“The Anxiety to Do Well”

I was recently intrigued by the title of a book by Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day. I’ve spent an hour or so each morning for the past week or so, reading it. For two years I’ve been loving focusing on waist-training coaching, and being semi-retired, now able to spend a day or two of every week, as I choose, to do random tasks or non-tasks such as reading, gardening, photographing/documenting corsets I’m ready to pass on and sell, portraiture, or practicing watercolors (see the unfinished kitty I’m working on after attending my first watercolor class last Saturday). Today I read the title of today’s blog in her book. “The anxiety to do well” struck me as relevant to my entire life — until a back spasm laid me low over two  years ago, and stopped me in my tracks. If one can no longer “do well” and must lie down for a while, what comes next? I surely wasn’t wearing corsets. But I did start all of those marvelous new projects mentioned above, things I always considered to be sort of, well, wasting time.

My blog before this one talked about our national obsessions with striving and suffering, which I’ve concluded does no one much good, even if it results in better accumulation of things and titles during one’s mid-life. Since I’m into the phase of home remodeling and down-sizing, I certainly suffered a lot, judged by all the things I realize I now own and of which I now want to rid myself.

Once I was proud of owning over 70 corsets, most of them custom fit to my body –things of beauty and function of which I was, and can still be, proud. Some I treasure as true works of antique craftspersonship, art-for-wear as I like to call corsets, but that does not credit them with the inherent and potential psychological, physical and spiritual elements of well-being that some of us corset enthusiasts experience when we wear them, or corset waist train and experience the added demands of ultimate restriction or physical endurance.

Reading Hampl’s book, I finally realized that one reason I don’t like reading fiction, is that it always seemed irrelevant to me, self-indulgent, not “striving” and “not accomplishing anything useful.” Bingo! The concept of being useful, doing the right thing, being good, being diligent–all the things my Calvinist upbringing and my mom and dad taught me to be.  Today I only read non-fiction. And now, Hample’s book. I guess I’m lightening up.

I chuckle remembering my dad–at the time me in high school in the late 50s with the existential threat of Communism taking over the world and Communists blowing everyone to smitherines with their bomb–concluding that my theater teacher had fallen victim to politics and was putting egalitarian, Communistic ideas into her student’s heads while she coached us in acting. Where dad picked up that belief–a rumor is most that I can make of it–remains a mystery to this day, but regarding a Communism threat, he and many others were fervent believers. I refused to withdraw from acting class or holding the lead of Julie in “Carousel,”  our senior play. Besides, my first teenage crush and One True Love at the time, won the role of the carnival barker, so how could I give it (him) up? So dad told me one night at dinner, in total exasperation with my independent nature, that “if you are going to be a Communist, then be the very best one you can be!”

Quaint. It was his dad-ly message to an errant daughter, reflecting his core values of striving (and suffering) when I would not cow-tow to his political beliefs. We would go on to see the eventual fall of the Russian empire and its real or imagined world power. I often wondered what dad thought when his absolute conviction of possible destruction by the Communist evil simply disappeared some decades later and he was left with—what? Striving? Suffering?

One of the reasons I adore corsets has to do with nostalgia. Hample, in writing about Lady Eleanor and Sarah, says that “the pacific slowness of ages past” is a nostalgic notion. (Those two were Irish ladies of great fame in Victorian times who retired to Wales to live out their long lives in quasi-seclusion yet with some notoriety for their suspected amorous relationship.) Besides the point and who cares anyway? There are a hundred reasons to enjoy corsets and another hundred ways to benefit from wearing them. One of them is appreciating history and nostalgia, and also appreciating the best of past lifestyles and the re-birth during the past five years or so of true craftspersonship in custom corset crafting.

The curious concept of forest bathing from Japan, and earthing (walking bare foot on soil) as nouveau ways of enhancing well-being and reliving modern stress, somehow go along with corsets. Two new health strategies I must investigate more, as I’ve turned away from corsets as restrictive garments, more toward them as emancipative instruments of boundless creativity.

As Hampl says, perhaps the best way to attain balance in one’s life today is to withdraw, just stop. Re-train the brain, re-wire the brain are concepts I’ve heard in my Alexander Technique classes, and also today on CBS news where Professor Laurie Santos discussed her most popular class ever at Yale, on how to be happy. Turns out we all know the answer and it has mainly to do with our brain, and how we conceive of a thing. I’ve often said that the biggest challenge in corset waist training, and key to reaching our goals in figure shaping, is how we think about it, not the actual discipline of it.

But I found it curious that her message was contradicted by one question in a “happiness inventory” she gives her students, one that I just took.  Question 20 asked if I spend most of my day doing “things that are important”?

Who knows? What is “important” today is not the same as what was important yesterday. As I mature (I hope), nothing much of what I do seems “important” in the sense of being earth-shaking, trend-setting, or money-making. And anyway, what’s the value of being earth-shaking, trend-setting, or money-making?

For sure I no longer want to strive or suffer if I can help it. I do however, want to learn and adventure, sometimes even experience the discomfort of having to grow and change. Often I want to just sit outside and listen to the birds and soak in the warm sunshine. I guess that’s part of “The Art of the Wasted Day.”

If I’m wearing my corset at the time, I guess I would call it: “The Art of the Waisted Day”!



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Not doing, and the national obsession with ambition, not to mention trashing

Recently I’ve thought a lot and blogged a wee bit about “un-doing.” I first came upon the concept when reading a book by a diet/nutrition and heart health guru, who said we grow up with so many bad messages about food and eating, that the process of becoming more healthy is a process of “un-doing.” I got it!

Learning to un-do for me today, comes out of my year-long lessons in the Alexander Technique. Today I was completing my book, The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford (2015 publication). I also “got it” about why un-doing is so tricky and difficult to learn.

He was talking about the coming robotization of most if not all, jobs. One way to address this difficult direction our society is taking, is a guaranteed income. Of course, some would drop out of the labor force completely and live on this government dole. In response, Ford says that “in other words, they will generally be among the least ambitious and industrious members of the population” (at page 269.)

Eureka! Anyone who does not do a “typical” or “normal” job to earn money, or chooses “not to work” for a while or permanently (like when a mom or pop decides not to be breadwinner and stay home to raise the children–certainly a job!), is considered to be “unambitious” and “not industrious.” That’s especially true of they want to sit and paint, or go bird watching or fishing, just travel, or  sit and meditate.

We are a society programed to strive, struggle, suffer—and work in government offices or with corporate bosses, or perhaps for the lucky or unlucky few, work for Silicon Valley-like tech start-ups and established IT firms. If we don’t elect to follow that typical career pattern, then we will be looked down upon in society, as unambitious.

How can we, then, ever stop a moment to learn to “un-do” bad physical, emotional, job or family habits that no longer serve our needs or changing priorities in life? How can just sitting and smelling the roses, or contemplating our navel (meditation) be tolerated, before there arises an unsettling, deep-seated anxiety that we are not being useful and productive like mom or dad taught us to be?

When I walked out of a 16-year litigation career to open ROMANTASY boutique, a sexy lingerie/toy shop for “romantic singles and loving couples” in 1990, most thought me to be strange at best, self-destructive at worst.  Maybe I was both. Hardly anyone could understand why I would give up a staid career, feeding at the public trough as I used to call it (having worked my entire legal professional life for the State of California and never in private practice). I was so worried about doing it that I never told my mom until months later, and then of course, never shared with her the intimate details of precisely what kind of lingerie shop I had opened!

I was definitely un-doing a whole helluva lot of programming, but also un-doing an enormous amount of job stress in a very toxic environment. Toxic to me and my spirit, if not to countless others who can tolerate or thrive working in a very difficult, angry profession, and working within the penultimate bureaucracy of government.

Today I continue to practice not doing every day. I ask myself the question my AT teacher Elyse asks me:  “How can I do less?” That’s a curious concept related to un-doing. First, you have to not do something you always do, in order for the question to arise. Second, you have to scan your body, mind and heart to identify what is not needed at the moment, and only then can you let it go.

I often say that Alexander Technique is like biofeedback for the body and soul. It is that and much more. It gives one techniques and a chance to stop, reflect, and then choose something potentially much more beneficial.

