broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘diet’

So after I spend months in self-denial, my reward is…more self-denial?

In beauty, behavior, food, Health, life on January 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Interesting, if deeply depressing, story in The New York Times Magazine by the paper’s health reporter, Tara Parker-Pope, about how bloody hard it is to lose weight — and keep it off:

While researchers have known for decades that the body undergoes various metabolic and hormonal changes while it’s losing weight, the Australian team detected something new. A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost. For instance, a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study. Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.

“What we see here is a coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight,” Proietto says. “This, I think, explains the high failure rate in obesity treatment.”

While the findings from Proietto and colleagues, published this fall in The New England Journal of Medicine, are not conclusive — the study was small and the findings need to be replicated — the research has nonetheless caused a stir in the weight-loss community, adding to a growing body of evidence that challenges conventional thinking about obesity.

I’m writing this post the day the story appeared and it’s already listed on the Times’ website as the fifth most e-mailed and eighth most-viewed story of the day.

“You see! It’s not just me!”

I can hear the frustrated bellow echoing across the internet, as fatties tell their skinnier/self-righteous family to back the hell off on the single easiest way to nag someone and make them really miserable. By telling them how to lose weight. “All you have to do is…”

I know because I need to lose weight — at least 30 pounds — and my father never lets me forget it. When I went out to British Columbia last year to put my mother into a nursing home — she, a former model with wrists the diameter of twigs — said “You’re fat.” Nice.

Two years ago this month I went to a nutritionist who put me on a vicious diet. No sugar of any form for a month. No carbohydrates or fruit for the first two weeks. I measured everything I ate with measuring cups and spoons. I drank a lot of water.

Yes, it worked. I refuse to get on a scale but I know my body — and see how my clothes fit. I shed 15 to 20 pounds within four months. I looked and felt great. Worried neighbors stopped my husband to make sure my weight loss was benign.

And then….why, yes, the weight came back on.

No, it didn’t creep up on me in my sleep. It showed up in the ways it does for all of us who weigh more than we should: through my own choices, of dessert, beer, the occasional cocktail, gooey French cheese.

Pleasure.

I have no tidy answers on the battle between sensual enjoyment of a wide variety of food and drink, to me one of life’s great gifts, and being lean, taut, ever-vigilant for every stray calorie, exercising every day for hours to make sure the flesh is vanquished. My fridge contains the Holy Grail of 0 percent fat Greek yogurt. I eat it every day — and am sick to death of cold, wet, sour — but healthy! — nutrition.

There is a terrible, sad irony that millions of people worldwide are dying of starvation as the rest of us freak out over calorie counts and portion sizes.

Have you gained weight — and lost it — and kept it off?

Do you find it difficult?

Emotional Eating — When You've Gotta Have Some Salt/Fat/Sugar

In behavior, food on July 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm
Brussels Waffle (known in the USA as Belgian W...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been so good — eating much less and much healthier than ever before.

But yesterday I fell so far off the wagon it was lost in the the distance.

Because I had to say goodbye to my Mom, who I see, at most, once a year and sometimes only every two years; we live very far apart and the costs of hotel (small apartments for us both with too-big personalities) make it a challenge to do it frequently. She lives in Canada, and I in the U.S., having traded our native countries.

I hate that goodbye, not knowing when, or if, I’ll see her again. She’s 76, in OK health, living alone. I’m her only child.

She beat me bloody at gin rummy and I trounced her at Scrabble. That’s a good visit for us.

So it was a plate of Belgian waffles, (whipped cream and strawberries), that morning on the ferry ride back to Vancouver. It was a beer at lunch, and some of the fries that came with my fish and chips. It was a package of wine gums (a chewy candy I can’t find in New York.)

Yes, dammit, all in one day.

Comfort food. It didn’t heal my sadness, but at least I’m now quite conscious when I make lousy choices and why.

Today I took a long bike ride around Stanley Park, admiring herons and seaplanes. Healthier, more fun, fewer calories.

The first wagon-abandonment — and the first time I was really aware of this comfort connection — was the day True/Slant was suddenly sold to Forbes, putting my future with them (still) in doubt. I had a small scoop of ice cream and it tasted very good. Wrong choice, yes, but the day a carrot really makes me feel better I’ve turned into a rabbit.

What’s your comfort food? What pushes you to (over) indulge in it?

Happily Married? Time For Bigger Trousers

In behavior, food, Health on June 13, 2010 at 2:35 pm
A picture taken, of A Green Salad.

Yummmmmm.....Image via Wikipedia

Not surprisingly, people who have found a partner and settled into a happy marriage or life with them, tend to gain weight, reports Abby Ellin — (author of a book on teens and weight loss) — in The New York Times:

Call them happy pounds, love chub or the marriage 15. No matter what, gaining weight during marriage is about as common as holding your breath under water.

A 2008 study in the Journal of Economics and Human Biology examined data from 12,000 men and women ages 18 to mid-40s. Compared with when they were single, the body mass index (or B.M.I., a height-to-weight ratio) of married men increased by 1.5 percent above and beyond what they would normally gain as they aged, and that of women shot up 2 percent.

“Marriage brings along with it social obligations: you eat out more, entertain more frequently, cook meals more frequently, and there’s also an element of being too busy to exercise,” said Laura Argys, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and an author of the study. What’s more, for better and worse, married couples tend to share behaviors and activities, like snuggling on the couch with a vat of popcorn rather than hopping on the treadmill.

There are also incentives that could explain why the B.M.I. of couples who lived together without making it legal increased by only about 1 percent. If you’re married, the thinking goes, you’re somewhat settled. You don’t have to prove yourself; your spouse will ostensibly love you, all of you, muffin top notwithstanding.

The skinniest I’ve been since moving to the U.S., partnered, living in places that demand driving everywhere and  assaulted by American-style huge portions, was the week my husband bailed and I didn’t eat for a week.

Fifteen pounds — gone! Hot new boyfriend showed up three weeks later.

I’ve been with the sweetie a decade and we are both fighting this weight(y) issue. We love to cook, love great food, love eating out, know how much we make one another happy with a terrific meal shared in a restaurant or cooked well at home.

Other than the obvious, there aren’t a gazillion quick, easy ways to show your love; your hubby can tuck a brownie into his briefcase (or green salad, yes) but which — when homemade — most signals your love?

Breaking the calories = love link is a challenging one. No longer does the sweetie (sigh) bring home muffins. No longer do I bake. But, no matter how beautifully prepared it is, I just can’t get all misty-eyed over yet another bowl of leafy greens with a tbsp. of oil and vinegar dressing.

How do you handle the issue at your house? Have you gained (or lost?) weight when happily partnered?


The Diet, Week 3.5: Looser Clothes But So Bored Of Plain Yogurt And Lettuce!

In behavior, food on May 2, 2010 at 8:48 pm
Chips (BE), French fries (AE), French fried po...

Bad, bad, bad, bad!!!!!Image via Wikipedia

If you’re going to cheat — it had better be worth it!

Greasy, not very good French fries, no. A small portion of apple clafouti, yes. And, yes, I had it with ice cream; I have been extremely careful and this was my first major transgression.

Ongoing lessons:

1) Eating with someone else, someone whose company you enjoy (not a job interview or a scary blind date), slows you down and makes you both happier and more aware of how quickly (or not) you are eating. Reading a magazine or watching TV has the opposite effect. Eating alone all the time is lonely.

2) Food and drink offer very real emotional comforts and denying this only short-circuits the process of reducing your intake and changing what goes into your mouth. Fellow T/S writer Nathan Deuel, mourning the recent death of his father, blogged recently:

I managed to get out the door before it got really messy, but en route home, I found myself walking down the middle of a Tribeca street, sobbing, attempting to eat a cupcake. Crying while eating: It’s so right now!

Author and former restaurant critic and Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl titled one of her books “Comfort Me With Apples.” (I’m thinking cheesecake myself.) No one, sorry, no one reaches for a 1/2 cup of cooked green vegetables when they are feeling broken, sad or despairing.

