Tag Archives: novel

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

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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Filed under Addiction, Dieting, Dietinig, Eating Disorders, Excerpt, Habits, health, Healthy Living, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss

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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Filed under Addiction, Awards and Prizes, Eating Disorders, Habits, Healthy Living, No Sugar, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss