Thursday, April 18, 2013

the thing at the heart of all the other things

One of the main reasons I’ve been away from the blog for so long has been work. I’ve been busy! But recently I had a bit of an epiphany regarding weight loss and I figured, what  better place to talk about that than here?

My epiphany actually stemmed from some of the work stuff I’ve been doing, so let me give you a bit of context. My main job is as a speechwriter. I work in the government and I write mostly for a particular gentleman who speaks quite frequently -- a few times a week, at least. So that takes up the bulk of my work time. However, over the past few months, I’ve been given responsibility for another major project -- namely, leading the internal communications on a major culture change initiative within our ministry.

That’s really all I want to say about that, because I don’t like to talk about work too much on here. But the reason I mention this is because it means I’ve been spending a LOT of time recently reading (and attending seminars and workshops, etc.) about change management and organizational change, and about the theories and broader psychology of change. Mostly for work  I’m focused more on the communications aspect, but I have to say -- the entire process is FASCINATING. How and why we change, what makes change easier, what makes change harder, how to deal with resistance (or resistors, in the case of organizational change), and what successful change really looks like.  

I’ve always been fascinated by psychology, and I have a total addiction to basically any kind of self-help book. But what strikes me about this particular field is that it’s really what’s at the heart of ALL OTHER KINDS OF self-help.

And therein lies my epiphany. Change, whether it’s organizational or personal, is a skill and a phenomenon unto itself. And yet we rarely apply it when we’re actually seeking to change something in our life.

I don’t know about you, but I have read dozens and dozens (probably edging up on a hundred) diet books in my life. They’ve run the gamut from calorie-counting (Weight Watchers) to sheer force of will (Jillian Michaels) to personal healing (Geneen Roth). They’ve ranged from vegan lifestyle (Crazy Sexy Diet) to paleo living (It Starts With Food) to intuitive eating (the aptly titled Intuitive Eating.). They’ve prescribed meal plans, workout regimes, self-help exercises, journaling prompts, and given token advice like “Don’t show up to parties hungry!” and “Don’t keep trigger foods in your house!”  

The one thing they never seem to address is how to really change. How do you take all that health advice and make it an actual part of your life, rather than just a passing fancy or temporary half-hearted effort? How do you, to paraphrase Gandhi, become the change you want to make?

I would say the only book I’ve come across that even begins to touch on this is The Beck Diet Solution. That book took a particular psychological approach (cognitive therapy) and applied it step-by-step to weight loss. But there’s a lot more out there, about how we form habits, how we motivate ourselves, and how and why we behave the way we do.  

I think this has been creeping into my consciousness for a while, even before I started reading about change psychology and change management. As many of you know, I’m in a strange (although not uncommon) position. Between 2008-2010, I was able to lose close to 100lbs by changing many of my habits. Yet I was constantly haunted by the idea that while I had changed my habits, *I* had not fundamentally changed. I always felt that I was in danger of slipping back into my old ways -- like the ‘real me’ was still there, and was merely being suppressed, buried beneath bowls of oatmeal and scuffed white running shoes. 

And eventually I lost my good habits (or at least most of them), and ended up pretty much back where I started. What I had feared all that time had indeed happened.

I feel like I’ve been searching for an answer to this question for years now -- is it enough to simply change your habits? Or does a more fundamental change need to happen? Did I slip back into ‘who I was’ because I hadn’t really changed, or did my lack of confidence in my habits cause me to subconsciously abandon them? If a more fundamental ‘self’ change is required, how do you do that? If it’s enough to change your habits, how do you do it in a way that doesn’t require hyper-vigilance at all times?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but the reading I’ve been doing lately has given me a lot to chew on. I want to blog about some of it, but I don’t want to make any commitments about how frequently I can do that, because the reality is, I’m still really busy with work. But I hope to be here at least a little more frequently. (That is, if anyone even still reads this. This blog still gets a fair bit of traffic but it seems to be coming from sites with names like 'pornikinu' and 'hottnu'. Which. Um.)

19 comments:

  1. Hi Andrea,

    I still read! :) I am similar to you in that I must have every single diet book out there on my home bookshelves. I was at the bookstore recently and embarrassingly, I pointed out the books I own and it was nearly every second book. Yet, none of that info seems to have stuck...

    I even went and saw Jillian Michaels on her Maximize your life tour, and when I left, I just felt tired because I've heard it all 100 times before.

    I'll be interested to hear your next few posts!

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    1. Hi Carlee! I'm glad you're still here! :) I totally hear you on the 'been there, done that' feeling. It's exhausting, not to mention disheartening.

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  2. I hope you blog more often. I always wonder if I should delete bloggers on my list that don't blog anymore but I think what if they come back and blog and miss their post? So I just keep them all on my list.

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I'm the same -- I've had people on my blog list who haven't posted in 3+ years, yet I still keep them on there in case they pop up someday. Thanks for keeping me on your list. :)

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  3. It so good to hear from you. I read that book a few years ago.

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    1. Thanks Enz! It is a good book, probably one of the better weight loss books, in my opinion. I think I remember you even blogged about it as you went through it?

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  4. Love it when you post! And I'm not a porn site at all. :)

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    1. Thank you! And thank you for not being a porn site! Hahaha!

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  5. You're still in my feed reader so I still read you! That's a really interesting question, about what causes longterm change that maintains weight loss. (And unfortunately, not just an academic question for me).

    I sometimes think about how people get a health scare like cancer or diabetes, and then they DO go through with significant lifestyle changes. (I know a man in his 70s who had heart surgery and now swims every day). Why can't I just apply the intellectual understanding I have that consistent efforts would prevent me from having future health problems? Someone, Jillian maybe, pointed out that no one knows more about nutrition than overweight people! I certainly have the knowledge in my head of what constitutes a healthy diet.

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    1. Hi Julie! Glad you're still reading. I hear you about the people with health scares -- although on the flip side, I've known people who've gotten health problems and STILL not been able to make a permanent change. I know someone who found out they were pre-diabetic, couldn't change their eating habits, ended up with full-blown diabetes, still couldn't change their habits, and now has to do insulin shots every day. (Not judging, obviously, I can't be sure I wouldn't be in exactly the same boat.) So apparently even a serious health problem isn't always enough. It's pretty messed up when you think about it.

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  6. I'm here! I look forward to your posts showing up in my reader! :)

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    1. Thanks Jaime! Glad you're still reading! :)

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  7. I still read you! And yes, being someone who lost 50 pounds, then moved to another city and gained it all back, I always wonder about my old habits and how I was able to kick it off previously. It is not the city you live in, or the route you take to work taking you right by the gym, or even how busy you are. For me I am always questioning how one changes and how they can consciously do so, just like you talk about. I love your blog Andrea!

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    1. Thanks Emily! Glad you're still here. Interestingly, I gained all my weight back after I moved too! (Not to a new city, but it changed my whole routine because I lived in a totally different neighbourhood that was much farther away from work.) So hey, maybe there's something to that after all! :)

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  8. Have you tried Renee Stephen's Full-Filled - she used to have a free podcast called Inside-Out Weight Loss, but I think she might be charging now. Also, Joel Fuhrmann's Eat to Live? And possible, Marianne Williamsons's A Course in Weightloss? I feel like these books have gotten me closer to peace about my whole self, body included.

    I still read you - that politician is lucky to have you as a speech-writer :)

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    1. Thank you! That's so sweet of you to say. :) And thank you for those resources, I've never heard of Renee Stephen OR Marianne Williamson, so I will definitely be checking out both of those.

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  9. Another Beck you might find interesting, if you haven't read it already: The Four-Day Win by Martha Beck. (Maybe they're related?) It's very much about changing your weight by changing how you think about yourself, and she has some interesting exercises. I know some people who've had very good experiences with this book.

    Because I think you're right - it's not enough to create habits, it seems like it has to be something more internal than that.

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  10. So glad to see a post from you!

    I started the Beck Diet Solution (not for the first time) a few weeks ago... I fizzled out after a few days, but I still want to get back to it. A lot of the ideas in it really resonate with me.

    I'm looking forward to reading more about change! Definitely something I'm struggling with. :)

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  11. This is a FASCINATING post touching on change, specifically related to health and movement: http://www.alignedandwell.com/katysays/hidden-doubts/

    And this is an amazing course by the same person about our habits and why they are so hard to change: http://www.alignedandwell.com/katysays/katy-radio

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