Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions

Don’t Make Them If You’re Gonna Break Them

I hate New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe it’s because I’m not organized enough to think about what I really want to change. Or, perhaps it’s because I don’t like setting myself up for failure. It’s December 31 (already 2011 in Australia, I’m reminded) and I’m finally getting to write this New Year’s post. And here’s why.  I feel the need to warn you. If you’re not prepared to work on your goals on December 30th, before the New Year, then don’t expect miracles to happen on January 1st. If you’re committed to change, to work on your eating and eating behaviors, you can and should start on a Friday, or a Tues, or the 12th of January, for instance, rather than waiting for January 1st or a Monday.
But if you do feel ready for change, please consider these strategies.

Yes, dancing cupcakes, from an amazing cupcake shop in NYC
• Set small, realistic goals. Set them so absurdly small that you are guaranteed success in achieving them. From there you could build on those new behaviors resulting in a greater impact on your health and wellbeing.

• Focus on achieving healthier behaviors, rather than targeting a change in weight (regardless of the direction your weight needs to head.) For instance, work on avoiding long periods without food. Keep snacks available, preventing impulsive eating resulting from excessive hunger. Eating modest amounts throughout the day better fuels your body, so you’ll feel better between meals.

• Caution: resolving to be good is a huge trap. Even the use of the words good and bad have no place describing our eating. You are not bad, as in a bad, or immoral person, simply because you ate in excess. For many, the resolve to be good (for instance, the next morning after overeating) really means restricting or eating lightly.

And where does that lead you? Let’s look at this chain of events:

1) You start off early in the day with the goal of being good, or in your mind, eating light.
2) You deny later morning hunger.
3) You might further be exposed or triggered by food on the counter or other food temptations.
4) You’re now starving. (You may see this as a positive, but ultimately it will result in trouble).
5) You overeat.
6) You get angry with yourself, feeling defeated, like a failure. Feeling that you’ve blown it, one of two things result.
            • You continue the downward spiral, thinking it just doesn’t matter anymore;
            • You resolve to be good tomorrow, and set yourself up with unrealistic expectations. And so the cycle continues.

Breaking the Cycle
Instead of trying to be good, focus on honoring your hunger. For many of you, those hunger cues aren’t working too well, (due to chronic restriction and slowed metabolic rate, or slowed stomach emptying, making you feel full much longer than most people, or simple because of high volume intake of low calorie food and drinks).So for now, you’ll need to make a point of scheduling frequent feedings. Generally, I recommend not exceeding 3 ½ or 4 hours max. Give yourself permission to eat, meals and snacks.

Remember—slips happen. (Perhaps a bumper sticker in my future?) Instead of thinking you’re a failure at this, that you’ll never have control over getting healthy, consider any positive changes you have made. Don’t beat yourself up for your slips. Rather, try to track how and why they occurred. What can you learn from the past slip? And what are you going to do differently.

Here’s a New Year’s resolution worth considering. Be kinder, more compassionate to yourself. And consider every day a clean slate (not a clean plate). It’ll work better than absolutely any diet!
Happy New Year, readers!

And thanks to my recent 4-5 followers who joined after the last post!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Running Off the Carrot Cake? There’s Gotta Be a Better Way.

Okay, Plain Jane, your question was a great one (in the comments section of Recovering from Holiday Slips: Practical Strategies for Moving On), and deserves more that a one line response.

Plain Jane said...

 But, if we do eat more than we would normally, is it okay to exercise more to compensate? Isn't this a sensible way of preventing weight gain at these times? I'm struggling to understand how to just sit calmly by when I feel full and think 'oh it's okay, I won't gain any weight' (you have talked before about how many extra calories are needed for weight gain, but that doesn't seem to hold true for me. It seems anything I eat without exercising causes weight gain).

I bet this thought has crossed many a reader’s minds. And having just had my comment be the focus of another blogger’s post (see ED Bites), I thought I’d do the same. So here goes.

No, I don't recommend increasing your activity to compensate. This can easily spiral into compulsive exercise habits. You know the pattern—overeat, over-exercise, get too hungry, overeat, over-exercise—with a bit of restrictive eating thrown in. With increased activity, you'll find yourself hungrier sometime after exercising (generally after 40 or 45 minutes after exercising). But you're likely to not trust your self, not believing that listening to that hunger is okay (because you're still focused on the fact that you already ate too much).

So how do you manage to regulate weight, then? By listening to your fullness. Okay, true personal insights, from today.

I baked a cake, a delectable carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, in honor of my husband’s birthday. Let’s be honest. I wanted some delicious cake to eat, too. The birthday was just a convenient excuse. But more about the cake later. I had a hefty slice, I might admit, certainly more than I needed. And it was good. But a mere 1 ½ hours later we were expected at our friends’ home for dinner. And so we went. And we ate the traditional Christmas meal of Jews around the world—Chinese food. And then they served desserts, to celebrate my husband’s birthday.

I was minimally hungry by the time dinner was served, so what happened? I ate less than I would have normally. It’s not that I was calculating my intake, but merely acknowledging the feeling of my jean’s waistband. (And these were my very comfortable jeans!) And when dessert was served, quite frankly, I had absolutely no interest. I was full, and I knew it. And I knew that ¾ of the carrot cake remained at home. And I knew that if I should get hungry later, and should choose to satisfy that hunger with cake, that was an option. See where I’m going with this? 
If you eat more than you need, and you are listening to your fullness, you’re likely to make up for the excess simply based on how you feel. You’ll find your self less hungry, and if you are listening to your body and it’s signals you’ll eat less later. Hard to believe, but it really works. That is, unless you allow destructive thinking and negative self-talk to take over, sabotaging your recovery.

No, I won’t double up on the spin classes tomorrow. But I won’t leave the cake wrapped in plastic wrap on the kitchen counter either! I’m still feeling a bit full, but the feeling is passing. As I knew it would. As you know it does.

One more thing to address is the weighing. If you’re weighing yourself regularly, frequently, compulsively, in all likelihood you are not measuring changes in body mass. Rather, you’re seeing fluctuations in hydration, or other influences such as bowel changes. Perhaps the worst thing to do when you are struggling with feeling uneasy about how much you’ve eaten is to weigh yourself.
Remember—reassure your self that the fullness passes, that a large meal or snack has an insignificant, not-even-measurable impact on your weight. Don’t let your thoughts mislead you! Try to trust this process. It really does work, if you allow it to!

Here’s an offer for official “Followers”

  • Send in a question or topic you’d like to have addressed. Once a month I will select one to blog about.
  • Email me for the cake recipe! It was modified (as is my norm) from 3 different versions to a delicious recipe, healthier, though still requiring attention to portions!
  • Not a Follower yet? Shy? Sign up with a made-up name/identity. Rather liberating! It’s a way of thanking me for free information, and letting me know you care!
  • By the way, for the past 7 months I have sent out email welcome notes, after followers joined. I just found out that none have been received. So welcome, followers, and thank you all for reading, commenting, and sharing the blog with others! I do hope to figure out this little glitch soon!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Recovering from Holiday Slips: Practical Strategies for Moving On.

Garrison confections: Impossible to resist! Central Falls, RI

Last Sunday after a lovely afternoon out, I returned home to find an entire box of expensive artisan chocolates devoured. Well, almost the whole box. He left the apricot-filled piece after biting into it and deciding it wasn’t worth eating. Eleven of the twelve chocolates, gone.

Binging is totally out of character for him, although, like me, he’s always been fond of chocolate. He’s always been a grazer, eating when he’s hungry, and stopping when he’d had just enough. He always knew he could eat anytime.

I was angry and upset. He would never eat this way in front of me. I’m certain. No, he had to sneak those chocolates. Did he think I wouldn’t permit it? Did he even think about it at all?

After some time, my initial shock passed. And with some insights from my husband, it all made sense. I realized he must have been starving. He’s never been one to take his own food, to fend for himself. No, not him. So when our return Sunday was a bit delayed, I’m sure he was feeling it. Those chocolates were the easiest and quickest thing to grab.

Besides, if I was intending to give that box as a gift, I shouldn’t have tempted him by displaying it on the kitchen counter. I’m sure the trigger of smelling these freshly made delights was just too tempting.

