Promises Promises

promise

I recently had a potential client ask me to make them promises on how many “likes” my product advertising would gain for the business. I wouldn’t do it. But why? Shouldn’t a marketer be able to promise a return on investment? Absolutely, but for so many reasons this request was simply wrong. Let’s break down why.
As I’ve written before, likes are largely irrelevant. If you want guaranteed likes, well then you can just buy them. They’ll be completely worthless. Let me correct myself; they’ll cost you to buy and then, later, they’ll cost you when you have to pay more to get your content out to your page since you now have a page that’s filled with people who don’t care about your stuff. But hey, if that’s your measure of success then you can, indeed, just buy them. But you’ll need to find another person to do that for you. I don’t do that kind of work. I also won’t sell you a bridge. Ruining my reputation isn’t worth it.

Another reason this request didn’t work is that this contract wasn’t about likes or growing the page. It was specifically about advertising product for purchase. Now granted, a side effect of advertising product is almost always growing a page. If people like and purchase a product, they’ll often like your Facebook page as well. It is important, however, to keep the actual end goal in mind. Do you measure your sales success by how many people like you? I hope your mortgage company takes likes as payment. Mine doesn’t. Measure sales success by sales.

I should stop here and say that I have done work to grow a page’s following. Lots of work focused on that end goal. There is a time and place for that. But how you go about that is VERY different from how you sell a product. It’s important not to mix the two. Just like friends, you don’t want your friends constantly selling to you, and when you go to buy something you don’t want someone spending all of your time trying to become your good buddy. There’s a time and a place for everything.
So then, will I guarantee sales? Probably not. But, isn’t that what the ad was about? You bet. And I’ve done exactly that in environments where I had control of ALL of the details that went into selling a product. The minute that one of those details changed my ability to guarantee sales drops to zero.

I can bring you in sales leads but if your sales team doesn’t follow up on those leads nothing I can do will make your product sell. I can get people to your website but if that website doesn’t convert there’s nothing I can do to make people want to buy. I’m more than happy to guarantee at least industry standards for metrics; frankly I’d be surprised to see anything that poor… I’ve yet to have rates that low.

If you want me or any marketer to guarantee something, they’d better have full and complete control over whatever it takes to make that thing happen. Are you willing to let your marketer do that? Check out this AWESOME post on just what a marketer should ask for regarding control should you want to guarantee sales…

As a marketer part of my job is setting realistic expectations. Some of that is working with customers to determine what they really want from their marketing. Many people don’t truly know. It also means sticking to an end goal. “I want ALL THE THINGS” from a single campaign doesn’t work. It’s the very reason many people believe Facebook and social selling doesn’t work. They’re doing all the things at the same time.

It also means making sure a client knows that a sales process isn’t simply putting out an ad. “If you build it they will come” works in fantasy baseball movie land. A true sales process is far more complex and requires effort across all parts of a company. If any part of that is broken the sales process suffers.

A final note. While all of this is “sales” related the same is true for nonprofits. Perhaps even more so. Many nonprofits have trouble determining what the end goal is for their social media campaigns. Or alternately they start with the hard sell before they’ve established any friends at all. You might be able to do that with a great product. As a nonprofit, you’re VERY unlikely to do that, even with a great cause.

The final point? Sometimes the person you need to hire is the person who will tell you no. No, you can’t (or shouldn’t) run this wire through your bathtub no matter how much you want to. Don’t listen to the electrician who tells you yes just because it’s what you want to hear.

Anyone can tell you yes, but that yes comes at a price. And that price is getting the results you ACTUALLY want.


Breaking the Law

It never fails that you’ll see an article here or there on the “Rules” of social media or marketing as a whole.  Sometimes these rules are pretty solid.  Sometimes they’re stupid.  But like anything else, there is always a time to break social media rules.

One of my personal rules?  

Never link accounts.  What do I mean by that?  Never have what you post on Facebook automatically post to Twitter.  Never have what you post on Instagram post automatically to Facebook.  Etcetera.

Why?  

Each of these platforms has its own unique ways of operating.  If you automatically post your Facebook content to twitter you’ll get tweets that are truncated and look bizarre.  You’ll usually be missing hashtags that could make you a part of a conversation or topic and you’ll likely not tag people who might need to see what you’ve written.

The same is true if you post your Instagram to Facebook.  Instagram LOVES hashtags.  HASHTAG ALL THE THINGS!  It’s how people find content they want to explore.  But seeing an endless stream of hashtags on Facebook is both annoying and tacky- Facebook doesn’t do hashtags except in joke.  

And really, regardless of the medium, your fans deserve quality content and effort don’t they?  Well… mostly yes.

But as with anything, there’s an exception to every rule.

 

Nial McGaughey of Hovercraft

 

Meet my friend Nial.  He owns and runs Hovercraft Amplifiers.  He builds beautiful stuff and does an awesome job of posting it to Instagram along with personal pics.  His fans love him and he’s growing a huge following there.

 

(you can see more of the Hovercraft Instagram feed HERE)

 

But Nial is also a sole proprietor who does everything himself, from answering endless emails to building these amps to packaging and shipping them out- and EVERY OTHER THING in between.

He doesn’t have time to manage every social media channel.  To be honest, he doesn’t have time to do half of the stuff he’s actually doing.  The fact that he can find time to even be on Instagram is a miracle.

And yet being on Facebook would be solid for his business and indeed Hovercraft has a page there… a page with 10k fans.  A page that he has no time to manage and has basically “shut down” by telling folks he won’t be posting there anymore.

My advice?  

You got it.  Link your Instagram account to Facebook and have it automatically post to Facebook for you.  He should be able to even turn off comments or at least, let fans know that they can’t get in touch with him on Facebook (remember, he has no time for community management… no really, he doesn’t).

This would help keep his page alive, with content and when it comes time to advertise on Facebook folks could see that something was being posted on the page.

 

For normal folks this would be problematic

REACH and all… but unlike most folks his fans actually are pretty rabid… he doesn’t need to worry too much about his reach and right now, with a page that isn’t being used, it can’t actually be less.  Remember, he posts pictures of his dinner on Instagram and people still love it.  Not everyone can get away with that.  He is a celebrity for the work he does and people want to see his process, even if it’s not well-polished marketing content with solid community management and perfect response times.

So yes, there are times to break rules.  Does this mean YOU should instantly have all of your Instagram posts pushed to Facebook?  Probably not.  Do you honestly have 10k fans you grew without trying who would care what you ate for dinner?  No?  Then the answer is NO.

The key to breaking rules is to know when it’s actually appropriate and not just doing it because you want to.

 

For those who want to learn more about Nial and the work he does you can read more about his work in this Popular Mechanics post here, or purchase his stuff here.


What You’re Paying For with BIG Marketing

marketing firms

 

Quite some time ago I had what I thought would be the great privilege to work with a huge marketing firm.  I was very excited about the project as I was going to get the opportunity to see how one of the “world’s leading global public relations firms” handles marketing, social media and the like.

I was thrilled to have such a great opportunity to look inside such a huge marketing juggernaut and to learn from them whatever there was to be learned.  But more importantly, I was extremely excited about a specific project they were suggesting for the tiny nonprofit I was working with at the time as a consultant.

Learning from the “Gurus”?

You see, just prior to this consulting gig, I worked with TechSoup Global and helped to run their Digital Storytelling Challenge.  We had a very small team of folks to run this international competition.  While we had, in my opinion, knocked it out of the park, like any other huge project done by a small group of people with a ton of other projects going on at the same time, there was certainly room for improvement.

This huge international marketing firm was suggesting something fairly similar to the digital storytelling event we had just completed at TechSoup.  It would be easier to run as it only involved photography rather than both a video and photography component as we had done at TechSoup.  Unlike the TechSoup Challenge, it was only going to be open to folks in the US rather than all over the globe, cutting out a ton of complexity.

And of course, with the HUGE global presence of a marketing firm with over 70 offices worldwide who contests all the time, marketing for some of the biggest companies in the world, watching them run something like this should be amazingly educational.  Right?

Learning How

As I sat in on the meeting a ton of the logistics about the contest didn’t seem to come up so I asked about them.  There didn’t seem to be much thought or knowledge about how these basics would work.  These things hadn’t even been considered.  I should add that I wasn’t talking to the high level idea people.  No, these were the people who would make this project happen for us.

Finally I asked the big question, the one we had struggled with at Tech Soup and the one that provides for a ton of really tricky concern as, if you do it wrong, you can get into a TON of hot water… RULES.

