Saturday, August 4, 2007

Blog Break - I'm Going to Italy

My husband and I are leaving for the airport in ten minutes. We are going to be in Italy for the next three weeks. I am so excited! I'm sure I'll be too busy eating gelato and enjoying Italian wine to blog, so I am taking a little break. I'll be back at the end of August. Ciao!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Should Restaurants be Required to Post Nutritional Information on Menus?

I came across this New York Times article yesterday about requiring restaurants to post the calorie counts for all of their menu offerings. This article brought up a lot of ambivalent feelings in me. Back in my dieting days, I was very much for this idea. It drove me crazy that I didn’t know how many calories and fat grams were in what I wanted to order at a restaurant. Then I learned about intuitive eating, and I stopped caring about how many calories food had. I haven’t given this issue any thought since I quit dieting.

On a personal level, I do not want to be forced to read the calorie count for everything on a menu every time I go to a restaurant. I’m pretty well established in this whole non-dieting thing, but I think it would be hard for me to order exactly what I wanted if the calorie count was staring me in the face. What if the thing I wanted had 1200 calories in it? If I didn’t know that, I would order it without giving it much thought, but I would certainly be satisfied after eating just part of it. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered pasta with grilled vegetables in a cream sauce. I’m sure there was an outrageous amount of calories in it, and I’m really glad that I didn’t have to deal with that knowledge. Instead, I ordered it and enjoyed it immensely. By the time I had eaten to satisfaction, it looked like I had barely made a dent in it. I took it home and got three more meals out of it, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. I know that if the calories and fat had been listed next to the entrĂ©e, I would not have been able to enjoy it without feeling at least a little bad about it. I’m really glad that restaurant doesn’t post that information.

I honestly believe that this information won’t help anyone. Knowing the calories and fat grams will bring people into diet thinking. This diet mentality is one of the main contributors to obesity. As Geneen Roth says, every diet brings on an equal and opposite binge. So what would happen if people had this information? I can see it playing out in a couple of ways.

Scenario 1: Mary joined Weight Watchers three weeks ago. She has lost count of how many times she has joined, but she knows that this time she will stick with it and finally make lifetime. She goes to one of her favorite restaurants. Mary loves their grilled vegetable tostada. She looked up the ingredients beforehand, and figured that it must be about 12 points. That’s a lot for one meal, but she can afford to spend the points because she has been really good lately. She gets to the restaurant, looks at the menu and notices that the restaurant has added the calorie and fat information for all of their items. At first she is excited, but then she sees that her tostada has a whopping 1600 calories and 28 grams of fat. That’s a lot more than 12 points! She doesn’t know what to do. She really wants that tostada. She has been looking forward to it all week. She looks over the menu and can’t find anything else she wants, so she decides to just order the dang tostada. She eats the whole thing because she already screwed up anyway. She goes home feeling awful because she is so overly full. Over the next week she gorges herself on sweets and fried foods. She feels like a failure. Then one morning she wakes up resolved to get back on the wagon, and the whole cycle starts over again.

Scenario 2: (Let’s see what would have happened if Mary decided not to order the tostada.) She scours the menu for something that she could order that would be on plan, and finally settles on a green salad with a little grilled salmon on top. She isn’t a huge fan of salmon and doesn't feel like salad, but it is the best choice. She eats it, but feels very unsatisfied at the end of the meal. Once she gets home, she really wants to eat even though she isn’t hungry anymore. She just can’t stop herself and proceeds to binge on chocolate and bon bons. Mary goes to bed feeling horribly guilty. (Refer to scenario one to see how the rest of her week turns out.)

That pretty much sums up why I think posting this information on menus is a bad idea. I don’t believe that it will make people slimmer or healthier. Instead, I fear that this information with perpetuate the diet cycle and possibly contribute to an increase in obesity.

