Apple and the 2016 MacBook Pro are Working to Change Your Brain, and it’s Uncomfortable

What’s Up

As an Apple fan, I appreciate the thoughtfulness that Apple puts into integrating their hardware and software so that it gradually moves users in new directions (whether they like it or not).  Psychologically, this is a good move because there’s only so much change that people are willing to tolerate before they avoid the situation.  Well this year, Apple has pushed the envelope and it’s done it by reducing the ports and really changing up the keyboards.  Now ports have a relatively concrete solution (i.e., adapters), so resolving this issue for people is relatively easy, albeit annoying.  The keyboard, on the otherhand, requires that all Apple users make a significant neurological change if they’re to use the keyboard in the most efficient and quietest way possible.  Now I’m not talking about the Touch Bar, I’m talking about the actual keyboard and the keys.  I have to admit, the new keyboard has been driving me friggin’ crazy (crazy!!) because I’m used to the old 2011 MacBook Pro 15″ keyboard, which I love so much more at the moment.  Now, I believe that Apple is moving its users toward a keyless keyboard…like a touch screen or something close to it.  In the past, Apple has done well to move people down the road toward long-term improvement but they might want to keep in mind that they change needs to be paced out a little bit better.  If they are, in fact, going to the keyless keyboard then I think that people may need some more time…but we’ll see, right?  Regardless, if the new keyboard has been frustrating for you and you’re curious about why and what you can do about it, hang in there.

Keyboard Differences Compared

As many others have described, the old keys were smaller, taller and required more pressure and stability in order for them to be successfully pressed and registered with the computer’s circuitry.  What’s also a massive, though technically small, difference is that the total depth of the keyboard is different.  From the measurements that I’ve taken, the new keyboard is about 1/4″ shorter in depth.  Meaning, we lost about 1/4″ when you measure from the very front of the space bar to the very back of the last row (e.g., any number key).  Here are a couple of photoscomparing the keyboards of the old 2011 MacBook Pro and the new 2016 MacBook Pro w/ Touch Bar, and you can see there’s a small difference.  At first I wasn’t sure if it was my eyes were messing with me but sure enough, they are different…and this explains why I am constantly making a lot of small errors!

As other authors have noted, the new keys have a very small (around 1mm) distance to travel from the start of the finger press to the completion of it so that it registers with the computer’s circuitry.  This is a very huge difference compared the the previous generations keyboards.  Also, the keys are bigger and more stable, which means that your brain doesn’t have to be as focused on hitting the keys just right.  Instead, there’s a little more space in the keys so that everything is a little more forgiving.  A basic comparison of the two keyboards (the 2016 vs. the 2011) gives me the impression that the keys on the 2016 MBP are barely there.  Good for design, reduced weight and use of space, but not so good for your long-standing typing habits that our brain and our bodies are used to.

What’s Involved When You Type

Man, there’s quite a bit!!  I could totally geek out by breaking down all of the structures, but I won’t do that to you.  So let’s keep things relatively basic.  First, there are multiple areas of your brain that are used for typing.  The major areas are those that govern motor or physical movement (Parietal Lobe), memory and habit (Hippocampus, Basil Ganglia, Temporal Lobes, etc.), visual information and feedback (Parietal and Occipital Lobes), and language (the whole friggin left half of your brain).  What’s more is that these structures need to connect to all of the muscles, tendons and nerve endings in your hands, fingers and arms in order to work properly.  These connections are made possible by many crazy long sequences of nerves that go from your brain, into your spine and then they travel throughout your body.  So when you’re forced to change a habit like typing on a new kind of keyboard, you’re changing all of these structures inside of you even though you can’t see it happen.  I have to admit, it’s all so nuts but so cool!  And this is just about typing!

So, when you go to type something right now, all of the nerves in your brain and body fire in a specific sequence and this makes it relatively easy to do.  This is because the nerves and muscles have had a lot of time to adapt to all of the practice that you’ve done.  The way that your typing speed increased was the result of your brain, nerves and body working together to alter all of the small structures underneath your skin…and this is what led to you being able to type faster.  Now we don’t see any of this taking place and we don’t even know that it’s going on, but it’s important that we know it.  When you first learned to type it wasn’t on this new Apple keyboard and the only reason that the keyboard is to blame for how funky this feels is because our biology can’t adapt quick enough.  This means that even the smallest of changes can mess with the complex neurological and muscular system that is called, “your ability to type.”  My body’s reaction to Apple’s change from the 2011 MBP to the 2016 MBP has been strong, and there have been times that I want to destroy my new MBP because I’m so frustrated with my body taking so long to adapt to the new keyboard!

