Friday, December 5, 2014

Slowing down: taking a mental break at a red stop light

As mentioned recently, I'd been working with a client who was thinking, feeling, eating, breathing, walking, talking, and living way too fast! As a first step toward reducing his anxiety and poor decision making, he needed to slow everything down.

One important method of living slower is being on the lookout for opportunities to slow down. This posting is an example of me discovering such a chance and taking advantage of it.

I was three blocks from my home recently, slowing my car to stop for a red light when I felt this impulse to push the car-radio button. On the one hand, I had a slight urge to hear some music. On the other hand, it was more habit than desire. All in all, I had begun to reach for the button on Automatic Pilot, without really thinking about it.

Then, something odd and helpful happened. I popped out of my semi-trance and wondered what it would be like to enjoy a slower, more peaceful moment, what it would be like to "just be" instead of trying to fill up the moment with something better. It was an instance of snapping out of mindlessness and into mindfulness

So, instead of turning on the music, I sat back in my car seat, took note of how my body felt, took a deep breath, cleared my mind, and just "noticed things" while waiting for the red light. They were simple, every-day observations, such as a few people walking on the sidewalk, the traffic light, my dashboard and car wheel, the blue sky and clouds, and some near-leafless trees. 

Because I was paying closer attention to these every-day scenes, they seemed more vivid, clear, and interesting. I'd slipped into being content in the present moment without desiring anything more; breathing, sitting, and checking out the street scene was good enough for me.

It's noteworthy that, by giving these ordinary things some extraordinary attention, I ended up feeling really, really GOOD, instead of feeling irritated or bored by the red light as is sometimes the case.

I was able to maintain this clear, observational mind for the rest of my drive to work, and I arrived relaxed and in a very good mood. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Life Coaching model applied to Ferguson

A common Life Coaching model first involves helping people to create a clear, detailed vision for a much better future. When assisting with a vision, one of my favorite tactics is to ask The Magic Wand Question: If you could wave a magic wand and make it so, what would a perfect, wonderful situation look like? In this way, the coach helps the client to stay focused on the desired end game without self censoring based on current limitations and without balking out of fear.

If you aim high and come up short, you'll achieve more than if you aim low and hit the mark.

Once the vision is clear, then the coach helps people to create long-term goals and strategies (in general, what needs to happen to create the future you envision?). Finally, given the vision and long-term goals, the coach helps the client to identify a few manageable tasks you could accomplish right now that would move that process along (what would you be willing to do this week? this month?).

If you can do a few small goals every week, all month long, for a few years, then magic happens. You can build the future you imagined.

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to apply this process to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Of course, this is just an intellectual exercise. I'll leave it up to others to determine of this is something they would actually want to DO, mind you. ;-)

Vision: Imagine a city five years from now in which authority respects community members, and citizens respect authority. Citizens feel as if they belong, there's a place for them in the city, and they have equal opportunity to thrive and succeed in Ferguson. Leadership is skilled and reflects the make-up of its citizenry. Cooperation, collaboration, and communication with citizens has been woven into the process of how the city runs. Specifically, imagine a black mayor, and four of six city council members being black. Imagine a black police chief, and 40% black police officers on the force. (If not black, then an incredibly strong and clear ally of the black community.) Imagine racial profiling statistics involving arrests and ticketing having plummeted.

Long-term goals could be: 

  • Work with organizations focused on social justice (for example, the ACLU or the NAACP) to hire a community organizer to lead this effort. Give this person the space and authority to coordinate.
  • Hold monthly community meetings to listen to citizens and provide status about ongoing efforts. Spin off specific task forces as issues crop up during these meetings.
  • Meet with influential community leaders to review plans and gain their support. Sometimes leaders will be obvious, such as the pastor of a church. Sometimes they will not be obvious but will be equally powerful, such as the wise grandmother who lives on the corner of the block, sees everything, talks to everyone, and who indicates approval with a nod, a smile, or frown.
  • Find a few influential white leaders who will publicly back and support this effort. Begin to build a coalition of support.
  • Begin to explore funding sources that you'll need for campaigns and for paying your community organizer. Be sure to get some grant writing expertise, and people who have experience soliciting major funding for political efforts. Blend a mix of long-time Ferguson residents, short-term Ferguson residents, and help from outside the community.
  • Identify the most win-able city council seats, identify candidates, train them, and build campaigns to elect them. Build a strong Get Out The Vote machine, and put it to work for primaries and elections.
  • Provide ongoing education in the community about the vision and the plan. Emphasize the importance of the midterm elections as being the vital election cycle for Ferguson. Enlist people with marketing, graphics, and political advocacy experience to provide this community education.
  • Encourage the "house party" model throughout the city, so that every-day-people can meet and stay connected with neighbors, and so that focus and enthusiasm can be nurtured and maintained over a long period of time. Encourage small, neighborhood based projects, and don't micromanage them.
  • Investigate setting up a small-business mentoring program, which could provide a bridge between disenfranchised citizens and the city; the goal should be to increase the feeling of citizens that there is a place in Ferguson for them. Look into boosting job-training programs.
Short-term goals could be:
  • Form a leadership board that can provide coordination of events until the hiring of a community organizer. 
  • Put together a vision statement of your 5-year plan. Enlist members of the community skilled in marketing for ways to communicate this vision as succinctly, strikingly, and powerfully as possible. Run ideas through field tests and focus groups (attend house parties of interested and active citizens, run the vision ideas past them, observe the effect of the message, solicit feedback, and rework the vision accordingly).
  • Brainstorm ways to take most of the energy off the streets and away from protesting, and put it instead into sustained, organized, political effort toward enacting your vision. Figure out how to get citizens to keep their eyes on the prize.
  • Leverage the energy of recent youth protests by identifying a few youth leaders. Involve them in the planning process.
  • Approach your black city council member to ask about shadowing or internship possibilities. Investigate how you will train your future leaders.
  • Begin conversations with respected community leaders about their willingness to run for office.
  • Attend city council meetings, listen, observe, and soak it all in. Learn the ropes of local city government, and begin to get an understanding of where you are most likely to make inroads with your efforts.
Interesting ideas, eh? Thanks for letting me share them.

