Category Archives: Projects

More Starter Steps

I’ve been having a good time working on my health blog, Starter Steps. I started it at Tumblr, because I already had a blog there about overlapping issues, and I am mirroring the posts using WordPress, because it can be easier to use for the reader.

As I’ve talked to people about exercise and eating, I’ve heard about a lot of different struggles — getting good information, fitting better habits into their schedules, trying to do the right things without doing the wrong things. “Eat less,” “move more,” and “just do it” are fine as guiding principles, but people need more specific details to put them in practice, and what works well for one person can be a total disaster for someone else.

This is my philosophy:

  • The best way to make a positive change in habit is to make adjustments in your environment that make it easier to do the desired behavior.
  • Willpower is great but can be exhausted; it’s best reserved for unpleasant stuff.
  • Exercise and good basic nutrition are too important to make them unpleasant.

Posts on Starter Steps appear in the following categories:

  • Eating: Strategies and tips around eating patterns, information about diets, nutrition
  • Exercise: Strategies and tips around getting and staying active, what to expect in a gym, some skills information about particular exercises
  • Food: Information about foods, strategies for handling food, cooking tips
  • Fun: Comics and other fun approaches to food and exercise
  • Habits: Getting them, keeping them, information about how the brain helps (or not)
  • Mindset: Why are we doing any of this, whatever “this” is — getting beyond “inspiration” soundbites
  • Skills: Information about accounting for what you eat and about exercise burn, ideas and frameworks for incorporating new habits, how-to info

If you like Starter Steps or know someone who might, I’d love it if you shared the link!

The Strange Life of Beautiful Existence

Beautiful Existence, an Issaquah woman, is setting herself a series of extended challenges, most recently completing a year in which she obtained all her meals from Starbucks.

“I felt like it was definitely something that I could do. I had a lot of support from family and friends.”
[…]
“Starbucks puts together menu items and protein bistro boxes and you know as long as you’re active and as long as you really monitor the intake of your calories, you absolutely can lose weight and I did.”

Her challenges generally involve brands – limiting purchasing to Goodwill or testing advice in Parents magazine – although she’s also done a radical budgeting challenge.

Next up: a year of REI. Sounds like fun!

Article: Woman lives on nothing but Starbucks for an entire year

I don’t read comments at news sites, but after 20 years online I can guess how comments on this article would go. The usual gendered stuff about narcissism or selfishness, maybe some stuff about the brand orientation of her challenges, and the perpetual chorus of “too much time on her hands, I guess!” that sounds whenever someone does something that requires a lot of effort and time but isn’t sports or a traditional career.

This woman is remarkably privileged to have the support of her family for these projects, which must create substantial logistical problems. As I read this story, I felt that having that kind of freedom to make this sort of commitment to an idea is, in fact, a Beautiful Existence. I have the advantage of a very simple home life, and – like most, I’m sure – find it plenty difficult to sustain complex, lengthy projects outside the basic requirements of daily life. My coping strategy has been to try to make sure I have lots of options at different levels of effort so I can actually finish something once in a while. And I doubt I’ll ever have a local news mention to show for that, let alone one that gets picked up nationally.

I wish we had more social support overall for this kind of project. One of the things that makes humans so interesting is how idiosyncratic their passions or focuses can be. Artists of all kinds can be extreme examples of this, but we all know people with surprisingly specific – and sometimes just surprising – hobbies or collections. Collecting may be a gateway activity for some people – collect … make … present, teach, convene. An “embrace and extend” that actually adds value instead of ending in extinction.

I hope Beautiful Existence won’t be troubled by the inevitable range of reactions she’ll get. People online can get so hostile and intrusive, and she’s probably pretty easy to find. I also hope that a few people will think to themselves, “OK, not sure I could do that, but a year-long challenge sounds like it could be fun – maybe I’ll do ‘Photo A Day’ this year after all.”

And for those who don’t want to commit to a whole year, there’s always Thing-A-Day, the annual month-long “creative sprint” that is conveniently scheduled for February. In fact, I think I’ll do that one again myself.