12 Tips On How To Eat Healthier

healthy-apple

In my previous food blogs, Food, The Ultimate Trojan, and 8 Reasons Why American’s Eat The Way We Do, I wrote about the good and the bad about how and why we eat, what we eat. And if you read those blogs, you know there is a lot of not so good.

Here I will make suggestions on how to improve your diet. But not to worry, as a foodie myself, I still love the taste of food and eating. That doesn’t have to change when you eat healthier!

Recognizing the challenge that changing one’s diet can be, I want to encourage you to embrace two concepts:

Progress not perfection – Focus on what you can do, and not on what you cannot. Feel good about the progress you make. Don’t beat yourself up if you do not live up to yours, or someone else’s expectations, all of the time.

Harm reduction – A less bad choice is a positive step in the right direction. Change will come easier for some than others. It is not a competition. If you consume something that has less sugar and “bad” fat, such as trans or saturated, for many, that is a good start.

It’s about the process. Oftentimes with diet or exercise, if people do not see or feel the results they’re hoping for in a short span of time they get discouraged and give up.

In embracing progress not perfection and harm reduction, “the win” is the positive steps you are increasing and or the negative steps you are decreasing. The results will come. It reminds me of the song from the animated classic, Santa Clause Is Coming To Town, Put One Foot In Front Of The Other. If the Winter Warlock can do it, so can you!

So without further ado, consider one or all of the below tips to help get you on a healthier more actualized path of eating.

12- Have a cheat day – No. Not that kind of cheat day! For some people, eating healthy 6 out 7 days is too much too soon. This tip is for people who want to change slooowwwwlllyyy. If you’re eating poorly seven days a week, or however you’re eating, for you a cheat day = one day a week of healthy or healthier eating.

Give yourself one day where you improve from whatever your baseline is. For bonus points:

  1. Eat a whole foods, plant based diet. You can incorporate meals around lentils, beans, fruits vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and spices*.
  2. No processed foods on this day.
  3. if you have meat, have it at one meal and just a single grass-fed portion.

For beverages? Eliminate soda, and energy drinks. Try sticking to water, herb teas, or vegetable based smoothies/juices. Experiment with different combinations of the above. You will find something you like.

After you get consistent with one healthy cheat day a week, stretch it to two. And after you get comfortable with two, well you can see where this is going.

11- Pick one – Another way to begin your adjusting, is to pick one. Pick one bad thing to outright eliminate from your diet. And pick one good thing to add to it.

At mid-life, a good friend of mine wanted to make a conscious effort to eat better, start exercising, and lose weight. For years I unsuccessfully tried to get him off the soda. Regular or diet, I’m not a fan. But now he was ready. He gave it up cold. It was challenging for him for about a month. However, it went from challenging, to progressively easier, to him saying, “My God I can’t believe I drank that garbage for so long!”

From there, he was able to make more changes. I am both happy and proud of him because he did not get the results he was looking for right away but he stuck with it. Tried different things. He kept making positive choices. He recently turned 50 and he has reached his goals and says he feels better than he ever has.

Whether it is a vegetable, a piece of fruit, a healthy omega 3 fat food, or supplement, pick something good to add to your diet.

And if you can’t eliminate something entirely, remember progress not perfection, and harm reduction, cut down and go from there.

10- Don’t be a sucker for the latest headlines – If you do see a post you like that makes a, to good to be true claim about a questionable food or nutrient:

  1. Question it.
  2. Read counter expert opinions.
  3. Check methodology of study, i.e. – know what is being compared to what.

Borrowing from Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org, and how easy it is to make something look good, (such as saturated fat), one could claim, that based on a recent study, a diet with butter lowers your chance of having a heart attack. Well, hypothetically, if I have two groups in a study, and one group has a small amount of butter, and the other has five candy bars a day and the candy bar group has 14% more heart attacks, the designer of that study can now say according to my study butter lowers your heart attack risk.

Now cue the, “butter is back”, headlines. And if the study is not explored further? You wind up with people bathing their food in butter as if it were the nectar of the Gods! Again, don’t be suckered by headlines.

Stick with tried and true, whole foods, plant based diet, with grass-fed meat for non vegans, and whole grains. Ix-nay on the transfat, keep the saturated fats and heavily processed foods down, and get plenty of omega 3.

Trying to change eating habits can be challenging enough without conflicting information playing on our desires and food addictions. Tune out the white noise as discussed in my previous post and here is the link that includes what experts with differing opinions on diet (paleo, vegan etc.) were able to come together and agree on.

9- Portion control – According to the American Heart Association a single serving of lean meat is two to three ounces. So if you go to a restaurant and get a ten to twelve ounce steak, you’re getting four to five times that. Factor in some bread and butter and I can feel those arteries cringing. Do this several times a week or more and do the math on how you are potentially taxing your system with excess fat, sodium and calorie intake.

I’ve got a word for you… LEFTOVERS! Eat less, save money, be healthier. That sounds like win win to me.

You can do the same with sugar. Depending on your height and weight 25 to 50 grams of added sugar a day may be what is recommended not to exceed. (added sugar includes all forms of sugar except for the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and dairy) Long term, ideally you will reduce this to as close to zero as possible.

For now, portion control your added sugar. If you’re not already, start reading labels. Devise realistic goals that you can accomplish. Aside from anything else, sugar is just plain dangerous.

8- Stop Overeating! – It goes hand in hand with portion control. In addition to portion control, eat slower, and try drinking a glass of water before you eat.

Here we can also take a lesson from the Chinese. Cut your food before you eat it, and eat with chopsticks instead of a fork. This may assist you in eating slower, getting content by eating less, and digesting better!

Do you always finish what is on your plate out of some sense of obligation to those in poor countries who do not have food? You want to help starving children in another country? Donate money to them, but using them as an excuse to stuff your pie hole is not helping them! (Or you.) Of course another option is to eat on a smaller plate!

Since, in theory your mind registering the feeling of being full operates on a delay, if you wait until you feel full or “stuffed”, you’ve likely over eaten. This may not apply to obese individuals or others who suffer from leptin resistance, however you don’t know until you try, plus there are other reasons to eat slower.

7- Don’t be intimidated by cost – If you’re eating less, slower, and having leftovers. If you’re eating less meat and less sweets, then the switch to healthier foods may be negligible at worst. Far more significantly, if you’re eating healthier, you are less likely to get sick in the short-term and add to the growing statistics of people who succumb to a preventative disease.

  1. More likely to live longer. 
  2. Less likely to miss work/pay.
  3. More likely to feel better on a day-to-day basis.
  4. More likely to save on medical costs. 

6- Disassociate food from moods. For example, if you’re a stress eater, come up with new ways to react when stressed. You must have ideas in place for this to work. The next time I get stressed I will… and fill in that blank. It can be exercise, talk to a friend, write in a journal, read a book, harm reduction, eat something healthy, heck, I’ll even take watching TV if it gets you off the skittles! Same goes for boredom and other moods.

For more on emotional eating, and solutions, click here.

5- Reclaim your free will – In my previous blogs I talked about the various influences that can creep into a person’s mind, such as advertising, parents, peers and so on that corrupt your free will. I challenge you to be or become aware of them and reject them. If you do and you still want to make the same choices, then go for it. However, you may choose to go in completely different/ healthier direction, or somewhere in-between. Ways to do this are through research (more on that below), shutting out advertising, and going through a periodic detox diet to kick-start yourself.

Hypnosis can potentially be a powerful tool in reclaiming your free will. A myth about hypnosis is that you are giving up control, when in fact it, when done correctly, it is about regaining it. Unfortunately it is not regulated so it may be challenging to find a credible one but that should not stop you from considering.

4- Do your research – Research? I know, not a fun word. But I’m thinking, with all the tweeting, posting, chatting, texting, and so on, there is a little time in the day for #research!

I can maybe understand denial or the blasé mentality of, “oh it will never happen to me”, when it came to things like cancer in the early 1900’s when the odds were somewhere between 1 and 20 or 30 people being diagnosed with it. But now, according to the American Cancer Society, it is roughly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 for men.

And cancer is the number 2 cause of death. I can rattle off more statistics for heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity, Alzheimer’s and more but hopefully you get the point. Mindful, conscious eating has never been more important.

U.S. News & World Report has an annual ranking of best diets that can assist you in familiarizing yourself with some of what is out there. They have different ranking for diet based on this like weight loss, cancer, heart disease etc..

When you consider the Time.Com report that Nearly Half Of US Deaths Can Be Prevented With Lifestyle Changes, it makes sense to give your diet the attention it deserves.

In this era of fake news, fact check and don’t only go to websites that confirm what your already believe.

3- Create healthy (or less unhealthy) alternatives –  For example, I love warm apple fritters. So when I’m reaalllyyy feeling the urge I will have a piece of organic Ezekiel toast with a little raw organic honey, a splash of organic extra virgin olive oil, and some organic true cinnamon. It delicious and hits the spot!

2- Have a Plan – When I facilitate groups at the mental health center where I work, I often say the worst time to prepare for an earthquake is in an earthquake! If you try to make changes on the fly, you will make things harder on yourself.

  1. Keep a journal.
  2. Try apps like Myfitnesspal.
  3. Do it with a spouse or friend.
  4. Go to meetup groups.
  5. Prep your meals in advance. Start bringing healthy dishes with you to work and holiday parties.
  6. In addition to fat and sugar, restaurant food can be load with sodium. Here are some tips to help you plan for eating out.
  7. See if your insurance offers any discounts or services that could help. (such as gym, massage, supplements or other discounts)

Until I got comfortable with my diet I would type it out and save in the draft folder of me email. Don’t eat or shop when you’re hungry for as you may have heard it is far more difficult to be disciplined in those situations.

1- Pay attention to your particular needs and health circumstances – Blogs and articles are generally… you guessed it, general. You are a specific. Consult your doctor before making diet changes as he or she will know about any health specific concerns you should consider. Perhaps as important is to consult a dietitian. As medical doctors do not receive much training in nutrition.

If you’ve read my three food blogs, or even just this lengthy one, you have an interest in diet and self-improvement. I encourage you to continue to cultivate and act on it.  Follow reading the post by writing out a list of 5 things you can do next. I wish you well on your journey.

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*If you are not used to fiber in your diet, integrate it slowly. From My.ClevelandClinic.org: Add fiber to your diet slowly. Too much fiber all at once may cause cramping, bloating, and constipation.” Don’t let that discourage you! The Cleveland link also speaks to fiber’s many benefits! And most people are lacking in it.

Disclaimers:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

This website provides links to other websites.  I have no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that this blog provides links to other sites does not mean that I endorse or accept any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which I provide a link, you do so at your own risk.

8 Reasons American’s Eating Habits Are What They Are

 

eat-fast-foodIn my previous post on food, I wrote about food being the ultimate Trojan. If we don’t eat, we die. Faced with that choice the vast majority of us do choose to eat.

Given the extremely high rates of obesity, diabetes, acid reflux, cancer, heart disease, and so on, and the impact food can have on those maladies, it is fair to say we may not be making the best choices.

Like other human characteristics, habits and behaviors, the conditioning and socialization of how, when, and what we eat, begins at birth. It is influenced by culture, economic class, and parenting. As we age, peers, and other social groups subliminally assert their influence as well. And of course lets not forget the billion dollar food industry, with billions of dollars at stake, prefer not to leave you’re eating choices to chance.

So with that in mind, and in no particular order, here are 8 reasons why our eating habits are what they are.

Illusion of free willPerhaps more than any country, Americans pride ourselves on our free will. The food industry, consisting of many tentacles, does in fact spend billions of dollars in advertising trying to manipulate that free will. All the commercials, magazine/ web ads, product placement and integration in TV and film, celebrity endorsements, and billboards in the middle of bum f*#k nowhere; are done so that when you get hungry and think to yourself, “hmm what am I in the mood for?” You actually think you’re spontaneously thinking of their product…. Fat chance!

Think of it another way. Would American eating habits be the same if billions were not spent on advertisements for fast and junk food? Or if billions were spent on healthy food? I submit the answer is no. Our eating habits would not be the same, in fact they would be radically different. So the question then becomes, do we… do you… want to let advertising continue to manipulate your “free will?”

Misinformation campaign We don’t all have the time or the inclination to get PhD’s in nutrition. So, for many looking for professional guidance, that leaves us in the hands of the media and “experts”.  Of course big food buys themselves some experts. Their experts don’t have to convince us. They win by confusing us with misinformation about what is good or bad for us food/health-wise. Dr. David L. Katz details this well in his post, Why ‘No Two Nutritionists Agree’ Is A Myth.

If they can confuse us, they can get us to throw our hands up in frustration. “First they say this is bad for you and then it’s good, then it’s bad, whatever I’ll eat what I want”. Unfortunately, this is an effective strategy. Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org explains it nicely in two blogs:

In the past I have written how I think the precautionary principle, should be applied to cancer prevention. Science may not yet be able to prove certain foods and lifestyles cause or prevent things like cancer and heart disease, but as I stated in my previous food blog, with over 1.2 million people dying a year from them, I believe just a wee bit of precaution is warranted.  

To be fair, just because a specific industry is funding research that doesn’t disqualify the research in and of itself, but of course it should be disclosed, and a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent.  For example, according to Rebekah’s Kearn’s piece in CourtHouse News, “The egg industry is increasingly involved in financing studies on dietary cholesterol. It funded 29 percent of such studies in 1992, 41 percent of the studies in 2001, and 92 percent in 2013, the complaint states”.

Think about this the next time you see a headline promoting health benefits of eggs while denying or downplaying any possible health risk.  At the very least, their findings are worth a deeper look, especially if you read how Dr. Greger explains how easy it is to design a misleading study.

Food is an addiction And like other addictions, there are many times when addicts are in denial. Obstacles that may be unique to a food addiction are: it is easier to hide, it is legal, and lots of people do it. In other words, a food addiction can be hidden in plain sight. And of course while we don’t have to smoke, take pills or inject ourselves, we do have to eat something. 

Speaking of denial, if food is an addiction, then like other addictions, when one is in the throes of it, it may be very challenging to get them to admit it, or do anything about it. They may also seek to rationalize and justify their eating similar to how an alcoholic may do the same with drinking.

Couple denial with the fact that we are living in an unprecedented era of political correctness, it may be deemed too offensive to point out how someone’s eating may be contributing to their weight and current and possibly future health problems.  They may drop dead prematurely, but hey, at least they won’t be offended by anyone.  

Eating for the wrong reason If nature had its way we would eat when hungry to provide vital nutrients to survive. However, we eat when we’re depressed, bored, stressed, angry, and so on.  

This is neither physically or emotionally healthy. This is an extension of food being an addiction. Further, just as smokers and drug addicts will use their substance of choice as a response to “triggers”, so to will people form associations with eating when in certain moods, time of day, activities, etc., that have nothing to do with hunger. In addition, not only are there triggers for eating when not hungry, there are triggers for eating unhealthy foods.

We also eat when we confuse hunger for food when we are actually thirsty. Drink a big glass of water and see if that satiates you till your next meal.

Cultural traditionsThere are cultural traditions, and generational beliefs, associated with food, food preparation, and eating that mindlessly get passed down from generation to generation. These traditions and beliefs may originate from a time when there may not have been the knowledge of the effects of food on physical and emotional health that we have today.

Laziness and convenienceIn our rush rush world, who has the time to cook? Who has the time to read beyond the headlines of health news? Fast food, processed food and the dying art of cooking makes healthy eating more challenging.  

