Happy Eating
Happy Weight
Category: Happy Eating

Some thoughts on weight: I think any of us can be healthy and happy, or very unhealthy and unhappy, at a surprising range of weights. Your "ideal" weight will be one that you can keep without any extreme behaviors. If you're exhausted, overtraining, and undereating to maintain a particular weight, that is not your happy weight and it's definitely not ideal. You can't expect your body or your mind to sustain a level of stress and pain indefinitely. A happy weight is actually happy. You feel good, you're not hungry all the time, not chronically sore, not living in fear of gaining weight if you make one wrong move. Maintaining your happy weight will require awareness, but not vigilance, not fear. You shouldn't be walking around feeling like you're always on the brink of disaster. You should have confidence in your ability to handle all of life's curve balls (vacations, injuries, illnesses, work drama, in-laws) without weight gain being a factor. In other words, your happy weight shouldn't be dependent on adhering to a strict schedule or only eating certain foods.

Much of this is related to mindset, because beliefs tend to produce certain outcomes. When I believed that could never weigh less than 135 pounds without months of extreme dieting and grueling training, that was true for me. It wasn't true because it's such an unrealistic weight but because my approach wasn't healthy or sustainable. Months of hard training while undereating always led to binges, rebellion, and regain. My behaviors and attitude were the problem, not anything about that particular weight. When I approached it in a totally different way--healthy habits, fun, flexibility, gradual changes--my weight easily settled lower than I ever thought possible. I'm working out less, enjoying my food more, and not doing anything nuts. There's no stress response to keeping this lower weight because there's no stress. Nothing hurts. There are no nagging injuries, no lingering fatigue, no chronic soreness. I'm well rested and I'm well fed. 

My advice is to focus on health, happiness, and habits first. Don't fall into the trap of judging success or self-worth by a number. If you make it all about great, enjoyable daily habits, you might be surprised how easily you maintain a lower weight, or how fantastically awesome you look and feel at a slightly higher one.

The Secrets of Skinny Chicks
Category: Happy Eating

Here's another fascinating book that Amazon recommended for me, The Secrets of Skinny Chicks by Karen Bridson. Sometimes I find it hilariously perfect that all of my recommendations are like kettlebells, chocolate chips, and books about weight. A couple of months ago, my main page was filled with suggestions for cardio DVDs and ice cream machines. Do they know me or what?! :-D

I have mixed feelings about this one because it goes back and forth between brilliant examples of naturally thin  happy-eatering, and straight up diet ninny lore. Here is the premise. The author, a personal trainer and health journalist, interviews 21 thin women, not naturally thin women, but women who work at it. In most cases, they need to stay lean professionally - athletes, runway models, actresses, fitness competitors, dancers, showgirls, and body doubles. For each of the 21 women, she lists:

- a full sample day of food with calorie totals

- an overview of their weekly exercise routine with calorie expenditures

- their height, weight, body fat percentage, BMI, measurements, and clothing size

- an interview about their food and workout philosophy

- an evaluation of their approach by a Ph.D from a health and weight loss research center, a personal trainer, and a dietitian

(At this point in the description, I'm buying the book. I don't even care what the rest of it is, I just want to know what body doubles eat and how big they are!)

So, that's the first part of the book. Throughout these interviews she highlights "Skinny Secrets" that the women use, such as - lift weights, stop dieting, work in the yummy stuff, get a portion size wake-up call, learn what your metabolic rate will allow. The second part of the book explains each one of these 50 secrets in more detail and then gives you suggestions and examples for making them happen in your own life. The third part is an action plan that I haven't even looked at yet.

All of this sounds good right? But just because you're thin doesn't mean you have any clue what you're doing! One of the models had a granola bar and a Dr Pepper for breakfast every morning. One didn't drink any water, only tea and Gatorade. One spent 40 minutes a day, 7 days per week on the elliptical trainer. The author talked about running 10 miles on Christmas Eve and another 10 on Christmas Day as a preemptive measure?!?!? Or calculating how many minutes of cardio you would have to do to burn off various foods. In the part about lifting weights, she suggests you start by putting 2, 5, and 10 pound "hand weights" near the television. She didn't even use the word dumbbells.

I'm sure some of my facial expressions as I read were fascinating. I'd be nodding in agreement one minute and rolling my eyeballs all the way out of my head the next. However, I still recommend this book because it is fascinating, I mean, FASCINATING! If you're carrying any delusions about what it takes to be a size 2 swimsuit model - how little you have to eat and how much you have to move - this book will cure you of your delusions. Most of these women eat between 1200 and 1600 calories per day and exercise as much as 2-3 hours per day 6-7 days per week. Not all of them. Some exercise much less and eat 2,000+ calories. Some of the women who exercise the most actually do eat the cookies in the break room at work every day, drink sugared soda, and eat bread with dinner. They're all different and they're all human with cravings that must be satisfied. What they have in common is the consistency. Nobody diets in the sense that they do something crazy for a few weeks and then go "back to normal." What they do every day IS normal. They all talk about how you can be dedicated and work hard, but it has to be in a way that you genuinely enjoy and can live with. You need your treats, your favorite foods, your holiday meals, your restaurant outings. They all have various ways of accomplishing that. 

The Secrets of Skinny Chicks is an incredibly interesting book. You just have to read it with your brain on, collect all the ideas that resonate with you, and disregard everything that seems cuckoo. The reviews on Amazon seem to be split between 5 stars from people who loved the skinny chick interviews and got something out of it they could use, and 1 stars from the sour grapes crowd who aren't interested in eating that little or moving that much. I don't think blindly imitating a runway model's routine was the point though. It was more like, what could I learn from the way she does things and how could I apply it to my own situation and goals?

Once again, I am hopping up and down waiting for someone else to read this and comment. Let me know what you think!

Romanticizing Food
Category: Happy Eating

 

I've been reading a book called Skinny Thinking: Five Revolutionary Steps to Heal Your Relationship with Food, Weight, and Your Body by Laura Katleman-Prue. There is a section in the book called Letting Go of Romanticizing Food. This part really stood out:

"Part of our healing requires us to stop glamorizing food by withdrawing some of our false projections onto it and false meanings we've given to it. A balanced relationship with food would be more like your own relationship with toilet paper. Okay, I admit this is a crude analogy, but with both food and toilet paper, quality is important. They both fill a need (when you need it, you need it!), the experience of using them is quick, and most importantly, there's no need to think about them when you're not using them. It's not like you're going to create an overblown fantasy anticipating the velvety softness of two-ply Cottonelle!"

What do you think of that? I agree that food problems often spring from romanticizing it. It's great to enjoy good food when you're hungry and it's time to eat. It's probably not great to fantasize about food constantly. When you turn it into your friend, your enemy, your comfort, your partner in crime, your Friday night, your emotional boost, the highlight of your week, that's when the relationship starts getting dysfunctional. Actually, just entertaining the idea that you have a "relationship" with food is probably dysfunctional, but a lot of us have treated it that way. You turn to it in hard times. You sneak and "cheat" to spend time with it. You feel guilty afterward. You break up. "Never again," you say and you kick the cookies to the curb. But then next thing you know, you're back together! And it's a blissful reunion, perhaps because it's forbidden. LOL

I mean, wow! That's a role that food was never meant to play. Imagine projecting all of that importance onto any other inanimate object? It's weird, right?!  Like that woman on TLC's "My Strange Addiction" with the Teddy bear babies. :-) Thinking about a random object in such an overblown, almost romantic way, giving it that much significance, can only cause problems and suffering.

I know that food is more than food. It has cultural and social significance. I don't think it has to be completely utilitarian, like toilet paper. But I think it's really important to keep it in context. There's a time and a place to celebrate with food. If it's not that time or place, your mind should be elsewhere. I guess that's sort of what I've done with creating a routine with my meals and a schedule for certain treats. When it's time to eat pizza and ice cream, I totally enjoy the experience. When it's not time, I don't even think about it. That has been insanely freeing. I used to battle every day with food decisions, temptation, excitement, guilt, anticipation, remorse, vows to change,  all these strong emotions that shouldn't have a single thing to do with lunch.

It's much easier when everything has a time and a place, "I'll eat that on Tuesday." Or, "I'll have two bites." Then my thoughts are onto something else. I don't like to spend all day every day dwelling on what I will or won't eat. I've put food back into a proper context. Only, I hadn't realized I'd done that until I read the toilet paper analogy.

What do you think? Have there been times in your life when you've romanticized food? Do you still do it? Do you think you could or should stop? If  you have stopped, how? 

I also have a sneaking suspicion that processed, engineered, highly-palatable, "too-good" junk/snack/fast/convenience/restaurant foods have played a part in people's brains forming inappropriate romantic relationships with fatty, crispy, sugar-coated type things. The more I've reduced my consumption of those, the saner the whole thing has become!

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