Thursday, June 9, 2011

The irritation of the "I want you to..." coaching cue - and alternatives

 "I want you to..." How often is that about the first thing we hear coming at us working with a trainer? or coming from us if we train folks? "I want you to..." This post is a wee meditation on a pet peeve: how the words we use working with others can have a profound effect on building or not building rapport.

Rapport of Domination?
I've worked with a lot of coaches in training and teachers in training - folks who are already practicing their professional craft. If there's one phrase that occurs more than anything else,  as the most constant training cue when the coach wants the athlete to do something, it's: "I want you to..."

How do you feel, if someone you have no rapport with yet, have no trust with yet, where this is perhaps your first time working together says to you "i want you to do..." whatever it is they want you to do? Do you feel willing? Do you feel inspired? Or do you feel a little threatened, a little defensive, irritated, even? Me, i'm annoyed. If this session is about me, why am i doing what you want? So, right there, i'll ask: "Why?" Why should i do this thing you ask me to do? And why should i do it for you?
More often than not, that question is a wrench in the wheel. The coach can't really explain either why i should do the thing, or they are flustered that they are being called on their authority. Or they could explain it, but they're not prepared to do so right at that moment, so flustered again. And for me to come back with "why" can be heard as pretty confrontational. And sometimes, they don't get it: they don't understand what i'm asking.  And there's a great rapport problem right there.
 Why the Irritant?
More often than not, coaches (and teachers) are thrown because they don't realize that this trope "I want you to..." that is constructed of words that have real meaning has become a space filler in inter-personal communication that has no meaning other than as something that sounds seemingly nicer than the more blunt "bend your leg" or "do ten push ups." But i think it's other than just space filler.

I think it's sloppy. Thoughtless. It means we've taken our communication for granted, and i don't think we can do that when our role is a coach. Let's consider the client perspective.

Whose session is this anyway?
My time with a coach is not about me working FOR that (unknown quantity) coach. I am not there to fulfill that coach's desire of "I want you to..." I am not extrinsicly motivated, nor do i wish to be so. As a teacher, i get freaked out when occaisionally a student says "i had to get this in on time; i was really worried about disappointing you."  Oh wow.  That one really makes me nervous.

As a supervisor, as a coach, i'm *just* the facilitator here; i've got some skills to pass on and some work we can do, and there's a cycle here in terms of a student learning from me till i start learning from them, and there's an agreement around practice and consequences of either party not sticking to the terms of that agreement (like getting something in on time for assessment; getting something back on time assessed; making a scheduled appointment; being ready for the client), but this rapport is not personal. It's not about whether or not i care. Yes, I will do the best i can for my students to create opportunities for success for them - that is what i see as part of my job: training of highly skilled personel. But it's not personal, and their session is not about me. 

Who cares what I want? What's received?
If someone wants to become a professional researcher, super. I know how to do that and can help someone develop the skills to do that really well. If someone wants to become better in their sport, super. I can help with that. If someone wants to move out of pain and perform better in life, super, i can help with that. But that goal has nothing to do with me. Dosen't mean i don't care about how someone does - and whether or not they are getting what they need, and thriving.

Indeed, in my heart  or aloud i am saying "my fond hope is that you will succeed, excel, and do way better than i have." But it does mean i'm not the focus of the process. And you know what? I'm pretty reluctant about expressing my personal wishes at all when working with folks - whether grad students or athletes. Personally, i try to present things in terms of what THEY should be able to get from a session - you know, goals/objectives for them. I mean, wouldn't it be weird if you picked up a text book and instead of the goals for the chapter, we saw "what i really want you to go away with from this unit is a deep passion for the field of anatomy"? Really? My student goals are since this chapter covers joints, preferably to learn about joints? How 'bout that? Will this material do that or not?

So i don't want to use a language with folks that goes anywhere near engendering an extrinsically focused and largely amorphous practice of "do this because it's what "i want" " rather than try this because, as best we can judge, it fits with what we're trying to accomplish together that are YOUR goals.

Language is a Virus
There's pretty good evidence that the language we use has a strong impact on how we create our realities.

If every client i see i say "i want you to..." what do those words mean? What am i telling myself all day? what am i telling them?  That my desire is primary in working with others rather than secondary to their needs?

Also, the word suggests i'm not very successful: want describes a lack. To have a want is to be deficient. I want you to do this: i have a personal emptiness or insufficiency of your doing this. No, i don't. My life is surely complete without someone doing a lunge.   Do i *want* to reinforce a lack? Build a dependency?

In z-health, we talk about the SAID principle all the time: that we adapt always and exactly to what we practice.  Is practicing want, and i want, an adaptation i want/lack/desire? big N.O. there.

So what are "I want you to..." alternatives?
It really is pretty easy to get out of the "I want you to..." mode. Here's a couple examples i've found work well:

If the goal is to help someone learn how to do a movement, why not coach the movement? For example,
"So movement X will support this part of your goal to do Y, so let me model it, and then you follow with me: from the forward lunge position, internally rotate the back foot like so...."
If working through a part of a set, why not make the set relevant to the goal?
"Since we've said we're focusing on this part of your stroke, we can build up this part of the stroke with some loaded mobility here, and for that, we need to get some fatigue happening, so let's go for 5 reps with a 10rep load for a set  - what is that for you? ok, great, and do X amount of recovery between sets, and we'll go till fatigue starts to show- i'll watch you for that. Ok? let's go.

Now some folks may say "i hate 'we' like 'how are we doing today'" - i understand - i get that. So the above example could be easily broken into a me/you framinging too:

We (cuz it is an agreement) have said we're focusing on X and a technique to do that is Y. And since to get there, a certain adaptation is required that's best induced by partial recovery, an option is to use shorter set rests, and appropriate load. So pick a weight that you could do ten reps with; the sets will go for five, and will have 30sec breaks between them. Ok? I'll keep an eye out for fatigue signs while you work. Let's begin.
Something like that. The differences are, it seems to me, that by getting forced out of "i want you to" we need to think about why we're asking someone to do something. Can we communicate why/how this makes sense in terms of a target. If we can't is there some deficiency in our knowledge? That can be fixed. Or is there a lack of a target? That too can be addressed. Or we feel awkward trying to explain stuff? There are strategies to develop skills for that too. If we don't want to develop those skills, what does that tell us about the focus of our coaching?

Off the "I" and onto the "Why"
On the client side, some folks may never notice the "i want you to..." or care. Or they may be fine with their coach saying "i want you to hold your foot here" or their teacher in a lecture saying "tonight i want you to read..." And sure, if there's sufficient rapport and trust that's been built up, one may be ok with the "I want you to..." But at that point, my bet is that it's just as easy to say "For this move, go like this" or "to get this concept, read the following." Simple phrases take the focus of the I and put it on the WHY. I think practicing that Why rather than I as a coach is important to rep.

mc with recent MIT PhD grad just
after his defence. Yes, very happy
for Max's success. It's *his* success,
and has been great to be part
of that process.
Maybe it's because i have a background in words, and theories of wordage that i get a little insistent that words we use have meaning. And when they're spoken, i take them seriously (maybe it's a Jesuit upbringing...).  They are part of that SAID specific adaptation to an asserted/imposed demand

And if that's the case, and we work together, i'd rather demonstrate in everything i do, including my words, that you're the star of the show; i'm there for you, on the terms we've agreed: times, payment, notice of change, all that mutual respect stuff. And that anything in that session is there to support your goals not my desires, gosh dang it.

ok? ok.

Thanks for listening.
I'm better now.
How are you?

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fat Tea: like guiness but tea (Including a descant on fat types like coconut oil) There's an old saw about Guiness - it's the beer that drinks like a meal. That can certainly be true. But if one's passion is less for beer, and say, more towards tea, and let's also say we're keen to get our protein and fats in, and also want to enhance our satiety, and maybe improve our energy expenditure, i may have a drink for you. To the best of my knowledge, i think i've concocted this, and call it Fat Tea.

Fat Tea consists of 
The makings of Fat Tea: black tea, organic
whole milk, ginger and organic coconut oil
  • steeped Yorkshire Gold Tea (i really enjoy the taste of this bagged UK tea)
  • Whole Organic Milk (from happy cows - where i live that's usually a brand called Duchy) to taste 1-2 oz.
  • Fresh Ginger (steeped with tea to taste) 
  • - le piĆ©ce de resistance - Organic Coconut Oil (like a gram or so per cup or mug of tea) - in the uk i get coconoil by mail order.

Oh wow, that's intensely satisfying: protein, fat, very low carbs, a bit of caffeine and other good things associated with tea.

But wait, you may be saying, isn't Fat tea, well, rather fat? 
Let's see: 2 grams of cocunut oil is 18kcals of medium chain triglycerides. 2 ozs (i like a lot of milk in my tea) of whole milk is 37.5kcals, so yup, total cals are 55.5.  Compared with black tea on its own (zero kcals) or with two ozs of skim milk (21.5kcals) or two oz's of 2% (31.25) - well ya, there's more fat, so sure; more calories than black tea.

The Skinny on Fat Tea Fats
So let's talk about the Fat for a sec, the coconut oil fat and the whole milk fat, and why you may want to choose these 56kcals in happy fat tea once a day (i like mine in the evening), rather than say a cookie or some starchy carby thing.

Fat Profile - reminder: fat is good.
Fat is Amazing and Good - not evil.  We need fat; it's our primary source of fuel for our bodies (i've written about this before), and it serves a TON of roles in our bodies - not just for fuel, but as the wrappers of EACH AND EVERY cell in our bodies. It's the insulation on the white matter of our brains; it's the wrapping of our viscera; it's the mylenation that suports our nervous system learning; it's building blocks for hormones we need to function well.

And on top of all this, it is the primary energy system for our bodies. I read a page awhile ago that said that fat is a back up energy system when we run out of blood sugar. That's really misleading. That sounds like blood sugar is our primary fuel. Nope. It's not. Fat is our primary fuel. You sitting reading this on the couch: you're oxidising PRIMARILY fat. We'll talk about glucose some other day. Main thing: FAT is good - there are - like proteins - essential fats too (you know, the omega's).

If you're doing Dairy, Whole Milk Can be Fun
On a pure taste level, a whole fat milk is generally sweeter (it's the milk sugars in the lactose, as i understand it). The texture is also creamier. That's all from the Fat. 

Fat Variety in Milk
There are all sorts of fats that we need in our diet. Milk has an intriguing range of fats, including saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated - and a mix of short and long chain fats, too.  And milk has about one of the only instances of a type of trans fat, CLA, that's good for us. Transfats are generally considered evil (like margarine), but CLA in milk fats is a keeper. So it's not a bad place to get some of the fats we want. Including (in organic sources especially) Omerga 3's and the very currently trendy ALA (alpha lipoic acid - popular as a fat burner ingredient). Grass feed = apparently good for Omega 3 upping.

Indeed, organic milk is one of the most studied organic products on the planet, apparently, and studies seem to keep showing that organic milk does better with omega 3s overall than non-organic - up to 67% more omega 3's. This result has been found in several studies in the UK over several years now (Ellis 06, Butler 11)

Organic Note  In the UK, organic also means lots of grass feeding and free ranging. It also means no crap (here's a listing).

More Fat types
As we've seen above, milk has a mix of fat types, saturated being about 2/3s of the fat profile of milk.  But is that in and of itself a problem? Well, those cell walls of each cell in our body? They're largely made up of saturated fat. So we need saturated fats for dietary, cellular, hormonal, everything'ish function.  SO why are we constantly told to get the saturated fats out of our diet? Sometimes it's easier to try the Big Hammer approach then deal with subtlety and complexity of the subtly and complexity that is Us.

And as we'll see shortly, the biggies in all of these "must nots" are RATIOS and balance. As i've said repeatedly at b2d, we're complex systems. Single factor thinking like"kill all fat" or "kill this type of fat" or "eliminate fat" - is not an answer. Balance balance balance. Balance.

Indeed, in the saturated fats of milk, are these short chain fatty acids. They're apparently anti-microbial; they stimulate some of the same pathways that the vitamin B part that's niacin does, so may help on the HDL front, too. This doesn't mean O.D. on saturated fats; but it does mean there is a role for them.  WHich brings us to the other fat in Fat Tea

Coconut Oil
I am so late to the Coconut Oil party (overview of coconut oil here). Coconut oil has been getting a big nod because it's a Medium Chain Triglyceride saturated fat, and that's actually supposed to be a good way to help burn fat (and more).  The idea of the chain length is that the short chain means the fat can be metabolized (converted into fuel) faster/easier, which means it's not getting deposited into adipose tissue and potentially increases satiety. One of the key early articles in this space by St Ong and Jones from 2003 is available free online, too (Ong03); St-Ong and Bosarage did a longer study in 2008 and showed again that MCTs, while not a miracle fat burner, contributed to energy expenditure and body comp improvements more so than olive oil in the same amounts (Ong08).

An excellent research review from 2010 by Clegg covers both the advantages and some of the challenges of using MCT's for fat burning. Seems the main studies have been with normal weight rather than obese folks, too, and there are gender effects.

In an interesting study sited by Clegg from 2001, Van Wymelbeke and colleagues found that satiety - the feeling of fullness was improved in the meal AFTER the one where MCTs were eaten.

All that sounds great, doesn't it? And you'll find camps that will say all vegetable oils are evil and should be replaced by butter or coconut oil, or in third place, olive oil (see the Perfect Health Diet as an reference-rich example).

THere are others - some key folks in the American Dietetic Association - who go the other way, and say vegetable oils rock; coconut oil is problematic. We want only PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) not SaFA (saturated fats) (overview of debate by Zelman 2011).

Tempest in a Tea Pot
I saw one study that looked at replacing dairy with just coconut oil (Choo10) to make a new ice cream. So if you don't care for doing dairy for whatever reason, you may want to try Fat Tea with only coconut oil. I'm keen to try Green Fat Tea, too. Get all those egcgs working with the MCT's. oh my.

The thing is, we need fat; different kinds of fats are good for us, essential even. And sometimes, a little bit of fat can go a long way to do good things.

As in most things with us, trying to say x or y is unequivocally bad is hard to do. With fat, the biggie seems to be ratios: getting the LDL and HDL RATIO right; getting the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio right (closer to 1:1 is better; 4:1 is kinda the outside).

The same thing with ratios of food types.  Hence getting a variety of foods on the plate, and especially a variety of colors on the plate. If it's all browns/yellows, there's a potential issue.

For me, for the end of the day, i love me some Fat Tea.

For the amount of fat i eat otherwise, i'm willing to splurge. That there may be some health benefits and especially that triggered satiety so i'm actually less hungry later, i kinda like too. I also like a square of lindt 85% or higher dark chocolate to go with.

So i'm just saying - if you want to treat yourself to something yummy, you could do worse than Fat Tea.

TASTE: A quick note: some coconut oil i've found tastes more or less like coconut oil. The coconoil organic i get in the UK is very coconutty. The organic i picked up at whole foods last time i was in the states is very neutral.  So if you're not a fan of the coconut taste, you can still do coconut oil, it seems. 

Thanks to Zachariah Salazar for turning me onto coconut oil.

Butler G, Stergiadis S, Seal C, Eyre M, & Leifert C (2011). Fat composition of organic and conventional retail milk in northeast England. Journal of dairy science, 94 (1), 24-36 PMID: 21183013
Clegg ME (2010). Medium-chain triglycerides are advantageous in promoting weight loss although not beneficial to exercise performance. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 61 (7), 653-79 PMID: 20367215

Choo SY, Leong SK, & Henna Lu FS (2010). Physicochemical and sensory properties of ice-cream formulated with virgin coconut oil. Food science and technology international = Ciencia y tecnologia de los alimentos internacional, 16 (6), 531-41 PMID: 21339169

Ellis KA, Innocent G, Grove-White D, Cripps P, McLean WG, Howard CV, & Mihm M (2006). Comparing the fatty acid composition of organic and conventional milk. Journal of dairy science, 89 (6), 1938-50 PMID: 16702257

St-Onge MP, Ross R, Parsons WD, & Jones PJ (2003). Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. Obesity research, 11 (3), 395-402 PMID: 12634436

Marie-Pierre St-Onge and Aubrey Bosarge (2008).
Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87 (3), 621-626 Other: NIHMS201761

Van Wymelbeke V, Louis-Sylvestre J, & Fantino M (2001). Substrate oxidation and control of food intake in men after a fat-substitute meal compared with meals supplemented with an isoenergetic load of carbohydrate, long-chain triacylglycerols, or medium-chain triacylglycerols. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 74 (5), 620-30 PMID: 11684530

Zelman K (2011). The great fat debate: a closer look at the controversy-questioning the validity of age-old dietary guidance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111 (5), 655-8 PMID: 21515106

Ps - this was supposed to be a really short article - just the recipe. Dang. Apologies.

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