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  • Why What I Do is Different, part I

    or, A habit-busting method must pass these five tests.

    In my experience, both personal and working with clients, breaking the habits of overeating and bingeing are so hard, psychologically, that whatever method we use to break our habit needs to be easy in every other respect.

    I cannot count the number of methods I've tried to lose weight, keep it off, and stop obsessing about food and eating and the ways they kept me Less Than the rest of humanity. The only thing I've found that has worked is the method I'm calling Body of Knowledge.

    I can recommend it 100 percent because it passes the tests of effectiveness, simplicity, flexibility, dignity and sustainability. 

    Let's look at these qualities one by one.

    Effectiveness 

    Does the method work? Does it actually result in the end of food obsession and weight preoccupation? 

    Our method can’t work like a diet “works.” It can’t leave us hungry while we’re doing it, and fatter when we stop. It’s got to result in permanent weight loss. It must never, ever foster self-hate. It’s got to give us better physical and mental health. 

    And it’s got to have the science to back it up. Not wishes.

    Simplicity 

    Is it easy enough to do consistently? If the method is complex, we’ll only do it when nothing else needs our attention, e.g. a cold day in hell.

    Our method has to be something we could do on our worst day. Even if we have ADD. And chronic illness. And we’re gonna be on the road for the next six weeks. 

    So there can’t be any binder full of rules. It's gotta be dead simple.

    Flexibility

    Can we use the method under any circumstances? On holiday. At Christmas. Crunch time at work. Trekking in Tasmania. Even while sick.

    The method has to be adaptable to all the circumstances we might find ourself in. Any method that depends on stars aligning, aka requiring us to adapt to it, is worthless.

    Dignity

    Is the method virtually undetectable? Or does it call attention to what we’re doing? Methods that put us in the spotlight are hard to distinguish from food preoccupation and may provoke shame. 

    Public weighing, counting, measuring, or logging just invite commentary and pushback. Most of us have had quite enough community participation in our eating problems. 

    We don't want any methods that undermine our autonomy, dignity and adulthood.

    Sustainability

    When we break a habit for good, real freedom is the result. And still, often, there is a faint shadow of the habit that’s part of us. Kinda like a phantom limb. 

    So we may find that our habit is something we need to keep a tiny bit of attention on for the rest of our life. If that’s the case, we’re going to need a very lightweight method. 

    We’ve all got enough burdens to carry, so let’s use a method that’s no more demanding than turning on your porch light.

  • Bonjour, Happiness!

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre, by Jamie Cat Callan

    You were warned! I have persisted. More with the Frenchwomen.

    The Saturn Return: Another chance to grab the brass ring, attend to leftover dreams. Last up to around age 59.

    Frenchwoman do not give house tours to their guests. They like to keep their secrets. They regard blabbing and dishing as very American.

    The secret garden, mentioned in Ooh La La!, can be the bedroom. (But not if all your guests see it.) The secret garden is for sleeping late, journaling, reading, and enjoying scent, candles, flowers. It is good to protect and nourish one's secret garden.

    Do not save the best for "best;" you will spend more trying to achieve pleasure that could be yours already.

    Changer les idées: Take a real break. Don't bring everything with you.

    The Frenchwoman is not ashamed of looking like she made an effort, because she DID.

    Frenchwomen do not buy in bulk. (Partly because shopping is a chance to flirt, and be seen.)

    Le regardez: Being seen, being appreciated. Frenchwomen like it. They like looking at themselves, too, and apparently do not feel ashamed for it. 

    And they will make an entrance. You hear them coming. Click click. (They're wearing heels, duh.) They frame themselves in the doorway, wait until they're seen, smile, make their grand entrance, click click click, bisous all around, unwrap their scarf, and everyone is hypnotised. Suggestion: Practice this move when nothing is at stake. 

