Reframed failures

“It’s all feedback, not failure.”  I believe that, but only recently.  All through my training, mistakes were taboo.  Failure – utterly unacceptable.  Of course, doctors must aim for perfection (that is why physician burnout is close to 66%.)  Mistakes can be very costly, especially in emergency situations.  Bless the emergency docs! 

But thankfully, most of us, are not emergency docs (even amongst the docs.)  Most of us, do not deal with life and death situations – ever!  So take the time to reframe and reflect on the feedback the world sends every day.  Not to find fault, but to find a better solution.  The journey to a more vibrant and meaningful life is not paved with failures and self-reprimand.  It is paved with reframed failures.

I love the ‘It’s all feedback, not failure’ approach to life.  Feedback is failure reframed.  If I had truly believed this during my failed Eat Less, Move More weight loss attempt, I would have concluded what I was doing (or not doing) was ineffective and altered course much sooner.  Clearly, resistance training was not an effective strategy for weight loss.  Nor was my ‘except-for-diet.’ (My version of healthy eating while consistently resistance training… I was ‘good’ except for…. The potato chips…. The shared piece of cheesecake…. The 12” sub…)  Somehow the ‘exceptions’ slowly morphed from a few chips to half a family sized bag…. From shared cheesecake to my own piece…. <<SIGH>>

Perhaps if I had believed it’s all feedback, and reframed my failure, things would have been different. 

Please do not misunderstand.  I believe exercise is a crucial aspect of health and must be incorporated into everyone’s life in a joyful manner.  Resistance training, stretching, cardio… all of it.  It works…. for increasing strength, increasing flexibility and improving cardiovascular health.  Exercise also improves mood, and brain health.  It just doesn’t work for weight loss – weight maintenance perhaps, but weight loss?  Not so much.

As I embrace ‘feedback not failure’ as a life philosophy, I am learning to be curious not judgey about ‘stuff’.  Instead of reprimanding myself for caving to a sugar-snack attack, I reframe it.  What was I avoiding?  What can I learn from this?  What strategy might have worked? 

I recently made a thoughtful decision to re-incorporate exercise into my life, after an 18 month hiatus.  As yet, I have been unable to follow through.  Why is that, I wonder?  Reframe.

After considerable deliberation, I have reached a tentative conclusion.  I spent five years – faithfully meeting with a personal trainer, attempting – unsuccessfully to lose weight. My brain has ample evidence exercise is ineffective.  “Why bother?” it rants, “Exercise doesn’t work, it is pointless – it is true, you have proven it!” That lesson in futility is sabotaging my successful return to exercise. 

Had I been exercising to gain strength, correct muscle imbalances and increase flexibility, I would have been quite successful.  But my mind, was fixated on weight loss as the golden goalpost.  My mind has decided I failed with exercise.  It learned exercise is futile.  It doesn’t care that it was measuring the wrong thing.  Thought error!

Eventually I reframed my weight loss failure – it has nothing to do with exercise.  I discovered the no sugar/no flour/manage your insulin approach to weight loss.  JACKPOT!  I easily plummeted through previous plateaus and kept going.  I am now 20 pounds less than what I had set for my target Eat Less, Move More weight goal – without exercise. 

Reframe failure.  I did that for my failed weight loss journey.  What I discovered was so much more than the secret to permanent weight loss.  I uncovered a refreshing mental clarity – an incredible hidden treasure.  A brain fog, I was unaware of, lifted. 

Weight loss is great.  But mental clarity?  Priceless.

Now I must reframe exercise…. Exercise for strength.  Exercise for flexibility.  Exercise for optimal brain health!  Just not for weight loss.  I wonder hidden treasure I will discover?

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

The gift of yet.

Yet.  My favorite word in the English language.  For such a short word it packs a powerful punch.  WOMP! 

Think about a very commonly used excuse – “I don’t know.”  It’s an insidious, infectious habit.  When you think the thought “I don’t know,” how does it make you feel?  Motivated?  Curious? Enthusiastic?  Unlikely.  More like, defeated and disappointed.  These feelings prompt what actions?  Distraction, quitting/giving up, resignation.  Creating the results that you don’t know confirming your original thought.  

How many times a day does this toxic “I don’t know” default pop into your head.  “I don’t know” was probably your answer.  Sneaky habit! 

