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  • feedwordpress 10:00:36 on 2018/07/19 Permalink
    Tags: health, hormones, , Randi Epstein,   

    “It’s Important to Recharge My Inner Battery. To Be On-the-Go, I Need Down Time.” 

    Interview: Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., M.P.H.

    I've known Randi for a long time; we're both members of a writers' group that has been a joy to me over the years. I remember when she first started talking about the idea for her current book, so I'm thrilled that Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything is now hitting the shelves. Metabolism, behavior, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing, puberty, sex...so many aspects of our lives are controlled by hormones. It's a fascinating, important subject.

    She also wrote the terrific book Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

    When she's not writing books, Randi Epstein is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a lecturer at Yale University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Psychology Today blog, among others.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Randi about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Randi: For years, I’ve been running in Central Park. What used to be fast-paced is now slow and contemplative. But either way, it’s time to think. I don’t do the “To-Do lists” but allow myself time to just think big picture things. No headphones, rarely with partners, just silence and nature. And one little trick (that I’m embarrassed to admit): Sometimes I’ll sing a few lines from Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” in my head. I don’t know all the words, so I’m singing the same few lines over and over. It’s very empowering. I really should learn a few more phrases.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Randi: It’s important to recharge my inner battery. In order to be on-the-go, I need down time, which can be a long bath or getting absorbed in a novel.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers -- most?

    Randi: I write about hormones, which is a relatively new field with huge advances. Think about this: When my grandmother was born in 1900, the word “hormone” didn’t exist. (We didn’t call hormones “hormones” until 1905.) By the time Grandma was diagnosed with her hormone ailment, doctors could spot her hormone defect and measure hormones down to the billionth of a gram. That’s an amazing leap in our understanding in a relatively short time span. (Grandma had Addison’s disease, same disease that John F. Kennedy had. It’s treatable with cortisone pills.)

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Randi: I’m a nibbler. So If I’m stressed (working on a chapter, etc.), I’ll keep crunchy foods around, but those calories and that feeling of being way too full adds up. I’m talking granola, nuts, chocolate, carrots.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Randi: Exercising outside. There’s something about being in nature, looking up at the trees. It’s moving meditation, to get away from the onslaught of news and just remember to, well, smell the roses. Or really in my case, it’s not roses but the enormous big trees in Central Park. I also like cooking. I’m not sure if there’s anything productive about it, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Food, particularly dinner parties, make people happy. I love cooking for my family and friends. I’m not a gourmet chef by any means, but I enjoy trying new recipes and tweaking old ones. It makes me happy to bring together friends in a homey atmosphere. I love baking fun desserts for the famil .

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Randi: My kids think I drink too much. Water, that is. I think it’s important to be hydrated so I make sure I always have a water bottle filled with water in my backpack. I’ve also cut out soda—and now I don’t even like that taste.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Randi: I would not have known but I’m an Obliger. Maybe that’s from raising for children and focusing on them. All mothers do that—we put our children’s needs first. [Gretchen: Randi, you and I can talk more about this later!]

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Randi: This isn’t quite “health scare,” but a health glitch: I was diagnosed with “age-related knee degeneration,” a fancy name for saying my knees aren’t what they used to be—probably from years of long-distance running. So my knees are more like rusty hinges—and I want to avoid surgery or further deterioration. That’s forced me “listen” to my body. Exercise is more about quiet time than racing to a finish line.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Randi: Laughter is the best medicine.

    Gretchen: Tell us a bit more about your recent book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything.

    Randi: I’m so proud of this book, not just because it has fun stories in the history of medicine and current advances, but because I think there is so much confusion about what’s real and what’s hype. I hope that readers will grab my book and feel more informed about making healthy decisions. That they will be able to distinguish hucksters from heroes. And I’d love to get their feedback about anything that surprised them as they dove into it.

    Aroused by Randi Hutter Epstein

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:30:32 on 2018/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , health, identity, , southerner,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: Why Did I List “Southerner” as a Possibly Negative Identity? 

    Since Better Than Before, my book about habit change, hit the shelves, I’ve received several emails from loyal Southerners asking me about my inclusion of the identity of "Southerner" in the following passage discussing identity.

    Better Than Before identifies the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits, and in my chapter on the importance of the "Strategy of Identity," I write:

    We can get locked into identities that aren’t good for us: "a workaholic," "a perfectionist," "a Southerner," "the responsible one." As part of the Strategies of the Four Tendencies and Distinctions, I’d worked to identify different personality categories to which I belonged, but these kinds of labels should help me understand myself more deeply, not limit my sense of identity. Someone wrote on my site, "Food and eating used to play a big part in my identity until I realized that my baking and being a ‘baker’ was resulting in being overweight. So I had to let that identity go."

    In this passage, I’m not suggesting that "Southerner" is necessarily a negative identity, but one that might be negative for a particular person – it might also be a positive identity; this just depends on a particular person. For some people, identifying as "the responsible one" might give them a sense of pride and purpose, and for others, identifying as "the responsible one" might feel constraining and burdensome.

    Now, why did I include "Southerner" in this list of examples? Well, because while I was writing this book – and, I must admit, unmercifully quizzing my friends about their habits – a good friend mentioned it.

    As I discuss at length in Better Than Before, I had many discussions with one friend whose identity as "Italian" had been in conflict with her desire to eat and drink more healthfully.

    Along the same lines, another friend told me that the identity of being "Southern" was tied up, for him, with the idea of sweet tea, fried foods, pie, and the idea that a polite person would never turn down food that was offered. He wanted to change his eating habits, and he realized he had to figure out, "How can I live up to my Southern identity in a way that allows me to eat more healthfully?" Once he was able to see how this aspect of his identity was making it hard to stick to the good habits he wanted to cultivate, he was able to find many ways to be a true Southerner, and honor his Southern traditions, with less sweet tea.

    Most identities have both positive and negative sides. In my observation, the problem arises when we don’t see how an identity is influencing our habits; if we don’t see this factor, we can’t think through it and possibly alter the habits that flow from it. We can embrace an identity, yet shape that identity.

    As with me. My identity as a "real book-lover" made me assume that I had to finish every book I started, even if I found it boring. Which is what I did, for decades. But after studying the Strategy of Identity, I realized that I could alter my definition of what it meant to be a "real book-lover," with the thought, "If I stop reading a book I don’t like, I’ll have more time to read the books I do enjoy. That habit allows me to be a ‘real book-lover’ in a different way." My identity is the same; I just found a different habit to honor it.

    Usually, when we address the Strategy of Identity for ourselves, we don’t wholly let go of an identity – it was unusual for the "baker" let go of that identity totally – usually, we re-shape the expression of the identity, or decide to let one narrow aspect of that identity go, while holding on to the aspects that we want to keep. I can absolutely remain a real book-lover without finishing every book I start.

    Speaking of the Strategy of Identity, I can’t help but mention one of my favorite examples, which I write about in Better Than Before,. In their fascinating book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath describe how an anti-littering campaign successfully changed the littering habits of Texans, after messages such as "Please Don’t Litter" and "Pitch In" failed. For the campaign, famous Texans such as George Foreman, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, and various sports figures made TV spots with the message "Don’t mess with Texas." The campaign convinced people that true Texans—proud, loyal, tough Texans—protect Texas. During the campaign’s first five years, visible roadside litter dropped 72 percent.

    Our habits reflect our identities. We all have many identities. And we can shape how we honor those identities, so we can create the lives we want.

    Have you experienced this? Is there an area in your life where an important identity made it hard to follow a habit that you wanted to keep?

     
  • feedwordpress 17:34:49 on 2018/03/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , health, LifeSpan 1200 DT, treadmill desk, walking,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: What Kind of Treadmill Desk Does Elizabeth Use? 

    In my book The Happiness Project, I describe how and why I bought my sister Elizabeth a treadmill desk, to use in her office where she works as a writer and producer in Hollywood.

    Along with getting my husband a subscription to Sports Illustrated, this is the most successful gift I’ve ever given.

