2/20/2022

I have recently learned about thought distortions as part of a paid subscription to Noom, a weight loss program that uses daily lessons and a support group. When I was participating, it was very easy to use the ideas as it was fresh in my mind and I found myself able to regularly reinforce best practices by sharing experiences with other people in the group. What I found so helpful was the learning and social structure that this program provides, and it has been my experience that under these circumstances, it is easy to lose weight, under those highly structured learning environments.

Keeping these habits longterm by myself without Noom’s structure is difficult, but I choose to see self-improvement as lifelong and I am worth it to invest in that difficult work to achieve. These are good reminders for me, as I struggle with thought distortions, and I believe everyone does to some extent. I may have forgotten some of these principles since having cancelled my membership a few months back, so I write this down now so that I do not forget them again.

Thought distortions are logical fallacies as a result of flawed thinking which may act as barriers throughout our lives in many different spaces. Sizing up thought distortions has been helpful for me in areas other than weight loss, but also in long-term goal setting. It helps to size up and identify those thought distortions instead of believing them.

Fortune telling is predicting the future. You cannot predict the future! Example: I will never get this right. I knew this would happen.

Overgeneralization is failure/success at accomplishing one task will predict an endless pattern of defeat/success in all tasks. Example: I didn’t know the answer to one question at trivia, so I am generally bad at trivia. I aced my first test. The rest of this year’s test will be a breeze because I’m so good at taking tests.

All or nothing thinking: if I eat this slice of cake, it will all go wrong. If I fail this test, my life is ruined. Alternately, I was able to eat salads all weekend, so I will always be able to eat salads for every meal.

What helps me is to be a blank slate, to not attach meaning to behavior. In the process this builds frustration tolerance.

Frustration tolerance is the work I do to be OK with frustration. So the more comfortable I am with frustration, the easier it is to stay on track. Planning how I respond to frustration and becoming used to frustration or setbacks can prevent sabotage or the feelings of guilt and shame that can lead to overeating or giving up on achieving goals.

What helps me is the oh well statement. This is a statement that I create to build tolerance to frustration. Oh well, the meal I just ate will not undo the months I have spent losing weight. Another oh well statement I like is: I can control only so much and thankfully never everything.

Reframing: after challenging a thought distortion, I can decide to redo my way of thinking by reframing. Reframing helps me to think positively in a way that helps me feel empowered and good about myself and makes it easier to achieve goals.

Reframe using the oh well statement: if I eat this slice of cake, it will not ruin the months I have spent and all the work I do each day to make good decisions. If I fail this test, it will not be the end of the world. I still have another opportunity to make it up, and I normally do very well when I study for tests.

Removing labels helps me. Especially with food, instead of saying oh, that’s so fattening, or that’s really healthy for you, I’ll say, this salad has low caloric density. This bag of chips has high caloric density.

Low caloric density foods tend to have more water and fewer calories and include:

spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, apples, most fruits and vegetables

High caloric density foods tend to have more calories per serving and include:

highly processed and fried foods, chips, cheeseburgers, fast food

Reframe: Instead of saying, this food is so bad for me, I will say, this bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is a true treat, or this ice cream is an indulgence

Why it matters: being able to feel and identify feelings fully and head on helps me feel more in control. It can also be a way to be mindful of how I feel so that I can take a step back and run through different strategies and approaches to help me become more successful and competent in navigating my decisions. I enjoy the following quote:

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote helps me to not take life so seriously, but rather encourages me to a very casual and enjoyable approach to living through life as a series of iterations or trial runs that a person may fail or succeed at, but the important takeaway from these tests are the data it renders, similar to how a scientist runs through trial testing, without even formulating a hypothesis on how it may end up, but rather moving through life nearly unattached to expectation of success or failure. This makes living more improvised and exciting, and I feel so thankful for this. The idea that we have free will makes me happy, that I am not bound by what other people expect me to do. I have the choice to make a choice, reflect on that decision, and do something different after that process of reflection renders new data that inspires a new way to operate. That capacity for transformation is real. If there is ever a time when someone is feeling sad, unsuccessful, or believing that they are not doing well in life, there is the opportunity to make a different choice, a new choice at any time.

This idea brings about the fixed vs. growth mindset. The fixed mindset says that people do not grow and change throughout their lives. The growth mindset is the idea that people grow and change many times throughout their lives and have the capacity for learning new skills and new habits by way of their own reflection and thought process. I believe strongly that people are able to grow and change and have many different careers or make a divergent set of decisions in their lives. This is something that gives me hope about the future and I believe in the ability for people to improve at any time in their lives.

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2/19/2022

This morning, I tried plant based bacon. It is called Smart Bacon, 40 calories a slice. It cooks like delicate bologna and gets super crispy, which is a fun texture and goes well with scrambled eggs. Not a lot of flavor, so do not expect that any semblance of actual bacon. It’s smart bacon, like a smart phone, which does certain things for you, but does not make you smart. Rather it is a simulation of what you would like it to be.

Getting through the winter is often difficult, and this year is no exception. New England weather, just when I thought I had gotten it down, I realize in these winter months that I am always beginning, always realizing something new, or something that is there and in my over-confidence I forget to treat winter like it is my friend. It had been so very bitterly cold over the past month that I barely moved from my couch. As a result, I was not exercising, which is how I mitigate the winter blues/SAD, seasonal affective disorder. It feels like getting hit by a rock. I had been running outside before the snow came.

I had been gaining weight and not eating right and not running, and the result is this brick wall of the blues that makes me feel so defeated, like I am always repeating myself or somehow I inevitably dwindle down to a kind of sadness. This is something that is a fallacy, that certain patterns are inevitable or inescapable. There must be a solution, as nothing is permanent. I so often forget this idea, as the seasons change, but nothing is permanent and it’s never just one thing forever.

I can challenge the fallacy or untruth by working through in my mind by asking myself: how have I achieved goals in the past? How have I prevented the winter blues/depression before? I answer it: I have found that exercising/running/walking every day makes me feel so good. If it’s raining, I jump on my trampoline, and something so wonderful happens. I feel invincible after a work out, like nothing can get me down. I feel tough, like that horizon is an infinite sight line into the sun that helps me feel happy inside. When I feel sad, I feel as though success is not attainable. When I do not challenge these thought distortions, the sad feelings creep in. I ask myself to pull up historical evidence of success in my life and hold them up in my mind as the most visually compelling inspiration that I can focus on.

I can give myself a future gift to make my life easier. It sometimes takes a long time for me to achieve a goal. I am willing to put in the difficult work it takes to achieve long-term goals of living better, which takes lifelong maintenance. I so often forget this idea. I feel hopeful in remembering my capacity of giving future gifts to mitigate risk, make myself happy, and live younger.

01 02 201

Food with family is probably half the reason to be alive right now. For Christmas, I got a Nerd pack and Absurd pack of Cards Against Humanity. The original packs were so inappropriate that my mom refused to play it with us. Although we reassured her that this time would be different, alas! this was not so. The search for a more family friendly card pack continues…

Charcuterie board of pomegranate seeds, pickles, salami, cheddar, smoked almonds, dried apricots, blackberries
homemade cookies
sugar squash, Nuccio’s potatoes, green bean casserole, ham, pork, pork pie

10 29 2021

This week saw the last week at a job and the best last day at a job ever, which confirms my theory about last days, how it must lift up everyone to be relevant. Today was my last day, and, on a Friday going into a weekend with Halloween, this meant Halloween party. But this was no ordinary Halloween party. My team captain qualified it not as a party, as this would imply a congregating of people in tight spaces, not in line with the covid restrictions our office has. So it was called something else that now escapes my mind. To the end of things is best left up to something improvised, not scheduled in advanced but rather whimsical and new, to the newness of things, to the end of a beginning, so it must be a lifting up of everyone, a celebration of things to come and honoring of what once was.

My office at the job I left today is also in a time of transition, as the division just recently received the news that their jobs would be permanently remote. To work from home forever, the meeting which outlined the rollout used a specific term which I cannot now recall, but the rejoicing is something that is so lasting that it has felt wonderful working in the office the past week. Everyone has a glint in their eye, as though it is the eve of a very special day, where tomorrow is something so special they can simply feel it in the air. I am not sure that there are words for this feeling, or maybe in different languages there are terms which express it more succinctly than this. Today was the eve of the last week that this team would ever have to arrive in an office, open doors with badges, and face a morning commute that may be at times gruesome. Coming in this late in a New England Autumn, even for us weathered drivers, the thought of commuting during a blizzard or worse, black ice on pavement, can be treacherous.

Bygones, today was a wonderful last day of work. I dressed up in my homemade Halloween costume and enjoyed talking with my teammates. Everyone either dressed up or wore something festive like cats ears or Halloween themed clothing. We pulled up YouTube on the TV and listened to hours of Halloween music. By the end of the day I had Mama Mia by ABBA stuck on repeat in my head. It was an exciting day for the end of things, and in fact we laughed at the idea of what if this were our last day on earth, and how it would actually be the best day to leave on, in any context. Here’s some of our food stuff:

Muffaletta sandwiches, blueberry strudel, finger cookies with and without blood, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, Halloween candy, homemade chocolate chip cookies
taco station
Dunkin Donuts

The Muffaletta sandwich was something I have never had, and will definitely make for future get togethers, as it travels well and would keep well for leftovers if there’s any left. My favorite way is to toast the sandwich so that the cheese and the olive and caper flavors activate and melt, I can still nearly taste it. I heated up some medium heat Tostitos cheese dip and dabbed the sandwich in the sauce, which is something I will definitely recommend. Here is the recipe: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/bourbon-street-muffuletta-braid/d14f5ad5-a503-480f-9856-74d600ce03e8

10 24 2021

The weekend in Portland, Maine, is over, and I’m glad I’m back home. Each weekend morning I had breakfast at Becky’s Diner. This place is best before there are so many people that the line snakes out the door into the parking lot, so arrival time was before 8am both mornings.

This place has everything: Canceaux sauce, a regionally sold, sweet chili sauce, strawberry jam, homemade hash, lobster omelette, and pumpkin pancakes. The pieces of lobster in my omelette were gigantic and I’m still thinking about it after having been home all day.

10 24 2021

Last night was the first time I went to a show at Jimmy’s in Portsmouth, NH. Mavis Staples was great, it was the second time I have seen her perform, and the singing uplifted me and helped me feel so thankful for getting to see live music again. The most moving version of The Band’s “The Weight” felt wonderful. If I was smiling and shedding a tear through the biggest smile to the end of the song, it may have been in my observation of a number of things: the bold folks dancing and getting up to dance or sway with the music, people’s faces meeting mine. The gratitude with which I felt being in the presence of those I loved that night is still something that brings a smile and a tear, so many in fact that I’m sure I am so truly blessed to be alive.

In my ability to enjoy some of the activities that had been up until recently forbidden to experience, I count myself lucky to have come through it healthy, with most of my family intact. My philosophy has changed somewhat since before the pandemic. I did not come to this way of thinking overnight, and it was not just one thing or even the past year or so that brought me to this idea. I believe that being with others includes everyone. The purpose of life is to experience enjoyment, inclusion, and to be uplifted, benefitted, and blessed by others. Mavis said, “I want you all to feel better when you leave here tonight than when you first arrived.” Today I believe she was right.

10 09 2021

This is food from a family lunch a couple weekends ago, where a family friend prepared the chicken. They diced garlic and put it underneath the skin, along with other seasonings, and let it sit for a while. The asparagus, salad, potatoes, and chicken were just right for an end of summer meal: light enough for a warm day but hearty to satiate that natural hunger I often find myself craving as Autumn draws near: root vegetables, oven roasted poultry, and gravies.

9 7 2021

We decided to swing by Highrollers in Portland, Maine, for lunch: lobster roll with yellow mustard, lime mayo, and charred pineapple sauce; a lobby pop, which is a corn dog using lobster meat in place of hot dog; French fries sprinkled with Old Bay with side sauces: curried ketchup, charred pineapple, yellow mustard, red pepper mayo, jalapeño mayo; grass-fed cheeseburger.

9 7 2021

There was one last party on the weekend of Labor Day to celebrate my birthday. It had been postponed before due to Hurricane Henri, and now the day happened: a day trip to Portland, Maine! Although I did not each all the food I planned to that day, I came close to it. First meal was mussels in white wine sauce with toasted garlic points, marinated beet salad, lobster and scallop cakes with pesto and orange chili sauce, and avocado chips with chipotle mayo. Dipping those garlic points into white wine sauce was probably my favorite part of the meal.

8 31 2021

The baker I buy fresh bread from each week at the downtown farmers market gave me a pro tip on how to use my sage plant: grilled cheese. So today I had an early lunch: French bread, cheddar, tomato, mayonnaise, sage, and butter. My favorite part was discovering how to melt the cheese and not burn the bread. For an experiment I took one of the cheese slices from the sandwich and melted it in the skillet and got it to melt.

The result: crispy toasted points and a chewy bite. Sage has this deliciousness that mixes so well with the texture of fresh bread. I will continue my technique in melting the cheese effectively so as not to turn the bread too crispy, and I’m looking forward to making grilled cheese, maybe next time with thyme or basil and lime. Who knows?

pro tip: remove seed membrane and pat tomatoes dry – this prevents the sandwich from getting wet and slipping due to the moisture