Projections, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Part 2

In part 1, I discussed the general concept of projections and went through and example to illustrate the good and the bad. If you haven’t read it, I recommend doing so, because it will make this information more meaningful. Check out part 1 here. Now on with…

The Ugly:

The ugly is what happens to relationships when projections are accepted as facts, yet they are actually not true from the other person’s standpoint. The sudden realization that people are not on the same page they thought they were, typically leads directly into unhealthy communication dynamics.

When someone doesn’t agree with the way we see or experience things, it’s natural to have a negative internal response, especially when the person is a close friend. All sorts of thoughts can come up in our mind, such as “maybe we are not as similar to me as I thought” or “you don’t understand me as well as I thought you did” or perhaps the even more dysfunctional, “you’re supposed to be my friend and take my side,” etc. 

The reality is none of these thoughts are probably true, it’s just that different people have different experiences and everyone is entitled to have their own experience. Nothing we feel or experience for ourselves should change that. One of the hardest and most important things we can do in connection with other people is to allow them to have completely different experiences from us.

More challenging is that we have to avoid making them wrong for having the experience they did, even if it’s so different from ours that it may not make any sense to us. Telling someone that what they experienced is wrong or that they have the wrong interpretation of what happened (and they need to see it your way) is an incredibly painful experience for a lot of people and often causes a strong defensive or negative response. 

That doesn’t mean you have to accept their experience as true for you, just accept that they believe it’s true for them. Both interpretations, no matter how different they are, are both true to each person, yet we have a very hard time accepting someone else’s version of events as true for them, without feeling like our version is wrong. This is especially true if emotions are high or the experience was triggering.

This conflict so often causes people to feel like they have to defend their experience and make the other person accept their view of events. Even worse is when people try to make the other person admit in some way that their view is wrong, as opposed to allowing both to be true. I won’t go into the specifics here as it could be an article on it’s own, but simply say this is one of the most effective ways to destroy any relationship. 

The Big Picture:

Projections are a part of life. We all do them in positive and negative ways. Also, you can project positive or negative traits and beliefs onto other people. You can just as easily project a positive intention onto a negative behavior as a negative intention onto what was actually a positive one. The important thing is to always remember they are projections and assumptions and we never really know how accurate they are, unless there is open and honest communication about them.

To give you an example of how much projections and not talking about them can blind us from the truth, I want to share an experience from my life. I was in a relationship for over 20 years and by all accounts it seemed like a wonderful relationship. I think we both probably thought it was, especially for the first 15 years or so. 

A friend who knew me back then told me (after the relationship was over) he remembered thinking we were probably the most in sync couple he had ever seen. Either we were going to have a lifelong relationship with minimal problems or something would happen to throw a wrench in the system and everything would fall apart. Well, the latter happened.

I won’t go into details, but I will say that for most of our relationship we basically never fought or argued about anything. We loved, cared for, and were there for each other and we wanted to be. We both had a very logical and practical approach to decision making and things were easy and just made sense. We felt like we were always on the same page and everything just seemed to flow. 

Naturally, we both assumed that we felt the same way about pretty much everything. The problem was this was never true. However, there was so little conflict, that we didn’t have the conversations that would have given us clues that we were definitely not on the same page, even about the most fundamental things that we valued and desired in our relationship .

It just so happened that our lives changed enough that we couldn’t function the same way we did in the past. We both focused on keeping up with the things that we believed the other person valued most in our relationship, the things we each valued most for ourselves. Unfortunately, we eventually figured out that what we valued in relationship was almost completely opposite of each other. And while we each did what we thought was best, we ended up being hurt and confused, because we were doing the wrong things to support each other.

It didn’t make any sense, because we were so similar. How could the things we each wanted be so different. In hindsight, it became clear that our relationship was built on projections we had of each other that became incredibly ingrained and constantly reinforced over time, since there was no evidence or experiences to support any contrary views of each other. 

By the time we realized how different we were from each other, it was too late. There wasn’t any direct or intentional harm done from either of us to the other, but the reality (or at least my reality) was that we couldn’t accept each other for who we really were. It felt like a giant betrayal or perhaps the other person was lying about who they were. Of course neither of those are true, we simply couldn’t perceive the truth, because of the strength and history of our projections.

Most likely we were much more similar when we were younger, but people can change a lot in 20 years. I guess we just assumed we were both changing in the same way, but we certainly weren’t. When you have an experience where you realize that a relationship that lasted over half your life was primarily formed by projections you had of each other, it certainly teaches you not to blindly accept the way you think things are in your relationships.

Fortunately, I have learned a lot about relationships and connecting with people at deeper levels since that experience. I now strive to see and accept others for who they really are, not for who I think they are or want them to be. In truth, it takes more time and effort to have deeply connected relationships of all types, but I believe it’s well worth the effort. I can easily say I have the most fulfilling relationships I have ever had in my life and I desire for the information I share to help you do the same.

Projections: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Part 1

Projection has many definitions, so to make sure we are all on the same page, I want to start by quoting one of the definitions by Merriam-Webster: “The attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or to objects.” I’m going to discuss this more in my own words, but a simple way to look at this is projection is when someone assumes that another person’s experience, beliefs, etc. are the same as their own.

Every person perceives and experiences the world in at least slightly different ways and sometimes in ways that are so different, they can be almost impossible to relate to. It can be challenging to understand why another person had such a different reaction from you to something that happened. 

For example, let’s consider a comedian telling jokes. A person can tell a joke to a large audience and get a wide variety of responses, especially if the comedian is telling jokes about sensitive or taboo topics. One person might think a joke is hilarious, while another person might find it highly offensive, and another person might not have much of any reaction at all. Any number of other reactions are possible too.

The joke is the same, so obviously the difference is in the people hearing it and how they perceive the joke and what they make it mean. Each person applies their own assumptions, implications, and judgments.. Often not just about the joke they heard, but they make about the person telling the joke as well. 

A person who thinks the joke is funny might believe that the comedian is a nice guy who would be fun to be around, while the person who was offended by the joke might perceive the comedian as a horrible person with poor morals and values. Of course, their responses are all projections, based on their own personalities and life experiences.  

Each person perceives the world based on so many different factors, that the easiest thing to say is simply that each person experiences things that happen in a different way. It’s easy to assume that the other person feels exactly the same about something that happened as you do, especially if you are close friends, but the reality is not that simple.

In truth, every time we think we know what someone else thinks, experiences, etc. we are projecting. We are taking our experience of a situation and placing it onto someone else, calling it the same. This is what we do, because it’s what we have to do. As much as we try, it isn’t possible to completely experience the world in any way other than our own, so we do the best we can, we project.

Projection in itself isn’t inherently good or bad, it’s a fact of reality. It’s how we use it and what our intentions are with our projections that really matter. This is the real difference between good (healthy) and bad (unhealthy) projections. Spoiler alert, we all do both, depending on the situation and how we are feeling at the time.

The Good:

Let’s start by looking at healthy projections. I think of good projections as assumptions we make in order to learn more about another person and their experience. Instead of simply assuming we know exactly how another person feels about something, we talk to them about it from a place of curiosity. Knowing that our assumption could be very wrong or at least not completely accurate and we avoid looking for confirmation of what we already believe.

To make this more clear, I’ll give an example from a recent experience I had. I was part of a group conversation with five or so other people. One person being one of my closest friends and the other people I didn’t really know (they were friends of my friend). When one of the people was talking about a particular subject, I started feeling uncomfortable with how she was speaking. I had no idea if anyone else was feeling the same way as none of us responded negatively. That said, I had a feeling that my friend might be having a similar response.

Later that evening, I spoke to my friend and asked her about her experience during the conversation and if she was feeling something similar to what I was. I did not know if it was just me and there was something about the way she spoke that triggered an unexpected response or something else. Additionally, since my friend knew her, I wondered if she would have a different perspective from which I could view the conversation than I had, which wouldn’t have led to my negative response. In short, I was open to learning other perspectives from my experience at the time.. 

As it turned out, she was also feeling uncomfortable during that particular portion of the conversation. Then we spoke a little about why we each felt what we did. In the end, be both learned a tiny bit more about each other and ourselves.  I received confirmation of our similar experiences and my projection became more of a truth, with some minor modifications, based on the conversation. But what happens when that’s not the case?

The Bad:

Sticking with this same situation, let’s look at what happens if I already believe and feel that we had a similar experience. Instead of asking a question about her experience, I might have said something like, “Can you believe what ______ said? That was a terrible way to discuss that topic.” 

