Betty Draper Goes to Weight Watchers

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.

Betty Draper Francis Gains Weight

Betty Draper Gains Weight in Season 5 of Mad Men

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.




Reader Q and A: Post cruise weight loss slump

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.

Feet on a scale

Question from Jane

Back in April I attended your “Get Inspired” session at Nutrional Weight and Wellness in St. Paul; I was so inspired by your story.  I follow your blog and have been following the NWW plan since December 2011.  In the last couple of months I’ve been having a much harder time staying on plan and staying focused.  I was doing really well until July when my husband and I went on a cruise since then I’ve had a terrible time getting back on track and I’ve put on weight and feel so yucky!
I’ve been meaning to email you for months to ask how you do it?  How do you stay on plan and focused?  And when you were losing your weight did you have to be perfect all the time, or could you have the occasional slip but get back on plan and continue to lose weight?  At times I still worry that I’m eating too much fat, but then remember what I’ve learned and resolve not to cut back, but when I don’t lose I worry that that may be the culprit!  Before our trip I noticed that my body felt so good and looked good, but hadn’t really lost weight or inches.
Since we’ve come home and I’m not following like I was I’ve gained both inches and weight!  I’m so frustrated and thought maybe you’d have some quick advice for me.
Thank you so much for any help you could offer.

My answer

I am so glad you wrote. It’s such a struggle sometimes, isn’t it? Believe me, over the last four years I’ve gone through it all. And I am still going through it. I am working on losing the 10 pounds I gained in 10 days in Paris! My body is getting more and more fussy when I go off plan.
I absolutely was not perfect when I was losing the 90 pounds. I think I was on plan about 90% of the time. It was when I tried to be perfect that I slipped up most often. When I gave myself permission to be flexible and try my best, I did much better than aiming and missing for perfection. I found that over time, I was able to minimize the damage from those slip ups, and they didn’t matter as much.
It sounds like you are where I was at the end of my first year. The year that I didn’t lose one pound. I also wasn’t following the plan but for 40% of the time. I was still sliding into fast food drive ups and getting M&Ms at the checkout of Menard’s. I needed that year to get used to this way of eating. I know some people change overnight. I took a year to get ready for the change–I see this now in hindsight.
My body also needed that year to heal my metabolism. After all, I had been on a one woman mission to destroy it for the previous 25 years, with diets and bad food.
The fat (butter, coconut oil, olive oil) is key to getting your cravings under control. If you don’t have the fat, you are going to crave the bad stuff (donuts, bread, grains, etc.–the stuff that makes you fat).
Lately, my cravings have been SO calm. I really do have a “take it or leave it” attitude toward carbs and sweets. Why? I think it is my pre-meal cocktail (3 times a day that is):

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 hope this helps you re-ignite your efforts. I was totally hopeless after trying to do this for a year in 2008. In 2009, I really decided to eat this way most of the time. I started doing yoga and walking more, and things started happening. And they can happen for you too!
I will answer your questions, too. Just leave a comment!

Reader Q and A: Why is NOTHING happening with my weight

I have wonderful readers. This week, I wanted to feature a question I got from Linda, and my not so polished response. I thought many of you could relate to her question and my response.

Feet on a scale


Question from Linda

I finally had a phone consultation [with a nutritionist at Nutritional Weight and Wellness] 3 weeks ago. So, I’ve been ‘working the program’ and so far, I do not see any results. I had actually been following along since February and saw no big weight drop, so that’s why I decided to finally go for it and have a consult.

I haven’t eaten bread or flour since the middle of February and I truly expected to see something happening. My weight keeps going up and down the same 5 to 7 pounds it’s been bouncing for the last two years! We eliminated dairy, too. BUT this is where I need to ask a question. Do you totally eliminate dairy or do you use any yogurt or cottage cheese? I stopped eating any sliced or shredded cheese, but I sorely miss my Greek yogurt. I tried making my smoothies without it, but I miss it and I loved that it is so packed with protein.

I can’t tolerate milk – but not yogurt or cheese, so we thought eliminating it would be a good idea to test out a dairy intolerance. I see no change. I talk with Cassie again next week, but I am really stumped as to why I am not losing weight. Funny thing is, my clothes fit better or are loose. It’s crazy!

I’m kind of disappointed because I feel that I have really worked hard and have eliminated a lot from my diet. Anyway, next week I will definitely be working this out with my nutritionist. The ONLY thing I can think of is that I use cream in my coffee and now I’m even cutting back on that. Do you drink any coffee or tea with cream?

Call me frustrated.

My answer

You are not alone. I went ONE FULL YEAR before anything happened eating this way. One full year. I am not saying that this will happen to you, but it really does take time for your metabolism to heal (at first when Kara told me this “healing” stuff, I thought it was BS; but it is true). In fact, Dr. Schwarzbein says, “You have to be healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to get healthy.” It is really true. Our bodies are conservative systems, and they need time to “get on track.”

So, it is no surprise to me that you are getting these results (no weight loss, but clothes that fit better). I have been through this very cycle about 5 times. I have just come through a really sticky one that went on and on for a year! Same 10 pounds just not budging. Now, things are happening. This is why quick-fix diets are so enticing and addictive. They really get you hooked on the process of quick weight loss in those first few weeks, but then fail in the long term. This one takes time to get going, no way around that, but really works in the long term.

As for the dairy, I moved away from everything, including yogurt. I would ask your nutritionist about the greek yogurt. I know the goat milk stuff doesn’t contain the hormone that can cause weight gain. So, maybe that kind would work for you. I still eat goat cheese even though I am dairy free.

Now cream is considered a fat, not dairy. So, I still have whipped cream and full fat cream in my coffee. So, don’t worry about that.

One thing to do, is verify with your nutritionist that she is giving you the Nutrition 4 Weight loss eating plan. It is slightly less fat than their regular plan. The idea being that a bit less fat frees up the liver to metabolize more of your body fat (I think this is how it works).

Also, I am gluten-free. If you haven’t gotten rid of the grains, this could be just the trick. Did you hear the Dishing Up Nutrition podcast from this past week with the doctor who wrote “Wheat Belly”? It was really interesting. He talks about the amazing weight loss from people who have given up wheat and other troublesome grains.


Get yourself out of the “Fat Trap”

I just read this excellent, well-researched article about why counting calories and following crash diets are a fool’s errand. Lea Wetzell, from Nutritional Weight and Wellness, really shows you how these approaches to weight loss alter your body, getting you on the path of frustrating weight loss and gain.
Caught in the “Fat Trap”

By Lea Wetzell, MS, CNS, LN

Calorie counting; adding up points; weighing, measuring and journaling every ounce of food; countless hours at the gym; stepping on the scale day in and day out; and still fat? Does this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. As a nation we have become obsessed with dieting and exercise, but all of these efforts have not put the slightest dent in our obesity epidemic. Currently in the U.S., over a third of the population is considered obese and two thirds overweight. Why are we caught in this fat trap? Maybe losing weight is more complex than just counting “calories in” and exercising “calories out.” Read the rest of this article