But people want this, and that should mean something. According to one study sited in the article, 83% of the adults interviewed were in favor of putting calorie counts on menus. I have to admit that it wouldn’t be fair to ignore that, so I propose a compromise. Let’s not put calories and fat grams on menus. Instead, let’s put the following: “Nutritional information available upon request.” Every restaurant would be required to have nutritional information for all of their entrees in an easy to read, accessible format. That way the calorie counts and fat grams would be available to anyone who wanted it, but it wouldn’t be forced upon people who didn’t want to see it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Save Money, Stop Dieting!

I came across this mini article about the hidden costs of dieting on today. It made me chuckle. It’s really short, so I’ll just copy it here.

The Price of Self-Control

Hide your credit cards before you start cutting back your calories

by Rachel Meltzer

The real reason dieting is so hard? New research suggests we have a fixed reservoir of self-restraint. If you use willpower in one area (like, you stop eating chocolate), you become impulsive in other ways (say, blowing money on shoes).

When University of Minnesota marketing researchers asked volunteers to write an essay and then go shopping, those who were free to write about any topic spent $1.21 on average; essayists who were forced to exercise self-control, by restricting themselves to certain topics, gave in to the temptation to spend more ($4.05 on average). The lesson? Before you start your summer diet, hide those credit cards!

So there you have it, yet another reason to give up dieting. I already knew that intuitive eating had brought many wonderful changes to my life, but I didn’t know that it was saving me money. Woohoo!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Diet Wars

Last night I was flipping through the channels, and I came across a re-run of the Tyra Banks Show. I don’t usually watch her show because, frankly, she’s a lousy talk show host, but I decided to watch this one because of the topic: Diet Wars. When I first heard that title I knew that it was going to be a train wreck because of the word “war.” I am currently reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and I had read the following passage yesterday morning.

“These days you frequently hear the expression ‘the war against’ this or that, and whenever I hear it, I know that t is condemned to failure…War is a mind-set, and all action that comes out of such a mind-set will either strengthen the enemy, the perceived evil, or, if the war is won, will create a new enemy, a new evil equal to and often worse than the one that was defeated.”

So, in light of that quote, I was concerned that combining the word “diet” with the word “war” might just turn into a perfect storm. Turns out I was right. It may have been the worst display of diet mentality I have ever seen on TV.

This show was actually the follow up Diet Wars show. On the first show, Tyra teamed up three diet gurus with three teams of two women each. The teams were supposed to compete. The guru whose team lost the most weight after three months would win. I probably don’t need to tell you that this show ended up drenched in destructive diet mentality.

The first team was lead by Dr. Ian Smith author of The Fat Smash Diet. I don’t know anything about the diet (and I don’t particularly want to), but his team was by far the most “successful.” These two women lost a combined total of 69 pounds in just three months! Dr. Smith spent the rest of the show gloating about how his diet is the best diet.

The second team was lead by Jillian Michaels who is a diet coach from The Biggest Loser. I have never watched that show, but what I have heard about it reeks of all-or-nothing diet mentality. Anyway, her team “failed” to comply with her plan, and they “only” lost a combined total of 25 pounds. The team admitted to not following Michaels’ plan. She told them that they had to completely give up pizza, which they refused to do. They said that they didn’t understand why they couldn’t have a piece of pizza now and then and still lose weight. That’s a very good question if you ask me!

But what really drove them away from Michaels’ plan was the exercise. These two women were significantly overweight and didn’t exercise at all, so what did Michaels’ have them start out with? A spinning class! They said they felt like they were going to die fifteen minutes into the hour long class and that they weren’t willing to put themselves through that again. Something tells me that Michaels would have had better results if she had eased them into exercising instead of dropping them into an extremely challenging class.

The worst part of this show (and there were many bad parts) was that Tyra was clearly horrified by how these women “failed.” She lectured the women and then gushed to Michaels about how successful she is as a diet guru and was so apologetic at how her team had “failed.” Tyra clearly felt bad for Michaels! If 100 people went on Michaels plan, at least 95 would “fail.” Michaels’ failure rate may actually be higher than that, as her diet sounded like it is particularly difficult to follow. Yet Tyra clearly didn’t see it that way. She kept saying that this isn’t how she envisioned the show going, and she placed all the blame for that on the dieters. I wanted to jump through the TV screen and ask Tyra to take a closer look to see what was really going on.

