Monday, March 30, 2009

Intuitive Eating

We humans love rules. Even when we hate them, we love them. Rules keep us on the straight and narrow. They keep us focused, able to follow through. They keep us in the good graces of the group we belong to. To be a good Jew/Muslim/Christian/ Hindu we do or do not eat certain things, we support or fight certain ideas or societal trends. Rules help us to define who we are, what we believe, how we act...

Going on a diet is one of the ultimate ways we follow rules: I will weigh myself and my food. I will eat certain foods, religiously avoid other foods, not mix my carbs and my proteins, count "points", eat at certain times, not eat at other times...

After my failed hip operation in 2003, which was followed by an initial weight loss (due to depression) and then a weight gain (when I was on anti-depressants), I came to the conclusion that I could no longer follow the rules of dieting. The psychological effort of constantly policing myself, constantly feeling deprived and hungry was more than my already battered psyche could stand. I recovered from my revision surgery, began walking again and resumed a fairly normal life. But my rejection of diets did not leave me. Thirty-five years of yo-yo dieting had left me completely exhausted.

Enter Paul McKenna and his "rules":
1. Eat when you're hungry.
2. Eat what you want.
3. Eat consciously.
4. Stop when you're full.

First, THIS IS NOT A DIET. Second, I would venture to say these are not rules. In fact, this "approach" is the antithesis of a rules-based system. It is intuitive--and that means that it's actually really frightening.

Leaving the rules behind and listening to your body is a very scary process. Not eating breakfast ("the most important meal of the day"), having a muffin for lunch (rather than a healthy meal of lean proteins, low carbs, etc.), eating before bed because that's when you're actually hungry are all very frightening acts. This is diet anarchism! This is folly! This will get us unhealthy and even fatter!

I'm not so sure these fears are at all true.

I have never been a particularly "bad" eater. My mom was into "health foods" while all my friends' moms were feeding them peanut butter and jam on Wonder bread. I like and appreciate healthy food. Since I have been following the McKenna programme, I have clearly seen that when I am truly physically hungry, I only want to eat real, healthy food. Only. My craving for junk only appears when I'm full. Only very occasionally do I succeed in reserving some physical space in my stomach for the sweets I love. For me, sweets are purely a treat, a psychological soother, something I consciously know my body doesn't need.

But let's put sweets aside for the moment and get back to intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating means putting total faith in oneself. Believing in one's own wisdom.

Rules mean giving up personal power and personal choice.

I can see how this "giving up" can be very seductive. The rules tell you what to do. You no longer have to make conscious decisions based on your own, inner knowledge. However, I refuse to let someone else tell me how I must eat. I refuse to allow someone else, or someone else's rules dictate to me what is good or bad. I am an adult, and a fairly intelligent one at that. One's man's elixir is another man's poison. And I don't believe that any "diet", larded and laden with iron-clad rules that one disobey's at one's peril will ever help me lose weight, or even maintain my weight.

The bravest--and sanest--thing that I can do for myself is to cultivate my own intuition and learn to live the principles of intuitive eating.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dialectical Thinking

"Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns." Anyone who's bought a mutual fund has seen these words. But how does this idea apply to our lives and in particular, to the goals we set for ourselves?

I just spent the week doing simultaneous interpretation at a conference on treatment options for violent female offenders in the prison system. Although I have no desire to talk about what I heard (and confidentiality rules prevent me from doing so, in any case), I would like to talk about a concept that was discussed at length during the meeting: dialectical and non-dialectal thinking.

In a nutshell, dialectical thinking is the ability to recognize that reality is complex and that one must consider and integrate contradictory points of view. It requires being comfortable with flexibility, inconsistency and change.

Non-dialectical thinking, on the other hand, employs a rigid point of view, and sees the world in terms of extremes (good vs. bad, black vs. white, etc.). This mindset has trouble accepting new information and--most importantly for the topic of this post--the non-dialectical thinker's view of reality is that CHANGE IS NOT POSSIBLE.

I just found a short article on dialectical thinking on the Internet at The article, by John Rowan, is short and not necessarily that sweet in that it's complicated and certainly not cut and dry--but then again, that's dialectical thinking for you.

I'm sure you can all see where I'm going with this. I have written in the past about my trouble visualizing my weight loss and health goals. Having failed so many times at weight loss and weight loss maintenance, as well as having to deal with a series of recurring health set-backs related to my back, hip and knee, I have drifted into the rut of non-dialectical thinking, i.e. no matter what I do, it won't work.

So hearing my mindset so accurately described this week at the conference was a real wake-up call. In true dialectical fashion, I can't deny the truth of "past results". But at the same time, I must recognize the changes I have made recently and give them the same weight (lol) as I give to things I have experienced in the past.

I suppose what's neatest for me is that I can take a step back when I'm feeling hopeless and say, "Hey, that's a pretty non-dialectical attitude. Do I want to keep seeing things this way?"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'll be back soon...

I'm having a crazy week, work-wise, but I'll be back soon. I've got a great topic to discuss.

Stay tuned, folks!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Even though it's still quite cold out, spring is in the air! It's such a joy. I don't know why I'm feeling so happy about spring this year, but I am.

I really have to learn to post pictures on this site so I can show you the little signs of spring that are creeping up around me...and the piles of filthy snow that still remain on the northern facing side of my street.

In McKenna news, I have no idea how I'm doing. As you know, my weight loss is so slow as to be imperceptible. I hope I've kept off the recent 1 pound loss. I'll be going to see my endocrinologist at the end of this week, so I'll be weighed earlier than I would normally weigh myself and of course I'll be weighed in the middle of the day, after having eaten and with all my clothes on. So I'll take that weight with a grain of salt.

I am expecting my endo to be rather confused though. The last time I saw her, I was given the green light to go off my thyroid medication. I'd been on for a year after my second bout of hyperthyroidism. I was extremely fortunate to have been in remission for 14 years, and I think the problem only came back because of the normal hormonal upheavals related to my age.

The one and only "nice" thing (if you can call it that) of being HYPERthyroid is that you can eat like a pig and still lose weight. Sadly, it's muscle and not fat that you lose, but everyone goes "wow! you've really lost weight". Of course, as soon as you go on medication and feel much better (I won't bore you with the nasty symptoms of this condition), you gain all that weight back.

So when I go to the endo and she sees that I have lost weight, she'll probably freak out. However, I know that my blood tests will show that I'm totally normal. I feel fantastic and believe me, I do NOT feel hyperthyroid, which is a very nasty way to feel. So she'll go WTF? Why the normal blood work but the weight loss?? And I'll have to reassure her that I'm fine and that I've just changed my way of eating, yada, yada, yada.

Happy spring to you all!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Youth and Beauty

Recently, I looked in the mirror and gently pulled my cheeks up ever so slightly. Like magic, I looked ten years younger! And for the first time in my life, I thought that a face-lift wouldn't be such a terrible thing.

Usually, people think I look younger than I am. Maybe it's because I'm so short and adorable! I think I also have a fairly young sounding voice, especially when I speak French (go figure). But once in a while--and it's always in the summer when I don't bother to colour my hair or get it styled and my face is all red and sweaty from the heat (I hate the heat!)--someone will make a comment about what a nice grandmother I am. It has happened twice: once in 2005 and once in 2007. Hopefully, now that it's 2009, it won't be time again!

Yes, I "let myself go" in the summer. But maybe not this year. I do feel much more positive about myself and my appearance, so maybe I'll get my hair cut and coloured just before I leave on vacation.

I want to look good: healthy, trim and energetic but that doesn't take away from the issue of youth and beauty. I also want to accept my age and the changes that come with it. It's rather difficult in this world.

Someone I know through work who was a fashion model probably 20-odd years ago (I don't exactly know when, I'm estimating) just got a nose job. She's still thin as a rail, takes incredible care with how she dresses and works out as if the world will disintegrate around her if she doesn't. She did have a rather unusual nose, but not ugly in the least. She now has a very ordinary nose, but her mouth seems to have changed. I would go so far as to say that it looks like she had an incredibly successful operation for a harelip. There's just something weird about the new shape of her mouth. Did she get a lip job too? No idea. What's most interesting is that she has not actually admitted she had her nose re-done. She just had a terrible case of sinusitis, which made her face really puffy. I'm sure she did have the sinusitis, but there was definitely more than that involved in the strange change in her face!

So there you have it: a fashion model who's still not happy with herself. And dumpy little me, trying to look long and sleek...Ain't it the way in our society?

I can go on all I want about wanting to improve my health by losing weight and it's absolutely true, but I also want to look like more of a knock-out. I want people to look more favourably on me, and that's the way it goes in our world. Good looking people do get better treatment than people who are downright ugly. Most of us, who are in the middle, just want to look better. And all of us--whether we're good looking, ordinary looking or totally unblessed by the gods of beauty--want to look young.

Do I wish I were younger? Yup. But I'll really try to forgo the face-lift. I'm worth more than that!


I have a bad habit that I only indulge in once every two weeks: in addition to my official two-week weigh-in, I've gotten into the habit of weighing myself the day before or the day after. It's just an itch that I have to scratch; for the rest of the two weeks I'm fine.

So, what are the results of the official and the unofficial weigh-in? Total of two pounds lost!!! One of those pounds is the water retention from my period, but one is the real thing. I'm sure that tomorrow I'll be up a pound, but tomorrow is past my weigh-in window of opportunity, so I'll bask in the glory.

For my faithful readers and my new readers (come one, come all!), it's worth repeating again and again. Rather than losing and then regaining almost immediately, I have lost a modest amount of weight in the past 10 weeks AND I'VE KEPT THAT WEIGHT OFF.

By next March, I'd like to say that I've lost a reasonable amount of weight--let's be positive without being over-ambitious and say 25 pounds--AND I'VE KEPT THAT WEIGHT OFF.

And guess what? In two years time, I'd like to just say that I've kept that 25 pounds off. I'm not looking to turn into a fashion model. Just a lighter, healthier me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

When I Go Walking

As you know, my favourite exercise is walking. I know my neighbourhood inside out from the many walks I take. Fortunately, it's quite a charming area, full of little stores and caf├ęs. There's a mix of modest homes, built around the 1920s and originally designed for working class families. Now, since the area is quite close to downtown, it has become relatively pricey and if you didn't move in twenty or thirty years ago, you have to have a really good family income or have saved a hefty down payment in order to get into the market. Of course, what with the economic downturn, housing prices have stopped going through the roof--at least for a while.

Back to walking...

As promised, two days ago, I did go for a nice walk and put about 4,000 steps on my pedometer. Yeah for me! Please note, I will NOT tell you how well or how badly I ate on any given day and certainly not how many calories I ingested. As we in the Paul McKenna world like to point out: this is not a diet! But I will announce (or admit, depending on the post) what kind of exercise I did and how much water I drank in the day. I think that merits a pat on the back too.

Here is what I thought about on my walk: I need a dictionary. No, not a dictionary full of words. I have a wall of them in English, French, Italian and German. I have specialized dictionaries for legal terminology, financial terminology, engineering...You name it. I have a filing cabinet full of terminology in French and English that I have gleaned from the many conferences I have attended as an interpreter over the past 22 years.

However, I still need a dictionary.

I need a dictionary to translate desire into hope and images. I need a dictionary that will give me the psychological language to imprint an end-state on my mind, to paint that picture of my goal, which itself is merely a new starting point for the rest of my life. Actually, this sounds pretty melodramatic, but since dictionaries are the tools that help me earn my living, this idea speaks to me.

The other thought racing around my mind during my walk had to do with hope and belief--which is actually related to visualization.

In November of 2003, I had a hip replacement. By "hippy" standards, I was very young, only 48. Hip replacements are common nowadays and they have a success rate of over 90%. Sadly, I was in the minority and came out of the surgery MUCH worse than when I went in. I won't go into the gory details, but suffice to say that by the time the surgeon re-operated eight months later, I could barely get around on two crutches, whereas before my surgery, I was walking, albeit with a limp, on one cane and didn't even use that when at home.

The good news is that the second surgery corrected the problem the surgeon had caused the first time around. I was not allowed to put any weight on the operated leg for 3 months (I got around on crutches and carried all my things in a backpack) and couldn't actually walk without canes or without hanging on to furniture (think of how your baby cruises!) for a further two months or so. I actually ditched my cane about nine months after the second surgery, though I used it for a few days on vacation about two months later. All in all, I have not walked with a cane since August 2005. Thanks in good part to my yoga practice, you probably wouldn't realize that I had had serious orthopedic issues. I generally walk normally, though I can't run.

Unfortunately, in May of 2007, I ruptured a disc in my lower back. This was the third time I'd had it happen. The first time, when I was only 25, I had surgery. These last two times, I've come out the other end without surgery, though with some nerve damage. It was one month after this third occurence that I started doing yoga. I still have pain from time to time, but things are going quite well, all things considered.

While physically, I have successfully overcome my recent medical problems, the one thing I seem to have lost is that youthful feeling that everything will be fine. I remember going into the hospital for back surgery at 25. Although I was in excruciating pain, I don't ever remember being afraid. My surgeon had told me that the surgery had a 95% success rate and I KNEW that it was going to be successful for me. And it was.

Perhaps we are naive when we're young. But it's something that allows us to dare, to try things that are perhaps impossible...and perhaps not. The positivity of youth gets some of us killed too. If either of my boys were to hitchhike alone in France as I did at 21, I'd probably have a heart attack, I'd be so worried. On balance though, I think my "I can do that" (with a tip of the hat to Catherine Tait!) attitude has gotten me far in life. And I want it back!

I walked out of the hospital with a much diminished sense of hope. The 5% failure rate of whatever now looms large in my mind. It blocks out the sun, in a sense, and I don't like it at all! It's insidious too. To meet me, you'd think I was quite a positive person. And I suppose that I am. All is not doom and gloom in my life, far from it! I just want to get that deeply anchored feeling that things will and can work out back in my life.

How's that for what I think about on my walks?!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I'd really like to be upbeat and rah-rah, since I know there are a few people reading this blog (and I love you all to bits, BTW!), but it's pretty tough.

Today, I'm glum again. Yes, I did get my period yesterday so I can chalk it up to PMS, but I find it hard to keep a smile pasted on my blog face when inside I'm saying "it just doesn't work for me".

So what am I going to do? Take a walk and put a few thousand steps on my pedometer. Once I'm home, I'll do a bit of yoga and then drive 1 1/2 hours out of town to tomorrow's work assignment.

Oh yes, and I DID listen to the CD this morning.

I'm really trying. It's this success thing that I'm not getting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One Thing that Paul McKenna Doesn't Tell You

I have to continue on the theme of not losing any more weight.

The British version of Paul McKenna's TV show, "I Can Make You Thin", is a four-week series. At the end of the series, the number of pounds that the studio audience lost over that period is projected on the screen and it's fairly impressive. The vast majority of participants do lose weight and everyone is really thrilled and excited.

Well, I was thrilled and excited to have lost about 7 pounds during my first month. In fact, to use a charming British expression, I was "chuffed" beyond belief. And, as we say, on this side of the pond, "I was pumped!" This was it, the answer to my weight loss prayers.

Unfortunately--and I know you were all waiting for that nasty word--after a month, my weight loss has appeared to stop, nada, go no further. It's come to an end.

And that's the one thing Paul McKenna doesn't tell you: his wonderful method--and despite it all, I do think that it has much to recommend it--only works for about a month for many people. And I really don't think I'm the only person who's noticing this.

At this point, I've been mckenna-ing for almost nine weeks. I do believe that I eat (somewhat) less than I did before; that my already very modest intake of sweets has actually decreased even further; that I eat (somewhat) more slowly, though I know that this is something that I must continue to work on; and that I am truly more in tune with the "tummy full" signal my body sends out. My water intake has improved dramatically and consistently. Exercise remains an issue, for the reasons I have outlined in earlier posts, but even there, I would say that there's a slight increase.

I was listening to the CD every day, but do so less often now, mainly, because I have enormous trouble visualizing change. When I think of once again fitting into my old, grungy black jeans from the Gap, the only image that comes to mind is how I have to suck in my breath to close the snap and then squeeze my stomach down to zip up the zipper.

Now for the requisite laugh: I just left the computer, went to the bedroom, got the jeans out of my drawer and put them on, doing it just the way I described above! I am now sitting and typing as I wear these jeans. The good news is that I'm still breathing!

So let's get back to this visualization thing. I just can't get the hang of it. I seem to have more success visualizing how I will spend the million dollars I win at the lottery (even though I only buy a ticket a couple of times a year!) than visualizing getting into my grungy black jeans. Help!

Actually, I do manage to visualize this incredible act of sartorial fearlessness by imaging that my body has become teensy tiny. But then it's not my body. It's this weird, cartoon image. What I want to see is my body, just slimmer.

Repeat: HELP!! Does anyone have any suggestions??

I have been quite scrupulous about only weighing myself every two weeks, but have managed to get around this by measuring myself more frequently. I think I lost about an inch off my thighs in the first month, but again, nothing else.

For the past week, I have felt slightly bloated and I know it's due to my period, which should have arrived a few days ago but is taking its own sweet time. The joys of peri-menopause. Well, at least my teeth seem to be doing fairly well (I had a cleaning today).

And so, dear friends, my message to end this post, will be similar to what I've been saying for the past 5 weeks or so: I'll just keep going, maintaining and refining my new eating habits, and trying to visualize more successfully. There doesn't seem to be a more attractive alternative.

One last thought: I would love to meet Paul McKenna, but that is one visualization I seriously doubt I can manage!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Two months

Forgive me if I start this post by quoting what I wrote this morning on the Facebook site, This Is Not a Diet:

Well, for me McKenna seems to be weight maintenance. I lost 7 pounds in the first month. One pound in the second month and as of today, I'm 1 pound up, though I'm thinking it's water retention since my period is almost here.

I have no doubt that the program is a godsend for people with binging problems and for those who eat tons of unhealthy food, but for someone like me, who has very little leeway in terms of cutting back (if I eat approx. 1275 calories a day, I will maintain my weight--no loss, no gain) and can't do cardio-vascular exercise due to arthritis, the prospects for actually losing weight are...slim (lol).

I was right yesterday when I predicted that I hadn't lost anything. And sadly, I may have actually gained a pound, though we know that a fluctuation of a pound is statistically unimportant...though to anyone trying to lose weight, it means the world.

Once again, I have to repeat to myself the good side: I have managed to keep off 7 pounds. This is stellar stuff. Truly. And I really want to keep it off, no matter what.

Now, if I am to actually lose more weight, what do I do?

I honestly don't think it's realistic to try and cut back substantially on what I'm eating now. I'm not a binge eater, I don't indulge much in sweets. I must keep following the McKenna system because I think it's the most psychologically healthy thing for me to do. I am happy to say that I eat pretty much what I want and feel at least somewhat less guilty if I have a (gasp!!!) banana, or a bite of cake.

The other side of the equation is exercise. This is problematic for me because of my arthritis. I can walk fair distances, but I can't power walk to really get my cardio-vascular system pumping. My little exercise bike experiment of 30 seconds which I tried last week left me with a frightening new pain in my operated hip for about a day and then about 3-4 days of mild sciatic pain on the other side. Swimming is a committment I am just not up to, given the weather and my time constraints.

I remain committed to my pedometer. Yesterday was looking grim: by 4 p.m., I'd done barely 1,200 steps, but I pushed myself out the door into the f--ing cold and took a good walk. By bedtime, I'd racked up a more reasonable (though not magnificent) 7,300 steps.

So this is my goal: whatever number of steps I've done in the day, do another 100, even if it means walking up and down the hallway a few times. Foodwise: eat even more slowly and continue using the McKenna principles.

I also have to learn to do more effective visualization. This is something I have a hard time with. However, practise does make perfect, so how about 5 minutes a day of really positive visualization? That doesn't sound too onerous!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Paul McKenna's book is called "I Can Make You Thin". For the purposes of this post, I'm going to re-title it "I Can Make You Spend Money".

No, I'm not accusing Paul McKenna of wanting to take all my money. In fact, his system is probably one of the cheapest ways to lose weight that exists. Buy the book and that's it. So where does spending money come into it?

It's all in the self-image. The CD that accompanies the book puts you into a mild state of hypnosis, which most people experience as sleep or dozing. Though I often drift in and out of consciousness, I have actually "heard" the whole CD. Self-image and improving one's self-image are central to the whole process. You are prompted to imagine a slimmer version of yourself, to do more exercise, to slow down your eating, etc., but you're also encouraged to see yourself through a much less critical lens. We women in particular are very tough on ourselves. We never live up to the impossible standards of beauty we (and society) set for ourselves. I can see this very clearly in virtually all of my previous posts: too this, not enough that, a horrible such-and-such. We would never be so nasty to others as we are to ourselves. In the CD, McKenna invites us to stop the self-flagellation and actually like ourselves for who we are. I find this very refreshing.

So there I was yesterday, out to take a walk ("take more exercise", says McKenna in his sexy voice on the CD as I drift in and out of consciousness) and run an errand that would have been done much more quickly and comfortably (it's bloody freezing out) by car. The slightly shorter route would have taken me up a series of side streets but I decided to take the main street to get to my destination. (Just as an aside: to find the name of the street I took, google "longest street in the world".)

And I admit it: I took the longest street in the world so I could stop at my favourite ladies' clothing story, aptly named "Just For You". We all have particular stores that inevitably stock clothing that suits us to a T and Just For You is my store. Though I suspect that I have not lost a single pound over the last two weeks and indeed may have gained, I definitely feel much nicer towards myself. And so I proceeded to spend a large chunk of change on some gorgeous clothes that were 60% off. The clothing is horribly expensive but the sales are to die for.

So there you have it: Paul McKenna can make me spend money...and like myself better too!