• Calories are good. Lots and lots of calories.

    Why do we eat? There are people who wish they didn’t have to (remember that Soylent startup? dear Heaven), but I’m not one of them. I have lots of motivation to eat. Here is some:

    PleasureEating is delicious! I eat for the sensory pleasure, for the taste of food, for the comforting feeling of being the right amount full, for the beauty of the colors and textures of food, the glorious scents - and of course the joys of tableware. Always that.

    ConnectionEating is convivial. Sharing food and drink is both ceremonial and relaxing. Have you ever been to a social gathering without food or drink? I have. Just shoot me.

    HealthEating is nourishing. You only get one vitamin from the sun. The rest have to be ingested. Likewise all the other nutrients we need for processes like reasoning, reproducing, and choosing table linens.

    But maybe most important, FuelFood is energizing. “Calories” is what we call the measure of energy in food. More calories, more energy. Energy is good and thus, calories are good. They’re kinda what we come for, when we sit down to eat.

    (You are sitting down, right? So important for enjoyment and thus nutrient absorption.)

    If you are a person that wants calories to feel welcome at the table, RESPECT! ADMIRE.

    But if you are more like one of the many people I overhear every day speaking as if this or that non-food or near-food is good because it’s low in calories, or this other food is bad because it’s got lots of 'em, please consider replacing that cultural Kool-Aid with the idea that calories, essential to life, are a virtue. This simple change will relieve 8,000 pounds of useless guilt.

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    How to stop restricting your eating

  • How to stop restricting your eating

    Last week I wrote about how irresponsible food restriction leads to weight gain. By irresponsible I mean restrictions of any kind that

    • result in excessive hunger
    • are imposed without regard for the negative consequences (inevitable weight gain, compromised thinking, and more)
    • while ignoring the body's protests and warning signs
    • are only undertaken for one reason - to lose weight, of course, whatever fine language we may dress it up in, like “to be healthy! to get clean!” etc.

    So that’s what I'm talking about when I suggest you lift all restrictions. I’m not talking about eating peanuts when you're allergic. I’m not talking about living on cake if you have diabetes. Restriction = rules you impose only for the purpose of losing weight, and which sooner or later cause you to gain it.

    With all that in mind, here is how I suggest you begin lifting restrictions. And you can do this all at once:

    1. Burn the list of forbidden foods. (When I burn lists, I like to imagine I’m doing it  while dancing around the fire, cackling with glee. Showing that list who’s boss.) Afterwards, the only things on your list of foods not to eat are foods you don’t like and foods you don’t really even consider to be food.
       
    2. Go shopping. Stock your fridge and pantry with things you like and things your body is calling for. Get much more than you could eat at one go, especially of the formerly most dangerous foods. Instead of letting food push your button, let’s just wear down that button.
       
    3. If you’ve been dieting severely, and you’re out of touch with physical signals for hunger and satisfaction, just eat three times a day (or more). Make sure you get enough calories - 2,000 a day is the government rounding down. A lot of normal eaters consume well over that, as would anyone coming off extended deprivation.
       
    4. Try to please your body like you would your beloved. Pay attention to its likes and dislikes. Notice what makes you feel good and what doesn't. Stay curious. Show your body appreciation through nourishment and affection with deliciousness. (As esteemed - and skinny - Boston chef Jasper White says, Food IS Love.)

    If all you do is stop restricting, and get enough to eat of a variety of foods, you will get off the diet/binge wheel, stop wasting time, effort and money, and put an end to unnecessary weight gain.

    Questions? Let me know.

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    Everyone's least favorite part

  • You might have to gain weight in order to lose it

    I'm just back from Paris, which is not only a great place to go for life-upgrade ideas. Paris is also good for reminders about how to do the basics - such as the importance of enjoying what you eat, making it as nice as possible, adding conviviality to every meal and above all, not going hungry if you can possibly avoid it.

    So I'm in the mood to get back to basics. Let’s start with a reminder about why you might have to gain weight to lose it, and best to just get it out of the way.

    I’ve been working professionally with women who want to lose weight for half a dozen years now. In that time, I’ve coached women who 

    • wanted to lose 25-50 lbs (the majority)
    • felt they had over 100 lbs to lose (quite a few, in fact)
    • thought they had 5 lbs to lose, but probably would have been better off gaining 20

    Never has anyone come to me saying “I just want to be healthy and feel better, and if I have to gain weight to get there, so be it.”

    But if you’ve been trying to lose weight by dieting (and bingeing), starving, following extreme plans, rigid rules, or restrictions of any kind that your body has not agreed to, aka a diet, you have a choice:

    You can keep trying to manage your weight through force, and fail, and keep putting the weight back on, along with each time a little more, maybe FOREVER

    or

    You can let your body have its way, choose its preferred amount, type and timing of fuel, and gain some weight, FOR A LITTLE WHILE.

    Because if you’ve been forcibly imposing limits, your body will almost invariably expand when the restrictions are lifted. Science gives us solid reasons for this, which we won’t go into today, but the main point is such weight gain is going to be temporary, provided you don’t freak out and go back to restriction.

    Fortunately, another of the effects of ending starvation is that your thinking gets better, fast. Once your brain's got enough fuel to start up again, I suggest using it to remind yourself - often - that any upward trend will level off and reverse, provided you keep your body well fed.

