Be Allergic

Our bodies crave homeostasis.  It’s why we sweat, drink, eat, shiver, use the bathroom, etc. Our bodies need this state of balance to function properly. But homeostasis is not needed only physically. We desire, and benefit from balance in all aspects of our lives.

In a world of overconsumption, excess is the main enemy of homeostasis for us. Too much food, too much alcohol, coffee, too much stimuli (your phone, laptop, tv, work, traffic, etc.). You realize binge watching a show is the norm now right? I mean, who watches only 1 episode of anything anymore?

You know that old saying, “the poison is in the dose”? Too much of anything is bad. Even “good” things can be consumed in excess. You can eat too many vegetables, you can drink too much water, and you certainly can workout too much.

So here’s a thought. What if you lived as though your only allergy was excess?

If someone hates cilantro, they’ll often say they are allergic to it so they don’t get any on their plate at restaurants. Are they actually allergic to it? No. They’ve possibly convinced themselves that they are, though, because of their grand distaste for it.

You could do the same for excess. Choose to be allergic. Shun it. Move towards homeostasis…your happy, balanced place in the world.

The Space

Decisions…every day, all day we make them. We don’t think about our lives as a series of decision after decision after decision, but that’s what it is. Even if something happens that is out of your control, if something is decided for you, you still decide how you’ll respond.

I’ve been obsessing over this idea lately. If we could start being cognizant of these decisions as they’re happening, we can make better ones. We can choose to make good ones.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Victor Frankl 

This quote blew my mind. That space, that pause is where good decisions come from and where integrity stems. It’s hard to find this space though…we aren’t conditioned to be aware of it.  But just like the calm, blue eye of a hurricane, it’s always there.

“Stepping into that space and choosing our most empowered response more and more consistently is where freedom exists. We can either mindlessly react or mindfully respond to whatever happens to us.”Brian Johnson

React v. Respond…as in a chosen response…a good decision.

Getting into the space takes practice and due diligence. But, “when we are able to notice, PAUSE, and then choose not to pursue an unhealthy desire, our conditioning gradually decreases and loosens its difficult hold upon us. We become able to notice desire but not be distracted by it thus, little by little, we become free of the prison of inexhaustible desires.” -(Source unknown- found in an old journal entry)

All these quotes talk about freedom. There is freedom in control, in having a higher awareness. If you really want to make changes, you have the power to do so. Decide what you’ll do today. Make good decisions. Or make bad ones…but just do so with awareness!

Good Morning (?)

WATCH THE VIDEO (12 seconds); then read….

This video accurately shows 2 different types of people: larks and owls. Baby 1 is a lark, or a morning person. Baby 2 cannot even right now…cannot even any time before noon, really. She’s a night person, or owl.

Knowing yourself will help you establish habits that have a chance of sticking. If you’re baby 2, you’re not gonna have much luck creating the habit of getting up at 5am to meditate. You’re just not. You’re going to be better off establishing the habit of meditating after work or during lunch. Because let’s be honest, you’re lucky to get out of the house with your teeth brushed. If you try to go against your owl nature and establish habits in the morning, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. No bueno, baby 2.

If you’re baby 1, then creating habits in the morning is your jam! Go for it!  But if you try to establish the habit of, let’s say, creative writing at 9pm every night, then you’re not setting yourself up for success. Shame, baby 1!

Morning routines are awesome…the older I get, the more I appreciate that. I actually use to be a baby 2, but now I’m a baby 1. I guess aging brings that change. I’ll tell you my routine, but first, my co-worker, Patti, has a really cool routine that I’d like to share with you.

Upon waking, she lays in bed and listens to music while singing along, followed by getting ready for the day. She then heads down to her swanky apartment lobby, drinks coffee while journaling about how she’s feeling. She does this in the lobby because she gains energy from being around people. She finishes her morning routine with reading something that either stirs her soul, reminds her of her passions/ambitions or simply inspires her. Then she walks 2 blocks to work. Ready to take on the day.

Patti told me the most important part of her routine is giving herself space to be. If she wants to lay in bed and sing for an hour, she will. She listens to her inner needs and caters to them. She let’s herself BE herself, before the demands of work and life set in. In the past, pre-good morning routine, Patti would wake up, check her email, get ready and head to work, while thinking about what she needed to do at work. She gave herself no space at all. But not anymore…not she sets herself up for success everyday.


(Doesn’t she look like a person who’s had just the greatest morning ever??)

