MYST 155: Change

Photo via Pixabay.com by https://pixabay.com/en/users/geralt-9301/geralt

Learn about “Gentle Exercise” here: MYST 153

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Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over

work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Commons Zero.

MYST 100: Trevor’s Team

Finally! The time has come to actually help you directly, not just by creating these episodes!

Do you want to look like this?            Me, at 265 pou

Or would you rather look like this? 

 

 

MYST 86: Changes….Everything Changes!

It has been a long time since the last episode, and many things have changed in my life. Many changes have happened to me, and changes alter everything. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.

But the show is back and it is also changed. For the good, I think.

These will be shorter shows, averaging 12-14 minutes and will focus on different aspects of weight loss. (This show is longer than most at about 17 minutes.) Each show will talk about just one concept. Each concept will be another piece of the weight loss puzzle. These are shorter than most of the earlier shows, because I want everyone to have  chance to listen, without a large time commitment.

And the shows are going to be twice a week now. New shows will released on Mondays and Fridays. I’ve chosen those days because I think they are the biggest days for people trying to lose weight. On Monday, many people are frustrated from have made poor choices over the weekend and on Monday morning are looking to “get back on track”. Hopefully a new show will help restart your drive to succeed.

Friday is different. It is the day before the weekend starts, and therefore is my last chance to give you a bit of help. I want these shows to give you more strength to stay on track.

Please tell me what you think of this new show, and the forthcoming episodes! And, if you enjoy the shows, I would really appreciate if you shared a link to the shows so that others can listen and hopefully learn something new.

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Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

 

MYST 84 Trevitorial: Diet or Exercise?

or photo-1422207175003-e5b7d45ceb7b  or Rainbow-Run-2014-018 Dave Maier

 

Which is it? Diet or Exercise?

When people hear that I once weighed 305 pounds (138kg) and was able to lose—and keep off—125 pounds (57Kg) I still get asked the same question:

“So? What’s your secret?”  As if there is a secret to successful weight loss!

I almost always get the same response to my reply: “Diet and exercise.” It is a little half-frown, a micro-step backwards, and then, “Ohhhhh.” As if that secret wasn’t good enough.

But that is it! Diet: in other words, eating the correct amount of calories and Exercise: moving more to burn more calories. Nothing else. But…there is more to it than that!

This show will focus on the three phases of weight loss, and how “diet and exercise” remains the foundation of successful weight loss even as how “D & E” habits become modified through each phase.

Nothing can stay the same and remain successful. Things always change, even how you lose weight.

And first, I want to thank one of my LoseIt friends, Mike Pfirrman. He posed a question in the LoseIt forum about this topic, and in crafting a response, I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever really addressed this specific topic. So, thank you, Mike! I hope that your question will eventually help many people, even beyond the world of LoseIt!

His question was “If weight loss happens in the kitchen, why am I reading than nine out of ten people who are formerly obese, regain all their weight over a 5 year period if they don’t exercise?”

His question actually addresses not “weight loss” but “weight maintenance”, which requires a different mindset. But I will get into that shortly.

The genesis of his question is that many people come to LoseIt as ask what exercises they need to perform in order to lose weight, and the stock answer is a variation on this: “Weight loss happens in the kitchen. Fitness happens in the gym. Focus on eating correctly, because you can’t out-exercise bad eating habits.”

And I stand by that answer. It is true. Mostly. In this show, I will dissect it more accurately, addressing each weight loss phase.

The first phase is “Early Loss.” Especially when a person has a lot of weight to lose (50 or more pounds) it is not uncommon that not only is the person overweight, but they are also under-active. And their lack of activity is partly due to low/no stamina, painful joints, shortness of breath or other weight-exacerbated conditions that already exist.