A best case scenario would be a response like “I know, the way she spoke really bothered me.” This would sort of be an indirect validation that my projection was correct, although that’s not necessarily even true. What if she only agreed with my comment because she wanted to avoid any potential conflict? 

Her actual experience could have been that she had no problem with what the other person said and didn’t understand why I did. Since the start of this conversation assumes she feels the same as I do, it doesn’t leave as much space for discussion, learning, or understanding.

Let’s take this one step further, what if after I said, “Can you believe what ______ said? That made me really uncomfortable.” and the response was, “What do you mean, I didn’t think she said anything wrong.” The dynamics of the conversation then become very different.

After that exchange, I would instantly realize my friend and I did not have the same experience and my projection was wrong. Also, since there is more of a confrontational dynamic, one or both of us might feel like we have to defend ourselves or our individual experiences. Then things become more personal, which leads to the ugly side of projections. But that will have to wait until part 2.

I ended up writing a lot more about this topic than I expected to, mostly because I wanted to look at the concrete example and discuss some of the many ways projections can affect conversations and relationships. Part 2 will go more into the relationship dynamics and I’ll share a personal story about the incredible impact projections had on my most important relationship at the time. 

Tips for Thriving During Tough Holiday Times

For many people, the holidays can be very emotional, stressful, challenging, and/or triggering, especially if their life is not going the way they would like during that time. A stereotypical example would be a single person desiring a romantic partner during Valentine’s day. When society emphasizes something we don’t have, out discomfort increases that much more. 

Any number of things can cause people to experience emotional distress during holidays, particularly towards the end of the year. During this time, we tend to think about the rest of our year: wins and losses, what we have and what we are still longing for. So many thoughts and emotions are closer to the surface than usual. There is also typically a focus on family, whether celebrating with family or remembering previous holiday experiences.

When remembering positive experiences, these could bring up negative emotions, as the people who made our experiences wonderful might not be with us anymore. We could feel a loss for what once was. Or we may have lost touch or ended relationships with important people from our past and might feel a loss around positive experiences we used to have with those people.

From another perspective, if we don’t have a lot of family or our family is unhealthy for us, an emphasis on spending time with family can bring up other types of discomfort. Simply desiring or wishing we had a large and loving family to share the holidays with can bring up more longing and dissatisfaction with our own lives.

Of course, our actual quality of life doesn’t change much during the holidays. We still have the same positive and negative things in our lives, it’s just that holidays and society (media, other people, etc.) tend to draw our focus more towards the things we don’t have, making it harder to see and feel the positive things around us.

I don’t know about other people’s experiences, but it seems to me that more and more people are experiencing greater level of discomfort during the holidays than they used to. The increasing number of non traditional holiday events, such as friendsgiving potlucks, singles only valentines events, and orphan holidays parties, suggest that we have fewer of the close family or deeply meaningful relationships that we truly desire.

So what’s the best or least distressing way to get through the holidays, if they have a negative impact on your life? As with virtually everything, there isn’t one best answer for everyone, but there are some general strategies that many people find useful. 

As usual, the first step is awareness. Having an awareness of the negative impact certain holidays have on you and why. This information might be obvious or you might have to delve deeper with meditation, journaling, or other tools to figure out what is truly at the heart of your discomfort.

It also helps to hold a bigger picture view that the holidays might be a more challenging time, but they will pass. Additionally, bringing your attention to the positive things that are in your life, even while you are hurting, provides some relief. Being grateful and focusing your thoughts on the positive things in your life will help prevent the negative aspects from taking up so much real estate in your mind, making them feel less uncomfortable and overwhelming. 

In my experience, the strategies that involve shifting your thoughts to more positive things can make a significant difference, but the most impactful strategies involve taking action and doing something different than your norm. It also sends a great message to yourself that your future can be better and you don’t have to continually repeat the same painful experiences from your past.

The more your current experience reflects or mirrors the painful experiences of your past, the more negative you will feel. I’m a big fan of creating new traditions or having new experiences that feel good to you. They can be related to the holiday, they can be a direct opposition to the holiday, or they can have absolutely no relation to the holiday whatsoever (these are some of my personal favorites). 

One idea is to make an activity you enjoy into a new holiday tradition. Or you could create a new general tradition, such as trying a new activity every year on that holiday. There are no rules and to me, that is the beauty of it. You can make holidays into whatever you want them to be, regardless of what other people think. You will certainly run into some people who think your choices are strange, but you will also find people who think they sound great and refreshing.

It really doesn’t matter what other people think, because you are choosing to take action, instead of being a passive victim to past negative holiday experiences. However, none of this means that a holiday that has been painful for years will suddenly be a joyous experience without and sadness, disappointment, or discomfort. Doing something different will however help minimize the negative feelings and almost certainly create some positive ones to balance them out, making your overall holiday experience more positive.

As for myself, I have mixed feelings about my Christmas and end of year holiday time this year. The highlight is definitely going to be giving gifts to my kids. A few years ago I created my own Christmas activity where my kids have to answer questions that lead them to their presents (which are hidden). This year I wasn’t sure if they still wanted to do it, but my daughter told me that we had to. It seems my idea to make Christmas more than just ripping open paper as fast as possible to get to the presents is turning into our official tradition, which makes the holiday more enjoyable and memorable for all of us.

It is also a bittersweet time, because people I usually spend time with are often out of town or unavailable and the activities that bring me the most joy are often cancelled during the holidays. While the things that make my life most fulfilling might not be available, I choose to look at what else might be possible instead. 

This year I do have a few days during the holidays where my schedule is much more open than usual, so I’m using this as an opportunity to do some things I normally wouldn’t be able to do. While this might seem like a tiny thing, I’m actually excited to be able to take some new exercise classes that normally I could never attend with my regular schedule. Sometimes taking action and doing little things is all it takes to shift a holiday you are dreading into a more positive experience. 

If nothing else, it’s a place to start and you can build on those small successes going forward. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and hope you have some amazing new experiences and possibly even create some awesome new traditions to make all your holidays more enjoyable for the rest of your life.

Have Low Back Pain? This Could be Why 

Low back pain is so prevalent now, that people often assume they are going to have pain as they get older. Some back pain is due to age or more accurately, due to unhealthy things we did to our body when we were younger, but some is not. While we can’t go back in time to adopt healthier habits, there are things we can do at any age to improve our low back health and decrease pain.

There are many variables that affect low back pain, but I want to focus on one that many people don’t talk about or know about. It used to be that when people had back pain, they were often told to strengthen their back muscles. The problem with this was that most of the time the back muscles were already strong enough relative to other muscles, but they were overworked and needed more rest. Naturally, training them more to strengthen them was often counterproductive, especially if it was the only intervention.

Eventually people realized that the bigger problem was that the abdominal muscles were not working enough and the low back was picking up the slack from ab muscles that weren’t doing their job correctly. This leads to overuse of the low back muscles and pain. Other things cause low back pain too, such as poor posture/alignment, movement mechanics, etc. For now, I’m focusing on muscle function.

While this is definitely an improved approach to low back rehab and helps decrease low back pain, it still missing a major piece of the puzzle. There are many people whose abs and low back muscles are strong enough to properly do the work they need to do, yet these people still experience pain. The problem is that muscles develop bad habits over time and just because a muscle is strong enough, it doesn’t mean your body will utilize it correctly.

There is a neurological component to muscular activation that people are rarely taught and it’s usually the difference between developing a functional body and simply training muscles, often creating dysfunction in the process. Most muscle activation is subconscious and while we can consciously alter the muscles we use to some degree, we are rarely taught to do so. Once we develop a pattern of muscle activation, we follow it no matter what, unless there is some intervention (injury, retraining, etc.). Unfortunately, many of the healthy neurological patterns we had when we were children disappear as we age.

A great example of this is breathing, which primarily involves subconscious muscle activation. Many adults pull in their belly when they take a deep breath in, yet we should be expanding our belly when we breathe in to allow space for the air to go. For whatever reasons, our breathing pattern can completely change and we continue breathing that way until we retrain our bodies to breathe in a healthier way.

Over the years, I’ve had a few people actually tell me it’s impossible to breathe in and have their belly go out at the same time (because it was so challenging for them to do). The simple response to this is to look at any baby. They naturally breathe the way we are all supposed to and they have no training whatsoever.

The longer we use an incorrect neuromuscular recruitment pattern, the longer it takes to replace it with a healthier one, but it absolutely can be done, We just have to make our subconscious muscle activation a conscious activity. After we perform the correct pattern many times, assuming we are consistent with it, it will become our default again and we won’t have to think about it so much.

