• A word about addiction

    And that word is nawwwww, son.

    Not long ago I quit a group of formerly like-minded women as a wave of quitting, actually, swept through it. Women quit meat, dairy, sugar, gluten, alcohol, coffee, caffeine altogether, all kinds of substances. (There was also some quitting of activities and whole categories of people, like parents.) Why? I’m simplifying here, but basically because they wanted to live free of “addiction.”

    I’m for putting in your body whatever works for you, and leaving out whatever doesn’t. But I am not for the dilution of the word “addiction.” To illustrate:

    Imagine you wake up very late. It has now been over 24 hours since your last cappuccino. Do you

    A. Knock down the old lady blocking your way into Stabby’s.

    B. Pawn your mother’s wedding ring to pay for that latte.

    C. Trade sex for espresso even though you’re married.

    D. Prove helpless to stop repeating these terrible mistakes.

    E. None of the above. Just have a bit of a headache, really.

    If you answered E, what you have is physical dependency, not addiction. I prefer to reserve the term “addiction” for those behaviors we know are destroying our lives and our relationships and our bodies*, behaviors that we’re powerless to stop even when we mostly want to, behaviors of an extreme nature. 

    It’s true that sometimes, if I go a day without coffee, I can have a headache. Foggy thinking. My body has come to expect a small dose of caffeine. I provide it, but not because I’m afraid of the negative consequences of quitting, but because a latte - in bed! made by my husband! drunk together! - is one of my day’s greatest small pleasures.

    It’s worth drawing the distinction because pleasure is important to me. It’s a headache, not a night in jail, a month in rehab and a year of community service.

    And actually, while we’re being precise, pleasure is not just important to me. After a lifetime of unexamined Puritanism, pleasure has become vital. Pleasure is my ride or die. (CLICK TO GET TATTOO!)

    Gretchen Rubin says there are two kinds of people in this world: abstainers and moderators. Abstainers are the folks convinced they have an addiction and one bite will send them over a cliff. Moderators are the folks who will jump off that cliff without a little something once in a while.

    With my clients, I really like to push on the idea of addiction. Maybe they can’t ever have sugar without bingeing, and so abstinence would be best. But it’s worth seeing whether giving yourself permission to eat sweets and other pleasurable foods in moderation will result in actual moderation, because eating should be pleasurable, and because pleasure is a huge, huge, huge, huge, HUGE component of being at peace in your body. And I don't just mean bargaining about dessert. 

    So if you are interested in losing weight and/or loving your body and/or feeling good and/or having the occasional gelato and/or following a diet that allows a full social life, I suggest it could be useful to investigate what addiction means to you.

    And if you decide to get a PLEASURE IS MY RIDE OR DIE tattoo, send me a pic.

    *Destroying our bodies in a way, that is, that they will not be destroyed just by living. We’re all gonna die, and I like to weigh that fact when deciding what to eat and what to pass on.

  • Real self-care: Feels good now. Feels good later.

    Have you noticed everyone is pretty woke about self-care right now? It really seems like the whole world suddenly is talking about this.

    But what the world calls self-care is not what I have been calling self-care.

    A few really terrible things I see passing themselves off as self-care are, for example:

    • self-improvement
    • self-medication
    • self-hatred
    • self-indulgence

    …for starters.

    Self-improvement is the biggie. There’s a lot this time of year in the form of rigid, too-strict diet-and-exercise plans. So many people sell extreme diets under the label of self-care. 

    Actual self-care, on the other hand, will be moderate and sustainable. It will not be extreme. Extreme is going to leave you with a mess to mop up, and that’s not very caring.

    Self-medication: Mmmmm let’s come back to this another day. Because actually, I don’t think self-medication is all that terrible. Not compared to…

    Self-hatred, which talks a good game but always boils down to this: Justifying the use of hostility to create change. You know what? Self-care can do the job better with kindness.

    Self-indulgence is often the way we cope with self-hatred. It’s telling yourself you “deserve” this nice thing (too much cake, too much wine, a too-costly handbag) that winds up leaving you in the hole somehow. 

    (And then self-hatred jumps in and screams “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!”, doesn’t it? “NO MORE SUGAR EVER AGAIN ALSO YOU SUCK!” That’s how mine talks, and just about everyone I've ever coached, too.) 

    Fake self-care is supposed to make you feel good - or “better” - but it always ends up with you feeling worse than before. 

    And that’s why none of these things pass my self-care test: To be self-care, it’s got to actually be caring. 

    This is the biggest, highest bar ever. This means if it feels good for a moment, but feels terrible for days afterward, it's not self-care.

    Just as important, this also means no bullying ourself into something because it’ll be good for us in the end. Like the Buddhists say, it’s actually got to be good in the beginning and good in the middle, too. 

    It might not feel comfortable. Looking for a new job is not comfortable. Telling your family you're not taking feedback about your weight or couple status is not comfortable.

    (But it will feel like self-respect, and that feels AMAZING.)

    So if what someone is calling “self-care” feels bad to you, like death-march bad, prison-sentence bad, bad-dream bad, then it isn’t. Because real self-care can always find another way - a way that feels good while you're doing it and feels good later too.

    You just have to set the bar there.

  • Just arrived: Words of the Year

    You know how thoughtful internet people like to pick a watchword for the year - often something high-minded and sincere, two things I don’t enjoy all the time. These are folks picking words like expansion, clarity, massive action, sometimes exhausting things.

    Reader, I bought that blouse. Ebay; what a miracle!

    Also these folks like to be ready to go on New Year’s Day with their word, which I cannot do. December is too full for mental exercises, and I must take January to recover from the holidays and do no planning or really even much thinking.

    But if it wants to, sometime in February my word will come to me of its own accord. I do nothing. A couple years ago, my word was a phrase: “Everything must go.” A hard but useful year in which everything in my life had to argue for its continuing existence. Nothing stayed for free. 

    (LOTS of stuff, as it turns out, didn’t have enough fight in it to stay. See ya, stuff!)

    Anyway, last week this year’s words arrived. Three word pairs, in fact: Salade niçoise, bow blouse, and Octavia Butler. 

    Octavia Butler might be a little high-minded. But I’ve been wanting to read her since she was still living, and that’s a decade now. If it’s too harrowing, I will GIVE IT UP quick. (I hear she's not, though.)

    As you know, food is always something I think about, and right now I have a wild hair to see how many variants of salade niçoise I can make. This recipe is already so simple! Is there anything left to discover? We will find out.

    Finally, I wish there was a day of the week that started with B, and then I could have Bow Blouse Bednesday or Bow Blouse Briday. That would be so good. I feel certain people would join me. No matter; we will do it anyway, join me if you like.

    Here is a secret: I wish to be the person of whom people say OMG I FEEL LIKE NO ONE CAN TOUCH HER BOW BLOUSE GAME.

  • The Coach is In

    Hey all -

    Please join me and some friends (some new, some old) on Facebook this week for open office hours. We'll be on my page Body Mind Magic at this URL: https://www.facebook.com/bodymindmagic/.

    Date and Time: Tuesday November 24, 3pm Eastern.

    What: A chance for free coaching. Ask me anything. Bring any questions. 

    In particular, I'm interested in having a conversation about self-care, for two reasons:

    1. Because I'm writing a book about it, and I want to know what you think about the topic.

    2. Because so much of the discussion around self-care is really just self-improvement, perfectionism and hostility in disguise. OUCH. We can do better.

    For me, self-care is fundamentally staying on my own side. It's a stance I take toward myself, not a rulebook and a checklist. It's really what all coaching comes down to.

    Which brings me to another reason I want to do some coaching online: Because every time I've done it, it's been really fun.

    So we can talk about self-care specifically or anything else you want

    Hope to see you next week, because I always want to know how you're doing. ADORE! RESPECT!

  • I tire of people telling each other to surrender.

    "Surrender" is supposedly a very spiritual thing to do. Surrender your life to God! Surrender control to the Universe! 

    Pretty much all the spiritual people, at least the ones in my neighborhood, are very into the idea of surrender. 

    "Surrender" is a war word. It implies sides, winners, losers. Kind of like "submit" is a domination word, and implies a slave and a master. 

    And if life is a big battle, then surrender might be necessary in order to get a little peace. But how much nicer not to be fighting in the first place.

    It might be easier to get along with reality if we didn't somehow think that accepting everything means also liking it. That IS a battle.

    I prefer the idea of accommodation. Just making room for what is. No war needed.

    And no one has to be one up or one down.