Showing posts with label mental health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mental health. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

You're gonig to wear THAT for your wedding?

I do not wish to be the type of person who slowly, sadly shakes his head, pining for a simpler past, longingly opening conversations with “When I was a kid…” Moreover, when I become aware of an unfortunate societal trend, I try to prevent cranking up my inner curmudgeon, cynically inquiring of my peers, “What has gone wrong with our society?”

Having said that, something has gone wrong with our society because — when I was a kid — brides-to-be didn’t shove tubes up their noses to lose weight before their weddings.

While skimming TV channels, images of young women commuting to work with feeding tubes hanging from their noses flitted across the screen. They didn’t seem ill; quite the contrary, they looked to be “in the pink” (yet another reference from “when I was a kid”). The reporter explained that some women with upcoming nuptials are resorting to a severe calorie-restricted crash diet to drop ten to 20 pounds in the two weeks prior to their big days. That unto itself is not newsworthy; long before “I was a kid,” I imagine women (and even some men) resorted to last minute diets in order to present their best in front of friends, family, and God.

What was exceptional was that, in these cases, the method of choice consisted of consuming only 800 calories a day, delivered in the form of shakes served through a medically implanted feeding tube threaded through the woman’s nose, down the esophagus, and into her stomach. The tube remains in place ten days and the procedure costs about $1,500. Side effects include bad breath, constipation and dizziness. (Nothing says, “kiss the bride” like halitosis.) The doctor performing the procedure said, “At first I decided not to do it for people who just want to lose a few pounds. But then I thought, why should I say five or ten pounds are not enough? People want to be perfect.”

As long as there has been belly fat, there have been odd and controversial get-thin-quick schemes.

Yet, this is beyond the pale.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Avoiding Family Drama to be Healthier and Happier

Not all family reunions are, well, shall we say, “familial.”

Despite the two-dimensional, everything-works-out-in-the-end, sitcom model of American life, some relatives are just not cut from the same cloth. Gatherings can more resemble armed camps across a kitchen table, rather than a joyous reunion of long-parted siblings longing to catch up on the past year’s goings-on.

Alex, her oldest brother, was always hell-bent on proving how much he knew, accuracy be damned. He over-talked, was excessively loud, and foisted his I-could-be-with-someone-more-important-than-you attitude on everyone from the moment he strutted into a room.

She was yin to his yang; righting the “injustice,” alone she would step into the fray and engage. Of course, this further amplified the conflict; but it drove her nuts to let him push his way around, ignoring everyone else’s needs.

This year, however, she would not be sucked into his dark drama vortex. Since her divorce, she was working on accepting things as they were rather than how they “should” be. Therapy, a fitness program, and losing 33 pounds; was allowing her to reclaim her life. She would not let her boorish brother steal that away — not tonight, not again.

Mustering a Herculean effort, she engaged Alex in small talk only, and the family reunion fared better than usual. He jabbed, she sidestepped; he blew hard, she refused to blow back.

Once the clan dispersed, sans spectacle, the quiet of the house collected around her, and she replayed the events in her head. “I should have told him off! He thinks he’s the only one who knows anything! What gives him the right?” Her inner dialog grew more bellicose and she pondered all the things she could have said — but didn’t.

She might be getting in touch with her “better self,” but she was far from “perfect” and she realized how agitated she still was. Sure, she kept the peace, but at what price?

The kitchen clock chimed midnight; yet she was as awake as if she had downed a convenience store’s inventory of energy drinks. Not knowing how to disperse that excess agitation, she found herself nibbling from a pyramid of dark, cubed, walnut fudge blocks that graced the center of the table. As the sweet texture melted in her mouth, she lost track of Alex, floating away on a cloud of sugary goodness.
“I really need to stop eating,” she thought, while reaching for another chocolate block. “It’s wreaking havoc on my diet.” Yet she had to admit, nothing soothed the image of Alex like chocolate.
She could stop right this second, take back control, and be angry; or chow down on fudge mountain, feel great, and look like a blimp. THAT would sure give Alex something to crow about, wouldn’t it?

That’s all it took.

Impulsively, she grabbed the plate, rushed to the sink, and poured into it a cascade of fudge bricks. The thought scampered across her mind to reach in and save a few, but she refused to give in and — while still empowered — brushed the remaining cubes into the drain.

The dilemma remained however, how to deal with her pent-up tension?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working Hard at Relaxing

I’m not dead.