He knew I was upset. But given the circumstances, I bet he’d do it all over again.

Yes, Mica, my dog ate an entire box of chocolates. And there’s a lot we humans can learn from this situation, particularly in this holiday season. With less structure to our days, and more exposure to challenging eating situations, consider these tips during the holiday season:

• Try to prevent your self from feeling too vulnerable. No matter what you know about healthy eating behaviors, they will be impossible to adhere to if you are starving. You’ll be looking to meet some basic needs, like raising a low blood sugar, and raising it quickly. You’ll eat fast and mindlessly. So prevention is key.

• Plug in some stress management strategies. Check out Nourishing the Soul for some guidance and great resources. Be sure to view and fantasize about being in the lovely photos!

• Cut yourself some slack. Don’t beat your self up for having a slip. But don’t ignore it either. Try to understand it, to learn from it, in order to prevent it from happening again. Did you go too long without eating? Was the visual stimulus, seeing the yummy stuff on the counter too suggestive and tempting? Yelling at my dog, after the fact, would have been meaningless for him. Yelling at your self after overeating is similarly useless. So have some compassion. And rethink your old patterns of reacting.

• Remember that normal people (and dogs) eat foods that look, smell and ultimately taste good, when available and visible on the kitchen counter. Yes, even if you weren’t depriving yourself. So take control of your environment. Take foods out of eye’s view. Wrap them up and store them in the freezer, to have when you are ready to eat them mindfully.
• Tomorrow is another day, even if it isn’t a Monday or January 1st. And if you say “I’ll wait until Monday to address my eating”, ask yourself if you are truly ready for change.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weight Watchers Beware!

Ecstatic to freely eat bananas, for the first time in years—this was the sentiment at Thursday’s meeting. Finally able to select salmon—previously too pricey by their point system—this made them rejoice.

Most of my readers care little about Weight Watchers. But I’m writing this post because whether we realize it or not, whether we are “Weight Watchers” or not, their messages infuse into our culture and into our beliefs. They impact our thoughts about what’s acceptable to eat for health and weight management, whether they are myths or truths. Hearing some myth-information recently, I decided I needed to cut it short, before it spreads. I also wanted to point out a side of diets that most lose sight of—the damage they do.

Unlike those in attendance at their meetings, their cheerleaders who are pleased with their program and their successes, I get to see another perspective.

No Lifetime Membership for Sharon

Sharon came to see me for the first time this week, having never struggled with her weight. That is, until the past few years when it began to slowly climb.  That led this smart, level-headed woman to Weight Watchers. She followed their plan 100%, yet still gained weight. Encouraged by their new program, she figured maybe the old program just wasn’t for her. Two weeks into the new Points Plus system, she arrived frustrated and distraught in my office, and for good reason.

Sharon’s climbing weight made perfect sense to me, and with the recommendations we discussed I am confident she will turn things around. But I mention her because of how she changed as a result of the Weight Watcher’s diet.

Her whole life, she ate what she wanted, in moderate portions. She’d have ice cream at night—when she felt like it—but only as much as she needed. She had wine with dinner some nights, but just a glass, and she listened to and trusted her body. And it worked for all of her 38 years. Only recently, the balance wasn’t there.

Enter Weight Watchers. Her weight continues climbing, and now she is thinking about food all the time. She avoids the normal foods she always had, the moderate portions of foods she truly enjoyed, opting instead for lots of fruit (free on the new program). She moved from trusting her body, which had always worked for her, to trusting the program. And even if it had worked, it has totally impacted her relationship with food, and her ability to be normal. And this can happen with any diet, not just Weight Watchers.

So I went to a meeting. Yes, I decided to put on my journalist’s hat and collect information. I wanted to be fair and not misrepresent their program, to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

Lori goes incognito

They were prepared to sign me right up, on line, and at the meeting. It didn’t matter that my BMI was in the normal range (I do have issues with using BMI, but we’ll take that up at another post). No one questioned the appropriateness of my joining, in spite of my normal weight. I could only imagine the damage done, if an eating disordered individual, also in the normal weight range, showed up. The messages, in my estimation, run counter to those supporting a healthy relationship with food.

Here’s what I saw and heard. Upon checking in, your progress is assessed. Behaviors? Thoughts? No, no, simply weight. Progress is measured solely in pounds. It doesn’t much matter how your weight changed.  No, the group leader isn’t inquiring whether you binged, then restricted all week, or if you purged before the meeting. You are praised simply for the weight change.

Now hopefully, those of you dealing with eating disorders or even weight management, in another setting, have experienced a different approach. When you see your team, progress should be measured not only by weight change, but by improvement in your thinking and preoccupation with eating and weight, by changes in your vital signs, and your energy level and sense of well-being.  Weight may not change one week, but we may see breakthroughs in how you cope with challenging situations without relying on food and disordered behaviors.

Those of you who really know me would have been so proud! I work hard to filter my thoughts, when they’re inappropriate, and to think before I speak. I could be sharp tongued, at times, when something really pushes my buttons. But at this 7:30 meeting I asked some naïve-sounding questions, and truly tried to listen to the answers. And I bit my tongue really hard.

It’s not about the calories? It’s about eating for health? Really?

“Can you tell me about the new point system?” I asked. “We’ve learned so much about weight loss,” the meeting leader replied. “It’s not just the calories, it’s the macronutrients,” she tells me, “the protein, fat and the carbs, besides the fiber, that determine your points.” Hmm. Has anyone taken basic biochemistry? Or maybe just high school biology?  Those calories in foods come from (drum roll please) those very macronutrients—protein, fat and carbohydrate.

Let me remind you that energy balance and weight regulation is about the calories. In a large Harvard study, they again showed us that weight change is the same whether following a low carbohydrate or low fat diet, by one year’s time, calories being equal. And similarly, for those on the other side, the weight gain is no worse regardless of which component of your diet you increase, calories being equal. And then there’s my favorite Dr. Haub study (see previous post).

What is true, is that certain food choices may make us more full in the short term. But this is not the wisest choice. We may find ourselves in situations getting too hungry, when that volume from liquid and fiber they promote, passes. That doesn’t help us sustain our bodies and our energy. And if we are struggling to recognize hunger and fullness, lots of water and water-filled foods will only mask your ability to listen to your body and its needs.

“It’s about promoting choices based on what we know about eating for health, so we encourage whole grains and less processed foods”, I was told. “It’s not about calories.” And yet, the unprocessed, whole grain brown rice has the very same point value as white rice. To me that would send a message that they are equal, no? And why is a glass of wine so high in points? Science does, in fact, support a glass of wine. And dark chocolate, I might add. Have they not seen that science?

Cocoa and chocolate, concentrated sources of polyphenols, have received much scientific interest and study. In fact, health benefit evidence regarding cocoa and chocolate were reviewed by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (2010). This session will review the cocoa bean's composition as well as the population-based and dietary intervention studies supporting the cardiovascular health benefits of consuming cocoa and chocolate. (from the American Dietetic Association 2010 conference guide).

Yet Karen, the leader, said “have the fruit first and that may satisfy. Then if you really need it, have the crap.” No, she didn’t use those words exactly, but that was what was implied. You know, “good food” first. In other words, don’t have what you really feel like.  Yet ultimately, after yearning for what you really want, you’ll eventually end up eating it having consumed both the calories from the fruit and the calories from the other item.

Not a diet?

Their materials work hard to convince us that it’s not a diet, but a lifestyle. They’ve got to be joking!  You’re given a plan, a number of points, and ways to count foods. And you’re encouraged to have all your points. There is little focus on self -regulation, eating what you need, as just as much as you need, based on your hunger and fullness. How can they not call this a diet?

They do, apparently have a plan that has you listening to your body, but that plan was largely dismissed at this meeting. And to truly be supported in that approach, an approach I completely support, it takes time, and exploration of eating triggers, and stress management tools, and one-on-one guidance.

So here’s the thing. There’s a place for sensible guidelines. These just weren’t so sensible. Adding structure to our day’s intake helps us not get too hungry, and I certainly support regular meals and snacks. And if you are at a place where you mask your hunger (with anything form large volume, low caloric-density items to coffee and diet sodas) than listening to your hunger with be a challenge—for now.

For those of you who don’t listen to your body’s hunger and deny your needs, a meal plan may have its place—for now. You should re-learn the tools to self manage, to listen to your hunger and your fullness, and trust them. Move out of your head, away from all the rules and information you’ve picked up. Work on becoming mindful—of what you eat and how it tastes. And tune in to what is making you eat—or stopping you from eating, in spite of hunger awareness.

That’s the work we have before us. And counting points isn’t going to resolve it, or improve your relationship with food.

It’s my hope that none of you need a lifetime membership. Let’s work on making changes that can change our relationship with food and our trust in ourselves, to help us for a lifetime.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Guaranteed-To-Please Granola.

To accompany my favorite yogurts!

I did it! I finally made my own granola. And it was so good, and so easy, that I want to share it with you. (If you lived locally I’d really share it, as the recipe made enough for a small army.) I can’t wait for my kids to come home for winter break to help me eat it.  Meanwhile, I’ll store it in airtight containers and even freeze a bunch.
Making granola was also the perfect opportunity to tell you about my favorite yogurts. 

First, the granola. Yes, it's calorie-dense, but so satisfying, so 1/3 cup feels like a treat. And it's high in fiber (over 5 grams), high in healthy fats and protein (almost 5 grams), and not too sweet--at least to me. So give it a try. It takes about 20 minutes to prep (if you are not simultaneously trying to photograph it), and 20 minutes to bake.

Guaranteed-To-Please Granola
(Modified from Meghan’s Granola at and the pages of useful comments which followed.)

Ingredients (to make about 15 cups)

8 cups rolled oats (Old fashioned oats)
1 ½ cups ground flax seed (aka flax meal)
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened (optional)
½ cup sesame seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 ½ tsps. salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
¾ cup honey
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (or more if preferred) dried fruit, including raisins, craisins, chopped apricots

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. (Thought I’d add the Fahrenheit detail for those of you overseas).

Line 2 baking sheets (preferably ones with sides, but if you are really careful you could do it on a cookie sheet as well) with parchment paper or foil.

Combine oats through walnuts in a large bowl.

In a medium saucepan, stir together salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Pour liquid over the oat mixture and mix to coat thoroughly.

Spread evenly on the baking sheets.

Bake 10 mins. Then stir. Then bake another 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool. As it does, it will become crunchy and form clusters. Remove yourself from the granola so you don't pick at it while it's cooling (I'm only guiding you from my own experience.)

When thoroughly cooled, add the dried fruit to granola.

Store in airtight container.

(For those of you on meal plans, 1/3 cup would count as 2 grains and 2 fats. Some reviewers had success substituting ½ cup of applesauce for ½ of the oil. If you do, count it as 1 fat vs. 2. Personally I went the full fat route and I think it’s worth it).

And now, about my favorite yogurts…

Three yogurts, three different styles. None are artificially sweetened, and all are low or non-fat. Not all will appeal to all tastes, but I’ll do my best to accurately describe them below.

Wallaby: Australian style. Okay, it’s made in California, but was apparently inspired by a trip to Australia. (See their website for more fun info.) What I like? Tangy flavor, which reminds me of yogurts of days past. And the most delectable flavors, including my favorites, Bartlett pear (tell me you’ve ever seen Bartlett pear before!) and dulce de leche, a low fat variety which feels like a decadent dessert. If I could afford it, I’d eat it every day.
Available in Whole Foods, but few other stores that I’ve found.

Chobani: a Greek yogurt, made in New York. Go figure. But its very thick and creamy texture with just-the-right-amount-of-sweetness appears to please everyone I recommend it to. And it’s fat free, for those who are concerned about saturated fat.
Get it by the case at Costco or BJs where it’s much cheaper than the supermarket.

Stonyfield Farm: They don’t claim to be from anywhere other than New Hampshire. They have all varieties (fat free, low fat and whole milk). They tend to have less added sugar than many other brands and are still quite tasty.

