In town from Colorado, I got talking to my husband's, Uncle Pat, at Christmas - and he said something really interesting. Which he kind of usually does. He said something about the difference between having goals and having a direction. I wish I could have talked to him more about it, but then I think we got bombarded with kids and gifts and whatnot and that was it. Nonetheless it has stuck with me. The topic seems fitting at the crest of a new year. So here goes...
In the line of work I do, as you can imagine, the topic of goals comes up quite a bit. Sometimes it's a goal to lose 100 pounds. Sometimes it's a goal to drink less pop and more water. Whatever the case your goal is that, specific and measurable ideally, thing you are working on. Which can be helpful if it moves you in a desired direction. And meaningless if you just chase random goals around. His point (I think, like I said we were interrupted) was that some people have goals, while others have direction - and as long as you have something, is one really better than the other? I don't know. But as I think about it - and honestly I'm think out loud here a bit - even though I've heard many times how goals are so critical to success, the question is giving me pause. You can say all day long you want to lose 20 pounds, but if you don't have a meaningful reason for it, you will likely spin your wheels. Because without direction, a random goal itself doesn't carry a lot of weight (pun intended.)
So really, even though it's so overused I find it annoying - a SMART goal is really the combination of both goal and direction. Because - and I did just have to look this up - the "R" stands for Relevant or Realistic depending on who you ask, which states, "does this seem worthwhile?" "does this match our other efforts?"
Probably why I've been rolling this around so much, is that I have been re-writing my website this week (that I plan to flip over Jan. 1) and putting together a new mini-workshop type of event (scheduled for Jan. 21, 28 & Feb. 4) - that really digs into, not the "why" as much as the "who." Not why do you want it? Because I just don't think "why" is necessarily centered enough. But who is the person you want to become? What life do you want to create? I talk about how weight loss, in any form, misses the mark because it focuses on the size you want to become, rather than the person. Your "why" could be to fit into skinny jeans. Great. Good luck with that. Your goals, needs to be attached to something much deeper, something you deem as a core value in life in order to stick and inspire change.
So, yes, Uncle Pat... hats off to you for the keen observation. Ideally I would say they go hand in hand. Direction first, then goals as a way to move toward that direction rather than just dream about it. But if I had to pick only one, it would be direction. So, as you turn over a new calendar and consider your annual "resolution," I encourage you to think about what direction you want your life to be heading in and whether you are on that path, or need to re-route. Then, if you are going to set goals, I would make them about the habits, rather than the desired result. Then, go be DONE playing small and do the work. Happy New Year! See you on the other side.
For two years, from 1993-1995 I lived and worked as a volunteer in Morondava, Madagascar; a small town on the West Coast of the island country of Madagascar, off of the continent of Africa, near Mozambique.
As I think back, most things were drastically different from what I knew to be normal. The holidays were no exception. So, on this eve of Christmas Eve, I thought it might be fun to share. For instance, in the United States I would say that Christmas is the biggest holiday. In Madagascar, the biggest holiday is Easter. The religious celebration of Easter. There are no bunny and eggs. Christmas was also more focused on the religious celebration, though I do remember a holiday celebration at the school with a Christmas tree trimmed in paper-chain garland and gold tinsel - and the kids singing songs. Usually at these celebrations there would be some red punch and dry cookies. Not the icing kind. More like a macaroon. Being the height of the hot season, with the temperature around 100-120 degrees, give or take, any celebration was a bit low key. There was no AC. Rarely a fan. There was no story of Frosty... I nearly melted.
The biggest contrast as you can imagine, between our country and one of the poorest in Africa, around the holidays and otherwise was the lack of commercialism and consumption. Christmas was not a big purchasing affair. It just wasn't part of the culture, nor would it have been financially feasible. There were no last minute Target runs. No flurry to wrap presents. No trying to find a parking spot at the mall. It was refreshing actually. Imagine if Christmas was going to church, sharing a simple meal with your family and maybe one small gift. Like a little toy car, doll or super ball - and that was it.
Both years at Christmas, and Easter as well, I remember buying a coconut-leaf webbed bag at the market and loading it with novelty items such as sugar and lemons for lemonade, batteries to play the radio, pieces of candy for the kids and I forget what else - for the two families with four children each who lived next to our house in one room cement homes the size of my modest kitchen, with tins roofs. Both dads were employed by our landlord to guard the homes and business they owned. They were SO grateful to receive the gift and I recall how one of the families tried to return the bag, and were excited all over again to receive the bag as a gift as well.