As a side note, I’d like to acknowledge that Apple has been probably tried to be smart about deciding when it was going to force certain changes on us.  This is a tough balancing act and I don’t envy them in trying to determine how much to push the consumer while trying to balance strong stock prices and investor confidence.  That just seems like an impossible formula.  So how do you pump out quality products that push the boundaries of tech while also working with humanities biggest weakness: adapting to change.  It’s a tough call but let’s stay focused on the topic at hand and save that for another blog post.

Why Learning Something New Can Be Biologically Uncomfortable

Basic Brain Stuff:  When we’re under 25 years old, it’s easier for us to change because our metabolism is higher (which promotes quicker growth and protein synthesis which is needed for neurological changes) and our brain has a greater influx of newly created brain cells or neurons.  Beyond 25, we continue to get some new neurons but it’s like a trickle-charge because it’s happening at a really slow rate.  This means that older adults depend more upon existing neurons to rewire themselves (aka, neuroplasticity) than on new cells jumping in to create new pathways and connections.  Generally speaking, rewiring takes more time, practice and energy…and this can be uncomfortable and frustrating.  At 40 years old, I’m pretty frustrated by this new keyboard because all of the changes have slowed me down, increased the number of typing errors and now I have to be stupid deliberate about typing…and I feel like I’m having to learn this all over again.  However, I know that I need to force myself to practice because my neurons need some time to rewire themselves.  The worst thing that I could do is throw my arms up in the air and return my new MBP and buy some old machine.  But we all know this is the coward’s way out…and what way to better solidify my old-man stature by refusing to adapt to change, right!?  Anyway, I know I have to be patient and to rethink how I press each key with each finger.  This is just how it’s going to be for a bit.  If I do this, I’ll be able to be more precise when I type and not be so damn loud on this new keyboard.  So far (it’s been a touch over a week since I’ve had the new machine), my brain and muscles have adjusted a little bit but the old habit is pretty strong because I can feel that my fingers want to pound on the keyboard with more force.  The fact that I’m having to hold back and to change this brings about a weird feeling in my hands…which I find massively annoying…and fascinating at the same time.

Proximity of Change:  Another reason that this is so annoying is that the difference between how I used to type on the old keyboard and what I need to do now is close I can easily imagine the new way of doing it.  Even though I can imagine typing in this new, quiet and softer way, my biology hasn’t caught up.  Emotionally, though I’m not thinking about it in this way, this is the most frustrating part of the entire thing.  So even though I can imagine the change and am aware of how it feels so close to what I normally do, I have to slow down and be patient with the number of errors that I make.  Also, that 1/4″ of inch difference in the keys is really messing with my precision.  Now I have to track my fingers whereas before, I just typed as I always had.  Such a simple thing is bringing up such strong reactions.  It makes me think of people who have suffered a stroke or nerve damage that has limited their mobility.  If I’m so frustrated about this, I can’t imagine the difficulty that these individuals experience as they try to recover their mobility.  I have a new found empathy for them, though it’s based on something that’s ultimately pretty ridiculous by comparison, and my heart goes out to these people.  The one thing that’s helped me progress through this frustating time is maintaining an awareness of what comes up emotionally.  As I’ve observed myself, it’s important to keep things in perspective so we don’t get too pissed off and start blaming the keyboard for our failures (though I’ve wanted to break my new laptop during some moments of frustration).

Why You Should Strategically and Purposefully Change Your Habits

While it’s uncomfortable to deal with this change that’s been forced upon us, it’s good that we have to focus on how we can deliberately create a new habit or skill in the most effective way.  Ultimately, I’m driven by laziness and so I put a lot of effort into creating habits that are as efficient as possible.  This way, the efficient habit will lessen the potential problems and work that I have to deal with later on.  In order to reduce this work down the road, I need to really think about what I’m going to do.  In this way, I’m putting more effort upfront so that I can consider the impact that my actions and inactions may have on others, my environment and my future goals.  I know that this is just about typing but I’d encourage you to adopt a similar approach in your own life so that you can reep the benefits of doing things really well (for the short-term and long-term) and with the least amount of energy.