When it comes to low back pain, people frequently have to retrain their core musculature and teach their bodies how to effectively use all four of their abdominal muscles synergistically with their low back muscles. When each muscle does the work it’s supposed to do, the chance of experiencing overworked muscles goes way down and back pain almost always goes away or at least decreases significantly. 

The end result is you will have much more function and be able to engage in activities you may not have been able to perform for years. The decrease or elimination of chronic pain also creates a huge benefit in everyday quality of life. Doing this type of training is well worth the effort it takes to retrain your body to develop healthier movement and muscle activation patterns. These are changes that will improve the rest of your life.

The Power of Your Inner Voice and How to Change it

We tend to say a lot more negative things to ourselves than we do positive ones. If you haven’t really listened to your inner voice for an extended period of time, consider doing so, at least for a couple days. You’ll probably be surprised at some of the negative thoughts that go through your mind. We often make comments to ourselves that we would never say to a friend. Simply being aware of these thoughts is the first step to changing our inner voice.

Having an awareness of your inner thoughts is important for many reasons. For one, your inner thoughts reflect your subconscious and the subconscious controls a lot of our conscious actions and how we show up in the world. Anything that changes or increases your awareness of your subconscious can also change your experience in the world.

With that in mind, I want to share a life-changing experience I had a few years ago. I was at a seminar where the facilitator was discussing the inner voice and she brought up the concept of an angel voice. She described it something like, the voice that comes out to protect you from your negative thoughts, inner critic or judge.

At that moment, I remember thinking I had no idea what she was talking about and I couldn’t consciously remember feeling like there was a positive voice to balance or calm the negative ones. The truth was that I didn’t have one, at least not one I could count on when I needed to hear something positive or shift me out of my negative thought spirals. Then we did this very interesting exercise, which seemed odd and was completely out of my comfort zone. I went through my discomfort and put my skepticism aside and I’m so glad I did.

This was the exercise (as I remember and experienced it):

We got into groups of 5 with one person in the middle and the other 4 people formed a close square around that person. The person in the middle closed their eyes and remained silent throughout the exercise. 3 of the other 4 people were “negative voices” and the 4th person was the “angel voice”. I don’t remember how long it lasted in total, probably 3-5 minutes, but it started with only the 3 negative voices speaking.

That was a challenge in itself. Having a group of compassionate and empathetic people being told to say negative things to someone they don’t know is a rather interesting and confronting experience. For almost the whole class, saying negative things was harder than being in the middle and hearing them. A definite sign of how many negative things we tell ourselves each day and how conditioned we are to accept the negative things we hear.

After a period of time, probably a minute or two, the other person (the angel voice) started speaking, saying only positive things. That ended up being an incredibly powerful experience for a lot of us. For me personally, I received confirmation that I didn’t really have a positive inner voice and I immediately knew I wanted one.

When the “angel voice” started talking, I quickly realized how much better those words were to hear than the ones the other people were saying. My mind was drawn to hearing the positive words and that one voice soon drowned out the other 3, even though the other 3 were individually at least as loud, if not louder. My mind had been craving a positive voice to go with the negative ones inside my mind and now I finally understood what that would feel like.

Having that feeling sense is incredibly important and definitely speeds up the process of changing your inner voice. Even if your mind understands the concept of a positive inner voice, without feeling one inside your mind, it’s much more difficult to create an effective one for yourself. 

In my opinion, there is no one way or best way to change your inner voice, although no matter what tools you use, paying attention to your thoughts is a critical part of the process. Beyond that, play to your strengths and you may have to learn or develop some new tools to be effective. A lot of people use meditation and visualization to help, although for me at the time, I had little experience with either of them, so I didn’t use them much.

Additionally, my negative voice told me I simply wasn’t good at them. One of many negative inner thoughts that turned out to be completely false, although it would take another couple of years to gain some experience and competence with those particular skills. As a side note, if you have never meditated or had negative previous experiences with it, there are many different types and some will work much better for you than others.

I can only speak for myself and what helped me change my inner voice most. I honestly, I don’t remember the entire process or how long it lasted. A significant shift happened gradually over a year or two, though the process is ongoing. I do know that decreasing the frequency of negative thoughts came first. I think I had to make space for the positive ones to come in.

One tool that was very effective for me during this process was journaling, which I used in a couple different ways. First, I would simply write down the negative thoughts that went through my mind. Just as with keeping a nutrition journal, writing down what you eat or in this case what you think, is a great way to develop awareness. This action will also start to change your behavior.

As a side note, the morning after writing the above paragraph, my first client (without any knowledge of me writing about this) says to me, “You know, just writing things down really does change your behavior.” She was referring to a nutrition journal, but it holds true for many things. Writing things down increases our awareness and makes us take more responsibility for our thoughts and actions. It may seem like a small thing, but it yields huge results.

The other journaling thing I did was to make note of any negative thoughts that were especially triggering or highly emotionally charged and I would write about them. Exploring things like why they affected me the way they did or what messages I was sending myself and why I might be doing that. For me, this was a way to bring these things even more into my consciousness, so it became easier to identify and decrease my unhelpful negative thoughts.

Another simple, yet surprisingly effective tool was told to me by a friend and mentor at the time. She told me to use the word “period” as a way to both draw attention to and interrupt negative thoughts. This was great for me, because I used to ruminate a lot. I would commonly find myself up in the middle of the night (sometimes for 2-3 hours) cycling negative thoughts and life experiences over and over. I felt helpless to stop them until they ran their course. 

Once I realized what I was doing, I would say “period” and the negative thought train would stop, at least for a little while. Over time, the length between negative thought spirals increased and now they rarely happen and I don’t remember the last time I had to say “period” to stop them. Eventually paying attention to your thoughts becomes the default and you don’t consciously have to use the original tools much anymore. Usually only during traumatic life events or times of high stress when we more commonly revert to old unhealthy habits and patterning.

Interestingly, I don’t remember when or how it happened, but eventually I noticed that in the space where there used to be negative thoughts, positive ones were sometimes there. I don’t think I used specific tools to cultivate them or increase their frequency. I believe they were always there within me, I was just never able to let them be voiced. My negative ones were simply too abundant, too strong, and too familiar, perhaps even comfortable to me at the time.

As with pretty much everything in life, the more you practice and the more consistent you are, the better your results will be. Whether you do what I did or use your own combination of tools and strategies, you can definitely create a much nicer atmosphere within your mind. To be clear, we will always have some negative thoughts. I don’t believe it’s realistic or healthy to prevent them completely, deny, or ignore them. The goal is to find a healthy balance between the positive and negative and not let the negative thoughts overwhelm you or control your life. That I believe is absolutely attainable.

Thanksgiving Meal Science: Does Turkey Make You Tired?

When many people think of Thanksgiving, the first thing they think of is eating a lot of food and usually there is turkey involved. There are also a number of associations with the holiday, such as getting sleepy after the meal. I remember hearing lots of people talk about how eating turkey makes you sleepy, but is this really true?

This belief comes from the fact that turkey contains an ingredient called tryptophan, which can make you sleepy. However, that is far from the whole story. Tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid, which are the building blocks of protein and tryptophan is just one of the many amino acids that are contained in turkey. It actually makes up only about 2% of the amino acid content in turkey. For comparison, this is similar to the amount found in many other foods, including eggs, lentils, peanuts, and pork. 

Additionally, amino acids have to compete for binding sites within the body, so when there are many amino acids present, it becomes more difficult for any one amino acid to fill all the sites, especially one that only makes up about 2% of the total. Tryptophan is most effective for making you sleepy when it is taken as individually, without other amino acids (protein) being absorbed at the same time. This doesn’t happen when eating turkey.

The science is pretty clear that getting sleepy from the tryptophan in turkey is not very likely to happen, so why do so many people associate turkey with sleepiness. This has much more to do with the Thanksgiving meal itself than it does with the turkey. The main reason for getting tired after eating a Thanksgiving meal is simply the large amount of food many people eat during the meal. 

It is not uncommon for people to eat more calories during a Thanksgiving meal than their body needs in one or two whole days. The body is not designed to handle that many calories at one time and it takes a lot of work for your body to process all that food. All the unnecessary extra calories have to be converted and stored as fat.

 For these calories to be stored as fat, your body has to release a lot of insulin into your system. Your insulin level will increase drastically at first, but when your insulin level returns to normal, your energy level crashes and you get tired. If fewer calories are consumed during the Thanksgiving meal, less insulin will be released into your system, and you will not be nearly as sleepy after the meal.

