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.

 

 

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How Nutrition Can Support Addiction Recovery

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.

Alcohol and drugs

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:

Women, Addiction and Treatment on Dishing Up Nutrition Podcast

I hope you listen and learn about your own cravings, or pass it along to someone struggling with chemical addiction.

 


Thoughts on how to navigate Turkey Day (or Carb Fest 2012)

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, I am thinking about and planning for how I am going to enjoy the holiday without gorging on carbs. I just don't want to lose any more ground, as I try to maintain my weight loss (it has been a struggle the last few months). I have done well the last few major holidays, but Thanksgiving has always been a challenge for me. I just love the food combinations present: sweet jellied cranberries with savory turkey; stuffing and mashed potatoes; and you all know my weakness for pie! I also got a question from a woman in my Nutrition for Weight Loss class about how to gracefully pass on the high-carb and gluten-ey items (she is gluten and dairy free, as am I).
Turkey

I double up on turkey and pass on the rolls.

So there are many pitfalls for us who are trying to eat real foods in balance, while watching the carbohydrates, to lose weight. Here are some things I do to handle the food choices gracefully:
  • 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.

 

 

 


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!

Two hours of cooking made fun with recipe, music apps

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.

Wild rice meatballs, salmon patties, and healthy sloppy joes

Wild rice meatballs, salmon patties, healthy sloppy joes, cranberry wild rice salad, and zucchini supreme

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.

 


3 recipes to rev up your metabolism

Sweet potatoes roasted with coconut oil and sea salt

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 on Dishing Up Nutrition! The New Science of Weight Loss—More than Eating off Small Plates

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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!

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