    I had to ask her permission, of course: you can’t just spring a treadmill desk on someone. They’re enormous.

    But after some thought, she did accept it, and it makes me so happy that she’s used a treadmill desk ever since.

    In fact, as soon as she announced that she was getting a treadmill desk, her writing partner Sarah Fain got one, too! They have two treadmill desks side by side in their office on the Disney lot, and use the treadmill desks while they work. I often hear it softly whirring in the background when I’m talking to Elizabeth on the phone.

    There’s even a segment on their podcast Happier in Hollywood called "From the Treadmill Desks of..." when they talk about what’s most pressing in their work psyches that week.

    Because we often mention the treadmill desk, many people become intrigued by the idea of getting one themselves – with the hope of getting more activity into their work day, without having to make a special time or trip for exercise.

    If you wonder what Elizabeth uses, she has a LifeSpan 1200 DT. It goes up to four miles per hour, no incline.

    I must confess that when I bought that model for her, I didn’t do much research on which one to buy. I’d read a lot about the value of treadmill desks, and when I read Susan Orleans’s article in The New Yorker, "The Walking Alive: Don’t Stop Moving"  about Orleans’s great experience with her treadmill desk, I looked up the model she’d bought, thought it looked good, and bought that one.

    To answer some questions that I’ve received about about treadmill desks: you walk very slowly, so you don’t sweat; the machine is quiet (quieter than a window air-conditioner) so it is possible to talk on the phone while on the machine; it is possible to type, answer emails, etc. while on the machine, though Elizabeth does sit down if she’s doing a lengthy piece of writing.

    I would love to have a treadmill desk myself, but my strange little home office is too small to fit one.

    Do you have a treadmill desk – or are you intrigued by the possibility of having one? Does your office provide them? I’ve noticed that in many offices, there are treadmill desk stations where people can go work, if they choose.

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:35 on 2017/12/28 Permalink
    Tags: , Courtney Carver, health, , simplicity   

    “I Will Not Say ‘Yes’ When My Heart Says ‘No.’” 

    Interview: Courtney Carver.

    I love the subject of clutter-clearing. So, of course, I'm intrigued by the work of Courtney Carver -- her site declares: "Are you overwhelmed with clutter and busyness? It's time to create a life with more clarity, ease, and joy." Wonderful.

    Her new book, Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More is just hitting the shelves.

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Courtney: Sugar! I’m so much happier without it but I love it. When I’m in a sugar rut, I’m moodier. When I quit sugar for long periods of time, I'm much happier. Like you, Gretchen, I'm an Abstainer when it comes to sugary treats:  it's easier for me to have none than one. When I've intentionally quit sugar for a period of time, I don't crave it or think about it that much after the first day or two. I love that feeling of not having to decide how much is too much because when I am eating sugar, I don't want one cookie, or one bite of dessert. I want it all. Why do I go back? Just thinking about it makes me less happy.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Courtney: My morning routine fuels better health, creativity, and productivity. It includes some combination of writing, meditation, reading, yoga and walking. Whether I practice my morning routine for 5 minutes or 3 hours, it always allows me to move through the day with more purpose and focus.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Courtney: I created my morning routine through habit stacking, and it has stuck with me for more than 10 years. I started with 5 minutes of yoga. After a week, I stacked 5 minutes of writing. The next week I added 5 minutes of meditation. From there I raised the time of each activity by a minute each week. Once I had a 30-minute routine, I was able to easily swap in new activities or extend the time spent on certain activities.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Courtney: At first I thought I was an Upholder but after taking the quiz, I discovered I’m a Questioner.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Courtney:  In 2006 after months of debilitating vertigo and fatigue I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. After learning how stress can cause MS exacerbations, I decided to quit stress and simplified my entire life. While the changes I made took many years, my decision to prioritize love and health was immediate. I share more about my lightning bolt moment, and the changes MS inspired in my life in my new book, Soulful Simplicity. From changing my diet to becoming debt-free, clutter-free, changing careers and downsizing from a big house to a small apartment, simplicity was at the heart of every change. Living with less has given me the opportunity to create more health and love in my life.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Courtney: I will not say yes when my heart says no.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Courtney: Writing down anything on my mind first thing in the morning makes me happier. It’s my way of clearing mental clutter before starting the day. I don’t share or read what I write so it’s more about the action than what ends up on the page

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Courtney: Consistency is more important than intensity. The all or nothing, weekend warrior approach to incorporating healthy habits usually results in burnout. Showing up regularly, even if it's only for a few minutes at a time contributes to creating long-lasting habits. I'm a big fan of habit stacking. For instance, when I created my morning routine, I started with 5 minutes of yoga. After a week, I added 5 minutes of meditation and 5 minutes of writing. Then, I added a minute a week to each activity. It took me weeks to build up to a 30 minute routine, but the method worked. The slow build resulted in a meaningful morning routine that I've been practicing for more than 1o years.

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:13:37 on 2017/10/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , health, Weight Watchers   

    Why, and When, People Succeed Using Weight Watchers. (Especially Obligers) 

    As someone who studies issues related to human nature, happiness, health, and good habits, I've long been intrigued by Weight Watchers -- when and why it works.

    And one thing has struck me with particular force.

    In my book Better Than Before, I identify the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits. The Weight Watchers program harnesses many strategies that can help people eat more healthfully: for instance, the Strategies of Monitoring, Scheduling, First Steps, Clarity, Scheduling, Loophole-Spotting, and Safeguards.

    All these strategies are very powerful.

    But there's one aspect of Weight Watchers that explains why, for some people, it works so well -- and also explains why people might find themselves frustrated, by re-gaining the weight after they leave the program. And that's an aspect related to a person's Tendency, and the Strategy of Accountability.

    As a reminder, my Four Tendencies framework divides people into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, based on how we respond to outer expectations (like a work deadline) and inner expectations (like a New Year's resolution). Want to take the free, quick quiz to identify your Tendency? It's here. More than one million people have taken the quiz.

    The Obliger Tendency -- the Tendency that includes the largest number of people -- describes people who readily meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. Obligers would say, "Commitments to other people must be met, but commitments to myself? Meh."

    Therefore, to meet an inner expectation, Obligers must have structures of outer accountability. Like...Weight Watchers. While many people find accountability helpful (note, however, that for some Rebels, accountability may be unhelpful), for Obligers, it's crucial. When Obligers get that crucial outer accountability, they can succeed. But if that outer accountability disappears, the expectation will no longer be met.

    Lesson? Obligers must maintain outer accountability. Indefinitely.

    And this explains a lot about the success of Weight Watchers.

    One Obliger wrote:

    I have no doubt that I am an “Obliger.”And since you have made me aware of this fact, it has changed my life in subtle yet meaningful ways. I battle with my weight, and I’ve joined and unjoined Weight Watchers more times than I care to recount. Oftimes, I wonder why I’m there, when I understand the program and could save myself time and money by just applying the knowledge I already have at home. And then I stop going to meetings: I fail miserably on my own and am beyond disappointed.

    Defining myself as an Obliger has changed my approach and expectations. I signed up, yet again, but this time with a different mindset.  I now go to meetings not as much for the information imparted as the sense of community and accountability.  Because that is what I really need.  And instead of hating to admit that I need a community, I am embracing the idea and running with it.

    I joined a livelier, more fun-loving group that I feel a greater commitment to. I laugh a lot and feel empowered to tackle the rest of the week when I leave.  I committed to tracking my progress online daily with other members. The Weight Watchers program hasn’t changed. The way I employ it and make it work for the type of person I am has changed immeasurably. Now, instead of going against my grain, I’m letting the grain be my guide.

    Another Obliger wrote:

    I’ve been trying to shed some weight for years and feel like I’ve tried just about every old (and new) thing. I’d tried Weight Watchers several times, but since learning that I’m an Obliger, I decided to sign up for their coaching option, where you can have personal calls with a coach. I signed up two weeks ago, and it’s been a huge difference from previous attempts. I’m 1000% sure that’s because of the exterior obligation to my coach.

