I just finished reading Bethenny Frankel's new book, Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinny Girl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting. Bethenny is my favorite Real Housewife of New York City. She's a natural food chef, she writes for Health magazine, and she wears a bikini on television. You may recall that I'm afraid to take nutrition advice from anyone I haven't seen in swimwear. It's a throwback to my eating disorder days when I mistrusted pudgy dietitians in blazers telling me to eat 6-11 servings of bread per day. Seeing Bethenny eating and drinking and looking fabulous every week made me damn curious about what and how much she actually eats. Like an answer to my prayers, she wrote a whole book on the subject. In it, she details her non-dieting approach. This is non-dieting with your brain still attached. It's healthy. It's smart. It emphasizes organic whole foods, mindfulness and portion control, unlike certain other non-dieting authors who give you permission to eat as many cookies as you want. I wanted fifty-seven thousand cookies, so that advice didn't help me find balance, it just helped me lose my abs.
Naturally Thin is divided into two parts. Part one lays out the rules. Normally, I bristle at rules but these rock. They're common sense, catchy and effective. She explains her thinking in detail and backs up her advice with practical examples of how to handle any food situation. She shares how and why she used to binge, how it made her feel and how she was able to stop. She doesn't give cliché advice like telling you to order grilled meat and steamed vegetables in restaurants and to send the bread basket away (woohoo!!). She tells you how to order and eat exactly what you want without any guilt, stress or weight gain (no, it doesn't involve throwing up).
Part two walks you through a whole week of eating. It's not a diet. She doesn't tell you what or how much to eat. You'll follow along with her to get an insider's view of her decision making. The idea is to inspire you, give you meal ideas and improve your own decisions. At the end of part two, she includes three weeks of her food journal, a real treat for people like me who are fascinated with what other people eat. I loved that it wasn't an idealized version. She's not perfect. Sometimes she has hot chocolate and watermelon for breakfast. Sometimes she misses lunch, or has a hangover, or snacks on cupcake icing, but when you look at her food intake as a whole, it's quite healthy, lots of vegetables, lots of variety, tightly controlled portions, and nothing is forbidden. She doesn't deny herself pizza or tequila or whatever is supposed to be off-limits to healthy eaters, but she is smart about it and she doesn't damage herself.
I found Naturally Thin to be a really fun read, like hanging out with her for a week, swapping diet horror stories, discussing strategy and sharing recipes. I kept having ah-ha moments all the way through the book. She says that constantly talking about and thinking about food can result in overeating just because food is on the brain. I think that's the biggest problem with forcing yourself to eat every two hours, or counting calories, or sticking to a food list. Non-stop food thoughts can cause you to go slightly bonkers and eat MORE, even if your goal is fat loss.
She asked a couple of questions that hit me right between the eyes. She says, "Who do you want to be? How do you want to eat?" It's about time somebody asked! Do you really want to be a bodybuilder? Or a Weight Watcher? Or a binge eater? Or a miserable number cruncher? Have you ever thought about it? Or are you just muddling around trying to do what you're told? She says, "Naturally thin people don't eat what other people tell them to eat." My mind blew. Most of us don't think about it like that. If we see somebody leaner or in better shape, we assume they must be better at following rules, counting calories, measuring serving sizes and suffering along quietly. I tend to think everybody has an eating disorder (I know, projecting much?). Well, maybe they're perfectly happy, eat what they want, and are nicely in touch with their hunger and health. Something to ponder!