Friday, March 12, 2010

Eat What You Love.

Since I have no new pics to share, I guess I'll go with an impromptu review of a book I just finished reading:

Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle, by Dr. Michelle May.

Once my binge eating hit in November and continued into January, I was painfully aware (both physically and mentally) that I had a problem and I needed help. Now, yes, seeing a therapist should've been my first move, but as much as I wanted to seek counseling, I simply couldn't (and still can't) afford it. And I'm certainly not ruling it out as an option in the future, but for this particular time in my life, I needed something to guide me through my feelings and help me navigate through the terrible cycle of binging (and sometimes, purging) and into a peaceful, healthy place. I wasn't expecting to be "cured" by a single book either, but I was still desperate for some sort of basic direction. And, eating disorder aside, I also knew I didn't want to count points or calories for the rest of my life. I just wanted to eat like a normal person and not have to constantly freak out over food. I want to, dare I say it, live.

This book has helped me so much, in so many ways, I'm almost out of words. (Almost... I still managed to think up a few.)

Within the first couple of chapters, Dr. May quickly identified 3 eating behavior cycles (Overeating, Restrictive and Instinctive) and how, by taking small but meaningful steps, you can eventually move toward mindful, balanced eating. I personally followed the overeating and restrictive cycles for yeeears, even as I started losing weight.

It was kind of painful to read certain paragraphs sometimes because some of the behaviors she talks about are identical to the ones I've experienced ever since I became aware of my weight as being an issue. While I'm thankful for dieting as a means of helping me shed 90 pounds, in the end, it really fucked up my attitude toward and relationship with food.

Within this book, you learn why it's important not to assign "good" or "bad" labels to certain foods, how & why obsessively tracking every last calorie or point can actually backfire (which it totally did, in my experience) and why you should never "punish" yourself or earn the right to eat certain foods by exercising (guilty as charged, once again).

After getting schooled on how dieting screwed up my eating behaviors, Dr. May then walked me through how to eat more instinctively and mindfully. She explains how to reconnect with your natural hunger cues so that you only eat when you're hungry (mind-blowing, eh?) and when you do eat, you eat foods that both bring you pleasure and nourishment so you're left completely satisfied.

She also talks about fitness and why you should pursue it for the points of bettering your health and feeling good, not out of guilt for eating food.

I had so many "duh!" moments as I read this book. Everything Dr. May says about how and why you should eat and exercise is pretty simple, but it also made so much sense, which is why I found this book so comforting AND empowering. EWYL makes it perfectly clear that you don't have to struggle with food. You can eat and live a balanced, healthy, fulfilling life, without guilt or self-induced pressure.

The last few chapters are designed for people who are more or less clueless about what kind of healthy foods to eat and how to start exercising, so I pretty much skimmed through those parts. She then closes the book with a ton of great recipes (her husband is a spa chef, so there ya go).

Love, love, love this book. And glad I actually purchased it instead of checking it out at the library. There are so many "Mindful Moment" tips throughout the book that I made note of, for future reference. Like I said before, I am in no way "cured" by this book, so I feel good knowing that I can re-read certain paragraphs in the future whenever I start to doubt myself and feel anxious about eating.

After reading this book, I've no doubt changed my tune about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. While I preached for years (over 2, literally) about calories this and Weight Watchers Points that, I feel so liberated in giving those concepts the middle finger now, for the most part. Now, I know there are people who read this blog who are in fact tracking calories and/or points in order to meet and manage their weight goals, so please don't take this as a personal attack. I don't mean to offend and I certainly don't intend to dissuade you from your current process of weight-loss/management.

As long as you feel your current approach to eating and fitness is balanced and healthy (and not stressing you out or causing unhealthy behaviors), by all means, keep it up!

Am I thankful for Weight Watchers and calorie counting for helping me lose all of that weight? Of course! Doing so changed my life.

But after reaching that long built-up "goal," I quickly became overwhelmed. "Can I be more 'free' to eat 'bad' foods more often? Do I still need to track this? Do I still have to work out extra hard to eat that? Can I just eat whatever I want?"

While WW is quick to say that their program is not a diet and is indeed a lifestyle change, I was starting to find that despite what I said 90 pounds ago, I can't (and simply don't want to) count points for the rest of my life. But I still want to be healthy. EWYL showed me that there is indeed a middle-ground.

"Yeah right, Tam. You're just using this book as an excuse to eat junk and not feel guilty about it." Did I at first? Yeah, maybe a little bit. But as I read on, I realized that that's soooo not the goal of the book at all. And really, it doesn't take long to feel the effects of eating not-so-nutritious food. I don't feel like I have to eat healthier foods. I'm in a place now where I truly enjoy them; eating better leaves me feeling better. But am I going to lash myself, verbally, mentally and physically next time I have a piece of not-so-nutritious cake? Hells to the no! One of my favorite Mindful Moments (out of like, 30):

When you are free to eat whatever you want, food quickly loses its power over you. You are able to eat anything, without eating everything.

One of Dr. May's main messages is learning how to be in charge, not simply "in control." It's a message that resonates throughout the whole book and I'm happy to say that I'm finally learning what it means (and feels like).

So, do I recommend this book? Well, of course I want to say, "YES! YES! YES! EVERYONE READ THIS BOOK!" but I know that it is indeed not for everyone. But if you feel that you might be caught in an eating and/or exercise cycle that is constantly leaving stressed, guilty and/or hungry, I would definitely invite you to at least check out the EWYL Blog and even download the book's first chapter (PDF). If you feel an immediate connection with the material (*raises hand*), either head to the library or make your way to Amazon.

When I first sought out support for my binge eating, the results were a bit overwhelming. And there are indeed a ton of other books out there on similar subjects, so I'm glad I found this one. Dr. May's tone didn't intimidate or annoy me, which was something I expected for some silly reason. She doesn't get overly preachy or contradictory; she simply speaks from her own experience (as well as the experiences from others) and provides you with simple, truthful knowledge aimed at giving you what you need most: help and support.

Thank you, Dr. May. If this book helped me, I'm confident that it's helped others and will continue to do so.


Michelle May, M.D. said...

Love, love, love your review! It is so personal and real - exactly the kind of thing I hear from people who have almost given up on figuring out how to get off the diet roller coaster.

Would you PLEASE post the whole thing on Amazon? It is exactly what so many people need to hear!

I would also love to post a link to it from my website - but is it possible to move the review a little higher in this post so people aren't confused about why I sent them there?

You rock! I hope you'll let me know what I can do to support you on this journey toward FREEDOM!

Tamara said...

@Michelle May, M.D.

No problem! Just did a quick edit on the post to skip all of the previous stuff.

I'm off to Amazon right now!