    Of course, Weight Watchers is just one of many kinds of accountability groups that people use. Law school study groups, exercise classes, weekly work status meetings, attendance records, library fines...there are countless ways to create outer accountability.

    I've even created an app, the Better app, where people can discuss issues related to the Four Tendencies, and -- this is key -- can join or launch accountability groups, for accountability to meet whatever aim they want.

    The key thing for Obligers to recognize is that they require these systems of outer accountability, even to meet an inner expectation. It's not that hard to create outer accountability -- once you know that's what you need. And Obligers continue to need that outer accountability. Obligers sometimes tell me that they don't like this aspect of being an Obliger, that they don't like needing outer accountability, or they don't like the fact that they can't "graduate" out of needing it. But in my observation, this is just how it works for Obligers. It's more useful to figure out how to deal with your Tendency, rather than to wish it were different.

    Note that Obligers vary greatly in what kind of accountability works best for them. Some might feel more accountable to a group; some, to an individual coach; some, to knowing that they're going to step on the scale before a meeting. Some Obligers become teachers, leaders, or coaches themselves, because they know that if they're guiding others, they have to set a good example.

    The Four Tendencies framework has other implications for programs like Weight Watchers, for the way other Tendencies would use them.

    For instance, while Obligers need accountability, Questioners and Upholders also often benefit from accountability -- and sometimes, even Rebels benefit. Knowing that someone is watching, monitoring, and noticing what we're doing often reinforces our determination to stick to a good habit. As an Upholder myself, I don't depend on accountability to meet expectations -- but nevertheless when I'm being held accountable, it does make me feel all that much more...accountable.

    However, sometimes accountability can be counter-productive. If accountability isn't working for you, don't use it! There's no right way or wrong way; only the way that works for you.

    For instance, Rebels don't like being told what to do, or being told when and where to show up. For Rebels, it's helpful for a program to emphasize that "This is what you want," "This is what you choose," "This is the kind of person you are," "This will give you more freedom," "This is fun for you, you enjoy it," "These people are helping you to get what you want."

    Examples? "I want to eat more healthfully," "I'm a healthy, active person who respects my body and doesn't load it with lots of processed foods," "I love fresh, delicious, natural foods," "Big food companies can't tell me how eat," "I'm not addicted to sugar," "I choose to be free from cravings," "I enjoy this kind of program," "When I lose weight, I'll feel more comfortable on airplanes and walking around, and that will make me feel freer, and more able to travel."

    As for Questioners, they demand justifications for everything they're expected to do. So to work for Questioners, a program must provide information about why certain things are being encouraged, forbidden, emphasized; why systems are set up the way they're set up; why an authority is worthy of respect, etc. For instance, if someone tells a Questioner, "Take a fifteen-minute walk every morning," this may strike that Questioner as arbitrary. Why fifteen minutes? Why every morning? Why a walk? Questioners need justifications.

    To work for a Questioner, any system -- such as a point system for food -- must be justified. Why does X food have this many points, but Y food has this many points? Questioners would succeed much better when they understand the research, reasoning, and structure of a regimen.

    Questioners also tend to love to monitor and customize. So for them, activities like tracking, keeping food logs, or using a step-counter may be useful, because they enjoy getting that information on themselves. And they also like to customize, so it's useful to tell them, "You might try doing something in this other way, if that works for you." Or, if it's important to do something exactly as suggested, it's important to explain the reason. "Take this medication with food, or else you might get severe nausea."

    Upholders tend to do well in this kind of program. In fact, just about any program, curriculum, device, and so on will work fairly well for Upholders, because meeting outer and inner expectations comes more easily for them.

    The Four Tendencies vary in the number of members. The largest Tendency, for both men and women, is Obliger. It's the one that the greatest number of people belong to, so any program or group should take that fact into account. Next largest is Questioner. Most people are Obligers or Questioners. The smallest Tendency is Rebel, and just slightly larger is Upholder.

    Programs like Weight Watchers can take these differences among the Four Tendencies into account. For example, read here about how Dr. Judson Brewer is tailoring his eating program to take into account the Four Tendencies.

    Have you tried Weight Watchers, or similar programs? I'd be especially interested to hear from Obligers.

    In my book The Four Tendencies, I explore this issue at much greater length, along with related subjects like Obliger-rebellion, why Obliger-rebellion often shows up in health-related matters, why Obligers often pair up with Rebels, why sweethearts don't make good accountability partners, and more. Obligers + accountability is a big subject!

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:01:03 on 2017/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , health   

    Fighting Halloween Temptation? Tap into the Power of the Four Tendencies. 

    Halloween treats! So colorful, so ubiquitous, so fun, so bite-sized...Halloween a major source of temptation for children and adults alike.

    As I know from writing Better Than Before, my book about habit change, eating healthfully is one of the most popular habits that people try to cultivate -- and Halloween is a challenging time to stick to good eating habits.

    In Better Than Before, I suggest many ways we can resist the temptation of mini-candy-bars, bags of candy-corn, beautifully decorated cupcakes and cookies, and so on. In particular, it's useful to harness the strength (and buttress the weakness) of our Tendency.

    As a side note, for my whole life, I had a tremendous sweet tooth. I couldn't resist candy, cookies, ice cream, anything sweet. It was such a relief when I figured out that I'm an "Abstainer," who finds it far easier to avoid sweets altogether instead of trying to eat in moderation. So now I eat no Halloween candy, ever. That's what works for me! If you want to read more about that, I discuss it here.

    To beat Halloween candy, I tapped into my Abstainer side. But another great tool is to think about your Tendency.

    Don't know your Tendency -- whether you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the quiz here (more than a million people have taken the quiz!).

    Once you know your Tendency, consider these strategies -- and of course, a strategy suggested for a different Tendency might work well for you, too. Use anything that works!

    Harness Your Tendency

    Obliger: Obligers respond to outer accountability. That's the key for Obligers. So take steps to give yourself outer accountability for not eating Halloween candy.

    • Announce, "I'm not going to eat any Halloween candy this year" in front of everyone. (This strategy works well for my sister Elizabeth, who is an Obliger.)
    • If you dip into your kids' candy stash while they're at school (something I used to do often, until I quit sugar), ask your children to catalog all their candy, and to keep track of how much they have. My daughters, at least, loved to count and sort their candy, so this would've been a fun task for them. Then your children will know if you've been sneaking mini-Snickers when they're not around.
    • Think about your future self. Now-Gretchen wants to eat that cupcake, but Future-Gretchen will be disappointed that she ate so many sweets. Resist now, because you're accountable to your future-self.
    • Consider your duty to be a role model of healthy eating for your children, your sweetheart, your co-workers.
    • Join an Accountability Group -- you can easily do join a group on my app, the Better app.

    Questioner: Questioners respond to justifications. They tend to love to track and monitor. They benefit from clarity.

    • Keep count of exactly how many Halloween treats you've eaten. One easy way: keep the wrappers in a pile in front of you.
    • Convert Halloween candy into ordinary candy. If you wouldn't go into a store, buy two Kit-Kats, and eat them, why would you eat six mini-Kit-Kats?
    • Reflect on all the reasons you have for wanting to eat more healthfully: your energy, your weight, wanting to avoid stimulating cravings, etc. Skipping the treats makes sense to you.
    • Focus on efficiency. It's not efficient to try to eat healthfully for so many days, and then to go into a long period where you're not eating the way that you know is best for you.

    Rebel: Rebels respond to choice, freedom, and identity. Focus on these aspects by reminding yourself:

    • "I'm not addicted to sugar. I can take it or leave it."
    • "I respect my body, I choose to eat healthy, fresh foods. This processed candy and this fancy packaging can't control me, it can't tempt me to eat it."
    • "My kids think I can't resist indulging. Oh yeah? Watch me!"

    Upholder: Upholders respond to outer and inner expectations. For them, it's helpful to articulate clearly the nature of those expectations.

