Meals, or The appropriate use of discipline.

I define structure as the space within which things can happen. And I think discipline (or “willpower” or “control” or “forcing yourself”) is best applied in the service of creating structure.

It seems to me that everyone has a little tyrant living inside them. The tyrant, if it cannot be exorcised, must be exercised — much like a two-year old must be worn out (with safe activity, away from uncovered electrical sockets) in order to let you have a moment’s peace.

My tyrant has, in the past, been a touch…overbearing. Especially during The Great Diet of ’00, wherein the Tyrant allowed me to eat a strictly allotted portion of calories spread over a strictly allotted assortment of food groups — preferences and cravings be damned.

I’ve seen other Tyrants playing fast and loose with other people’s diets. The Tyrant who disallows Suspicious Ingredients. The Tyrant who eschews fat in all its forms. The Tyrant who cannot countenance pepperoni, much to his ardently pepperoni-loving host’s despair. The Tyrant who insists you must eat salad, even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it.

In order to live with the Tyrant, I’ve decided to put him to productive use. Namely, I’ve used his seemingly boundless energy and unbreakable rigidity to build structure around my eating. Then, once erected, I’ve barred him from entering the tabernacle, the holy abode of my body’s wishes and wants.

Simply put, I do this by eating meals.

To the beginner, it helps to think of meals not so much as meals, but rather as “eating appointments” — defined times or intervals during the day kept sacred to the act of feeding oneself. No matter what eating may or may not occur outside of these appointments, the appointments must be kept. Sitting must occur, and a single bite or drink of something placed in the mouth.

But whether the plate is balanced, according to the Food Guide, or looking more like Sunday brunch at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory — in this the Tyrant has no say. If I eat one bite or go back for thirds, it is entirely my choice.

If building structure is defining the space within which things can happen, the appropriate use of discipline is to build and maintain that structure — and then let go of what happens within it.

Showerings of parade candy or rotten tomatoes, as always, gracefully received in comments.

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  1. Posted August 30, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I like the concept of ‘eating appointments.’ One thing I have struggled with during paricularly hectic work days is actually making (I was going to use the word finding, but making is more appropriate) the time to eat regularly. I am beginning to realize that how we eat (what time, how regular, with whom) is just as important to our health & well-being as what we eat. The how gets at our habits and routines – which fundamentally, must be considered before lasting change can occur.

    • Posted August 30, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      I am ALL about the How. I don’t think What can happen until How is established.

  2. Posted August 30, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I think I may be on my way to caging the tyrant, or rather giving him something useful to do. My tyrant is obsessed with my weight, so I use the tyrant to keep me (mostly) off the scale. I am worried that this might be another type of dysfunction though. Since I freak out when I see my weight maybe I need the tyrant to learn that weight is just a number, one of many that can describe me, like my height or my age or my shoe size.

    Anyhow. I had a baby 2 years ago. I did get back on the scale about a month ago (morbid curiosity) and I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I have not dieted or “exercised” in any formal way since giving birth. I breast-fed for 10 months, which causes some women to lose weight, but not me. My main form of “exercise” has been chasing my toddler and my grade-schooler. We do walks as a family at night and usually end up at the playground, where I push the girls on the swing or run around after them. Not trying to work my glutes or my abs, just having fun with my girls and screaming with laughter with them. I am working on my memory muscles if anything. :)
    I am getting ready to train for a 5K soon, not to lose weight, but to try something completely different for me. I have never been a runner, but I think it might be fun and the husband and I are going to train together.
    All of this rambling just to say, most of the time, the tyrant and I are living amicably, but with occasional stand-offs.

  3. KellyK
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I have no rotten tomatoes, but I can shower you with fresh ones if you like. :)

  4. Posted August 30, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I’ve decided that the discipline I want is cooking/eating my own food. Partially because if not, I waste so much of it, and also, what I can buy ready to eat, especially at work, is not what I like to eat. I think of sandwiches as things to eat when there’s nothing else available, not yummy food. I don’t worry about low-fat, low-carb, low-anything else, I just try to cook it myself, and throw veggies in, since I’m such a farmers market fiend. Even this, I don’t beat myself up about, nor do I whine when I eat breakfast at 6 am, dinner at 9 pm. That’s my life, now, and I am trying to not be neurotic about food and eating, even if I have to do things a bit non-conventionally. I walk a fine line with discipline, I rebel against the stupidest stuff if I push too much.

    • Posted August 30, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      I walk a fine line with discipline, I rebel against the stupidest stuff if I push too much.

      Same here. And I think cooking definitely requires some discipline, or at least planning for it to happen does. When I’m low on willpower (and there is some research to suggest that we all have a limit, and when particularly stressful or taxing emotional or work/school stressors arise, a lot of our available willpower is used up in dealing with them) I stick to just trying to eat regularly — even if that means Hamburger Helper and cereal. When I have more energy/patience available, I try to cook and implement what I think of as “gentle nutrition.” Which I’ll get into much, much later, as it’s triggering to a lot of people.

      But for anyone just starting out, it can be helpful to forget about this stuff and just work on the first step, which is…eating. Anything. At regular times.