Blissfully ignorant – If everyone were in the movie, The Matrix, my bet is many would pick the blue pill. Some people are so in love with their food addictions that they don’t want to know. They consciously choose denial.

If only the blue pill came without consequences such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and so on.  But it doesn’t. Knowing and ignoring this is also symptomatic of denial of a different fact of life: Death. “Those bad things won’t happen to me”.  Hopefully they won’t.  And while there are no guarantees, the percentages are such that it seems unwise to ignore the effect of diet on quality and quantity of life.

Food cost – Crapola food can be cheaper than healthy food. There are two ways to address this. One, that is the short-term view. When you consider the cost of health, disease, the effect on mood, and so on, spending a little more for food in the present can save not only money, but pain and suffering as well.

Second, wherever you are on the continuum of health/unhealthy eating, I would suggest you can do better and that limited funds is not an excuse.  I say this as someone who works in mental health with homeless and mentally ill adults that are on food stamps.  I’m with them at the market. I make suggestions, they make choices. If you don’t want to eat better, you don’t want to, but in many cases it is not because of cost. 

An example I have given many times to friends and clients is two people buy the same car off the same lot on the same day.  Owner A, changes the oil and gets routine maintenance done on schedule. He drives close to the speed limit and so on.  Owner B saves money along the way and gets oil changes when he remembers and takes the car in for service a few thousand miles after an indicator light goes on. He frequently drives well over the speed limit. Which car is going to last longer?  As the cars age, which will perform better?  I suppose if Owner B is wealthy or doesn’t mind using credit cards he can get new car parts or even a new car if and when needed. Organs can’t always be replaced.   

There you have some reasons why we eat the way we do.  Sorry to get all gloom and doom on you towards the end but the best way to avoid the negative in the future is to confront it today!

One final note is that I am specifically not addressing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia is this blog, nor did I in my previous food blog. I feel those conditions require distinct focus and attention. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be struggling with any eating disorder please seek medical and psychological attention.    

In my next post on food I will offer suggestions for those interested in making some changes.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

 

Food, The Ultimate Trojan

over-eating

According to mythology, a Trojan Horse was a huge wooden horse given as a gift. However, it was nefariously used to hide soldiers inside the horse to sneak them across battle lines, and help the Greeks win the war against Troy.

Today, more people are familiar with the term trojan virus; where something inviting, that you want to look at on your computer, is encrypted with something damaging. Once opened and inside, like the battalion of soldiers, the virus can be destructive.

So what makes food the ultimate trojan?  Unlike a wooden horse or a curious file we download, we need food to live.

The food we put in our mouths may seem like a gift and, if done consciously, food will not only enable us to live, it can give us energy, assist in making us feel better when sick, and extend our lives. However, if done haphazardly, this “gift” of food can operate like a trojan and wreak havoc on our systems.  It can sap us of our energy, assist in exacerbating or even causing depression and anxiety, it can contribute to or cause illness and disease.  

Ultimately “trojan food” can cause a premature systems failure: fatigue and moodiness at the least, and premature disease and death at worst.

We get all worked up about guns and terrorism (understandably so) but they are far less likely to kill us then our diet (combined with other lifestyle behaviors). In 2014, death by gun occurred 33,736 times, and for terrorism we lost 32 lives. This gives us a combined total of 33,768 deaths. Sad and tragic as this may be, it pales in comparison to death by heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699) also in 2014, for combined total of 1,206,047. That is… one million… two hundred six thousand… and forty-seven. 

Between heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, respiratory illness, good eating habits is one factor that could greatly reduce mortality and assist with other chronic conditions facing many of us, such as Alzheimer’s and arthritis.

So, friend or foe, which is food you?

healthy_vs_unhealthy_food_foodguruz-in_

To put it bluntly, it is foe for a lot of us. The average American diet stinks. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. On average we only get one serving of fruit a day? And apparently if you cut out french fries and ketchup that number goes down. Wow.

Despite all of the rhetoric about what constitutes a healthy diet, there is a basic agreement that a whole foods plant-based is good, and processed crap (including processed meat, refined carbs and sugar laden “food”) is bad.

So why do so many reject or ignore basic healthy eating guidelines and continue to stuff their pie holes with crapola?

Like big pharma, big food spends not millions, but billions, to get inside of our heads. The goal being to get us to think that what we want, our free will, is what leads us to eat food that might actually be slowly killing us.  

evil-junk-food-companies1

And like the tobacco industry big food targets our kids because ya hook um young and you have a customer for life. Google the phrase “food is the new tobacco” and see what comes up. Here is one piece.

Further, food can be addictive.  Knowing this, what do you think the makers of big food do?  Put more or less of what is addictive, like added sugar, into their version of a trojan horse?  (FYI sugar substitutes have issues of their own.)

The good news is you can retrain your taste buds.  

Confession time. Despite always being thin, I have been a food glutton for a good portion of my life.  If it wasn’t stapled down I would eat it.  In the lunch room in high school, when friends would see me coming, they would go the other way, especially if I hadn’t eaten yet.  My motto was fast food wasn’t fast enough!   The older I got, the more into health I became.  My eating habits changed out of concern for:

  • Health.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Effects of food choices on the environment. 

An unexpected surprise was that these health foods started to taste really good!  A lot of the unhealthy things I use to eat that I have once in a while don’t taste as good, making it easier to further refine my habits.  Yes I still have my weaknesses and “cheat” here and there, but I feel like I have woken up.  

This isn’t about vegan vs. carnivore.  You can make healthy and unhealthy choices, including gluttony, within each realm.  The idea is to make conscious, mindful choices.  

Do some research, (these days I feel compelled to warn against fake news sites) and if you’re the all or nothing type, make radical changes. If you’re the dip your foot in the pool type, start small.  That is what I did, and the way I eat today is practically unrecognizable from where I use to be.  

Today, when I read through ingredients on websites and food labels, I get turned off by what I see knowing that the makers intentionally spike food with addictive substances (like sugar, fat, and salt) knowing how bad they are for health.  And just like suspicious emails that may contain a trojan, I stare at it for moment, shake my head no and move on.  Not today trojan, I’m not falling for you.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

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For those interested in the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian eating, I recommend the website: http://NutritionFacts.org

One of the articles embedded in this blog is Oldways Common Ground Consensus Statement on Healthy Eating.  The committee is composed of the below persons.  Co chair, Dr. David Katz has a great health and nutrition blog for you to consider following.  He has a non-judgmental balanced perspective.

The objective of the committee was to get experts with differing opinions on healthy eating (vegan vs. paleo, etc.) together to see what they can agree on.

Chairs:

David Katz, MD, MPH, Founding Director, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition; Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Participants:

Steven Abrams, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Dell Medical School, University of Texas (Austin, TX)

Sara Baer-Sinnott, President, Oldways (Boston, MA)

Neal Barnard, MD, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine (Washington, DC)

T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University and Founder, T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (Ithaca, NY)

S. Boyd Eaton, MD, Professor Emeritus, Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

Alessio Fasano, MD, Director, Center for Celiac Research; Chief, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Associate Chief, Department of Pediatrics, Basic, Clinical and Translational Research, Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Christopher Gardner, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine (Stanford, CA)

Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

David Jenkins, MD, DSc, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto; Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital; Director, Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto, Ontario, CA)

Tom Kelly, PhD, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sustainability Institute at University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)

Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, MD, MPH, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (Boston, MA) Malden Nesheim, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Provost Emeritus, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Dean Ornish, MD, Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (Sausalito, CA)

Simon Poole, MBBS, DRCOG, Medical Practitioner and Commentator (Cambridge, UK)

Eric Rimm, ScD, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Loma Linda University School of Public Health (Loma Linda, CA)

Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD, President, Hellenic Health Foundation and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nutrition at the School of Medicine, University of Athens (Athens, Greece)

 

 

10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression?

tough-questions

When I scrolled down my yahoo news feed and saw a post with the headline, 10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression, as someone who works in mental health with clients who suffer from major depression, I was intrigued.

It’s an important subject because depression is far more prevalent than we would like to admit. Knowing how to see the signs and talk to people can make a difference.

I respect the author, Julie Revelant for writing the piece. However, while I agree with portions of it, I either disagreed or found much of her list to be an oversimplification.  You can read her entire article here.

Speaking of oversimplification, there is only so much to be gleaned from a blog on a topic like this. There are too many variables to account for every situation.

Therefor before I get to my critique of what Relevant says you should not say, maybe something you should say to someone with depression is have you thought about talking to someone professionally? While many experience mild to moderate depression, others experience major depression that can be life threatening.  This is not something to be diagnosed and treated by someone not qualified to do so.

Keeping the above qualifier in mind: Here are the 10 things Relevant states you should never say to someone with depression and my take on it.

1. “Don’t think about it.”

This is not an absolute.  Some may think about their depression too much, others not at all. Negative emotions can be signals your subconscious is trying to send you that something is off.  Another word for not thinking about depression or problems, is denial.

A common point where I will agree with many of the things on Relevant’s list is while some of the phrases don’t work as statements, they may work as questions.

If you think someone is depressed and is thinking about it too much, perhaps you can ask them how is thinking about the problem helping?  Is it possible to focus on something else for a little while?  Is the person ruminating and dwelling on problems?  If so, you can assist them in focusing on solutions.  In this way they are still “thinking” about it but you are redirecting them towards the positive by changing the focus.

Further, by questioning and suggesting rather than stating, you are acknowledging and empowering rather than belittling and dismissing.

Here, Revelant quotes Dr. Susan Noonan, a certified peer specialist and consultant in Boston, Massachusetts, “The thing about depression is that it’s not something you can will away. It’s a biologically based medical condition of the mind and the body”.

 

depressioninterventions

I agree with the first part of the statement, in that alleviating depression requires some intervention. To try and will it away, on its own, is not enough. If the depression is mild maybe the person can intervene on his own.  For moderate to major depression, maybe a trusted friend or therapist’s help will be needed.

Where I respectfully question Dr. Noonan is when she refers to depression as a biologically based medical condition.  From this I infer that she believes all depression must be treated with medication and or by a psychiatrist.  And while those suffering from depression should have an initial evaluation by an M.D. and a psychologist, medicine is not needed for all.  In some cases a person may benefit from being on meds for life, others for a brief time, and others are capable of doing fine with talk therapy, and improving things like diet and exercise.  Never needing medication.

2. “Just think positively.”

If said on its own, I agree with Revelant that it should not be said.  But there is whole segment in the field of psychology called cognitive behavior therapy that is based on helping people see through cognitive distortions and redirecting absolute negative thinking. If a friend is depressed “because nothing ever works outs”… true, you should not say “just think positively.” However you can ask him, can you think of a time when anything, anything at all worked out? Usually that answer will be yes. Start with a small positive and build from there.

Ask him to forget about the big picture for a moment, and think about one or two things, no matter how small, that can move him in the direction he wants to go.

In this case you are not telling him to think positive but you are leading him to thinking positively or at least piercing the distortion, and having positive thoughts.

3. “Be grateful.”

One issue I have with the statement, “be grateful”, in addition to what Relevant talks about, is you run the risk of pushing the depressed person away.

rogers_empathy

On its own, be grateful doesn’t convey empathy or understanding.  But let’s assume you spent some time expressing empathy and understanding; asking (as opposed to telling) your friend if they have anything in their life to be grateful for can be a positive redirect.  Or an indication of a deeper level of depression than you realized if he doesn’t respond.

And if after gentle probing and or suggestions of things to be grateful for, your friend cannot find something, you may consider contacting another friend or loved one to help, and or reiterate the importance of talking to a professional.

4. “No one ever said life was going to be easy.”

Certainly not an ice-breaker.  If a friend is struggling with or didn’t meet a life challenge, after expressing empathy, possible questions to ask are:  What were your expectations?  What can you learn from this? What can you do differently moving forward?

Revelant states, “This statement makes it sound as if the person who is suffering has control of what is going on his brain”.  IF the depression has a biochemical connection than all of the talking in the world may be insufficient, unless it’s the talk that gets the person to the doctor.

retraining-brain

However, our brains do get trained to think and react in a certain way and it is possible to retrain them. If the need for medication is ruled out or perhaps in conjunction with, a person can, if not in total, gain a measure of control.

If negative messages and thinking have seeped into our brains and predominated for years and years, then it will take more than one catchphrase, or one therapy session to turn it around.  But in many cases it can be turned around!  “Obstacles” can become challenges.  “Failures” can become opportunities to learn and improve… or… present an opportunity to make a different choice that works out even better!

Events that occur are immutable.  They are what they are.  Perspective, how we look at them and respond are very mutable… we can change them!

5. “Turn to God.”

I generally agree with the original post here.  I would add that faith is not limited to God or even a higher power.  There is room for faith to help in an atheist or an agnostic as well.

Motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, uses a metaphor of avoiding a car accident.  He says, we are taught, if we are about to get into a car collision and we look at what we are about to hit, we will indeed get into an accident.  However if we look away, we will turn away.  You can encourage others to look in the direction they want to go as opposed to focusing on what they view as the accident.  It is a, “my room is a mess”, versus “today I am going to clean my room” mentality.

As Robbins would point out, One focus’ on the problem, the other the solution.  Is it a guarantee?  Of course not.  But faith can be a powerful precursor/motivator that can drive action and be the spark that helps initiate change, and positively affect mood while in its pursuit.

One can find faith in many places:

  • God.
  • Spirituality.
  • Religion.
  • In yourself.
  • In a process that has worked for many others.
  • In a healer.
  • In a friend or family member.
  • In having a purpose.

6. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

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Here, after expressing empathy, I would rephrase:  Are you feeling sorry for yourself?  If yes, ask why. Empathize, validate the feeling but then ask what would help you after feeling sorry for yourself?  This attempts to get your friend unstuck and moving forward.  If they don’t know, perhaps suggest keeping a journal, and free associative writing.

7. “I know how you feel—I’ve been sad, too.”

Relevant and the Dr. she quotes have a problem with this one.  I agree you shouldn’t say this just to say it. However, it can be okay if you truly can relate to how the person feels, and can offer an experience that is relatable to who you’re talking to.  In working with adults and abused adolescents, I have seen this work again and again.  As a facilitator of groups on various mental health topics, some of the most valuable moments come not from the educational materials handed out, or anything my co-facilitators or I said, rather the empathetic understanding of peers in the group who shared their similar experience.

And this is one of  those things where the situation or timing may affect the appropriateness of saying something like this to a friend, and his receptiveness to it.  Right after a person loses a loved one, they probably don’t want to hear, “I know how you feel”.  Five months later in a loss and grief group it may be beneficial to be surrounded by people who know how they feel.

8. “Get over it.” 

Yeah, not a fan of this one.  But in keeping with rephrasing, depending on the issue, you may be able to ask why do you think you’re having a difficult time getting over this?  Especially if the person has a history of being able to emotionally recover from depressing events such as breakups, not getting a job, etc..

9. “You don’t look depressed.”

Not as bad as number 8, but not a good lead in either.  My theory on this phrase, which is similarly used in response to when someone says they are terminally ill, is, it is a defensive response due to being caught off guard by sharing, and not immediately knowing what to say.

Relevant states that what the person hears is, “I don’t believe you or you’re a fake”.  What I hear is, the mask I have projected to keep you from knowing how depressed I am is working.

As with all of the above, the best thing you can do for your friend is get yourself to a place of empathy, make your friend feel heard and understood before attempting to go to positive redirection.  And if you gauge the moment to be right, at some point during the conversation you can offer positive reinforcement in an area(s) where your friend is doing/looking well.

