Archive | September, 2011

Wake Up to Grow Up!

27 Sep

A friend of mine said to me during one of our brief, little mid-day electronic meeting of the minds, “Ignorance is bliss.”

A comment had been made to her in jest about self-actualization (a fancy term for really knowing yourself in a way that begets complete fulfillment and an understanding of values and underlying hopes and dreams–eureka, so to speak; it’s something that few really accomplish because it requires a level of vulnerability that many aren’t willing to open themselves up to)….or at least working toward it.

“Ha!” I scoffed,  “Ignorance is bliss until you discover that you’re standing in the same spot you’ve always been, wondering what happened with your life.”

How often are we unwilling to stare in the face of our inequities. To face the cold, hard, ugly monsters inside of us. To sit at the bottom of what can feel like a dried up old well one second and then be swept away by a gushing, uncontrollable current that is our inner river the next. Sure, ignorance allows us to avoid these extremes.  Maybe. Or perhaps it’s our ignorance that keeps us stuck in these patterns.

Becoming unstuck means unearthing the rubble that has piled up around us.  Removing one stone at a time, turning it over to view it in its full context, and then deciding what we’d like to do with it. Polish it up? Throw it away? Replace it with another stone? Crack it open and discover that it might contain some hidden gems?

What this requires, however, is a willingness to wake up! When we are suffering we’re choosing to live unconsciously. We’re putting on our blinders.

What would happen if instead of running away or pushing against what’s happening for us, we observed it? The discomfort, whether physical or emotional, can be approached non-judgmentally.  Waking up is just that– opening our eyes to view our circumstances in full effect, in 3-D, in all their layers and textures. Waking up means committing to learning about how and why you react or respond to others and situations the way you do.

I’ve exclaimed “WAKE UP!!” in exasperation to others I’m feeling particularly frustrated with. Not the most compassionate statement to make in the heat of what could be a conflictual discussion, however, it holds some weight. It’s not typically received well in such a situation either, resulting in the blinders coming right back down and a defensive and self-protective posture coming up.  But used in the right context,  it can be like the lights coming on!

Waking up means we can be conscious, mindful, aware, and willing to engage in some self-exploration.  Don’t we have to do these things in order to grow up? When you hear parents say almost sadly, “My baby’s growing up…” do they not often mean they’ve seen their children navigate big events and transitions in their lives, that they’ve matured and see the world differently? That should never stop.

Ignorance is blind.

I think it’s time we wake up to grow up!

Advertisements

Dish on Distortions #4: Emotional Reasoning

24 Sep

I think, therefore I am.

This is the basis for understanding emotional reasoning.

We are guided by beliefs, attitudes, values, opinions, and perceptions. Recognize what all of these words embody– OUR individual spin on something. When we look at a person, we are not just seeing eyes, a nose, or the attire he is dressed in. We are automatically attaching meaning, for example, “Gosh he talks with a nasally tone. Reminds me of that high school teacher I couldn’t stand.”

When we were born, and we were without experiences and memories, we viewed everything with fresh eyes. We were unbiased and virtually a “blank slate.” Through the navigation of events and relationships, we learned ways of being and thinking that without taking the time to recognize now, can result in significantly limiting behavior.

A participant attending a recent lecture of mine asked, “How come we do the things we do even when we know we shouldn’t be doing them?” It’s like self-sabotage. We are confined to our small points of view though, and most of us don’t take the time to stop at the “Scenic Overlook”.  Your frame of reference is often just your little box of familiar thoughts and feelings.  “I couldn’t do that! Are you kidding?” “I couldn’t speak in front of a crowd of 100 people. I’d shut down and not know what to say.”  “There’s no way I could get on stage in a bikini.” “I can’t go back to school. Look how old I am!” We often do not see the full context of possibility 1) because we don’t stop to examine that there is one; and 2) because our automatic thoughts lock us into certain beliefs.

Emotional reasoning takes us from “I’m so nervous for this test” to “I am so nervous for this test that this must mean I didn’t study enough” and then “I didn’t study enough; I’m going to fail.”

Nervous does not equate to failure. Nervous is just…..nervous. It doesn’t need to go any further than that. Nervous could mean a lack of confidence, but oftentimes a person will confuse the feeling for fact. Sometimes we can get so far ahead of ourselves that we’re focusing on areas that are completely out of our control. When we back up to where we are right now, in this moment, however, we give ourselves the opportunity to ask what it is we need right here. “I’m nervous….maybe I need to breathe.”

Control means that we trust in our ability to have some measure of influence over our circumstances. Can we influence everything? Of course not. Emotional reasoning gets us as far as possible away from what we can impact.

I’d like to propose a change to the first sentence of this blog.  How about we alter it to read: I think, therefore I’m human.

If you’ve ever paid attention to your thoughts, you recognize that they never stop. There is a constant flow of thoughtful energy. Unfortunately, many of us attach ourselves to our thoughts, believing them to be true. Then we are carried away by them.  We need to learn to just watch them. Imagine your brain like a marquee sign. Be an observer of what runs across that marquee.

The more you practice the more you’ll surprise yourself  by what you automatically think in certain situations.

