Category Archives: Habits

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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3, 2, 1, begin … (Don’t worry. It’s not a diet.)

It’s a discussion group about what causes people to need to go on diets. And about a book, if you care to read it.

Today (or tomorrow, if you are into procrastination. Which is not always a bad thing. See note three paragraphs down), we will start reading The Whole Clove Diet. Next Friday, January 9, we will launch our discussion of the first 100 pages of the novel (well, let’s say we’ll discuss what happens up to the end of chapter 11 on page 94, since page 100 is in the middle of a chapter).

If you don’t feel like buying the book, but still want to join in, you can read the first 64 pages right here, so you’ll know a bit about Rita and her situation.

I haven’t read the novel since it was published, and it would be embarrassing not to remember some event in my own book. So I’ll read the first eleven chapters this week too, in case anyone wants to comment on anything specific. You’re welcome to write a comment or ask a question before next Friday if you want to: that’s just a deadline of a sort.

In the meantime, you might be interested in a post about resolutions as a procrastination strategy that I wrote today on one of my other blog sites. In Defense of Procrastination is the blog for a book I’m writing about all the positive aspects to procrastination there are, along with the negative ones, and why we should try not to feel so guilty when we procrastinate sometimes. Today’s entry covers one benefit that I hadn’t thought of before, and the idea comes thanks to an interesting guy named Timothy Pychyl, who is a psychology prof at Carleton. He points out that when we make a resolution to do something (or stop doing something) at a certain point in the future, we feel good about ourselves because we are going to do (or stop doing) that thing. So we get a positive feeling even though we haven’t actually done the thing or made the change yet. We get to have our cake and eat it too, as it were.

Resolutions are a big part of life for those of us who are addicted to food and other things. As Rita realizes, our thoughts are always about what we are going to do next Monday, or the first day of next month, or on New Year’s Day. Or tomorrow.

I remember reading somewhere that we could start a new way of being in the world at ANY moment –  right now, for example. That blew me away. I had always figured you had to start a new way of living first thing in the morning. (In truth, I found it a bit scary to think that I could start a new routine right now. Not sure why.)

Then, after years and years of New Year’s Resolutions during which I broke cigarettes in half and flushed them down the toilet at midnights (or at least before I went to bed) and dumped half bottles of wine down the sink more often than I want to think about, I finally faced my alcohol addiction a third of the way through an October, and quit smoking half way through a June. So much for Mondays and firsts of the month and New Year’s Days!

Admin stuff

I’m posting a new Page (see tab above header) with the guidelines to our book club on it, in case anyone wants to refer to them.

I’m delighted at how many people have visited this blog in the past week or so, and I hope you are a return visitor – or will be one. I’m also happy that a fellow struggler has left a comment on the post that went up yesterday. We are not alone! I invite you to join in…

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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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What we talk about when we talk about “dieting”

A friend sent me this link yesterday. It is an article written by a woman named Jen Larson, who has written a book entitled Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head. In the article, she talks about the experience of losing 180 lbs following bariatric surgery, and the effect (or, to be more specific, the amazing-to-her lack thereof) that the weight loss has had on her life and her mind.

Here is Jen Larson’s article in Shine from Yahoo

Within a year and a half of the surgery, Jen had gone from 300 lbs to 120 lbs — a dramatic change in her appearance that is clearly visible in the photos that accompany the article. It wasn’t until she was moving past overweight through normal and toward being underweight that she realized she had fallen for what she refers to as “the fairytale of weight loss.” Like so many of us (almost all of us?) she had assumed that if only she could get her body to the size she wanted it to be, all her other problems would disappear: she would live happily ever after.

It wasn’t true for her, of course, and it isn’t true for anyone that I’ve ever heard of. It is never the weight that is the problem – that is the symptom. It is our unhappiness, or depression, or lack of fulfillment, or sadness, or whatever it is, or whatever we want to call it. Those mind-based issues are very difficult to address, but our shapes and sizes are almost impossible to change unless we do. The roots of our personal demons and our weight issues are intertwined in ways that are very hard to see, although most of us catch glimpses from time to time.

