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  • I Endorse: Some Things That DO Resolve Weight and Eating Issues

    So last week I made a list of things that make me stabby in the world of weight and eating issues. This week, some things I think make a lot more sense.

    I am emphatically in favor of the following:

    1. Personal responsibility. In a "what goes in my mouth is 100% my business" way. Not in a gross Ayn Rand or "The Secret" kind of way. And not in a way that pretends we don't live in a world with broken food culture and a not-great food supply. In a "no one can do this for me" way. 
       
    2. Real talk. For example:
      1. Facing facts about where the extra weight is coming from. (It’s what we’re EATING.) 
      2. Not pretending that we can eat whatever we want and stay skinny, like that unicorn next door. If we're prone to weight gain, our choices about "addictive" kinds of foods are 1. little or 2. none. (Very different choices. For very different people.)
      3. Not kidding ourselves about how uncomfortable it is to break a habit. Being braced for uncomfortable.
         
    3. Going straight at it. I work with a lot of women who want to lose weight so they can … 
      Working your body, because exercise makes your body happy. Consider: weight ≠ physique ≠ body composition ≠ performance or capability. We often think that when we lose weight, we’ll be fit and toned and have cute knees and perky breasts and a high-and-mighty booty. Mmmmm … maybe! But probably there will still be work to do. Because weight loss is a result of not doing something - not eating too much of the wrong things. Physique is a result of actively doing something, which is working your body. 
      • wear what they love, not just what’s big enough
      • "show Them" at a reunion or wedding
      • feel good sitting on the beach (on Maui, why not?)
      • feel good getting naked
      • find a lover - or a better lover 
      • be rich, travel to Paris, wear expensive lingerie, and go to the opera
      • or just ride around town in cute jeans on a cute bike with a baguette in the basket

      Nothing wrong with any of that - except it might not happen magically, as a result of weight loss. What happens as a result of weight loss is that our bodies and our clothes get smaller. Which is, not gonna lie, often a good result. But it’s not the same as a ticket to Paris. Which you can start working on right now, while you lose some weight.

    4. Working your body, because exercise makes your body happy. Consider: weight ≠ physique ≠ body composition ≠ performance or capability. We often think that when we lose weight, we’ll be fit and toned and have cute knees and perky breasts and a high-and-mighty booty. Mmmmm … maybe! But probably there will still be work to do. Because weight loss is a result of not doing something - not eating too much of the wrong things. Physique is a result of actively doing something, which is working your body.

      NB: Exercise doesn't do much to move the needle on the scale. But it works miracles for mood, and that can make all the difference for getting control of your eating.
       
    5. Doing it now. Tomorrow is the most popular time to start something. But the only potent time is now.
       
    6. No set amount of time to break a habit. It can happen instantly. I work with plenty of people who meet with me once, get started right away, and never binge again, The End. 
       
    7. Addition over subtraction. It is just so much easier to focus on what you want than what you don't want. So much easier to bring good things into your diet, your day and your life than it is to 86 the bad things. Examples: Try adding more protein or fat instead of eliminating carbs. Try adding more walks instead of swearing off Netflix. Try dressing to please yourself today instead of eliminating 80% of your closet this weekend. This is a very simple reorientation with huge payoffs. And a lot of us get it backwards.
       
    8. Taking control of your personal food supply. A lot of our food is engineered for profit, not for health or even pleasure. A lot of our food isn't even food, really. Yes, there's something wrong with everything, and there aren't any true miracle foods, and we're all going to die. But some foods really are more healthy. Single-ingredient foods are always going to be better for your body than foods with 40 ingredients.
       
    9. Sovereignty. I’ve been doing this a while and have some pretty good guesses about what will happen if you do [X]. My job is to recommend what I think is your best course of action. You get to take my suggestions - or not! People vary, and you have to test things out for yourself.
       
    10. Dignity, self-respect, ease, flexibility, adaptability, invisibility, sustainability and a very light touch: All the reasons why I love the Riley method for overcoming overeating, as I wrote to you recently.
       
    11. Fat. Fat is not a disease process, or a bunch of useless waste matter we haven’t been able to flush yet. Fat is an active, vital part of us. We need it in our diets, on our bodies, and for our brains. A lack of fat is incompatible with the Good Life.
       
    12. Feminism. My feminism might not be everyone's feminism. But it's pretty solid, and it's very compatible with taking care of our bodies and our health. 
    13. Women’s bodies. They don’t matter much in our culture; not in the ways I would like to see. But they really matter to me.

    14. Also: Pleasure, beauty, love, friendship, family, surprises, food, wine, dressing up, lingerie, lazy Sundays, beach walks, PARIS OF COURSE, London too, early church music, knitting, cheese plates, coffee in bed, Buffy and Veronica, reading every book titled How the Frenchwoman Does [Thing], using the good china, The Magicians, critical thinking, young adult fiction, Spoon, village life, bow blouses, the American Himalayan Foundation's Stop Girl Trafficking program, my alma mater (Wellesley), and those shrimp crackers that look like puffy little pink discs.

       

  • 16 Terrible Things That Do Not Help Solve Weight or Eating Problems

    It's been too long since I published a manifesto! This one's a work in progress, but it starts with a list of everything that makes me shake my head throw things and scream in the world of weight and eating issues.

    I've probably forgotten some things. Please let me know what in this arena causes you to shake your head, too.


    (By the way, here is Manifesto #1, or Believe Nothing, Question Everything, Don't Take Anything Personally. And Manifesto #2: Success! or, The Worst Year of My Life.)

    Now then. 

    1. Above all, I am against the idea that it takes a long time to break the habit of bingeing and overeating. With the right information, you can do it today. If it’s taking a long time, it might not be you. It's probably the method.
       

    2. Paying a lot to solve your eating problems: Also not necessary. If you can afford it, it’s fantastic to have help with implementation. If you can’t afford it, you can do it yourself for nothing. (Here are some books you can get at the library. You can sign up for my weekly email. You can peruse the back catalog of my blog posts.)
       

    3. Dieting, where dieting means following someone else’s prescription for eating less than your body needs, for the primary purpose of rapid weight loss, however it’s dressed up (a “cleanse,” a “healthy start,”). A diet is by nature rigid, infantilizing and disconnected from the dieter’s body and its needs.
       

    4. Diet culture: The group of widely accepted practices of eating what some “authority” tells us to (even though we’re adults), eating less than our bodies need, discussing our weight constantly, counting calories and measuring food portions, talking aloud in public about how fat we are, above all believing we need to be thinner, etc., aka Situation: Normal for billions of women.
       

    5. “Obesity” hysteria. Does the West have an obesity epidemic? I’m not even interested in exposing all the bullshit in this narrative. Well, except to point out it’s a huge focus for class anxiety, which is to say, hating the poor. Anyway, you have no obesity epidemic to cure. Let’s just solve your problem.
       

    6. Fat-shaming and fat-hating and fat hysteria. It’s so bad I’ll say it twice. My work is vehemently not about hating any part of ourselves. It’s about the easiest, fastest way to change behavior that you have decided doesn’t serve you.
       

    7. Excessive medicalization of weight issues. Even physicians are guilty of treating weight and health as the same thing. A moderate weight is to health as health insurance is to health: It's got benefits, for sure. But it's not the same thing.
       

    8. Health at Any Size (HAES). While low weight doesn’t necessarily map to health, it’s wrong to claim we can be healthy at any size. If you can be too skinny, you can be too fat. If you stop menstruating because of your anorexia, you’re not healthy. If you stop walking because your weight puts too much pressure on your spine and knees, you’re not healthy.
       

    9. “Clean” eating: A meaningless term, but always more about what’s not eaten than what is. There’s something wrong with everything! A lot of vegetables are trying to kill us! And we’re all going to die. So could we please just relax about food?
       

