End of the Year Review

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One of my favorite blogs is Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Nonconformity. Every year, he does an end of the year review to assess what went well, what didn’t, and how to improve things in the year to come. Usually I avoid doing the exercise since it seems like nothing that interesting happened. This year a lot of things went well so I wanted to take the time remember and celebrate the the successes.

What Went Well This Year? 

  • Felt well enough to end therapy and set out on my own
  • Finished life coaching with Alex and had some big epiphanies about the patterns in my life
  • Hired at a full time ambitious job with other young people
  • Joined an accountability group
  • Bought a nice camera! Which was something I had wanted to do for years and never had the money
  • Went to a Social Triggers networking event and actually had fun/didn’t hide in the corner or leave after 10 minutes.
  • Started personal training
  • Lost 15 pounds
  • Made friends with other bloggers
  • Stopped binge eating every weekend
  • Not afraid to ask for help or follow up with people
  • Been less apologetic about my ambitions or failures
  • Actually let more than 1 person read this blog! The last one I never let anyone read and I don’t think I told a single person what I was working on in my free time.

Overall, it’s been “The Year of Growing Up”. I had gotten into the bad habit of blaming everyone else for the problems in my life so I always had an excuse why things weren’t working out. It was hard to admit that I wasn’t putting in the work to make things better. My favorite blogs talk about taking responsibility for yourself so that’s how I started directing my life.

Instead of getting upset over every bad interview, I said “F%#$ that, I’m awesome and someone will eventually hire me.” About a month after making that decision, I was offered the job I’m at now. It’s full benefits and they’re training me every day to be more assertive.

What Didn’t Go Well This Year?

  • Didn’t get as independent as I wanted
  • Didn’t move out on my own
  • Didn’t lose as much weight as I wanted to
  • Didn’t grow the blog as much as I wanted to do this year
  • Didn’t make that many new friends in the city
  • Still spend a little too much time hiding out in my room
  • Still tend to be be afraid of success and putting myself more out there in the world

The thing I regret the most is not pushing things further. Why couldn’t I lose 30 pounds instead of 15? Why didn’t I push marketing the blog more? At the same time, I’m trying to not take it too hard since so many things went well this year. You can’t rush everything and sometimes it takes longer than you expect to follow through with your goals. I haven’t given up on them, it’s time to regroup and figure out how to make it happen.

Next year shall therefore be named:

THE YEAR OF SUCCESS

I’m tired of half finishing and half trying things. Next year I want to throw myself headfirst into all of my projects and have them be a success. Even if they fail, I would feel like it was a success if I met the challenge head on and attacked it.

Quote to live by next year

Give ’em hell, kid. 

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Tetrapharmakos and Other Diet Fads

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The flood of diet trends, advice, and lifestyles has been overwhelming in the past couple of years. In an attempt to find the “perfect human diet” anyone able to write an ebook (or dictate to someone else that can write) has become an overnight expert and confused all of us who want to get healthier in a rational way. Yet it’s still difficult to find good advice in the sea of nonsense.

Since the start of the Atkins diet, it seems like there some new fad every 6 months each with its own complicated plan and conflicting ideologies. Atkins stated that a low carb, high fat diet was the best way to lose weight so everyone that had been trained to avoid fat their whole life was suddenly allowed to eat bacon for ever single meal. I’m no “expert” in health, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that eating 90% of your daily calories from animal fat can’t be good for you.

On the other side there are people called fruititarians, who only eat fruit (as the name suggests). Once again, I am not a health “expert”, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that this way of eating has to be wrong as well.

I worked at a healthcare clinic for a couple months and it was kind of incredible hearing all the different issues people were up against. I never figured out why some people approach illness on the offensive or defensive. Some people find out that they’re sick and decide to overhaul their life to make themselves better. Others complained about how unfair it was and resigned themselves to the illness. One time I met a woman who had gotten cancer from HCG (Human Growth Hormone) injections, which she was first convinced would help her lose weight. That seemed ridiculous to me. What kind of snake oil salesman convinced her that would help her lose weight? At the same time, should she take more responsibility for that decision? She blamed the clinic that gave her the injections and never admitted that she should have done some research first.

If trends keep going the way they are now, it will be very likely that our obsession with food will become far more damaging than having a piece of cake on your birthday once a year.

Therefore, I’m introducing an old/new diet to solve all our problems.

Tetrapharmakos

“The four part cure”
Epicurus believed it was the best recipe for leading the happiest possible life. He explains it as:
   “Don’t fear god,
    Don’t worry about death,
    What is good is easy to get, and
    What is terrible is easy to endure.”
The fundamental obstacle to happiness is anxiety.

People worry about their jobs, family, weight, money, and everything in between. Maybe they should spend less time worried about what they don’t have and focus on all the things that went well. You didn’t die in a horrific car accident or get robbed on the way home from work.

It’s a guarantee someone out there had a worse day than you.

What’s easy to get?

Good friends and company. Good music. Good home cooked food.

If you have these basic things then the terrible stuff is easier to work through. Good friends and a home cooked meal can change everything.

What’s the craziest diet you’ve ever heard of?

Leave a comment below

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Book Review: The Element

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A while back I saw a Ted Talk by Ken Robinson titled “How School Kills Creativity” that changed my life. At the time I was getting burned out with teaching and couldn’t understand why I was feeling that way. It turns out that most people feel this way when they think about work and it starts with education.

The Element is about finding your passion to create meaningful work. One thing he’s noticed about people that are very successful is that they consider their work to be the most important and fun thing they could be working on. From a Math professor to musicians, each story he mentioned an example of someone who blended natural talent with dedication and hard work to create a life centered around their passion.

One of my favorite examples from the book was about Debbie Allen. She was a fidgety little girl that couldn’t focus in school. They sent her to a psychologist to find out what was wrong with her. Rather than put her on Ridalin the psychologist told her mother to step out of the room for a minute. When they left the room, Debbie immediately stood up and started dancing. The psychologist told her mother there was nothing wrong with her and she should take her to dance school. Debbie Allen is now one of the most famous choreographers in the world.

These days schools only tell students what they’re doing wrong and then they find the quickest way to shut them up. When I was teaching, I felt like I was part of that machine to kill creativity and standardize children into neatly packaged products.

I ordered the book from Amazon so there were notes in it that someone else had taking reading it. It’s hard to tell if the person that read it was a student or teacher. The surprising things was how negative the notes they were. It was like having a heckler in the crowd while I was trying to read. The sarcastic comments remind me of what I hate about society when someone is trying to break the status quo. They’re always met with opposition and hostility.

Those are the people that have given up on their dreams. They’ve already accepted that they aren’t good enough and can’t pursue a different life for themselves. Maybe I’m too dreamy, but I can’t accept that until I try every avenue possible.

One of the comments that stood out was when Robinson was talking about the guy from Fleetwood Mac quitting high school to be a drummer, the note was written that most people aren’t good enough to to this and he got lucky. Robinson mentioned that a big difference between successful pasionate people and the average person is their view on luck.

Musicians in particular always talk about how lucky they are. Most of the successful ones talk about how hard they worked though. They met with everyone. They practiced constantly and they slept on the floor of a friend’s apartment eating Ramen noodles so they could buy better equipment. Almost every successful band has a story like that. They dedicated every second of their day to being a musician. Why would luck have anything to do with their success? Hard work and dedication had just a big a role.

People that haven’t “made it” are quick to say the other person got lucky and then quickly blame their situation for the reason they never followed through with their dream. This is a clear difference. Are you willing to dedicate everything you have to your goal? Or are you going to give up at the first sign of trouble and blame your parents?

I know this attitude because I’ve often blamed my parents or discouraging teachers from high school for the reason why I can’t follow through on things. My senior English teacher told me I was a terrible writer because I could never master essay structure. Through that I was discouraged from writing as a profession since I wasn’t good enough.

Yet my dream never really went away. I remember wanting to be a writer at a very young age. Being 5 years old and walking around a book store, I remember thinking “I want my name to be on the shelf”. I wanted to be able to tell people I wrote a book.

Maybe I’m not a good writer.

Maybe I’ll never be a really great one.

Maybe that doesn’t matter.

Have you seen who’s publishing books lately?

Almost every celebrity has written an autobiography. Even if they’re a low level D-list one.

Being a writer isn’t impossible if I’m willing to put in the work and dedicate myself. Sure being the next Shakespeare is not possible, but being a creative writer or a blogger? Why would that be impossible? Plenty of people are making a living at blogging without having the credentials to back it up.

The Element was a great book because it described the environment in such a simple way. If you’re able to be dedicated and passionate then the success will follow. The people that never make it like the one that wrote hostile notes in the margins will blame the world for their issues.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

I don’t really fear failing. I fear success. What if someone actually reads what I wrote? What if they love it? What if it changed their life? All these questions terrify me. I’m expecting no one to read it. I wouldn’t know what to say if someone actually read it and praised it.

I know that I have to keep putting in the time to be better. It’s been too long complaining and wasting time with distractions like Huff Post or the latest TV show.

A writer writes.

I’m a writer.

So I write.

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LYL Blog Challenge: Day 3

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What do people thank you for? 

People usually thank me for listening to them without judgement. I’ve always been surprised that people feel so comfortable telling me their secrets when I’m the kind of person that doesn’t open up easily. Usually I don’t even have to ask very many questions before people open up to me. Many of my friends have told me that I was the first person they trusted with a secret or I was the person they would go to first when they had a problem.

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LYL Blog Challenge: Day 4

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What’s one thing you’re proud of?

One thing I’m really proud of about myself is my independence. When I was in middle school I asked my parents if I could go on a school trip to England. I saw the opportunity listed and wanted to go immediately. Only 5 other students signed up, which surprised me. I went to a wealthy school so it wasn’t like money was a limiting factor.

It was the first time I had been away from home and it was amazing. Growing up in California, nothing is older than 50 years maybe 100 tops. London and Cambridge are centuries old.

For college I wasn’t afraid to leave home either. I went to Boston by myself and then the next year went to Spain by myself. It made me so much stronger as a person to know that I could survive in a new country.

Now that I’m a few years older I realize that these decisions were important. The viewpoint that you can make decisions for yourself and control your life are invaluable.

As Tupac says, “You gotta do it for yourself, by yourself.”

A friend of the family is 19 and going to college in Delaware. It’s only a 3 hour drive from home and he’s terrified. I can barely understand why. He has family 5 minutes away and his parents are only 3 HOURS AWAY and he has a car to drive there anytime. When I was 19 I moved to Spain by myself. It’s made me proud of my independence since not everyone has the same quality.

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LYL: Blog Challenge

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Last year, I signed up for the Live Your Legend blog challenge because I wanted to build up a website to earn some money while I was looking for a job. It turned out that I failed miserably. The posts I wrote were uninspired and I gave it up quick. I didn’t write 500 words a week or discover my life’s purpose.

Looking back on the experience, I realized that there were a few really important effects from signing up for the challenge. The previous blog was about me trying to pretend I was someone that I wasn’t so every post was terrible. When I decided to restart with Road Less Written, the promise was to always be honest. If I’m writing about my weight loss journey and I’ve sucked at it, then I have to write about sucking at losing weight. Now that I’m more honest about the starting point, things are finally moving in the right direction.

Another important effect was meeting people from the LYL community and changing the 5 people I spend the most time around.

Before the challenge, my brain the same thing kept playing on repeat. “Why don’t I believe in myself? I believe in other people. Why not me?” It occurred to me that the reason the last blog was so terrible was because I expected it to fail. It bothered me that I could encourage friends and teach little kids, but I couldn’t say a single nice thing about myself. When Alex from Kindnessville won the blog competition I added him on Facebook and started talking to him about his self-love mantras. He offered a lot of great advice and was my life coach for a few months, which has finally given me the confidence to pursue the things I want.

In my experience, being honest or open about my interests has been met with criticism and hostility so I usually assumed the worst case scenario would happen. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that once I stopped thinking I was a failure I immediately found a job, lost weight, and started a blog. Everything I dreamed about doing before suddenly seemed possible.

Even though I feel sort of like a failure for re-joining the blog challenge when I failed so sublimely before, I’m glad that I have the strength to meet the experience head on this time around. It’s a much different situation to when you’re willing to put the time and effort into expanding your comfort zone.

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Habit Update: Personal Training

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Habits are tough to build!

The past couple of weeks I’ve been at the gym a lot and seeing the personal trainer a lot so I’ve actually noticed the difference when you put in the work. I’ve dropped a lot of body fat and inches all over my body. My thighs I’ve noticed are a lot smaller. I tried on a dress that I bought a month ago. It was really cute, but a couple inches too small around the hips. Now it fits perfectly!

The hardest part about building healthy habits for me has been the social part. I don’t know anyone that’s trying to get healthier so any time I spend with other people is family and friends trying to get me to eat unhealthy things that they’re eating. Yesterday was back to the old habits!

My trainer told me to keep every day at 1500 calories. If it’s consistent then your body won’t freak out and it will take off the weight on its own. I’ve been getting a lot more consistent.

My family is all average or thin people that eat terrible unhealthy food. For some reason their metabolisms are different than mine and they can get away with eating ice cream 3 times a week while I have to count every single calorie I put into my mouth to prevent myself from gaining weight. Yesterday, I ate the normal stuff I would have eaten before getting healthy like spinach and artichoke dip and bread. So much bread. It’s INCREDIBLY hard to eat healthy around your normal unhealthy instigators.

Part of what I’ve learned from my personal trainer is to keep going and try to make each day a little bit better. Some days she hits me with the tough love and asks what I was thinking and other days when I’m getting discouraged she reminds me that it’s hard to change 20+ years of habits overnight.

It never occurred to me that you could apply metrics to losing weight. That if you work out for x amount of time and eat y amount of calories you should lose z amount of inches or pounds. Every time I’ve tried to lose weight in the past I’ve always starved myself for a few days and then gotten discouraged. It’s great to have the feedback from a professional to let me know what won’t work and why. I’m excited to get back on track this week and keep at it.

Even though I ate a couple things that weren’t great. I lowered my portions a lot and tried to pick the best available option. Checking in online also helps, knowing that I can’t just give up and forget about it. There’s a record here that’s keeping more accountable even if no one’s really reading. It helps me to know that it’s out there.

Next check in– 1 month, October 17th

 

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Habit Update: Gym and Exercise

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Habits are seriously hard to build. Truth be told, I wanted to scrap this post because I don’t have anything insightful to say about it.

I tried to build the habit of working out because I’d like to get healthier and be comfortable with myself. It’s a lot harder than I would have imagined. I signed up for the gym and for a personal trainer, but you still have to deal with all the real life stuff. My trainer was sick all week so I had to try not to take it personally about how I’m doomed to fail and get myself to keep working on things even when it’s difficult. I’ve been sucking at working out.

The hardest part of trying to lose weight is the mental part. The idea that you’re not supposed to change because of all the ramifications. Your family is going to judge you and your friends will complain that you used to be more fun when you went with them to McDonald’s at 1 in the morning.

I keep trying to find someone who cares enough about me to help mentor me and help me make a difference for myself. I don’t have the money to hire a life coach and I certainly don’t have the money to pay for a personal trainer I had to call 10 times before getting a response.

I’ve already been building up the habit of writing. This is the 8th week in a row so that has to count for something. The working out and eating right is just going to take longer apparently.

New goal is to workout doing something every day even if it’s only 5 minutes. It can be something simple like walking to the subway station that’s further away or running up and down the stairs in my building. I’ll check back in a month.

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The Power of Habit: Update

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Habit Update!

Sticking with this exercise was actually more helpful than I thought it would be. I realized that I’m not really eating more than a normal amount of calories in a given week, but it’s very unbalanced in the day to day. When I’m on the wagon and eating healthy, I’m only eating about 1000 calories a day, which IS WAY TOO LOW for my height. I’m about 5’7′ and should be eating about 1800 calories a day to just stay alive. It helps make sense of my habits a lot more because I wasn’t understanding why some days I would binge on cookies and sugar. It was literally because my body felt like it was starving and was trying to make up the difference.

Also, I have way more emotional eating than I would like to admit in public. After a long day at work I would go straight for the wine and chocolate. One of my friends brought it to my attention that I tend to not allow myself to have fun with things. If I’m playing music or watching a movie, most of the time I’ll start to feel guilty and angry that I should be doing something more important like blogging or trying to pay off my student loans more quickly. I think the reason why I tend to eat so much sugar is that it’s one of the few ways I actually let myself have a good time. I realized that I tend to connect down time or relaxing with eating desserts.  Even though I consciously know I shouldn’t be doing that over the years it’s become a habit for how I deal with stress. My job has been so stressful in the past couple of weeks so it makes sense that I’ve been craving a release from that pressure.

I’d really like to redirect the pattern though because it’s not healthy or helpful for the goals I’d like to accomplish. This week I want to try and exercise instead of going straight for the sugar. I’m signing up for the gym tomorrow and I’m going to go straight there after work. I’ll have to pack a bag the night before so I don’t have a reason to avoid it. I don’t want to turn it into another huge battle I have with myself though. If there’s a day where I’m super exhausted I’m not going to feel bad about it either. It just means that my body needs a break and I’ll go the next day. One rule that I keep hearing in the fitness community is to “never skip 2 days in a row” so I’m trying to apply that principle. Some days your body really does need a break, but if it’s 2 days or more then you’re less and less likely to stay on track.

It’s weird that I actually like working out, but almost never do it because I feel like I shouldn’t. It’s part of this battle I fight with myself that I don’t deserve to accomplish the goals that I want. Even though I want to lose weight and get healthier, the stupid negative voice in my head tells me that it’s selfish and superficial to want these things so then I never do anything about it. Most of my friends were skinny in high school and they were even more miserable about their bodies than I was being 50 pounds heavier so I assumed that it didn’t matter either way what size I was because I would still be unhappy about it.

My friend has been trying to get me to see that being unhappy really is a choice. When I went to Mexico to help build houses, one of the things I remember the most was how happy the children were running around the village and playing games with each other. If you’ve never been to the West Coast, the dirt is different than the rest of the country. It’s thin and sandy so as the children were running around they were naturally kicking up dust clouds. They were filthy because it was the end of the day and they must have been playing around for hours. I remember being so amazed by that since I had never seen kids look so happy especially when all they were doing was playing around with dirt.

Kids in the United States have piles of toys and then they complain that there’s nothing to do. I’ve worked with kids a lot in the US and it’s always the worst part of the job to hear them be so jaded with life at such a young age. Yet when you go to a poorer country, they’re ecstatic to be alive because there’s no expectation that they deserve awesome toys every day. They’re happy and eager to make the best out of the day.

The same thing really applies to adults in the US. New York City is amazing. You can literally find a club for any hobby you can imagine. If you’re into restoring old timey clocks you can do a quick search and find 3 different meetups within the next month. If you want West Nigerian food at 4 in the morning, there’s probably at least one place in Harlem that will deliver. Maybe you’ll have to take a cab there, but if you really want it there’s always an option.

I’m not saying that I’m above other people in this aspect either. About half the time I’m just as miserable as everyone else here whether it’s because the subway is delayed and I have to wait an extra 5 minutes or I spent too much money on shoes and it’s a pain to carry it home. Yes, that was how I spent my afternoon yesterday.

My point is that complaining about being overweight or unhappy is a part of a choice that you make every day and I don’t like either option so I’m choosing to fix it while I’m still young and the habits aren’t as deeply ingrained as they could be. It’s probably not going to be easy, but I think it will be worth it. One day I’d like to be so happy that I’m not bothered by the small things.

The first step is to cut out the stupid stuff that I know isn’t working and try to replace it with things that would make me happier. I created this blog to get started with the ideas I’ve had in the back of my mind for years and never had the bravery to pursue. The point isn’t to become a fitness fanatic overnight. It’s more to see if I can start living a happier life in the way that I would really like it to be. There’s no pressure on this challenge. If I hate going to the gym then I’m going to stop and try something else so I’ll see how it goes and then report back in another two weeks!

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