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Rules for Humans #4 A lesson is repeated until learned.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rule 4: A lesson is repeated until learned.
It is presented to you in various forms until you learn it -- then you can go on to the next lesson.

As Iíve mentioned before, tracking my food is a pain in the butt. I hate it. Disliking tracking and not wanting to commit to doing it is one of the things that deterred me from losing weight in the past.

Sadly, tracking my intake is the ONLY effective way Iíve ever been able to manage my weight effectively. I just donít know when to stop eating. I donít have built-in sensors, or my brain doesnít register them, or something.

And itís not just the calories I need to track. In order to feel good I need to get about 150g of protein per day and limit the starchy things like grains and potatoes, etc. Sugar is off limits. And if I donít track Iíll find myself heading straight for those yummy grains and starchy veggies, together with fat and salt. And sugar. Those things make me want to eat more. They open up a bottomless hole inside me that compels me to stuff more and more and more starch and sugar in there.

The only thing that will eventually stop me is acid reflux. By then itís too late and Iíve had a 6000+ calorie day. Donít laugh. Itís happened. I can eat an entire 600 calorie 6-pack of Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches in 20 minutes on the drive home, if left to my own devices. One makes me want another and another and another. Donít even get me started on cheese. Or pizza.

So, my best way to handle this is by tracking, and the best tracking scenario is to pre-plan my meals before I eat them, making sure to balance the macronutrients and ensure that I am going to have enough room in my 1400-calorie day for those 150g of protein.

Iíve made the mistake of going on a ďvacationĒ from tracking many many many times. Always with the same result. So now I just sigh and do it.

Some days I miss. And the next day itís an effort to get back into the routine of doing it. And Iíve tried to make it as painless as possible by using an app on my iPod that doesnít even require an internet connection.

Have I finally learned the lesson that I need to track in order to control my size and health? I hope so. If not then I guess Iíll be learning it again a few more times.

For the past 2 weeks I have commented on the Rules for Being Human. I like their sensible approach and now that I'm transitioning back into kayaking and training for kayaking it seems like a good time to revisit them.

To see all of the blog posts I wrote in this series, go here:

You can see all of the rules by themselves, here: rules4humans.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 11/1/2011 8:03PM

    Like you, gotta track. Sigh. Pretrack, actually. And: stay not only within my calorie range: avoid all simple carbs no matter what the calories, and ensure I get enough protein.

No point pretending to myself that I can take a holiday from tracking. I can't. But it's something I've had to learn a few times. And maybe a few more to come.

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KAYOTIC 10/31/2011 10:20AM

    It's great that you've found what works for you, and find success in it! Good for you! A tracker you don't need internet for is great too...I'd probably be more likely to use something like that.

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TENACIOUSTIGER 10/31/2011 10:02AM

    interesting LOVE the rules, but I am impressed that you can eat even one of those skinny cow things, I bought a box of these, hoping for a "low cal " looking for something yummy treat, and found i couldnt eat even one as I dont like the preservative taste. i think ive been superspoilt by homemade icecream from work that we make in the nifty gelati machine. i would rather have one spoon of real ice cream than a box of skinny cow. Have you tried frozen raspberries, eating them one by one.Hey i still want to hear all your secrets, you've lost 165lbs and ive lost 5 arrrghhhh still working out though, I win conquer the fat %, all the best

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DDOORN 10/31/2011 9:24AM

    Can SO RELATE to ALL your lessons. You've learned them so well! Still struggling here...done the Skinny Cow thing among other even more treacherous foods in the past. But the lessons are there. They don't change: gotta stick with the tracker if I'm going to stay on top of things! Gotta avoid those starchy sugary things if I'm going to remain in control of what goes into my mouth!


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CIRANDELLA 10/31/2011 8:41AM

    Ahhh...I'm glad I'm not the only Sparkster to have partaken of a six-pack of Skinny Cows before! It really doesn't take much effort on my part (!)... I've got the ruminant stomach of a mutant cow - seriously, it took the X-ray tech THREE SHOTS to capture it all on film when I was being worked up for an ulcer ... emoticon Happy Halloween, indeedy! ;)

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FISHPOND7 10/31/2011 8:17AM

    Boy, can I identify with that!!!
Totally. I really get tired of the tracking, but if I don't do it, kaplowee! A bad day w/o tracking can turn into a bad week (or a bad month). And the grains and sugars. What's up with that? I LOVE that stuff, but it does me in every time. It makes me crazy and all I want to do is eat more of it--and more of anything. Thanks for reminding me to keep on tracking.

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SLFGOLF 10/31/2011 1:01AM

    Practice, practice, practice...that is what helps us learn a lesson. Tracking is definately the key to success with weight loss. So is planning. As you have learned I also need to plan my meals and track or I go over very easily. I've been doing this now for 4 months. I found myself slipping the last 10 days, so I'm now rededicating to planning and tracking as I did when I first started to make sure I continue successfully along my path.

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Rules for Humans #3 There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Growth is a process of experimentation. "Failures" are as much a part of the process as "success".

Iíve just been thinking about this one recently in the context of weight maintenance. Weíve even been discussing it in the At Goal and Maintaining Team

I failed spectacularly the first time I tried to maintain a 100+ pound loss. It was in my 20s and I thought I was ďcured.Ē That doing it through diet and exercise not drugs had taught me what I needed to know in order to keep the weight off. Everyone told me so, and I believed them. They were wrong.

ďLifeĒ happened to me in the form of grad school demanding more hours and more of my time. I had a boyfriend who liked to Eat. The weight snuck back on in an insidious way, such that I kept thinking, ďitís only 5 lbs, I can get it back off in a couple of weeks.Ē 5 pounds plus 5 more, plus 5 more, and, well, you get the picture. After a year I probably put back on 30 lbs or so. By then I felt really bad about the way I looked and how my clothes didnít fit anymore and my already low self esteem went into the toilet.

So I eventually pretty much gave up and gradually gained more weight. There were halfhearted attempts at Weight Watchers which led to sometimes as much as a 20 lb loss. But the attempts never stuck and Iíd always regain the weight and often gain back even more. And I became less and less social because I did not want to go outside and feel judged, and see my image in mirrors and shop windows and other reflective surfaces.

Having known what it was like to be slender and healthy and knowing that Iíd tossed away the fitness Iíd attained in my 20s, I felt like an abject, miserable failure. Which often led to more eating. And less activity.

A few things finally triggered me to turn the situation around after living like this for about 15 years.

Now that Iíve gotten back down to a size where I mostly like how I look and I feel energetic and I get to do fun things, I am extremely determined not to go back there. I think Iím MORE determined not to go back there now, having failed at it once already.

Iím not taking for granted the insidious sneaky slide back to obesity. Iím tracking everything and exercising on a schedule whether or not I feel like it. I donít think Iíd have this kind of discipline if I hadnít lived through that first failure.

So, yeah. In a weird way the previous failure to maintain my weight is fueling my current success at it.

For the past 2 weeks I have commented on the Rules for Being Human. I like their sensible approach and now that I'm transitioning back into kayaking and training for kayaking it seems like a good time to revisit them.

To see all of the blog posts I wrote in this series, go here:

You can see all of the rules by themselves, here: rules4humans.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NAVYMOM133 11/1/2011 9:53AM

    Excellent blog thread!
I recently had my first real "hit" of old, insidious behavior due to a Nor'easter this past weekend. Wow - "a storm is coming!! we need snacks!!" really? Yup, it wasn't an impressive showing this past weekend BUT I have identified two situations that need very special attention and am back to my whole foods. Day #2. Hopefully the worst of the cravings are behind me with yesterday's good showing.

I am definitely signing up for the challenge. I think I'll do that now!


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FISHPOND7 10/31/2011 8:33AM

    Good blog. So true.

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SUNSHINE20113 10/31/2011 3:59AM

    I must agree with Mobycarp. It's those first 5 pounds!! I've been steadily gaining 5 pounds a year over the last three years. And over those three years I've probably lost and gained the same 5 pounds three times over!!
I'm not sure how it slips in, but the shock to find that suddenly I'm nearly twenty pounds overweight is unbelievable.
I realised something had to change otherwise in ten years I'd be fifty pounds overweight. I can't do that to myself.
I tend to dwell on the mistakes I've made in my life. I'm going to spend some time today thinking of them as lessons and see what happens!
Lovely blog series, thank you.

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MOBYCARP 10/29/2011 4:13PM

    It's those 5 pounds at a time that worry me.

In 1991, I gained 5 pounds.
In 1992, I gained 5 pounds.
In 1993, I gained 5 pounds.
In 1994, I gained 5 pounds.

