Friday, October 30, 2015

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eating Well

After five children, would you believe that I weigh more than I want to? Haha. I'm an American woman. I've almost always weighed more than I want to. A 2008 study said that 3/4 of the women in the USA have "disordered eating." We simply have so much food available. Food makes us temporarily happy, and it's nearly everywhere.

I am 5'6" and weigh 180 lbs. Not super dangerous health-wise, but not particularly great, either. I would like to fit in my clothes easily--a challenge for most of my life since I was bullied in fifth grade and stopped trying to play with other kids at recess--and be a healthy weight in order to have our last planned child.

Recently I read an extremely helpful book by Judith S. Beck which applied cognitive behavioral therapy to eating-related behavior, i.e., diets. The four fundamental principles were:

  1. Remind yourself frequently of the advantages of your planned weight loss and how great you'll feel.
  2. Sit down when you eat; pay attention to what you eat and savor every bite.
  3. Give yourself lots of credit for each time that you stick to your eating plan.
  4. Practice portion control.

Other helpful principles included not having unrealistic eating plans, bodies don't care that it's a holiday (extra calories are still extra calories), remembering that hard situations will pass, distract yourself from off-plan eating with things that you really like to do, your happiness and health are more important than the wishes of a person pressing unneeded food on you in a social setting, eating because of stress doesn't make the stressor go away plus it adds more stress in the form of guilt and extra weight, and making an eating mistake doesn't warrant making lots more mistakes for the rest of the day.

Sitting down when I eat has been a big area for improvement for me. Fixing food for my family means I'm frequently in the kitchen, tasting and satisfying hunger with little snacks while preparing food. Also, our kitchen table is small, so during lunch, I often end up sitting at the computer desk to eat, which results in my eating absent-mindedly while I read news, email, and Facebook. I have ceased eating at the computer in the past week. It's hard not to give in sometimes to my old habit, but it's a good change that I'll keep.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Mindfulness

I recently attended a presentation on mindfulness, a subject I've been intrigued by for a couple of years due to its recent use in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. According to the speaker, the three central principles of mindfulness are "Presence," "Compassion," and "Acceptance." By "Presence," he meant being focused in the moment. "Compassion" means kindness toward all. "Acceptance" means embracing suffering and accepting reality while not judging others or one's self. He also talked about meditation, viewing one's thoughts and feelings as though a distant observer, periodic solitude, and diminishing one's worldly ambition.

He led us through a bit of deep breathing and being quiet. He shared a few anecdotes and his own thoughts, but he didn't seem to be interested in sharing any one else's insights. I appreciated some of the information he presented and the chance to think through some ideas without my little children underfoot. I did find his presentation more self-centered than I would have expected from someone who makes his living teaching mindfulness to others, and that was distracting.

One audience member objected to the instruction to be non-judgmental, arguing that judgment is a valuable attribute of being human. I agree with that objection for two reasons. 1) The term "non-judgmental" currently carries the connotation of condemning judgment, which is contradictory and negative; mindfulness is about presence, not avoidance and repression. 2) From what I've read of mindfulness--at least when used therapeutically--it's not so much that one turns off judgment as chooses to delay it while observing and accepting what is. I believe that, instead of wasting effort trying to turn off judgment, it's essential to focus on being humble, for keeping in mind one's own limited knowledge makes it easier to stay judgment while seeking new insights about the thoughts and feelings of ourselves and others.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Brazen

Today in the checkout line at the grocery store, I happily waved the DVD cover of the recently released Jurassic World, which I was buying for my husband as a surprise. He loves the Jurassic Park movies. The customer just in front of me told me and the cashier that she had already seen the movie. She said that she has a friend who downloads the movies off the internet while they're still in the theater, that the downloaded versions are of really good quality, and that her friend only charges $5 per movie.

Yeah.

That there's called piracy, lady. And you have no shame at all about funding and benefiting from it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Scandinavia, Socialism, and a Surgeon

Despite the media giants being dead-set on Hillary Clinton being the next president (I remember them already burnishing her public image 20 years ago when she was a president's wife who clearly wanted to be much more), some of my Democrat friends are quite excited about Bernie Sanders. He seems to be promising a lot of "free" stuff.*

From Wikipedia:
A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders favors policies similar to those of social democratic parties in Europe, particularly those instituted by the Nordic countries.

All this Scandinavia-dreaming strikes me as rather racist. The same policies, when attempted elsewhere, rarely work out well (Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, China when communist, Italy, Greece, etc.), but fans of democratic socialism keep longing to be like Scandinavia. What they're really saying--but don't realize it--is that they want the USA to be Scandinavian. Sorry to invoke Hitler and his Nazi crew, but they would no doubt feel a bit vindicated by the continuing adulation of the Nordic people.

I think I'm most favorably impressed by Ben Carson. As a man with a scientific background, he seems to be the only candidate aware of how numerical and physical realities get in the way of ideologies making good on their promises. Any experienced doctor knows that no matter how good your intentions, mortal weaknesses mean your patient might not benefit from your ministrations. Also, after what our foreign policy has been for the last long while, I'd love to see a "do no harm" approach in the White House. At the very least, we should be focusing on not doing harm to our allies.

* Nothing provided by the government is really free, is it? Unless we plan to repudiate some of our national debt down the road, which would be pathetic considering the size of our economy. From what I can see, the Tea Party movement exists because some people (but rarely politicians) quite rationally think that the federal and local government should rein in spending so that we don't overtax producers and eventually sink in a Greece-style debt quagmire. The US federal government is up to nearly 18.5 trillion USD in debt, and almost nobody in politics or media wants to mention it anymore.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Baking soda in the washer

Why did I not hear of putting baking soda in with my laundry until a few weeks ago? I was visiting a sister, and I noticed that she had no laundry detergent. There was just a box of baking soda and a small bottle of something pleasant smelling sitting by her clothes washer. I used some of each, hoping they were what I was supposed to use to clean my clothes, and my clothes were surprisingly clean and soft afterward.

Now I use baking soda all the time in our wash. I do add a little regular laundry detergent because it's hard to shake my conviction that one should use soap to wash clothes. It's probably a bit more expensive than using laundry detergent alone, but why pay less only to have clothes that don't get as clean?