But add the word ‘yet’ – “I don’t know, yet” – and WOMP!  Completely altered concept.  Instead of packing up your belongings and retreating sheepishly, you open up your thoughts, access your intuition, and you peak into the attic of your wisdom.  WOMP! WOMP! WOMP! 

YET – one little three letter word – massive impact.

I first came across this concept when reading Mindset, the new psychology of success, by Carol Dweck.   Adding the word yet, changes your thinking from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  “I don’t know” is a fixed mindset.  “I don’t know, yet” is a growth mindset. That shift can have a profound impact on your life.

Your mindset – is just a choice!  It is a thought.  And thoughts are optional. 

A fixed mindset is a belief you hold about yourself – that you believe you cannot change, some things are just fixed.  I suck at math.  I’ve always been anxious. I’m not creative.

A growth mindset reframes that self-limiting belief.  You can change your beliefs about yourself.  You can learn to be good at math.  You can choose to learn to be mindful rather than stress and anxious by default.   

Again, I repeat – your thoughts are optional.  You can choose your thoughts.  You can believe whatever you want. 

Turn “I don’t know” into “I don’t know, yet.”  Or even better, “I am figuring it out.” 

You will be surprised how much insight and wisdom you have hidden away!  I can almost guarantee it.

Buff it up my friends.
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

Sugar addicted fat hoarder to badass fat burner. Part 2

In part one of this series I suggested the following strategies:

  • Eliminate sugar/flour containing foods.
  • Do not snack. 
  • Eat three meals, 5 – 6 hours apart throughout the day.
  • Eat real food (unprocessed).
  • Fast for 12 hours over night. 

I could practically hear your eyes rolling as you slammed your laptop shut. 

Yeah right.  Just don’t snack.  Just eat real food – as in prepare and cook three meals a day for my picky-eater kids and pizza loving partner.  I am walking the tightrope of life – balancing career and family.  Have you seen my schedule?  And fast for 12 hours.  Might as well add train for an ironman triathlon to the mix.  BAH!

Insanity.

Yeah, I thought so too. 

Until I experienced the brain clarity and incredible energy producing impact of those changes.  Our brain loves the glucose-induced-dopamine rush that sugar and flour so efficiently provide.  It is addicted to the dopamine rush, the brains neurotransmitter default feel-better-now-solution-to-everything.  Sugar for more energy.  Sugar to console.  Sugar to celebrate.  Sugar to deflect stress. 

But a sugar fueled brain is a sluggish brain.  A sugar fueled body is a sluggish body. 

But once fat adapted?  Your body on ketones?  And your brain on ketones? 

Revved and respectively, totally revved.  VROOM! VROOM!

But how?  Here are some strategies for the strategies…..

  1. Just one percent better, every day.  Start small, and keep building.  You are likely already doing an 8 – 10 hours fast, assuming you are not eating right before bed and do not get up and chow down in the middle of the night.  Extend it one hour at night… then, delay eating for one hour in the morning…. BOOM! 10 – 12 hours fast.  Then give up you after supper snack…. BOOM 12 – 14 hour fast.  Done.
  • Hunger is never an emergency.  Don’t feed that hunger pang.  Wait a bit, it will pass.  Let your body chew on some body fat for a few hours.   When you feel that mid-morning pang of hunger, tell yourself, “Oh… I think I am hungry.  It will pass, hunger is never an emergency.  Go chew on some body fat.”  When that pang of hunger subsides, rest assured, you have started to burn body fat.  Imagine a virtual troop of mini-cellular-engineers (complete with hard hats and pick axes) mining energy from your body fat stores.
  • Eat to nourish, not console.  Food is the most abused anti-depressant and anxiolytic.  And it only provides transient relief at best.  Using food to relieve stress or anxiety is like throwing a fire extinguisher to a drowning person.  It is the wrong solution to the problem.  All sorts of stressors (both positive and negative) trigger cravings.  A craving is an abnormal, urgent desire, that is easily triggered.  No wonder we sabotage ourselves so readily.  If hunger is not the problem, food is not the solution.  Imagine that!  When a craving keeps tripping you up, ask yourself “Hmmmm…. What’s going on here?  How can I deal with this without eating?”  Know your triggers in advance.  Solve for them in advance. 
  • Prioritize your self care.  Give yourself permission to look after yourself.  What truly gives your life meaning?  Ask yourself “Does this choice (whatever it is) help me move a little closer to the vibrant and meaningful life I desire?”  If yes, proceed.  If no, then ask yourself, what is one small step in a positive direction I can take right now?”
  • Love your reason behind any decision, and eliminate regrets.  Go ahead eat a piece of chocolate velvet birthday cake with creamy fudge icing and a side of ice cream because your daughter is celebrating her 18th birthday.  Do not eat a piece of birthday cake, because it is quick and easy to grab, eat and run. 

