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December 19, 2010

Food criminals part 2

Every time I write something ancillary about my issues with food someone sends me a diet plan.

I eliminated high-fat foods for the most part. I had what I called the White Breakfast, oatmeal with no sugars, a hard-boiled egg and a cup of yogurt, plus coffee. Lunch was a piece of roasted chicken breast and a salad, supper was chicken or fish, a vegetable and a salad, with wine to make it luxurious. Fruit midmorning for a snack, midafternoon for another snack (which helps with the sugar cravings) and a hunk of cheese with wine at bedtime.
You should try the clean-eating diet...
Buying a steamer will change your life. It changed mine. If you steam your veggies you will get more health benefits with less calories.

It always surprises me, though it shouldn't. The intention behind it is kind and good-hearted and I think after all the money I have spent on therapy I am happy to see I can understand these notes are sent with good intentions and well-meaning ideas.

Here's the thing. Have you ever seen the show Hoarders? It's a reality TV show about people who are hoarders and live in terribly cluttered or refuse-filled homes. It boggles the mind. The mind is boggled! You think, My God, people, just clean your house. Get thee to a Swiffer! Of course if they could do that they would not be hoarders. Duh.

What about alcoholics? Would you tell an alcoholic, "Look, there are other things to drink besides alcohol. Next time you are thirsty, drink water or milk or juice. And that will solve your problems!"

Of course not, because alcoholism isn't about thirst. Just like eating disorders are not about food.

Giving a weight-loss diet plan to a person with food issues is like telling an alcoholic to just drink grape juice the next time they get parched. Alcoholics don't have a problem with alcohol because they are terribly confused about what else to drink. Folks who have food issues aren't simply lacking knowledge about steamed vegetables and lean proteins. My belief is that people who have food issues probably know more about food, fat, calories, consumption, and loss than any other people on the planet.

Trust me, another diet won't fix that psychic perplexity.

- - -

Reader Jennifer asked:

I'm right there with you. At this point, I'm not even sure what a balanced meal is or what is or isn't healthy. I've been dieting and restricting what I eat and have heard so much -- that I've lost all track of that. What a relief it must be to "undiet." Good for you! If I took a similar approach, I'd be nervous that I might go crazy and eat whatever I want. Does that make sense? Like I actually might lose all control?

Were you ever afraid of this? and how did you handle it?

It is not a relief to swear off dieting. It is terrifying, it is crazy-making and it's disorienting. Because if you are like me you have spent an entire lifetime eating from someone else's list so you have no idea what to eat if you aren't on plan (those off-plan times you think of as simply anomalies.) I have been trying this for over five years now and it's been up and down. I even went back to low-carbing again just before my second book expo, I think I needed the feeling of control and constraint that comes with restrictive eating.

We're most afraid that without a plan we will never, ever stop eating. I feared I would become unhinged, wild, lost with hunger. I definitely had times of absolute abandon where I worried I would never stop eating (and there were times when I did not).

I think that perhaps you have to be willing to fail. There are days now when I am OK -- I am not crazy restricting or alone in shamed overeating. To get there I think you have to be willing to treat yourself with care and put your own well-being above the approval of others. It is almost bone crushing. For those of us who just want to be lovely, pretty, appealing or accepted... it feels a little like dying to give up the hope you'll ever be just perfect enough.

But it is really, really worth trying.

- - -

Reader India says,

You are right and I so totally agree with everything you said. I'm trying to learn this myself, rather than be disgusted and angry with myself all the time because I don't look the way I want (yes I am overweight, but since when is size 10 or 12 such an awful thing?), or I fall of the wagon and eat something I shouldn't... But I have an appointment with my (skinny) doctor in six weeks and I KNOW she will look at me disapprovingly when she sees that I haven't lost any weight, have in fact maybe gained some. She will blame me for my blood pressure being slightly high, for not exercising enough. I know this because it has already happened before.

I am not a doctor, I am a person with issues. Also I hate giving advice so take this as you will:


I firmly believe that I have good, sturdy, robust health today because I have a doctor who does not make me feel bad to visit him. I am not denied healthcare because of my weight. (If one avoids a doctor because of weight ... well, you see my logic.)

Several years ago when I started down this path of yanking myself out of disordered eating I asked the nurse at my primary care physician's office to not weigh me. They put a notation in my chart so that it now never comes up. For me, this is good. For people like me, that weigh-in is a barrier to getting actual healthcare. (And let's be honest, it's not like I don't know my weight down to the ounce every day, thank you bathroom scale. Like I said, I got me some issues.)

My doctor never chastises me or makes me feel bad about myself. He cares. I see him regularly for check-ups and routine exams. I have good health care because my doctor does not harass me. He knows that if harassing worked to get people out of food issues then, wow, we'd already be cured.

So if your doctor is not helpful, kind, and respectful of you then JUST CHANGE DOCTORS. NOW.

Some people will think I am giving you bad advice because they believe a doctor's role is to chastise you into better health. In reality all that does is make you avoid the doctor. Find a doctor you like who respects you and doesn't make you want to eat a chocolate Volkswagen after every visit and your life will begin to change as well. It's up to you. You hold the answers, not some third-party who looks at you in deep disapproval.

- - -

About the beet salad, Lenna asks:

I have a question about your salad: do you use the olive oil and red wine vinegar in equal amounts also?

I think I just sprinkle on a little of both. It's not a salad that need a whole lot of dressing, it's pretty darn tasty as-is!

- - - -
Lynn wrote:

I have been thinking about which "diet" to start on January 1st and had decided on Atkins. All my inner alarm bells were clanging at the thought of carrots, potatoes, fruit and my husband's homemade sourdough bread being "dealbreakers". But, I had read about someone who had lost 100lbs and still feels great after 3 yrs. So, I was ready to dive in even though all common sense said don't do it.

Every January 1st since I was eight years old I have resolved to go on a diet. For those of you counting, that is thirty-one years of dieting. Each new year I resolved to be less of myself.

Even my "get healthy" goal for 2010 started out very secretly carved as a weight goal.

So, Atkins. I lost a lot of weight on Atkins. When I went off it I gained at a rate that astonishes me to this day. There are many people for whom a low-carb lifestyle is really appealing. It certainly appealed to my obsessive, crazypants qualities -- it brought out my OCD around food like nothing before or since. Not everyone who goes on a low-carb diet turns into a food-aholic but perhaps it was my wiring, the timing, some underlying unbalance in me. Who knows? All I can say is that to this very day, knowing what I know, I still lean toward restricting carbs when I get stressed out. Four and a half years of hardcore Atkins did me in. I evangelized Atkins, I lived it and breathed it like a religion and to this day I am still trying to unravel it in my brain.

- - -

So that's it. Just a few things today as a follow up. I don't have a lot of answers about food. Most every person I know has qualifiers around eating, a little secret math formula known only to them that decides if they eat this or that or how much. What a complicated equation.

I know I have gotten better because I don't get squalling angry at the strangers who send me diet plans these days. But I also know I still have a long way to go because the new year is approaching and in my head it means a fresh start, a new regime, and I have to really talk myself down from that ledge.

At least now I can see it's a ledge.

Posted by laurie at December 19, 2010 12:35 AM