So this is my morning routine: 10 minute yoga sequence, coffee and journal (sometimes read a bit), go for a walk, do a workout, take a cold shower, drink a shake while getting ready, pack lunch, go to work (either bike or walk to light rail).  A podcast and some music is included in there. I get up somewhere between 5 and 6 and get to work around 9, so I take my time doing this routine. It feels great. Any time I have to actually rush in the mornings really throws me for a loop.

So you may not want to lay in bed and sing, or go for walks, workouts or cold showers every day…and that’s fine. But can you give yourself some space? Whether it’s in the morning for you baby 1’s, or later in the day for all my baby 2’s. Also, think about the times of day you’re trying to establish habits. Cater those to your nature and you’ll see more success.

Good morning, ladies, it’s great to see you up!

To Reward or Not to Reward

Spoiler alert: Don’t Reward.

Here’s the deal. You’ve been working on a habit. Let’s say cutting out soda. You’ve been doing so well for 2 whole weeks that you decide you need a reward for your good efforts. So you go buy a soda. Man, I earned this. But then the next day, at the same time, your craving for another soda is so strong and you’re just so tired and stressed…you decide it’s OK to get another soda. Long story short, you’re back in full swing with your soda habit. What went wrong? You undermined your efforts by rewarding yourself with the thing you were trying to avoid. DOH!

“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” -Emerson

Rewards, while they seem like a perfectly good thing, are not helping you build your habits. According to Reuben, here’s why:

1- Rewards teach you that aren’t doing a particular activity for it’s own sake, but rather to get that shiny prize at the end of the tunnel. And often times, when the reward is over, the behavior is too. This happens a lot with brides getting skinny for their weddings. Once the wedding is over, the weight come back. They weren’t building good eating habits for the sake of life long health and wellbeing, but rather just to look good for their pictures. The day is over, so is their effort.

Another example is telling your child they can watch TV for an hour only after they’ve read for an hour. This turns TV into the reward and reading into the thing you just have to do to get the reward. They’ll build up a distaste for reading this way. The behavior of habitual reading, in and of itself, is rewarding.

2- Rewards require making a decision. “I’ve earned this soda today.” But as we’ve learned already, habits shouldn’t require decision. They should be automatic. Like brushing your teeth. You don’t reward yourself every time you do that. So if you’re truly wanting to build the habit of not being a soda drinker, it needs to become a part of you in the same way. Remember to build your identity of being someone who doesn’t drink soda.

There are some exceptions, of course. Potty training a child often works best with rewards. My aunt potty trained her daughter by allowing her to go pick a small toy from a special box every time she used the potty. It certainly motivated her to use the potty.  Once my aunt took the reward away, my niece still used the potty because the reward of the habit itself (not walking around in a wet diaper) was enough to keep her doing it.

At the beginning of habit formation you may need rewards to keep building that behavior. If that’s the case, fine, but don’t reward yourself by having the thing you’re trying to avoid.

Example…morning yoga. This is a habit I actually have. I just got up one day and decided 5-10 minutes of yoga each morning would be a good thing. That was almost 2 years ago and it’s so automatic I can’t not do it now. But let’s say at the beginning of forming the habit, I told myself, “ya know, I’ve been doing yoga for 16 days in a row. I deserve a day off.” Well, that would have been a bad call. Because it would have taught me that I can take days off…that I can decide whether or not to do yoga every morning. Instead, if I felt the need for a reward, I could have bought myself some yoga pants. That compliments my new habit, instead of contradicting it. I didn’t need a reward though, because doing yoga makes me feel good, and that’s rewarding.

So instead of drinking a soda as your reward, do something completely different. Go buy a new water bottle that you’ll enjoy drinking (water) out of. Go to Goodwill and buy some new pants because maybe you’ve lost a few pounds. Whatever you do, don’t undermine your efforts towards developing that new behavior! 

Let the reward of a good habit be the habit itself. 

Monitor Essentials

In Better Than Before, Gretchin Rubin talks about the importance of monitoring the important behavior that you are trying to make a habit. She says “self-measurement brings self-awareness. And self-awareness strengthens self-control.” It’s so true.

Food journaling is always an interesting experiment. It’s not something I do routinely. But I’ve tried it intermittently in the past and I always learn a lot…mostly I learn how much I’m eating. That kind of sudden self-awareness does bring with it a sudden surge of self-control.

The Seinfield productivity calendar idea is a smart way to monitor. You write an X over the day on your cal when you do your habit. The idea is to write an X every day so that you don’t “break the chain”. This method isn’t particularly motivating to me. The thing is, you’re not suppose to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And I’d do just that…if I missed a day, it would easily catapult me into feelings of failure and I’d just stop tracking all together.

But I recently figured out a way to make monitoring work to my advantage. Like I said in my last post, I’ve been doing a really tough kettlebell program.  It’s one of those “simple but not easy” programs.The only lifts are presses, squats, cleans and swings (all with doubles) done over and over again. It’s repetitive and gets boring. I thought for sure I’d be sick of it a few days in. But that wasn’t the case.

I just finished the month long program today and really, really enjoyed it. Ya know why? Because there was this nifty little chart included to track your progress. Every week, I’d compare my numbers to the week before to see how much better I got. And every week, I got better. Even if I didn’t feel like pushing hard on a particular day, I would tell myself I had to at least match, preferably beat, my number from the previous week. So I pushed. I progressed. I felt incredibly satisfied.

I learned that monitoring my progress is key for me. It’s not enough to just mark that I worked out; I have to mark what I did and how well I did it. It’s kind of crazy that I’m just now figuring this out (I’m no newbie to working out).  But I’m so happy for this discovery because now I know how to keep my momentum going, whereas in the past, I would just go through the motions and do the bare minimum.

So how can you monitor your behaviors in a way to help them become habits? Some people find accountability from a partner helpful. There are lots of apps to track behaviors too. is a one I’ve tinkered with and it’s pretty cool. Fitbit, Jawbone Up or any kind of step counter certainly makes people more active. Do whatever you need. But know you’ll be more successful if you monitor what is essential to you.

For any fitness nerds that care about the specifics, here’s the workout…it calls for using your 5 rep max for presses. I used a pair of 26 lbs. bells.

Day 1- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – 1-2-3 ladders for 25 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 42 reps of each

Week 2- 48 reps of each

Week 3- 60 reps of each

Day 2- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – 2-4-6 ladders for 20 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 60 reps of each

Week 2- 72 reps of each

Week 3- 72 reps of each

Day 3- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 3 for 25 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 33 reps of each

Week 2- 39 reps of each

Week 3- 45 reps of each

Day 4- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 6-7 for 20 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 54 reps of each

Week 2- 67 reps of each

Week 3- 75 reps of each

Day 5- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 2 for 25 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 28 reps of each

Week 2- 40 presses, 30 squats (weird leg pain)

Week 3- 50 reps of each

Day 6- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 8 for 20 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 64 reps of each

Week 2- 72 reps of each

Week 3- 80 reps of each

And then Week 4 was a different format and only had 4 work days:

Day 1- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 3 for 25 mins. – 51 reps of each

Day 2- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 10 for 20 mins. – 80 swings, 90 cleans

Day 3- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 6 for 20 mins. – 72 reps of each

Day 4- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 4 for 25 mins. – 56 reps of each

That’s a lot of reps total in a month with decently heavy weights. I kind of amazed myself because I haven’t worked out hard consistently in a couple years. And not heavy either. But I feel like my body remembered that it use to be very strong and it tapped into that. It feels good to progress backwards, in a sense, towards a place you used to be. A place that feels like home.

Pairing – Making Cold Showers Tolerable since 2015

If I bummed you out slightly with my last blog, I hope this one will cheer you up. The subject matter is much lighter- the strategy of pairing. It’s the act of coupling two activities. You already do it a lot:

Brush your teeth, wash your face. Get to work, check your email. Finish dinner, do the dishes. When I was a teenager doing my least favorite chore – sweeping and mopping – I would blast Celine Dion and sing along.

When used strategically, pairing can help you build your good habits. I’ll jump right into a real life example.

Cold showers. I got interested in the idea a couple years back at a conference. There are just a slew of undeniable benefits that come along with taking cold showers. Look it up. As much as I tried to make them a habit, though, I just couldn’t. I mean, it’s not fun. It’s pretty torturous to turn the knob to cold on yourself.

But about 3 weeks ago I started a really intense kettlebell training program. The program has cold showers written into it. Everyday. For real. So I committed. After every workout, 6 days a week, I stand under that cold, cold stream for at least 5 minutes. It actually does amazing things for recovery…I’ve hardly been sore, and I’ve been doing stuff that would normally leave me limping.

Here’s where pairing comes in…I love podcasts. I usually listen to informative ones to learn things about health, wellness, self improvement, etc. But I really love storytelling. That type of podcasts feels more luxurious, as if I’m treating myself by listening. So before I get in the shower, I cue up a good storytelling one (lately from Death, Sex & Money) and blast the volume. Listening distracts me from thoughts of freezing. It helps a lot.

Workout. Cold shower + podcast.  They go hand in hand in hand.  It certainly feels like a habit. I can’t imagine not taking a cold shower after working out now.

Bonus: one of the joys of the cold shower is that it’ll be the hardest thing you do all day. So I have a big win every morning.  I know you think this is crazy, but you should try it. At least end your shower on cold for as long as you can stand…even if it’s 15 seconds. You build up a tolerance and increase the time if do you it consistently.

Discomfort will make you stronger, more resilient. We don’t have to be comfortable 24 hours a day. That’s a whole other subject though…so for now….even if you refuse to torture yourself in such a way, you can still use pairing to build your good habits!

Stop Fooling Yourself, Everything Counts

I just reread the chapter in Better Than Before about Loophole spotting. Loopholes are basically just excuses we make to avoid doing our good habits. Even if we like our habits, sometimes we don’t want to do them. So we search for a good reason to avoid them for a day or so. There are some really great ones…we humans are strikingly good at convincing ourselves an idea is rational when really, it’s not.

Gretchen Rubin lists 10 loopholes…a few examples for you:

The “tomorrow” loophole: it doesn’t matter what I do today because I’ll do better tomorrow. This is an incredibly popular one for dieters.

The “moral licensing” loophole: this is when you tell yourself you deserve something “bad” because you’ve been so “good” lately. For example, I’ve been so consistent with my mediation, I deserver a day off of meditating. Or, I just ran 4 miles, I earned these 4 beers.

My favorite one is the “this doesn’t count” loophole. I’m sure everyone can identify with it. You tell yourself something doesn’t count because of some (seemingly) ultra compelling reason… “it’s Christmas, this plate of cookies doesn’t count” or “I’m on vacation” or “I’m sick” or “I’m too stressed this week to try” or “I’m about to burn this off with exercise” or “I am really drunk” sooooooo “THIS DOESN’T COUNT.”

But here’s the deal: EVERYTHING COUNTS. There are no get out of jail free cards in real life. Now, you can mindfully decide to make an exception to your habit or rule. But to do so on a whim and tell yourself “this doesn’t count” is doing yourself a disservice. You are simply fooling yourself.

The great thing about loopholes is that they are easy to spot once you know about them. When you find yourself making an excuse to avoid your good behaviors, that’s the time to shut it down. Realize what you’re doing, laugh at yourself, and then go about with your good behavior. Easier said than done, obviously, but give it a try!

And to end on a positive note, keep in mind that, since everything counts, your good decisions count too. That time you worked out even though you weren’t in the mood? That counts. That time you only ate half a cookie when you wanted the whole box? That counts too. That time you avoided making a big purchase you didn’t really need even though you really wanted it?  THAT COUNTED!

It all counts. No freebies.

A Goodbye to Donuts

In the book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin puts people into categories a lot. Which is awesome and smart…because people are different. Some people are abstainers, some moderators. Allow me to explain.

A moderator is a person who can have a little and stop. Ice cream- they may not even finish their bowl and feel satisfied and like they got a treat. The first few bites are the best, and then the law of diminishing returns (I DID learn something in high school economics!) kicks in.

Abstainers eat one bite of ice cream and will absolutely finish their bowl, and likely go back for more. And more. And maybe more. And keep thinking about more. Each bite is equally desirable. They wind up eating too much and don’t feel like they treated themselves, but rather punished themselves. They realize they would have been better off not even having that first bite.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I am an abstainer when it comes to donuts. I can moderate some things (I can easily have one glass of wine), but absolutely not donuts.

A co-worker brought in Voodoo Donuts on Tuesday. They are the best. Really just ridiculous on a scale of 1 to ridiculous. I thought to myself when I heard about the donuts, “oh I am not gonna eat any donuts. But maybe I could have part of one. Maybe I should just go see what they look like…” So I walked up to the box. I peaked in. I saw all the colors and shapes and smelled the heavenly fried bread and sugar aroma. I cut off a little piece of one. Ate it. Cut off a little piece of another. Ate it. You can guess what I did next….

The fun thing about a box of variety donuts is that it’s socially acceptable to cut off small pieces so everyone can try different ones. The terrible thing about that is that you have NO idea how many donuts you actually ate by the end of the day.  Piece by piece…they go down so easily.

Alright, so it was a disaster. So much so, that I never want to eat a donut again. If I simply abstain all together, I can do this. Knowing I can’t moderate, that’s the plan.

Moderators are very judgmental towards abstainers. They love saying, “Oh, you can have a treat, just have a little. Don’t deprive yourself totally!” But if someone is truly an abstainer, they find freedom in abstaining. By depriving yourself totally, you conserve energy and willpower because there is no decision to be made…it’s just “No thanks, I don’t eat donuts.” End of story. Rather than, “I think I can just have a little” and “that was good, I want more” and “I can workout harder if I eat another one” and “why can’t I stop eating these now?”. That internal struggle just stops existing with deprivation.

So back to me- no donuts. Ever. I will never put another one in my mouth and my life will be better for it.

But declaring something doesn’t mean it’ll automatically happen…

Which is where the strategy of Safeguards comes in. A safeguard is basically a plan to keep your habits safe. Because it’s impossible to think I’ll never be around another donut again, I have to anticipate the the temptation so I can minimize it. So next time I’m around a box of Voodoo Donuts, or any brand, I will not even look at them. I will stay as far from the box as humanly possible. I will tell someone else that “I don’t eat donuts” so that they can keep me accountable. I will eat healthier food so that I’m not hungry.

I like this quote by Montaigne about squashing temptations early, “The infancies of all things is feeble and weak. We must keep our eyes open at the beginnings, you cannot find the danger then because it is so small: once it has grown, you cannot find the cure.” It’s so true. If you get past the temptation at the beginning of feeling it, you’ll be better off than letting it fester all day and then trying to say no. If I dance around the donut box (and therefor possibility), looking and longing and considering, I’m likely to wear then and just eat a damn donut.

So whatever it is that you might need to abstain from, consider doing so. Remember, there is freedom in deprivation. As weird as it sounds, it’s true.

But the point of this whole, long blog is that I DON’T EAT DONUTS. It was fun (kind of) while it lasted, but I’m happy to say goodbye.

Own It

“Consistency, repetition, no decision- This is the way to develop the ease of a true habit.” -Gretchen Rubin

Ease. Habits should be easy. They should be automatic and shouldn’t require thought or decision. Like brushing your teeth. You don’t think about it; you just do it. When you get in the car you put on your seatbelt…again, no thought. Automatic. Habits are just part of you.

But developing a habit isn’t always easy. Usually, it’s not. It takes motivation to begin and momentum to stick. The beginning of habit formation is crucial. There is conflicting research on how long it takes to turn a behavior into a true habit. 21 days. 30. 66-67. A lifetime. I believe it’s completely circumstantial. Here’s the biggest tip I have.

I got it from The Healthy Habit Revolution.

Ownership. Whatever habit you’re wanting to develop, you have to OWN that behavior. Ya know how some people say “I just have to have my morning coffee” or “I’ll see you later after my workout.” And other people would say “I had coffee this morning” or “yeah, I should get a workout in”. The first person owns their behaviors. Drinking morning coffee and working out are part of who they are…simply an extension of their identity…another limb.

My arm. My leg. My coffee. My workout.

Whereas the second person does the same behaviors, but it’s not part of their identity…which is fine; but if they are wanting to develop these things as habits, they are less likely to stick.

So when you’re developing, you need to consider owning that behavior. Change your language around it. Welcome it into your life with open arms. “I just love eating vegetables at every meal” instead of “I have to get 5 serving of greens a day, according to my diet plan.” Another way to create ownership is to say things like “I am a biker” or whatever it is. I AM this, I AM that. I DO this, I DO that. Make the habit literally part of what you DO and who you ARE.

Even if it’s a lie at first, just say it. You’re not really lying because with consistency and repetition, in about 21 (or 30 or 66 or 67) days, it will become part of you anyway.

OWN IT, girl.

I am Back

Hello- I’ve decided to start blogging again. WEEKLY. I really enjoy writing my thoughts for any(random)one to see on the internet. My latest obsession is studying habits. It’s so fascinating. People develop habits in different ways…it’s certainly not a one size fits all kind of thing. I’m currently into Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. So a lot of what I write will come from what I’m learning in that book. Let’s start with the 4 tendencies she defines people being:

Upholders- Respond readily to both outer and inner expectations…loves getting gold stars.

Questioners- Questions expectations, and will meet the expectation if they believe it is justified. They are motivated by solid reason, but not stupid rules like “don’t jaywalk” and “don’t running red lights if no one is around”.  SPOILER ALERT: I am a questioner, with upholder tendencies.

Rebels- Just completely going to the beat of their own drum. There is not necessarily a rhyme or reason for what they will and won’t do. Absolutely hate expectations and routine.

Obligers- As the name implies, these folks do everything for other people.  They meet outer expectations, but struggle with inner.

So knowing what you are will certainly change the way you develop habits. You can take a little quiz to see your tendency here.

That’s it for today. But I’ll be working on my new habit of blogging weekly, so please uphold me to that expectation!