      • Posted September 2, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        I LOVE this. I work in feeding kids, and it’s hard to have the stamina to provide regular meals and snacks day-in, day-out. I think being gentle with yourself when you don’t have the energy or the will is critical. A few nights of mac-n-cheese, or take-out and I’m usually ready to get back on the horse. I don’t do guilt about it, and I find that letting go of the guilt, being kind to myself makes it much easier to take the break I need and feel good about cooking and providing again. Flagelating yourself about not cooking is so counterproductive. Even when I don’t cook though, I do stick with the routine. I feel better, and my kiddo is way more balanced that way too. Glad to read you again!

  5. Posted August 30, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I really needed to read this today. I alternate between binging all day long and barely remembering to eat. I’m in a “barely remembering to eat” phase right now, which really doesn’t feel so great (imagine that!). I have a pretty powerful tyrant and I really like the idea of harnessing that power for good instead of evil. :)

  6. Posted August 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    See this is what I’ve been trying to sell Mr. Twistie on for years. At long last he has had an epiphany: if he waits three hours to eat after taking his medications that include the instruction ‘take with food,’ he will not feel well. Of course I’ve been telling him this for at least ten years now, but he thought of it all on his own about a month ago.

    Me? I am no fun to be around if I skip a meal. I eat regularly or I get really, really cranky and take it out on everyone around me with my well-sharpened tongue.

  7. Posted August 30, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m a rebel kinda person, of someone tells the word should, must or anything similar, it’s the key to make me flip, jump and almost do the exact opposite.
    But it was funny, I didn’t have any problem at all with setting intervals to feed when I started the program it was a must/should that I happily commited to.
    And it has been really freeing, I must say!
    I’m so happy when you witre here! It feels like I’m visiting, it feels confortable, it feels like home. :)

  8. Jerome
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    This is an interesting topic. When I first began recovering from my ED and learning how to eat intuitively, I referred to my meals and snacks as “eating experiences” because it made them seem like discrete entities that I could handle one at a time rather than an overwhelming, neverending challenge.

    The problem that I have now is that the time I feel the worst about my self/body/weight/eating/etc. is immediately after I eat, while my stomach is full. This is when my “tyrant” is the meanest. Many years of anorexia sort of trained me to only be calm when I’m hungry, and it’s been very hard to break that habitual response (in fact, I haven’t really broken it, I just cope). Has anyone else had similar experiences?

    • Posted August 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      the time I feel the worst about my self/body/weight/eating/etc. is immediately after I eat, while my stomach is full.

      I was JUST talking to someone about this very thing, so yes, you’re definitely not alone on this. I also know that this is something I’ve heard about from other people recovering from restricting.

      I wish I knew what to tell you, but I really don’t. The only thing I can think of is to remind yourself that it is just a feeling, and it does not reflect reality, and that you can endure uncomfortable feelings for a while — it is, after all, only a temporary state.

      Another trick I know is sometimes used in recovery from anorexia nervosa is to focus on eating foods that don’t carry that super-full feeling along with them. Hot liquids feel especially filling, at least at first, but do tend (at least for me) to leave the stomach a little bit more quickly. Fibre makes you feel full. So you need to try for caloric density in light-feeling foods. Cold or room temp stuff may help, and things like pastry, or bread and butter, etc. might get you enough calories without causing you to feel uncomfortably distended. How do milkshakes make you feel? Some people feel full on them, others hardly notice. I personally find it really hard to feel overfull on ice cream and non-fibrous cold cereal (like Froot Loops, etc.), even with whole milk.

  9. Posted August 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I struggle with remembering to eat on a regular basis. Which is a problem when you have a hyperactive metabolism and thus prone to sugar lows. But I have a calendar program and a planner to make sure I keep all of my appointments, and I’m always always checking the clock.

    Your idea of “eating appointments” makes a lot of sense. It even makes sense with how my brain works. I think I’m gonna steal it from you and use it :D Maybe if I attach times to it like I do with so many other things, I’ll actually remember instead of crashes reminding me. Thank you so much for posting this!

  10. Posted August 31, 2010 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Awesome post! So glad to see you back. The concept of ‘eating appointments’ has really hit home for me and given me much to think about…

  11. DessertFirst
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    The only way I can eat without triggering my tyrant is by grazing; if I eat a real “meal,” and feel full (not stuffed, just normally full) afterwards, I feel as though I’ve binged — which often leads to a real binge, because my tyrant then whispers to me that I’ve already “blown it” (I believe Janet Polivy — or someone — has aptly labelled this kind of reaction the “what-the-hell” effect?) so I might as well stuff myself now, because tomorrow I’ll be back to restricting (which is what grazing essentially is, for me, if I am being honest with myself). Consequently, I struggle greatly with allowing myself to indulge in meals, despite being aware that my grazing behaviour is not working for me — I always feel somewhat hungry, am always looking for the next bite, and can never get food out of my thoughts for more than a few minutes at a time. (Thanks to your recommendation, Michelle, I read Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, so I am aware that Ellyn Satter discourages grazing and “on-demand” feeding, and I have come to believe that she is right in doing so.)

    I don’t know how to solve this problem, this anxiety that comes over me upon feeling “normal-full” after a meal. I am really trying to become more “fat accepting,” because I suspect this holds the key to my being able to be comfortable with a full stomach — because I equate satiety with being fat/gaining weight. If I can somehow learn to accept the fact that I may gain tons of weight (I’m already about 30 pounds “overweight”) by eating normally — because I’ve probably permanently screwed up my metabolism over the years by the starve/binge/overexercise/couch potato-ness cycle — maybe I can finally learn to truly enjoy meals again, as I did before I became weight-preoccupied (and maybe be able to eat meals in front of people without being self-conscious– but that’s another problem for another day).

