I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this. I've been actively avoiding it for years. I think I was afraid of it! I didn't necessarily want to hear that I'm not in total control of my eating, weight, and body comp. Here's the thing though. I keep accumulating evidence that, not only does my body know what it's doing, it's much smarter than I am. It does a fantastically better job of regulating....everything. With me and the diet industry calling the shots, I was 15 pounds heavier and struggling every day to maintain even that. Now that I'm actually listening to my body and eating according to its cues, my weight has stabilized in a great place. Staying here feels completely natural, almost effortless.
It's an understatement to say that this is not what I thought would happen. I was sure that if I practiced trust and self-acceptance, I would blow up like a balloon in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. My body was not to be trusted because it was broken, clearly. What I had not yet realized was that I'm the one who broke it, and that my continued efforts were making it worse. Oops! I totally see it now. So I'm more curious than ever how my body regulates weight so precisely, why it all goes wrong when I try to outsmart it, and what are the best ways to work with my body instead of against it. Health at Every Size is a book about that and more.
I've just started reading but I'm already highlighting like crazy. Here are a few:
-- "This book can cure your weight woes, but the answer may be different from what you’ve imagined. Health at Every Size is not a weight-loss book. It’s not a diet book. It’s not an exercise program. Health at Every Size is a book about healthy living, one designed to support you as you shift your focus from hating yourself and fighting your body to learning to appreciate yourself, your body, and your life. It’s a book designed to help you break free of the weight-loss mentality and embrace the health-and-happiness mentality. Because really, what’s beneath your weight-loss quest? Isn’t your ultimate goal to feel better about yourself, to feel love, acceptance, vitality, or good health."
"I became convinced that if only I could lose weight, I could change my life. And so my life deteriorated as I obsessed about food and activity to the detriment of my studies and social relationships."
"I learned that I didn’t have an eating problem, but I clearly had a problem taking care of myself."
"Suppose you had a “fat meter” that would send a loud “STOP!” message to your brain once you’d accumulated enough fat. Suddenly, you’d have no desire for pizza, ice cream, or potato chips. You’d look at these favorite foods, even smell their enticing odors, and wouldn’t even be tempted. Or maybe you would decide to eat anyway, and your metabolism would just rev up to burn off the extra calories. Nice fantasy, huh? Well, it’s not so far-fetched. Believe it or not, you do have that built-in mechanism."
She then goes on to explain what the mechanism is and how we screw it up by dieting. I think mine is back now, because I get the "stop" signals. I'll hit a point where I don't want any more Haagen-Dazs and I'll put it away. I stop because I'm totally satisfied and my body clearly says "enough." It's not because I've measured the portion, or counted the calories. It's not because it's cheat day or because it's all gone, or because I'm never going to eat ice cream again starting tomorrow. I just don't want any more. How crazy?! I would not have thought you could get that mechanism back once it's been smashed to bits by decades of dieting. I've also noticed that if I overeat, I'm less hungry later, or I have amazing energy for my workout, or (TMI) I poop more. LOL But somehow my body handles it without me needing to go on a grapefruit diet or start P90X.
Has anyone else read this book? Or been scared to read it? Any thoughts?
I forgot to mention how awesome the exercise chapter was.
There’s no doubt that physical activity tops the list of lifestyle habits that influence your health. Physical activity or, to put it more simply, movement, triggers tremendous changes in the hormones and neurotransmitters involved in weight regulation and health. Activity even helps you become more sensitive to hunger and satiety signals.
However, if you think hitting the gym or sprinting around the block is required, I’ve got some good news: Vacuuming the living room can be as, or more, beneficial than strenuous aerobic exercise for some people.
This is part of a new model for exercise called “active living.” Active living refers to moving more as part of your everyday life. It means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, raking the leaves yourself instead of recruiting a neighborhood child to do it or using a leaf blower, or parking at a distant spot instead of circling the parking lot looking for the closest space.
Yes, again! Over the course of the day, all of that has a much bigger impact weight/appetite/mood than my actual workout. Gym rat me would have scoffed, but it's all true! I'm in the best shape of my life right now, ten years after quitting the gym and never going back. I used to kill myself for an hour and then spend 23 lying motionless and recovering. That wasn't so effective! I get better results and enjoy my life a lot more by doing short, fun workouts that fit my morning, and then having plenty of energy for more activity throughout the day.
She has pages of discussion on easy ways to move more and make general activity a part of your life. The benefits are enormous. There's no need to join a gym, go to classes, or follow a formal exercise program. She says the key is to stop associating exercise with "working out" or with weight loss. Movement can feel wonderful, be empowering, relaxing, spontaneous, or social. "Your body is your physical connection to the world. Becoming active can help you chip away at any bad feelings you may have had for your body, enabling you to appreciate its functionality, de-emphasize it's looks, and revel in your strength and capabilities."
Really good stuff!
