Category Archives: Reading Group

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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Filed under Addiction, Dieting, Dietinig, Eating Disorders, Habits, health, Reading Group, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss

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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Overeating: Is it lack of will power, or addiction? Is there a difference?

Starting tomorrow (because who ever starts anything, including a New Year’s Resolution, on New Year’s Day, right?), we will be reading and discussing The Whole Clove Diet, a novel about a woman named Rita Turner that I wrote in part to explore issues related to food addiction.

I’ve always had a strange relationship with food that I only began to understand when I confronted my addictions to alcohol and cigarettes. In order to be able to leave those two substances behind, I had not only to deal with the physical withdrawal, but also with the emotional and psychological effects of letting those drugs go.

I quit both within six months – alcohol in October of 1999, and cigarettes in June of the following year – and one of the many things I learned from that experience was that my relationship with food had many of the same hallmarks as did my addictions to alcohol and nicotine. For example, my inability to stop over-consuming unhealthy “foods” seemed to have nothing to do with willpower. In other areas I had lots of willpower: that didn’t seem to be my problem. It was something different: many different things, in fact.

So I invented Rita, the main character of my novel, The Whole Clove Diet, and I gave her the same kind of issues with food that I had, although the rest of her life was totally different from mine (starting with her age. She’s only 29 when the novel opens. I am… well, older). While I was telling her story over the course of the novel, I was also applying what I had learned about all kinds of other addictions, and trying to explain what I had learned about being addicted to food.

Since the book has been published, several people have told me that they feel the same way Rita does (and the same way I often do) about what they eat, and about themselves. They hate their inability to stick to a diet or a health regimen. They can’t figure out why they keep caving in to food, and they hate how weak it makes them feel when they do.

Well, I don’t think it’s weakness. I think the problem is that most of us aren’t dealing with the underlying issues that cause us to reach for food that isn’t good for us. I think we do it out of spite, or fear, or lots of other emotions, and not because we’re weak or hungry.

So. The reason for this blog series is to talk about what we have in common – and what we have in common with Rita Turner, the protagonist of my novel – when it comes to food.

Here are the guidelines for this “book club”:

1) We’ll read 100 pages of The Whole Clove Diet a week (or so) as a jumping off point for our discussions. You can ask me any questions you want to, and add your own thoughts about what you’ve read. I’ll talk about why I chose to tell Rita’s story the way I did

2) If there are spoilers re: the plot of the novel in later blog posts, I’ll warn you.

3) You don’t have to read the book to participate in this discussion — as long as you don’t stray too far off topic!

4) All comments are vetted by me before they are posted, so if you are trying to sell something, forget it. 🙂

5) This isn’t a diet support network. It doesn’t matter if you are or are not sticking to some food-related new year’s resolution. We’re only talking about unhealthy weight. We’re not trying to do anything about getting rid of it. (You may be on your own, but we’re not here. There are lots of other places to go to for support.)

6) You can read the first 65 or so pages here and then decide if you want to buy the book.

Tomorrow we’ll start reading. In the meantime, Happy New Year!

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Filed under Addiction, Book Clubs, Dieting, health, Reading Group, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss

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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Is overeating an addiction, an eating disorder, a bad habit, or self-indulgence gone totally off the rails?

Several book sites such as Book Club Buddy have asked me to come up with a question or two that readers of The Whole Clove Diet, my new novel, might want to discuss with one another. To answer this one, you don’t need to have read the novel (and there are no spoilers in this post).

I was talking to one of my readers who had a problem with anorexia in the past (which she has overcome), and she told me that she had a really hard time reading about Rita’s over-eating because of that. (She said she finally managed to keep reading and that ultimately she liked the book, for which I am very grateful on both counts.)

Some of MY weaknesses: I’m working on them!

Her statement made me think again, as I often did while I was writing the book, and often do when I am overeating – is overeating an addiction, an eating disorder, a bad habit or just overindulgence and lack of willpower?

Maybe eating disorders ARE addictions – I know they have a lot in common. I’ve been addicted to cigarettes and other things myself in the past. And I know that in my mind, Rita and Harry (Rosa’s father, who drinks too much) have a lot in common. (I have a very soft spot for Harry.)

Anorexia and bulimia are certainly addictions and very hard to overcome. Times have changed in the past decade or so when it comes to public awareness of these conditions. When I see a really really thin woman, now I immediately think, “She’s anorexic. That is a fatal addiction. I hope to God she can overcome it before she dies.”

But most of us never feel sympathy or concern when we see a woman (or man) who is obese. We think, “Push yourself away from the table, Woman! Get some exercise, Guy! Don’t be a sloth!” (Most of us know better than to say it out loud any more, but we do think it. Even those of us who are also overweight and haven’t been around the block for months. ) And overweight people know what other people are thinking, and of course that becomes another hurdle to address, which just makes them want to eat something to feel better and think “Why bother?” when it comes to getting outside for a walk. Not everyone has a live-in mother-in-law she needs to escape from, like Rita does.

So. What do YOU think?

Post your comments here or over on my Mary W. Walters, Writer page on FaceBook  or on my GoodReads Blog.

Thank you!

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