Sugar addicted fat hoarder to badass fat burner – it is utterly possible!  Believe it!

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

Sugar addicted fat hoarder to badass fat burner – Part 1?

The Eat Less, Move More Weight Loss Gospel is the approach most commonly recommended by doctors, dieticians and politicians weight loss program.  And it fails, 99% of the time.  Ask any chronic dieter.

I am proof.  Approximately 6 years ago, following a popular weight loss program, I lost about 30 pounds but was stalled.  Determined to win my battle of the bulge, I committed to ‘move more’ and for 5 years – yes FIVE – I faithfully met with a personal trainer, 3 – 4 times per week.  Sure enough, I got stronger, corrected some muscle imbalances and got to know some really terrific ladies.  But weight loss – NOT.

About a year ago, hidden deep in the googles, buried amongst mountains of nutrition nonsense I stumbled across the work of Dr. Jason Fung, ranting about the evils of sugar and flour, claiming obesity is a hormonal imbalance NOT an energy imbalance.  

Say what? 

Everyone KNOWS that more calories in than calories out equals weight gain.  Everyone KNOWS that a high fat diet is bad and is clogging our arteries, making us prone to heart disease and premature death.  It has been preached to us since the early 80’s. It was taught to me in medical school.

In his book The Obesity Code, Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, Dr. Fung very convincingly argues the Eat Less, Move More weight loss gospel is quite simply wrong.   He presents the evidence from the medical literature, connecting all the dots, that support this outrageous claim.   Fascinating.  Furthermore, he argues we are not obese because we are sedentary overeaters, but we are sedentary overeaters because we are obese. 

In other words, our inability to adhere to the Eat Less, Move More gospel, is not our fault.  In fact, our body is responding perfectly to the well-intentioned dietary advice of doctors, dietitians and politicians – five to six (or more), low fat, calorie restricted meals and snacks throughout the day. 

We listened.  We got fat.  And are getting fatter.

Let’s look a little deeper into what happens when we eat sugar/flour – our beloved refined carbohydrates.

Refined carbohydrates – sugar and flour – are very concentrated forms of glucose.  When you eat sugar/flour, it is rapidly digested and absorbed, flooding your bloodstream with glucose.  Your primitive brain, doing its job very efficiently, is like “whoa, this is great stuff” and squirts a little dopamine (our oh-nice neurotransmitter) reward to prompt you to remember.   This job of your primitive brain is extremely useful if food is scarce – “this is where the blueberries grow, remember.” 

But nowadays, food is not scarce.  Sugar/flour is readily available. A leisurely stroll to the refrigerator or pantry or at most, a short car ride to the grocery store, is all that is required to get a hit.  Your brain adapts to ‘too-much-of-a-good-thing’ and decreases the number of dopamine receptors in your brain, and BOOM – sugar addict.  You need more and more sugar/flour to get the same effect.

As a society, we are addicted to sugar.

Every time you eat something with sugar/flour – perhaps a bagel with cream cheese (low fat of course) with a little homemade strawberry jam (how bad can it be?), you flood your bloodstream with glucose.  Insulin – our fat storage hormone – responds beautifully.  A surge of insulin follows a spike in blood glucose.  Insulin pushes glucose into the cells of our body, providing them with the energy needed to remain healthy, and stores an emergency energy supply in the muscles and liver (in case we encounter hungry lions and need to make a run for it.)  The excess, is stored as fat, for future use should famine hit. 

Well done insulin!  It kept our cells energized, protected us from hungry lions and future famine.

About 2 hours later, your cells send out a yellow alert alarm “Hey, I’m out of fuel.”  Your body mobilizes the emergency energy stored in the liver and muscles, but shortly thereafter – red alert – your cells are complaining, “more glucose, NOW please.”  (The please is because I am Canadian!) 

You start to feel grumpy, perhaps even a little shaky or light headed, your stomach growls and you cannot focus on the task at hand.  Hmm.  Time for a mid-morning snack…. Muffin anyone?  You eat.  The sugar/flour of the muffin are rapidly digested and absorbed, flooding our bloodstream with glucose, insulin is released…. 

And the cycle repeats…. For your lunch… For your mid-afternoon snack… For your dinner… For your before bed snack…. 

You are providing a steady stream of glucose and insulin responds accordingly, storing fat for future famine.

As a society, we are sugar burners and fat hoarders.  

This steady stream of glucose with insulin mop-ups is just not helpful if you are trying to lose weight (body fat.)  You never access your fat stores because insulin is very efficiently, hoarding fat.  When insulin is high, we are in fat storage mode.  When insulin is low, we are in fat burning in mode.  You cannot store fat and burn fat at the same time.  Physiologically, you are doing one or the other, never both. 

To lose weight – to access and burn your fat stores for fuel – you must make the switch from sugar burning addict to a fat burner.  To become a fat burner, you must lower your insulin levels. 

How?

  • Eliminate sugar/flour containing foods.
  • Do not snack. 
  • Eat three meals, 5 – 6 hours apart throughout the day.
  • Eat real food (unprocessed).
  • Fast for 12 hours over night. 

After 2 – 3 weeks (sometimes more, sometimes less) your body is like, “well… harrumph, seems the glucose supply is a bit low these days, guess I will have to use up this body fat.”  And it starts burning its fat stores.  It starts producing dormant fat mobilizing enzymes and burning fat gets easier and easier. 

Before you know it, one day you will notice, “Huh.  It’s been 5 hours since breakfast and I’m not in the least bit hungry.”  Badass fat burner!  Whoop!  Whoop!  Not only are you not hungry, your thought processes are clearer than they have been in years, you have energy at the end of a long day, and your sleep is awesome. 

Sugar addict, turned badass fat burner!

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

Mentor yourself from your future.

Mentor yourself from your future.  Incredibly powerful concept. 

You are where you are today because of the thoughts and choices you made in your past.  If you are not happy with the results you are getting in your life, you need to change your thoughts. 

Try this thought experiment. 

Consider your past self – say 5 years ago.  Recall your life activities and circumstances.  What thoughts, feelings and actions were you taking then to create your current results?  How did you spend your time?  Where did you live?  Where did you work? Were you married, raising kids, struggling to balance too many critical variables?  What dreams were you having? 

If your current self could sit down and have a coffee-chit-chat with your past self, what advice, encouragement and support would you offer?  If you knew then, what you know now, how could that have impacted your present?   Maybe you would have taken more risks.  Maybe you would have spent more time with friends and family.  Maybe you would pass on the self-doubt?

Though we cannot undo the past, we can turn this idea around.

Tap into your imagination and picture your future successful self, 5 years from now.  Where do you live?  Where do you work?  What do you think about? How do you feel?  How do you spend your time?  Who is beside you through your life’s adventure?  How fit are you?  What is your way of eating?  Be as specific as possible – dare to dream in technicolor, 3D and surround sound.

With that vision in mind, have a coffee-chit-chat with your future self.  Ask your future self, what your current self needs to think, feel and do to create those successful results.  What encouragement, advice and support would your future self-recommend?  What would it be like to receive a letter from your future self? 

Imagine yourself at your ideal weight.  Food no longer has control over you.  You no longer perpetually think about food or obsess about macros.  You have adopted a way of eating that enhances your dream lifestyle.  You weigh yourself every day and it does not dictate your mood.  You attend family gatherings and create memories.  Instead of thinking about food, what do you think about?

Such a fantastic thought experiment!  Mentor yourself from your future.

Thoughts experiments are great, but not so easily shifted into reality.  Your brain makes decisions – safe and secure decisions, with predictable, known results – based on past experiences.  The Familiar safe/secure – Change lethal mentality.  It readily recycles thoughts and repeats actions from your past.  And predictably, you get the same results. 

It is much more challenging (but infinitely more interesting/intriguing) to create a vibrant and meaningful future from your imagination.  But so worth the challenge!

Ultimately your thoughts create your results.  And you get to choose your thoughts.  Imagine your future successful thoughts and adopt them as reality.  What decisions would your future successful self make for your current decisions?   Include possible obstacles, failures and fears you may need to face.  You do not have to know how you might overcome these obstacles and fears, just that you conquered them.  You will figure it out as you grow into your future dream-self.

Use your imagination to live from (and grow into) your potential possibilities, not your predictable past. 

Your future is yours to create.  Embrace your adventure. Adopt thoughts, feelings and actions from your future to create your future. 

Visualize your future self.  She is you, confident and vibrant, just further along the path at your feet just without any self-doubt.  She is the you, you can become. 

You can, mentor yourself from your future. Powerful concept.

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

Become Unbotherable.

Life changing concept.  To become unbotherable.

This is not to suggest we stop caring.  Not at all.  If your teenager consistently misses curfew, of course you care, and need to clarify expectations and consequences.

But there are so many little irritants of no significance whatsoever that pop up throughout the day.  Things like sorting the recycling, misplacing the nail clippers, finding an empty Kleenex box or the toilet paper roll is on backward.  Insidiously increasing your daily stress.  Slowly and silently eroding your tolerance and then, BAH, you snap regrettably at your spouse for leaving dishes in the living room.  You blame it on stress at work.  You blame it on untidiness.  You blame it on ‘something’ out there.  “ErH”

When I first encountered this concept, it was very early along the path of my de-stress quest.  I started paying attention to how often I felt an “ErH-moment.”  I was astounded, then disheartened.  Am I so stressed that every-little-thing annoys me?  All day long!  Seriously?  “Erh!” Truthfully, it added stress.  But as I have already said, the first step to change is awareness.  I was aware.  Annoyingly aware!

It was not until I learned about self-coaching thought work I was able to effectively intervene.

It’s not ‘out there.’  It was in here (gesturing at my head.) It was me, torturing myself, with my thoughts.  Anything that causes you stress, pain, overwhelm, anxiety, sadness, depression, resentment or “?whatever?” (fill in the blank) is because of your thought(s) about that thing.  That thing is called your circumstance in coach speak.   And your circumstances are always neutral.  Always.  More on this another blog. 

Change your thought about that circumstance.  It is the golden, diamond studded path of the de-stress quest, if not the secret to the universe.  Change your thought and end your self-induced misery. 

It is your thought(s) about the recycling that makes it irritating.  It is your thought(s) about misplacing the nail clippers that annoy you.  It is your thought(s) about the empty Kleenex box or toilet paper roll that frustrate you. 

Seriously?  Come on, really?  Get a grip!  You let an empty Kleenex box ruin your day?  No.  That is not what I am trying to illustrate.  An empty Kleenex box pierces a tiny little pin hole – one of many, creating an imperceptible leak – in your resilience.  All those tiny little irritants accumulate and deflate your resilience. 

What if you decide those passing insignificant irritants were just not irritating?  Sorting recycling is caring for the environment.  Misplacing nail clippers means a manicure is in order.  An empty Kleenex box, is just an empty Kleenex box. Toilet paper unrolls well either way, backward or not.

Change your thoughts!  So freeing!

Sure. Change your thoughts – easy for the trivial annoyances, but what about real bonafide stressful problems?  You lost your job.  Your mother is sick and in hospital.  Your husband wants a divorce.

Let’s work through an example.  You lost your job.  What are your thoughts?  “I will never find another job.”  “I won’t be able to provide for my family.”  “I will miss the mortgage payment.”  “Our savings will only last 4 months at the most.”  The fact that you lost your job is not causing your stress.  It is your thoughts about losing your job causing your stress.  This sounds like I am splitting semantic hairs.  But, the secret to the universe lies in the space between these semantic hairs. 

Change your thoughts.  

Is “I will never find another job,” a helpful thought?  Will it help you build the vibrant and meaningful life you want? No and no.  Instead of repeatedly replaying the ‘I-am-going-to-end-up-homeless-on-the-streets’ scenario, what is a helpful thought?  What thought about losing your job will help you continue to build the vibrant and meaningful life you want?  Focusing on the ‘I-am-going-to-end-up-homeless-on-the-streets’ scenario has no upside.  Choose to think “A new opportunity awaits” or “I need a plan” or fill in “whatever works for you.”  Focus on the ‘an-amazing-opportunity-awaits’ scenario.   Problem solve from that opportunity awaits perspective.  So much more helpful.

