Tag Archives: psychology

The key to losing weight – the mindless margin

In writing the last post on WordPress development, I came across an interesting lesson on food. Here is Matt Mullenweg on the book, Mindless Eating:

“It’s not actually a book about food, it’s a book about people. About the human condition and human behaviors. I love food because it’s intrinsic to the human experience, it brings us all together. What Brian talks about in the book is the mindless margin. Most people who overeat don’t overeat by a lot. They overeat by about a 100 calories/day.

We’re talking about a cookie here, 1/6th of a Snickers bar. 100 calories/day over a year adds up to 10 lbs.

On the other end, less 100 calories a day is below the threshold for what many people notice. Over the course of a year it can cause a 10 lb weight loss.

This is what I thought of when researching WordPress development.”

 

I have not read the book but the idea is something I practice. In my daily habits I try to extend the time between meals and eat a bit less. If I can say no to even the tiniest amount then I feel like a conqueror, knowing I am losing some weight. It also reminds me I will eat again so no need to overload on this meal.

I think it’s those tiny, daily victories that make a big difference in weight loss. Again, from Mindless Eating, this time from Wikipedia:

The encouraging premise behind Mindless Eating is that the obesigenic environment that people have set up for themselves in their homes and at work can be reversed. Just as this environment has led many people to slowly gain weight, it can be re-engineered to help them mindlessly lose weight. Consuming 200 fewer calories a day would lead a person to weigh approximately 9 kilograms (20 lbs) less in a year than they otherwise would. The first sentence and the last sentence of the book are, “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.”

Instead of deprivation dieting, Mindless Eating recommends a person choose three small changes in their environment that would lead them to eat 200-300 fewer calories a day.

 

I’ve already mentioned two of my small changes, extending periods between meals and eating a small amount less, and the third would be learning to only eat when I’m hungry. This means skipping the urge to snack in between meals. I think of it like this, “if I’m craving chocolate am I also craving a vegetable? If no, then I should wait until I’m craving the vegetable.” Every time I do so it works. The craving goes away and I eat proper food later when I’m truly hungry.

What about you, do you have any tips for small changes?

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Believing in a cure for ADD, ADHD, and depression

This isn’t a post to deny that depression, ADD, and ADHD exist. They do and many people have a terrible time dealing with them, but that doesn’t mean they are permanently debilitating. It is possible to live with them, indeed thrive with them, and not need drugs or any special treatments.

Now, before, I pontificate any further let me say I am not a doctor, nor an expert. I’m just a person with a decent amount of experience with both.

I want to talk about this because I’ve noticed a trend over the last decade to marginalize any cure for either problem. The majority of help is focused on how to cope in the moment. To fix the issue for a day or get through the week. Everything has become about those moments of panic.

Which is very strange. The moments of panic do offer the most acute pain and suffering, but they don’t offer any solution. It is the moments after and before where the learning occurs. Those off-days when you can focus on the cure, overcoming any problems the conditions create for you.

There is no specific solution for this, rather it is a building process. It starts with being aware when the condition manifests itself. Am I starting to feel down? Has this problem troubled me in the past? Am I feeling distracted or unable to stay seated?

I used to be a public school teacher with tons of restless students. Without knowing if they were ADD or ADHD, I would ask them to try to stay focused for an extra minute each time it happened.  Also, to let me know when they were done. This was extremely effective because it taught them to become aware of when it was happening.

It also created an idea in their minds that this can be controlled. When I noticed they were starting to understand that I would approach them with the next step. I called it strengths and weaknesses. This involves pairing the problem with something the person likes, usually a hobby. The hobby serves as the strength and place of safety to rely upon during the moments of panic. It also frames the problem as a weakness to improve upon, instead of a permanent problem to accept.

For an attention example, one student loved reading skateboarding magazines. While every other teacher banned them in the classroom, I told the  student to keep one handy at all times. Whenever the symptoms came on (weakness) he was to pull out the magazine and read (strength). At first, he struggled a bit with it, often getting this dazed look in his eye. He continued to make progress and eventually was able to master his focus. He even became adept at reading the magazine while paying attention. I wasn’t sure this was possible until he answered questions correctly, completed homework, and all that. I think it even turned his weakness into a strength.

For a depression example, I knew someone who would feel slightly down before major episodes. He was aware that these slightly down moments were happening (weakness) and so I asked him to write down (strength) whatever was on his mind. He liked the idea of a diary, though, at first, was a little ashamed to write down his depressed thoughts. Then the depression would hit, he would recover, and be left with those writings. He soon became aware that a lot of what was troubling him in those writings were real issues. He then had a pre-written set of issues to work through on the good days. Nothing happened overnight, but gradually his depression has been lessening and maybe, one day, he will turn it into normal sad/down days.

The one thing you will notice in each of these examples is something I call a “trusted friend”. This is the last step, finding someone to help you through these issues. The strange thing is that most people with ADD, ADHD, and depression aren’t aware they have these problems. This is just the way they are and when it happens there is no alarm sounded. The role of the trusted friend is to identify for the person when it is happening. Sometimes they can give advice, like in the examples above, but most of the time all they have to do is alert the person.

One thing to be aware of with depression, there is something about the down attitude that hates being told it is down. There is also a high level of shame attached to it. This doesn’t mean the person should not be aware of what’s happening, it just means to be much more cautious and patient when dealing with it. Give them some time to get used to it.

There you have my theory (non-expert, non-medical) on how to help people work toward a cure for ADD, ADHD, and depression. I understand that many, more qualified than I, consider these to be lifelong problems and offering a cure is just false hope. It may be true, but these experiences I pass along have worked in every situation. Perhaps, becoming self-aware, building on one’s strengths and weaknesses, and having a trusted friend are just great ways to build character. If so, I am still happy to pass them along as one quiet voice for a cure in a sea of  “survive the panic” writings.

 

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Take my Rorschach test – and then learn it’s history, effectiveness, how it shouldn’t be used

Two inkblots below. After looking at each one tell me what you think they look like (my answers at bottom).

 

I first came across the Rorschach inkblot test when I was training to be a clinical psychologist. I was shown a series of cards containing inkblots and asked to say what they looked like to me (Tester: “What does this look like?” Me: “A bat.”) I remember thinking that it felt more like a tarot reading than a proper psychometric test.

However, when the test was scored and interpreted, it produced a scarily accurate profile of my personality. It knew things about me that even my mother didn’t know. I’ve been a fan, if a rather sceptical one, ever since.

So, what is the Rorschach inkblot test? It’s simply a set of cards containing pictures of inkblots that have been folded over on themselves to create a mirror image.

By asking the person to tell you what they see in the inkblot, they are actually telling you about themselves, and how they project meaning on to the real world.

But the inventor of the test, Hermann Rorschach, never intended it to be a test of personality.

 

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The 7 best books on the science of happiness

1. In The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, psychology professor Jonathan Haidt unearths ten great theories of happiness discovered by the thinkers of the past, from Plato to Jesus to Buddha, to reveal a surprising abundance of common tangents.

 

 

 

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MIT scientists prove that individual neurons store memories

MIT researchers have shown, for the first time ever, that memories are stored in specific brain cells. By triggering a small cluster of neurons, the researchers were able to force the subject to recall a specific memory. By removing these neurons, the subject would lose that memory.

As you can imagine, the trick here is activating individual neurons, which are incredibly small and not really the kind of thing you can attach electrodes to. To do this, the researchers used optogenetics, a bleeding edge sphere of science that involves the genetic manipulation of cells so that they’re sensitive to light. These modified cells are then triggered using lasers; you drill a hole through the subject’s skull and point the laser at a small cluster of neurons.

…we should note that MIT’s subjects in this case are mice

The main significance here is that we finally have proof that memories are physical rather than conceptual.

Keep reading – Extreme Tech

Criteria for Autism is changing as the DSM-5 creates a new category: Autism Spectrum Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has proposed new diagnostic criteria for Autism in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

While final decisions are still months away, the recommendations reflect the work of dozens of the nation’s top scientific and research minds and are supported by more than a decade of intensive study and analysis.

The proposal recommends a new category called autism spectrum disorder which would incorporate several previously separate diagnoses, including autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

The proposal asserts that symptoms of these four disorders represent a continuum from mild to severe, rather than a simple yes or no diagnosis to a specific disorder. The proposed diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder specify a range of severity as well as describe the individual’s overall developmental status–in social communication and other relevant cognitive and motor behaviors.

This change will help clinicians more accurately diagnose people with relevant symptoms and behaviors by recognizing the differences from person to person, rather than providing general labels that tend not to be consistently applied across different clinics and centers.