Jen Larson’s story is an interesting case in point because due to surgery, she lost the weight in a manner that did not require her to change anything else about herself. Most of us have to change other things as well before we can be successful at gaining a grip on our eating patterns, but Jen was able to become thinner while remaining emotionally unchanged. Her experience combined with her awareness demonstrate a very important point: successful long-term weight loss is not usually brought about by making a resolution, any more than gaining the weight in the first place results from lack of willpower.

I find it interesting that people use terms like “food addiction” and “eating disorders” when they say they identify with Rita or raise other issues from The Whole Clove Diet, rather than talking about over-eating, being overweight or being obese. The words “addiction” and “disorder” go to the root of what Jen Larson is talking about: those words focus on the emotional and psychological issues that make us eat too much or too little, rather than on the shape that is the outcome of our misery.

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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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Good news from the scale and from book-land

LATEST STATS: To November 27, 2012

Amount lost: 33.5 lbs

How long it’s taken me so far (June 20 to Nov. 20): 5 months

Someone said to me last night, on hearing my total weight loss so far and how long I’ve been sticking to my resolution not to eat sugar, “Now you’ll have to rewrite The Whole Clove Diet.

The whole point is that I DON’T have to rewrite The Whole Clove Diet, because what I am doing is proof of the (sugarless 🙂 ) pudding.

Over the course of the novel, Rita learns about the basic and fundamental adjustments in attitude that she needs to make in order to change her compulsive way of eating, and I (knowing those principles from other kinds of overindulgence I have indulged in in my life — I am the one, after all, who wrote the novel!) got it together enough to put those principles to work in the food-consumption area of my life. That’s all.

My weight loss has slowed in the past couple of months because I have been extraordinarily busy with freelance editing work (several full books, a master’s thesis, a PhD thesis, a monograph, not to mention several shorter pieces of fiction and technical articles) and for that and various other reasons, I have  been eating out more than usual. So I’ve had more refined starches than I had earlier in my sugar-free journey – potatoes, rice, and bread. But I continue to avoid sugar, and I continue to watch portions, and I continue to lose weight.

I keep thinking, “I haven’t weighed myself for a week or ten days. I’ve been eating out and I’ve been eating well. I’ll bet I’ve gained.” But each time I check, I’ve lost.

My favourite weight-loss concept, which I acknowledge with great pleasure having borrowed from one of my favourite books about health and life (Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman. I’ve been reading it over and over, along with their newer book, Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever, for years)  is this: If you choose the number  of calories that you SHOULD be eating if you were the weight you SHOULD be at, and then just eat that number of calories every day, you will get to that weight eventually. It’s inevitable.

I have pretty much been doing that, even though I don’t count calories: I’ve been eating the way I would eat to maintain my weight if I were at my goal weight (which is still another 15 to 20 lbs away). The thing I love about this is that means I am “impersonating myself” at my goal weight: at least in my food intake, if not in my dress size and muscle tone yet. 🙂 Rita gets some pleasure when she discovers this principle too. It’s sort of like training for living at the size I want to be.

NEWS on The Whole Clove Diet front

This week I am honoured to be the Book of the Week on the B.R.A.G. (Book Lovers Appreciation Group) “Indie Brag” site, and although I didn’t win in the Writers Digest Self-Published Books award competition, I did get a fabulous review from them, which I will post here soon. In the meantime, an excerpt:

“These very-real details are wonderfully portrayed [in The Whole Clove Diet] with language which is vivid, humorous and intelligent. And some of the sentences are poetry.”

Okay. Enough crowing and self-indulgence. Back to my editing work!

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Three months without sugar: I’m down 25 lbs, and loving the extra energy!

LATEST STATS

Amount lost (to Sept 20): 25 lbs

How long it’s taken me (June 20 to Sept. 20): 3 months

Amount spent on diet books, diet programs, diet clubs: $0. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

What I eat

Several people have asked me about what I’ve been eating in the past three months.

Please remember that this is NOT a diet: it’s a new way for me to eat, that’s all. So don’t take what I put down here as a routine that needs to be followed. These are just the choices I am making, based on my decision to avoid all processed sugars (including honey and sweeteners, and in that regard also including stevia). I do eat (and enjoy) the sugars that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and traces of it in things I am not about to start baking myself — which is mainly bread (whole grain. I eat it only a couple of days a week), ketchup (which I also use sparingly), etc.

