Category Archives: behavior

Yoga and Verbal Behavior

I’m about to nerd out hard on you guys!

Basically, I’ve been super busy lately and haven’t had any time to cook, eat healthy, workout or anything for myself really. Which is fine, because this is the life I chose and it’s only for one more year. I can do it!

Ever since I moved to L.A. I’ve had a hard time relaxing. My mind is whirring a million miles a minute. I have too many places to go, too many things to do and it never ends. I have at least 3 “organizing” apps on my phone and computer with variations of my “to do list”, not counting my calendar!

All this is a new development. Until last year, I lived in a small, slow surfer town. I worked 8-4:30 Mon-Fri and had the rest of my life to myself. Not that I used my time wisely. But I could have if I wanted to. In Santa Cruz my yoga practice began, grew and flourished. I finally learned what it was like to “be in the moment”, forgetting time while you breathe and move. Repetitive movements and rhythmic breathing can lift you up and let your heart sing.

Until it can’t. And you can’t. And your mind is stuck in a loop. You want to relax, but you can’t stop thinking about everything you have to do! Ever! No matter how hard you work out or how hard you zen, you just can’t get to that moment.

Every time I try to practice yoga, my mind gets into a flurry and I can’t stop thinking of how I’m supposed to be relaxing. Then I feel like a failure for not relaxing right! As if I need that stress, right? At this point even thinking about practicing is aversive for me because I know I just won’t be able to do it.
Then I did something brave. I emailed a professor about my problem (it tied into the last few weeks of class and she’s into yoga) and she wrote me back and totally helped me out!

She explained that in moving, starting a new job and a new school I’ve been training my brain to engage in more verbal behavior all the time. New places, tons of reading, new responsibilities and a LOT more driving! So of course it makes sense that now, when I try, I can’t put my inner monologue on hold. I’ve been training myself to do more, think more, notice more for the last year!

She gave me some good advice that I’ve been following and I think it’s going to help me get back to my practice. I’m forgetting about yoga, and practicing meditation. I put on some nature sounds, lay on the floor with my feet flat, hands on my stomach and breathe in and out, pushing my stomach in and out as much as I can with each breath. I have a saying I repeat (a mantra), it can be different each time or the same. I repeat it to myself while breathing. If I catch myself thinking about something else, I start counting. If I catch myself thinking about something else while counting, I switch back to my mantra. I set a timer for 5 minutes and that’s all I’ve been doing.

It’s the best advice anyone could have given me. I’m relaxing more, a little bit at a time. I’m retraining my brain to relax and stop engaging in constant inner verbal monologues. And since the time is so short, it’s super easy which makes me feel confident and successful! It’s a small victory but a victory nonetheless. A lesson that sometimes, when the task is too hard you need to cut back your expectations!

I will gradually increase my time, then bring yoga practice back into my life when I’m ready. I have to give myself time to shape my private verbal behavior back to where I need to be!

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Skinny Rules Challenge: Rule 11, 12, 13!

Well it’s officially been 2 weeks since I started my challenge.  Have I religiously followed all the rules since starting?  Not really.  I slipped up the last few days and it’s getting harder for me to be excited about eating vegetables and chicken.  I have, though, been making healthier choices, eating smaller portions, and making sure I have healthy food on hand.  So all in all, I’d say I’m doing a pretty darn good job!  Being a dorky behavior analyst, I made myself a checklist to see if I’m following my rules.  I think it will help me stay on track even after my “challenge” is done.  And now, drumroll please…

I LOST 7 POUNDS IN TWO WEEKS!

I haven’t been exercising, which is a bummer.  I’ve been kind of sick, stressed from school, and back to working over 30 hours a week.  But, I feel better today and will start working that back into my schedule.  I probably won’t be able to do 5 days a week of an hour which is what I would like.  But the more, the better!  I haven’t worked out since vacation, so that’s gonna be tough!

Anyways, think how many pounds I would’ve lost if I had been working out?

And I’m not starving, and I don’t feel deprived.  I do feel a little bored so I think the next two weeks are going to be a challenge for me to mix it up while staying on track.

So, thursday was Rule 11: No More White Potatoes!

English: organic cultivated Russet Burbank potato

English: organic cultivated Russet Burbank potato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, these cause more weight gain than bacon or soda.  They are delicious little carb bombs that have basically no nutrients or fiber, and should be avoided.  Especially since when we cook them, we usually deep fry them or cover them with butter and sour cream and cheese.  I actually don’t eat too many potatoes, they take too long to cook! If I do, I usually roast them in the oven with carrots, onions and olive oil.  I don’t think it will be too hard for me to avoid these suckers, because I never eat them anyways.  Except in the form of french fries, which are out anyways.  I did eat a few at lunch with the girls last weekend, oops!  Bob Harper says you can eat sweet potatoes, yams, or other colored potatoes (have you tried purple!)  but only in small quantities and for lunch.  (Stupid Rule 7 is my nemesis: No carbs after lunch!)

Yesterday was rule 12: Make one day a week meatless (VEGAN)

Mr. Bean and his family

Mr. Bean and his family (Photo credit: he_boden)

Yes, by meatless Mr. Harper means vegan.  No animal proteins?  No eggs, dairy, anything?  Yikes.  I definitely did NOT follow that rule yesterday, I had yogurt and chicken for lunch and dinner!  I forgot to look at my rule before heading out the door.  By the time I did, it was way too late!  So, tomorrow will be my vegan day, because I’m already planning to go out to a vegan lunch with my sister.  I think this rule will take more planning than most of the other rules.  How to stay full off veggies, fruit and grains alone?  Bob Harper suggests beans and nuts.  I think I can definitely do meatless.  Vegan? We shall see. If I can, then it will be even better for me!

Today is rule 13: Get rid of fast foods and fried foods

Deep-fried onion rings arranged in a line on a...

Deep-fried onion rings arranged in a line on a platter with ketchup, as served by Ford’s Filling Station at 9531 Culver Boulevard in Culver City, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, duh.  I think this rule is pretty self explanatory.  It goes along with the whole “no bad fats, added sugars, potatoes” etc. rules so far.  You CANNOT eat fast food and be healthy! Bottom line! The hardest part about this for me will be IN n Out!  I love In n Out!  But I definitely eat it way too much and always feel gross after.  At least I stopped getting the animal style fries, right? Those things are probably the worst thing you could ever order of all time!  I did have some fried calamari on my “splurge” meal last weekend, but that’s why it’s a splurge!

Ok this post is ridiculously long because I had so many rules to cover.  I realize I left out rules 9 & 10, but that’s ok.  If you are curious, they are: Get your portion size right, and No More added sweeteners!  Like, any.  I think I’m doing ok with both of those because I’ve been eating mostly homemade stuff and checking the labels on everything else.

Upcoming Rules: Eat a real Breakfast and Make your own food! (I got those:))

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What would skinny people do?

Ok guys, Skinny Rules challenge is on hold for 2 days because I have class all weekend in DT L.A. which equals long days, a lot of stress, and a lot of eating out.  Not on hold like “hey I’m gonna go back to eating whatever I like” but on hold like “hey, let’s keep it real and just maintain in this moment of utter chaos.”  I definitely have been following Skinny Rule # 6 which was to eat an apple and berries every day.  That one was easy.  It’s # 7 I’m scared of and generally avoiding, which is “no carbs after lunch”!  Mentally I’m just not prepared to make that commitment today, so I’m waiting til Monday.

On the plus side, I lost 4 lbs this week!  Just from following rules 1-6! Not bad, considering I didn’t work out and I was sick. Usually that makes me feel like eating CHEESE AND BREAD, USUALLY SMOTHERED IN SOME KIND OF SAUCE.