Change your thoughts. The secret to the universe!

Become unbotherable.  The secret to the de-stress quest.

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

Self-coaching 1.0

I have a not-so-small library of self-help books.  I read them all.  I scribble in them.  I highlight.  I study and summarize.  I ear-mark the pages.  Very little changed – for decades.

<<SIGH>>

Reading self-help books was not helpful.  In fact, reading self-help books effectively undermined my confidence because I was unable, (perhaps unwilling) to follow through. 

Change is hard.  If anyone tells you otherwise, do not pay attention, they are fibbing.  Resistance to change is hard-wired into our brain.  Our brain is designed to keep us safe and secure.  And safe and secure to the brain is familiar.  Unfamiliar – bad/lethal.  Familiar – good/safe.  Even when familiar is not serving us well your brain will take the familiar default every time.

Change may be hard, but it is possible.  Totally possible, with a daily self-coaching practice.

The secret lies in these words…. Daily… Practice.  

Daily.  Hmmm… easier said than done.  Am I right?  Do you actually floss daily?  Drink six, 8 ounce glasses of water daily?  Get 7 – 9 hours of sleep daily?  Stretch daily?  Practice cello daily?  These are a few of the things that I say I do daily, but in truth, I don’t.  <<SIGH>> The first step to change is awareness.  The second step, is owning your truth/reality.

Practice. Merriam – Webster’s Dictionary defines practice “to do or perform often…. To work at repeatedly so as to become proficient….”  

If you want to truly effect change in your life, you must change your thoughts and practice your new thoughts daily.  This is what self-coaching is all about. 

Self-coaching.  To coach means to “to instruct, direct or prompt.”

To self-coach then means to instruct, direct or prompt yourself.  We do it all the time, just remarkably ineffectively.  Sitting at a red light.  Random thoughts streaming through your head.  Waiting in line at the cafeteria.  More random thoughts. 

Can you imagine how different your life might be if instead of random thoughts, you connected with an intentional, crystal clear compelling vision of your dream future?  Now that is a thought worth developing and reciting over and over again!

How to self-coach? 

Step one – notice your thoughts.  You must become aware of the thoughts that are actually streaming along in your mind.  Do a thought download every day.  Take a pen and a piece of paper and start writing.  Just write.  Don’t judge.  Don’t worry, the spelling and grammar police are not coming along with their red pens.  You do not need a fancy leather bound journal, a paper napkin will suffice.  But WRITE IT down – don’t just think about it.  The physical act of writing focuses your awareness.  I can almost guarantee you will be surprised where you end up. 

Step two – read what you wrote.  Any insights?  Any recurring themes?  Any intriguing thoughts?  Any toxic thoughts? 

Step three – pick a thought, you would like to change.  Ask yourself “Is this thought helpful?” and “Does this thought help me build the vibrant and meaningful life I want?”  If you answered yes and emphatic yes to those questions, keep it.  If the answer is no to either question, change it.  Find a replacement thought that is true and neutral and every time you catch yourself with the old thought, insert your new thought.  Recognize your old thought as not helpful and call it out. OH, there is that old thought I do not believe any more.

For example, if your thought is, “I am always late.” Ask yourself, “Is this thought helpful and does it help me build the vibrant and meaningful life I want?”  No and no.  Change it to something true and neutral.  “I am on time sometimes.”  

With Dr. Time and practice, you can gently prod your new thought forward and change that neutral thought to positive, positive to fabulous and fabulous to amazing.

  • “I am always late.”
  • “I am sometimes on time.”
  • “I am often on time.”
  • “I am rarely late.”
  • “I am sometimes early.”
  • “I am always early” or
  • “I am never late.”

Shifting directly from “I am always late” to “I am always early” or “I am never late” is bound to fail.  It’s too big of a stretch.  But you can certainly get there in a few steps.  We call these bridge thoughts in coach-speak.  I love bridge thoughts.  Master the fine art of building bridge thoughts – life will be incredible.

