A Life Coach’s Take on Nicole Arbour, Fat-Shaming and Bullying

Hello Nicole,

You are not alone. There are lots of people who look like you. Lots of people. When they see someone like me who is overweight, they make judgments. When I am at my present weight (I have gained and lost Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body weight several times over during my 50 odd years) and go into a swanky coffee shop and order a low-fat chocolate, they always ask me, “Do you want whipped cream with that?”

When I lose 20 more pounds, go to a coffee shop and ask for low-fat hot chocolate, they say, “You don’t want whipped cream with that?”

When I am at my perfect body weight (for me) they never ask me for whipped cream.
What do we learn from this? Nicole, you can’t begin to understand what it means to be someone who needs to protect themselves with a layer of fat to feel safe, or the joy comes from the forbidden fruit that is the cocoa bean, the white bread rush, or the sugar buzz.

For whatever reason, your clan chose to find solace in belittling others as a form of comfort. I did notice that you had $300 worth of cosmetic paint on your face. You seem to thing that artifice is art.
Here’s what I have to say to all those with a bad body image: look for real beauty.

It is not in your body, which shall betray the best of us with time. Look for self love first, because a loving man or woman is always kind and inspires instead of ridicules. Seek out those who are kind and help inspire you to be your best, who challenge you in those moments of weakness when you feel the need to get the buzz that bad food gives you, and to forgive the skinny people who don’t understand. There are people out there who are in great shape who have kindness, who admit their struggles and don’t need to sensationalize by shaming others.

And to Nicole: yes, you seem smart. You have good comedic timing, but shame on you. Yes. You got fame (for a second). You got notoriety. But you have proven the thing that I try so hard to teach the Millennials I work with who feel there’s no point in working hard at school when you can get more famous being mean, stupid, or embarrassing in this world: that being a good person and living in the non-digital moment is what life is about. You have shown how bullying can travel. Look. I’m writing about you. Now, goodbye. Learn from Elwood P. Dowd, the character in Harvey. (It’s a black and white film… give it a try).

“Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be.’ — She always called me Elwood — ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

This article was published at Huffington Post on Sep 8, 2015

Tips for Teens with Bad Study Habits

For the students:
So, you’ve been hoping and buying into “the dream” that somehow, by keeping your science book under your pillow, it will all seep in. Or maybe, they will have some information on the Peloponnesian wars on the Family Guy marathon. How about, “I study best under pressure”? Or that tried and true classic “French is easy! All you have to do is sound like Inspector Clouseau when you say “duz yor dogue bat“? (“He’s not mah dogue“).

Well, we know how this ends up. You’ve received your mid-term marks, some of them squeaked by and some of them looked like you had a chimp take the exam (and not that clever one from Rise of the Planet of the Apes).

You have two choices:
Plan A: Continue to see your school future flushing down the proverbial toilet and say (to whomever you choose to blame) “well, if you believed in me more I’d do better,” or make a new plan. Let’s try Plan B, shall we?

Plan B is about knowing your strengths, knowing your limitations and building on micro-successes. Successes so small most people won’t notice, and you will get the time you need to believe in yourself without being overwhelmed.

Let’s face it, if you’re in this pickle, your study habits are probably non-existent and your parents’ expectations are something like: since you have so little time left you should be spending every waking and sleeping moment studying till you can’t stand it, then sit and study some more.

But you know and I know that faced with that option you’re sure that your head will actually explode (like that guy in Scanners) and if you could have done that (minus the exploding head part) you would have already done that. So, that ain’t happening.

Here is how to build a last-ditch effort to save your exams and create better possibilities for the following terms.

Five simple steps to change your exam destiny:

1) Do something you can hold yourself to.
You may catch yourself saying things out loud that you know you will never do (“OK, I won’t work today but tomorrow I’ll do twice as much!”) Try figuring out what you can actually do; Maybe two one-hour sessions with a 10 or 15 minute break in between. When you are working on something and you start to be really annoyed by it, go do something else for a while and come back to the offending subject later. It will seem less annoying.

2) Push it.
It is important to come back to it. You are teaching your inner-self that you can go further without the head exploding type of incident. Try adding 10 per cent more time each day until you get to a study time that is just too much. Then go back to the previous day’s study time. (Basically 10 per cent less.)

3) Poke into your “comfy time.”
At this point, you have figured out when you will do your study time each day and I’m guessing the rest of your home time is made up of all the stuff that drives your parents nuts. (Because you aren’t spending every moment studying.) Let’s call this time your “comfy time.”

Somewhere in the middle of that time, go back and work on one task, taking up either five minutes of time or one problem. Then you can go back to comfy time. This may not seem like much to an outsider, but it has so many benefits for you. First of all, if you can do this (tell yourself that it really will take just a little time and don’t let your inner id-self take over) you are beginning to take control of your future higher-character traits. Second, some part of your brain will believe that it has to stay on guard brain-wise, and will keep all the new info in your noggin’ with a bit more clarity. Third, there are benefits that no one can explain to you until you have done it — but it really helps.

4) Push some more.
On a given day, ask yourself the following: will an extra half-hour of gaming change my life? Because an extra half-hour of studying can.

5) Do it for yourself.
You are the main one who will benefit from this process. Do it to feel better about you.

Now, for the parents, here’s the hard part for you: it is so easy, as you see the exams coming around again and seeing your child about to make the same mistakes as last time, to freak out and try to strong-arm them into study submission. This never works. Never!

It might work one time but there can be no follow-through, and what will happen when you aren’t there anymore to strong-arm them? Show them these five steps and then (here’s the hard part) let them make their choices. Right here, they have the keys to make differences that won’t be stellar, but will be incremental, self-empowering and permanent.

One last thing to the students:
Your job in life is to rise above the people that came before you. It’s OK to do that. The best way is by challenging yourself and the easiest way to do that is in micro-movements of success. Pretty soon, it will be your standard equipment.

You can do it!