10. “You need a hobby.”

At its worst this statement can come off as condescending, and at its best it can still come off as dismissive.

In question form, have you thought about a hobby?  Can take on a different meaning.  And follow the initial question with probing for areas of interest and you may come up with something. Pair this probing with the aforementioned empathy and understanding, while a hobby may not cure the depression, it may be able to assist.  Then it is not dismissive or condescending.

Revelant correctly points out that people who are depressed do lose interest in activities they use to enjoy.  Clinically, this is referred to as anhedonia . However not all people who suffer from depression suffer from anhedonia or the same degree of it. A little push and encouragement may be the thing that helps get your friend back on track.

As suggested in the beginning, both this and Relevant’s post are simplifications.  There is a broad range to depression, that is not limited from mild to major.  There is also bi-polar.

Treating clinical depression can be challenging enough for the trained professional, if a friend or family member reaches out to you with depression, I would encourage you to encourage them to seek professional help.

Practically speaking, a lot of people do prefer to talk to their friends.  In this situation you can bring your authentic intention to help.  Actively listen.  Provide empathy.  Provide validation. And if appropriate, ask questions and make suggestions that try to steer your friend to some positive thoughts.

If you are not comfortable or if your friend continues to use you as a crutch, and it is not helpful to him and stressful for you, then to take care of yourself and to keep from potentially enabling your friend, you may need to draw a boundary that is in the best interest of yourself and your friend.  Which circles us back to therapy.

RE: Therapy, there are many therapists who offer a sliding scale and there are other options for those with low-income.  You can try contacting a local graduate school and see if they have interns available for a low fee.

If a friend is resistant to therapy because they don’t believe in it…Encourage them to keep an open mind. If they tried it in the past and did not like the therapist, suggest there are good and bad of everything and to give it another try, especially if they have never been evaluated for medication.  There are natural remedy’s and diet changes to try first if they are uncomfortable with meds or that is their preference.  Full disclosure, I use a natural remedy called Sam-e (with b-complex) with some positive results.

Initially, the best thing you can do is just be there for your friend.  They probably realize you are not a pro and may not be looking to you for solutions rather just to be understood and perhaps for attention.  If someone comes to you beyond a level you’re comfortable with, then take care of yourself and gently let your friend know this.

Here are some referrals:

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
  2. Befrienders Worldwide
  3. Families For Depression Awareness
  4. Teen Health and Wellness (this link offer hotline numbers for lots of teen issues)
  5. ULifeline (for college mental health)
  6. The Trevor Project (For LBGTQ)
  7. Postpartum Depression
  8. Vets Prevail 
  9. Crisis Help Line – Offers hotlines for many issues. 800-233-4357
  10. Crisis Text Line 

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THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  WHILE I DO WORK FOR A MENTAL HEALTH AGENCY WITH THE JOB TITLE OF, MENTAL HEALTH REHABILITATION SPECIALIST, I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

The above article by Jeff Schubert provides links to other non schoobysports.wordpress.com sites. Neither Jeff Schubert nor schoobysports.wordpress.com has control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that schoobysports.wordpress.com links to another site does not mean that Jeff Schubert nor schoobysports.wordpress.com endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which schoobysports.wordpress.com provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

Neutral State Of Consciousness

A Climate Change Concept Image

(c)kwest19/bigstockphoto.com

Are your thoughts, drives, and actions inspired by something you want to have? Or something you want to avoid?

For example: Do you want to be in a relationship to love and share or do you not want to be alone? Is being in a dysfunctional relationship preferable to being alone? Most wouldn’t answer yes, yet many do enter and or stay in such relationships when it is clear that it is far from ideal.

How long can you stand to be alone with your thoughts? When so, what is your state of mind? Is it boredom? Contentment? Fear? Jubilation? Loneliness? Depression or anxiety? A combination of things?

It has been said that we humans have a survival instinct. I would agree that we do. However I have seen many people knowingly engage in behaviors such as smoking, drugs, bad diet, and so on, that would seem to work against their own survival. It doesn’t mean they lack a survival instinct, but it does suggest that something going on inside of them is powerful enough to override it in some cases.

It has also been said that we humans need a purpose. “A reason to get up everyday”. Indeed, retirement doesn’t sit well with many. Retirement and the loss of a spouse is a double whammy that many do not recover from. But why do we need a purpose? Why do we need a reason to get up everyday? Why can’t we peacefully, joyfully exist in silence? Why do some of us have to fill ourselves up with relationships and a gluttony of things to do? Anything to avoid being alone with ourselves?

My theory is, it is like we are lost and running in the desert.  Either we are running towards our hopes, away from our fears or combination of both. Running away from our anxieties and towards that which we subconsciously believe will alleviate them.

Confusion Concept.

(c)sam2172/bigstockphoto.com

One challenge is that we want our hopes so badly, and want to avoid our fears just as much, that we sometimes cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is a mirage.

In a relaxed, meditative, neutral state of consciousness, figure out who you are. Where you are. The only wrong answers are the dishonest ones. We come across these when we try to deceive ourselves in to thinking we are what we think we should be. What we have been raised or conditioned to be.

What are your honest hopes, fears, dreams, likes and dislikes? Ask yourself, how do your actions and behaviors move you towards or away from what it is you want, and what it is you want to avoid.

You can also apply this to belief systems and thought processes. How do they serve or sabotage the stillness of your mind?

If you are engaging in something to avoid anxiety, depression or loneliness, it may just be an escape. Even if it is not a “bad” escape like drugs, it is still an escape that may be doing nothing more than filling a void.

If it does so as a temporary band-aid to see you through something, it can be helpful.  If it is more permanent, than it may seem all well and good until one day you see it for what it is, and it leaves you feeling empty and questioning and reevaluating life.

A neutral state of consciousness may help you figure this all out. Shine a light on what makes you tick. It could leave you feeling more peaceful, and have you making choices based on what you want rather than what you want to avoid. The latter being a recipe for seeing things that aren’t there, settling, and an inner turmoil that you can never quite put your finger on, but that you know is always there.

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I have three exercises for you.

1- Find yourself some alone time. No TV, no reading, no computer, conversation, etc. It is just you alone on an island.  Eyes open.  Exist here for as long as you can.  Right down how you feel.  What are your thoughts and feelings?  What are you wanting to do and why?

Now take  it one step deeper…

2- Meditate.  On a different day.  Find some more alone time to meditate.  If meditation is not normally your thing, not too worry.  Find a time when you have no distractions.  Yes, I know that can be challenging, but if this is important to you, you can do it.

Close your eyes.  Take some deep breaths.  In through you nose and out through you mouth.  Give yourself permission to let go of all of your concerns.  Tell yourself those concerns will be there when you are done and it is okay to let go for a little while.  All that matters is the moment and the breath.  Visualize or imagine yourself in a peaceful happy place.  A place where you feel safe.  Ask yourself, what do I truly want? Out of life, out of a job, out of specific relationships? Ask yourself, what do I fear?  Write this down.

3- Sleep with a pad and pen, or a digital recorder next to your bed.  When you wake up try not to move to suddenly.  The stiller you lay in the bed the better recall you may have of your dreams.  Write them down as best you can and see if understanding their meaning can help you in any way.

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THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

Why I Started Taking Vitamins

Magnifying Glass - Healthy Living

(c)kbuntu/bigstockphot.com

And why pharmaceutical drugs are not always the answer.

When I was a teenager I was fortunate to wake up in the middle of the night with a neck spasm that was so bad I couldn’t move my neck or feel my left arm.  Why was this fortunate?  Well I was on vacation in Florida and I saw a doctor I would have never met otherwise.  He fixed my neck right away by spraying Ethel Chloride on it.  My father and I were so impressed by him that even though we lived in NY he became our go to guy for health questions and who we would see for our yearly physical.

In many ways Dr. Birzon was as western as western medicine gets.  However, he is a brilliant man, well versed in many subjects, including supplements and diet.  Areas that you would think go hand in hand with medicine and that all doctors would be schooled in, but are not.

To avoid getting sick, or to overcome illnesses like the cold and flu faster, Dr. Birzon recommended the taking of certain supplements and the addition and subtraction of certain foods.

It wasn’t until I went to college until I really took Dr. Birzon’s advice to heart.  You see I was a very sick child.  I had two near death illnesses growing up and far more cases of the usual afflictions than other kids.  From ear infections, strep throat, stomach virus’ and the flu.  It was always something.  And there were always drugs to help.  But they did nothing to prevent.

In college I started to take vitamin supplementation seriously.  The rate of illness went down and recovery was faster.  I did develop a bad case of mononucleosis my junior year, but given the severity of it the recovery was faster and the limitations were mitigated.

When I got to California, my interest in vitamins and nutrition expanded to include herbs and eastern medicine.  Over the years I have had various conditions where I have sought out both traditional western medicine cures, and something alternative.

In my mid thirties I was having pain in my colon area.  My doctor stated my prostate was slightly enlarged and he was ready to put me on medicine to reduce it.  An eastern medicine doctor evaluated me and said I need to take a good probiotic.  I tried the probiotic and it worked.  Pain gone.

Also in my thirties I saw a sleep specialist for fatigue issues.  So I took an overnight sleep study and tested positive for periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).  This is where a person experiences involuntary muscle movements that prevent a good night’s sleep.  For this I was prescribed powerful drugs, at first Tylenol/codeine, and then klonipin.  I tried them both but decided these were not drugs I wanted to be on long term and that long-term usage would be worse than the fatigue issues.  Besides one of the side effects of these drugs, which I experienced, is fatigue!!

I eventually did get my PLMD under control.  Not with drugs.  And not with supplements.  But by listening and observing my body, I was able to realize that my body temperature ran a little cold, and the warmer my sleep environment, the less I would seem to have these spasms as I would drift off to sleep.

In my forties it was time for laryngopharyngeal reflux.  This is a form of acid reflux, or GERD, that has greatly affected my speaking voice.  So much so that I double dosed on medication in hopes of solving the problem.  After four months, the medicine did not put a dent in the problem.

This has been a challenging one, one I am still fighting.  Diet and behavioral modifications have helped a little.  To date I would say the taking of digestive enzymes and going to a more green/ alkaline diet have helped more than anything else I have tried.

Most recently I had some random swelling in my fingers.  No discernible cause or accident that caused it.  Without any blood work or testing, the doctor immediately wanted to put me on ibuprofen and ice.  I tried the ice.  Didn’t work.  I tried wet heat and it did.  The ibuprofen was not necessary.   Had I taken the ibuprofen and it worked, I would have been under the false assumption that I needed it (rather than the wet heat) to deal with future swelling.

There are more tales to tell but the point I am trying to make is oftentimes drugs are a doctor’s first and only solution to a problem you present them with.  And many times they may be right.  Those two near death illnesses I mentioned earlier?  In both instances I was cured by western medicine so I am not looking to bash it.  However, I am trying to point out, albeit anecdotally, that there can be safer, easier remedies, and ways of dealing with certain health conditions.  In my opinion, pharmaceuticals drugs are not always the best solution nor should they always be the first solution tried.  Vitamins and nutrition are worth considering.

There might be a drug that doesn’t come with risks and or side effects, but I haven’t heard of them.  Some come with minor risk and side effects others potentially more serious.  You always want to know what the short-term and long-term risks are and weigh the pros and cons.

cocktail of drugs

(c)paulista/bigstockphoto.com

If I had listened to my doctors, for over a decade I could have been on an unnecessary cocktail of drugs placing a heavy burden on my liver and kidneys.  Perhaps requiring additional medication.

Vitamins are like most things in that there are good and bad product lines.  Poorly and better made.  Further, there are higher and lower doses.  In other words don’t just blindly pop these pills because they’re “only” vitamins.  Research and or consult an expert to see what may be right for you.

So, while you should always go to the doctor first for healthcare, if you dismiss vitamins and supplements out of hand without researching, you may be missing a better, healthier, or safer way to overcome illness and or avoid getting sick in the first place.

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Material placed on this Web site by Jeff Schubert is for the purpose of providing information only. It is not intended as the practice of medicine or the provision of medical services. This site does not provide medical advice. . The content provided by Jeff Schubert is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your provider or other healthcare professional with any question regarding any medical or mental health condition.

Jeff Schubert provides links to other non Jeff Schubert websites.  Jeff Schubert has no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that Jeff Schubert links to another site does not mean that Jeff Schubert endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which Jeff Schubert provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

What We Can Learn From Ellen Page Coming Out

bigstock-LOS-ANGELES--MAR---Ellen-P-19798496

(c)kathclick/Bigstockphoto.com

Ellen Page’s coming out speech at the HRC’s Time to Thrive conference about her sexuality was moving, heartwarming and refreshingly authentic.  (See the video below) Among other things, she said:

“I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered. My mental health suffered. My relationships suffered. I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain.”

These words are a reminder of the pain society is capable of inflicting on others.  And the pain we are capable of inflicting on ourselves.

This isn’t just about Ellen Page’s sexuality, or sexuality period.  Page provides a good reminder of society’s need to protect and perpetuate itself by conditioning its young to believe and behave in a certain way.

In opposition is the individual’s desire to express and be accepted for his or her uniqueness.  It’s an age-old battle born out of the need for survival, and of fear.  It will not be settled today.

When the conditioning doesn’t take or feel right to the individual, he or she is left to question:  do I, or how much of myself do I suppress for the sake of fitting in?  For the sake of survival?  Do I risk scorn?  My ability to provide for myself and my family?  Or  hurting the ones I love by expressing my individuality or that which I have felt the need to hide?

In her speech, Page alluded to years of succumbing to social pressures to behave and “represent” as being a person she was not.  She took responsibility for her fear and her lie, and admitted what the cost was.  She then courageously stepped forward.

Tomorrow, it may or may not cost her certain acting roles, and it may adversely affect a relationship or two.  But in the moment I’m guessing it felt quite liberating and a relief.

Hiding and lying by omission is not exclusive to sexuality.  Society puts pressure on us in many ways and in many forms.  Exerting pressure directly and indirectly on us to make certain choices and to look and behave a certain way.  It can be malevolent or benevolent, depending on the person or circumstance.  The intention is irrelevant from the point of view that when we succumb to this pressure, consciously or unconsciously, we give away a part of ourselves.  As was the case with Page, our spirits suffer, and our mental health suffers. That is the high price we pay if and when we disregard our emotional needs and our authentic self.

This isn’t a call for extreme selfishness, renouncing compromise or to break laws.  It is an invitation, to search ourselves and to be honest about who we are.  To see and measure if there is difference in who we are and what we put out in the world.  Where do we possibly sacrifice ourselves?  Not out of give and take compromise, but out of fear?  Out of selling ourselves out.  Not for survival but a superficial need.  What do we think we need to survive but in truth do not?  How in or out of sync is our internal and external self?  If we are out of sync, the questions are: by how much? At what expense?  Are we deluding ourselves with negotiations that state something to the effect of, “I’ll be myself when…”  However, does that “when” date always seems to get pushed down the road?

“Coming out”, is a phrase typically reserved for a woman or a man announcing that she or he has a same-sex sexual preference.  However, any of us that hide a true part of ourselves is capable of having a coming out moment.

It doesn’t always have to be a speech, and it doesn’t always have to be public.  It starts with you.  With being honest with yourself.  With weighing the cost of coming out, and doing what is right for you, when it is right for you, and with whom, versus living a life as someone or something less that what you want to be.