Now, if we don’t take care to analyze the situation and just haphazardly adjust to the new keyboard, then we’re likely to develop a new habit that’s not optimal.  Once we establish this new habit we’ll be less likely to enhance it later on because we’ll be able to get by even though it’s sloppy.  Unfortunately, I think many people are probably going to type very loudly on this new keyboard, which will annoy the shit out of a lot of people, and this is because they didn’t know how to approach the development of a new habit.  The problem with habits is that we humans are pretty resistant to change and we tend not to make an effort to improve something when it’s small and when we don’t believe that it really matters.  While this is true for the majority of us, there are many people who are exceptions.  In this current keyboard situation, this is likely to occur because I doubt many people are going to think to themselves, “Hmm, I need to type differently.  How can I do this so that I only have to relearn this once?  Also, I can tell this is going to annoy the hell out of a lot of people so how do I go about typing quietly?”  Yeah, most of us are probably not going to be this deliberate about the whole thing.  So, this means that we’re going to have a lot of people who are going to type very loudly with the new Apple keyboard because they didn’t go through the painful week or two that it takes to deliberately adjust in an ideal way.  So I’m alreay thankful for my noise cancelling headphones!

Ways to Help the Change Happen Quicker and With Less Discomfort

  1. Slow Down.  Remind yourself throughout the day, everyday, that you’re going to type a lot slower than you used to because your mind and body has to make a lot of small adjustments in order to regain the typing precision that you once had.  The keys have all moved and it’s going to take a little bit before you instinctually feel just the right level of softness and pressure that you need to use on the keys.
  2.  Relax. As you remind yourself of the above, let yourself relax and give yourself more time to complete any emails, papers, etc..  Your enemy in this situation in impatience.  And it’s good to practice becoming more patient with yourself, even though it’s really friggin’ hard to do.
  3. Practice.  Try to type as much as possible so that you get in a ton of practice.  This will help things move along and your neurons and muscles will change at a quicker rate.
  4. Eat Protein.  When your brain is changing and adapting, it needs a bit more protein than normal because it’s literally creating and moving neurons in your body.  These neurons need protein in order to alter their structures so be sure your diet is well balanced.
  5. Be Deliberate About This New Habit.  Don’t just adapt without thinking about why and how you’re adapting.  Work to type in a way that really fits with this new keyboard and in a style that you want for yourself and the people around you.  Ultimately, how do you want to feel when you’re typing?  The new keyboard wants you to type with more precision, with a smoother flow and with a gentle touch.  Also, people don’t want to listen to or watch you hammer away at the thing like you’re super pissed.  It’s really annoying to be on the observing end of this so consider putting some serious effort into customizing your new habit for you while also considering everyone else.  We’ll thank you for it!

Wrapping It Up and Predictions for Apple’s Future Changes

The new Apple keyboard is ultimately really good and pretty cool.  I’m liking it more and more as I get used to it, but it’s going to take just that.  Do I wish that Apple had made in quieter?  Absolutely, the amount of change is challenging and I want to be lazy like everyone else.  This change is pretty significant and honestly, I’m really not enjoying it so far but I’m hopeful that this will change as my brain, nerves and muscles adjust with practice.  It’s hard to not be overcome by my frustration and not to blame it all on Apple…but the reality is that our bodies can’t adapt as quickly as we would like, especially when we’re a bit older and our neurons want to be lazy.  Now, if I set this change component aside what is my evaluation of the keyboard?  I don’t think it’s the greatest thing but I can see where they’re going.  Ultimately, I think they want us to get used to using a totally different kind of keyboard…one that’s only a touch screen and has no moving parts at all.  This new keyboard design is a great way to move us in this direction, though I really don’t want to go in that direction at all.  My brain and my body really like how things have been…but I know it’s good for me to adapt and change my habits, so I’ll suck it up and move forward with the changes…

5 Months Without Carbs: A Personal Account

For those of you contemplating dropping carbs and processed foods to give the Ketogenic Diet a crack, I thought I’d offer my experiences.  To give you a back drop, I’ve been on a few different diets through the years.  Generally, my goal has been to try out a new way of eating to see if it helped me lose weight and if it was something that I could adopt as a lifestyle.  In fact, adopting it as a lifestyle was my biggest hope.  I’ve tried Atkins, South Beach, the 6-Day Body Make Over, and now the Ketogenic Diet.  Atkins and the 6-Day Body Make Over were initially used to quickly drop weight, but I wanted to see if the core principles could be combined with other diets.  This is the longest stretch that I’ve ever gone with one of these diets, and I’m starting to think about how and when I might move toward a diet that includes carbs.

Ketogenic Diet Basics

Fat…this is your main source of energy.  Protein is next, and then carbs.  The goal is to to keep the total number of net carbs (carbs that are not fiber or sugar-alcohols) no more than 20-30 grams a day.  This way your body burns through all of its sugar stores.  Your sugar stores  consist of blood sugar and glycogen stores (often in water weight).  Once your body has burned through these, it switches gears.  This is when your liver starts converting fat (consumed fat and body fat) into energy.  Thus, it produces ketones that your body uses for energy (ketosis).  However, because your brain needs a tiny bit of glucose each day, your body will convert a small amount of protein (your muscle or protein you consume) into a replacement carb.  Regardless, it’s much easier to lose fat on this diet because you’re constantly burning fat.  If you keep your caloric intake slightly below your daily allowance, losing weight is pretty easy and consistent.  At first, your weight loss is water loss, but after a week of 20g of carbs or less a day, you should be in ketosis and the fat starts to get used.

Learning to Eat Differently

It wasn’t too bad in the beginning because I was very motivated, but I had to watch everything I ate like a hawk because I wasn’t used to eating in this limited way.  Most diets involve a great deal of carbs so it can be a bit tough, but doable.  As time went on, it became easier because everything became a habit.  Sure, there were tendencies to go toward carbs, but my high motivation made it easier to stay away.  If your motivation is lower, it’ll be tougher.  After a while, I quickly knew what I need to stay away from or limit.  As with any diet that is contrary to the mainstream diet, it requires us to cook a lot for ourselves, and that’s what I’ve needed to do.  To make it easier on myself, I focused on how to cook on the weekend and use left overs for much of the week (dinners and lunches).  Fatty meats, cheeses, oils, butter, cream in my coffee, and lots of carefully chosen veggies are typically found in my meals.  However, if you’re not a meat eater, this diet may pose some additional challenges for you.  If you’re vegan, well, I have a hard time seeing this diet working for you.  Regardless, it is possible to adjust to, but you’ll need to cook.

Feeling Hungry is Different

When I get hungry…I’m just hungry.  There isn’t a madness the comes up in me where I have to get food.  And when I’ve become really hungry and eat, I don’t eat much more than I normally would.  I used to go overboard when I ate carbs, but I don’t now.  Also, it seems to take a little bit longer before my hunger goes away.  My guess (this is totally a guess) is that it takes my body longer to process what I’m eating.  Therefore, I’m thinking that there might be a delay between eating and the nutrients getting into my system.  So, the hunger can linger a bit but it does go down quickly.  Also, my emotional eating has really gone way down, which is awesome.

Emotional Eating and Our Brain

When we eat, especially higher carb meals, our brain gets much higher doses of dopamine and serotonin.  Both of these neurotransmitters are “feel good” chemicals.  I think the real reason that Americans are so overweight is because our mental health is poorer.  Anxiety, depression, and too much stress bring our “feel good” chemicals down.  As a result, food becomes a natural anti-depressant…but then we feel depressed again as we gain weight.  This is a very sick cycle and one to be cautious of.  Now, I’m definitely an emotional eater and so I’ve been known to binge, which I’ve loved and hated, but with this diet I have never binged.  I have emotionally eaten a little, but I don’t get the same neurological benefit (increases in serotonin and dopamine) as I used to.  Consequently, eating doesn’t reinforce feeling better.  Instead, eating is to eat, and then I’m done.  I really love this diet for this reason because I was really tired of the intense ups and downs.

Lots of Veggies and Keeping Regular

One thing that I love about this diet is that I am forced to eat a lot more veggies.  It’s pretty awesome.  Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, broccoli with some cheese, creamed spinach, etc.  There’s so much you can do.  Now, some veggies are higher in carbs, and this is where people who take this diet on have to watch their consumption and choices.  Especially if your focus is to drop weight.  And sadly, when you’re trying to keep the carbs super low, fruits are really an option, unless you have….maybe….one bite.  But I tell ya, you can make stir-fries like crazy.  What’s more, veggies help you stay super regular and this will help things move through your system and make you feel thinner.  Some people have complained that this kind of diet isn’t good for your digestive tract, but I’m not so sure this is true.  Mine feels great.

Better Energy and Water

When I was eating any and all carbs, my hunger would frequently spike and sugar cravings were intense and frequent (I can be a bit of an emotional eater, so that never helped).  However, when I cut out sugars and ate only brown rice and quinoa, the spikes of hunger and cravings were less, but kinda still there.  After a couple of weeks on this diet, my cravings totally tanked and my energy became level and enjoyable.  I don’t have severe dips in my energy and I don’t need my afternoon caffeine to help me deal with my post-lunch hangover.  Now I don’t feel supercharged, but my energy is very steady.  When I exercise (which need to happen more frequently), it’s a little bit of an adjustment.  However, I can’t give you a full report because I have yet to get to the gym on a regular basis and exercise like I used to.  But if you do a search, I’m sure you’ll find others who report their experiences.

Also, my water intake is awesome and you need to keep the water flowing.  This helps keep your energy higher, your blood cleansed so the ketones don’t build up too high (if you have extra ketones that are being used for energy), and as with any diet, water will help digestion.  I’ve found that I can consume about 50-70 ounces a day and I’m good.  I’ve consumed less, but don’t feel as good.  I’ve consumed more and don’t feel any different compared to my 50-70 ounce average.  Now, this doesn’t count the water that I get from my veggies or the coffee that I have in the morning.

Calories Still Count…They Always Do

Some people have been under the impression that this sort of diet gives us permission to be gluttons, but this is not the case.  Calories still count and if you over eat, you’ll gain weight, but it’s a little harder.  Too much protein will especially screw you up because the body will convert excess protein into a sugar and then use that for energy while storing (aka, gaining) fat.  So be aware of your caloric intake and remember that the more weight you lose, the less your daily intake will be.  If you exercise, then you can burn off a bit more and give yourself a little more leeway with your portions.

How Fast Do you Lose Weight?

I started this diet December 1 2015 and I was at 216 lbs (I’m 6′ tall by the way).  Within the first month, I went down to 210.  Over the course of the next four months, I lost 15 more pounds and am now at 195.  My ultimate goal is to reach 180.  I’m sure that I could have lost this weight quicker, but I was purposefully trying to make this a lifestyle change and as a result, I haven’t restricted my eating or caloric intake too much.  I eat what I eat and when I’m hungry.  So the weight loss has been gradually and there have been times when I’ve stalled with weight loss.  There are a lot of different factors that go into losing weight so there isn’t a way for me to tell you how quickly you’ll lose it.  Obviously, if you’re exercising the weight loss will go quicker.  But if you haven’t been working out, you may see your weight loss stall because you’re gaining muscle while losing fat, and muscle is heavier than fat.  If you’re in this situation, it’s better to go by how your clothes fit rather than what the scale says.  However, I would recommend getting a scale that does a full body scan.  This way you can see your fat and muscle percentages change.  I’ve purposely not worked out because I wanted to see how my weight would change without gaining muscle.  Now that I’m 5 months in, it’s time for me to start working out again…and this will help me reach my goal quicker.

Eat Earlier in the Day

One thing that I’ve found that really helps me drop weight again after stalling a bit is to make sure that I eat my last meal as early as I can.  I generally wake up at 5:30am and am hope around 4:30 pm.  I’ve made it a point to eat right when I get home so I have a solid 12 hours before consuming anything of consequence.  When I’ve done this, it helps my body burn more fat because it has a longer period of time without food.  If you try this, you’ll see a noticeable different in how slim you are the next day.  This is because things have moved through your body and then it starts to chip away at your fat stores.  When I wake up, I get some calories from cream in my coffee but I don’t have my morning snack until 7:45am.  This means that my body has gone 12-14 hours without food.  But what’s awesome is that I’m still not crazy hungry.  Of course, I miss eating with my fiancee, but sometimes I’ll snack with her when she has dinner at 8pm.  I don’t eat anything too big, mostly low calorie veggies.  And having veggies so often, especially things like broccoli, helps the food move through.  This also leads to us feeling thinner because we don’t have 2 days worth of food hanging out in our intestines.