I’m also avoiding deep fried foods, white flour, and other unhealthy foods, but if they arrive on my plate at a restaurant or when I’m out for dinner, I will eat them. It’s only the sugar I absolutely refuse because I believe that eating it will cause me to eat more of it — as happens with any addiction.

So. For breakfast I usually have some steel-cut oatmeal and cottage cheese and applesauce (home-made by simmering apples, some water and some cinnamon until apples are mushy) or other fruit. Or a smoothie, involving plain yogurt and protein powder and fruit only. Or a piece of toast, an orange and an egg (a couple of eggs a week max.), or cheese on toast (I eat too much cheese but for now my cholesterol is okay so I’m not worrying about that.)

Lunch is usually a big big salad with some fruit in it and protein — feta cheese, chicken breast, tuna, whatever — and olive-oil-based dressing. I go through a lot of Mrs. Dash. 😉

At about four p.m. I have some Ryvita crackers (2) and peanut butter (made of peanuts only), and an ounce of protein. Or an apple and some protein.

For dinner I eat about 3 oz of chicken or fish or meat, and lots of cooked vegetables with a tsp or two of margarine. Maybe 1/2 potato if I feel like it or some pasta or rice. And in the evening another cracker with peanut butter, or popcorn made in a hot air popper with a bit of melted margarine on it. (I noticed I was doing this too often, with too much margarine, so I’m avoiding it for a while.)

If I don’t eat something in the middle of the afternoon or the middle of the evening (2 to 3 hours after a meal) I get really really hungry and that’s when there can be trouble. So I eat at those time to prevent stupidity.

If you have looked at many diets, you will recognize this as basically The Zone and/or the Harvard Food Pyramid and/or the food pyramids in Ray Kurzweil’s and Terry Grossman’s books. But I am not on a diet and I am not sticking to any food plan. I’m just avoiding sugar.

I don’t worry about fruit in its raw form (no fruit juice though, not even home-made). If I feel like having fruit, I have it. According to Lustig, it has enough fibre in it to cancel out the sugar high and I don’t seem to overeat it. I am eating fruit several times a day and enjoying it more than I ever have before. I nearly died of happiness over a mango a few weeks ago.

And as I said, if I’m out, I don’t worry about the white flour part so much. I’ll have a slice of pizza or a 6″ sub or tacos. I just avoid eating like that more than once or twice a week. If I eat at someone’s house, I eat what they serve except no dessert or fruit drinks.

Since I don’t drink alcohol any more, it’s easy for me to avoid the sugar in drinks, and I sometimes will have a diet pop if I’m really thirsty because i love the feeling of pop going down my throat. But mostly it’s water, clear tea, coffee and club soda. (I love bubbles.)

The Cravings

As far as beating the cravings – as I mentioned in a previous post, for the first few days, I used a chart and filled in squares to mark each hour I was victorious and just toughed it out until the cravings were gone. At a certain point, after a few days, I didn’t feel the need to continue with the squares. The most important part was that I had a goal — to beat my sugar addiction — rather than a barrier (not being “allowed” to eat sugar). It was (and is) a mental posture. More about that in a future post, but in the meantime, here’s an example: if I’m walking down the street, and it’s warm, and I go by a frozen yogurt place and think how wonderful it would be to have a frozen yogurt, instead of denying myself the treat, I just firmly remind myself of the things I enjoy in life aside from food (like walking down the street in the sunlight) and I also remind myself than in about two minutes, the desire/craving will be gone. Which it always is.

The Novel

I will not deny that it’s good publicity to have started this sugar-control journey just when my novel, The Whole Clove Diet, was published, and I certainly plan to take advantage of my increasingly sylph-like shape in promoting the novel. However, for those who have not read The Whole Clove Diet ($14.99 in paperback, and only 2.99 as an e-book 🙂 ), I want to stress that I am not ON The Whole Clove Diet, and the book is NOT a diet book. It is a story about a woman who goes on diet after diet without success until she finally realizes that before any of the diets is going to work (and any of them WILL work if she sticks to it), she needs to change something inside herself.