Depending on one’s circumstances, coming out can come with emotional, social and financial risk.  These consequences should not be taken lightly.  Nor should the consequences of not coming out.

The result of assuming one’s true self does always have to be negative.

Perhaps Ellen Page will experience an inner peace she has never known.   Existing relationships with some maybe become healthier and stronger.  And or new ones may form as well.  Those acting roles she might miss out on?  I am guessing there will be new roles and opportunities that will come her way that would not have otherwise.    Whether they will pay as much or do as well at the box office I do not know, but I’ll bet they are  more fulfilling, and without the spiritual suffering.  How much is all of this worth?

**THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.**

The Basis Of Thought

brain

How do we arrive at our thoughts?  What generates our thinking and thought processes?  Is it the result of:

  • Personal experience?
  • Nature?
  • Nurture?
  • Genetics?

All are reasonable answers.  Taking it one step further, perhaps those things form some sort of collective, integrated framework.  A framework we then go out into the world with and seek out particular experiences that we then “consciously” reflect on.  And upon exercising our “free will” we reach conclusions about life, ourselves and thus achieve a measure of control over our thoughts, intellect and behaviors.

If only it were that complex!

One thing that many of us forget, or don’t realize is that we are animals.  This is a simple statement of fact without any connotation on my part attached to it.  Yes our brain size, and intellect separate us from other animals.  But just because we use a different fork for our salads than we do our main course doesn’t make us as different as we think.

Stages in human evolutionWe are still primal creatures driven by survival instincts, needs and fears.  Thoughts are its byproduct.  Intelligence is merely the mechanism or tool by which we express our primal needs, and emotions.

The blessing of intelligence is the awareness it gives us, and that it affords us the opportunity to grow, evolve and experience life in ways that would otherwise not be possible.

Its curse is that awareness can trick us into thinking we are smarter than we are.  We’re susceptible to confusing perceived truth with truth.  Our reason and logic is oftentimes nothing more than our primal needs and emotions constructing a reality or thought process that suits our needs.  This can correlate to pleasurable and un-pleasurable experiences.

Its weakness occurs if and when arrogance or defense mechanisms rear their head and prevent us from seeing its curse in action.   These defense mechanisms reveal themselves when we unconsciously seek out relationships and experiences that enable us to play out old issues.

Further when we react in the moment based on issues from the past, or distortions, as logical as the reaction may seem in the moment, its roots lay elsewhere.

In reality, our “rational” thought gives voice to our insecurities, demons, joys and wants…  Whether or not we are in a positive or negatively charged state, it makes them all sound reasonable and logical.  Sometimes they may be reasonable and logical…However,  other times maybe not.

Yellow-Brick-RoadThe path to authenticity and becoming, or remaining, a truly actualized individual, begins, or continues, with an awareness of these mechanisms when they are at work in our lives.  Beyond that is the inner work that is up to a person to decide if the destination is worth the journey.

I tackle these issues and whole lot more in my ebook, “The Authentic You”.  Until January 7th, 2014, you can get it for free by clicking here and then inputting the following code: DM36K, at checkout.

Peace And Adventure On The Journey!

Response To A Teacher’s “Wise Words”

todolist

I saw this list posted on Facebook.  Below each statement, in red, is my response to it.  The original list is actually pretty good, (unknown author), but I’m in a weird place these days so some of my responses are meant as a joke, some are serious, and some I would need Freud to figure out!

— one high school teacher’s list of 100 wisest word

1. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.

Unless you don’t know how to swim, than the stairs is a good idea!

2. Never cancel dinner plans by text message.

Unless you’re stuck on the east coast during hurricane Sandy (I was) and texting is all that is working!

3. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Terrorism is evil.  I knocked it and I have not tried it.

4. If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.

What if the only reason I stop is because he is in my way?

5. Always use ‘we’ when referring to your home team or your government.

A good friend of mine that was in the Army wasn’t a fan of this, because “we” won’t lose a leg, but he could have.

6. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

Unless that secret involves doing harm to the person or someone else.  Or the tabloids will pay you a whole bunch of money for it! (j/k)

7. Don’t underestimate free throws in a game of ‘horse’.

I promise for the rest of my life I will never do that again!  Happy now?

8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I’m sorry, but when I have to go, I’m going.

9. Don’t dumb it down.

Yes, why risk being understood?

10. You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.

Only if that is the last new haircut you ever see.

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.

Okay, but no promises about doing laundry.

12. Never park in front of a bar.

The first spots are usually for the handicapped anyway.

13. Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.

True that.  People get way to emotional about reclining seats.

14. Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first boy/girlfriend.

I never took a picture of my first fish (maybe he has a facebook page!)  My first car stopped talking to me after I totaled it.  And my current girlfriend might get a little peeved if I carry a picture of my first around!

15. Hold your heroes to a high standard.

A high standard, but one they can live up to…otherwise prepare to feel disappointed and possibly betrayed.

16. A suntan is earned, not bought.

There is honor in honesty, not suffering…don’t confuse the two.

17. Never lie to your doctor.

But don’t fully trust him/her either.  Or better yet:  Trust but verify.

18. All guns are loaded.

And people can be guns.

19. Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.

Do mention in-burns… they probably do not know.

20. The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.

The best way to show thanks is to authentically be thankful.  The rest will take care of itself.

21. Take a vacation of your cell phone, internet, and TV once a year.

Good idea but I would need a support group to ditch the internet.

22. Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.

Don’t fill up on anything, no matter how good.  Too much will lead to you…

23. A handshake beats an autograph.

And a warm smile beats a handshake.

24. Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.

Phrased another way by author Steven Forrest: Don’t stand with one foot on the dock and one on a boat that is setting out to sea.

25. If you choose to go in drag, don’t sell yourself short.

If you choose to go period, don’t sell yourself short!

26. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

Better yet, have your astrology chart done.

27. Never get your hair cut the day of a special event.

If you’re bald like me I guess that means don’t shave your head?

28. Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires, and sheets.

Yeah but don’t space out on socks, car breaks and blankets either!

29. Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it.

Wherever you eat, be present with your food and savior every bite.

30. When you’re with new friends, don’t just talk about old friends.

Talk about subjects of meaning and or mutual pleasure.

31. Eat lunch with the new kids.

If you feel comfortable doing so, not because you read it in a blog….

32. When traveling, keep your wits about you.

For any life event that stresses you, anticipate and mentally prepare for the event ahead of time.

33. It’s never too late for an apology.

Sadly, mortality would suggest otherwise.

34. Don’t pose with booze.

Or at least don’t post it on instagram!

35. If you have the right of way, take it.

There are times that even when you have the right of way, you don’t have the right of way.  (Think old lady standing on a bus)

36. You don’t get to choose your own nickname.

But it may be subject to negotiation.

37. When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.

That’s all I need, another reason not to commit!

38. Never push someone off a dock.

But be sure and pull them in if they push you!

39. Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.

OMG, I almost did this in a business meeting to a woman who was NOT pregnant.  Heed this warning!

40. It’s not enough to be proud of your ancestry; live up to it.

But in a way that is true to who you are…

41. Don’t make a scene.

All activity is a scene… make the scenes you want, make them count, and try avoid the scenes you may regret later.

42. When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.

Maybe… but I’d rather speak a few seconds too long and not forget to thank someone than worry about being short and sweet.

43. Know when to ignore the camera.

Always ignore the camera and be true to yourself.

44. Never gloat.

You can gloat once in a great while.  But don’t make a habit of it!

45. Invest in good luggage.

Unless you can invest in good stock!

46. Make time for your mom on your birthday. It’s her special day, too.

Make time for your mom everyday… unless she is some crazy psycho abusive nut job, than give yourself permission to let go.

47. When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.

Really?  Good guesses I don’t mind.  Lack of enthusiasm or enjoyment is a bummer. 

48. Sympathy is a crutch, never fake a limp.

But don’t hide one for too long either.

49. Give credit. Take blame.

Agreed.

