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Day 13 #NHBPM: What Does My Favorite Book Have to Do With My Health? November 13, 2012

Day 13 – Tuesday, Nov. 13

Book report. What’s your favorite book and how can you tie it to your health or life? OR
Write about something taboo

Hmmmm. My favorite book? That’s a tough one. Of course it would be easier to write about my favorite HEALTH book (I think the prize for that goes to Savor). But my all-around favorite book? That’s a very tough call. I have many favorite books.

Okay. I am going to really stretch here.

I’d say that one of my top five favorite books of all time is Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. How much do I love this book?

I’ve read it to myself at least four times. Mr. McBody has read it (out loud) to me at least twice. I have two copies – a dog eared and tattered hard back, a new paperback, and it’s on m Kindle AND my iPhone AND on my computer. When I heard Marilynne Robinson read from it out loud at the Associated Writers Program conference several years ago, I stood in the back of the room and bawled like a baby.

I’d say that pretty well qualifies as a favorite book.

What is it about? It’s a fictional book-length letter written by the Rev. John Ames, as he is in his seventies and dying of heart failure, to his very young son who will most likely never grow up to manhood, knowing his father. The letter serves to convey all the love and messages that the narrator wants to impart to his son – family history, small moments of attention. It’s a long and loving conversation.

When I read this book for the very first time, I cried with my entire soul and body at the end of it. I won’t say more or spoil except to say that it’s about a deep bitterness, and ultimate forgiveness and redemption. Which is surprising and overwhelming.

So.. what does that have to do with my health? Many things.

I think about the legacy and the message I want to leave to my own children. In a way, this blog is like my own version of that – the message I want to leave about what is important to me, what I have learned and what I want to share.

And, I think it is actually not too much of a stretch to think about the own bitterness and hostility I have had toward myself, my own body. And how much forgiveness is necessary. I think this is why stories of forgiveness and redemption never cease to move me – often to tears-  because it is so very needed in my own life.

Thanks, National Health Blog Post Month, for helping me to remember this book and these memories.

 

Double Book Review: Battle of the Spiritual-Eating Stars August 17, 2010

Disclosure: This is going to be an EXTREMELY personal and subjective (and loooong!) response to two recently-published books in the “spirituality/food genre.” Bear in mine that this is just my own opinion, which is, as I said, highly personal. Your mileage and experience may (and probably most certainly will!) vary.

I read Geneen Roth’s first book, When Food Is Love, when it was first published in the early 80s. I was pretty much blown away by it. But I have to say that every single book of hers that I’ve read since then has been a reiteration of that first book. And Women, Food and God is no exception. But I was excited to read it because people, including Oprah, seemed to think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Many people said it made them cry. They felt that the book was written FOR them and about them. I think this is great (for them). However, this was not my experience at all.

I read through it quickly on my first read, and found myself feeling pretty underwhelmed as well as fairly irritated. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Then I read Savor, the latest book by Thich Nhat Hanh. And I felt the same way that others did when they described WFG. Now, I have been an admirer but not an active practitioner of Buddhism for many years. So the principles are extremely familiar to me. They are thousands of years old. And to have them applied to food and eating just felt very familiar and comforting to me. Many of the same ideas are also mentioned in Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings by Zen priest Edward Espe Brown, and in the Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznik.

This weekend I took a long slow look at both books again. And I came to understand why I was so irritated by Women, Food and God.

1. It’s like a party that I didn’t go to. Eighty percent of this book is an extended description of Geneen Roth’s retreats. She describes the women who attend them and how they are dramatically transformed, some within the space of minutes. It felt like, “Look at me! I am such a guru! All these people love and follow me! And by the way, sign up for my next retreat!!” It was also like watching someone else’s interminable vacation slideshow. You had to be there.

I found myself being strangely unmoved by stories of women weeping and having tantrums and growling over their food bowls and such. It just didn’t do anything for me.

2. Her message has basically unchanged since her first book in the 1980s. And neither has her approach. Why write a new book NOW then?

I had read earlier this year that Geneen Roth had been tragically fleeced by Bernie Madoff. This is really sad and unfortunate, but it also tinges the book with desperation. She NEEDS PEOPLE to sign up for these retreats, and to buy this book as if it is a brand new thing. Which it is not. So the book is basically a 200 page ad for her retreats.

3. She takes several unnecessary and incredibly inaccurate swipes at Weight Watchers. Now it’s no secret that I work for WW. But these little vignettes just PISSED ME OFF.

I received a letter from someone who enclosed a WW ribbon that was embossed: I LOST TEN POUNDS. Underneath the gold writing, the writer added, “And I Still Feel Like Crap.”

Now, everyone knows that it is certainly possible to lose 10 or 100 pounds and still feel like crap inside (or outside). But to LINK this in such a blatant way with Weight Watchers implies, even subliminally, that if you lose weight with Weight Watchers, you will feel like crap. To which I say, bullshit.

When I was on WW in the early 70s, I made dinner out of the remaining allowable foods for the day: two servings of cold tomato sauce (REALLY? They had to be COLD?) and a serving of ricotta cheese. I was scooping my dinner into a bowl when my friend said, “Is that really what you want to eat?” “Yes,” I said. But the truth was that “No” was not an option. Eating what I wanted was not allowed. Wanting what I wanted was not allowed. I needed to sacrifice, atone, make up for being myself. For being fat.

Now this made me want to SCREAM out loud. Again, she is linking ridiculous degrees of deprivation and “not eating what I wanted” with Weight Watchers. She does say this was in the “early 70s.” Does she take the responsible route and say, “Weight Watchers has changed and evolved radically since then.” No. She doesn’t. So again she is linking this conspicuous brand name with sacrifice, atonement, punishment. SO IRRESPONSIBLE.

She receives a letter from a reader who says, “Each time I start trying to follow what you say, I get afraid and then go running back to the security of the Weight Watchers points system. And every time I try points, I inevitably fail a week later and spiral into a new rash of binges and beating myself up.”

Message here? Of course! Weight Watchers causes bingeing and beating oneself up! GREEEEEEATTTTTT!

But the biggest bullshit moment came when I came to the golden Secret, the grand finale, Geneen’s sacred Eating Guidelines, the reason people pay hundreds of dollars to attend her talks and retreats:

1. Eat when you are hungry. (Weight Watchers Book #1)
2. Eating sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied. (WW Book #1)
6. Eat in full view of others. (foodblogging! ☺)
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.
When I read this I was incredulous. Like, THIS is the big secret? Who hasn’t been saying all of these things, like forever??

The thing that alarms me, too, is that #3 and #4 are where a lot of people, depending on where they are in their process, are going to take that as a major green flag for EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT! NO MATTER WHAT IT IS!

Geneen Roth herself talks about people reading her books and then getting pissed off because they then eat with abandon (“whatever they want”) and gain weight, some as much as 100 lbs. (Yikes)
SO the other problem with this book is that it is extremely new-Agey and Vague and abstract. There is nothing specific in it.

Okay, enough about that one. Now, on to Savor.

I loved this book. I loved loved loved it. Perhaps because it echoes everything that I myself believe and strive to do, and when I do these things, I am more the better for it. Geneen Roth also talks about meditation and how good it is, but Savor is very very specific about HOW to meditate, what to meditate over, what one might say or think while washing dishes or picking a piece of fruit from the market or… eating.

I loved it because it is not afraid to “go there” and say, yeah, part of being mindful is knowing EXACTLY what you are eating, which is why food journaling (tracking or blogging) is an important and useful part of mindfulness. Yay. Which is exactly the feeling I have had since I began foodblogging. It IS a form of meditation for me. It’s that pause before the eating, that momentary mindfulness that can make all the difference in the world.

It is not afraid to say that weighing yourself, too, is a part of being mindful: of knowing what you weigh. It’s just a number. If the number freaks you out, then it’s a thing to meditate on and understand why.
It’s not afraid to say that moving/exercise is important and a VERY important part of taking care of one’s body and being mindful. It describes the many barriers and obstacles to mindfulness in our culture and why this is so very challenging (quotes from The End to Overeating, which I also really liked).

Mostly what I love about this book is the tone of it. It’s gentle, compassionate, yet firm and honest. It’s real. It’s not mushy or New Agey. Often as I was reading I would find my eyes filling up with tears.