It would be just lovely if we could simply replace our thoughts.  But we cannot and those old thoughts – especially the ones we have held near and dear, deep in our subconscious, for decades – keep recurring.  When they recur, notice it.  Acknowledge it.  Tell yourself…  “Huh, there is that old thought I no longer believe.”  Take the wind out of its sails and eventually it will fade. At the very least if it doesn’t fade, it could be mildly entertaining. Oh right, there is that nonsense thought…. and chuckle at yourself.

Self-coaching.  Change your thoughts.  Change your life!  Seriously powerful!

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

The Three am Epiphany

The three am epiphany is an unexpected “Aha moment” in the middle of the night.     Have you ever been struggling to solve some problem or perhaps make a decision – looking at it from different angles, bouncing ideas around with colleagues, writing pro/con lists – unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion?  Then ‘POOF!’ The answer pops into your mind in the wee hours of the morning.  Three am epiphany.

That three am epiphany is your brilliant brain at work.  It has been revisiting, shuffling, searching, sorting and percolating through past experiences, memories, adventures and close encounters…. Ponder, ponder, ponder…. BAM!  There it is.  “Huh?  Why didn’t I think of this earlier?”

How many times have you thought “Oh, nice idea!” at three am then settled back into the pillow, unable to articulate the details in the morning.  So many great ideas are born and lost in dream mist as we shift from REM to non-REM sleep and back again.  It’s almost as if our brain is teasing us.  I now try to capture those misty ideas, however incoherently, I scribble it into a journal, (if I can) before I drift back to sleep.

Our brain simply loves to answer questions and problem solve.  It is always looking for solutions.  Always.  Annoyingly, we tend to frame the questions we ask ourselves with a negative twist.  “Why can’t I lose weight?” “Why do I hate exercise?”  

Let’s take advantage of this beautiful feature of our brain.  Time to upgrade the questions we ask ourselves. 

Ask your brain high-quality, empowering questions. It will come up with an answer to negative or empowering questions – it doesn’t care – it just loves to answer questions.  But the latter answers are so much more helpful when we are trying to build a vibrant and meaningful life. 

Instead of “Why can’t I lose weight?” ask “How can I lose weight permanently and not feel deprived?” Or instead of “Why do I hate exercise?” ask “How can I exercise consistently and have fun at the same time?”  Your brain will generate so much more helpful answers.

The same approach goes for your thoughts.  Replace those random, negative (usually self-directed) thoughts with an intentional empowering thought designed to build a vibrant and meaningful life.  Remember you get to choose your thoughts.  Choose wisely!

Try it out.  You have nothing to lose.

Ask yourself empowering questions. 

            “What do I love about myself?”

            “How can I be extraordinary?”

            “How can I listen more attentively to the people I love?”

Tell yourself empowering thoughts intentionally designed to help you create a vibrant and meaningful life.

            “I am enough.”

            “There is no such thing as failure, it’s all feedback.”

            “I will lose weight permanently.”

Take advantage of your brain and the beauty of the three am epiphany!  Capture the dream mist.

Buff it up my friends!

Coach Karen

The Matrix Revisited

Okay total play on words – this has nothing to do with The Matrix Revisited the movie. It is related to the Eisenhower Matrix of productivity.

Here’s how it works.  Imagine a four by four grid.  Each quadrant represents the degree of importance and urgency any given task may have. 

Quadrant I tasks have high importance but not are urgent (Important/Not Urgent.)  Exercise is one example.  Exercise is high on the priority list, but often neglected.

Quadrant II tasks – Important/Urgent are highly important and highly urgent. Entrepreneurs spend the brunt of their time here.  They are constantly putting out fires, trying to get ahead of the game.  The end result – burnout. 

Once burned out, they retreat to Quadrant III, Not Important/Not Urgent.  This escape fuels Quadrant II tasks because Important/Not Urgent tasks are not addressed in a timely fashion, and they then end up in the Important/Urgent quadrant.  Quadrant IV tasks – Not Important/Urgent– are rampant and spreading like wildfire with the advent of text, notifications, email etc.  Few of us can resist the ping of an ‘incoming’ email (especially if you are waiting on a reply) or the pull to check if your Facebook or Instagram post is favourable.