Is the Keto Diet Hard on Your Liver?

First off, I haven’t conducted research or combed through various articles, so know that my thoughts are speculative, but I believe informed.  When we’re eating processed carbs and sugars, our pancreas gets hammered because it has to produce so much insulin.  At the extremes and over many years of abuse, diabetes sets in.  With ketosis, our liver is doing all of the work.  So, might the liver get a bit overwhelmed?  Sure, it might but I’m not sure.  If we approach this logically, then my guess is that it would after a while because it’s doing all of the work to process fat.  The Keto Diet is the extreme opposite of a high carb diet.  The ideal diet, which is my long-term goal, is to eat some carbs but to refrain from processed carbs (pasta, breads, etc.) and stick with brown rice, beans, and quinoa like carbs.  I think this is the ideal balance and probably the healthiest for our bodies.  Additionally, portions always need to remain balanced.  Too much of anything taxes our system and will surely lead to problems over time.

What About Alcohol?

I love wine, beer, creative cocktails, and liquor.  The variety of flavors and experiences in all of these are awesome.  However, if you’re going on the Keto Diet or plan to stick with it as a lifestyle, you have to make some pretty big adjustments.  With wine, beer and cocktails, you’ll get sugar and this isn’t good.  However, if you drink straight liquor (I’m a bourbon and rye whiskey kinda guy), you’ll fair much better.  However, ketosis will be interrupted as your body and your liver process the alcohol.  And alcohol does get used as energy first when you consume it.  If you haven’t eaten recently and you go for a drink, your buzz will be stronger but your body will burn through it quicker.  So, there are pros and cons to this.  Just know that ketosis will be paused until the alcohol is gone.

Headaches and Including Carbs Again

Last but not least we need to talk about headaches.  A few months into this I made a batch of cream cheese frosting for a coworker and as an avid cook, I try what I make to ensure that it’s good enough.  I debated on what to do here…and I ended up deciding to take a small spoonful to taste the frosting.  Wow was that a mistake.  Within five minutes I experienced the worst headache in my life.  My head was pounding like mad and my whole body felt completely off.  So not only was I in pain, but I felt slightly lightheaded.  What was really cool about this experience was that it helped me change my relationship to sugar.  Before this, sugar and fat together was the most delicious thing ever.  Now, it meant pain.  Talk about reducing your desire for sweets!  I also did a little test about a month ago where I tried some carbs, just to see how it felt.  I had a few falafels while at work and felt a little light-headed within an hour.  It wasn’t that bad but I did feel different.  To be clear, I’m not saying that this was a bad thing.  My purpose in trying the falafel was to see how my body would react and if I could jump to something like that when I start to incorporate carbs again.

What This Taught Me…

… is that reincorporating carbs needs to be a slow, deliberate, and a well thought out process.  Especially if I don’t want to return to having big cravings.  In fact, I think it’s important for everyone to pay more attention to how their body feels when they consume certain foods.  And I strongly recommend that you pay attention to how you feel, regardless of what diet you try.  And as always, check in with your doctor to make sure you’re not in danger of having some major problems.  Chances are they won’t like the Keto Diet, but it can’t hurt to check in with them and use their knowledge as a resource.

 

Sugar and Food: an Antidepressant

Every evening and every morning I pop open the lovely Apple News app and scan through the latest news.  One of them talked about sugar and it’s addictive properties.  While I’m going to post something on the Ketogenic diet, which I’ve been on for about 5 months now, I wanted to add to the talk of sugar.  Yet, I’d also like to speak briefly about those of us who are overweight, stressed, anxious, and depressed.

First off, eating anything results in an increase in levels of serotonin and dopamine.  These are commonly known as the feel good neurotransmitters (aka, chemicals) in the brain.  However, when we eat sugary and fatty foods (see the picture for this post), these levels go up even more.  As a result, we feel great and man do we enjoy eating this stuff!  Now some articles have likened sugar addiction to that of cocaine…well, I’ve never tried cocaine so i don’t know about this.  Also, I don’t know the research so I can’t make direct comparisons.  However, I concede the point that sugar is hard to kick.  But is it hard to kick only because of the physical process?  I don’t believe so.

