Sunday, October 02, 2005

My thoughts and readiness to start changing myself

Where I am today

Well, I didn't get the CIT Business Systems Analyst position that I wanted. The hiring manager stated that my diplomatic and tact skills are lacking. However, she is willing to work with me (and my manager) over the next year to get me ready for a position in her department. My hard skills are excellent, my soft skills need work.

She is absolutely right in her assessment of me and I really appreciate her being completely straight with me. Only when you know WHY you didn't get the job can you fix what is wrong. For the first time, I feel completely hopeful. I know that diplomacy and tact are skills that can be learned, just like statistics or computer programming. My meeting with Peggy last Tuesday was very exciting. I really have found something that challenges me, because academic challenges do not provide the challenge that I am looking for. I am very excited by the fact that not only can I change, but I can learn the skills for change and implement them and make permanent changes in my life.

I have two things to focus on, my skills in diplomacy and political savviness as well as my physical health and well being.

In dealing with perceptions that others have of me, I have to take ownership of the things that I am responsible for. Overweight people are perceived as being lazy and self-indulgent, lacking self-discipline. Although, in my case, only the latter is true; I must deal with the fact that those perceptions are out there. In order to own my portion of that perception and present a persona that does not imply laziness, I must get the extra weight off. When I am of a normal weight, that will not be an automatic perception that people will have of me as soon as they look at me.

One of the other perceptions that people have of me is that I am arrogant. My responsibility toward this is that I am extremely intelligent and assertive. These two things, combined together, are perceived as arrogance. I have to remember that these attributes, when combined, are very intimidating. In addition, the fact that I am tall, a woman, a "butchy" lesbian, and outspoken all add to the perception of intimidation. In order to overcome these perceptions, I must speak more softly than feminine women of average intelligence and smaller stature. Assertiveness is a good thing, but I must temper it. I must be confident, but not pushy. I MUST become a superior listener and validator of others' ideas. Only in this way can I overcome the perception of intimidation.

For the first part of this, I have completed Dr. Phil's test to determine my readiness to deal with the weight issue. The second part will delve more deeply into my Crucial Conversations book and begin the steps to learn how to make a safe environment for other people to talk to me about anything.

The most exciting part of all this is that I know that I can do it. If I put even 50% of the energy and focus into this that I put into getting my MBA, I will be completely successful and in even less time than it took to finish graduate school.

Are You Ready? Dr. Phil

My Readiness Profile

1.I am ready to eat differently even if it hurts my family's or my friends' feelings or causes conflicts.Undecided
2.I am ready to throw away clothes that are too big and no longer fit me.Undecided
3.I am ready to temporarily give up any friends who do not totally support me and who may wish to sabotage my weight-management efforts.Yes
4.I am at the end of my rope, and I know that I have nowhere to go but up at this point; I am willing to focus totally using the seven keys.Yes
5.I admit that I have been unsuccessful in trying to manage my weight in the past, either by following a diet or some other program, but that I am willing to follow the steps and strategies outlined in this book.Yes
6.I am willing to read this book and honestly use the keys in order to change myself, my lifestyle, and my behavior.Yes
7.I am willing to look at my behavior honestly and answer to myself and other significant people in my life about my problems.Yes
8.I am willing to confront myself and others honestly about how I sabotage myself or allow myself to get sabotaged.Yes
9.I am willing to change my job, if necessary, to become healthier and manage my weight better.No
10.I am willing to throw away all the problem food in my house and eat according to the food and behavioral steps and strategies outlined in this book.Yes
11.I am willing to exercise at least three to four hours a week at a moderate level of effort.Yes
12.I am willing to make my health and the control of my weight a top priority in my daily life.Yes
13.I am willing got dedicate at least fifteen to twenty minutes a day in focused concentration to follow the weight-management steps in this book.Yes
14.I am willing to give myself self-affirmations the majority of the time to overturn negative thinking.Yes
15.I am willing to talk straight about what I am doing, and not fool myself into thinking that anyone else can do this for me but me.Yes
16.I am willing to stop lying to myself, and to others, about things that blind me from being who I am.Yes
17.I am willing to transform these steps into action by using the seven keys and not dropping out because "it is too hard" or because "I am not strong enough."Yes
18.I am willing to admit that I have some problems, but that I will not let these problems damage my commitment to the steps and strategies in this book.Undecided
19.I admit that I must take responsibility for my life, and I am committed to making permanent changes.Yes
20.I am willing to say out loud to myself that I will change my lifestyle for better health.Yes

Count only the yeses and add them together for a score of 0 to 20.