    More about what “well-fed” looks like soon. Until then, I welcome your questions.

  • A word about addiction

    And that word is nawwwww, son.

    Not long ago I quit a group of formerly like-minded women as a wave of quitting, actually, swept through it. Women quit meat, dairy, sugar, gluten, alcohol, coffee, caffeine altogether, all kinds of substances. (There was also some quitting of activities and whole categories of people, like parents.) Why? I’m simplifying here, but basically because they wanted to live free of “addiction.”

    I’m for putting in your body whatever works for you, and leaving out whatever doesn’t. But I am not for the dilution of the word “addiction.” To illustrate:

    Imagine you wake up very late. It has now been over 24 hours since your last cappuccino. Do you


    A. Knock down the old lady blocking your way into Stabby’s.

    B. Pawn your mother’s wedding ring to pay for that latte.

    C. Trade sex for espresso even though you’re married.

    D. Prove helpless to stop repeating these terrible mistakes.

    E. None of the above. Just have a bit of a headache, really.


    If you answered E, what you have is physical dependency, not addiction. I prefer to reserve the term “addiction” for those behaviors we know are destroying our lives and our relationships and our bodies*, behaviors that we’re powerless to stop even when we mostly want to, behaviors of an extreme nature. 

    It’s true that sometimes, if I go a day without coffee, I can have a headache. Foggy thinking. My body has come to expect a small dose of caffeine. I provide it, but not because I’m afraid of the negative consequences of quitting, but because a latte - in bed! made by my husband! drunk together! - is one of my day’s greatest small pleasures.

    It’s worth drawing the distinction because pleasure is important to me. It’s a headache, not a night in jail, a month in rehab and a year of community service.

    And actually, while we’re being precise, pleasure is not just important to me. After a lifetime of unexamined Puritanism, pleasure has become vital. Pleasure is my ride or die. (CLICK TO GET TATTOO!)

    Gretchen Rubin says there are two kinds of people in this world: abstainers and moderators. Abstainers are the folks convinced they have an addiction and one bite will send them over a cliff. Moderators are the folks who will jump off that cliff without a little something once in a while.

    With my clients, I really like to push on the idea of addiction. Maybe they can’t ever have sugar without bingeing, and so abstinence would be best. But it’s worth seeing whether giving yourself permission to eat sweets and other pleasurable foods in moderation will result in actual moderation, because eating should be pleasurable, and because pleasure is a huge, huge, huge, huge, HUGE component of being at peace in your body. And I don't just mean bargaining about dessert. 

    So if you are interested in losing weight and/or loving your body and/or feeling good and/or having the occasional gelato and/or following a diet that allows a full social life, I suggest it could be useful to investigate what addiction means to you.

    And if you decide to get a PLEASURE IS MY RIDE OR DIE tattoo, send me a pic.

    *Destroying our bodies in a way, that is, that they will not be destroyed just by living. We’re all gonna die, and I like to weigh that fact when deciding what to eat and what to pass on.

  • Real self-care: Feels good now. Feels good later.

    Have you noticed everyone is pretty woke about self-care right now? It really seems like the whole world suddenly is talking about this.

    But what the world calls self-care is not what I have been calling self-care.

    A few really terrible things I see passing themselves off as self-care are, for example:

    • self-improvement
    • self-medication
    • self-hatred
    • self-indulgence

    …for starters.

    Self-improvement is the biggie. There’s a lot this time of year in the form of rigid, too-strict diet-and-exercise plans. So many people sell extreme diets under the label of self-care. 

    Actual self-care, on the other hand, will be moderate and sustainable. It will not be extreme. Extreme is going to leave you with a mess to mop up, and that’s not very caring.

    Self-medication: Mmmmm let’s come back to this another day. Because actually, I don’t think self-medication is all that terrible. Not compared to…

    Self-hatred, which talks a good game but always boils down to this: Justifying the use of hostility to create change. You know what? Self-care can do the job better with kindness.

    Self-indulgence is often the way we cope with self-hatred. It’s telling yourself you “deserve” this nice thing (too much cake, too much wine, a too-costly handbag) that winds up leaving you in the hole somehow. 

    (And then self-hatred jumps in and screams “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!”, doesn’t it? “NO MORE SUGAR EVER AGAIN ALSO YOU SUCK!” That’s how mine talks, and just about everyone I've ever coached, too.) 

    Fake self-care is supposed to make you feel good - or “better” - but it always ends up with you feeling worse than before. 

    And that’s why none of these things pass my self-care test: To be self-care, it’s got to actually be caring. 

    This is the biggest, highest bar ever. This means if it feels good for a moment, but feels terrible for days afterward, it's not self-care.

    Just as important, this also means no bullying ourself into something because it’ll be good for us in the end. Like the Buddhists say, it’s actually got to be good in the beginning and good in the middle, too. 

    It might not feel comfortable. Looking for a new job is not comfortable. Telling your family you're not taking feedback about your weight or couple status is not comfortable.

    (But it will feel like self-respect, and that feels AMAZING.)

    So if what someone is calling “self-care” feels bad to you, like death-march bad, prison-sentence bad, bad-dream bad, then it isn’t. Because real self-care can always find another way - a way that feels good while you're doing it and feels good later too.

    You just have to set the bar there.