Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Required reading

Ah, my last day of freedom with no responsibilities or 'better things to do' before summer school starts tomorrow. Five days was a nice break but I go crazy without actual demands on my time, such as a job or a class. No, this blog does not count as a legitimate obligation.

It's becoming fruit season around these parts so I've been basking in the glow of in-season cherries, pears, bananas, peaches, etc. and not eating quite so much diet food (I know, I know. I'm still me, I promise!) Or maybe I've just settled in to something of a pattern with my food and haven't sampled any diet stuff of note lately. But rather than just wait until I actually have something to write about, I have a better idea. Book reviews!

Required Reading for the Low Fat Sugar Free Whole Wheat Diet Blog!

I never really offered a good explanation of my nutritional pattern and the patented Erin diet. It goes a little something like this: lots of protein, lots of fiber, lots of whole wheat, not a lot of animal fat and oils, sugar in moderation, and lots of color. Notice how nowhere does that say 'low carb' or 'points' or anything like that. It's pretty much sensible. Don't eat shit that's bad for you. And if you're like me and the stuff that's bad for you is what you really want to eat, then find the diet version of it and eat away. And exercise, for the love of God.

I arrived at this plan through a lot of reading- of labels, magazines, websites, and books. If you're like almost everyone in the country, you've struggled with your weight or your attitude toward it. These three books pretty much changed my life. I don't say that lightly because I don't have a touchy feely bone in my body. They are straightforward, no bullshit, and body positive. I started this blog because I wanted people to realize that eating healthy is not all that hard. Believe me, for years I refused to even try to eat healthy because I didn't like it. Well, that's too fucking bad. Pull up your big girl panties and deal with it. The best way to stop feeling negative about yourself is to eat a little better and exercise a little more. Once you've got these habits then the obsessive thoughts and negativity start to subside and you can move on with your life and stop worrying so much about your body. It's just your body, anyway.

Now on to the books!

Magic Foods: Simple Changes You Can Make to Supercharge Your Energy, Lose Weight and Live Longer By Robert A. Barnett and Denise Webb

This manual comes to us from the fine folks at Reader's Digest. It is pretty much a Bible for my diet. The book first offers you some pretty basic tips to healthy eating, like making the majority of your bread servings whole grain, avoiding too much sugar, etc. Then comes the bulk of the book, the Magic Foods (I kind of wish the book were called Mystical Foods, because that would be awesome.) The idea behind the 'magic foods' is that all of them have a low glycemic load, which means something like 'it keeps your blood sugar stable.' This is important. You know how they say if you eat Chinese food you'll be hungry an hour later? It's because all of that soy and sodium and whatnot gives your blood sugar a quick spike and then a crash. This is also why you feel hungry after you eat a candy bar and why a Snickers for lunch, even if it does only have 180 calories, is really stupid. It's pretty much a beginner's guide to healthy eating, which is where a lot of us need to start. There are a few things I love about this book.

1. It represents all types of food. Some stupid people have recommended you don't eat carbs, or don't eat fruit, or avoid peanut butter and avocados because of the fat. These people are WRONG. All of those foods have nutritional value and you need them. Variety is really important. I think this is where a lot of us fall off the wagon and never get back on- we get tired of eating carrots for every meal. Well, guess what. You don't have to!

2. The book gives you portion sizes. This is hard for a lot of us to grasp so it's pretty helpful to get an idea of how much of something to eat. It also lets you know if something is particularly good for you so you can have more.

3. The 'make it a magic meal' section. This is probably the best part. It gives you a ton of different ideas for making a normal meal into something similar but way healthier. Example- converting that salami and American cheese on a white roll with chips and a Coke into a roast beef with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat with pita chips, a peach and water. That's not so hard, is it?

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works By Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Deep in the grips of a cycle of binging and crash diets, my friend from high school, Mary Kate, gave me this book and told me it changed her life. At first I concerned the book diet poison and propaganda. I mean, DON'T diet? What the hell kind of philosophy is that? But the book really does make a good point. The main concept is in the title: eat what you are craving (as long as it isn't constantly chocolate cake or something), because more often than not, you will find yourself satisfied with a little of it and able to eat healthily otherwise. Honor your hunger. The idea here is that, by obsessively dieting, we often diet ourselves to a higher weight or completely wreck our metabolisms. The book also points out how our bodies will eventually defeat us if we try to lose weight in a way that isn't healthy or sensible. There are lots of 'Eureka!' passages in this book where you realize that you've been sabotaging yourself all along. To wit: the concept that if you are really craving something, you should go ahead and eat it, because otherwise you'll end up trying to fill that hole with other things until you've consumed more calories than you would have if you would have just eaten the fucking corn bread in the first place.

The thing I like about this book is the idea that we all have a natural weight; if you eat sensibly and exercise in moderation, you will reach the natural weight that your body wants to be. If you try to push yourself past that, get ready to fail a lot and be in a lot of pain. Also, don't be a dumbass. Eat when you are hungry.

FAT!SO? Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size by Marilyn Wann

My sister was reading this book during one of her breaks from college when I was 12 or so. She had never been a pound over thin her whole life, but I was a pudgy girl who had hit puberty early and was bigger than her peers. Finding this book was really a life safer for me. The idea here is that IT'S OKAY TO BE FAT. Pretty revolutionary, right? And it is. The book does not use euphemisms. You are not chubby, portly, big boned, whatever. FAT. And they, or you, or we, or I, am fat and proud!

The main idea is that some people are just naturally fat. You can eat normally and get moderate exercise and still be fat. This sentiment is finally coming around to the American consciousness with the Health at Any Size movement. Fat people aren't gross, they aren't stupid, they aren't lazy or ugly. We come in all flavors and fat is one of them. Stop and think about this for a minute: are fat people the last acceptable group to marginalize? How many times do you hear people saying, "I hate fat people"? It's not okay. Fat people aren't hurting you.

I can't say enough good things about this book. If you are skinny, it will make you want to gain weight. It's wonderful. There are essays from fat people, man, women, teens, etc. There are tips on how to reply when someone criticizes your weight. But mostly, this book is about breaking free from the restrictions people put on us and refusing to bend to their standards. I can honestly say this book changed the way I view the female form and I'm so glad I discovered it when I was young and impressionable. I think a big, healthy fat lady is sexy and beautiful. There really is more to love. There used to be an awesome website where plus sized women could send in their photos and have them drawn in a very stylized and sexy comic book theme; it was awesome. We need more of that. Say it loud: I'm fat and I'm proud!

That's all I got. Comment and tell me how awesome you think these books are!

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