The surprising thing for me about eating healthier and cutting out refined grains and sugars is, it’s not that hard (ok I know I’m only on day 6).  I haven’t had any major cravings and I feel full and satisfied after every meal/snack.  Seriously! Me of the night time munchies!  The worst thing I’ve eaten all week is too many whole wheat crackers with spinach and kale dip!

But today was hard.  Hard emotionally.  I guess this is where my relationship with food comes to light and I have to learn some new replacement behaviors.  I ate 3 bites of a friend’s crepe at lunch and 1/2 hour later, broke out in hives! Hives!  Can cutting out processed food change my body that quickly?

Crepes Ooh La La

Crepes Ooh La La (Photo credit: Premshree Pillai)

Not to mention the giant red itchy bumps on my hands/legs, I had a long day at school and even longer one tomorrow.  I came home and my boyfriend was working/hanging out with his sister drinking beers.  I was hungry and needed to eat before going into munch mode. I ate left over soup and 1/2 wheat pita with 1/2 piece of cheese.  I wanted to hang out and watch tv but I had to do homework.  They went to go get a pizza (pepperoni and olive!) with garlic bread.

Saying no to the food wasn’t that hard.  I could eat it if I wanted to but do I need any more hives plus a stomach ache? not really.  But I feel tired, lonely, left out and abandoned.  The ritual of eating delicious comforting unhealthy fattening food with people you love runs deep in my 1/2 filipina veins.  I am sad I haven’t really eaten any meals with my boy this week because our schedules are so different, and our meals are too.  I wish I had a partner who would go on this journey with me, but it’s unfair of me to force that on him.  Especially when he’s making so many positive changes in his own life right now.  Now I feel even worse because I took all my feelings, stress and anxiety out on him and was mean to the one person who I wish would comfort me in my moment of sadness.  I know it will take some time to get used to our new routines.  I know the more healthy food I cook and eat, he will see how much it changes me and start to feel the change in himself.  It just feels a little lonely right now.

Normally I would eat an extra slice of pizza/whatever I could find if I was feeling this way.  What do skinny people do when they are sad and lonely and feeling like they need a little something to perk them up? (please don’t tell me go for a run even if it’s true.)  And by skinny I don’t mean thin but healthy, happy people who have learned to balance their lives and their bodies.  Because that’s who I want to be.

The ocean always makes me feel better!

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Bob Harper’s Skinny Rules: Review and Challenge!

I recently bought Bob Harper’s “The Skinny Rules” book.  My eating has gotten kind of out of control, especially after this week long vacation ending in San Francisco!  Honestly, when given the chance I eat fairly healthy.  I definitely need to work on my portion control.  The hardest thing for me is eating out.  Who wants to order the grilled chicken salad every time?

I didn’t want to go on a “diet”, seeing how they never work and I just feel deprived and don’t ever stick to them.  Instead, I want to learn how to eat healthier in an easy, natural way.  Some people can control every little thing they put in their body with an obsessive attention to detail.  I’m more of a “eat when I’m hungry and be damned the consequences” kind of girl.  However, telling myself to “eat more whole grains and vegetables” hasn’t really resulted in a measurable change in the past.

I researched several diet books, but the one that stood out to me was Bob Harper’s “Skinny Rules”.  Not necessarily because he’s famous and on the Biggest Loser (but if he can get them to lose weight, he must be good!), but because it seems easy to understand and use.  It consists of 20 rules to follow to achieve healthier eating habits.  I like it because  these rules are concrete, measurable, and easy for me to understand. It’s pretty much a task analysis to healthy living!  Which is perfect for me, because I can make a checklist and basically take data on whether I’m following the rules.

Some of the rules are super easy and common sense.  The first one is “drink a ton of water, at least one big glass before every meal”.  Some are going to be harder for me to follow, like cutting out refined grains (bread! rice! pasta!) and not eating carbs after lunch.  He goes into detail about why these rules are important for maintaining a healthy weight and blood sugar level (important for those who have family history of diabetes).  I like how he explains the rules and uses data to back his claims.  However, he doesn’t go into too much detail with some of the rules and how to follow them exactly.  Like when he says “only eat whole grains”, I am so nutritionally challenged that I would like a list of exactly which grains I can eat, how to cook them, and what a portion size is.

