Monday, December 26, 2011

Struggling With Your Eating? Carrot Cake May Be The Answer.

I ate too much. I kid you not. Eight days filled with fried foods is weighing me down. And while I don’t celebrate Christmas, it happens to be my husband’s birthday. So I made the obligatory carrot cake with cream cheese frosting—his favorite—a total yum— and probably ate a bit more than was necessary. And that was after the Indian food we had out—shared lentil soup, appetizers—the works.

Having my jeans fit rather tightly can be challenging even if I needed to gain some weight—which I don’t. Somehow, there’s just no positive reinforcement in our culture for having your waist band cut into your flesh—even if it’s truly a sign of progress, of necessary weight gain for recovery. Growing out of your clothes (unless you’re an adolescent, entitling you to indulge in the newest fashions) yields little benefit in our society. But in my case, that’s beside the point. My personal goal is maintenance, within my normal and healthy weight.

Yes, even nutritionists can, and do, overeat at times. Of course I know better, yet I found myself grazing on salted, roasted cashews rather mindlessly while mixing up the carrot cake batter. And serving the cake from the table? Big mistake. It called to me, a mere arms-distance away. Those skinny, knife thin slivers don’t really count, do they?

What did I resolve when I woke up this morning? First, I wouldn’t dare consider weighing myself—no need to see what I already knew. I might have considered a bowl of bran flakes or oatmeal. But I really felt like having the freshly baked bread I made the night before. (I was rather productive on Christmas, wasn’t I?) 

Rather than have the cereal while yearning for the bread, I decided to have what I really wanted. And so I cut a thin slice of this rather dense, wholesome bread, chock full of oats and flax, figs and walnuts, seasoned with anise seed, and had a bowl of yogurt and fig jam to go with it. And, had my coffee, of course.

What I didn’t resolve was to make up for the extras consumed in the many days before. I did not resolve that I blew it, that I shouldn’t even bother, because it’s useless. Or, that the leftover carrot cake was to be trashed, so that I wouldn’t eat it again. I wouldn’t dream of such a thing (besides, my husband would probably fish it out of the trash barrel if I did). And if I did, it would only reinforce that cakes were something I wasn’t entitled to eat, so it was now or never when they were within my reach. This, of course, would only lead to overeating. I did, however, slice it up, wrapping each slice individually, and froze it.

I did not resolve to skip my usual workout, or my walks with Mica (you know who he is, by now, right?), because “why bother?” I love my treks through the woods by my home. It’s hard to know who gets more excited at the sight of a squirrel—me, or Mica.

Yes, it’s a process. We all need to remind ourselves of what is in place, rather than focusing on where we slipped. This morning’s Skype session with a client overseas addressed, in part, expectations. It came naturally to Anna to focus on the fact that her weight had not yet improved. But the positive changes she has been making were far less obvious to her, and certainly more difficult to measure. She needed to recall that having two chocolates, only two, was in fact, progress. Yes, there was a time, not too long ago, that she would have laughed when I suggested this was possible; chocolate was something to be avoided, when trying to manage weight, for fear that once she started she’d have no control over stopping.

Being able to distinguish her hunger—and her fullness—has also been a major recent achievement. Previously, without this awareness, she was left without the tools to self-regulate food intake. One night this week, she chose to have a snack, responding to this hunger, prior to dinner being ready. As a result, she was left with little hunger at mealtime. She gave herself permission to delay dinner—rather than eating it at the planned time—another step forward in listening to her body’s signals. She knew she could, and would, eat again later when she needed to. The fact is, as a result, she ended up being more in control of her eating, versus overeating.

But if the only goal is pounds lost, then she made no progress this past holiday week at all. Anna needed to revisit the house-building analogy, to shift her focus on what’s truly important at this stage of our work together. Building her foundation is a necessary first step to changing her relationship with food—and ultimately her weight.

As for me, I did have a lighter dinner this evening—a root vegetable soup, accompanied by the sliced homemade bread. And, I mindfully enjoyed every bite of the microwave-defrosted slice of carrot cake. 

And I’m feeling quite good.

PS: Here's the recipe some of you requested!

Joel's Birthday Carrot Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsps baking soda
2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 
3 eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
3 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple

(See Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Line 2 round cake pans with wax paper, then grease or spray them. (a  13 X 9 inch pan works fine too, but doesn't look as awesome!)
Blend the dry ingredients in a mixer.
Add the next ingredients, through vanilla, beating thoroughly.
Then fold in remaining ingredients.
Pour batter evenly into the two pans.
Place in middle rack of oven.
Bake approximately 1 hour, or until the edges pull off the sides or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cakes.
Let cake cool 10 minutes in the pans. Then flip them over onto plates or cake platter. They should fall from the pans with ease.
Peel off the wax paper and let cool an hour.

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz reduced fat cream cheese or Neufchatel (brick form), room temperature
4 Tbsps (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectionary sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsps milk

Blend it all until smooth, without lumps, and it's ready to use.
Frost one whole cake. Then drop the second cake onto the first and frost top and sides.

Sit down with a slice, and enjoy every bite. Remove the rest from the counter, by slicing and removing the pieces from view (freezing is ideal!)


  1. The carrot cake looks truly amazing!

  2. Thanks, Monique. If the demand is there, I will make the recipes available for all to enjoy!

  3. Among the many other things that you touch on in this article is the way in which people suggest throwing out tempting food or hiding it away. This has always troubled me because it seems like people are saying food has so much power over them that the only way to stop it is to get rid of it. I'm glad to read someone offering a balanced and sane approach.

    And yes, it is important to remember that eating two chocolates instead of the whole box/bag is an achievement. Sometimes that's something I also have to remind myself about as well. There's a strange compulsion to push toward some sterile notion of nutritional "perfection" or altruism that many people have when they are dealing with their relationship with food. It's "not good enough" to have made the transition from eating a whole package of cookies to eating one cookie. They feel they have to never eat a cookie again.

    I applaud your sanity and sane advice, and wish you happy holidays.

  4. Thanks for this reminder, Lori. It is indeed difficult to remember to value - and to recognize! - progress when the goal posts seem so far away.

  5. Growing out of my clothes has been a very difficult part of gaining weight in my recovery from anorexia...especially when everyone else is trying to "drop a dress size in 7 days!" I have to remind myself that it's about getting healthy.

  6. I would love the carrot cake recipe!

    Great post.

  7. @NewMe Okay, I have now added the carrot cake recipe to the bottom of the post. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

    @screamingfatgirl So glad you see the wisdom in this post! You articulated so well just what drives me nuts with "health" professionals idiotic nutritional preaching!

    @Amy and DenvertoVancouver Yes, it's a challenge to keep things in perspective, especially in our culture, especially this time of year! Hopefully, this site offers some support to get you through.

  8. Hi Lori, I have just read Tara Parker-Pope's thoughtful article in the NYTimes Magazine. ("The Fat Trap." She presents the now-common argument that those of us who need to lose weight have our bodies working against us, even (especially?) once we've lost weight. I am interested in your response to this argument in the context of your experience & practice with the "drop it" approach to changing eating patterns. Thanks!

  9. @denvertovancouver I read about 2/3 of her article--I will need to take some time to read the rest to give a thorough response. But from what I read, there were a lot of holes in the reasoning that any attempt to change our eating to support weight loss (for those that are overweight) is a useless pursuit. Her first reference to the recent study refers to the resulting failure to maintain weight loss after following a ridiculously low calorie diet; never mind metabolic adjustments, there are also psychological ones to contend with!

    I love that there's database (from my alma mater, I'll add) that lists those successful in their attempt in maintenance of weight! But as was noted, we do have to be cautious about what kinds of monsters we create in the attempt to lose weight! Preoccupation with counting or weighing is not a desirable outcome in my view.

    Given that I've read only part of this very lengthy article and already have way to much to say here, I think I'll plan on a post to address this!

    Thanks for the suggestion.

  10. I just read the NYT article too. I thought it was great.

    Of course, there are a number of reasons why people weigh what they weigh. If someone is a binge eater, losing at least a certain amount of weight may be possible and indeed likely since they have an eating disorder.

    On the other hand, someone who is naturally on the heavy side, but generally eats nutritious, nourishing food in reasonable portions is probably never going to lose considerable weight--much less keep it off--without developing obsessive, unhealthy behaviours. It all comes back to recognizing that there is not one single "healthy" body type, which must by definition have a BMI of 20 to 24.

  11. Oops, let me rephrase the end of that first paragraph:

    ...since they have an eating disorder which is treatable.

  12. Great post. I'll have to read Tara Parker-Pope's article soon. I accept that almost everyone indulges during this time of year, and it's not worth beating myself up about, though I have to actively fight these thoughts, at times. I've still been hitting the gym, and walking and biking, despite my overconsumption of desserts and alcohol and food in general. BTW, if I could point to one single reason why I can maintain my weight (though 10 pounds above what I'd like to be), it's because I'm very happy eating just one cookie. Or maybe two, if they're very good.

  13. Hi! I used to be a reader of your blog, but I stopped reading about a year ago because I was too confused by messages I got from your blog, written for a diverse audience, things like you saying you ate a dinner of soup and bread and things I was hearing from my own RD (like, I would never be allowed to get away with eating soup and bread for dinner even if I had grazed on cashews and had more carrot cake than my body wanted). That's because, a year ago, I had just gotten out of an 8 month residential, 5 month php, 3 month iop stint for anorexia and these intuitie eating messages were so confusing to me b/c I was not allowed to intuitively eat - I had to be following a very structured meal plan.

    Anyway, I'm happy to report that I'm doing very well, a year later, and have continued to make progress - not in a perfectly linear fashion, but the overall trend for me has been very positive. I know do a combination of eating that is very very guided by a meal plan (as a minimum amount) with encouragmeent to have "intuitive eating experiences" like adding on if extra hungry or going out to eat and using my cues as a guide. I am now allowed to delay lunch until 2pm if I ate a muffin and a latte for a morning snack b/c I was extra hungry at 10am.

    I haven't calorie counted in months. I haven't gotten anxious at the sign of oil or butter in months. I don't think about "what's in this" when eating at a restaurant. I am very mentally recovered. It'd still be too risky for me to just jump to intuitive eating, but I'll get there.

    I just came back to your blog for hte first tine in months today, and I no longer find it confusing. I plan to resume reading, and I thank you for writing!!

  14. @ Laura Welcome back, and congrats on your caccomplishments in treatment. Hope you'll be able to find support from the messages in the posts and the comments from readers. Thanks for coming back and for commenting!

    @ JustJulieBean
    Yes, everyone most everyone indulges this time (and other times) of the year. But if we were wise, we would noralize the "splurges", including them within our normal intake,
    without judgement, and with full enjoyment.