• Halloween survival guide

    You know that scary-movie cliché where the plucky heroes consult the paranormal expert? She's eccentric, but she says she knows how to avoid disaster. (Plus, what else have that got?) Well, that's me today. 

    A lot of my clients - and a good chunk of the adult population in every country where Halloween is celebrated - struggle with Halloween candy. It's unbelievably cheap, and it's available by the ton. If your struggle to avoid the stuff hasn't already begun, it's likely start by tonight. The will-I-won't-I could continue through tomorrow at work, where trick-or-treat leftovers hang around for weeks as everyone tries to get temptation away from them and put it near you.

    Last year, we got five kids. There is still 2016 candy around here somewhere, because it was our first Halloween in a new neighborhood and I overbought. "Never knowingly under-catered!" Nigella Lawson said that, and I live by it.

    So I'll buy differently this year. And here are the other things I like to do to manage any phantom-limb bingey impulses that might be triggered by decades of Halloween associations:

    1. For people of all ages, Halloween is something to look forward to. If you like to celebrate with candy corn, why not do so in moderation? Give yourself permission to eat some specific type and amount of treat, and stick to it, so there’s no screw-it moment. No need to say Well, I’ve had 3 Kit Kats so I might as well eat all the Jolly Ranchers and the rest of this crap, because now I've really blown it and I'll be really good tomorrow… You haven't blown it. You made a decision, like a grownup. 

    2. You could also just say No to the fun-size* lab-grown kid candy altogether, and let yourself have something you enjoy even more. For me, there aren’t enough Mars bars in the world to equal a really good piece of chocolate. My personal plan is to make Lindsey Shere's Very Rich Chocolate Mousse** and have a ceremonial serving tonight. In or out of costume; undecided at this moment.

    3. Finally, whatever happens, remind yourself it doesn’t mean anythingabout what happens next. Maybe you eat something you regret. Maybe you eat alot of something regrettable, despite taking precautions. Put regrets behind you instead of letting them keep you prisoner in a vicious cycle of bingeing and dieting until after Valentine’s Day. Fall down, get up and make a choice you won’t regret the very next time you eat, and keep doing that.

    Halloween is just the beginning of the festive season. It’s also the feast day that involves the least family obligation, making it less actually tricky than the holidays that don't explicitly involve trick-or-treating. 

    * Many have remarked that tininess in sweets does not actually equal fun. Often true!
    ** Chez Panisse Desserts, p. 242, "for the unregenerate chocolate lover" <- me; LMK if you would like me to send you a copy.

  • Weekends are for transformation

    We could meet here...

    Just a quick note before I head off to Santa Fe tomorrow for a little hot springs retreat at Ten Thousand Waves, probably the most luscious Japanese spa outside Japan. Picture soaking in an outdoor cedar tub, steam rising from the water, snow falling gently on the piñon pines overhead, while hummingbirds fly inches away. 

    Nothing is more restorative and transformative than a weekend away in a beautiful place. So here's what I've begun doing, and it's a crazy thing, but why not? Life is full of crazy; we might as well grab us some of the good crazy: 

    I am now offering the life-changing magic of my Body of Knowledge program in concentrated form: a luxurious weekend of total habit transformation and riotous fun and a complete body-mind-weight-and-eating reset. A superextravaganza gala combination of metamorphosis and revolution and delight and the ABSOLUTE END of bingeing and overeating and all those bad forms of crazy.

    And there are two ways to do this: you come to me in Boston, which will afford us luxury accommodations and stupendous dining experiences in one of North America's most historic (and bijou-sized) settings. Or we meet someplace even more amazing, like Ten Thousand Waves. (There are other ravishing places, too. You could choose.)

    As I say, it's a bit crazy. But so is bingeing in secret for days on end, decade after decade. You don't have to do that, and I can save you a lot of time by showing you exactly how. In a weekend.

  • Should you have a cheat day? 5 reasons you're better off without one

    So, lots of people swear by their cheat days. And if you are cool with swinging back and forth between extremes, maybe having a regular cheat day will work for you, too.

    But if you don't like that crazy pinball feeling, here are five reasons to skip the cheat day:

    1. Cheat days set up the dynamic of restriction and rebellion

    Instead, how about this: You’re in charge. You make the rules. You don’t like ‘em? Change ‘em. 