Diets don’t work. Crazy, hard-core, all-or-nothing diets REALLY don’t work. How do people not know this? Evidence that they don’t work is everywhere. It’s difficult to find any evidence that they do work. Yet most people persist in thinking that diets are the answer. I guess it shouldn’t be so shocking that Tyra was surprised by the “failure” of the Diet Wars. I’m sure most of her viewers felt the same way.

If you want to read the synopsis of this show on Tyra’s website here’s the link. Just a warning, the person who wrote the synopsis did a great job sugar coated Tyra’s reaction.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Intuitive Eaters Blog About The Power of Now

I just got back from a nice relaxing vacation in the mountains, and I have been enjoying catching up on reading intuitive eating blogs. I am especially impressed by a couple of the posts I have read which revolve around Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now. There is nothing in particular that I want to blog about today, but I would like to highlight two great posts.

I love what Gemma of Scales are for Fish wrote about her insights from listening to the Power of Now in the second half of this post. She did a great job explaining why focusing on the now is such an important part of intuitive eating.

Andrea of Onederful Bound has posted a lot about the Power of Now over the last couple of weeks. I especially love this post from a couple of days ago relating dieting/binging to Tolle’s chapter on relationships. I have to confess that the chapter on relationships is my least favorite part of the book. I couldn’t get past the fact that I know a lot of unconscious people who are in happy long-term relationships, which is something he seems to believe is impossible. Thanks to Andrea I am able to view this part of the book in a different light and see the truth in it. This chapter makes perfect sense to me when I think about it in terms of dieting/binging, and it give me further insight into diet mentality.

Hopefully, I will come up with something I want to blog about soon. I’d like to get a proper post up in a few days!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Power to Choose

My favorite part of The Power of Now is the last chapter on surrender. I learned so much from reading it and gained so many insights that I could probably write ten different blog posts on that chapter alone. This is just one – admittedly very long - post, so I only have enough room to concentrate one part of this chapter, the power to choose. Interestingly, this is near the very end of the book. I can see why Eckhart Tolle decided to end the book with this very powerful concept. Here is an except from The Power of Now on the power to choose. The Power of Now is written in question and answer format, so the first part of the excerpt is the question, and the second part is Eckhart Tolle’s answer.

“[Question] What about all those people who, it seems, actually want to suffer? I have a friend whose partner is physically abusive toward her, and her previous relationship was of a similar kind. Why does she choose such men, and why is she refusing to get out of the situation now? Why do so many people actually choose pain?

[Answer] I know that the word choose is a favorite New Age term, but it isn’t entirely accurate in this context. It is misleading to say that somebody ‘chose’ a dysfunctional relationship or any other negative situation in his or her life. Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice. Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and it’s conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel, and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind…

Your friend is stuck in a relationship with an abusive partner, and not for the first time. Why? No choice. The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to re-create what it knows and is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar. The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That’s why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment. Present-moment awareness creates a gap not only in the stream of mind but also in the past-future continuum. Nothing truly new and creative can come into this world except through that gap, that clear space of infinite possibility.

So your friend, being identified with her mind, may be re-creating a pattern learned in the past in which intimacy and abuse are inseparably linked. Alternatively, she may be acting out a mind pattern learned in childhood according to which she is unworthy and deserves to be punished. It is possible, too, that she lives a large part of her life through the pain-body, which always seeks more pain on which to feed. Her partner has his own unconscious patterns, which compliment hers. Of course her situation is self-created, but who or what is the self that is doing the creating? A mental-emotional pattern from the past, no more. Why make a self out of it? If you tell her that she has chosen her condition or situation, you are reinforcing her state of mind identification. But is her mind pattern who she is? Is it her self? Is her true identity derived from the past? Show your friend how to be the observing presence behind her thoughts and her emotions. Tell her about the pain-body and how to free herself from it. Teach her the art of inner-body awareness. Demonstrate to her the meaning of presence. As soon as she is able to access the power of Now, and thereby break through her conditional past, she will have a choice.

