My husband and I are streaming and watching Season 5 of Mad Men (spoiler alert).Last night we watched the episodes in which Betty Draper (now Francis) begins to struggle with her weight, initially because of a growth on her thyroid gland and then because of her overwhelming cravings.
It was eerie to see how well the writers and actress capture her food rituals and emotions as this “always thin and beautiful” woman shifts in her identity. Some examples:
- When she fakes sick to get out going to a party because her dress won't zip.
- Her daughter leaves a half-finished ice cream sunday on the table, and after a couple of beats, Betty finishes it.
- After joining one of the first Weight Watchers groups, she accepts a bite of steak her husband offers her after midnight because she can “count it toward the next day's food.”
- Starving, she runs to her fridge and squirts Redi whip into her mouth, savors it for a moment, and then spits it out, so the calories won't “stick.”
- Nervously discussing the impending Thanksgiving Holiday with her WW group and how they will prepare emotionally. Smash cut to Betty with the most pathetic Thanksgiving plate in front of her–four small bites of each entree and a single brussels sprout lording in the center of the plate.
- Betty catches a glimpse of her ex-husband's very thin wife putting on her shirt. The look on her face is a perfect mix of envy and sadness.
These episodes evoked a variety of emotions in me–sadness, dread, fear. Mostly, I recognized myself and my struggle with weight in every scene. In one episode, Betty is waiting in line to get weighed in front of everyone at her WW meeting, as the “weigher” proclaims “you had a good week!” to one of the women. I was right back in all of the WW meetings I had ever attended. I could almost feel the heat rising in my face as I remembered getting the “good week” message, and the devastation I felt when I got the silent treatment or “next week will be better!” message.
This story arc also showed me how my mother's generation became lifelong dieters, and then passed all that they knew down to my generation (and on and on). This generation forgot how their mothers ate to stay slim, and started blaming themselves for being weak willed and lacking in self-control. They also started trusting experts with products to sell, relying on diet pills, eating processed foods, and going on diets like Weight Watchers that reinforced the idea that their overeating was all emotions based.
We have spent a long time in the wilderness of low fat, low calorie eating. It's been a long time coming for advice like that from Julia Ross (her book: The Diet Cure) and Gary Taubes (his book: Why We Get Fat) to take hold, so women like Betty Draper don't have to suffer. They can finally understand the biochemical connections to their weight gain, and stop punishing themselves for their lack of will power.
Julia Ross's revised and updated edition of “The Diet Cure” came up today during my nutrition educator training. My fellow nutrition educators were raving about it. My initial thought was, “Ugh, not another diet book.” I have spent so much money on diet books in my life lived with fat, only for them to present such a narrow and incomplete picture of what it takes to lose weight for the long term.
Despite my reservations, I bought a copy, opened to the first page and read this:
“This is not going to be like any diet book you have ever read. I won't mention calories except to forbid you to eat too few! I won't tell you to tune in to your “real” appetite because I know that if you could have you would have long ago. I won't tell you to discipline yourself because I know that your weight and eating habits are not the result of laziness, gluttony, or weak willpower.
You are trapped inside a body that is malfunctioning, and that body needs help. Years of dieting, psychotherapy, and the best pep talks about fitness can't help much when what you really need is a biochemical overhaul.” –Julia Ross, The Diet Cure
I almost cried. “What if I had read this statement when the book came out in 1999?” I asked myself. I couldn't help but think that I could have started to get good information about the real, biochemical reasons for my obesity (I topped out at 270 lbs) a full decade earlier than I did. Would my weight have gotten so out of control had I known about this book? All the time I spent beating myself up over my weak will, would I have felt differently about why I was obese?
I highly recommend this book to you as you start or continue on your weight loss journey. It answers so many of the “whys” of compulsive eating and weight gain. It also includes an awesome section called, “Depleted Brain Chemistry: The Real Cause of 'Emotional' Eating.” I have always thought that the concept of “emotional eating” is code for “you're fat because you can't control yourself and you are weak willed.” Ross clearly outlines why will and emotion have nothing to do with compulsive eating.
Have you read the book? Let me know what you found helpful!
I felt the need this week to highlight Nutritional Weight and Wellness's new website. It is such an unbelievably helpful resource if you are seeking weight loss and good health. You can access articles, podcasts, and videos on a wide range of health topics with a simple search. You get all content related to that topic in one place. I have a friend struggling with Fibromyalgia, and this will be a great resource for him.
The recipes have all been re-organized and have lovely photos with them. I have a pot of the Chicken Wild Rice Soup simmering on the stove right now! It is a complete and balanced meal that will help me lose weight.
I was on Dishing Up Nutrition this past Saturday talking about habits that hold back weight loss. You can listen here or download the show from iTunes. We talked about a lot habits that keep us from reaching our weight loss goals, including “closet eating” episodes like wolfing down a bag of M&Ms in the Menard's parking lost. It was a great show, and I hope you enjoy it!
I have wonderful readers. This week, I wanted to feature a question I got from Jane, and my response. I thought many of you could relate to her question and my response.
Question from Jane
I also am getting all my meals and snacks in so I am not hungry. I have been doing this ever since I got back from Paris–when I went on a bread and beer binge–and my cravings have never been quieter. Now that my cravings are quiet, I can focus on getting good food, and I am SLOWLY losing those 10 pounds. I asked my nutritionist about this and she told be that glutamine works so well for cravings because it is the only amino acid that the brain can use to make glucose. So, with your brain getting the glucose it needs from the amino acid, you don’t crave bread. It also heals your gut, which is key to metabolism and weight loss.
I get many questions from people about how I maintain my 90-pound weight loss, and even better, lose weight. It's pretty simple and a bit boring–I plan, plan, plan, then cook, cook, cook. The key to my having healthy carbs, fats, and proteins at the ready is my weekly two-hour cooking session. Here's what I made today.
I will use the food from these recipes to make: meals for my family, my son's lunches, my husband's snacks, and my ample snacks and meals (remember, I eat 5-6 times a day to keep my blood sugar balanced–the best way to lose weight for the long term).
How I make it fun and easy: apps, podcasts, music
Seems like a tall order–making food prep and cooking a fun activity and not a chore–since I have a long list of things I'd rather do. I use Paprika, an iPad/iPhone recipe manager app, to help me keep my recipes organized and easy to follow. I enter recipes into the app or load them from the browser, and then when I'm ready to shop I simply add the recipe to my grocery list. The app is also on my iPhone, which I use to shop and track what I buy.
I like to listen to nutrition podcasts while I cook (yes, I'm that much of a nutrition nerd). I use Downcast to download them and keep them all organized. If I'm in more of a music mood, I turn on the 70's station on Spotify.
Food planning is self care
This is what it all comes down to. When you make food that nourishes your body, you are caring for yourself and your family. I've found that unless it's fun, or at least enjoyable, I won't do it.
I hope you can use these tips and apps to inspire your self-care cooking session!
Have a favorite app that helps you plan? Share a comment now.
I thought I would repost this blog from 2010. Some things have changed since then, but this post captured a day in the life of my eating. It was helpful to so many people. This type of post takes a lot of planning, but I am going to make every effort to do more of these. The more people I meet along this weight loss journey, the more I know they just want to know what to do!
So, here’s an oldie but a goodie. Enjoy!