    Humans have a legitimate need for rebellion - we have to assert our sovereignty in this world! But there is never a need to rebel against ourselves.

    2. Related: Cheat days have kind of a childish flavor

    Naughty, naughty! Ooooh, watch me break the rules. 

    Instead: Don’t have any naughty or forbidden foods. That’s just going to activate thechildish parts of you that waits to play when the cat’s away. 

    Rather, just acknowledge that some foods are more delicious than others, and some foods are less healthy than others, and we need to put limits on our consumption of those delicious unhealthy foods. But we don’t have to go wild and high-drama when we eat them.

    3. A cheat day is the same as a full binge, for a lot of people. Gotta get it all in before tomorrow!

    Instead: There is no tomorrow. There’s no need for a fresh start, tomorrow, Monday morning, or January 1. I suggest you give yourself a fresh start at every single meal. 

    Including snacks. Another meal, another chance to give yourself what you need, without hitting unhealthy limits.

    Also, every time you binge, it just reinforces the habit of bingeing. So ... let's not.

    4. Cheat days tend to take place on a schedule, such as every Wednesday or Saturday

    And what if your sister doesn’t want to get married on a Wednesday? Oh, yes, people can actually get wound up about that kind of thing. You've overheard them say these things, too. 

    Instead: When you’re in charge of deciding what to eat every time you eat, you can make choices that are more liberal or less lenient - without violating your own agreements. 

    5. Cheat days have a way of putting you 3 steps back

    In the same way that extreme restriction leads to a weight gain backlash, extreme overeating usually leads to … WEIGHT GAIN. 

    A once-in-a-while feast is known to goose the metabolism. (Maybe. If some other things are in place. It’s a complicated system.) 

    But a weekly binge without compensating restriction is something the body responds to in the form of extra weight. A twice-weekly binge: forget it. You’re gonna be overfed, The End.

    Instead: Consider throwing out all “rules” for what you’re “allowed” to eat, and replacing the rules with some guidelines that include delicious food you were taught to think of as “bad.” Allow yourself to eat anything you want, in a quantity and at a frequency that feels good to you.

  • Print all In new window I don't look so good (without clothes, that is)

    Here’s something you might not know: I do not look that great naked.

    I show you my Michelle arms, because I got ‘em. I do not show you my thighs of cold rolled steel, because I've got thighs that are more like cold steel-cut oats that have been left in the fridge too long. (Which I understand is now a thing. Overnight oats! LOL. I bet that you, like me, have been doing it for years.)

    That is not to say I don’t love myself and my thighs and the other wobbly bits because I do! Not voting my thighs off the island. 

    The thing is, I have worse problems than a little wobble downstairs. Underneath theadorable and slight pudge, I have bone density issues. I have muscle mass issues.

    Could be all those years living on bagels and donuts and maple syrup. I mean, we’ll probably never know  

    But I know this: Being in charge of my own life is one of my very highest values. I want to be an independent queen until I kick. I don’t want to depend on underpaid and overworked people to control every aspect of my world.

    I also know the main reason people wind up in nursing homes is not that they lose their mind and their keys and their driving license, but because they lose their strength. They can’t take the rubbish out or open jars or get their body up off thefloor. So I don’t want that. I gotta be able to fall down seven times, get up eight.

    Now back when I was actively bingeing, all I cared about was being thin

    But I didn’t actually lose weight until I started caring more about actually notbingeing, and how I could accomplish that. Which didn’t happen all at once.

    This is going to be like that. I’ll get there from here, but not in one step. I’m a couple weeks into a legit strength training program with some real science behind it. It’s got a nutrition component (hella protein). It's got behavioral components. It’s going to occupy the next year of my life - maybe beyond.

    And although I’m well into midlife and the window to build bone density and muscle mass is, let’s just say it: shrinking rapidly, there is no way I could have done this any earlier. If I could have, I would have.

    So that’s what I want to remind you about today. There’s more than one thing you need to do in order to get the body in the shape you want it. You can get there, but not in one step. 

    One step, however, is plenty for today. And if your eating is out of control, I think that’s the place to start - not with nutrition, for example. It's changing the eating behavior.

  • 4 reasons not to give up when you're doing EVERYTHING RIGHT and you STILL didn't lose weight

    Okay, so you’ve quit bingeing and you’re eating better and sleeping longer and moving more and you’ve been doing this for WEEKS NOW and you get on the scale and holy S^#$! THAT!!! THAT NUMBER RIGHT THERE - that is not what you were expecting to see! 

    And so what is the point, really? Maybe this is never going to work and is simply not worth it. I GIVE UP! you are thinking.

    Okay, please don’t give up yet. Here’s four good reasons why:

    1. All bodies are different, but they have this in common: They are WEIRD. Weird and in the short term unpredictable and complicated. There’s a lot going on, and we don’t know the half of it. We handle the inputs, the body handles how to adjust to the changes we make. 

    Sometimes the number goes up before it goes down. You might stay put for a while, or the weight might drop off suddenly for no obvious reason. 

    Whatever happens, it's your body that’s in charge. Bodies do what they want to do. Maybe yours is taking its time readjusting. If you’ve been alive for 40 or 50 or 60 years, a few weeks is not a long time. Even when you’ve made some really solid habit change.

    What probably won't happen is a steady, predictable daily decrease in weight. You have to get more data before the overall picture looks like a nice downward trend.

    Here’s what one of my teachers says: When she stopped overeating, and changed everything about her diet and exercise and eating habits, she weighed herself every day. And every single day for six weeks, that number stayed the same.

    Did not budge. In six WEEKS, no change. As she herself said, People, that is a long-ass time.

    So if you’ve made some changes after a lifetime of not-so-great eating, maybe your body needs more than a few weeks to adjust? Maybe a little more patience is what’s required. A little more faith.

    It’s not easy! Oh believe me I know. But we can’t just turn the dial down on the chips and chocolate, and expect to see the needle on the scale move like Usain Bolt. It’s probably gonna take more time than any of us would like.

    2. Speaking of weighing yourself every day, I suggest you do that. Unless you don’t want to know the number at all, ever, which is hard unless you avoid the doctor’s office.

    Because what if you have not been keeping daily track? You change your eating, you’re doing everything right, and you get on the scale after a few weeks and you compare that number to the most recent number you remember seeing, which was one day last June. That may be a comparison that makes you really unhappy. And it might be a totally invalid comparison. Maybe that day in June you had been sick. Maybe last night you had a lot of salt.

    Two data points is nothing.

    So if you want to get some good data, get a lot of it. Control the variables as much as possible. That means weighing yourself first thing in the morning, naked, after you've gone to the bathroom, before eating or drinking anything. 

    Then plug the number into an app that will smooth out the insignificant ups and downs (I use Happy Scale; it's free) so you can keep an eye on trends, which is the only thing we care about. We don’t care about today’s number. "Get it and forget it" daily, and enjoy the total lack of sudden shocks.

    Alternative: Skip the weighing entirely, and just take your body measurements. Or pick a form-fitting garment and keep track of how it hangs on you.

    3. Take a good look at what you're eating. We’ve talked about this before, but it can be done more than once. I do it regularly: 

    Ask yourself, is there anything happening here that might cause extra weight to hang around the neighborhood? If I'm just like everybody else, and there's nothing really wacky about my physiology (can we agree?), what might be contributing to a few extra pounds? 

    Do this like you weigh yourself. Objectively. You’re just taking a look, not going on a death march. No need to do anything different right now. And absolutely no judging your character! You might live for your weekly bear claw, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who likes pastry, The End. Everybody’s got their something.

    For example: I am huge potato hound. I could absolutely trim a few pounds from my frame if I wanted to stop eating potatoes a few times a week. (Which I don't! Because I love my potatoes and also, Winter is Coming. Wintertime is Potato Time.) 

    But I'm not confused about whether potatoes, Stilton, tequila or suchwhich have an effect on my weight. They do. So if it was worth it to me, I could quit eating those things, or cut back.

    4. About doing everything right? There is no need to do EVERYTHING right. Of course we all know that none of us is ever doing literally EVERYTHING right, but deep down we all feel like we should. So drop that, when you become aware of it. There’s simply no NEED to do everything right. You can get where you want to go doing 80-90%. Shoot for that.

    And start where you're at right now. If you start at 30%, AWESOME.

    Finally, if you are not dieting and not bingeing, you are doing something TOTALLY right. You are doing a really HUGE thing right. And you can remind yourself that you’re sane and free and making your own sovereign, healthy choices about food and eating and self-care.

    Which gives you the kind of self-respect that no number can ever take the fun out of.

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

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