Intuitive or Planned Eating and Stress

My friend, Sandy, who follows a strict food plan has being coping with many difficult and stressful situations in her life. She’s sad, worried and exhausted

As always, Sandy adheres strictly to her food plan. Even if she has had a long, tiring day and can barely keep her eyes open, she eats her complete dinner, whether she actually wants it or not. Sandy says that even if she’s forgotten to eat and ready for bed a 11 pm, she’ll make herself sit down and eat dinner. In this way, she believes, she won’t wake up absolutely starving and in danger of over-eating. She takes all thinking and questioning out of food and eating.

I, on the other hand, tend to listen to my body during difficult times. I’ve been really busy and working a lot and dealing with some stressors. I fly out the door (too) early in the morning and have about 30 seconds for lunch. Usually, I have something I need to do after work and by the time I get home, I just wanted to hang out with my cat, take a bath and go to bed. If I forget to eat or am too tired or not really hungry, I don’t eat.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have some outline of what goes into my mouth and body. If you look at what I eat, it’s usually the same kind of combination of vegetables, protein and starch, with some dairy and some, but not a lot, of starch. And, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I don’t like to eat often and think about food too much. However, if I’m hungry, I will always eat. And if I’m not hungry, I tend not to.

This works well for me. My friend’s plan works well for her.

I wonder what other people think and what you are eating.

What She Ate

What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories” is a fascinating new book by Laura Shapiro. It focuses on the lives of six women from different centuries and continents — all prominent to different degrees. Among them are Dorothy Wordsworth, the poet’s shy, worshipful sister; Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress and 11th-hour wife; and Helen Gurley Brown, the whippet-thin, legendary editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan.

I read several reviews of the book and they all mentioned the sections on Roosevelt, Wordsworth, the author Barbara Pym and Eva Braun. None of them talked about Brown, and that section, of course, was the one I went right to first. Helen Gurley Brown was one of my dieting mentors.

For Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine from 1965 to 1997, fat was disgraceful and calories a diabolical force to be resisted at all costs. Shapiro didn’t have to dig deep to uncover Brown’s pathology as Brown, a self-described “grown-up anorectic,” crowed about it constantly: “I have dumped champagne (which I adore) into other people’s glasses when they weren’t looking or, in a real emergency, into a split-leaf philodendron, wrapped eclairs in a hanky and put them in my purse, once in an emergency, sequestered one behind the cushion of an upholstered chair — in a napkin of course.”

Napkin or no, that was a rotten thing to do to someone’s chair. But for Brown, thinness trumped etiquette. She emerges as both formidably accomplished and, literally, stunted. Shapiro doesn’t delve into the ways that Brown, unlike the other women in the book, inflicted her food obsessions on the culture at large. This might have been worth a few pages. For decades, Cosmo was displayed at supermarket checkout stands to be studied by waiting children and adults alike. Brown’s nearly naked models and lurid coverlines juxtaposing sex and slenderness helped shape — or perhaps the right word is warp — a generation’s attitude toward food and the female body.

And boy did I listen. I believed Helen Gurley Brown when she said that overweight women would never date. I believed her when she said that thin was good but skinny was better – a vital life goal, necessary to achieve, at any cost.

The funny thing is Helen Gurley Brown was a brilliant, accomplished woman. She came from nothing, supported herself through Smith College, and became a revered copywriter when women weren’t really accepted in the field. She wrote a huge bestseller Sex and the Single Girl and single-handedly turned Cosmopolitan from a failing dinosaur into the number one selling woman’s magazine.

Brown liked to call herself a feminist, although her life was devoted to landing and pleasing a man. Her favorite feminist was Gloria Steinem. Steinem, who reoognized HBG’s brains and accomplishments, begged her to say something positive about herself that reflected the real, strong Helen. Brown thought about it and thought about and then proclaimed happily,

“I’m skinny!!!”

The Heartbreak Diet

In my last post, I talked about the singer/songwriter, Julie Gold, I saw Friday night. She wrote the beautiful song, ‘From a Distance’, and many other songs that touched me and resonated with me. I loved her politics!

One ‘lighter’ song, however, resonated with me in a less than positive way. It’s called ‘The Heartbreak Diet’ and she starts out by listing all the many diets that didn’t work – Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Pritikin and so on….She goes on to sing that the only diet guaranteed to work was heartbreak.

She sang about the only good part (but a REALLY great part) of a broken heart is not being able to eat – her weight drops drastically, her wardrobe fit and all her friends heap compliments.

As she says, she “never looked better”. It was “a really nice perk”.

The audience laughed and cheered. Everyone understood exactly. Somehow or other, getting skinny is always good – no matter how you got there. It’s a perk, a wonderful side benefit, something to love.

Apparently, it’s a universal truth. Meant to be a cute song. I found it troubling.

An Inspiring Night Out

Last night, I saw a singer/songwriter perform locally. Her name is Julie Gold and she’s the woman who wrote ‘From a Distance’, made famous by Bette Midler.
It was a lovely performance – she writes good songs! But my favorite part was something she said about playing the piano.

Julie (I’m calling her by her said name because she told me too when I thanked her after the show) told a story about being in camp as a young girl. At night, when the other kids were socializing, she’d find her way to the rec room and play the piano all night, every night – because that’s what she was born to do, it was what she HAD to do.

Julie said that whenever she sees a piano across a crowded room, her heart still goes pitter patter. That’s never changed. How she feels about people can change, but how she feels about a piano – never.

I always wished I’d had that passion – something that i knew I HAD to do. I imagine it makes life easier.