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9.21.2009

lets talk about food for a second. (and why i think the nyc calorie count law is not a good idea)

disclaimer: this information is not perfect.
it is rather, in my own words, as i understand it.
for more information on my battle against an eating
disorder, check my sidebar under
NED.


when i first met with dr. bob about, oh, a year-and-a-half ago, he said: no food is bad. no calorie is bad. calories keep us going. and if you're starving the calories in a twinkie are just as capable as saving your life as the calories in an avocado.

and then he went on to say, calories do not carry equal weight (no pun intended. well, kind of intended). 

what he meant was this: if you are eating normally (not starving yourself) it is perfectly reasonable to sit down and have a dinner consisting of 3,000 calories. the body, because it is fed enough each day, recognizes the unnecessary influx of calories and disposes of them quickly (essentially, the body doesn't need the calories, so it doesn't use them). meaning, after that luxurious and indulgent dinner, you might wake up in the middle of the night sweating (one of the ways in which the body rids itself of the calories quickly and painlessly). this is not to say that a 3,000+ calorie dinner should be consumed on a daily or even (relatively) regular basis. 

i'm not sure i can list all of the many steps i've undertaken in order to come to terms with and overcome (still working on this) my eating disorder. i do know  i have had a different focus (or priority) for each week. one week i made going to the gym a top priority. the next i tried to eat my food slowly. another, i drank copious amounts of water. 

however, from the very start i armed myself with knowledge and we all know they say knowledge is power and the thing is, they're right. 

so nyc passed a health provision requiring restaurants with 15+ outlets nationwide to post the caloric information on the menu in the same font and size as the item itself. so they're arming us with information. good, right? well, the thing is, they're arming us with the information they want us to have. calories are not the only (or even most important) factor, but counting calories feeds (pun definitely intended) into the billion dollar diet industry quite nicely. 

so, this is what i know. and this is why i believe calorie counting to be detrimental. eating less than 1,800 calories a day (over any consistent and extended period of time) is a way of starving your body. and it literally changes the way the body responds to food--the pleasure center shifts. suddenly sweets become much more appealing (because they have more calorie per square inch and since the body knows you want give it as much food as it needs, it tries to get the most bang for its buck). this is not to say a person who eats normally doesn't have about 1,200 calories some days. but the next they might have 2,200. the body balances it out. the body figures it out. the body is always maneuvering this tight-rope act and the body does not like when we get in it's way. because, guess what? the body is smarter than we are. 

i did weight watchers and ate about 1,000 calories a day. that's what they told me to do. i lost a lot of weight. and my poor body went into shock. i have spent four years trying to recover from those two months. 

i lost my period immediately. i told many a doctor about this. each told me not to worry. not one of them thought to look at my diet. 

i tried the cookie diet. i ate about 800 calories a day.

these are diets recommended by doctors. monitored by doctors. what's wrong with this picture?

in the end i don't even know how many fads and diets and tricks and torments i put my body through. these are the things i don't really talk about. these are the things that bring me shame.

when i did the cookie diet (for all of about a week--and to this day i can't even stomach the smell of balsamic vinegar, which i put on a bed of greens each night) i had to have several tests to ensure my body was up for it. the cost of the tests showed up on my insurance. that year when i retuned home for summer vacation, my mother pulled out the sheet and asked me what had happened (the cost, but not the details had been disclosed). honestly, i think she feared i'd aborted a pregnancy. that was a low point. 

so the government wants to deal with the issue of obesity? thank god, they need to deal with it. unfortunately they might just be going about it in the wrong way.

want to lose weight? honestly, do you want to count calories everyday for the rest of your life? if you can't honestly say yes, then it's never going to work. instead, eat real food. unprocessed food. fruits and vegetables and meat. foods that when you see the list of ingredients you can pronounce each one. wanna know why you should avoid mcdonalds? let me give you a hint...its not the 540 calories in a thing of fries, it's all the chemicals you can't pronounce. you want to know why the government isn't pushing this? because it would obliterate the food industry as we know it. 

dr. bob constantly gives this advice when interviewed for magazines and newspapers. his articles are published about 1/3 of the time. why so infrequently? because what he says stands in direct opposition to the advertisements that keep these publications afloat--you know, diet ads and potato chip ads and the like?

do you see now, it's a political issue. with the government fighting the lobbyists and no real change in sight. 

so it's up to you. arm yourself with information. figure out what works best for you and your family. if you have a meal that by itself is over the daily recommended intake, don't sweat it, because (guess what) if your eating normally you're body will sweat it out for you. no harm done.

30 comments:

Hillary said...

thank you for posting this. it's been just what I needed to hear.

Erin said...

Great post. There is a lot of good information in here. I agree 100% about counting calories. I don't think that it will help anyone to choose/not choose a meal based on calories.

Allie said...

this is so true! i spent once spent 2 weeks eating only natural (not raw - natural) food - nothing fast, packaged, processed or baked (unless i did the baking myself). i ate WAY more calories than i normally do and i lost weight.

it is hard to stick with but every year after the holidays and mardi gras i do this. it's much much healthier than any sort of "diet."

and kudos to you for putting a full body photo yesterday. you look beautiful!

miss rikki said...

meg - you're amazingly spot on, as always. those that don't struggle with food can't understand how deep this battle runs: for those of us that do, you show us it is possible to win the war.

Kimberly said...

Have you read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan? I'm in the middle of it right now and I think you would LOVE it.

Stephanie said...

I stumbled on your blog a bit ago and enjoy it so much.

I love that you are so informed on this because so few people really are.

So, I don't really know the blogging etiquette on this, but can I re-blog this if it's accredited to you?

Olivia Rae said...

meg fee, you are truly amazing. i wish we could be friends in real life. thank you for this great reminder.

m. estelle said...

meg.
meg.
your openness about your struggles are helping me so much as i sift through mine.
{i may have some questions for you along the way...}
thank you, lady.
xoxoxo
e

Mrs. B said...

Your honesty rocks on soooo many levels.

Melissa said...

What a great, informative post. I agree whole-heartedly!

Hanako66 said...

you are so inspirational to so many people...please keep going with this meg, i have never suffered with this problem, but understand the logic behind what you are saying completely!

Ash said...

You know, I feel like there's so much pressure in the world today to be thin, to be thinner, to be perfect--it's almost all too much. And then you go and post something like this. You know what? I hate counting calories. I hate the idea of it, how neurotic it makes me feel when I even think about doing it. I think the point is to just take care of yourself. Like you said, if you eat a big meal? It's fine! As long as that's not your EVERY meal. And if you eat a lot, then exercise more. I think we need to do a better job of listening to our bodies. We need to trust ourselves that our bodies know what we need. Our bodies know when we're hungry, when we're full, etc. Trust in that. Goodness. Thanks for this post, Meg. This is great.

Marisa said...

You are amazing. This is a great post, seriously. We should go back to eating unprocessed foods that our bodies are meant to eat. I personally think the government should combat obesity by putting a cap on working hours and allowing for sietsta like lunches- when people are not rushed and allowed to enjoy the taste of their food, their surroundings and their family, friends and co-workers :).
Great post again :)

jess said...

You look adorable in your pictures with friends!! I loved this post.. I have been there and done that (as most women who are weight consious have) and I have to admit the time I least thought about what I ate was when I was my thinnest!!
p.s. soo glad I never tried the "cookie" diet.. it doesn't sound very promising!

Alexandra said...

Love this...but I do acknowledge that some do not understand the amount of calories they're consuming and it may be a good launching pad to understanding ultimately, what is most important- understanding what's IN their food.

But yes, for too many, it becomes an unhealthy mind game that I played for a long time too.
xo

Brittany said...

Meg, such a needed post and I hope many more read it and pass it on.

iheartkiwi said...

have you read the omnivore's dilemma? it's a bit dry, but it totally addresses how far we've fallen from the whole and natural foods that our bodies really need.

preach on sister.

Paige said...

i SO agree with you. 100%. when you think about it, eating real food makes sooo much sense. i hate how marketing and lobbying has made it impossible for the rest of america to see that, as well.

i actually just moved to ny and am attending the natural gourmet institute, a culinary school that focuses on real, whole food. we talk about this sort of stuff every day. love it.

iheartkiwi said...

p.s. i totally swiped your autumn quote from george eliot for today... i just love it.

Krissa said...

LOVE this post...and agree completely. Thank you for sharing the information....i definitely agree in arming oneself with knowledge....

how do you find these publications that dr. bob puts out? does he have a website? im interested...
anyways...thanks again for sharing

xoxo

Wisdom + Understanding said...

loved the last line! I was also listening to a song while I read your post and about four paragraphs up from the bottom the song hit it's crescendo... I think it was appropriate for the pace of your post and recommend it to all readers, haha!
Meg i saw a pic of you on taza's page... i never realized how tall you are. lucky!!! i'm all 5'3"

Ariel said...

love this post. when i was visiting nyc my friend and i were constantly opening the menus and crying over the calorie count next to each item on the menu. we really really didn't want to know and once we did it, it completely changed the way we ate while we were there.

Fashionably Kate said...

Oh Miss Meg.

I hear you LOUD and clear on this.

Ever heard of the HCG diet? 500 calories a day. Yep. lost 30 lbs in the 7 weeks. It was awesome.. for a minute. I'm steal feeling the repercussions as well.

It's crazy how warped the mind becomes when the focus is on weight.

and for the record.

Balsamic vinegar makes me want to gag to.

J B J said...

I live almost every day practically OBSESSED with food. What I am eating, what I am not eating, What I am drinking, how many calories I consume, how many grams of carbs I consume and on top of all of that I obsess about how many days I am in the gym and for how long.

It is exhausting.

Thank you for posting something like this...it is not only refreshing but also lets people know they are not the only ones that need a bit of help.

laura marie said...

i love you for this. thank you.

jackie herself said...

i love this. thank you for sharing. i may be contacting you about using this in my high school foods and nutrition class. please keep writing.

Em said...

This is amazing. Thank you. You are amazing!

kathleen said...

You are so incredible. I think you should write a book about NED. It would be so helpful. I've been doing Weight Watchers and I'm given 21 points a day. Are you telling me I'm only eating 1,000 calories a day??? If so, that's fucking crazy! No wonder I'm hungry and pissed off!

Lindsay Beck Photography said...

i. love. you. thank you for this and for your incredibly clear articulation.

Jennifer M. said...

This is so, so true, and I don't know why more people don't understand this. Diets and calorie counting only make your body feel like it's starving and doesn't really address the root of the problem, which is the fake food that everyone's eating. If you can't pronounce the ingredients… you probably shouldn't be eating it.

Some good books I've read on this topic that I highly recommend are: In Defense of Food & French Women Don't Get Fat.