In return as a very nice and too generous gesture, we were given a duck for Christmas. A live duck. A live duck being held upside down with its feet wrapped in twine. I remember having to take the duck by the feet and then tie one foot to something in the kitchen so it couldn't freely waddle around the house. And (which gets a bit off the subject of Christmas, I know) I will never forget the morning I woke up to the duck quacking at my bed, having broken free of the twine - and how thankful I was for the protection of my mosquito net against more than mosquitos and hissing cockroaches! (And that the gift was a duck and not a goat!) We did finally get help killing and preparing the duck, which is something you only need to experience once. I remember a very entertaining and shocking conversation about how not only in the U.S. do we not kill ducks and chickens in our own kitchens to eat, but you can actually buy a whole package of thighs, wings, legs or breasts, rather than the whole bird!
In a loose sort of way, what was a bit similar between cultures was how holiday meals were more "extravagent" than every other day. Meaning in Malagasy terms, there was more meat - or meat at all. Duck, chicken or beef. Every meal, and I mean every meal, constituted of white, sticky rice and a version of sauce that began with garlic, onion and tomato. Additions would have been butter beans, some gross minty-tasting greens and coconut milk, to name a few. But on holidays like Christmas and Easter there was meat. Served as usual on the floor in a big bowl set in the center of the circle of people, where everyone would dig in with their own big spoon.
Being that I was still an American, I do remember that first Christmas, my roommate and I went to the "fancy" market (meaning it had refrigeration and imported stuff) and splurged on a Crunch candy bar to share. The big, thick kind. And we had a Coca Cola along with it in a one-liter COLD glass bottle. (The other option would have been Orange Fanta, which made for an easy decision.) What fun memories!!
So as I sit here at home, surrounded by all kinds of first-world holiday problems, such as what last-minute stops still need to be made and do we have enough paper and bows for all the gifts - I am reminded of such a simple season. And how much appreciation there was for the smallest of gestures... how economically out of balance our world can be... how easy it is to get caught up in the "more." And I am reminded to be very, very grateful for all that I have, and all that I don't need - and to teach my children gratitude and perspective - and to find joy in their joy at the wonder of the season... to be focused on the "present," rather than the presents.
It is so rare that I do not have an idea for my blog. I have many ideas actually - I've even started a few. But nothing will spark. So here I am, on Thursday night with the lights dim, my keyboard lit and the house quiet - rubbing my smooth metal rock engraved with the word "inspire," trying to calm my mind. We had two holiday programs at school today. They were both wonderful, but the second one that just wrapped up a bit ago was very hectic from a lots-of-people-packed-into-a-school-gym-and-parking-lot-perspective. Which can really be too much for an introvert who doesn't like crowds. No, I do not attend the state fair.
Every year the month of December, while festive, is especially draining. Not from all the gift buying, but from all the people simultaneously doing all the gift buying. Add this to all the gatherings and all the small talk - and it's the reason why there have been years I could not answer the phone for days after Christmas. My husband could not at all understand.
If you get what I'm saying... if "the more the merrier" is not your cup of tea - it's ok. You are not alone (you just want some time alone.) The question though, is how do you get through - and truly enjoy yourself during the holidays without getting too wiped out? If I totally had the answer, this would not be the topic at my fingertips tonight. However, knowing myself as I do - and my need for self care - I am extra careful to plan time for myself, by myself. In yoga class, there is always a counter-balance pose. For instance, if you do back-bend-type poses, you would follow with a forward-bend pose, to balance out your body. This is how I like to think of it. If I find myself spending too much time in what feels like a pressure cooker, surrounded by lots of people and hectic energy - it's the energy actually, more so than the crowd now that I think about it. A crowded yoga class would not drain me in the same way a crowded school gym, party or check out line would. Interesting... anyway, if I find myself in too many "backbends" full of hectic energy, I know it is critical to practically halt life to take some time to decompress.
I read a book once, a number of years ago about living without fear. Much of it escapes me - but I very specifically recall one visual. It was a circle that, in a clockwise direction, listed some traits and "counter balances" for when you are a little bit stuck and then additional traits and "counter balances" for when you are really stuck. In other words, do you need 10 minutes to re-group, or an entire day off? The key here was to tune into the early indicators and interventions, instead of pushing through wearing massive, every-one-else-comes-first blinders until you are so far off center you hit a brick wall. For me it's a bath, a book (even just a chapter), a TV show - or to sit down and write. Time to myself. With the house quiet and clean. Proactively, it's yoga. And writing in my journal.