After that, I tried to avoid gaining and sometimes lose; but it was an awful long journey (with some serious detours in the wrong direction) before I got back to where I was in mid 1991. Then with SP, it was a pretty quick journey to drop another 10 pounds to be where I ought to be.

But those 5 pounds can come back on quickly, or stealthily. And the range that came on by stealth was the hardest to take back off.

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KAYOTIC 10/29/2011 12:39PM

    lots and lots of lessons....Great blog series, and links, looking forward to the rest!

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WATERMELLEN 10/28/2011 8:30PM

    It takes such tiny mistakes to trigger weight regain -- 100 extra calories a day (even healthy calories, an apple, doesn't have to be French fries!) adds 10 pounds a year -- and 10 more pounds next year -- and 10 more pounds the year after that . . . and that's how my weight hit 230 while I did three law degrees!! And why only 5% of people who take weight off keep it off. Losing weight and keeping it off being for me more of a struggle, more of an accomplishment, something I'm prouder of every day than the academic qualifications which don't actually matter that much (and which I sacrificed way weigh too much to achieve: what a lesson to figure that out!!)

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MIRAGE727 10/28/2011 3:21PM

    I must be a friggin' PHD genius! At 61, I've made a lot of mistakes! Thanks for sharing, Anja!

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DDOORN 10/28/2011 12:16PM

    My wording for #3 is:

Mistakes are opportunities for learning!

Insidious and sneaky are great words to describe the devious ways we can make horrible choices that lead toward a backslide! Been there, done that WAY too many times and yes, STILL fighting those trends and accepting that I will ALWAYS have to be vigilant about this!


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Rules for Humans #2 You will learn lessons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rule 2: You will learn lessons.
You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life on planet earth. Every person or incident is a Universal Teacher.

I have a lot of experience with formal learning. I spent 27 straight years in school (K-PhD, not counting preschool.) You could definitely say Iím overeducated.

Life lessons, however, have always come less easily to me. I find them frustrating. WHY do I have to go through the motions of tracking, day after day, to learn how to do it? Canít I just read how to do it somewhere online or in a book?

The problem here is that some things have to be learned by DOING. You canít grasp all the nuances of a new habit or behaviour by reading about it or imagining it. You have to put it into practice to really ďgetĒ it.

Situations can be great teachers. Some of the life train wrecks Iíve experienced were due to compounded issues, or not grasping the true difficulty of something.

For example, my first job out of grad school involved working for a nut case. Sheíd have screaming tantrums in the lab and throw things. She was unstable and periodically went to therapy for drugs and counseling. When sheíd stabilize sheíd assume she was Ďbetterí and go off treatment. With predictable results. She was paranoid, and insecure, and had an inflated ego. In the end, just to keep my own sanity I started going to a counselor just for tips on how to deal with her. Through my descriptions of her behavior he diagnosed her with ďnarcissistic personality disorder.Ē Who knows if his diagnosis was correct. But the tips did help me marginally keep my sanity.

My mistake? When I met her I noticed she was eccentric. Really eccentric. And she broke some basic interviewing rules, like asking if I had any substance abuse issues. (This is illegal. As it turns out, SHE had substance issues. That I didnít ask about.) Someone at the institution took me aside and gently suggested I look at the turnover sheíd experienced in her lab. I took all of this information, figured sheíd be a handful, and accepted the job anyway.

I will not make that mistake again. Life is hard enough without choosing to work for an unpleasant, demanding, unstable boss. I wonít assume that I can handle something like that and throw myself knowingly into a situation like that.

Hereís another example, this one involving kayaking. There is a whole blog post about it

Or you can just read the summary below.

Halfway through my first season of white water kayaking I decided to go to a river festival with a friend and paddle a class III-IV river. Iíd paddled things close to that level but never quite as difficult. Thatís #1. I was trying to step it up a notch on an unfamiliar river, as a pretty inexperienced kayaker.

I had been spending a lot of time in my playboat which has a flat, planing hull and not so much time in my creeker (which has a rounder displacement hull and requires a different paddling style). Thatís #2. I was going to be in a boat I hadnít used in a while. I also hadnít practiced my roll in a while.

I had just spent two weeks with a visiting friend, doing a half-iron aquabike portion of a triathlon and driving around Canada. I didnít have time to boat in white water while she and her kids were there. Thatís #3. I hadnít even boated in 2-3 weeks.

The festival was in Massachusetts, a long way from my house. The friend coming too lived an hour away. I had to leave the house at 4am to pick him up and then get us there in time for the dam release at 10-11am when other friends would meet us. Thatís #4. I was going to be very tired before I even got on the river.

This particular river starts out easy and gets progressively harder. Thatís #5. I allowed the easy rapids at the beginning lull me into complacency and didnít pay attention to each new one as a new experience.

My two runs down that river were a train wreck. I went under a strainer on the first run (and fortunately didnít get caught in it), and swam out of the bottom rapid. On the second run I swam and was dragged involuntarily up into a raft with one of my feet tangled in my kayak over the side of the raft. As we went through the rapids my body was flipping around trying to follow my foot, and the raft guide had to cut the entangling strings.

Fortunately my leg was OK (I was seriously afraid it would get broken) but I ended up twisting my shoulder and getting bashed around on the rocks while I was upside down. I spent the rest of the weekend in an impromptu sling, feeling crappy about my boating skills and the situation in general.

It took me 2-3 weeks before I got my nerves back and could boat again without unreasonable fear.

So from that situation I learned to respect the river, be more conservative in my judgement of my abilities, make sure Iím not tired and sleepy before I even get on the water, and to practice my roll whenever I have the chance.

Life is still throwing lessons at me, and Iím trying to absorb them. I have a feeling itís going to be like this forever until I move onto the next plane. There is always more to learn.

For the past 2 weeks I have commented on the Rules for Being Human. I like their sensible approach and now that I'm transitioning back into kayaking and training for kayaking it seems like a good time to revisit them.

To see all of the blog posts I wrote in this series, go here:

You can see all of the rules by themselves, here: rules4humans.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 10/27/2011 7:11PM

    Love this one too -- and those of us with way too much "book larnin'" education do tend to underestimate the necessity of learning lots and lots of other more important stuff by doing. And then relearning it when we stop doing because we think we got it already: but, we didn't. How many many times have I had to re-learn the "track everything I eat" lesson? Yup: too many. Slow learner on that one, for sure.

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DDOORN 10/27/2011 6:40PM

    These rules are just solid, good common sense...something that can be very fleeting for yours truly sometimes...lol! They oughta replace the Pledge of Allegiance with these Rules in school! :-)


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SLFGOLF 10/27/2011 1:05AM

    Working as a teacher, we learn that we have to have students practice over and over and over again before they learn something. It must be practiced and repeated many times before it is a learned trait. Why we don't realize this is true in our own lives I don't understand sometimes. It only makes common sense. Almost 4 months into this program I finally feel comfortable when I sit down at a restaurant or at a party that I will make wise choices. It took a lot of continued work and practice over these last months and I have learned a lot. I will continue learning a lot about healthy eating along with learning about myself in this journey.

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REDSHOES2011 10/27/2011 12:03AM

    WHY do I have to go through the motions of tracking, day after day, to learn how to do it?
Why do we take a shower daily? Why do we make breakfast? Why do we take care of a job? They are things we have to do- why do we go through the motions of tracking day after day- the lack of it got many of us fat- it is a mastering tool we have to take to us with kiss on the hand to avoid disliking ourselfs.. If we don't take a shower people avoid us or say we smell and if we don't eat breakfast we get hungry and over eat.. Logic is difficult to get angry at -it is a question of taking another good habit and getting it running like all other life vital functions we are taught because we know what happens if we don't..

Comment edited on: 10/27/2011 12:07:27 AM

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Rules for Humans #1 You will receive a body.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rule 1: You will receive a body.
You may like it or hate it, but it's the only thing you are sure to keep for the rest of your life.

Accepting this has been a mental transition for me over different periods in my life.

That's me on the left, in college. I did not generally like the way my body looked, although I could ride 100 miles on my bike in a day, swim forever, do martial arts, etc. I felt fat.

In my late 20s I was hit with some medical issues back-to-back-to-back.

The first one necessitated a surgery. At the time I was living alone in rural Connecticut, going to grad school. I didn't have a lot of money and the nearest family were cousins who lived 2 hours away. I didn't know that you could get bad doctors and just went along with the system that sent me to a general surgeon.

He botched the job so badly I needed further procedures and friends and colleagues leant on me hard to find someone else to fix it. It was at that point I realized that I needed to be my own health advocate (there wasn't anyone else around to do it) and that my body was like my car, but much more valuable.

I wouldn't take my car to just any old mechanic; why would I take my body to any old surgeon? Money could replace the car if necessary. Money could not replace my body. Ever. (Just look at Steve Jobs. That guy had access to the best medical treatment available and even they couldn't save him.)

I still persisted in living at 200+ and 300+ pounds, however.

In my mid 40s I had been living at 300+ pounds for about 10-15 years and was starting to have mobility issues. I thought, "oh crap, if I'm having trouble going up and down my stairs NOW, what is it going to be like in my 60s?" (I wasn't thinking farther than 60s because at the rate I was going I figured I might be lucky to even make it that far.)

So I started losing weight, joined this site, began watching my body composition and macronutrient ratios. I gradually have come to see my body as a machine. I can choose how to fuel it and how to maintain it (cardio, strength, flexibility, rest).

Riding a bike in England with LAFAGG

I have come to see that I can adjust it depending on what I want it to be able to do.

Ready for the Musselman half-iron.

See these photos if you think you are locked into a specific body type:


Those bodies may have started with certain proportions, but the kind of sport they do really does dictate how they look and function.

So now that mindset has become the way I view fitness and weight maintenance. I want this body to be able to take me the places I want to go and do the things I want to do (usually on the weekends).

XC skiing

Surfing river waves

Hucking over water falls

And yes, despite the possibility of another rotator cuff tear, snowboarding.

On powder, though. No more ice.

That means tracking what I put into my body, how I exercise it, and monitoring its composition (weight, % fat) throughout the week. My body is my vehicle, and I want it running at the best performance level it can, especially as I get older.

There is an 80-year old woman who cross country skis in the group I go with in Ithaca. She leads trips. She can ski circles around me. I don't just want to be her when I'm 80. Heck, I want to be her, NOW!

It takes a lot of time and effort to maintain a certain level of fitness. But I'm the only one who can do that, and I want the results. So I do it.

For the past 2 weeks I have commented on the Rules for Being Human. I like their sensible approach and now that I'm transitioning back into kayaking and training for kayaking it seems like a good time to revisit them.

To see all of the blog posts I wrote in this series, go here:

You can see all of the rules by themselves, here: rules4humans.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

EILEENV3 10/29/2011 6:59PM

    Loved the pictures of you to see how you have transformed & restructured your life. You are such an inspiration. emoticon

Thank you for the link to rules4humans.com, I have a bookmark from the group I picked up somewhere along the way. Think I got it in the 90's. I have it with a Exit Directory (info re Interstate exit gas stations, restaurants, or other.) We take it on trips. I look forward to reading the "rules." Thank you for posting them. emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 10/27/2011 7:05PM

    Great blog, thanks! And: love the pictures!

Gotta think about food as fuel . . . and the fuel has to be good enough for the Porsche that is me! Wouldn't leave my Porsshe up on blocks and never drive it either . . . and ditto, taking the old bod out for a drive regularly also.

I have a friend who is 80 and celebrated by sky-diving for the first time: she had set the appointment and when she got out of the car, they didn't believe it could be "her". Because she is fit and moves like a woman in her 40s or 50s at most! Good fuel, lots of drive!

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LINZEE118 10/27/2011 8:28AM

    emoticon opening statement! It made me doing some reflecting on that simple truth! Also I liked the what you said that you want your body to be able to take you to the places you want to go & do the things you want to do. Only when one has been incapacitated because the body is not functioning 100% does one truly appreciate this statement.I had a hip replacement & now I'm dealing with problems because the hip is a recall. Their were times I would have loved just to take a hike up the mountains but my body prevented me from doing these simple joys.

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DDOORN 10/26/2011 4:21PM

    Wonderful points...have "borrowed" your "rules" for sometime in my SP signature...great advice!!


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NIMNIX 10/26/2011 3:25PM

All I have to say is... that series of athlete pictures needs some MMA in there. And I did spend a little too much time drooling over some of them.

That being said - Go on kicking ass. You deserve it!

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4ANEWME2DAY 10/26/2011 11:37AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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New Challenges! Motivation through New Year's Day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

With the current challenges I'm managing drawing to a close, here are two more we're starting.

Both require signing up by November 7:

If you're maintaining, you can join this one:

If you're trying to drop some more avoirdupois, you can join this one:

More info on this thread:


'cuz we all want to still be able to fit into our jeans (and kayaks) in January!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

4A-HEALTHY-BMI 10/25/2011 10:57PM

    Yup they will use the same links. :-)

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KAYOTIC 10/25/2011 10:06PM

    Looking forward to this again! (can I use the same link I'm using for the current challenge?)

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