All three have active culture, the probiotics or healthy bacteria that help keep things moving and help with intestinal distress. (Although the companies are not forthcoming about the amount of these active cultures that are added).

So try a cup of yogurt topped with some fruit of your choice (berries, pears and banana work well). Add 1/3 cup of this yummy granola, and ENJOY. Makes a perfect, quick breakfast!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Confessions of a Dietitian

I dislike the word dietitian. It conjures up images, based on my experience, of unfit, overweight food service professionals, located in hospital basements, counting and creating rigid meal plans for their patients to follow. But to break that stereotype, I’ll share an awesome blog I just stumbled upon called the Fat Nutritionist

Chocolatiers at La Cour aux Saveurs , Provence, France. Simply the best!

I’m struggling with my word choice confessions, as we associate it with guilt and sin and wrongdoing. And quite frankly, I feel no shame about these confessions.

I love eating. This isn’t news to my readers, is it? And I especially enjoy good chocolate, great bread and French pastries, particularly a good almond croissant. I’ve been eating a couple of those lovely rugelach (pictured on the mindfulness post) pretty much on a daily basis, although the stash in the freezer is dwindling.
Great French pastries at Seven Stars, Providence, RI

I was always strongest in math and science, so pulling words and thoughts together and feeling good about a blog post feels like I have hiked Everest. Always good to push yourself out of your comfort zone!

I have blog-follower envy. I watch my blog-friend Cate and others add new members on a daily basis. Yet I know you’re out there, reading, and commenting, yet oh-so-shy about ‘following’.

 A crazy climb to "Monkey Point", Gordes, France, with my husband

I really love to exercise, particularly outdoors. I love the sense of accomplishment and how my body feels and what it can achieve. I appreciate that my body works for me, particularly given my diagnosis of MS.  I love biking, an activity I only started to get into 8 years ago, perhaps because it gets me to places I wouldn’t otherwise see by car. And I get a thrill reaching new heights (though they often terrify me) by hiking. But I am not an advocate of exercise for those who fail to fuel their body, as the consequences are grave.
Franconia Ridge, White Mountains, New Hampshire. One of my most favorite hikes.

I was blessed with some good genes—kind of. My mother was above 300 lbs. for most of my life—sedentary, and healthy. My father was tall and slim, a non-smoker, who by the age of 30 was pre diabetic and hypertensive. He had a healthy lifestyle, walked everywhere, and died of lung cancer in his 60’s.

I was a normal weight child, but was always and repeatedly told to 
stand up straight, put my shoulders back, and hold my stomach in. 
If there’s one body part I’ve struggled with it’s my belly, the place 
where any additional body fat liked to live. Strangely, when I had to
 inject myself three times a week with an MS medication into some 
fatty area on my body, I saw my abdomen in a whole new positive 
light! But pilates and yoga also help that sense of connection. No 
need to wish for a chronic disease, then.

A Jenny Craig weight loss center refers to me on a very regular 
basis. I think that’s a hoot!

I went to Weight Watchers once, when I was 30 lbs. overweight, (maybe I'll post a photo from that era--at a later date) right after college. It taught me everything not to do, personally and professionally, and for that I am immensely thankful. I promise a post on this at a later date. But first, I just might show up at a local meeting with a journalist hat on to be sure I don’t misrepresent their current program.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Talk about distorted!

There’s no shortage of blog topics easily gleaned from Saturday’s New York Times. There was the one about lap band and gastric bypass surgery being approved for those at lower BMIs, with the company’s ultimate plan to market the procedure for obese children. 

In the business section was a rather un-newsworthy article about the costliness of eating disorder treatment, which misstated that nutritionists are not covered by insurance. A front page piece described the revolutionary changes by Weight Watchers away from the point system (I will need to tackle that one in a blog all its own). 

And then there's the article that pulls me to the computer, less than 24 hours after publishing my last blog post (unheard of, for me!).
Courtesy of Kimberly Max, 2009, Vicky Simegiatos Dance Company's Nutracker.
The article, entitled Judging The Bodies In Ballet by Alastair Macaulay ( was outrageous and provocative, even though the author was attempting to clarify and justify his previous inflammatory comments in a November review.

Let me start by confessing the following—I am no authority on dance, although I thoroughly enjoy a good performance. And there are statements Mr. Macaulay makes that, while I may cringe at hearing them, I don’t disagree with. For instance, he writes:

“Some correspondents have argued that the body in ballet is ‘irrelevant’. Sorry, but the opposite is true. If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career.” 

Personally, I find it hard to argue with his point. As a culture, we have come to appreciate the slender, lithe appearance of ballet dancers. And he aptly points out this is different than what we appreciate in, let’s say Flamenco or modern dancers. About this I think he’s sadly correct.

He also acknowledges that it is not his responsibility to filter his comments because the dancer is known to have struggled with an eating disorder. Critique of the arts, should be about the art. Period. Ringer’s eating disorder struggles should not bias reviewers, just as Bristol Palin’s performance on Dancing With the Stars shouldn’t have been based on politics.

That being said, the problem I have is simply with his perception. The article was accompanied by a photo and for the life of me I couldn’t begin to get it, to comprehend where on earth he was coming from when he uttered the absurd. He stated that Jenifer Ringer, the Sugar Plum Fairy, “looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many” and that Jared Angle, as her Cavalier, “seems to have been sampling half the sweet realm”. 

So I combed the internet, searching Google images for current photos (if I get approval, I will be happy to share!) Meanwhile you can see some quick clips of Jenifer on this youtube video Maybe I missed something, I thought. But no, there’s no sign of overweight in these two fabulous looking dancers. So unless he’s using Avatar characters as his gold standard, I am at a total loss to see what he saw. He stated, referring to another dancer in the 70’s, that “her upper arms wobbled more than Ms. Ringer's…” You’ve got to be kidding me!

You be the judge. I’ve attached a 2009 photo and a recent video I found of the two dancers accused of being overweight. See what you think. I might also add that I learned another small detail about Jenifer Ringer from Working Mother magazine--that she had delivered her first child in 2008, the year before the image above. 
My heart goes out to these dancers, not for having to tolerate an unfavorable review of their talent, but a distorted assessment of their physical appearance. Tell me who needs to address distorted body image!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Minding your eating, managing your weight.

It’s not what you eat, but how you eat that matters.

Do you think you eat mindfully already? Are you wondering why I’m dedicating a post to this topic? It’s because it strikes me that most of us have work to do in this area. The benefit of mindful eating is dramatic. You may go off a diet, but if you are focusing on mindful eating there is no “blowing it”. 

You will at times be more or less mindful, but addressing mindful eating is not all or nothing. So you can’t fail at it. And even small changes in your mindfulness can have a major impact on how you eat, and how you feel. And ultimately, on weight regulation.

In my last post I promised to address practical strategies for legalizing forbidden foods.  I didn’t forget. To set the stage, we first need to spend some time learning to eat mindfully.  (I will cover eating chocolate and other forbidden foods in an upcoming post. Really.)

Mindful eating involves taking in food with all of your senses—smelling its aroma, feeling its texture, seeing its beauty and truly tasting it. Ok, you won’t always hear your food unless you are eating something with a lot of crunch or inappropriately slurping down your soup. But you know what I mean.

Mindful eating means moving yourself from auto-pilot, and not simply eating just because there’s food around. It means shifting from selecting foods simply for their nutritional benefit, or because it’s what you always allow yourself, or because they are safe foods, and instead choosing foods you really enjoy. Because if you only have what’s save or allowed, then you will continue to seek what you’d really prefer to be eating.
Mindful eating is also about paying attention to how you feel when you’re about to eat, and to the setting you’re eating in. That includes your internal stress level, and the comfort of your environment, both physical and emotional.

It involves recognizing when you are hungry, and distinguishing hunger from all the other reasons you reach for food—stress, boredom, self-punishment, anger, celebration, comfort, to name a few. 

Rugelach recipe available upon request! Simply the best!
It requires giving yourself permission to eat, when you’re hungry, without waiting until you are so hungry that it is too late to eat in a controlled and mindful manner. And it requires letting go of your judgment of what you are choosing to eat now, and what you ate earlier in the day or week.

Think about your usual setting, the way you typically eat your meals and snacks. Do any of these apply? Are you:

Watching TV?
Reading or doing homework?
At the computer?
On the phone?
Eating in bed?
Being interrupted to meet everyone else’s needs?
Emptying the dishwasher?
Walking around the kitchen?

Are you even aware of when and what you are putting in your mouth? And how much do you really allow yourself to taste your food, to thoroughly enjoy it?

I realize that you are mighty good at multitasking. Really, I know you’re capable of eating while doing lots of other things. I just don’t recommend it. When you’re distracted, you fail to acknowledge what you’ve eaten, and that you may have had enough. Have you ever eaten a meal in front of the TV? It just doesn’t register that you’ve eaten. So then you’re up looking around for more soon after. You miss the satisfying aspects of eating, and ultimately overeat.

Distracted eating also creates unhealthy connections between activities and eating. You go to the movies and you think about eating popcorn, whether hungry or not. And you only know you’ve had enough when the salt and oil is scraped up by your nails! At the ballgame? It’s hot dogs and peanuts. If you start to link an action with eating—for instance, reading blogs—then whenever you sit at your computer you’ll be seeking food. They become linked activities, so that even if you weren’t hungry you’re triggered to eat.

If you’re going to eat, when you’re going to eat, I want you to appreciate every morsel that you take in.

Too late! I’m already stuck in these patterns!

Not so! There’s still time to change your habits and learn to be mindful. Here are some practical tips, each of which can have significant impact:

Limit eating to the kitchen or dining room. And ask family members to help support this plan for everyone at home. Mindful eating is appropriate for everyone, kids and adults, regardless of size or weight!

Move to the table. And make it an inviting place to dine. Do you need to clear off the mail? The laundry? The dirty dishes? Then do so! You don’t need fine china to set a nice table, but a place mat might help. Maybe even candles? Or flowers?

Set your internal table, so to speak and prepare yourself to eat. If you’ve just been racing around, or are feeling stressed or anxious your internal table isn’t set. So sit down and take a few breaths, deep belly breaths, and release some tension. You’d be surprised that something so simple and quick as breathing works so well.

Say an affirmation, quietly to yourself, with eyes closed or open if you choose. An affirmation is a “declaration that something is true”. For instance, stating “ I can taste and enjoy my food” or I will nourish my body and give it what it needs. For some, blessings before meals meet this need. Appreciating the food that will be eaten lays the groundwork for savoring your food.

Use your senses to take in your food. Do you like the smell of the food? The temperature? How does it appear? How does it feel in your mouth? What do you think of the texture? And how does it taste? Does it seem like you are tasting it for the very first time?
Now how is your belly feeling? Are you noticing that you are starting to feel full? If you are unsure, you can stop eating—just for now—and move away from the table. Give yourself permission to come back after 45 minutes or so, enough time to recognize that you are starting to feel comfortably full or satisfied.
To ready you for mindful eating, try the raisin exercise, a mindfulness activity that has been used for decades to make people more present, more aware of their eating.

Raisin Exercise

Take out a raisin from its package, then go and sit in a quiet place. Look at the raisin in your hand. Observe it, its color, smell, texture. Then close your eyes, placing the raisin in your mouth—but don’t chew it! Explore how it feels in your mouth as you move it around. How does it change? After some time (which will feel like an eternity) slowly begin to chew it and again observe it. Note the flavor and the feel. Finally, finish chewing it and swallow. Repeat this again and note any changes in your experience.

Now I don’t expect you to start eating your food, raisins or other items, this way. But this exaggerated experience with the raisin makes a point. It is so far from the way we normally shovel in raisins, practically eating them whole, that we barely appreciate their incredible sweetness. Now imagine doing this with a piece of fine chocolate. See where I’m going with this?

Start with one small goal this week, or when you’re ready to address eating mindfully. Choose one something relevant to you from the strategies above. And let me know how it goes.  What did you think of the raisin experiment? Were you able to refer to the experience when eating other foods? Have you been able to catch yourself when not eating mindfully and shift gears? Even that would be awesome progress!