In the Zone

11 Sep

To those who think meditation is some wacky pseudo-scientific practice outside of consciousness or a state that must be obtained to transcend the rigors of every day, you’re right. Well…..kind of.

Wacky– hardly. Pseudo-scientific–not really. A practice– yes. Outside of consciousness the opposite actually. A state– quite possibly.  Obtained– not so much.  To transcend– yes.

But the every day doesn’t disappear.

Meditation is about making the moment you are in right  now, more apparent, clearer, and giving it a voice. If the word “meditation” is attached to images of Buddha or someone sitting on a little pillow with their palms up and resting on their knees, and a little thought bubble with “OM” in it, I’m laughing right now.  Realize that while this can be a way to cultivate this moment-to-moment presence, you COULD sit on a little pillow,  but it’s not necessary.

Athletes and competitors, writers, musicians, artists, anyone for that matter can speak of moments of being “in the zone.”  This is a beautiful example of meditation in its finest, purest form.  “In The Zone”. Think about what that means and how it has felt for you.

It’s effortless, isn’t it?

It is almost as if time stood still.

In  your doing, you were non-doing.

You were not passive or lazy; you  were fully present.

So much so that you were letting things unfold as they may.

You could be washing your car or doing the laundry and experience this sense of peacefulness and clarity.

This is execution untethered by effort, work, toil, or thinking. It is appreciating the moment for its perfectness, as it is, without attaching to it our opinions, needs, beliefs, values, or wants.

Meditation is not a practice in that you rehearse it over and over with the goal of “getting somewhere” or improving something.  You practice to be still and mindful, appreciative, contemplative, and sensible.  You practice to “tune in” to what is right now rather than searching frantically or scrambling to grasping for something in the future or the past.

I’ve recognized lately how often our bodies and minds are working to get us to this place.  Ironically, if I weren’t practicing this, I’d not notice! But think back to all the times you’ve said the following:

“What the heck am I doing?!”

“I’ve got to clear my head!”

“I need to breathe!”

“Something’s gotta give!”

Or felt the following: anxious, worried, frenzied, overwhelmed.

I hope you’re recognizing now how we create our own suffering. When we push against what is right in front of us, when we cast onto the present what we believe it ‘should’ look like, and when we are impatiently demanding an unfolding of something that is not in our control, we are not peaceful.  Under the worst circumstances in our lives we can still be peaceful when we are present and non-judging. This is what being “In the Zone” is all about– patiently watching, observing the seasons changing, and acknowledging that nothing is permanent.

Call it meditation, call it mindfulness, call it paying attention, or call it awareness.  Being ‘In the Zone’ is just that– being.

I challenge you to ‘be.’ Keep doing work. Continue pushing toward your goals. Recognize that you have responsibilities that absolutely have to be met and meet them.

But along the way work wonderfully, push patiently, and meet mindfully.

Are you a Coper or a Cop-Out?

3 Sep

A “coper” you ask? You’re right- it’s not a word that I know of.  On top of that, I do not like to label people. But I bet the title was catchy enough to get you to read this article! The big question is whether or not you have and utilize coping skills. If you can’t identify the skills you use, it certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Each of us gets through trying times by using a method of coping. These ‘times’ might be as trivial as getting to work punctually or as severe as a death in the family.

Our ability to cope is impacted by a variety of factors in our lives. Our health, support systems, living conditions, work environment, and relationships all play a role in how perceive a situation and then choose to behave.

In regards to weight loss and achieving our health and fitness goals, it is often important to assess how we are coping with life’s stressors and determine whether we are doing so optimally in order to not only keep up with our wellness routines but use them as one of our coping skills. Coping can be done in two ways: adaptively or dysfunctionally. You may perform deep breathing when you’re stuck in traffic to relieve stress and calm your nerves. Your work partner might reach into his glove compartment and grab the whiskey he has stashed in there. You can discern which one is functional vs. dysfunctional.

Events that may require coping come in two different packages as well. Some we can control; others are thrust upon us without warning and come as a surprise. The marathon you are running in a few weeks may be causing some anxiety, but you chose to sign up for the race and are making the necessary preparations to do your best. The tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma recently were completely out of our control, came as a surprise, and caused much chaos and harm.

Regardless of the type of event, effective strategies abound for responding to them. I encourage you to peruse these lists and identify those which you may be using currently and those you may wish to adopt in order to be at your best and healthiest.

  1. Problem-Focusing Coping: These responses are ACTIVE and use both mental (cognitive) and behavioral strategies to resolve a problem or reconcile a conflict. They are used more often when a person feels that taking action will have a beneficial effect. (Note that this also means that the person has a sense of industry, responsibility, and feels that he/she can make a difference).
  2. Cognitive strategies are used to gain a new perspective on the problem and include the following: maintaining a positive outlook, using positive self-talk, mental imagery, rehearsing specific behaviors.
  3. Behavioral strategies include: developing a plan of action and gathering information through research or getting advice from others.
  4. Emotion-Focused Coping: Include both cognitive and behavioral strategies; however, they do not directly affect the problem. These are effective for situations in which you have no control (i.e. a family member has been diagnosed with a deadly disease or your home was demolished by an earthquake). These strategies include the following:

