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Skwigg Blog
Monday, 3 October 2011
No Pressure

Ok, something weird is happening. I've been gradually reducing my carb intake by cutting out most grains. Yet I'm not freaking out. My response to the idea of low-carb has always been, "Oh, hell no." Just thinking about it would make me feel edgy and defensive. I'd have to go make a sandwich to calm down. Kind of the same deal with doing 30 days of Paleo eating. As soon as I declared my self "one of them" and committed to no grains or sugar, I went kind of bonkers and started fantasizing about the Italian food bonanza and epic dessert I was going to eat as soon as it was over. 

It seems to be the act of committing to a diet plan or applying a label that causes the chaos. If I just play with an idea, doing it in a part-time, half-ass, no-stress way, I'm able to make more changes with less backlash than if I vow to do it "right." For example, after reading Wheat Belly, I've been toying with the idea of eating less wheat. If I'd declared myself gluten-free, I'm sure I'd have had a fit of rebellion and gone straight to Panera Bread to make it all better. As it is, I'm just experimenting with other food options. The only wheat I ended up eating last week were a pizza crust and an ice cream cone. You know, the important wheat. :-D

This week, I'm toying with the idea of skipping my day-off mixing bowl of air popped popcorn. I'm going to maybe have some cheese and nuts and dark chocolate instead and see how that goes. Next week I might try an experimental gluten-free pizza I saw at the grocery store. It has a cheese-based crust! No grain at all. I don't remember the name. It was in a red box, frozen. Anybody know what I'm talking about?

How about you? Does committing to a specific diet or applying a label cause problems? Have you found a way around it? Or do you prefer the structure and guidelines of joining a group or following a plan?

(This conversation started over at Happy Eaters. See more replies here.)

Posted by skwigg at 7:43 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 3 October 2011 8:57 AM CDT
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
The Venus Index Phase 2 Review

I've been testing The Venus Index Phase 2 for several weeks now. My original plan was to try each of the four new types of workouts once, offer feedback, and get back to what I was doing. The problem is that I fell goofy stupid in love with the new workouts! I want to marry them! So, after my trial run, I went back and started the whole 12 week program from the beginning.

The Venus Index is a women's strength training program from John Barban. If you're not familiar with it, don't scoff. "Women's program" doesn't mean pink dumbbells and leg warmers, it means that it's designed to build muscle in all the right places while stripping fat. The Venus Index is a mathematical formula for determining and working toward your ideal height-to-waist, waist-to-hip, and shoulder to waist ratios. The workouts support the formula by building nice shoulders, shrinking your waist, lifting your butt, and improving definition. Most women love a challenging strength program but they aren't looking to create a wider neck, bigger forearms, or a thicker waist. By doing effective, periodized strength workouts designed specifically for women, you can train hard without adding size to the wrong places.

If you have the original Venus Index, these workouts are totally new. There are four types:

Intermittent Supersets incorporate both regular sets and super sets. The regular sets often (but not always) serve as a warm up for heavier supersets. For example you might do straight sets of reverse lunges followed by heavier, lower rep supersets of squats and deadlifts.

Fibonacci Pyramids are pyramid sets with increasing and decreasing weights and reps. You're doing multiple sets of the same exercise and changing the weight and reps each set. I won't give away the whole pattern but it's killer and I loved it. These show up only every few weeks to shake things up.

X-Sets are triple supersets, two different exercises with ascending and descending reps for three sets. So, you might do 3 supersets of squats and shoulder presses in various rep ranges and weights, catch your breath, flip the exercise order, and do another 3 supersets of shoulder presses and squats. The exercises and rep counts mirror each other in a fairly magical way.

Progressive Venus Pyramids hit the same muscle group with multiple exercises within the same pyramid. The weight and reps vary. Again, I won't give away the pattern. I'll just say that it builds in difficulty, throws a curveball in the middle, and then pushes your endurance at the end. These were my favorites.

