• The [traditional] end-of-the-year Viking funeral

    What's on your pyre?

    As you may know, I recently had a couple years of Burn it DownEverything Must Go and Kill it! Kill it a lot! So things are pretty cleared out around here. Just about the only thing on my end-of-the-year Viking funeral ship pyre of doom and good riddance is:

    Self-improvement. I am throwing that out in exchange for self-cultivation.

    This move is going to save me a lot of money, some of which I'll spend over at where Alice Waters and Thomas Keller teach some cooking skills I want to acquire. For fun, an essential ingredient of self-cultivation.

    (I’ve talked about the end of self-improvement before, obviously. What can I say? It's layers. Things I didn't used to consider as self-improvement whose disguises I now see through. 

    Also, I wrote about self-cultivation this month over on Mason-Dixon Knitting. The comments have tons of smart ideas.)

    So I would love to hear what's on your bonfire this year. Here's a place where you can tell me: I'll share the results (anonymously) in January.

    If you'd like suggestions, here are some things my clients are happy to get rid of:

    1. Dieting.

    My definition of dieting: not just eating less than you need to maintain your current weight, but eating even less than you need to maintain your ideal weight. Consistently not getting enough in the way of calories, by a wide margin. Unsustainable by design. Chances of failure, as in causes weight gain, not loss: 97%. Do you want to bet on being one of the 3%? My clients don't, because there's a better way.

    2. Unrestrained, boundary-free eating.

    I have my clients eat meals instead. It’s a time-tested healthy pattern. My definition of meals: Adequate but not unlimited amounts of food at predictable times, with intervals of NOT eating in between. Works miracles to stabilize hunger and mood swings. Thus, also good for maintaining civilization.

    3. Getting in touch with their hunger.

    Intuitive eaters, yogis, mindfulness teachers and other fashionable people have the wrong end of the stick. This is not easy, it's hard - and you can stay stuck here, gaining weight, for a long time. Instead, you can make some simple habit changes, and your hunger will get in touch with YOU. Effortlessly.

    4. Fake foods. 

    My definition of food: Single-ingredient edibles with nutrients and calories. Or combinations of single ingredients. If it's packaged, are the ingredients in Latin and Greek? Like, actual literal Greek-derived* words, as in SCIENCE? That’s not food, that’s a business model. You get sick, they get rich. (*Unless you’re in a Greek deli. Then, fine.)

    5. Clothes that don't fit. 

    Nothing causes weight loss faster than clothes that fit. Nothing keeps a sister stuck longer than hanging onto shit that’s too small. I can’t explain this, but trust me anyway. Whatever your budget, get something that works for your current body, ASAP. And just give away the rest. 

    6. Waiting one more minute to live as you wish. 

    There are some things that weight loss, if you want it, will provide. (Not gonna lie.) But magic it isn't. You’re still going to be a regular human, not Beyoncé. There are never not dishes to do, cars to wreck or friends who need you to edit their resume. So really: no point waiting. Whatever it is you think weight loss will give you, go get it for yourself now. 

    Okay, that's the week! It's also the YEAR. I'll be back in 2018. In the meantime, take good care of yourself and thank you for reading! May your coming year be GLORIOUS. 

    Respect! Adore!


  • Accountability should work for YOU. You don't work for IT.

    Accountability can be useful. Scolding and punishment? Not so much.

    First, I made a cheat sheet for new subscribers - and for you. It's all about how to stop bingeing and overeating and mindless eating without spending one more minute than absolutely necessary. It will make your life better right away.

    If you know anyone you think would like it, please share this subscribe page with them.

    Now then. People often say they want accountability. But I'm not so sure.

    Here’s what I see a lot of: “accountability” that looks like public shaming. For example,  announcing your new diet and how much weight you plan - no, commit - to lose on social media. Once in a while we see someone do it on their own daytime show. There could be millions of witnesses. 

    Public declarations do work for some people - mostly the ones who are a little shameproof. Living with the dread of public shaming (and the rejection and the tomatoes and the onlookers making bets), well, that might be worse than actually being held accountable.

    We have long known that punishment doesn’t work. We also know that stress hormones aren’t good for weight, and threats and abuse only create fake change. (Fake change = the kind that doesn’t last. The kind we reverse at the earliest opportunity.)

    So when clients say they have to have accountability - and I hear this a lot - I don’t ever want to put deadlines or watchdogging or disapproval on them. (I barely even give “homework.”)

    I prefer to set up a safe, sane, kind and approving space for us to talk. A space where we can look together at what’s really going on, without shaming or scolding or any judgement beyond figuring out what’s not working.

    And what would actually make things better. 

  • Get support. Like, way more than you think you need.

    Last week David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrote about guilty Thanksgivings. He spoke to Aaron Carroll of Indiana University, who said this:

    “Your health doesn’t depend on what you eat this one day. It’s what you eat the other 364 days that counts.”

    We've been saying that for weeks here. So, Americans, you now have 359 days until Thanksgiving. Canadians: 314. Wherever you are in the world, let's put yesterday behind us, and carry on.

    Now then. I was talking with a prospective client a couple days ago, and she mentioned her suspicion that she could need ongoing support. 

    As in, after we worked together. As in, what if I spend all this money, and sure, things get way better, and I quit bingeing, and I start losing weight, and I’m feeling pretty good, and … I still need some kind of help? What if I’m not completely done in six weeks?

    And I think my answer would be the same for anyone who asked me that question: Of course you’re going to need more support after we’re done. (This client will be done eating compulsively, though. I feel comfortable making that guarantee for everyone I work with.) 

    It's like this: You quit bingeing but you still hate your job. Or you quit eating so much sugar and you want support with nutrition. Or you have questions about hormones. Or cooking. You might need a trainer or a therapist or a totally different coach. Or a new BFF.

    But you will for sure need support of some kind, for the rest of your life.

    Because humans need the support of other humans, in the flesh, in word, in the form of role models - all of it. As Geneen Roth once said to me - and all the other women supporting each other at this particular retreat: Get wayyyyyy more support than you think you need.

    And as I always say to my clients, get it set up well in advance.

    Needing support is not a personal failing that turns us into prey animals for expensive coaches and therapists and trainers. Neither is needing support a human design flaw. It’s how we’re built, so we should build it into our expectations, our budget and our schedule.

    And enjoy the very best support we can get our hands on.

  • How special is it really?

    The thing we tell ourselves about holiday food is that it’s special! We don’t get this stuff on a random sunny Tuesday. We wait all year for it, right?

    Well, maybe.

    Last week I visited a market on the bottom floor of the Twitter building, the kind built to serve the rich-in-money, poor-in-leisure tech employee. In other words, it’s a bougie-@** market stuffed with best-in-class items and I could have bought every single thing in there. Because it was all so very beautiful. 

    (See drinking chocolate from Hungary above. Designed to sit on your shelf forever, just looking adorable.)

    I did almost buy some chocolate caramel-covered shortbread, because like everything else in this carefully put-together store, it was designed to seduce me with its unnatural beauty. Each piece of this shortbread was a perfectly square chunk, with a thick, absolutely uniform layer of caramel on top, and on top of that, a lovely dark, thick and again amazingly even layer of chocolate ganache.

    Reader, this shortbread was extremely compelling to me. Not so long ago, I would have bought it and cheerfully paid the $10 they were asking. Because it was so, so beautiful. And rich looking. And perfectly formed. And golden with the promise of delight and deliciousness. Very, very special.

    Here’s the thing though. Although that confection was made of everything I hold most dear in a foodstuff, and the finished product looked like purest perfection, it wasn’t technically special. Maybe for the first time ever, I broke it down and saw that, yes, it was all my favorite things. Butter, flour, salt, sugar and chocolate. (Perfect really!)

    But there are many, many things in this world made of salt, butter, flour, sugar and chocolate. That’s like half my recipe collection right there. And I don’t have to eat every example of this flavor combo the world has come up with. 

    So when we say something is special, it might be useful to analyze exactly what part is special. And what made those bars special was their perfect platonic form. Which is to say they were really good to look at.

    No doubt they tasted phenomenal as well. But we are all going to have many, many opportunities in this lifetime to eat butter, flour, sugar, salt and chocolate together. I think we could say countless opportunities. 

    The point is not that you should only eat rich food if it’s something you’ll never see again. The point is that if you’re telling yourself that Aunt Esther’s cookies are really special and you have to have some of those and Aunt Jackie’s pie is really special and you have to have some of that and your Gran’s fruitcake* is really special and how could you not have that, well, you wind up having a lot of things that are nice, and delicious, and perhaps quite compelling - but not, in the end, all that special

    * Not a fruitcake joke. I never joke about fruitcake. Anyone who thinks that fruitcake = comedy has not been to my house at Christmastime and should come over this year to have their mind blown. 

  • Pushy relatives pushing food: Oh, they mean well

    It’s common for people to dread the holidays, because of all the boundary violations that come with the season. I don't mean relatives who say things like "I'm going to let you go to the grocery store for me," as if you've been begging. I mean the unwanted food being pressed on us by well-meaning relatives. 

    Except, some of us suspect, they don’t really mean well. They’re really trying to sabotage us … maybe because …

    • they couldn’t handle it if we were to succeed at losing some weight
    • they’re afraid we’re changing too much, and they don’t want us to get too far away from the family
    • they need company in their own overeating or weight class

    Or may they’re not trying to sabotage us. Maybe they’re just trying to make sure we still love them, and they don’t recognize love when it comes at them in the form of hugs and kisses and gift-wrapped Uggs. They only see love if it looks like eating their food until you can't stand any more, right?

    Tcha! NO. While it’s true there are many badly behaved relatives in this world, and the holidays can provoke even the best-behaved, other people’s experiments with our boundaries are never the main problem.

    The problem - and this is actually good news - is us. Specifically, our failure to say No and mean it. Not to others, but to ourselves. If Aunt Hazel’s self-respect is riding on how many of her red-and-green sprinkled cookies you eat, she’s gonna make you multiple offers. And if you’re wobbly about what and how much you’ll be eating this holiday, she will unerringly sense this, and sweeten her deal until you take it.

    I have witnessed this over and over: a firm boundary does not get tested more than once. And by firm I don’t mean enforced with anger or belligerence. I just mean unambiguous. No one’s confused what No means, including you. If you say No, and mean it, Hazel will find another way to feel good, guaranteed.

    But last week we talked about how one or two holiday meals are not a disaster, unless we don’t go back to normal the next day. It’s when we say, Oh NOW I’ve blown it, screw it, it doesn’t matter, I guess Grandma was right when she said I’ll always be fat, and we continue our bingey way until April, except for a short break around January 1. That's the disaster: Not the holiday, but the post-holiday boundary breakdown.

    So watch out for that "screw it" thinking, because it’s very pervasive and very sneaky, and its undoing requires a bit of grit on your part.

    And keep this in mind: A boundary is not a diet. You might actually decide to eat a cookie to please the lady. Cookie eating is an act you are free to decriminalize any time you want to. We’re just talking about a few days out of the year.

    Unless we’re not. Unless we’re talking about most days out of the year. If the real problem is that we don’t have boundaries and guidelines that we practice 90% of the time, then it’s no good flipping out on Hazel.

    She’s not the problem.

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

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