Could an overweight person focus on exercise only and lose weight? Certainly. Will they? Unlikely. If a person has been sedentary long enough combined with bad eating habits, becoming consistently active enough to promote significant weight loss is probably not a realistic goal. I will take myself as an example. When was 305 pounds, I struggled to slowly walk a quarter mile (400m) with my dog Ozzy. By the time I reached that point, I was short of breath to the point of being lightheaded. I had no stamina. Physically, I was all I could do to walk that short distance. If someone had told me, “Trevor, the only way to lose weight is to start a P90X routine” my response would have been, “Sure. Right after I eat this container of ice cream.”

No. In that “early loss” phase, we need to focus on something that is equally hard but within the realm of physical possibility. We need to focus on finding a correct diet. And by “diet”, I mean calorie budget. Personally, I do not subscribe to the idea that any one food, food group, or macronutrient is the source of all weight problems. I know that many people have strong beliefs about this. Some promote eating paleo, some promote low fat, some promote gluten free, some suggest no artificial sweeteners, some no processed carbs, some want meal replacement shakes, and so many others.

That isn’t me. I believe that total calories is the problem, and to fix that problem you need to change your total calories consumed. So, with that in mind, and with the help of LoseIt, I found a calorie budget that worked for me. I learned to eat the correct portions (oh, yes, “portion control” is a major component) by weighing and measuring my foods. I logged everything I ate, because how else do you really know what you’ve eaten. And I ate my budget.

And in the first phase of my losing, that worked. I started losing weight and at the same time, I started making portion control and logging a daily habit. I made it part of my routine life. I made it a new habit, a good habit. All because I was focusing on only one thing, day after day.

After the losses had progressed for a few months, I moved into “Continued Loss” phase. I had dropped from 305 to under 275 in about 3 months. It was a nice steady progression and I was about 20% towards my goal. But during that time, I still needed to walk my dog every day. I didn’t do anything special related to exercise. I just walked my dog, but by the time I reached this point, I had started walking longer distances. I was walking up to a mile, sometimes twice a day.

At this point in the weight loss journey, physical activity started to become easier. I started walking more, sometimes even without Ozzy. My losses continued to accumulate. My calorie budget would slowly drop with each logged loss (about 8 calories per pound) but I was still eating the full budget and still losing weight at a fast pace (around 2 pounds a week—I was still 95 pounds from my goal.) But it is during the “Continued Loss” phase that exercise first needs to be addressed.

Remember, as you lose weight, you need fewer calories for survival, which means your budget will drop. Oh, not much at first, but over those first three months, my daily budget had dropped by about 320 calories! That will continue to work for a while, but eventually, especially when you are close to goal, that “budget only” loss plan will give you a budget that is so low as to be unsustainable and unhealthy. The only way losses will continue is by increasing activity.

During the “Continued Loss” phase, you need to gradually increase your activity. This can be simply walking longer and longer distances (as I did) or adding different activities (bicycles, swimming, weight lifting, etc.) You still need to follow your budget, but these new activities will give your losses a bit of a boost because you are now burning even more calories. And when you are close to the goal, you will need to eat those exercise calories because your base budget might be nearing that “too low” zone (below your Basal Metabolic Rate).

Okay, so in “Early Loss”—the first 20-25%, you focus on changing your eating habits, and very slowly add gentle activities.

“Continued Loss” phase keeps the budget focus but brings more exercises to the plan, enhancing your losses and at the same time, building stamina, strength and physical confidence.

The last phase is what Mike was talking about. “Maintenance” is a different aspect of weight loss, and is where most people stumble and fail. If you have solely been using calorie restriction for weight loss, by the time you are at a normal BMI, your calorie budget will be low. Very low. Again, possibly at that unsustainable level. And to continue living on such a restricted budget–continue for the rest of your life, which is how long maintenance lasts—you will probably become one of those “nine of ten” that Mike mentioned.

But if you had successfully made the transition from primarily focusing on your budget to keeping to your budget while increasing your physical activity, you will probably be that one of ten. You will have discovered that sweet spot between activity and budget and when you find that, you are on the smooth ride for success.

That is what I was able to do. Through my losing phases, I increased my activity, which remained almost exclusively walking, to the point where walking 7 miles was nothing. One day (May 10, 2012) I walked over 42000 steps with a 44 pound (20Kg) backpack. That was 18.5 miles (29.6Km), in only 6.5 hours. Yes, I was tired, but not exhausted. I walked 18.5 miles when a year earlier, I couldn’t walk ¼ mile.

My maintenance continued successfully because I kept walking. When I was on the job at the hospital, I added 50-70 flights of stairs a day, to add to my activity. I still ate my budget, and logged all my foods, but now the focus was more on activity (because the food aspect had become a good habit.)

Oh, you noticed I said “my maintenance continued successfully…” using the past tense? Yes, that is correct. My maintenance period ended, and it ended for the same reason Mike’s “nine out of ten” failed. My activity came to a grinding halt. About a year ago, my knees failed to the point where walking any distance was incredibly painful. I was back to that ¼ mile limit, not because I was short of breath, but because my knees, both “bone on bone” would feel like small blast furnaces had been implanted under my knee caps. I could still—had to—walk at the clinical sites, but no stairs, ever. And I only tolerated the walking because I had a cane, strong anti-inflammatories during the day, and strong narcotic pain killers for after work.

And the weight came back. At my peak loss, I was down to 175, and for about 2 years I fluctuated between 175 and 185, which I considered my success zone. And then in the summer of 2014, that ended, and the weight began adding up. I’m now at 205, twenty pounds over the upper border of my success zone. All because I couldn’t drop my budget low enough, and enhanced by the fact that my walking was negligible.

Now that I am fully one month after knee replacements, I foresee a return to my success zone again. It will take until March or April 2016, but I will get back. I now know how to get there, and know what it takes to stay there.

If you are in any of the three phases of weight management, I hope these ideas are helpful. Leave a message in the show notes or use my Speakpipe message system to leave me a 90 second voice mail!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 81 Trevitorial: Starting Over

Starting over. When we were kids, we’d call it a “do-over”. Golfers sometimes use the phrase “a mulligan.” In any case, they amount to the same thing: what came before does not count. What happens next is all that matters.

Putt   Photo by Skitterphoto.com via StockSnap.io

How many times do we truly start over? Oh, if you are trying to lose weight, it is common to succeed for a while, then regain all that weight and begin losing weight again. Or if you are creating a project, you might decide in the middle that everything is wrong and start a new project. Those are types of “do-overs.”

But when was the last time you made a major change to your life?

I bring this up because I my wife and I decided it was time to make a change. To start over. And we can’t wait! And maybe this will help you decide it is time to change, too.

Let me give you the backstory. We’ve been married for over 29 years, and will celebrate our 30th anniversary this September. We’ve only ever lived in Wisconsin for our entire marriage (and that won’t change) but have lived in four different—and very distinct—towns, with a total of nine different addresses. We’ve lived in Green Bay for most of our marriage, since 1991. We started renting a single bedroom apartment, then a 2 bedroom duplex. We bought our first home in 1993, our second in 2001, and our current home in 2006. Each home was bigger than the last. Our current home has 2700 feet of living area, plus 750 ft of storage space in the basement, plus a three and a half car garage for storage.

And for each home, we gathered more “things”. Holiday decorations. Furniture. Tools. Appliances. Books. Household do-dads and widgets. That basement storage area of about 750 sq ft (about 70 sq meters) and it is full, floor to ceiling with “stuff”. Oh, it is very well-organized, in labeled boxes, but it is full.

As is the rented storage unit (300 sq ft, or 28 sq m). Our garage is full of furniture and equipment filling one and half stalls. Just writing that makes me queasy with all that. My life is full of “stuff”. That isn’t an accomplishment, it is more of a sign of a cluttered mind.

That is the backstory.

The rest of the story is that my wife and I want to move. We want to find “the perfect home”, and we realize that may mean building it. And it may mean buying a new home before we can sell our current home (which can be expensive if the home doesn’t sell) because the type of home we want is popular and tend to sell fast!

We’ve been looking at homes. So far, none have been satisfactory.

Last night, we did something different. We looked at an apartment. It is a one bedroom place, with a small den. It has 1000 sq ft (93sq m), no basement, and only a single stall garage (plus outdoor parking.)

It is small, but very nicely designed. It is part of a large complex of buildings, with over 200 apartments in total.

And we loved it.

We have already completed our applications, and are hoping for an August 1 move in date.

That is scary!

We are going to pare our lives down to a basic level, a level that we have not experienced since our first apartment in 1985 after we married.

We need to sell—or give away—lots of stuff. And to be honest, writing that gives me a feeling of apprehension combined with a giddy sense of freedom!

We are going to truly downsize! That means giving up many activities that were time-consuming, but not all were bad. I will not need to mow or fertilize the lawn, but those were actually relaxing activities. No vegetable gardens, other than what I can grow in containers. No more shoveling the snow, or running my brand new snow blower, purchased last December and used for a total of five snowfalls last winter. That will be nice! But it also means giving up a large part of my home brewing hobby. I will not be able to bring my four keg kegerator, and since I don’t like bottling beer, I might just quit brewing beer.

We are going to reduce our belongings down to a bedroom set, a few pieces in the living room, a small dining room set and a desk in the den for school work and this podcast. The den will also become the library for all of our books.

We will need to keep our storage locker, because it contains many vintage items that are destined to fill our “perfect home”, but in the new apartment, it will be sparse—in comparison to our current home.

What is the purpose of this story?

My wife and I have almost 30 years’ worth of belongings. We have 30 years of life habits, collecting, buying, showing and storing things. And we are selling or giving almost all of it away. We are going back to the way we lived as newlyweds. Just the two of us, in our apartment (but now we have Ozzy our pug.)

Ozzy, our Pug
Ozzy, our Pug

But more than the physical act of purging belongings, this is a mental paradigm shift and THAT is what I want you to take from this. We are looking at life completely differently. We are changing our definition of satisfaction. We are taking strong and definite steps to reduce items and workload from our lives. Instead of spending hours every week simply doing routine cleaning, and many more hours doing simple yard work, we will have that time together to work toward our future.

When was the last time you changed your entire life’s viewpoint?

When was the last time you decided to change your life in a way that others can see?

I know my friends Meron Bareket and Julie Sheranosher did exactly that a few years ago. (I featured their stories when I interviewed them in episode three and fourteen. (You can find those episodes at MYST/Meron and MYST/Julie.) They moved to a different country, while are merely moving across town, but the concept is the same. Strip down to what you need. Just that. And then find out what you can do with all the extra physical and mental space you find.

What can you get rid of? What are you doing, every day, or every week, that is doing nothing but stealing time and energy—and money—from you? What would you be able to do with those hours?

We all only have twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week. That is it. How we spend those hours are under our control. I’ve decided that mowing the lawn simply does not add enough benefit to balance the time I spend doing it.

Making a change like this is not easy. As excited as we are right now, when we actually begin the process of eliminating almost everything, the excitement will be replaced by other feelings. Possibly feelings of loss, possibly sadness, possibly fear of what the future will bring.

If you let those feelings control you, you will never become the person you are destined to be.

Take action. Now. Not Someday.

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Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 79 Trevitorial: I Have No Willpower!

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“I want a donut! I have no willpower!”

When was the last time you thought that? Maybe you have even shouted it, as you reach for a second donut at the office, or into that bag of dark chocolate covered almonds for the second—third?—time that evening?

We all want more willpower. But what is it?

Willpower is the ability to force yourself to do things that you really do not want to do. You are using the force of your mind to override what your emotions, habits, environment and peers want you to do.

Willpower is strong. Willpower will help you accomplish tasks that are unpleasant, or difficult, or contrary to your personal preferences. Willpower will help you reach deadlines. Willpower will make you look like a superman!

And you can run out of willpower.

Why? It is so frustrating. You would think that the closer to your end goal, and the longer your chain of successes, the easier it will be to power through to the end. But how many of you pick a goal, make a lot of progress and then stumble, fall, and never get up?

It happens. It is happening to me, right now. Last week we talked about being stuck, and how to un-mire ourselves. That isn’t my problems right now. Nope, right now, I am running out of willpower. I simply don’t want to keep fighting the weight battle. And it’s more than that, I don’t want to keep doing anything.

What happened to me? I’m Coach T! I help everyone find more success…and yet I’m telling you that my only desire is to plant my butt in my recliner and watch Game of Thrones.

What’s wrong with this picture?

According to Baumeister and Tierny (2012) in their book “Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength” willpower is not supplied infinitely. The more you use your mind to override your habits and preferences, the less you have and the harder it is to keep “powering on.” When you are on a weight loss journey, you are required to make constant decisions using willpower. Every day, for the entire journey, you need to make the same decision. Eat or not eat? Even if you pack a lunch (as I do) there will always be temptations around. Maybe someone brings a box of donuts to the office. Maybe you smell popcorn when you go to the gas station to pay for tank of gas. It might be the sight of pizza, or burgers, or chicken, in a television commercial.

Maybe your goal is to write a book. You have been working on this for months. You average 1000 words a day. When you sit down at your computer, you want to write a day’s worth of words….but you notice those dirty dishes. Or you check your email. Or you watch a dozen cute kitten videos on YouTube. You don’t plan to procrastinate the day away, but your ability to override your curiosity (or bad habits) is not strong enough.

Many things can happen to derail you off your planned path. Let’s look at some of the more common causes.

  • Are you bored?
  • Are you depressed?
  • Are you under stress (outside of this goal?)
  • Are you ill or injured?
  • Now that you are making progress, did you decide that the goal is not worth the effort?

Let’s look at the first three, because they are connected. Boredom, depression, and stress are all emotional responses to our current situation. How we address each is based on the source of that feeling.

Boredom might signify that your goal is not challenging enough. If your goal is weight loss, and you find yourself bored, you might need to make a change. Maybe you can change your menu for a while. Try a vegetarian—or vegan—diet for a month or two. Maybe you need to find a new cookbook, a new regional cuisine and make three new recipes a week. Maybe you divert from weight loss as your primary goal and switch to a fitness goal. (You can train for a half marathon, or a century bicycle ride.) Maybe simply adding a new activity, like swimming or yoga will be enough to give you a new appreciation for this goal.

Depression is powerful but can come on very subtly. Find a trusted confidante and talk about it. Maybe when you verbalize your feelings to someone, you can start to face the problem. I’m not talking necessarily seeing a counselor, but a good friend can sometimes be just enough of a listening ear. Sometime (at least for me) I find that when I talk to my wife about my problems, solutions seem to suddenly become more obvious. That does not guarantee improved results, but it does sometimes open my eyes to new possibilities.

External stress is tough. Maybe it’s the job, or the family. Maybe you are overcommitted to local groups and people. We all have only 24 hours in a day, and getting up earlier isn’t always the solution. Maybe you need to reduce obligations, and set boundaries. I try to never look at email after 7pm every evening. I have yet to read an email that arrives in the evening that could not have waited until the morning. And sometimes those late night emails only serve to add to our baseline stress. Set limits. And carve out time for yourself and your family. You—and they—need that as much and more likely more than your employer.

Illness and injury play a major role in this, and in looking at my situation, I think that is a major part of my problem. My knees are shot. I am less than 4 weeks from planned bilateral total knee replacement surgery. They hurt. All the time. From the time I awaken, to the moment I fall asleep. I can take narcotic painkillers to reduce the pain but it never goes away. That constant physical and mental stressor saps a lot of internal strength. When I get place in a position where I need to make a good decision, sometimes I just don’t.

It’s not that I don’t know the right decision. It’s that the amount of mental and emotional energy needed to make that decision is just beyond my capacity right now. And believe me, that lack of decision-making frustrates me more than you would believe!

What if you no longer want your goal? That happens. For a while, I had the beginning of a business plan for a brewpub (brewery and restaurant.) I had a floor plan sketched out, a menu, and beer recipes all planned out. I had a few buildings in mind. I only lacked the funds, and I knew several business bankers that might have been in a position to help me.

And then I started thinking about the long term. Yes, I love cooking, and I love brewing beer. Without being over-egotistical, I am good at both. But did I really want to commit myself to that job, day after day? Did I want to put myself in a position where my ability to improvise, to create meals and beers using new ingredients, making changes every time to find something a little better, is stifled because the restaurant and brewery demand consistency?

Did I want to buy a job? Because until—and if—that business became successful, I would be committed to working every aspect of it. Every day. Without vacation.

Was my love of cooking and brewing strong enough to overcome those challenges?

The answer was “no.” And when I finally came to that realization, I immediately had more enjoyment when cooking and brewing, because now I was doing it for the love of it, not because I was preparing for the business of it.

My goal had changed. It was not sudden, but after more than six years of tinkering with the plan, my excitement waned. And I am lucky! Can you imagine if my excitement had lasted long enough to start the business, only to find the monotony of consistency killing my joy?

It is possible that your willpower has dissipated because you subconsciously realize you no longer believe your goal is work the effort. And if that is the case, don’t fret about it. We all change over time. Just try to find another goal worthy of your efforts.

Okay. Now we know common reasons for our willpower to weaken. That’s great. But what are we going to do about it?

Willpower is used when two or more choices are given to you, and usually one of the choices has a greater immediate appeal (the taste of that double scoop of ice cream) over the alternative (go home and eat a yogurt or an apple.) That makes sense because if the “correct” choice was also the preferred choice, you would not need willpower, right?

Since decisions frequently integrate willpower, how can we reduce our total decisions in a day? We can plan and automate our life to reduce choice overload. In other words, we stop putting ourselves in positions where we need to decide.

Going back to the “Willpower” book, the authors suggest that reducing the number of choices we make will allow us to make better decisions. The best way of reducing decisions is to make them when our willpower tank is still full. Decide in advance!

I like to plan my meals in advance. Using my LoseIt app, I can log all my foods one or more days in advance. In doing so, I do not need to think about what I want to eat, I simply look at what I have already logged. Many times that is enough to keep me on the right path, but not always. I will admit it: sometimes I make choices that are not in my long term best interests.

So I enhance that pre-deciding by working together with my wife, so that we have both decided on daily menus. That way, if one of us seems to be slipping, we can help reinforce our decision. Working on lifelong goals is easier if you are not alone.

Something else we do together is grocery shopping. Oh, usually I am the one who actually walks the stores and buys the foods, but after we plan out meals for the next 7-10 days, we create a very specific shopping list. I buy only what we need to make the foods we want to eat. That way, my only decisions are which brand of each item I will buy. (And frequently, I use another question by using “which item has the lowest sodium content” as my deciding factor.)

When we have our meals planning in advance, and I only buy the foods I need, that greatly limits my options, and removes some of the mealtime decisions.

I talk about “5 Secret Tricks” of weight loss where I go into greater detail on how to plan ahead for weight loss success in my episode at MYST/5Tricks

Okay, so you know all about planning ahead. But still, even I fall victim to poor choices. So what else can we do?

Another great book by Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” (2014) where the author talks about how habits can cause problems, but we can also use our ability to create habits for positive results. A habit is nothing more than a response to a stimulus, repeated often enough that we can take that act without thinking.

How many of you drive a manual transmission car? I remember learning, and it was painful. At first. I shifted too early, or too late. I let the clutch out too fast, or too slow. I was terrible.

Until I had driven for a while. After a few weeks (maybe not even that long) I had learned how to shift based on the sound of the engine without thinking. I learned that in 1985. I hadn’t driven a stick shift since 1998, but I recently borrowed a friend’s car and drove it with hesitation. Habits don’t go away easily.

What about the habit of distractions? When you are trying to write your book, but see nothing but everything else that you need to do? How can we break that habit? Well, with a combination of planning and habit creation.

Let’s say you work at home. Make a new habit. Before you even turn your computer on, or open your legal pad, you make a circuit through the house. Any small task that you can complete in less than 5 minutes (for any given task) do it immediately. That may mean taking care of the dishes, or folding a basket of laundry, or making the beds. Whatever the tasks, they are small but distracting. Create your new habit:

  • Stimulus: Plan to write
  • Action: Take care of small distractors
  • Response: Sit down and complete your writing assignment

But when you are clearing those small tasks, you will certainly find things that need to be completed that will take longer than five minutes. That is when you implement the “Decide in Advance” model and create a schedule.  For example, maybe you pre-decide that after a five page minimum, as soon as you seem to hit a sticking point that is when you will take the dog for a 20-30 minute walk. By leaving the trigger open ended, you are not creating an arbitrary time to walk your dog. It could be that after five pages you discover that you found a very smooth rhythm. Stopping because of an arbitrary time signal could ruin the flow of thoughts. But by setting a minimum threshold, you guarantee some productivity before you take your first major pre-planned distraction. (And going for a 20-30 minute walk may be exactly what you need to recharge your creative center.)

After the walk (or whatever your task was) return to your previous assignment, and again, stop when you have reached a stagnant spot after hitting that minimum trigger level, and go on another pre-planned task.

This creates the habit of clearing the simple distractions, and building in escape route when your creativity dissipates.

What about eating habits? You will need to find an acceptable alternative to your trigger foods, and using the pre-decision model, you will either buy your foods in small single serving portions or you will repackage them after you bring them home. Yes, that will either cost more in money or time, but you will benefit in the long run. One of my triggers is potato chips. I can’t leave an open bag alone. An open bag will rapidly become an empty bag. So I only buy chips in single serving sized bags. When I find that I need chips (which is rare, as long as the bag is sealed) I can go outside (to the storage shelves in the garage) and bring in the one bag that is on the shelf. I can get my “chip fix” but it is self-limited.

Actually, that habit is also from Brian Wansink’s “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solution for Everyday Life” (2014) because it requires that I not walk to the kitchen, but out to the garage and that extra walk is usually enough to let me reconsider my actions.

When my wife and I drive somewhere (and the drive is more than an hour in duration) we always pack a travel bag of healthy snacks. We created that habit because otherwise we would stop for gas or coffee and end up buying the immediately available foods (which are rarely good choices).  We drive from Green Bay Wisconsin, to Boston Massachusetts, to Maine, Ontario and home one summer. We covered more than 3200 miles, and we always had our snack bag in our car. We were able to maintain good control because we A) pre-decided our snacks and B) created the habit of packing our snacks.

We all need to make good decisions, every day. But if we use a little planning, we will be able to make fewer decisions especially later in the day when our willpower well is almost empty. And when we plan ahead, we can circumvent our old habits and lay down a new habit pathway.

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Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 78 Listener Question: I’m Stuck!

We’ve all had it happen to us. We have a goal. It might be to lose 50 pounds, write a book, or start a podcast. We are full of energy, excitement and make steady–sometimes spectacular–progress.

And then suddenly, we get stuck!

No matter what we do, we are unable to move toward our goal. We might eve lose some of the successes that we created.

In the world of weight loss, that is called a “plateau”. Authors call it “writer’s block.” It’s real. It can be devastating and demoralizing.

And it happens to everyone.

Since it will happen to everyone at some point, we need to have a plan in place to deal with it, even to use it to help us rise to greater successes.

One of our Varsity Squad members, (and another LoseIt user, like me) Theresa, sent me an email asking for advice and help. Her question is directly related to her weight loss journey,  but my answer will apply to everyone who has been working long and hard toward an important goal.

Stop.

Take a breath.

Let your mind and body wander. Try to find some way of destressing. Go for a walk on the beach. Plant some flowers. Take your dog for a walk. Go bowling.

Photo by Benjamin Faust via StockSnap

Let your mind and body recharge, re-energize your motivation battery, and then return to your journey, renewed and ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

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As mentioned in this episode, LoseIt is my (as well as Varsity Squad members Theresa, Charles, Lace and Dan) recommended weight loss method. Get Lose It! Premium because it works.
Get Lose It!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

MYST 77 Trevitorial: Breaking Your Comfort Zone

I’ve never been on a mission trip of any sort. Here I am leading 10 nursing students to Hagley Gap, St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica on a service learning experience where we walked the hills–mountains–and provided cares to villagers unable to walk to the clinic. I averaged 7 miles a day (16-20K steps) and since my Fitbit records elevation changes, I also know that I climbed the equivalent of 150-200 flights of stairs a day. On my bad knees.

Bathing in the river (mountain rivers are very chilly) every afternoon helped my knees!

This trip was through the Blue Mountain Project, based here in Wisconsin. Please check out their site, and if possible, help them if you can. They are a very small non-profit organization, and as in all such groups, always need more funding, volunteers and supplies. Serving as a volunteer with BMP can be as short as one week and has reasonable fees ($99/night) and will likely change your perspective as much as it changed mine. I cannot wait to return.

My wife and I plan to return in the summer 2016, after my knees fully heal. I cannot believe how much this trip changed me. When was the last time you challenged yourself and broke through your comfort zone?

Arrival in Kingston, with my two students Michelle and Mandy
Michelle, Me and Mandy, Arrival In Kingston
IMG_2491
Me, at the River
One Room Schoolhouse with Dividers
One Room Schoolhouse
How To Peel Sugar Cane
How To Peel Sugar Cane
Another Home
A local home
Children Need to Share Pencils
Students in this school must share pencils
Me and A Local Rastafarian
A Local Rastafarian and Me
Mandy Interviews Mr. Alphonse
Mandy Interviews Mr. Alphonse
Pea Soup with a Chicken Foot
Pea Soup with a Chicken Foot
One of the Local Children
A Local Child and his Coconut
Potato, Dumpling, Broad Beans, and Cow Skin
Potato, Dumpling, Broad Beans, and Cow Skin
Some of the Homes
Homes Across the River
Goats Were Everywhere
Photo Bombed By a Goat
Hibiscus, Blue Mountain Background
Hibiscus, Blue Mountain Background

I really recommend that you use an activity tracker to give you an accurate measurement of your daily activity.  You’re just steps away from better fitness.  Try Fitbit now.Fitbit One

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

MYST 71 Trevitorial: Is Your Goal Achievable?

Paddling to nowhere w URL

The opening segment is from MYST 67 Trevitorial: Are Your Goals Dumb?

NPR and their podcast TED Radio Hour can be found here. The specific show that I referenced in this Trevitorial is from November 26, 2014, and it is entitled “To The Edge”. It–and all of the other episodes–are fascinating!

Challenging goals are important. Impossible goals are damaging to the person’s spirit. It is a fine balance, but it can be found.

As mentioned in this episode, LoseIt is my recommended weight loss method. Get Lose It! Premium because it works.
Get Lose It!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

 

MYST 70 Listener Question: I Reached My Goal. Now What?

Success and Relaxation!
Success and Relaxation!

Success is the goal, but what happens when we reach that finish line? How we do stay successful? How do we not slip back into out patterns of living?

MYST Varsity Squad member Lace emailed me a question about these very concerns. Her question is about weight loss, but she could have asked about any goal. The answer will apply to anything you are trying to achieve.

As mentioned in this episode, LoseIt is my recommended weight loss method. Get Lose It! Premium because it works.
Get Lose It!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!