You never repeat the same workout, which is so important. I dislike buying a "12 week" program and finding out that it's only a few workouts repeated endlessly. This gives you something new each training session. Most workouts took me around 50 minutes. The Venus Pyramids were closer to 60. The constantly changing exercises, weights, sets, and reps kept me entertained. You do three strength and conditioning workouts per week. Any additional cardio is up to you. I would call this an intermediate to advanced program. If you've been strength training regularly, you'll be fine. If you're just getting started, this might be a little over the top.

Many of the exercises will be familiar to those who have the original plan and the circuits. If you need a refresher, each exercise is clickable within the workout itself to take you to a video demonstration. There is no separate "exercise gallery" to fumble with.

You will need lots of dumbbells. For the pyramid sets you'll need a light, moderate, heavy, heaviest weight for each muscle group. Consider your own strength and goals but you'll probably want at least 5-6 sets of dumbbells in varying weights. A barbell would be handy for a few things but is not mandatory. You'll also need a step or bench and a stability ball.

I really enjoyed the original program but the variety of challenging new routines makes this even better. It's like it was designed it for those of us with workout ADD. Before you have time to get distracted and wander off, your workouts are brand new and exciting again. I've been doing the workouts for a month while tightening up my nutrition a bit. I'm smaller all over with increased muscle definition, which is exactly what I wanted.

If you have any questions about The Venus Index Phase 2, ask away. If you try it out, I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


(Disclaimery thing: Although I am an e-book junky and buy them like candy, I received a free review copy of this program. I use an affiliate link when discussing it. If you buy through my links, I will receive a portion of the sale, fueling my e-book buying habit. As always, thank you for enabling me.)


Posted by skwigg at 6:56 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2013 9:55 AM CST
Monday, 8 August 2011
Getting Older - Better or Worse Than You'd Imagined?

How has your relationship with food changed as you've gotten older? How about your workouts? Your body image? Your weight/body comp? Is it what you've expected or were you surprised? I ask because I kept waiting for this horrible bulging, sagging, metabolic breakdown to happen when I turned 30, and then 35, and then 40. Well, there's been no age-related calamity. I'm in better shape now than...dare I say, ever?

It's not that nothing has changed. I do think my metabolism has slowed, not because I'm older but because the intensity and duration of my workouts is not what it was. I see that as a good thing! The intensity and duration of my workouts used to be borderline psychotic and it was causing things to break - bones, tendons, immune system, sanity. I feel much better training smarter and recovering properly, but the flip side is that I can't snarf down 3,000 calories per day the way I used to. I actually have to watch what I eat!

That was one of my biggest fears about getting older, that I'd have to knock off the gluttony and eat right, that I wouldn't be able to get away with what I used to. That one totally happened, but again I see it as a good thing. I used to engage in some messed up eating. For example, I'm in the middle of 10 days off work right now and eating better and cleaner than I probably would have if I were working. A few years ago, vacation meant food-a-palooza. I would buy all manner of fattening crap, disregard all diet rules, and eat myself into oblivion. EVERY. FREAKING. TIME. I would undo my hard work, gain weight, gain inches, lose all my definition, feel like complete crap about it, have trouble pulling it together again, and spend months dieting and exercising to undo the damage. Then the next vacation would roll around and I would DO IT AGAIN. That honestly amazed me. It's like I was possessed. I think it was related to the combination of strict dieting and hard training. I deprived myself of so much and trained so hard that when I let go, I really let go. Learning to enjoy moderation has been one of the greatest benefits of getting older.

My weight is lower now than it was 10 years ago. I'm a little leaner and smaller. I found old BFL-era measurements and my thighs and butt used to be 2 1/2" bigger than they are now?! That previous combination of heavy lifting and frequent overeating meant I carried more muscle and more fat than I really wanted, unless I was in the midst of some screwball "challenge" when I would eat clean and track everything on a really OCD level. I'd gut it out for however many weeks, snap the pictures, take the measurements, and then spend the next few weeks eating everything in sight and undoing all the hard work. I don't miss that on or off, all or nothing mindset. Lately, I prefer consistency and moderation. If I wouldn't want to do something every day from now on, I don't start it. So, there are no more crazy diets, strict rules, authorized food lists, cheat days, and gaggy meal replacements. Phooey on all that.

I also don't judge myself as harshly. That running negative dialog has been permanently switched off. Negativity can never make you happy. I used to think that if I just got frustrated enough, or disappointed enough, or hated myself enough, that it would prompt the physical changes I wanted. That is so not the way to go about it! I believed that if I accepted myself, I was accepting failure. Or at the very least fibbing on an epic level, because there was so much I wanted to change about myself. Well, you don't have to hate and verbally abuse yourself in order to change. Undermining my confidence all day long only set me back further.

Anyway, guess I'm feeling philosophical this morning!

How about you? Is getting older what you expected? How is your body/diet compared to younger years? What have you learned? I'd love to hear everybody's thoughts because I know there are lots of diet war veterans around here.

(This is a thread from my new site, Happy Eaters. Participate in the discussion here.)

Posted by skwigg at 9:07 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 8 August 2011 9:15 AM CDT
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food

I just read a nutrition book that may have as much influence on my food philosophy as "In Defense of Food" "The Primal Blueprint" and "Naturally Thin," all of which changed my thinking in various ways. Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan is a great read. It's almost like two books in one. The first part is a look at DNA and epigenetics, which is not as boring as it sounds. Epigenetics is the study of gene expression. "Epigenetic researchers study how our own genes react to our behavior, and they've found that just about everything we eat, think, breathe, or do can, directly or indirectly, trickle down to touch the gene and affect its performance in some way..." Not only that, but it can affect our children's health, appearance, performance, and intelligence, because they receive our genetic material. I'll admit that during much of this discussion I was thinking GET TO THE FOOD PART ALREADY, but you need the background science to fully appreciate the context of her nutrition recommendations. On the plus side, she uses lots of photos to illustrate her points, many of celebrities. So, I was able to follow along fairly happily.

The second part of the book deals with how our food supply has gone awry, how to avoid the pitfalls of modern cuisine, and how to embrace "The Four Pillars of World Cuisine: Foods that Program Your Body for Beauty, Brains, and Health." She looks at the similarities between diets of healthy, long-lived traditional cultures. She covers good fats and bad, the cholesterol myth, sugar and the many and varied ways too much of it will age, pudge, and wreck you. 

What I love about her style is she's entertaining and factual. She's a practicing physician who studied epigenetics and gene regulation at Cornell. She doesn't come off like an extremist blogger trying to scare people into joining the cult. She can talk about the science and then translate it into real terms by sharing stories of her patients and their treatment. She gives numbers. "If someone's fasting blood glucose is above this, I recommend that." She had me digging around in a drawer at midnight to find my own numbers and compare them to what she was saying. I'm healthy, but I've realized I could be healthier and am inspired to make some changes. Note that I'm inspired to make changes, not frightened, or guilt-tripped, or pressured. Her explanations and reasoning are such that it just seems so natural and obvious. 

The diet she's recommending is quite similar to primal, but without all the dogma. She doesn't care if you eat bread. Get it sprouted if at all possible and don't eat too much of it. Dairy? Fine, beneficial even. Just make sure it's organic and full fat. Fruit? Go for it, but quantity matters. If you have high blood sugar, heart disease, or are overweight, you need to moderate your overall carb intake, so you can't be wolfing down whole watermelons and drinking orange juice out of the carton. Fat? She says, "Nature doesn't make bad fat, factories do." So, have your cheese, butter, bacon grease, avocado, and coconut oil. Stay the hell away from I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray and chemically extracted vegetable oil. Don't buy low fat or non-fat anything. In fact, beware the processed people chow! 

I'm going to share a couple paragraphs of her writing so you can see what I mean about her style. There's an awesome part of the book where she describes The Dog Food Aisle. I have to mention the fact that my dog is not allowed to eat grocery store dog food. I buy her the natural high protein grain free kind with salmon and duck. And yet I will buy myself Cheerios and Ritz crackers. Disconnect much? LOL

The Dog Food Aisle

Take a look at the back of a bag of dog or cat food, and here are the ingredients you'll see: corn meal, soy meal (occasionally) wheat, partially hydrogenated soy or corn or other vegetable oil, meat and protein meal, and a few synthetic vitamins. But guess what? The animal pushing the shopping cart is buying foods with the same list of ingredients for himself. The main difference between donuts, breads, and Cheerios are the quantities of hydrogenated oil and sugar. Cheerios, in turn, are nearly identical to Ramen noodles. Throw on a little salt and you've got snack chips. Add tomato flakes and bump up the protein powder and--bam!--it's Hamburger Helper with Noodles! Add a pinch of meat byproducts, take away some tomato powder, and we're in the pet food aisle again holding a 20-pound bag of grade A Puppy Chow.

We already know why manufacturers make food this way: It's cheap and convenient to reformulate the basic ingredients of protein, starch, and fat (there are those words again!) into a variety of shapes and textures, coat them in sugars and artificial flavor enhancers, and ship them just about anywhere. That's why they make it. But why would we eat it? Same reason: It's cheap and convenient.

Now I see the entire center portion of the grocery store as cheap generic people chow, one step away from cheap generic puppy chow. She has very effectively motivated me to get my ass back out to the periphery of the store where they keep the organic produce, full fat Greek yogurt, grass fed bison, and organic uncured bacon, you know, the FOOD. She drove this point home to me in a way that all the other health nuts telling me to shop the periphery of the grocery store never have. She pulls similar stunts five or six times in every chapter, so that by the end of the book I'm thinking totally differently about food and the way I eat.

If you're looking for a good read on health, genetics, nutrition, and traditional diets, check out Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food.

Posted by skwigg at 3:14 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 July 2011 4:18 PM CDT
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Sneaking Up on the Unicorn

I can't diet. I can't even think that I might diet, or my brain, which in the past I've subjected to true prolonged literal starvation, will FREAK OUT and trigger rebound eating, much like those guys who went nuts in that Minnesota Starvation Experiment. :-)

I can't start something temporary that I will eventually stop--a "cleanse," challenge, contest, deadline, jumpstart, induction, calorie counting, x-week program, any of that. If I want to be leaner, the trick is to create a new normal. The way I eat now results in my current level of leanness. If I want to be even leaner, then I need to permanently alter my habits and intake so that they support the new body composition. I need to enjoy it and I need to do it gradually. That way it sticks. I was joking that this mythical future leanness is like sneaking up on a unicorn. I can't stop pursuing it because, hey, it's a UNICORN. The key is to tippy-toe up on the mythical leanness. I don't want to lunge at it and scare it or it will run away. 

So, I really consider my current habits and look for places to make changes. Could I have one of those instead of two? Could I indulge in that less often? Could I sub an equally enjoyable but lower calorie (or healthier) alternative? Could I still have _____ but make the portion smaller? I am willing to try new things if they appeal to me. Like I tried intermittent fasting, originally with Eat Stop Eat, but when 24 hour fasts became a drag, I tried just skipping breakfast. That went great for a long time, but when I started missing breakfast, I put it back and just go longer between meals. That ended up being the new normal. Then I discovered that I can happily skip lunch two days per week in addition to going longer between meals, and that is the new, new normal. :-) 

Basically, you bring something in (or take something out), see how it goes, and decide whether to keep that modification or not. Then you keep repeating the process until you have a new normal where you're happy, not freaking out, and easily maintaining the leaner body. This is a slow as mud process for me, but I'm already about as lean as I intend to get. My "normal" is pretty tight. If you're really loosey-goosey right now, changing a few of your most counterproductive habits can result in a satisfying drop without doing anything crazy. Just don't change too many things at once or totally cut out anything dear to you. Remember, the idea is for this to be your new everyday existence. You don't want it to be miserable. 

Posted by skwigg at 8:33 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 June 2011 8:34 PM CDT
Friday, 24 June 2011
Sugar & Heart Disease--Finally!

Every day when I arrive at work at the TV station, Dr Oz is the first show I air, and then four hours later I run a second episode on another station, so I pretty much can't escape him.

Last night he was doing a show about sugar and I was preparing to get all eye-rolly, as I often do when he spews dated conventional wisdom and conflicting information, like coconut oil is bad for you, and then a week later he'll have a segment on the merits of coconut oil. That makes me crazy! But last night he FINALLY comes right out and says too much sugar elevates triglycerides, lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, and raises LDL (bad) cholesterol. Too much sugar also raises blood pressure and can lead to liver disease, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes.

Direct quote: "I think that's the biggest cause of high cholesterol in this country. It's not the fat we eat, it's the sugar we're eating."

That thud sound you heard was me falling out of my chair. :-D And I think this was a repeat episode. I don't know how I missed it the first time. Anyway, interesting stuff. Here's the link if you want to watch it (3 parts):


Along those lines, I'd already been trying to prioritize my sugar consumption. You know, like once a weekHaagen-Dazs is really important. Daily cookies I can do without. Weekly donuts have lost their charm. I've been easing up on the plastic honey bear that I use to squirt local honey all over my blueberries and Greek yogurt. A small squirt of it is delicious, but I shouldn't have like a whole bear head. I like my tea unsweetened. I'm enjoying summer fruit and not intending to ditch watermelon or anything. I love to get a soda bucket at the movies, but I do that maybe once a month. MEXICAN PEPSI, OMG, love that! Real sugar! One per week is the maximum intake.

Whatever I'm doing seems to work because my health markers are always perfect, but I don't want to get complacent and let my intake creep, and I totally see how it could happen. Sugar does interesting things to your neural pathways where you'll start to crave, justify, sneak, deny, anything to get your fix. :-) I'd been making cookies and packing one per day in my dinner for work. Then I was having one at lunch and one at dinner. Then I was having two at lunch and one at dinner. Then I was having three when they're hot off the pan, one at lunch and one at dinner. Then I wised up and quit baking. LOL But it's funny how far it went before I thought, wait, I have a problem here. How did this happen? Haha! 

How about you? How is your sugar intake? Do you think it affects your blood pressure or cholesterol levels? What about your weight? Is sugar a major issue or meh?

(This is a post from my new site, Happy Eaters. Read more of the discussion here.) 

Posted by skwigg at 11:19 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, 24 June 2011 11:22 AM CDT
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
How do I lose weight?

What would you tell someone who wants to lose weight? People keep asking me and then not liking my answer, which is "eat less." :-) 

That's not what they want. They want the rules, the ratios, the timing, the research, a calorie level, a rundown of good foods and bad foods. They want all the hows and whys and exceptions. I suppose I'm known for being into that. I'm the resident diet geek or whatever. I used to go on and on about those things. Eat every 2-3 hours, protein at every meal, starchy carbs post-workout, 40/40/20, 40/30/30, BMR, zig-zags, net carbs, insulin, blaaaaaaaa....

So, now when someone I know wants to lose weight, they remember all those droning sounds I used to make about carb cycling or fasted morning cardio or whatever, and they're like, no, tell me all the important details. You know what? Those details aren't important. 

Brad Pilon had a clever little post about Cocaine, Fasting and Weight Loss. He says:

We don't help cocaine addicts by teaching them about the metabolism of serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine re-uptake inhibitors or the hormonal implications of cocaine use, yet we try and help people lose weight by teaching them about hormones, metabolic pathways and glucose chemistry.

His point is that we should be paying attention to habits, lifestyle, emotional, and environmental factors, not pointy-headed broscience. I thought that was awesome!

I also loved this comment by Josh Hillis. He recently cut 10 pounds and someone asked him how he did it. He said:

The magic pill: *Less* total calories, *more* protein, *better* carbs (mostly fruit, vegetables, and brown rice)

That's pretty damn concise and effective! In fact, the next time someone asks me how to lose weight, that might be my canned "cocktail party" answer - fewer calories, more protein, better carbs.

Beyond that, I would tell someone to look at the big picture of weekly food intake. Where are you taking in calories that you could do without? You know, the eating that is pointless, excessive, or not that enjoyable. That's the first to go. Which eating opportunities do you LOVE and really look forward to? Pizza night? Sunday pancakes? Those have to stay. How could you modify them or compensate for the splurge? Once you find the "must haves" and "gotta goes" then you can work on the quality/quantity of your daily meals by maximizing the protein, plants, healthy fats, and whole foods, minimizing (but not eliminating) the goodies, and developing an awareness of portions. I'd explain about using results as a guide. If your results are good, you keep doing what you're doing. If there are no results, you make adjustments until you're seeing positive changes.

Then I'd talk about moving more with activities you enjoy. I actually really like Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint advice to: move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things, sprint once in a while, play, and get enough sleep. It's not about sets, reps, and cardio minutes, or finding the perfect training split. It's about creating a generally active lifestyle and then keeping it.

So, that's some really different advice than I would have given 10 years ago! :-D

What about you? Someone walks up to you and says, how do I lose weight? Based on your experience, what would you tell them? What do you wish someone had told you?

(This is a post from my new site, Happy Eaters. Read more of the discussion here.)

Posted by skwigg at 8:46 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 21 June 2011 9:38 PM CDT
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Read My Hips

I'm a sucker for all food, weight, and fitness memoirs. I like reading the different experiences and points of view. Generally, I'm drawn to the eating disorder, weight loss, or fitness triumph books, but I just bumbled across a thoroughly enjoyable book on size and self-acceptance, Read My Hips, How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large by Kim Brittingham. I don't want to ruin the ending, but she doesn't lose a hundred pounds and share her diet and exercise tips.

Kim says: "I've also vowed never to consciously try losing weight ever again. And make no mistake, there's no unhealthy complacency in this approach. I will continue making efforts to eat more healthfully. I'll continue to explore foods of good nutritional quality. I'll continue to address with curiosity the reasons I eat in absence of physical hunger. I'll try to respect my body while strengthening it."

I think most of us can relate to that. Except the never consciously trying to lose weight part. However, calm, flexible, evolved, and patient I become about this whole health and fitness thing, I'm still hyper-conscious of size/weight. It's not a disordered nightmare anymore. I'm at peace with it, but I believe that I'm at peace because doing what I love keeps me in my "ideal" size and condition. What if doing what I loved kept me 50 pounds heavier and many inches bigger? Would I be just as happy? Or would I have a psychotic episode? Sometimes I wonder.

She also says: "I believe we're meant to say yes to food, so that we'll become convinced of its abundance, and thus be able to think about something else."

And: "Sometimes change can only happen when the pressure is off."

Yesssss! Martha Beck and I are right with her on those! Restriction makes people obsessive and crazy. High-pressure tends to create temporary success followed by mega-backlash.

The book itself reads like a series of great essays. As someone who grew up in the 70's and 80's, I could so relate to her childhood and teen experiences. I loved the "Can't Stand the Farm Stand" chapter where she learned to love vegetables. "We Were the Weight Loss Counselors" was a scary look at her experience working as a counselor at a major weight loss franchise. Blind leading the blind much? "Bacon-Cheddar Melt" recounted the miracle of ketosis. In "Fat Is Contagious" she rode New York City public transportation carrying a book with the fake jacket "Fat is Contagious: How Sitting Next to a Fat Person Can Make YOU Fat." That landed her on the Today show.

I was amazed and repelled by the chapter called "Belly." I still have MASSIVE issues, apparently. LOL The idea of having rolls of fat, or a belly big enough to feel its weight sitting in my lap, wigged me straight out. I had to keep putting the book down because I was kind of freaking out at my reactions. I'm happy that she loves and accepts these things about herself. I'm not knocking it, in fact I'm a bit in awe. I'm just not sure I could do it. I love and accept my ribs and hip bones, being able to see the muscles moving under my skin. Does that mean one of us is crazy? Or wrong? This chapter really, really made me think. I'm still thinking. 

Another chapter that got me going was "Gym Dandies" which is basically one big swipe at the fitness industry and fit people. However, considering the level of suffering she endured in the name of fitness and at the hands of fit people, I can't say I blame her.

Anyway, it's beautifully written, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, and laugh-out-loud funny at times. If anyone else reads it, I would love to discuss!

Posted by skwigg at 6:55 AM CDT
Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Is weight all about willpower? Maintaining your weight, creating fat loss, controlling how much you eat, is that a willpower thing?

That was the great question in my e-mail last night. The asker was a recovering disordered eater working to let go of the obsession and restriction, but also struggling to control the rebound weight gain. Here's what I said:

Weight is all about willpower only if you're a yo-yo dieter on the brink of failure. Willpower is not a longterm solution. It's like holding your breath. You can only do it for so long and then you inhale absolutely everything. Once the novelty of eating yourself into oblivion wears off, you gather up some more willpower and suffer along until you inevitably fail again.

Willpower can get you through brief, tricky situations, like if you have a horrendous day and then end up alone in the house with trigger foods. You can tough it out for a few hours through pure willpower, but if you're relying on it every day in every situation, you're in trouble. If your appetite and emotions are being honestly addressed and dealt with, there shouldn't be any white-knuckling it. If you're out of touch with those things, then you're in the same boat as every fad dieter, forcing yourself to tough it out for as long as you can, seeing some success but rightly worried about how long you can last.

Eating more intuitively, being mindful of portions, listening to your body, paying attention to results, making adjustments, that's what works. I don't even worry that I might eat too much and gain weight. It's not a possibility. It wouldn't feel good, make me happy, or help me achieve my goals so I wouldn't do it. I might have a big meal or a big day, but then I have a light meal or a light day. I like to feel balanced and relaxed instead of always stressing and overly restricting, which tends to create the backlash of overeating.

The goal is to get to a place where you deal with emotions instead of trying to eat them or diet them away, to a place where you trust yourself, have confidence, experience lasting success, and enjoy the whole process. It's not the scary situation you're in now coming off of the eating disorder. This is temporary. Right now your body is urging you to eat, your hormones are wacky, your emotions are raw, and your mind is trying to keep a lid on the whole thing using primarily willpower. It won't always be that way. Things will settle down. The more you can picture how you want your eating to look, how you want your body to look, how you want to feel each day when everything is working, the faster you can make it a reality. As long as you're kicking yourself and spinning worst case scenarios, you tend to stay stuck in that situation with your fears creating your results. 

At first you may have to "fake it 'til you make it," acting like a confident, naturally thin, happy eater until the feelings become second nature and authentic. Suppose all of your goals are already achieved. You're in your happy weight range, eating your preferred way, looking great, exercising regularly but not excessively. What does your day look like? What do you wear? What's for breakfast? Do you workout? How does the "ideal" you handle various food situations? Restaurant meal? Gourmet gift basket? Family outing? Birthday party? Movie food? Home alone? Bad day? Bored?

You need to be able to picture the new behaviors before you can do them consistently. Anything that has ever terrified you or ended badly, you need to rethink. If you don't give it any thought, you just repeat the same painful patterns that haven't worked. Imagine that you have happy eating super powers if that's what it takes. Changing the way you think is the key to changing the way you eat.


So, questions for everybody:

What are your thoughts on "willpower dieting" and the yo-yoing it creates? Have you experienced it? Conquered it? Are you still struggling?

Have you made it from disordered/restrictive eating to normal eating? Was there a rebound weight gain?

Anybody using visualization, affirmations, vision boards, quote collections, or anything like that to reinforce positive change?


Diets freak me straight out. Even thinking about them can affect my eating. So, I don't entertain the idea of doing them anymore. That way I can read or discuss them without feeling that I have to change everything, give up favorite foods, or follow new rules. 

I gained 35-40 pounds from the depths of the eating disorder to the height of my rebound bingeing. Now, 20lbs of that, I probably needed to gain in order to be a healthy weight, but I just kept going. At the time it felt like a runaway train. The more I tried to muster my willpower and gain control of the situation, the more I cried and ate junk food. I thought my options were either binge eating out of control or going back to starvation. Health and fitness, middle ground if you will, were totally foreign territory but I eventually got there, and then turned my obsession to THAT. Suddenly, I wasn't trying to starve anymore, I was all about obsessive compulsive eating (OCE) as Brad Pilon calls it, trying to count my calories, balance my macros, time my refeeds, cycle my carbs. Gah! That went on for years.

Not to get all law of attraction woo-wooy, but when I heard the phrase, "thoughts become things" I became very aware of my thoughts for the first time. I realized that I wasn't going to punish, deny, and obsess myself happy. I quit looking to other people and programs to tell me how I should eat. I started thinking about how I wanted to feel and who I wanted to be. In an ideal world, how do I look? How do I eat? What is my day like? I didn't want to live in the gym anymore, suffer exhaustion, carry a cooler, eat every two hours, enter everything into software, fear restaurants, avoid social situations. So, I quit it.

Anyway, I'm all good now, but it's been quite an adventure! :-)

(This is a thread from my new site, Happy Eaters. Participate in the discussion here.) 

Posted by skwigg at 5:28 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 May 2011 6:57 AM CDT
Monday, 17 January 2011
The Anything Goes Diet

How do I lose weight while eating intuitively? What if I intuitively like to eat out, go to parties, eat donuts, or participate in family pizza night? Is it hopeless?

I get a lot of e-mails that are some variation of the above. People desperately want to relax the rules but how do you do that and lose weight? Or stay lean? Well, John Barban has written a whole program on that very subject, The Anything Goes Diet

Plenty of us, myself included, don't need programs anymore. We've got it! If you've got it, excellent. But if you need more guidance on how to back away from diet rules while still making a deficit happen, or how to handle social situations, or how to change your thinking, or some input on calories if you feel completely lost while winging it, this may be just what you're looking for.

The Anything Goes Diet has five manuals plus a 60 day e-mail coaching sequence. It comes with:

  • Weight Loss Manual
  • Social Eating Survival Guide
  • Thinking Thin Guide
  • Recipe Guide
  • Success Tracker Journal (an interactive .pdf)


There are no off-limits foods, no meal timing rules, no special ratios, no absurd protein requirements, just a deficit, a consistent, no-hassle, eating what you like, deficit. John Barban and intermittent fasting guy, Brad Pilon, are pals and have very similar philosophies on eating what you love and having a life. You shouldn't have to become a clock-watching obsessive compulsive eater to be lean. Your "diet" should fit your life, not the other way around. John's approach is all about including socializing, fast food and favorite treats. I picked up a few great tips I'd never even thought of, Bethennyesque tips. Eating in at a fast food restaurant? Toss part of the fries in the trash on your way to sit down. WHAT?! I will totally use that because you can't order "small" anything anymore. It would work for movie popcorn too.

To give you a feel for the program, some of the chapters are:

Calorie Guessing - Guessing Is Better Than Counting

Think Weekly - Nothing Changes in One Day

It's ALL GOOD - There Is No "Bad" Food

All About You - Only Compare Yourself to Yourself

I also really enjoyed the section on The Yo-Yo Dieting Cycle - How The Weight Loss Industry Leaves You Out of Shape and Out of Control. He describes the stages of a "control continuum" that we've all been on and how it's in the best interest of the industry to keep us all stuck, confused, and trying again. It was eye-opening and infuriating to realize how many years of my life I've spent IN shape but OUT of control, thinking I had it all together but still totally at the mercy of Body for Life or The Zone or whatever diet I was trying to live by. 

There is some enjoyable reading here and quite a few ah-has, even for me. The Anything Goes Diet seems to be written just for Happy Eaters. It doesn't even require exercise. Still, there are a few things I don't like. It's a program. Weird complaint, I know, but I don't like programs. I don't want anybody telling me how to eat, even if they're telling me how to eat whatever I want. I'm sort of pigheaded that way. :-) There is calorie talk. I don't like calorie talk but I know many of you have been asking for exactly that. If you've tried to talk to me about how many calories you should eat, you know that I just cover my ears and make la la la sounds. John Barban actually goes into detail for those who care to count, or "guess" as he encourages. I don't really get the low calorie recipe guide. If you can eat anything you want, why would you eat low fat cheese? Ever? I suppose it comes back to "the differential" as Bethenny calls it. If you can't taste the difference, or prefer the substitution then it makes total sense to save the calories. The 150 pages of recipes do look good (Nachos, Potato Skins, Super Bowl Chili, Spinach Dip, Apple Crumble) but I'd be fattening them up!

The Anything Goes Diet isn't for all of us but I think it will really appeal to those who want more guidance on relaxing the food rules while getting or staying lean. 

Standard disclosurey stuff: I received a free review copy of the program. If you decide to buy through my links I will receive a portion of the sale. You will receive a discount through Friday.

Posted by skwigg at 11:52 PM CST

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