    • What is the right amount of Halloween treats for you?
    • When and where will you indulge in those Halloween treats?
    • Remind yourself of how great it feels to stick to expectations.

    Habit Strategies

    To be sure, it's tough to fight the lure of Halloween. Other strategies you might consider, in addition to the power of your Tendency:

    • the Strategy of Inconvenience: make it very tough to get to that Halloween candy, say, put it in a bag, tightly close the bag, put the bag in a plastic container with a tight seal, and place the container on a high shelf.
    • the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting: stay alert for loopholes you might invoke, such as the Lack of Control loophole ("With all this candy in the office, who can resist?"); the Planning to Fail loophole ("I bought my three big bags of candy for the neighborhood kids two weeks before Halloween, and put the candy in the bowls for decoration, and now I keep sneaking candy throughout the day"); the Concern for Others loophole ("I'm at your Halloween party, and it will hurt your feelings if I don't eat some of your pumpkin cookies"); the Tomorrow Loophole ("It doesn't matter what I eat today, because starting tomorrow, I'm going to eat so healthfully.")
    • the Strategy of Safeguards: think of possible temptations, so you can make if-then plans to withstand them. "If the office kitchen is full of Halloween treats, I'll stay out of there as much as possible." "If I go to a Halloween party, I'll stand very far from dessert-laden table." "I've gone fifteen days without sugar, I don't want to break the chain."
    • the Strategy of Abstaining: Personally, this is what works for me -- but the Strategy of Abstaining doesn't work for everyone. Figure out if, in this context, you're an Abstainer or a Moderator. I'm a moderator for wine, for instance, but an Abstainer for sweets.

    Do you find Halloween a time of temptation, or can you enjoy it healthfully? If you find it difficult to resist the lure of all those delightful treats, what helps you stick to your healthy habits?

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:00 on 2017/10/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , health   

    Does Obliger-Rebellion Ever Take the Form of Physical Symptoms? 

    A thoughtful reader asked an interesting question on Twitter: "Does Obliger-rebellion ever manifest as physical symptoms with no apparent cause?"

    I believe that it absolutely might do so.

    First -- what is Obliger-rebellion?

    Obliger-rebellion occurs when Obligers meet, meet, meet, meet expectations, and then suddenly -- they snap. They say, "This, I will not do!" and they refuse to meet an expectation. This refusal can be small and symbolic (refusing to answer someone's emails or being deliberately late for work), or it can be huge and fateful (ending a twenty-year friendship, quitting a job, getting a divorce).

    It took me a long time to understand something very important: though it can have destructive effects, Obliger-rebellion is meant to be a constructive phenomenon -- it's the emergency parachute that allows an Obliger to escape from a situation where expectations are too high. 

    When Obligers feel exploited, over-taxed, neglected, ignored, or taken advantage of, Obliger-rebellion eventually kicks in to give them an exit. They refuse to do what's asked of them.

    Often, Obliger-rebellion is aimed at the self. This can look like self-sabotage (refusing to prepare for an interview or to complete schoolwork). Perhaps this happens when an Obliger doesn't feel safe directing the rebellion outward, so instead, turns it inward.

    I've noticed that this kind of self-directed Obliger-rebellion seems particularly common in the area of healthAn Obliger refuses to exercise, even though exercise would help manage his back pain. An Obliger refuses to cut back on sugar, even though her diabetes is out of control.

    The consequences fall directly on the Obliger, so this is a "safe" way to rebel (as compared to Obliger-rebellion at work, say, which might have significant consequences involving other people). And no one can really interfere because health behaviors are within our sole control.

    It makes sense that Obliger-rebellion might also take the form of unexplained physical symptoms. That frustration and resentment must have an outlet; it must somehow work to relieve the pressure on the Obliger. Headaches, backaches, gut pain, lassitude...these might be ways for Obliger-rebellion to help the Obliger, by winning attention, relieving pressure, making others take notice of the work that's shouldered by the Obliger, earning a respite from burdens. And these symptoms involve only the Obligers themselves.

    Many Obligers have told me that they do believe that they've experienced Obliger-rebellion in the form of physical symptoms.

    What do you think? Does this ring true? I've love to hear your insights, examples, and observations. 

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:53:06 on 2017/10/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , health   

    A Visit to the Hospital Remind Me of How Happy I Am to Be Healthy. 

    Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: gratitude is a key ingredient to a happy life.

    Research shows that people who cultivate gratitude get a boost in happiness and optimism, feel more connected to other people, are better-liked and have more friends, and are more likely to help others. They even sleep better and have fewer headaches.

    Nevertheless, I find it…challenging to cultivate a grateful frame of mind.

    I find it all too easy to fail to appreciate all the things I feel grateful for—from pervasive, basic things like electricity and elevators, to  personal aspects of my life such as the fact that I get to collaborate with my sister on our podcast, to little passing joys, like a funny thing my dog did. I get preoccupied with petty grievances and minor annoyances, and forget just how much happiness I already have.

    One thing I forget to be grateful for? My health. For many of us, health -- like money -- contributes to happiness mostly in the negative; the lack of it brings much more unhappiness than possessing it brings happiness. It’s very easy to take money or health for granted -- until it's gone.

    Yesterday my husband had surgery on his knee. Minor surgery, something many people have done, not risky, a very ordinary procedure, didn't take long. But boy, the experience of setting foot in a hospital made me fervently, passionately, explosively grateful for my health.

    Of course, I was also grateful for the good hospital, the insurance, the doctors and nurses, the relief from pain that my husband got, his uncomplicated recovery. So I was also very grateful for all that, too.

    But most of all, I was reminded that I should never to take good health for granted -- my health, or anyone else's. To be able to take a deep breath, to hear, to see, to walk, to eat, to be free from pain...it's so precious.

    Another positive consequence of gratitude? When we're grateful, we tend to want to make sure that other people share in whatever we're feeling we're feeling grateful for. If I'm feeling grateful for the beauty of Central Park, it makes me think about how much I want other people also to be able to experience the beauty of a park.

    Feeling grateful often spurs us to turn outward, to think about the situations of others. The trip to the hospital reminded me of the importance of health -- for me, and for everyone. It made me think about insurance, medical care, availability (and of course habits, just about everything makes me think about habits) and what steps I can take in my own life, to help others have these building blocks of good health.

    In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous story, "The Adventure of Silver Blaze," (which includes the now well-known phrase "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time") Sherlock Holmes perceived a clue in the fact that a dog didn’t bark. I find it hard to be grateful for the problems that aren't there. Today is a day that I don't make a visit to the hospital -- a happy day.

    I'm also reminded of a hilarious scene from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. I've watched this scene a hundred times, and it makes me laugh every time. "If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything." It's a cliche, because it's true.

    A good gratitude reminder.

    Do you find it hard to remember to be grateful? Do you have any strategies to help prompt gratitude? People use gratitude journals, screen-saver reminders, photographs, and giving thanks before meals...what else? I write about my own gratitude exercise in The Happiness Project.

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:15:08 on 2017/09/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , craving, , , health, ,   

    Conversation About the Four Tendencies with Dr. Judson Brewer, Expert in Habits, Mindfulness, and Addiction. 

    On August 11, 2017, Dr. Judson Brewer and I had a fascinating conversation about how he’s incorporating the Four Tendencies framework into his work, which focuses on helping people to master mindfulness, addiction, and habit change.

    I asked Jud to do this interview because I wanted to highlight the findings and insights he’s gained from using the Four Tendencies framework in his practice and research.

    My great hope is that when people learn about the Four Tendencies, they’ll be able to make their lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. Jud’s work in this area shows the efficacy of the Four Tendencies framework—and he’s also begun to do the kind of research that’s needed to put the framework to the test.

    Yes, Questioners, I know you want that research and data to validate the framework! It's coming!

    I'm posting our lengthy conversation below. If you'd like a PDF version, to print it out more easily, just email me to request it.

     

    Gretchen: You’ve done so much interesting work on mindfulness, addiction, and habit change. What’s your focus these days?

