• Why do people on special diets talk so much about their special diet?

    We had a really good workshop this weekend! I very much want to do it again. This past one sold out quickly, so if you want early notification of the next one, please put yourself on the list by clicking here.

    Now then: Why do people on special diets talk about their dadgum diet so damn much?

    Ach! You know why. It’s because adhering to their diet takes up all their timeThey’re left with nothing else to talk about.

    You know that joke about vegans: How can you tell if a person is a vegan? Answer: No need! They’ll tell you.

    (I have actually had that experience - at a hotel, no less. The host had not even shown us to our rooms before informing us that that he was a vegan. Laying many personal vegan-journey facts on us. And I cherish the breakfast part of bed-and-breakfast, so the quinoa-tofu situation there kind of turned me into a hobbit, sadly requiring Second Breakfast.)

    Anyway. People can choose to avoid all kinds of foods, not just animal products. Increasingly people are choosing to avoid many kinds of vegetables, the foods formerly known as "Good for You."

    ANYWAY. Although I’m opposed to having special diets forced upon me, I certainly don’t disapprove of them when they’re chosen. 

    They’re called for when they’re a moral choice, absolutelyAnd when a person has real health reasons.

    Otherwise, please don't feel you need to adopt a drastic, demanding or elaborate diet to eat well, be healthy and feel nourished.

    I would point you to the 80/20 rule. Unless you really like making a huge effort for a small marginal gain, you can avoid diets that demand a lot of time and attention and leave you with nothing else to make conversation about. Most of us are going to get most of the benefit from adhering to the basics:

    • Enough protein 
    • Enough fat 
    • Enough whole foods, i.e. single-ingredient foods in their natural form, or single-ingredient foods in combination
    • Minimal prepared foods
    • Minimal dining out, i.e. eating our own food 

    These are the things that give us huge health benefits. If we’re not already doing them, that’s the place to start. 

    Not the elaborate, involved, shiny new diet that costs a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of attention - and comes in the mail, wrapped in a lot of packaging.

    So next week I will show you how I shop and prep to manage the basics. A visual guide for you.

  • If your doctor told you to gain weight, could you do it?

    I know I could...

    As you may know, the Body of Knowledge live workshop is full. I will almost certainly be doing it again, though, so if you want early notification of that, please put yourself on the list by clicking here.

    Now then. My #1 most frequently asked question:

    Will Body of Knowledge work for me if I have health issues?

    Last week I got an email from a woman who asked this. She had a number of health issues, ranging from the sort of thing that hardly anyone is lucky enough to avoid, to the type of issue that is truly unusual and can be quite challenging.

    Still, she’d like to take off 10+ lbs, and keep it off. So here’s a way, if you're like her, to think about that.

    Say you had health issues that compromised your ability to get strenuous exercise. You can’t hope to hit the gym regularly, never mind hard. You will not be lifting heavy metal and building muscle mass.

    And yet: your doctor has told you that you need to GAIN 10 lbs, and keep it on.

    Could you do it?

    I bet you could. I know I sure could, and it wouldn’t take long, either.

    I would do it by EATING. I would eat more energy-dense (read: high in calories, aka sweets and fats and processed carbs) foods. I would increase my alcohol intake and enrich my 5 o'clock snack. I’d eat out more. I’d eat prepared foods. I’d skip foods that need to washed and chopped* in favor of foods (or “foods”) that are pre-digested and made up of ingredients with scientific names.

    I’d eat whenever I felt “hungry,” even if that “hunger” was not real hunger at all but actually something more realistically labeled as thirst or fatigue or anger or grief or restrictive clothing or indigestion or even just normal digestion

    And I’d eat pretty much all day long and into the night. 

    But I’m kind of a Viking, as Ralph Wiggum would say, in the weight gain area. I feel I have a real zeal and talent for it. You might not be as prepared as I am to really devote yourself to packing on extra poids. But I bet you could gain some, if you put your mind to it.

    And I'm almost certain you have health issues, because health issues are the nature of life in a human body.

    So even with physical challenges, if your human body is capable of gaining some weight, it’s capable of losing it.

