My pick for the month is a great book I’ve been reading by Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer called “I’m like so fat! Helping your teen make healthy choices about eating and exercise in a weight-obsessed world”. I picked it up in preparation for a workshop I’m doing for parents who want to help protect their kids from developing both obesity and eating disorders. This is quite a job for parents in the toxic environment in which we live! As Dianne Neumark-Sztainer puts it in her book, our social environment is one that "pushes fat but rewards thin, encouraging us to overeat and be sedentary, yet stay unrealistically thin and muscular". In the book she helps parents understand that while their kids eating and body issues are not the fault of the parent, there is indeed a lot that parents can do to try to mitigate the risk for their children. She provides questions and worksheets to help you understand the risk factors and protective factors for your children and gives concrete tips for how you can help. For example, did you know that the simplest tradition of having family meals is associated with tons of positive outcomes for teens including healthier diet, less unhealthy weight-control behaviours, less unhealthy behaviours like smoking, alcohol and drugs and less depressive symptoms? And that just telling your kids that it’s normal to sometimes hate their body can help them tolerate those difficult days without resorting to dieting or other unhealthy weight-control behaviours. I learned a lot for my own kids while reading this book!
We all have things in our life we know we really should do but have difficulty doing. Exercise, going to the doctor, writing a thank you card… So, we either try to push ourselves to get them done through sheer willpower or we pretend they aren’t that important anyways or that we’ll get around to them when we have enough time. Well they are important. And you do have enough time (think about your TV watching or internet surfing hours). It’s just hard to get motivated to do some things, and often these tend to be important things for our health or well-being. That’s why Katherine Milkman, Associate Professor of Operations, Information & Decisions at The University of Pennsylvania, decided to devote her career to the study of human behavior and how to make behavior change stick. In this Freakonomics episode, When willpower isn’t enough, she presents a great tool called “temptation bundling” in which you pair a behavior you are highly motivated to do with a behavior you have little motivation to do. And, she finds that if you do this you’ll have better chances of doing those good for you but not so enticing behaviours! For example, you might decide to only watch your favorite TV shows at the gym (like she does) or reward yourself with a day off of work when you finally get your mammogram. I started only listening to my favorite podcasts while running and it works to keep me more motivated!
THESE GUYS DON'T MESS AROUND SO BELIEVE THEM WHEN THEY TELL YOU HOW YOU CAN HAVE MORE SUCCESS IN YOUR JOB (AND LIFE)!
Wow, I love these guys at 80,000 hours! If you don’t know them they research and write about how to do good in the world through your 80,000 working hours (i.e., your job). They are thorough, real and I love their endeavor! Recently they also applied that same rigor to writing an article on how to be most successful in your job (and in life in general). Guess what? #1 is self-care and #2 is prioritizing your mental health. Yes! Please read.
Here’s one of my favorite articles that gets real about obesity (and is easily digestible). Fact: losing weight and keeping it off is hard for many reasons outside of our control, but it’s not impossible. As a psychologist specializing in weight and eating I’ve seen long-term weight loss work in many individuals with obesity. This article written by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is a great account of why and how long-term weight loss can work combining the clinical experience of a doctor and the latest research on the subject. Best and most helpful line from the article in my opinion: “The key to your success is actually liking the life and diet you're living with while you're losing weight”.
I had the pleasure of spending two days in a workshop with this bright and passionate woman, Christina Crook. In 2012 she decided to do a one-month detox from the Internet and wrote a letter each day to a friend about her experiences, which were mailed then posted to a blog. In the end, she wrote a book that married her experience with research, entitled The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. In this inspiring TED Talk Christina tells us her story and gives us tips on how to manage our technology use so that we are more present in our day-to-day lives, our relationships, our communities and more. You too can experience the Joy of Missing Out!
Dr. BJ Fogg, innovator, behavior scientist and teacher at Stanford University talks about his model for long-term behaviour change in this informative TED Talk. He teaches us that there are essentially two ways to produce long-term change: 1) change your environment, 2) tiny habits. In this talk he walks us through how to create tiny habits that will help us reach those long-term goals we never thought we’d be able to reach for ourselves.
This short article from the New York Times is one of my favorite ones to send to people who are trying to make exercise a habit. It highlights research by Dr. Michelle Segar, director of the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan, which shows that people who are motivated for exercise by long-term goals like weight loss or health are actually not that likely to do it. So, what does motivate us for exercise? Focusing on immediate rewards that enhance daily life, like increased mood, more energy, stress relief or connection with friends and family. This doesn’t mean you cannot exercise for health it just means you’ll be most effective if you can find some more immediate reward to focus on to make your healthy habit stick!
I looked into the concept of psychological safety in the workplace after reading an article by Charles Duhigg about Google’s quest to find out what makes the perfect team. What they found was that the best predictor of a great team did not have to do with who made it up, but instead the group norms of the team, more specifically something called psychological safety. Defined loosely, psychological safety means that team members listen to one another and show sensitivity to others feelings and needs. Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, Amy Edmondson, has spent many years researching this construct and explains in this video why it is so important for a thriving workplace.
This amazing organization brings together science and public policy in order to promote solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias. They promote evidence-based solutions and are committed to “holding the food industry, media, government, and others that affect the food environment accountable for their actions”. One key message to take away is that shaming and blaming people about their weight is not helpful, in fact it is interfering with efforts to improve public health! For more information on why this is you can read about Dr. Rebecca Puhl’s research in this New York Times article, Is Fat Stigma Making us Miserable? I would also highly recommend, especially for health care professionals, that you take a look at Dr. Puhl’s presentation, Obesity Stigma: Implications for Patients and Providers.
Want to make a big impact in your career? This non-profit organization, founded by Benjamin Todd and Professor Will MacAskill, is dedicated to helping people have the biggest social impact through their approximately 80,000 working hours. Over one-third of young graduates say they want to have an impact in their career but many people do not know how to best do this and either end up walking away from the idea (and feeling like a “sell out”) or feeling discouraged in a low-impact job. One article I like, Don’t Follow your Passion explains why follow your passion is actually pretty bad advice and talks about a different formula for finding the most satisfying career: Do What’s Valuable. You can also check out this TEDx Talk about it here.
In this episode of Good Life Project MIT Professor Sherry Turkle shares her knowledge on how our cell phones are affecting our relationships with people, including our professors, our friends, our colleagues and even our children. Although technology does a lot for us we have to remember that we are vulnerable to what it does to us. She gives the example of a father who realizes that with his first child bath time was a “sacred moment” and now bath time with his second child is a “good chance to catch up on emails”. She talks about how students miss out on opportunities to bounce ideas off professors because they refuse to go talk to them in person. She makes the suggestion that we accept our vulnerability and make some rules for ourselves about when to use and when not to use our phones in order to ensure we don’t lose the important human qualities found in conversation, empathy, and even solitude.
This website offers multiple platforms from which to learn the science and practice of mindfulness meditation. Check out their blog & podcast at Headspace Daily. Download their mobile app for free to try 10 minutes of mindfulness per day. I recommend this site to many of my friends and clients!
Great talk demystifying stress as the enemy. She presents some interesting research findings suggesting that the negative effects of stress are only found in individuals who think stress is bad for them. Find out how to change the way you see stress in order to decrease the negative effects of stress and find the positive benefits in it.
In this podcast from the Good Life Project Dr. Wendy Suzuki, neuroscientist and NYU professor does some myth busting around the brain. She discusses how to best optimize our brains including her research on the benefits of exercise for the brain.