You see each state has a ton of different rules about what is allowed when it comes to contests.  Use the word raffle in some states and you’ll be in serious trouble… cause now you’re gambling.  Aka no one can pay to enter your contest and your contest has to be a contest of skill, not chance.

And this is where my mind was blown.  It wasn’t that they didn’t know off-hand about how rules for each state would be handled.  No, that wasn’t the shocker.

They Didn’t Even Know…

They didn’t know that there was even a concern about rules regarding contests.  They didn’t even know that there were rules that existed for contests.  They didn’t know this would be an issue or something to even consider.

 

I’m not sure if I did a decent job of hiding my shock at this or not.  I doubt it.

 

These people are paid BIG BUCKS… in this case more than $350 for a blog post with a few words and some pictures (as an example) and they didn’t even know that contests have rules?  I can’t recall how much they were charging for the contest portion of the marketing contract.  It was a lot.

That may not seem like a huge problem but if they don’t know that there are rules around this sort of thing what other hot water might they get our tiny nonprofit into?  What other thing might I need to watch for?  

Is it possible that we could get into serious legal issues because they don’t even know what they don’t know?


And with the HUGE cost of what we were paying for, shouldn’t we be able to expect they would have our back legally?  Shouldn’t that kind of thing be a given from a major global marketing firm?

The answer is no.  You shouldn’t expect that from a major marketing firm apparently.  You shouldn’t expect that from the majority of marketers you work with.

 

The take-away?

So find someone who knows better.  Find someone who thinks “is there something we need to look into here legally before we do this thing?”

 

Just because you pay through the nose doesn’t mean you’re getting what you pay for.

 


Who is doing your social?

Do You know--

Who is doing your social?  Are you sure you know?

Usually when people hire a marketing firm they believe they’re getting a professional marketer to do their marketing.  But is that really the case?

Just recently I came across this post on Facebook and it absolutely blew my mind.  And then I realized I really shouldn’t be too surprised.  You see, it’s not that I don’t know who is offering up a lot of the social media consulting.  I do.

But do you?

WHAT

 

Notice, nothing about actually selling product.  Almost anyone can “capture leads” but can they actually SELL?  Isn’t that what you’re paying them to do?

Do yourself a favor, take a look at job postings for social media jobs.  Look specifically for job postings for agencies looking to hire people.  And since most of you are too busy to do that I’ll tell you what you’ll (often) find.

Who is doing social…

First, you’ll find people hiring for agency jobs often looking for people with little to no true marketing experience required other than experience why USE social media.  And often these jobs pay minimum wage if they pay at all.  Sometimes they’re hiring interns and interns only and yet the job makes it pretty clear they aren’t offering much in the way of training as they want this new hire to be competent at most of the job tasks without any supervision.

Here’s the thing folks, using social media and selling on social media is NOT the same thing.  Just because someone has a lot of friends on social doesn’t mean they know anything at all about how to actually get people to your event or sell your product.  Indeed, having worked with MANY newbie social media managers, it’s often true these folks know little to nothing about how to actually sell via social (though they usually assume they do).  Being a popular kid doesn’t actually sell product.  Certainly not unless you’re a celebrity and sometimes not even then.

The most important thing for you to consider is that a number of these marketing companies are hiring people YOU wouldn’t hire if you were hiring your own marketing person to do marketing in-house, certainly not for the price you’re paying them for their services.

And yet many people hire marketing companies assuming they are getting experienced marketing professionals.

For that matter many people are hiring the consultants like those being trained above assuming they are hiring marketing professionals.  They don’t assume they’re hiring someone who has a few months (if that) of marketing training under their belt, most of which focused on how to sell their business to you and not how to sell your business and its products or services!

A short training program isn’t going to make you competent at selling via social.  What it might make you able to do is convince people that you’re a “social media rockstar”.

So how do you hire someone to sell your business?

The same way you hire for any position.  Results.

If you’re hiring for a salesperson you want someone who has a proven track record of selling.  So hire a social media person who has a proven track record of selling.  Don’t focus on click-through rates.  Look for someone who has built pages, grown followings, someone who can get people in the door if you have a brick and mortar shop, and someone who has SOLD PRODUCT.

If they can’t prove that they can do this for you through their past efforts, find someone who can.


Social Media Results

Most marketers will promise results to you.  But the results they promise are things like CTR, or likes on Facebook.  I’m going to suggest to you that these aren’t results, they are fluff, at least they are once you’ve established a firm community on social media.
You see, once you have an audience you shouldn’t simply be looking for likes.  What you need is sales, or for a nonprofit, donations.  And for things like events, you need people in the door.  But for whatever reason, most marketers won’t tell you they can make those things happen.

Now I will give a caveat.  If the event stinks or the product stinks no one can sell that.  But if your product is good, if your event is good, a good marketer better be able to get people in the door or get a product to sell.  And yes, it should be obvious that social made it happen.

Don’t believe me?  This Instagram post had at LEAST two people come in on a single weekday to see the bike and a number more asking about pricing.  Two people doesn’t sound like much but on a rainy weekday in January that’s actually pretty huge.

We’re not sure yet how many came in over the weekend to see the bike.  And these are just the folks who told us how they knew about the bike…  I have plenty more stories of proof of sales and event turn out to tell later but for now this is about getting people in the door during a time when no one comes in.

It can be done.  Don’t pay for someone who isn’t willing to make that happen.

A good marketer should be able to show you actual results, not just people clicking!


Marketing the Impossible…

 

Ducati EventEvery once in a while as a marketer you’re asked to promote something you just don’t think you can sell.  It may not be the product or the event itself.  Often the problem is the timing or something else outside of your control.

Just such a case happened last winter.  You see, winter in the motorcycle industry is not particularly friendly.  Few people are thinking about riding when the weather is cold and wet.

But when a major brand says they’re coming to your shop on a specific day you don’t get a choice in the matter.  And so it happened that I had to promote an event that would happen at what might well be the very worst time ever.  Tuesday, in March, at a motorcycle shop that’s hard to get to on weeknights, or really any time after about 3pm.

What To Do?

There are a couple of choices when you have something like this to promote.  You can go all in, trying absolutely everything to see if anything will stick or, you can decide to save your money for something with a larger pull.  I decided not to spend too much money on this event, knowing that I had a limited audience to pull from on a weekday.

What I did know is that if I targeted my audience correctly I might just stand a chance of getting people in the door.  Maybe.  So that’s what I did.

While the brand had done some advertisement, it really focused on general advertisement all over the US that basically said, we’re coming to a dealership near you… check out this page to see where.  Nothing that specifically told them to come see us.  Nothing that highlighted our shop in any meaningful way.  That was going to be up to us.

Competition

And it was going to be a huge sell.  Our local competitors had much better slots.  One of the big shops to the north had the Saturday slot.  Big city, Saturday.  And here we were at a shop that’s hard to get to on a Tuesday… Ugh.

So what did I do?  Well first I sent out our email blast.  With an open rate of over 50% our customers would certainly want to know if there’s something going on at the store.  We would make sure to tell them.  After all, we were joking that we’d have 6 people in the shop, 5 more than the usual 1 we see at this time of the year and we might not have that if we didn’t send our email blast!!

And then I did what I knew would be the most focused and least expensive marketing I could do… I advertised on Facebook.  For $15 I could very accurately target people I thought would have an extremely high likelihood of showing up at the shop.

But would it work?

The day came and almost immediately we were all blown away.  People were showing up at the shop all day.  And it wasn’t just our regular customers.

When all was said and done we had about 100 people in the shop, a miracle for a Tuesday in March.  And of those 100 people about 75% – 80% were customers who were new to us.

That is amazing.  For $15 we had a much higher turnout than we ever expected and more importantly, we had more new customers in the door than we have ever seen before at any previous event.

Needless to say, that was easily the best $15 I have ever spent on advertising.

Many may think that 100 people isn’t a ton of people through the door and for some businesses that would certainly be true.  For a motorcycle shop in March on a Tuesday none the less, it’s absolutely huge.

Spend, Spend, Spend!

When people tell you that you need to spend big money on Facebook what they’re telling you is that they don’t know how to run Facebook ads well.

A LOT can be done with $15.


Selling it on Facebook

LinkedIn Post Selling it On Facebook

While many dealers advertise their used bikes on Facebook, the way you go about advertising makes all of the difference between spamming your audience and giving people something they want so much they are excited not only to see it, but to share it with their friends.

One of the used bike ads I created was shared and tagged over 15 times.  That’s 15 times people actually advertised the bike FOR ME.  Think about that.  If you’re thinking that’s not a very large number, for a used bike in a small market, it’s HUGE.

This isn’t all that unusual.  Many bike ads have people sharing them or tagging friends they think might be excited about the bike.

But the important part?  Short of a handful of bikes, all of the used bikes I’ve put on Facebook have sold within a week or two of posting them on Facebook.  These are bikes that had sat on the floor for quite some time prior to being put into a Facebook ad.

Of course HOW you write these ads makes all the difference.  And therein lies the key.  Do it wrong and people will hate you.  Do it wrong and you’re just another gold-chain wearing used appliance sales person.

But do it right and not only will people be excited to see your ad, they will help you spread the word.

Facebook advertising has changed.  There is no easy button.  But when you create ads that people like it isn’t just cheap to advertise, people will help you make the money you spend go even further.

Learn more at www.JessicaDally.com


Why Followers Aren’t Important

For quite some time I was an admin of a page I no longer managed.  It was basically a service to a business I had worked with for years since the people they had taking over were still learning how to manage their page and their admin roles.  As such, I had a unique opportunity to look inside the workings of someone else’s social media strategy to see what works, and, in this case, doesn’t work.

To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention at first, occasionally popping in to look at their posts.  Most were not interesting at all- links without pictures and poor headlines.  They received few if any likes.

But, like anyone who has admin access to a page and has it set up, I regularly received updates on their statistics emailed to me from Facebook, specifically their “like” or follower numbers.  And here is where I saw something that sparked my interest.

FANS

Each and every week they had new fans.  Not just a few, but a LOT.  Considering they were a major player in their particular knowledge base this might not have been strange except for a few little facts.  First, as mentioned above, each post had few if any likes and almost no shares.  They were not creating a lot of traffic from their content.  But hey, maybe they were getting traffic elsewhere.  Completely possible.

No, that’s not what really raised the red flags.  It was the number of new fans.  Each and every week for more than 6 months they had an increase of 100 fans, sometimes it was a few more, but NEVER less and almost always it was EXACTLY 100 fans.

You might be thinking, that’s AWESOME, how do I do that!?  Let me stop you there.  It’s not awesome.  There’s only one way you do that.  You buy it.  You buy fans.

Why NOT?

Great, you think, now you’ve got a huge fan base!  But what value is a like if those fans really don’t care about what you’re doing?  I’ll tell you, not only do they have no value, they actually are COSTING you.  It’s true.

You see, because these paid for fans don’t actually care about your content, they don’t interact with your content.  They don’t click on and read your posts, they don’t like your posts, they don’t share your posts.  And as you have more and more fans who don’t interact with your post the more your reach goes down.

Reach is a metric Facebook uses to see if you’re producing good content that people like.  And well, now that you have a bunch of fans who don’t care what you do, your content is seen as bad content.  You’ve just paid to make sure your content is seen as bad content.

So what does that mean?  It means that all those fans you had who actually liked your content are even less likely to see your stuff.  Why?  Because Facebook is pretty sure your content is garbage.  As a percentage, very few people like or interact with the stuff you’re posting, so why should Facebook show it to anyone?  You’re posting junk.  Of course the fans who actually like you might not think so, but those paid fans do.

You’ve literally ruined your Facebook page by paying for fans.

Another Version

As a note, there’s another version of paying for fans.  You can pay for fans AND get them to comment too!  Great right?  Not so much.  I’ve seen a small nonprofit do this with horrible results.  How could I tell?  A post about a slaughter of a pack of wolves had people posting comments like “this is great!”  You see you’re not paying for people to post good comments or read your articles and, with that, you’ll get nothing but comments like “this is great” or “cool” to absolutely anything you post.  It degrades your community and eventually your real fans will wonder what is going on with your page and why you have fans who don’t seem to care at all about what you’re doing.

The Proof

So check out the graphic below…  The top page is a look at the page in question.  Check out the total reach compared to their total page likes?  See what a small portion of people are looking at their content vs the total number of people who like their page?  Now check out the pages that I manage.  Every single one has reach far beyond the number of people who like the page.  My fans are seeing my content.

If all you care about is how many people like you then why are you on Facebook?  It’s not to sell your product (people aren’t seeing your posts or your product) and it’s not to get your message out to people.

Your goal NEEDS to be getting people to see and CARE about your content.

This isn’t a popularity contest folks.  Trying to be popular is a failure proposition… just check it out below!

 

(Note: Click on the picture to enlarge)

 

Compare Weekly Total Reach to Total Page Likes..Social Media (2)


Metabolism- My experience Part 1

I’ve been meaning to write this up for some time but just haven’t gotten around to it.  Frankly it’s more than a single blog post, it could be a book but time doesn’t allow for that so I’ll start with this.

As many of you may know I’ve spent the last year plus working with a metabolism doctor.  Dr Emily Cooper is both a genius and an incredible scientist.  I’d call her a miracle worker but that would insinuate that what we’re doing isn’t science and frankly, unlike all the other doctors and diets I’ve been on, this is the first science I’ve actually been a part of when it comes to my weight and metabolism.

You see, when you go into Dr Coopers office you spend time doing blood work and can actually SEE what is happening in your body, how you’re body is responding to what you’re doing, why things are working (or aren’t as we’ll get to here) and how to fix it (which is her role).  Everyone else just sells you a bunch of pop science nonsense.  Yes, “calories in, calories out” is nonsense.  The scientific community has known that for a very long time but the diet industry makes a lot of money from it (it’s a multibillion dollar industry) and keeps pushing the myth.  After all if that weren’t true and every person’s body were actually different you wouldn’t be able to sell that one size fits all workout or nutritional plan.  In a bit I’ll post a blog that has links to medical articles (eventually) though if you really want to educate yourself just read Emily’s book which you can find here.

So a bit of background without going into it too much.  I went to Emily because I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t lose weight no matter what I did.  Throughout my past I’d gotten to this point.  Indeed just yesterday I drove past a place where I’d had my metabolism tested years ago.  At the time I was working out 2-3 hours a day, 5-6 days a week.  I was being very careful and counting my calories.  Sure, I RARELY ate more than my allotted calories but I wasn’t binging.  What did my test show and what was suggested by the guys at the CrossFit gym (this was at the start of that trend)?  I just needed to work out an hour or two more a day.  An hour or two more a day.  An hour or two more…  You know, like quit my friggin job so I can work out 5 hours a day?!?  I’m sorry, but that’s not normal.  No one should have to do that to lose a few pounds.  And yes, I was overweight… I wasn’t one of those people trying to lose 5 pounds so I could fit into a size 000… I was trying to fit into something smaller than a size 14.

Anyway, years later I had started riding my bike all the time.  Planning for a trip to Europe I couldn’t afford, I determined that it would help me get in shape, lose weight and save money (my gas guzzler was costing me $200-300 a month in gas) to ride my bike everywhere I could.  That meant commuting from February (yes, even in the pouring rain) through October.  That meant carrying all my groceries up a gigantic hill every evening.  That meant climbing Phinney every evening.  And it even meant riding all over the city to get to appointments.  Indeed the only time I’d drive is if I had to carry stuff I couldn’t carry on my bike and I do mean COULDN’T… like 2x4s or cheesemaking supplies for a class I was teaching.  Heck, I even tried to figure out how I could do that since I had hauled the 3 gallons of milk up that huge hill on my bicycle but the pots along with everything else was just too much stuff to fit on the bike.

Anyway, I was also watching what I ate.  I made casseroles and broke them into 400 calorie servings.  I’d eat four of these a day to make 1600 calories and then give myself another 200 ish calories.  When I didn’t lose any weight I began going to the gym after riding my bike home.  And yet still nothing.

It was pretty crazy at that point.  Yet again I was at the “I really can’t do any more” stage.  I couldn’t eat less and still cycle everywhere.  If I tried to do so I literally wouldn’t have the physical energy to get anywhere.  I needed some fuel to get my body to function.  I couldn’t exercise more as there simply wasn’t time in the day.

So I went to Dr Cooper after hearing about her from a friend.  And after the first round of bloodwork we found why I wasn’t losing weight and why what I was doing (a lot of exercise) was actually worse for me.  I had insulin resistance.  Essentially the thing that comes before pre-diabetes.  Exercise was making everything worse because my body already thought I was starving (I could see this with my leptin levels) and the more working out I did the more my body really wanted to hold onto weight… after all I was obviously about to die.  Except that I wasn’t…. I was still quite overweight.

Anyway, flash forward a bit.  I’ve lost quite a bit of weight working with Dr Cooper.  I’ve lost it eating WHATEVER I want.  I mean that.  Cake, cookies, you name it.  I just want less of that than I did (I’ll get to that).  I literally never count calories or think about what I’m going to eat.

More recently however I changed my meds (most insurance programs won’t cover drugs for insulin resistance or pre-diabetes… you have to let it progress to full blown type 2 diabetes before they’ll approve medication.  Gotta love our medical system eh?).  The new meds were… different.

Before I get to the science of what was happening let me tell you what I experienced.  With my old medications several things happened.  First, I stopped wanting to eat a lot of food.  Indeed I went from consuming a ton of food at any sitting to eating very little.  It wasn’t some sort of self-control and I wasn’t stuffed or full really.  I was simply done eating.  It was truly bizarre.

Never before (well, not in a long time) did I have the desire to stop eating before I was really full.  I could mentally tell myself to stop but having my body and my motivation to eat just shut off?  That was completely foreign.  I just didn’t want anymore.  Anyone who knows me knows that now I eat precious little food.  My body knows that I’m overweight (see Leptin) and doesn’t want as much food as it did.  Before it thought I was starving and wanted me to FEED IT.  Now it’s fine with a lot less and really won’t let me eat too much.

Second, and this is a big one, I didn’t crave sweet stuff.  Let me say that again, I didn’t crave sweet stuff.  For anyone who knows me this is a huge thing.  First, there was never anything that was too sweet before and now, a lot of stuff sounds sickeningly sweet.  Second, while some sweet things sound good, the motivation to eat them or go get them is rarely there.  I’d often choose a mint over ice cream as an after dinner desert now.  That would have never happened before.

To be clear, before I would have almost killed you for something sweet.  No really.  I would get almost shaky wanting sugar.  There’s a very good reason for it.  We’ll get there.

So anyway, my meds changed and a few things happened.  My partner and I go out to eat on occasion (more often than not right now as I’m prepping my house to sell) and I noticed that food I wasn’t able to eat in its entirety I could now.  How the heck am I eating a whole burrito?  What’s more, since I was used to my body telling me to stop when it was done I kinda assumed that I must simply need more food… I must just be more hungry.

And the sugar cravings were back.  Now I was thinking about desert after dinner, concerned about what it would be and making sure there was something in the house whereas before the “something in the house” often went bad before I got around to eating it.  My favorite gelato actually got freezer burn because it just never sounded appealing to me before.

What was going on?!

Of course it was time for my appointment and that meant a blood draw.  Multiple blood draws actually.  Your doctor has not done this for you most likely.  You’ve not been tested for insulin resistance.  To do so you have to have a fasting blood test and then you have to eat and be tested again several more times on a half hour interval.  Usually the test takes about 3 hours with 5+ draws.  It’s worth it (and that’s coming from someone who has veins that are hard to find).

When I went in my symptoms were right there in the blood science.  First, my insulin resistance was back.  That meant that in about an hour after I ate my blood sugar was dipping very low (this is why the typical fasting blood test won’t work… it doesn’t show this hour after sugar dip).  Why was I craving sugar?  Because my body ACTUALLY NEEDED it.  I was crashing after eating… but well after eating at exactly the time I started getting hungry for something sweet.

But why was I eating more too?   Again, the blood told me.  My MSH, which had been better with the older drugs was now gone.  It didn’t show up on the blood test at all.  My appetite was through the roof because the hormone that regulates it didn’t exist in my body.

So now I’m back on the old drugs and working to a different drug that hopefully my insurance will cover.  Eventually I’ll likely be able to get off the prescriptions but it will take a while.  The other option is to not treat the problem and go into full blown diabetes and obesity as so many other Americans do.  All because we refuse to recognize that our hormones affect our cravings for sugar and salt and control our appetites.  We actually think it’s a willpower thing.  Is it that people who don’t have a weight problem feel the need to feel better than others?

Or more likely, having never had an issue with the body’s responses to food they simply can’t understand why someone would overeat or crave sugar.

When my body is functional now it’s so incredibly night and day from what it was.  I honestly rarely think about sugar.  No really.  In fact last week I purchased some M&M’s and I have NO IDEA where I put them.  Some of you know how truly bizarre that is.  Really, where the heck did they go?  The funny thing is that I forgot I bought them.  Forgot.

If you’re craving sweets all the time, if nothing is “too sweet”, if you can eat until you’re stuffed and don’t want to stop until that time it’s not you.  Well, it is but it’s not some character flaw.  It’s not something lacking in your motivation.  It’s very likely something screwed up in your body.

But, you say, “I don’t work out like you did… I just can’t motivate myself.  I don’t want to”.  What do you think motivates you?  Yup, hormones.  Indeed you can make mice lazy by screwing with their hormones too.

People want you to believe that you’re a bad person.  They want you to believe this because it makes them rich and hugely because they don’t understand the more complex science behind metabolism.  There’s a lot of reason for that.  It’s not easy is the big one.  But it’s not you anymore than my cravings for sugar or eating too much was me.  It was a system that was malfunctioning.

We assume our bodies are machines when it comes to weight loss (calories in, calories out) and discount their more complex systems (hormones) when it’s convenient to blame people but we’re more than willing to discount the machine answers (malfunctioning metabolic systems) when the science shows that it’s not a character flaw.  Why do we discount solid scientific evidence simply so we can blame people and push pop science that hasn’t worked and indeed has made us more and more sick for years?  Are we really so mentally ill that we can only feel good about ourselves by holding on to pop science to put others down?  More and more it seems the answer is a resounding yes.

And yes, I know that this is simply my personal experience and to believe that alone would be committing an anecdotal fallacy however with a ton of science behind it and a whole lot of other people having the same experiences we have to question why our current paradigm isn’t working and why I can see the science on my blood tests.  Further we have to really question why no other doctor ever bothered to check some of these basic tests to see if there was something bigger going on and why no one is checking the majority of people out there before telling them to simply eat less and exercise more, especially when that isn’t working and the problem is getting worse, not better.

Dr Cooper has started a foundation to do more research into the work she is doing.  Sadly very few doctors are doing good science around this (though it’s changing… slowly).  You can learn more here:  http://www.diabesityresearchfoundation.org/

There is a section for practitioners.  Send your doctor there assuming they’re up for learning new things.  Not everyone is.  Many already know it all.  If nothing else that’s another thing I love about Emily… she’s always gathering more information and doing more research.  Isn’t that what we should expect from our doctors!?

Finally, I wrote this up very late at night and haven’t had a chance to reread it.  I may change it a bit to make it flow a bit better so if you come back and it’s a bit different forgive me.  If I wait to make it perfect I’ll never get this posted!


Choices

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Here in the US we live in a society of choices.  No matter what you want to do your options are many and we’re told that this is a benefit.  After all, who doesn’t love the ability to choose?

As I go through my too many things I realize that this is how I’ve been living my life as well.  I want to be able to choose what crafty thing I want to do.  I want to get the best, most perfect equipment to do whatever thing I want to do.  And all of that adds up to a lot of stuff.

But the reality is that choices have a big drawback… time.  It takes time to make a choice.  It takes time to research options to find the best possible widget for the job.  And it of course takes time to make the money to buy that best possible widget.

And this was my experience with quilting.  Of course I need a rolling cutter… isn’t that how quilters cut stuff?  And the pad for cutting.  And the other wheels for cutting.  And the (insert endless lists of things here)…

But the reality is that as I invest in more choices I have to learn how to use these things.  And I have to burn time figuring out which thing is the best thing.  And while society does indeed teach us to have the right tool for the job, people have been using the “wrong” tool for many years.

My choices have actually made me less likely to complete a new undertaking because each step requires more work.  Turns out scissors cut fabric just fine for a beginning quilter.  I don’t need more stuff to do it, certainly not when I’ve yet to decide if I actually like doing this type of project.

The same choice options become problematic with other things as well.  Why do I need 20+ pairs of pants?  Is it because I want to spend a lot of time each morning deciding what to wear?  As anyone who knows me will tell you, no, rather obviously I don’t want to spend time doing that.  So then here I am with clothes I never wear that take up space, make it harder to organize the stuff I have and costing me money for things I don’t actually use.

While I’m not suggesting that I live in one pair of pants (though that’s usually what I do anyway most of the time) questioning my “need” for options and choices certainly has me thinking about how I spend my time and money.  If I’m not using it why do I have it?  And more importantly, can I stop myself from buying more of these things so I have choices I don’t want to make anyway?

Options are great when the return on your time invested to make them pays off but making due with a less than optimal item is both a time and money saver.  The real trick is that by making due you eventually figure out if having another option is worth it and and at that point sifting through the options is easier because you know what you need and want.  From this point forward I will make due with the things I have until such a point that I know WHY and WHAT I’d actually like to make a task easier and I’ll wait and examine if that new choice, that new thing, is actually worth the effort.

Picture by Jim Davies