Personally, I encourage people to enjoy Thanksgiving and eat what they want, without judging themselves. However, if you are worried about your weight, there are a couple things you can do to have Thanksgiving take less of a toll on your body. For one, spread out your calories throughout the day, instead of having so many of them during one meal. This will ease the digestive burden, decrease fat storage, and make you less tired. 

Even if you don’t change your Thanksgiving eating habits at all, it’s still not that big of a deal in the long run. It’s only one day and you can absolutely recover from it, usually within a week. The more important thing is to not continue excessive overeating throughout the rest of the year. If you give yourself a pass to eat whatever your want, make a commitment to yourself to get back to your regular healthy eating habits the next day. 

It’s your daily habits more than anything that create your long-term success, so enjoy the holiday and all the wonderful food this Thanksgiving. Just don’t make it a new habit, because it takes significantly more time and effort to recover from that.

A Simple Tip to Improve Your Relationships

There are numerous things we do that can sabotage virtually any chance of having healthy long-term relationships, romantic or otherwise. One of the most common and destructive ones often happens before we even meet the other person. 

We’ve all experienced moments when we notice someone for the first time and soon feel we want to get to know them better. It could be as a friend or possibly more. There is something that happens at this moment and it affects how we see and interact with that person from then on and we may not even realize it is happening.

If we are honest with ourselves, when we are emotionally drawn to someone, it’s usually because we notice something special about them and it excites us. It could have to do with their physical appearance, a skill or talent, confidence, presence, etc. Whatever those things are, they affect us. So what do we do in response?

Typically, the excitement and whatever positive feelings we experience in response to a person cause us to only see or at least highly focus on those specific aspects of the person. Perhaps the most stereotypical example would be a man who sees a stunning woman and instantly feels desire for her. That man then only really sees her as a desirable woman and may not even be able to perceive all the other wonderful qualities she has.

So often, the next step is for the object of one person’s desire, to become viewed as just that, an object. There is a dehumanization that occurs and the primary goal becomes figuring out how to get what they want (the other person). So often people pretend to be who they think the other person wants them to be, but then any relationship starts with deception and trust is much harder to build. 

This can happen between any two people, whether there is a romantic interest or not. It happens with celebrities and famous or powerful people of all types. When one person wants to have any type of relationship with another person simply because that person has or represents something they desire, the relationship is destined to be unfulfilling.

Another big thing that causes this type of dynamic to occur is when a person wants a relationship with someone because of how the other person makes them feel. This usually happens later, after some shared experiences occur. While people don’t like to admit this, if you are in a relationship with someone simply because you feel better about yourself or your life when you are with them, you are in an unhealthy, self-centered relationship. 

Of course, healthy relationships make you feel good and enhance your life, but for different reasons. Valuing someone for who they are is very different from valuing someone for how they make you feel about yourself. Simply stated, one is healthy, the other is definitely not. 

The best relationships are ones where people consider and treat each other as equals. The foundation is built on trust, mutual appreciation, and consciously working to create a relationship that is fulfilling for both people. Open and honest communication is of course critical as well.

Unfortunately, so many relationships still function from the dynamic of two people consciously or unconsciously agreeing to use each other to get their individual needs met. The relationship works as long as both people’s needs are being met, but once one person becomes unhappy or the initial excitement of the relationship fades, things soon begin to fall apart. 

So what then is a healthier alternative?

In my opinion, it’s rather simple, although can take some time and energy to put into practice. If I simplified things to a single word, it would be curiosity. 

The next time you are drawn to someone, stop and focus on your experience. Fully acknowledge your feelings and then see if you can figure out why you are feeling what you are feeling. Can you figure out what aspects of the other person are causing you to have such a positive reaction?

If so great, if not, that’s completely fine too. The important thing is to acknowledge your feelings and then put them to the side as much as possible, so they don’t cause you to fixate on whatever attracted you to that person in the first place.

The next step is to go to a place of curiosity and look to find what other positive qualities the person has. This also helps you be able to see negative qualities, which is very important too. We all have positive and negative qualities and the goal isn’t to only see the positive and ignore the negative ones.