Our American value system rewards production, as Ford says, but it also rewards striving and struggle. “Work hard” said my mom and dad (implying that rewards will come)–but maybe not the rewards they were thinking of.

I wonder if we didn’t follow that advice, would there be fewer burn-outs and flare-outs? Would there be less conflict and hostility we see on the streets and certainly, in social media discussions these days. I was surprised/not surprised to learn on the news today that Congresswoman Maxine Waters of SoCal received many death threats after she recently urged folks to suit up and show up to protest/speak out about abhorrent behaviors by our so-called president and his elite Wall Street gang, even to any public servant found in public places or at home. She’s urging us to exercise our legal, First Amendment rights, and she gets death threats for doing the same?

Let’s stop for a moment and go back to basics. There is nothing in the First Amendment or any other document for that matter, that I know of that requires peaceful protest to be conducted outside of government buildings. There simply is no “right” time or place for protest, so long as it is a peaceful expression that does not interfere substantially or moderately with public or private passage or places by anyone. I don’t know about you, but it’s one of the basic reasons I live in America.

Let’s not do for a moment and let passions subside. Let’s wait a moment  longer before we rush off, so that our better selves can come to the forefront and guide our behavior. For my part, I’m going to set typing aside to get ready to go find The Most Awesome Cat in our local shelter today, where I volunteer to socialize kitties once a week. It’s my day of therapy and happiness. Most likely I’ll create nothing new in the world be it corset-related or not. No addition to the gross national product. No struggling. But I know I’ll bring a bit of cheer and/or comfort to a number of lonely cats and kittens who are also not doing anything while they wait for a fur-ever home. (Check out your local animal care and control, or SPCA, if you are in the mood to help out a furry friend! The unique little “old man” grey “Gus Gus” is still available at our San Francisco ACC!)


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Why, What, and How “Not to Do” in Corset Waist Training and Life

The novel concept of “not doing” was first called to my attention about a year ago soon after I started weekly classes in the Alexander Technique (“AT”) from Elyse Shafarman of The Body Project (San Francisco).

I’ve blogged about the basics of AT before, but some general information is included below, if the reader is interested.

One particular concept of AT, “not doing,” is relevant to corset waist training, as well as to a number of other things in my life.

A key point I make in my waist-training book, is that comfort while learning to bear up long hours wearing a corset, and while lacing tighter over time, requires giving up. I advise students to not resist the stays, to not try to suck in your tummy and make the lacing down easier, and to not hold your breath.

In other words, just give in and give up to the stays and let them hold and mold you. It might also require some to quit obsessing about results and just focus on the process and journey of putting on your corset, wearing it, and waist training, all the way through three months.

It all adds up to learning to “not do.” F. M. Alexander, an actor in Victorian times, used a different, awkward-sounding word for the concept: he called it “inhibition.” Yet “not doing” is the most difficult of AT concepts to apply. It’s also the most elegant and powerful AT concept of all.

We live in stress-filled times with constant striving and activity. Recently, instant gratification and convenience are the dual sources of many folks’ perceived happiness, and what they most value. I believe these times and these values, result in the fact that many of my waist-training coaching students reach a point mid-training, when they want to abandon the process to which they have committed for three months. If after pursuing goals and striving, they don’t see a downward trend in their weight or in their waist measurement, and fairly quickly, they get discouraged and want to quit. Some do, but most can be coaxed not to give up. Those students tend to reach their goals or come very close. It’s a natural response to want to quit, and a challenge to me, as a coach, to help them overcome.

Some respond to the ideas of AT with apprehension and even derision. There are commentators after the actor, William Hurt’s video session in AT (see below), who call AT “cult-like,” or who deride and dismiss the technique.  Strange to me, since the teacher talks a lot about simple postural changes to take pressure off our spines, necks and backs. Sounds good to me! But these commentators don’t hear well, or don’t listen to enough of the introduction, and thus, jump to premature, uneducated and therefore, erroneous, conclusions.

It’s taken me nearly a year to not only hear and read about the concepts, but actually to give them a chance to succeed and help me. I’ve had to give Elyse a chance to elucidate the main principles one by one and then repeat them, a chance for me to see them expressed in her body and movements, and a chance for me to repeat them day after day, with evident success.

I’ve concluded that in order to get an accurate and full picture of AT, one must experience the principles in class (at least four to eight classes are recommended by AT teachers and by me) and after, not just read or hear about them.

What doesn’t seem at all “cult like” and might be more palatable to some than to “not do,” is the approach of writer Patricia Hample. Hample published an essay “Scrap Your To-Do List” in a recent Sunday NYT review section (date not noted but likely one Sunday in April, 2018). She’s also the author of “The Art of the Wasted Day”. What she posits regarding happiness is the same or similar to “not doing” in the AT.

According to Hample, we’ve negated the “lost music of wondering, the sheer value of looking out the window, letting the world float along…liberated into the blessed loss of ambition…The essential American word isn’t happiness. It’s pursuit.” Maybe after all, she says, we don’t need a “to do” list? Maybe we don’t need to “do” yoga, or run to our Pilates class? Maybe we should just sit down in our garden for 15 minutes and look at the sky?

As I’ve begun to simplify my life over the past two years, and limit my daily or weekly activities to things I truly value, reducing my corset work to coaching and writing books, then referring orders directly to senior corsetiere, Sheri Jurnecka, plus spending more of my days in my garden, or recently volunteering at the Animal Care and Control to socialize abandoned kitties, I’ve gradually become almost pain free. At the same time I’ve become more tranquil and content. Some days I just like to sit around in my bathrobe for much of the day, reading a new book or writing a new blog. In the past I would have called that “wasting time.” At first I even felt a bit of guilt! Today I call it “happiness.”

Does that make sense? If so, then by now the AT might be sounding intriguing to you. If you can get to that point, the challenge then becomes: just how do we learn to “not do” something?

Hemple has it right. Moving from pursuing, to just wondering — withholding action or judgment just a bit longer than we used to, not jumping to conclusions (usually negative ones) about why someone didn’t return your text immediately, or dropped out of contact, or didn’t “like” or even respond to your new post, take focus and effort. Tolerating the anxiety of non-response or not knowing the “proper” answer or getting immediate resolution, has been a bug-a-boo my entire life. It feels like abandonment, and likely has something to do with the excessively strict ways my mom treated and disciplined me, and how my dad was absent from the most important events of my childhood and adolescence.

As I’ve practiced having more “not doing” in my life, I’ve benefited greatly in my professional and my personal life. Yes, it will take continued effort for me to learn how to not do–and I look forward to the effort!


(Raven, my long-time web mistress and friend, ran across AT and emailed a link to the actor, William Hurt, in an AT class with a respected AT teacher, Jane Kosminsky. This was during a time I was recovering from a crippling back spasm with neck involvement (yet another one in my life, and the seventh incidence of it). I was particularly open to finding and exploring every single possible source of relief from pain, so I watched the video–and it was one step that immediately reduced my level of pain, and over the long run, positively affected my life. AT is not like any other therapy I’ve studied or tried, but is distinctly different, and for me, powerful in a positive way.

If you have any interest in knowing what a real-life AT session might be like and in seeing if there might be some benefits for you, check out the video. But first, I highly recommend you suspend judgment, keep an open mind, and watch the video all the way through, because there could be something of benefit to you regarding corset waist training, pain, and your life in general.)

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Why physicians frequently pooh-pooh or allege serious (but false or highly exaggerated) risk from corset waist training

From time to time I ponder why many doctors seem to pooh-pooh corset waist training, or worse yet, obsess about the “serious risk to life and limb” when we decide to pursue this age-old approach to sveltness and good health.

Yes — good health! Corset waist training according to general principles–such as training pursued with common sense, with respect for one’s own bodily messages and individual needs, and with reasonable, genetic- and experience-conscious goals– can address issues such as our burgeoning obesity epidemic.

Yet a number of pop docs (a certain Dr. Oz comes to mind….but he is not alone!) and even long-experienced non-celebrity docs delight in focusing on the risk factors of corset waist training, warning of possible permanent damage to ordinarily otherwise healthy individuals.

But damage to what is never clearly explained, nor is the factual basis of their conclusions revealed to the light of day so that the ordinary, inexperienced corset-curious person can make an informed decision about whether or not corset waist training might be beneficial to them.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about Dr. John Sarno’s program to heal chronic back and neck pain, as well as address many other ailments that don’t have a structural causation (and even some that do!), ailments as diverse as: migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromialgia, allergies, skin problems, hypertension, tendinitis, knee pain, shoulder pain, and other.

If you have ever suffered from any of those problems or if you know someone who has, I particularly commend to you Dr. Sarno’s final book published in 2006, The Divided Mind: The epidemic of mind body disorders.

It is the seminal book on the topic, exploring Dr. Sarno’s theory of “TMS” or tension myositis syndrome involving non-structurally related chronic pain.

In sum, TMS occurs when circumstances trigger painful emotions submerged in our subconscious, that then become expressed in a physical symptom and pain. The pain is real, but it is brain caused.

According to Dr. Sarno, pursuing certain strategies and steps will bring relief from chronic pain to many: that is, (1) simply admit the possibility of a brain-caused chronic pain, and/or (2) bring to consciousness by insight work conducted by yourself or in psychotherapy, some of the negative emotions you may be repressing from childhood, from daily life, or from your personality traits such as perfectionism, need for excessive control, and “do-goodness.”

Late in his life (he passed in 2016 and it was his obituary in the NY Times that first drew my attention), Dr. Sarno suggested another title than TMS for this mind-body problem, and suggested that some popular alternative treatments he had ignored such as meditation could be effective in treating TMS, as well as the main methods he suggested. But his original program and diagnosis of TMS stand as the most familiar ones, and TMS is a shorthand that I will use.

Today I was reading a chapter by Dr. Douglas Hoffman printed in The Divided Mind. Dr. Hoffman has a specialty in nonoperative orthopedics/sports medicine practiced in Duluth, Minnesota. He is the team physician for the University of Wisconsin-Superior and the Duluth Huskies baseball team. It was in his chapter that I was reminded of one reason I have posited in the past, for why pop docs and ordinary physicians get tricked into dissing corset waist training as an obvious strategy for addressing chronic pain as well as the obesity epidemic.

Let’s first review two other principle reasons:

  1.  We already all know about medicine’s tendency, and society’s tendency, to go for the “quick fix.” Social media feeds and exacerbates if not causes, our need for instant gratification and convenience:  “want it now, pop a pill, refuse any personal responsibility, and move on to what is ‘really’ important” — whatever that may be. Go for the surgical fix to obesity:  liposuction, bariatric surgery, nip and tuck, and forget the actual money investment and time needed for recuperation, not to mention the possible side effects and risks of failure necessitating fix-it surgeries and more time lost. Wearing a corset for three months of dedicated, common-sense waist training seems like “too much of an effort”, but surgery is a false “effective” preference that dazzles and bamboozles unthinking patients seeking quick relief.

2.  Same can be said of pill pushing by unthinking doctors and demanding patients. We already know that many major drug companies can be blamed for seeking higher profits thru pill pushing, and thru free samples given to willing doctors who then prescribe the medicine as a preferred treatment, even if alternatives would be cheaper, just as or more effective, and less addicting.

But the third reason, and perhaps the most elusive and important reason that doctors diss corsets, is addressed in Dr. Hoffman’s article:

“For a doctor to ” be able to understand and effectively apply Dr. Sarno’s principles, one must acknowledge their own shadows and painful emotions. Additionally, a physician’s position of authority is compromised with this perspective since patients become empowered by discovering that they have the ability to heal themselves. (p. 315).

If doctors cannot admit to their own repressed or denied negative emotions of anger and fear, then how can they possibly believe that the same in their patients might be the cause of long-standing pain and suffering? How can they suggest to patients and be able to effect recovery merely by the suggestion of same? Dr. Sarno “cured” some 60 percent of his chronic pain patients in this manner after only a few office visits and two two-hour educational presentations to a group of them.

Clueless doctors without personal insight, who cannot admit that some or many patients have an ability to heal themselves, –including with corset waist training — doctors who cannot admit that they are unconsciously feeling professionally threatened as possibly “unneeded” or “ineffective”, are missing the boat and indirectly harming their patients. They are failing to offer an alternative diagnosis for, and truly inexpensive and potentially beneficial strategy to address serious health problems such as obesity, a problem that is growing by leaps and pounds (sic.) around the world.

Who can doubt that it is a good thing when some pursue moderate corset waist training to heal themselves from bad posture, low back pain, overweight, hypertension, and obesity, and to gain a measure of enhanced well-being, sexiness, and increased energy and mobility?

Why not try common-sense, moderate corset waist training (if you are otherwise in generally good health) to see if it increases your zest for life not only now, but in the future as well? A good prospect for success takes only modest resources of about $300-500 to invest in (1) a good custom corset, (2) my detailed $14.95 how-to book or (4) my $400 three month coaching program (includes a copy of both of my books), and/or (5)  consulting responsible, fact-oriented corset educators such as Lucy Williams (see many educational videos on YouTube and on her website) and Heidi of Strait-Laced Dame.

And, by the way, knowing about TMS and following Dr. Sarno’s program since reading his book on Feb. 11 of this year, has helped substantially to restore me back to 99% perfect back and neck health with the virtual disappearance of disabling pain.



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Observations, Well Stated and Relevant to Life and Corseting

For some time I have been thinking about implementing a short, possibly corset related, and/or provocative feature at the very start of my home page.

Today I have done just that: so check it out.

It’s a feature that quotes someone else whose opinion seems particularly relevant to our lives and lifestyles today. It may not be directly related to corseting, but most likely you will find something instructive and possibly helpful in your waist-training efforts.

Being raised by a high school teacher who was committed to proper grammar, I appreciate the same when respected by others. I pay particular attention to excellent writing that hits the spot, especially writing regarding health, psychology, and politics today.

In my trusty weekend NY Times Magazine, I read the following:

The internet (writing) is different (from prose): flat, utilitarian, almost completely dignity-free and populated in large part by people typing incoherent nonsense.”

I’m particularly attentive to pithy comments such as this one concerning social trends, ways, and styles of interacting. The quoted comment represents everything that my business, and I, personally, do not.

Corsets and the figures they create are certainly not flat — that much can be said! They can be utilitarian of course; witness my introduction to them to support an injured back until I could heal, now going on almost 50 years ago! Lucy William’s remarkable book Solaced, compiles an amazing variety of first-person  account of other benefits that accrue from corseting or waist training. I commend it to anyone doubting the efficacy or healthiness of wearing corsets.

Contributors to Lucy’s book are certainly not incoherent nor do they spout nonsense. However as commented above, you might or will see both incoherence and nonsense on social media groups devoted to corseting and waist training, but then, that’s been true for the history of the internet starting with the original chat rooms now seemingly replaced by Twitter and Facebook.

Some attribute this problem (if you find it to be a social problem) to over-valuing convenience, wanting to be spoon fed, being in a rush, and not respecting experience. I’m part of this “some.”

Madeline Albright has a new book out on fascism, which I’ve always felt us human beings truly want and must struggle against on a lifelong basis. That is, I observe that at heart humans want the convenience and ease of Mommie or Daddy doing and deciding it for us, and almost living our lives for us so that we don’t have to expend much effort. Not only that, but we want the “experts” telling us what to do. I call it the “Kim Kardashian effect.” I always marveled that Kim discovered “waist training” and “trainers” by herself, and now has become the paragon of popular corseting and figure-shaping virtue, for better or for worse (one could argue my point either way).

I also marvel at those who email me over the years, wanting me to “decide for them” what corset to order and how tightly to have the corset close down in the back. Then they want the product delivered yesterday.

I’m looking forward to a brand new coaching student, one who is devoted to improving her figure in a way that is healthy, slow, and deliberate, calling upon multiple resources in her quest for these goals. That’s a smart approach to waist training.

That’s exactly the approach that Denna followed. She was one of my first five students many years ago, and is pictured above corseted in “before” and “after” images following three months of waist-training coaching.

My new student already has in place a personal trainer/body builder (an educated former corset client of ROMANTASY) who will guide the student on the exercise element of waist training. She will coordinate that workout program with the program I will soon propose regarding corset wear and lacing down, nutrition (food choices and how one eats), and waist-targeted exercising.

Because of the student’s detail-oriented advance questioning, reliance on our corsetiere Sheri’s, and my, advice, good communication and response to my initial requests, and seeking detailed information including reading my 250-page book, I surmise that she stands a very good chance of reaching the reasonable waist-training goals we will all set together.

I’m frankly excited to help such a student, who comes to the process with her head screwed on rightly, and facing the right direction. We’ll follow soon with her “before” pictures and keep you posted on her progress.







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The Science behind Optimal Metabolic Health and Nutrition — and corsets

Recently I completed a series of lectures presented by the UCSF Med Center program called “mini-med school.” Lectures by eminent professors at the top of their profession (both clinicians, researchers, and professors) are recorded to show to medical students, but classes are populated by us older non-medical adults. I plan a series of blogs on what I have learned, some information well known, some intuitive, and much of the information fact and research-based at UCSF.

In the final presentation neurologist Dr. Sandra Aamodt spoke on “The Diet Trap: Why you should never go on a diet again and what to do instead.” You can watch her TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn0Ygp7pMbA

She started by listing the common excuses given for why we can’t eat healthily such as we have no time, it’s too expensive, I’m too tired to cook, social pressures, my family won’t do it with me, I hate regulation, and others. She verified that we cannot just rely on will power to pursue and maintain a diet: it doesn’t work.

I’ve long been convinced that habit and motivation are two key elements that have to do with success in figure shaping, corset waist training, and pursuing good health. Aamodt said that 90% of our food choices are habit based, and don’t require will power at all.

Habit works with three steps: (1) cue, (2) routine, and (3) reward.

For a reward to work it has to be intrinsically valuable to us and not imposed by anyone. It has to be directly associated with the habit, and we have to enjoy the reward. It has to be positive and not neutral, but it can be subtle. What is NOT a reward is eating healthy, lowering our disease rate, or being a healthy size (that’s too abstract).

The above highlighted information was a surprise to me. The food industry seems determined to stress “healthy eating” these days, declaring their commitment in all capital letters on the front of food packaging even if the backside of that package reports food contents including many different kinds of sugars, artificial and “natural” flavorings straight out of the chem lab, and lots of carbs.

What does work to motivate us to change habits are rewards that increase our physical pleasure, psychological pleasure, or efficiency.

  1. Something tells me that the latter motivation of efficiency to help us change our eating habits, has to do with changing values coming from our overly-stressed out, IT-oriented, fast-draw society, and perhaps is not the best thing for us to concentrate on.
  2. I’ve often said that corseting and waist training are old-fashioned techniques involving a historical garment, and none of that goes very well with efficiency. It’s “efficient” to lower your head to the plate and shovel food into an open mouth, chewing little at all and gulping while shoveling the next bite in. That’s efficient. I see it all the time in both men and women (in more and more women eating in public these days, sad to say). But there are other things to consider, not least of all the distress it might give your viewers and companions to observe you being so efficient. Enough said.

What helps us change our habits is setting clear, simple, measurable goals not involving calorie counting. Yes to “cook dinner four times a week”, no to “lower my calorie intake by 200 calories a day.”

When I coach students in my three-month waist training program, as part of the nutrition element (there are three elements in total) I “require” them to count to 30 when chewing, that is, chew 30 times before swallowing. Yes, even ice cream…! That goes along with Aamodt’s point that we must be mindful to the present moment especially when eating (and planning to eat say I). Pause, evaluate and redirect your hunger she says. Re-set your urge to eat. Direct your attention to the properties of food and enjoyment, not to time and not to the quantity you eat. Pause–do you really want that second helping?

The best takeaway from this class was the point to start changing habits with the smallest habit you can choose.

Things appear harder than they are; just start and start small. As you practice, it gets easier to change, and also more rewarding! Just trust that fact and keep on long enough for the rewards to become evident. That’s the advice I give my students: persist in your three-month waist training program until the very last day, because change comes later for some, and it takes time to develo9p new tastes for healthy foods, shrink the expansion of your belly, and become satisfied with going for top quality rather than “low-quality quantity” as I call it.

Make your new choices sound good: “tasty” or “easy” or “handmade” or “Cajun style” or “farm fresh”. Words matter (as I’ve written before), and predispose us to get to better results with less effort along the way. Concentrate on value-based motivation rather than health-based motivation. Re-frame the way you think about eating, but forget about “dieting.” — it just doesn’t work.