1. Avoidance- a dysfunctional coping method that typically does not result in healthy adjustment (i.e. canceling your appointment or refusing to talk about it)

2. Distraction- diverting your attention from the problem and focusing elsewhere, i.e. socializing with friends or taking a break from thinking about it

3. Denial- can be protective from emotional pain but can be dysfunctional if it prevents problem-focused coping

4. Lines of Defense- used in order to forget or avoid the problem and can be either adaptive and healthy or not (i.e. humor vs. using drugs)

Think of what you do when you experience a set back with your weight loss efforts. When you go to weigh in after one week and you don’t see the loss you expected, what do you do both mentally and behaviorally? What are the thoughts in your head? What are your actions? Are they positive? Will they help you progress, learn, grow, and change?

I’d love for you to be a positive coper rather than perceiving events as reasons to throw in the towel or tell yourself that you just can’t do it. Practice responding instead of reacting.

Kori Propst holds a BS in Exercise Physiology and an MS in Counseling. She is completing her PhD in Behavioral Medicine. She is a WNBF Professional Bodybuilder, Pro Figure, and Pro Fit Body competitor, ISSN Sports Nutritionist, personal trainer, and lifestyle and weight management consultant. As the Wellness Director for the Diet Doc she manages the general population weight loss consulting program and created the Mental Edge Program to aid competitors and others in developing individualized strategies for optimal performance in their lives and for competing. She can be contacted at kori@thedietdoc.com.

Fueled or Ruled by Food?

1 Sep

Discover the Role of Food in Your Life and Avoid the Emotional Eating Cycle

Emotions play a significant role in our food choices. Think about how often you would go to grandma’s house, and your favorite snack would be waiting for you. Food was associated with love! I recall visiting my grandparents and always making a cake. Every dinner was followed with a huge slice. Grandma would have crackers with cream cheese waiting for me and avocado sandwiches with the toast dripping with butter. It’s not difficult to drift back to those moments, associating those foods with comfort. Have you been there?

I have plenty of clients who engage in mindless noshing during anxiety ridden situations, when they are feeling angry, sad, bored, or even scared. They are physically and psychologically unhealthy because of these habits. It’s natural to eat in certain situations not because you are hungry but because it’s circumstantial. For example, you attend a wedding and have a piece of cake. When you feel at the mercy of food and eating becomes automatic when difficult emotions arise, it is problematic. Emotional eating can be viewed on a continuum. Most do not realize their behavior until we break down their eating process and identify when their eating occurs and under what circumstances.

The body goes through many hormonal changes on a daily basis. The food we eat helps to regulate many of these hormonal fluctuations. Eating is both psychologically and physiologically driven. Understanding how food will impact physiological reactions and subsequent emotional reactions can help to develop a plan for minimizing emotional “binges.” Even the most determined, strict, and diligent athlete, who is preparing for a competition and is under an incredibly stringent food intake plan, can struggle under pressure and end up eating to satisfy more than a biological need to quell hunger.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. When do I eat? I often have my clients fill out a daily food log in order to glean some physically and emotionally valuable information. Look for patterns in regards to specifically troubling times, places, situations, people, trigger foods, amounts consumed, and finally, the emotion experienced around food.

2. What are my eating triggers? Use episodes from the past.

3. What alternative behaviors can I engage in?

4. How can I reframe the negative thoughts to be more positive and less likely to create negative emotions? Thoughts lead to emotions, which lead to an action. Practice a new way of thinking to bypass the damaging emotion and behavior. Where the evidence is that your negative thought is true? Identify all the reasons why this is silly and the evidence for the exact opposite. Practice and you will notice how profoundly negative thinking affects you.

5. Have you acknowledged what you’re experiencing? Say it out loud. Give it a voice. “I’m feeling very pressured right now. This isn’t comfortable. I feel like eating a big slice of cake.” Examine where those feelings are coming from. What was the trigger?

6. Am I making a conscious decision? Am I aware? Remembering that eating is a choice can help us to slow down and be more present.

7. Am I being good to myself? Treat yourself like you would a dear friend or family member. If you make a poor decision, rather than berating yourself, admit your poor decision and plan for how you can do it differently the next time.

8. Am I hungry? If you are not eating balanced meals, you can experience cravings that you may mistake for emotional triggers. How often and in what proportions are you eating your calories?

You are worth taking the time to reflect on your habits, analyze your behaviors, and plan for more functional choices. Accept the challenge to understand the meaning of your behaviors and gain confidence at the same time.

*This article first appeared in Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Magazine

Kori L. Propst, MS; Personal Trainer, Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant, Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Kori Propst holds a BS in Exercise Physiology, an MS in Counseling, and is completing her PhD in Behavioral Medicine. She is a WNBF Pro Bodybuilder, Pro Fit Body, and Pro Figure athlete, personal trainer, and lifestyle and weight management consultant. As the Wellness Director for the Diet Doc she managed the weight loss consulting program and created the Mental Edge Program to aid individuals  in developing tailored strategies for optimal performance in their lives and/or for competing. She can be contacted at  kori@thedietdoc.com

%d bloggers like this: