In my book A Journey of Creative Healing I tell how I believe that committing to a creative project every day, come rain or shine, helped heal me from multiple sclerosis.
When that intuitive message came to do something creative everyday it made total sense as I had learned the joy and satisfaction of being creative from an early age. My mother was the ultimate creative, and an eminently kind gentle soul – I was her shadow, I loved her beyond the widest ocean, higher than the sky and all of the tea in China!
My grandfather was a self-made man, he was an importer of coffee and dried fruits and conservative to the bone, which meant he did not believe in women working. Instead, Mummy learned to sew a fine seam, make all of her clothes and hats. She loved hats and wore them well, so much so they became her signature dressing, ‘choose the hat first darling and the decision on the rest of the outfit falls into line.’
When eventually my Grandfather gave permission for my parents to marry after seven years of ‘courting,’ in setting up her first home she rebelled against the heavily Victorian style of the house of her childhood and embraced the 1930’s cutting-edge-fashion of art deco. She was an avid collector of Clarice Cliff, the legendary ceramic artist’s pottery. In the Blitz, we lost our home and everything in it. Later when we lived with our grandfather, his house was hit by a V1 doodle bug and again all we had were clothes we stood in.
‘Make Do & Mend’ was a government catchphrase during that time and my mother was very good at. She found a semi-detached house to rent and once again created a stylish home. There were no quarterly household item collections, there were no flea markets and furniture was scarcer than hen’s teeth with everything rationed. But she begged borrowed and made make-do-&-mend into an art form. Today’s home-stylists would have adored her as she was the Queen of renovation. She bought the old, tired and worn back to life; recovering threadbare chairs and settees, French polishing scratched and dull furniture to a glowing patina and painting the house inside and out.
She especially loved the spill of lighting from table lamps, overhead lighting was never used, and graced all of her many lamps with her hand-made pleated chiffon lampshades. She was equally at home in the garden and our small colourful blooming patches, both front and back, were the envy of neighbours.
She was a good cook, and when her father died and left her a small inheritance she set up a small café. Immediately her morning and afternoon tea concept was a winner, people loved her sense of style, pink bone china for tea and for coffee, the first of its kind shatter free glass cups and saucers. Soon the market demanded luncheons and she started her day before sparrow twitter preparing, baking and cooking and achieving a regular sixty covers a day for lunch and a steady morning and afternoon trade.
She smoked, a pack of cigarettes a day, but elegantly like a glamorous heroine out of a forties film and died too young. She was a casualty of the English class system, she identified herself as ‘upper middle class’ and fought to hang onto to this label throughout her life. Sadly if she had been asked to define herself her first priority would be ‘I am middle class, but upper middle class,’ instead of saying what a magnificent all-round nurturing Goddess that she was.
I was a mother of two small children when my husband was tragically killed in a light plane crash. I rejected treatment when doctors told me I would be wheelchair bound within months. Instead I acted upon a powerful intuitive message that prompted me to do something creative every day. It did not matter what, simply my daily focus should be on planning and creating something I had never done before. It did not matter what—I simply needed to focus on the planning and joy of creativity.
Within twelve months I could once again walk without aids.I have now been in full remission from MS for more than 50 years.
In A Journey of Creative Healing I share my remarkable story and reveal how listening to your intuitive voice, exploring creativity in all its guises, can deliver recovery from disease and trauma. I believe the six steps I took in my recovery will inspire and help others to find their own path to health.Recent scientific research supports my six-step program, which I undertook to help heal from overwhelming grief and profound illness more than 50 years ago.
If you read it and found it valuable, can I ask you please to review it. Reviews are the most effective way getting this book into the hands of people who may find the steps in this book beneficial.
Serendipity — I have always had a love/hate thing with dieting and was gearing myself up to go on yet another diet to rid the extra kilo or two, when I found this article from the New York Times (2016) written by Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist and the author of “Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession With Weight Loss.” – “Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet -The problem isn’t willpower. It’s neuroscience.You can’t — and shouldn’t — fight back.”
‘SIX years after dropping an average of 129 pounds on the American TV program “The Biggest Loser,” a new study reports, the participants were burning about 500 fewer calories a day than other people their age and size. This helps explain why they had regained 70 percent of their lost weight since the show’s finale. The diet industry reacted defensively, arguing that the participants had lost weight too fast or ate the wrong kinds of food — that diets do work, if you pick the right one.
But this study is just the latest example of research showing that in the long run dieting is rarely effective, doesn’t reliably improve health and does more harm than good. There is a better way to eat.
The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.
The brain’s weight-regulation system considers your set point to be the correct weight for you, whether or not your doctor agrees. If someone starts at 120 pounds and drops to 80, her brain rightfully declares a starvation state of emergency, using every method available to get that weight back up to normal. The same thing happens to someone who starts at 300 pounds and diets down to 200, as the “Biggest Loser” participants discovered.
This coordinated brain response is a major reason that dieters find weight loss so hard to achieve and maintain. For example, men with severe obesity have only one chance in 1,290 of reaching the normal weight range within a year; severely obese women have one chance in 677. A vast majority of those who beat the odds are likely to end up gaining the weight back over the next five years. In private, even the diet industry agrees that weight loss is rarely sustained. A report for members of the industry stated: “In 2002, 231 million Europeans attempted some form of diet. Of these only 1 percent will achieve permanent weight loss.”
The specific “Biggest Loser” diet plan is probably not to blame. A previous study, found similar metabolic suppression in people who had lost weight and kept it off for up to six years. Whether weight is lost slowly or quickly has no effect on later regain. Likewise — despite endless debate about the relative value of different approaches — in head-to-head comparisons, diet plans that provide the same calories through different types of food lead to similar weight loss and regain.
As a neuroscientist, I’ve read hundreds of studies on the brain’s ability to fight weight loss. I also know about it from experience. For three decades, starting at age 13, I lost and regained the same 10 or 15 pounds almost every year. On my most serious diet, in my late 20s, I got down to 125 pounds, 30 pounds below my normal weight. I wanted (unwisely) to lose more, but I got stuck. After several months of eating fewer than 800 calories a day and spending an hour at the gym every morning, I hadn’t lost another ounce. When I gave up on losing and switched my goal to maintaining that weight, I started gaining instead.
I was lucky to end up back at my starting weight instead of above it. After about five years, 41 percent of dieters gain back more weight than they lost. Long-term studies show dieters are more likely than non-dieters to become obese over the next one to 15 years. That’s true in men and women, across ethnic groups, from childhood through middle age. The effect is strongest in those who started in the normal weight range, a group that includes almost half of the female dieters in the United States.
Some experts argue that instead of dieting leading to long-term weight gain, the relationship goes in the other direction: People who are genetically prone to gain weight are more likely to diet. To test this idea, researchers followed over 4,000 twins aged 16 to 25. Dieters were more likely to gain weight than their non-dieting identical twins, suggesting that dieting does indeed increase weight gain even after accounting for genetic background. The difference in weight gain was even larger between fraternal twins, so dieters may also have a higher genetic tendency to gain. The study found that a single diet increased the odds of becoming overweight by a factor of two in men and three in women. Women who had gone on two or more diets during the study were five times as likely to become overweight.
The causal relationship between diets and weight gain can also be tested by studying people with an external motivation to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers who diet to qualify for their weight classes presumably have no particular genetic predisposition toward obesity.
Yet a 2006 study, found that elite athletes who competed for Finland in such weight-conscious sports were three times more likely to be obese by age 60 than their peers who competed in other sports.
To test this idea rigorously, researchers could randomly assign people to worry about their weight, but that is hard to do. One program took the opposite approach, though, helping teenage girls who were unhappy with their bodies to become less concerned about their weight. In a randomized trial, the eBody Project, an online program to fight eating disorders by reducing girls’ desire to be thin, led to less dieting and also prevented future weight gain. Girls who participated in the program saw their weight remain stable over the next two years, while their peers without the intervention gained a few pounds.
WHY would dieting lead to weight gain? First, dieting is stressful. Calorie restriction produces stress hormones, which act on fat cells to increase the amount of abdominal fat. Such fat is associated with medical problems like diabetes and heart disease, regardless of overall weight.
Second, weight anxiety and dieting predict later binge eating, as well as weight gain. Girls who labeled themselves as dieters in early adolescence were three times more likely to become overweight over the next four years. Another study found that adolescent girls who dieted frequently were 12 times more likely than non-dieters to binge two years later.
My repeated dieting eventually caught up with me, as this research would predict. When I was in graduate school and under a lot of stress, I started binge eating. I would finish a carton of ice cream or a box of saltines with butter, usually at 3 a.m. The urge to keep eating was intense, even after I had made myself sick.
Fortunately, when the stress eased, I was able to stop. At the time, I felt terrible about being out of control, but now I know that binge eating is a common mammalian response to starvation.
Much of what we understand about weight regulation comes from studies of rodents, whose eating habits resemble ours. Mice and rats enjoy the same wide range of foods that we do. When tasty food is plentiful, individual rodents gain different amounts of weight, and the genes that influence weight in people have similar effects in mice. Under stress, rodents eat more sweet and fatty foods. Like us, both laboratory and wild rodents have become fatter over the past few decades.
In the laboratory, rodents learn to binge when deprivation alternates with tasty food — a situation familiar to many dieters. Rats develop binge eating after several weeks consisting of five days of food restriction followed by two days of free access to Oreos.
Four days later, a brief stressor leads them to eat almost twice as many Oreos as animals that received the stressor but did not have their diets restricted. A small taste of Oreos can induce deprived animals to binge on regular chow, if nothing else is available. Repeated food deprivation changes dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain that govern how animals respond to rewards, which increases their motivation to seek out and eat food. This may explain why the animals binge, especially as these brain changes can last long after the diet is over.
In people, dieting also reduces the influence of the brain’s weight-regulation system by teaching us to rely on rules rather than hunger to control eating. People who eat this way become more vulnerable to external cues telling them what to eat. In the modern environment, many of those cues were invented by marketers to make us eat more, like advertising, supersizing and the all-you-can-eat buffet. Studies show that long-term dieters are more likely to eat for emotional reasons or simply because food is available.
When dieters who have long ignored their hunger finally exhaust their willpower, they tend to overeat for all these reasons, leading to weight gain.
Even people who understand the difficulty of long-term weight loss often turn to dieting because they are worried about health problems associated with obesity like heart disease and diabetes. But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 study showed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.
In addition, the evidence that dieting improves people’s health is surprisingly poor. Part of the problem is that no one knows how to get more than a small fraction of people to sustain weight loss for years. The few studies that overcame that hurdle are not encouraging. In a 2013 study of obese and overweight people with diabetes, on average the dieters maintained a 6 percent weight loss for over nine years, but the dieters had a similar number of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease during that time as the control group. Earlier this year, researchers found that intentional weight loss had no effect on mortality in overweight diabetics followed for 19 years.
Diets often do improve cholesterol, blood sugar and other health markers in the short term, but these gains may result from changes in behavior like exercising and eating more vegetables. Obese people who exercise, eat enough vegetables and don’t smoke are no more likely to die young than normal-weight people with the same habits. A 2013 meta-analysis (which combines the results of multiple studies) found that health improvements in dieters have no relationship to the amount of weight they lose.
If dieting doesn’t work, what should we do instead? I recommend mindful eating — paying attention to signals of hunger and fullness, without judgment, to relearn how to eat only as much as the brain’s weight-regulation system commands.