16 to 20: Zero Hour

Hitting rock bottom, reaching the end of my rope; it's not too late, I deserve more, and I will deny myself no longer. Wipe the slate clean and start over. Reclaim my health and my life. Being overweight has taken on a special standing and urgency, lifting high above my other concerns in life.

Well, I agree with the scoring to a certain point; I am at the end of my rope and can deny myself no longer. I must wipe the slate clean and start over. However, it isn't the only top priority in my life. My other priority is to improve my diplomacy skills and "erase" some of the perceptions that others have of me that I contribute to by my behavior. I must learn to be less intimidating. Something I can't change. I can't change the fact that I am a woman, I can't change the fact that I am tall. I also can't change the fact that I am a lesbian and than I am intelligent. However, I most certainly can change some of my presentations to the world.

Make It Safe:

How to make it safe to talk about almost anything

Practice #1
The Angry Roommate

In this exercise, I ask my roommate to move her things in the refrigerator off my shelves and onto her shelves. She states that I am telling her how to run her life.

I don't want you to think that I don't appreciate all the things you've done that make living with you a pleasure. You are a terrific roommate and I really appreciate it.

I do want to share our space evenly in order to prevent any problems in the future.

Practice #2
The Touchy Employee

I don't want you to think that I don't like you. I really do like you and I really appreciate your sense of humor. You are a very competent and hard-working employee and I very much appreciate that, I don't know anyone that is a better worker than you. I have some concerns, however, about your ability to receive feedback with an open mind. If you could work on being more open and less defensive about feedback, then there are no other issues.

Practice #3
The Chatty Teenager

I don't want you to stop chatting wtih your friends. You are a good kid and I really like the fact that you stay home and talk with your friends. I think this is a much better choice than some of the things that kids could be doing. I love you and enjoy your company, I am very glad that we get along so well. This is most certainly not something I would send you away for. I just want to have some time to check my emails and make phone calls in the evening also. How about working out a schedule so my friends can email and call me, too?

Chapter Summary

  1. Decide which conditions of safety is at risk
    • Mutual Purpose. Do others believe you care about their goals in this conversaion? Do they trust your motives?
    • Mutual Respect. Do others believe you respect them?
  2. Apologize When Appropriate
    • When you've clearly violated respect, apologize.
  3. Contrast to Fix Misunderstanding
    • When others misunderstand either your purpose or your intent, use Contrasting. Start with what you don't intend or mean. Then explain what you do intend or mean.
  4. CRIB to Get to Mutual Purpose
    • When you are at cross-purposes, use four skills to get back to Mutual Purpose:
      • Commit to seek Mutual Purpose.
      • Recognize the purpose behind the strategy.
      • Invent a Mutual Purpose.
      • Brainstorm new strategies.

What I've Learned...

Wow, this was a terrific chapter. This is exactly what I need to do after I breathe (like Peggy told me). Breathing doesn't always point me in the right direction, but this provides enough tools that I can, hopefully, turn any conversation around. The first and foremost thing I must know when entering any professional discussion is What do I want? If I am clear in my mind about what my actual purpose is, that will make it so much easier to back up a step when I have stated that I need something if it is what I think is a result that will fulfill the actual purpose. For instance, if I tell Jenn that I want to go out of town, but she doesn't, I can back up and think about what I really want. What I might really want is to get out of the house and see some countryside. Maybe taking a picnic to the park will suffice. This is great stuff!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My Action Plan continued

I will take the following steps to reach my goal weight and achieve my conversational/ confrontational/ professional relationship goals:

  1. I will use the keys presented in The Ultimate Weight Solution and follow the action steps presented.
  2. I will exercise 3 or more times for week for a minimum of 20 minutes each time.
  3. I will productively and positively manage the stress in my life in order to stop overeating in response to stressful events.
  4. I will perform all the exercises in Crucial Conversations and practice their suggestions.
  5. I will check-in with Peggy once a week and practice the steps that she assigns me.
  6. I will evaluate my food intake, my exercise, and my interactions with others.
  7. I will immediately point out and apologize for inappropriate statements to others.
  8. I will evaluate my interactions with others based on the following criteria and observe whether I observe or control the situation.
    • What kind of event was it?
    • What did I do?
  9. I will listen to what people have to say by paraphrasing what they are saying to me and validate what they are saying before adding my own input.
  10. I will focus on the positives within what other people are saying to me during conversations.
  11. I will spend at least 15 minutes every night listening to what Jenn is saying to me during our listening exercise and repeat back to her in my own words what she has said to ensure that I have understood what she is telling me.
  12. I will spend at least 15 minutes every night speaking to Jenn during our listening exercise and listen carefully to what she is repeating back to me to ensure that she has understood what I have told her.
  13. I will ask for what I want, I will not assume that anyone can read my mind.
  14. I will communicate my feelings, as are appropriate for any given situation.
  15. I will stop being afraid to look stupid; it's not very likely to be the case anyway.

Buy the Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine and begin reading this also.

I will depend on Peggy and Jenn to help keep me accountable. With Peggy's help, I will be able to confront the reasons for which I became an overeater in the first place and then I will only have to deal with the habit of overeating and not the causes.

Boy, this is getting tough. I was hoping with school being over that things would get easier, but they don't see to be, I have so much to do to work on me. I'm really jealous of Jenn being able to take the time off and just work on her, I wish I could do that.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Crucial Conversations: Exercise 1

My Style Under Stress

1. At times I avoid situations that might bring me into contact with people I‘m having problems with. True
2. I have put off returning phone calls or emails because I simply didn‘t want to deal with the person who sent them. True
3. Sometimes when people bring up a touchy or awkward issue, I try to change the subject. True
4. When it comes to dealing with awkward or stressful subjects, sometimes I hold back rather than give my full and candid opinion. False
5. Rather than tell people exactly what I think, sometimes I rely on jokes, sarcasm, or snide remarks to let them know I‘m frustrated. False
6. When I‘ve got something tough to bring up, sometimes I offer weak or insincere compliments to soften the blow. False
7. In order to get my point across, I sometimes exaggerate my side of the argument. True
8. If I seem to be losing control of a conversation, I might cut people off or change the subject in order to bring it back to where I think it should be. True
9. When others make points that seem stupid to me, I sometimes let them know it without holding back at all. False
10. When I'm stunned by a comment, sometimes I say things that others might take as forceful or attacking–comments such as “Give me a break!” or “That's ridiculous!” True
11. Sometimes when things get heated, I move from arguing against others‘ points to saying things that might hurt them personally. False
12. If I get into a heated discussion, I‘ve been know to be tough on the other person. In fact, the person might feel a bit insulted or hurt. True
13. When I‘m discussing an important topic with others, sometimes I move from trying to make my point to trying to win the battle. True
14. In the middle of a tough conversation, I often get so caught up in arguments that I don’t see how I’m coming across to others. True
15. When talking gets tough and I do something hurtful, I’m quick to apologize for mistakes. True
16. When I think about a conversation that took a bad turn, I tend to focus first on what I did that was wrong rather than focus on others’ mistakes. False
17. When I’ve got something to say that others might not want to hear, I avoid starting out with tough conclusions, and instead start with facts that help them understand where I’m coming from. False
18. I can tell very quickly when others are holding back or feeling defensive in a conversation. False
19. Sometimes I decide that it’s better not to give harsh feedback because I know that it's bound to cause real problems. True
20. When conversations aren’t working, I step back from the fray, think about what’s happening, and take steps to make it better. False
21. When others get defensive because they misunderstand me, I quickly get us back on track by clarifying what I do and don’t mean. False
22. There are some people I’m rough on because, to be honest, they need or deserve what I give them. True
23. I sometimes make absolute statements like “The fact is...” or “It’s obvious that...” to be sure I get my point across. True
24. If others hesitate to share their views, I sincerely invite them to say what’s on their mind, not matter what it is. False
25. At times I argue hard for my view–hoping to keep others from bringing up opinions that would be a waste of energy to discuss. True
26. Even when things get tense, I adapt quickly to how others are responding to me a try a new strategy. False
27. When I find that I’m at cross-purposes with someone, I often keep trying to win my way rather than looking for common ground. True
28. When things don’t go well, I’m more inclined to see the mistakes others made than notice my own role. True
29. After I share strong opinions, I go out of my way to invite others to share their views, particularly opposing ones. False
30. When others hesitate to share their views, I do whatever I can to make it safe for them to speak honestly. False
31. Sometimes I have to discuss things I thought had been settled because I don’t keep track of what was discussed before. False
32. I find myself in situations where people get their feelings hurt because they thought they would have more of a way in final decisions than they end up having. True
33. I get frustrated sometimes at how long it takes some groups to make decisions because too many people are involved. True
Preferred Style Strategies
Silence total = 3 Violence total = 4
Silence domains (in order)
Withdrawing = 2
Avoiding = 1
Masking = 0
Violence domains (in order)
Controlling = 2
Labeling = 1
Attacking = 1
Dialog Skills
Start With Heart Score = 0
Learn to Look Score = 0
Make It Safe Score = 1
Master My Stories Score = 0
State My Path Score = 0
Explore Others’ Paths Score = 0
Move to Action Score = 1

