• 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.

  • The one thing you must NEVER do (if you want to lose weight)

    Here’s a thing I used to say all the time when I ate something I “wasn’t supposed to eat.” Tell me if this is you, too: 

    (in dramatic, self-loathing tones) "F$%# it! I’ve ALREADY BLOWN IT, so …."

    "So … this day is a writeoff!"

    "So … none of this - cake, chips, ice cream, leftovers, random contents of very old jars that might give me food poisoning* - counts now!"

    "So … I’ll just eat everything in the fridge and pantry and that way I can start with a clean slate tomorrow!"

    "So … just f$%# it, I might as well just pop down to the donut shop and pick up adozen apple fritters to go with my paperback thriller and spend the rest of the day in bed!"

    Then, later: 

    (in dramatic, nauseated, self-loathing tones): "See?! NOTHING I DO EVER MAKES A DIFFERENCE!!!"

    The problem is pretty easy to spot, isn’t it? 

    Of course it all counts, everything we eat. Of course it all makes a difference, every action we take.

    And OF COURSE there’s more than one thing we need to do if we want to demolish destructive eating habits and restore our bodies to health. We have to eat better, sometimes we have to eat less, sometimes we have to eat more, we definitely have to move more, and we have to go on an incredibly strict diet of NO MORE SELF-HATE.

    But here is where I think we have a huge amount of leverage, and can take a small action with enormous payoffs. It’s in that moment right after we “blow it.”You know the moment I mean. 

    It’s when we decide that since a single brownie has so many calories it won’t makeany difference to throw another 11 brownies on top. 

    It’s our old friend the 80/20 rule. The initial blunder is no big deal. It’s what comes after you tell yourself that nothing matters that does most of the damage. Do this often, and you’ve got a lot of extra weight and misery. 

    So just don’t do that. Just don’t tell yourself it doesn’t matter. 

    Instead, tell yourself "It matters because everything counts." Tell yourself, "It matters, AND that doesn’t mean I’m a total failure and I should give up.


    If you have to, tell yourself “It matters, and I’m eating this pan of browniesanyway.” 

    With every brownie: “This matters. It all counts.” Second brownie: “The first one counted. This one counts too.” Third brownie: “I’m having this, and it counts.” Fourth brownie: “Yep, this one matters, because they all do.”

    I guarantee you, this cannot go on for long. 

    Bonus tip: Don’t have any foods you’re “not supposed” to eat. Have foods you choose not to eat.

    * Happened to me! I did this to myself! (It was a long time ago. But holy crap! MEMORABLE.)

  • How to take the red pill, dodge bullets, and make everything easier

    The beautiful lie is comfy, but the truth makes you stronger. And just, omigosh, SOOOO much faster.

    Speaking of pills and truths, here’s a bitter one: The reason I didn’t like The Matrix as much as everyone else on the planet, apparently, is because of Carrie-Anne Moss.

    Specifically, her body. I found it painful to watch that film because I was 1. eaten alive by jealousy over Carrie-Anne Moss's shiny black leather-clad body and 2. losing track of the dialogue while trying to figure out what I could cut from my diet to look like her and how long would it take anyway. 

    (I was in my 30s. I love that movie now! And these days I would ask questions like, Hey what kind of flexibility routines does that stuntwoman do?)

    Anyway, back to the comfy lie vs the uncomfortable truth. The blue pill versus the red pill. If we want to stop bingeing or overeating, we’re going to need to swallow the red pill.

    If food feels like comfort to you, it probably has been a comfort for a very long time. Maybe stealing from the cookie jar was your best option as a child. Maybe it was your only option. And giving it up just feels like the last good option is off the table.

    Augh. Heartbreaking. 

    This might sound harsh. But here it is: I haven't found a way to break bad eating habits that doesn't involve growing up. That means swallowing the red pill of reality, and facing the un-beautiful truth that you can’t eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as much as you want, and still look and feel the way you want. 

    If you want to break bad eating habits, do these two things to start re-parenting yourself around food:

    1. Install a new structure that immediately replaces the old habit. (I have a GREAT one. It’s not a diet, because that wouldn't work. Which you know.)

    2. Adopt a tool to smash the machinery of the old habit so that it can’t just start up again. (I’ve got one of those for you, too.)

    That’s only two moves, but you have to toughen up to make them. Because it’s not always comfortable outside that squishy cookie-dough-scented pod.

    More truth: I don’t have a single client who will tell you that post-binge life is without problems. And they’re not stylishly solving those problems with guns and kung fu while wearing black leather jumpsuits.

    But they’re not hiding at home in baggy grey sweats, either. 

    They’re out there eating normally, looking good, taking care of business, living life. And getting stronger. 

    That’s how everything gets easier for them.

    If you want to do all that too, check out my Body of Knowledge program. (This pagedescribes it.) If it sounds like what you’re looking for, let’s get on the phone and have a brief conversation to answer your questions. No charge, no presh - just a chance to talk, and see if this is that pill you’ve always been looking for.

    Oh! And my favorite Matrix quote:

    Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
    Morpheus: No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to. <- neither will you

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

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