• 4 reasons not to give up when you're doing EVERYTHING RIGHT and you STILL didn't lose weight

    Okay, so you’ve quit bingeing and you’re eating better and sleeping longer and moving more and you’ve been doing this for WEEKS NOW and you get on the scale and holy S^#$! THAT!!! THAT NUMBER RIGHT THERE - that is not what you were expecting to see! 

    And so what is the point, really? Maybe this is never going to work and is simply not worth it. I GIVE UP! you are thinking.

    Okay, please don’t give up yet. Here’s four good reasons why:

    1. All bodies are different, but they have this in common: They are WEIRD. Weird and in the short term unpredictable and complicated. There’s a lot going on, and we don’t know the half of it. We handle the inputs, the body handles how to adjust to the changes we make. 

    Sometimes the number goes up before it goes down. You might stay put for a while, or the weight might drop off suddenly for no obvious reason. 

    Whatever happens, it's your body that’s in charge. Bodies do what they want to do. Maybe yours is taking its time readjusting. If you’ve been alive for 40 or 50 or 60 years, a few weeks is not a long time. Even when you’ve made some really solid habit change.

    What probably won't happen is a steady, predictable daily decrease in weight. You have to get more data before the overall picture looks like a nice downward trend.

    Here’s what one of my teachers says: When she stopped overeating, and changed everything about her diet and exercise and eating habits, she weighed herself every day. And every single day for six weeks, that number stayed the same.

    Did not budge. In six WEEKS, no change. As she herself said, People, that is a long-ass time.

    So if you’ve made some changes after a lifetime of not-so-great eating, maybe your body needs more than a few weeks to adjust? Maybe a little more patience is what’s required. A little more faith.

    It’s not easy! Oh believe me I know. But we can’t just turn the dial down on the chips and chocolate, and expect to see the needle on the scale move like Usain Bolt. It’s probably gonna take more time than any of us would like.

    2. Speaking of weighing yourself every day, I suggest you do that. Unless you don’t want to know the number at all, ever, which is hard unless you avoid the doctor’s office.

    Because what if you have not been keeping daily track? You change your eating, you’re doing everything right, and you get on the scale after a few weeks and you compare that number to the most recent number you remember seeing, which was one day last June. That may be a comparison that makes you really unhappy. And it might be a totally invalid comparison. Maybe that day in June you had been sick. Maybe last night you had a lot of salt.

    Two data points is nothing.

    So if you want to get some good data, get a lot of it. Control the variables as much as possible. That means weighing yourself first thing in the morning, naked, after you've gone to the bathroom, before eating or drinking anything. 

    Then plug the number into an app that will smooth out the insignificant ups and downs (I use Happy Scale; it's free) so you can keep an eye on trends, which is the only thing we care about. We don’t care about today’s number. "Get it and forget it" daily, and enjoy the total lack of sudden shocks.

    Alternative: Skip the weighing entirely, and just take your body measurements. Or pick a form-fitting garment and keep track of how it hangs on you.

    3. Take a good look at what you're eating. We’ve talked about this before, but it can be done more than once. I do it regularly: 

    Ask yourself, is there anything happening here that might cause extra weight to hang around the neighborhood? If I'm just like everybody else, and there's nothing really wacky about my physiology (can we agree?), what might be contributing to a few extra pounds? 

    Do this like you weigh yourself. Objectively. You’re just taking a look, not going on a death march. No need to do anything different right now. And absolutely no judging your character! You might live for your weekly bear claw, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who likes pastry, The End. Everybody’s got their something.

    For example: I am huge potato hound. I could absolutely trim a few pounds from my frame if I wanted to stop eating potatoes a few times a week. (Which I don't! Because I love my potatoes and also, Winter is Coming. Wintertime is Potato Time.) 

    But I'm not confused about whether potatoes, Stilton, tequila or suchwhich have an effect on my weight. They do. So if it was worth it to me, I could quit eating those things, or cut back.

    4. About doing everything right? There is no need to do EVERYTHING right. Of course we all know that none of us is ever doing literally EVERYTHING right, but deep down we all feel like we should. So drop that, when you become aware of it. There’s simply no NEED to do everything right. You can get where you want to go doing 80-90%. Shoot for that.

    And start where you're at right now. If you start at 30%, AWESOME.

    Finally, if you are not dieting and not bingeing, you are doing something TOTALLY right. You are doing a really HUGE thing right. And you can remind yourself that you’re sane and free and making your own sovereign, healthy choices about food and eating and self-care.

    Which gives you the kind of self-respect that no number can ever take the fun out of.

  • 99 problems? Solve the one that causes the other 98

    A super-quick life-changing trick for you this week, as close as your hands:

    If you want to change your weight, your eating, your habits and your world, the single most powerful thing you can do is shut down the inner critic.

    I assume You Know Who I’m talking about when I say “inner critic.” It’s the voice Anne Lamott calls “Radio KFKD.” What Rumi called the “Ten Thousand Idiots.” Freud, I believe, called it the “parental introject.” (If only Freud had known about Annie L., right?)

    My personal inner critic goes by the name “Miss Slighcarp,” after the sadistic governess in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, a book I read over and over in childhood. (Recommended for all ages.)

    That is the voice that says:

Who do you think you are?

    You are so stupid!

    You are so ugly!

    You never do anything right.

    There’s something wrong with you. No, I mean, there’s something REALLY WRONG.

    You’re never gonna get it together.

    No matter what you do, you get it wrong. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE. WHO IS THAT MESSED?!


    You are SOF$%*INGSTUPID!

    That's the voice I mean.

    (And I'm serious. This is really how mine talks to me. And virtually everyone I've talked to about this has a very similar experience. These Voices are ... not very inventive.)

    There are many ways of silencing / drowning out / otherwise dismissing this voice, but they all involve paying more attention to it - in the beginning. And this is not comfortable.

    But it can't be avoided. And it needn't take long.

    Here's a good way to do it, and you don’t have to join a monastery or hire a Freudian therapist and go lie on a couch twice a week for the next 20 years. This is the method I learnt from my current internet boyfriend Richard Grannon, and you can implement it right now:

    Take one of your hands with the other. We're going to count off the fingers. First, hold your thumb. Repeat these reminders:

    1. Thumb. You're imagining a little crown on it, and you say to yourself:I’m the boss here. I’m the sovereign. What’s going on? Did I just get carpet-bombed by the Voice?Well, I’m in charge of how I feel. 

    2. Index finger, pointing out at imaginary inner criticNOT YOU. You’re not in charge here. Sit down. STFU.

    3. Middle finger; you know what to do with that: NO. I do not agree with your opinion, critic. I do not endorse your point of view. I don't take orders from you. 

    4. Ring finger, holding it gently: What’s important is my relationship to myself. How I talk to myself. How I take care of myself. That’s who I’m faithful to.

    5. Pinky, holding it gently: What do I need right now? Any small or beat-down parts of me that need something?  (And then you take care of those needs as best you can - or you make a time now to take care of them later.)

    Please try this. If you practice that sequence a lot, it becomes fast and easy and reflexive. When you can do it quickly and reliably, it will keep you out of the slime pit the voice has dug for you. (Self-defense is part of adult life, you know? It just is.)

    Then you will have 1,000,000x the ability to work on that other thing that’s bugging you.


  • What do you have to believe to eat better and lose weight?

    A while ago I recommended the tarot-oriented newsletter of Jessa Crispin here.

    (That post wasn't about tarot per se - and this one isn't either.)

    Anyway, a reader wrote back to ask Okay… but do you actually believe in tarot?

    Very good question!

    As Crispin herself would point out, tarot is not a belief system. It’s just a tool. But what would you have to believe in order to make use of it? That pictures can tell stories? That stories are learning tools? That words and images can spark creative problem-solving ideas? That life contains archetypes and patterns to be recognized?

    Or what about this tool called feng shui? What do you have to believe to “believe” in feng shui? That our surroundings affect our emotional states, and that our state informs our actions and our actions make up our lives, over time? Is this eccentric? There’s a reason that Marines are taught to make a tidy bed, and it’s not so they can get work as chambermaids when they’re discharged.

    Us, we’re about breaking bad habits and cultivating good ones, especially in the area of food and weight and eating. So my question to you today is 

    What would you have to believe to believe in yourself? That you’re capable of change? 

    That’s not hard! You have changed all the way down to the cellular level.That's just since breakfast. 

    Put it this way: What do you have to believe, to believe you CAN’T change? 

    I think you have to believe that you’re truly, fundamentally different from everyone else. That the laws of physics and human bodies don’t apply to you. That you are exceptionally fucked up. You are the exception.

    And of course, we can all see the attraction of this idea. Because we all have it, to some degree. (Which makes us all ordinary. Dammit!)

    But belief is mostly a bridge too far. If we think we need to believe in something before adopting it, it’s gonna get gnarly fast. There will be too many contradictions and articles of faith and attached bits of nonsense and unappealing fellow believers and maybe even stupid outfits. 

    It would be better to ask: Is this thing USEFUL? Does this tool WORK? What are the RESULTS when I use it?

    If you are interested in results like stopping binge eating immediately, not missing it at all, still having your favorite foods when you want them, losing weight permanently, and not feeling “less than” any other person on this planet, let’s talk about that!

    I have a VERY FABULOUS set of tools you will like. Check out these details, and then hit Reply to let me know you’d like to chat. We can have a brief, no-cost, no-presh conversation to make sure we’re a fit for each other. 

  • The absolute worst way to eat if you want to stop bingeing

    Let’s talk about how to eat in our post-diet, post-binge, post-overeating life.

    First, a little bit about diets. My definition of “a diet” is eating what someone else tells you to eat, in a predetermined way. A diet is restrictive, it’s aimed at maintaining a calorie deficit, it won’t be enough food to sustain you comfortably, it is typically not tailored to any personal preference, requirement or circumstance, and it’s designed to be temporary. 

    (This is opposed to “your diet,” or what you eat on a daily basis.)

    We think the fact that a diet is temporary will save us from disruption, inconvenience and serious hunger. We can push through. We’ve done it before!

    And maybe we can again. And lose a little weight.

    But usually, as before, the weight comes back. Often with friends, in the form of additional pounds and heavy, heavy self-hatred and despair.

    So okay! That’s a diet. Officially NOT A MODEL FOR RECOVERY. 

    A DIET IS ALWAYS AND ONLY A MODEL FOR RELAPSE. Relapse into crazy* eating, weight gain, crazy dieting, and weight gain, aka the merry-go-round.

    If we want to get off the dieting merry-go-round, we will have to adopt a way of eating, a diet in the sense of “what we eat on a daily basis.” A diet of our own devising - that probably shouldn’t include a severe calorie deficit or restrictions that trigger survival freakouts that in turn kick off bingeing. Right?

    Here are some models for eating in recovery that will not trigger your body’s survival panic:

        1.    The Homeodynamic Recovery Model (HDRM), formerly known as the MinnieMaud guidelines. This is a model for recovery from anorexia and bulimia, and involves consuming more calories than any weight-loss diet would dream of prescribing. Like, at least double. Like 3,000 or more.

    And you know what? You could do worse.

        2.    My Plate / Mi Plato, the U.S. Government’s current nutrition guidelines. You could do a lot worse.

        3.    Or slightly more granular instructions for building a plate, like those developed by Precision Nutrition. These are really very good. Great, even.

        4.    Mindful eating, which is to say, paying attention to what you eat, when you eat, all the while you’re eating it. Every bite. You could do worse. I guess.
 Most of us need a little more than that, though.

        5.    Intuitive Eating, which is the most flexible method I’ve listed. This is the idea that we’re born knowing exactly what our bodies need and exactly how much. All you have to do is listen! It's so flexible it's formless.

    Ever wondered why human babies love kale so darn much? Intuitive Eating is why. LOL.