The Buddha teaches that … insight cannot begin until we stop and focus our attention on what is happening right in front of us. This stopping, or shamatha, allows us to rest the body and the mind. When we have calmed ourselves, we can then go on to look deeply into our current situation. We need to step off our frantic life treadmills, to stop unconsciously doing the same things over and over again that have allowed our weight to creep up. We need to stop, rest, and reflect on a constructive way forward… We need to be fully aware of what is going on in our daily living. Only then can we begin to change.

Every time I read the word “rest” I would stop and sigh. Because that is so much what I have been needing. To rest. So I feel a deep comfort and a soothing tone to this book that just makes me feel… grateful, and rested. I think that this feeling is what helped me off my comfort-food train the other day.

This book is very, very specific about what to do regarding emotions, food, exercise, meditation. There are lists and there are recommendations. They are nonjudgmental and gentle. And honest. I appreciated that.
The grounding in Buddhism that shapes this book was very familiar, comforting and relaxing to me. It made me feel very receptive. Others may not feel this way and that’s cool.

The bottom line is, that I think BOTH of these books actually have the same exact approach to food and eating. It’s about mindfulness and looking inward. It’s all good.

If people out there really resonate with WFG and feel as if Geneen Roth is the answer, then I say that is wonderful and go for it. Especially if you’ve never read any of her work before, I think it could resonate very powerfully. If you’re a hater of Weight Watchers, it will certainly validate those feelings.

If people like Savor, and it helps you slow down and find some rest among the mindfulness, then hooray.

That was just my two cents. I’m glad that I read both of these and I am glad that people in general are going in this direction. I think it’s good for all of us.

 

A Reader Asks: “Dear Foodie…” November 23, 2009

I got an email from a reader recently! Asking for my opinion regarding her teenaged daughter. First of all, I am honored that anybody would ask my opinion on ANYthing.  Let me say that I am not a big expert at this – far from it -(just read my posts from January!!) but I do have some thoughts about most things and am glad to share what I’m thinking. So that’s just it… my opinion.  Here’s the question.

Q: I have a 16-year-old daughter who would like to lose weight but doesn’t get a lot of exercise. I think she would die rather than go to a WW meeting. We already tend to keep healthy foods around the house, and she makes fairly good food choices compared to a lot of American teenagers. But without tracking her eating, and without a lot of exercise, she doesn’t lose weight. Any suggestions for how to help a teen in this kind of situation?

I suppose one answer would be to help her learn to track points on her own, using my WW materials but without having to enroll herself. But I am not sure she will have the discipline to track, and I don’t want to put myself in a position of having to bug her or be the bad guy about food — I fear that the more involved I get, the more likely it is that she will say, “f— you, Ieave me alone, I’m going to eat whatever I want.”

Well, I’ve been mulling this over for a few days now. It’s a big answer! A long answer. With many facets and layers. Without writing an entire BOOK on the subject, here are my thoughts.

Motivation: This is one of the biggest factors in being able to lose weight, I believe.  Mathematically, I think that M (motivation) must > All Those Factors Conspiring Against Weight Loss (love of foods, emotions, environment, inertia, etc) or else it can’t work. And to be honest, I did not find sufficient M in my life until I was 49 years old. (do not use me as an example! just sayin!) My motivation was Health, pure and simple. And until I found that particular motivation, my M was ALWAYS < All Those Factors.

When I was 16, being motivated by health was the LAST THING on my mind. Hell, it was the last thing on my mind when I was 40. I just felt like I could do Whatever for However Long, and it would not catch up with me.

SO is it hopeless? NO. You just need to help this 16 yr old figure out her OWN motivations, which can be similarly compelling, just different. They are much more likely to be socially based, like, “I want to feel comfortable in a bathing suit.” “I want to be able to look good in any outfit at Urban Outfitters.” “I want to feel HOT.” (or whatever) One of the best tools for this is the Beck Diet Solution, which helped me a LOT at the start of my journey. It is all about tapping into one’s own particular Motivation and keeping that front-and-center at all times. Because it is SO easy to just Not Care.

The other thing is to separate Her desire to lose weight, from Your desire to have her lose weight (because you know she will be happier and healthier). For many many years, I could not FIND my own desire/motivation because it was clouded and all tangled up by what I PERCEIVED to be my spouse’s desire for me to lose weight. And I rebelled against this big-time. For YEARS. I couldn’t focus on what I wanted to do because I thought I was doing it for HIM, and that was a major losing proposition all the way around. It upset me and made me want to eat more. Which I did. So you have to take a deep breath and let her know that it’s HER choice/decision etc and not yours, even though you are there to support her.

HOW to do it? I do not know if tracking is the answer for a 16 y old, although it might be intriguing for her, just on a curiosity level. To just lay it out mathematically, pure and simple. Once she’s decided that she is motivated, it’s just a matter of math. Calories in have to < Calories out.  Part of losing weight means being more conscious and knowing what you are doing in that regard. I wonder if she would like having something like a Body Bugg, which measures calorie output. (I want one sooooooooooooo bad!!!!!! Santa please!) You know that people constantly underestimate the # of calories they eat (why tracking is so useful!) and overestimate their calories burned. So it’s a great reality check tool.

It might be interesting for her to just try tracking food FOR ONE DAY. Just to see. Just to understand WHY her body might be hanging on to some weight. It could be illuminating.  But you are RIGHT about not bugging her or being the bad-guy Tracking Police, because that will blow up in your face faster than you can say deep-dish pizza with extra cheese. She’s gotta find her own method.

Support: Losing weight can be a very isolating, sucky experience. It pretty much was for most of my life. But it can also be super fun and awesome and exciting if you have the right friends. (shout-out to EVERYONE who blogs, tweets, reads and comments with me!) Does she have any friends who might want to be her weight-loss buddy? This would make it so much less mortifying and “oh shit I am the only loser who needs to do this.”  YES, I can see her not wanting to be caught dead with all us Oldsters at WW. (although there is a nice 17 yr old who comes in with his mom to one of my meetings, he is awesome!) So I think it will be absolutely critical for her to find others HER AGE who are on the same path. There are plenty of way-cool bloggers who are much younger than me, who could be great role models. (PEOPLE- HELP ME OUT: can you recommend any cool teen weight-loss bloggers?)

She needs to find some form of activity that she considers Fun. Again, doing it with a Buddy is going to make ALL the difference.  I think having something like a pedometer (measuring steps per day, and doing a mini-competition? With prizes??? :-)) or a Body Bugg would be fabulous.

Lastly: Dara Chadwick blogs about girls, moms, weight and self-esteem. She’s written this great book. I bet she’d be able to give you even more informed and useful advice.

I think you are an AWESOME mom for your concern and wanting to support your kid in this way.  It’s fantastic that she already has your support and that you already have healthy food around. The biggest thing is to gently guide her in choosing her OWN path that she wants to take.

Those are my two cents for the moment but I really hope that lots of readers will chime in with comments. Help me out, folks!

 

Whoa: Slooooow Down, Nelly!! March 30, 2009

I’m sitting in the hospital lab, on the 2nd hour of my glucose tolerance test. I’m very happy that I have a nice waiting room with free Wi-Fi in which to pass the time. The glucose drink was nasty but not as awful as I’d remembered. I survived it.

I thought I’d review some parts of the Beck Diet Solution book that I was raving about so much when I first started. I haven’t looked at it much lately, and thought it would be worthwhile.

One thing I have just not gotten really good at is eating slowly, which hinders my ability to guage my fullness etc. I just happened to open to the “Eat Slowly” chapter in the Beck book. Which is a good thing.

When the relatives were here for that nice dinner over the weekend, I noticed that my husband and I both finished our plates WAYYYY before his cousin and her husband. I kept staring at her, wondering, how does she do that? I just got used to absolutely snarfing down my food at some point (maybe when the kids were little??) and haven’t been able to break that habit. But here are the things that Beck suggests to help with this issue. I’m going to give it a shot.

  • Change something in your eating environment: cloth napkins instead of paper, a little vase of flowers, different colored plates, whatever. Every time you notice that changed thing, think to yourself, Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be eating more slowly.
  • Set a timer to beep every 1-3 minutes. Every time it beeps, put down your tableware and count to 10. When you pick the fork or spoon up again, remind self to eat slowly. (note: I can bet that one minute will seem as long as the 60 seconds I’m running during Couch to 5k!!)
  • Take a sip of water after every bite.
  • Eat something very hot, like soup. Which will force you to slow down.
  • Pay attention to bodily sensations. Notice sensations of fullness
  • Look at the clock. Notice what time it is when dinner begins and ends. Try and stretch that time out by a few minuets every meal.

I’ve noticed that we can usually polish off dinner in less than 10 minutes, usually an average of six. That’s probably really bad. We are Hoovers! I know I need to make a conscious effort to try all of these exercises because I know that the speed of my eating has really caused me to gain weight.

 

And the winner is… March 11, 2009

Filed under: book,diet,diet book,giveaway — Susan @ 2:27 am
Tags: , , ,

Deborah R wins the copy of The Instinct Diet!! Congratulations, Deborah, I hope this book gives you the boost you need!

 

Giveaway Reminder! March 9, 2009

Reminder! Tomorrow is the random drawing for The Instinct Diet book giveaway. Comment (there, not here!) for a chance to win this book. It looks very sensible and well-written.

Good luck!

 

Diet Book Giveaway: The Instinct Diet March 2, 2009

At the beginning of this year, the New York Times ran an article featuring the “best of the new diet books.”  After reading the piece, I ordered two of them, The Beck Diet Solution and The Instinct Diet. I’ve gone fairly bonkers for the Beck book, but the other one didn’t speak to me as much. Somebody out there might really like it though.

The New York Times article explains that the author of the Instinct Diet…

explains how natural hard-wired instincts to eat in response to hunger, availability, caloric density, familiarity and variety, which served us well in paleolithic times (and until the mid-20th century), have been compromised by changes in the kinds, amounts and constancy of foods in the modern world. These changes, in turn, undermine the ability of many people to maintain a normal weight.

The book guides readers to alternative approaches to fulfilling the demands of these instincts in ways that can help them lose weight and, at the same time, adopt a more wholesome, nutritious and healthful eating plan that can be adapted to anyone’s lifestyle. Though the instinct diet is rather prescriptive for the first two weeks, it offers a reasonable number of options to accommodate different tastes and eating schedules. The next six weeks of the eight-week program enable dieters to adopt and adapt eating plans that can result in permanent weight loss and improve health.

Amazon readers also seemed to like it a lot; it has an average of five (the highest) stars. Some reader reviews:

  • How well did the diet work? In short, it worked. It’s still working. I didn’t start off heavy, but I needed to lose some weight, somewhere in the ballpark of 15 pounds – a result of spending more time behind a computer at work. I lost the weight over the course of a month and some change, and without starving myself. The recipes and meal plans from the Instinct Diet helped me make changes in the way I eat. I still eat hearty meals, this book’s recipes are tasty and filling. I think that’s the key here – people need to enjoy what they are eating. This book finds the intersection between healthy and tasty, and gives you a plan for changing your eating habits to hit that intersection and stay there.
  • It works! I’ve tried other diets, and although I might lose weight for a while, it’s always been incredibly hard work and they didn’t stop my weight gradually creeping upwards over the years. I saw this book in the store and thought it looked interesting because it isn’t just some fad diet that promises the world but doesn’t actually work. Instead this is an intelligent book that is written by a scientist and tells you about strategies that have actually been shown to work by research. That makes it an interesting book to read – in fact I’d have been interested to read it even if I wasn’t trying to lose weight. And using it for weight loss is not complicated or difficult.
  • I seriously can’t believe it, but I’m not hungry on this diet. I’ve only been eating the menu for four days now, but ever since day 2 I’ve been totally satisfied. At first glance I thought the portions were very small (I mean, who eats 4 pecan halfs?), but they are really keeping me full. I even went to a party last night and passed on dessert! Believe me, that’s not my usual thing.

So… I’m probably not going to be using this book but I am offering it as a giveaway, randomly chosen, for readers of this blog who leave a comment. Just answer the following question:

What has been the most challenging aspect of losing weight for you, and how have you faced or solved that challenge?

I’ll pick a giveaway winner on March 10th, and contact you for your mailing address to send you the book. So make sure to include your email in your comment!

 

 
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