Productive individuals spend most of their time in Quadrant I – Important/Not Urgent.  Quadrant II tasks (Urgent/Important) are dealt with, but also evaluated to ascertain why an important task became urgent.  Both quadrant III and quadrant IV are avoided.  If you find yourself in Quadrant III – Not important/Not Urgent – you need to evaluate why you find yourself in that frame of mind.  Chances are you are not attending to Important/Not Urgent tasks related to self-care, putting out fires constantly and shortchanging your power-up moments. In summary:

  • Quadrant I – Important, not urgent (exercise)
  • Quadrant II – Important, Urgent (business matters)
  • Quadrant III – Not important, not urgent (watching TV sitcoms)
  • Quadrant IV – Not Important, Urgent (social media)

In the Matrix revisited, I have substituted in Meaningful and Connection to aid in answering the question: “How to have a great life?”  I believe a great life is one that is full of meaning and connection.

Both connection (socialization) and purpose in life (meaning) are identified as pillars of health in aging well.  In fact, social isolation as we age is worse than smoking on our health and well-being.  Furthermore, individuals that describe their life as meaningful with social connection are happier and have fewer regrets as they reach the end of the rainbow of life.  Who wouldn’t want that? 

  • Quadrant I – highly meaningful with low connection activities (writing blogs)
  • Quadrant II – highly meaningful with high connection (exercising with friends)
  • Quadrant III – low meaning, low connection (watching TV sitcoms)
  • Quadrant IV – low meaning, high connection (social media)

Imagine this thought experiment.

What if these two matrixes – Important and Urgent, Meaningful and Connection were blended?  What if we ask “Is this important?”  “Is it meaningful?” and “Does it promote/enhance connection in my life?” of each of your daily routines?  How different would our lives become if we focused only on those routines and activities that answered yes, yes and yes to those three questions? Imagine how that might change your life! 

Meaningful, connection and highly important! BOOM – great life.

Let’s take a relatively mundane example – brushing your teeth.  Is this important – yes.  Daily self-care is important.  Is it meaningful? Yes. Brushing your teeth is prevention against tooth decay.  Does it promote/enhance connection?  Yes.  A lovely smile with fresh breath is a wonderful thing on a crowded subway commute! Meaningful, with connection and important – PRICELESS combination!

No doubt there are many Matrixes just waiting to be described.

How would you personalize your life matrix?  Now there is a question worth pondering at great length!  Set your brain to it!  See where it takes you….. 

I bet there is a 3am epiphany waiting!

Buff it up my friends,

Coach Karen

Refuse to age gracefully.

Raise you right hand and repeat after me…. I hereby solemnly swear that I refuse to age gracefully.  I wholeheartedly believe that age related cognitive decline is a myth. 

True or not, why choose otherwise?  There is no upside. 

It is true there are physiological age-related changes.  Heart function diminishes (cardiac output decreases, blood pressure increases), lung function diminishes (impaired gas exchange, decreased vital capacity), kidney and liver function decrease, gut motility and digestion are altered, muscle mass and bone mass decrease, our skin thins, our joints seize and of course, there is cognitive decline.

Should we just watch and worry, cross our fingers and hope the great fly swatter of life misses us for a few more decades?  Can we fight physiology any more than we can fight the impact of gravity?

I prefer to think of it as working with physiology rather than fighting against it.  When you start to care for your body by listening carefully as it silently screams information, and you tell your brilliant mind what to think – change is possible. 

  • Find a form of exercise that you love.  Break a sweat daily with a friend. Move more than you sit. 
  • Don’t smoke.  Limit alcohol (better yet, don’t drink alcohol at all.)
  • Explore a way of eating that suits you best.  Love and listen to your gut.  It speaks volumes every meal!
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Actively reduce stressors in your life.
  • Actively pursue restful sleep – seven to nine hours every day.

This is nothing new.  These recommendations are all over the web. 

What is scarce on the web is information on changing your brain chatter.  Negate the self-reprimands.  Why not embrace Dr. Joe Dispenza’s hypothesis that our thoughts can heal?

Our thoughts can certainly make us miserable.  So, it absolutely possible that our thoughts can make us well.

Choose your thoughts carefully.  Refuse to age gracefully!  Now there is a thought to adopt.

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight, increase your mental clarity and polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com