That leads to putting the other person on a pedestal. I won’t go into this much in this article, but putting someone on a pedestal prevents healthy relationships from being possible. It creates relationship/power imbalances and makes it impossible to see the other person for who they really are. 

You will only see your idealized version of them, which most people don’t actually desire, at least not in a healthy relationship. In a deeply connected relationship, people want their positive and negative qualities to be seen and they desire to be accepted for all of who they are, not only for their positive qualities. Putting someone on a pedestal prevents this and many other healthy things from ever happening.

Stay as much as possible in a place of curiosity about the other person, as opposed to trying to be with or claim them for yourself. Being curious and really learning about the other person allows new relationships to begin more from a place of appreciation and less from a place of coveting the person or their qualities for yourself. 

In other words, avoid having an agenda when meeting new people, especially ones you are drawn to. Keep your mind as open as possible to seeing the other person exactly as they are. See and acknowledge as much as possible so you can make the best decision about whether or not you would be a good fit for each other and what type of relationship would be in each of your best interests. 

Of course, this is an ideal and no matter how much we try, our emotions will affect our judgment and how we are able to see others. In any case, making an effort to acknowledge our emotions and not completely give into them will help you begin and develop every relationship in a healthier way.

I’m Back

I used to write a lot and create videos regularly (mostly health and fitness related), but I haven’t done much in years. Some of this is due to significant life changes/turmoil/whatever you want to call it. However, I believe some of my absence also had to do with me having so many interests and passions that I haven’t been able to figure out what to focus on or how to combine them together. Particularly the worlds of health and fitness (my primary job for most of my life) and communication and relationships (the things I spend most of my time thinking about). The reality is that these areas have very similar dynamics at their cores, yet they are different fields, so there may not be an easy or smooth way to combine them. I’m going to keep working on that though.

For now, my plan is simply to start creating and sharing a random assortment of what I have learned from my years studying and working with health, fitness, communication, relationships, connection, psychology, and really anything and everything that benefits people’s lives. Because, helping people become better versions of themselves and more engaged in life is my primary passion in the world. If there is something I feel strongly about at a particular time or I find myself passing along the same information/lessons to a number of people (which has been happening a lot lately), my goal is to write or make a video about it.

Of course, I’m constantly learning too, from those around me and my own experiences in the world. My life used to be very predictable are honestly non-eventful and boring, with every year being pretty much the same as the one before (yet life also became more painful over time). Now my life resembles the stock market with so many ups and downs it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen next. Fortunately, the trend has generally been positive, even if there have been a number of corrections and crashes along the way.

I have probably learned as much about myself and life in general over the last five years as I had learned in my first 40 years of not really being engaged in life. I have also found many unexpected inspirations in people, particularly in recent weeks, from close friends to brief interactions with people I hadn’t previously interacted with. I think these experiences have certainly influenced my decision to start creating content again and to start sharing more of my life with others.

I already have a number of topic ideas and I know exactly what I am going to write about first, because I was thinking about it a lot this morning. It’s about relationships and meeting new people and a simple shift we can make to get so much more value out of all our relationships and interactions with others. Of course, if anyone has specific questions or topics they want me to discuss, let me know in a reply or message me directly, call, or whatever. I love discussing all this stuff and plan to do so much more in the future.

New Content Update

After taking a number of years off from my blog to help raise my two kids, I am finally back to creating new content. I have written a couple articles and also made five new videos, revived my newsletter, and created a health and fitness Facebook page.

For now my new articles have only been sent to my newsletter subscribers, but I will probably post them eventually. If you would like to be added to my newsletter, please let me know. Just send me an email at and I will get you added to my newsletter list.

For now, two of my videos can be seen on my website home page at and the exercise videos can be seen at

All the videos are also posted on my new Precision Health & Fitness Facebook page.

There will be much more to come in the future, but for now, please let me know if there are any topics you want me to cover in the near future. Also, I encourage everyone to visit my Facebook page and post your thoughts about anything related to health or fitness. Feedback/advice is always appreciated as well. My intent is to create an interactive community to discuss issues related to exercise, nutrition, psychology, and anything else that will help people reach their goals.

Writing Update

I have not written in a while, but my most recent writings are on Virtual Fitness Trainer (VFT). There are a number of Q&A pieces, an assortment of articles and videos covering anything related to health and fitness, and a multi-part series on core/abdominal training.

Click the following link to see all my VFT articles and videos: