Mike’s blog: Make a smooth transition

You have thoroughly researched your content. You’ve distilled your arguments into cogent and concise sections.

You’ve assembled your paper in a manner that implies direct relationships between  topics, but your instructor still says you’re missing something, that your paper is “choppy” or that your  thoughts “jump all over the place.”  

Clearly, your instructor is missing something, right? All of the information is right there, in a straight line,  what could be missing?

In this scenario, hopefully your instructor would be kind enough to clue you in to the missing element:  transitions.


The train analogy 

Transitions can be easy to ignore–because they come so naturally. If your paper is a train, your thesis statement is the engine and your arguments are the cars.


Transitions are the links between cars. The cars will still be filled with material, but without the links, they’ll fall away without getting delivered



The Billy Joel method

If you are of a certain age, you’ve probably heard Billy Joel’s song We Didn’t Start the Fire more times than you care to imagine.

The song is a perfect example of how removing transitions also removes any meaningful relationship between topics.

Do Sputnik and Chou en-Lai have anything in common? Maybe, but you wouldn’t know from the song.



REM “logic”


A better example is REM’s classic It’s the End of the World.


What does Leonard Bernstein have to do with anything? No one knows. Just sing the chorus.



Linear thoughts don’t always translate to paper

While transitions typically come naturally in linear thought, there are many ways they can become lost in constructing a paper. Often times papers are not written in a linear fashion, or the order of arguments will be shifted from one draft to another. A transition appropriate from one argument to the next might not work when the order is rearranged.


When sections of a group project are individually crafted, the leader of the group needs to craft reasonable transitions between one person’s thoughts and another’s to illuminate the greater purpose of the paper.



Haste makes…I forget

stop sign


Writing too quickly can lead to logic leaps that make sense in the writer’s brain but will leave readers wondering how topics relate. This can happen when the writer has a very clear understanding of the topics or arguments they want to cover, and they want to get them all into the document before they forget any of them.


This can also happen when “the perfect sentence” pops into the writer’s mind. The goal then shifts to getting all of the perfunctory writing out of the way before the sentence is lost in the hollows of the mind.


The best way to avoid mistakes caused by writing too quickly?  Keep a detailed outline of your paper.

Inside your outline, you can use shorthand markers to get to the better-formed thoughts, allowing you to write in as little or as much detail as you like before worrying about the specific ways to connect your thoughts.

If you work exclusively within a word processor, it’s not a bad idea to keep a good ol’ pen and paper on hand to scrawl out a spontaneous epiphany without having to worry about switching back and forth between your outline and main document.


Words, phrases, sentences

Transitions take a handful of forms across a multitude of categories. The forms include these transitional words:






Transitional phrases:


in this scenario

for that purpose

in the meantime 


Or transitional sentences:


Clearly, your instructor is missing something, right? All of the information is right there, in a straight line, what could be missing?


The University of Wisconsin and Michigan State both have an excellent compilation of transitional words and phrases broken down by contextual category.


Transitions serve as the signposts of logic within a text. They don’t describe a thought or argument specifically, but they do illustrate how thoughts and arguments are connected and therefore related, or not.


Without them, your paper will be no better than a Billy Joel  song. You’re better than that. I know you are.


For further reading, UNC-Chapel Hill has a terrific virtual handout that digs deeper into the specifics of transitions and transitional expressions.


Robin’s blog: Plagiarism–Fruit of temptation

“Lead us not unto temptation” is a phrase from a prayer many of us know, and I’m probably not the only one who calls it to mind almost daily. Temptation is everywhere, from too many Christmas cookies to snapping at a difficult family member.


If you’re a writer, from a student to a world-renowned journalist, you’ve also probably faced temptation in the form of that confusing little devil called plagiarism..


I got to thinking about plagiarism in this modern age when I faced it head-on writing these blogs, especially those about the rules of grammar.