Ironically, and happily for me, something did happen to me when the novel was published: I got my mojo back (or whatever the equivalent to “mojo” is for a 62-year-old white woman). And that’s what led me to be able to pursue this sugar-free program. I want to stay healthy so I can enjoy what lies ahead of me. I am not on a “diet.” So even though this experience bears out what Rita learned in the novel, the novel is not the story of what I am doing, and it’s not a diet.

Keep those cards and letters coming

I’m really enjoying all the comments I’m getting here, on SparkPeople, on Diet.com (I’m marywwriter on those sites), in my Militant Writer blog, on FaceBook and elsewhere. It’s great to know so many other people are supportive of the idea of ditching sugar — and that some of you are already on this journey with me.

It can be done! (Well, at least it can be done for three months. We’ll see what happens tomorrow…. )

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Filed under Addiction, Habits, health, Healthy Living, No Sugar, No sweeteners, Sugar, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss

Nine weeks without sugar: Down 20 lbs & counting

LATEST STATS

Amount lost (to Aug 22): 20 lbs

How long it’s taken me  (to August 22): 9 weeks

Amount spent on diet books, diet programs, diet clubs: $0. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

My Story So Far

The last week in June I stopped eating sugar — by which I mean all sugars aside from the sugar that occurs naturally in raw fruits, vegetables, a few other foods, and in trace amounts in the whole grain products like bread and crackers (which I don’t eat too much of). I also cut out sweeteners — my thinking being that if I didn’t get rid of “fake” sugar, I’d never get over sugar.

I treated it like quitting an addiction. The first few days were very hard. As I had done when I quit smoking fourteen years ago (which was when I started adding on the pounds), I took a page of graph paper, and I marked off a grid 7 squares by 24 squares to represent one week. Each time I made it through an hour, I shaded in a square with pencil. My goal was to make it through just ONE month of sugar-less eating, to see what would happen. After the first month I decided to go for two months. I’m now heading for the goal of three months.

It was easier to stick to my resolve because I did not set out to lose weight (although of course I hoped that would be a side-benefit). I set out to cut out sugar for health reasons, just to see what would happen, and I only set out to cut it out for one month. So I was counting days rather than calories or pounds lost. When I had a weight-loss plateau, which I did at one point, it  didn’t matter because I was doing this to eliminate the sugar, not the weight. To see if I could make it for a month.

When I went on this program, I was the heaviest I have ever been in my life, and forty pounds heavier than that. Over the past ten years, I had become utterly demoralized by the fact that I had written a novel that I thought was great, I loved it, but I couldn’t sell it. It was my third novel. The first had been published by smaller presses and had done really well, and I wanted a larger publisher this time. I felt the book deserved it. But I had been rejected by nearly 100 publishers and agents.

The book is called The Whole Clove Diet but it is NOT A DIET BOOK, and  nobody needs to read it to do what I have doneThe Whole Clove Diet is a story about one woman, Rita Turner, and if anything it is how she got her head in the right place to be able to start to eat healthy foods — and then inadvertently lost weight. Which is what I did too, but in a different way, eating different foods, and for different reasons.

I had a lot of personal stresses during those ten years, but the worst part was that I did not feel like a writer any more because I had no readers. All my books were out of print. I had written what I thought was a great NEW book, and no one would even read it! (About three agents/editors out of the 100 rejections even wanted to look at the first page). I’d disappeared completely off the literary landscape. I felt like I was a has-been. I turned 60. My only successes were ten years behind me and they included quitting smoking and publishing three works of fiction. (Well, I’d also raised two fine sons, but that’s beside the point in this story — they have their own lives now, thank heavens.)

My arthritis got worse and worse and as my weight increased, it became harder to get out and do things. I stopped running. I avoided going for walks. I was so lacking in confidence about who I was (a writer! I am a writer!) that I lost track of my core strengths, my hope, and my zest. By this spring, I was walking like an old lady because I had a Morton’s neuroma in one foot and a sore hip. All my joints were painful.

