Sunday, August 26, 2012

More on Motivation

I have been talking about motivation with some of the members of our community.  It is an interesting and complex topic!  What motivates us to want to reduce our weight?  Increase our fitness level?  Change our eating habits?  Drink less alcohol?  Get more sleep? Get off of a drug that isn't healthy for us to use?  Minimizing or stopping any behavior that is not healthy should be easy, but it's not, is it????

Classic motivators can be categorized as intrinsic (coming from within) or extrinsic (external influences).  Some people say that all motivation can come down to two categories: fear and greed.  Other  researchers say that motivation is more complex involving motivators such as recognition, money, autonomy and other things.  The one thing everyone agrees on is that motivation is highly personal to each person.  So, if you are trying to find motivation to begin your healthy journey or to jumpstart a stalled healthy journey or to just keep going on your healthy journey, in my eyes, the only answer is to look within.

You have to ask yourself some tough questions.  How is my behavior serving me? Because, when we choose to repeat a behavior, it is serving us in some way.  If you are eating a bowl of ice cream or a plate of french fries or (insert your favorite example here) when you know you should be avoiding that food,  then you are serving something inside of you that needs your attention.  So ask yourself, are you feeding the little child inside who was denied treats?  Are you feeding some emotional need that you have yet to come to terms with?  Food motivators are almost always connected to emotional needs. 

So often your hear advice that we have to learn to love ourselves.  Could it be that easy to have greater control over food if we simply love ourselves more than we love an unhealthy food choice?  I think so.  So next time you are facing temptation, ask yourself - do I really want to eat the "Snickers bar", or can I put it down and decide I love myself more than I love the "Snickers bar" instead.  That definitely falls within the intrinsic category of motivators!

So keep asking yourself the questions.  The answers will emerge for you when you are ready to hear them. Just know that you are worth the time and the effort.  You have the answers within you.

Desire to figure it out.  Dedication to learn your triggers.  Discipline to keep asking the good questions.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reverse Psychology of Temptation

I am sharing this column by Peter Bregman.  I enjoyed reading it and I think you will too, especially if you have people in your life who try to tempt you with poor choices!                

"Oh this is delicious, Peter. The ice cream is homemade, the perfect consistency, And this lemon cookie on top, mmmmm. Are you sure you don't want some?"
Tom smiled devilishly as he reached across the table to hand me a spoon. Tom is my client, the CEO of a $900 million company. I was in San Francisco to run a two-day offsite meeting for him and his leadership team. We've worked together for almost a decade and he's become a close, trusted friend.
We were at Greens in San Francisco, a vegetarian restaurant Tom had chosen because he had seen their cookbooks on my shelf in New York and knew I would love it.
Tom was teasing me because earlier in the meal I told him I was off sugary desserts. There's no medical reason or necessity for me to avoid sugar; I simply feel better when I'm not eating it. But he's seen me eat large quantities of sugary treats in the past and knows my willpower can be weak.
"It does look good and I'm glad you're enjoying it," I said, "but you're on your own. There's no chance I'm eating any."
"C'mon Peter, these desserts are healthy, and all we've eaten is vegetables anyway. It would be a real missed opportunity if you didn't at least taste the desserts at Greens; it's your favorite kind of food."
He took a bite from a second dessert he had ordered just to tantalize me — a berry pie — and rolled his eyes in mock ecstasy, "Ooh, this is good. And it's basically just fruit. Go ahead, have just a bite." As he edged it closer to my side of the table, the red caramelized berries dripped juice over the side of the plate.
The reasons to taste the desserts were compelling. Even putting aside the fact that Tom is a client and there's always some pressure to please clients, his rationalizations were the same rationalizations that were floating inside my head.
But here's the interesting thing: the more he pressured me to eat dessert, the stronger my resolve not to eat dessert grew.
My reaction caught me off guard and offered me a surprising strategy for helping people sustain change: if you want to help someone stick to a decision, try tempting him out of it. In other words, enticing someone to break a commitment can be a great tool to help him maintain his commitment.
Here's why: Going into the dinner, I had one reason I didn't want to eat dessert. But Tom's taunting gave me another reason: I was embarrassed to break my commitment in the face of his teasing. I didn't want to be the guy who caves in to peer pressure.
Maybe it's just my rebellious nature, but when my wife Eleanor reminds me that I don't really want to eat that cookie in my hand, I quickly try to stuff it in my mouth before she can stop me. Even though I've asked her to help me, my feeling is, "I'll eat whatever I want to eat!" It becomes a fun game, a challenge. Somehow, when she's helping me, I become a little less accountable.
But when Tom was egging me on, the tables were turned. I was fully responsible for my own actions. I knew I was on my own. And I also knew that the stakes were high; If I ate the dessert I would never live it down. The brilliance of the psychology is that Tom made it more fun — and free-spirited — to not eat dessert. And successfully withstanding his pressure built my confidence in my commitment.
This approach has broad application. Do you have a colleague who wants to speak less in meetings? Try egging her on. Someone who wants to leave work at a decent time? Prod him at 5pm with his incomplete to-do list. A spouse who's trying to stay off email at night? Dangle her BlackBerry in front of her at bedtime.
There are two conditions necessary to make this an effective strategy and keep it good-natured: The commitment the person wants to make needs to be self-motivated and the person doing the ribbing needs to be a trusted friend who doesn't abuse positional power.
What happens when the prodding is over? It turns out that the motivating impact of that dinner has lasted long after dinner was done. Usually, offsite meetings are particularly dangerous for me as far as sugar consumption is concerned. But this time I didn't eat any sugar during the meeting and I haven't eaten any since. It's been a month since I stopped eating sugar — a month that included a week-long vacation with my wife Eleanor in France — a month filled with opportunities to eat delicious-looking sugary treats.
But each time I'm tempted, I pause, remembering that dinner with Tom, and I think "if I didn't eat dessert then — with all that pressure and temptation and lots of good reasons to eat dessert — why would I eat it now?"

Sunday, August 12, 2012

One Piece, One Bite

We had a dinner party yesterday for my mother-in-law and her husband, who are visiting from Dayton.  It was a lovely day, but a really long and tiring day.  By the time I got to the dinner portion of the day, I was stressed.  The menu included tons of veges ( jicama, carrots, celery, greeen beans) to pick on as appetizers, even more veges (onions, red and yellow bell pepper, eggplant and zucchini) on the grill with chicken, turkey and/or salmon on the grill.  I supplemented the menu with a brown rice salad full of even more veges (green onions, cherry tomatoes, edamame, black beans and corn).  I didn't repeat one vege!  I also offered grilled garlic bread.  It looked and smelled heavenly.  I ended up sucumbing and enjoying a piece with my dinner of veges, brown rice salad and grilled turkey.

Then to help celebrate my mother-in-law's husband's birthday, we had ordered a coconut cake from Thyme in the Ranch (redonkulously amazing spot in Rancho Santa Fe).  I did not have a piece, but I did eat one bite of the "scrods" as I was cleaning up in the kitchen. 

So, I piece and one bite because I did eat those things but I am completely happy and proud of myself that I did not have more.  When we do eat something off plan, why not consider having a very small portion?  It turns out that I did not feel guilty.  Truthfully, at the end of the evening I was simply too darn tired to feel anything except for my head hitting the pillow!

Desire to enjoy a taste.  Dedication to planning healthy options.   Discipline to stop at just one.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Realistically, I realize that I have very little, if any, control over most of my life.  I know the "big guy" upstairs holds the real control.  Still, there are times when I pretend I do.  Yesterday was one of those days.  In honor of my Dad's birthday, I stopped in at See's Candies to select a few sweet treats for him.  [Note: I hand selected a few of his favorites (anything with coconut in it) that went into a small box.]

An important detail is that whenever you walk into a See's store, they offer you a free sample.  So, when asked, I responded with "I'll have a scotch mallow please."  I am not a big chocolate person, but that particular piece of candy is superbly delicious!  Here is where my control kicked in.....I brought that single piece home with me, put it in a little ziplock baggie and put it into the back of my refirgerator, where it will stay until I am ready to eat it!

I held firm at the birthday celebration with no breads, no wine, no homemade chocolate cake or ice cream, and instead opted for some fresh blueberries and watermelon.

I am not ready to reintroduce all sugars into my diet again.  It has been 34 days with no processed sugar and I actually FEEL the difference.  I went 3 weeks with no sugars at all.  Then at day 22 I re-introduced fresh fruit.  Now, I have added a few other carbs like like oatmeal and Ezekiel toast.  I feel healthy, I feel strong and I feel happy.  Not a bad outcome!

Have you tried eliminating sugars?  If you do, let me know how it goes for you!

Desire to feel good.  Dedication to controlling impulses.  Discipline to keep the piece of candy in the back of the refrigerator.