November 4:  Setting Limits Makes Me Better


NaBloPoMo 2019

How many of you are the chubby one of the family?  That’s me.  My two sisters have been positively svelte their whole lives, with apparently very little effort, as far as I can tell.  Yes, I envy them.  But whatever, ya work with what ya got, right?

I have never been a dieter, as I hate feeling restricted.  But I have had some success with setting limits sometimes.  The best experience was after I stopped nursing my daughter.  I was finished having children, no more human to hippopotamus transformations, hallelujah!  I thought, I can get my body back, woohoooo!  But how?  I had two little kids.  I worked.  I had neither time nor motivation to exercise, and even less energy to police my own food choices.  I’ll just eat half, I thought one day.  It was so simple and easy.  So for the next year I simply ate half of what I would normally eat.  This was not too difficult, as my portions were clearly just too big.  But for some reason it was the perfect method for me in that moment.  I don’t remember feeling hungry, and more importantly, I did not fear the hunger.  It was almost unbelievable, even as I lived it, how easily I could adhere to this plan.  I lost 25 pounds in nine months, and I felt well.  I managed to keep most of the weight off for several years.

bunny bao

Now, in my mid-forties, the story has evolved.  Kids are older, work has advanced, and I’ve acquired a boatload of fun and interesting extracurricular activities.  I achieved the sisterly figure ever so briefly, and now, tee-hee, not so much.  Eating half definitely does not work today!  Fascinating.  So I have to find new, more effective limits to set.  I have to say, I’ve managed to blow through most of my recent attempts: sweets only on weekends, no eating after 7pm, lights out at 11:00pm, and screen time?  What?…  I did manage to get all social media off of my phone a year ago, though.  That was a big deal, and I’m much better for it.  When I remember to bring my own takeout container to restaurants, and move half of my entrée into it at the beginning of the meal, I don’t overeat.  And if I agree with my friends at the outset to forgo dessert, voila, calories averted.  So I’ll keep working on the health habit limits… Maybe take my own advice…

The best thing about setting limits and then violating them is learning.  It makes me pay attention, ask more questions.  I am forced to practice curiosity and non-judgment, lest I wallow in that deep hole of failure and self-flagellation.

This month I commit again to daily blogging.  My family still needs me, I still need to work out, and I want to read real books more than I did this time last year.  I also need to just get more efficient with writing in general.  So I set myself a limit of 60 minutes, start to publish, for each post—perhaps it shows in the quality of writing?  Well, that will be a learning, too!  My first attempt lasted about 70 minutes, but I can’t say I kept good track.  Last night I actually set my timer, and it was a total disaster, I think 2+ hours beginning to end.  It was so enlightening, though, watching my distracted self throughout the process.  The TV was on (my desk is in the family room—the double edged sword of being near the family but not totally with them), our shows playing from the DVR. It’s a wonder I don’t get whiplash, turning to crane my neck toward the TV from my non-swiveling chair.  People were talking to me, even though I had my earbuds in.  I kept opening my email, Facebook, text, email again.  OH my gosh it was a total circus, and I felt the chaos in my whole being.


Tonight, however, is a different story. I’m alone here at the desk, Shawn Mendes and Dierks Bentley playing softly while I type.  No TV, no earbuds.  I feel calmer; the house and I are both much quieter.  The ideas and words flow forth with ease and joy.  Fascinating!  You might say, Um, Cathy, DUH.  Of course you’ll write better when your environment is more conducive, everybody knows that!  Yes, of course, we know it.  But to experience the glaring contrast here on two consecutive nights really brings it home—the doing makes it real.

So maybe I’ll make a deal with the family the next 26 days.  I get 60 minutes of peace and quiet each day; time of day/night negotiable.  They are banished or gagged in that time, no audible devices allowed, and it’s my job to make the most of it.  Write, edit, select photos, categorize, tag, and publish.

I have 12:25 left.



On Fasting


NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 15

To Patients Who Are Fed Up:

Try fasting.

That pun really was unintended!

I asked a colleague about fasting once—what are the benefits, why does he do it?  He asked, “Don’t you ever feel like it’d be a good thing, every once in a while, to stop eating for a day?”  Ummm… No, are you kidding me?  That would never and still has never occurred to me, I love food too much!