"Spotting a liar": Work like a dog or just feel your way through it

Recently, someone pointed me toward this very intriguing webpage that provides tips for spotting a liar. For the most part, I found it to be a fun and interesting read. The best part of the article was the statistics at the top about how often people tend to lie. 

As I was taking in each of the points, I was thinking to myself, Yep...yes...that seems true...yep! At a certain point, I grew weary and thought, OK, this can end any time now! In my experience, people are not willing to read long articles, never mind put in the consistent work it takes to master a long list of skills such as this one.

It reminded me of my upcoming book about avoiding bad habits, which includes a section entitled "Getting out of your own way." There are many times in life when you can put tremendous amounts of time and effort into learning, creating structure, and meticulously building many new habits. Or you can relax, focus, and "do the right thing" on the fly, without making such a big project out of it.

For example, you can learn all of these tips for spotting liars, such as understanding that people often look up and to your left when imagining a scene (constructing a visual lie) and level to your left when imagining something heard (constructing a lie about what was said). You can spot the times when someone is smiling but their eyes aren't (they remain still and emotionless). You can work really hard to notice when there's a gap between a facial expression and a verbal one, or when liars do or do not use contractions to explain a situation.

Or! You can learn how to observe well and notice when something doesn't feel right. If it doesn't feel right, don't trust it.

For example, If you're relaxed and paying attention, you'll notice a creepy feeling when someone's mouth is smiling brightly but their eyes remain emotionless. You'll notice the difference between someone giving you a direct, genuine answer and someone over explaining things or answering questions that weren't asked. Your heart and gut will tell you that something's up!

You may not know exactly WHAT is up, but you don't have to know. Your gut feeling is the only red flag you'll need to withhold your trust until you can sleep on it or do some more investigating.

To increase your ability to notice and "feel it" when people are lying without having to become a masterful Truth Detective, dedicate yourself to mindfulness meditation, which increases your ability to pay attention to what you are feeling as you're living your life. Learn what a lie feels like, and then follow your feelings.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Slowing down: watching and noticing the colors

Recently, I was working with a client frustrated by his own rapid and negative thinking, anxiety, and a pressing sense of what he "should and shouldn't do." His day-to-day life consistently felt stressful and overwhelming.

Although his situation was extreme, it's similar to complaints I hear from many people about the stresses of modern life.

I said to this client that, regardless of any other action he takes, he needed to learn how to slow down and relax. Now, the concept of "slow down and relax" is relatively simple, but knowing the Hows, Whats, and Whens can be challenging. 

We came up with a short-list of specific activities he could do to slow his thinking and activity throughout the day: do a meditative exercise upon waking, take mini-breaks every hour to 90 minutes (stop what you're doing, walk to a window or outside, breathe, clear your mind stretch, relax; then, after a few minutes, go back to it), have "wind down" activities before bed, and attach a mindfulness exercise to a daily activity (showering, driving, going to the bathroom).

So, in the days that followed this client session, I became more aware of opportunities to give myself a mini-break, to slow down and relax.

One day, I was looking at a desk toy that my sister had given me many years ago. When you turn the toy upside down, two different color liquids glide through the clear liquid, making dripping shapes and bouncing off of one another. 

I'd never thought much of it. It's not very exciting to look at. It lasts only 15 seconds or so. And it's not THAT pretty or interesting! 

However on this particular day, I'd been working hard and feeling tired, and I needed a diversion. I flipped the toy over, and surrendered to its colors, letting go of everything else. I lost myself in the sight of the red and blue dripping bubbles. Ahhhhhh! 

I had misjudged this toy. I originally thought it should entertain me. Instead, I realized that it was a pleasant focal point designed to relax me. When I returned to work a minute or so later, I felt slightly refreshed. 

Do this once during your work day, and it won't have much of an overall effect. Yet, if you find a half dozen pleasant and interesting ways to slow down, refocus, clear your mind, and relax throughout your day, it will set the stage for getting rid of that oppressive sense of being driven and overwhelmed, making things feel more manageable and even enjoyable.
Just take 15 seconds and watch...!

Monday, November 17, 2014

For job interviews, prepare a few stories to tell (behavioral interviewing)

Behavioral Interviewing is a popular technique currently used by many employers in job interviews. Behavioral interviewing is just a fancy term for asking a candidate to tell a story, and the request often begins with the words, “tell me about a time when…. 

For example, Tell me about a time when you knew that you and your team discovered that you would not be able to meet a deadline. Explain how you handled it and what happened. As another example, Tell me about a time when a conflict between two of your teammates interfered with the work that needed to be done. How was the situation handled? What was your role? What happened?

These types of questions can address something that actually happened, or they can ask what you would do in an imaginary, hypothetical situation. For example, Let’s say that there is a conflict between two of your teammates that was interfering with the work that needed to be done. How would you handle that? For hypothetical situations, create your answers based on your actual experiences.

The standard advice that I give to my Life & Career Coaching clients is to prepare three stories before the interview that explain times when you and your teammates faced one or more really tough challenges, you were able to figure out what was wrong and what needed to happen instead, and you resolved the situation successfully. Then, when you are asked a behavioral-interview question, choose the story that best addresses the question. If another excellent story occurs to you, use that one instead. You can feel relaxed and confident during the interview, because you have three “in the can," ready to go should you need them.

Finally, when telling your story, try to address these aspects of the situation:
  • How you analyzed the situation, determining what was working well and what wasn’t
  • How you communicated well so that no one was surprised by the difficult situation
  • How you “played well with others,” coordinating your efforts with teammates to get the job done
  • How you played a unique and important role in addressing the situation
  • How you analyzed and tested possible solutions to the problem
  • How well things turned out in the end

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Don’t stretch! Instead, relax until your muscles loosen.

I'm a retired team-sports jock. In high school, I was a member at various times of the varsity basketball, tennis, soccer, and track teams. Later in life, I learned to play shortstop for a recreational softball team, and I played corporate-league basketball.

Needless to say, I’m no stranger to locker rooms, gymnasiums, practice sessions, games, and tournaments. I’m also well versed in ways to stretch my muscles before and after working out so as to prevent injury.

Early in my athletic experiences, stretching was always uncomfortable. It felt as if my muscles were tight, and I was using various poses to take the tight muscle and pull on it slowly until it submitted and loosened.

