Category Archives: Dietinig

The problem with “nutritional consultants” –

– or, The futility of giving advice to food addicts as though we were normal people.

I am at this moment looking at an article in today’s Globe and Mail that offers sane advice on how to cut calories.  It includes such sensible tips as: “Limit your salad toppings,” “Watch your protein,” and “Count your cookies.”

I happen to live with a person who would likely read this kind of advice, find it logical and useful, and follow it.

I am not that kind of person.

When I am sticking to a weight-loss program, no matter what it is, I stick to it. I don’t trim off a few calories here and a few there … I follow the plan that I have set out for myself. I measure the protein, omit the salad toppings, and steer clear of cookies completely. But when I am NOT sticking to the program, I am not counting cookies – I am devouring them. When I’m not on a diet, I see salad as a bed for iniquity, and the way I take my protein is as peanuts in M&Ms.

I am not a half-measures person, and I think that is one of the things that sets food addicts apart from normal people (of which there are very few in the world, in my experience. Perhaps there are four or five: the person with whom I live, the person who wrote the article in the Globe and Mail, and three others). Before I quit drinking, I remember once being given a lovely wine-bottle stopper as a gift, and looking at it with gratitude mixed with bemusement. I had very little occasion to save leftover wine since there usually wasn’t any left over, so – as I had anticipated – the bottle stopper got very little use.

At this time of year, there are thousands upon thousands of articles by nutritional experts on how to lose weight. They are everywhere (the nutritionists and the articles). However, for most of us, the problem is not the food we eat or any ignorance on our part about what it is about our food choices that is causing us to gain weight.

The problem is what is going on in our heads.

* * * * * * *

And this kind of self-awareness is, my friends, what my main character, Rita Turner, gradually attains in The Whole Clove Diet. You can read the first 65 pages of the novel for free right here.

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An Intolerable Domestic Situation

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 11.40.10 AMBased on my experiences not only with diets but with attempts to quit smoking and drinking, I noticed that unless something very deep is driving us to change ourselves, it’s not the big things in life that tend to send us off the deep end and put our resolutions at risk. (Big things probably would knock us off track as well — but at least if it were something big, we’d have a better excuse for falling off the wagon!) It’s the endless tedious little things that wear us down. We begin to think, “What’s the point? Nothing’s ever going to get better anyway,” and “Poor me. I always have to do everything around here,” and “I deserve a treat.” And before we know it, we’ve given up on giving up and we’re back on the cycle of despair, self-recrimination, over-indulgence, and then more resolutions.

In order to set up this kind of situation for my main character, Rita Sax Turner, so that she could experience what I had, and ultimately gain the same insights I had gained, I created a domestic situation that would become intolerable for her as often as possible. I did this by creating family members who were difficult for her to cope with: partly because she is young, partly because she is not the actual parents of the children in the house, and partly because she is going about trying to lose weight in the wrong way (as far as I’m concerned).

What was interesting to me — as it always is when I write fiction — was how I could set up a situation like that, and then find that the characters I had invented so that they would get in the way of Rita’s progress gradually started to take on their own personalities, and become people. To me, Graham, Simon and Ida, Coralea and Elmer, and Rita’s mother are as real as the people I know in the real world. They are not evil — none of them is trying to do anything but be themselves. Their effect on Rita is the result of her attitude toward them — and, more importantly, her attitude toward herself.

Join us!

If you are just tuning in to this blog, welcome. I invite you to join our little group of members of the One-Book-Only Book Club. We are reading The Whole Clove Diet over the month of January, and talking about overeating as addiction. So far we’ve read the first eleven chapters, and this week we’ll read to page 190 (end of Chapter 21). You can read the first seven chapters free right here, and the guidelines for the reading group are here. We welcome your input.

 

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Discussion topic: Rita Turner’s (and my) addiction to food

Read the first seven chapters for free!

Reprinted from The Whole Clove Diet website:

On the basis of my so-far successful battles with alcohol and cigarettes (13 years and counting), I began to recognize my ongoing struggle with food as an addiction, too. In my newest solo novel, The Whole Clove Diet, which was commended by one reviewer for its “deftness, light touch, humour and benevolence, but also for its insights into human frailty,” I explore the many compulsions to eat food that have nothing to do with hunger, but are related instead to being angry, tired, lonely, afraid and sad. I don’t believe that any diet will work for anyone until this fact has been addressed.

For most of this novel, Rita is not in charge of her eating habits, even though everyone (including all the people who know her, her readers,  and even Rita herself) thinks she should be. She goes on every diet in the book (literally!), without success. But finally she begins to find a more enduring way out of her misery.

From January 1 to January 31, 2014, right here on my Whole Clove Diet blog, a group of us will be reading this novel together and discussing the very real obstacles to getting a grip on overeating. Please join us.

You can start reading the novel here, for free, and then buy it if you want to find out what happens next….

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Introducing the One-Book-Only Book Club: January 1 to 31, 2014

What better time to read a novel about a woman who is struggling to get thin than in January?

TWCD_3DJoin other readers and the author for a fun, easy, interesting, on-line book discussion from January 1 to 31, 2014 to read and talk about The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel – the story of 29-year-old Rita Sax Turner’s frustrating and funny but ultimately rewarding journey to rid herself of sixty unwanted pounds (or so. Maybe more. Maybe less).

Each week we’ll read 100 pages, and then we’ll talk about them together. There will be set questions and topics posted at the end of each week, but you can ask the author anything about her thoughts on the book, or talk among yourselves – about the book, families, marriages, walking in the park, your own food-related issues, anything.

If you have ever used food for something besides sustenance – like to make you thinner, or fatter, or just plain warm and comfy – you’re going to love reading about Rita.

The Whole Clove Diet tells the story of a young woman caught in a frustrating marriage with two step-kids, a nagging mom, a whiny mother-in-law and no clear plan for her future… well, at least none that she wants to think about. Not long ago she was a slim young thing with her whole future ahead of her, but as her options decline, she is getting fatter and fatter (her words) – not from hunger, but from frustration and rage, and feelings of despair and sadness. Her husband thinks that her getting pregnant would be just the thing, but this idea only makes her feel more trapped. She goes on diet after diet, and guess what? They don’t work. It appears that reducing your calorie intake does not take any weight off your problems.

Rita’s redeeming features include her ability to hope (true of anyone who has ever gone on a diet!), her wits, and her sense of humour (black though it may sometimes be). When an injury gives her an excuse to escape the home-front action for a week, she starts to figure it all out – and to figure herself out. The novel is ultimately a feel-good story that will leave you cheering for Rita (and feeling even more hopeful for yourself, and for those around you who are battling with addictions of any kind).

Some of the issues we’ll be talking about:

  • Is overeating an addiction – just as bulimia and anorexia are now thought to be?
  • How does the western world treat people who are overweight differently than it does people of normal weight?
  • Do we invite any of this treatment ourselves, by how we act when we are above our ideal weights?
  • What is self-discipline? Can you acquire it, and if so, where?
  • What is the difference between deciding to make a life change and resolving to make one?
  • Do women and men approach food differently? How much does this have to do with our historic roles?
  • Does one diet work better than another?

We’ll also get down to the nitty gritty:

  • Why exactly is Rita sexually attracted to a doctor who has been verbally abusive to her?
  • What can Rita do about the fact that her husband’s first wife keeps getting more and more attractive in everyone’s memory the longer she is dead?
  • What IS the recipe for Nanaimo bars?

As we read, your feelings of despair and sympathy for Rita will alternate with a sense that you want to sit down and have a talk with her, or maybe just give her a good shake. But she’ll also make you laugh and cheer.

Find out what the author was thinking when she wrote the novel, and what her own experiences with weight issues (and other addictions) have been, in this perfectly timed opportunity to join a book club that is reading only one book, ever.

Whether you’ve already read The Whole Clove Diet or have been intending to read it – or have never even heard of it until this minute – join us. (Check out the reviews by other readers first, on Amazon or GoodReads, if you’re so inclined.) If you have ever wanted to lose (or gain) a pound or two, are planning to make a new year’s resolution (about anything – the same principles apply if you’re on a weight-loss program, cutting back on the booze or cigarettes, or training for a half marathon), or just love reading some good writing, snuggle up with this book – and with us – for a truly satisfying launch to the new year.

Note: The WCD One-Off Book Club will meet right here, on the  The Whole Clove Diet blog, but the discussion will be copied to Mary W. Walters’s Author Page on GoodReads. Regular updates will also appear on the Mary W. Walters, Writer Facebook page, and on Twitter (@MaryWWalters). If you are not an on-line-forum kind of person, you can have printouts of the discussions emailed to you on request, and you can submit questions by email each week that will be answered and/or discussed by the group. (mary at marywwalters dot com)

The Whole Clove Diet is available from amazon.com in both print and e-book versions, and as a Kobo e-book.

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Are you DIETING?? Do you need someone to whom you can feel superior??

Rita Turner would be happy to volunteer. She probably holds the world’s record for being on a diet for the fewest minutes ever: one morning she was absolutely committed to a new diet when she got out of bed, and off it before she even hit the kitchen. In addition to swearing off sugars, fats and every food that’s white, she has even resolved to give up dieting from time to time…. This time, for example:

Rita leaves the three of them at the Emergency entrance to University Hospital. She takes the car home so she can change her clothes, clean the puke off the back seat of the car – as much as possible at least, considering that she can’t get the garage door open and it’s minus fifteen in the driveway and blowing snow – and do something about the mess on the living-room rug. While she’s at home, she takes the opportunity to run downstairs and grab a few Mars bars from a box at the back of the shelf in the guest-room closet. She eats one and puts two others in her purse, and immediately feels much better.

Rita has given up on giving up, at least for the time being . . . for three weeks, to be exact: until the first of January. She’s decided she’s been putting too much pressure on herself by going on so many diets all the time – and then ruining her self-esteem by going off every one of them before a week is up. Well usually, to be more honest, before the first day is up. Or even less than that.

So what if she gains another pound or two between now and January 1? She’s 223 as it is, and at two pounds a week that’s fifty-one weeks of losing weight to get to where she wants to be. What difference will it make if she ends up facing another week or two? None. It’s going to take a year or more, no matter how you look at it. A huge amount of time.

Not that she’s not going to do it. She is. Starting January 1. She just needs a little rest-up first. A breather – a bit of time to draw some breath. Christmas is too hard anyway. Even normal people eat too much at Christmas.

In the meantime, she isn’t going to suffer. She’s earned a holiday from deprivation. “Overstock” has become her creed and motto. She refuses to be stranded ever again with no willpower and no food. Ever. As of the first she’ll have the willpower, and for now she’ll have the food. These days when she gets the Plymouth for an hour she zooms straight over to the shopping centre, leaves the car ticking away its warmth while she hustles through the drug store, grocery store, liquor store, hard- and house-ware stores – pre-drafted lists in hand – topping up supplies of the necessary and the might-be-necessary. She’s gone mad with freedom: secreted boxes of Wagon Wheels and Oreo cookies on rafters in the laundry room and in the storage closet in the basement guest room, hidden candy bars throughout the house, loaded three four-litre tubs of ice cream into the downstairs freezer – one each of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. (She has a complex explanation ready involving coupons and a Christmas recipe for Neapolitan flambé if anyone should ask about the ice cream. And if Simon or Ida should find her chocolate bars – well, she’ll be amazed.)

So what’s her problem? you may well ask. Well, one of her major problems is that her husband, Graham, used to be married to the most perfect woman in the world – Rosa – but Rosa is, unfortunately, dead, and Rita can never hope to fill her shoes:

Rita stands in the McKittredges’ front vestibule waiting for Noreen and Graham to bring the children from downstairs, where they have fallen asleep on the couch in front of the television set. It is nearly two in the morning and Noreen says they didn’t fall asleep until almost one. “Good as gold,” she said. “Just sat there on the couch, still as little owls, staring at TV.” Rita considers with a sinking feeling what they’ll be like tomorrow after sitting still as owls for seven hours and then not getting enough sleep.

Graham and Noreen have been downstairs for quite a while. The house is still; maybe they’re talking about Elmer. Harry must have gone to bed, or maybe he passed out down there watching TV with the kids.

Rita looks through the living room and into the dining room, and thinks that Simon and Ida must have liked to come here once: this house is so much warmer and more welcoming than Elmer and Coralea’s place, where they like going very well, and so much nicer and more spacious than their own home. The living room is softly lit by a gold-footed floor lamp that stands beside the couch, its cream-coloured shade trimmed in elegant long fringes. The overstuffed body of the couch itself is covered in a dark green velvety fabric, and a multi-coloured afghan made of bright granny squares is draped across the S of its wood-framed back. Rita feels her eyes grow heavy as she imagines herself sinking down across those seat cushions, drawing the afghan up. She imagines the soundness of the sleep that would immediately come over her, the way the tock-tocking of the grandfather clock in the dining room would keep her down, down in the plaited darkness.

In this light, the thread-bareness of the house disappears and the living and dining rooms seem richly flocked and shadowed, battened in browns and blacks, dark greens and golds and reds. At the top of the carpeted stairway, with its square newel posts and dark broad rails, wood deeply shone by all the hands that have run over them for decades, the hallway is in darkness. Even that darkness seems soft to her, appealing.

She straightens, forces her gaze to move around the room in order to keep her eyes open. Her shoulders, arms and legs ache with weariness.

Rita imagines coming home at night to this, when everyone else is in bed. Imagines that Noreen’s left the light on, just as it is right now, set it low after checking the clasps on the windows, locking the doors, going upstairs to join her husband. Or maybe it’s him that does the last jobs, Harry – not the drinker he is today. Maybe Noreen’s already gone up there and readied herself for bed, and now she is settled under their duvet reading a hardcover by the light of her bedside lamp.

Down here, their young, still unmarried daughter opens the door on these familiar rooms cast in their muted light, smells the faint lingering aftersmell of the day’s baking and the evening’s dinner, hears the slow even tock-tock-tocking of the grandfather clock. Rosa steps inside and closes the door behind her, closes herself inside. Others have worked to preserve this place for her while she’s been gone; they’ve made it safe for her. This is where she comes for restoration – for food, for rest, for solitude. She hasn’t needed to think about it, doesn’t need to think about it now—she can take it all for granted. She hangs up her coat and heads for the stairs, her only inclination to go to bed, to sleep. The voyageur is home.

Growing up in a place like this, Rita thinks with envy, would make perfection possible.

It’s not Rosa’s fault, of course – how can anything be her fault when she is dead? – but Rita’s envy of Rosa, combined with a lot of other issues, have helped turn her overeating problem into a full-fledged food addiction.

You can read Rita’s story and the story of how she finally gets a grip on it in the The Whole Clove Diet, a novel, which is available in paperback or in ebook format. (Check out the reviews while you are there – and if you read the book, and especially if you like it, please post a review. Thank you!

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