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Grease Them Strings

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Boy playing violin in room

“Let Buddy play his violin with you in the talent show,” Ella told her teenage sons, Larry and Travis.

The year was 1941. Larry and Travis weren't happy. Both accomplished musicians, they were counting on winning at least a few bucks, which was nothing to sneeze at in depression-era Lubbock, Texas.

Five-year-old Buddy did have a violin. More precisely, a toy violin that he just sawed on, unconcerned about the nature of the sounds produced. There was no way the boys were going to ruin their chances to make bank just because their spoiled little brother wanted to be part of their act.

But Mama had spoken. And so Larry sprang into action. He greased the strings of Buddy's toy fiddle, so the sawing could commence without making a sound.

The act was a hit. According to Buddy's biographer, the judges “were so taken with the cute kid sawing away and singing alongside his big brothers that they won a $5 prize.”*

The experience could have been a disaster. Larry and Travis could have refused to let Buddy join them. Buddy could have scratched and screeched his way to boos and jeers.

Instead, some judiciously applied grease mitigated the potential harm of Buddy's inclusion, and gave him a first taste of a life that ultimately changed the course of popular music.

That was the first time the world saw Buddy Holly perform.

And My Point Is…

You may also be called on to perform over the next few days.

Your role might be, “Former glutton who's now trying to eat healthy at a table where all the decadent stuff is piled tits-high,” or perhaps “Over-sensitive vegan Debby Downer who's gonna try to make us feel guilty about eating turkey,” or maybe some variation of “Exhausted peacemaker who may just shove Uncle Bill's pipe up his ass if he starts talking about the good old days when there wasn't such a thing as gender.”

Lots of my clients face the first scenario. They're in the early stages of lifestyle change. Maybe they've lost 20 or 50 pounds, and they're feeling really good about their choices and their self-control.

But here comes Thanksgiving, and all bets are off. How can they say no to all those classic dishes: the butter-mashed potatoes, the marshmallow sweet potatoes, the pecan pie, the stuffing and gravy, and of course the big bird in the center of the table?

I've had a couple of clients pointedly tell me that they're going to ignore all their rules this week. Just go with the flow, not think about it, and begin their recovery on Monday morning.

Now that's fine, if it's what they really want. I don't make the rules; my clients do. I support whatever is going to help them achieve the goals they've shared with me.

If a 4-day binge is really the best way to deal with the holiday, then let's go for it.

All or Nothing

When I gently question the rationale behind joining the gluttony, however, my clients don't actually believe that bingeing is the best way forward. They typically dread the prospect; first of giving up all control and agency; and second of the damage on the scale or the glucose strip or the blood pressure cuff the next time they check.

So why do they want to let go of all their standards and rules and practices, if they've been working so well? What is the rationale?

Because, they tell me, they don't think they can be perfect, so they don't want to risk failure by trying for perfection and not reaching it.

It's like they want to headfake their Inner Glutton by giving in without a fight. As if that's going to accomplish anything.

That's All or Nothing thinking, wrapping itself in the shroud of perfectionism.

So rather than create Thanksgiving-specific standards and rules that may deviate from your daily practice, they don't let their striving self show up at all.

“This week is going to be a challenge,” they tell me. As if “challenge” were synonymous with “no flipping chance of success whatsoever.”

Grease Your Strings

What if you thought of your eager, proud, developing-standards-of-eating self as five-year-old Buddy Holly? So excited to come out and play, to self-express, to participate in an important family event.

And maybe, like Buddy, you aren't ready for the big show. Not quite up to demonstrating your health-promoting, environment-respecting, animal-saving lifestyle in the face of family members, traditions, and binge-inducing dishes sitting just inches from your face.

The solution isn't to shy away from the contest.

Instead, it's to get creative with harm reduction.

Creative Harm Reduction

Larry greased the strings, as a form of harm reduction. Buddy could then participate, win the hearts of the audience and the judges, and gain a piece of the self-confidence that would turn him into an international star.

How can you grease your own strings?

  • Maybe decide on a couple of dishes you're going to omit from your plate – turkey and pecan pie, perhaps? – while allowing yourself to enjoy the rest of the fare.
  • Maybe get one heaping plate and then DO NOT go back for seconds.
  • Maybe decide in advance on the portion sizes you'll allow yourself.
  • Maybe bring a healthy casserole and eat it first, so you're not making decisions on an empty stomach.
  • If you know that alcohol disinhibits you and makes self-sabotage more likely, then decide to abstain or go real easy.

Lots of ways to grease the strings. To show up fully while reducing the negative consequences of your actions.

Show up with intention. Do something on purpose. Show yourself some of the love you deserve.

Do it day in, day out. Even on “challenging” days.

Do it every day.

Every day,
It's a-getting closer
Going faster than a roller coaster
Love like yours (your own) will surely come your way.

Happy Holidays!

*Not Fade Away: The Life and Music of Buddy Holly, by John Gribbin

Looking for Transformational Change?

You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?

That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.

But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, that I'm devoting the next year to mastering it, studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, and then introducing it into health coaching through my trainings.

Right now, I want to triple my coaching practice to get more and more opportunities to do this work. And I'm lowering my fees – a lot – to make it easier for people to work with me.

If you're interested in working with me (and willing to commit to a minimum of 2 months), click the link below to open the form in a new browser tab and I'll get back to you within 3 business days.

Yes, I'm interested in Memory Reconsolidation Coaching.

You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight

Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.

It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂

Tip Jar

This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by clicking the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.


The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.


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