I remember when my whole approach to stretching changed in the mid-90s, which was approximately the same time I began to practice different types of meditation. I was in the middle of my stretching routine, and I just didn’t feel like yanking on my own body anymore. Instead, I just remained in the stretching position, relaxed, breathed deeply, and stopped trying to make things happen. To my surprise, the more my breathing, mind, and total body relaxed, the more my muscle loosened and stretched out. Whoosh! My body part just “melted” into position, smoothly and easily.

The difference between stretching and relaxing was like the difference between cutting into a cold stick of butter immediately after it’s been taken out of the refrigerator and moving the knife through the stick after it’s been on the table for a few hours.

In recent years, whether it’s an athletic pursuit or some other activity, I think to myself, “Relax into it,” and things tend to go smoother and easier. 

Don’t push or pull. Relax and flow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Things go faster when I slow down

I'm a tea drinker. In my office, my routine is to fill the water filter first. Then, I pour the filtered water into an electric kettle, which gets the water really boiling. Finally, I pour the water over the tea bag (a British college buddy taught me years ago not to dunk the bag into the water initially), and then I let it seep for a few minutes (longer if it’s Oolong or herbal).

Recently, I’d been experiencing some frustration with my routine. Rushing in between client meetings, I’d pour the water from the filter container into the kettle, and, just before the container emptied, the water would change direction and spill around and near the kettle. Sighing, I’d grab a napkin or paper towel, and I’d wipe up the mess. This continued for the better part of a year.

Finally, frustrated with having to mop up every time I filled the kettle, I decided that I was going to get to the bottom of the spilled-water mystery.

The first thing I did was I decided to fill the kettle slower, thinking that rushing and speed might be the cause of the spillage. Slowing down also allowed me to observe what was happening. When I did this, I noticed that slowing down alone didn’t prevent the mess. At the last second, the water stream angled downward and spilled down the side of the kettle.

The next time I filled the kettle, I decided that I would try to change the angle of the spout just before it emptied. Again, I poured it slower than I usually did so that there was time for me to observe what was happening and adjust what I was doing. As the container was about to empty, I angled the spout upward slightly to compensate for the water's change in direction, and the last stream of water angled perfectly into the kettle without mess.

It struck me that I'd put up with a frustrating situation for so long—doing the same thing over and over, just wishing that things would magically get better somehow. Slowing down the process gave me time to observe and choose a different, better course of action.

What other areas of my life could benefit from slowing down, observing, and improving my technique?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Acceptance versus control

When I'm working with my Life & Career Coaching clients, I emphasize balance and judgment calls, and I use the yin-yang symbol to illustrate the point.

To have as satisfying and smooth a time as possible, it's helpful to balance two very opposite approaches to life. The first is acceptance of the things that we can't change. The second is having the vision, drive, and work ethic to change things. (For more information, see the Serenity Prayer.)

Now, Life Coaching is all about having a vision of what you intend to accomplish, setting and prioritizing goals that get you to that vision, and staying on task as you complete goal after goal. It's great stuff. It's an example of the Change side of the equation. It's good to make plans, have goals, strive, affect change, and make things better in your life.

At the same time, everyone encounters aspects of themselves, their lives, and what they are experiencing around them that cannot be changed—or can't be changed any time soon. These are times when Acceptance is the better approach. It's time to play nicely with others, be flexible, delay gratification, and make the most of the situation that's been handed to you (when life hands you lemons, make lemonade). 

That brings me to the recent news about Renee Zellweger's plastic surgery. 

On the one hand, she seems pleased with her decision, reporting that she's now living a "happy, more fulfilling life." I'd say that that should be the primary focus and the number one priority for all of us. I am truly happy for her. In addition to that, the new look may improve her odds of winning different types of roles in movies for which she hadn't been considered in the past. Good for her!

On the other hand, making the best of your appearance without plastic surgery is an opportunity to practice acceptance and making the most out of what you're given. (I love actress Laura Dern's quote about plastic surgery: "All my peers are going to tighten up their faces, so I'll be more likely to get all the roles that require a few wrinkles!") 

Is it wrong? No. Is it bad? No. But it is a missed opportunity to practice a skill that's very necessary for a deeply satisfying life: being able to be happy and fulfilled without having to control looks, other people's impressions, or what's happening around you.

In conclusion, the great thing about life is that it usually gives us lots and lots of opportunities to learn lessons and build skills. It's no big deal that Renee chose Control over Acceptance in this one particular case. There will be plenty of other opportunities to practice Acceptance elsewhere in her life, I'm sure. 

I wish everyone well on our journeys, and may we make wise choices for ourselves about Acceptance and Change. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Team up with people who have skills you lack

I was a huge second-generation Beatles fan when I was young. The band had broken up years ago, but their music—in particular, their studio artistry—inspired me. Hungry for more and eager to learn their secrets, I absorbed as much information about the band as I could.

I still recall how the band members met each other and joined forces. Paul McCartney attended a performance by John Lennon and his band. As I recall, John wasn’t particularly impressed with Paul as a person, but Paul was able to play guitar a bit better than John. Putting his ego aside, John brought Paul into the band.

Later, Paul introduced John to a younger boy named George Harrison who knew how to play more guitar chords than either of them. George demonstrated his guitar licks for them on a bus, and, after observing his skills, he was welcomed into the band.

The inclusion of Ringo Starr was messier, in that they had to fire their current drummer in order to include him. Ringo had been a very popular member of a competing band, and the boys knew that Ringo could only expand their fan base. He was more popular than the three current members of the band.

I think of this story often regarding how to form a team or an organization. When faced with the decision to stay “top dog” by excluding someone more talented, the members of the Beatles consistently chose to bring in someone stronger, someone with more talent. Each of the members was able to put their ego aside (for a while) in order to strengthen the group. And the rest is musical and pop-culture history.

In what ways are we rejecting and ignoring people because they threaten us? How much more powerful would our teams and organizations be if we not only permitted more talented people to join us but sought out such talent?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Say yes

It was a typical morning commute, driving down W. 29th Street in Baltimore. Of course, every traffic light in the 8-light stretch turned red right right when I arrived. Just my luck! I had been struggling with being mindful that morning, and I was rushing and pushing a bit.

I was chuckling about it when yet another light turned red just as I arrived at the light, and, to express the sentiment Of COURSE the light turned red for me, that's EXACTLY the kind of morning I'm having, I thought one word: Yes! As in, Yes, of course that's what's happening!