Field testing of the proposed criteria for autism spectrum disorder does not indicate that there will be any change in the number of patients receiving care for autism spectrum disorders in treatment centers–just more accurate diagnoses that can lead to more focused treatment.

via American Psychiatric Association

DSM is the manual used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders. The APA will publish DSM-5 in 2013, culminating a 14-year revision process.

For ADHD drugs it's dependence vs abuse, not addiction vs dependence

Amy and I had a strong debate today about the difference between addiction and dependence. Both of us were using different explanations, so we resorted to the official definitions in the DSM-IV, the American Psychiatric Associations big book of disorders and definitions.

As you will read below their is no mention of addiction in the manual. They purposely excluded that term in favor of more descriptive ones. Which means that addiction is now classified as dependence or abuse.

Substance Dependence

The essential feature of Substance Dependence is a cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological, symptoms indicating that the individual continues use of the substance despite significant substance-related problems.

There is a pattern of self-administration that can result in tolerance, withdrawal, and compulsive drug-taking behavior. A diagnosis of Substance Dependence can be applied to every class of substances except caffeine.

Substance Abuse

The essential feature of Substance Abuse is a maladaptive pattern of substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences related to the repeated use of substances.

Unlike the criteria for Substance Dependence, the criteria for Substance Abuse do not include tolerance, withdrawal, or a pattern of compulsive use and instead include only the harmful consequences of repeated use.

Addiction vs Dependence/Abuse

The DSM views abuse and dependency as a continuum, meaning addiction is not, in their eyes, an on-or-off proposition, but a disorder with degrees of affliction. The distinction is important when compared to 12-step programs, which preach that one is either addicted or not, and if you are, you are powerless over such addiction.

via Powerless No Longer

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For ADHD drugs it’s dependence vs abuse, not addiction vs dependence

Amy and I had a strong debate today about the difference between addiction and dependence. Both of us were using different explanations, so we resorted to the official definitions in the DSM-IV, the American Psychiatric Associations big book of disorders and definitions.

As you will read below their is no mention of addiction in the manual. They purposely excluded that term in favor of more descriptive ones. Which means that addiction is now classified as dependence or abuse.

Substance Dependence

The essential feature of Substance Dependence is a cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological, symptoms indicating that the individual continues use of the substance despite significant substance-related problems.

There is a pattern of self-administration that can result in tolerance, withdrawal, and compulsive drug-taking behavior. A diagnosis of Substance Dependence can be applied to every class of substances except caffeine.

Substance Abuse

The essential feature of Substance Abuse is a maladaptive pattern of substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences related to the repeated use of substances.

Unlike the criteria for Substance Dependence, the criteria for Substance Abuse do not include tolerance, withdrawal, or a pattern of compulsive use and instead include only the harmful consequences of repeated use.

Addiction vs Dependence/Abuse

The DSM views abuse and dependency as a continuum, meaning addiction is not, in their eyes, an on-or-off proposition, but a disorder with degrees of affliction. The distinction is important when compared to 12-step programs, which preach that one is either addicted or not, and if you are, you are powerless over such addiction.

via Powerless No Longer

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Do you have ADD or ADHD? Test yourself against the official criteria from the DSM-IV

The following is excerpted from the DSM-IV, the medical manual used by the American Psychiatric Association to define mental disorders. These definitions are then broadly accepted in the entire health profession.

Go ahead and give yourself the test.
 

Diagnostic criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

A. Satisfy Either (1) or (2):

1. Six (or more) of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:

Inattention

  • (a) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • (b) often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • (c) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • (d) often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork. Chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • (e) often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • (f) often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • (g) often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • (h) is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • (i) is often forgetful in daily activities

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Depression: keep in mind that they can’t “snap out of it”

Keep in mind that they can’t “snap out of it.” Remember that the other person has a real illness. Like someone with cancer, they can’t simply “get over it.” Try not to express your frustration or anger in ways you’ll regret, but don’t suppress your own feelings either. You can say for example, “I know that you can’t help feeling down, but I feel frustrated.”

If the person is an unrelenting pessimist, as so many people with depression are, try to point out the positive things that are happening. The negative childhood programming–the “inner saboteur”–will probably prevent them from seeing these for himself. The depressive illness has a vested interest in the lie that nothing will go right.

via Dr. Bob

The depressed mind…is curable, needs boundaries, and is often involved in a relationship
 
 
// photo by D Sharon Pruitt