Do you know what it is for you... Do you know what to do to re-balance when you start to feel yourself heat up so to speak? Do you know your signs - when you are going from good, to warm, to hot - your yellow flags and red flags? If not, today is a good day to start. Begin to pay attention. Draw out the circle if you like. There will be no greater observation deck than these next two weeks. Observe. Then, understand that your mind and your body ARE ONE IN THE SAME! It makes no sense to worry about what you eat, but spend your days maxxed out. The body knows. And I firmly believe there is no loophole. So go, be mindful of your whole self, enjoy the season and create better health. Be DONE playing small.
Five years ago today - December 12, 2011 - was DAY 1 of my last "diet." My son was two-months old and my daughter, almost six. I was wearing maternity pants. The night before I remember having pizza and beer for my "last supper." If you have followed my blog for awhile, you know I started dieting as an early teen. It was all I knew. I'm trying to think now about whether I knew this time was different. I don't know that I did. I do remember that my husband found this program when I was about 8-months pregnant and I refused to go listen (in my defense, his timing was laughable.) He brought it up again when our son was about one-month old and again, I refused to go listen. I was DONE dieting. I wanted no part of any program ever again.
About two weeks later I did agree to go listen to this "health coach guy" to support Mark - because he wanted to get healthy. I showed up, infant in hand, and said "I am here for my husband, I am not interested." Again in my defense, I wasn't sleeping, but still... I totally had an attitude. I was mad. And desperate. And cranky. Unlike after my first pregnancy, this time inside of going down, the scale had started going up.
It was about half way through the conversation, in the midst of my stubborn fog, somehow the words, "this program is offered at John's Hopkins Weight Management Center" that broke through. I remember thinking if it is good enough for John's Hopkins it is probably good enough for me. I signed up in two days. Which brings us back to December 12. The day after my beer and pizza fest.
I remember being all organized and excited about starting a new plan. Especially the part about holding off on exercise the first few weeks! The chapter in the book titled, "It's not your fault," about the diet industry, also stands out. My biggest memory though was at the two-week point. The scale was moving faster than I expected, so my momentum was really high - but it was more than that. I was sitting on the coach one night after dinner, when I realized my cravings were gone. That mental battle - "I want the bread/ice cream/chocolate (insert whatever), but I shouldn't have it, but I want it, but I shouldn't have it" was so part of my life I didn't know there was another way. I thought healthy people just had more willpower. I didn't realize they didn't have those same cravings... that my issue was blood sugar, not willpower. In that moment I knew - this was different. This is the last time I would ever weighed this much and this was the last program I would ever follow. I remember wondering, "well now what am I going to think about?"
Fast forward five years. You would think this would feel monumental. According to a recent article in the Medical Examiner, "the chances of keeping it (lost weight) off for five years or more... 5 percent." Yet, honestly it feels normal. It's hard to even remember that overweight person from before, who was so hard on herself. Every once in awhile I will have a day where I feel bloated and think - gosh this is how I used to feel all the time? Or I will see someone who is my former size and think - is that how I walked around all the time? It looks uncomfortable. And not healthy. Occaionally I will wonder why I had to spend so much time there, but I know it wasn't my fault. I am just so grateful to be free of the struggle now and for all the years ahead.
What was different this time was I got underneath it and was able to solve. Why do I want it... and bigger yet, why do I do it? I kept a notebook in the kitchen for two months. Every time I was roaming around - not hungry, not having cravings - I wrote it down, until a clear pattern emerged. The problem was no longer, "I'm just an emotional eater" which is really big and really vague - I now had something tangible to tackle. And then I did the work. People always want to know what to eat or how much to exercise, but that, in my opinion, is the focus of the 95% who gain it back. The 5% who succeed long term - solve. They figure out the motivation, habits and triggers at the root of why they choose habits in direct conflict with what they want. And get really, really clear, aligned and engaged in a take no prisoners, everybody out of my way - kind of way - where they are willing to dig in and get messy. With the right tool and support.
So, in reflection and summary - am I am relieved, thankful, pleased five years later - yes. Absolutely. I feel like me. Which is very settling. But am I worried or surprised - or in a big celebration mode - not so much. There isn't a chance I will go the other way ever again. And the journey, as annoying and frustrating as it was all those years - I know is now my biggest asset. For all the people who I hear say, "I know what I need to do I just need to do it" - I know the part they still don't know - the part beyond the diet. And it's really fun and rewarding to be able to help - when they are ready to let go and learn - and be the 5% who succeed.