    All you need to do is be willing to look at, evaluate and change the way you eat

    This is not bad news. Really, it is so much quicker and easier than you think. 

    * “Wash and chop” is what Marilyn Wann, author of the useful book Fat!So? refers to when she talks about the good kind of food processing.

  • A routine doesn't have to be solid gold. It just has to be solid.

    Have you ever had a hard time figuring out what your body wanted to eat, and when? I did. I used to spend all day trying to decide whether I was hungry enough to eat, what my body was in need of, and if I was satisfied enough to stop.

    (You will not be surprised to hear that answers were virtually always: 1. Yes 2. Bacon, pastry, French fries or all three, and 3. No.)

    Because I believed it was what "good" people did, enlightened people, yoga-type people or meditator people, I kept at my “intuitive” eating attempts for decades. 

    Then I finally got fed up, got old-school and “sensible,” and I decided to eat meals, meaning

    • I didn’t fast
    • I didn’t graze and
    • I didn’t binge.

    I just ate what the proverbial grandmother would recognize as a discrete and semi-reasonable helping of time-of-day appropriate food.

    That is when my weight and mood and hunger stabilized. And not before.

    I have seen this work for these others:

    • the ones who are willing to give up dieting and starving (shocker: that’s not everyone)
    • the ones who are willing to give up random acts of grazing and bingeing
    • and the ones who are willing to create a little structure for their free will and self-expression and personal needs to roam around in

    (I sometimes think of this as "Structured Freedom," a phrase I got from the truly great Lauren Russo. Lauren does it with work and creativity. In Body of Knowledge we do it with food and eating.)

    The thing is, if you rely on “awareness” or “intuition” to feed yourself, you’re going to be relying on something that’s … um, unreliable.Awareness isn’t even 100% for the Dalai Lama. Sometimes you’ll get it right, sometimes you’ll get it wrong. One step forward, maybe many steps back.

    For me, that always looked like jeans getting tighter and mood getting lower. Any progress was random. It was never consolidated. I have seen that over and over in friends, relatives, neighbors and the women in every damn seminar and retreat I ever went on.

    On the other hand, having a set of repeatable meals and mealtimes, aka a routine, aka a habit, means a huge amount of forward motion. It means relying on something that you already know works, and will work again. 

    Of course there will be experimentation. Of course there is room for spontaneity. Because a routine is not the same as a rut, which is a routine that doesn’t work. A routine is a pattern of reliably good actions leading to reliably good results.

    Obviously, cultivating attention is a very good thing! Some very smart people think it’s the only thing. But there is no reason to keep suffering with binge eating while you embiggen your attention and awareness muscles. So … start with routines, because it will make everything else easier.

    A routine doesn’t have to be solid gold. It just has to be solid.

  • Yes, it really works: And other answers to your questions

    Hi friends! Thank you for responding to the survey recently about preferred times and dates for the upcoming Body of Knowledge seminar. Here's how that shook out:

    • Most of you are either on the other side of the world or on this side, but otherwise occupied and will be listening to the recording
    • The next biggest group preferred Saturdays
    • And relatively few people wanted to do this on a weekday

    So I'm 80% sure we'll be doing this on Saturday May 19, 10am Eastern. Details and signup info to come.

    A few of you had more questions. Here are all the answers:

    Q: Did you mean $200 less than usual, or $200 total?

    A: I mean $200, total. I really want to make this work accessible.

    Q: Is it really as easy as you make it sound, or will it be a conscious struggle forever after, as it has been up until now. 

    A: Yes, it’s actually pretty easy, especially compared to bingeing in secret and obsessing all the time and hating yourself except during the first 4 hours of your diet and wallowing in shame and watching your jeans get tighter.

    No, it will not be a conscious struggle forever. We are going to replace an unconscious habit of bingeing with an unconscious habit of normal eating. On the way there, you will be making some conscious choices.

    Will this feel super-comfortable? Not always. Can you do it? YES. Yes, you can.

    Q: Will I really lose weight, or just calm my Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

    A: You can absolutely lose weight. I don’t care how old you are, if you can gain weight, you can lose weight. And we all know how to gain weight.

    "…or will I just calm my BED?"

    Would that really be a “just?” What if "all" you got was NO MORE BINGEING.Let’s do the thought experiment: no bingeing, no kidding yourself it’s a secret no one knows, no stealing your roommate’s food in the night and telling yourself you’ll replace it before they notice and being quite, quite wrong about that, no shirts all stained in front in the same place because you eat so fast and so mindlessly, no being crushed by despair, diets, and the feeling that everybody else can handle food, no trying to clean up food that you threw in the trash but decided you wanted back anyway, etc.

    Woman, that’s suffering. Imagine that’s all gone. Would that be disappointing? 

    But, you know: See above. (You can absolutely lose weight.) If you change what you eat for the better, you will not be able to avoid losing weight.

    Q: Great idea! Want this to be it (no pressure!) and not shiny object syndrome. Feel like I have one more class left in me, and will be either you or the 8 week course offered by the local hospital here.

    A: My workshop is going to be a half-day seminar, in a virtual group. An eight-week course at the local hospital is kind of the opposite. My guess is the content will be pretty opposite, too. 

    What I promise is that you will get everything you need to dismantle the overeating habit in our class together.

    You will know what to do.

    You will be able to do it.

    You will not binge.

    And you will probably still need support of some kind - books, friends, experts - because that is the nature and structure of life. 

    If you want someone to tell you what to eat and keep you accountable for that, a hospital course would be best. If you want the easy way to change how you eat, take my class. 

    Q: If I decide to do Body of Knowledge later, will this make it easier? cheaper? 

    A: Should you want to do the 1:1 Body of Knowledge program later, it will mean we spend less time on the basics, and more time with your unique situation. And yes, anyone who does the seminar can do BoK 1:1 for (at least) $200 less than the usual price.

    Q: An mp3 of the seminar may also be useful.

    A: Everyone will get the mp3 recordings. Video as well. Handouts. Everything! 

    Q: Thrilled that I'll have a way to learn (most of) the secrets. 

    A: Just to be clear: I have ZERO secrets. If I had any secrets, you would get ALL of them. But there aren’t any, and you should run away from anyone who says there are. (You should probably also run away from "weird tips".)

    What I will be doing here is giving you un-shocking, non-secret information in the most usable, fluff-free, all-pulled-together-for-you package of GENIUS science-based SHORTCUTS, presented with humor, kindness, hospitality and the opportunity to ask absolutely anything.

    Q: I LOVE YOU FOR DOING THIS!!! I've had my eye on your one-on-one but hadn't yet figured out how to stretch my Thai Baht to make it work. 

    A: That's why I'm really excited to do this affordable version, too.


  • What I learned from this old-timey d*et book

    Thank you so much, everyone, for filling out the workshop survey. I'm reading your answers carefully, and will be answering all your questions and giving you a date by next week.

    Now then. If you've been hanging out with me for any length of time you know I hate the concept of dieting and hate the word "dieting" and I hate the diet industry. It follows I don't read a lot of diet books.

    (And if we haven’t been hanging out for a while, my definition of “diet” in the negative sense is: Eating significantly less than you need to run your body at a healthy weight. So, less food than you need to maintain your current weight, and less food than you need to maintain your body at your desired healthy weight. Too hungry, too often, putting your food decisions in someone else’s hands, putting your body in survival panic: that’s a diet. I’m not talking about diet in the sense of “what we eat.”)

    Anyway, Susan Estrich's Making the Case for Yourself. What a fun and useful read! (See important caveat below.) Truly surprising. And very available and affordable.

    As you may know, Estrich is a lawyer (first woman president of the Harvard Law Review, and other firsts). So the book takes the form of making a case, and it’s written in a very clear, no-frills style. (Love that; it’s very different from the typical self-help reliance on fluffy anecdotes, making everything so much longer than it needs to be.)

    IMPORTANT CAVEAT: I will offer this warning, should you get yourself a copy of this book: It is an antique. It has a diet, in the negative sense, in one of the later chapters. The diet focuses on minimizing fat intake and advocates the use of things like Splenda™. Just … don’t. There’s no need to even read that chapter.

    On the flip side, here are some bits I found worth noting, for your consideration:

    1. “The key to the success of my last diet was that I stuck to it. What changed most profoundly was my attitude. I trained myself to think differently. I cheated less.” 

    If we substitute the word “diet” for something like “new way of eating,” or whatever you prefer, the meat of the statement is: I made a permanent change. I reframed the project as something I chose rather than something imposed.

    2. Too busy to do what’s necessary to make change? Susan says there are three logical choices.

    • You can decide that change is important and make space for it.
    • You can decide that it’s not so important, and not make space for it.
    • Or you can decide that it’s really important, but not make space for it, stay stuck and feel terrible. Only this last choice is a problem.

    I would add: No matter what action you decide to take or not take, there's never an argument in favor of hating your body. Find a way to love yourself and your body no matter what. (HAES isn't a cure-all, but it might help here.)

    3. On self-care: “No one ever says they loved their father because he always put himself last… It’s not the road to sainthood, it’s the route to the refrigerator, self-hatred, and a less successful life.” Amen, sister.

    4. Cold fact: Some people are genetically disposed to weigh less even while eating more than the rest of us. Life's not fair! The good news: you can change the chemistry of your brain so that you want to eat differently.

    A GREAT way to change your brain chemistry? We all know the answer: it’s exercise. “Compared to changing your genes, it’s rather easy.” << Susan said it.

    5. Susan advocates for writing down (me too! ALL for writing stuff down) your reasons for wanting to lose weight (substitute eat different, be stronger, feel healthy, whatever you want). Her reason no. 1: vanity (!). She freely admits she’s not a perfect person, and I love that about her.

    6. On mindful eating: “The way you’re supposed to lose weight is not by going on a diet but … [to] stop seeing food as an enemy, listen to your body, feed it what it wants, and live happily ever after. I have bad news for you. Most of the time, we eat like we’re driving at the same time, whether we are or not. Everyone does this. It may well be harder to change than [your] weight.

    The Buddha couldn't have said it better. This is why guidelines will bring us to conscious eating - and a lower weight - faster than trying to be spontaneously mindful, meal after meal.

    7. On perseverance: “Studies suggest that people lose weight over time the same way we yo-yoers do - except they skip the up periods that cancel out all your efforts. The successes have as many plateaus as the failures, except they keep heading down, instead of continually losing the same ten pounds over and over.”

    Important, right?! In other words, fall down seven times, get up eight. When you eat something you said you weren’t going to, you don’t say “Screw it, all bets are off. It doesn’t matter now.” You say, "Okay. No beatings necessary. I have another chance to eat in a few hours. I will follow my guidelines then, and also UNTIL THEN. Starting now."

    8. Have a mantra. Don’t tell it to others; they don’t need to know. Change it when you’re tired of it. Mine: “The right to eat is mine, and I don’t defend it or justify it. To anyone.” I tell you because you might need to know. Feel free to swipe my mantra.

    9. Speaking of: “I had a simple rule: I discussed [my eating] with people on a 'need to know' basis. The waiter needs to know you want the sauce on the side.” Your boyfriend doesn’t

    10. Also: “It’s hard enough to lose weight in order to lose weight without loading a relationship on top of it.” In other words, don’t ever eat for anyone other than yourself.

    11. Have guidelines. Routines. Stock choices that you know work for you re: timing, quantity, quality, restaurants. Make yourself a simple system. (This is covered in the chapter Your Body, Your Rules. Lots of sanity here!)

    12. Finally, ask yourself: What would [Beyoncé] do with this body, if she were suddenly dropped into it? Would she care for it as you do? Would she hold it, carry it, walk it around the same way you do? Would she fuel it and exercise it the way you do? As a thought experiment, Susan suggests you try this out for three weeks.

    I do this substituting Natalie Portman - because I need someone short for my thought experiment. I ask myself What would Natalie Portman do with this body? Would she say, Nah. Too short to bother with! Better luck next body.

    Methinks she would not.

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