Because I’m a careful person and not always right when on that (or any other) topic, it’s my habit to do some online research as I write. I want to make sure I’m not spreading error, and sometimes I am trying to rethink it through for myself – now when is it that you start a quote with a capital? And other such fascinating topics.


How temptation begins

The temptation comes the minute I start reading what’s on the internet. It turns out perhaps thousands of well-educated people have written on those arcane topics, and I’m often startled at how well they explain things, with explanations of grammar’s nuances that are crystal clear and even beautifully written (well, perhaps only “beautiful” if you have a “thing” for grammar).


I’m safe as long as I cut, paste, and change wording…

stop sign

it’s still plagiarism if the idea belongs to someone else and you don’t attribute


So of course I do what any sane person trying to educate herself would do: I cut and paste the best phrases and paragraphs into my notes, sometimes even right into what I’m writing.


Then, of course, I go through and change the words to make it mine. But already I’m wondering, is this plagiarism? (It never was much of an issue when I was a student, when “cut and paste” meant literally that, and left a nasty hole in a book or magazine from which the cut was made).


So I rework the ideas into my own, but if it’s original or unique in any way – or maybe as I rewrite I realize the actual words the other person used were perfect – well, then I have to face up to it and attribute. That of course means, if you’re a student, hauling out the relevant style manual and doing it right.


Sometimes it’s actually more worthwhile just to start with words and ideas that are your own, and this is, indeed, one argument against laxity regarding plagiarism:


…if you put into your own words what you’ve read and studied, you pretty much have to understand it first.



The nuances of plagiarism

The whole question of course is more of a challenge to today’s student sitting at the computer. The temptations and the prevalence of various kinds of plagiarism are much increased. Much discussed too are the nuances of plagiarism, what is and what isn’t.


“Word-for-word” plagiarism is the one people usually think of, and the easiest to discern. When you get to ownership of ideas and matters like that, you’re on trickier ground, but I learned in my research that plagiarism is still considered, as it has been for probably millennia, a major intellectual “sin.”


And I realized the definition is really pretty clear. If you plagiarize, you are pretending that you thought and wrote something which actually someone else thought and wrote. It’s deception, to be blunt… or, in other words, lying.


What we do at In Writing

This is perhaps a good place to mention In Writing and the perspectives of its founder, Katie Anton. Katie tells me it’s crucial to her to make it clear that we are in no way a “paper-writing service,” to reassure both students and their teachers.

Even in our tutoring and editing, we’re careful to avoid suggesting to a student phrases or sentences to use. Rather than offer “did you mean to word it this way?” followed by a retelling in our words, we point out the places where you, the writer, need to give the point you’re making more thought.


Learning to put thoughts into words:  a formidable task

The birthplace of clear writing is in clear thinking, and being able to think clearly about something goes hand in hand with learning and understanding it. And learning to put your thoughts into words is one of the most important aspects of any kind of education.

When you’re out in the professional world, it’s sometimes the case you can delegate that responsibility. But a student can’t, and I’d argue shouldn’t. You will learn the material better, and as a bonus you’ll learn the ins and outs of your own communication style, your abilities and pitfalls (we all have them!).


Who really owns ideas?

Issues like “ownership” of ideas and the ability to trace a line of argument through sources are also major reasons to stop and think the next time you cut and paste a good set of words.


Some suggest in a modern world, maybe no ideas are really the property of one person or company. But others note that given the world as it is, with patents and copyrights galore, the question of whether ideas should be owned or not isn’t very relevant. What is relevant is the possibility of watching one’s career crash and burn after plagiarism is discovered.


For students, of course, the immediate concerns would be academic probation, suspension and even expulsion, none of which exactly advance one’s career!


When in doubt, cite

I admit I find citing sources tedious. I’d love to just take the ideas and run with them! But I’ve realized the wiser course is to slow down and be careful.


First, I’ll write the idea or information in my own words. At that point, I can see pretty clearly whether I’m restating a common fact or stealing an original idea. If there’s any doubt, I’ll stop and cite. If I realize the original writer put it better than I ever could, I’ll go back and use the direct quotation too.


At In Writing, we make this easier by helping out with accurate citation style. The main thing you need to supply is the intent to stay honest. In our experience, the vast majority of students have that intention. Plagiarism is a complicated topic to be sure, but it rests on some principles of honesty we’ve all heard about since kindergarten, if not before.

Copyright © 2014 In Writing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Robin’s blog: My three favorite misused words

Misused words can be charming in the right context. I have a friend who says “it’s not death-defying” when she means “it’s not earth shaking,” as in perhaps having picked up the wrong item at the store. It always makes me laugh.

Unfortunately teachers are usually less amused by these kinds of errors. Additionally they have the job to see that you know right from wrong in language. So for those reasons alone using the right word matters.

It can also matter – in school or out – when the error causes your communication to derail. You might think, “They knew what I meant,” but that little glitch can make readers have to stop and translate. It can slow readers down, be irritating, and sometimes even lead to complete breakdown, e.g. “I have no idea what the writer means here!” There’s not much point in writing if the writing doesn’t communicate.

Let’s look at a few of the words mostly commonly misused, based at least on what I’ve seen. I will list my three favorites and continue the list in future blogs.

If you know all these, congratulate yourself. But you can then search the web on this topic to challenge yourself, as some people have put together huge lists of words to watch out for.

A word to the wise (that you may already know): As you are writing, if you’re not sure of the word you want to use, just type it into Google and get the definition, with the proper spelling as a bonus. I’ve been amazed how wrong I can spell a word and Google still understands what I want! You can do the same thing with a phrase and, if you have it wrong, Google will tell you the more customary usage.

With no further ado, here are my top three for now, with the necessary notes:

1) Irregardless, regardless and irrespective. This is an oldie but goodie. Irregardless is not a word. I think it came about through confusion between regardless and irrespective, two words whose meaning is close. The ir prefix negates the word – so regardless and irrespective make sense, and irregardless doesn’t.

2) Moot and mute.  A point not relevant to the matter at hand is called moot (said like a cow’s “moo” with a T on the end), meaning it needn’t be spoken of in the current discussion. Mute, of course, means unable to speak. Between the pronunciation question and the faint resemblance in meanings, you can see where the confusion arises.

3) In view of and in lieu of.  In view of means taking into consideration, in lieu of means in place of. The latter is frequently seen in phrases like “In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate contributions to….” In view of actually means the opposite – “In view of the expense of flowers, I decided to donate the money to a college.” Lieu is the French word for place – that’s a major clue.

In general, if you want to remember these and not to have to look them up each time, but have trouble, the good old trick is to pick some little phrase, game, similarity, saying, etc. that for you hints at or makes entirely clear the differences.

Copyright 2013  In Writing, LLC  All Rights Reserved

Robin’s blog: Simple rules for fixing run-on sentences

“Run-on sentence!” The phrase conjures up images of teachers armed with red pens and frowns writing in the margins of my school papers.  Sometimes they would simply write “run-on!” and that seemed even worse. In either case, though, what I most dreaded was having to fix them.

It was years before I realized that “run-on” didn’t mean the sentence was too long. It meant the sentence was not built right.  The often accompanying phrase “comma splice” helped me see this more precisely.  It turns out that a run-on sentence is two or more sentences melded incorrectly into one.

Over the years, like many others, I have learned to write acceptably while often not really knowing the rules, and that’s one way to proceed. But everyone approaches writing in their own way, and it often helps to understand the basics if you want to find and fix errors.

Doing some research now, I’m not surprised that run-ons confused me.  There are actually two kinds of run-ons, one where the sentences are just mushed together with no punctuation, the other where they are joined by a comma. The latter is the infamous “comma splice” (and just to confuse things, there are a few rare cases where a comma splice is OK).

Is it a run-on?  First find the subject and verb

I’m not big on mastering grammar skills just for the heck of it. But any time your writing  isn’t communicating well enough, you may have to face learning some grammar. The subject and verb are the core of sentence structure – and usually should be meaning-wise as well.

For some people this skill needs no review, but for others it just never quite clicks, quite a bit like me and freshman algebra.  Either way, though, it’s a skill that can be improved with practice (and if you learn to approach your writing analytically using this kind of tool, you might find yourself actually enjoying it).

So, to find subject and verb, two basic questions to ask when you confront a sentence:

1.  What’s happening?

2.  Who’s doing it?

Of course, just to keep it tricky, you have to include “is,” “was,” “are,” “were” and all the other forms of the verb “to be” in the category of “doing,” as often one of those forms of “to be” will be your primary verb.

And we must not forget the imperative verbs, as in the sentence “Go to the door.” There the verb (the only word there that’s an action) is “Go,” and the person “doing” the action is “you.”  Another way to say it is “You! Go to the door!” See the implicit “you” as the subject in the three-word form?

Concentrate on finding the “center” of the sentence. Sometimes it won’t exactly match the “center” in terms of the sentence’s meaning. Remember you’re looking at the sentence’s structure: that is, how the words fit together and relate to one another.

First type of run-on:  The mushed-together sentence

If your sentence has more than one subject-and-verb pair, you should stop to make sure it’s not a run-on. For example, “We saw him he ran out the door.” Because you have two subjects (we and he) and two verbs (saw and ran), you need to separate them somehow.  Two ways to do this:

1.  With punctuation

2.  With more words that explain how the two are related

The easiest fix here:  Separate this into two sentences, with a period after “him.” To convey a closer relationship between the parts, you can instead use a semicolon (;) between them. Semicolons can be tricky, though, and you won’t go wrong if you simply make two sentences.

Second type of run-on:  The comma splice

To understand the comma splice, imagine the example above with its parts separated by nothing more than a comma after “him”:

“We saw him, he ran out the door.” 

That’s a comma splice, and these are almost never OK (see below for exception). You’re trying to join two sentences with a weak little comma.  It doesn’t sound really bad, but it’s not acceptable in most kinds of formal writing. You can fix this sentence as we did above by:

1. Making two sentences or

2. Using a semicolon between the two parts

Sometimes you can convey more meaning by linking the two parts with an additional word:

“We saw him but he ran out the door.” Or

We saw him because he ran out the door.

The first example uses but, a coordinating conjunction; the second uses because, a subordinating conjunction.

And yes, that’s jargon.  But it’s worth understanding:

A coordinating conjunction is a word like “and” or “but” that  is used to join two parts that could each stand alone.

A subordinating conjunction is a word like “because” or “when.” In joining the two parts, it makes one “subordinate” to the other, turning it into what’s called a dependent clause. You are making one part of your sentence dependent on the other part to make complete sentence.

The comma before a coordinating conjunction (“and,” “but,” etc.) is optional though it’s often useful, especially if the parts are long. With a subordinating conjunction (“because,” “when”) using a comma is wrong because the second part is dependent on the first. Using a comma signifies you could separate them to stand alone (and to carry this further, you can begin a new sentence with “And” or “But” if you really want to). But using a word like “because” creates a sentence where both parts are required to convey the sentence’s meaning, so no comma.

When the comma splice is OK:  I came, I saw, I conquered

There are a few times in which a “comma splice” is appropriate. I always think of the example “I came, I saw, I conquered.” In each part “I” is the subject and the three verbs also are pretty obvious. The commas are OK essentially because the parts are short. It’s a nice construction, but there’s not much point in risking it unless you really want to. (The quote is from the Roman emperor Julius Caesar, whose desire to express himself that way not many would have questioned, as he had a way of acting well described in the phrase itself.)

Examples of run-ons and fixes:

WRONG: “We saw him he ran out the door.”

WRONG (99% of the time): “We saw him, he ran out the door.”


“We saw him. He ran out the door.”

“We saw him; he ran out the door.”

“We saw him but he ran out the door.”

“We saw him because he ran out the door.”

What could be easier? Surely not freshman algebra!

Copyright 2013  In Writing, LLC  All Rights Reserved

Katie’s blog: ADHD and fatigue, part 2: when you can’t get your homework done

Do you lack the motivation and energy to complete tasks (especially “boring” ones)?  This can be a frustrating no-end battle for people with ADHD and other self-regulation spectrum conditions (autism is a condition that can impair your ability to get things done, too; sometimes autism, also neurological, is found to be the real culprit and not ADHD; and sometimes a psychologist will assess you and diagnose you with both conditions).  We’ll focus on ADHD for this blog.


If you live with a condition like ADHD, you know that you’re not dumb, lazy, or unwilling, even if other people might label you in this way. It might not take much physical/mental activity to exhaust you. ADHD is neurobiological, so you’re NOT imagining things.  You feel lousy and have trouble keeping up with life’s demands because you have a real condition. Read Driven to Distraction and get educated on ADHD.  If you have not sought a formal diagnosis, you might consider doing so now to get the help you need.  Even if you’re 40 years old, it’s not too late.  The right diagnosis will help you get the right accommodations at school and work.


So, what CAN you do to beat the fatigue and get yourself “unfrozen” to get things done?


Force yourself now to start AND keep a diary  

Why a diary?  You need to learn about yourself.  What are your energy patterns over time?  Recording how you feel each day in a diary should help you notice patterns in how your energy waxes and wanes over time. Each day, you would record in your diary the following data about yourself:



amount of sleep


level of exercise/activity

life events/stressors on particular days  

for women, monthly hormone fluctuations


Here’s how your diary might look:

July 1, 2013:  Exhausted, irritable, low energy, 5 hours of sleep, ate too much leftover Mexican before bed, surfed the Internet until wee hours, sedentary day, boss yelled at me in front of co-workers, PMSing, my cat is throwing up and the vet is out of town


Now July 1 may be have been a washout from every angle—but at least when you look back on it in your diary, you will know why:  


  • You slept just 5 hours as not only did you go to bed too late, but also your late night Internet surfing habit caused insomnia.
  • Your stressful day threw you into a feeding frenzy which took place too close to bedtime.
  • You have premenstrual syndrome and you would feel irritable even if your day had gone swimmingly. 
  • You are worried about your sick cat.
  • You were humiliated by your petty, tyrannical and unpredictable boss.


Once you keep a daily record of these variables, you should begin to see some patterns after a few months.  Your reward—you should be better able to predict when to “schedule” more cognitively demanding activities like writing papers.  


I know: “scheduling” writing is not always practical and realistic for the day-to-day tasks, but for an ongoing project, such as writing a capstone, which can take months, knowing your rhythms and patterns can save your life


For example, you anticipate you will be “off” around the week of September 20 and you have a paper due the week of October 20. Armed with that knowledge, you might then plan to take advantage of those higher energy times to do the bulk of your research and writing; thus, you opt to do so during the first week of October, a time you have determined your pattern to be higher energy. 


This strategy doesn’t always work out right at first.  Be patient. With time, the diary method (if you can stand to write in it every day) should help you recognize your patterns of higher energy times.  The diary is not a panacea; it’s one more item to supplement you ADHD bag of tricks to help you cope with life’s demands.  


During the lower-energy week of September 20, when possible, you might aim to UNDERSCHEDULE to avoid burnout. Mind your body’s natural rhythms.


Beware, psychological toxins

If under scheduling is just too unrealistic, make it a priority to at least eat properly (please see below), sleep sufficiently, exercise as much as you can stand, follow a structured routine, and if you know toxic people/situations/places that trigger stress for you, avoid or minimize exposure if possible. 


Unfortunately we have reality. And most of us are stuck with at least some toxic elements as a fact of life, with overwork, co-workers, professors, and clients making demands of us, horrible bosses pulling fast ones, sudden stressful events thrust upon us, etc.


Why did I have such high energy on that particular day? 

Document the dates when you had those bursts of energy.  On what days did those witty insights, innovative ideas and eloquent words come to you so effortlessly?  How were those days DIFFERENT from the days when NO ideas would come? Did you quit a job you hated?  Fall in love? Write it down.


Some women find that about a week before menstruation, they have bursts of energy and get an enormous amount of work done, have crystal clear thoughts, and can brainstorm like no other time.  Make a chart of such things and document as much as possible to measure all variables. 


You are busy, but discovering your energy patterns will increase the chances that you will feel better.  You know your body best, and no one else can do it but you.


Sleep:   My friends are cheating, so why can’t I?

Regular sleep patterns with relatively little deviation over weekends are essential in managing your condition.  You know what happens when you stay up until 3 a.m. on a weekend when you are accustomed to an 11 p.m. bedtime during the work/school week.  Monday morning will be even more of an ordeal, and you’ll likely feel irritable and exhausted.  You will then be tempted to turn to heavily caffeinated and/or sugared fixes for a temporary boost and subsequent crash.


Caffeine mimics estrogen and can cause a host of troubles for you, whether male (how does the idea of developing “man breasts” strike you?) or female (endometriosis, breast cancer, cervical cancer, so much cancer, too many women’s troubles to list).   Your friends can cheat with little consequence, which is a depressing reality if you choose to see it that way–but it is one that you can manage.


Exercise:  Take 20 minutes out of your day for movement 

This is hardly news.  Exercise as much as you can stand. Partner up, if you’re the social type.  




Use your pet to motivate you to move. Most pet owners already know that pets are furry antidepressants–and when other strategies fail, pets can succeed in getting you out of your armchair.  






You also might use psychology.  Play a mind game with yourself and think of all the other things you do during your day that take only 20 minutes.  Then try to move.


Do not underestimate the value of incorporating music into your workout.  The right music might push even a hard-to-motivate crotchety grump to move at least a bit.  According to the music therapy literature, music “organizes and energizes” and helps patients “reach therapeutic goals.”  


Think I enjoy exercise?  Not without a strong push.  I use tricks to get off the couch.  And sometimes they work.  And, once I’m up and moving, I do as much as I can stand.  Sometimes I feel worse.  Most of the time, I tend to feel better and then get more done.


Under schedule your time

With ADHD and similar conditions, if you underestimate what you can do in a period of time, you will probably get it just right.  Imagine that a task will take 3 times as long to finish, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find you have finished it sooner. 


So sign up for 12 college credits instead of 18 (not exactly practical or realistic for everyone, but under scheduling may prevent you from failing courses, too).  You will probably perform better with less credits as other responsibilities vie for your time and attention.  Having ADHD and other self-regulation disorders can mean it might just take you longer to finish things than someone without these conditions.



This strategy has been legendary for keeping people (especially easily distracted people) on task.  Why do bosses exist in most workplaces? In large part, bosses babysit.  When you go home, you sometimes need a sitter there, too.


As you did with exercising, elicit the help of a friendly babysitter in the form of a friend, a sibling, your mother.  Ask that person to sit with you when you have to do boring things.  Writing papers is the perfect example for some people.


Make sure you are seated at a clean, clutter-free table.  Maybe this babysitter has experienced similar struggles and would welcome a mutual babysitting session.  Advise them to bring a big stack of bills to write out and a checkbook to balance along with any homework they may have. 

The more dreadful and boring the task, the better.  Make a game of it; maybe the person who finishes the boring work first gets some kind of predetermined reward.  The point of babysitting is that it keeps you accountable to someone else.



If you have ADHD or a similar condition, you may be familiar with having multiple sensitivities, and gluten intolerances are not uncommon to people who complain about an inability to focus and complete tasks.  A high complex carbohydrate, moderate protein, low simple carbohydrate, sugar free diet may be helpful. 