So, as soon as I say I'm live blogging the book, I finish the whole thing in one shot and run out of things to say. LOL
The contradictory and unnecessary nutrition information bugged me a bit but that was a very small part of the book. The overall message of trust, self-acceptance, health, and body positivity was amazing. I'm glad I finally read this. I was ready for it I think. I'm so done with dieting and applying external controls to my weight. My body handles the task effortlessly if I just LET IT. I highlighted this part:
When it’s working right, this weight-regulation mechanism is as precise as the most sophisticated scientific instrument. Don’t believe me? Just consider a fifty-year-old woman who weighs about five pounds more than she did when she was twenty. If she eats about 2,000 calories a day, over the course of thirty years she takes in about 22 million calories. Since five pounds of body fat stores about 17,500 calories, that means that her body was just .08 percent off in balancing energy in vs. energy out. This amounts to a difference of about 50 calories per month—less than the calories in one egg!
In other words, her energy balance was regulated with a precision greater than 99.9 percent! How many things in life can you say that about? Certainly there’s no way you can be as precise by trying to exert your own willpower over what you eat and how much you exercise.
Until recent decades, adult weight stability over long periods of time was the norm and was an effortless process. One 1970s research study showed that the average weight of a sixty-year-old man was only four to five pounds more than the average thirty-year-old man. That kind of weight maintenance is no accident.
So why fight? Give up counting calories and trying to control your eating through dieting. Instead, let your body do the regulating for you. I promise you’ll have far better results.
Yes, that! It's crazy how stable my size/weight is, even more so since I dropped the reins and quit the daily weighing. She talks a lot about set point, which is actually a range of 10-20 pounds and not a single number.
Your setpoint is: • The weight you maintain when you listen and respond to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness. • The weight you maintain when you don’t fixate on your weight or food habits. • The weight you keep returning to between diets.
Many dieters are actually above their natural set points because dieting behaviors promote weight gain. It sounds crazy but this was so true for me! Sure in the short term all diets work, they also all eventually fail, sending you bouncing back up to progressively higher weights. Each subsequent attempt becomes more difficult and less effective. Ending the restrict/overeat cycle and learning to eat to appetite allows your body to stabilize in a good place. Hilariously, my weight is the same now as it was before my first diet, and after the tenth diet, and before my eating disorder, and after my eating disorder. Like all those decades of batshit madness never even happened. Sheesh.
So, what is the alternative to diet hell?
--- Health at Every Size encourages: • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes. • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite. • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital. ---
There's a pledge that suggests feeding yourself when hungry, paying attention to how food tastes and how it makes you feel, choosing foods that you like and that make you feel good, honoring your body's fullness signals, moving in enjoyable ways, looking kindly at your body and treating it with love and respect.
Ooh, super threatening and scary right? It was for me, actually. In the midst of the fight, it felt like giving up. She reminds us that it's not giving up, it's moving on. People still hesitate though. I highlighted this part:
Think about what you have believed you will gain from being thinner. Fill in the blank with your fantasies: When I’m thin, _____________.
These were some responses from the research participants:
• When I’m thin, I’ll be more attractive to others. • When I’m thin, someone special will love me. • When I’m thin, I’ll have a sex drive. • When I’m thin, my sex life will get hot. • When I’m thin, I’ll get the job I’ve always wanted. • When I’m thin, my dad will be proud to be seen with me. • When I’m thin, I’ll be more outgoing and charming, have more friends. • When I’m thin, I can go to my high school reunion and show them how successful I’ve become. • When I’m thin, I’ll order what I really want at a restaurant. • When I’m thin, I won’t have diabetes. • When I’m thin, I won’t feel guilty about having diabetes. • When I’m thin, I’ll be more athletic. • When I’m thin, I’ll be more adventurous. • When I’m thin, I’ll be a rock star.
Once you consider the extent of the magical thinking that tends to be tied in to the fantasy of thinness, you can understand how threatening it is to consider the idea that you may never get the thin body you crave. It means that you never get to become the person you want to be. Wow! No wonder it’s so painful to let go of the drive to lose weight! Accepting your body is not just about physicality, it’s about accepting who you are, not continuing to wait until you become the person you imagine being.
--- Your body doesn’t represent your core self. You are many more important things beyond your body: Perhaps you are compassionate, intelligent, articulate, and/or creative. Don’t give your body more power than it deserves; it can’t define you. Instead, cultivate a value system that puts appearance in its place and honors bodies for more than their packaging. Your body is valuable because it houses you. ---
Most people try to change their bodies to fit their minds’ perception of what their bodies should look like, i.e., starving themselves to lose weight. Moving toward a healthy body image requires just the opposite: changing your mind to appreciate your actual body.
I'll stop now. Haha! It was very thought-provoking.