50. Suck it up every now and again.

If only it were every now and again!

51. Never be the last one in the pool.

Unless the pool is filled with Sharks.

52. Don’t stare.

Staring is okay in the right situation… It’s the stalking I worry about.

53. Address everyone that carries a firearm professionally.

Not necessarily out of respect but because they can kill you!

54. Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.

When in doubt, consult someone in higher authority.

55. If you’ve made your point, stop talking.

Verify that you have been understood.  If yes listen.  If not, dumb it down!  Ha ha! (see number 9 on this list)

56. Admit it when you’re wrong.

Only if I can rub it in when I’m right J

57. If you offer to help don’t quit until the job is done.

Or don’t offer more than you are capable of helping.

58. Look people in the eye when you thank them.

But only thank them if you mean it.

59. Thank the bus driver.

Thank everyone who provides a service to you or does something kind.

60. Never answer the phone at the dinner table.

Or text, check the net… man this one needs to be updated.

61. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

If you are truly sorry and have a plan to at least try to avoid them in the future.

62. Know at least one good joke.

But keep updating otherwise the joke can get stale real fast!

63. Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.

Booing is all in fun… Getting personal, or worse discriminatory, is what I have a problem with.

64. Know how to cook one good meal.

Between that and your one good joke, you’ll have one good date… Maybe.

65. Learn to drive a stick shift.

I’m in my mid-forties…never learned, and doing okay.

66. Be cool to younger kids. Reputations are built over a lifetime.

Be cool period.

67. It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.

Just don’t wear a baseball cap and a trench coat.

68. Dance with your mother/father.

Dance…Sing…Write… Be creative and share the joy.

69. Don’t lose your cool. Especially at work.

People who often lose their cool probably never really had it.

70. Always thank the host.

With wine and a babka cake… (Sorry Costanza, rings dings and soda won’t cut it)

71. If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.

What’s the point of this list?

72. Know the size of your boy/girlfriend’s clothes.

Especially if they’re not pregnant!

73. There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt.

Who said there was?

74. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.

If it helps… Think of being a good listener as being selfish.  Aside from being the right thing to do, it will help you get what you want.

75. Keep your word.

Or only give it away when you intend to honor it.

76. In college, always sit in the front. You’ll stand out immediately.

It’s not about standing out.  Always put yourself in the best position to succeed.

77. Carry your mother’s bags. She carried you for nine months.

Assuming you can, this should be a given (assuming your mom isn’t a psycho abusive nut.)

78. Be patient with airport security. They’re just doing their jobs.

Be patient with anyone doing their job, (legal ones anyway), unless they are not doing it right or fair.  Then still be nice… until it’s time not to be nice.

79. Don’t be the talker in a movie.

Yes, be the talker in therapy.

80. The opposite sex likes people who shower.

What about the same-sex?  Okay to have B.O. around them?

81. You are what you do, not what you say.

Okay, this one is stolen right from, “actions speak louder than words.”

82. Learn to change a tire.

This could save your life… or at least get you to an appointment on time.  (At the very least, join AAA)

83. Be kind. Everyone has a hard fight ahead of them.

And because it feels better inside than being mean.

84. An hour with grandparents is time well spent. Ask for advice when you need it.

Maybe, but if you’re mom is a psycho abusive nut job, she got it from somewhere.  Labels don’t endow people with wisdom.  Ask for advice only if you trust the advice giver.

85. Don’t litter.

Treat the earth like your home… after all, it is!

86. If you have a sister, get to know her boyfriend. Your opinion is important.

But should be offered when asked for or when needed.

87. You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest.

And you can still finish sooner and get more done…

88. Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm.

Unless they’re old than it is more like 7am and 7pm.

89. Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.

Don’t buy property unless you understand the market!

90. Make the little things count.

Make everything count!

91. Always wear a bra at work.

Except on casual Fridays.

92. There is a fine line between looking sultry and slutty. Find it.

Find what is right for you.  Let all of your actions match your intentions.

93. You’re never too old to need your mom.

Please realize this before it’s too late.  (Unless your mom is a …I think I’ve made my point… And by the way, my mom was an angel.)

94. Ladies, if you make the decision to wear heels on the first date, commit to keeping them on and keeping your trap shut about how much your feet kill.

Guys, if you make the decision to wear a hairpiece on the first date, make sure that thing is cemented on and can’t possibly fall off!

95. Know the words to your national anthem.

And if you’re in America, know who the freakin Vice President is!

96. Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun then sitting on the bench alone.

Maybe for some, but not for all… If you’re stuck in the middle, take a dance lesson.

97. Smile at strangers.

Some might think your weird but maybe worth a try.

98. Make goals.

Short term attainable ones and long-term ones… Be sure to give yourself credit for the goals you reach before moving on.

99. Being old is not dictated by your bedtime.

Old is an illusion of time and how we feel.  In truth we are all very very young!

100. If you have to fight, punch first and punch hard.

 I’m more of a counter puncher myself.

What’s Your Code?

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As I was driving to the hospital to visit my terminally ill mother, (stage IV cholangiocarcinoma) it dawned on me that there are situations in life when “staying positive”, or “focusing on the positive” isn’t going to happen.  Where the weight and burden of life’s problems can overwhelm the best intentions of any feel good mantra.  In fact there are times where you, I should say I, just don’t want to feel good.  And are incapable of it.

But what is a son to do after he promised his dying mother, who he loves with all of his heart and soul, he would live his life, do good things, and make her proud, even though after watching her suffer every fiber of his being has had enough of life?

And then I thought about my code.  A set of principles, a guiding philosophy, or standards I have tried to hold myself to, and live by.  This code is not designed to make me happy or sad.  Promise me a good life, or the prevention of bad things from happening.  It is to remind me of who I am and who I strive to be.  To keep me in check when I feel myself slipping.  Or in this case, hanging from the pique of a mountaintop by my fingertips.

I think it is good to have a code.  One of my favorite TV characters, Dexter, has one.  His sister, Deb, once told him it sounded like something a child would have.  Childhood reflects a time of innocence.  So maybe that is not such a bad thing.

With information overload, and external influences coming from so many different directions from the time we are born, a simple code can be a safety valve.  It can:

  • Help you resist against being corrupted by temptations, and success.
  • Keep you from being anchored down by the traumas of life.
  • It can be a base by which to maintain your sense of self if you feel your sanity ebbing away.
  • It can help you on your path without being a rulebook to run your life.

No matter the reason, when tidal waves of pain or pleasure arrive, it can be there for you when you feel like nothing else is.  When you don’t want or feel like you can accept anyone’s help.  Not etched in stone, this code can be adaptable as you adapt and experience new people and situations.

As part of your daily life, or kept away for a rainy day, I would encourage you to develop a code.  Root it in meaning and principles that you strongly identify with.  That can stand the test of time, and the good and bad challenges ahead.  It, and you must be strong.

Surviving an emotional earthquake that would register a 2.0 on the richter scale is not so tough.  But if you live long enough you may experience something closer to a 10.0.  And at these times it may be nice to have something to fall back on to help you through.  To keep you from crumbling as the earth rips apart beneath your feet.

A code doesn’t replace the love and support of family and or friends.  It doesn’t offer the insight of therapy, philosophy, spirituality, or support groups.  But it may give you the strength to seek those things out, or help get you, or keep you on your feet.  The idea is to know yourself and prepare yourself, as best you can, for un-preparable situations in life.

When the time comes for my mother, I hope my code, a few hospital bed promises, and the fact  that I know my mom, with all of her heart and soul, would want me to be happy and go on, are enough for me.  Time will tell.

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Update: Though published today, I initially wrote this blog on July 6th.  I didn’t have the strength to publish it then, though I knew I might not have the strength or clarity to write about it later.  That turns out to be an understatement.  My mother passed on July 23rd.  The funeral was on the 25th.   She was my guiding light.