wonderful, powerful, life-giving experience, as a society, we’ve mistakenly transferred this beauty, wonder, and power to verb hope.

Since the only thing verb hope creates is complacency, this is a grave error.

We must use noun hope for all it’s worth and we must firmly avoid the trap of associating with verb hope at all. Verb hope is that “friend” that’s bad for us and leads us down dangerous paths.

Seeing the distinction clearly, we can now get out of this trap.

The Way Out

They way out is to drop hoping in favor of couraging.

If the wording is easier for you, the way out is to drop verb hope for verb courage.

Couraging is very straightforward. To courage (verb courage):

  1. Get deeply in touch with yourself. Allow yourself to be. Allow yourself to experience what is. Allow yourself to feel.
  2. Get deeply in touch with what you want. Not what you crave, like maybe a soda, or to check Facebook again. What you deeply desire. What you want more than anything you’ve ever wanted. What would make you feel whole. Alive. Deeply satisfied.
  3. Take one step into what you deeply desire. The one that’s immediately in front of you. That’s the only one step you need to take. Pick up the phone to call him/her. Write the first page of your book. Do one workout. Eat one nourishing meal. Do one courageous, loving thing for yourself and/or another or others that’s in alignment with what you deeply desire.
  4. Ask for and accept support from others. Ask for and accept every ounce of support you need. Don’t skimp.
  5. Keep doing that. (Couraging isn’t something you do in a moment. It’s a way of life. It’s being true to yourself. It’s living the life you’re here to live.)

It’s very important that you allow your deep desires to not only be okay, but to be sacred. Your deep desires are life itself. Your deep desires are your direct “interaction” with your spirit and the spirit of life.

You’ve likely been conditioned that your deep desires don’t matter. Worse, that they’re wrong. You might’ve wanted to be an artist, but your parents told you that you should be an attorney. You might want to go on an epic hike, but your spouse is threatening to divorce you if you do. Other people might be trying to squash your deep desires because your deep desires are inconvenient for them. Don’t let that happen to you.

It’s very important that you ask for and accept support. We’re social beings. We’re made to give and receive support. Mutual support is at the core of what makes us human.

You’ve likely been conditioned to pick yourself up by the bootstraps. You’ve likely been conditioned to keep a stiff upper lip. You’ll likely been conditioned that it’s a badge of honor to be stubbornly independent. To be able to do everything by yourself. All of this is a lie. Of course, no one is going to take the steps you need to take for you. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. No one who lives a full life does so on their own. Anyone who lives a full life does so with the help of wide, deep support systems. Get the support you need.

When you experience noun hope, let it be a spark that ignites you. But not into verb hope, not into hoping. That’s the trap. Let the power of noun hope catapult you into taking action and asking for and accepting the support you need.

Behind the Veil

Remember, hoping is a distraction and procrastination tactic used to avoid taking the action that’ll likely lead to experiencing what we want to experience.

Why on Earth would we do that to ourselves?

Three reasons:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of success
  3. Fear of feeling

We all want to be deeply satisfied. But yet it’s still very common to prevent ourselves from experiencing what we want. There are many ways we sabotage ourselves, and hoping is a big one.

We verb hope to avoid what it feels like to fail, what it feels like to succeed, and what it feels like to feel.

It hurts to go for something we want and not get it. It just does.

Getting what we want can be hard too. It changes us. It often comes with more responsibility.

But our biggest fear is feeling.

We’ve all been hurt, that’s for sure. We’re all tempted to shut down, so we don’t get hurt again. But we can’t selectively numb ourselves. To live in a way that makes sure we never feel any true sadness (or anything else we don’t want to feel again) is to live in a way that we never feel any true joy (or anything else we really want to feel again). In shutting down, we don’t get something for nothing. We live a smaller life.

It takes courage to stay open. It takes courage to go for what we want. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying you can do it.

The truth is this: We will get hurt again.

But it won’t kill us. And with tsupport, we’ll be okay. And (to me is the coolest part), living with mutual support is an amazing experience in and of itself, regardless of what we do or don’t move into in our lives.

When we opt-out of hoping and opt-in to couraging we greatly enhance our chances of getting what we want (with hoping, there’s no chance) and we get to experience deep, wide mutual support. That’s just plain good living.

Words Matter

Maybe I’ve done a good job today describing the folly of hoping and you can see the weakness in statements like these:

  1. “I hope to workout three times this week.”
  2. “I hope to be more patient and forgiving with my life partner this week.”
  3. “I hope to start writing my book this month.”

I’ve previously introduced verb courage as an alternative to verb hope. A more practical verb in our language is “commit”. It’s important to keep couraging and verb courage in mind, because committing to something important to you, committing to yourself, takes courage, but let’s play with the word “commit” for a moment.

Consider these statements:

  1. “I commit to working out three times this week.”
  2. “I commit to being more patient and forgiving with my life partner this week.”
  3. “I commit to writing the first chapter of my book this month.”

How much stronger are these statements?

Verb hope is very weak building material for a live fully lived. Using very hope to build your life is like using Styrofoam to build a bridge. Verb courage (committing), on the other hand, is like building a bridge out of the strongest steel on Earth. A commitment means something. A commitment is something.

I invite you make commitments. I invite you to write them down. I invite you to say them out loud. I invite you to share them with your close ones. This really makes them real and infuses them with mojo.

Pay attention to how it feels when you do so. You’ll likely feel something well up in you that feels robust and resilient. That’s what it feels like to be true to yourself. That’s what it feels like to be in resonance with who you really are.

I invite you to practice using only words that make you feel strong and to avoid using words that make you feel weak.

The words we use matter. The words we use create the lives we live.

The Outcome Is Out of Your Control

When opting out of hoping, some people make a well-intentioned mistake I need to warn you about: They make guarantees of outcome.

For example, someone might say to me, “I hope to write a best-selling book,” and I might challenge them to do better than hoping.

Oftentimes, the person will respond by saying, “I guarantee I’m going to write a best-selling book.”

This definitely isn’t hoping. But it contains a similar pretense because even if this person writes an amazing book, the one they know they have in them, there’s no way of guaranteeing that it’ll be a best-seller, let alone that anyone will buy it. We can’t honestly commit to outcomes that are out of our control. What we can commit to our actions we’ll take. In being honest with ourselves, we have to allow for the uncertainty of outcomes.

Following this example, these are really strong commitment statements:

  1. I commit to writing one chapter a month until my book is complete.
  2. I commit to writing passionately about my experience and not holding back.
  3. I commit to talking with three anthropology professors by October 1st to complete the research I need to complete for my book.
  4. I commit to finding an editor for my book by November 1st.

These are commitments that can be honored. They greatly enhance the person’s chances of writing a best-selling book and they’re within the control of the person. These kind of commitments call the person to action.

Making these kinds of commitments kills verb hope, and also importantly kills the fantasy of controlling the outcome. This allows us to be deeply honest with ourselves, and to live with authenticity and integrity. And it gives us the best chance to experience what we want to experience. Making these kind of commitments is really powerful.

Living Fully

In a sense, the antidote to hoping is couraging or committing, but really it’s living.

The antidote to hoping is living fully.

Who’s with me?

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
—Oscar Wilde

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

A Swede, a Kitavan, a Tsimané, and an Inuit Walk into a Restaurant…

Four friends get together for dinner at a restaurant.

Swedish Man: It’s really good to see you guys!

Inuit Man: Yes, it’s great to see you guys! And I’m glad we’re here. I’m really hungry.

Swedish Man: I already know what I’m gonna get; I’ve been thinking about it all day.

Tsimané Man: Let me guess: Steak and asparagus with lots of butter?

Swedish Man: What do you mean? Like low-carb or something?

Tsimané Man: Yeah, I know there was a big initiative in your country to get people to cut carbs. I thought all Swedes were on the low-carb diet.

Inuit Man: Seriously, we get together once a month and we’re talking about Swedish government initiatives and cutting carbs?

Swedish Man (with a smile): Yeah, we are, bro, until you have something better to talk about. I won’t be holding my breath.

Tsimané Man: Ignore him. It’s true, right?

Swedish Man: Not exactly, but I know what you’re referring to. In response to the fact that Swedish people had among the highest prevalence of cardiovascular disease in our world at the time, in 1985, there was a massive government initiative to get people to cut fat and add carbs. It was very successful, in the sense that the recommendations were widely adopted. Then, starting around 2003, and lasting for several years, there was a widespread, equally successful media campaign to get people to cut carbs and add fat. (1)

Tsimané Man: Oh, got it.

Swedish Man: From 1986 to 2010, some researchers followed a bunch of us Swedes. I volunteered. There were over 140,000 of us. For 25 years, they measured our food intake, our body weight, our blood-cholesterol levels, and more. (1)

Kitavan Man: So they followed you all during a period when the low-fat diet was widespread and during a period when the low-carb diet was widespread, right?

Swedish Man: That’s right. And this is one of the largest studies of food intake and wellness ever conducted, both in terms of number of subjects and length of follow-through. (1)

Tsimané Man: What did they find?

Swedish Man: First, over the 25 years, body weight of Swedes kept rising. First, we went low-fat, then we went low-carb, and we kept gaining weight the whole way through. On both diets, over time, we gained weight. (1)

Inuit Man: How about blood-cholesterol levels?

Swedish Man: First, let me say that we can’t claim causation from a study like this. All that weight gain, we can’t say it was caused by eating low-fat or low-carb. All we can say is that people just kept gaining weight during the periods of time when those diets were widely followed. With blood-cholesterol levels, there was a sharp bettering from 1986 until 2004, then they stayed about the same, then, in 2007, there was a sharp worsening. Again, we can’t claim causation, but as the low-carb movement really took hold, blood-cholesterol levels got a lot worse. (1)

Tsimané Man: So that’s why you’re not low-carb?

Swedish Man: I’m not low-fat. I’m not low-carb. I’m not low-anything. Well, I am low-dogma. No, at this point in my life, I’m firmly no-dogma.

The other men all smile.

Swedish Man: I don’t play those games anymore. Now just I eat real food and I really enjoy it. No weird exclusion of entire classes of foods required.

The server comes to the table.

Server: It’s great to have you all back. Are you ready do order?

Kitavan Man: We need a few more minutes. We’ve been talking.

Inuit Man (pointing to the Swedish man and teasing): He’s been talking.

Server (smiling): I’ll come back in a bit. Take your time, gentleman.

Kitavan Man: I just eat real food too. I grew up that way so it comes easy to me. I grew up on lots of fruit, all different kinds of tubers that are kind of like the sweet potatoes here, lots of fish, and coconuts. (2,3,4)

Swedish Man: Sounds good!

Kitavan Man:  Oh, yes. Island food is good, men! I’d love for you guys to come with me on my next trip back home.

Swedish Man: You don’t have to ask me twice.

Kitivan Man: My people are super well too. When I was a teenager, a bunch of researchers come to the island to study us because we’re so well. (2,3,4)

Swedish Man: What did they find?

Kitivan Man: Do you want to know what they didn’t find? Cardiovascular disease. Barely a trace. It’s almost impossible to find cardiovascular disease in a Kitavan. (2,3,4)

Swedish Man: That’s amazing.

Tsimané Man: Fruit and tubers are both really high in carbs. You all definitely aren’t on the low-carb diet.

Kitavan Man: No, not at all. Lots of fruit! Lots of tubers! (2,3,4)

Tsimané Man: I never knew all this about you. What’s crazy is that scientists came to study my people too. I don’t mean to brag, while yeah I do. (pauses an smiles widely) Let me brag: They found us to be the people with the lowest amount of cardiovascular disease ever observed, even less than you Kitavans. (5)

Inuit Man (pretending to be annoyed): Are you guys going to be ready to order soon?

Swedish Man: I’m ready.

Tsimané Man: Me too.

Kitavan Man: I’m ready.

Inuit Man (smiling widely): Thank goodness!

Swedish Man: What do the Tsimané eat?

Tsimané Man: We eat corn, manioc, plantains, and rice that we grow along with fruit and nuts we gather and meat we get from hunting (including fishing). (5)

Swedish Man: Like the Kitavans, it sounds like lots of carbs?

TsimanéMan: Oh yeah! About 72 percent of our energy comes from carbohydrate, 14 percent from fat, and 14 percent from protein. (5)

Swedish Man: Wow! Something is way off with this whole low-carb craze here in the United States. Both the Kitivans and the Tsimané have virtually no cardiovascular disease or obesity (2,3,4,5) and you’re all eating mostly carbs (2,3,4,5). Here, everyone is doing that crazy keto diet with no carbs at all and we’re sick as fuck here. Something doesn’t add up.

Tsimané Man: Yeah, in the study of my people, they did a direct comparison. The average 80-year old Tsimané had the heart of the average 55-year-old in the United States. (5) We’re doing just fine with our corn, manioc, plantains, and rice, thank you very much.

Inuit Man: Okay, that’s interesting!

Tsimané Man: Right? There are all these fancy schools here and all these people with advanced degrees trying to “figure out the optimal diet”. They’re like a bunch of dogs chasing their tails.

Kitavan Man: Then some of them fly over to study us. They witness with their own eyes how well we are. They do elaborate testing on us and they find out that we don’t get sick like their people do. But then they don’t even trust their own data, for crying out loud.

Inuit Man: They don’t trust themselves. They don’t trust nature. They live in great fear. My people, we’re one with nature. We don’t use nature. We don’t fight nature. We’re one with nature. We are nature. We never separated.

Swedish Man: What do the Inuit eat back home?

Inuit Man: Okay, I’ll play; this has actually gotten really interesting. And we have one of the most unique ways of eating on the planet, so you guys are going to find this fascinating. My people live in one of the coldest climates on Earth. We can’t cultivate any plants, so even to this day, we don’t do any farming. We hunt, mostly for seals, and for some inland animals too. And we gather a very small amount of plant foods when they’re available which is very rare. (7) You think the summer is short here in Maine? Go up to Canada. Then keep going up. And going. Until you reach the Arctic Ocean. That’s where I’m from. How do people say it here? Cold as fuck!

The other men all smile.

Swedish Man: Wait, so the Inuit don’t eat much carbohydrate at all then?

Inuit Man: Almost none. Carbohydrate-rich food just isn’t there. (7) If you want to study the effect of the low-carb diet and the keto diet, you want to study my people. We’ve been eating that way for a long time. We don’t have any weird artificially tanned people promoting it as a diet, we just eat that way because that’s what’s available for us to eat.

Swedish Man: And are your people well?

Inuit Man: Yes, we largely avoid cardiovascular disease, obesity, and the other chronic ailments common in the West. (7)

Tsimané Man: So you guys are basically eating like you’re on the keto diet that everyone around here in the States is doing?

Kitavan Man: Yeah, that’s what it seems like. I mean, your people must eat a lot of fat?

Inuit Man: We eat tons of fat, a moderate amount of protein, and almost no carbs. (7) Just like the keto diet.

Swedish Man: Well, then, maybe the keto diet works too. I mean, it seems to work well for the Inuit.

Inuit Man: Are you ready to have your mind blown?

Swedish Man: Oh, I can tell this is gonna be good.

Inuit Man: The whole premise of the keto diet is you eliminate virtually all carbohydrate from your diet. You do this to force your body into a state of ketosis characterized by the formation of ketone bodies. Advocates of the keto diet claim all kinds of benefits come from being in ketosis and the formation of ketone bodies.

Swedish Man: Wow, so the Inuit must be in like super ketosis or something! That must be why they’re so well!

Inuit Man: That’s what many people here believe. Many people make a big mistake and use the well-being of the Inuit to support the notion that getting into ketosis comes with all kinds of benefits.

Swedish Man: Wait, I’m confused.

Inuit Man: Hang tight; I’m getting there. (reaches for his phone) In 2013, a group of geneticists discovered that the Inuit have a widespread genetic mutation that prevents most of us from ever going into ketosis at all. (6) Hold on, I have it right here.

Swedish Man: This is really interesting!

Inuit Man: This is from an editorial written by three physicians recently in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine (7):

“The risks posed by the ketogenic diet may explain why the majority of, if not all, populations consume enough carbohydrates to avoid chronic ketosis. Despite popular misconception, even the circumpolar Inuit, who historically have subsisted on a diet of minimal carbohydrates, have a widely prevalent genetic mutation to circumvent the production of ketones. Although the reason for the genetic mutation is not known, it may have conferred a survival advantage, by minimizing ketone production.”

Swedish Man: Wow!

Kitavan Man: It’s as if their bodies know better. The Inuit eat in a way that would force chronic ketosis in everyone else on Earth and their bodies have adapted in a way that they don’t produce ketone bodies. That’s absolutely amazing!

Tsimané Man: Yes, that’s amazing!

Inuit Man: Isn’t that something? This is from the geneticists who did the original research those physicians were referring too. This is from the American Journal of Human Genetics (6):

“Moreover, the large amounts of n-3 polyenoic fatty acids in the traditional diet of these aboriginal peoples are known to increase the activity of CPT1A. In this context, the CPT1A-activity decrease due to the c.1436C>T mutation could be protective against overproduction of ketone bodies.”

Kitavan Man: So all these advocates of the keto diet, they’re making production of ketone bodies out to be some sort of holy grail…

Tsimané Man (finishing the thought of the Kitavan man): …But the only people on Earth who natural eat virtually no carbohydrate don’t actually produce ketone bodies? Their bodies have developed a way to avoid going into ketosis altogether?

Inuit Man: That’s what the science shows, my friends. (6,7)

Swedish Man: Wow, nature is wicked smart and seems to have a sense of humor at the same time!

Inuit Man: We are nature, men. The sooner we embrace interbeing and live as one with nature, the better off we’ll be. We need to stop trying to trick and hack and outsmart nature. That’s what these crazy fad diets are all about. They’re people trying to outdo and hack nature. That never goes well. Trust me.

The server comes over to the table.

Server: All right, is everyone ready to order?

Inuit Man: Yes! I’m so hungry.

Swedish Man (addressing the server): Before we get to that, have you seen a change in how people eat in the restaurant over the years? Have you seen people eating low-fat, eating low-carb, you know, that sort of thing?

Server: Oh yeah, I’ve seen it all. If there’s a fad diet, I see people jumping on it. Management even changes our menu to keep up with the latest fad diets.

Swedish Man (addressing the server): So what do you think of the keto diet and everyone avoiding carbs these days?

Server (surprised and thrilled to taking a shot at this one): You wanna know what I think? I see a lot of people come in and out of this place every day. It’s a little slice of Americana. I’ve seen it all. And I can tell you this. Our society is certainly very sick. We have broken families. Broken communities. We have junk food. Junk media. Junk art. Junk education. It’s a truly sick society. (pauses, looks down, then looks back at the others) With everything I’ve seen, and with everything going in in this country, do you want to know what I think is making people sick and fat in the United States?

Swedish Man (addressing the server): What?

Server: Not squash.

107

With the citations for this article, I’ve added bonus information for you: quotes from the scientists, researchers, and physicians who conducted these studies. Don’t be duped by a fast-talking, fancy-talking bully selling a fad diet. Empower yourself with science. With truth.

Of course, there are a plethora of scientific studies showing the benefits of the low-carb diet and the keto diet. There are just as many showing the benefits of the low-fat diet. These are almost all short-term studies.

Any real scientific exploration considers all of the available knowledge. Choosing not to look at the other knowledge isn’t intellectually rigorous or honest.

“Stupidity is overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information.”
—Adam Robinson

It’s easy to say, “There’s science to support the low-carb and keto diets,” but stopping there ignores what Robinson brilliantly refers to as “conspicuously crucial information”.

All of this knowledge is available:

  1. There’s lots of data from short-term clinical studies showing benefits of the low-carb diet and the keto diet.
  2. There’s lots of data from short-term clinical studies showing the benefits of the low-fat diet (which is high in carbohydrate).
  3. There’s data from one of the largest studies ever conducted on the relationship between ways of eating and wellness (the one on the Swedes I described in this article).
  4. There’s data from studies of the Kitavans and the Tsimané I described in this article.
  5. There’s the knowledge of a widespread genetic mutation in the Inuit, a people who naturally eat almost no carbohydrate, that prevents them from going into ketosis. We don’t know why this genetic mutation exists. But the powerful implication is that chronic ketosis created by chronic carbohydrate deprivation is so dangerous that a genetic mutation has emerged in the Inuit to prevent it.

Something besides carbohydrate-rich food is making people sick and fat in the United States. Acorn squash, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and pineapple aren’t the problem. The low-carb and keto diets aren’t a holy grail.

Here are the references and quotes straight from the scientists, researchers, and physicians who conducted these studies that I promised:

(1) Associations Among 25-Year Trends in Diet, Cholesterol and BMI from 140,000 Observations in Men and Women in Northern Sweden. Nutrition Journal, 2012, 11(1), 1-13.

“In the 1970s, men in northern Sweden had among the highest prevalences of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) worldwide. An intervention program combining population- and individual-oriented activities was initiated in 1985. Concurrently, collection of information on medical risk factors, lifestyle and anthropometry started. Today, these data make up one of the largest databases in the world on diet intake in a population-based sample, both in terms of sample size and follow-up period. The study examines trends in food and nutrient intake, serum [a component of blood] cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) from 1986 to 2010 in northern Sweden.”

“Reported intake of fat exhibited two significant trend breaks in both sexes: a decrease between 1986 and 1992 and an increase from 2002 (women) or 2004 (men). A reverse trend was noted for carbohydrates, whereas protein intake remained unchanged during the 25-year period. Significant trend breaks in intake of foods contributing to total fat intake were seen. Reported intake of wine increased sharply for both sexes (more so for women) and export beer increased for men. BMI [body-mass index] increased continuously for both sexes, whereas serum [a component of blood] cholesterol levels decreased during 1986 – 2004, remained unchanged until 2007 and then began to rise. The increase in serum [a component of blood] cholesterol coincided with the increase in fat intake, especially with intake of saturated fat and fats for spreading on bread and cooking.”

“Men and women in northern Sweden decreased their reported fat intake in the first 7 years (1986 – 1992) of an intervention program. After 2004 fat intake increased sharply for both genders, which coincided with introduction of a positive media support for low carbohydrate-high-fat (LCHF) diet. The decrease and following increase in cholesterol levels occurred simultaneously with the time trends in food selection, whereas a constant increase in BMI [body-mass index] remained unaltered. These changes in risk factors may have important effects on primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

(2) Low Serum Insulin in Traditional Pacific Islanders—The Kitava Study. Metabolism, 1999, 48(10), 1,216-1,219.

“In Kitava, the intake of Western food is negligible and stroke and ischemic heart disease are absent or rare.”

“Low serum insulin may partly explain the low prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Kitavans and probably relates to their marked leanness.”

(3) Age Relations of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Traditional Melanesian Society: The Kitava Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 66(4), 845-852.

“The population is characterized by extreme leanness (despite food abundance), low blood pressure, low plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 activity [a marker of thrombosis related to the development of the metabolic syndrome (the cluster of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and related diseases) and cancer], and rarity of cardiovascular disease. Tubers, fruit, fish, and coconut are dietary staples whereas dairy products, refined fat and sugar, cereals, and alcohol are absent and salt intake is low.”

(4) Apparent Absence of Stroke and Ischaemic Heart Disease in a Traditional Melanesian Island: A Clinical Study in Kitava. Journal of Internal Medicine, 1993, 233(3), 269-275.

“On the island of Kitava, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, a subsistence lifestyle, uninfluenced by western dietary habits, is still maintained. Tubers, fruit, fish and coconut are dietary staples. Of the total population, 1816 subjects were estimated to be older than 3 years and 125 to be 60-96 years old. The frequencies of spontaneous sudden death, exertion-related chest pain, hemiparesis, aphasia and sudden imbalance were assessed by semi-structured interviews in 213 adults aged 20-96. Resting electrocardiograms (ECG’s) were recorded in 119 males and 52 females. No case corresponding to stroke, sudden death or angina pectoris was described by the interviewed subjects. Minnesota Code (MC) items 1-5 occurred in 14 ECG’s with no significant relation to age, gender or smoking. ST items [a measure of heart function] (MC [Minnesota Code] 4.2 and 4.3) were found in two females and Q items [a measure of heart function] (MC [Minnesota Code] 1.1.2, 1.3.2 and 1.3.3) in three males. Stroke and ischaemic heart disease appear to be absent in this population.”

(5) Coronary Atherosclerosis in Indigenous South American Tsimane: A Cross-Sectional Cohort Study. The Lancet, 2017, 389(10,080), 1,730-1,739.

“Despite a high infectious inflammatory burden, the Tsimane, a forager-horticulturalist population of the Bolivian Amazon with few coronary artery disease risk factors, have the lowest reported levels of coronary artery disease of any population recorded to date.”

“The Tsimane live a traditional forager-horticultural lifestyle, in huts of thatched roofs, typically in villages of roughly 60-200 people. An estimated 14% of their average caloric diet is protein, 14% is fat, and 72% is carbohydrate. Meat protein and fat are acquired by hunting with guns and bow and arrow, or fresh water fishing with arrows, hook and line, or nets. Non-processed carbohydrates are grown in the form of rice, plantain, manioc, and corn via slash-and-burn horticulture, and the Tsimane also gather wild nuts and fruits.”

“In this population-based study of the indigenous Tsimane population of Bolivia, we observed a very low prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis, as measured by CAC [coronary-artery calcification] scoring. The low prevalence of atherosclerosis extends to the older ages wherein up to 31 (65%) Tsimane octogenarians were free from atherosclerosis; only four (8%) of octogenarians showed moderately elevated CAC [coronary-artery calcification] scores. This makes the Tsimane the population with the least reported coronary atherosclerosis. This contrasts starkly with the US MESA population in which only 14% of the MESA [Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis] population had no CAC [coronary-artery calcification], and more than 50% exhibited CAC [coronary-artery calcification] scores of at least 100 Agatston units. These findings translate to a 24-year lag before Tsimane reach a CAC [coronary-artery calcification] score of above 0 and a 28-year lag before they reach a CAC [coronary-artery calcification] score of at least 100 compared with an unselected US population. By these findings, an 80-year old Tsimane possesses the ‘vascular age’ of an American individual in their mid fifties. These findings of apparent protection from coronary atherosclerosis in the Tsimane extend to old age.”

(6) A Selective Sweep on a Deleterious Mutation in CPT1A in Arctic Populations. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 2014, 95(5), 1-6.

“Moreover, the large amounts of n-3 polyenoic fatty acids in the traditional diet of these aboriginal peoples are known to increase the activity of CPT1A. In this context, the CPT1A-activity decrease due to the c.1436C>T mutation could be protective against overproduction of ketone bodies.”

(7) The Ketogenic Diet for Obesity and Diabetes—Enthusiasm Outpaces Evidence. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2019, published online on July 15, 2019, DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2633.

“The risks posed by the ketogenic diet may explain why the majority of, if not all, populations consume enough carbohydrates to avoid chronic ketosis. Despite popular misconception, even the circumpolar Inuit, who historically have subsisted on a diet of minimal carbohydrates, have a widely prevalent genetic mutation to circumvent the production of ketones. Although the reason for the genetic mutation is not known, it may have conferred a survival advantage, by minimizing ketone production.”

“Although the ketogenic diet has garnered much attention for the dietary treatment of chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, the evidence supporting its use is currently limited and the diet’s potential risks are real. Physicians and patients should continue to judiciously appraise the benefits and risks of the ketogenic diet in accordance with the evidence, not the hype.”

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.