Relative to chronic dieters, people who eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full are less likely to become overweight, maintain more stable weights over time and spend less time thinking about food. Mindful eating also helps people with eating disorders like binge eating learn to eat normally. Depending on the individual’s set point, mindful eating may reduce weight or it may not. Either way, it’s a powerful tool to maintain weight stability, without deprivation.
I finally gave up dieting six years ago, and I’m much happier. I redirected the energy I used to spend on dieting to establishing daily habits of exercise and meditation. I also enjoy food more while worrying about it less, now that it no longer comes with a side order of shame.’
Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist, the author of “Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession With Weight Loss.”
It is by logic we prove, but intuition that we discover.’
Leonardo Da Vinci
Umm – New Beginnings. I see your reasoning it being New Year’s day.
‘Yes but what else is obvious about New Beginnings Mary? You know when I softly speak you should always look for the obvious in my message.
Well, New Beginnings obviously means something is ending. Right?
Well, to end, to leave, to finish and turn your back on the old can often be a painful uncomfortable process.
‘Do you think change needs to be painful Mary?’
I think if you want to make serious life changes it needs the impetus of the stone in the shoe. Without it one would continue on in the same old way. Pain is the crucible that facilitates change.
‘Like the phoenix rising from the ashes?
Yes, that is it. The painful work of letting go of the past is always rewarded by unparalleled, uncharted and beyond our wildest imagination New Beginnings.
For the past thirty years I have trained food professionals and media celebrities to find their voice, worked with keynote speakers to hone their presentations, adjudicated school debates, organised food and wine conferences with speaking and entertainment programs that left the audience wanting more and produced live cooking shows using the talent of Australia’s leading chefs and celebrities. As the author of Finding Your Voice – 10 Steps to Successful Public Speaking and an award winning speaker I can say, without false modesty – I know what it takes for a speaker to light up the auditorium.
Is it enough to articulate well, present your facts logically and perform capably? With preparation and practice any speaker will become a competent speaker. An audience will appreciate these speakers’ efforts but will this adequate proficiency stay with them?
Don’t you want the audience to leave the building with your name on their lips and your message in their hearts?
This magic ingredient that lifts you from the mundane is your style, your brand, your charisma.
First lets look at how charisma (from the Greek meaning gift) is defined by others who have a vested interest in understanding this characteristic. Research from psychologists, talent scouts and even a high-powered charisma coach showed that there is no chutzpah fairy Godmother at our birth randomly waving her DNA wand – ‘here Norma Jean and Oprah a bucket-gene-full of compelling-appeal for you gals but none for you lot.’ They agreed that charisma can be a learned behaviour.
Common characteristics they identified were:
- Emotional expressiveness – in other words allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
- Empathy with others – socially sensitive
- Exuding joy and warmth
- Being present in the moment, being in the flow
- Stand firmly in your power
- Mirroring others body language
- Accepting your introversion or inadequacies
- Voice – a measured tempo and lowering your intonation at the end of the sentence.
So the promise is – if you practice standing chest out, shoulders back, arms wide you are seen as powerful. If you practice being in the moment, being socially aware and caring you will be flagging your empathy. If you accept your inadequacies and use visualisation techniques to boost your moral you will overcome and be centred and strong. If you risk telling others a secret or a weakness you will have emotionally connected with another. If you mirror others body movements then they will like and trust you. And if you train yourself to lower your voice, present in a measured way and put warmth in your voice from a smile on your dial you will have achieved the holy grail of panache gravitas – yes, yes, yes – charisma.
To me the most important things in this worthy research is that when you have the courage to accept your shadow and light and be vulnerable where all barriers are down, firm in your stance of bugger what the world is deciding about you – you are authentic. You have no need to fudge emotional and social expressiveness and sensitivity that becomes a taken. You will be in the present. You will naturally stand in your power and your voice takes on its own dimension of authority.
Consider comedian Billy Connolly who exudes high-octane charisma as he invites us into his fragile world. Even though his language would normally offend we don’t mind in fact see it as part of his charm as we rock and lock into his brand of humour. This man is no oil painting there is no glossy image, he looks as though he could do with a good hair and beard trim but we don’t care he gives us unfettered admission into his spirit. His transparent spirit of mischief and joy, making light of his foibles and life wounds connects us at a deep level of consciousness.
Is it worth the risk of being true to yourself? You betcha. Just ask any speaker who has crossed the divide between platform and audience. ‘It is like holding the audience in the palm of your hand,’ said one speaker glorying in the joy of connection.
*Want to know more? Read my previous post ‘The Path to Your Real Self’
* For Millennials – substitute Russell Brand for Billy Connolly!
I am good at denial. I have a clear compassionate understanding of others but when it comes to me denial is a comfortable hiding place. But the nice thing about aging is that being vulnerable is no longer fearsome. Owning up to who you are is intensely freeing.
For years my lack of mathematical ability, confused, confounded and shamed me. At last I understand why. It seems I am Dyscalculic.
Dyscalculia as defined by the Department of Education: ‘a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.’ (Literacy- Dyslexia)
For all of my adult life I have fudged my way through the simplest of arithmetic. I don’t connect with numerals logically or intuitively. I am all at sea when people start talking numbers. Whether the talk is tens or hundreds of thousands or discussion of temperature conversions from Celsius to Fahrenheit, or feet and inches to metres the value and worth of the numbers means nothing to me. I am powerless to contribute intellectually, as numbers are not like words where at will I can use, exploit and comprehend.
Like all people who have a form of illiteracy you learn to compensate and hide your lack of ability. I got by through the years, working and running a successful business, I protected my inadequacy with delaying strategies in any financial negotiations. ‘Let me get back to you,’ rolled off my tongue sweetly and swiftly if anything nearing finance was introduced in a meeting. If I had to speak of figures or percentages they were frozen into my mind with repetition and I desperately hoped no one would question them. Often I was caught out in my written work with constant peccadillos of reversing numbers but I bluffed them off as typos and blamed my high school geography mistress saying that she started my ‘bad’ habit by demanding map references be reversed.
Over the years I have hidden my shame of being ignorant. Only softening my self-bludgeoning with the rational that WW2 had severely disrupted my early education; after all I can do simple mathematics and others would never know the depth of my inadequacy. Guilt was another companion – I believed it was my fault, if I applied myself more at school I would probably be more capable.
Yes I can add up – very diligently and subtract ever more carefully and slowly. I know my multiplication tables, drummed into me as a child but I know them by rote and have no flexibility of giving an answer to what are 7 x 9 without reciting the whole of the table and if you were to follow with a 9 x 7 question I would still silently go through the 9 times table to make sure it was the same answer. Addition or subtraction always required sitting down with a paper and pen with infantile double upon double checks to make sure I had got it right. Division, percentages and other calculations are about as understandable as a black hole to me.
I have relatively mastered reading numbers in the thousands, providing that tens and hundreds of thousands have the prescribed comma denoting their worth but without that I am in a foreign land. If I have to talk numbers in a presentation I write them out fully (i.e. four hundred thousand) so when I’m under stress the numbers are not simply gobbly-goop jumping around on the page waiting for me to rope them in hoping they are in the right order. Over the last years with rising prices of property and lottery wins imagine my escalation of anxiety that speaking about millions and billions that are now commonplace. I simply will not document millions, I have absolutely no idea how many zeros are needed and if you were to tell me today, by tomorrow it would have no meaning.
Dyscalculia also affects me spatially. I could write books on getting lost by interpreting Street Directory maps and forget entirely me making sense of architectural or any other kind of plans they are like The Enigma Code.
No more pretense – I have faced my demons and taken ownership of my incapacity. I am no longer burdened with trying to be more than I am. I feel good, in fact very good indeed.
The flip side of this disclosure is that people that suffer dyslexia or dyscalculia are often found to be highly intelligent people. There is always a silver lining don’t you think?