3) You cannot use food as a reward or a weapon. It will hurt you either way.

4) Hunger is a feeling. It is neither bad nor good. It may be an unusual sensation and it is not, frankly, fun or cute or amusing to walk around really wanting to gnaw on someone’s arm. It can be very distracting. If you let it.

Eating 'Healthy' Can Make You Fat — One Supplement Almost Killed Its Maker

In behavior, food on April 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm
American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, ...

Club that pie! Image via Wikipedia

Try these on for size — “healthy” fish dishes offered by popular mass-market restaurants. Their calorie counts, and fat content, make them a bad joke. Eating what appear to be healthy foods is like tap-dancing through a minefield, especially in a restaurant where you have no idea what’s really in your meal.

And here’s a guy whose own nutritional supplement almost killed him because the dosage of Vitamin D was 10 times the safe limit.

Null said he was later told that if he hadn’t visited his doctor when he did, “he could have died within a short period of time.”

When Null discovered what the problem was, he “sequestered himself and fasted, only consuming massive amounts of water, as he was told that there was no medical treatment to lower the amount of Vitamin D in his system,” the suit says.

“It took three months to get his blood seemingly back to where he was able to function. Even now, Null’s condition is questionable, as he continues to occasionally urinate blood,” the suit says.

Null markets fitness DVDs, as well as hair-care, anti-aging, anti-stress, air-purification, weight-loss and pet-care goods on his Web site.

Look into your fridge and cupboards and see what’s really healthy. Every single food, except fresh meat and produce, is likely to be drenched in some sort of fat, salt or sugar — the worst hidden culprit, high fructose corn syrup.  From Wikipedia:

In May 2006, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) threatened to file a lawsuit against Cadbury Schweppes for labeling 7 Up as “All Natural” or “100% Natural”,[61] despite the presence of high-fructose corn syrup. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no general definition of “natural”; however, FDA regulations define “natural flavoring” to include products of vegetables.[62] In April 2008, an FDA employee was quoted in an article suggesting that the agency had changed its opinion on HFCS.[63] However, this was not the official position of the agency. The FDA subsequently issued a clarification stating that the agency does not object to labeling HFCS as “natural.”[64] The CSPI also claim that HFCS is not a “natural” ingredient due to the high level of processing and the use of at least one genetically modified (GMO) enzyme required to produce it. On January 12, 2007, Cadbury Schweppes agreed to stop calling 7 Up “All Natural”.[65] They now label it “100% Natural Flavors”.[66]

[edit] HFCS advertisements

In September 2008, the Corn Refiners Association[67] launched a series of United States television advertisements that claim that HFCS “is made from corn”, “is natural” (changed from previously-stated “doesn’t have artificial ingredients“), “has the same calories as sugar or honey“, “is nutritionally the same as sugar”, and “is fine in moderation“, in an attempt to keep consumers from boycotting HFCS. The ads feature actors portraying roles in upbeat domestic situations with sugary foods, with one actor disparaging a food’s HFCS content but being unable to explain why, and another actor rebuking the comments with these claims. Finally, the ads each plug the Corn Refiners Association website.[68]

I recently received a coupon for a product manufactured by multinational conglomerate DelMonte.  A mom wields one of these things, called a Fruit Chiller, which comes (yes) in a “freeze and eat tube” as if it were a light saber, banishing a monster made of doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, potato chips and candy corn. The headline: “Freeze Bad Snacks in Their Tracks. Each package is made from one pound of fruit.”

What’s with this addiction to fake food?

How about…an apple? A banana? An apple contains 74 calories — not the 170 of a serving of FC plus its 26 grams of sugar.

At least if I reach for a martini or a doughnut, I know they’re not in the food pyramid.

The Diet, Week Three: Loose Pants, A Piece Of Toast, Ignoring Cheesecake

In behavior, food on April 25, 2010 at 9:32 am
A visitor walk past wine bottles on display du...

Look, but don't touch...Image by AFP via Daylife

Only five more weeks to go.