William G. Crook, MD, states “The poor performance of the inattentive, overactive child is often caused by improper food (fuel):  too much sugar and other junk food and insufficient amounts of nutrients, including carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.”


You may get relief from symptoms if you avoid or eliminate:

  • Refined white sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Preservatives
  • Caffeine
  • Phosphates


Replace artificial sweeteners with natural sweeteners:

  • Pure juice/fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey
  • Brown rice sugar
  • Stevia


You may also benefit from the use of supplements (deficiencies in the following may cause ADHD behaviors): 

  • B Vitamins
  • Folic Acid
  • Niacin
  • Pyridoxine
  • Thiamine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Taurine


The following product may be effective for some adults with ADHD:

Metagenics brand products for neurological health

Order this supplement through your local chiropractor.  You may also order Metagenics products on Amazon.com or other Internet vendors.


Other supplements that may be helpful:  Fish Oil

Remember when you were a little kid, and your parents or whoever nagged you to eat your fish because “fish is brain food”?  Well, maybe your parents weren’t so dumb after all. Essential Fatty Acid DEFICIENCY has been proposed to cause ADHD symptoms.  EPA (eidosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) have been shown to benefit adults with ADHD.


The following product may be effective for some adults with ADHD:

Metagenics brand EPA-DHA Omega-3 Fish Oil

Order this product through your local chiropractor, from Amazon.com or other Internet sources. 


The Paleo diet

This is also known as the “caveman diet.”  Ask yourself if our ancient ancestors suffered with ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, joint pains, arthritis, rashes, and other “modern” diseases.  


Now ask yourself if our ancestors ate cereal for breakfast.  The fact is, a protein called gluten which is found in grains causes inflammation.  Inflammation causes disease.  The “caveman” diet consists of foods that are whole, simple, and noninflammatory.


When you first learn about the Paleo diet, you will find it depressing as it seems there are few things you really CAN eat (at far as those foods that you may have been CONDITIONED to eat for much of your life because, at the time you were growing up, everyone harped about how “healthy” whole wheat bread was for you and that your bowels would be in DEEP TROUBLE without THAT kind of fiber–now you can tell those same people that wheat makes you feel crummy, fat and bloated). 


The good news about Paleo: you should notice better alertness, more energy and you may also experience weight loss.  Gradually, as you reduce your body’s inflammation, a process known as “deflaming,” you may be able to “cheat” occasionally and introduce other foods depending on how you feel and how much inflammation you decide you can live with.


What you CAN eat on the Paleo diet:


Not much:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry and seafood


Foods that you SHOULD NOT EAT (they cause inflammation):

  • All grains and grain products (white and wheat bread, pasta, cereal, pretzels, crackers, any other product made with grains or flours from grains (most packaged foods)
  • Partially hydrogenated oils found in margarine, fried foods, most packaged foods
  • Corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil and foods made with these oils.
  • Soda, dairy, soy and sugar.
  • Meat and eggs from grain-fed animals.  It is almost impossible to follow THIS one.  Buy lean cuts of meat.


For a more detailed list of foods to avoid and non-gluten grains, go to www.csaceliacs.org.


For other nutritional information, read “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” by James Balch and Phyllis Balch.


Don’t sue me. I am not a medical practitioner and CANNOT guarantee results.  The above is intended to be informational and helpful to you.  It is not a substitute for the advice of a medical professional. Through experience and my own research, I have found the above strategies to be helpful.


All the best in completing your writing and beating your fatigue.


Copyright © 2013 In Writing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Katie’s blog: ADHD and fatigue, part 1: when you can’t get your homework done

Recently a freshman undergrad with inattentive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) asked, “How do I stay awake when I try to write my papers? I fell asleep again with my assignment last night, and now I’m running behind. This keeps happening to me.”

People with various types and degrees of ADHD find the condition makes it difficult to predict how they will function on a given day. The extremes of the spectrum range from “on” (functioning optimally) to “partially on” (functioning enough to do what is necessary in daily life) to “off” (barely functioning). The unevenness of symptoms can be terribly frustrating and makes it difficult to plan and carry out basic daily life activities.

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a child and adult psychiatrist in Sudbury, Massachusetts and founder of The Hallowell Center (a counseling and diagnostic center for people with ADHD and other conditions that affect concentration, attention, learning, and memory) and Dr. John J. Ratey, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, co-authored the 1994 groundbreaking ADHD canon Driven to Distraction. Eleven years later, in Hallowell and Ratey’s Delivered from Distraction, the authors bluntly describe the unevenness of symptoms in their checklist of “disadvantageous characteristics” of ADHD:

Inconsistent performance despite great effort. People with ADHD do great one hour and lousy the next, and great one day and lousy the next, regardless of the effort and time in preparation. They go from the penthouse to the outhouse in no time!

Some with ADHD hesitate to make plans when they are on. They worry that when it comes time to follow through, they will feel too off to deliver. If only symptoms came as predictably as a 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule.

Part of the unpredictability is the many variables that can affect the severity of symptoms that go with neurobiological conditions like ADHD.

ADHD risk management: Ounces of prevention
Below is a series of questions to ask yourself if fatigue is getting in the way of completing your assignments:

How interesting to me is my writing topic?
This question might sound dumb to you and painfully obvious, but people with ADHD tend to have special interests that captivate their attention, sometimes to the point of overfocusing on their special interests–and away from the task at hand. When people with ADHD must write about a topic they perceive as less interesting or uninteresting, writing can seem impossible. Most people find it more difficult to write about topics of lesser interest, of course, but with ADHD, the problem intensifies.

How much sleep did I get last night?
At least 7-8 hours per night is the recommended amount for adults, although for teens it is actually closer to 9 hours per night.

What did I eat today? Did I eat today? When did I last eat? How much protein did I eat today?
Blood sugar fluctuations can have a significant impact on ADHD symptoms. People with self-regulation disorders often “forget” to eat when they get involved in certain activities—especially enjoyable ones. When you start the day, a high-protein breakfast is best. Eat what some people might consider “dinner” foods when you first wake up. For example, reheat a chicken breast from last night’s dinner. The worst things to eat are bagels, cereals, and muffins (“muffin” is a euphemism for “cake”). Eating refined carbohydrates is the equivalent of taking a sleeping pill, suggests ADHD expert Daniel Amen. You will likely nod off.

How much water am I drinking?
Mayo Clinic recommends eight 8-ounce servings of water per day.

Have I been under more stress in school/work/my personal life lately?
Stress tends to make most chronic conditions worse.

Are my hormones fluctuating?
Hormone fluctuations can worsen any chronic conditions women already have. Some research has claimed that premenstrual syndrome can include approximately 150 different symptoms. I don’t doubt it.

Am I exercising?
When you exercise, you tend to sleep better. With good sleep, your overall functioning tends to stabilize. The worst part? Getting the motivation to start exercising. For people with ADHD, transitioning from one activity to another can be difficult and even disabling on some days. That’s why many people with ADHD cannot multitask (I should qualify:  Cannot multitask and get things right).

Do I have small “bursts” of energy within a day where I am calm, focused and clear minded?
If possible, do small parts of your project/write notes about ideas when you feel those bursts of energy. You may not remember your ideas later, so write them down when they come to you.

Am I eating foods that cause inflammation?
People with ADHD are prone to coexisting allergies and food sensitivities. Eating foods that cause inflammation can also inflame behavior. Our next post will outline specific anti-inflammatory foods that are recommended for people with ADHD (and other conditions that affect self-regulation).

Please visit our site for part 2 of ADHD and fatigue, when we follow up with more information and other concrete suggestions to help you manage symptoms of fatigue.

Copyright 2013  In Writing, LLC  All Rights Reserved


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