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 had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about her struggles with weight. She knows my story very well, and I have gone out of my way to encourage her to try a path similar to mine (work with a nutritionist, give yourself lots of time, focus on eating real foods in balance, etc.). She resists this path because she is on a quest that many of us are familiar with–the search for the quick fix to weight loss. She was telling me about how much weight she had gained, and that the Green Coffee Bean extract that she bought after seeing an episode of Dr. Oz hadn’t worked.
Her story made me so sad, and then mad. People make billions of dollars a year peddling this type of modern day snake oil to desperate people who have tried everything to lose weight. And in the first weeks of the new year, the advertising accelerates trying to capitalize on the guilt we feel after holiday indulgences. I used to be one of these people, chasing every fad diet and weight loss pill that promised quick and easy weight loss. A cruel promise because it offers hope but never delivers results.
I want you to be well informed about these products and their promises. So, I invited Brenna Thompson, registered and licensed dietitian with Nutritional Weight and Wellness and nutrition blogger (Eating Simple), to give you some researched information on the topic.
Brenna Thompson, LD, RD comments on Dr. Oz and his weight loss supplement peddling
Dr. Oz is about as bad as a politician when it comes to health and wellness. One day he tells us a healthy diet is low in fat, the next day he invites Dr. William Davis on to discuss wheat and gluten, and then the next day he has a nutritionist touting the newest weight loss miracle pill. So which is it Dr. OZ, what is the ultimate secret to weight loss? At this point I’m not sure even he knows.
Recently he spot-lighted the magical benefits of green coffee bean extract (GCBE). Supposedly, taking this supplement will melt away the pounds without having to change one’s diet or increasing exercise. Sounds too good to be true to me. However, unlike the famous
raspberry ketone show, there are a few studies, that have shown supplementing with GCBE may actually help people lose weight. Don’t get too excited just yet. The most recent study is very small (16 test subjects), who took a placebo, 700mg, 1050mg, for 6 weeks with 2 weeks between doses. Results showed an average weight loss of 6-10 pounds during the highest dose period. Unfortunately, there is no information on how long these people kept the weight off.
During the show, Dr. Oz went on and highlighted two audience members who took GCBE for 1 week. Both lost 2-5 pounds and stated that they had fewer cravings and more energy. But can we really trust them? They’re on Dr. Oz! Of course they’re going to say they felt great taking the supplement. In the words of Dr. House, “Everyone lies.” The Dr. Oz Show Medical Unit went on and conducted its own larger study using 100 overweight women and found that after taking 400mg of GCBE for two weeks the GCBE group lost 2 pounds and the placebo group lost 1 pound. Both groups were told not to change their diets. So then how did the placebo group still manage to lose one pound? Obviously this is not a very scientific study, and its results should not be trusted.
Currently no large, long-term studies have been performed on GCBE, so we don’t know how long a person can take it and possibly lose
weight. We also don’t know if there are any negative side effects from long term use. As usual, it doesn’t address the reason a person gained excess weight in the first place–poor diet habits. Sure people might lose weight, but they are not necessarily healthier. Body weight is not the problem, it is a symptom. Inevitably, once someone stops taking the supplement they will probably gain the weight right back.
For people willing to tune out Dr. Oz, long-term sustained weight-loss can be theirs. But it takes time and effort, and there are no magic pills. This year make a commitment to yourself. This year you are going to eat real foods. You are going to eat balanced meals and snacks and not starve yourself. This year you will stop believing in magic pills and quick fixes. This year you will begin believing in your own power to make good choices and to nourish your body.
I am a little late to the party commenting on these Blue Cross Minnesota ads that address the obesity epidemic. First, a couple of statistics:
- By 2019 obesity will become the leading cause of death.
- By 2030 50% of Minnesotans will be obese.
In the face of these terrifying numbers, you can see how it seems like a good idea to highlight food choices and how these choices look to our kids. These ads have been roundly criticized for being too shaming and down right mean. See for yourself.
I think the ads would be appropriate if we had a consistent and coherent message about what people need to do to lose weight; if the people in the commercials knew better, they could do better. But we don’t have these consistent messages. We live in the land of “calories in, calories out,” “Move more!” and other overly simplistic maxims about how to lose weight. We also live in a land where heavily-subsidized foods (corn, soy) are promoted as healthy, but they are making us fat.
It’s all about cravings
Anyone who reads this blog, and who is trying lose weight differently (something other than a one-size-fits-all diet), knows that losing weight takes more than this overly simplistic advice leads us to believe. If we truly want to help people, like the ones in these ads, make better choices, we need to shake off the overly simplistic advice and get real about what it takes to lose weight for the LONG TERM. Until we address the issue of people’s biochemical cravings for the bad stuff, people cannot lose weight. If we are relying on people’s will power to lose weight, which much of the advice does, they will fail over and over like I did for 30 years. No number of ads will change that.
What are your thoughts on the ads? Leave a comment.
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!
One of my biggest struggles I have with eating real food, in balance (aside from all the planning and prep), is transporting food to work, events, etc. I also bring a huge container of water to work every day, which adds to the problem. Most insulated bags do not have the space or strength to contend with the number meals and snacks that I have to carry around. Until now!
2 great bags from Whole Foods
I stumbled upon two of the most well-designed insulated bags at Whole Foods the other day (believe me, I've gone through many in my day): the insulated messenger bag and the square insulated bag.
They have nice wide straps that make carrying even the heaviest loads more comfortable. The square bag is smaller than the messenger bag, but it can carry a lot because it doesn't taper at the top like most bags. I use two ice blocks in the large bag and one in the smaller bag to keep stuff cold.
And what's best–I just saw that they have new colors. So you fashion-conscious people can get the bags in berry and blue or whatever color will match your outfit!
What's your favorite tip for transporting real food? 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.