    Jud: In both my startup company, which develops apps, as well as my lab, which does all the related research, we're focusing our energy on developing good tools for how to help people create change.

    In particular, in the “Eat Right Now” program, at the pilot level, we’ve started incorporating your Four Tendencies quiz to help us get a sense for how your Tendencies framework can help people engage better with our program and start a new habit of mindfulness related to eating.

    Our overarching theme is to understand how people's minds work, so we can better help them develop practices of awareness. Down the road, we aim to have a new program about unwinding anxiety. I'd like to bake the Four Rubin Tendencies right into the fabric of that program.

    Gretchen: Why do you think the Four Tendencies model could help make your tool more effective?

    Jud: I'm a very pragmatic guy. As a clinician, I always want to figure out what's going to optimize my patients’ engagement in treatment.

    A while back, one of my research coordinators gave me your book Better Than Before, about habit change. That's where I was first introduced to your Four Tendencies framework. I was a little skeptical at first, reading it, because I thought, “Who is this person talking about habit change? She’s not a scientist.” But I started reading it, and I was won over. I thought, “Oh wow, she knows what she's talking about. She's actually talking about people's real tendencies.”

    As I read your book, I immediately started thinking, “I wonder if people in my Eat Right Now program fall into these four categories. If they do, there are some pragmatic things that we could actually put to the test immediately to try it out.”

    Gretchen: What are the aims of the people who participate in your Eat Right now program? Are they trying to lose weight, trying to manage diabetes…?

    Jud: I would say 100% of them are trying to change their relationship with eating, and probably 70-80% are trying to manage weight loss or lose a few more pounds.

    Gretchen: For health or appearance or both?

    Jud: Some people come because their doctors told them they need to lose weight or they need to manage their diabetes, but most folks find this program on their own, because they've been fed up with other weight-loss programs.

    Gretchen: So, when you read about the Four Tendencies, and you began to think, “I can see how this model would apply to my program,” what were some ideas that rang true to you? Where you thought, “Wow, I know that kind of person. I’ve run into that behavior before.”

    Jud: I recognized all four of the Tendencies, actually.

    Gretchen: Oh, really?

    Jud: Yes. To give a bit of background on the program: I moderate a weekly check-in group—the Eat Right Now program is based around this. We have mechanistically-based training on how habits are formed and how mindfulness helps people break their habits.

    We present the information in bite-sized pieces; people get daily videos and animations and in-the-moment exercises.

    In the program, ideally people complete one module per day, and they start learning how to regulate and to change their relationship to eating. As they go through the 28 days, they might then return to the beginning and start again to hone their skills, or they might take a bit more time for each module and take a couple of months.

    We’re finding from our evidence that people need about 3-6 months to start changing their behavior. At that point, some stay with the program. Some, they've got the skills and they don't need it anymore.
    The main thrust is through app-based training. There's also an online community where people can interact with each other, as well as a weekly live group that I run via Zoom where people can ask questions and interact.

    When I talk to people in our live group, I see the Four Tendencies in action. I think, “Oh, here's this person with that Tendency.” It’s a person who keeps asking a bunch of questions, or who has described why they’ve been struggling with the program. Now I’ve got names for them. For example, the “Obligers,” who meet other people’s outer expectations, but don’t take time to take care of themselves.

    People are even commenting in their online community journals about their Tendencies. I gave them your quiz, then wrote some very simple suggestions for the program based on what their responses were, and then asked people to comment on whether that was helpful or not. This was an early experiment to see if your Tendencies fit well with this population, and whether people could benefit.

    Gretchen: Let me pose an initial question before we dive deeper. People sometimes ask me, “Is it a bad idea to give people a label? To tell them, ‘You're an Obliger, I'm a Rebel.’”

    Do you think that this vocabulary somehow limits people’s sense of possibility for change? In my view, I think these kinds of “types” are helpful, because they may shine a spotlight on hidden patterns in behavior that we can then work to address. Because maybe you didn't understand why some approach wasn’t working well for you, and now you can try something that suits you better.

    That’s my view—but how do you view it? Is it okay that someone thinks, “Oh yeah, I'm an Obliger?”

    Jud: I think that’s absolutely okay.

    I think of an analogy from sports. Say somebody wants to become a sprinter. Genetically, some people have more fast-twitch muscle than slow-twitch muscle. For people like me who have slow-twitch muscle, we’re going to be more distance runners. If a distance runner really wants to be an Olympics-level sprinter, that person might get a biopsy to see what his or her fast-twitch potential is. Not knowing that fast-twitch potential isn’t going to suddenly make them an Olympics-level sprinter, but knowing it might help them say, “Why don't I focus on distance running?”

    Gretchen: Right. This information about yourself helps you direct your energies most effectively.

    Jud: Of course, it can do that only if it’s useful information. I think your Tendencies are actually useful. That's what really got me hooked.

    Gretchen: Excellent! That’s great to hear. Explain more about how you’ve seen the Tendencies appear in your work.

    Jud: For starters, I tallied up the number of people who answered your quiz. In our group, we’ve got about 8.9% Upholders, Questioners at 33.3%, Obligers at 37.8%, and Rebels at 20%.

    Gretchen: Interesting. Generally, Obliger is the biggest Tendency, and Questioners are right behind them. Rebel is the smallest Tendency, and the Upholder Tendency is only slightly larger. Because Upholders are less likely to need the kind of program you offer, it makes sense that you don’t have many Upholders.

    Jud: Because Upholders are going to meet outer and inner expectations fairly easily.

    Gretchen: Yes, a lot of different strategies work for Upholders. If people are coming to you saying, “I've tried this, I've tried that, nothing is working,” they’re unlikely to be Upholders. For the Upholders, probably the first thing they tried worked.

    Jud: That makes sense. That fits quite well. We’ve got some selection bias with the program, and that’s exactly what we would expect to see.

    Gretchen: You have a very high number of Rebels compared to the population, but again, that’s predictable, because many popular strategies that work for other people—such as monitoring, scheduling, and accountability—often don’t work for Rebels. If they really want to change their relationship to food, they’re more likely to struggle with conventional advice.

    If you have a disproportionate number of Rebels, you’d really want to take that into account. A lot of things that work for the other Tendencies don’t work for the Rebels. Your program has the challenge that one strategy could work really well for your Obligers but might actually be unhelpful for your Rebels.

    Jud: Right. Absolutely.

    Gretchen: How have you seen these differences play out?

    Jud: I’ll give you an example of the suggestions I gave to the people in the program based on your framework. We’ll update these as we learn more, but this is the first stab at it.
    First, we give participants a brief description of the Four Rubin Tendencies. I also encourage them to read your books. Then based on their Tendency, we give them a one-liner description of that Tendency and then suggest a tip.

    For Upholders, we say, "Watch out for taking on too much at once, etc." Then we give some suggestions on how to optimize their personality type to engage with the program. For instance, if you don’t make a to-do list of all the exercises and all the check-ins every day, don’t beat yourself up for not having done everything.

    Then I would give this little intrinsic motivation. Look to see where you’re aiming or angling for control instead of suffocating yourself by trying to force yourself to be in control. Simply notice when you feel like you’ve mastered something. We bring in a mindfulness practice around the motivators.

    For Questioners, the tip was to take time to clarify what elements of the Eat Right Now program make the most sense, and use those as the foundation upon which to build. The intrinsic motivator was to foster your curiosity, because that’s a key element of the eating program.

    For Obligers, a tip was to find a way to hold yourself externally accountable for using the program. That’s key for Obligers. The intrinsic motivation is “Working with others on a team feels good, no? Look to see where you can find the satisfaction of working with others as you go through this program.” Whether it’s the online community, finding a buddy or a family member, etc.

    For Rebels—this has really been a fascinating category for me. Because they resist all expectations, the tip is, “You're the decider. Find ways that you do the program on your own terms. Don’t try to tell yourself to do an exercise. Instead, see if you can find ways in which you decide when you’ll watch the module each day, and you decide when to do check-ins.” The intrinsic motivation would be find personal meaning in pursuing a goal that's difficult, but not impossible. Look for the challenge in the program each day to see if you can meet it.