I arrived at the next red light, and I again thought, Yes. I also noticed that saying that word was helping me to relax, smile, and enjoy the ride more.

The next light: Yes!

And the next: Yes!!!

What started off as a joke about bad luck with traffic lights evolved into a way of shifting from being willful (racing, pushing, complaining, whining) to being willing (agreeable, accepting, able to flow with what was given me). 

Life presents something to me, and I say Yes. Without expectations or comparisons, I say Yes to what is right in front of me, and I deal with it gracefully and with good humor.

I've found that when I'm doing my aerobics at the gym, I'll often think Yes in between mindfulness meditations on the elliptical machine, just as a way of reinforcing that I accept being in the gym, being sweaty, having my current body shape, having a certain energy level...the whole thing. It's helpful short hand for grounding me in the present moment.

The next time you're struggling with something in your day, try approaching it by saying, Yes.


If your partner hits you once, leave

Although I'm writing this in response to recent stories about domestic violence perpetrated by NFL football players, this is standard relationship advice I've given to my life & career coaching clients for many years.

If your partner hits you once, leave. 

No debate or discussion. No second chances. No allowances made for the gender of either the hitter or the hittee. No excuses made for a dramatic, Hollywood-style slap in the face. No hitting allowed, period!

To be fair about it, make sure that you've communicated this consequence at the very beginning of the relationship, and then follow through should the hitting occur. 

Now, if you think that this suggestion is too harsh, you can use a modified version: after the first hit, the partner is warned and sent off to seek counseling help. After a second hit, impose the consequence and just leave.

If you're concerned that your partner is basically a good person and deserves a second chance, then let him or her create another opportunity in their next relationship. If you're worried about abandoning a relationship that could have been salvaged, then show more love and respect for yourself, protect yourself, and have confidence that you'll find a better partner and that you're strong enough to withstand some loneliness until that happens.

Your body, life, family, and career are too important to put at risk by remaining with a low-odds-for-success partner who hits. Not only can you do better; you must do better.

*       *       *

If I were to summarize everything clients have said to me about their troubled or bad relationships, I'd say that there are too many instances of a partner "not having my back." We don't get into loving relationships for a little bit of support; we want a large amount of consistent, loving, protective partnership, and we don't want to have to worry about whether we can depend on it being there. 

The ultimate betrayal is being physically attacked. You end up having to protect yourself from the person who's supposed to be helping to protect you!

For woman who date men, this issue can be a matter of life or death. Be sure to seek out the advice of domestic violence support systems when leaving a violent partner. I also give my women clients tips on how to spot controlling behavior in men, which can be red flags for serious emotional abuse or violence occurring later. Establish a zero-tolerance policy for these controlling behaviors in the same way you would do for hitting.

Men may have mixed feelings about the advice I've given. Here are a few final notes for men who may feel that it's too unmanly to walk away from someone who hits you, whether it be single Hollywood-style slaps or round-house punches:

  1. Of course you're big and strong enough to take it. You're also big and strong enough to walk away despite any verbal grief you might get from anybody. There are more types of strength than just being able to take a physical hit; don't let emotional weakness stop you from leaving.
  2. If your partner can't control emotions enough to refrain from hitting you, in what other ways does this person not have your back when overcome by a mood or when blurry from too much alcohol or drugs? In what other ways are you vulnerable to betrayal by this person?
  3. If you can't hold it in your mind any other way, think of it as protecting your reputation and career. The more you allow the physical disrespect to escalate, the riskier the situation becomes. Punch back once, and you can ruin both of your lives.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Leg...arm...clock...heavy eyes...warm...

I've never been a morning person. So, it hasn't surprised me over the years that I've struggled with the common recommendation to start the day with meditation. 

I knew that I certainly could use some mindfulness in the morning. All night long, my mind runs around like a bratty child, and I often wake up with a very unfocused, random-access kind of mental experience: an old song playing in my head, mentally rehearsing for the day, spinning off on some distant memory, obsessing about some detail about my bathroom routine, telling myself jokes, and so on.

This morning, I tried a technique that worked fairly well. While still in bed, just after waking but before I had to get up, I applied one-word labels to whatever drew my attention. If I noticed that I was feeling warm under the covers, I'd think, Warm. If I was drawn to the sensation of rubbing my feet together, I'd think, Feet.

Heavy eyes
Face [against the pillow]

When I was ready to get up, I sat on the edge of the bed, and I continued to observe and label in this way. After a few minutes, I began my bathroom routine.

As a result, I started my morning in a more peaceful, meditative way. Also, I found that I didn't ruminatethink a lot, think rapidly, dwell on thingsas much during my morning routine. It may not have been a formal meditation, but it really made a difference in how I felt starting my day.

*       *       *

I'd like to tip my hat to the Dan Harris article in the August issue of Mindful magazine, which was an excerpt from his book 10% Happier. The article includes a very funny description of himself as a skeptical, regular guy attending a 10-day meditation retreat. His description of how he resisted and overly complicated the meditation for days and then how he lapsed into a peaceful observational stance was amazing writing, and I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who has ever "struggled to meditate."

In that article, he describes his breakthrough by describing how his inner thoughts had become much simpler and observational:

Neck pain
Knee pain
Airplane overhead
Sizzle of rustling leaves
Breeze on my forearm
I'm really enjoying putting cashews and raisins in my oatmeal at breakfast
Neck. Knee. Neck, Knee. Hands numb. Bird. Knee.
Hunger pang. Neck. Knee. Hands numb. Bird. Knee.
Bird, bird, bird. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Book Review: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, is wonderfully entertaining and illuminating. It informs some of my personal change efforts, and it's already transformed my life & career coaching approaches. It's been a long, long time since I've been this impressed and personally affected by a book.

As a life & career coach, I help people to take potentially long-term goals that I call personal projects (such as I'd like to find a life partner, I'd like to make more money, I'd like to change careers), break them into smaller goals, prioritize them, and complete them in order week by week until you complete the larger goal. I've built a successful practice based on my expertise with helping clients to get unstuck, and much of that work involves helping people to avoid bad habits that threaten to pull them off track and undermine their larger aims.