After explaining all 20 rules, he gives tips on how to follow them and 4 weeks worth of recipes and diet plans for men and women.  I don’t know how helpful the menu plan will be for me, as I eat lunch on the go or in my car a lot (don’t worry, I always pack it) and a lot of his lunch recipes involve cooking and prep time I just don’t have.

Overall I think the book is helpful for people like me who want to eat healthy, but need someone to outline how, exactly to go about that.  If you already maintain a healthy diet, I think this book is probably pretty basic for you.  But for me, it’s perfect.  Somewhere to start, some rules to follow.  Something to help me take control of my eating!

Which brings me to my challenge.  I decided that trying to do all 20 rules all at once might be a drastic change that I wouldn’t be able to sustain, and would end up just like any diet.  I am challenging myself to follow 1 rule a day, adding as I go.  (First day, rule 1, second day rule 1 & 2, etc.)  By the end of the 20 days, I should be eating healthier and feeling more in control!  Plus, it will help me feel successful by achieving a new goal each day while maintaining the old ones.  By the end of the 20 days, I will be well on my way to forming a healthy eating habit!  Stay posted to see how it goes.  Honestly, this week is about to get super crazy (12 hour work days plus school just started so lots of homework! and tests! and starting my thesis!), so I might not be able to post every day.  But I will try!  I’ll let you know what I think as I go!

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“How Diets Work”, and why they never do

“How diets work” by Jenna Marbles

 Jenna Marbles is pretty hilarious.  Although she’s blonde, pretty and skinny, making her my ultimate nemesis (not really!), her sharp wit more than makes up for it.  Even though her comedy is acerbic and sarcastic, I can’t help feel that really, deep down, the things she says hit some layer of truth.

Take her video, above, on “how diets work”.  She starts out the day feeling good, strong, trying to convince herself how great and filling her salad is.  She’s hungry for a little snack, so grabs a few nuts (healthy!).  Ok, just a few more.  This devolves into a true feeding frenzy ending with her ordering six cheeseburgers from McDonald’s and a “caesar salad to balance it out”.

I identify with this day in the life of a dieter.  Every morning, I start out fairly healthy with a smoothie and a piece of wheat toast or english muffin.  Lunch is usually a home made sandwich, or left overs.  I snack on trail mix, granola bars, apples or yogurt.  Somehow, after work, when I get home, it all goes wrong.  My day of careful planning goes downhill rapidly.  Usually it starts with a small snack to tide me over to dinner.  Which turns into a bigger snack the longer waiting for dinner takes.  If I make dinner, I taste as I go.  If we go grab something, I eat the whole portion.  After dinner, it’s more snacks or dessert.  I mean, I’m not ordering 6 cheeseburgers (usually!) but the shame Marbles expresses in her video–“hold the cheeseburger still so they won’t see it!  I hate myself so much right now!”  is very real.

A pair of In-N-Out cheeseburgers.

A pair of In-N-Out cheeseburgers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an overeater, I daily go through this cycle of “today’s the day” bright eyed mornings, usually ending with a shameful, disappointing evening.  Going to bed, I always resolve “tomorrow’s going to be better.  I’ll be different tomorrow”.

Slowly I’m coming to the realization that, no, tomorrow is not going to be different.  Not if I do nothing to change my behavior and the cycle that I’m in.  I enjoy food way too much to be able to restrict myself in the true sense of a “diet”.  Diets never work because delicious food now is a more powerful reinforcer than the “bikini body” or “perfect tummy” you could have in like, 12 months of hardcore diet and exercise.  What’s interesting to me is that when I do overeat, I usually feel shameful and sick soon after.  The next morning I feel bloated and yucky until I work out.  Apparently, these punishers are not strong enough for me to not eat those french fries or a huge portion of noodles.