    Dinner parties. They have them a lot. Here's how:

    • Store-bought desserts. No shame. Because their bakeries kick ass, so why not? But a lot of places around the world have good bakeries.
    • Keep it simple: kir royale, a little nibble, maybe a first course of a split fig with crumbled chèvre and mint, a simple cassoulet, store-bought bread (see above) with the cheese course, simple salad, dessert, then espresso. NOTHIN TO IT.
    • Warm the cheese on the counter for a while - don't pull it right out of the fridge
    • A trou normand - "Normandy hole" - is a palate cleanser, a little gap. Apple sorbet with a shot of Calvados.
    • Take the pressure off by only serving your tried-and-true recipes. You don't need a big repertoire. Serve the stuff that has make-ahead components.
    • Serve each course separately on little plates. 

    Some other things about eating:

    • "Manger" is something les animaux do. "Dîner" is what the people do.
    • Frenchwomen don't take seconds
    • Snacks are RIGHT OUT
    • and the kitchen is closed outside mealtimes

    Those lists of closet basics? Oh, yes, this book has one too: 

    1. Classic white button-down
    2. Pencil skirt
    3. Perfect-fitting jeans
    4. LBD
    5. Neutral jacket
    6. Cashmere pully
    7. Cardigan
    8. Trench

    (Note to self from my reading of this book in August 2016: I HAVE NOT ONE OF THESE. Shocking! Note from February 2017; Situation: Remedied. (Partly.))

    Things to consider:

    • Your handwriting should have panache
    • You could have a potted herb garden
    • See Babette's Feast (why have I not done this already?)
    • Take care of your sick neighbors with a covered dish. It's not hard.
    • Take dance lessons
    • Keep up your languages
    • Spa day. (This just keeps coming up.)
    • Always: good shoes or boots.
    • There is no word in French for "flirt." Because it's what they are soaking in?

    Quote

    "Money is not so important. Beauty: VERY IMPORTANT!" -I'm sorry this is just a note, not an exact quote. It's the right idea though.

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    If this book can be distilled into a single important principle, it is this:

    Happiness doesn't come from a giant leap, so take your pleasures frequently. For me, the cheese course.

     

  • Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day, by Jamie Cat Callan

    Okay, a little background on this one, actually. I LOVE these "secrets of Frenchwomen books." LOVE. Cannot get enough. For a woman raised in a Puritan society <-me, there is always something worth the price of admssion.

    So there will be more Jamie Cat Callan, and other Anglophone observers on how the French do life. Especially the women.

    Now for the bits:

    The Frenchwoman will always choose pleasure over work. Thus, there is no "getting work done." Instead, there are massage, creams, seasonal spa trips, "taking the waters." <- New favorite phrase.

    Frenchwomen want to look beautiful, not young. "Take care of your skin and act your age." (They do like their cellulite creams, though - and apparently believe in their efficacy. Note to self: Investigate.)

    They believe that beauty originates within. Do as much to feel good as to look good. Go to the hammam and spend the whole day.

    What is this "guilty pleasure?" How can it be pleasurable if it causes guilt? How can it cause guilty if it's pleasurable? The guilty pleasure is an alien concept that makes no sense in the French context.

    Changer les idées! Change things up in a small way, frequently.

    "For Frenchwomen it is more important to be artful than to be beautiful."

    Mme. Poupie Cadolle, lingerie tycoon, is very dismayed by seamless, smooth bras. (Me, too! HATE THEM.) Why would you want to imply you are without sexy lingerie or anatomical features?

    A Frenchwoman will have a secret garden in the middle of life: Space for staring out the window, whether melancholy or happy, just being. Not being on the phone. 

    Frenchwomen like to be looked at. Have a dinner party; it needn't be complicated. For fun and frivolity, and to have an audience. It's okay to be a little theatrical. You're only middle-aged once! Participate in the theatre of life.

    "Mais monseiur, comme vous êtes compliqué!" Translation: Sir, you are so ... complicated. Meaning: You are being a jerk and seriously offending me. GTFO. (Memorized.)

    Quote

    "We transfer the handicap, and make it an asset! We fight against the beauty norm!" -Josy Mermet, style consultant. Translation: FUCK BEAUTY NORMS. If I say it's an asset, IT IS. 

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    Short term: Hit the hammam, and spend all day. There's a very affordable one in San Francisco.

    Long term: Participate in the theatre of life. Refuse to feel bad about wishing to be, on occasion, a tiny bit of an artful spectacle.

  • Takeaways: How's that working for me?

    And here is where I report on whether and how I did anything different as a result of my reading. 

    Nothing fussy, just a little update as we go.

    The BookThe TakeawayHow'd that go?
    Take my pleasure in small doses every day, like the cheese course. It is ON. Cheese! Back on the menu. (But as a small thing. Not as a substitute for vegetable matter.)

    I love you, Shonda, but your cheese advice is bringing me down.
    Short term: Hit the hammam, and spend all day. There's a very affordable one in San Francisco.

    Long term: Participate in the theatre of life. Refuse to feel bad about wishing to be, on occasion, a tiny bit of an artful spectacle.
    Next time someone shares bad news, listen kindly and stay stumm. Repeat forever.

    1. Buy bulk cheese

    2. Write every day

    Funny thing about this: I've stopped eating cheese. NEVER thought that would happen - it used to be my go-to lunch - but the vegetables have crowded it out. 

    As of Jan 1, 2017, I am NOT writing every day.

    Cook a fresh pot of brown rice every Sunday night, so it's ready to go The easiest thing I've ever done to take care of Future Me. One cup of dry rice or quinoa = a week of lunch bases, ready to be steamed and eaten with store-bought hummus, felafel, avocado, harissa, roast or steamed veggies, all manner of dinner leftovers. BIG WIN.
    Write out a "thoroughbred" Rx, from Dr Max to Patient Max Done! It's really simple, my Rx: foot exercises daily, strength training 3x/week, and a big bowl of vegetables for lunch every working day. 

    ACTUALLY performing it is another matter, of course. But things are looking pretty good, as of the New Year.

  • Love Warrior

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton

    The "representative": a false self that Glennon sends to attend high school and take her real self's place in other dangerous environments. This representative eventually becomes a problem for her, especially in marriage.

    Note to self: GDM may fire her representative in favor of living in a fully authentic manner everywhere she goes, but I love the notion of a representative. Personally, I have several representatives on staff. I'd never promote one to CEO, but they're fantastic for talking to bank managers and cops and the IRS.

    How (NOT) to respond to someone else's calamity:

    • Shovers cram your tragedy into their story, and make everything tidy. "Everything happens for a reason! You'll be fine! Off you go now! I've fixed you and given you hope!"  
    • Comparers got no room for your particular grief. It's just like theirs, or someone they know. "Why you acting like a baby? Nothing special about you, twas ever thus, I got more examples if you want em."
    • Fixers know exactly how to clean up this catastrophe. They read a book about it and if you can hang on for a second, they'll look up the title. "No need to spend one more moment in pain if you will just do what I am telling you."
    • Reporters are just connecting so they can extract the juicy details and pass them on ASAP, usually under the cover of concern.
    • Victims are people who are wounded that they didn't hear news of your troubles sooner, from you. Why didn't you call them right away? "I thought we were friends!"
    • God Reps (few in my world, but if you go to church, and Glennon does, I guess you're pretty vulnerable to this class of hardship vulture) need to tell you what Jesus wants you to do about your difficulties. Since God religions are mostly, by definition, patriarchal, this kind of approach is going to stick in your feminist craw. 

    Note to self: Obviously, there's only one way to receive news of someone else's devastation: Listen without prejudice, unless they're paying me for advice.

    Very important corollary note to self: When anyone offers unsolicited advice, it is safe to assume that anything they say is about them, and not you.

    ^^^ This is why I read books like Love Warrior. Not for advice, but for backup.

    Quote

    "I'd rather lose [Craig, Glennon's husband] forever than lose myself ever again. I will never abandon myself again. That is all I know." 

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    Next time someone shares bad news, listen kindly and stay stumm. Repeat forever.

Stop bingeing and overeating. For good.

Places I've been