    Gretchen: It’s fascinating how you put the Tendencies into action.

    Jud: I pulled a couple of their comments, and I’d be very curious to hear your responses.

    One Questioner said, “The key for me here as a Questioner was to realize that I had to see the evidence for myself.”

    Evidence is an element that I emphasized in the program as I wrote it. I'm a Questioner myself, so I wrote it from that perspective of, “Here’s the information, pay attention. Just look for yourself to see what works for you.”

    Gretchen: That message really appeals to Questioners. They’re attracted to customization. They like thinking, “This is what works for me. I’m doing this because this is the most efficient, sensible thing for me.”

    Jud: Exactly.

    Another Questioner wrote about how she hadn’t previously noticed the importance of curiosity for her, and she reported that the tip about fostering curiosity for intrinsic motivation has been really helpful. In the program, I’d shared a quotation from James Stevenson, who said, “Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will.” She wrote, “This is certainly something that I don't think ever occurred to me before. I have a lot of anxiety. I’m noticing how that feels in my body. Seeing that curiosity relieves the symptoms.”

    I think fear and curiosity are like fear and faith. It’s hard to experience both deeply at the same time.

    Gretchen: That’s fascinating. I need to think through that idea. That is such an interesting and powerful observation: Curiosity can overcome anxiety.

    Jud: Yes.

    Gretchen: Again, that’s an appeal to the fundamental values of the Questioner.

    Jud: Exactly.

    Gretchen: To succeed, it helps if we go straight to the heart of that Tendency strength we have.

    Fascinating. What did Obligers have to say?

    Jud: This Obliger said, “I understand that as an Obliger, I need to be held accountable, otherwise the cards are stacked against me for success with this program. The problem is I don’t want any family members or friends knowing yet what I'm doing.” I think her concern is that that she doesn’t want people to know that she’s trying to lose weight.

    Gretchen: Yes, that's very common.

    Jud: She continued, “My other issue is getting myself to journal--whether in my own personal journal or through the community journal. I put that last on my list of things I need to do. Therefore, I rarely journal.” I think her idea is that she’s putting other people in front of herself.

    Gretchen: Hmmm, in my framework, I don’t characterize the issue in that way, as “putting others first.” That’s a value judgment. It also suggests that if others made no demands on her, she would readily meet her demands for herself, which in my observation doesn't happen for Obligers.

    For Obligers, it’s really all about that outer accountability. For Eat Right Now, you have the group around the program. Does she feel accountable to that group? I would say, “Forget about your family and friends, keep your privacy, rely on the Eat Right Now group for accountability.”

    Jud: That’s what we had encouraged. We’ve got this closed online community that’s very supportive. That’s something that I can suggest to her, absolutely.

    Gretchen: Relying on family can be tricky. Sometimes, too, it doesn’t feel like outer accountability, it feels like inner accountability, because they’re so close to you. This is especially true about spouses.

    Also, with family members, an Obliger can also start feeling very resentful, and that triggers Obliger-rebellion. The advantage of your program is that it comes with a built-in accountability group. I would suggest that engaging deeply with this group could be the key for this Obliger’s success.

    Also, about the journaling. She feels bad about that. Does the journaling really matter? What kind of journal is it, is it for writing down everything you eat, is it an emotional journal? Keeping a journal could be really burdensome for some people, I would imagine.

    Jud: It’s not a food-tracking journal. It’s a personal journal so somebody can track their own progress, and they can also get feedback from community moderators if they feel like they’re struggling. It’s more to record “Here's what I noticed today.”

    Gretchen: For what it’s worth, in my observation, health is an area where Obliger-rebellion very often sets in. It happens because no one has control of your body and what you do or don’t do with your body. In this area, the Obliger-rebellion affects only the Obliger themselves, so it’s a very easy place—and often a destructive place—for Obliger-rebellion to play out.

    To me, this Obliger sounds like she’s at the end of her rope, and feeling very resentful. It sounds like she’s thinking, “They’re asking too much of me. I can't do it.” That kind of feeling can lead to an Obliger-rebellion explosion.

    I would consider telling her, “The journal is meant to be a tool to help you. It sounds like it’s not working for you. So why don’t you just not worry about that? You’re doing a lot already. Stay with the group, let them help you stay on board. If the journal isn’t helpful, let that go. You’re already working hard.”

    Jud: That’s a great idea.

    Gretchen: If it's meant to be a tool that’s helpful, there’s no point in doing it if it’s not helpful. It sounds like it might be hampering her because it’s making her feel put upon and overwhelmed.

    Jud: Great.

    Here’s another comment from an Obliger.

    “Obliger, at your service! (I must have also a Questioner part in myself, though, because I ask lots of questions, and I need to decide first from myself if something is worthy that I “oblige” to it.) Still, I didn’t believe it at the beginning. But then, I started looking back at my previous weight loss experiences, and realized… it’s true. Many times I had failed because I had set a goal only to myself, and then inevitably at the first discomfort I had let all go. But I was ashamed of myself and of this addiction I had, that I didn’t want anybody to know! Now, I had just started Eat Right Now, and I wasn’t gonna let this end like the rest. So I gathered all the strength and courage I had (and believe me, I needed a lot!), and called the friend I trust the most, and told him about my condition and this program I started. And he was very comprehensive, and understanding, and told me I was doing the right thing, and encouraged me to keep going, and accepted what I asked him: which is that every day I need to call him and tell him what I did related to food (if I binged or not, what I ate, if I exercised, if I did the lessons, etc.); and that if for some reason I don’t tell, he needs to ask me specifically (cause I know myself too well, unfortunately). But all this, not in a hard way, to beat me if one day I couldn’t make it. I told him: in a gentle way, to keep me accountable, also when it doesn’t go so well, but knowing that I am learning, and that I’ll grow stronger. It’s been 5 days, I’ve been doing this every day, and it’s working!”

    Gretchen: What a terrific story. It’s great to hear that she’s been able to use the knowledge of her Obliger need for accountability to get such great success with the Eat Right Now Program.

    Her comment reminds of an important point: people often think, “Oh, I must be part Questioner because I love reasons, or I always ask ‘why,’ etc.”

    Remember, the Four Tendencies looks only at your response to expectations. That is, why do you act, why don’t you act. I have a friend who is a doctor, highly educated, intensely curious, inhales research, always probes for more information—and she’s an Obliger. Because she meets outer expectations and struggles to meet inner expectations.

    Like the commenter above. That person is 100% Obliger. One hundred percent.

    Jud: Here, I’ve got a comment from a Rebel, who said, “I’ve definitely been doing the program on my own terms, but realize this even more now. I might even pretend that someone told me not to do the program.”

    Gretchen: Yes! The Rebel spirit of resistance!

    Jud: I thought that was classic.

    Gretchen: Classic. You know, for the program you might consider messages that appeal to the Rebel desire to be free and unchained. Like, “You're not a slave to food. You don’t want to be addicted to sugar. Those big food companies can’t fool you with their crinkly packages and their big ad campaigns. You’re not going to fall for that. They can’t take your money.” Rebels want to be free.

    Jud: That's great.

    Gretchen: Sometimes a Rebel thinks, “Oh, I feel free because you’re telling me that I'm not supposed to eat fast food, but look, watch me do it.” The answer is, “Hah! You think you're free? Eating that fast food, you’re doing just what those fast food joints want you to do. They've got their hooks deep into you, you’re addicted to that stuff.”

    Jud: They’ve got you, right.

    Gretchen: So, judging from people’s early responses and comments, do you see that the Four Tendencies framework is striking a chord with them?

    Jud: This is very preliminary research, but it does seem that so far, everybody who answered the questions did very much identify with one Tendency or another. That piece seems pretty solid. Some of them have even started sub-categories of discussion topics, where one of the topics was “Any other Obligers out there?” They formed this little huddle where they could support each other and give each other tips as a way to help each other go through the program.