Ok, so I can’t make food less reinforcing.  But I can start to pair not overeating with more reinforcers.  I can tell you guys about it, and my boyfriend, and hope to receive some praise (social positive reinforcement!) I can really listen to how my body feels, and rewarding myself when my body feels good.

Farmers' Market

Farmers’ Market (Photo credit: NatalieMaynor)

I’m so over dieting.  It leads to feeding frenzies and tearful cupcakes being shoved in your mouth (not my mouth, but Jenna’s!)  I’m in it to win it, meaning I need to start valuing food that makes my body feel good. And exercising not because I have to, but because it heals and strengthens my body and soul.  I will need help. It will be hard.  But today, I will stop dieting forever!  Tomorrow won’t be different, but small changes add up to big deals.

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What’s up with the tag line?

“tragic attempts at healthy living in a toxic world”

Let me explain.

I have become increasingly health-conscious in the last few years or so.  As a youngster, I was self destructive to the max.  Smoked a pack a day, drank, drugged, the usual teenage rebellion stuff.  Maybe because I was depressed, or maybe I was depressed because I was treating my body like crap.  Needless to say this worried my parents quite a bit and I ended up in the shrinks office, being prescribed antidepressants and the like.  Fast forward to college, where I’m on my own for the first time.  I decided to get off my meds (still self medicating with other substances of course!) and went to see a college counselor.  He gave me the best advice any health/mental health professional has ever given me : exercise 3 times a week.  That’s it!

Lucky for me, all the girls in my dorm had eating/over exercising disorders so it was easy to find a work out buddy (or 3).  Plus, the gym at my school had a beautiful ocean view and I discovered the joys of working out.  I’m not being an asshole, I really do like to work out.  The high it gives me is better than any other.  A few years later I discovered yoga, and started to appreciate my body for what it could do and how it could make me feel.

Needless to say, none of this really matched with my pack-a-day smoking habit.  They had to go.  It took a million tries and few years, but I know I’m done smoking for good.  I’ve had pneumonia a few too many times to ever go back.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cigarettes more than anything in this world.  I cried the day I woke up and knew I had to quit.  But I am glad they are gone from my life. I feel so much younger, stronger, and happier without them.  Turns out life’s not so bad if you’re not in withdrawal all the time!!

College and the few years after were spent in the most beautiful, idyllic, dreamy beach town.  Everyone does yoga, everyone smokes pot, everyone shops local and organic and the coolest place to be is the farmers market.  I used to hate the hippies and bag on their smug sense of self entitlement.  I still kind of do.

Then I found a job I loved, working with kids with special needs.  Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an amazing tool that can truly transform lives.  I wanted to go to school to learn more, and mostly make more money (hey, just being honest–getting punched puked and spit on should get paid a lot more than it does).  So, I ended up in L.A., pretty much the opposite of beautiful Santa Cruz.  Traffic, Smog, Water pollution, Boats, trains, acid rain!  How anyone can live here and not have mutant babies is a miracle in itself.  Specifically I moved to Long Beach, with its own special toxic mix of poverty and industrialism.  Did I mention there’s oil drills in the Target Parking lot? And did I mention I live down the street from what we call “fast food nation”–an intersection with literally 9 (9!) fast food restaurants on the corners.

Which brings me to this blog.  How can I live a healthy lifestyle, love and nourish my body, in the toxic wasteland that is L.A.?  In some ways, its easier here.  There’s more foods available and I found a CSA close to my house.  We have a garden (never could in SC because its too damn foggy) and are pretty much only eating (extremely) local produce!

On the other hand, I drive a ton for work (1-3 hrs a day depending), I work full time and go to school full time and just don’t feel like I have the time to spend on my health, well being and nutrition.  These could and often do become excuses, but I’m really on a journey learning how to overcome these barriers.  I think many people in our modern world face these problems (first world problems for sure), and I want to share, learn, grow and inspire.  So that’s why I say, “tragic attempts at healthy living in a toxic wasteland”.  I won’t always succeed, I may fall on my ass, but it will be worth it.  Join me!

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