High Stakes Goal Setting

Here’s an interesting take on motivation that I heard on  Radio Lab on NPR.

When we are working toward something – weight loss, quitting smoking, etc – our present tense selves are fighting against a future tense goal. Unfortunately, it’s not a fair fight. When you really want a cupcake or a cigarette right now it’s hard to be inspired not to have one by some future amorphous potential success. “Eat now” is simply stronger than “be thin later”.

According to the Radio Lab program, what you need to do to even the playing field is create a present tense “anti-want.” This “anti-want” is something that goes head to head against the craving to stop you from giving in. On the radio program this was illustrated by a woman who wanted to quit smoking. She’d tried for years but was unsuccessful because that present tense craving overpowered any future success she could imagine.  What finally led to her success was creating something to battle that craving head on. She was involved in civil rights and declared that if she smoked one more cigarette she would have to donate money to the KKK. This gave her enough present tense incentive (smoke now and have to donate to something she hates) to actually quit smoking.

This philosophy is actually the driving force behind the website Stikk.com. According to their website:

We all need help to reach our goals – whether it’s incentives, or support from others. Years of economic and behavioral research show that people who put stakes – either their money or their reputation – on the table are far more likely to actually achieve a goal they set for themselves.

The idea is that you set a goal, set the stakes, designate a referee, and recruit supporters. Putting your money where your mouth is is optional but if you’re struggling toward success, this is one way to do it.


Plastic Surgery Whac-a-Mole

Thinking about lipo? You may want to make sure you buy some bigger shirts to go with those smaller jeans. Although lipo can remove fat from specific areas, the body likes to keep the same number of fat cells regardless of how many you remove and will redeposit fat cells elsewhere, especially the upper body. Like a carnival game of Whac-A-Mole, you just don’t know where it’ll go.

According to this New York Times article,

“the body controls the number of its fat cells as carefully as it controls the amount of its fat. Fat cells die and new ones are born throughout life. Scientists have found that fat cells live for only about seven years and that every time a fat cell dies, another is formed to take its place.”

When we lose weight, our fat cells shrink but we still keep the same number. If we remove them from an area via lipo the hypothesis is that the structure supporting those fat cells is destroyed by the process and so are deposited into more hospitable area, i.e. your upper body.

Although the idea of a “quick” fat fix is appealing, I have to admit, the idea of ending up like Quasimodo is much less so.


In case you were wondering, mysogeny is alive and well in the 21st century

Case in point – Glenn Beck appears to take offense at Meghan McCain (John McCain’s daughter) being in a skin cancer PSA. And by “take offense” I mean feigns vomiting and disgust for 10 minutes on his radio show. There’s nothing quite like a pale, middle aged, white guy with a double chin commenting negatively on a young, intelligent perfectly normal woman’s body. And not even her whole body, just her bare shoulders. Is it any wonder that eating disorders, cutting, and other issues resulting from low self-esteem are rampant in our society?

Luckily, Meghan McCain doesn’t take this kind of thing lying down. Here’s her response (as well as the original commercial and audio of Glenn’s tirade.)


Move it or lose it.

According to new research, sitting all day is bad for you. This is what I like to call a “Duh!” study.  We all know we’re supposed to exercise but it turns out that even if you exercise regularly but then sit all day you’re doing more harm than good.

According this article from NPR:

…mini-breaks, just one minute long throughout the day, can actually make a difference. You can simply stand up, dance about, wiggle around, take a few steps back and forth, march in place. These simple movements can help lower blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol and waist size.

My suggestion – set a timer on your computer, find a favorite song on YouTube, and throw yourself an hourly dance party. If you can get your coworkers to join in, so much the better! If the idea of public humiliation doesn’t float your boat, try using the restroom farthest from your desk, preferably on a different floor. Hopefully you are drinking enough water to make this an hourly trip anyway.


I do what the voices in my head tell me to do.

One of the things that separates humans from other creatures in the animal kingdom is that we can think about ourselves as selves. As a matter of fact, I often refer to myself directly with statements such as, “Self, you need to get out of bed.” or “Self, is that cupcake really worth it?” Generally, this ability comes in handy. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to our self awareness and that is our inner voices insistence on making us miserable.

I was reading a really old O magazine at the gym the other day and I came across this quote from Byron Katie:

All the suffering in our minds is not reality, it’s just a story we torture ourselves with.

Some suffering is created by outside forces – job layoffs, war, illness, violent storms, etc. We’ll call this “Actual Factual Suffering.” However, most of our daily suffering comes from the little voice in our head telling us that we, like Wayne and Garth, just aren’t worthy. I’m going to call this “Perceived Suffering.” It’s that constant monologue filled with negative comments, regrets, insults, and fears that we all have in our mind. People who have gone through big Actual Factual Suffering experiences generally come out of them with a new found ability to ignore or at least lessen their Perceived Suffering.  They no longer sweat the small stuff as much as they did before. This is because they’ve gone through hell and back again and discovered that it ain’t easy, but it’s survivable. The story of their lives was briefly rewritten for them but they’ve discovered they still have control over the coming chapters.

If we’ve been lucky enough not to have those experiences to force us into, how do we get to to that epiphany? Think about the quote again: All the suffering in our minds is not reality, it’s just a story we torture ourselves with.

If it’s all a story, we have the power to rewrite it. We simply have to recognize that our reality, just like any “Reality” TV show, can be edited to express whatever we want it to. So find your script and start mentally cutting and pasting your way to a happy ending.


Spring Public Service Announcement

I live in New Hampshire where there are four distinct seasons – Summer, Fall, Winter, and the one we are currently in, affectionately called Mud. For those of you rejoicing in the fact that winter has fled and we can finally go outside, I’d like to remind you not to forget your sunscreen. There’s nothing like the long, long New Hampshire winter to make us forget sunburns of the past.


“It’s not my bag, baby.”

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

I teach BodyJam which is a dance based cardio class. In order to do so I have to learn an hour’s worth of new choreography every 3 months, none of which is ever the same. This is no small feat. That being said, if you throw me into a step-aerobics class I turn into a spastic mess and can’t follow along to save my life. If all I ever tried to do at the gym was step class I would probably consider myself a failure (although hopefully I’d get better).

Moral of the story? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If you still don’t succeed, try something else!