    We envision that in the future, we’ll give people your quiz right as they get on-boarded with any of our programs. Then ultimately down the road, the program would algorithmically shuffle the way they get the training or the timing etc. based on their personality type.

    But even at the beginning, the program can start by just giving them a brief synopsis and say, “This is the result of your Rubin Four Tendencies quiz. Here's a brief summary. We recommend that you use the program this way as you go through the program.”

    Maybe each week we check in with them automatically. For example, they might get a message, “Are you noticing an inclination to resist? You might try this tip, this tip, this tip.” Right at the beginning or somewhere early on, I’d encourage them to read your books so they can really dive into what their personality type is.

    Gretchen: So interesting!

    To change topics, one issue for anybody designing a program, framework, app or anything like that is that it’s very easy to overweight our own Tendency.

    Take Questioners. To them, it’s crucial to have clarity about why you want to do something. So often, when Questioners try to help others, they emphasize that it’s all about inner expectations, about getting very, very clear on what's important to you and why a certain action makes sense, and what you want, and the most efficient ways to achieve those aims. And this approach just doesn’t always work very well for the other Tendencies.

    You’re a Questioner. As you’ve worked with others, has knowing about the Four Tendencies helped you to think, “I would think about this challenge in this way, but someone else might think about it a different way or need a different set-up to succeed?”

    Jud: This is an area where my psychiatric training has been helpful. I try not to let my view dominate, and I really strive to put myself in someone’s shoes so we can approach it from their personality rather than the questioner’s.

    But I very much appreciate what you’re saying. We aim not to approach this challenge from my point of view, but as much as possible, from their point of view.

    Gretchen: It’s great that you have the training to help you see the world from many perspectives. So many people give the advice that would work for them, and they’re puzzled and frustrated—and often judgmental—when that advice doesn’t work for others. I’ve certainly struggled with that myself.

    Jud: That’s why we do the research, to see what works for whom, and why. Our next step is to systematically categorize these folks, ultimately even do a randomized study, where we can have some people get the tips and suggestions based on their Tendency, while others go through the program as usual. We can see how well those Tendency-specific suggestions bolster simple things like adherence to the program.

    Gretchen: For what you’re doing, and what so many other people are trying to do, we need a simple, cost-effective tool to communicate more effectively. For eating more healthfully, for taking medication consistently, so many other things.

    To be effective, such a tool would need to be easy to use, widely applicable, and something that doesn’t require extensive training to understand or implement. I’ve got to say, I think my Four Tendencies framework is a tool like that. For one thing, once you know the Four Tendencies, they’re very easy to spot. Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels look quite different from each other, and that it's easy to tell one person’s Tendency from the other.

    For instance, as you were reading those comments from your participants, if you’d read a comment and asked me to guess the commenter’s Tendency, I think I would have guessed correctly each time. It’s obvious that these folks have different perspectives.

    It was fascinating to hear all the ways you suggested that a person might adapt the recommendations for your program to the Tendencies. It’s not as if you had to develop a gigantic apparatus within your program to suit each Tendency. It’s as simple as some tweaking of messaging, and reminding people of how they can think about the program in their own ways.

    Do you feel that in your program, it’s pretty easy to see, “I can see why different approaches work better for different people?”

    Jud: Yes. It’s about getting information to them in a way that’s accessible and reminding of that information until they have internalized it. For example, with the Rebels, first they take the quiz so they know that they’re Rebels. Now they have that information, and the program can take that into account.

    It’s awareness training. Everybody knows how to be aware to some degree, and everybody can improve at being aware to a degree as well.

    The question is: “How do we personalize medicine?” I think your Four Tendencies framework is a great way to personalize a training delivery: “Let's do the quiz, figure out your Tendency, give you that information, and then help you use that information so that you can utilize the available training in a way that’s personalized for you.”

    This is really personalizing medicine in a broad scale, if we think of medicine including behavioral training, which we certainly do these days.

    Gretchen: I was struck by an interesting lesson about Duolingo, the language-learning app. Several Rebels have told me when the app sends reminders and notifications, these messages made them turn away from the app. Obligers do well with that kind of accountability and monitoring, but Rebels think, “Even though I want to learn Italian, I refuse to do what this app is telling me to do.” Of course, the solution for a Rebel is to turn off those notifications. This is an important thing to know about yourself, as you’re setting up the app: Do you want to get notifications, or not? What would be more helpful to you?

    I think many people assume, “Notifications are great. Accountability is good.” Not for everyone.

    Jud: You’ve just described personalized training beautifully. It doesn’t take that much to do it. It’s about knowing what the Tendency is and then knowing the pieces that you want to tweak. For example, with our program, we have notifications. People can turn on or off the notifications. If they’re a Rebel, they can set the notifications for whenever they want. They’re in control. They’re the decider.

    Gretchen: You might even point that out to them: “For this Tendency, we’ve found that notifications are very helpful. We’ve found that maybe for this Tendency, notifications may not be useful. Ponder that, then set yourself up accordingly.”

    Jud: Right.

    Gretchen: For a Questioner, you could say, “Experiment. You could try it for a couple weeks on, a couple weeks off. See what works. Customize it for you. You might find that it’s effective.” Then they think, “Yes, I'm doing it in the way that’s most effective for me.”

    Jud: I’m imagining the seat position in a new car. Car companies set the standard seat position based on average driver height, and when you buy the car, you use the seat controls to adjust the seat to suit your own individual body type. Using the Four Tendencies works the same way.

    Gretchen: I think that is a perfect analogy. When the car comes off the assembly line, it’s not going to be customized for you, it has to be something that works for everybody. In the same way, your Eat Right Now program encompasses all Tendencies, so each individual has to customize it. “This program includes a body of tools, and we’ll customize the program for you. That’s just part of the process, because of course you’re not going to be able to drive the car comfortably until you move the seat around. Maybe you’re going to experiment. Maybe you’ll try the seat a little closer, or a little further away, until you find what suits you.”

    We know the people who are 6’6 are not going to want a seat adjusted the same way as for the person who’s 5’2. When we know someone’s body type, we can predict many of the adjustments that will make that seat more comfortable. Same thing with the Four Tendencies. When we know your personality type, we can predict what tools will help you succeed.

    Jud: It works extremely well when you just tweak it a little bit.

    Gretchen: I think this tweaking may be particularly important for Obligers. Obligers feel a lot of frustration because they’re able to meet expectations for others, but not for themselves. They put a lot of emotions around it. “I'm sacrificing for others. I always put the client/patient/customer first. I can always take time for other people, but I can’t take time for myself. I have low self-esteem.” They have a lot of value judgements, to which I say, “No, let all that judgment fall away. It’s really just about accountability.”

    If you’re an Obliger, the people around you may say, “If you keep talking about something and saying it’s important to you, why can’t you follow through? Why don’t you keep your promises to yourself? Why did you say ‘yes’ if you didn’t want to do it?” That’s very judgmental. With the Four Tendencies, there’s less judgment, it’s just, “This is a person who needs outer accountability. Let’s give this person the outer accountability they need, and then they’ll be fine. They just need that system in place.”

    Jud: Right. Helping them see the difference between the judging versus just holding themselves accountable could be huge for somebody.

    Gretchen: Yes. And by the way, the Obliger Tendency is the Tendency that includes the largest number of people. So, to Obligers, I always say, “Lots of people are exactly like you! There’s nothing wrong with you, or exceptional about you. This is a common problem. There’s no shame or weakness in it, you just have to know how to tackle it.”

    Jud: That makes a lot of sense.

    Gretchen: It’s interesting that you have a lot of Questioners in your program. Do people often ask for a lot of data and research justifications?

    Jud: To some degree, but we’ve also built the program with those explanations included. Probably as a Questioner myself, I’ve built those answers to those questions right into the program.

    Gretchen: Interesting. They get their questions answered as they go.

    Jud: I say, “You might be wondering why we’re doing this today. This is why.”

    Gretchen: That’s brilliant. That way they feel like they have all the information that they need. They’re not asked to do anything arbitrarily; every suggestion is justified by sound reasons.

    Jud: Right.

    6196189096 Jud, it has been fascinating to hear how you’re applying the Four Tendencies framework to your Eat Right Now program. It’s so exciting to think that my personality profiles could help people find success in a challenging area of their life.

    As your research and experimentation continues, I can’t wait to hear what you learn.

    Jud: Great to talk to you. I look forward to more conversations.

    Gretchen: Onward and upward!

    If you'd like to read my interview with Jud Brewer, about his own habits and happiness, it's here.

     

    Judson Brewer, MD PhD, is one of the leading minds in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery.” He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, trained US Olympic coaches, and his TED talk has received eight million views. A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments, such as www.goeatrightnow.com, www.cravingtoquit.com. He founded Claritas MindSciences to move his discoveries of clinical evidence behind mindfulness for eating, smoking and other behavior change into the marketplace. He is the author of The Craving Mind: from Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love -- Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits.

     
  • gretchenrubin 17:27:09 on 2017/07/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , health, , , rebel,   

    How a Health Coach Harnessed Her Rebel Tendency to Lose 40 Pounds and Boost Her Energy. 

    I love hearing how people put the Four Tendencies framework to work — whether by using knowledge of their Tendency to improve their own lives, or to work more effectively with other people.

    Recently, I got an email from Nagina Abdullah, health coach and founder of MasalaBody.com. She listens to the “Happier” podcast, and she told me about how she was able to eat more healthfully, lose weight, and boost her energy by harnessing the strengths of her Rebel Tendency.

    This story was particularly interesting to me, because — as Rebels themselves often point out — the strategies that work for other Tendencies often don’t work for Rebels.

    So I was fascinated to hear her story, and she wrote an account of it to share — which is below, with my comments in brackets.

    Nagina writes:

    When I was a kid, I got sent to the principal’s office on a weekly basis. While my teachers would ask the students to be quiet and obedient, I would end up in laughing fits and get sent to the principals’ office to get disciplined.

    I struggled with following expectations for my whole life. As a child, I resisted my teachers’ rules. As I got older, I resisted being healthier.

    See, I love food. I love sweets, fried food, food trucks, BBQs – everything that isn’t good for my waistline. I ALSO resist following the rules of having to be strict to get healthy.

    My tendencies finally made sense when I took Gretchen’s Four Tendencies Quiz. I wanted to see if I was an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel.

    I wasn’t surprised when I scored as a “Rebel.” Rebels resist outer and inner expectations.

    After decades of being addicted to sugar and feeling unable to control my cravings, I embraced my Rebel tendencies. As result, I lost 40 pounds, skyrocketed my energy and started wearing the clothes I had dreamed of wearing.

    Before and after - Story of a Rebel mom

    The “Healthy Rules” I Did Not Want to Follow

    After having two kids and working 60+ hour weeks, I felt exhausted and overweight, more than ever before. I needed to get healthier to feel better and have more energy for my kids.

    I didn’t want to deprive myself of food I loved and I didn’t have time to spend hours in the gym.

    Here are the rules to getting healthier I would regularly hear:

    • “You have to count calories, points, crumbs, licks, and drops”
    • “You must exercise 3+ days a week”
    • “No eating cupcakes, donuts, and everything else you love”

    Even though I wanted to get healthier, I resisted restrictive rules like these.

    This led to a lot of internal frustration, yo-yo dieting, announcing “It isn’t worth it!” and “Why is this so hard for ME?” [Rebels often get frustrated when they try to use the same techniques that work for other Tendencies.]

    Even if I wanted to be healthier, I couldn’t even follow my OWN rules.  [Rebels resist outer and inner expectations.]

    Would I ever change my habits to get healthier when I kept rebelling against the rules?

    I finally got my dream body when (only when) I broke the rules.

    Here’s how I broke the rules to lose 40 pounds and keep it off for now over six years.

    Above All I Wanted to Be a “Rebel Mom”

    Being a mom is the greatest gift, but I feared I would be overweight, exhausted and put myself last in the name of my kids, which is the stereotype of a mom I held.

    That’s when I decided to be a REBEL MOM and break through the stereotype.

    Here’s my vision of being the mom I wanted to be:

    • Feel confident in a bathing suit so I could swim and play in the sand with my kids
    • Run 5k’s with my kids and set healthy examples for them
    • Feel sexy around my husband
    • Go rollerblading, biking, ice skating, roller skating, skiing, snowboarding and more with my family and feel strong and agile as I am doing it

     

    Having a goal of a “Rebel Mom” inspired me to be healthier.  [Rebels want to express their identity; they want to live in accordance with their authentic self; they can do anything they choose to do, in order to be the kind of person they choose to be.]

    3 Rules I Broke to Get My Dream Body

    I started by eating healthy, because I found that it is the most impactful thing to do. But I needed to make eating healthy enjoyable and realistic for my life and family, and that’s when I realized there were three rules I had to break. [Rebels do well to focus on enjoyment. They also often enjoy breaking rules or achieving aims in unconventional ways.]

    Rule 1: “You need to eat healthy every day to lose weight.”

    How I break Rule 1:

    I have one “Cheat Day” a week where I eat everything I want, so I always get a “break” from the rules and have something to look forward to. A Cheat Day is KEY to losing weight if you hate following those strict diet rules. [As an Upholder and an Abstainer and a very low-carb eater, this would not work for me — but it works for Nagina.]

    Rule 2: “You have to eat boring food in tiny portions so you feel like you are starving to lose even 5 pounds.”

    How I break Rule 2:

    Instead of making my food flavorful with heavy sauces and creams, I use spices and herbs that pack in the flavor and have natural health benefits (like anti-inflammation and reduced water retention). I feel like I’m “cheating” and indulging even though I’m actually eating healthy.

    I love to add a pinch of cinnamon (lowers your blood sugar) in my morning coffee because it tastes so delicious. [Again, the focus on pleasure and choice.]

    Rule 3: “You are “supposed” to eat healthy.”

    How I break Rule 3:

    Remember the last time you were at an airport? Temptations at every turn, with most people indulging in them? It’s HARDER to eat healthy than not!

    As a result of eating healthy, I feel in control of myself, and feel like I’m rebelling against the “norms” of society. [Rebels often benefit from reminding themselves, “I’m not going to be trapped by a sugar addiction. These big companies can’t control me with their fancy marketing campaigns and crinkly packages. I’m strong, they can’t make me eat their junk.” Rebels also often love a challenge: “Most people can’t resist the goodies in an airport, mall, or store, but for me, it’s not a problem.”]

     What you can do to get healthier:

    If you resist outer and/or inner expectations (Rebels resist both, and Questioners and Obligers resist one or the other), and/or you have found it challenging to get healthier, try to BREAK some of the traditional rules by using one of the methods that worked for me:

    1. What’s a stereotype you would break by getting healthier? Embrace that and make it your goal.
    2. Include one cheat day a week and eat whatever you want on those days, while staying healthy on the other days. [Very effective for some people! Not effective for others! Know yourself.]
    3. Add herbs and spices to your foods to make it taste indulgent without the extra calories.
    4. Resist the unhealthy temptations around you and feel in control of yourself.

    To help you, I have a special gift for Gretchen Rubin readers. I would like to send you my three spiced late-night snacks to banish your sugar cravings forever AND a bonus recipe e-book, “7 Spicy Recipes to Help You Lose Your First 7 Pounds.” You can get these here.


    What I love about Nagina’s account is how carefully she examined what works for her, what she wants, and figured out her own way to get there.

    By embracing her Rebel Tendency, she was able to get the benefit of its enormous strengths. By contrast, when Rebels think they “should” be able to use techniques like to-do lists, scheduling, monitoring, or accountability, they often get very frustrated with themselves.

    There’s no one “right” way, no one “best” way — only what works for you.

    The post How a Health Coach Harnessed Her Rebel Tendency to Lose 40 Pounds and Boost Her Energy. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
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