A silence or violence score higher one or two per domain is high. It means I use this/these technique/s fairly often.

Dialog skills of two or higher for each category means I am quite skilled in this/these area/s.

F**K!!! No WONDER everyone gets offended by me! I either control the situation or withdraw from it and I have absolutely zero skills when it comes to making it safe for others to provide feedback and opinions. The only really good part that comes out of this is I am willing to change and I know have a way through this book, my therapy and this class (Crucial Conversations) at work to help me learn the skills to overcome this problem.

I had absolutely no idea! Really, ignorance is NOT bliss!!! It completely explains why my interactions with others might be fine for awhile but always end up sucking after a period of time.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Later the same day...

Exercise 1: Feeling Goal (continued)

Now he wants me to redo the last exercise using Step 3 as my new Step 1. Okay…

  1. I want to...
    • light
    • fit
    • healthy
    • comfortable in my body
    • not be embarrassed by my appearance
    • not self-conscious
    • free
  2. I will have to...
    • get physically fit
    • quit smoking once and for all
    • learn to love myself and not be focused on my physical appearance
    • not use my physical appearance as an excuse to run away from life
  3. I will feel...
    • free

From this exercise I am supposed to develop specific, measurable goals. So, for the rest of the year, here is my plan…

September 2005
  1. Do one or any of the following no less than three times per week:
    • swim 40 laps (1000 yards) in less than 45 minutes,
    • ride the stationary bike for 20 minutes,
    • walk on the treadmill at 3 mph for 20 minutes,
    • aerobically lift weights for 20 minutes, or
    • walk in my neighborhood for 20 minutes at a decent enough clip to feel my breath
  2. Do exactly 1 or 2 exercises in Dr. Phil’s book per week
  3. Read exactly 1 or 2 chapters in Crucial Conversations and do the exercises every week
  4. Spend no less than 8 hours per week with my partner simply enjoying each other’s company (what we do isn’t important)
  5. Take my ADHD medication every day (even on the weekends)
  6. Identify my emotional state correctly and convey information to Peggy every week

October 2005
  1. Do one or any of the following no less than three times per week (this will be harder when we’re in Mexico, but being active at something for 30 minutes a day while there is sufficient):
    • swim 40 laps (1000 yards) in less than 40 minutes,
    • ride the stationary bike for 30 minutes,
    • walk on the treadmill at 3 mph for 30 minutes,
    • aerobically lift weights for 30 minutes, or
    • walk in my neighborhood for 30 minutes at a decent enough clip to feel my breath
  2. Do exactly 1 or 2 exercises in Dr. Phil’s book per week
  3. Read exactly 1 or 2 chapters in Crucial Conversations and do the exercises every week
  4. Spend no less than 8 hours per week with my partner simply enjoying each other’s company (what we do isn’t important)
  5. Take my ADHD medication every day (even on the weekends)
  6. Identify my emotional state correctly and convey information to Peggy every week

November 2005
  1. Do one or any of the following no less than three times per week:
    • swim 40 laps (1000 yards) in less than 35 minutes,
    • ride the stationary bike for 40 minutes,
    • walk on the treadmill at 3 mph for 40 minutes,
    • aerobically lift weights for 40 minutes, or
    • walk in my neighborhood for 40 minutes at a decent enough clip to feel my breath
  2. Do exactly 1 or 2 exercises in Dr. Phil’s book per week
  3. Read exactly 1 or 2 chapters in Crucial Conversations and do the exercises every week
  4. Spend no less than 8 hours per week with my partner simply enjoying each other’s company (what we do isn’t important)
  5. Take my ADHD medication every day (even on the weekends)
  6. Identify my emotional state correctly and convey information to Peggy every week

December 2005
  1. Do one or any of the following no less than three times per week:
    • swim 40 laps (1000 yards) in less than 30 minutes,
    • ride the stationary bike for 50 minutes,
    • walk on the treadmill at 3 mph for 50 minutes,
    • aerobically lift weights for 50 minutes, or
    • walk in my neighborhood for 50 minutes at a decent enough clip to feel my breath
  2. Do exactly 1 or 2 exercises in Dr. Phil’s book per week
  3. Read exactly 1 or 2 chapters in Crucial Conversations and do the exercises every week
  4. Spend no less than 8 hours per week with my partner simply enjoying each other’s company (what we do isn’t important)
  5. Take my ADHD medication every day (even on the weekends)
  6. Identify my emotional state correctly and convey information to Peggy every week
  7. Create my new schedule for the year of 2006

Of particular note: I received my first EVER passport in the mail yesterday. This is of significant note to me because (like a college education) I am the very first person in my adoptive family to have one. No wonder I don't fit in with those people, I am educated, I am going to be well traveled (now that I am done with graduate school), and I am going to have the best career ever as I finally move into the IT Management field which is where I have always wanted to be.

The caliber of my acquaintances has significantly improved. I am hanging out with doctors, VPs, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. My close friends all have careers, don’t have substance abuse issues, and are as mentally/emotionally healthy as any normal members of the population can be. They are black, white, Hispanic, gay, lesbian, straight, male, female, and transgendered. They own real estate (some even sell real estate!), they are educated, and they have great senses of humor.

Never again will I let my low self-esteem choose my friends for me. I will be picky about whom I allow into my life. Since I am such a big fan of media personalities (as are many people in this country, we don’t have royalty, we have an aristocracy of talent), I will emulate some of the finer ones of them. I will be friendly, yet distant to people that I don’t know until such a time that they prove that they are friend-worthy. I will assume (even though I am not rich, beautiful, or famous), based on past history, that there are many people out there that want to take from me even if I am not willing to give. Can I say good-bye Trixie for the last time (my wonderful 1993 Dodge Dakota extended cab pickup truck)? I am still SO angry that we were so duped and used that, without even asking, Trixie was borrowed and totaled; by someone that didn’t have a job, little education, and no prospects. I am not going to rescue anyone any more unless they actually need rescuing (like Hurricane Katrina victims) and it is complete removed from my personal life. No one, and I mean NO ONE, is moving into my house again unless they are a paying tenant with a high credit score and impeccable references; and even then the changes are slim to none.

Well, on with my day, I may be back later today with more Dr. Phil. Stay tuned…

Starting The Ultimate Weight Solution by Dr. Phil McGraw

Exercise 1: Feeling Goal

Today it is time to, as Dr. Phil puts it, "Get real about my life." I am fat, out of shape, self-destructive, and insecure. I can't fix all of these things at once, but I can chip away at each of them a little at a time with Peggy's (my therapist's) help. Therefore, today I am starting to "get real" about my food issues. This isn't just an eating issue, it is a coping mechanism. I need to find out why I eat inordinate amounts of food and am avoiding a trim body. I need to examine my darkest fears and figure this all out. Only then can I actually be free of the food cravings. I crave food like an alcoholic craves booze, like a 20-year smoker craves cigarettes, like a crack addict craves the pipe. This is not just a simple, sanitary "craving," it is an overwhelming, uncontrollable monster that is killing me a pound at a time. I need to pull out all the big ammunition to succeed. If Genevieve can kick the heroin habit, I can kill the mighty food monster.

Unfortunately, there are a lot more resources out there for the heroin addict than there are for compulsive overeaters. Except for OA, there really is nothing else. Of course, if I have anorexia or bulemia, then there are tons and tons of services and my insurance would pay for all kinds of medical and therapeutic support. Life, being the unfair bastard that it is, does not provide s**t for fat people. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 people die every year in the U.S. from obesity related illnesses (CDC revised figures, 2005). 64 percent of all Americans are overweight and over 30 percent are obese (U.S. F.D.A., August 4, 2004). The FDA also reports that approximately 40% of all American women are OBESE! Only 2.3-6% of women in the U.S. suffer from anorexia or bulemia (Murray, 2003).

Why is all this money and attention being spent on anorectics and bulemics? In my opinion, it is because obesity is an "ugly" disease. Major movie stars don't have obesity problems, they have problems with anorexia. The "beautiful people" in this country (media stars, athletes, etc.) have problems with UNDEReating, not OVEReating. Only poor, uneducated, and lazy people become obese (according to popular opinion). Well, I'm here to prove that notion not only wrong, but moronic in the extreme. I have been a competitive athlete all of my life, I have a master's degree and am working on my doctorate. I have enjoyed a very active lifestyle, love to travel, and live solidly in the middle-income bracket (my accountant can vouch for my tax bracket!). I am in a good relationship, have two parents (that are still married after 60 years!), and have relatively no obesity in my biological family (that I know of).

So, why am I fat? I am fat because I eat too much. Due to being in a number of foster homes and numerous emotional traumas in childhood and adolesence, I began to use food as a sedative in junior high school. If coke had been available to me as a 12-year-old, I probably would have never developed the food addition. The food energized me, but it also calmed the emotional beast within me. And, as I began to put on weight (in the days of Twiggy and Peggy Lipton), I was teased mercilessly by my peer group, thus adding to the childhood traumas. If someone had told me during that time in my life (and this is actually true, looking back at pictures), that I was actually built like a lot of professional female athletes (Dr. Dot of the U.S. Women's 2000 Olympic Softball team comes to mind), I could have blown off the self-loathing that came along with a gradual weight gain. By the time I graduated from high school (at 5'10" tall), I weighed a mere 175 pounds. Actually, according to Dr. Phil's weight chart, I was only about 5-10 pounds overweight for my height and bone structure. Lord, what I wouldn't give to be at that weight again!

Now, that being said, it is time to shoot for that weight again and show how it can be done, because I am GOING to do it!

Today's statistics:

  • Height (unfortunately now) 5'9"
  • Bra 46D
  • Waist 46.5 inches
  • Hips 56 inches
  • Weight 310 pounds
  • Waist to Hip ratio 0.83 which should be less than 0.80 for women
  • Pant size 26T

Goal Weight = 155-177 pounds

  1. Write down what I really want (be specific)
  2. Write down what I think I have to do to get there (again, be specific)
  3. Write down how I will feel when I get there.
  1. I want to...
    • achieve a goal weight of somewhere between 140-170.
    • swim 1 mile without stopping
    • bike 100 miles without stopping
    • run 5-10 miles on a regular basis
    • compete in age-grouped Olympic distance triathlons (3+ per year)

  2. I will have to...
    • buy a bicycle, safety equipment, and appropriate apparel
    • go to the gym 5+ days a week and...
      • lift weights 3-4 times
      • swim once or twice
      • treadmill once or twice
      • stationary bike once or twice
    • join the local master's swimming (Pleasanton) club
    • join a local women's master's biking club

  3. I will feel...
    • light
    • fit
    • healthy
    • comfortable in my body
    • not embarassed by my appearance
    • not self-conscious
    • free

Friday, September 09, 2005

First Steps

I love the 21st century, blogs are a wonderful place to put yourself out in the world. The most difficult part of this whole process was coming up with a display name. I had to think about the single most defining moment of my life. I am an adopted child. I am in my mid-40s, but I am still an adopted child. I have no rights to my biologic history, no rights to knowledge of my genesis, no rights to basic human information.

That being said, this blog is not just about my journey out of childhood, but it is my place to publish all my thoughts, ideas, opinions, and current status in the world.