I'm currently writing a book tightly focused on tactics you can use to avoid bad habits and swing into new, more helpful behaviors. As I was writing the initial drafts, I noticed that my focus kept drifting away from achieving the overall goal and more toward the development of what I call mini-habitsDuhigg refers to this as a routine in his book—that go into completing a long-term goal. For example, if someone decides to lose 30 pounds in 6 months, imagine all of the minor adjustments to daily routine needed to complete that goal: for example, mini-habits in the areas of food shopping, snacking, placement of snacks, activity, frequency of activity, perhaps clothes to wear for that activity, location of activity, scheduling the activity, managing expectations of friends and family, and so on. Successfully completing the larger goal is completely based on the ability to install these new routines and keep them going long enough until they become automatic habits.

Given that, I decided that I needed to learn more about habits. So, I turned to Duhigg's book. 

I recommend the book highly. Duhigg is an investigative reporter for the New York Times. As you might guess, he's very thorough. The best part of the book, however, is that he's also a great story teller. He does a terrific job of hooking you with a fascinating story before delivering some of the more academic information. Then, as he transitions into another point he wants to make, he circles back to one of the stories and tells you more. It seamlessly moves between entertainment and teaching and back again.

The book has three parts: The Habits of Individuals, The Habits of Successful Organizations, and The Habits of Societies. His stories provide examples from science, industry, and American History, including companies and individuals with whom and with which you may be very familiar but may have never considered before in terms of habit formation.

I won't try to produce a book report at this point, but I'll give you some random points from the book that I found to be fascinating. My focus is on helping individuals to target helpful habit change, but I also recommend this book for people looking to make business, organizational, or social change happen. Please do consider buying this excellent book!

*       *       *

  •  Habits, as much as memory or reason, are at the root of how we behave.
  • Habits appear to be controlled in the brain independently from memory, in a more primitive part of the brain called the basal ganglia. In other words, you take the action because it's a habit, not because you remember to do something.
  • When a habit engages, we are cued (the thinking parts of our brain are very active as we process what the cue means), we determine that a habit is called for and we launch into a habitual routine (the thinking part of our brain shuts down and allows us to go on automatic pilot), and we receive an expected reward for completing our routine.
  • Over time, we begin to anticipate or crave the reward. Studies have shown that, after animals are conditioned to crave a cue, a routine, and a reward, then withholding or altering the reward can cause significant depression and stress in the animal. (If you consider that a major symptom of depression is hopelessness, then it appears as if losing faith that your actions can result in an expected reward would facilitate depression and a refusal to take further action.)
  •  Habits tend to break down under high stress unless you add in the component of belief or faith. A key aspect of faith is a belief that none of us individually have 100% control over any situation. Given that, we seek connection to power beyond ourselves. Following from that, strong engagement and connection with a group of people who share your belief can strengthen the habit and make it more likely that it will persist during times of high stress. This is why many self-help programs emphasize group participation.
  • To create a new habit, clearly identify the cue (are your teeth gritty or cloudy?), create a craving for a routine (try new Acme'll love the tingly, fresh feeling!), and clearly identify the reward (for a beautiful, sexy smile). The book contains a number of examples showing that identifying a cue and a reward can be challenging and can take some experimentation and thought.
  • Old habits never go away (they can reappear during high-stress situations); new habits must become stronger than the old habits. Our brains make no distinction between "good" and "bad' habits.
  • To stop a bad habit, keep the cue and reward in place, and swap out the "bad" routine for a "good" one. For example, if you often smoke (routine) when you get bored mid-morning at work (cue) and want some stimulation (reward), then substitute a cup of coffee (new routine) for the cigarette. The book emphasizes the importance of deciding to change the bad habit and accepting that this is a long-term project requiring effort.
  • Because we are creatures of habit, we are naturally drawn to the familiar. The book includes a fascinating example of how a catchy-but-quirky pop song was marketed so that listeners would give it more time to sound familiar; the song eventually became a huge hit in the early 2000s.  
  • The book defines the concept of keystone habits, which are habits that appear to be connected to many other habits; make a change to that one keystone habit, and a ripple effect of habit change often occurs. Keystone habits tend to work because of a dynamic called small wins; get traction in one manageable area, and it feels more do-able to make changes in more challenging areas.

    Keystone habits affect individuals, and different people have different keystone habits; it can be tricky to identify your keystone habits.

    As examples of keystone habits, studies show that families that eat dinner together tend to include children with greater homework skills, better grades, a better ability to manage their emotions, and more confidence. Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.

    Organizations can also have keystone habits; create a focused effort to change that one organizational keystone habit, and you can transform an organization. The book includes several fascinating stories of companies that made this kind of transformation.
  • In the Organization section, there's a fascinating discussion of habits that form truces between competing individuals or departments. Part of transforming organizations involves identifying when truces become dysfunctional and need to be modified to address new challenges.
  •  Willpower is a skill you can develop and strengthen; it's a keystone habit.
  • Studies have shown that willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened by exercise and that can be weakened by being overly taxed. In one particular study, kindness and respect shown to people increased their ability to use willpower in a subsequent task. The kind approach gave people a sense of control, invoked a sense that they would enjoy doing the task for themselves, or engendered enough goodwill so that they wanted to do the task well for the person requesting it. Those who were treated brusquely didn't have enough willpower reserves left to complete the subsequent task very well.
  • People and organizations face inflection points, which are painful times when they feel like abandoning a habit or forming a new one; this is very similar to the crisis equals opportunity maxim. Marketing professionals understand that people are more willing to shift to a new way of doing things—to buy new productsduring personal transitions (getting married, having a baby, getting divorced, being laid off, starting a new job). Organizational change agents may take advantage of inflection points to modify a truce or introduce a new habit.
  • Social change is often facilitated by friendship (people do something to support their friends), social peer pressure (sometimes called the power of weak ties), and a way for the behavior to become self perpetuating (individuals take ownership of the issue and lead instead of just follow). Regarding the power of weak ties, a study showed that people are not very willing to help strangers (not surprising), they are willing to help friends (not surprising), and they are almost equally willing to help friends of friends (surprising until you think about it). When confronted with someone who knows your friend, you are hesitant to behave badly in a way that could get back to your friend.

Experiencing IS instead of SHOULD

I was preparing to sit down to do some writing, and I wanted to shake off the residual foggy feeling after surfing Facebook, Twitter, and a few blogs. I needed to turn my attention to doing some new writing of my own, but I was distracted and my eyes felt tired. So, I decided that I would  walk outside into this beautiful Baltimore morning, feel the sun on my face, clear my mind, breathe, and do a mini-meditation to re-engergize myself.

On the way out the back door, I noticed some plastic bottles and metal cans by the door that needed to be deposited in the bin in our back yard. So, I gathered together the recycling, I exited the house and I tossed the items into the bin. On the way back, I noticed that some cement-like casing on our steps was beginning to crumble and fall off onto the grass. Yet another thing that the previous owners cheaped out on and that we're going to have to pay for and repair. I felt mild irritation, "fast," and my mind was occupied. 

After walking back in the back door, I dimly recalled that there was something that I'd neglected.

Oh, yeah. I was going to do a mini-meditation.

I walked back out onto the porch, cleared my mind, breathed deeply, refocused on how the sun felt, tuned into what I was seeing around me, and thought gently, I am. Tension melted away, and I felt sooo great, sooo quickly.

When I returned to my computer, I felt ready to begin my work.

*       *       *

What stays with me is the stark contrast between how I felt when initially in the backyard (irritable, preoccupied, wrapped up in what "must be done") as compared to the second time I was there (warm, peaceful, quiet, relaxed, just "being"). Night and day.

The more quickly and frequently we can exit from SHOULD mode and enter into BE mode, the better we'll be able to maintain our health and our sense of connection to others and to life.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Weight-loss project: High-intensity aerobics

I was doing my aerobics on the elliptical machine when a personal trainer chatted me up. He asked if I'd tried doing my intervals "going as hard as you can." I hadn't, but the idea intrigued me.

I ran the idea by a client who is a health & wellness coach, and she verified that research shows this type of aerobic workout produces good weight-loss and endurance results. She said that it has allowed her to cut her workouts to 30 minutes in length; she said, "It's totally transformed the way I work out."

This technique falls under the category of High Intensity Training or HIT. This past month, I've been experimenting with HIT intervals, and I'll give you some of my impressions. At the end of this post, I'll share my exact method. 

Here are my overall impressions.

On the positive side, it indeed allows you to get in and out of the gym very quickly. I give myself 20 minutes to complete three sets of HIT intervals, and I'm exhausted and ready to shower at the end of that time. Also, I have noticed a significant, quicker improvement in my endurance. (This method reminds me of the techniques our high school basketball coaches used in the first few weeks of the season to get us into shape quickly.) I haven't been able to tell whether it's better or worse for weight loss, though my waist line continues to go down slowly.

On the negative side, I find that I enjoy my workouts far less. The one-hour routine I do on the elliptical feels so much more peaceful and fun; when I do that exercise, I moderately exert myself on the tough intervals (instead of "going as hard as I can"), and I meditate during them, as well. In addition to making my workouts very enjoyable, I'm seeing some remarkable mindfulness results outside of the gym as a result of blending aerobics with meditation. 

Also, I find that I'm groggier after doing the HIT intervals than I am when I do my regular routine. (They take more out of me.) There is the fact that, in due time, getting into better shape will reduce the groggy after effect. However, I work at a job in which I really need to be mentally sharp.

So,there's a tension between the benefit of faster results and getting out of the gym quicker, versus enjoying the workouts themselves and being more mentally alert as you get into shape. To address this tension, I've decided on a compromise: I'll do my regular routine during the work week, and I'll add one HIT interval session on the weekend. That way, I can stay alert during the work week, and I can get in and out of the gym faster during a weekend session, allowing more time with my family.

*     *     *

Here are specifics about how I do my HIT intervals.

I use an elliptical machine that allows for adjusting the incline and resistance. I set the machine so that I can move fairly easily; for me, that would be an incline of 6 and a resistance of 8. Finally, I set the timer for 20 minutes.

For my first HIT interval set, I go as hard and fast as I can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat 5 times. Then, I move at a restful pace for a few minutes until I'm no longer winded. For my second set, I do 15 seconds as hard and fast as I can, rest for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times, and then rest. For my third set, I do 10 seconds as hard and fast as I can, rest for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times, and then move slowly and restfully for whatever time remains on the machine. I'm done in 20 minutes. 

The other day, I attempted 4 sets instead of 3, and I felt a dizziness and slight nausea that didn't go away until I got into the locker room and took a cool shower. I'd pushed myself too hard, too soon. Later that day, I took a 2-hour nap. (In the interest of full disclosure, I'm 53 years old.)

Once I dialed it back to 3 sets, I was able to do these HIT intervals without the severe after effects. Listen to your body, and adjust as you go. Of course, hiring a personal trainer can help you to structure your workouts so that they don't get too hard too quickly.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Weight-loss project: Tips for losing belly fat

I'm at a strange phase of my weight-loss project in that I'm in between the fast, big results that come at the beginning of the effort, and I'm not yet to the point at which I have a small-to-non-existent belly. I guess I'm a weight-loss Tweener. :-)

Considering adjustments to my workouts and nutrition, I found this article providing tips for reducing belly fat.

On the one hand, the advice seems right in line with just about everything else I've read on the subject (nutrition and activity level matter most, do intervals, do high-intensity intervals, eat nuts, avoid low-fiber carbs, especially limit the potatoes and white bread, and so on).

However, I really like that the article gives you so many approaches with which to experiment. I recommend picking a few techniques that seem interesting, and take them for a test spin. Some suggestions may really appeal to you, and others may not (for example, I'm not crazy about the "weigh yourself every day" suggestion).

I think I want to try to do the elliptical with my eyes closed and without holding the handles (giving my core a more intense workout), adjusting the interval times in my once-weekly high-intensity intervals, drinking two glasses of water before dinner, and getting on board more with flossing my teeth (seriously, that was one of the suggestions).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mini-mindfulness break

Yesterday, Sunday, I worked. I didn't have a day this past week that was 100% free of work, so, as you can imagine, I approached my tasks yesterday already a bit tired.

To begin my work, I caught up on posting and reading self-help, coaching, career, and psychology postings on Twitter, and I added a posting or two myself. I scheduled and rescheduled a few clients, and worked on other assorted tasks. Then in the afternoon, I did some writing for a book I'm working on, which is about resisting bad habits and forming new, healthier ones; as part of that task, I moved rapidly between four previously written chapters to tune them up, and I wrote a few new sections. 

There was lots of bopping around, back and forth, between different tasks and writings, different ideas and goals. It was a typical multitasking free for all.

By mid-afternoon, I felt my shoulders tightening and my eyes glazing over.

So, I stepped away from the computer, went to the bathroom, came back out and put the kettle on for another cup of tea, and then I stepped outside. Once on my back porch, I recited a line from the meditation exercises I do while at the gym: I am, which is my own powerful reminder that it's possible for me not to concern myself with anything at all except for being in his body of mine and existing in the world at this present moment.

I then took a deep breath and paid attention to all the sensations—nose, throat, chest, stomachthat go along with it. I focused on the grass in my yard, the extraordinarily tall sunflowers in my neighbor's yard, the red brick of the house next to ours. I stretched, felt the sun on my skin, moved into the yard, and continued to breath deeply, keeping my mind clear of any thoughts except for what my five senses were perceiving. 

When you pay attention deeply, just breathing can feel so darn good!

When I heard the kettle whistle, I went back inside the house. I made a cup of tea, and then I continued to work for a few more hours.

The total amount of time off I took from my work was close to 1 minute. However, it was so pleasurable, it felt much longer.

*     *     *

We live in a busy world. 

Sometimes I get the feeling that most self-help approaches want us to create mini-worlds for ourselves that aren't as busy. To a certain extent, I can understand that. When possible, I think that's a great approach. Certainly, it can be effective to prune our lives of activities and objects that are not necessary, irritating, or otherwise burdensome.

However, using the example I've just presented in this post, I learned a lot from bopping around Twitter and various blogs, reading and thinking and posting very rapidly. I wouldn't want to cut that out of my life completely.

Instead of drastically reducing what you do, take more mini-breaks. I find this method to work very well when it's not practical to take more prolonged time off, such as a weekend, a "mental health day," or a vacation. 

A handful of times a day, remove yourself from the hectic environment—which is a great emotional reminder that the tasks aren't as vital as they feel right at that moment and that you can put them down briefly—and do a mindfulness exercise. Then, once you feel more clear-headed and refreshed, jump back into the fray.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A different perspective on "failure"

A failure provides you with information that you need in order to succeed. 

This is not a plea for us to abandon all planning. If you research your goal, use networking to learn from others who have succeeded at what you'd like to do, and created a number of contingencies should you encounter difficulties and that planning leads to you succeeding...great! However it doesn't always go smoothly, and it's a good idea to be a good sport about that, and being sure not to make the same big mistake twice.

Perfection is not the goal. Reaching your goal as quickly as possible is the goal. 

Mistakes are just another way of learning.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. —Thomas Edison

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book review: Superflirt by Tracey Cox

I was doing some dating coaching with a client recently and the topic of flirting came up. After I shared a few tips he told me about the advice that he'd been given in the military about all things sexual and romantic. 

On the one hand I really understand how the information conveyed will totally protect the military and this man from any legal claims of sexual harassment or impropriety. On the other hand if taken extremely literally, as my client was doing, then it basically shuts down almost all flirting, including any form of touching "until you are sure that she wants to touch you." I think he was getting dismissed by what I call the Mr. Roger's Phenomenon.

To help this gentleman I pulled a book off of my shelf called Superflirt, by Tracey Cox. I mentioned that I hadn't read the book thoroughly, but that he should give it a try. When he returned the book at our next coaching meeting, he thanked me profusely, and he said, I'd been doing it all wrong!

So I thought I'd give Tracey a shout out and talk about her book.

I thought I'd start with a great quote from the Introduction. To dispel myths about flirting Tracey defines it in a way that makes it approachable and doable. She says, [Superflirts] just let others know they find them interesting. For people just starting off with flirting I think that's a wonderful description of the attitude that's needed. For extreme beginners I usually recommend that they simply make eye contact and smile.

To expand on the definition Tracey then says, [Superflirts are] playful, adventurous, open, friendly, warm, lovable, sizzlingly sexy, and, above all, popular. OK so for beginners she may go over the top somewhat with the last two items in that list, but I love how she starts off. How about just expressing your warmth, openness, and friendliness?

The book is divided into these sections: Body Basics, Sex It Up, Flirting Fundamentals, Talking Tricks, All-Out Flirting, Flirting Fix-Its, and Seduction Strategies. There are lots of pictures to help convey the concepts, and the book is laid out in a very attractive, easy-to-read format. A key philosophy of the book is fake it until you make it (before you dismiss the idea you should understand that this is a critical skill advocated by most 12-Step programs; it's a fancy way of saying that practice makes perfect, even if the practice feels awkward at first).

One of the things I like most about Tracey's writing is that she shows a clear knowledge of fundamental behavioral techniques. I use a wide-variety of cognitive-behavioral techniques in my coaching, which are backed up by research in terms of overall effectiveness when working with emotions. Although she uses aggressive and catchy headers and phrasing, she always emphasizes relaxing, being yourself, being confident, valuing yourself, and so on. Some of the techniques that she shares for evaluating "are we on the same page, are we OK?" are the same techniques I learned as a student counselor for assessing the body language of our clients in terms of rapport. In other words her methods are sound.

I also found the section called The Touch Testwhen and how to initiate touchto be particularly helpful.

The one drawback I find about the book is that it begins with a very dense section about body language. Beginners and shy people may want to start with the third chapter, Flirting Fundamentals, which presents information in clear pictures and smaller chunks of information. You may want to read the body language chapter a few times and incorporate that information over time.

All in all I find this book to be very valuable in assisting clients when it comes to flirting. Also as a side benefit, the book reinforces relaxing and self acceptance, which are key components to peak performance that I advocate in all of my coaching.

Try the dating app Tinder

A number of my clients have felt at a disadvantage when using traditional online dating sites. To sum up their difficulty I'd say that it has to do with the challenge of conveying a large amount of visual and textual information that can then be "used against you" before you've had a fair chance to talk and put it into perspective.

If you think that you're not getting enough "hits" using traditional online dating sites then I highly recommend the Tinder app for your tablet or smartphone. A number of my clients have gotten very good results from it, and it appears to be a superior and more natural way to "lead off" the process.

Tinder's design seems to dovetail nicely with the casual way that people like to interact onlinefor example emphasizing messaging over lengthier emailsand facilitates interactions in a way that's fun. Essentially you view pictures and a very brief description, and you can indicate that you are "interested." If two people are interested in each other then they are allowed to send messages.
This app removes a lot of heaviness to the process and provides for a more natural ice breaker; it also more closely resembles how people actually meet in larger gatherings. (I saw her from across the room! And my heart went "boom"!) If there's still interest after messaging for a while then you can check out each others' lengthier profiles on other dating sites or move right into that initial coffee meeting.

Men flirting with women: balance "you're hot" with "I can take it or leave it"

I really enjoy dating coaching, and one of the more interesting topics of conversation about dating is flirting. 

Let me start by saying that flirting is an adult version of play, and, at it's simplest, it's two adults expressing interest. For Flirting 101 just start with eye contact and a smile. To take it to another level try to express your interest as playfully as possible.

Now advanced flirting is challenging for every gender and across sexual orientation, however it's my opinion that it's particularly challenging for men who date women. If these men err on the side of being too sensitive then they get rejected for not being exciting enough; I call this the Mr. Rogers Phenomenon. If they err on the side of being too aggressive then they get rejected for being a brute bordering on being harassing and abusive; let's call this the Cave Man Phenomenon.

To be successful, men who love women need to embrace a dialectic, which means that they have to embody two things at the same time that appear at first to be conflicting opposites. These men need to simultaneously convey that I'm really into you and I can take it or leave it. They need to express You're hot and You're not all that at the same time. They need to communicate that I'd work to get you and I'm not your dog on a leash.

It's tricky. However when done right, it's very hot for both parties involved. 

For a number of excellent demonstrations of this dynamic see the movie Hitch (but forgive the formulaic Hollywood ending).

Also I recently found another excellent example from an old cult TV show that demonstrates this interplay very, very well. It's found in the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For those not familiar with the series I'll provide some background information. Buffy is destined to fight and slay vampires, and she eventually falls in love with a good vampire with a soul named Angel. Their operatic love affair is the basis of the first three seasons of the show, and it's effects linger throughout the duration of the series. 

In the first episode they first meet when Angel follows Buffy into an alley, she turns the tables and knocks him to the ground, and he delivers a message meant to help her to fight other vampires. He's the mysterious tall, dark stranger, she doesn't know or trust him, and he wants her to believe that he's an ally against bad vampires without revealing just yet that he also has a crush on her.

At the end of the exchange, Buffy asks, Who are you? Angel replies with a smile, Let's just say...I'm a friend, and he begins to walk past her. She says, Yeah, well, maybe I don't want a friend. He turns back, plants a huge smirk on his face, he says, I didn't say I was yours, and he turns and walks away into the darkness.
Trust me, it's hot.

In a subsequent episode Buffy complains about Angel at length to her adviser, Giles, all the while demonstrating that she's totally intrigued by him. She eventually says, I don't LIKE him! This is true, however that's not the point. It's more about primal attraction.

If any man who loves women want an example of balancing I'm into you and I'm not THAT into you in a flirtatious manner then check out Angel's moves early in this series.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Weight-loss project: working out hard and not losing weight

A friend of mine recently took to social media saying he was working out as many days as I was—three to four days a weekand burning the same number of calories with each workoutapproximately 650—and yet losing no weight. I've lost 15 lbs in five and a half months.

I noticed that most of his friends were saying not to worry about it, that this could all be explained by gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time, with those numbers canceling each other out. Although this is possible I fear that it's not likely. Unless someone is young or starting off with a small amount of muscle, a quick and large muscle gain from a moderate gym workout is highly unlikely. The culprit is most likely food intake.

To lose weight while doing a challenging exercise program, you have to eat the right amount of food, eat the right types of food, and eat it at the right time. Anyone who's watched The Biggest Loser on TV knows that weight loss can be slowed down by eating too little as well as too much or both.

If you're experiencing very poor weight loss numbers despite a challenging exercise program, try these few things to see if you can get better results:

  • Weigh yourself once every two or three weeks. Daily fluctuations can drag your motivation down, and one-week results might be too small to motivate. An effective weight loss effort will show results in two to three weeks. It also emphasizes enjoying the activity as opposed to fixating on the results (weight loss).
  • Be sure to do some core exercises (stomach, sides, and lower back).
  • Eat one low-sugar, reasonable-fat, reasonable-protein bar immediately after exercising. I like Kashi soft granola bars. At all other times you want to limit your non-vegetable carbs; immediately after a workout, though, your body needs some carbs, so don't get stingy then.
  • Drink one low-sugar protein drink a day. This added protein will help you to maintain muscle mass while the body reduces fat.
  • When you are bonking (feeling light headed, fatigued, and irritable), eat a granola bar, a handful of nuts, or some fruit. Eat just enough to make the "bad feelings" go away.
  • When eating meals limit your intake of rice, pasta, potatoes, and bread. Generally cut those portions by one third to one half.
  • Seriously limit snacking on sugary food (candy, cookies, and cake) or crunchy, salty snacks (pretzels, chips).
  • Try to eat until you are not hungry as opposed to eating until you are full. It may take some practice for you to become reacquainted with the difference.
  • If you're a vegetarian or have been on a low-fat diet, be sure to find ways to get enough protein and "good" fat. Be sure to supplement tofu and "rice and beans" with protein-rich snacks or shakes. If you want to build muscle mass, whey shakes are superior to soy. However if you want to stay true to vegan principles, soy will work OK.

    Also, make sure that you're getting enough OMEGA-rich fats; if your body isn't getting enough fat in its daily diet, it will go into deprivation mode and want to hold onto the fat on your body "just in case of a crisis later on." Try upping the level of fat just a little bit to see if that triggers your body into burning more body fat. Good sources of fat can be nuts, flax seeds, flax seed oil (as a supplement), fish, fish oil (as a supplement), or avocado. 
Perfection is NOT the goal. For example I ate too much cake and fast food during a road trip from Baltimore back to New England this past weekend. However because I got back on track on Monday, my weight has not been affected. 

I am using a modified version of the Intuitive Eating program, which is designed to help people eat healthy without "dieting." I'll review the Intuitive Eating book in another post.

If you implement a handful of these suggestions in combination with a workout program, you should see at least a pound or two drop off every few weeks.