In the U.S., most of us are overloaded with life.  We have kids, work, multiple jobs, expectations from parents, a tough home life, the negative effects of Facebook and social media, etc.  Most people that I’ve met suffer from at least mild forms of stress, anxiety or depression.  Just like alcoholics can be “functioning,” so can those of us with milder forms of stress, anxiety and depression.  And in a country where the majority have less and less, it would make sense that most or many are struggling.  It’s for these people that sugar comes to the rescue as a nice, albeit crappy, kind of antidepressant.

So we eat, and eat, and eat…and then our portions get larger and larger.  But then we start gaining weight and now we feel worse about ourselves.  So let’s eat some more.  And what’s especially sad about this situation is that nearly all of the foods out there have highly refined carbohydrates (sugars, flours, pastas, etc.).  The more refined the carbs, the better we feel while we’re eating and for a short period after.  In my opinion, this is the cycle.  We feel a little or a lot crappy, we grab some food, it feels great, we feel bad again or worse, we eat again…and so on.  The cycle really needs to stop.

Now I’m not going to tell you that you should do what I’m doing.  In fact, if you make any dietary change it should, ideally, be a thoughtful one that’s planned out and based on some scientific knowledge.  For example, if you try the Ketogenic diet and consistently cheat with regular carbs like pasta, your health can seriously get bad.  So, please be cautious.  Yet, I would encourage you to drop refined carbs for one week…just one week, and see how you feel.  For me, not having carbs has resulted in decreased hunger, better and more even energy, and even better focus.  In fact, my experience has been so good that I’m not sure that I ever want to have a cupcake ever again.  The ups and downs are worth it, I crave food much more when I eat sugars and refined carbs, and now that I haven’t had sugar in 5 months, I get seriously painful headaches if I have even a spoonful of frosting.

My hope is that you’ll consider a diet change and not because I’m saying it, but because you want something better for yourself.  A week can’t hurt you.  Just stick with brown rice, quinoa, veggies, meats, and healthy fats and see how you feel.  You might be a bit surprised.  Regardless of what you do, I wish you the best.

Changing Habits – Why It’s Easy and Difficult

Depending upon your age, habits may or may not feel like a train wreck if your head and body.  For those who are in their mid-twenties and younger, change will come more naturally and this makes sense because your brain is still experiencing a lot of new cells.  However, we all come to a point when the amount of new brain cells being made by our bodies decreases.  When this happens, changing our habits can be more challenging…but, it can also be easy!

Think of your entire brain as a schematic for how you live.  Our brain cells are connected in these patterns that correlate to our actions, habits, skills and so on.  The ones that are the most used are kept over time, even when we’re young.  But the reason that being young allows for quicker change in many respects is because our bodies know that there are a lot of new cells coming in so it is quite happy to kill off those that we don’t need any more!  When we’re older, we’re stuck with them for longer periods of time because they aren’t as likely to be replaced.  Though, I’ve personally found that there’s an exception to this and a danger in this knowledge.

Let’s start with the bad news: if you believe something and that belief undermines your intention and motivation toward change, then change is less likely to happen.  If you believe that you can’t change because you don’t have an influx of brain cells like younger people then you just created a self-fulfilling prophecy…you’re ensuring that change won’t happen!  This isn’t helpful.

Now for the good news: If you believe something and that belief touches upon firm conviction and a deeply held belief, change can be quite a bit easier.  Think of a belief (now isn’t that a fun statement to reflect on!) as one of the foundational patterns in your brain.  Think of a belief like the concrete base of a house.  It’s construction influences the rest of the house in small and big ways.

If your belief about what you’re going to change is deep enough, if you rework the foundation, you can change the rest of the house naturally.  So the trick in making change later in life is that you address the foundation in addition to changing your actually habits.  Just think about it.  Have you ever tried to make a change but didn’t really believe in it?  That you actually needed to do it?  How’d that go?  My guess is that it was more difficult and fraught with failure.  However, if you’ve made a change after some “aha” moment or realization that you were really invested in, wasn’t it easier?

Depending upon your style of learning and growth, talking about future change can be really helpful.  But be sure to look for someone that’s really open, accepting and can allow you the space to manage your choices.  They can’t control your brain or you…so you need them to support your independence because ultimately, it IS up to you!
Now it’s time for me to reflect upon some changes in my journal so I can do the same as you!