Tonight, however, I think I may understand a little better.  Maybe fasting is about counteracting overconsumption.   Certainly we have a problem with food glut here in the US.  I have heard the word ‘detox’ associated with fasting, too…  Maybe I just refuse to admit how poisoned I am by the food I eat to consider this remedy—I am pre-contemplative here.

I am finally ready to concede, however, that I overconsume Facebook.  Sure, it provides plenty of material for this blog, and I really do interact meaningfully with a lot of people (but wait, do I, really?).  And, I have let it overtake my consciousness too often.  The time suck is interfering with other tasks and yes, relationships, I must admit.  I rationalize that I am ‘reading,’ that it’s a source of so much interesting information and idea exchange.  That may be partially true, and still, it costs too much.

So I commit to a Facebook fast this day, November 15, 2016.  It’s been a long time since my last fast—actually a year, come to think of it—yup, almost exactly!  How funny…

Is there something you need to take a break from?  Something you do habitually, that’s not all bad, but that may be excessive, a little out of control?  Maybe you don’t need to quit it altogether, necessarily.  But maybe taking a little time away will help put it into perspective?  A little break—a pause.  Test your ability to resist, challenge yourself to notice where the habit shows up, what drives it, what you might substitute for it, and how the withdrawl sensations may evolve…

Now I’m wondering if I could actually apply this to my eating.  No, not fasting from all food (again, are you kidding??), but maybe something a little more manageable:  Fast from dessert for a week—substitute fruit.  From sweetened condensed milk on weekdays (“That’s like dessert!” one of my patients exclaimed once)—substitute soy milk.  This looks more like actual behavior change than just fasting… huh.

I will be back on Facebook tomorrow.  It will likely look very similar to my usual pattern, maybe even a rebound effect—a more intense fix after the sudden withdrawl.  Well, we’ll see.  I feel a lightness to trial and error lately, and this is worth a try.  I shall report back, so stay tuned!


On Walking the Talk


NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 4

To My Patients Who Wonder, “How Healthy Is Your Diet, Doc?”

I cannot tell a lie, it kinda sucks sometimes!  I’m not a foodie, really.  In fact, I have maybe the least discriminating palate of anyone I know—everything tastes good!  I particularly love sugar, starch, salt, and oil—especially in combination.

So when I talk to you about the picnic plate method of eating—half stems/stalks/leaves/fruit, a quarter high quality lean protein, and a quarter whole grain—believe me, I understand the challenge!  In fact, every time I counsel you, I review my own food log in my head, and I resolve to visit the raw salad bar more often.  When I give advice or make suggestions, it’s not that I necessarily know better than you, or that I think I’m better than you.  We’re all here doing our best every day.  It’s my job to look out for your health, which research tells us is only 20% related to what I do in the clinic or hospital, and 30% related to your own habits (incidentally, it’s 40% related to your environment).  So if I can help you make even the smallest change for the better, then I feel useful.

When I ask you about exercise, sleep, stress management, and relationships, I am also taking stock of my own habits in those realms.  To me, these are the central domains of health.  And nobody has a perfect balance all the time.  Maybe you’re great at exercise, but your diet is the pits.  Maybe you eat really well, but you stay up too late at night.  Everybody’s patterns are different, and they shift over time.  Sometimes I might share my own fluctuating experiences with you, if it feels relevant and helpful.  But our time together is about you, not me.

I want you to feel free to ask me how I manage my own health.  It’s important to me that I Walk the Talk.  I will answer honestly, if sheepishly.  I will share my struggles with you.  I risk judgment by you when I do this, and I accept that.  One of you actually said, “Shame on you,” to me one time.  Maybe you feel judged by me, also?  I think that is inevitable.  We all judge ourselves, and then subconsciously project our judgments onto others.  I’m working on self-compassion—ask me about that, too!

It’s about strategy and execution, trial and error, and repetition.  No matter what the behavior change, the more times we try, the more likely we will finally succeed.  So the next time you come in and we talk about health habits, think of it as comparing notes, rather than reporting progress or regress.  If you found something that works, please share!  I might just steal the idea for myself.