Criticism: What We Are REALLY Saying

20140109-053055.jpgWhen we criticize someone, what we are actually saying is this:

“I want you to feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, and to focus on hiding your fault instead of interacting every time you are around me from this moment forward. I want to make it just a little harder for you to be vulnerable, not only with me but with everyone else.”

When we find fault, we do not set someone on the right path towards changing the very thing that we do not like about them. We actually make it harder. Change and growth come so much easier when we make it safe for others to fail without fear of rejection or criticism.

This doesn’t mean that we have to just put up with problems caused by others or that we shouldn’t intervene when we see someone we care about behaving in self-destructive ways. But how we approach the problem can leave someone feeling empowered or insecure.

A recent study actually backs up this premise. Described in great detail in the Harvard Review, the study conducted by Richard Boyatzis, revealed that focusing on dreams and goals made it easier to change. Imagine the power of something so simple – helping someone focusing on the possibilities, on hope instead of their faults and failings – can actually evoke the change we want to see in them. It really is possible to be the good guy and still address problems.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was brainstorming how to address a problem behavior with an employee. Her initial thought was to point it out directly, but after talking a bit more, we arrived at what might be causing the employee’s annoying habit. She found a way to resolve that problem for the employee, and not only did the annoying behavior go away, but her employee ended up feeling more empowered in their role in her company.

The next time we think we are helping someone improve by pointing out what we see as the problem, we should take a step back and try to find a way to be supportive. Change is scary, and if we can create an environment of trust and care, we will make it easier for others to feel safer to risk trying to change, to feel safe risking failure.

A very interesting study recently published indicates that at least for women, the very fact of being overweight causes a dislike of exercise on a very core level. Why? Fear of failing at the exercise, of feeling awkward or not being able to do what the rest of people exercising are capable of accomplishing. The next time you think you’re helping motivate someone who needs to lose a few pounds by pointing out that fact, think about that. They know they’re overweight. They see it every time they look in the mirror or put their clothes on. Or do much of anything. No one is surprised when someone else points out they’re fat. Try making them feel safe enough to risk new activities, new habits. It may work wonders.

I’ve recently started a fit class with a small group of women that is led by one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. She is constantly pointing out and praising small successes. She expresses her belief in us as a group and individually. She asks us questions about how we are doing in the middle of trying something new and encourages us to take risks to challenge ourselves. I have yet to hear her find fault or criticize someone for how they look or what they can’t do. Because of this, I feel safe for the first time to look awkward, to fail when trying someone new – and, for the first time, I am looking forward to exercising. And it is working – eleven pounds lost in a little over a month. She has succeeded in helping me change where criticism never would have worked.

The next time we’re tempted to point out a fault, to criticize, it would pay to remember that it likely won’t accomplish what we want – it will, in fact, make it harder. Help someone else focus on their dreams, of what might be possible, and see what happens. Oh, and by the way … this works for ourselves, too.

5 AM Epiphany

I realized something this morning.

While I was getting dressed.

In the dark.

And grumbling every moment of the way.

I don’t have to like getting up at 5 AM on a crazy busy day to make sure I get a workout in. I don’t have to like it at all. It’s ok at that I’m grumbling – as long as it isn’t loud enough to wake up everyone else.

I just have to do it.

I was the queen of “I don’t care if you don’t want to – just do it” when my kids were little. It solved a boatload of drama and hours of fruitless negotiations with children who were all smarter than me. I was implacable, and they knew arguing with me was hopeless once that line was thrown down in an argument.

“I don’t care if you don’t like brushing your teeth. Do you like sitting in a dentist’s chair with a drill in your mouth hoping against hope that he knows what he’s doing? Go brush your teeth.” (Ok, so maybe I was a little morbid as well, hearing how it sounds now.)

“I don’t care if you don’t like taking a shower. No one like sitting next to someone who hasn’t showered and just finished PE. Go take a shower.”

So how did I end up a grown adult with the idea that if I didn’t like getting up early to work out, well, then, dear sweetheart, I shouldn’t have to?

The lady in my head has turned on me, I think. Or joined the ranks. This morning she didn’t whine or complain when I rolled out of bed at 4:45 AM. She just seemed sad and whispered, “Coffee.”

I’m probably going to be very sorry for this epiphany in a few minutes when my trainer smiles and says, “Want to do stairs today?”

I’ll tell her the truth. No, I don’t. I want to be in bed reading Zite on my iPad. But then I’ll do it anyway. After all, I have an epiphany to keep up.

Week One Ends In Success!

So it’s been a week of dieting, and it’s gone better than ever before. Perhaps my success this week is due to my renewed sense of purpose or  my panic over entering the second half of my forties still overweight, but to be honest, I think it’s a lot simpler than that. I made a promise, and I sure as heck am not going to fail to keep it. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t settle for being fat or frumpy anymore.

So I’m lighter by 3.5 pounds after seven days of dieting – and I didn’t even have to destroy myself with any last chance workouts. It just took moderate eating within my allotted points, exercise, plenty of water, and tracking my food in the mobile app. Oh, and hitting the mute button on the fat lady in the mirror.

I’m celebrating … by rewarding myself with another faithful day on the diet. No way do I want to start at Week One ever again!

Do You Have To Count All The Calories When You End Up Wearing Your Food?

(Reposted from The Diet Diaries Blog)

So here’s the question for today – do you really have to count all of the calories if half of what you’re eating ends up on your shirt?

I mean, I had intentions of eating everything when I logged the calories into my app:

  • gluten free turkey lunchmeat? check.
  • 1 tsp. homemade bell pepper sauce? check.
  • lettuce? check.
  • 2 slices gluten free bread? not so fast.

Not only were those suckers expensive both in calories and dollars, but this particular brand was so crumbly and dry that with every bite, more of the sandwich fell on me than ended up in me. And let me tell you, that’s really awesome when you’re at an all-day event where you’re wandering around a large cafeteria chatting with the rest of the group. In fact, I don’t think I’d worn this much food on my shirt since the days of diaper changing and burping babies.

Do you know how hard it is to look like you finally have your act together when you hug someone you haven’t seen in ages only to have a pile of crumbs falls from your chest onto their pants? Well, you may not be able to tell me, but after yesterday, I can tell you all about it first hand.

I’ve decided that the next time I go to a take-your-own-lunch event, I’m skipping the sandwich altogether. And I’m petitioning the makers of my food tracking app to add a crumbly feature that removes a tiered portion of calories based on the ranking provided: moist, day-old, sawdust, the dog wouldn’t eat the crumbs, and gluten-free.

Pumpkin Muffins, GF Style


Pumpkin Muffins, GF Style

So I’m starting to get the hang of gluten free. Tried an experiment this morning and couldn’t tell any difference from what I used to make. If you try them, let me know how you liked ’em.


In a large mixing bowl, combine the following dry ingredients:

1 cup gluten free oats
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup potato flour
1 heaping tbsp. baking powder
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

In a separate bowl, whisk together:
1 egg
1 cup condensed or whole milk
1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin

Fold liquid mixture into dry ingredients just until blended. Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake at 375F for 25 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes around 12 – 14 muffins, depending on size


Food for Thought for the Food Police

Here’s a thought for anyone who thinks they’re helping someone else lose weight by being the Food Police. You don’t make someone eat less or healthier. You just make them eat in secret and often in larger quantities in order to avoid the conflict of eating in front of you.

Here is a link to the original article, Have to Fight For My Right to Cheat, which I wrote about the Food Police. It appeared in the Albuquerque Tribune.

… ”

I should have left the buffet then, but I wasn’t even thinking about the consequences. I was so busy chatting that I just got caught up in the atmosphere. Like so many before me, I didn’t even see it coming.

I reached for the large cookie with icing, a smiling Santa with a bright red hat and shiny beard. It was just one cookie, and I almost got it on my plate undetected when I was stopped by a loud, booming voice.

“Aren’t you on a diet?”

The question shot out before I could hide the evidence. I tried tucking Santa under my dinner roll, but it was no use. His bright red icing was just too hard to hide.”

To read the entire article, click on the title of the article above. And don’t worry about the plain website – since the Trib was closed, we’re just glad the content is living on in posterity.

Kitchen Sink Muffins

Moms often resort to guilt trips to cajole unwilling children into eating nutritious food. The most common from my childhood was the starving children in Africa. I usually offered to send my green peas to Africa for those starving kids, but somehow that was never the point my mother wanted me to see. And somewhere in the recesses of guilt surrounding food, I’ve become a food-saver. 1/2 a tuna patty left on the plate? Put it in a carton. 3 florets of broccoli? Put it in a carton. And, of course, most of the cartons turn into science experiments that are eventually thrown away.

And as I stared into a packed refrigerator this morning wondering what to do about all the cartons, I decided to rescue a few of the leftovers by turning them into some Kitchen Sink Muffins. You never know what my Kitchen Sink muffins will have, because they can have everything thrown into them except the kitchen sink.

Here is this morning’s rendition – no sugar, plenty of fiber and given two thumbs up by the picky 10-year-old (his mouth was too full to talk).

Combine in a large mixing bowl:
1 1/2 cups All Bran Cereal
2 cups Kashi Crunch (or other high fiber cereal)
2 cups hot water

Let soak and continue to add:
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed but with chunks
2 cups cooked, cooled (leftovers work great) oatmeal
2 eggs

Mash together with a potato masher or two forks. Add:
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon

Spoon into muffin tins. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs and no batter.

Muffins will be dense and moist.


Add 1/2 cup raisins (if they’ve gone dry, add them when you add the hot water so they can soak)

Add 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Make 1 cup of liquid orange juice or skim milk

Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips to serve as afternoon snack muffins

Sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar