Sunday, 29 May 2016

Geek Out - The Science of Behaviour Change - Part 1

As most of you are reading this, I am likely on a plane to Chicago for the annual conference for behaviour analysts. It is 3 full, full days of behaviour change (8 am -7pm)! While my interests are in autism and developmental disabilities, some of the other topics I saw in the over 500 events included, gambling, climate change, exercise, animal training . . . . It is my geek out weekend!

In honour of my geek out weekend I am going to try and explain the science of behaviour change as simply as possible. It is almost as simple as ABC!

An Antecedent occurs in the environment (some people outside the science refer to this as a trigger), this results in an immediate Behaviour (in this case we are meaning something that is observable and measurable) and it results in a Consequence.

There are 3 types of consequences.
If a behaviour is staying the same or increasing, something is reinforcing it.
If a behaviour decreases one of two things is happening: the behaviour is being put on extinction (meaning the reinforcer is being withheld) or it is being punished.

There are several things that make behaviours more or less likely to occur.
The first is motivating operations. If you are highly motivated (we call this having an establishing operation - think state of deprivation), you are more likely to engage in certain behaviours. If you are not motivated (we call this an abolishing operation - think a state of satiation) you are less likely to engage in certain behaviours.

There are also setting events. These are things that happened before the antecedent or are within a person (such as not getting enough sleep, or having a headache). They don't specifically cause a behaviour to occur, that is the antecedent, but may make some behaviours more or less likely to happen.

Ok, enough with the boring science (which I love) and on to how this works.

Let's do an example with food because we all face food related behaviours everyday!

Let's say, I come home from a rough day at work (and for me that would be a client was aggressive). I got scratched and kicked and am feeling a bit grumpy (setting event).
Also, because I was getting scratched and bit, I didn't have time for lunch, so I am really motivated (I am deprived) to engage in behaviour that would result in food. (For example, opening the fridge, or cupboard).
I come in hungry, and grumpy, (Lord help my husband), and there is a big bag of my favourite kind of chips in the cupboard.
Seeing the chips is the antecedent to picking them up and eating them.
Because for a moment the chips taste soooooo good and they decrease my hunger and maybe even my grumpiness, my chip eating behaviour is reinforced, and I am more likely to eat chips again in the future.

If this situation was a bit different, say work was fine, I had my lunch, I wasn't starving, there was a big bowl of fruit on the counter, my behaviour may change.

Further, if the chips made me really sick, my chip eating behaviour would likely be punished and I would be less likely to eat chips in the future.

Please feel free to ask me questions, this is truly my life passion!

Next week, I will share some more about the science of behaviour change!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Thankful Thursday - A Lesson In First World Problems

A colleague and I are presenting an academic poster at a conference next week. As it would have been over $300 to get a graphic designer in Canada to do it, I went to the site fiverr and found a guy in the Philippines who would do it, using the template I provided, for $80. He said it would be done in 10 days.

10 days pass, 11 days pass, 12 days pass and I was starting to freak out. I sent him a not as friendly as it could have been email. Day 14 he emails me back, apologizing for the delay, he has been without power. I felt like a completely spoiled rotten Westerner. My thoughts were negative towards this individual and I did not consider that there may be environmental things happening beyond his control. It even crossed my mind that he was just saying that as an excuse, which also made me feel terrible and while he could be, I have decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The fireplace that kept us from freezing
The first year we lived here in Paradise we went 72 hours without power in December. No power = no water when you live in the country and have a well. We moved in front of the fireplace and the 2 dogs, then 2 cats, and us, all slept on a double mattress. When the power came on the area we were in was 13 C/55F. After my bath (which was glorious and hot), the tub was black with ash from stoking the fire for 3 days. The following summer, the power was out for 95 hours. That wasn't so bad as we weren't cold, BBQing was easy and we could swim in the lake to "clean off". After that we put a generator in and we have only had to use it once and it was only for a few hours.  Given my more recent experience without power I can understand how hard it is to not have it.  However, I can't imagine what it would be like to live without consistent power, and yet millions of people do that every day. We were able to afford the $3000 "insurance" of putting in a generator to prevent us from suffering. Not everyone has that luxury.

I was reminded with this encounter from with the guy from fiverr is that everyone has things going on in their lives that we don't see. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt when we don't know why they are not "living up to our expectations" or making things "stressful" for us. Really, the couple extra days didn't make a difference in my life. I haven't rushed out and got the poster even printed (I am doing that today, let's hope it doesn't take more than 24 hours). It was a bit inconvenient to me, but nothing else. It was truly a first world problem.

I am thankful for the reminder to keep my problems in perspective.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Sugar and Spice and Something Not Nice

I realize I don't have any pictures for today, oh well, maybe next time. I was too busy being black fly food outside on the first truly beautiful weekend, which happened to be a long weekend! (I am literally covered in bites from head to feet. Short term discomfort to not expose myself to the chemicals in bug spray, worth it!)

I am now testing the big 4. Ok, I will test 3 of the big 4 now and one later in June when I am done traveling. I don't want to risk a gluten reaction while on the road!

First up sugar. Since I have been living mostly sugar free, I admit to not being in a huge hurry to test this one. We can all agree sugar is just not that good for you. However, being able to have things that have a little sugar is helpful, so I tried it. I passed sugar.

Next up was soy. I would have bet this would have been fine and I would have been wrong. After 2 days of soy milk, my gut hurt, I had hot flashes, it was rather unpleasant. Fortunately the worst of it only lasted a few hours (slightly miserable hours because I was awake at 6 with stomach pain). Soy is out but since it is in everything  I may accidentally get some small trace amounts,  and I hope I am ok with that. I will do my best to avoid it.

Today is day 67 . . . it is hard to believe that much time has passed.  I have lost 10 lbs and 2 inches.
I have lost the potato, tomato and soy challenges.
I can eat corn, peppers and sugar.
I still have to test: dairy, gluten, potatoes again, strawberries and oatmeal (I had removed it).

With my traveling (conference in Chicago next weekend, BAR two weeks after), it is going to be July before I am done.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

It Isn't About Willpower

As I have been at this elimination diet/lifestyle change for 60+ days, I have noted the same conversation has occurred multiple times with most of the people I know. It goes like this.

"I could never do it. I don't have the willpower."

While I have tried to minimizing my response to this, a few people have gotten my rant. It isn't about willpower or self-control. It is about systematic behaviour change. If I left it all to  self-control", the package of peanut M&Ms, one of my very favourite things in the entire world, wouldn't have lasted in the house for 10 seconds let alone days.

Even though I believe you can
create your own motivation, I do find
this funny! 
I admit my bias is to observable, measurable behaviour because that is what I went to school to learn about and what I do every day as a behaviour analyst, but I will try not to geek out too much. (Although if anyone is interested in a more scientific explanation on behaviour change, I am happy to share!)

First, if you start off by saying "I could never do that" or "I don't have time"  you have just given yourself permission not to. I say to myself, "this is going to be hard, it is going to suck, but it is for the short-term and then I will be feeling better and it will be worth it." Somedays I have to say this a lot.

Second, people often say to me "it is too hard."  Well, I can't say it is not hard, but there are things I do that make it easier. I plan my meals. I know what I am going to eat all week at almost every moment. I avoid some situations that place me in temptation. I have also found some special little treats that help compensate for the things I can't eat.

Third, I have created accountability outside myself by sharing this with everyone. The ladies I work with (I work in an all female environment) follow my successes and failures. I share it here. I share it with my friends and family. I also chart everything I eat etc. with my nutritionist. Besides being accountable to myself (which is usually enough), I have a community I am sharing with.

Forth, I have decided to make my health a priority. I am willing to do what it takes to make that happen.

I believe we can all do what we value and set our mind to. So don't let this idea of no willpower stop you from making the changes you want to in your life!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Thankful Thursday - Lists

As I was sitting at my desk yesterday working from home, I was aware of all the lists/little notes on my desk. While I do have one digital list on my phone, I prefer the paper list.  Current lists on my desk include: to do on work at home day (both work and personal), 2 regarding changing insurance, 3 for packing for BAR.

Lists make me happy, so today I am thankful for them! (Yes this is a little lame, but I don't care!)

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Wine and Sugar

I made the decision to test wine next. Yes, I put wine before sugar, soy, dairy and gluten. I hope this doesn't say too much about me.  I wanted to do most of the testing over a weekend, so when the next test was going to fall from a Thursday to Sunday, and my parents were going to be visiting (you may interpret this as my parents make me want to drink but as my parents both read this blog, I, as a wonderful, loving daughter would never say such a thing), this seemed like the perfect time.
I am thrilled to report that wine passed! I will happily live without tomatoes (I haven't given up on the potato yet and will re-test it later), if I get wine. 

As this post goes live, I will be day two into sugar. Sugar is a tricky one to test because it is always in things. I need to come up with things that don't have soy, dairy or gluten to test. Will report on how sugar and soy go next week. 

To recap currently: corn, peppers, wine, and some supplements are in, potatoes and tomatoes are out, and sugar, soy, dairy and gluten are left to be tested. (I also want to retest potatoes and try oatmeal, something I think may have been causing me issues that I took out on my own). 

FYI: My mother sent me this because it made her think of me

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Adventure: Cinderella Finally Finds Her Shoes

The shoe saga continued . . . . . . . . . .

I went to a store that carried Merrells before work one day to try the shoes on. They did not carry the style I wanted. I then decided to go to the Merrell website and just order the exact same shoe I have worn forever. They did not have my size in black. They had my size in a light brown, which would have looked nice for about 30 seconds. Feeling defeated, I wondered how many shoe stores I would have to visit to find this elusive shoe. It felt like I was wasting so much life energy on something that shouldn't be so hard.

For whatever reason, I checked Amazon again. They had had them, and then they didn't. I was THRILLED to find them on Amazon. It was extra thrilled that the shipping was free, and they were $20 cheaper there than at the Merrell website. I ordered them.

3 days later, they arrived. They fit perfectly!  I spent all day yesterday shopping with my mom (who is visit), with no issues.  I am slightly embarrassed to admit, I forgot what support in the shoe felt like. I will not go so long before replacing my shoes.

Cinderella is happy, she finally found her shoe!

I think it is clear which shoes have done their time!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Thankful Thursday - Time With My Niece

While I am childless by choice and have never had the desire to be a parent, I love kids (I work with them) and I especially love being an aunt.

I admit, I am not much of a baby person. To be honest, I find them a little boring. Troy is cute and all, but he doesn't do anything.  However, I love kids aged 18 months to about 5. They are so much fun! So I was happy to have the time with Maggie, while my sister was giving birth.

As I spend my days working with individuals with autism, a disorder profoundly impacts communication and social skills, it was extra fascinating to listen to Maggie's language. It is amazing and so effortless for her. The natural development of language is a miracle to me.

Maggie made my week by finally calling me my name. She called me "Hiss" once when she stayed with us over Christmas, but has refused to use my name in my presence. Apparently, when I left the room she would say it (or her approximation of it). I was thrilled when she used it at the park, repeatedly on Saturday.

I am thankful we had this time and look forward to having more time together in the future. Maybe with enough practice, she won't cry as soon as she sees me (she always has done that!).

It would have been a very long walk home if I let her
pull the wagon all the way. Fortunately after a bit I convinced her
to take a ride in it! 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Supplements

I am not sure if I completely buy into the idea of supplements, but there are a few I have put in my diet and a few I have tested, all at the recommendation of my nutritionist.

The first thing my nutritionist recommended for me was a probiotic. She suggested a 30 day course. However, the only gluten free, dairy free, soy free one was 60 days.  I will take this until they are gone.  I had originally bought one with dairy and soy, so my husband took it (as he had just been on antibiotics for salmonella). He ended up having a weird reaction and crazy pain because of it. He went back to the doctor and the doctor said he may have pulled a muscle. In the end, he stopped the probiotic and the pain went away. 

Next she suggest I take Flax oil. As I don't eat fish, this is apparently a good way to get Omega-3. I take a teaspoon a day. It tastes a bit like oil, but is doable. 

Again, because we don't eat fish (I might have learned to like it, but my cook, aka husband can't eat it, so we don't), she asked me to go on a seaweed supplement. I admit the first day, I thought it was terrible and ruined my smoothie. However, after a few days, other than the colour (it is a crazy green colour), I didn't notice it. I have actually bought a second container. I will continue this for now. 

A slightly grosser but doable supplement was oil of oregano. This I took for about a month and then will take if/when needed. It is suppose to help with the immune system and the respiratory system. You place a few drops under your tongue and away you go!

Now onto the supplements that have been this weeks tests. At this point, anything new that comes into my body has to be tested. It is sort of a pain. The following supplements are suppose to help heal my gut. The idea is to put them into my system before introducing the big 4 (sugar, soy, dairy, gluten). If there are things that may help me be able to eat these foods, I will try them! 

Test 1: Aloe Vera Juice

I didn't even know that was a thing. Let me tell you, I have never hoped to fail a test more than this one.  I can't even describe how gross it is. I let some people smell it and they were grossed out. While I passed this test, when I run out, I am not going to be continuing to drink this. It is just too bad.

Test 2: L-Glutamine

I had never heard of this, but it comes in a capsule, so it doesn't taste. If there is benefit to this, I could see continuing. As of now I haven't reacted, but I do have until Wednesday to finish the test.

Do you take any supplements? Do they help?

(Next tests - sugar and wine . . . . . so excited - not that I want to put a lot of either back in, but being able to have a little sugar would make things a little easier).

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Adventures: Ordering Shoes Online

For the past 15 years or so, I have lived in Merrell Jungle Moc. I love this shoe, it is a love affair! (I also have two other types of Merrells). I think I am on my 4th or 5th pair.

