foodfoodbodybody

lovehateagonyecstasy

Book Review: Craving April 4, 2013

IMG_0902

As I read Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough, by physician Omar Manejwala, MD, I found myself nodding like a bobble head doll, and also reaching for my pen to underline something on pretty much every page. This is a topic I can relate to. It opens with the question, “What explains the mysterious urge to do something that has caused so much damage in the past?” In other words, haven’t I learned YET?

I read this book to see if I could learn something new for my blog readers, my Weight Watchers members, friends and family that I care about, and of course myself. And while much of the content of the book wasn’t NEW, it was certainly reaffirming and validating of many of the steps I’ve taken that have helped me (and explained how and why I’ve had setbacks).

The book opens with a definition of what craving is: a strong desire that, if unfulfilled, produces a powerful physical and mental suffering. They can range from a passing urge to an all-out, consuming addiction.  The author mentions something called “apparently irrelevant decisions” that can lead to a relapse. Then he explores why cravings matter: because they are uncomfortable, because they cause us stress, and because people who experience cravings are more likely to relapse into behavior that isn’t good for them or aligned with their goals. (nod, nod, underline, underline)

It deals with all different sorts of cravings – from alcohol to food to gambling, smoking and sex. He addresses ways in which these are universal issues, no matter what the substance or behavior.

There’s a big chunk in the book on brain science – the neurobiology of cravings, why they happen and how our brains lie to us to make us do things that we know don’t benefit us. I happen to be a total geek for brain science, especially when it relates to this topic. I find it both reassuring and encouraging – it takes it out of the realm of “I suck because I can’t get a handle on this” and sheds a light on exactly WHY it can be so hard sometimes. The studies that are cited are fascinating.

The good news about our brains leading us around, is that we can actually re-draw the map and get our brains to work in ways that are more beneficial to us. Again, this isn’t new news, but for me, obviously, it is something that I need to learn and read over and over again, and this book does so in a way that is so straightforward and nonjudgmental.

The other good news is that a lot of things that I am already doing, are the things that are proven to work. Group support is key. KEY! (yay Weight Watchers, yay online blogging community, yay friends) Writing things down (i.e. tracking, food journaling etc) is KEY. Forgiveness is key. (One of my favorite, and most startling lines in the book: “Only love can neutralize shame.”)

What can I say? It’s a good book. It’s SOLID. It’s filled with good science, which I find both illuminating and reassuring. It’s filled with concrete, positive suggestions for addressing the issues of craving. It’s also compassionate at its core. It’s like, Give yourself a break. There are reasons you do this stuff, and it’s not your fault, but it’s not helping you, so here are some good tools that can give you a way out.

It so happened that I finished reading this book while alone on my writing retreat. I’m away from home, and out of my normal routine. A little excited (vacation mode), a little anxious, a little lonely here and there. Perfect breeding ground for cravings! I could feel myself veering into potentially dangerous territory. Reading this book was like a little life jacket being thrown my way. It was a voice saying, “You know how to do this. Remember?”

Some of my favorite underlinings:

  • Cravings… are deeply personal. Comparing your cravings with what other people experience is a losing game and can only serve to undermine your success.
  • There is no such thing as a permanent craving; all cravings eventually go away, whether or not we act or act out on them.
  • The ideal time to address your cravings is when you are not actively craving.
  • Another important brain function is to lie to you.
  • Health, happiness and even longevity benefits come from being helpful to others.

It’s good stuff. Check it out! You can pre-order here.

Disclosure:

I was fortunate enough to recently receive a copy of this book for review. For the record, I often get offers to review a product for this blog. My policy (and I am up front about this) is that I will accept things to review, but unless I really like it, I probably won’t take the time to write a review. I don’t really have time for negative reviews. Unless I really, really really DON’T like something. ;-)

 

A Little Downward Spiral May 25, 2010

WOW I had a crazy tough week last week. Why do I always get surprised by hard times?

So the week started out sad because after my very exciting and fun weekend with Shannon, she went home. I went back to my hugely packed work schedule.

My fabulous trainer was out of town for the week. Instead of planning for alternate forms of exercise, I just said, “Oh well,” and I ended up just letting that time get absorbed by more work.

I was so stressed. My new job is a huge learning curve, a lot of new information and also straining to remember old information that is tucked away in some brain wrinkles that haven’t been activated in almost 20 years. I even broke down and cried at my desk on Thursday. That was a real low point.

My eating went a little haywire, off and on during the week. This ended up (of course) in a gain. I first realized this on Sunday RIGHT BEFORE I was going to the theater for my show. NICE! I felt like, oh my god, what an idiot, what a fraud, what a… freaking EXPLETIVE and who do I think I am, etc etc etc.

I woke up Sunday morning with one of my big toes all swollen and red and hot from an ingrown toenail. My mind went into freak-out overdrive and immediately I thought, “My diabetes! It’s gonna get infected! They’re gonna amputate my foot!” and the like. Thank GOODNESS in that moment for Twitter. I reached out to my dear friend Dr. Mo, who just happens to be a podiatrist. She was both concerned and reassuring in the right mixture.

I got through the show without completely melting down. I think my heightened emotions may have helped, in fact. My mom and my trainer and my doctor all came, plus some great friends.

But I’ve been feeling kinda shaky. And it scared me (as it always does) to realize how little it takes for me to “go there.”

There’s a scene in my show where I’m sort of scoffing at these Other diabetic people who have just let themselves go all to hell and they have every medical complication in the book. But this week I had a tinge of that. Some panic mixed with failure/shame/giving up. It was terrible. I even, for the first time in YEARS, almost pulled into an IHOP. I wanted pancakes. Big, fluffy white-flour pancakes dripping with syrup! I mean, it was crazy. The good thing was that I did not actually enter the IHOP *or* eat the pancakes. But the mere fact that I *wanted* to, made me upset. And it made me see how people can get into that spiral and just.. give up.

Tomorrow I see my trainer again. I have the feeling I’m gonna cry with relief. It’s going to tip back in a good way, and I’ll start climbing up those steps again. But man. I don’t like weeks like this.

 

Eating, Alone April 17, 2010

For the first time that I can remember (really!! It’s been over ten or fifteen years), I am passing the weekend alone at home. All of my family members have other places to be this weekend, and so here I am.

It occurred to me that when this happened in the past, even for a single day or evening, I would find myself “stocking up” on food that I would only eat when alone. You know, the forbidden stuff. And I’d eat things that I wouldn’t eat in front of other people. I thought of this when I was in the grocery store this week. And it actually made me stop in the middle of an aisle and half-laugh, half-cry.

Because now, I need to eat food that I can eat in front of myself. If that makes sense. Someone once said that a great cure for binge eating or overeating is to always eat in front of a mirror. (ACK! right?) But really, at this point, if I am going to overeat, the person who is going to care the most (this was probably always true, but I didn’t think that way) is ME. I’m the one whose clothes won’t fit. I’m the one who will feel sick and disgusted. I’m the one who won’t be able to show my face in the front of a WW room. I don’t want those things to happen.

So, MIRACULOUSLY, even though I am spending the weekend alone, I am… guess what? Eating just like I would if everyone was here. In fact right now I am cooking up this fabulous asparagus wild rice salad. Just for me! Yum!

Last night was a different story. I was realllllllllly tired after a very long week of lots of work and early-morning workouts. I was totally pooped. I just hung out in my pajamas and had a little Hulu-fest. I watched Glee (yay) and the first two episodes of Top Chef Masters. (I adoooore anything Top Chef!) One of the challenges is that the chefs had to create original and amazing versions of grilled cheese.

Grilled cheese is right up there in probably my top five favorite things to eat (short list also includes mac and cheese, and cheesecake – are you sensing a pattern? :-)) As I watched, the little grilled-cheese chorus started up in my head. After I finished the shows, I realized I was really, truly hungry. And guess what I wanted to eat?

Right! GRILLED CHEESE!

So I came downstairs and made myself a divine grilled cheese sandwich, using a combination of whit cheddar and LaTur cheese (from the milk of 3 animals! Fancy!!), some country Dijon and amazing bread.

And I enjoyed Every. Single. Bite.

I pondered this after I ate. Had I just engaged in some Solo Bingeing? I thought about it very hard. I decided that no. I had just made a choice to eat something, which coincidentally in the past may have fallen into the binge category, but I did NOT feel like I was bingeing because:

  • I didn’t feel sneaky or surreptitious. Just happy.
  • Because I used my amazing panini grill and no butter or oil, the sandwich only had the calorie equivalent of the bread, the cheese and the mustard. It came to about 650 calories. Which was not so horrible considering it was my entire meal.
  • I ate it when I was hungry and stopped when I felt satisfied. Which is to say when the plate was empty of all crumbs.
  • It did not lead to eating anything else.

So! That was a revelation. It made me happy.

Another thing that happened this morning is that I discovered the joy of Exercise TV. Woweee! It’s just been sitting there all along, and I never knew, although I had this vague notion it was in there. What happened is that I slept in to the VERY LATE hour of 7:30am. I doodled around online (oops). By the time I looked up, it was too late to run and wayyyyy too late to go to the gym. I really did not want to break my streak of morning workouts, even though it is the weekend. I did not have much time at all. I thought, what about that TV exercise thing?

Found Direct TV. Found “fitness and exercise.” WOW there were so many options! I chose “Biggest Loser.” Anyone surprised? :-) There was something called the Last Chance Workout. How fun! 30 minutes with the cast of Season… 7? 8? (the one with Tara & Sione and Danny) They were about mid-season and nobody looked as super buff as they did at the finale. It was an amazing workout! I loved it. I loved having Jillian yell at me and everyone else, but with LOVE. (ha) And at the end of 30 minutes I was sweating like CRAZY. Convenient and FAST. Yay for morning workouts.

And yay for being able to be left alone without eating the entire house.

 

It’s A Test. A Big Test. March 2, 2010

Filed under: emotions,food,overeating — Susan @ 11:50 am
Tags: , , ,

I feel like I’m in the midst of a major test right now. Stress raining down like bowling balls, and the test is: will I turn to food? Will I be able to wriggle out of this one without gaining significant amounts of weight? I feel like I’m in the SATs, the MCATs and the LSATs all rolled into one. Please cross your fingers for me that I am Prepared enough to get through this.

Thank you.

Edited to add:

Well, if it was a pass-fail test, I think I passed. If it was a letter grade, I’d give myself a B-. Maybe a C+. I managed to get through the hardest day because I was being super-mindful in the midst of my stress. I kept telling myself, “Food won’t fix it.” I kept reminding myself how much WORSE I would feel if I ended up binging out on some food, and that it would, in fact, ADD to my stress.

The problem with such reasoning, of course, is that often in the midst of an emotional crisis, one just plain doesn’t care. (I was there a ways back, for a little bit) Who cares if I gain weight? Who cares if I feel worse later? I WANT THIS NOW. Sigh.

Anyway, I did manage to get through the worst of it pretty well. It felt good then to exercise the next day (yesterday). I thought I had gotten through it. But then what? I let my guard down. I thought it was “over.” Then, another sneaky, different stress came and attacked me. I was Unprepared. I slipped into I Don’t Care mode. I was just tired.

I was emotionally in a bad place. I had about 15 minutes to get something to eat before teaching (not WW) class. I went to Quiznos. I just got whatever I wanted, without regard to anything. Just looked it up. 1030 calorie sandwich. NICE. Then I had a couple of madeleine cookies from Starbucks.

So it wasn’t, like, a complete and total disaster. In fact, this is something I would have considered reasonably “healthy” a year ago. But it is not the choice I’d make if I was on target.

I think the mistake I made was thinking I’d somehow “made it through.” I got distracted by the fact that I’d had a good workout. But I wasn’t “out of the woods” yet. I was still feeling kinda funky, then I was sideswiped by something I wasn’t totally expecting.

The moral of this story: stay awake.

What else could I have done last night? I don’t know. I could’ve talked myself down somehow, probably. I could’ve gone to CPK and gotten that asparagus soup.

Back in the saddle.

 

The Land of “I Don’t Care!” February 3, 2010

I kind of shocked myself this week. I got into a place where I haven’t been in a very, very, very long time. It was the land of “I Don’t Care!” (… “I just want to EAT!”)

Why did it shock me so much? Because I feel so… equipped, you know?  Last week I caught a glimpse of a number on the scale, the likes of which I had not seen in Years. I felt so on top of things.

But then, late in the week, I got a call from my Offspring-in-Distress, and it unhinged me more than I can say. I flew to her side. The plan was that I was going to hang with her,  keep her company, and that we would both go to her gym together. But she was sick. She could not work out. We ate several restaurant meals. And so the days slipped by and I didn’t want to leave her, so I did not work out either, until the very last day and I took that freezing cold run. Then I had to leave to come home. By this time I was in a HIGH state of distress. She was still sick.

When I landed for my connecting flight, I received a text message that the health center had diagnosed her with mono.

By this time I was really distraught. All my nattering on to my WW meeting last week about “what to do other than eat when you are feeling emotional” went RIGHT OUT the window. I wanted pizza dammit! Now I KNEW (intellectually) that pizza was 1. Not REALLY going to make me feel better, and 2. Certainly not make my KID feel better, but… I DID. NOT CARE.

There was something in me larger than that knowledge. It was a roaring flaming pit of hell sort of furnace that was just … FEED ME. Here’s the funny thing. I tried to get a pizza. But the pizza people said it would take 7 minutes to prepare (this was the fancy shmancy California Pizza Kitchen,  not Pizza Hut!). I did not HAVE 7 minutes because my flight was boarding. So I got a cup of vegetable soup instead. Hahahahaha! I felt like somehow, the Universe was looking out for me.

When I arrived, I discovered that my suitcase did not arrive with me. That was thing one. Then the parking lot shuttle bus took over half an hour to arrive. Thing two. I was exhausted. Then when I finally GOT to my car, it was… dead. I lost it. Thankfully, the parking lot people had seen this before. I did not need to call AAA. They helped me locate the Extremely Hidden Battery (in the trunk) of my hybrid, and eventually got me on my way (another 40 minutes). By this time I was a zombie.

Next day. (yesterday) I did not hear from daughter for most of the day, in spite of my incessant motherly texting and calling. Hopefully she was sleeping. THEN, all hell broke loose. I ate things I haven’t eaten in a long time.

And it wasn’t so much what I ate. It wasn’t the fact that I gained all sorts of poundage since last week. It was the absolute Lack of Caring. Which shocked me. Last night I would say was a big huge low point.

Today, I’m back. I’m heading to see my trainer (thank god thank god thank god!).

I am concluding, with great humbleness, that the combination of Big Stress + Not Enough Exercise, is what put me over the edge into this place that I truly felt I had left behind forever. Wow, it shocked me.

Thankfully, it only lasted a few days. The damage is not huge. I finally heard from my kid and I believe that things are going to be OK, even though they are hard.

But wow. Just… wow.

 

Sneaky Eating, Foodie Style January 25, 2010

I’ve been dyyying to write this post ever since I read ManMeetsScale’s fantastic post on “Sneaky Eating.” Once again I was blown away by the terrific writing, absolute honesty and hilarious humor in this guy’s writing. And I had so so so so many things to say in response but kept feeling as if I’d need two free years and a 500-page blank book in order to do it. (might need that anyway)

Go read that one first. Then come back here. Are you back? Wasn’t that great??

I have to say, it brought tears to my eyes. The kind of tears that come when you really feel SEEN. And understood. Now I suspect that many, many people feel this same way about certain food behaviors, but they don’t go around telling people about it. The thing that astonishes me about this CEO of ours is that he DOES put his dirty laundry out there. And it is such a gift and a service to all the rest of us.

I was completely fascinated by the way he does that “sneak a little spoonful” thing. That’s not how I do it. You wanna hear how I do it? My own personal sneakiness has to do with eating in a car. I think I have had this belief that “if you eat it in a car, it’s invisible” (and of COURSE contains no calories! Natch!) And the car is like this little soundproof, sealed, safe container.

I don’t remember when I first started eating in a car but I suspect it had something to do with when I got married and no longer lived alone. I had to find a place where I’d be anonymous, hidden. My favorites were super-rich macaroni and cheese, or creamy polenta, or chocolate Schoolboy biscuits (the whole box) or shortbread cookies (the whole package). If I was stressed, I’d head straight to the Andronico’s parking lot and there I’d be.

Last week, at my Healthaversary party, someone said to me (in front of everyone else): “I know so many people who try and try and try to lose weight but never can. But you did. What do you think your secret is?” I had to think really hard about that. But I truly do think that the answer is, to come out into the open about what is previously shameful.

Which is at the essence of a really, really good WW meeting. Or blogging about one’s food and weight and eating.

I kept this in the “dark” for so so so so long and it just fueled it, like.. what? Mushrooms? (trying to think of what grows in the dark) Even therapy, a LOT of it, didn’t really touch it because it was just too… private. But talking about it amongst my blogging and Twitter and face-to-face friends has really been the Secret.

I’m taking it another step further. I’m very very very excited to be turning Foodie McBody, the Story, (HA!) into a live solo performance show! I’ve done solo performance before and there is nothing that is quite as wonderful and cathartic and moving. I’m working on a short piece that will be performed (by me!) the night of March 28th, in San Francisco. (same night as the morning of the MARATHON!) If any of you will be around, I’d be extremely psyched to have some friendly faces in the audience. More details to come as it gets closer.

What’s YOUR sneaky eating like? C’mon, tell Foodie all about it.

 

The Stress of Shame October 21, 2009

I almost lost it last night. I was scheduled to be a receptionist substitute at a “traveler” WW meeting; ie one in a remote location, not an official WW Center.  At those locations, they use all manual/paper tallies to track everything, instead of the groovy computer system that is now in place at Centers. I only did a few weeks worth of those before they did the switchover, and boy was I rusty. In fact, I ended up forgetting to do a very important step – marking down all product purchases on the product sheet. This is super important for reconciling the $$ at the end of a meeting. When the other receptionist counted up the money and checked it against the product sales, it was like $80 off. Because I forgot to mark it down. This resulted in everyone having to stay almost 45 minutes later, to fix the problem. I felt terrible. I felt like slinking under the carpet and dying. The other staff members were pretty nice to me about it, but to be honest, I sort of messed up their night. Everyone ended up going home late, after a lot of stress. Caused by me.

I don’t deal with this kind of thing well. AT ALL.  Guess what it makes me want to do?

I drove home down this main road I used to take, after teaching evening classes several years ago. Back then, I didn’t normally have huge problems, but it was still stressful to teach on some level. There would be ONE student who had some kind of issue, or some thing I’d forget to do, and all the way home I’d be beating myself up about it.  One night I stopped in at a Jack in the Box and looked for the most anesthesizing thing on the menu: Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges!! (omg, I just looked those up: 720 calories in a serving, 432 from fat! O boy!!) Soon it became a habit to just pull in to the drive-through on the way home and inhale a box of those. When I think of that now, it makes me really sad.

So what did I do with my stress last night? I started the evening with a full hand of nice fingernails. They’re down to little nubs now: chewed and torn away. Ah well, I didn’t EAT them so it didn’t cost me any calories.

All night I had recurring dreams of being horribly inept at one thing after another: I had to give a speech, but had brought the wrong one, and then I lost the pages, then I couldn’t work the AV equipment, and then and then…. AUGH I hate messing up!!! It upset me so much I couldn’t even do my regular Biggest Loser liveblogging last night. I did get home in time to watch the final hour, but I pretty much sat here and watched it like a blob. I didn’t really care one way or the other.

This morning, I went to my trainer and had a fantastic workout. THEN, FINALLY, I felt better. Much better.

I am glad that I did not veer into the Jack in the Box and take up old bad habits. I’m glad it didn’t really even occur to me, like it wasn’t a struggle to not do that. I just made a mental note as I drove past. But I still felt terrible.

I need to find ways to not freak out so much when I make a mistake.

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,083 other followers