A Wellness Tool You Need: The Sacred NO

Pretend it’s the end of yoga class and say it with me:

Nooohhhmmm! Nooohhhmmm! Nooohhhmmm!

That’s not a typo. It’s just like ohm, but nohm! This’ll make sense in a moment, I promise.

Nooohhhmmm! Nooohhhmmm! Nooohhhmmm!

My client (let’s call her Suzy for the sake of anonymity) brilliantly graced me with this idea yesterday. She’s been doing great work on setting boundaries in her life since boundaries are essential to wellness. Wellness is the natural result of self-care which is all about making great choices and meeting your needs. It’s about saying YES to getting great sleep, spending time with your friends, doing exercise you enjoy, and so much more. And here’s where boundaries come in:

Your YES is only as good as your NO.

You might fully want to say YES to family dinner four nights per week. But if you’re also saying yes to a client that isn’t a good fit for you, a toxic relationship with your sister, and way too many volunteer opportunities, those family dinners just ain’t going to happen consistently. Your time and energy will be drained and you’ll find ways to not follow through on this important value of yours. Yes, self-care is about saying YES to that which nourishes you. It’s equally about saying NO to that which doesn’t nourish you.

You need to be able to say a strong NO in your life in order to be able to say a strong YES in your life.

Suzy has been working very hard on strengthening her NO. She’s stepped into saying NO to things that weren’t really filling her up and to some things that were downright toxic. She’s had to be very firm sometimes. Some opportunities, some people, don’t respond to meek NOs. Sometimes it takes a lot of contrast to push us to say NO like we mean it. That’s what happened with Suzy. We got on Skype a few weeks ago to start our work together and right away I could tell she was drained and weary. As soon as we started talking, she said, “Fu*k NO. I have to tell him this sh*t stops NOW.” Suzy proceeded to walk her talk and has since put a few big burdens behind her.

When we got on Skype yesterday, and I asked Suzy how she was doing, a softer, gentler, and much more alive woman, looked at me and said “Nooohhhmmm.” I knew instantly what she meant. She was still setting boundaries, but feeling much calmer about it. We talked about what’s going on in her life now and what she wants to create in the coming weeks. To thrive even more, she needs to bring more nourishment into her life. As an entrepreneur, business owner, philanthropist, and great all-around person, she gets asked for a lot. Will you do this with me? Will you do this for me? Suzy and I talked about how what she’s developing now could be thought of as “the sacred NO”. Not sacred in a religious way, but sacred as in essential to LIFE, to the life that is each of us. Thinking of our NOs as nooohhhmmms, Suzy and I realized together, is a way to say NO that’s not only guilt-free, tension-free, and 100-percent jerk-free, but actually sacred.

I do my very best to live my life by a simple, powerful credo: Do the most loving thing for everyone involved.

That means I can’t be selfish. I can’t only do what’s best for me. But I also can’t sacrifice myself. Because I’m one of the “everyone” involved in any situation. Suzy’s been working really hard on this too. And yesterday it was clear she was coming into her own.

The next time you have an important NO to say, I invite you to do a few nooohhhmmms to yourself to get in touch with your best self. To remind yourself you’re doing the most loving thing for everyone involved. You might even deliver the NO with an imaginary nomaste (that’s namaste and NO having a baby in case you missed it). Nomaste: “My inner light honors your inner light (namaste) while I’m saying NO because it’s the most loving thing to do for everyone involved.” Nomaste. The sacred NO.

Photo 143--The Sacred NO

All of my clients work on setting boundaries at some point in our work together since most of my clients are Strivers, Martyrs, or both when we start our work together.

A Striver is a person who puts a great deal of time and energy into accomplishing things, and, in doing so, neglects self-care. Of course, accomplishing things is a positive trait. A striver simply takes it too far, at the expense of self-care, and ultimately their wellness.

A Martyr is a person who puts a great deal of time and energy into caring for others, and, in doing so, neglects self-care. Of course, caring for others is a positive trait. A martyr simply takes it too far, at the expense of self-care, and ultimately their wellness.

Strivers and Martyrs both have to learn the sacred NO in order to transform into THRIVERS.

A THRIVER is a person who thrives by proactively meeting his/her needs. They retain their strengths, even enhance them, as they become balanced by learning to take care of themselves.

If you identify as a Striver or Martyr (or both), I invite you to work on strengthening your sacred NO. A few nooohhhmmms will get you centered. The spirit of nomaste will help you deliver your NOs just right.

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.

