The Healthy Aging Series by Mark Neese at True North Counseling

Strategies for Breaking Up, Part 3 | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 10

What Was the one Moment That Changed Your Life?

I tell my sons and granddaughters that they are here today because the Navy Recruiter had gone to lunch.

Let me explain.

I graduated from high school in 1974. Geez, I’m getting old, yay.
I went to work with my father and Jackson Engineering after high school. He was the vice president and recruited me.

I loved working with Jerry Neese. I loved everything about my father, and in all my life, I never had a cross word with him. I never had a cross word with my mother, unless you count the time she smacked my face. It was the summer of 1968 and Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated. My mother was heartbroken and glued to our only little black-and-white TV. I wasn’t very sympathetic and wanted to watch something else, probably Star Trek. Mom refused to change the channel and I told her I was glad he was shot! She stood up and smacked me. I sat down and watched the news about JFK. At least that’s what I hope I did.

Going to work with my father was a no-brainer. I had a new 1974 Chevy Nova, new business-casual clothes, but I wasn’t there but a few weeks and the urge or desire to do something else slowly grew within me. It wasn’t a decision to leave, rather it was a decision to explore. There was a push and pull. The push was the thought of never leaving Southern Indiana, and the pull was all the people, places, and things in this big, beautiful, exciting world we live in. It was an urge that nothing seemed to soothe except the thought of leaving.

So, I decided to join the Navy. My older brother had joined the Navy. My dad was a Marine and served on a ship at the end of World War II.  So, I took a lunch break and went down to the Civic Center overlooking the dingy Ohio River to visit the Navy recruiter. I can feel my heart rate increase thinking about that day in July, two weeks before my 18th birthday. The hall was lined with other recruiting offices. Besides the Navy recruiter there were office for the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard. When I arrived at the Navy Recruiters office, there was one of those “be back at” clocks that showed 1 pm. I wandered around the hallway for a second or two and the Air Force recruiter saw me looking a little frustrated and invited me into his office. With Staff Sergeant Burke’s help I enlisted in the Air Force.

In that moment, my life was changed. It changed because I went for training in San Antonio Texas instead of Michigan. It changed because I went to my first assignment, which was Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio, where I would meet my sons’ mother and my granddaughters’ grandmother.  My sons and by extension my granddaughters are here today because the Navy recruiter had gone to lunch.

I can come up with a half a dozen other moments that have changed my life. Some educational. Some made about employment. Some made on basis of relocating to a new state.

What about you? Think about those life-changing moments that you’ve had.

Gemma Dale and Her Moment of Change

This brings me to the fourth Obesity Memoir that I’ve read this season. “Memoirs of a Former Fatty: How one Girl Went from Fat to Fit,” by Gemma Dale

Gemma went from a size 22 to size 8, lost 80 pounds and ended her for your journey of weight loss with a half marathon.

Everything I’ve written about this season on how to break up with the food is in her book. There is a push and a pull in her life to break up with food. The push was the shame, the knee problems, poor health, gall stones, and the problem with walking stairs. The pull was as she said, “I lost weight and gained a new life.“ She writes that she doesn’t have a magazine, perfect body, but learning to love exercise, “There is power there is freedom, in your feet.” The pull was being strong.

“Somewhere along the way, in the middle of 2014, something shifted. I’d lost about four and a half stone by this point. And this is when it stopped being just about a number on the scales and started being about how strong I was; how strong I could possibly be. It was about being toned. And what my body might be capable of.”

Gemma writes that you must change the way you think about yourself and about food. If you want to change the way you act. That change, she writes, starts with simply thinking about making a change. “You’ve got to have a dream.”

Where have you read this?

“Fitness,” she writes, “is as much a mental process as a physical one.”

Gemma doesn’t word it exactly the way that I worded it, but changing your eating habits, and your health often mean breaking up with food. It means, “breaking old habits, and making newer, healthier ones.”

Everything changed about her life. Her friendships. Her family relationships. Where she hung out, and who she hung out with.

And she has some wonderful slogans in her book. I love slogans.

“If you want to do something badly enough, you will find a way, if not, you will find an excuse.”

And her racing slogan is “Better last than did not finish, which is better than did not start.”

How did she lose weight? This was a very common theme in the other obesity memoirs that I’ve read. She simply ate less and moved more. There is something very simple about the way these writers lost a large amount of weight. They simply ate less and began moving and exercising.

She talks about the diet industry or what some call, The Fitness-Industrial Complex, and it’s one purpose to sell a fantasy. A fallacy, she explains. She calls what they sell as garbage.

“There is no quick fix. No matter what the latest guru or carefully edited celebrity yells at you.“

And there’s more in her book. It’s an easy read. But what about that moment, that life-changing moment, that changed her forever. I’ll share a lengthy section of her book in her words.

“Most overweight people who go on to lose a lot of weight, have generally had a moment. A moment in which something happens, something shifts and changes, and they finally decide to do something about it.
I had a few moments along the way. Several false beginnings. But there was one moment that moved me from vague mutterings and half-hearted promises, all of which had historically led to not very much at all, to actual action with tangible results.

My moment was New Year’s Eve, 2011. I was at a black-tie dinner at my dad’s golf club. Already significantly overweight, with the Christmas quality street factored in, I was bigger than ever. My long, black evening dress was straining at the seams. A pair of spanks was doing its best to keep everything in place but failing to deliver. I felt, and probably looked, like an overstuffed sausage. My ankles were agony because of all the excess weight pushing down on them. There would be no dancing for me. Just an attempt to hide as much of my bulk as possible underneath the table and my giant wrap. During the evening, I went to the lady’s room. I sat in the cubicle and had myself a little cry. A pity party all by myself. And then that moment I decided. Something was going to change for definite this time. It would be no more false promises.”

She ends this section by writing, “The journey of weight loss is really a journey to a whole new life.”

I thought of my life as I read this obesity memoir.

I still need to grow. I have things that need to change. I’ll take some time this weekend in the Smoky Mountains doing a solo backpacking trip. No talking, just listening to that still small voice.

Open to change, wanting to change and expecting another moment of change in my life.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

To purchase Memoirs of a Former Fatty: How one Girl Went from Fat to Fit, by Gemma Dale, click here.

The Healthy Aging Series by Mark Neese at True North Counseling

Strategies for Breaking Up, Part 2 | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 9

Breaking Up with Food by Using Self-Binding Strategies

“Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in an Age of Indulgence,” by Anna Lembke

My wife and I love to use bed and breakfasts when we travel. We stayed in one called Cactus Cove in Tucson on one of our recent trips. We had a desert view of the Catalina mountains and Saguaro Cacti and visited the Biosphere. Pretty cool. Tucson also has great restaurants.


Prior to the Pandemic, we stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast outside Berea, Kentucky that was an old farmhouse built with a wonderful view of an open meadow. On our way to Berea, I noticed the Boone Tavern. We wanted to wake up the next morning, explore, and then finish it with a pint of beer at the tavern. While visiting a pottery shop on the outskirts of Berea, I asked the owner if there were any cool pubs near Berea College. He looked at me and smiled and then said that the county, which included Berea, was a dry county. It didn’t ruin my trip, but needless-to-say I was a little disappointed. By the way, the bed and breakfast had complementary drinks that had been donated by past guests.

Blue Laws

In Louisville, you can’t buy alcohol at liquor stores until 1 pm on Sundays. Having said that, you can order a drink with your brunch on Sunday after 10 am. It seems silly. At the worst, it’s inconvenient, which is exactly what these laws are  meant to do.

These laws are social binders. They are barriers to buying alcohol.

Breaking up with Food Using Self-Binding Strategies

This season is about breaking up with food. This blog is about Self Binding as introduced in Anna Lembke’s book, “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in an Age of Indulgence.” She describes Self-Binding as “willfully and intentionally creating barriers between ourselves and our drug of choice in order to mitigate compulsive over consumption.”

Lembke goes on to describe three types of self-binding.

  1. Temporal Self-Binding or Time self-binding.
  2. Spatial Self-Binding.
  3. Categorical Self-Binding.
  4. I’ve added one or teased out the categorical type to include:
    Social Self-Binding.

I’m going to expand on these as they relate to breaking up with food.

Self-Binding Strategies

1. Temporal Self-Binding (TSB).

TSB means using time limits and finish lines. Time-Restricted Eating or what some referred to as Intermittent Fasting is the use of time limits. You pick an eating window. Let’s say eight hours. You can fast from 8 pm until noon the next day. You break your fast at noon. Of course, you can’t over consume during your eating window, but limiting your eating window is a way of intentionally putting up a barrier to overconsumption.

On most weeks, I use this strategy 2 to 3 times a week. By limiting my eating window, and engaging in exercise activity during the fast, I create a calorie deficit, which helps maintain a healthy weight. There isn’t really anything magical about fasting, except that it tends to decrease your caloric intake throughout the day. The Whole 30 Diet is another example of TSB. You limit your intake of foods like sugar, grains, dairy products, and alcohol for 30 days.

Many of you have been following this blog, and some of my blogs have shared my reflections from Obesity Memoirs. One of the constant variables in these memoirs is eat less/move more. Time-Restricted Eating is a Temporal Self-Binding procedure that helps you eat less.

You can use Temporal Self Binding to limit sweets to only weekends or special occasions. There are some that limit alcohol consumption to 25 or maybe 50 times a year. That would be 2 to 3 times a month. Temporal Self-Binding means structuring your day by putting up barriers that make access to food more difficult. During the pandemic, a therapist friend told me that she decided to only drink alcohol on the weekends. She noticed that she was drinking more because she was home all the time. Temporal Self-Binding is necessary because willpower is unreliable.

2. Spatial Self-Binding (SSB).

Here we are talking about rearranging your space by limiting where we go, limiting what we have in your cabinets, and creating an environment where food is not center stage. I use SSB by not bringing in foods, like sugars and sweets into my home. I try avoiding Panera in the mornings. It also means that I have a healthy snack food in the fridge or cabinet that limits my ability to overconsume. SSB means staying out of the process-food section of the grocery store, you know, the center section.

SSB involves looking at your home, your car, your neighborhood, the route you take to work, your office, where you shop for clothes, where you eat out, where you stop for coffee, and then come up with a plan for making it difficult to relapse back into over consuming and into a dysfunctional relationship with food.

Imagine breaking up with a partner you spent lots of time with hanging out at Sunergos Coffee. It was a tough break up. One of those “I love you, but we aren’t good for each other” break ups, like the kind of relationship you have with food. I think you’re going to want to do some Spatial Self-Binding by finding another coffee shop to avoid running into “you know who.”

Spatial Self-Binding means finding new places to hang out and avoiding the places where you overconsume.

3. Categorical Self-Binding (CSB).

CSB means finding things or categories of things to replace the food that you’ve broke up with. For me, I need to replace sugar, alcohol, and bread. Those are the demons that I want to excise out of my life. So, I need replacements. Some replacement categories include real foods that will help you feel more satiated and more activity that is incompatible with eating processed food.

I remember working with an adult with an intellectual disability who was constantly annoying his housemate. Nothing seemed to decrease that until I asked the staff at his residence “What is he doing when he’s not annoying his housemate?“ They came up with a list of about 20 activities. I said, “Keep him busy doing these things. Offer him a menu of activities.” The behavior stopped immediately. He was too busy, enjoying his life to annoy his housemates.
Ask yourself, what am I doing when I am not overconsuming processed foods like sugar, bread, pastries.

CSB means adding things and structuring things into your life that make it nearly impossible to engage in consuming highly processed food.

In my jeep, I have squeeze fruits that include vegetables and proteins. There is no junk food or fast food in my Jeep. Nuts and dried fruits, that’s it.
I like writing in the evenings. That’s what I’m doing right now instead of eating processed food. It’s silly, but I try to avoid food-shows in the evening.

When willpower is low during the evenings or over the weekends after a grueling week, CSB will make it more difficult to consume, or overconsume foods that I’m trying to avoid.

Lembke stops with three, but I’ve added:

4. Social Self-Binding (SoSB).

SoSB involves the people in your life that affect your breakup with food.
People can affect you in many ways. They can affect you by inspiring you to grow and inspiring you to overcome your addiction. People affect you by being the reason you need to start or stay with your recovery from drugs or food. The love that people show you can help create an inner self-love which fuels your recovery. The people in your life can also weigh you down, affect your moods in negative ways, and can cause you to have an “I don’t give a shit“ attitude about your life and about life in general. And they can also cause a relapse in your recovery. SoSB involves managing the relationships in your life and assessing the influence they have as you attempt to break up with food. Unlike Spatial Self-Binding, where are you simply avoid the places where you overconsume, you can’t always avoid the people in your life that are catalyst for overeating, overdrinking, or overconsuming.

Social Self-Binding is a tool. It’s not a hammer that we used to break things up but maybe a sieve that allows you to sort out your relationships into more purposeful or intentional encounters.

The barriers that you create with Social Self-Binding are there, but more permeable than the other Self-Binding procedures. You let people in, partly, but you know their influence, and you prepare for letting them in.

Before letting them in, you practice letting them in. You practice your encounter. You rehearse your connections with people. People are complicated. At times they help, and at times they disrupt your plans. Seek out the helpers.


These are the Self-Binding Principles for helping you break up and stay broken up with food. They are very behavioral and strategies that you typically set up before you encounter food.

Self-Binding is a tool, along with the other strategies, that I’ve presented in this blog.

I’ve read several Obesity Memoirs, and I’ll share some of the Self-Binding principles that they used on their journey to lose weight and break up with food.


Strategies for Breaking Up, Part 1 | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 8

Why Can’t I Stay Broke Up? Because You Got Issues!

I’ve been a therapist for almost 30 years. It’s hard to believe.

In those early years, I trained as a Child and Family Therapist. Lots of parent trainings. For many of the children, I became a surrogate father. I would take them on walks through the city parks and throw frisbees. We would often stop for lunch or snacks at McDonald’s. Some of these children are in their late 30s/early 40s now. 

I remember one of my young client’s name was Nick. Nick was nine years old, and I had been working with him for a couple of years. We would go to McDonald’s for lunch, and on one outing, he was eating his chicken-nugget happy meal when he noticed another little boy running through the McDonald’s. 

“Mr. Mark,“ he said, “That little boy needs a therapist.“

“Why do you say that, Nick?” I asked. 

“Because he’s got issues,” He responded.

Geez. I wondered where he had heard that, but also remembered that Nick had been in therapy himself for years even at nine years old. 

I have thought a lot about what little Nick said and I think he’s right about lots of kids and lots of adults. When it comes to food, we all have issues, and those issues affect our breakup with food and makes it difficult to stay broke up. 

We’ve been examining ways to break up with food and stay broke up. We’re going to look now at strategies for breaking up in 6 separate parts. In Part One, I’ll share some cognitive strategies, changing how you think about food and about yourself and dealing with your issues. 

In Part Two (Episode 9), I’ll share some behavioral strategies called Self-Binding, because after all, I am a behavior analyst. 

In Parts Three and Four (Episodes 10 and 11), I’m also going to share another obesity, memoir, entitled, “hunger: lessons learned on the journey from fat to send,” by Alan Zatkoff. Here’s what the dust jacket says: “instead of employing, the diet, du jour, and other weight loss foods, he began to focus less on what he ate, and more on the physical and emotional underpinnings of what he came to understand as a disease.”

In Parts Five and Six (Episodes 12 and 13), I’ll share about a Twelve-Step Program called, Overeaters Anonymous.

Let’s get started!

1. If you’re going to break up and stay broke up with food, you must change the way you think about food.

I want to introduce you or re-introduced you to book I wrote about back into 2019. The book is, “The Beck Diet,” by Judith Beck. It isn’t really a diet book. It’s a book on strategies for following a diet using Cognitive Behavioral Strategy. “Cognitive therapy,“ she writes, “helps you identify your sabotaging, thinking, and effectively respond to it, so you feel better, and can believe in helpful ways.“ 

I call these sabotaging thoughts my “Inner Demons.” Several years ago, I was talking to my good friend, Sam, about working out five days a week at Premier Fitness, which included using a personal trainer, kickboxing, powerlifting, and spin. “Looks like you’ve become addicted to working out,“ He commented.  I informed him that I already have plenty of demons that I wrestle with, and I don’t need to worry about whether I’m becoming addicted to exercise. 

Here are some of my demons! 

  1. I work out so I can eat whatever I want.
  2. That one cookie isn’t going to ruin my diet.
  3. I can have a breakfast sandwich from Panera just this morning.
  4. I shouldn’t deprive myself from everything, YOLO!
  5. “I’ll work it off tomorrow.”

These are my demons. Beck’s book is splendid and helps you change how you think about food.

2. If you’re going to break up with food and stay broke up, you’re going to need help.

I used a Personal Trainer throughout most of my 50s. There are other professionals, Certified Health Coaches, that have trained solely for the purpose of helping people lose weight. There are support groups and 12 step groups that focus on overeating. Weight Watchers or WW offers weekly or monthly meetings, both in person and via online. And there are many therapists that focus on the body-mind connection and offer support for exercising nutrition.

There are churches that offer classes and support groups for weight loss and nutrition. Beck recommends that you find a Diet Coach. According to Beck, here’s what they can do for you:

  • Keeps you motivated.
  • Builds your self-esteem.
  • Helps you solve eating problems.
  • Keeps you accountable.
  • Helps you take a more positive perspective.

Ask, what would my coach say?

The Overeaters Anonymous Program includes a sponsor, or diet coach. Beck suggests recruiting a diet coach from close friends or family members. Or maybe someone that has been successful losing weight or breaking up with food and staying broke up.

3. Focus on Incompatible Behaviors.

Incompatible behaviors are behaviors that make it difficult to engage in what we generally call target behaviors. Target behaviors in this sense would be overeating or eating food that is inconsistent with your diet plan. What are some of those incompatible behaviors?


It seems to me that if you’re exercising, you’re not eating. There are lots of things that you can do that are incompatible with eating. This means first looking at your eating patterns. Where do you eat, when do you eat, how much do you eat, and what do you eat, and then, develop a plan to change these variables.

In the Applied Behavior Analysis world, we call these contextual variables for eating your “trigger” foods as some define them.  If you know Behavior Analyst, they can do a mini Functional Behavioral Assessment that will help you uncover your contextual variables.

If not, just start writing down and looking at where, when, What, who and yes why you eat and then write a Behavior Plan.

If you find that you snack at night while watching TV, break up with food by doing something else at that time. Like learning to play the guitar or practicing Mario kart. Change it up in some way.

4. If you’re going to break up and stay broke up with food, you will need to develop a written plan and revise it often.

This isn’t a diet plan, but a lifetime. You’re going to look at all the aspects of your life and change them. If you’re going to change your relationship or break up with food, you need to change your whole life. Don’t think you can read a diet book, like a Mediterranean diet, and think that your relationship with food will change. Let me say something very important, a major takeaway from this blog: You are following a diet as we speak. I’m following the Mark Neese diet. You’re following the: fill in the blank diet. And you are deeply entrenched by it. It is a way of life for you. Your diet is a way of life!

Read that again, and if it is a way of life for you, then you will need a plan to change your life. The biopsychosocial model that we use as therapists looks at all aspects of your life. Relationships. Education. Health and physical aspect. Spiritual and mindfulness approach. Social aspects. Employment.  Hobbies. Recreation.

Compare this with it with the list of contextual variables that evoke or increase the risk of toxic eating. Develop a breakup plan. Example: my plan is 8 to 10 hours of exercise per week. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Decreased eating out. Increase time spent with time restricted eating. Increase fruits and vegetables. I use squeeze fruits and vegetables when I’m driving throughout the city. I have a life planned that guides me. I am revising it even now.

5. If you’re going to have a breakup with food, or with your old, toxic lifestyle, you need to practice this principle: Easy Does It.

Throughout my years of practicing as a Family Therapist, Personal Trainer, and throughout my personal life, I have used the principle of Easy Does It. Slow things down. Don’t push too hard be gentle.

Changing Your Life

Strategies for breaking up with food are basically strategies for changing your life, because your diet is really a reflection of your lifestyle.

I’ve suggested five strategies that will make breaking up more likely. I have a few more to share in part two of this blog. Stay tuned.

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

What’s the Hardest Thing You’ve Done? | Healthy Aging Series: Season 9, Episode 7

What’s the Hardest Thing You’ve Done?

Seven days. Six nights. 17000+/- ft. of elevation. 41 miles. 45 lbs. Minus 2 toenails. One of the hardest things I’ve done. The Grand Canyon.

I wanted to test myself. What a better place to do that than the Grand Canyon. It was 2009. I was 52 years old, and I’d been backpacking for four years and had gone down and come out of the Canyon four times. 

Nothing is easy about doing the canyon. If you think hiking down into the Grand Canyon is easy, you’d would be wrong. Think about walking down stairs for 8 to 10 miles. With 45 lbs. on your back.

You have to prepare by putting on a backpack and putting in the mileage with 30-40 lbs. in that pack.  

The Canyon is one of my favorite places on the earth. I love walking up to the edge of the South Rim at Grand Canyon Village, after being away for a year, and feeling overwhelmed by the view. You can see nearly 20 miles from the South Rim to the North Rim, almost forever. It’s most beautiful when it’s just snowed and it’s cloudy. Especially in January and February when the clouds are hanging around.

I planned a 7 day, 6 night solo backpacking trip. All by myself.

Day One: 5-mile hike down to Havasu Campground and the loss of 3000 feet. 

On one of my trips to the Canyon one of the regulars that I backpack with had invited a friend to “do the canyon.” This was the year my son was graduating from high school, and he was invited. They were 15 of us. A ritual was to weigh our packs at Babbage’s, the outfitting store. My pack weighed 42 pounds and my son’s was 30 pounds. We had both trained hard for this trip. 

The new invitee was 50+ years old and had just quit smoking the year before and was celebrating it with the backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon. Her pack weighed 45 pounds. I glanced at my son, and we both had that, “She’s not gonna make it,“ look.  And in fact, she arrived at Havasu Garden Campground without a pack. She said her legs had turned to rubber. She had dropped her pack halfway down. The next day she and her husband chose to hike out and hired a teenager to haul her pack back up to the South Rim. The Canyon is unforgiving.
I arrived at Havasu Garden CG on this trip in 3 hours, set up my camp, and slept well.

Day Two: Eleven miles on the Tonto West trail to Monument Creek CG.

This is a long 11-mile hike because you were hiking in an out of side canyons. Easily a six- or seven-hour hike. Total exposure to the sun. Day two ends at Monument Creek Campground, which is the payoff for the long hike. The bathroom is three wooden walls. No ceiling. One beautiful view.

Day Three: Nine miles. 4000 feet of elevation gain on the Hermit’s Rest Trail.

It was grueling. Remember my pack was 40+ pounds.

I had planned to hike back 11 miles to Havasu Garden Campground but changed my mind and decided to hike out the Hermit’s Rest Trail back to the South Rim. The problem was that I was going to have to walk 10 miles back to the trailhead and to my car. When I arrived at the rim, I was absolutely, exhausted. Remember I had hiked 25 miles in the past three days. I was lucky to meet a man who agreed to take me back to the trailhead but made me agree to listen to his story about going through a divorce, and how he was traveling from city to city in an RV looking for a new city to live in and call home. You can’t make something like this up. So, I listened.  I stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge, took a shower, and slept in a bed.

Day Four: I hiked down the Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch.

8 miles. 5200 feet of elevation loss. The good news: I was fresh and rested. The bad news: I was wearing new boots that rubbed the top of my toenails and remember it was 8 miles of descent, and it resulted in blisters under my toenails. That’s right blisters, not on my toes, but under my toenails
I set up my camp at Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Canyon and went to bed.

Day Five and Six: My plan was to hike out to Ribbon Falls (13 miles round trip)

Instead, I popped the blisters under my toenails and laid around for two days.

The thing about the Canyon is, if you go down into the Canyon, you have to get yourself up out of the Canyon. There are mules. There are helicopters. But unless you’re almost dying, you have to get yourself out. So, I cut the toes out of my new boots and hiked 8 miles and 5200 feet up out of the Canyon.

Seven days. Six nights. 17000+/- ft. 41 miles. 45 lbs. Minus 2 toenails. One of the hardest things I’ve done.

“All Bets Are Off”

Betsy Hartley‘s book, “All Bets Are Off,” has a grueling story in it. Don’t let me confuse you here. She ran a 100-mile race in under 30 hours. I didn’t do that. 

I’ve done a couple marathons. And all the training to prepare for them, but not 100 miles. 

I was exhausted after reading about this race. Geez! It was one of the most grueling accounts of a race that I’ve ever read. But this is not the real story of her book. 

Her story is about losing 220 pounds. Not an easy feat. 

Her plan: Eat less, move more. 

She started this plan in July 2011. Five years later, 220 lbs. lighter. 

That was the most grueling thing she did. Imagine. Five years. 44 pounds per year. Then run 100 miles in 30 hours. 

Honestly, one of the most impressive things I’ve heard or seen was she broke up with food and stayed broke up. That’s what this season of Healthy Aging is about. How to break up with food… How to change your relationship with food. 

What was the turning point in her life? What were her agents of change? 

What Didn’t Help?

Hartley spent 40 years of her life living with obesity, and with the “well-meaning” comments from family and friends. People were concerned for her health and safety, but no matter how tactful, and no matter how loving the comments about her weight, none of them helped. It only made her feel more ashamed. 

Shame is not a good change agent! 

Here’s why: shame makes you want to eat more, because food has become your drug of choice to address your shame, your guilt, and your depression. We feel bad, we eat, we feel better. It’s a never-ending cycle of “food comforting negative feelings!!!!” 

Stop and read this again!

What Did Help?

If it wasn’t all the noise in her environment about her weight, then what changed her? It was that still small voice that came from within her consciousness, her shadow, her true self, and her authentic self, that evoked the change to lose weight and begin living.

The Push and the Pull

Betsy’s willingness to listen to the still small voice from within helped her decided that she had had enough. That was the push in her life and the pull was that she wanted a life without diabetes, a life of mobility, and a life of running. 

It takes a push and a pull to change. Change comes when you take some time and listen to the voice within. “The biggest mystery for me,” she writes, “in my whole crazy adventure is why I finally chose to listen to that little voice, which I smothered for so long. And I work every day on making that voice, stronger and louder.”  

The Still Small Voice

There are a lot of takeaways from her book, but the still small voice struck a chord with me. The voice was saying to her, “It’s time to love yourself. It’s time to lose some weight and begin caring for yourself. It’s time to become something else, a more authentic something else.”

What helped her stay broke up was not the love of running, but what running represented. Running represented her domination over her appetites and over her body. Running, summiting Mount Sherman in Colorado, doing the Grand Canyon, cycling across Indiana, or anything else you do is telling your body, “Eff you! You’re gonna do what I tell you to do!”

That’s what I was doing in 2009 on my Solo Backpacking Trip. 

It’s more than that. It’s the beauty and majesty of all you see and experience while dominating your body.

But that its core it’s about telling your body it’s going to do what you tell it to do and not the other way around.

It’s the process of total domination as Nandor from “What We Do in the Shadows,” says to the zoning commission on Staten Island. The total domination, not of you, but of your body! That’s what we admire about athletes. They have worked their bodies into almost complete domination.

We regular people, like Betsy Hartley, fall short of total domination, but attempting feats of strength is our way of joining the fray. This next weekend I’m headed to the Smoky Mountains to do Mount Sterling. It’s not for the faint hearted. Three days. Two nights. 18 miles. 7000+ minus feet of elevation, hopefully not losing my toenails. Not the Canyon but a challenge. The second day will be grueling. I do it in part because I can but also do it because I want to send a clear message to my body that it will do as it’s told. I struggle every day for total domination and to stay broke-up with food. Hartley is a wonderful example of the person who wrestled with obesity for 50+ years and continues to work toward total domination of her body.

Those are my takeaways from her book. Breaking up is all about listening to that still small voice and staying broke up is all about taking charge of your body and telling it what it’s going to do. It is a wonderful challenge and a wonderful strategy in life.

How about you? Are you a Betsy Hartley?

I have a hard time finding people to Backpack with me, especially as I get older. It’s rare for me to find people that are up to the challenge. But I keep pushing on, and I keep dominating my body, and I work very diligently at staying broke up with food. 

How about you?

To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

To purchase or view “All Bets are Off,” By Betsy Hartley at Carmichael’s Book Store, click here

All Bets Are Off: My journey of losing 200 pounds, a showdown with diabetes, and falling in love with running (Paperback)

The Real Mr. Miyagi: How to Die Badly! | Healthy Aging Series: S8, E6

He described himself as a unique drunk. He could work almost every day, and no one would know it.”

“I’m drunk almost every day.” Pat Morita.

Mr. Miyagi. I’m guessing most of you have heard his name. He taught Daniel LaRusso karate in the three karate kid movies. Such a great character, and Pat Morita did a wonderful job bringing that character to life.

I’ve written about Daniel and Johnny in the Karate Kid/Cobra Kai Series. Both of them are petty, resentful, jealous of each other, egocentric, and basically really immature. Mr. Miyagi, on the other hand is portrayed as the wise sage. He is in the “giving back“ stage of his life. His story is about the early rivalries and losses during World War II, and how he rises above them, and becomes a man of peace and tranquility. It seems like the Bonsai trees are the metaphor for his life.

That is Mr. Miyagi. The story of Pat Morita is a much sadder story. I became interested in his life and watched a very good documentary, “More than Miyagi: The Pat Morita story.” Marita had what he described as an abandoned childhood. He gave up his dream of attending college and medical school, to follow his parent’s dream of working in their Chinese restaurant. Later, he did stand-up comedy and had several TV roles, including a part in the series, Happy Days. And then he got his big break with Karate Kid.

What the general public did not see but what Marita confesses is that he was drunk almost every day throughout his adult life.

He described himself as a unique drunk because he could drink almost every day, and no one would know it. He died at 73 from kidney failure . The last decade of his life was filled with a steep decline in health. He was practically penniless due to his two failed marriages and his inability to show up for work commitments. I encourage you to watch the documentary.

I’ve been writing blogs on healthy aging, and refer back to the book, “Triumphs of Experience,” by George Vaillant. It’s a book about the Harvard Grant Study, which was a longitudinal study of 268 men that began when they were 20 years old and students at Harvard. The study followed them until they died. I’ve looked at the overall lessons from the study, and I’ve  shared the predictor for successful aging (having healthy adult relationships when you’re 47 years old) and now I want to look at what predicts longevity or living to 90.

What predicted that the men of the Harvard grant study live to 90 years old? I want to know what those predictors are! Are there things that I can do or not do that will increase my chances of living to 90 or 95 years old?

There’s no question that there are things completely out of our control that affect longevity.

Heredity and the predisposition to various illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease affect longevity. Ancestral longevity plays a role in your longevity, but not as much as you think.

Five things that we learned from the Harvard Grant Study about living a long life!

The factors that contribute to a decrease in longevity are more lifestyle related. Vaillant spotlighted five risk factors or as he lists them, Vascular Risk Factors. Here is the checklist. Check off the boxes that apply to you!

  1. Smoking.
  2. Alcohol abuse.
  3. Hypertension.
  4. Obesity.
  5. Type 2 diabetes.

“Men with no vascular risk factors,” Vaillant writes, “lived to an average age of 86. Men with three or more, live to an average age of only 68. This complex of factors subtracted 18 years from a man’s expected life.”

The Bad News

Did you check smoking?

Throughout my studies on aging, smoking is the king of bad behaviors. Thirteen Hundred people die each day in our country from cigarette related disorders. If you smoke, do everything you can to stop now. There are several strategies for stopping. Smoking will contribute to a shorter life span and also to a very difficult “Marginal Decade.” If you haven’t followed my past blogs, the Marginal Decade is your last decade and if you haven’t prepared for it, it could be a very difficult 10 year for you. Nothing ruins your life like COPD!!

Did you check Alcohol Abuse?

Although alcohol related deaths per day are significantly less,  it is still 260. I remember, many years ago, selling a car to an acquaintance that had an alcohol problem. I was such a tragedy. She died a year later from her alcohol abuse. It happens. Alcohol abuse shortens your life.

Did you check obesity?

Obesity has become a very serious health issue in our country. The U.S. obesity prevalence was 41.9% in 2017 through 2020. It’s difficult determining the number of annual deaths attributed to obesity because of other overlapping disorders like type 2 diabetes, but a conservative estimate was, 300,000. That’s about 820 deaths per day from complications related to obesity.

Did you check hypertension or Type 2 Diabetes?

Untreated hypertension and type 2 Diabetes contribute premature death that can be avoided, to some degree, by wise lifestyle choices.

Marginal Decade

In a previous blog I introduced you to the concept of marginal decade. The marginal decade is your last decade, and it has the potential and prospects of being the most difficult in your life.

You have a chance now to make decisions and make lifestyle changes that will improve your quality of life and increase your chances of living to 90. In the documentary on Pat Morita, alcohol abuse took at least 10 years away from his life. It’s interesting in the first karate kid he gets very intoxicated, which is in some ways a very tragic way of mirroring the life of Pat Morita, the real Mr. Miyagi.

To see more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

How to Escape the Rat Race | Healthy Aging Series: S8, E5

This blog will examine the work, “The Country Chronical,” by Gladys Tabor

I love sleeping in a tent, especially when it’s raining. I’ve had a few unpleasant experiences camping. Mostly I love it. I’ve slept through a blizzard in the Sierra mountains. Woke up to a foot of snow. I’ve slept through a “no see him“ infestation in Utah. I think mosquitoes are worse. And I’ve slept through a 14° night on the Knobstone trail in Indiana. I had to thaw my boots to put them on the next morning. Backpacking has always help me escape the rat race as you get older. Don’t you just crave peace and quiet?

Isn’t it nice to get away from people, and your computer, and traffic. That’s a big one for me. Getting away from your job, and people, and the news, and have I mentioned people? Backpacking is one way I get away from all that. Hiking is another. Sitting in my easy chair with a good book is yet another. I’m escaping now as I write this blog.

My male kitty, Hansel, is stretched out on the floor in front of our gas fireplace. I can hear him purring from several feet away. He looks up periodically and then jumps up on the arm of my chair and kisses my nose. I love his nose kisses! All of this calms my nervous system.

I think I learned how to escape from my mother.  A recent study that I read on aging suggests that as men age they are influenced more by their fathers and then by their mothers. Maybe. But I feel my mother’s legacy even now, as I slowly approach 70.

You might not believe what I’m about to tell you, but she introduced me to some books by an author, Gladys Tabor, when I was a teenager, and I read them, and I loved them! I asked for them before she died, and I cherish those early memories of reading them. I guess they helped me escape the rat race of adolescence, even just a little. Gladys Tabor left city life in 1935 and moved  into a vintage 1690 farmhouse she called Stillmeadow. I think my mother moved out of the city when I was 14, in part, because of Stillmeadow.

Through my four years of high school, we lived on a 20 acre farm. She named Terre Boon, which means the good land. I’m sure she thought it was going to be harder for me to get into trouble when we lived on a farm. Not impossible but harder. I reread “Country Chronicles,“ this past evening. It’s a journal of Taber’s first full year at Stillmeadow. It was written in 1974 when she was 85 years old. Country Chronicles is written in four parts, based on the four seasons, starting with winter.  I really can’t tell you what the appeal was when I was a teenager and first read these journals. They are the insights of an older woman and her life with her good friend, her children and her cocker spaniels. She writes about her meals, her neighbors, the snow, her house, the fresh smells of the country and the chores around Stillmeadow.

I randomly opened Country Chronicles to page 62 and here’s what Tabor wrote:

“On a clear day, toward the end of winter, the sky is forever. It loses the flat look of a bitter cold days, and seems to have a special promise. Even the birds fly differently, in widening circles instead of huddling. The air smells of melt instead of ice, and the buds on the lilacs are freshly varnished.”

Gladys Taber loved country life and shares tidbits of her “philosophy of life” throughout her books. Many of them were written during the Vietnam war and have an activist feel to them at times.

Here are some of the things that drove her to leave the rat race, and pursue country living:

  1. She writes a lot about the Vietnam war, and the effect that it had on relationships. I think her comments are somewhat appropriate in this very polarize time that we live in today. She writes, “The Vietnam war has been blamed for many things, and I suspect it had something to do with personal isolation, therefore, we now tend to keep conversations superficial in case that other person does not agree with our policy. We keep our cool, as we say, by talking about the weather.” I find myself in today’s rat race withdrawing and keeping my topics on small talk.
    2. Tabor worried about the loss of farmland and about progress. She wonders, “what the next hundred years will bring is not predictable. But I hope the basic personality of our town may survive with some woodlands and meadows left, some streams, still rippling with trout, some winding country roads unpaved.“ I think this is still relevant today.
    3. Clocks. Tabor hated clocks. “Within our society,” she writes, “we all watch the clock, nevertheless. They are clocks in almost every room in the house, and practically everyone wears a wrist watch. Radio and television announce the time hour after hour, to be sure, we know exactly what time it is.” Part of the rat race is being at the mercy of the moment, and at the mercy of time, and at the mercy of schedules. Maybe unplugging means leaving your wrist watch and your smart phone at your bedside for a day or two.
    4. Tabor loved her pets! She writes: “I stand firmly on my belief that both dogs and cats give richness to life, and both have been invaluable to humankind down through the ages.” Pets were a large part of her life, and I’m sure helped her have a sense of getting away from the rat race.
    5. For Taber, happiness was a choice. “I believe happiness,” she writes, “is simply reaching out for something lovely and believing in it. All of us need some magic in our lives, and all we have to do is believe in it.” Later she writes, “It may be that happiness is as simple as accepting what we are, and never envying those who seem to be endowed with other gifts.”
    I think that part of the rat race that we create for ourselves, is the competition that we create for ourselves with other people. Tabor reminds us that life is not a competition and maybe it’s as simple as appreciating the magic that is around us.
    6. Being grateful. By the time she wrote this book, she had lost her husband, but instead of feeling pity, she practiced gratitude. “I think,” she explains, “when we find so much to complain about, we should spend a little time, adding up what we have, and being grateful. I myself never open a box of tissues, without being thankful. I am not boiling up squares of linen.” I am not sure what, “boiling up squares of linen,” means, but it must not be one of her preferred activities.
    7. Tabor had a rather old fashioned idea of parenting. Maybe this is why my mother was drawn to her. She believed that mothers should stay home and take care of their children. I think in today’s world, the application of Taber’s old fashionness should be interpreted as: parents spend as much time as you can with your children. The rat race acts as a siren, pulling us away from our partners and our children. We should realize that those wonderful moments with family are in fact, a way of escaping the rat race, which soothe our sakes.

I think we can safely say that Stillmeadow rescued Gladys Tabor from the rat race. Maybe Stillmeadow can rescue you as well even though her books are difficult to find because they are out of print.

Or maybe you can escape by taking a walk or hike in the Jefferson Memorial Forest, or The  Parklands. May be reading sci-fi is a way for you to escape. Or adventure novels.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to move to the country.

To see more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.


5 Strategies for Aging, or Rather Dying, Gracefully | Healthy Aging Series: Part 20

OK really? Who wants to learn how to die gracefully?! 5 ways to die gracefully? I either lost you or hooked you with the title of this blog. And since you’re reading it, I assume I hooked to you. 

I read a good book this summer. Probably the best book I’ve read on aging. It’s a book by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas titled, “Growing Old: Notes on Aging with Something Like Grace.” I struggled with the book at first. Then, I liked it. And then, I loved it. I took time off from reading it and missed it. Reading “Growing Old” was like scrolling through Thomas’ Instagram page. The good, the bad, and the ugly of what she calls “notes” on life.

Thomas is defiant in her book. Defiant about death and about aging. The dust cover of the book has a picture of her smoking on her 88th birthday. She’s lighting her cigarette with her birthday-cake candles. She’s giving a big middle finger to growing old. I loved it. Maybe not so graceful. “Aging,“ she writes, “is not for the faint hearted.” 

The First Three Strategies for Aging Well 

Thomas may be defiant about the idea of aging, but her book also one of the most tender and intimate books on aging that I’ve read. Sure, she has three suggestions on aging well. First, stay healthy. OK, I’ve written a lot about ways of staying healthy. I’ve talked about exercise and good nutrition. Not so much about sleep, but it’s just as important. So, I’m not going to talk about it during this blog. Second, do something. I’ve written about this as well and will continue to write about in upcoming blogs. You need to have purpose and something worth doing as you age. Thomas has written 15 books, and she’s in the middle of writing a novel. She’s doing something. Third, don’t be isolated. I’ve talked a lot about this when it comes to your psychological resiliency. Staying involved and engage in the community and with others is extremely important to aging gracefully. So, there is some sage advice in her book, and its good advice about aging.

New Title for Her Book

I thought about her title, “Notes on aging with Something Like Grace,” and wondered if a better title might have been “Notes on Dying Gracefully.”

Strategy 4 For Dying Well: A Healthy Denial of Getting Old

There are two more strategies in our book. The one that stands out to me is her Healthy Denial of Getting Old.
She expresses this very healthy denial of getting old, and not in the sense that she is denying the aging process of dying but in the sense that getting old does not have a predetermined script. 

“Ninety looks like fifty,“ she writes, “when you’re forty.”

I’m guessing that most 50 and 60-year-olds do not feel 50 or 60. Age is relative. A number. I am 66 years old. Do I feel 66 years old? Really, I have a few aches and pains, but I don’t feel different than I did when I was 50 or 55 years old maybe I’m a little smarter and not in the arrogant sense. I know more about my profession than I did 10 to 20 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I can guide people into wilderness areas. I’ve learned a lot about relationships, and about life, and about the world. I hope I have.