I went out for dinner on Thursday with my colleagues on the board of a writers’ group. We ate at a midtown Manhattan restaurant, set menu: salad, steak, a piece of cheesecake the size of a foot for dessert. I ate strawberries instead, watching the man beside me dip large, multiple pieces of bread into olive oil. Everyone drank a lot of very good red wine, not allowed to me for another three weeks.

Lessons learned, so far:

You can say no to anything. You may have to say it loudly, and forcefully and repeatedly when out in public or at a restaurant — as I did last night when offered a fistful of succulent (off-limits) Peking Duck. Ditto, the rice.

A teaspoonful of peanut butter starts to resemble some sort of divinity.

Lean protein really makes you feel very full for a long time.

Doing almost no exercise at all (still awaiting clearance post-arthritis flare-up) I see a difference in two weeks: pants are much looser. So (weeps the sweetie) is my bra.

Carrying the right amounts of prescribed food (a measured bag of almonds, a 2-ounce piece of cheese) with you helps when you are so hungry you are ready to eat your arm.

Whining about the rigors of this regime has its benefits — people have been kind and supportive and offered me tips and special low-calorie, low-carb foods I didn’t know about. I now have the name of a friend’s smart, kind nutritionist. She’s in California but you learn to value expertise where you can find it.

Cups of very good tea or a creamy (skim milk) cappuccino are satisfying. They are not a martini or cheesecake, sorry to say, but they are both safely soothing and familiar.

My Diet, Week Two: Dreaming Of Martinis

In behavior, food, Health on April 18, 2010 at 9:33 am
DSC_5327

1.500 calories. Yum! Image by sam sha-put-ski via Flickr

Sitting here drinking my coffee (skim milk, which it always was, no sugar, as usual.) Trying to work up an interest in eating — for the second week — a breakfast of two to three eggs, bacon, a vegetable and a piece of cheese. Eggs have never been a favorite food and after this week ends, I may not eat one for a long, long time.

Friday begins Phase II, with the (re) addition of a tiny amount of carbohydrates and, for the first time in two weeks, fruit. It will be four very long weeks before I am allowed to consume refined sugar in any form — maple syrup, sugar, honey. Thanks to the steroids I’m on for my arthritis, no alcohol has entered my body for weeks. I pass our decanters of Balvenie and Tanqueray with only a brief, pining glance.

Now I really know what food means to me and what its deprivation makes me feel.

Lousy. Angry. Miserable. Controlled. Infantilized.

Shut off from the simplest pleasures of eating out, making a great meal for my sweetie, throwing a dinner party, biting into a creamy piece of Brie or fresh hunk of sourdough. Food is not fuel, to me. By removing its pleasure, and turning it into the enemy, I have had to look food straight in the face and see what it looks like.

We don’t have kids or pets or, really, hobbies. We’re both workaholics, lucky to eat dinner together by 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. most nights. Weekends, as they are for many of us, have been a cherished break with some beloved rituals, whether the blueberry pancakes my sweetie makes for me before I go play softball or the cold Stella or Guinness (one) I drink after the game with all my friends or roast chicken (yes, with skin) I plan and make for us.

A cold, wet, sour 6 ounces of unsweetened Greek 0% fat yogurt is not going to do it for me. Sorry.

Three things sustain me in this world, without which I am not sure life is worth it: ideas, delicious sustenance and beauty. These have been consistent for decades.

I recently blogged here, and had op-eds in two major newspapers, about having been bullied for three years in high school. What I didn’t say was that, every day after school on my long walk home, lonely and battered emotionally, I passed two bakeries. I’d eat something sweet and delicious from the first one and also from the second. The long walk and a high metabolism saved me from gaining weight. Sweet, gooey food was very real, immediate, reliable comfort. (Sorry, not a piece of celery or a low-calorie, low-fat apple.)

As it is for millions.

Losing weight and re-thinking the role of food in one’s life means paying exquisite, unrelenting attention not just to the invisible and delicate chemical balances of leptin and ghrelin and cortisol (that regulate appetite and satiety) but how it tastes and how it makes you feel and how happy your kids or husband or girlfriends are when you cook and serve them something delicious. And drink, whether a creamy cappuccino (still  permissible, thank God, with skim milk) or a stiff G & T (not OK. Shriek.)

I went grocery shopping in a suburban supermarket this week, as I have for the past decade. Obstacle course! Nightmare! It felt like one of those “hellhouses” that evangelical Christians like to create to show sinners the wages of their behavior. Every single aisle was a minefield of easy, terrible choices: chips, cookies, ice cream, candy, soft drinks, fat-laden meats, sugar-added breads, “low fat” yogurts packed with sugar. You practically need a pair of blinders, like those worn by the carriage horses in Central Park that block out all those cars and buses and pedestrians from view, to maneuver through without submission to multiple temptations. Produce aisle, dairy case, lean meat — out!

Eat out, for  a break from those damn measuring cups and spoons,  and you have to keep repeating, over and over: “No rice, bread, corn, carrots, thanks!” Then they bring it to the table anyway.

We ate Indian last night, where they know me, and the waiter — bless him — asked “Gin and tonic?” , my regular. That was tough.

I am now painfully aware how minuscule a “portion” is — go try it — four ounces of wine (as if!); one cup of pasta; 12 almonds.

The only good thing is, yes,  I am already noticeably thinner. I refuse to get on a scale. I’ve had enough humiliation for one lifetime, thanks.

I know my own body and how my clothes fit. I’ve had terrific support and advice here (thanks!) and from friends who have handed me some foods that work for them (Dreamfields pasta) and other tools.

Only five more weeks to go. Then….?

The Diet: Week One, In Which I Enter A Bakery Just For A Tantalizing Sniff

In behavior, food, Health on April 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm
Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve never dieted. Never wanted to. The doctor ordered it and for two weeks I have a tightly edited list of foods I am allowed to eat.

No starches (including carrots, sweet potatoes, corn); sugar or sweetening of any sort; no fruit in any form; no rice, pasta or any type of bread. It will modify only slightly over the next six weeks.

Here’s the challenge. If you stay home, and never go out, and are OK with that hermit-like existence, it’s workable as you calibrate every single mouthful, literally, with a set of measuring spoons and measuring cup. Such a fun start to a meal!

If you actually venture into the real world of restaurants and cafes and mass-marketed meals — I just spent two days in Boston — good luck! Salad in a campus cafeteria offered “lite” dressing, filled with high fructose corn syrup (a sweetener) and no bottles of oil and vinegar to substitute. Breakfast in the train station meant grilling the poor people at Cosi whether their eggs were real or powdered; they didn’t know, which was not reassuring. I ate the contents of their wraps without the forbidden wraps.

You wander about in a haze of permanent hunger, food glimmering and glistening all around you like some mirage in a distant oasis: donuts, mountains of muffins, enormous cups of fresh orange juice, a cool, amber glass of beer enjoyed by the guy sitting beside you at the bar as you sip your….Diet Coke.

You start to count the very few people who are not overweight or even morbidly obese, and notice how rare they are, anywhere. Some of them look like the Michelin Man, a belt cruelly tightened across their midriff as if it were a torture device. You wonder if they even have a bossy/caring physician or if their doctor is unkind or unhelpful or has just given up on them.

Your day, if you love to cook and eat and drink and plan the night’s dinner, has lost its focus as food and drink as a source of pleasure are erased. I don’t want a lifetime where food becomes mere fuel, every single calorie a dreaded threat to my existence. Today’s New York Post featured a story about mid-life women, several of them boasting how they are hungry all the time thanks to their minimal food intake — but look hot.

I’ll take tepid and happy…The “reward” for losing weight, the dietitian told me, is…even less food! Tinier portions, because my body will need fewer calories.

This is motivating?

I start physical therapy tomorrow, 45 minutes of pool aerobics to loosen and strengthen my arthritic left hip, which I am assured — and logic would agree — will hasten weight loss by burning more calories.

I am counting the days until I am deemed strong enough once more to get out on my bike, work up a sweat in the sunshine and get back to my Saturday morning softball game. (Two weeks ago, I could barely walk across the room because of the hip pain, which oral steroids have mostly relieved. A hip replacement is in my future, but I am hoping to postpone it for a few years, at best.)

By then, I might gnaw on my glove. Hey, it’s protein.

Fat Luck? The Obese Have Very Little Of It

In behavior, Health on March 19, 2010 at 8:39 am
Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...

Image via Wikipedia

Interesting essay this week in The New York Times about how and when the seriously overweight feel others’ contempt:

As a woman whose height and weight put me in the obese category on the body-mass-index chart, I cringed when Michelle Obama recently spoke of putting her daughters on a diet. While I’m sure the first lady’s intentions are good, I’m also sure that her comments about childhood obesity will add yet another layer to the stigma of being overweight in America.

Last August, Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove, a cardiac surgeon and chief executive of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, told a columnist for The New York Times that if he could get away with it legally, he would refuse to hire anyone who is obese. He probably could get away with it, actually, because no federal legislation protects the civil rights of fat workers, and only one state, Michigan, bans discrimination on the basis of weight.

Dr. Cosgrove may be unusually blunt, but he is far from alone. Public attitudes about fat have never been more judgmental; stigmatizing fat people has become not just acceptable but, in some circles, de rigueur. I’ve sat in meetings with colleagues who wouldn’t dream of disparaging anyone’s color, sex, economic status or general attractiveness, yet feel free to comment witheringly on a person’s weight.

The writer, Harriet Brown, teaches magazine journalism at the Newhouse School in Seattle. She also found that doctors…!?…hate fatties:

Some of the most blatant fat discrimination comes from medical professionals. Rebecca Puhl, a clinical psychologist and director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, has been studying the stigma of obesity for more than a decade. More than half of the 620 primary care doctors questioned for one study described obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” (This last is significant, because doctors who think patients won’t follow their instructions treat and prescribe for them differently.)

Dr. Puhl said she was especially disturbed at how openly the doctors expressed their biases. “If I was trying to study gender or racial bias, I couldn’t use the assessment tools I’m using, because people wouldn’t be truthful,” she said. “They’d want to be more politically correct.”

Despite the abundance of research showing that most people are unable to make significant long-term changes in their weight, it’s clear that doctors tend to view obesity as a matter of personal responsibility. Perhaps they see shame and stigma as a health care strategy.

I need to lose weight. My GP wants me to lose so much weight I might as well cut off a leg or two to get started.

I want to lose weight, too — and for the past three months have been fighting excruciating hip and back pain. You can’t exercise when you’re in agony! One of the toughest issues when trying to lose weight is being told — over and over and over — by your family, your doctors and every single women’s magazine featuring anorexic 15-year-old models — what to do, what you must do, what is the smart, healthy choice.

You can be overweight and still have a functioning brain! We’re not deaf, you know.

Telling someone what to do is very different from helping them achieve a challenging goal. We live in a finger-wagging culture, where every self-righteous size 4 feels totally fine telling the rest of us if you just….be like moi!…we’d be fine. Going into stores to buy something pretty, even willing to spend some serious coin, and being told, oh no, we sell nothing larger than a 12 is another smack in the head. Larger sizes? Only on the website, blubber-butt!

I still make money, Ann Taylor, French Connection, J. Crew…

I often feel so totally overwhelmed by my competing responsibilities — and I don’t even have all the additional, relentless and time-consuming demands of kids and/or pets and/or a commute and/or a parent with Alzheimer’s — that going to the damn gym or taking my hour-long 4-mile walk falls right off the list after: earn money (in this recession, freelance, no small challenge), manage whatever money I’ve earned, saved and invested meticulously, get out and drum up more paid work to make sure that next month’s bills are paid, finish my book, work on the next book idea, take care of my partner and our home.

And, oh yeah, take care of my body, spirit and mind.

It is easy to feel hopeless and fed up. It is hard(er) work to do what needs to be done.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,118 other followers