The Wellness Hack to End All Hacking

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Hacking is all the rage these days. You can hack your sleep, hack your relationships, hack your mind, hack your anything really. The spirit of hacking is interesting. When I hear hacking, I hear a few things: solving, outsmarting, tricking, finding a shortcut, beating the system. Some of the wellness advice given in the spirit of hacking isn’t bad, but in my experience, hacking yourself and your life is far from the best spirit in which to approach yourself and life.

Hacking reflects an expanding trend of people exerting dominion over nature. None of us have to look very far to find clearcut forests, polluted rivers, and extinct species as the result of people thinking they knew better than nature. People have been increasingly going against nature for a few millennia with devastating consequences for all.

Hacking oneself is exerting dominion over oneself, over one’s nature. It’s a form of slave-master relationship with oneself. It’s you telling you what to do even when it’s not what feels good to you at all. It’s you feeling like you know better than you. It’s an organism, in this case a person, working against itself. It’s the epitome of unnatural. It’s a strained relationship at best, a tortuous one at worst.

You might be thinking that if you don’t control yourself, who will? “Self-control is the key to wellness, right? I have to be vigilant. I have to push myself to exercise. I have to watch what I eat.”

As a college classmate of mine is fond of saying: I call bullshit. In fact, vigilance isn’t related to wellness at all. You don’t need to control or hack yourself. In fact, there’s a wellness hack to end all hacking and it’s been around since long before there was a word hacking. Let’s start with two Taoist concepts.

The first is tian ran. Tian ran translates roughly to: that which happens of itself. Like how a heart beats.

The second is wu wei. Wu wei translates roughly to: with the flow of life. Like how the tide goes in and out.

Wellness, your natural state, happens of itself, when you go with the flow of life. You can’t make yourself well. You are well. You can, however make yourself unwell when you work against yourself.

I had the amazing opportunity to spend some with a great Taoist master recently. I met the master at a nearby trail in the woods. When the master first approached me, she was full of energy, almost bouncing as she walked, and smiling widely. She didn’t say a word, but I took in my first lesson: Live life with a spirit of play. Don’t toil, don’t strain: play with life.

I nodded and we walked. We walked for a 20 minutes or so, both enjoying the humid, salty air. Then, to my surprise, the master stopped walking. Instantly. Not like she was scared or anything; like she had something much better to do. She sat on the ground and I sat on a nearby fallen tree. She looked at me approvingly like she was doing exactly what felt best to her, then rested her head on my foot which became her perfect pillow for the occasion. Her eyes closed and she drifted asleep. And so I received my second lesson: Do what feels good when it feels good. In this lesson, Lola taught me something I hadn’t learned from priests or professors or anyone in a teacher role in my life growing up. Again: Do what feels good when it feels good.

The master didn’t think about this nap at all. She wasn’t walking along thinking, “Naps increase the release of human growth hormone which helps with exercise recover. A nap will make me fitter.” Nor did she think for a millisecond that maybe should could get something else done. Nor did she compare herself to anyone else thinking, “I wonder why Jason doesn’t need a nap.” At that time, everything in her being wanted a nap more than she wanted anything else. That happened of itself and she went with the flow of life. She napped. She didn’t rush and she didn’t hesitate. She napped when she wanted to nap, not sooner, and not later. The power in this lesson wasn’t so much that she decided to nap when she wanted to nap. At her level of mastery, she seemed to not even make decisions. Instead of controlling herself, she seemed to be allowing herself. She was allowing herself to be. It was powerful to witness. I took it all in while this living master rested her head on my foot. I rested too and watched her belly rise and fall as she inhaled and exhaled. It was beautiful.

Ten or so minutes later, the master awoke, looked right into my eyes and with a powerful look said: “Let’s walk.” She had even more pep now and danced along the trail. She walked beside me, in front of me, and behind me at times. She taught not with her words, but with her way. A short while later, she was getting warm, sweating more, and breathing more heavily. She looked right at the backpack I was carrying and said only a word: “That.” She knew exactly what she wanted and she wanted it now. Not with concern or urgency, but not with indecision or deliberation either. She simply knew what she wanted and she made her desire and her action one. I poured some water into a white ceramic cup for her. She delighted in the water for a bit, then looked at me smiling widely. I looked back at her, in turn starting to communicate without speaking, and said clearly, “Don’t you want more? It’s pretty hot out here.” Her smile never faded, and she flipped the cup over and over, laughing the whole time. She had enough water and was now enjoying showing me a few tricks. I couldn’t help but laugh in kind as my learning deepened. She drank when she wanted to drink and stopped when she had enough, all with a playful spirit. She didn’t measure her sweat rate to dial in the “perfect” amount to drink or add electrolytes to her water to “make it better”. Nope, no hacking here. She is a master of letting wellness happen of itself by going with the flow of life.