    10. Intuitive Eating: A practice of eating by tuning into your hunger and satisfaction, which is way more conscious than bingeing or compulsive eating, but is often every bit as chaotic. Most people trying to break a powerful longstanding habit of eating too much of the wrong things need more structure than Intuitive Eating provides.
       

    11. Rigid beauty standards. This needs no explanation. Rigid beauty standards are stupid and vicious.
       

    12. Elaborate or exotic nutrition plans in lieu of the basics. If you’re not eating enough, sleeping enough, or moving enough, it won’t matter that you’re “eating the rainbow” or “eating right for your blood type” or anything else.
       

    13. “Getting to the bottom” of your problem by talking about it and uncovering its origin story. You can spend decades in therapy without getting to the root of a compulsion. The only way to break a habit is to stop doing it, and that doesn’t require any investigation of causes. It requires action.
       

    14. Self-neglect. Augh! Self-neglect never dug a woman out of an eating disorder. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time or money to break bad eating habits, but it will take attention and love. A lot of self-love.
       

    15. Shame: NO. Just NO. Shame will never solve more problems than it creates. We live in a world where it’s more shameful to be fat than to be a criminal. But 1. weight loss takes time and 2. you don’t even need to be fat to be fat-shamed, or fat-phobic. Self-pride and self-respect, on the other hand, can be restored the instant you get control of your eating << #GOALS
       

    16. Waiting until you weigh less to have the life you want. It doesn’t work that way. There is only so much that weight loss can offer a gal. Not gonna lie, it’s easier to buy and wear clothes when your weight is in a certain range. But you don’t have to weigh less to date, travel, get a massage, go to the beach, marry, attend a big event, get onstage, write your book, look for a better job, ask for a raise or leave a bad relationship. Doing those things while you change your habits = fastest life-change plan I know, and it’s not magic. It’s ordinaryYou can do it.


    What do you think? Agree, disagree? What have I overlooked? Let me know.

    And if like me you don't think it should take a long time to get control of your eating, and you want help with that, just contact me and we can get on the phone to see if I'm the right person to help.

    If you like this sort of thing, you would probably enjoy my weekly newsletter. I write about weight loss and ending compulsive eating from a shame-free, anti-diet, feminist perspective. 

  • It's what you're EATING

    People usually come to me to solve weight problems. (Of course we solve their eating problems too, because we must. And because it's the best way to solve weight problems.) But they do not come saying, Max! I am now ready to eat sensibly for pretty much the rest of my life.

    Nope. Basically, I see two kinds of people:

    1. People who wish like hell there was a solution to their weight problem that didn't involve changing the way they eat, because man, that is like the worst news ever. Who doesn't want to stay skinny eating pizza and burritos all the time? What if quantum physics or special breathing were the answer?

      These people are the majority. And I understand them; that was me. Reader, I'd be drinking maple syrup out my latte bowl for breakfast today if I could stay skinny(-adjacent) while doing it. <- not even kidding; ask my roommates

       
    2. People who will not consider that the solution to their weight problems is to change the way they eat. It's got to be something else. Something medical, probably. Something no one has been able to figure out, although they've tried everything and been to a bunch of different people and read a million books and looked at all the websites.

      These are people more interested in being exceptional than solving problems. And they usually avoid coaches like me.

    Anyway, spoiler: For almost all people in both groups, the answer is that it's what you're eating. If you want to change your weight, you'll have to change what you eat.

    When we see that actually this is the best news ever, we're pretty much there.

    So the place to start looking is at what's going into your mouth. Not outside for more exotic explanations.

    Try this test: If it was the only way to save your child's life or end white male supremacy in the next five minutes, would you be able to figure out exactly where the extra weight is coming from?

    I can do it in a trice: Second latte at 10:30, second glass of wine with dinner, granola instead of eggs at breakfast, chocolate every day instead of occasionally. Sure enough, that adds up to a few extra pounds.

    No biggie. Now I have a choice, and it only took me a couple minutes to figure out. I didn't have to hire a detective or get any lab tests or scratch my head for a really long time while drinking latte #3.

    How bout you make your list right now. You don't have to do anything with it. That's important! I for one am not giving up my cheap-ass Cava to drop a few pounds, and you don't have to either.

    But if you make the list you will have a place to start when you do want to do something. You won't be sitting around cussing your crazy, impossible, inexplicable problem that no one will ever be able to solve because you are such an anomaly.

  • Success is built on failure. LOTS of failures.

    Some years ago, when Naropa University of Boulder was still tiny, experimental Naropa Institute, I took poetry classes there. Allen Ginsberg himself declared my efforts a bit lame. He was being nice - and he wasn't, always, nice.

    (That's why I became a life coach. Maybe.)

    I also took some classes from Anne Waldman, another Beat poet, who said this memorable thing to us one time:

    Perfect rhymes are unbearable.

    That was probably the most important lesson I learnt at Naropa, though I didn't think so right away. 

    By then I'd already given up the idea of poetry because it made waitressing seem like robber-baroness-hood. 

    And I didn't need Anne Waldman to tell me that exact rhyming schemes = doggerel. 

    But I did need someone to make me drink a slow-acting poison that would eventually destroy the idea that there's something actually desirable about perfection. Instead of something dead.

    I see now that's what Anne gave me. An idea that eventually became a revulsion for the notion of perfection, the good of which I had never questioned. Because isn't perfection the goal? Isn't that what we're here for? 

    As I say, it was slow-acting. I was still actively bingeing back then. But I now find the notion of "perfect" anything unbearable. Perfect rhymes, perfect house, perfect eating, perfect life.

    Perfection is deadly to binge eaters and overeaters. If you think your eating's got to be perfect, you won't have room to experiment. And no room to experiment can mean only one thing: A diet. (AKA the express to Crazytown.) 

    We'll never learn to eat in a non-crazy way if we don't have permission to fail - because success is not built on getting it right. Success is built on failures. 

    Lots of them.

  • What "intuitive" eating really is

    Hint: It's not innate, and you didn't know how to do it as a baby. It's a skill, and you have to learn it, whether you learn as a child, or an adult. 

    I've been talking to a friend of mine who lives in France. She's from Montana, but has spent virtually her whole adult life in Paris. I told her I have quite the fascination - which you already know - for books about how the Frenchwoman doesn't get fat or flummoxed by tying her scarf or flattened by affairs of the heart.

    I asked her if she ever read those books? She said:

    I don't. I think they're mostly fantasy.

    And she added, further killing the fantasy: I believe the French take more anti-depressants and sleeping aids than any other Europeans. 

    Okay, touchée. 

    But our conversation hasn't stopped me rereading re-skimming Debra Ollivier, whose writing reminds me of this essential fact we all know about the French: They have a food culture, and they pass it on to their children.

    This points to another popular fantasy of Anglo culture, namely that if only we could learn to eat "intuitively," i.e. the "way children eat," we would all be healthy and thin. 

    "You knew how to eat as a baby," is a very popular thing for proponents of Intuitive Eating to say.

    But that is a big fat lie. Babies know how to nurse, The End.

    They do not know what to do with a croissant. They will definitely not know how to evaluate a cronut or a croissandwich.


    What looks like "intuitive" eating is in reality acquired taste and behavior. If you were lucky enough to acquire them as a child, you most likely got this food culture from your parents, who got it from theirs. 

    Each one of them had to be taught, had to learn, to eat this "natural" way. This body of knowledge developed over generations. Lifetimes. 

    If we did not get a solid foundation of eating "rules" or guidelines or principles as children - habits instilled by parents - if we don't know how to eat comme il fautwe're going to have to learn as adults.

    Important note: There is no shame in this! However, it can take a while to figure out. 

    If you want it to take longer, do what I did, and listen to people who say you already know because it's "intuitive."

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

Download now: 5 Books That Will Change the Way You Eat.