    BTW, I’m so glad to see you are posting again — I have learned a lot here and hope to continue doing so! Thank you for this post.

    • Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      “I believe Janet Polivy — or someone — has aptly labelled this kind of reaction the “what-the-hell” effect”

      You are correct. Also known as disinhibiting. It’s a feature/consequence of restrained eating.

      And while meals/snacks in a particular structure are what Satter recommends, she also includes grazing in her definition of normal eating. I think it’s a legitimate way to eat, especially if you’re trying to avoid that feeling of disinhibition while recovering from disordered eating. If you’ve been restricting for a long time, a traditional meal can feel like a binge.

      By that same token, a meal doesn’t always have to be what we commonly think of as a meal. I think of meals, again, more as eating appointments — and I can eat as little or as much as I want to at that time. A single piece of bread could count.

      Some people might eat 3 larger meals, others might eat 6 snacks a day. It’s a personal preference.

      Incidentally, I currently eat at 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, and again at 9pm. It just kind of…happened this way. If I skip one of these times, I tend to feel either physically hungry, or else irritable and/or sleepy. Hunger presents itself sometimes in unexpected ways. Heartburn is one people report a lot that often goes unrecognized as hunger.

      The trick about trying to become self-accepting re: weight is that it requires you to accept ambiguity and the unknown. This is a task not just relevant to weight, but to life and coping with reality in general. There are a lot of unknowns in the world, and humans have to learn to coexist somewhat peacefully with them, despite our intense natural desire TO KNOW FOR SURE ABOUT EVERYTHING. Accepting your weight means accepting that you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. You can, however, have some peace of mind knowing that it appears most people who learn to self-regulate their eating and movement also maintain a stable weight without effort over a number of years. And I can promise you that, even if that weight is higher than your current one, learning to accept a STABLE weight is a lot easier than trying to accept a body that is always changing.

      Even when I was losing weight, it was hard to accept — because my body was a moving target. The changes were hard to get used to, whether they were up or down. I suppose one advantage of trying to accept weight gain vs. loss is that gain (if it’s fat gain, that is; not some weirdness with water retention) does tend, for most people, to happen gradually over years, while weight loss most commonly happens in more dramatic fashion (whether because of dieting or illness.) Just something to keep in mind.

      • raindance
        Posted September 1, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the info on heartburn as a manifestation of hunger! I had no idea, and it’s very timely for me today.

        I’m recovering from a bout of food poisoning I suffered over the weekend and haven’t been able to get back into my usual food routine. The idea of putting food into my stomach that may not want to stay there makes me cringe, not to mention I just wasn’t feeling hungry. I was, however, and kind of still am, having some serious heartburn.

        Coincidentally, I’d already started taking your approach of eating appointments, telling myself I was going to eat at my usual scheduled times, even if all I had was a few crackers or some applesauce. I’ve kept my last few eating appointments and I’m starting to feel better already.

        • Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          Oh God, I sympathize with the food poisoning. I had a nasty bout of it several months ago, and all I could manage was copious amounts of 7-Up (which, when you are dehydrated from barfing your brains out, tastes like NECTAR OF THE GODS) for a long time.

          When I finally got back to my usual self, my appetite for real food came back with a vengeance. Such a vengeance that I made myself a faux Thanksgiving dinner and ate two plates of it.

      • DessertFirst
        Posted September 1, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        You have hit the nail on the head: I can’t STAND the fact that I have no idea how much weight I will ultimately gain once/if I recover. In fact, it’s very timely that you mention having to learn to accept the unknown when it comes to what my stable weight will eventually turn out to be, because that is exactly what my therapist told me I must do if I want to have any kind of peace of mind about my body. I had said to her that I could perhaps learn to accept – if not embrace – a higher weight, if only I knew NOW what it would be! It’s the not knowing that really bothers me. (On a more practical level, it would be nice not to have to keep several sizes of jeans, etc., in my closet, due to never knowing what weight I’m going to “be” from one week to the next.)

        In terms of meals, I also struggle with what is an appropriate portion/meal size. In fact, I often quiz my friends about what they typically eat in a day, and when, to get an idea of what is a “normal” amount (and type) of food, as I seem to have lost this commonsense skill. I am trying to identify my “stopping place,” which I understand is unique to everyone, but it helps to have an idea of what “normal” people eat in a day. Unfortunately a lot of my female friends also restrict, so I can’t go by their example . . .

        • Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          I think finding that “normal” amount (meaning, your unique stopping place) is really a matter of trial and error.

          It is not going to hurt you to make mistakes in your eating, especially given that it’s likely only temporary. Your body does know how to regulate its intake over the longer term if you let it. Enforcing an external portion-size standard works at cross-purposes to this.

          So I think what I’m saying is: all you can do is GUESS, and allow yourself to screw up with impunity. It’s not going to hurt you, and you will learn from it.

      • Photopoppy
        Posted September 17, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Hunger presents itself sometimes in unexpected ways. Heartburn is one people report a lot that often goes unrecognized as hunger.

        You mean it’s not just me? I kinda thought that not being able to tell half the time if I have heartburn or if I need to eat was just a side-effect of my weird body – up there with not being able to drink X amount of caffeine if I want to ever sleep again and suffering from what the doctors just shrug and call “gastritis” several times a year.

        • Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:51 am | Permalink

          My mom suffered from “shrug, gastritis” several times before the real issue was discovered: gallbladder disease. Yikes!

  12. David Merriman
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I just want to say that I sincerely disagree with the ideology behind your blog. I am glad that people with emotional issues regarding eating can take solace in what you’re writing, but your solution to this problem is dangerous.

    “Listening to your body” and “eating whatever you feel like” sounds like a noble goal, liberating people to enjoy themselves when they sit down to eat, but the problem is that food today is closer to drugs than it is to food in any traditional sense. As a nutritionist you know the large number of additives put into processed foods. You also know the staggering number of animal products consumed by the average American, which in our society, where cheese is in everything and multiple meats are the norm, is very difficult to avoid.

    People eat without checking the ingredients or, if they do, understand how they will affect their body. Trusting yourself to eat well simply by “listening” to your appetite can be a recipe for disaster. The true contents of most of our food is hidden, and all we experience is the taste. This taste is not a good indicator as to whether or not that’s what would be good for our body, and in fact, this taste can and does change.

    And this is the most important point of all: Our appetites CHANGE based on the foods that we eat. For example, when I became vegan, my tastes completely changed. Limiting my diet allowed me to appreciate foods that I normally would not have enjoyed: I am now in love with vegetables, when before I considered them bland. Your blog tells people to follow their cravings, but what they crave can change, and it can change into a healthier alternative.

    What you are advocating can really amount to this philosophy: “Fuck it. Eat what you want, and be happy with it.” And you bring in gender and socioeconomic issues to support this philosophy. My problem with this is simple. It’s unhealthy. It allows people to embrace completely unbalanced diets, to the point that many people should be considered malnourished. It’s also, to put it bluntly, stupid. Only by making conscious choices as to what I would eat or would not eat allowed me to move away from unhealthy eating habits — eating fast food twice a day — to eating, and loving, a much more healthy diet.

    • Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Okay. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Posted September 7, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      Dude, you can’t make prescriptions for everyone based on yourself. I was eating super-low-fat vegan for a couple of years in the late 90s, doing everything right by your prescription. Guess what? I felt physically anguished and hungry all the time, and I gained over 40 pounds eating whole grains and delicious vegetables. Not until I went back to meat eating did I lose it. And my boyfriend at the time? Got himself into “perfect shape”, running marathons, 8% bodyfat (you could see his skull through his skin after races), strict vegan. Guess what? I found out a few years later that he’d had a (fortunately not majorly debilitating) stroke at 34. So I don’t buy your prescription for everyone. Right now my BMI’s about 25 and I eat everything from whole grain cereal to the not-infrequent Five Guys cheeseburger. Being holier-than-thou about what people eat and up in their faces scolding them NEVER works — I learned that as an insufferable mid-20s vegan evangelist as well.

    • KellyK
      Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      See, you don’t get to tell people what to do. You 0bject to Michelle’s philosophy because ” It allows people to embrace completely unbalanced diets”–but guess what? People are already *allowed* to embrace completely unhealthy diets, or uber-healthy diets, or something in between. As an adult, I don’t need Michelle’s permission, or yours, to decide whether I’m going to eat a cheeseburger or a salad. And *that’s* the point. Telling people what to do is useless, arrogant, *and* counterproductive. Reminding them that they have the freedom to do whatever they want, then talking in depth about what that can actually mean, is useful.

      I don’t think Michelle has ever said–“Don’t ever look at a label or pay attention to nutrients. You should eat solely based on how things taste,” but that’s how you’re interpreting it.

      “Eat whatever you want” does not mean “Eat the most processed, fatty, salty, sugary, chemical-laden food you can get your hands on.” You *chose* to be a vegan because it was important to you. You *decided* to try new vegetables, or to try them prepared in different ways. That is eating “whatever you want.”

    • Posted September 21, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      This is sad. It’s funny ive seen many dietitians, one who has 8+ years of schooling and teaches at a well known university. She also believes me should ‘eat what we want’ and LISTEN To our bodies instead of what other people are telling us to eat. Out bodies wont steer us wrong. My boyfriend is very good at listen to his body, he is not health obsessed or weight concerned AT ALL! he likes his ice cream and fried chicken. He rarely over eats though and is always craving veggies. He listens to his body and it tells him what to eat. The greatest part is, he doesnt even know hes doing it. If we dont have veggies at dinner for a few nights he will start to complain he doesnt feel good with what hes eating. Oh yeah, and he is a VERY healthy weight

  13. Jadey
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    This is possibly my first comment here (can’t recall), but DAMN I am so glad you are back. Especially after this farce of a post went up on Feministe and I remembered how scary it can be outside the fatosphere.

    In honour of The Little Tyrant, I recall: The Little Hater

    How many tiny gremlins can the human existance sustain?

    • Posted September 2, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      I love how the statistical correlations of ill health or higher mortality with higher BMI are always trotted out as the reason for legitimizing using BMI as an individual diagnostic.

      The problem is, as she pointed out, that Quetelet invented the BMI as a way of measuring the POPULATION, not the individual. And thus, if we’re seeing higher morbidity or mortality among obese BMI groups (you can throw out the “overweight” category right away, since good analysis has shown that “overweight” BMIs tend to incur lower mortality risk than all others)…then maybe that points to a POPULATIONAL problem instead of an individual one? A populational problem that, for some strange reason, only seems to exist for obese people?