For years, I’ve been practicing the art of meeting my needs by doing the next thing that feels best. To be in the presence of a master was truly inspiring!

As we parted, I bowed in gratitude. The master grinned sarcastically at me. Her message, and my third and final lesson, again was clear: “I’m not a master any more than you’re a master. We can all live this way. It’s our natural way.”

At that time of our walk together, Lola, from the Taoist lineage known as black lab, was nine weeks old. She was adorable. We had a fun time together and I sure learned a lot.

Photo 142--Lola

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.

Let’s Shake Up This “Healthcare” “Discussion” A Bit (A Lot)

I was walking home from work recently and I overheard two men “discussing” “healthcare”.

“We can’t have a system led by the big insurance companies,” one man said. “No way,” the other man replied. “It’s just not working. My premiums keep going up every year; like 25 percent a year. It’s crazy. Plus, I’ve got a huge deductible and co-pays for everything to boot.” “Something has to be done about this,” the first man chimed in, getting angrier. “Obamacare is a mess,” he said. “They can’t get anything right in Washington.”

Can you see why I put “discussing” and “healthcare” in quotes? First, this is a complaint jam session; nothing is being discussed. Second, neither man said anything about health or about caring for one’s health; they complained about insurance and government.

Let’s be really clear. When most people are talking “healthcare”, they’re talking about medical care and medical insurance. Medical care is the treatment of the symptoms of sickness by physicians and other medical professionals. Medical insurance is insurance to pay for the treatment of the symptoms of sickness. “Healthcare” is sick care. It has little to do with fostering health. Or wellness.

I prefer the word wellness over the word health. Wellness has positive implications and is all-encompassing. To be well means to thrive as a person. What would it mean to truly care for our wellness? I mean both what would it mean to care for our wellness as individuals and what would it mean for us to care for one another’s wellness?

Photo 141--Thriving Woman

Let’s hold those questions in our minds for a moment and talk about one of the greatest examples of collaboration ever accomplished by humans*: car insurance. Car insurance is a phenomenal collaboration*. Car insurance works. Car insurance works really well. Have you noticed the sheer absence of people holding signs and chanting about car insurance? That’s because there’s nothing to complain about. Car-insurance companies also consistently have really funny ads. There’s a lot to like about car insurance.

In 2015, I paid $624 for a year of “good” (modest deductible, good coverage) car insurance. In 2016, I paid $641 for the same insurance. In 2017, I paid $660 for the same insurance. If I was in a small car accident that was my fault, say one that would cost $2,000 to repair, I’d pay $500 and my insurance company would pay the rest. If my car were totaled in an accident that was my fault, I’d pay $500 and my insurance company would give me enough money to buy a brand-new replacement car (an approximately $20,000 value). I pay a relatively modest amount of money into the system, and I have the assurance that if something goes wrong with my car, I can get it repaired or replaced. My annual premium increase have been modest, sustainable increases in line with the inflationary increases in the costs of most goods and services. This whole situation is working really well for me. I think most people would say car insurance works really well for them too. No one has e-mailed me asking me to go march in Washington to fix car insurance anyway.

What makes car insurance such an effective system? Is it the lack of big insurance companies and meddling from the government? That’s not even close to the answer, much to the dismay of the fellowship of the complaining miserable. State Farm, Allstate, Progressive: these are mega companies moving billions of dollars. And the government has it’s hands all over our cars. We’re required by law to have insurance in order to register our cars, which is also required by law. To maintain our insurance and keep our cars registered, we must have our cars inspected regularly to ensure they’re in good working order and safe to operate. In addition, we must each also have a driver’s license ensuring we know the rules of the road, have good driving skills, and can see well enough to drive safely. The fees (taxes) we pay to register our cars and have them inspected are relatively modest. So are the fees for driver’s licenses. The government also imposes speed limits on most roads, requires us to wear seat belts, and doesn’t allow us to drive under the influence of alcohol or while using our phones. The government regulates car companies as well and sets standards for the safety of the cars they make. This government intervention helps keep most of the cars on the road running well and most drivers driving safely. Together, insurance companies, the government, and all of us run a very effective car-insurance system. We pay very modestly into the system, annual expenses rise in a sustainable manner, and when big things go wrong with our cars, it’s easy breezy to get us back on the road. No massive deductibles. No co-pays. No waiting months for an appointment. No real hassles at all.