Nobody chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past, not enough light to dispel the darkness. You are not fully here. You have not woken up yet. In the meantime, the conditioned mind is running your life.

Similarly, if you are one of the many people who have an issue with their parents, if you still harbor resentment about something they did or did not do, then you still believe they had a choice – that they could have acted differently. It always looks as if people had a choice, but that is an illusion. As long as your mind with its conditioned patterns runs your life, as long as you are your mind, what choice do you have? None. You are not even there. The mind-identified state is severely dysfunctional. It is a form of insanity. Almost everyone is suffering from this illness to varying degrees. The moment you realize this, there can be no more resentment. How can you resent somebody’s illness? The only appropriate response is compassion.”

The first time I read this passage, I thought Eckhart Tolle was way off-base. I was one of those people that used to ask why some women choose to stay with abusive men. I thought Eckhart Tolle was nuts when he said that these women had no choice. I was a big believer in choice. I loved 95% of The Power of Now, but I filed this away with other parts of the book that I didn’t quite buy.

The second time I read this passage, I had an epiphany. I thought to myself, what if I change the scenario from a woman who “chooses” abusive relationships to a person who “chooses” to binge and overeat even though they have become overweight as a result? I have spent years wondering why I overate and binged even though it made me heavier than I wanted to be. On the one hand, I certainly knew that I was choosing to put the food in my mouth, but I also felt like I didn’t have a choice. I wanted to stop overeating and binging, but it was impossible for me to make that choice. Why? Because, as Eckhart Tolle wrote, I had no choice. I was overeating and binging because of “a mental-emotional pattern from the past.” Like women who repeatedly “choose” abusive relationships, my situation was self-created. But I was making that choice from a place of mind identification. My true self was not choosing to overeat and binge.

In the past, I had always tried to stop overeating and binging by trying to override my mind, by trying to make my mind make a different choice. There were times in which I was able to do it, but it never lasted longer than a couple of months. Eventually, I would return to what was familiar and start binging and overeating again. After reading this and being able to apply it to my own eating struggles, I realized that the only way I was going to learn how to have a normal relationship with food was to learn to live consciously. I had to learn to live in the now instead of in the mind. Only by living in the present moment would I be able to truly have the choice not to overeat and binge. As Eckhart Tolle wrote in the above excerpt, “As soon as she is able to access the power of Now, and thereby break through her conditional past, she will have a choice.”

There is no conscious eating without conscious living.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Intuitive Eating in Las Vegas

I’m back from Las Vegas. It was a very interesting trip for me in regards to conscious eating. I was there for a bachelorette party with seven other women who appear to range in size from two to six. I spent the months leading up to this getaway freaking out about hanging out at the pool with a large group of size four women. It turns out that wasn’t such a big deal. Oddly enough, I was not so self-conscious.

What ended up being interesting is watching how they eat. While I heard a lot of, “Does this make me look fat?” and “This shirt makes me look like a sausage,” I saw a lot of intuitive eating. I don’t know why, but I expected them all to pick at salads. Instead there were a lot of nachos, burgers, and some salads, too. It was clear that these women ordered exactly what they wanted to order, and then they stopped eating when they were finished.

Another thing I found interesting is that they seemed to know nothing about intuitive eating on a conscious level. I have known all of them long enough to know that they have all always been slim. I guess they have never given how they eat much thought. A few times when I wasn’t hungry and chose not to eat, I was told, “Sometimes you have to eat when you aren’t hungry.”

Overall I ate less than the women I was with, which really surprised me. I have thought about why that is, and I suspect that maybe my body must know that it needs less food because I have extra weight on me. That seems like a logical explanation, doesn’t it? My husband suggested that maybe they were eating more than they usually do because they were on vacation. I suppose that’s just as possible. I can accept that naturally thin people experience what I call “vacation eating,” too.

Spending this last week with a group of natural intuitive eaters was a fascinating experience. It also helped me lighten up about intuitive eating. I still find myself questioning myself about whether or not I am doing this “right” from time to time. Watching these naturally thin women eat what they want and enjoy themselves has helped me to feel more relaxed about this process.