Reflection Corner – Self-knowledge

“Know thyself”

We like Socrates.  He knew a thing or two, so today he’s helping us with self-knowledge.  

You’ve been given a LOT of information to absorb over these past few weeks of motivation Mondays, tech Tuesdays and theory Thursdays.  Information about current ideas and research on what makes a healthy lifestyle, how to achieve an optimum weight and reduce the risk of long-term health conditions with nutrition and activity.  You’ve read examples of how it worked for us.  

Some of it you already knew, some of it goes against the grain (LCHF?) and some of it you knew and conveniently forgot.  But what next?

Hopefully, it’s made you think.  Think about the superhero inside you and how it can fly again.  

But one thing is for sure, no other person’s exact regime will work for someone else.  Yes, you can follow “Jessica Alba’s workout” if you like, but don’t think you’ll end up looking like her!  Maybe you can use our stories to gain inspiration, but what you really need to go forwards is self-knowledge.  You need a plan of your own.

Socrates thought life was not worth living without reflection.  Next week we will start the coaching we promised, so this is the most important reflection corner.   Reflect on what you’ve read, reflect how it made you feel.  Reflect on the articles that made you all excited and ready to take on the world with a new approach, reflect also on those that made you feel worse, or guilty.  Reflect on what you’ve done before and why it may have failed, reflect on things you did that worked – try to figure out why they worked.  Try to figure out why you’re not doing that now?

Start to put together a menu of the healthy lifestyle options that make sense for you, with your personality, your lifestyle, your values and beliefs.  If you haven’t done this quiz:

try it now, it might help you.  If you turn out to be an “E”, you might need to take up a team sport or get to the gym or a class so you can workout with others.  If you’re an “I”, you might suddenly realise why you never turned up to those exercises classes you booked and you might get the youtube fitness video bug or create your own “pain cave”.  

If you’re a “J” you might suddenly realise you can get your spreadsheet out and plan your weekly activity schedule and you can get your coloured felt tips out & unpack the tupperware drawer and meal prep. to your heart’s content.  If you’re a “P” you’ll realise that you need to have an environment where opportunistic activity can happen – running shoes by the front door, kettlebell on the stairs and that planning will just make you nervous.

So, put the kettle on, make a cup of green tea, sit up or potter about and “know thyself”.


Reflection Corner – self-sabotage


“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” – Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

Are you still on it? “The path” to health and fitness?  Or are you still thinking about it? 

“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried” – Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

The internet tells me that, apart from understanding human nature, Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby manages the hat museum in Vancouver.  Cool.  

Ah, just sabotaged my reflection corner there.  Even superheroes do it.  There are lots of reasons why we self-sabotage.  I think fear of failure is, paradoxically, an overriding one.  Why would we, deliberately or subconsciously take a path to failure when we are afraid to fail?  Did we “look down” and fear the drop if we get too high so we jump off early?

Don’t stop trying

Whatever the reason, there are lots of people who can tell you not to stop trying. Robert the Bruce is probably the most quoted:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try and try again”.

Go downhill

But trying is hard, exhausting – well, it’s trying.  Your brain wants to do the “downhill” stuff.  Stuff that doesn’t require effort.  So rather than beating yourself up when you can’t maintain your regime, rather than having 1 bad day and thinking “that’s the diet ruined” so you may as well eat a family pack of jaffa cakes, do two things:

1 – be kind to yourself 

Plan to “hit it” 80% of the time and 20% of the time go with the flow.  Do NOT set yourself impossible goals, set achievable ones (but ones that have challenge).  Be realistic and let it take real time, not “as advertised” time.

2 – decrease your effort

Make all the healthy things easier.  Read this great article for lots of tips and tricks on how.  But essentially, we’ve already discussed how hard change is, how difficult it is to change your mindset, how we don’t want a fad diet we want a real slow lifestyle change.  Well, changing the external things in your life can make it much easier and less effortful to “accidentally” do healthier things all the time.  For example, if you open the fridge and there is no chocolate, it’s unlikely you will put your outdoor things on and go and buy some, so don’t even have it in the house.  If you shut that fridge door after your initial disappointment that there wasn’t any chocolate there and pinned to the door by a fridge magnet saying

“the choc. you want now or the body you want for ever?”

is an infographic with some bodyweight exercises on it, you might just feel good enough about not eating the chocolate to get down and knock off a few press-ups there and then.

So if you’re stuck in a cycle of “lose a bit/gain a bit” self-sabotage, give yourself a nudge and make it easier on yourself.

Reflection Corner – on change

On change

It’s a funny thing, change. It’s funny how human nature resists it so strongly. Is it because everything changes all the time? On a microscopic level our cells are porting, transporting, phaging, morphing. On a macroscopic level we are remodelling our bone, putting on muscle, putting on fat, absorbing nutrients, making neural pathways. Day by day we are aging. Is that what we are resisting? Are we trying to remain static to hold back time?

egg timer


Or are we just trying to achieve balance? Our bodies are constantly adapting to achieve homeostasis – “standing still”. If we go into the cold we shiver to create warmth and our hairs stand up to create an insulating layer to maintain our temperature, if we drink a glass of water we replace what we’ve sweated out and our kidneys get rid of the excess. Do we need psychological homeostasis, too?

lotus position


Stanford marshmallows…..

Or is it less biological and more Freudian? Is our ego invested in our physical person as well as what we do, how we behave and how other see us? Why do we hang on to it even if that physical person is in mortal danger due to obesity, or smoking, or drinking? It can be the difference between short term orientation and delayed gratification . If you’re able to not just intellectually, but emotionally appreciate delayed gratification you can deal with

“short term pain for long term gain”

and avoid the biscuit jar, go for a run and adapt to survive. But what if the short term pain is intolerable?

“I can resist everything but temptation”……

oscar wilde


There are a lot of ways of looking at this, the current vogue is for mindfulness – a way of grounding yourself in the reality of now rather than your emotionally-charged perception of now.  Have a read about mindful eating and learn about “urge-surfing” (my favourite neo-phrase)

Existential Crises

art by yasmina reza

But it could be that our sense of ourselves, our ego and what we “are” is bound up in all those external things. Changing them might change “us” and then what? It’s an existential crisis:

a fresh egg looking out of the window onto a fried egg
an eggs-istential crisis

Not only that, Descartes tells us our ego is in existence because we exist

“Cogito ergo sum”

but like the pine tree in the middle of the forest our ego helps us to exist and define ourselves in relation to others. This is where danger lies! If on any subconscious level you feel you are defined by being the “fat friend”, the “hedonist”, the “smoker” by your social network you will be even more resistant to changing those bad habits. Because you may feel that’s all you have to offer – although the reality is you, yourself, is perfectly enough for your true friends and they would only be happy for you if you achieved a better version of your physical self. Because then they’d have longer with you!

So one thing about change (apart from stopping procrastinating and getting on with it!) is to ensure your network is on board with you. They will struggle with change, too, but that won’t stop them supporting you and maybe changing themselves following your example!

Reflection corner – on superheroes

What is a superhero?

“a hero is someone who rises above his or her fears and limitations to achieve something extraordinary”

superman logo amended by query

It’s not very British, is it, to claim superhero status?  It’s not very British to aspire to do something out of the ordinary, “above one’s station”.  Next week we’ll reflect on why we all get so stuck with our ideas of ourselves.  But this week, let’s fly (!) with the idea that we can all be superheroes, because, if the above definition is correct, anyone can rise above their fears with the right mindset and support and if you let go of your fears, then that leads to rising above your limitations.

We’re here to tell you it’s just fine to aim high.  To aim to be super.  The trick is not to think about it – don’t look down!


How to be a superhero

There’s some research that says – just adopt the pose – stand like a hero and you will get a surge of superhero hormones, you will act more powerfully and heroically as a result.  Can you extrapolate that to the rest of your life?  Stand like a hero => act like a hero………think like a hero => be a hero??

Seems to be all about self-belief.  Just today, we’re not going to be British and self-deprecating.  How did we become superheroes?  We let go of our old assumptions about ourselves and our limitations.  Meg rose above her fear of open water and being eaten by sharks, Jools rose above her fear of falling off her bike and being crushed under a lorry.  We rose above our fear of failure and previous limitations of creaky painful knees and shin splints.  We ignored the limitations of size and shape and age, we found ways around the limitations imposed by work.  We didn’t look down, we just looked forwards and we got there.  You can do that.

The key, the reason it’s OK to be a superhero, the reason you won’t turn into an arrogant poseur is motivation.  Superheroes rise above their fears and limitations, and they do it for others.  You can do that too.

wonderwoman saves the day

But just don’t get too pious 😉 



Reflection Corner – would I lie to you?

Truth or Faith?

Here we are in the “post-truth” world and you’re asking “What diet should I follow?”  Is there one “true” diet out there?  Which one do I put my faith in? You’ve read that Hobbitly “eat smart – move more” regimens and “Snake eating” have both got “evidence” behind them.   You’ve seen exemplars in the amazing shrinkage of us down to normal BMI.  But you are overwhelmed by the slew of information, especially the counter-intuitive stuff.

And now we’ve added to the general confusion.

weight loss rules vs.fat snake ?

So let’s stop and have a bit of quiet Friday reflection.  In a later post we’ll explore why you shouldn’t think in terms of “diet” at all, but today we’ll ponder post-positivism, constructivism and subjectivism.

Don’t stop reading! 😉 Everyone is a philosopher and a scientist and a critic – use those faculties and you will find the healthy path you need.  


If you think like a Victorian gentleman scientist you believe “the truth is out there”:

You believe we will find the right answer and prove it.  This is a very seductive philosophy, especially for Myers-Briggs “ST” personality types.  If there is “one truth” and we can find it, how simple our life would be.  You could follow your snake diet safe in the knowledge it works.  In the melee of modern life, black-and-white thinking is a very tempting refuge.  But, the problem is, the melee intrudes, life is shades of grey (and pink, and purple…)  So science has moved on to


There’s my perspective and your perspective.  The truth is certainly out there but with all our inherent biases and cultural differences we have to work together to triangulate our theories and critique them to get at that truth.  And we never will get at the truth because we are “seeing through a glass darkly“.  The post-positivist is always seeking, comparing, researching and, most importantly, revising the “truth”.  So, in the words of Jillian Michaels

“get comfortable with being uncomfortable”


Move on and construct your own reality.  It may be very uncomfortable to learn that there are so many conflicting versions of “the truth” out there.  So be an adult learner and pursue your quest for the diet that works for you.  Look at the evidence we’ll present to you, relate it to what you’ve done before, relate it to the problem in hand (I want to live more healthily) rather than any notional “truth” and make sure your final pick is something you’re motivated to see through.





Reflection Corner – Denial

Hello there, welcome to Friday.  The end of the week is a good time to pause and reflect, in order to adjust and move on next week.  Each week in reflection corner we’ll think more widely and deeply about aspects of healthy living – particularly the psychology and philosophy.  This week, so far, you have heard about the start of my journey to health.  You have read about some tools to help you on the way and been given a simple formula for weight loss and an enduring healthy lifestyle:

“Eat smart, move more, gain muscle”

weight loss rules

I hope you’re inspired and have worked out your own BMR, weight goal or health goal and are starting to put together your nutrition, activity and strength training plan.  But maybe you’re not feeling it.  Maybe you’re daunted, maybe you’re still stuck.  I certainly tried and failed before (dieting alone to get into my wedding dress and then spiralling to my heaviest weight when the pressure was off) and after that I went into denial.  

weddingMaybe it might help to have an honest look at denial, here:

“On denial”

No, not sailing down a river in Egypt. 


I mean blanking out the “inconvenient truth”.  I’m a health professional, but human like anyone else, and I got fat.  I joked about it “oh I’ve got obese” but everyone was reassuring and so I was able to conveniently agree that I didn’t look obese.  We justified my weight by saying that BMI is meaningless, especially at the extremes of height. It was reassuring to see lots of people fatter than me, and that society is getting bigger.  So I normalised it.  I did notice I had to go up a dress size each year, and then each 6 months.  I even noticed I had hard tummy fat, not wobbly, suggesting I had a fatty liver – dangerous for heart attack risk.  But it didn’t penetrate my complacency.

Why denial?

Why? Freud is responsible for our familiarity with the idea of denial as a psychological coping mechanism.  A lot of his work has been superseded but there is something elegant and recognisable about this idea.  We have a source of stress, we repress it in order to function or maintain our view of ourselves or the world.  In my case I was in denial about being unhealthy and my friends were colluding with me!  I was subconsciously suppressing the full “weight” of consequence of my unhealthiness and I was consciously suppressing it by not stepping on scales, accurately working out my BMI and taking full heed of its message.  I am sure you can find your own sore spot of denial – so don’t stop reading now!!

How do we get out of denial? 

This article by the well regarded Mayo clinic is concise and gives you some tools to start straight away.  It’s true that maybe this isn’t the right time and you have to get there.  For me, the right time was thinking about New Years resolutions and finally acknowledging my BMI was real, and really dangerous.  Maybe you’ve been told it’s time to change and an external timetable has been given to you – maybe you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, or pre-diabetes, maybe you have terrible arthritis, maybe you have heart disease.  Then you have to find the space to examine the fear that is keeping you in denial so you can tackle it.  You may need support from family members or even a therapist to do this.


Rowling’s 1st class philosophy class

But if you want to understand denial and then overcome it quickly and without waiting for help I suggest you look no further than the esteemed J.K. Rowling:

So the boggart sitting in the darkness within has not yet assumed a form. He does not yet know what will frighten the person on the other side of the door. Nobody knows what a boggart looks like when he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears.

Professor Lupin to his third year class in 1993

Denial is a Boggart.  It’s lurking in the wardrobe of your brain, shapeless, dark and malicious.  You know that if you open the door out it will come and frighten you to death.  So you keep the door shut even in the face of louder and louder banging from the Boggart desperate to be let out. You are always in peril of the door flying open unexpectedly.  In fact, there is a spell to fix the Boggart – it requires concentration and resolve, (magic wand optional).



If you open the door in a planned fashion – when you’re ready for it, when you have gathered your resolve, when you have a plan for that Boggart to make it look ridiculous, then you will succeed.

Open the door.