Sunday, May 26, 2019

A body image myth, debunked.

John Hain | CC0 | Pixabay
For the past several months, I've been working with a dietitian to get my eating back on track. Recently I had a revelation that I want to share with you.

I want to make it clear upfront that I'm not looking for dieting advice. I've been dieting off and on for 50 years. No kidding. At the age of eleven, tired of my brother teasing me about being fat, I went on my first diet. I lost 20 pounds that summer. Of course, later on, it all came back -- and then some.

By the time my kids were tweens, I'd yo-yo-dieted enough times to know that dieting doesn't work. And I told the girls that. Too bad I didn't follow my own advice.

Over five decades, I've counted calories and fat grams; I've done NutriSystem (800 pre-packaged calories a day!); I've done Weight Watchers a whole bunch of times. Almost always, I've lost weight. Often I would lose 30 or 40 or 50 lbs. in less than six months. I am really, really good at losing weight. I've had a lot of practice.

But then I'd plateau forever, and I'd get sick of eating so little with no results. So I'd drop the diet and the weight would come back.

It happened so many times that I ended up hating my metabolism. I'd joke about my Eastern European peasant genes that were so good at getting through my ancestors through famines. But really, I felt like my body was betraying me. I couldn't control it, and I hated it.

So anyway, the dietitian recommended to me this book called The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy. The author is Caroline Dooner. It took her a lot less time to get fed up with diet culture, and to conclude that dieting doesn't work, than it took me. But she connected the dots in a way I hadn't thought about before, and it only took her repeating it 20 or 30 times before I finally got it.

Here is what I realized at last: My body hasn't been betraying me when it packs on pounds after I drop the latest diet. My body has been trying to keep me alive.

Dooner cites a World-War-II-era study on starvation. The aim was to learn how to rehabilitate starving people, once the war was over. So they recruited 36 mentally and physically healthy conscientious objectors. At first the men received about 3,200 calories per day -- which was considered normal for men back then. A few months later, the men's diets were cut in half, to about 1,600 calories per day. In those days, 1,600 calories a day was considered semi-starvation; today, we consider 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day to be adequate for people on a diet.

Think about that for a minute.

And then think about what happened to those semi-starved guys: They lost interest in everything except food. Their heart rates slowed down, they were cold all the time, and they had other physical ailments. All of them suffered from depression and anxiety. Their sex drives deserted them. And they experienced body dysmorphia -- in other words, they had wrong ideas about the size and shape of their own bodies and others'. When the experimenters began feeding them again, the guys who got a lot of food -- 5,000 or even 10,000 calories per day -- made the best recoveries. And even then, some of the subjects said they felt hungry for months or years after the experiment was over.

You can extrapolate a lot from this. I mean, just about everybody's been on a diet at some point, which means we've all practiced self-starvation. And a lot of us have yo-yo'd back to where we started, and then some. And most, if not all, of us have believed ourselves to be weak-willed and lazy when it happens -- not to mention judgmental of others.

Expand that to our national preoccupation with what we're eating and what everybody else is eating. And a diet industry that makes more money every time a dieter fails. And a medical establishment that thinks anyone overweight ought to be on a diet. And you might begin to wonder whether our obesity epidemic hasn't been caused by chronic dieting (among other factors, of course).

As for me, I've started by apologizing to my body. Instead of hating it, now I'm grateful to it for keeping me alive. And I'm never going to deliberately starve myself again.

These moments of well-fed blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A travel post.

You would think a person who has been gone for two weeks on a European river cruise would come home rested and refreshed. And you might be right, if the person hadn't come home with a sinus infection -- which, to be fair, probably originated far in advance of her departure date, but achieved its full flowering on the trip home.

Several days later, pumped full of antibiotics and a full day's worth of sleep, I'm nearly ready to rejoin the human race. But first: pictures!

Our adventure began in Amsterdam, where we boarded the Monarch Countess and cruised down the Rhine River to Basel, Switzerland. From there we went on to Luzern by bus. I've posted some of these photos on Facebook already, but a couple of them are new. Hopefully I won't bore you.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
Amsterdam has gotten rid of nearly all of the iconic windmills within the city limits -- but they've left this one so tourists can get a shot of Rembrandt's statue with it.
Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
One of our excursions was to Marksburg Castle, which has stood for 800 years overlooking Braubach, Germany. In olden times, the castle garden flourished partly because the privies were directly overhead. Thank goodness no one's sitting on those thrones these days.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
Also in Marksburg Castle. I'm sure the instrument on the left is a hurdy-gurdy and the wind instrument standing at the back is a recorder, but I'm stumped on the others. The one on the floor might be a vielle, and one of the two on the right bench could be a rebec. Anyone have a better guess?

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
I really like the moodiness in this photo.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
It's not just Amsterdam -- a number of cities we visited had old towns crisscrossed with canals. This is in Colmar, Germany.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
This guy is an Alpine chough. We met at the top of Pilatus, near Luzern, Switzerland.

The trip wasn't all castles and churches -- we got some culture, too. I can heartily recommend a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, if for no other reason than to see the his "Sunflowers."

On our last night in Luzern, we attended a concert with the Chamber Orchestra of Berlin and Vienna, with solo violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. They played an all-Mozart concert, which was very nice. But you can go here to for a clip of her in a new recording that might be more of a crowd-pleaser.

That's it. Back to real life tomorrow.

These moments of scenic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.