Don’t let your SHAME block your SUCCESS.

“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late, and never too sick to start from scratch once again.”

– Bikram Choudhury

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I was once told that I could never relate to any of my obese clients because I’ve never been obese myself; because I just couldn’t understand the shame and what life is like for them.

While it’s true that I haven’t ever been obese, I have been in positions that were unhealthy and really difficult to overcome… Ones I’ve been incredibly ashamed and embarrassed of.

When most overweight clients come to me, they have enormous amounts of shame. They’re embarrassed about letting themselves get to that point. They’re upset because they haven’t been able to get themselves out of it. They’re humiliated because of how they feel as a result of all of it. Often, that sense of shame was the reason they held off for weeks, months, or years before taking the steps they needed to get to better health.

I know what that kind of shame feels like – how awful it can be to realize that you’ve let yourself get so far into an unhealthy situation that getting yourself out can seem impossible. I know what it’s like to be embarrassed about something that I once could have prevented, but let it get so bad that it spiraled out of my control very quickly. I know what it’s like to have something exponentially increase in severity and not want to talk to anybody about it, for fear of being judged, mocked, or further shamed.

Let’s back up:

When I was 10 years old I was wrestling with my brother in our driveway when I went face-first into the family Buick and broke 3 of my front teeth. I spent 3 hours in a dentist’s chair getting them filed down, drilled into, and capped, while feeling the entire procedure. Turns out my body tends to metabolize anesthesia pretty quickly so when I started crying soon after the procedure started, they told me I was just scared and was only feeling “pressure” because they’d given what they’d thought was sufficient medication. Because they didn’t believe me, I felt the entire thing without being completely numb. I had to get the procedure done twice more afterwards because it wasn’t done well enough the first time and both of those times I was in an incredible amount of pain that the doctors just didn’t believe that the shots had worn off as quickly as they did. I was so traumatized from it that every dentist visit after that scared the shit out of me. As soon as I was 18 years old I never went back to the dentist… for 8 years.

Over those 8 years, as you can imagine, I developed many dental issues. Even though I brushed incessantly and flossed every day in attempts to make up for lack of professional cleanings, my teeth just kept getting more sensitive, more painful, and finally 3 of them of them broke. Even that didn’t drive me to the dentist because I thought the intermittent pain wasn’t worse than what I’d experienced when I was a kid. I also couldn’t face the fact that I’d have to tell the doctor that it was my own fault. I’d have to admit that I’d neglected my teeth for nearly a decade. I didn’t even want to think about it I was so humiliated. It wasn’t until the pain became unbearable that I made myself go.

When I’d finally come to my senses, I looked up a dentist that specialized in patients with dental anxiety… which is apparently a common thing. I also learned that I had 8 cavities and some that were so bad and so deep they’d caused my teeth to break, then decay. I explained my story (through tears) to the doctor and she helped me get through the first couple visits smoothly, calmly, & without judgement.  I later moved back to my hometown where my good friend Crystal, a dental hygienist, helped me get the care I needed to finally get back to a healthy state. About 10 visits/procedures and 4 years later, I finally have a healthy mouth. And I get regular cleanings…

And there’s this:

I’ve also been ashamed of my financial state. (Debt story  here, so I won’t re-tell it.) I didn’t have 100k in credit card debt or anything, but I do know how quickly debt can double, triple and ultimately ruin you financially, so that experience ties in with the other as well.

 

Bottom line:

I may not have been obese, but I have experienced a similar shame. I’d let several aspects of my life get out of my control to the detriment of my health and well-being. And I’ve experienced how that can compound quickly into a situation that seems completely hopeless.

But I’ve also experienced success. I’ve come out on the other side of those situations and here’s what I learned from them:

 

1) Doing nothing makes it worse.

When I ignored my dental pain and when I tried not to notice how much interest was compounding on my various loans and debts, things only got worse. They didn’t stay the same level of “bad.” They got worse.

It seems we fool ourselves into thinking that if we ignore something long enough it will go away… or at least stay the same. It doesn’t. It gets a lot worse. Interest charges can double your debt in just a matter of a few months, like visceral fat can start to encompass your organs, slow your metabolism, and compound far quicker than most people can deal with. So if you’re in a situation that isn’t healthy, it’s best not to ignore that ish. You may not be able to get out of it quickly, but even making a small concerted effort is enough to stop the downward spiral. So take a step. Any step in the other direction to start making your way out of that hole.

2) Success takes time. It takes way more time than you’re ok with. 

It took me 8 years of neglect for my teeth to get into the shape they were in and it took me 4 years and a lot of money to get back to a healthy mouth. It took me 4 years to have credit card debt, student loans, and car payments slowly build up and it took me a year and a half of intense financial discipline to pay it all off and get money into savings to pad myself.

We don’t get ourselves into situations overnight. We can’t expect to get out of them quickly either. But we expect instantaneous success! And when we don’t achieve it, we get discouraged, give up, and usually go back to binge-like behaviors. Being patient, making small moves toward the goal, and keeping those behaviors consistent will get you to where you want to be. Making drastic changes that you cannot keep up will only leave you shell-shocked with no results. There’s only one thing you need to tell yourself. “Just keep swimming.” Don’t stop. You’ll get there, but usually not very quickly, so stay the course.

3) Find somebody you trust to help. 

If you’ve been unsuccessful in getting yourself to your goal on your own, it’s time to enlist help. The most valuable thing you can do is let somebody help you. I know what you’re thinking: If you handle it yourself maybe nobody will know it was that bad. Maybe if you don’t say anything to anybody you’ll get better on your own? I know, because I thought that too… But if you haven’t reached your goal yet, you probably won’t any time soon. Go find somebody you can talk to, that you feel slightly comfortable with, that is experienced in your situation and can HELP.

It’s not admitting defeat, it’s taking action. It’s being proactive. I’ve talked to tons of financial advisors about making sure I’m never in money trouble again. I’ve started reading books about investing and looking up articles about retirement plans and building wealth. These sources know more about it than I do, so I have to trust that they can help. And when the time comes to make big moves, I will use the people I trust the most to guide me along the way… because I can’t do it all on my own. Not many of us can.

4) You can only have a pity-party for so long. 

We can have bad luck and we can make bad decisions, but we cannot play the victim card forever. I know people that have been complaining about being broke for a decade and have made absolutely no changes to their spending habits. If you’re still dealing with the same problems, things aren’t happening to you – you are causing them to happen. You may not even realize it, but your choices are getting you to this place.

There will come a time when you have to face the facts: What you’ve been doing is what got you to where you are. If you want to be somewhere else, you have to do something else. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means you have to try new things and follow through with habits that you previously haven’t. Find somebody that has reached the goal you want to reach. Talk to them. Ask them questions about their daily habits. Then find a way to mimic that and make it your own.

You cannot stand in the rain and complain about getting wet if you aren’t willing to move elsewhere or at least find an umbrella.

5). Get rid of the haters. Surround yourself with supporters. 

No matter what your situation, chances are you’ve dealt with some huge insecurities along the way that perhaps drove your behaviors or made them worse. There’s nothing that can take away past events and how they’ve made you feel or act. The one thing you can do is block out the negative from now on. Talk to your closest family members or friends and tell them your plans for tackling your goals. Surround and immerse yourself with the ones who support you, praise you, and offer to help. Immediately separate yourself from the ones who make fun of you, (even if they claim they’re joking) talk down to you, or condemn you in any way. These people are of no value to you on your journey. They are dead weight. Maybe they aren’t horrible people, but they will not help you in any way.

It’s really hard to cut out toxic people in your life, especially if they’ve always been there, but you cannot afford to have negativity in your life when you’re trying to overhaul it. Pick the people that offer the most support and ask them to be there for you and keep that support going. If you actually tell them that you need their help, they will help you and hold you accountable.

If you aren’t getting the social support from the closest people in your life (say your partner, best friend, or family member), you may have to have a come-to-jesus talk with them and hash some things out. I’ve had lots of clients who have said their spouse doesn’t support them and that astounds me. That’s the NUMBER 1 person who should be on your side and helping you every step of the way. Have that conversation with that person in your life, even if it’s a hard one. Social support is paramount.

6) Ask yourself WHY. 

Why are you in your current position? Why haven’t you been proactive in changing things? Have you been eating poorly because that’s how your family and coworkers eat? Have you been spending excessively because you’re trying to keep up with lifestyles of those you admire? Are you depressed? Are you insecure? Are you sad about a sudden loss? Is your job stressing you out? Are you dealing with an old pent-up frustration of some sort or recently experienced a traumatic life event? You don’t have to go on Dr. Phil or anything, but you HAVE to find the answer to these questions first. If you don’t know what’s causing the behaviors, it’s impossible to rid yourself of them for good.

Try writing in a journal. Try seeking out a counselor. Try talking with a parent or friend you’ve known your whole life that might offer some insight. Keep an open mind and be willing to really look at yourself, your behaviors and why you’ve gotten to where you are. Once you’ve made moves to figure it out, you can make moves to try not to get back there in the future.

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I’ve been incredibly ashamed and let it block my success for far longer than it should have. I’ve also put myself through each and every one of the above steps. Not just with the two issues I discussed in the beginning of this post, but with other aspects of my life as well.

The older I get, the more care I take into finding what is truly best for me. Which habits I should drop, which I should keep. Who I should surround myself with and who I should let go. Why did I let myself do this thing that led to that outcome? Only when I became truly honest with myself did I really start to make some progress. Now, it’s a little easier to catch some of those small issues before they turn into big problems.

I’m not perfect and I still make plenty of mistakes, but I now know that if I want to be successful, I cannot let the shame from my downfalls block my path.

I hope you won’t either.

 

 

 

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How I Deal With My Fear of Flying… Constantly

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I LOVE traveling. I hate flying. As somebody who has a fear of flying, having to get on an airplane almost weekly presents a bit of a conundrum. Resulting from a really scary flight in 2006, I’ve been freaked the hell out about flying for years. I guess the real fear isn’t so much in flying as it is crashing… For a while there it got so bad that tears and shaking were a part of almost every flight I took.

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A couple years ago I was able to get a prescription for a very light dose of an anti-anxiety drug, which definitely helped, but I hated having to take something in order to get through a flight. Plus, even though it was an extremely light dose, it made me incredibly drowsy so that wasn’t optimal either, as usually I’m getting off a plane and into a rental car. I needed a solution. I didn’t really have one, other than “just keep flying.” And that actually helped…

The more flights I’ve taken, the more I’ve learned. After a couple hundred or so flights over the past few years, I’ve gotten better. I hardly use my pills anymore, but I still keep them in my travel bag. Although I’m still freaked out by flying, I’ve picked up a few key practices that have helped me get through it, partly because I have to for my job, more so because I want to… because there’s still a lot of this world I haven’t seen yet.

So I’m gonna to pass those along now…

In no particular order, here are my top 7 tips for getting through a fear of flying:

1. Learn about how planes work.

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I read a book by Michael Chricton called, “Airframe.” It was a novel, yes, but all his books are based on scientific facts and are cited up one side and down the other. This book was  about a plane accident and all the issues surrounding it. It explained a lot about the science/physics about aviation and how planes actually work, why they’re built the way they are, etc. It really opened my eyes up about how durable airplanes are. Plus, it was an entertaining read, so it’s worth a go.

I’ve also talked to a few pilots here and there. I’ve sat next to them occasionally on flights and talk to them in the airport while waiting for flights. Once, I had drinks with a couple in the bar one night after we all took the shuttle from the airport to the same hotel. I asked them tons of questions about various scenarios where I can see how the plane would either spontaneously combust, be flipped over by an insane wind gust, or simply fall out of the sky. They assured me that nearly every one of those scenarios was impossible and explained why. They may have thought I was crazy, but they humored me and answered every question I asked.

No matter what the subject, most of our fear comes simply from the unknown. Learning more of the science of flying has helped.

 

2. Fly more often. Seriously.

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I know our initial reaction is to avoid the things we’re scared of, but the best thing to do is face it… unfortunately.

Every flight I took I reminded myself that it would be ok and I would get better at it… And then that damn Alanis Morissette line would go through my head: “He waited his whole damn life, to take that flight. And as the plane crashed down he thought, well isn’t this nice.” And then I’d go back to thinking I was going to die… THANKS, Alanis!

The more I flew though, the more familiar things felt. The more I learned that the sound immediately after take-off wasn’t the engine falling out of the plane,(like I was certain it was), it was merely the sound the landing gear makes as it retracts back up into the plane. The scary sound as you start to descend for landing isn’t the wing about to rip apart from the body of the plane, it’s just the struts extending out to allow the plane to ascend or descend. The other sound that I always thought meant we were going to crash, as it caused an immediate drop in speed, ended up being the landing gear coming down to prep for our arrival. Knowing that these horrific sounds of impending doom were actually just sounds the plane makes as it goes through normal operations makes everything a little easier to endure.

3. Sit towards the front!

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I read an article once about how to survive a plane crash and it said most survivors were ones seated in the back of the plane. So obviously, I sat in the farthest seat I could get (but before the very back row… you only make that mistake once), but it always seemed as though the turbulence was horrid and it was always super loud. I can’t sleep on planes as it is, and the noise back there made it even more unlikely to happen.

Then I learned, from the lovely pilots I chatted up, that the turbulence is felt more the farther back you sit. The closer you are to the front, the easier it feels. Viola! I don’t know if that’s true or if it’s just the placebo effect, but either way, sitting at the front feels better. Plus, you get to exit the plane sooner. Double whammy!

4. Close the window!

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If the plane is making a turn and I look out the window and am staring at the ground, I’m thinking the plane is effing SIDEWAYS! There is no way on God’s green earth that we’re not going to crash. How can the plane take that much force?! The wings are gonna snap! The engine’s going to die! “Stop making such a sharp turn, you irresponsible pilot!” Sooooo now I just keep the window shades down. I do this by always booking a window seat, so then I’m in control of it. Out of sight, out of mind, my friends! Most people want an aisle seat anyway, so it works out for everybody: I don’t see anything that makes me freak out, the person next to me doesn’t have to hold my hand. Win win!

5. Distractions, distractions, distractions.

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The more ish I have to distract me, the less I think about the plane crashing and all of us dying a horrific death. I always check the types of planes I’ll be flying in when I book my ticket, since you can do that these days on the website, or on the airline’s phone app. Depending on the airline, sometimes there are rad TVs with shows, movies and music. Sometimes though, there’s absolutely no in-flight entertainment. In those cases, I bring my own distractions: Since I’m self-employed, there’s usually always some work I could be doing, so that can take up a huge portion of my attention. I always have my computer with me, as well as my Kindle. I get a subscription of my favorite magazine, Outside, as well as my fitness publication, IDEA Fitness Journal. I take the mags when they arrive in the mail and immediately place them in my carryon backpack, saved especially for reading while flying. And since they now allow you to have your electronics on during the entire flight (namely takeoff and landing, which are the scariest parts of the flight) I’m totally set up to use my phone or Kindle to think about as many other things as possible!

6. Alcohol.

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I mean, don’t get wasted or anything, but if I don’t have to drive after landing, sometimes I’ll have a drink or two (or three, depending on the length of the flight) and I’m out like a light. Or a little more numb to the turbulence, one of the two.

Keep it classy though! Belligerent people get kicked off planes and put on the no-fly list… And don’t drink alcohol if you’re taking any medication!

7. Think about the statistics.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there are an average of 87,000 flights per day, in the United States alone. Multiply that by 365 days in a year and you get just under 32 Million… just in the states! How often do we hear of a major airline crash? Not often. And the most recent ones have been in other countries where the regulations are likely not as strict as they are here. Every time a flight is delayed for a mechanical reason, passengers always complain because they’ll be late. I always silently rejoice that the pilots have caught something that could have just saved our lives. Compared to driving, many more safe flights are happening every day.

If nothing else… close your eyes and focus on your breath. 

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So these are all the little things I think about that have helped me over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “cured” by any means. I still freak out a little when there’s turbulence for more than 10 seconds. I still track all my man-friend’s flights so I know he’s arrived safely. I still re-think decisions to switch flights or fly standby in case I’m putting myself on a flight that’s going to crash, or switching flights that will inherently save me from one the one going to crash… but at least I’m not crying anymore, nor am I all drugged up. Glad game!

I know I can’t control the planes I’m flying on. I can’t control the pilots and their actions either. I also can’t stay on the ground and not travel, so I suck it up and fly. And these things help me out.

Do any of you have a fear of flying? What do you do to curb it?

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Scaredy Cat…

I’m going to Greece today!

I have 10 flights over the next 10 days!
4 of them today!
It’s a good thing I don’t hate flying or this would really suck.
#sarcasm
I DO HATE FLYING. 
I’ve said it before. 
Anybody who knows me knows this. 
I also fly nearly every weekend for my job. 
Dumb, yes? 
Here’s just a little explanation of this: 
Before I get started: 
I KNOW that flying is safer than driving. 
I KNOW that’s it’s faster and more efficient (I’m always for efficiency). 
I KNOW that thousands of flights take off each year and there’s hardly ever an accident. 
I KNOW that I basically have to suck it up,
 get over it, and get on the damn plane… 
or I’d have  seriously limited travel experience. 
I KNOW all these things. 
But for whatever reason, I think each time I take a flight, I’m chancing death. This is why I drive if I have to travel anywhere that’s within 6 hours. Even though I’m aware that statistically, I’m more likely to be killed on the freeway than in an aircraft, I’d still rather avoid flying if I can… 
Despite ‘knowing’ all of this, 
this is me during take-off, 
turbulence, 
and landing:

White knuckles all the way…

The take-off and landings are the scariest. 
Because they say that’s when most crashes happen.
It’s bumpy, you’re turning, you’re ascending.
It all seems very unstable to me. 
So I board every flight with an arsenal of technological distractions.
Know what’s great?
 The only time you can’t use your distractions
(music, movies, computers, e-readers, etc)
is DURING the scariest parts of the flight!!!

This is why I’m a big fan of planes
that have tv screens on each seat back.
At least you’ve got something to do during these moments.

……
Also:
When you see a plane turning from the ground, it looks like this: 
Just a slight angle, 
nice and easy. 
When you’re INSIDE a plane and it turns, it feels like this: 
Completely sideways!
Unsafe and unnatural. 
WTF?! That big ass machine is not supposed to move like this. 
What if a huge wind gust comes along and flips the plane right over?!
I feel like that could happen…

And why do they have to lower the landing gear when we’re still going SO FAST?
The plane slows so much and it feels like everything’s going to rip apart.
I feel like they should slow their roll a bit more before they start that ish.

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And I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that we’re delayed
due to “mechanical issues.”
Are you effing kidding me?
 Can you please not announce that there are problems
with the plane I’m about to board?!

All I picture is somebody out there with duct tape, patching it quickly
so they don’t have to hear everybody complaining about being delayed.

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I know they’re trying to keep everybody posted,
but I could do without that tidbit of info.

Lie to us!

Say the captain had diarrhea.
Say there’s bad weather somewhere along the route.
Say somebody puked on the previous flight and they have to clean it up for a bit…

DO NOT TELL ME SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH MY PLANE
and that you’re gonna “fix it up real quick and we’ll be on our way in no time”

I mean, do you want me to freak out like the lady in the Airplane! slapping scene?
(Don’t worry. I won’t. I’m not that bad.)

……

But since I can’t do anything about any of this,
I’ve learned to just sit back,
close my eyes for the first 10 minutes,
down a cocktail or two
and breathe.

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And maybe look into an aeronautics class
so I can actually find out what’s happening on an airplane when it flies.
Maybe that’ll help?

What silly phobia do you have?

I’ll be back in 9 days!
Have a great weekend
: ) 

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