That lovely 1-10 hunger scale from intuitive eating makes an appearance in this book. The good thing though is that she encourages you to throw it out and make your own. You define the levels of hunger and fullness that you experience personally. You decide the range where you feel best eating and stopping. It will vary with context. She also warns against making it the "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full" diet. It's normal and healthy to sometimes eat for reasons other than hunger, or to overshoot fullness. There's no reason to be rigid. What's important is that you're making conscious choices.
She's a grazer who likes to eat often and not get very full. Thankfully she didn't prescribe that as ideal for everyone because I'm the exact opposite. I like to eat satisfying meals and not get hungry or think about food for hours. You may be somewhere in between. It's all about feeling good and meeting your true needs, which may or may not be about food. Emotional eating is up next. Stand by.
I'm almost live blogging this as I read it. :-) If you have any thoughts, jump right in.
I am a sucker for quizzes and questionnaires. There are several in this book: how to determine if you're a restrained eater, how to know if you're above or below your natural set point, that kind of thing. When I found this set of questions in chapter nine, I found myself thinking through all of my answers and wanting to write them down, so here we go.
1. What does hunger feel like to you and how does it progress?
My very first sign is finding myself thinking about food. That eventually becomes a slight empty/hollow sensation my abdomen. That progresses to a gentle growl or two. The growls come and go. They are polite and comfortable unless I ignore them for several hours. Then they get louder and more persistent. Other people can hear them. The hollow sensation starts to feel more like my stomach is gnawing on my spine. Weirdly though, even this will come and go. It's not a constantly worsening state. Food thoughts are though! Once I pass gnawing hunger, obtaining food and eating food is all I'm thinking about. As I'm writing this, I realize that I don't experience shaky/angry/hangry blood sugar sensations at any stage. If I wait way too long, may feel "buzzed" and energized from the stress hormones, but I've identified euphoria as red alert level hunger in my case. That doesn't usually hit until about 20 hours without food, which I never do anymore but I've experienced it with intermittent fasting.
2. What does fullness feel like to you and how does it progress?
Similar to hunger, the first signs of fullness are often a thought and not a sensation. My mind will start to wonder from my food to post-meal activities. I'll have a fleeting thought about checking my phone, or what I need to do to get ready for work, or I'll want to peruse the on-screen guide on the television. I'm no longer totally focused on eating. Just beyond that, I'll feel emotionally satisfied, like that was really good and exactly what I wanted. I start to feel done. It takes a little longer for actual stomach stretch/fullness to occur, maybe 15-20 minutes during or after eating. If I keep going, I'll begin to feel quite physically full but not uncomfortable. I'll be totally content and relaxed. If I keep going, I'll be very full. It starts to get uncomfortable. At this stage, I wouldn't want to play volleyball. LOL Keep going, and I'm flirting with pain. All I want to do is lie down, unbutton my jeans, and sleep it off. If I cross that line, then there's just pain, regret, and nausea.
3. What degree of hunger do you feel best responding to? Does the context matter?
I feel best eating when I'm somewhere between the slightly hollow/empty abdomen sensation and gentle occasional growling. Context matters. If a meal gets delayed or I'm busy with other things, I can enter the audible growling stage without being uncomfortable or panicked. I just appreciate the food more when I get it. Or, if magical looking cupcakes present themselves at work when I'm not even remotely hungry, I may decide to participate anyway.
4. At what level of fullness do you feel most content? Does the context matter?
Context is huge here. At regular meals, I like to stop at the stomach stretched, full but not uncomfortable stage. I know that will allow me to go many hours without thinking about food again. At special meals, like a delicious restaurant meal with good company and conversation, I generally take it to the "quite physically full but not uncomfortable" stage. I'll feel sleepy and relaxed afterwards. It may be longer until I'm hungry again, but no problem. Occasionally, if I just want something, or maybe I'm biding my time until dinner. I may eat something small that stops me at "emotionally satisfied" so that I'm free of food thoughts for an hour or two until the real meal. I basically never eat until I'm in pain anymore. It ruins the fun.
I've been reading more this weekend. I'm about to start chapter nine. I'm holding off final thoughts until I finish the book. The nutrition chapter was bad. If an author needs several paragraphs explaining why people might want to skip the nutrition chapter, that the information could be damaging and counterproductive, maybe you shouldn't write it. Ya think?
I agree with the Amazon reviewers who said the book would have been more powerful and effective without nutrition recommendations. She needed to say, "Eat mostly whole foods. Focus on how food makes you feel." That could have been the whole nutrition chapter. Instead, she threw out a bunch of convoluted, contradictory research about the benefits of slashing fat to 15 percent of intake. (I can't freaking fathom!), how eating four or more times per day is better for weight control (What?!), and how going too long between meals and eating too much fat causes insulin resistance. Again, WHAT?! At this point I'm actually fantasizing about Dr Linda Bacon vs Dr Jason Fung in a celebrity deathmatch. LOL
So, yes, boo to the nutrition information, but the overall message of the book is amazing. I'm highlighting it to pieces. Maybe I'll be back with more thoughts and quotes later today.