Two years ago I had watched Robert H. Lustig’s amazing video, Sugar: The Bitter Truth. Lustig is a professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California San Francisco, and he explores the damage that is caused to our bodies by sugary foods. He calls it a “poison.” He says that it is “toxic.” He has all the scientific studies  you could want to back up his assertions: track them back to their sources. You can check them out for yourself. I was blown away by this video, and sent the link to almost everyone I knew.

I had been reading more and more information over the years about the bad effects of refined sugar (e.g. this article entitled “Cancer cells slurp up sugar“) and I knew that every additional M & M I ate was adding to my current and potential health problems. As I became officially “obese,” I increased my risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s and a bunch of other diseases I didn’t want. And it got harder and harder to walk, and more and more difficult to open jars with my arthritic fingers. My clothes got tighter. I was getting older before my very eyes. Miserable, depressed, I ate another bowl of ice cream.

By now the literary landscape from which I’d disappeared had changed, so (given my extensive background in publishing and editing) I decided to take the plunge and self-publish The Whole Clove Diet — if for no other reason than to get it off my desk so that I could write my next novel.

And as so often happens in this creative business, things did not go the way the rejecting agents and publishers had thought, and I am now hopeful that some day I will be able to tell them, “I told you so.” (I have kept their email addresses for this very reason.) So far, readers seem to like my book a lot and it’s also received some great critical acclaim and even an award.

With a new book out, even a self-published one (although now I am totally won over to  self-publishing and am happy this book didn’t have a traditional publisher: my next novel won’t, either. I co-authored it with another writer. It’s a rollicking western based on the story of Don Quixote, and it’ll be out in a few months) I started to feel like my old self again, and I was able to start looking at my mobility difficulties as issues that could be addressed if I set my mind to it. I started to look forward to the future (my NEXT books. I can’t wait to write them! — I have always felt this way until the last few years when the feeling had gone away, and I’d been afraid I’d never write another. But it’s back. I am so happy.)

For the same reasons that I’d wanted to quit smoking for  twenty years before I did it — which was to be healthy so I could write, travel, read, visit and inhale the smells of the world for as many more years as I could — I was ready to get healthy. And based on viewing Lustig’s video, and reading Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman’s books (yes: I admit it. I do want to live forever. And be healthy while I’m doing it), and reading the science that is behind a lot of other diets (including most notably The Zone, which I find a good model to follow, but anything healthy will do), I decided to stop eating sugar. And to wean myself from sweets.

My first goal was to reduce the swelling in my fingers and toes and knees — and it’s happened!  I am in SO much less pain than I was two months ago, I can’t believe it. The weight loss has helped with the knees and toes, I guess, but the fingers!! WoW! Yeah! Hand me that jar of pickles! That had to be the sugar. My chiropractor (Dr. Evelyn Bak, owner and founder of the Balance Health Group in Toronto. She’s a genius plus I actually DID the exercises she gave me) has started to make a difference to muscle problems in the hip region that are several decades old, and the neuroma is almost gone.

I also have about 100 times more energy (no afternoon slumps!) than I did when I was shoving candy, ice cream and baked goods in my face. And that helps my self-confidence too.

So I’m back. And I’m telling you this because YOU DON’T need to spend ANY MONEY to start losing the weight and getting healthier. You can just stop eating sugar. If you need a support network, go on to one of the weight-loss forums like diet.com that is free and isn’t connected to any particular group (we can even start a No Sugar group over there if someone wants to do that).

And if you need a reason, watch Lustig. He has a bunch of shorter videos out now too. They’re free. And they will give you all the reason in the world to stop eating sugar even if you don’t need to lose weight. It’s a killer. All I’ve done is stopped poisoning myself.

I am hoping to make this a way of life. It’s not a diet. I eat almost anything that doesn’t have sugar added to it.

I am still less than half way to the shape I want to be — and I want to be that shape because it’s healthy, not because it’s “hot.” I’m already hot–that part’s in my head. 🙂

I’ll keep you posted.

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Filed under Addiction, Habits, health, No Sugar, No sweeteners, Sugar, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss