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  • Exactly how to eat, forever 🍳 🍞 🍎

    Experts do agree, actually.

    The best piece I've ever read on food and health...

    ... is also one of the shortest. And I wanted to pass it on to you not only because it will answer, once and for all, a lot of questions you've been asking, but also because it's 1. delightful and 2. brief.

    Friend of the newsie (FOTN) Mark Bittman wrote it with - okay, Bittman is not my actual friend, but I do admire him, as well as pity him re: the size of his kitchen; sad! - with Yale-trained physician David L. Katz. It's smart, it's readable, and I encourage you to use its recommendations and see how you do. I think you'll like them.

    You can read it right here.

    Okay, that's the week! And I'm heading out on vacation, so I will talk to you again at the end of July.

  • Repetition is your friend 😘 😘 😘

    What I had for lunch breakfast.

    "But eating 'healthy' is just gonna be so BORING!" -- A lot of people. Maybe even me, before I met Tim Ferriss.

    Here's something - a chocolate protein shake with fruit - I had for breakfast today. And the day before. And the day before that, too. Tomorrow, also yes. (Probably.)

    And I tell you this just so you know that I eat a lot of the same things over and over again.

    Of course, I try to eat the rainbow. I try to vary protein sources. I try to pick something I've never had before if I'm in an unfamiliar city or a new restaurant.

    But I do have my go-to meals and my staple ingredients.

    A common complaint about post-eating-disorder eating is that it's going to be boring. That it's going to be the same things over and over again.

    And you know what? It just might. 

    But as my ex-internet-boyfriend Tim Ferriss points out, that's true for most people. People who eat "whatever they want," people who eat all junk food or all prepared food or all processed food, people who eat unhealthy food in unhealthy ways, people who have given up on "healthy" eating. A lot of people eat the same things over and over, whether that's beans and brown rice or Frito Pie* right off the open plastic packet.

    If you want to take control of your weight, you'll have to get control of how your food is prepared. And that means that unless you have unlimited time and keen interest in planning and shopping and cooking, 

    REPETITION IS YOUR FRIEND.

    *True confession: I will always have love for Frito Pie. I just don't eat it on repeat.

  • The strange unavoidable freedom of saying NO ✋

    Another way of saying No. Nope. Nopers!

    Boundaries have a strange unavoidable way of bestowing freedom. 

    My mentor Martha Beck has written about the “contemplation” stage of change. This stage follows a time when you’re not even ready to think about change. But it's still before you’re ready to take action.

    In other words, you’re now thinking about changing. And though not visibly action-y, it's a necessary part of the process.

    (Let’s be real, it’s not the part where they hand out a lot of medals. Yay, you! Thinking about making change! Could you BE more AWESOME?! <- not what they say to you when you’re thinking about getting ready to make a change.

    So we'll just have to do the cheering for ourselves. And I cheer you on, tirelessly! That's why I'm here every week.)

    Anyway, here’s what will make the contemplation stage easier, more fun and a more powerful launching pad for making actual visible change:

    🔑 Spend some time thinking about what you’re NOT going to change. And make a list of the things you’re specifically NOT willing to do in service of this change.

    Agreements you are not making, tasks you are not taking on, things that other people may take for granted as part of this change but that YOU are NOTGOING TO DO.

    This doesn’t need to be a list of what you’ll never do, no matter what, forever and ever, The End.

    This is just for now. It’s a reassurance that you don’t have to tackle everything all at once. (Almost always the worst possible approach to change.) It’s a reminder to yourself that everything you do in service of change is a choice

    Here are some things I myself am not willing to do in service of eating sanely and staying a healthy weight:

    1. Give up pastry
    2. Give up dairy
    3. Give up gluten
    4. Do any kind of "giving up" at all, especially things that are trendy to avoid
    5. Practice any kind of restriction at all (I DO like to practice restraint)
    6. Eat things I dislike (after a fair trial) no matter how "good for me" they are
    7. Do any exercise I still don't like - after a fair trial - for any reason at all, including the sound of the instructor's voice or the amount of time it takes to prepare for the exercise 
    8. Count calories
    9. Set up redundant external accountability programs
    10. Take nutrition advice from celebs and "gurus" and industry-funded "experts"
    11. Eat only in response to a certain degree of physical hunger, never accounting for other needs such as convenience, social grace, the needs of others, pleasure and the like

    What are yours? I suggest you make the list right now. Knowing what you’re not willing to do is a great - and often overlooked - way of setting boundaries.

    And boundaries have a weird implacable way of giving us freedom.

  • How to kill food obsession

    I got an email this week that made me cry. 


    It was an email from a client I worked with a year ago. Literally, I cried when I read it. Here is a bit of what she wrote:

    “I’ve lost 18 lbs since we ‘met.’ I did it without any punishing exercise. Once I stopped bingeing, I realized I didn’t need all that penitential running either, which I had been doing since college - right alongside the bingeing. 

    “Still, the best part has been all the brain space I have since getting that bingeing monkey off my back.”


    We all know that monkey on our back. 

    It's preoccupation. Obsession. It looks like missing life.

    We struggle all day long about what we "should" eat. Back and forth about what we're "allowed" to eat. Whether we're hungry "enough" to eat. What and where and when and how much to eat.

    (And who's going to see us doing it.)

    And you're better than that. LIFE, really, is better than that.

    The client above stopped bingeing. She stopped running and replaced it with yoga (exercise she likes). She lost 18 lbs in a year (without strain). She got a lot of headspace back. And with it ... she wrote a book. A book, people! I am reading this book right now. 

    That is what's possible when you're free of food and weight obsession. Other, better things become available to you.

    So if freedom from bingeing and obsession sound good to you, you should try my eating protocol for binge eaters and habitual overeaters. This protocol destroys dithering and obsession. It restores dignity and pleasure. It allows your body reach to reach its healthiest weight. 

    In fact, it solves almost ALL THE PROBLEMS faced by overeaters.

  • Something I ate last week: Stilton Stilton Stilton!

    "Cheese goes very well with wine. It's what they do in France." -- Mary Berry said that. She was actually talking about red wine, not cheap Cava, but I'm no more French than Mary Berry, so that's all right.

    Here's something I eat every day: A snack. I would be very sad without my snack.

    It is almost always some fancy crackers, and a very strong cheese like Stilton.

    And this would spoil my supper, except I only have one slice of cheese and two (2) crackers. And I think you can see here that my wineglass is basically a thimble. (On weekends I have more.)

    I tell you this so you know: I drink. I snack. And I would sell my soul for cheese. It's only a little bit. And it's very, very satisfying.

  • One moment of mindfulness is all you to need change forever.

    One moment of mindfulness is all you need to change the way you eat ... forever. 

    You are probably familiar with Geneen Roth. She saved my sanity in my 20s, so I will love her forever. And I’ve been lucky enough to be on more than one retreat with her, where one time she told this story: 

    A Buddhist abbot was sitting down to breakfast with his monks. They ate in silence. No chatting, no phones, no entertainment.

    The abbot also ate in silence, except to snort or harrumph … in response to something he read. In his NEWSPAPER.

    The monks watched him, irritated. Finally, the resentment got the better of one of them, who burst out, “Master, you always say ‘When you eat, eat. And when you read, read.’ But here you are at breakfast with a newspaper!”

    So the abbot lowered the newspaper, looked at the monk, and said, in a mild way: ‘It’s true. When you eat, eat. And when you read, read.

    "But when you eat and read, eat and read.”

    And then I think Geneen probably reiterated, But listen, when you eat, just eat.Or something like that. Because she’s pretty committed to mindful eating, and mindfulness altogether.

    And that’s where we part ways. Because you don't actually need to be constantly mindful while eating in order to stop bingeing or overeating.

    (I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to be. Any meal could be your last meal! Might as well be present for it.)

    But to go straight from compulsive eating to mindful eating can be too fancy of a move for a lot of women. It’s hard to do in one step.

    So I suggest something even simpler: Decide what you’re going to eat before you eat, and don’t eat more than that. Be mindful if you want to. Read the newspaper if you prefer that. 

    One moment of mindfulness is all you need to change the way you eat forever.

  • Something I ate last week: Rasika's Date Toffee Pudding

    What I had for lunch.

    "Of course you can have just one!" -- Nine out of 10 advertising copywriters (privately)

    Here's something I made and ate this week for my cookbook club: Date and Toffee Pudding from the Rasika cookbook. Aka sticky toffee pudding, it is one of my favorites and guess what? NOT A HEALTH FOOD. 

    The directions read "Trim the mounded pudding tops; reserve the trimmings for a snack." Good idea, Mr Sunderam! I will do that.

    And I tell you this in case you feel that certain foods are "triggers" and you must avoid them forever and ever, The End. If ever there was such a trigger for me, it would be sticky toffee pudding. But I can eat one now and be done. And not have another for a long, long time.

    And that was not always true. 


    We all have foods that aren't worth messing with, I'll give you that. But you might find more freedom in letting yourself make that choice never to have something - while knowing that it is a choice.

  • 3 Ways to Handle Difficult Conversations for Overeaters

    Let's get you off that wheel

    A client recently had this common problem: She was expecting a difficult conversation with a difficult person. Anticipating the conversation, and the person’s behavior, was making her anxious.

    And anxiety - surprise! - was causing this client to eat out of control.

    This is a familiar cycle for all of us. It looks like this: 

    Unpleasant event (present or future) -> anxiety -> eating -> temporary relief -> painful physical effects -> shame / anxiety -> repeat, etc., repeat.

    To simplify even further, we could say there are basically three parts to this cycle, and thus three options for interrupting it. There are events, there are feelings, and there actions we take. Which result in more events, more feelings, and more actions. 

    (Some people call this cycle “karma.” I’ve been around that wheel myself perhaps 9,237 times. Ugh.)

    1. You can attempt to control the conversation (event) to control the anxiety (feeling) to control the overeating (behavior). This strategy has a success rate of about 0%, I would guess. Life is a series of uncontrollable events - many of them undesired.

    2. You can allow uncontrollable events - that’s called participating in shared reality, and it’s a smart approach. You can then attempt to control the feelings that follow. This too is kind of a losing proposition. Feelings can be ignored, squished, distorted, indulged, amplified, transmuted or simply experienced as they are - but they cannot really be controlled, because they can’t be prevented or extinguished.

    3. Or, you can take control of your eating. This is a solid strategy with a great chance of success. Events can’t be controlled. Feelings, contrary to belief, can’t be controlled. The real locus of control is our behavior. 

    You could have the worst conversation in the world. A cop could come to your door and tell you your kid was in an accident. Your husband could tell you over morning coffee that he’s moving to Australia - alone. Your landlady could call and say she’s sold your apartment and you need to be out in two weeks.

    Anything can happen, and you can still decide that donuts will not be your response to catastrophe. How do you do that? How do you simply change your behavior?

    That’s what we do here. We replace chaotic eating with a flexible-but-structured approachWe take control of our eating by dismantling the binge habit.

    What happens next is that we find better ways to work with unpleasant events and tricky emotions. In the absence of chaotic eating, better options appear as if by magic.

    Titelprent van het pamflet: Iamertiens Oft Aventuersche berouw Clacht gedaen aen den Ouwe trouwe Geus, 1619, anonymous, 1619, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

  • Something I ate last week: Supermoon Bakehouse

    What I Had for Lunch 

    "80% of primate neurology is devoted to checking out what the rest of the community had for lunch. It's how we're wired." --Dian Fossey I'm guessing

    You know how when social media was new, people used to say "I don't wanna know what you had for lunch"? I could never understand that. What are you, not a primate? I always want to know what you had for lunch. 

    ​On that note, here's something I ate last week, at Supermoon Bakehouse on the Lower East Side:

    And I tell you this so you know that

    1. I'm not some perfect clean-eating diet guru ladyperson (I hate the idea of "clean" eating; it's basically diet culture) and

    2. there is delight and deliciousness on the other side of an eating disorder and

    3. you can eat this shit without being overweight and

    4. you can eat this kind of thing for breakfast (or two of these things, which is what Iactually did) and still have salad for lunch because you feel like salad, not because it's payback time.

  • What you eat in Vegas stays in Vegas

    What you eat in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?

    Oh wait I have that wrong. That’s not how it works at all.

    I used to pretend that what I ate on holiday didn’t matter. Like I would have a magical reset the day after I flew home. Lalala, didn’t happen! <- better not step on the scale tho, missy.

    Or Thanksgiving, or Christmas. It’s exceptional, after all! Why should it count? Christmas is a day for eating whatever you want; that’s why Santa puts chocolate in your stocking! Treats: the reason for the season.

    I meannnn … right?

    That’s how I used to think, anyway. Then one day I just stopped drawing a veil of willful ignorance over anything I ate. 

    I started seeing how very many exceptions I was making - not just on vacation or at Christmas or when in great bakery cities like Paris or Portland, Maine. I started seeing that the truly unusual day was the day I didn’t make some allowance for “exceptional” circumstances.

    The point is, I saw it, and my brain saw it, and we looked at it together. I think I probably said Brain, are you seeing what I'm seeing? and my brain said Yep. Sure am.

    And I could never un-see it again.

    Naturally, I still eat bakery goods - if they’re good. And I hope to go back to Paris someday.

    But I will know that anything I put in my body there will be coming with me.


  • An easy way to shop and prep a week's worth of lunches

    As promised, here's a formula for shopping and prepping a week's worth of lunches.

    Is it glamourous? Decidedly not.

    Is it simple, easy, repeatable, nourishing and tasty?

    YES + YES + YES + YES + YES!

    Plus, what's really great about this way of eating lunch is it makes room for glamour at dinner. You've had your 5 a day already! Now you might relax a little. Put some nice Irish butter on that nice French bread, and not worry too much about it.

    Anyway, here's how I get lunch set up at the beginning of the week, so I'm not panicking and spending way too much money at the deli counter for food that's way too salty, way too rich and way too processed:

    Here's what I pulled out of the fridge at the end of the week. I always assess what's there before going shopping. (Where "always" means "what I do now.")

 Then I found more stuff later, as always. (THAT "always" means "always.")

    I want some kind of one-bowl situation every day, because I'm working and I don't have time to be fancy. This bowl will virtually always have these elements:


    • protein, usually chicken, tuna, eggs, beans, salmon, or a dinner leftover (about the size and thickness of my palm), but could be cheese like feta or queso fresco, in which case about half that much
. 
    • complex carbohydrates, usually vegetables of various colors, chopped, raw or roasted, sometimes steamed but that's a last resort, invariably including some white or sweet potato (about 2-3 closed fists' worth). So that typically means broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, purple cabbage, green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, spinach, romaine, other lettuces, chiles, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes.
    • fat, usually olive oil (I don't measure, just drizzle), sometimes olives, sometimes avocado

    Figure on 2-3 discrete vegetables for each meal. So if I'm planning to feed just myself for the week, that's between 15 and 20 units (or hunks) of vegetable for the week. For me, a head of broccoli is at least 4 units of vegetable. A Kirby cucumber is half a unit. A small sweet potato is 1 unit, a large is more like 2. You'll get to know what your units are very quickly.


    This is what I picked up on the first trip. I underbought and had to go back for herbs and things, but I live in a village and the store is close.

    I always get eggs if there are fewer than a half carton. Always a few cans of tuna in the cupboard. And I'll usually get a packet of 3 chicken breasts (air-chilled, if affordable and available) to sauté all at once, freezing some.

 You'll need 7 units of protein for the week.

    So I concentrate on food that can be prepped all at once, like

    • washed and chopped and eaten raw, like a lot of these veggies
    • or steamed or roasted in the oven
    • or boiled, like eggs 
    • or sautéed, like chicken
    • or just crumbled, like feta

    Then you can toss it all together in a bowl. Put your fat on top - olives, oil, avocado, nuts. Maybe a thumb's worth. Maybe 2 thumbs. Plus some nice salt and pepper, harissa from a jar, sriracha, or whatever you like.

    It's rather repetitive! And that's perfectly okay for a weekday lunch. These are tasty, filling and totally portable.

    So here are some of the lunches I had last week, good, bad <- terrible, actually! - and middling:


    This
    ☝️may have been the worst lunch I have ever made. Come to find out, Savoy cabbage doesn't last months like regular cabbage does. Jarred artichokes, also no.



    But this
    ☝️was good, especially with the last-minute aïoli my sous chef Mr Jones made. 



    This
    ☝️one was fantastic: baked sweet potatoes broiled with feta and chile flakes, plus a green gazpacho. (Had to go back to the store to get herbs for that.)



    And here's☝️a lunch that's really representative: Basically a Greek salad with avocado and sweet potato to make it filling.

    Finally, a recipe I use every week. It's delicious and dead easy:

    Sautéed Chicken Breasts 



    • Heat a skillet
 over med/high
    • Add some olive oil, salt and pepper
    • When the oil is hot, add the chicken breasts and let them sit there for 5 minutes

    • Turn them over, turn the heat down a bit, cover, and sauté another 5 minutes

    • Remove them and rest them on a cutting board for 5 minutes for the juices to be reabsorbed
    • Slice and pop them in the bowl! You can chill or freeze what's left.



    (Times will vary a little depending on the size of the breasts; you'll get to know.)



  • 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
      anyway
    • 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.

  • The affordable workshop is here!

    Let's do this.

    Oh you guys. You have been asking for an affordable class for some time now, and you deserve one. Let’s not wait any longer. Let's do this ASAP!

    We will cover all the Most Important Stuff:

    • How to start eating immediately - so that you feel good now, binge urges go away on their own, your hormones and weight start regulating themselves and your hunger calms down and life gets much, much easier.
    • How to quit bingeing NOW and/or overeating QUICKLY so that you never have to feel like crap about your eating ever again
    • How to make an identity shift so that the first two changes are comprehensive and permanent
    • How to handle eating in tricky situations like: restaurants, holidays and in the presence of nosy people who we all know should be minding their own business 

    That doesn’t hit everything we cover in Body of Knowledge, but I can promise you you’ll get everything you need to make a permanent change for the better: an end to bingeing, easy weight and hunger regulation, and whole lot of headspace back for living life without shame, obsession, self-hate and calorie-counting.

    I haven’t delivered this material in seminar form before. I’ll literally be workshopping this workshop! As such, it’ll cost less - probably in the neighborhood of $200 total - than I would typically charge for such a class.

    Here is how I imagine it happening: 

    1. one session of about 3 hours (with a couple breaks)
    2. by video conference (privacy / anonymity available)
    3. supplemental materials available before (and after)
    4. recording available afterward

    So! I want to know when you’d like to do this. Choices are between a midweek day, and a Saturday morning. Please vote here, and we’ll get this on the schedule in the next few weeks.

    That link again >>> VOTE HERE / VOTE AQUÍ

    Thank you all for pressing me to do this. We’re going to have fun! As I always say, getting your eating sorted is SO MUCH EASIER than they tell you.

  • How to retrain your palate

    It's possible to retrain your palate. And to reset your comfort strategy.

    Some of you may recall that I have a long history of tooth trauma - what one dentist gleefully calls “extreme architecture” and what I call “extremely bad luck.” I’ve got Post Tooth Stress Distress, where “post” is a condition that’s always possibly “pre.” Ugh, you know: one of those repeat situations we cycle through that makes us wail, as my pastry hero David Lebovitz says, “I want my Mommy!” For you it might be parent-teacher night. Or even just laundry day.

    For me, teeth. So when I broke a filling recently and had to get two emergency appointments, I very strongly desired a cup of hot chocolate afterward. 

    My dentist is in Harvard Square, right near Burdick’s Chocolates, what I used to jokingly/not joking refer to as My Spiritual Home. They make a dark hot chocolate concoction there, a tiny cup of which weighs as much as a black dwarf star. 

    However, I am retraining my palate away from the sweet end of the spectrum and more toward the bitter. So I went to the cafe right next to the dentist instead, and got myself a green tea. And declared to myself, very deliberately:THIS TEA WILL BE A COMFORT TO ME.

    (Those intention statements are like magic spells. Very important! Quite, quite effective.)

    Note: In Habit Reform School, they tell you to concentrate on one habit at a time. And that’s pretty good advice. I’m working on two “habits” here: 1. replacing one “comfort” food with another and 2. retraining my palate. Sometimes you can kill two birds with one stone. Plus I like to break rules.

    To be clear, you cannot talk yourself into retraining your palate or replacing your go-to comfort food if you don't want to. If you want the dark Bolivian hot chocolate and NOTHING ELSE WILL DO, very well then! Nothing else will do. And trying to scold, guilt, shame, harass, threaten, punish or publicly* "challenge" yourself out of it is ... most likely going to fail.

    But know that it’s possible to retrain your palate, at any age. Even if you justwant to want to eat less sweet or rich food, push in there a little. Experiment. Allow yourself the experience of disliking something, even, without trying to talk yourself into liking. 

    It’s also possible to reset your comfort strategy, if you’re willing to tolerate a little discomfort for a while.

    Do you have a comfort strategy you’d like to upgrade, maybe because it’s causing too much discomfort on the back end? Tell me about it. Just hit Reply.

    Also this! The smart and funny Sarah Bamford Seidelmann interviewed me aboutthe fastest way to get your eating under controlYou can watch the video here.

    *Because of the high odds of failure with "stick" methods, I would especially stay away from any methods that will leave a lot of witnesses. Who needs it? As any kind person will tell you, shame-based change strategies don’t actually produce change. 

  • Woman: Greatest untapped resource? 😡

    A woman cannot get her fire going when she's consumed with what she should and shouldn't eat. 

    When a person claims that women are the greatest untapped resource on the planet, we understand they’re saying something meme-able. Something suitable for Instagram tiles, annual International Women’s Day tweets, and mugs made in factories staffed by underpaid workers of all genders.

    Because we all know that women, as a resource, have been tapped and tapped and tapped and tapped and tapped and tapped for millennia. Often for purposes other than our own.

    I kinda like this metaphor: Woman is a volcano, ready to blow. A volcano of ideas and dreams and projects and schemes and fury and indignation, of love and protective rage, generative action, creative energy, and all kinds of powers natural and supernatural. 

    A woman is a volcano capable of frying down the world that put her molten fire of genius and creativity in a little chamber underground and told her to sit on it. While counting calories.

    Now there are many ways to keep the top on a woman's volcano, from the ever-present threat of physical violence that we know often goes unpunished, down to unequal bathroom access that constrains our participation in public life. 

    (And yes, in my next life, I will probably wage war against institutions that still won't grant equal access to bathrooms for women and other non-male genders. Designers: It's 2018!

    In this lifetime, the battle I have picked is helping women break the spell of dieting and bingeing and shame and dissatisfaction that has so many of us transfixed. 

    Because a woman just cannot get her fire going when she's consumed by what she should and shouldn't be eating, and what she weighed this morning. And there are so many more gloriously on-fire things to do when we break this cycle.

    If this diet-binge-shame spiral is binding you, and you are looking for the way out, I can help you break that spell. Most of my clients stop bingeing permanently after one meeting, even if they've been out of control for decades.


    Here's a page that describes how I work: maxdaniels.com/bok. If this is what you've been waiting for, contact me, and we'll set up a quick chat - no cost, no pressure - to see if we're a fit. 

    It's all so much quicker and easier than they say. That's part of how they getcha.

  • What to do about sugar. (For sugar lovers and sugar haters.)

    A quick note this week to point you to New York Times columnist David Leonhardt's sugar cheat sheet, published yesterday. Lots of simple (though not necessarily easy) tips here in the Smarter Living section.

    Leonhardt also published this piece on Big Sugar; worth your while.

    These aren't exhaustive guides, but they're good places to start.

    If you're already doing everything Leonhardt outlines, or doing as much of it as you ever want to, here's a further suggestion: Cultivate a taste for sugar's opposite, the bitter flavors. Even our vegetables are being bred sweeter and sweeter, to match our tastes.

    (It's also why white grapefruits are disappearing, which is a serious threat to lovely low-alcohol cocktails like the Italian Greyhound. Sad!)

    But we can change that.

  • A good-enough meal

    The job of food is to ... well, do the job.
    To be serviceable.

    I have a nutritionist friend - a scary-smart and talented nutritionist friend who I respect- who once said “I don’t eat anything that isn’t fabulous.”

    Not me! So different. I eat lots and lots of non-fabulous things.

    The truth is her definition of fabulous is different from most. Hers: healthy, beautiful, exquisite, well put-together, colorful, digestible, required for fuel. 

    Others would say fabulous = extremely, dreamily palatable on account of the high sugar, fat and salt content.

    Which I think is fabulous, too, in a sense, but not a great way to avoid weight or other health problems.

    I like to think that fabulous food is available to me, but should not be part of everyday meals. Fabulous = feasting. The kind of food that, even just a couple generations ago, people use to have only a few times a year. 

    In some parts of the world that’s still true. In my part of the world, super-palatable, very energy-dense food is what nearly every restaurant serves and the only thing the convenience store offers (with obvious differences in price and quality).

    So one of the things I ask clients to consider is making most of their meals serviceable, rather than exciting.

    In fact, when I tell people what I eat for lunch every day it can sound really lame. It’s usually something like sautéed chicken breast - or actually, part of a chicken breast, not the whole thing - or chile-lime boiled shrimp and at least three servings of vegetables. With an emphasis on color, rather than flavor. 

    (I’ve written here before that I like to get my five a day by lunchtime so that I can eat a smallish portion of whatever fabulous Thai thing my husband is cooking at dinner. I’m sure the Thai people eat their 5-a-day, too, but just like restaurants, cookbooks tend to focus on feast food, not the plain stuff.)

    Serviceable, to me, means plain food. Simple food. Everyday food. Not fabulous, glorious food. Just something that will keep body and soul togetherwithout challenging the system and my health too much.

    The truth is that people who are thin eat like this more than those of us who struggle with weight do. It’s not because they have a magic gene that lets them eat cheeseburgers and French fries all day with impunity. And it’s not because they’re willing to wrestle themselves to the ground avoiding the fries, either. 

    It’s because either

    • they were born with a taste for simple food
    • or their their parents imposed it on them
    • or they deliberately cultivated it when they figured out that cheeseburgers and fries all day are incompatible with good health and lower body weight.

    So that’s the bad news: If you want to change your body, you’ll have to change what you eat. And if you want to change what you eat, you’ll probably have to change your tastes.

    The good news is there’s kind of a shortcut to doing that.

  • Q: What does hunger run on?

    Why the usual alternative to dieting doesn’t work.
    And what does.

    As a woman who has struggled with weight and eating, you will be familiar with the idea, very popular right now, that all you need to do is “eat when your body is hungry, give your body what it’s asking for, and stop when your body has had enough.”

    Maybe that sounds like it should be easy. Maybe it sounds hard. If my experience and my clients’ experience is anything to go by, I think it’s impossible.

    Not that you can never get there. You absolutely can eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’ve had enough. What you can’t do is accomplish that the day you quit dieting.

    Dieting, if you don't already know, is just a terrible way to lose weight. (A meta-study of dozens of diet studies found that 97% of dieters gain weight after dieting. This doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight and keep it off. It means that dietingwon’t get you there.

    What is dieting good for? What dieting does best is lead to binge eating. Frantic, wild overeating driven by a survival urge. Which leads to regret and self-loathing. Which leads to vows to do better! Which always seems to be more dieting. Which leads to unbearable hunger, which leads to bingeing.

    You know this cycle. It doesn’t end in steamed kale, hard-boiled eggs and maca powder. Geneen Roth says, “the diet/binge cycle always ends in a binge.Always.”

    The longer you spend in that cycle, the more bent out of shape your natural hunger becomes. And awareness alone isn’t enough to restore it. 

    Hunger isn’t regulated by the mind or the heart or the willpower. Hunger isn’t appeased by spiritual or moral correctness. Hunger doesn’t really respond to the quality of your meditation practice.

    Hunger runs on hormones. And if you want to regulate those hormones, eat regularly. Eat meals, without requiring yourself to be hungry enough to deserve them. Regular eating will regulate your hormones.

    And in that calm, regulated state, it becomes very easy to tell when you’re hungry and when you’ve had enough.

  • It's always good to know when the next meal is coming.

    Hi friends! I spent my Saturday at a workshop put on by the OpEd Project, called Write to Change the World. (It’s one that I recommend to you, if you want to make a change in the world through your writing. Full disclosure: this one was taught by my good friend Amy Gutman, a speechwriter and author of legal thrillers (!!!).

    Anyway, I was the only person there who was not an academic with a political project. No other writer in the room was there to work on the problem of how women get into trouble trying to feed themselves. In fact, when I described my work, several women gave the feedback that they had “no idea” what binge eating was, and their questions told me that was true. 

    In other words, I was in a room full of unicorns, aka Normal Eaters.

    And yet! When the schedule for the day was sent out, much of it was given over to the topic of lunch. The schedule told us when lunch would be, where it would be, and exactly what every single menu choice involved. There was plenty of food to go around, even for the vegans. The schedule also mentioned the name of the pub where we headed after the workshop, and at what time.

    You might expect all that if this were a conference on eating disorders. But the fact is,a heads-up about meals is useful information for anybody. Someone at the OpEd Project gets it that a little control over how we feed our bodies is important to humans. 

    (And I salute that person!)

    Now people vary, but there are human eating patterns that are good - I’m just gonna say it - for pretty much everyone. Here are things this conference provided that binge eaters who want to quit bingeing could use more of: 

    Predictabilityknowing when the next meal is coming. Knowing that meals will be coming in a rhythmic pattern. Knowing that you get to eat meals no matter what you weigh, or what you ate most recently, or what time celebrities start eating again after their intermittent fasting period.

    Structure: having a beginning and end to meals, instead of continuing to graze and pick. Moving on to another activity after eating, and when the meal is over, thinking about things other than food. 

    And more formality, perhaps. Sitting down. Opening and closing the meal. Boundaries!  Making a choice from non-infinite possibilities.

    It’s often hard for overeaters to add structure and formality. These things can feel diet-y, like a burden that normal people don’t have to carry. But the truth is,chaotic eating isn’t good for thin people, either. 

    So if you have the idea that the opposite of an eating disorder is carefree eating, i.e.eating whatever you want, whenever you want, and not having to worry about consequences, structure might sound like a punishment. Or like deprivation.

    But a better way to think about this is that the opposite of disorder is structure. And you can create that for yourself.

  • My favorite food is cement. What's yours?

    My favorite food is cement. Well, practically. 

    It’s actually bread and cheese. In all its forms: baguettes and Mt. Tam. Quesadillas. Crackers and cheddar. Wholemeal biscuits and Stilton. Potatoes and cheese, also yes. 

    That’s what my “My Plate” always used to look like: take a plate, draw a line down the middle, stodge on one side, cheese on the other. Maybe a grape for garnish.

    And that’s … pretty much the formula for glue, right there. Very similar to cement, as far as one’s metabolism is concerned. Perhaps you know what I am talking about.  

    So, ugh! What is to be done? 

    If you share my love of stodge and want to shift that a bit, here are three things: 

    1. And this is kind of a first principle of breaking specific food habits: Addition, not subtraction. Put your effort into adding better food, rather than depriving yourself.

    2. Make that additional food vegetables. This is just obvious, right? You’ve heard it before. And according to the government and also Jamie Oliver, most of us still aren’t getting anything like 5 a day. I like to get my 5 out of the way by lunchtime, so I can enjoy some guilt-free cement at dinner. (Pasta and parmesan, yum!)

    3. Whatever that food is that you love but doesn’t really love you back, be it bread or cheese or ice cream or Twinkies, no need to make it into forbidden fruit. Here’s another principle: restraint, not restriction.

    In fact, so far from swearing off your problematic fave, you might decide to lean into it and upgrade. You could go from so-so bread and cheese to a homemade loaf and some fancy cheese you’ve never tried before. From a fancy cheese shop, even. Maybe you leave the gallon ice cream in the freezer and try a pint of crazy-flavor gelato instead.

    My upgrade this month: Sauces and dressings, which are my short suit in the kitchen. Why not to have a repertoire of good stuff to take my vegetables higher? My rational mind tells me there is no good reason for my fear of learning how to make sauces and dressings.  I’ll be documenting the attempts and the terror on Instagram Monday through Thursday during the month of February. 

    Join me if you like! Or just send me your favorite dressing recipes. MWAH!

    Okay, that's the week! I'll be back before you know it. Until then,
    👊   RESPECT! 💗  ADORE!  🙏   and thank you for reading. 

    PS  My job is to show you how to quit bingeing, quit dieting and start losing weight immediately. Most of my clients stop bingeing permanently after one meeting, even if they've been out of control for decades. Here's a page that describes how I work: maxdaniels.com/bok.

    If this is what you've been waiting for, contact me, and we'll set up a quick chat - no cost, no pressure - to see if we're a fit. 

    It's all so much quicker and simpler than you've ever been told. 

  • Ka-thunk! <- the sound of permanent cognitive change

    We've been talking about habits for a couple weeks now, and there was one last thing I wanted to mention. I used to be a project manager, and in project management there is a saying: "A plan is a picture of  how it ain't gonna go."

    That's what they say in software, anyway. In war, they say "No plan survives contact with the enemy."

    I mention this because it's January (still) and we're (still) seeing a lot of happy habit-building memes and slogans and posters at the gym. And I wish to point out this one thing because it will save us a little pain: No habit is established smoothly, perfectly and with total compliance. We don't go from one habit to the opposite habit without a few detours <- cold fact.

    But if we've been rewarding ourselves mentally when we actually do the thing we're trying to turn into a habit, we have a little mental flag in the sand. (Or the circuitry.) There's a bright spot up ahead that we can keep our eye on as we struggle back. And the quicker we find our way back, the oftener we'll do it.

    And the oftener we do it, the easier the path becomes.

    Some people would even say that staying on the path is second-best. That the whole point is getting back on after you've wandered off. That that's where everything happens.

    So again: Praise. Rewards. Plant the flag, and notice that satisfying neural ka-thunk! - the sound of permanent cognitive change - when you get back on with your habit.

  • What happens if you don't reward yourself? Spoiler: Nothing good.

    Last time we talked about acknowledging, appreciating and rewarding ourselves as a way to speed up habit change. Catching ourselves doing the right thing, and high fiving ourselves. The brain LOVES that.


    This week I want to talk about the opposite, because a common metahabit is NOT to reward ourselves. NOT to celebrate. Rather, to shrug off successes (it was nothing!), compliments (oh, this old thing!) and all manner of spotlights shining on us and any achievement, large or small. 

    (Haha just kidding! NO achievement is truly small. Not on this planet, girl.)

    Anyway, if we don’t acknowledge, appreciate and reward, it’s like moving the goalpost. It’s sending our brain the clear message: Not done yet. Not there yet. Miles to go before the reward.

    Aka "NOT GOOD ENOUGH."

    Listen, I don't know if there's any message MORE DESTRUCTIVE AND MORE PERVASIVE than "not good enough." What would make you give up faster? 

    And really, wouldn't you be smart to do so? If nothing's good enough anyway, seriously, why bother?

    We all of us already have heard that message of "not good enough" many times. Even well-meaning people give us that message once in a while.

    Evil-meaning people let us know we're not good enough all the time: the beauty industry, the diet industry, misogynists, racists and 99% of people selling something.

    So DON’T PILE ON. (That's Rule No. 1!) Don’t do their work for them. Don’t make shit worse. Don’t give yourself a reason to give up when you’re trying to make a change.

    Change is hard enough. We have to make it as easy as we can. <- Feel free to tattoo this where you'll see it.

    We can’t make it harder. So no moving the goalpost. When you’re there, you’re there.High fives! 

  • I'm giving you a gold star

    Acknowledgement, appreciation, rewards: Why are these so important? 

    We act like rewarding ourselves is optional, burdensome, maybe even inappropriate. Like, shouldn't we have grown out of this need for gold stars after second grade? 

    Nope! Rewards are not meaningless tokens. Even those little foil stars that my own second-grade teacher Mrs Doheny (RIP), bought in bulk and probably had tonsleft at the end of the year because boy, was that lady ever stingy with the gold stars.

    (This is why I love reparenting, by the way, not just because our parents may have missed a thing or two, but because we also had schoolteachers, soccer coaches, piano teachers, PE teachers, lunch ladies, other kids' soccer moms, and all manner of pseudo-parents who got in there with bad information, moved stuff around, possibly broke some nice things, and generally left our heads a bit of a mess. Which we can tidy up anytime we like.)

    But back to gold stars and why they're necessary. It's not just because we're traumatized little kids walking around in adult-sized, maybe "plus-sized" bodies. It's not just because we didn't get enough recognition when it would have benefitted us the most.

    It's because humans are built this way. Our minds are wired up to respond to rewards, and that is NOT something we grow out of. Wanting rewards and recognition doesn't mean we have arrested development. It means we're normal.

    So let's work with that structure. Let's just use praise and rewards, because it's effective to do so.

    Say you want to make a habit of eating 2 servings of vegetables per day. (You can do this by eating one cup of cooked greens or 2 cups of leafy greens, for example.) Here's how: 

    1. ACKNOWLEDGE yourself. Catch yourself doing the right thing: buying the greens, prepping the greens, eating the greens. You'll have to be paying attention, but the oftener you notice yourself doing the thing, the easier it will be to notice. (Which is another habit. You're forming a meta-habit!)

    2. APPRECIATE yourself. Do it out loud, girl! Say to yourself Look at you! You are DOING IT RIGHT NOW. Hell yes! They said it couldn't be done! They said I would never figure this out! AND YET! Here we are! Eating the broccoli. HELL, yes. Hahahahahaha! (Cackle optional.)

    3. REWARD yourself. You can actually use a gold star on a chart, if you like. Our brains don't need anything sophisticated. Stickers work great! I put mine right in my bullet journal. (You can go crazy on Amazon with Japanese stickers. Or just visit the art supply.)

    Acknowledge, appreciate, reward.

    When we give ourselves a gold star, we reinforce the habit we want to create. (Or help wreck the habit we want to break.) We put the bow on the package. The period at the end of the sentence. We tell ourselves we did it! We're there.
     
    And if we don't reward ourselves, we make change that much harder. More on that next time. 

  • I'm sick of eating! Have a recipe!

    Oh you guys! I am so sick of holiday food.


    Back to basics, then.

    Okay, many of you are American, and will be incredulous when I say that every Christmas, I gorge myself on fruitcake. And I think there is simply no way for us to understand each other unless you 1. grew up in a Commonwealth country where Christmas cake is taken seriously i.e. drowned in booze and thus greeted with glad cries or 2. come over to my house next December and let me feed you something that doesn’t have green cherries in it. You will die! <- my promise.

    (Note: I myself was born and raised in America, so please know that know I am a big weirdo. Still, I will try to persuade you that you are really missing something worthwhile if you lump all fruitcake in with Classic Joke fruitcake.)

    Anyway, the point is, I look forward all year to eating fruitcake, without which Christmas tastes of drought and sadness. And that’s literal, the years I start soaking the fruits in rum months in advance, and then baking the cakes and wrapping them in cheesecloth and giving them little drinks of booze once a week as the holidays approach. See? Taking things seriously.

    Then what? Then I eat tons of fruitcake at Christmas. 

    Also maybe some mince pies and gingerbread and marzipan and toffee and chocolates that people send (thank you, friends!) and gougères and eggnog and figgy pudding (jk; haven't had that since my grandmother last made it) and all manner of system-challenging foods that I get my fill of plus some and then can’t stand the sight of. 

    Every year ends this way. Sick to death of fancy food. Goodbye to all that, I say!

    And thus every year begins this way: A return to basics. The simple meal! The simple ingredients! Bring me the whole foods and nothing but the whole foods, I say.

    I noticed something was different this year, though. There was no shame in feasting. And no shame driving me to reform my eating.

    I mean, I know I’ve written about this no-shame thing, extensively, so why shouldthere be shame in feasting? 

    And yet: shame is a habit like any other, and it lingers. “Feeling fat” is a habit, and it lingers. “Needing to go on a diet, probably,” is an idea that if not found lingering in our own brain, is loitering right outside - despite the No hang out! sign you posted - and trying to get in all day, every day, especially in January. (And May.)

    It actually requires some effort and discipline to yank our attention away from these habits. Until the day that withdrawing your attention is something that actually doesn’t require effort, and that is a Great Day. That is the day I had this year, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when I realized I was sick of party food and tired of feasting and ready to eat differently.

    AND I DIDN’T HATE MYSELF at all.

    So without shame, punishment, or worry about what the scale said, I sat down and adopted this excellent savory breakfast, which I've eaten a lot since, and which you might like too. It comes from the recent cookbook Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes by Alison Roman. It tastes like relief, arrival and fulfillment.

    Smashed Cucumbers with Yogurt and Savory Granola
    (adapted from Dining In)
    makes one serving

    1. Squeeze a bit of lemon or lime over a serving of plain yogurt, whatever kind you like. I like Greek.
    2. Grate a bit of garlic over it - no more than a small clove for one person - add salt and pepper, and mix
    3. Smash one small Persian cucumber or 1/3 of a long English cucumber (inside a plastic bag) or just chop and add
    4. Sprinkle the top with a few slices of green onion and some Aleppo pepper (or if you have access to them, dried and crushed pulla chiles. THEY ARE THE VERY BEST.)
    5. Add some of Alison’s Savory Granola to the top (see the book for this recipe, or just combine lots of seeds and some nuts, salt, pepper, chile flakes, and a little soy sauce, an egg white or two, and bake as you would a sweet granola). Enjoy!

    Now is a good time for me to remind you that Amazon shares some money with me if you buy a book after clicking that link (aka affiliate link). I think they'll send me about 9 cents US. But I tell you what: that book is so good I would pay THEM to share it with you. I have never made so many things in the first month of owning a cookbook ever before. It is exactly as advertised: Highly cookable.

    By the way: My job is to show you how to quit bingeing, quit dieting and start losing weight immediately. Most of my clients stop bingeing permanently after one meeting, even if they've been out of control for decades. Here's a page that describes how I work: maxdaniels.com/bok.

    If this is what you've been waiting for, hit Reply to this email, and we'll set up a quick chat - no cost, no pressure - to see if we're a fit. 

    It's all so much quicker and simpler than you've ever been told. 

  • 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 masterclass.com 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: https://goo.gl/forms/Nkx8PvdwrvGS241r1. 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. 

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

Download your free cheat sheet now.