      Hmmm, let’s see here. What is different about the lives of obese people, apart from the oft-assumed Twinkie predilection and indulgence in the deadly sin of sloth? Are fat people discriminated against in healthcare settings? Why, yes they are — there are studies to support this. Are fat people discriminated against in educational and employment and even living situations? Why, yes they are! Again: there are studies to support this. And are fat people more likely to diet and incur the risks of dieting and weight cycling? I THINK MAYBE POSSIBLY THEY MIGHT BE. Might fat people also have a tougher time finding safe (emotionally and physically safe) places to exercise? Given the commonness of stories about fat people receiving harassment while exercising in public, I think it’s possible. And, in rich countries, are fat people more likely to be of lower socioeconomic status than their thinner peers? Yes!

      Shit, I think maybe I’m onto something here! And it has very little to do with individual Twinkie predilections or laziness.

      The assumption is always that the BMI is not merely an indication of body fat (which it definitely IS, though not a perfect one), but, by virtue of being strongly and positively correlated with body fatness, ALSO an indication of individual behaviour — which it is NOT. And that fatness, itself, is a behaviour rather than a physical trait — which isn’t necessarily so. Which is actually kind of unlikely to be so, given the body’s strong predisposition to defend a set-point range against vagaries of behaviour, even if that range is LOW rather than high.

      In short, there are so many other, bigger pieces to the health and mortality pie than just individual behaviour. And socioeconomic status has been so strongly and consistently proven to be the biggest one of these, that I can’t believe how rarely it enters into the discussion of the health risks of obesity.

      • Jerome
        Posted September 3, 2010 at 4:58 am | Permalink

        I know that’s right! Go on Michelle, you are awesome!

        • Ashley
          Posted September 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

          So this is perhaps only tangentially related, but “safe (emotionally and physically safe) places to exercise” made me think of it. I was out running in my neighborhood the other day (which is generally delightful and typically full of people running and walking around after work), and this random guy rolled down the window of his car and all but stopped in the middle of the street so he could yell out his window and make fun of me!! I was pretty pissed, and it didn’t deter me in any real way from running in my neighborhood again, but really, who does stuff like that?

          • KellyK
            Posted September 9, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            but really, who does stuff like that?

            Sad, pathetic, nasty people.

            I hope you told him off, but good, or he at least got honked at and flipped off by a driver behind him.

          • Posted September 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

            Wow, what an utter shitbucket. Glad it doesn’t deter you, however.

          • Posted September 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

            Ashley – a cable installer was driving by me in his van as I walked home from the chiropractor’s office (my choice to both take public transit to her office from work, and then walk home rather than driving) and mooed at me.

            If I’d realized what he was mooing at before he turned down another street, I’d probably have flipped him off. As it was, I guess I got the moral high ground by not reacting ;)

            Oh, and then there were the guys who hissed, “Do you like Krispy Kreme?” as I walked by them, pushing my son in his stroller, again to take public transit.

          • Posted September 17, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

            It never fails to astound me how rude people can be.

          • Ashley
            Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

            Oh my god, what an asshole. It’s like people have no manners (or “home training” as my mom would call it; yes, I am Southern) any more.

          • KellyK
            Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

            “Training” is totally the right word for it. Unfortunately, it’s not considered appropriate to bop someone with a newspaper or spritz them with water when they’re being a jerkface.

          • Jess
            Posted October 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

            Ugh. What a jerk.

            Have you watched Joy Nash’s Fat Rant 3? She covers lots of different come-backs. My favorite was (delivered in a concerned voice) “You might want to keep your voice down. Everyone’s going to find out what an asshole you are.”


          • Tree
            Posted October 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            Amazing! Change ‘asshole’ to ‘jerk’ and it’s almost work appropriate too.

  14. kristinc
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    This post was an epiphany for me! I’m very fortunate in that I don’t struggle with particularly disordered eating but I have depression that cycles, and I noticed that just before a whopper depressive episode I get very lovingly focused, almost obsessed, on regular meals and homecooked, varied, extremely nutritious food.

    So for me my tyrant is not a dietary one per se, but it’s still a limiting and critical/destructive one, and until I tip over the edge into a depressive episode I can harness it by bringing structure to my eating and nourishing myself as well as I can.

  15. Theresa
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michelle, and welcome back. Loved this post … it’s something I needed to see today. Cheers!

  16. Posted September 3, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Eating appointments – that’s a great way of putting it.

    I still struggle with food and eating. I do know that scheduling regular meals and snacks seems to work the best for me, but I struggled with that becoming a “diet”. I found if I let the Tyrant get all schedule-y on me, then I’d start letting it get all diet-y too.

    Well, I’m going to have a go at the eating appointments. The “what” is none of the Tyrant’s business, just the “when”.

    Thank you Michelle!

  17. Posted September 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    So glad to see a new post from you! I really appreciate your insights and your writing voice.

    You could post your long comment about the Obese Population as another post — it’s the most thoughtful thing I’ve read in response to the Jezebel/feministe dust-up.

  18. Posted September 15, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you! This is so helpful. My tyrant is, um, hyperactive shall we say, and giving her a thing to do has made a big difference since this post went up. Also, Ellyn Satter’s idea of a “sit-down snack”. I still struggle with the “regardless of what eating happens in or outside of the appointment”, but this mentality has made me have a lunch on at least two days when otherwise it would have been a cup of coffee while reading and riding a train. Literally.

    • Posted September 17, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Nice! Glad to hear it’s been helpful.

  19. libbyblue
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Oh thank goodness the site is back! For the past few days, it hasn’t loaded at all. Even though posting is pretty slow right now, I’m still grateful for the archives and like to visit and remind myself of what sane nutritional advice looks like.

    I have a question that might be a little out of place here, but I’m not sure where else to ask:
    Does anyone know of any iPod Touch apps that allow you to track nutrition? I’m not interested in weight loss, or achieving someone’s ideal ratio of carbs to fats in a given meal, or analyzing the weight and proportional micronutrient content of every single bite of food I put into my mouth (which are all things I HAVE found apps for). I just really suck at feeding myself. Having records of what I’ve been eating has helped me to take better care of myself in the past, but I am not going to tote around paper food journals on a regular basis. (I also like pie charts and such, so those are a nice bonus if any apps have those with the stuff I want.)

    I want to be able to calculate, roughly, how many calories I’m eating so I know when I’m eating too little or way too much over time. I want to be able to track whether those calories are mostly coming from substantial foods, or if 500 of them are coming from packets of unprepared Jell-o powder at 10PM. I’d like to have some kind of record of how much iron or soy or whatever I ingest over time, without having to actually calculate it or analyze it daily, so I can hunt down diet-related things contributing to later feeling like crap. (I have a couple of health conditions that people insist are made better or worse by certain foods. Evidence is nice to have.)

    I guess I basically need a digital food diary that will do most of the math for me so I don’t have to devote much mental energy or attention to triggery numbers on a daily basis and can just look at the big picture most of the time.

    Are there any apps out there that will do this without my having to input all this info myself every single day? And will do it without constant reminders about my “need” to lose weight?

    If anyone can suggest any helpful apps, I’d appreciate it. I’m willing to pay for a quality product. Thanks. :)

    • Posted September 21, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      I would suggest that you not count calories. Its addicting and it keeps us out of touch with our body. Once you start it will be hard to go back.

    • Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      I don’t know of any apps, but I’m sure they’re out there. The thing that strikes me, however, is that optimal nutrition for any individual can look pretty chaotic from day to day.

      That is to say, we don’t necessarily eat (or need) the same amount of calories from day to day. The same goes for pretty much any nutrient — it varies.

      Nutritional balance is most often struck over the long term, rather than the short term. It’s hard to keep track of, and it is hard to notice even when it’s happening. But it does happen.

      Just something to think about — even if you have the ability to track really minutely what you’re eating (which poses a whole ‘nother set of practical difficulties), it is really hard to know what standard to then hold that against, since your own individual needs may change from day to day.

    • KellyK
      Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      You might want to check out Google apps. I know iGoogle had one for daily tracking of your weight, which is a *bad* idea, but the overall theory was to look at the long-term, not the day-to-day fluctuations. Which is kind of what you want with nutrition. Did I get enough , say, Vitamin C over the course of *this month* rather than *today*? So who knows, they might have something like that.

      I’m afraid anything you find is going to be obnoxiously diety at you. Like, has lots of tracking, lets you build recipes, and some very cool things, but it also suggests “better choices” if you’re eating what it thinks are too many carbs or whatever.

      • libbyblue
        Posted September 24, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        That’s the issue. Why can’t there be any apps that are non-judgey? I don’t want to be looking at numbers all the damn time. I just want to have them available so I know what to change if my food (or lack thereof) has a negative influence on how I feel down the road. I don’t want to have some stupid daily calorie count lurking in the corner of the screen telling me I’m over or under however many calories it says I’m allowed to have. (Even when I tell it I want to weigh the same, or twenty pounds more, or whatever, the Count of Judgment bugs the hell out of me. I’ve been changing my “goal weight” daily to keep the figures as irrelevant as possible, but I hate that they’re THERE.)

        I have this tendency to not eat, which keeping a food log helps with. I’ve also had issues with binge eating in the past, which are generally preceded by a distinctive pattern of eating in particular ways. And then there’s the whole you-shouldn’t-eat-X-because-of-condition-Y thing, which I’d like to be able to keep track of. And some maybe-you’re-cranky-and-shaking-because-you-only-ate-jello-today type of tracking. I have flashes of being able to manage this stuff on my own, but I’m absurdly dependent on friends and family to eat like a freaking adult. 80% of the time, I am very badly connected to my body. Records help. I’m already toting around this iPod gift for music (and med tracking, and pain level tracking), so it would be convenient to record the food junk on it as well.

        External record that I ate something besides soda crackers. The ability to go back to see if I did eat an Evil Forbidden Food before an Allegedly-Connected Adverse Health Event occurred. A picture of what I’m eating over time. The luxury of having this stuff without being reminded about calories on EVERY SINGLE SCREEN of the app. This shouldn’t be impossible to create, but it’s certainly impossible to find. It’s really frustrating.

        • KellyK
          Posted September 24, 2010 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Yeah, it should be really easy to make something like that. I’ve been googling around a little with terms like HAES food diary, but coming up with a whole lot of nothing.

          • Ashley
            Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

            So I earlier this year I was having some gastrointestinal issues (sorry for the TMI) and went on a dedicated food tracking mission for awhile. The app I used is called “Serious Nutrition Tracker” and it’s got pros and cons. You have to create your own database of stuff you eat a lot, which is annoying because it initially takes forever, but then you don’t have to sort through huge lists when you are tracking what you ate. You can also self-define how much a serving of something is to you. It does keep up with calories and everything you eat, but I wouldn’t say it’s super emphasized (certainly not as much as some other ones). And it makes pretty bar graphs. That said, do I still use it now? No. Oh, and it costs $4. If you want one with a huge database of stuff, the hands down most popular one with the biggest database of like, restaurant food and such, is definitely spark people, but it’s really diety. But if you don’t want to have to initially enter ALL the nutritional facts off your box of jello, it would have them preprogrammed in.

  20. concettameas
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey Michelle,

    I am new to your site and just have to say THANK YOU for your view point and wonderful attitude.

    I am finally coming out of a decade-long struggle with my body and finally seeing – and feeling intuitively – the truth about weight and health.

    I put on about 30 or 40 pounds once I hit my early 20s and I had been reeling ever since — my inner tyrant moved right in to my cerebellum: “Why did this happen? Is it all due to my metabolism? Is that an excuse? I eat healthier now and I cook and label read, why isn’t the weight dropping off? What am I doing wrong?” Etc etc and so on and so forth. I am now finally coming to understand the big picture of all the factors that play into weight and health – media, culture, economics – and finally letting go of the blame and the expectation that thin = healthy. It sounds so simple, yet it has been the most difficult truth not just to internalize, but to know.

    Thank you so much for being a part of the truth-givers out there. I look forward to many more posts! (And checking out the archives!)

    Meantime, I’m going to stuff some profiteroles in the face on my tyrant and ask him to kindly shut the fuck up :D

    • Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      Hey concettameas — welcome! Mmmm, profiteroles.

  21. Judy Long
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Great blog. Love the comments, also. Well, with the exception of the one lying drunken puppy thief whose self righteous comment was the one bad apple.

    Love the idea of eating appointments. I want to work on getting my structure back into alignment. (Maybe I need a chiropractic eating adjustment). I also want to work on eating food I’ve cooked. If only I didn’t hate that damn kitchen so much.

    • KellyK
      Posted September 28, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Hehe! I’m totally stealing “lying drunken puppy thief” as an all-purpose insult.

      • Judy Long
        Posted September 30, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        That’s only fitting considering I stole it from someone else. Well actually they offered it when I wrote a comment asking for creative curse words. It is definitely my favorite.

  22. Jodika
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Meal really do not agree with me, so I’m pretty happy the grazing thing is ‘allowed’ so to speak… Due to a tendancy to get caught up in things and depression-related motivation issues I am useless at eating and now I’m living by myself in self-catered student halls it’s worse. The only time I eat regularly is first thing in the morning, because my antidepressants have to be taken with food, or they make me ill. The rest of the day I will not eat at all unless I can graze on whatever’s in my bag or in my room, so I’m currently trying to make it easier for myself to eat in a way that makes me feel good in that way. I’ve learned that if I keep eating the same thing, I will get sick of it and won’t want to eat it even if I’m really hungry.

    So, right now I am sat at my computer and on or around my desk are cookies, breadsticks, fruit, crisps, rice krispie squares and baked, salted soy beans. Oh, and tequila, but only ’cause I don’t trust my flatmates enough to keep it in the kitchen. ;) Added to the fact that there’s a tap in my room, I could probably stay here for months if I had to.

    Out of interest, as a nutritionist, how long could I cope if I was trapped here? I have plenty of the dry food but the fruit wouldn’t last more than a week.

    Anyway, I think the point of my post was that some of us have no tyrant whatsoever, and need to construct one maybe. :) I don’t know. I think I do okay. I do okay at the gym and in practical acting classes, so I assume I’m okay.

  23. WorkNProgress
    Posted October 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I just found out about your website and I really am impressed by it. Over the last year plus a few months I have been exercising and eating more healthfully. I am 47 and have lost more then 60 lbs, and would like to loose another 60 or so.

    I like how you talk about most of this stuff …. BUT …. I have been trying to look at my inner voices a bit differently ….. I see these voices as parts of me, and I think all the parts of me are trying to help, trying to make me more functional and happier in my life. The way some of the parts do this, though, isn’t always actually helpful. For me the idea that ALL my parts are trying to do right by me is very helpful. The part that wants to eat to numb my feelings, that part just wants me to not be in pain. I want to find other, more constructive ways to help heal the pain, ways that don’t involve me being unhealthy, or out of control, but it helps me to not be so mad at myself for this, but to just try to “redirect” this energy. Likewise the part that yells at me about loosing weight is trying to help also, because it wants me to be healthier, wants me to be able to live longer, feel better in my body. This voice also doesn’t actually help, because it makes me feel terrible, and I want to eat because of how badly I feel. Instead I am trying to get that part to keep reminding me how good it feels for me to exercise and eat in a more healthy way. For me thinking of a “tyrant” inside of me is just too negative, and I really do believe that this part is just trying to help, but is misguided. I LOVE being able to talk about this, though, and am so glad to find your website.

    Thank you !!!!!!

    • KellyK
      Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      I think that’s a good point, that labeling an inner voice negatively can cause a crappy emotional spiral. I feel the same way sometimes, that an inner voice is stupid, and I’m stupid for listening to it, oh, and I’m stupid for hating myself, but worthy of self-hatred because I’m…stupid. (Yeah…insecurities, they suck.)

      I kind of like the analogy of a toddler, because kids can be bratty and obnoxious without any actual malevolence or ill will. They just have energy that can be destructive when it’s not channeled, and they don’t always have the communication tools they need to interact in better ways. If you want to analyze and resist your internal critic without being too negative, that might be a good metaphor to go with.

      That said, I think that for me, it’s helpful to label the negative voices as tyrranical, because while some of them are trying to help, I have at least one or two that seem to just flat-out hate me. This is where the level of personification gets weird, because I want to make it clear that I do have one whole unified personality and I don’t hear voices–it’s just a way of disentangling all the threads of thoughts and tendencies and facets of personality. But it’s a useful metaphor, so I’m gonna go with it.

      I sometimes feel like my tyrant would be an eating disorder if she could. She hasn’t ever gone there, and I’m not sure why that is, but I’m quite happy about it. So to me, it feels right and reasonable to tell that particular voice, “You’re being a hateful b–ch and I don’t have to listen to you. STFU.” Partly because I think she speaks in the voice of childhood bullies who I’d have liked to say that to, partly because it feels assertive and powerful to stand up to your own inner demons.

      Self-talk is such a personal thing, there’s probably no one right way to handle it, just what seems to work for you.

      • Posted October 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        I just really like to think as that mental chatter as being separate from *me.* It’s a sort of interloper, and I treat it like I would a troll: ignore it or laugh at it, recognize that it’s trying to get a rise out of me. And don’t take the bait.

        • KellyK
          Posted October 20, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

          That’s a really good way to handle that…

  24. Mandy
    Posted November 6, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Michelle.
    I struggled with intuitive eating for many years and had mixed results. On the one hand it was great to discover hunger & fullness again, and to eat what I felt like after so many years of restriction (I remember when I was eight my mom gave me a tomato for lunch in order to help me lose weight). But on the other hand, I really missed having normal meals at normal meal times. My family would be sitting down to dinner and I’d be there with my drink feeling out of place and wishing I could be hungry. It just didn’t feel right. I think the Ellyn Satter method you describe may be the happy medium; I can enjoy family meals AND hopefully get my hunger to tie in with those times. I also notice that my binges are few and far between when I eat to a regular schedule. I think it’s because I don’t get so uncontrollably ravenous as when I am trying to demand feed myself. When I allow myself to get too hungry I really can tear through a gigantic amount of food.

    This blog is superb. One of the best around.

    • Posted November 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      I also notice that my binges are few and far between when I eat to a regular schedule. I think it’s because I don’t get so uncontrollably ravenous as when I am trying to demand feed myself. When I allow myself to get too hungry I really can tear through a gigantic amount of food.

      I think you’re onto something here. This is something I’ve witnessed in myself and other people, too. There’s also something tremendously reassuring about KNOWING you will be fed, no matter what, at X o’clock. This tends to help people calm down in the present and not feel like they need to overload themselves in anticipation of the next mini-famine. Because they know there won’t be one.

      Best to you.

      • Mandy
        Posted November 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that makes a lot of sense to me. It also makes me think back to a conversation I once had with my mom about demand feeding. At the time I had just read Overcoming Overeating & Fat is a Femminist Issue (1&2). I was totally convinced that demand feeding was ‘the answer’ to all my problems with food. Yet when I discussed the approach with my Mom, she seemed unimpressed. She pointed out that perfectly healthy people in most cultures have been eating three regular meals a day (sometimes with planned snacks) for generations and generations. Indeed, most of my family members lived this way until quite recently. Some of them had snacks at set times, and some of them didn’t (based on their appetite, I suppose). None of them dieted or counted anything (they would have found such a thing ridiculous). Some of them were ‘fat’ and some of them were ‘skinny’, but all of them had stable weights throughout their lives and ALL of them were pretty healthy (several lived into their 80s and 90s), despite their typically British diet of fatty meats, fish & chips, ‘puddings’, etc. Didn’t do THEM any harm, obviously. Anyway, it got me thinking.

  25. Lisa
    Posted November 8, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I thought of you when I read this article:

    It’s pretty heavy on the “he lost weight!!” angle, but it’s really interesting even so.

    • Posted November 8, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      That is really interesting! Thanks.

  26. Dave
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    As a newcomer to your excellent blog, I want to say that i’ve been experimenting with this concept for a couple of months myself, and I’ve noticed a marked difference. My body type is extremely skinny, which most people hate me for, but it’s really a pain! my metabolism is so fast that i’m always hungry, and I never get enough nutrition, thus I’m always sick, and it’s begun to take a more serious tole on my body than always having a cold. Planning specific mealtimes, setting an alarm on my i-pod to remind me of the time, and then taking the time to sit down and eat a ful meals when i need it has helped my health tremendously. But i’ve also noticed that it’s not quite enough for me to have the times set, my little Gestapo dictates that I need to have a meal planned out and prepared before time, otherwise we ignore the allarm, because of the time wasted running across the street to the minimart to buy frozen Burritos. The difficult balance for me is planning the meals for the week while keeping the dictator out of the menu choices.

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