I am a little embarrassed to post this picture
as the shoes, sock and pants don't match. I will
say I was working at home and it is a miracle
that I wasn't wearing pjs!
The problem with shoes that you love and you wear every day is that eventually they wear out. My current pair, which is waiting to fall apart, has been on my foot almost everyday for 4 years. They have served me well, however, they need to be replaced.

I spent a lovely evening on I had originally planned on ordering the same shoe that I have had forever, but I got shopping and looking at all the similar styles. I like a slip on shoe, I can't be bothered to tie it up (that is how lazy I can be). I was very excited when I found 2 similar styles that were water proof. This sounded perfect for dog walking, traveling etc.

After sending pictures of them to my sister and asking my husband his opinion I finally picked a Dewbrook Moc in burgundy. I assumed as it was so similar to my jungle moc, it would fit the same.

Wednesday I was excited when the shoes arrived. As the dogs pupped around the yard, I sat on the front porch and carefully opened the box and slid them on. Unfortunately, it wasn't a Cinderella moment. I immediately felt a pinch at the base of my big toe on my right foot. I took them on and off. I walked around the house (because I knew they needed to be unworn to be returned). In the end I decided, I had not found my shoe-charmings and they needed to go back. They are too expensive to have them just sit in the back of a closet.

Now I have to decide if I risk ordering a pair of the jungle mocs (my online shoe dating), or if I find time when I am in the city to go shopping for ones I can try on (more like speed dating).

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Thankful Thursday - Birds

My knowledge of birds fits in a thimble, however, I really missed them this past winter. While I do enjoy walking in true silence with the only sound being foot steps and the jingling of dog tags, it is really nice to listen to them sing most mornings.

Today I am thankful for the birds who sing while we walk, especially on the very early mornings!

These are not local birds, I can't walk the dogs and even attempt to photograph them. These are birds from our trip to the Caymans 2 years ago.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Citrus And Peppers

I am a day late posting this because I took Monday off and I got completely confused about what day it was lol! However, it worked out well because I have now completed 2 more food challenges, and can report on both. 

First up was citrus. I am very happy to report that after 4 days of testing I had no issues! 

Next up was peppers. I admit to being very nervous about this because I had already failed 2 of the nightshades. 

I am thrilled to report that I passed peppers, or at least red ones. My research suggested that green ones tend to be harder for people, so I decided to avoid those. 

I have 2 foods back! YAY!

Next up, Aloe Vera Juice (it is to help protect my gut when I introduce the big 4 - sugar, soy, dairy and gluten). 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Adventure - The Phone Switch - The Saga That Wouldn't End

Yesterday- I wrote about my score on saving money by switching my phone and shared some of the hassles in getting to the point where we could switch.

I would like to say the final steps of switching was easy, but it was not. At least I was able to keep my sense of humour (for the most part) as:

-Part way through the first call (40 minutes in), during the switching of my husband's phone, the call dropped. The person didn't call me back so I had to call back and wait for another representative to become available.

-It appeared the SIM card in my husband's phone was not working and the second person we spoke to said we needed a new one or when the phone switched it would work. He even suggested we would have to pay for it . . . .

-The second person also said the phones were all switched.

-The second person clearly didn't really know what was going on, so after about 30 minutes, I ended the call and called back.

-When I called back, Rob (who was actually very helpful), said when I added my husband to the account, somehow they deleted me from it, so I no longer had access and he needed to talk to him.

Modem ready to go back
-At this point my phone had switched over, my husband's phone had as well, but we couldn't tell because the SIM card wasn't working, and the home phone was completely messed up.

-Over the next two or so hours, Rob walked us through figuring out the SIM card (turns out hubby's phone was not unlocked properly) and continued to do things to try and figure out what was going on with the home phone. He was smart enough to know if you had phone issues, you could hang up and call back to test the phone! He called us back 10 times to sort it out all. In the end he fixed it, and we spent the last 30 minutes with him trying to figure out what he could do for us as customers because of the hassle. It was challenging because we are brand new customers. In the end, he was able to credit our account so the first month we are paying for only one phone, a savings of $40.

-Imagine my surprise when a couple hours later the home phone didn't work. I spent another 1.5 hours on the phone with 2 representatives. The first, useless. The second tried hard. She even made me the primary account holder again.

-They believe the issue is the phone. They wanted me to go to a store today to get the modem tested. If it was the phone, they wanted me to buy a new one. They want me to spend money to make it.

In the end, I cancelled my home phone with them. The plan is once my nephew is born in the next few weeks (he could arrive any day), I will cancel the home phone with the current provider. The only reason I have it now is in case my sister needs me to go to her house in the middle of the night for my niece.

In the end to save $800 this year (if you include the credit for the hassle) I spent 8 hours of life energy. That is all I am willing to put into my phones. It really shouldn't be so darn hard!