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.
Very often, people who struggle with food cravings (and their weight) also struggle with powerful cravings for drugs and alcohol–after all, the same biochemical processes are at work in both situations. Recently, I found out that someone I care about is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. I have great empathy for addicted people, because I know what it's like to experience overwhelming cravings for things that damage my health and well being.
Helpful Podcast about Addiction
So, I wanted to tell you about a great episode of Dishing Up Nutrition that helped me understand how good brain health plays a critical role in recovery:
I hope you listen and learn about your own cravings, or pass it along to someone struggling with chemical addiction.
- Unless you have interfering aunts, or an overly-watchful mother, no one really notices what you're putting on your plate. Don't put anything on your plate to satisfy someone else (easier said than done, I know). For the interfering relatives, you can but out the old fashioned, “I'm watching my figure!” Works every time.
- I typically double up on turkey, take a small amount of mashed potatoes, and load up on green veggies. I do have cranberries with my turkey. If I stick to this, I don't have the normal bloated, tired feeling after the meal.
- Dessert is a mine field. I love pie, and there are usually five different kinds to choose from. I leave it to the day to decide if I will have a small piece. I gauge how I am feeling and whether or not I will feel too deprived if I pass on it. Usually, if I can get a nice cup of coffee with real whipping cream I am fine. Otherwise, I go for it. I just insist on a pie made with butter and not hydrogenated oils.
Have a favorite tip for eating during the holidays? Leave a comment.
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.
For the past two months, I have been training to be a nutrition educator. I am learning so much about nutrition and how to help people make changes in their eating. Part of my training is to observe other teachers. One of my teacher trainers, Angela, is simply masterful at connecting with her students and meeting them where they are. One of the things she reminded me of this week is that “people just want to know what to do and what to eat.”
So, I am going to get very practical this week and give you three of my favorite recipes–recipes that will rev up your metabolism and help you lose weight. You can combine these into a meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This meal is a perfect balance of protein, healthy carbs, and fat–what you need for a healthy metabolism.
- Crispy sweet potatoes (this is one Angela gives out to her classes): Slice a bunch of sweet potatoes and put on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (makes clean up easy). Coat them with coconut oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. I eat a half a cup of these with this meal.
- Salmon cakes: These are awesome. A great way to get some omega 3s while getting protein.
- Spinach with red pepper flakes: This one is easy. Cook up a couple large handfuls of fresh spinach in butter or coconut oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and red pepper flakes. Done!
I use a half a tablespoon of organic ketchup with the “fries” to get the full experience of an old unhealthy favorite.
How do you plate up a healthy meal? Leave a comment.
I will be a guest on Dishing Up Nutrition this weekend, Saturday, January 14 at 8:00 a.m. (download the podcast on iTunes). We will talk about the new science of weight loss, and how it is more than eating off of smaller plates. We will talk about how overly simplistic advice, like “eat off of smaller plates,” ultimately sabotages people’s weight loss efforts. This is because people are not taught to manage the overwhelming cravings that cause them to “eat the kitchen” and gain weight.
To give you a taste of what we will discuss, I have listed a couple of the crappy bits of weight loss advice received over my 25 years of dieting (and my commentary):
- Take a bubble bath when you feel hungry. (why not eat)
- Don’t eat after 6:30 pm. (a healthy, fat-ladened bed time snack will balance your blood sugar and help you sleep; sleep is key to weight loss)
- Take a bite, then put your fork down; take a sip of water, and then cut your next bite; take another bite and repeat (lesson: what you are eating is so unsatisfying that you must follow this torturous procedure to eat it, only to give you the illusion that you are satiated)
All of this advice contributes to fat people’s already heightened state of anxiety around food and eating. Most importantly, it is necessary because the food most diet plans recommend you eat is so unsatisfying, and unable to deliver the feeling of being satiated, that they have to tell you something to curb the out-of-control cravings that result from what and how they are telling you to eat.
So, listen to the show and call in if you can!