    Intuitive Eating is, no question, the worst approach for most binge eaters and overeaters who want to be normal eaters. It is just too structureless to be a first-order recovery tool, as it’s typically used.

    It can't be beat if you want to make yourself crazy and eat chaotically and gain a bunch of weight though.

        6.    Models adapted from older, more intact food cultures. Examples include French, Italian, Mexican, Japanese or Greek foodways, or elements thereof. A very smart starting point - but if your knowledge of the culture is cursory or cherry-picked, you might be throwing the baby out with what you think is bathwater.

        7.    Individually developed guidelines, aka your own Body of Knowledge, which could be a combo of any elements above, especially if you didn’t grow up in an intact food culture. It DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THAT: your own bespoke, tested, true recipe for a healthy weight, a happy body and a pleasurable,convivial life.

    That’s what I work with people to develop: their own personal body of knowledge about how and what to eat. 

    * I use the word “crazy” a lot. This offends some people, but I’ve earned it. 

    ** Most of us do get to that "intuitive" place eventually, but it's not really intuition. It's experimentation. Data gathering. Not something babies do, really.

  • What to remind yourself of when you’re terrified

    Q: Is it weird to address terror in a newsletter about problem eating? Is it wrong to address our eating problems altogether in a time of terror? 

    Related Q: Should we address personal problems and/or terror in a time of natural disaster?

    A: I think we really must address our personal problems, even while the suffering of others is more extreme. And even while we’re terrorized and terrified.

    Remember when Protestants and Catholics used to kill each other? Man, that is such old-timey terrorism. So ... limited in comparison to today.

    This terrorism we see today is not about negotiation. It’s not looking for a share of something. It’s not looking to share, at all. White supremacy wants to exterminate all that is not “white.” Militant Islam wants the whole world under its rule. 

    Utter obedience. Total submission.

    It won’t stop until it wins. And it will never win. Because it can’t. Obviously. So it will never stop.

    We’re gonna be living with it. And that means carrying on. 

    So do you want to carry on in a really terrorized, stricken kind of way? Or do you want to carry on living the best you can? Gloriously, even? 

    If the latter, yay! Let’s do it together. (And another time we will talk about how we terrorize ourselves. Because a lot of us do.)

    Coincidentally, much of what I know about glorious living I learnt in Barcelona. The Catalan people are GOOD at carrying on in the not-so-great times and celebrating in the good times. 

    I spent three or four days in Barcelona once, tagging along on my husband’s work trip. Some things that are very apparent there: Pleasure matters. Elegance matters. Courtesy, dare I say courtliness, matters. Good food matters, and has a place at the center of life. (Every day in Barcelona I woke up thinking WHAT CRAZY FOOD WILL THEY FEED ME TODAY? Sour milk truffles?! Okay! It is ON.) 

    Gracious living matters. Cleverness, inventiveness, creativity matter. Family, friendship, conviviality really really matter.

    Terror wants to pretty much crush all that, but these things cannot be crushed.

    So in the face of terror, how do we want to be, in our personal lives? Terrorized? And what do we stand for? Some particular fiscal policy? 

    Please. Let's stand instead for kindness, openness, generosity, conviviality, graciousness, courtesy, dignity and reciprocityEquality. A place at the table for everyone. Good food on it, for all.

    And of course, self-care, beauty, pleasure and dressing up. 

    PS  I’ve written about Spain before. It made a big impression on me.

    PPS  As you know, folks in Spain eat late. Like, really late. You might see people sitting down for a little pre-dinner snack at a bar at 10pm. I actually saw families with young kids sitting down for dinner at a restaurant at midnightOn a school night.

And I know you’ve heard that it’s terrible for your weight to eat past 6pm and Oprah would never do it, but when I worked in the news office at Harvard, we published a study showing it’s the number of calories you consume that dictates your weight. The time of day you consume them makes no difference at all. And if you look around at the people in Barcelona eating dinner after midnight, you’d have to believe.

    PPPS  I also learnt quite a bit about conviviality while working in Ireland, another place that has survived a lot of trouble.

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