At least when I wrote that; I wasn’t. Being the intelligent reader of this column, you put two and two together and surmised that in a flash. Hopefully, as you read this, I am still in the not-dead state of being — and shall remain so for decades yet to come.

Having proven therefore that I understand very little about what it’s like to die, you will cut me slack about not really knowing — but safely assuming — that no one’s last words were ever, “I wish I would have spent more time working and less time enjoying life.”

We would agree, wouldn’t we?

So, then what’s the deal with non-stop, dawn-to-dusk, 24/7, busy-making? We don’t ever just “chill.” Well, at least I don’t; maybe you do, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you’re in the same place. There’s so much to get done with so few hours to do it.

Forty-hour workweek; what’s that? Wake up. Shower. Shave. Throw some frozen waffles down your gullet while checking the mail and packing lunches. Get the kids to school, pick them up, and beat feet to soccer practice and gymnastics. Straightaway back, homework, meals, brush teeth, and off to bed. To accomplish everything requires groundwork: grocery and clothes shopping, housecleaning, home maintenance, and car servicing. These necessitate steady income — and, oh yes — have you heard the news about the economy? You better not slack off at work or they’ll swap you out quicker than a DVD rental on a Saturday night. So, off to the salt mines, bringing our assignments home so we can get them on our kitchen tables in the morning and the bed stands at night. We’re work harder while having the privilege of paying more for everything. Come end of day, it’s drop like a lead brick off a six-foot wall.

It’s no wonder we don’t have time for “a life.” Or do we?

My sister phones, “What are you up to?” She asks.

I reply, “I’m working hard at relaxing.”

Stop the clock. Re-read that response please: “I’m working hard at relaxing.” Huh? That statement makes as much sense as “same difference,” or “kosher ham;” but I swear it was my reply and I’m betting you relate. Our lives are so cluttered, that if tasks were boxes, we’d be featured on the TV series “Hoarders.” No longer are we human beings, we have become “human doings.”

Last Saturday, you know what I did? I could have worked on my computer, or mowed the lawn. Goodness know, there were bills aplenty requiring my attention. Nope, didn’t do any of those. Instead, I made a conscious decision to do nothing.

It didn’t start that way. My dog, Jack, and I went for a walk. Upon returning, he scampered into the backyard, rolled about on his back, feet to the sky; and then did what animals do so well: Absolutely nothing. Zero. He simply “was.”

I couldn’t remember the last time I did that, so — not having a better plan — I joined him! I didn’t put my feet in the air, but I honest-to-God did lie down in the grass and watched cloud animals pass over my head. I felt the sun on my skin. I let my mind go where it went. For a short time, Jack and I simply appreciated that we exist.

Even machines have an off switch. Surely we deserve as much as do they. The world’s going to keep on turning, even if you’re not the one who’s pushing. Take a moment and recharge. You’ll get more done later.

About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and the CRP of, a website for people and organizations who are frustrated with making promises and are ready to make a change. Sign up for his free newsletter at the site or friend him at He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements at 707.442.6243 or

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You just never know

Early morning routine: Jack, my dog, and I are taking our walk. His leash is in my hand, my headphones are clamped over my ears; I am absorbed in the back-and-forth of my favorite podcast. Jack and I; just doin’ our thing.

The neighborhood is residential; no major thoroughfares, so I’m quite cognizant of the large diesel truck that rattles up next to us and slows down. Matching my pace, the driver waves at me. I assume he’s just being friendly so I return the action, figuring he knows me from my decades of living in a smaller community.

He gestures again, this time I recognize he’s motioning me to come over. Pulling Jack’s leash in tight, we walk on to the street and approach the open passenger window.

The white truck’s interior is clean, uncluttered, and modern, with a flat screen in the center of the dashboard. As for its only passenger, he appears to be in his forties, healthy, short-cropped hair, and brandishing a smile as big as the vehicle and as warm as its motor.

Leaning toward me across the center console, he opens, “You probably don't remember me…”

He's correct.

“…About 25 years ago, I applied for a job working for you. You didn't hire me.”

“I'm sorry.” A slight rumbling of anxiety bubbles in my belly. Is this some form of latent workplace revenge?

“No need to apologize,” he quickly adds, waiving away the thought with his hand. “You were very nice and polite. You told me that you thought I was overqualified and that I would get bored, and you felt my talents would be better used elsewhere. I took your advice.”

The truck continues its diesel clattering, I move in closer to hear better.

“I wanted you know that I now run this company; it’s worth a few million dollars. I'm really happy how things turned out. You were right.”

Pleased (and relieved), I respond, “Oh! I’m glad. Maybe YOU should hire ME.”

His laugh is warm, friendly, and relaxed. I suddenly feel like I’m talking to an old friend.

“I see you with your wife walking your dog, and I keep meaning to tell you how grateful I am. But it never seemed the right time — until now.”

“Thank you for doing so. I’m really delighted it worked out so well. It’s nice to know.”

Cars line up and are then forced to drive around us, so, as much as I’m now enjoying this unexpected interlude, I’m self-conscious, and figure I better move on. Before I can, he adds, “Sometimes the Lord pushes you in directions through the people you meet. You are one of those people.” He pauses and looks me in the eyes. “Thank you.”

With that, we shook hands through the window, said goodbye, and the truck disappeared around the corner.

I remained a statue in the road, and reflected on what just happened. I was humbled, uplifted, honored, and — in some way — I had a more pronounced sense of purpose. I don’t know how else to explain it.

We never know, do we, when an action we take will affect someone else in a profound manner? We take care of our families, and ourselves, and in between we try to do our best to treat others with respect and dignity, hoping and praying it all turns out well in the end. Once in awhile, we are lucky enough to find out it did.

What we do matters – in ways we might never even begin to know.

About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and the CRP of, a website for people and organizations who are frustrated with making promises and are ready to make a change. Sign up for his free newsletter at the site or friend him at He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements at 707.442.6243 or

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A primer on how to change habits

Most of life is done by rote.

For most of us, alarm clocks buzz the same time every morning. The average grocery store stocks over 38,000 items; yet the standard shopper goes to the same store every week, usually on the same day, and chooses from the same few dozen items every outing. We become brand loyal, eating our meals at approximately the same period every day, leave for work at a uniform time, drive a standard route, and return home at a consistent hour every night. Evenings consist of consuming one of a few “favorite” dinners. Entertainment consists of books or magazines from a few select genres and a stable of favorite authors; or maybe a regular line-up of TV shows, which we watch while sitting in “our usual place,” and snacking — or not — on the same foods we had yesterday at the same time. At day’s end, we retire at the same time, even sleeping with the same person (hopefully), only to repeat these patterns come dawn.

This is not to suggest we are unimaginative, bland, nor boring; rather to illustrate that we are creatures of habit; no if’s, and’s, or butt’s about it.

Reality is these habits make life easier. Picture the above scenario where every single day consisted of an entirely new routine. Exciting? Sure — for a little while. After that, just plain exhausting.

The downside of a life assembled on a foundation of habits are the “side effects;” those unexpected results of our patterns. Make no mistake however; they are every bit as much a part of the habit as are the results we seek. For example, if I’m bored, I eat. If I’m angry, I eat. If I’m sad, I eat. It’s a common routine. It allows me to feel better fast. After all, chips or ice cream not only alleviate boredom, but also go a long way toward holding negative feelings at bay — for the short term. The side effect is a weight gain. I get to feel good quickly, for the simple price of obesity long term.

Conversely, some people read a book when bored; when sad, call a friend; and when angry, take a brisk walk. (There is a clinical term for such folks: “Skinny.”) Whereby their habits also provide comfort, the side effects are healthier. Should I long for such results, I must also develop similar habits.

The thing is that it’s extremely difficult to “drop” habits. Since their sole purpose is to fill voids, simply abolishing them make those holes more painful. This in turn, triggers the very behavior we were trying to banish — which puts our actions at odds with our feelings. In a case like that, emotions almost always win out and the habit — and its side effects — strengthens.

To break this cycle, one must replace the offending behavior with a counterproductive one. So, rather than saying, “I won’t eat when stressed,” develop a plan, such as, “I’ll take a walk when stressed.” Providing you don’t also grab a candy bar on the way out the door, the anxiety is still diminished — without the pesky side effect. Yes, feels awkward at first (because it’s not yet a habit), but given a few repetitions, it eventually forms a new, healthier, habit.

We never really get rid of habits. We put them in cold storage; we can thaw them out whenever we choose. Unfortunately we do that more times than we consciously choose, which is yet one more habit we can change.