Food Talk: Like Car Talk But More Neurotic

I can be MADDENING as far as discussing food in terms of "good/bad." Maddening because I always seem to see-saw from being totally okay with talking about it that way and totally militant about NOT talking about it that way. This drives the husband nuts, because he asks me all the time if he ate too much, or if what he is/was eating is "bad." Sometimes I'll parrot back whatever my nutritionist would tell me about that meal/snack, but sometimes I'll give him a death stare and snap at him that I can't talk about that stuff, and that he has to ask someone else, because I have a hard enough time not having it play in my head about every single thing I put (or think about putting) into my mouth. The poor guy can't get a break with the consistency thing - I'm a food discussion Jekyll and Hyde.

I was emailing with some friends today, and restaurant portion size came up. One of my friends wrote, about appetizers, "It's so hard to find one that isn't disgusting (read, deep-fried :P)... Or soups, when it isn't some vile creamy thing on offer." I realize on the re-read that she's not saying anything hard and fast about food rules, only saying SHE finds the deep-fried disgusting, and SHE finds creamy soups vile, not that they ARE that, finito, the end, Food Law For Everyone. The fact she asserts isn't that they ARE; the fact is that she finds them that way.

Even if she were making such a sweeping statement about Food Law For Everyone (and pleeenty of people in my life do, but not this particular savvy gal), it would behoove me to parrot my nutritionist in another way, just to myself, and ask, "Who says?" When someone throws a supposed Food Law at you, step back and ask yourself, "Who says?" It's unlikely that the person who just told you that the only healthy way to snack on fruit is with one ounce of cheese and never by itself, for instance, is a nutritionist or a metabolic specialist. It's rather more likely that your conversational partner, say, read an article in the latest issue of Shape magazine.

It's still very hard for me to make that distinction automatically. I've found that no matter how far I've gotten into the recovery process, or how successfully or poorly I'm doing at whatever point in time, I've never yet been able to make that leap from having to deliberately remember to ask "Who says?" to making that question an automatic reflex. And yet, I can still play most of the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in C major (No. 16) on the piano. I learned it 20 years ago. Muscle memory and attendant reflexes? Work just fine. Cognitive dissonance filter and attendant reflexes? Need some adjustments. *sigh*


The Thought Process, Redux

(Or, I Thought We Were Past This)

Here's how it works: I go to the doctor and she tells me, "I want to see you in two weeks. I want you to wear that same outfit next time you're here, and I want you to be looking... wider... in it." And I don't take that as a medical suggestion, or a prescription. I take that as a challenge.

I can see where it's no different than, "Eat oatmeal every morning - you need to lower your cholesterol," or, "Start taking a 30-minute walk about every day - your blood pressure is high." Except I don't hear, "Get back on the nutritional horse - you're going to damage your body." I hear, "Show me you can do it - show me you can stay at this weight or come back smaller." At least, that's what I hear with a small, strong part of my ears and brain. That's terribly frustrating to the majority (and apparently weaker part) of my brain. I am, if you'll permit me to say, fairly intelligent. I understand the facts here, and I pride myself on easily grasping and identifying things like informal logical fallacies and cognitive dissonance. And yet... there it is. The challenge. The dare. The elation of losing yet more weight. The cacophony of a jangling, jostling place in my head that serves no purpose but to keep me disoriented and does nothing so well as to be the screaming, persistent minority.


The Mayor's Hang-ups: Let Him Show You Them

This is not surprising. Not one jot. Someone with their own hang-ups about food pushing those hang-ups on those under their sway? Yeah, not shocking.

Opinions run the gamut on New York's trans fats ban and the mandatory posting of calorie information at chain restaurants (defined in the ban as 15 or more locations nationwide). Take a wild guess as to how I feel about the rules, particularly the second. Here, I'll just tell you: I think it's fricking abusive. (To some people. On some level.) (Yes, I am abusing the word "abusive." Isn't it fun?)

I don't know much on the non-reactionary science regarding trans fats, so I reserve judgment on that one. But as far as posting calorie information, I'd kind of love to go into Starbucks and have anything other than a fruit salad once I get a look at the calorie info. I'd like to eat what I'm in the mood for when I'm at Au Bon Pain, rather than the thing I can find with the smallest number next to it on the menu board. But, quite frankly, I can't get myself to do it with the calorie info staring me smack dab in the face when I go into one of these places, or to feel like I can eat anything at all when I go to a national chain (Chili's, say) at the fricking airport before I get on a fricking flight that's going to be five fricking hours.

There are ways around this. I could not look. I could say, "Frick it!" and just get the fricking sandwich, or what have you. But Mayor Bloomberg doesn't seem to take into account that there might be people - nay, voters - in the City who don't need any extra help obsessing about the calorie content of the food at the place they've decided to try to step into and eat at like a normal person. (Sure, there are only a few of us, relatively speaking, but this is another one of those things that build environment.) And now that this article is running, his hang-ups about the whole calorie/trans fat issue make a bit more sense to me. I still think the only way to describe his measures is "draconian," but they do make more sense.

Proposed French Law Would Add Warnings To Photoshopped Images

A politician from Marseille wants to impose a health warning on pictures of models whose photo bodies have been digitally altered. The proposal was introduced by Valérie Boyer, a member of the UMP (same party as Nicolas Sarkozy). It's a nifty proposal that points out how French law, for purposes of public health, already requires health information on publicity material/labels for food & beverage products with added sugar, salt or synthetic coloring; or processed food products in general. Since the development of eating disorders is a matter of public health, like food and drink, a law is already on the books that sets the precedent for labeling, Boyer argues. You can read the proposal (in French... or via Google Translator) in the second link I tossed in back there.

Many of Boyer's laws concern public health in the environment, where "environment" is defined liberally. She takes on lead paint around babies and monitoring radon levels as well as photoshopped models. She's also a member of France's National Assembly's Delegation on Women's Rights. So this proposed law is right up her alley.

My French is rusty (I got through the bill summary on her page just fine, but only after having an idea what the law was about - that kind of rusty), so I'm sure I'm missing some big pieces of her history... But reading her homepage makes me want to make a moue, stamp my foot, and whine that I want a Valérie Boyer. *whines*


Link: Eating Disorders: All in the Family

Today at

I've read a little bit of Dr. Zerbe's work before, and generally find it comprehensive and accessible. The two questions featured here are particularly compelling, I think, because they deal with some rarely discussed facets of food and weight interpersonal issues: an over-controlling mother-in-law and a hypercritical/insensitive father.

One of the commenters calls Dr. Zerbe on her assumption (in answering the second question) that a teenager would be able or "allowed" to redirect the family dialogue dynamic. Commenter #5 brings reality onto the couch with this all-too-universal gem: "[A]ny attempt on my part to draw boundaries and protect myself was met with either 'You're too sensitive' (a favorite in my house) or 'How dare you try to control what I'm allowed to say?'" That second one is particularly interesting here in the land of the First Amendment. I have a family member who exploded (after a stressful car ride) at being asked not to talk about weight or diet (apparently around me; I did not issue this request). This just happens to be a family member who is obsessed with "healthy eating" and exercise, and who can never quite hold in the helpful feedback on food that springs from those lips during pretty much any situation that revolves around food in any way.

Some of the other commenters on this post aren't quite so... er... helpful. Some of the judgment therein is just... wow. Takes my breath away a little bit. I won't quote those comments here. They range from canonical statements of what is the Right Way To Eat to snide, backhanded asides about the luxury of being able to have eating disorders in the first place. Crap like that doesn't help anyone, and certainly doesn't deal with the underlying issues (individual and collective) that sow the seeds of eating disorders. Keep it in your thick skull, please. Cathleen, though, gets both my thumbs up for responding to a commenter who apologized for not being politically correct, "It's not politically incorrect. It's just incorrect.
Sounds like you missed Logic 101 in college." Bravo, Cathleen.

Anyway, this is a quick, interesting read with some encouraging (and some less so) commenters.


Eight Years