7 Major Lessons In My Own Self Care in 2018
Before we get to the heart of what’s happening in self-care and Real World Evidence (RWE) and the JPMorgan conference at RWE Today, I want to take a few moments to discuss what I learned about my own self-care in 2018. One of the goals in self-care is to be able to pass on what works for you in case it might work for others, and I certainly hope that’s the case here.
My biggest change and lesson learned came with intermittent fasting. It works, at least it’s working for me. I’ve lost 14.5 lbs in 7 weeks since early November when I started: an average of more than 2 lbs per week. That’s more success on anything I’ve ever tried, and with a lot less pain and hunger. In general, I eat and drink calories between noon and 8 PM. Then fast for 16 hours until noon the next day. No calories during that period, but I do drink water, black coffee, and tea during fasting hours. It basically means you skip breakfast and don’t snack at night. It’s not exactly Earth-shattering, but it really seems to work. Part of the reason is that’s very binary and very simple. You eat during eating periods and don’t otherwise. Another reason I think it works so well is related to my next recommendation and lesson learned: Willpower.
One of the two books I’m highly recommending from this past year is Willpower. It sounds like self-help mumbo-jumbo, but like many of my favorite psychology books in the last decade (Thinking Fast and Slow, Connected, Predictably Irrational, etc.), it’s backed up by mounds of research. So it’s not just opinion an opinion on what works in willpower, it’s what’s tested and works. It’s also interlaced with great stories to keep it interesting. I first learned about this book in a post by a guy who became an ultra-marathoner after reading it. It really is that powerful. I’m not ready to do an ultramarathon just yet, but I do feel like I can tackle a lot. It was serendipitous that I ran across intermittent fasting and this book around the same time, independently. Still, after reading Willpower, I firmly believe that the beauty of intermittent fasting is that it fits into many of the takeaways of the Willpower book. The first lesson is this, willpower is a limited resource. Like a muscle, it has its limits, it can get exhausted. Being hungry or having low blood sugar is part of what exacerbates the problem, and makes dieting particularly difficult. The beauty of intermittent fasting is that your willpower is required for just a few hours a day, in the morning, when your willpower is more replenished than later in the day. In addition, I think morning hunger and afternoon hunger just fell fundamentally different. I’d like to see some studies as it relates to insulin levels and blood sugar. I’ll get my first HbA1C test in February and I’m really curious to see if it will have dropped significantly. Studies also show that we burn more calories in the evening at rest than in the morning, but I suspect that we don’t have big swings in blood sugar if we fast after waking, when we’ve been fasting for a long time already. I also suspect that letting your body rest for a few hours from food digestion has benefits for your GI tract, liver, and brain, but we’ll have to wait for more research on that. That brings me to number 3.
Measure more, and try to get a deeper understanding of measures about your body and mind to improve performance and health. One thing I’ve recently started measuring is my FTP or Functional Threshold Power. It’s an advanced topic for sure, traditionally for athletes in training (I am not one) but I found it really useful nonetheless. It’s a cycling training tool (where power output is relatively easy to measure) that lets you know how well you convert oxygen into power, essentially. The better shape you get in, the better your functional threshold becomes, the more power you put out per beats of your heart, and oxygen you breathe. The way you measure it is to have a power meter connected to your bike or whatever you’re working out on. It’s the “Watts” output on most machines you may have seen. Most tests are 20 minutes and essentially measures what power you can’t output at your maximum over 20 min or an hour. I won’t go into the details more than that, but it’s worth trying as you get on an exercise program. The key to self-care that I’ve noticed is that FTP tells me lot about how well my health and body are functioning. If I’ve engaged in less than healthy activities or am sick, my power output goes down measurably per heart rate, 10–20% How well I can or can’t maintain my threshold is very reflective of how well I’ve been taking care of myself. I think it would be really interesting to have more measures on this for non-athletes. What does power output tell us about overall health, and how could it be measured? I’ve been using health kit to monitor my tracking mostly as I’m mostly healthy so it works, but If you have a condition, look into apps like Health Storylines or tools like Patients like Me to track, share and learn what works for people like you.
Listen to your better angels. I’m not particularly religious, but I have found it helpful to once or twice a day talk to my “better self”, it’s me that knows the right choices for my long-term happiness. Our ego/Id drives most of our internal conversation and is extremely short term, but we don’t have to listen. There are more helpful parts of our brains to hear from. Listen to and live from your best self.
Cut down on social media. A lot of people are quitting Facebook it seems, for personal privacy reasons. If you do stay on, limit time and filter better, get daily updates. Algorithms are taking over social media, controlling more and more of what we see. Until we can find ways to staying in control of what we see, like through “channels” like Tweetdeck. Use the extra time for better organizing and writing. Think creator as much or more so than consumer and you get much better returns on your time. To do that…
Set aside writing time daily. Think of it as a workout for your brain to get to better-organized thinking. When combined with exercise and meditation or “better angel” time, I’ve felt much clearer in how I approach problems and solutions with better-organized priorities in how I spend my time.
Finally, I’m learning to be more vulnerable to conversations even if it feels uncomfortable. Speaking from the heart takes courage. The more vulnerable you make yourself, the more you speak from the heart, the more trust you will receive. If you’re vulnerable at the same time you’re honest, you’re more likely to be heard than inspire a quick reaction. Hang out with people who can let you be vulnerable, people you can trust. It’s too easy to get caught up in cycles of the blame. I’ve done that in years past, and it’s ultimately a self-defeating cycle. I wish I had been more vulnerable and spoken more from the heart years earlier.
With these lessons in self-care, I’m really looking forward to what 2019 brings. In many ways, through some of these things, I feel like I have new superpowers. Feel free to share what you learned about your self-care this year.