Monday, September 23, 2013

Smart People Don't Diet--or Do They?

LUCY BURDETTE: I like to read through the announcements on Publishers Marketplace to see what books have sold recently. Maybe you won't be surprised to hear that there are as many diet and health books as there are cookbooks. For example, you can expect cookbooks in the next 18 months on artisan ice cream, Recipes from a Roman kitchen, and 100 Things to Do with a Pickle.

On the other side, two books are coming called THINK EAT MOVE, "helping readers create a revolution from within with a lifestyle program that marries the practices of mindfulness, eating with intention, and interval-based movement in order to achieve lasting, optimum wellness" and SMART PEOPLE DON'T DIET, "a science-based, gimmick-free approach to healthy weight management and eating."

Sigh. I hate dieting. And I love eating. The times I've decided to diet, the foods I select to cut back on become irresistible. (Like Hank's suggestion to skip white food?--a movie runs through my brain showing all the white foods I cannot do without.) A decision to diet always boomerangs, and I gain a few pounds instead of losing. So I'm hoping that my strategy of eating reasonably, without depriving myself, and upping the exercise a bit will last me a lifetime.

So Reds, are you experts at dieting? If not, what are your strategies for enjoying food while staying healthy? 

HALLIE EPHRON: I do not diet unless I can't button my pants. But I always watch what I eat. Fortunately for me I don't have a sweet tooth and I love to cook.

Give up white foods? Never! I got a perverse pleasure out of seeing an analysis of rice that showed comparative levels of arsenic -- highest levels were found in brown rice. Least high in instant rice. Go figure. Make mine Basmati.

Lucy: The question is Hallie, which pants? 

Hank Phillippi Ryan:  Oh yes, indeed, I am an expert on dieting!  Television adds 10 pounds, it really does… And people always say to me, you look so much thinner in real life than  you do on TV.

I suppose it's better than the alternative.  

But it makes me very conscious of it. I don't eat sugar, really, or any carbs, very often at least, and I'm kind of conscious of it, when I do. Like last night I had nacho chips. And I think I had five…

But for someone who doesn't have to be so weird about it :-) , here's my true diet tip.

 The best bite of anything is the first bite. The other bites are just to try to recapture that first bite.  Which you can never do.

So just take one bite of whatever you want… And then just don't eat the rest.

Lucy: Oh Hank, you must be one of the most disciplined people on the planet! 

RHYS BOWEN: When I was young I was super-skinny. (108 pounds when I married, hence the brief and disastrous modeling career) I've always had a small appetite and we rarely eat calorie-laden foods so I never actually diet. I am eating homemade veggie soup for lunch all this week so that I'll look as slim as my Red counterparts by next Friday. (I confess to becoming a little poochy around the tummy recently. It never went after a 12 day cruise). 

John and I are great believers in the glycemic index and eat avocado every day. Also nuts as snacks and frequent grilled fish.

And hardly ever dessert, although I do love my two squares of dark chocolate.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I'm a complete chowhound. And sometimes I'm not even that discriminating. One night last week Bruce was out of town, I was grumpy and I ate an entire container of ice cream for dinner. I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT FLAVOR IT WAS.

I feel as if I've been on a diet my whole life, including an embarassingly trendy one last fall (which worked very well.) But most of the time I just, mentally count calories. If I know, as I do re this week, that I'll be going out with friends for dinner, twice, AND I'll be going to the feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy on Saturday night, I'll eat light the other days. It works most of the time. Can't not eat the zeppole in Little Italy.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: You are all thin and fabulous. I however, am here to represent the other 85% of American women: those of us who are pleasantly plump. Zaftig. Abbondanza. I eat what I like, and what I like is a lot. 

Admittedly, I was at one time considerably smaller. I used to run, hike, ski cross-country and alpine. Then my knees went all to hell. Now I swim in the pool at the Y at a decorous pace. My children have nicknamed me The Manatee. 

I eat healthfully, I have great cholesterol/blood pressure/blood sugar numbers, and the only reason I'm ever tempted to diet is because most designer clothes don't come in anything larger than 12. I'll think Ooo, that Thom Browne dress is amazing...then I'll bake a plate of brownies and remind myself that Ralph Lauren and Talbots both stock Womens sizes. 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm on the "healthy lifestyle" side of the diet spectrum. I was diagnosed as hypoglycemic when I was about fourteen, so have been careful about sugar and refined carbs my entire adult life. Fortunately I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I read labels...very irritatingly, I'm sure. No high-fructose corn syrup. No hydrogenated oil. No msg.

But as long as food is real food, I eat just about everything. If the pounds start accumulating around my middle (which they do... sigh) my idea of a "diet" is to eat smaller portions and exercise more. 

Lucy: Time for you to weigh in Jungle red readers! Do smart women (and men) diet?


  1. Diet is a four-letter word.
    I just finished reading a book for a review; the author is a well-known fitness/weight-loss authority. According to him, no dieting will never succeed unless I give up my flavored coffee creamer, never eat anything white, and forget about almost everything sweet and yummy. [On the plus side, bacon is on the list of approved foods and a glass of wine is not forbidden.]
    I like to cook [and eat!]; we eat healthy foods. I try not to obsess over the whole issue and while I’d like to lose some weight, it’s a fact that, no matter what I do, I’m never going to be a size two . . . .

  2. I think diets set a person up for failure, especially some of the extreme ones that cut out one or more foods. Changing eating habits is key. I've lost six pounds since the beginning of September by eating better, which includes a lot more vegetables, and walking. I've eaten in restaurants a few times in there and never worried about what I ordered. Life is too short to be eating a chicken breast and steamed vegetables every time you go out with friends, which is what so many diets recommend. I'll up the intensity of the exercise as I go, but the food is mostly under control.

  3. I've lost over 100 pounds in the past three years. I realized one day that I am always going to be hungry no matter how much or what I eat. I might as well diet and be hungry, because what is the difference?

    I don't like contrived diets. I make sure I eat the basics. I watch my intake of the bad stuff. I use the MyFitnessPal app, because it has great data bases. I use it to track my calories, nutrients, and exercise on my iPhone. When I track I am happy. It is controlled, but it is rewarding. There is nothing bad about having sensible control. The payoff is good. I have learned a lot about myself doing this. It's something I want to do for myself.

    I think I used to fail at dieting, because I thought there would be an end to it. I would lose pounds, and my diet would be over. I was always thinking in terms of the finish line. There isn't one.

  4. Joan, that's so smart--don't set up a goal that you can't possibly meet.

    Larry, I agree about changing eating habits. And exercise! sounds like it's working.

    Reine, that's utterly amazing. 100 lbs--hooray for you! and you did it by understanding yourself. Collective hats off to you....

  5. Part of me says, diets are full of baloney. Both of my grandmothers lived well into their 90s, and by today's wisdom, their diets were horrible - white rice at every meal; meat! lots of meat!; sugar, butter, and lard galore.

    Part of me also says, your body's shape and the shape of your health is largely genetic. However, when I think about all the extra stuff that goes into foods, preservatives, antibiotics, colors, dyes....I would never eat. So I sort of eat whatever I want and don't worry about it. Is that the Denial Diet?

  6. I don't diet but I'm careful about what I eat. MY problem s a lack of exercise.

    I lost 247 pounds over 2 years (doctor supervised.) Other than a LOT of flabby skin - my knees looked like shar pei faces - I am healthy. My diabetes went away and that was one of the great advantages. Well, being a size 12 was pretty cool, too. I was a gym rat and even tried yoga. Then I blew out the Lateral Collateral ligament in my left knee and stopped exercising. Now I cannot, for some reason, get back into the habit.

    I don't eat potatoes, rice, pasta, bread. I've never been a dessert lover. I check labels for sugars and limit it to 5g per serving. I stopped drinking carbonated drinks 4 years ago. I have learned to eat slowly and drink a lot of water.

    But why can't I motivate myself to exercise? I've put 30 pounds back on and it's annoying me.

  7. ETA: After last night's Emmy Awards, I think a little plump is much more attractive than emaciated. Proof: Claire Danes.

  8. This is making me hungry.

    Forgot to say my latest ploy is to eat half. Last night for dessert, it was half of an ice cream sandwich. Which was plenty, and I have the other half for tonight.

  9. Oh, yes, Claire Danes! Her dress did not emphasize the positive, either.

    Reine is too modest. She lost all that weight by sheer force of will, since she is in a wheelchair, which limits her exercise options. And she looks great.

    When I was younger I had the metabolism of a hummingbird--I could eat anything and it would not put pounds on. Until I turned 25. Then I lost 15 pounds by daily jogging and not eating white food (this was in the late 70's). I put some of it back on, because 115 was too thin for me. Then I had two more kids and could no longer run, and then menopause, and the weight started creeping on again, no matter what.

    Last summer I started having nightly heartburn so bad it kept me up half the night. Never content to just take medicine, I went in search of a reason for the cause. I ended up on the table of the acupuncturist, who treated me, but who also suggested that I change my diet. She said to start by cutting out pretty much everything fun: alcohol, chocolate (horrors! I also have two squares a day), caffeine, mint, and grains. Turns out I have a wheat allergy.

    That was in February. Since then I have not actually lost any weight, but amazingly, my belly is much flatter. Who knew?

    So not really on a diet, but once wheat is eliminated there is an entire array of foods that isn't even considered. At first I tried gluten-free alternatives, but have decided they are generally not worth the calories. I do feel vastly better, and am sleeping better, too, which is such a gift I can't even tell you.

  10. Reine and Marianne, you are my heroes. I am at the beginning of a 150 pound weight loss, just 17 pounds in. Right now I'm counting calories using an app on my Kindle Fire, and it's working for me. Of course, at a goal of 2 pounds per week, I'm allowed over 2000 calories, so it's kind of easy. I don't "diet." I am watching my diet. Noun, not verb. I am increasing my fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and decreasing my sugar and empty carbs. Nothing is off limits. I love food, so I'm very happy with the foods I'm eating. I've splurged on an occasional salted nut roll or a couple of Twizzlers, and still stayed within my calorie limit. I don't always make the best choices, but I tell myself that I MADE that choice and I can live with it. Fortunately, I've been a water drinker for 25 years, so at least I don't have to fight a soda addiction. I don't like artificial sweeteners. What I truly need to do is change my relationship with food - and the fact that I use "relationship" to describe it is a pretty good indication that food is tied into my brain far too deeply. I'm a work in progress. One of the most effective things I've done in the past 6 weeks is eliminate 80% of the blogs I follow, because there's just too much drama. I've promised that once I break 300 (just 4 pounds to go), I'll start walking. I'm making myself follow through on projects instead of just think about them. I bought a $5 credenza at a rummage sale this weekend and I'm cleaning it up and painting it to use for a tv stand. Though it doesn't seem related to food, it's a huge part of changing the way I think, which is important for me. I will say, my goal weight is higher than society considers acceptable, but frankly I like my body at size 12. I don't want to be thin, I just don't want to be fat.


  11. Well, this is timely.

    I'm fighting with my weight right now. Constantly.

    I was one of those who had an extremely high metabolism my entire life and ate anything I wanted without ever seeing any difference in my weight. Now, however, it's a whole new ballgame.

    And I hate it.

    My most recent attempts to lose a few extra pounds came after my doctor said "count carbs." I did. It worked great! Then we went out of town and I rediscovered the joys of a baked potato and hot bread with dinner. In a little over a week I gained back several of the pounds I lost.

    Even with going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week - something I've grown to love - doesn't seem to help.

    Those of you who are successful at weight loss and then keeping it off are my heroes. Seriously. I'm finding this battle much harder than giving up cigarettes.

  12. Remember Monica's prom video from "Friends?" and Chandler's "How many cameras are on you?"

  13. Kaye, my girlfriend and I were talking about this the other day, how hard it is to lose anything, despite constant vigilance and hard effort. But we decided that, if we had NOT been doing all this exercise and watching our diet, that we would have gained even more weight.

    You could take comfort there, maybe.

    I reread my post above and realized it sounds as though I'm still not drinking wine or eating chocolate, etc. Not so. I'm just avoiding wheat and gluten.

  14. What a great topic, especially coming off of Bouchercon! Yikes. I've always been a "big" girl, so I've spent my life thinking I'm fat, like an Amazon, huge! It's annoying, because I'm actually pretty normal looking. Body dismorphia anyone?

    I'm always trying to be on a diet. Sometimes I succeed for awhile, but then gain the weight back. No one's mentioned the emotional component. I'm an emotional eater. I find it difficult to keep to my healthy habits when I'm stressed or too busy or feeling down name it.

    Maybe this is the Neurotic Diet?

    That all said, I've found that Weight Watchers works. Also, giving up white foods. I feel SO much better when I'm not eating wheat, which tells me I'm probably sensitive to it.

  15. After my first back surgery ten years ago, I lost a lot of weight (around 33 pounds)just from being able to exercise again. Before the surgery I had lost about fifteen pounds, mostly from walking, the only thing I was able to do. Occasionally, I regain a few pounds, usually after needing to temporarily scale back my exercise due to such things as a fall on the ice (and people wonder why I do not like winter!) but when I increase the exercise the weight comes back down. Right now I am slowly increasing my exercise again after a knee problem (used by stress to the knees, from favoring my back.)I have lost almost all the weight I put on from having to cut back on exercise. I try to eat healthily at all times and LOVE fruits and vegetables. On my dad's side of the family there is a history of early heart attacks, and my siblings and I have long worked at eating a healthy diet. I still have ice cream but am careful about portions. I have never liked soda and rarely drink it. My drink of choice is nearly always water. Like Reine, I've gotten used to the fact that I'll probably always feel a little hungry. That hungry feeling reminds me that I'm eating just enough.

  16. Ramona, the Denial Diet--love it! I agree, lots is genetic, but some we can choose/control...

    Marianne, losing 247 pounds is purely amazing. Do you have someone who could be an exercise buddy? I'm not much good at doing something on my own, but if I pick out a class, I always go. Same with a walking buddy...

  17. The Neurotic Diet, LOL Lisa. Part of the trouble is what society tells us is normal. It just isn't but still we all feel wrong...

  18. And Sandi, don't you think everyone has some kind of a relationship with food? Each of has a different connection to eating, but we've all got one.

    smart people figure out what their relationships are--then you can do something about it!

  19. Metabolism of a hummingbird - reminds me of my son, who is on the Michael Phelps diet (eat 10,000 calories a day, and burn it off by bedtime).

    My diet is simple. Eat real food, mostly veggies. If you can't pronounce half of the ingredient list, it's probably not something you want to put into your mouth.

    But go without chocolate? Never!

  20. Wow, what great comments today!!! Reine and Marianne, you are my heroes!! (Or heroines:-))

    And I must say that after looking at the photos of myself at Bouchercon, I am determined to get those extra pounds off. Thanks goodness the temperatures have finally dropped here in Texas. I really fall off my walking program in the summer, when it's just too damned hot. Now no excuses!!

    You all have given me encouragement!

  21. Sandi, Good luck to you! It IS worth it. I know what you mean about not needing to get to a certain sized clothing. I wanted to be healthy. Even with the regain I'm far better off than I was before and that's a good thing. But I did wear a size 8 skirt at my thinnest and it was pretty freakin' awesome!

    It took a long time for me to come to realize that we, basically, only need to eat to survive. But we all know that we tend to eat to socialize. How often do we plan celebrations around a meal? It's hard to try to be part of those groups if you're not eating what everyone else is. It adds more pressure to us while we're having a hard enough time trying to lose weight.

    My dietitian worked with me (I think she's part therapist) to look at food as fuel. She taught me little tricks like (this was MAJOR) putting down my fork between bites and chewing slowly.

    When dining out - and I do it a lot - I ask for a to-go container with my meal and automatically put at least half of my entree away. There's no way I can eat all of the servings in a restaurant.

    I also gave up alcohol because it was really just wasted calories but I have begun to enjoy a glass of wine on occasion.

    So much of losing weight is a mental game. It's difficult. If you get off track, think of a GPS - just hit reroute and begin again.

    Lucy/Roberta, I may look for a partner. I think that would help. Thank you.

  22. Congratulations, Reine!

    I'm sorry I didn't say that earlier.

  23. I was skinny forever so didn't know how to lose weight when that time came. Ugh. I have lost weight limiting carbs. I originally gained the weight ODing on carbs--chips, crackers, anything crunchy and salty. So now I know better and I know how to take it off if I get stupid again. I'll eat nuts or those yummy parmesan crisps if I feel the need for salty/crunchy. I don't eat popcorn anymore either.
    A hearty "good for you!" to everyone who loses weight by whatever means.
    P.S. I read The Bitches of Brooklyn last week. Great fun!

  24. fascinating! And losing a lot of weight is SO difficult..congratulations--you are TOUGH!

    I am writing this on an airplane, on my way to Phoenix. That is kind of magical, isn't it?

    Hallie, the "eat half thing" is so wise..just like the "one bite" thing. YOu could eat one bite of ANYTHING, see, and it wouldn't matter.

    MY only downfall is Wheat Thins.

  25. Hank— I count out my Wheat Thins and put them in a paper coffee cup with a lid. I put them by my computer or take them with me when I go out. When they're gone, they're gone. I am so sorry I can't get up to Phoenix. Someday I'll get a wheelchair van, or I will see you in Boston where they have real public transit.

    Everybody— you are great. I'll be back later to respond, because I love this blog and all the comments today. I don't think it's any accident that the timing of my weight loss corresponds to to time spent reading and commenting on JRW. Everyone needs a community to participate in, even tangentially.

  26. I stepped on the scale a few weeks ago and realized I'd gained a few. In my defense, the battery in my scale died and I never got around to getting a new one. For like a year. Despite the fact that I love going to the drugstore.

    I'm now writing down everything I eat.
    I don't know it this works, but some people swear by it.

  27. Reine, glad our little community helps!

    Shizuka--I bet that will help, just because it makes you aware of what you might be mindlessly eating. Lots of psychologists start the same exact way--write down what you're doing now and then we can look at changes.

  28. I highly recommend keeping a food log. There are good ones online or just use a notebook. It's a good way to see if you're getting too many carbs or not enough protein, for example. I should be better at practicing what I preach.

  29. Lucy, I should clarify what I mean by "relationship." When I'm sad, I eat because food is my best friend. When I'm happy, I eat because I want to celebrate with my best friend. When I'm bored, I look to my best friend to entertain me. When I'm angry, I vent with my best friend. I've used food as a substitute for personal interaction for 20 years. That is the relationship I need to break off. I'd like a relationship where I think, hey, I really like this, and I'm going to enjoy it! I need a friendly, casual relationship, instead of a psycho stalker girlfriend kind of relationship. Losing 30 pounds is hard work - losing 10 pounds is hard work - if that's all you have to lose. I really respect someone for having the discipline to do so, or for having the discipline not to gain it in the first place. My kind of overweight is often accompanied by other baggage, and all of that has to be dealt with in addition to simply changing eating habits. There's a reason that Overeaters Anonymous exists - for some people it's an addictive behavior. Have you heard of HALT? Never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. It's a phrase used in AA, NA, and other recovery programs. It's also absolutely true for someone who has food issues.

    Marianne - I love your trick with getting a to go container at the beginning of a restaurant meal! I'll even go a step further and check restaurant websites for menus with calorie counts, then choose my meal before even leaving the house. If I make up my mind first, I can't be swayed but what other people are ordering.

    Now, here's the sad part: When I was in high school I ran track and cross country. When I was in 8th grade, I set a school record in a Presidential Fitness running event. I was an athlete, but I stopped exercising and kept eating like I was still expending all of those calories.

  30. Sandi, we are going to be wishing you well every step of the way--and every ounce and every pound.

    I think the HALT admonition is brilliant--thanks for reminding us.

    And good luck reaching back for that inner athlete--bet she's still in there:)

  31. Oh, dear friends, it is a problem! I used to weigh 98 and drank milk shakes to gain weight! Now - all I have to do is look at food... T. Straw in Manhattan

  32. Roberta, all I did was accept the truth that there is no easy answer for me. My cousin’s bad experience with lap band, her belief in a miracle, and her inability to diet—all of her pain… All of that allowed me to make space for a different solution.

    Marianne, what you did is amazing. Huge congratulations! Setbacks happen. I have them too. When our daughter died last year, I gained back 20 pounds—another 10 after my husband had cancer surgery a few days later. Things will happen. We need to start up again in whatever way we can.

    Karen, thanks for the boost. You are a good friend. I’ve lost more since you saw me last, and I look quite different. I think I reached some threshold that made the difference in how I felt more than anything else.

    Sandi, you have a good start and are on your way. I am cheering you on, because I know what you face. I think you are right, and you will make your way. Something that helps me, no matter where or why I want to eat—when I should not—is distraction. When everything else fails, and I want to throw healthy food at the ceiling… If I can do something interesting, I forget I am hungry for awhile, until it is time to eat.

    Debs, thank you. I will cheer you on, too. I look forward to being in that place where I have a few extra pounds! That will be great.

  33. Diet? Food? I'm one of those women who'd almost rather talk about her sex life than her relationship with food. And I am NOT going to talk about my sex life.

    My weight was acceptable to me for most of my life, even though the way I ate from time to time was wacky as could be. I was fortunate to be healthy and and active. In April 1985 I weighed 130 pounds (I'm 5'4") and was content with the way I looked and felt. Unfortunately, two months later a series of disastrous events began to occur in my family, and even more unfortunately I used food to cope, to escape the unbearable reality. When the proverbial dust had cleared, five years had passed and I'd doubled my weight.

    Weighing 260, you might think I'd be desperate for a diet, but I know myself well enough to realize that's not the answer for me. Neither are any type of surgery, cleansing fasts, pre-paid prepared food plans or anything else along these lines. My only food restrictions are chocolate (migraines), and alcohol (cocktail hour's been over for me for some 32 years now, and we're all better off for it). Other than that, I do my best to eat a healthy mix of real foods, eat as many veggies as I do fresh fruits, drink a couple liters of water each day and walk whenever I can.

    I'm certainly not setting any land speed records at losing weight, but I *am* moving in the proper direction. There've been setbacks, plateaus, etc., the things anyone faces who's attempting to lose any more than ten or so pounds. Reading all these comments has been incredibly encouraging. What fantastic company to be in, with special mention to Reine, Marianne and Sandi. Woo-hoo!!