Thomas shares a story about the time she had a discussion with her grown children about what would happen to her house when she dies. Her grandson was part of this conversation and became tearful and said, “You can’t die grandma.” “Everyone dies,” she told him. “Not you.” he said.

A heathy denial of getting old does not mean that I’m in denial that I’m going to die. It means denying that there is a prescribed way that I must die. I get to write my own script for getting older. I get to age and die on my terms, the way I want.

Strategy 5 for Dying Well: Coping with Losses

One of the more intimate sections of the book is about the loss of her dog, pearl. Thomas guides us through the deaths of her parents, and then her husband, who died from ALS, and then pearl. Losing the people in her life was like losing an emotional support system and losing companions. Losing pearl as she describes it, was like losing part of herself. Death takes its toll on those it leaves behind. Thomas describes the loss of pearl, as losing part of herself, like an arm and a leg. 

Note: Since loss is such a common experience with aging, I will do a complete series on loss and grief.

All my siblings experienced the loss of my parents differently. I think my sisters miss them the most. My mother would often comment about the loss of my father and the loss of her friends. I’m not sure how all this loss affects us, but Thomas implies that it makes us more compassionate toward others. Does, seeing the shortness of life, as you experience the loss of others, soften us towards others, looking past imperfections, wishing them well, and showing them kindness? That’s compassion. The other side of love is freedom I read years ago. That’s what the world needs, loss equals compassion. Maybe I’ll add another strategy for dying gracefully that I got from Thomas. 

This is part twenty in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.

Healthy Aging Series Which Old Woman Will You Be?: A Book Review (Really My Reflections on a Book)

Which Old Woman Will You Be? A Book Review | Healthy Aging Series: Part 16

In this week’s entry to the Healthy Aging Series, I offer my thoughts concerning Debbie Hensleigh’s book, Which Old Woman Will You Be? Do’s and Don’ts for Living Your ThirdThird on Purpose.

Which Old Woman Will You Be?: Do's and Don'ts to Live Your Best ThirdThird on Purpose by Debbie Hensleigh

Image via Goodreads

Hensleigh writes:

“Start being that old woman you want to be… on purpose. Determined to live on purpose, intentionally forecasting which old woman you will become.”

I enjoyed this book. Simple. To the point. I use the slogan, “You’ve got to prepare for the last
10 years of your life.” Hensleigh agrees. She begins her book talking about an experience at a
nursing home where she meets two of the residents. One woman is somebody that she admires
and the other woman, she finds annoying and even offensive. She asks herself, which old woman
will I become. Maybe a trip to the nursing home would benefit all of us.

I shared an experience in an earlier blog about an elderly man that I called “Kroger Man,” an
individual that demonstrates that there are people who have reached their 70s and 80s, that none
of us want to become. Hensleigh’s book provides a very simple but meaningful outline of
do’s and don’ts that you can begin implementing right now if you’re in your 40s and 50s to
ensure that  your senior years will be meaningful and happy. I’ve used the “You have to
prepare for the last 10 years of your life” slogan because people tend to be mesmerized into
thinking that they’re never going to be old and they’re never going to have trouble as they get

Hensleigh‘s book is an optimistic and positive approach to looking at preparing for your senior
years.  I liked it. I keep saying that. She has seven do’s and don’ts that I believe are a wonderful
outline for preparing for those last 10 years.

The Do’s and Don’ts

1. Quit Comparing Yourself to Others.

I think we’re living in a day and age where competition and comparison are toxic. They create a
frame of mind that can ruin your happiness and well-being. Life isn’t a competition. We should
strive to become our Authentic Selves. This means living a life that is based on your values and
beliefs, living a life that is completely distinct from what you think other people want for you, or
what others want you to be. It’s liberating!

Many writers that address the issue of aging talk about the idea of writing your own script.
Don’t allow others to write the aging script for you. Be true to yourself. Don’t allow yourself to
fall victim to the social pressures of comparing your body, or your finances, or your children to
those of others. Stop!!!!

This chapter was very helpful in looking at that life that is lived on its own terms and not on the
terms of others.

2. Being More Interesting.

I remember when I was in my early 50s. I found myself to be a rather uninteresting person and I
made a commitment to becoming more interesting and started with the area of music. My son
had downloaded many songs on our computer in the 90s. He left in the 2000s and  I started
exploring the computer and discovered thousands of wonderful songs and music that inspired me
to become a more interesting person.

I’ve begun the process of exploring life and exploring the world and exploring people. I’ve done
some studies on archetypes and one of my archetypes is an intellectual. I’ve discovered as a feed
that intellectual archetype I am more in tune with who I am and more satisfied with my life. 
Being interesting means broadening your life and your life interest to explore this wonderful and
beautiful world and culture that we live in.

3. Refuse to Be Lonely.

Early in my educational process, one of my professors disclosed that all his relationships were
intentional. I think he meant that he had relationships, not based on the idea of numbers but,
based on what he needed  and how those friendships met that need.

My mom, as she aged, developed relationships around a Hardee’s restaurant down the street
from where she lived. She would walk there every morning and spend a couple hours talking to
her friends and having coffee and a sausage biscuit. Those friends became a very important
part of her life.

I’ve developed a community of people in my life that revolve around my interest. My wife and I
share our travels, our personal development time, our TV series, and kitties. I have hiker friends.
I have intellectual friends. Of course, I have my extended family and my work family. Surround
yourself with good people.

4. Read Books

Hensleigh encourages people to be readers. I love books. Not in the same way that I love my
wife, children, and grandchildren, but I love books. Books are a way of exploring for me. My
mother introduced me to books when I was in high school, and I’ve been reading books ever
since. My office is full of books. I love buying books. I love reading books.  Books scratch me
where I itch. Hensleigh suggests that books are important for personal growth and broadening
ourselves as individuals. I agree.

5. Don’t Be Boring (Or Maybe, Don’t be Bored)

I think what she is suggesting here is that we  provide nourishment to our brain. She talks about
learning new things. She reminds us that nurturing our brain and providing nutrition for a brain
must be intentional.

6. Know Your Purpose

I’ve spent most of my adult life in the helping profession and certainly this is very important to
me.  I work with young men largely. But I also work with people within my own agency and
love watching and helping them grow and develop as clinicians and as supervisors. I would say
that helping others is a big part of my purpose in life. I believe as you age, you’re going to lose
opportunities to be involved professionally with other people. The word Elder, or Eldership
becomes more meaningful during this time. I hear a lot of older adults talk about their
grandchildren and how important that relationship is. Eldership is utilizing the experience and
the wisdom that you have and helping others benefit from your wisdom.

I believe it’s important to have a reason to get up  every morning. There’s lots of research to
suggest that having a purpose and meaning of life is very important as your age. Hensleigh has
provided several opportunities or ideas on ways to develop that purpose.

7. Don’t Get Stuck

The way to avoid getting stuck is to become more resilient. I’ve shared in the earlier blogs
about resiliency and how resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity. I believe this is
what Hensleigh is talking about. Developing resiliency is a very important part of aging and one
that we would all do well to begin focusing on as were younger.

Hensleigh‘s book is the Cliff Notes version of aging. Simple and to the point.
She hits on a high note. She shared some of her experiences with her physical fitness and
wellness and would probably do well to spend more time talking about that. But as far as her
focus on mental and psychological  resiliency, I think she’s done a wonderful job.

Who are you becoming? I want to be the type of older man that attracts, rather than repels
others. People tend to become more isolated as they age. Maybe it because it’s partly due to
the kind of person you’ve become.

This is part sixteen in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.


Rommie’s Thoughts on Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now

Where is your mind? Right now. In this moment. What is on your mind?

Imagine picking up whatever is on your mind and setting it outside the door. It will be fine sitting there. Now, look up. What do you see? What do you hear? Notice I did not ask what you feel.

I’m outside. I hear a soft rustle of leaves. A robin’s song. A buzz. The subtleties of a distant jet.  This is the Now. There are no problems in the Now. Life just is. This is the wisdom of Eckhart Tolle (ET), author of The Power of Now. Every moment of every day is what it is, as if we had chosen it that way, good or bad—and even “good” or “bad” are just concepts of the mind. The things we judge. The things we react to. The things that we empower to literally suck the life energy out of us as if the problem shouldn’t be what it is.  As if we shouldn’t accept life as it is just now. As if we shouldn’t accept, that in large portion, we have likely created whatever “problem” we are reacting to. If we accept the “problem”, what will happen?  We will become conscious. ET’s philosophy is to become aware, conscious, awake to what is. Accept what is as if you had chosen it. Then observe the transformation. The evolution of consciousness, of acceptance, of peace.

Our egos love to react.

Our egos love to argue, to fuss, complain, and demand that life be “better” as if the ebb and flow of life should be something other than what it is. 

I’m here to challenge you to give the “Now” a chance.

It takes practice to live, speak, and enjoy the Now, which is really all anyone has.  Becoming conscious of one’s self, one’s ego, one’s identification with mind is the first step towards acceptance, towards peace. ET teaches to observe your thoughts but don’t believe them. Think about when you quarreled with someone last. If you’re honest about your role in the non-peace, it likely comes from a place of fear. A fear of being wrong. A fear of “losing”. Losing what? And even if you “lose”, what does that mean about you, if anything? Can you accept the circumstances without judging them?

Which brings me to resistance. Can you accept the circumstances without resistance?

ET teaches that suffering does not come from the circumstances but our resistance to them. Again, whatever the circumstances are, this is the way it’s supposed to be. Our response, not reactivity, is to embrace whatever “is”. Whatever the circumstances are is the way the circumstances are supposed to be…or they wouldn’t be that way.  It is our reaction or response that determine whether or not we suffer.

Surrender to what is.

ET teaches that “surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to what is rather than opposing the flow of life.” When you stop resisting what is, when you surrender, the past and future cease to have power. 

But what if someone wrongs me? Does acceptance and surrender mean I allow others to mistreat me?  Does surrender mean give up? Give in? Enable disrespect?  What if I have disrespected another person?  Do I accept that, do I surrender to that? ET teaches that “resentment and pain arise from the false sense of self we’ve created for ourselves and others.”  That our grievances are reactions to the artificial egos of others. He teaches how to bring non judgment and equanimity when others overstep our boundaries. He also teaches how to forgive our past selves and what to do when the pain of memories hijack our emotions. Holding on to old wounds is one of the surest signs that we are caught in the egotistic thinking of the false self. However, ET shows us the way to let go and embrace the liberation that living in the present moment, the Now, brings us.

Make the present moment the primary focus of your life.

Rommie OshriehRommie Oshrieh is Co-Founder/Owner of Sage Support Services and True North Counseling.

She serves as Executive Director of Sage and has served as a Case Manager/Supervisor for individuals with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities for the past 15 years. 

Healthy Aging Series Part 3

How To Prepare For Aging | Healthy Aging Series: Part 3

Regardless of your age, begin preparing for aging right now. Honestly, it’s that simple. Do the things that you need to do to be healthy now. Here is what I say:

In order to prepare for the last 10 years of your life,

you’ve got to start preparing for the next 10 years of your life!

In his book, Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being,” Andrew Weil M.D., provides a 12-point Program for healthy aging. This program really looks like a list of things that we should all be doing now to get and stay healthy. If you want to be healthy when you’re 60, 70, or 80, then live a healthy lifestyle in your 30s, 40s, and 50s. Here is his program:

  1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  2. Use dietary supplements wisely to support the body’s defenses and natural healing power.
  3. Use preventative medicine intelligently: know your risk of age-related disease, get appropriate diagnostic and screen tests and immunizations, and treat problems (like elevated blood pressure and cholesterol in the early stages.
  4. Get regular physical activity throughout life. 
  5. Get adequate rest and sleep.
  6. Learn and practice methods of stress protection.
  7. Exercise you mind as well as your body.
  8. Maintain social and intellectual connections as you go throughout life.
  9. Be flexible in mind and body: learn to adapt to losses and let go of behaviors no longer appropriate of aging.
  10. Think about and try to discover for yourself the benefits of aging.
  11. Do not deny the reality of aging or put energy into trying to stop it. Use the experience of aging as a stimulus for spiritual awakening and growth.
  12. Keep an ongoing record of the lessons you learn, the wisdom you gain, and the values you hold. At critical points in your life read this over, add to it, revise it, and share it with people you care about.

For those familiar with twelve step programs, maybe this is the 12 Steps for Aging. Look over this list. Everyone would. Benefit from doing these things right now. Aging well means doing the things now to be healthy and happy now. 

Contrast Weil’s list with the following list:

  1. Don’t worry about what you eat. Don’t be concerned with the amount of sugar you’re eating. Don’t practice any willpower over the food you eat. 
  2. Don’t worry about supplements. You’re young, you’ll focus on micronutrients in 10 or 20 years.
  3. Put your head in the sand. Out of sight, out of mind. Forget about getting screenings and assessments.
  4. Don’t see your doctor anymore then you need to. Forget annual or semi-annual checkups. Forget blood work. Forget breast and prostate exams. Forget colonoscopies (I actually work with people that tell me that they haven’t seen a doctor in 5 years).
  5. Sleep shmeep!!! Who needs sleep!!!
  6. Drinking helps me deal with stress. 
  7. I’ll exercise someday. I need 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week? I’m busy. I’ll start exercising next year.
  8. Who has time to read and have family or friends over? I work. I come home and I’m exhausted. I need to get a break from people and thinking.
  9. I have a way of doing things and it’s worked for me these past years or decades. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. 
  10. I get tired of hearing people talk about growth and discovery. What’s wrong with me now? If people don’t like the way I am then they can…
  11. I hate getting older and looking older. I hate what I see when I look in the mirror. 
  12. I’m going to roll with the flow. I’ll worry about getting older when that happens. I’m probably not going to live to be old anyway. My parent didn’t get old, so I’m not going to get old. 

Okay, not everyone feels this way about getting older. Many of are working hard at staying healthy and worry about getting older. 

I want to help with those worries.

Weil’s list gives me a good outline. I want to fill in the blanks and share of my experience in aging.

Healthy Aging Series: Part Three How to Prepare for Aging








This is part three in the Healthy Aging Series, written by Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA. To see more entries in this series, click here.