Why KonMari and Dave Ramsey Failed Me, And How I Found What Works

This post is about how KonMari and Dave Ramsey didn’t quite work for me the way I had hoped, and what I learned from the experience. Before anyone gets all defensive about either of these methods, I’m gonna say that I learned things of value from both the individual methods as well my personal failures with them. In fact, I’m happy I tried both of them, failed, and learned what I did. 

If you have ever been on a diet/”cleanse”/”detox” (or many), you probably are intimately familiar with the emotional states that motivated you to overhaul your lifestyle. Specifically, the frustration and impatience. “Why is my life such a mess? Oh god, how did I let it get this bad? I need to change everything right now. That’s IT! I’m making a change.”

And instead of making one change, such as “eating more vegetables at dinnertime” or “going to bed 1 hour earlier,” you decide to make many changes. Maybe you do a Whole 30 or a 21-Day Fix or whathaveyou. You cut out several food groups, count every calorie at every meal, implement a new workout, completely change what you order in restaurants, completely change your meal schedule, try and shop for completely different foods, cook completely different foods, and more…..all at the same time.

Within 3 months, your habits are back to where you started, and the cycle begins all over again. Maybe you have a case of the “fuckits” (as in, “fuck it; I’ll do what I want!”) for a while until the frustration and impatience builds up again. “Why is my life such a mess? Oh god, how did I let it get this bad? I need to change everything right now. That’s IT! I’m making a change.”

And on and on it goes…..

I’m gonna propose that programs like the KonMari method and Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover have much in common with the quick “fixes” of the diet world. Let’s look at some of the similarities:

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Parenting Lessons in the Potty and Pool

Content notice: Potty training, poop. This post will confirm every stereotype you’ve ever heard about people becoming parents and talking about their child’s elimination to anyone who will listen. 

Last January we potty trained our son, who was almost 3.5 years old at the time. He was one of those stubborn kids you hear about who did NOT want to poop in the toilet. He knew how to pee in the toilet for many many months before we trained him, having figured that part out for himself. But for some reason pooping in the toilet was terrifying for him.

When he was 18 months old, he pooped on the potty for the first time. Naturally we lavished him with praise, but he looked so horrified at what he had done that he refused to go near the potty again for almost another year and a half.

I could tell that he looked frightened, but I didn’t know why. Then I learned (I forget who told me) that at his age, kids didn’t understand that poop isn’t really a part of themselves. The idea of letting go of and flushing a part of themselves can be very scary for them.

Intellectually I understood this, but I couldn’t really relate. I just kinda went with it, but I didn’t personally remember how it felt to have that fear.

So there we were, waiting for a stubborn (frightened?) kid to decide he was ready to try pooping on the toilet again. So we waited….and waited…and waited….and then one day when he was almost 3.5 years old, I received a text message while I was at work from his babysitter: “he just told me ‘I’m gonna use my diaper forever!’ LMAO!” And I said “that’s it; we’re potty training him this weekend.

We told him that as soon as the current box of diapers ran out, we weren’t going to buy any more diapers. That weekend we stayed home and did lots of time with pants off.  I knew he had no problems peeing in the toilet, but since he was scared to poop, we rewarded poops with lollipops.

It turned out to be remarkably easy to train him. He only had two accidents the entire weekend, and both of them were on his way to the bathroom. But he started holding his poop and becoming constipated.

He still had the fear of letting his poop go. We made sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables and oats and lentils in his diet. But it took several weeks before he was comfortable pooping in the toilet regularly. And then it took several more months before he was comfortable pooping in the toilet anywhere other than our home. He would hold his poop all day long. His babysitter would try to get him to poop in her bathroom or in public bathrooms. He obstinately told her “No; I poop at MY house.”

I laughed and shook my head at all these stories and his reticence to poop.

And now, in my swim practice, I think I actually understand it. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna talk about pooping in the pool. I’m gonna talk about flip turns.

I know how to do flip turns. I know it is the fastest way to turn when doing freestyle laps, allowing you to cover more distance in less time.

But I still don’t like doing them. I feel nervous as I approach the wall. I’m still not confident in how to adjust my breathing pattern in anticipation of the turn. I don’t like the sensation of not being able to breathe for a few seconds longer than normal.  So even though I know how to do flip turns and I know they are faster, I usually only do a few in any given swim. Maybe as I get more used to them, I will do more and more flip turns.

And I thought to myself “this must be how my kid felt about pooping on the toilet. He knew what to do, but it still felt weird and he didn’t like it.”

Yes, swimming does give me a lot of time to ruminate on things like this. I feel like I understand my kid a bit better.

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Year in Review: Outcomes of My Second Year of Habit-Based Self-care

When I started two years ago, deciding to track healthy habits instead of a number on a scale or clothing size was unfamiliar territory for me. I decided I wanted to be open to whatever outcomes would come.

Last year, I listed the following outcomes I experienced after one year along on a habit-based, weight neutral health journey:

Looking back on what I wrote last year, I am happy to say that most of those outcomes have continued throughout year two. I did have some depression and back pain creep back in when an injury required me to stop lifting for a few months. With adding lifting back into my life, both of these conditions are improving again.

I also experienced some other cool things in year two.

Looking back, I feel really proud of what I accomplished this year. It didn’t seem like I did much of anything until I actually went back and read all my older posts. What I feel most proud of is keeping up a consistent self-care routine during a very challenging year.  My family had a lot of challenges: my husband got injured, I got injured, we lost our pet, we had a terminal illness and death in the family. I feel so proud that I took excellent care of myself so that I could face these challenges well.  Honestly, the self-care felt like the easiest part and I know that is because of the habit-based approach.

So…..to give credit where credit is due, I feel very proud of myself this year. I’m excited to see what year 3 brings!

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I Am Fat….And Yes, I Do Model a Healthy Lifestyle For My Kid

PREAMBLES AND DISCLAIMERS: If you read the title of this post and are thinking that I am  about to advocate judging others on the basis of their health status or whether they engage in healthy behaviors ….I want to make it clear that I am not. One’s health status and/or lifestyle does not make anyone morally superior or inferior to anyone else. To quote Ragen Chastain, “health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.

Also, there are very few people who are role models in many areas of life at the same time. So even if someone is not modeling a healthy lifestyle by any one person’s definition, it is possible that they are kicking ass in another area of life. Maybe they work tirelessly to support their families or pursue their passions. Maybe they go above and beyond in helping others. Maybe they create beautiful music or art or literature. Maybe they contribute to new scientific discoveries that make life better for others. Maybe they are present for their kids. Maybe they are bravely facing life in the face of an illness that may be physical or mental, visible or invisible. Maybe they are great at uplifting people and making them laugh, or making them feel accepted no matter what. I do not consider it my job (or anyone’s job) to ask “what’s your excuse for not prioritizing the same things I do?”

Conversely, the fact that I model what I consider to be a healthy lifestyle does not mean I believe myself to be a role model for my kid in all areas; in fact, I definitely do not. And I know that is okay, because no one person can be everything to their kid. That is why they say “it takes a village to raise a child.”

And without further ado….

One of the ways I see the pursuit of thinness being marketed to mothers (and fathers, to a lesser extent) is by playing to one of their deepest insecurities: their fear of being considered unfit as a parent. By telling them that they cannot be considered a role model to their children if they are not thin.

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I Finally Watched “This Is Us,” and Here’s What I Think of Kate

CONTENT NOTICE: Childhood fatness, isolation, eating disorders, bingeing, dieting, fatphobia, bariatric surgery, death, etc. Also spoilers.

The other day I decided to watch the NBC show This is Us to see what all the talk was about.

Here’s what I knew about the show before I watched it:

  • That it was about people who share a birthday whose lives intertwine
  • That there was a fat character (Kate) played by Chrissy Metz
  • That Chrissy Metz had signed a contract that obligated her to lose weight along with Kate’s storyline

That’s it. I knew nothing else about what to expect.

When I mentioned on social media that I was considering watching the show, several of my friends said they liked the show, but they wanted to give me a heads up that I might not, due to the way Kate’s character was written. Several other friends told me that they had chosen not to watch the show for that same reason, or had stopped watching the show for that same reason.  A few said that they loved the show and they found Kate’s character to hit extremely close to home and therefore appreciated the way it was written. A few said they had chosen not to watch the show because of Metz’s contract to lose weight. A few told me (some via private message) that they would be curious what my thoughts were, once I watched the show.

Anyway, I watched the show, and I actually have a lot of thoughts that I want to share. I know for a fact, both from friends’ comments and articles I have read, that I don’t speak on behalf of all fat women here….so I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind with this post. I’m simply sharing my own reactions and what is true for me. I’m also not in the habit of writing entertainment reviews. Take me with a giant grain of salt if you must. (Also, while I do have an opinion about the fact that Metz is contractually obligated to lose weight, I’m not gonna weigh in on that in this post.)

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Too Hard on Yourself and Want to Change That? This May Be Holding You Back.

It just hit me that I am way too hard on myself.

I mean, really hit me. People say that to women all the time and I have heard it of course. “We are so hard on ourselves.” “We need to stop expecting perfecting out of ourselves as a prerequisite for self-love and self-acceptance.”

But do we really believe it when we say it?

It’s okay if we don’t. It can sometimes take our habits and feelings a while to catch up to our intentions.

Maybe we subconsciously say things like “yeah, I know OTHER people are too hard on themselves. But surely that doesn’t apply to me. Surely on some level I deserve to be hard on myself because I am not perfect.”

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The Things That Can’t Be Photoshopped

Last night I got my preview photos back from the photographer who took our family photos. This triggered my annual “dear God, THAT’S how I look?” moment.

First comes the blindsided-ness.

Followed by the regret for my hair choices (why did I shave my head this summer? I miss my hair), my make-up choices (why did I choose not to wear any?), and my wardrobe choices (I didn’t like how I looked wearing that outfit in last year’s photos; why did I think I’d like it in this year’s). Never mind that I had made all those choices for deliberate reasons (I had shaved my head because the chlorine from the pool was drying out my hair and I hated the feel of swim caps. I chose not to wear any make-up because I don’t normally wear it, I was happy enough with how I looked while I was getting ready, and I didn’t like how my make-up looked last year. I had chosen my outfit with satisfaction, because I was happy that I fit into the same outfit as the prior year for the first time in my adult life).

Followed by the “why didn’t anyone tell me” self-talk. Why didn’t my husband tell me my hair was thinning on the side of my head I sleep on at night? I wonder if the photographer can do something about that in the photos? And why didn’t she  tell me that my giant boobs looked comically out of proportion to the rest of my body in that pose? Why didn’t anyone tell me my skin was almost as pale as my husband’s (who has naturally fair skin) after spending most of the time indoors this summer due to the fact that my injury required me to take a break from lifting and that break led to back aches and those back aches meant I wasn’t up for hiking in the woods and I basically hate summer if I am not in the shade? As if pointing out someone’s aesthetic idiosynchracies is ever something I would advocate doing….

At the same time, I know the the photos are excellent. They capture my family having fun. They capture my four year old’s silliness and sleepiness and tantrums. They are great and I am going to share them with friends once the final ones are ready.

So I had to notice all those feelings, and remind myself that I feel pretty great this week in the same body I don’t love looking at in photos.

Then I noticed I was hungry and it was dinner time, yet I felt torn about feeding myself dinner after looking at the photos. “Wow,” I thought. “The social conditioning of the belief that fat people don’t deserve to give themselves the food they need is strong.” I chose to notice that feeling, acknowledge that it was bullshit, and eat dinner anyway.

So I went to bed feeling pretty shitty. And woke up early ruminating on the same thoughts. And then it hit me…..while I was ruminating on that negative self-talk, I hadn’t once thought about the news we got a couple days ago that my mother-in-law’s cancer has progressed to the point where they are stopping the chemotherapy. I hadn’t once thought about how sad I was about the fact that my mother-in-law is terminally ill. How much we will miss her. How my father-in-law will be all alone after over four decades of marriage to his best friend and how worried I am about how lonely and sad he will feel. How my husband will lose his mother.  And holy shit, all that is really sad and painful and scary to think about.

In my therapy sessions we have been talking about how body talk seems to be a coping mechanism for me. It serves to distract me from other uncomfortable feelings. So I can use it as a tool, or a flag, and ask myself what is really going on. Interesting how beating myself up seems to be the less painful option than facing actual sadness.

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Getting My Head On Straight

It has been two weeks since my follow up appointment with the spine surgeon when I was cleared to ease back into lifting.

So far I have introduced light deadlifts and lat pulldowns (in addition to the planks and side planks which were included in my physical therapy). I’ve had zero nerve issues from these. My back, while not 100 percent, is feeling better than it has in months. My mood and motivation levels are better than they have been in months too.

I feel like myself again, and what amazes me is that I didn’t need to do an ambitious or time consuming program to drastically improve how I feel. I just added 3 sets of deadlifts, 3 days per week, and 3 sets of lat pulldowns, 3 days per week. I do the deadlifts in my living room in the morning, and the lat pulldowns at the Y before or after swimming.

For me, lifting weights is a far more effective anti-depressant than swimming and the SSRI I have been taking. That said, I am grateful for both swimming and the SSRI. Even though they were not as effective for me as lifting, they still helped me somewhat. The SSRI helped me get from “really bad depression” to “mild/tolerable depression/apathy.” Swimming helped me continue to be active when everything else made my back ache, and it felt good in the moment even if it didn’t help with day-to-day motivation and mood. Note: I know that effectiveness of depression treatments vary widely from person to person so please keep in mind that I am talking about myself only in this post. I’m in favor of everyone doing what makes them feel best, whether that is medication, movement, or some other choice.

I am grateful for my injury now because I think it helped me get my head on straight. Now that I realize just how much lifting helps me with depression and back aches, I also realize that my number one fitness priority is to keep myself lifting. Being free of depression and hopefully back aches means much more than any PRs or feeling proud of my lifting numbers. If I re-injure myself, there is a lot more at stake than some lost months of lifting progress… like my sanity, my mood, my productivity, my focus, and my ability to contribute at home. I don’t need PRs to be awesome. But I do need lifting to be my best self. Not for others, but for my own experience in this body as a comfortable place to live.

So there won’t be any more impressive lifts from me any time soon, or possibly ever again. Just day to day self-care and habits. You know, the boring stuff.

Here’s what’s next: since it has been two weeks and I’m not having any nerve issues from deadlifts or lat pulldowns, I plan to experiment with some very light front squats to see if my body can tolerate them now. I’m a bit gun-shy on back squats due to the nature of my spinal injury.

Very glad to be feeling better and to have my head on straight!

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Can a Person Be Considered Body Positive If They Want To Lose Weight?

“Can a person be considered body positive if they want to lose weight?”

This is a question I see a lot lately in the body positive and fat acceptance communities, in light of body positivity going mainstream, corporations who profit off body dissatisfaction co-opting the body positive message, and people who declare they are #bodypositivebut.

As with many questions, the answer depends on who you ask. And if you want to know what other people think, please ask them and/or read their articles, or read this pretty comprehensive summary of the movement from Buzzfeed. I’m gonna answer from my own perspective, while acknowledging that my opinion is not the only one out there.

And my opinion has many shades. I think differently than I did a year ago, and may think differently about it next year too. These are my thoughts at this particular moment in time. My thoughts here relate to individuals, not to for-profit entities.

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