Fat Talk: Social Bonding or Socially Damaging?

Fat Talk.  If you’re a woman, you know what this is.  It happens when you get together with girlfriends.  It’s usually at its worst if you bump into someone on a “bad hair day,” (or what I like to call, more aptly, a “bad body image day”).  The conversation starts innocently enough, with friendly small talk, but inevitably one of you compliments the other on “how great she looks.” Both of you know this has nothing to do with her outfit, but with how slim you perceive the other to be.

Thus begins the volley of self-deprecating remarks.  “Gosh, I feel so fat these days, I don’t know how you manage to stay so slim.” This is met with, “Lord no, you think I look skinny?  I look so gross today, I ate like a pig at lunch.  You’re delusional!” And back and forth, with each defending her position as the fat one, and complimenting the other on how great she looks.

What’s really going on here?  What’s Fat Talk really about?  And do you realize how damaging it can really be?

The Purpose of Fat Talk

There are a few factors at play here, some of which perpetuate the diet mentality and contribute to the maintenance of body image and eating disorders.

1. The social acceptability of Fat Talk.  When ”French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano first came out (this was before I specialized in this area), I remember being very clearly impressed by the author’s statement that in France (and Europe more generally), it’s considered in bad taste to comment on one’s own weight or eating habits.  However, in North America, women regularly engage in Fat Talk as a bonding activity, putting […]

By |April 19th, 2011|Body Image, Dieting|0 Comments

Intuitive Eating: The Anti-Diet Approach to Eating and Losing Weight

In my last article, I explained why diets don’t work, and how they can actually do more harm than good (from causing weight gain to contributing to the development of eating disorders).  But if diets don’t work, and you really want to lose a few pounds, what will?

The answer is lies in looking at the ingredient missing in most diets: your relationship with food. In order for your weight to change, so do your thoughts, feelings and actions around food.  Intuitive eating, an approach developed by Eveyln Tribole and Elyse Resch, helps you do just that.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches people how to become more attuned to their bodies’ hunger signals, rather than keeping track of calories.  The process focuses on developing a healthy relationship with food, mind and body.

The basic premise is that we all contain an inner wisdom that knows exactly what we want to eat, and how much to eat at any given moment.  Skeptical?  Think of how a baby or small toddler eats: when they’re hungry, they know it (and so do you!), and no amount of pushing and prodding can get them to eat when they aren’t.  However, somewhere along the way many of us lose touch with our body’s hunger and fullness signals. Food rules learned at home or at school (“finish your plate!”), or being given food as a treat or a comfort, can eventually distort our natural relationship with food.

Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach that can help reverse this distortion.  It is also sometimes referred to as conscious or mindful eating.  However, it is also much more than that.

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

In order to embrace this […]

By |June 3rd, 2010|Dieting, Intuitive Eating|0 Comments

Dieting: The Worst Way to Lose Weight

It’s a familiar scenario.  You wake up on a Monday morning after a weekend of overeating feeling sick, bloated and disgusted with yourself.  The first thought that crosses your mind is, “That’s it, I can’t do this anymore.  Time to change my ways!  Today I’m going on a diet, and I swear I’ll stick to it this time!”

With renewed hope and optimism, you start your day off with a tiny bowl of fruit and pack a lunch with some raw veggies and lean protein. But by 3 or 4 o’clock you’re famished, and the battle begins. “Should I or shouldn’t I?” The vending machine calls to you, and after struggling with the impulse to resist for what seems like an age, you make a mad dash for a bag of chips.  On your way home, you stop for a burger and fries – because who cares, you blew it anyway.

Before going to sleep, you tell yourself that tomorrow is another day, and you’ll start fresh again…

Let Go of the Struggle

If you’ve tried every diet out there, from faddish to more sensible, you know this routine all too well. And you know that it never lasts.  Sometimes you’re “good” for a week, sometimes you don’t make it past breakfast.  And if you actually manage to stick it out long enough to lose a decent amount of weight, somehow it eventually seems to creep back on.

And here’s the sad truth: 95-98% of all diets fail. If your doctor recommended a treatment with that kind of failure rate, would you eagerly rush in?  Somehow, I don’t think so.

It’s so easy to blame yourself for this neverending yo-yo cycle. After all, it’s […]

By |May 6th, 2010|Dieting, Mindful Eating|0 Comments

Setting New Year’s Resolutions That Work

It’s January 1st.  Karen wakes up past noon, feeling groggy and bloated from too much drinking and eating at last night’s party.  As she slowly gets up, she stares at her pudge, feeling that it has ballooned exponentially over the holidays.  Disgusted with herself, she vows that THIS will be the year that she finally loses weight, gets back into her skinny jeans (which have long since gone out of fashion) and becomes a fitness buff.

Full of resolve, she vows to eat nothing but celery sticks and carrots when she gets the munchies, to prepare the elaborate meals from that diet book she bought for New Year’s Resolution 2001, and to get to the gym 5 days a week.

That very night, she slips up and finishes the box of Christmas cookies from her mother.  A week later, she finally gets up the courage to go to the gym, which is crowded with other Resolvers.  After waiting 15 minutes for a machine, she feels exhausted after her 10 minute workout (with the machine set to Level 1!).  Defeated, discouraged, and without energy, she goes home to a bucket of ice cream; things were fine just the way they were.

Sound familiar?

What went wrong?

* Her motivation to lose weight was motivated by disgust and fear, not a desire to take care of herself.  This always leads to guilty failure, a sense of disappointing yourself or someone else.

* She didn’t have a specific plan; rather, she went about willy-nilly doing things she thought you’re supposed to do when you’re on a “diet” (my most loathed four-letter word).

* Whatever meagre goals she did have were completely unrealistic; one cannot subsist on carrots and celery, nor can one realistically expect […]

By |January 8th, 2009|Dieting, Emotional Eating, Exercise, Fitness, Tips|0 Comments

What a diet really is

In my book, a diet is anything that tells you what, when or how much to eat, no matter how sensible. It is based on something external.  It is not based on what your body is telling you it wants or needs.  Don’t be fooled by weight loss programs that claim not to be diets – if it tells you to do anything other than trust your instincts, it’s a diet.

By |July 1st, 2008|Dieting|0 Comments

“Diet” is a four-letter word

I recently started reading “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyne Tribole and Elyse Resch. In it, they list the multiple reasons that dieting doesn’t work.  They discuss how we have become a nation obsessed with dieting, weight and body image concerns.  While this is nothing new, they do make the point that all this talk of dieting is contributing to our weight problems by overemphasizing the what we “should” be eating instead of learning to listen to our body’s own hunger signals.

This reminded me of another book I read recently, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” where author Mireille Guiliano states that American women are obsessed with dieting and talking about their own weight problems. She says that in France, it is considered tacky and impolite to discuss such matters in front of others, except with your doctor if health is an issue.  I found that so refreshing, because it seems that whenever women get together, half the conversation is focused on how fat they’ve been feeling lately, what they shouldn’t be eating but will “indulge” themselves with this time, what they’ve been doing to lose weight, how it’s been working/not working.  Phew!  Talk about exhausting.

Next time you’re out with friends or family I dare you to completely refuse to talk about dieting, the “evils” of food, your body, or your exercise routine (or lack thereof). Don’t say anything self-deprecating (I look terrible in these jeans!), don’t comment on your conflicted feelings about your food (I shouldn’t be eating this but it tastes so good!) or how full you feel.  And if anyone else gets started, politely excuse yourself from engaging in the conversation by saying something along the lines of, “I would prefer […]

By |June 16th, 2008|Dieting, Food|0 Comments

Treat the water, not the fish

I came across a quote today in one of the ezines I subscribe to.

“…when you have a pet fish that’s sick, you treat the water—NOT the fish.”

-Artemis Limpert

This really struck a chord with me because so often when there’s a problem, we tend to try to fix ourselves, rather than take a look at what could be changed in our environment.  This is especially true for people to struggle with their weight – “if I’m fat, it must be my fault.” So you try to diet, fix your bad attitude, force yourself to exercise, etc., etc.  And when it doesn’t work, who gets the blame?  You do, of course.

What about trying to see what’s not working in your environment? Maybe your job is really stressful, which leads to to overeat even when you’re not hungry.  Reduce your stress level and watch your cravings diminish.  If you tend to pig out in front of the TV at night, stop buying junk food.  I don’t keep it in the house because if it’s there, I’ll eat it.  How often will you actually leave the house to go and get a bag of chips just because you feel like snacking?

Another part of your environment you might want to think about is the amount of support in your life. Make those around you aware of your efforts to lead a healthier lifestyle, so that they can support you as you make small changes.  And when things don’t go perfectly, they can be there for you to encourage you to keep going.  They’re not always going to know what you need, so you need to ask.  Other forms of support can include fitness groups, online support […]

By |June 7th, 2008|Dieting, Emotional Eating, Quotes, Tips|0 Comments

Tapping your way out of emotional eating: Fact or fiction?

I’ve got two words to describe Sunday night’s episode of “I Can Make You Thin:” not impressed. Although McKenna did a pretty good job of explaining why people use emotional eating to cope with their feelings, the whole episode had an infomercial feel to it.  It had a high fluff to content ratio, with lots of testimonials and recaps from the last episode. 

The worst bit: his tapping technique. When I first learned that he would be demonstrating this technique during this episode, I was immediately skeptical but decided to try and be scientific about it and give it a fair chance.  But it just seemed so silly, not to mention hard to remember how to follow (tap here, tap there, hum this, look here, etc.).  I came across a great blog post where the author did some research and found some unsavoury information about the man who developed this technique: again, not impressed.  I suppose it might be helpful for some people, if they can manage to remember how to do it, but my feeling is that it works mainly by distraction.  In fact, it reminds me a lot of a highly controversial technique developed for treating trauma called “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” (EMDR).  Although some studies have found it to be effective, the general criticism levied against it is that is uses the usual process of treating trauma, but adds in the repetitive eye movements as a form of distraction from the high levels of emotions that arise.  It seems to me this tapping technique works in a very similar way.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with distracting yourself. If you’ve got the urge to eat […]

By |March 26th, 2008|Dieting, Emotional Eating|0 Comments

Can TV make you thin?

Last night a new show on TLC premiered called “I Can Make You Thin”. Although the title is a little too sensationalist, and the host, Paul McKenna, a little too showbizzy for my taste, I think this show is a welcome change from your usual weight loss TV programming.  Shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp” are demeaning and mostly counter to what I believe constitutes a healthy lifestyle.  This show, on the other hand, doesn’t focus on militant dieting and exercise, but rather follows some of the basic principles of intuitive eating.

In this first episode, McKenna outlines what he calls the Four Golden Rules:

1) When you’re hungry, EAT: a revolutionary concept, I know.  But so many diets disconnect us from our own hunger signals, saying we should only eat at prescribed times.  This has two unfortunate consequences: either you starve yourself between meals, setting you up for a binge later on, or if you do eat between meals, you feel guilty for it.  In the end, the result is the same: you’re not listening to your body.  But if you start tuning into your own hunger signals, and actually give yourself permission to eat when you’re hungry, you’ll end the cycle of deprivation and guilt.  Check out the Hunger Scale I have posted in my Resources section to help you decide when you should eat.

2) Eat what you want, not what you think you should: another pitfall of dieting is you’re forced to eat certain things, instead of paying attention to what your body is telling you it wants.  I know, if you give yourself permission to eat what you want, you’ll live on nothing but pizza and ice […]

By |March 17th, 2008|Dieting, Emotional Eating, Tips|0 Comments

Why diets don’t work

Here’s a great article I found about why diets don’t work: click here or go to http://www.register-herald.com/features/local_story_029220702.html?keyword=topstory

The only thing I would add to the end is to take a look at what food means to you. Eating well and exercising are no-brainers, but if you really want to stop dieting forever, you have to develop a healthier attitude towards food.

By |February 1st, 2008|Dieting|0 Comments