That’s a new way to put it for me (value-based motivation), but not a new thought. Value-based, quality-based, slow-based, and in-the-moment are all phrases that apply to corset waist training. Why not try it now, or re-institute a short program to get back in your groove, but don’t quit if you fall back a bit, keep going all the way thru what you plan to try, and let me know how you fare and what works for you in corset waist training or figure shaping.




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LKM – the effects on the brain of a special kind of meditation

I’ve been ranging a bit far afield from corseting lately. The reasons? Perhaps it comes from growing maturity with age than in the past? I hope so! Perhaps I can see more connections in life, but also yearn for a simpler time with more interpersonal connection. The latter seems to have gone by the wayside on my daily walks, as those texting walk by me ignoring me, if not almost running into me! They avert their eyes, preferring to look up, across the street, or continue to look down at their phones. Anything but making eye contact — and in a quiet , slower and less populated San Francisco neighborhood that doesn’t demand isolation from real life social contact in order to live in crowded cities (picture crowds of people jammed into NYC subways staring out, each one alone in a crowd).

Of course, I’m also working on intrapersonal connection, too! Connecting with what is really important now for me, not holding on to the past either in terms of resentments or profession and how I saw myself in the corset world or how I used to feel in general. What seems to be more important is to make my life more organic in how it unfolds, to be more open to what is coming without worrying so much, and to be more in touch on a daily basis with how I feel and what I “seem” to want to do with my day.

Of course I’m semi retired now, working only with one senior corsetiere (a super great one for making comfy training corsets, by the way — and that’s Sheri Jurnecka from Oakland). So I have more time and freedom to determine how I want to spend my day—mainly slowing down from a fever pitch demanded of us when our livelihood beckons and we want more material security and/or family growth.

I was led from my Alexander Technique teacher’s website today, to LKM, or Loving Kindness Meditation. I’m lately interested in the brain and how the brain wants to protect us from harm but often misleads us with messages that don’t fit our physical needs at the time. In other words, our brain is programmed to send the wrong messages from a right motivation! Of course that deals with the area of neurology. So here is what I learned about LKM:

The practice of LKM changed several important brain regions: both the insula and the temporal parietal junction (TPJ) lit up as a result of LKM. The insula is the part of the brain responsible for our ability to empathize with others, and to make oneself aware of emotional and physical present-moment experiences. While both groups saw an increase in insula activity, the group with 10,000 hours of experience showed significantly more activation than the other group. This group was experiencing higher levels of compassion than the non-practicing group.

A similar finding appeared for the TPJ. The TPJ, like the insula, is also related to our ability to process empathy and our ability to attune to the emotional states of others. Again, compared to short-term meditators, those with a long-term meditation practice showed significant activation of this brain region. (From:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kripalu/loving-kindness-meditation_b_3961300.html)

I’ve been thinking, too, about empathy, and empathy vs. compassion. A smart neighbor of mine who practices employment law, mused recently that the deluge of incidences of sexual harassment (perhaps not more incidences, but more courageous reporting of it!)  results from the difficulty or inability of many men to feel compassion. I thought a long time about her point. I agree in part.

But to me, the basic issue is not compassion. It’s: do we have empathy with others? According to Websters, compassion is sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another. It isn’t limited to distress and it doesn’t start with consciousness of others. I think that empathy starts with being aware of ourselves, our emotions, our bodies, and then becoming aware of others and what they are feeling and what they may need.

We can’t possibly have compassion if we don’t start with empathy. The ability and willingness to put yourself in anothers shoes, to me is “empathy.” Through my Alexander Tech. teacher, I’ve been learning how to be more empathetic to or with myself. I have to put myself into my own shoes and really concentrate hard on becoming aware of exactly how I feel at any given moment.

Putting yourself in touch with yourself during the day and sometimes during each moment, is what happens when you corset waist train. It’s just one method to improve that process.

Elyse says it has a lot to do with sight, seeing and the eyes. Fancy that and who knew? But that’s a topic for another blog a bit later.

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Filed under General Waist Training Information