This system works so well because most of us take great care of our cars and drive safely. Other than Tyler Durden, when he decided to have a “near-life experience”, I’ve never seen a person get in a car accident on purpose. People generally obey at least the spirit of most traffic laws. Nearly everyone’s car is inspected ensuring that their windshield wipers are in good working order, their lights work, and their tires have enough tread to get great traction. Most people also have regular maintenance performed on their cars by mechanics. This system works so well because the overwhelming majority of the cars on the road are in excellent working order.

The people in the medical-insurance system, not so much:

  1. According to the John Hopkins University Medical School, 84 million people in the United States (27 percent) live with cardiovascular disease.
  2. According to the American Diabetes Association, 39 million people in the United States (13 percent) live with type-2 diabetes and the number of people living with type-2 diabetes is growing at a rapid rate. The total cost of treating type-2 diabetes in the United States increased 45 percent (from $174 billion to $245 billion) in just the five years between 2007 and 2012.
  3. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of people in the United States will develop type-2 diabetes in their lifetime.
  4. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the global cost of dementia is over $600 billion annually, about the same as the Gross Domestic Product of Switzerland.
  5. The World Health Organization has declared depression a worldwide epidemic, with five percent of the population living with the disease. In the United States, nearly 15 percent of the population takes an antidepressant medication, with this rate steadily growing in recent decades.
  6. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of adults in the United States are overweight/obese. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of men are overweight/obese. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of women are overweight/obese. More than one-third (35 percent) of children are overweight/obese.
  7. According to the World Health Organization, about 60 percent of all deaths around the world are the result of these non-communicable diseases (a.k.a. lifestyle diseases).
  8. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of all deaths among United States citizens are the result of these non-communicable disease (a.k.a. lifestyle diseases).
  9. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these non-communicable diseases (a.k.a. lifestyle diseases) account for 86% of medical costs in the United States.

Our “healthcare” problem isn’t a problem of insurance, it isn’t a problem of government, it’s a problem of health. Of wellness.

As such, no amount of think tanks focused on the medical-care system and/or medical-insurance system is going to be able to solve this problem. The numbers will never add up. Not with free-market medical insurance. Not with single-payer medical insurance. The dollars and cents will never add up. In 2015, I paid $252 per month ($3,024 per year) for a year of “blah” medical insurance (very high deductible, fair coverage). In 2016, I paid $301 per month ($3,612 per year) for the same insurance. In 2017, I paid $359 per month ($4,308 per year) for the same insurance. I’ve already been informed of my projected premium for 2018 for the same insurance and these near-25-percent annual increases are projected to continue. Is it because “Obama had has head up his ass” or because “The Republicans just want to screw us all”? I wouldn’t give any of them that much credit. The reason for increasing deductibles, rising premiums, and rising co-pays is, in insurance speak, more and bigger claims. I know it’s easier to be mad at a politician or Blue Cross Blue Shield, none of who I claim to be angels, but they’re not the problem. The problem is the number and size of claims. The number and size of claims, if you’re willing to accept the truth, is directly proportional to the sinking wellness of citizens of the United States. You don’t have to be Will Hunting rogue studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to understand this is a math problem, not a malice problem.

The amazing car-insurance system would fall apart too if we all stopped taking care of our cars and started driving recklessly. Premiums and deductibles would skyrocket. There’d be a long wait to get in to see a mechanic. They’d add co-pays to the system. People would be chanting in public spaces: “Fix car care. Fix car care. Fix car care.” It’d be a mess. But that’s what the overwhelming majority of people are doing with themselves: They’ve stopped taking care of themselves and they’re living recklessly. As such, there’s no realistic way to insure us and our wellness.

We don’t need an insurance solution for our wellness problem. We need a wellness solution for our wellness problem.

We need to align a highly functioning medical-care system, with a highly functioning medical-insurance system, with a highly functioning self-care system. No one seems to want to talk about that. And don’t tell me that you agree and that “preventative medicine” should be “covered”. “Preventative medicine” is really early detection of disease. Sure, that’s helpful because it’s easier and less expensive to treat the symptoms of sickness when you find them earlier rather than later. But true disease prevention is self-care. Self-care prevents disease altogether.

According to the World Health Organization, about 80 percent of non-communicable diseases (a.k.a. lifestyle diseases) are preventable by exercising well, eating well, and related self-care.

What if we took 80 percent, even 40 percent, even 20 percent of the claims out of the medical-insurance system? Blue Cross who? Medical insurance would quickly become a non-issue. And, as a side effect (pun intended), millions of us would be feeling better. That’s priceless.

I’m not calling for anything regarding medical insurance. Insurance is terribly boring to me. Insurance is also fear-based which isn’t how I operate. I stand for life. For wellness. For thriving. Wellness doesn’t happen in hospitals or in Hartford (“The Insurance Capital of the World”) or at “healthcare” rallies. Wellness happens in communities, on hiking trails, among friends, in dance halls, at dinner tables, in vibrant workplaces, at farmers’ markets, etc. Wellness happens when, like Andy Dufresne when he decides he’s not going to spend the rest of his life in Shawshank State Penitentiary, we realize: “It’s either time to get busy living or it’s time to get busy dying.” I mean really living. Thriving. Who’s with me?

*Car insurance is a great example of collaboration only by very recent standards. Pre-agricultural people collaborated in ways that blow most people’s minds. Prior to the advent of agriculture a mere 10,000 years ago, all humans lived as hunter-gatherers (a.k.a. foragers). Hunter-gatherers were fiercely egalitarian masters of collaboration. I speak of hunter-gatherers in the past tense because most humans become farmers about 10,000 years ago and factory workers about 300 years ago. However, some humans remain hunter-gatherers today and continue to live in very egalitarian, collaborative societies.

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.

 

The Vitamin That Guarantees Weight Loss

The following is an amalgamation of dozens of conversations I’ve had with clients:

Me: What do you want to work on today?

Client: You know, I want to lose weight.

Me: Yes, let’s pick up on what we worked on last time. Tell me more about why this is important to you. What would losing weight give you that you don’t have now?

Client: Less pounds. Ha ha.

Me (smiling): What else?

Client: I’d feel better about myself.

Me: Say more.

Client: I don’t like how I feel. I feel ugly.

Me: What does that feel like?

Client: I feel like people don’t like me. People don’t like heavy people. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in.

Me: Outside of what?

Client: Life. The good life.

Me: Be more specific.

Client: Relationships. I want to be in relationships.

Me: And you don’t think you can be right now?

Client (getting a little emotional): No, not really.

Me: What does that feel like?

Client (after a deep breath): Scary. It’s my worst nightmare to be alone.

Me: What does it feel like in your body?

Client: Really stressful. I can feel my heart beating faster.

Me: Stay with it. What else is there?

Client: Well, the stress is starting to chill out a bit actually.

Me: What are you feeling now?

Client: I’m aware I’m not really alone. Olivia and I have been friends since high school. My parents have always been there for me. I like the people I work with. You’re super supportive.

Me: Even with that, the way you said that, I sense you’d like more from your relationships.

Client: Yeah, I want someone to really love me.

Me: Say more.

Client: I want someone to love me unconditionally. I want someone I can totally be myself with and it’s okay.

Me: You want to be accepted for who you are?

Client: Yes. I want to be with someone who considers me okay just the way I am.

Me: Do you feel you are?

Client: What do you mean?

Me: Do you feel you’re okay just the way you are? Do you accept yourself just the way you are?

Client (getting more emotional): No, not really. I’ve always hated my body. I’ve kind of always hated myself in some ways. I’m really, really hard on myself. I talk to myself in ways I’d never to talk to anyone else.

Me: Say more.

Client: I don’t like being fat. I mean, you know, we [women] are supposed to have these perfect bodies and look a certain way. I’ve been told that by everyone in my life since I was…as long as I can remember.

Me: What’s that like?

Client: Impossible. Impossible is really the best word. It’s like I can’t win. I mean, I might be able to lose the weight I want to lose. But I’ll still never be perfect. I mean, I’m 36. I already have wrinkles and a few gray hairs. Even if I lose the weight, I’ll always have flaws.

Me: It seems like you feel a lot of pressure to look a certain way.

Client (getting really emotional): It’s exhausting. Utterly exhausting.

Me: I can tell this is very intense for you. It feels like a really big load for you to carry. A huge burden.

Client: I hate it! I absolutely hate it!

Me: Let’s take a moment and pause. This is hard work you’re doing.

Client. Okay.

Me (after a brief pause): It seems like you’re fed up with this pressure to look a certain way. Is that accurate?

Client: Totally. What the fuck? I’m a hard worker, I’m intelligent, I’m a good person. And, yet, I feel like all that matters is losing weight. All that matters is looking good. For as long as I can remember, it’s felt like losing weight is all that matters. The pressure is eating me alive.

Me: Would you like to explore some other ways of approaching this?

Client: Yes! That’s why I’m working with you. Pushing myself to lose weight and get “a good body” hasn’t worked no matter how hard I’ve tried or no matter how many times I’ve tried and I don’t think I can keep doing that.

Me: I’d like to ask you to really look at your beliefs. Is that okay with you?

Client: Yes.

Me: What would it be like for you to accept yourself as you are right now?

Client: I had a feeling we were going there.

Me: What’s it like to go there?

Client: It’s a mixed bag. Part of me is feeling a lot of fear. For a really long time, I’ve felt that losing weight was the key to accepting myself. Giving that up feels a bit scary. But I also feel something else. It honestly feels bigger than the fear. A sense of relief. A weight off my shoulders. I mean, I think this is what I’ve wanted all along.

Me: What have you wanted all along?

Client (letting out a big sigh): To accept myself as I am. Damn, it feels good to say it. Really good.

Me: What does it feel like?

Client: Again, like a weight off my shoulders. Like I’m releasing a huge burden. I didn’t really know this was an option.

Me: Take some deep breaths and enjoy the feeling. Savor it. Take as long as you like.

Client (after a minute or so): This feels really good, but I feel awkward keeping you waiting.

Photo 140--Woman Reflecting

Me: Ha ha. I get it. I think that’s probably good for now.

Client: It just feels so good. It’s like when I need a nap and I let myself take one. Or like when I’m craving a certain food and I have it and it’s perfectly fulfilling.

Me: Yeah, acceptance is super nourishing. You need it. I need it. We all need it. It’s like a vitamin. I sometimes call acceptance vitamin A. We need acceptance like we need vitamins and other nutrients. It’s essential to our wellness. And vitamin A might be the most important nutrient there is. Without vitamin A, life can be really hard.

Client (smiling): I like that analogy.

Me: So as we move forward, are you starting to see a new way of approaching weight loss? Instead of weight loss as a path to self-acceptance, you have the ability to accept yourself now, and always. And you can build exercise habits, eating habits, and other wellness habits on top of that self-acceptance foundation. Does that approach sound good to you?

Client: Yes! It already feels like it’ll be easier. Like I’m not doing all this stuff to lose the weight so I can accept myself, since I’m already in the process of accepting myself as I am. I have to say, I think this accepting myself as I am will be a work in progress for me. But like I said, it already feels good. And it feels like everything else will be easier and more fun.

Me: Of course, yes, it’ll be a process. Big changes like this can take some time. We’ll work on it together. You’re well on your way by being willing to open the door today. This is great work you’ve done today! Really great work!

Client: Thank you.

Me: And, yes, now you’ll be free to exercise well, eat well, and otherwise take care of yourself without being in this box that you’re doing it only for weight loss and with weight loss as they only way you can accept yourself. Let’s work together now to make your THRIVE plan [wellness plan] for the coming weeks with all of this in mind. Are you ready to do that?

Client: Yes, that sounds really good.

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.

 

The Parent (Wellness) Trap

“I’d love to get more sleep, but with the kids’ schedules, it’s just not possible.”

“Breakfast? I’m lucky to grab a granola bar on the way out the door to bring the kids to school.”

“I was in great shape until we had Juliette. It’s really hard with kids.”

“My sorority sisters and I used to go to the Outer Banks for a long weekend every fall, but most of us don’t really have time for that anymore with our kids.”

“I could really use a bit of time to myself each day, but my kids need me all the time.”

In my conversations with people about wellness, kids come up a lot. Specifically, many parents perceive their children, and parenting, as obstacles to their wellness. I coach many parents too and they all have one thing in common: They love their kids tremendously. I often hear them say, “I’d do anything for my kids.” It’s a powerful experience to be around a parent who would do anything for their child. That said, in doing anything for their children, many people give up some other things of value to them: sleep, rest, solitude, friendship, nourishing workouts, nourishing meals, and more. What they give up is self-care. What they are giving up is wellness.

When a parent gives up self-care in this martyr dynamic, it’s a lose-lose situation. First, yes, obviously the parent’s wellness suffers in both the short- and long-term. That’s clear. And important. Second, and maybe less obvious, the child’s wellness suffers, potentially into adulthood and for their whole life. How’s that possible?

Kids model themselves after the adults in their lives, especially their parents.

Kids don’t do what we say; kids do what we do. More so, kids become their parents. Kids who grow up with parents who model thriving relationships are much more likely to experience thriving relationships in their adulthood. Kids who watch their parents work 60-hour workweeks are much more likely to make long workweeks a value they carry into adulthood. Kids who sit down with their whole family for dinner are much more likely to become adults who gather their whole family to sit down together for dinner. Kids who hear their parents groan about how exercise is a drag are much more likely to also decide that exercise is no fun.

“You gave me life; now show me how to live.”
–Show Me How to Live by Audioslave (Song)

Of course, as adults we make our own choices and don’t necessarily live just like our parents did. But it takes a lot of effort to break the momentum of our upbringing. For a child, It’s a huge help, a great head start, to have thriving parents model wellness for them.

Kids don’t want us to do things for them, then want to us to show them how to live. They’re new(er) to this world and don’t have the experience we have. We’re their models. They watch everything we do. They listen to everything we say to one another. They absorb our values and habits. It makes sense; absorption of the life around us is the most expeditious way to learn and grow.

If you’re a parent struggling to find your self-care mojo, I offer this discourse as a new form of inspiration, possibly one you haven’t thought of. When you make time for self-care, it’s not only not selfish, it’s one of the best things you can do for your children. And you’re already amazing and doing great things for your children. I’m simply presenting another way of thinking about doing great things for your children. A way that leaves guilt at the door and fosters deep wellness for everyone involved. Exciting, right?

What can you do for yourself today? And are there ways you and your family members can exercise together, eat together, and otherwise nourish yourselves together? Those can be big win-win situations.

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.

The Lie That’s Stealing Your Productivity (And Much More)

Take out a piece of paper and get something to write with. Yes, we’re going old school for this demonstration. Get something to time yourself with too.

You’re going to do a task twice. You’ll do it a bit differently each time and you’re going to time yourself each time.

Ready for the first task? When I say go, you’re going to write the sentence: “Multitasking is the biggest lie.” Then, underneath it, write the numbers 1 to 27 (1, 2, 3 … 25, 26, 27). Time how long this takes you and write down the time.

Ready? Go.

Ready for the second task? When I say go, you’re going to again write “Multitasking is the biggest lie,” and write the numbers 1 to 27. But now you’re going to write one letter, then one number, then one letter, then one number, and continue in that fashion. “M”, then “1”, then “u”, then “2”, etc. You’re going to write the same sentence and the same list of numbers, but you’re going to do it by alternating writing the letters and numbers. Time how long this takes you and write down the time.

Ready? Go.

How’d that feel? When I do this, I feel like there’s sludge in my mind. I can’t think properly at all. You? And how long did it take you to do the second task? It takes me more than twice as long to do the second task than it does to do the first task.

This is multitasking, better named switchtasking, because what we’re really doing when we work like this is continually switching from one task to another. This is how we operate when we’re trying to do two things (or five things) at once. We get all sludged up. If this is how you always operate, it can start to feel normal. But it’s far from optimal.

Switchtasking steals your productivity. And your joy, peace, and wellness. As this demonstration makes clear: We can’t do two things at once. And it’s really stressful to try.

Here’s your three-part antidote:

Photo 138--Thriving Worker

Work in focused blocks of uninterrupted time. Take periods of time and designate them for specific tasks. For example, you might decide to write an article from 8 to 10 and work on marketing from 10 to 12. When you’re writing, write. When you’re working on marketing, work on marketing. Think back to how amazing you were in the first part of the switchtasking demonstration. This is how you’ll be when you’re writing, and only writing. You’ll be clear and sharp. And relaxed.

You might be wondering: “But what if I get a call?”

Schedule your interruptions. Schedule when you reply to calls, texts, e-mails. For example, designate an hour at 8 and an hour at 1 for replying to people. Like a college professor who holds office hours, let the people in your life know when you’re available.

If this sounds like taking control of your workday, you’re right. It gets better too.

Take rest breaks. You’re not a machine. You need breaks. You can insert breaks into your workday in many ways. They work really well between tasks. For example, say you were planning to meet with a colleague from 8 to 9 and read the latest research in your field from 9 to 10, you could modify that so you have your meeting from 8 to 8:55 and read from 9 to 9:55 with five-minute rest breaks built into each hour. The best breaks involve completely getting away from your work. My favorite break is to go for a walk. Sometimes I meditate. Sometimes I stretch. Anything that feels good to you and gets you fully away from your work is a good break.

A break isn’t doing nothing. It’s nourishing you. Like you need air, water, and food, you need rest. When you come back from a break, you’ll do your best work and you’ll feel better.

Working this way allows you to do more with more. There will always be only one you, but you’re your best you when you’re well-nourished.

Most work cultures, even completely self-imposed work cultures, seem to be about getting a person to do more with less. It’s like starving a plant and expecting it to grow faster. It makes no sense at all. When you’re trying to do multiple tasks at once, allowing yourself to get interrupted all the time, and working non-stop without any breaks, you’ll be like a drunk ship captain. You might not be running into any icebergs anytime soon, but you’re surely not at your most effective.

This comes down to self-care. When you nurture yourself, you set yourself up to thrive in your work. You and the people you serve will get a lot from that. I invite you to give it a try and see how you feel.

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.

Boot Camp? Really?

United States Army Basic Combat Training (“boot camp”) is a program with one purpose: to create soldiers. Soldiers for war.

The entire purpose of a war is to kill. The entire role of a solider is to kill.

Every system in boot camp is designed to turn ordinary United States citizens into killers. Efficient killers.

The schedules, the terminology, the clothing, the psychological games—the entire culture facilitates this transformation. It’s all designed to take a person with no innate desire to hurt anyone and turn him/her into a killing machine.

That’s a fact. Like it or don’t like it, it’s a fact. Boot camp is killing training. Let that really sink in.

Photo 137--Soldier Shooting a Gun

So here’s my question for the wellness professionals who run boot camps:

Is the ethos used to create efficient killers, the same ethos you want to use to help people feel great and live live long, happy, healthy lives? Really think about that.

How’d we get here? Who thought the attitude of boot camp was just right for helping people live with greater vitality, fitness, and wellness? Does the same mindset used to turn people into killers serve well as the mindset to help people live happier, healthier lives? Really, how’d we get here?

Imagine a few wellness professionals sitting in a park on a beautiful day drinking smoothies discussing how they could help more people. Perhaps they were (justifiably) burdened by the increasing rate of lifestyle disease in our society and wondering “What can we do about this?” Did one of them have an aha moment and say, “I’ve got it: boot camp!”

Is that really your best idea? I’m not a rocket surgeon, but I can’t think of too many things counter to wellness than mass killing. I also can’t think of a less-productive relationship between a wellness professional and a client than the kind of abusive and manipulative relationship between a drill sergeant and a recruit. But maybe that’s just me.

To me, words matter. The words we use affect how we think. When you go to boot camp, you’re expecting to be “whipped into shape”. You’re expecting a drill-sargeant-like figure to yell at you and insult you. Yelling and insulting, you’ve been taught, is what it takes for you to exercise and be well. This is based on the erroneous belief that your natural inclination is to sit on the couch all day and destroy yourself. Nothing could be further from the truth. Watch young children. It takes a drill sergeant to get them to sit still. Our natural inclination is to move. As soon as we can crawl, we love to move. This, again, is a fact. You can witness this in any home with young children.

So I say keep your whip. I’ll move around because I like it. In fact, I love it and always have. And really, how long do you think I’m going to put up with this yelling and whipping.

You see, free people like to make choices for themselves. You can force some people to do some things for some period of time, but never indefinitely. They’ll inevitably resist at some point. This is why the main portion of United States Army Basic Combat Training lasts only 10 weeks. It’s not sustainable for any longer than that. And that’s a big problem in exercise programs: sustainability. People start and stop exercise programs all the time. We need to teach people approaches to exercise they’ll do for the rest of their lives.

Boot camp also reeks of co-dependence. I come to you because I can’t get myself to exercise on my own. You make me exercise. But what happens when you’re not there? You’ve now made it even harder for me to exercise of my own volition. I need you to get myself to exercise. That’s co-dependence.

Here’s a different approach:

  1. Understand that people inherently love movement. Sure, if a person hasn’t exercised in years, they have some momentum working against them. But I haven’t met a client yet, that once they start to overcome this momentum, doesn’t start to tell me they look forward to exercise. Those who continue long enough all get back to the inherent love of movement they had as kids.
  2. Create cultures that foster sustainable exercise. Do this by treating exercise as fun and pleasurable and something to be done in moderation, not too little and not too much. Consistent movement throughout our lives keeps us well. Everything you can do to minimize starting-and-stopping and foster consistency is huge step in the right direction.

My sense is most people who run boot camps have good intentions. My sense is most are kind people. My sense is most aren’t abusive and manipulative like drill sergeants. But words matter. We can name our wellness programs with more inspiring, life-giving names associated with life giving, certainly not like taking away.

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