Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Men Like Meat, Dogs Like Bones

 "See? Here's a picture of me at 300 lbs. You wouldn't have found me attractive then!"
"No, you're hot at that size! But I wouldn't have dated you because you have a really damaged look in your eyes."

That little exchange happened several years ago between myself and one of my exes. I won't say who said which part, but suffice to say either one of us could have played both roles in that bit of drama.

As touchy-feely as it sounds, I think a lot of what we all face is not problems with our appearance but our attitude. We're led to believe we're not doing well if we're not the "perfect weight", even if we're healthy and happy.  

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal addressed the conflicts of "mixed-weight couples." Interesting that in a lot of cases, it was the overweight person in the couple that felt there was an issue with their weight, and that the weight affected the relationship. In many cases, it was other issues, although those were exacerbated with their feeling about their weight. The thinner partner always seemed to be at a loss.

As I mentioned back in an earlier post, my own BMI still lists me as overweight. And some folks are quite eager to point to my "donut" and say, "You're not THAT skinny!" As if this somehow validates any idea of their own weight maintenance.

But you know what? 75 lbs. less IS skinny for me and it IS healthy for me. I actually walk around the gyn once in a while with a 75 lb. barbell and damn, that's a lot of weight to have been carting around all day every day! If more weight comes off as I increase weight training, that's great, but I know I'm at a good place. And much as I do like hearing compliments about the new bod, I did it for myself, and I think that's the part that shows the most. 

There is movement out there called Healthy at Every Size (HAES), which "supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being rather than weight control, " a premise with which I agree. I understand this movement to be a backlash against the diet industry and that's more than fine with me. A lot of websites out there that address HAES, some with good information, others just spewing vitriol. But I can sympathize with that anger and bitterness. We're told (well...mainly women are told) from an early age that you need to look a certain way to be happy, to be successful, to be sexually attractive...which in some roundabout way is saying, "you're NOT that way, so therefore you are not happy or good." And that breeds a lot of contempt for the entire health lifestyle industry, even if the message is just about health and not about appearance. 

However, one of the better HAES supporters is The Fat Nutritionist. Her posts are thoughtful, cogent and evidence-based. She does get the idea that the pursuit of dieting is a futile path, but being healthy and body aware is more important.

And that's the key takeaway: body awareness. Or perhaps just better body awareness. I think we all believe we look different from what we really do look like, often based on the message broadcast to us. And again, it's mainly geared towards women. If you look at different studies on how women and men perceive themselves (or each other), you see that women are more likely to see themselves as not thin enough, even though most men are attracted to women of their size or larger. A far simpler home study can be done merely by comparing the scenarios where women see "ideal women forms": fashion magazines (bony androgynous types), and placing them side by side where men find these "ideal women's forms": in adult "gentlemen's magazines" (Miss Chesty LaRue). Even if those women are inflated with silicone, they're a lot bigger than any fashion body ideal with which women are presented.

Men, however, find themselves to be fairly "on target" with their body image. Less of them believe they are that overweight. Except if you're comparing straight and gay men, such as this study, then it's gay men who think that they're not in good enough shape.

If you had asked a few years back what my Healthy at Every Size goal would be, it would not have been 190 lbs. It probably would have been about 245 lbs. But I think that was my own ignorance of my actual health. But while that initial bit of weight loss was good, it wasn't a cure all for my ills, physical or psychological. So it was important to keep going. Most importantly, I did this not so I wouldn't be fat, but rather so I WOULD be healthier. For me, the journey was about real weight loss.

And yet, I've had some rejections of my new body . Even with bigger chest, arms, shoulders back and legs than I had back in Retro mode, some people like a bit more belly. And there ain't nothing wrong with that!


Bergstrom, Rochelle L, Clayton Neighbors, and Melissa A Lewis. “Do Men Find ‘bony’ Women Attractive?:: Consequences of Misperceiving Opposite Sex Perceptions of Attractive Body Image.” Body Image 1, no. 2 (May 2004): 183–191. doi:10.1016/S1740-1445(03)00025-1.

Bernstein, Elizabeth. “Put a Stop to ‘Do I Look Fat?’” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2013.
Mills, Jennifer S., Janet Polivy, C. Peter Herman, and Marika Tiggemann. “Effects of Exposure to Thin Media Images: Evidence of Self-Enhancement Among Restrained Eaters.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28, no. 12 (December 1, 2002): 1687–1699. doi:10.1177/014616702237650.
Singh, Devendra. “Is Thin Really Beautiful and Good? Relationship Between Waist-to-hip Ratio (WHR) and Female Attractiveness.” Personality and Individual Differences 16, no. 1 (January 1994): 123–132. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(94)90116-3.
Tiggemann, Marika, Yolanda Martins, and Alana Kirkbride. “Oh to Be Lean and Muscular: Body Image Ideals in Gay and Heterosexual Men.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity 8, no. 1 (2007): 15–24. doi:10.1037/1524-9220.8.1.15.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Yup, pretty much....

No, really, what DO you eat?

Yes, I promise there's a recipe in this post.

As I've mentioned, while I do cut back (or try to) on eating too much in general, I don't deprive myself of a nice treat once in a while. But my whole cooking experience has now changed. I am making less food at each meal, since even leftovers are portioned out in sensible sizes, and if I made the Retro Ska Librarian amount, I'd either be eating this meal for several weeks or my freezer would be full with way too many baggies of stuff. And I like my variety.

I am cutting down on things like pasta in favor of veggies or a whole grain item. But I am in no way trying to make that item become a facsimile of pasta. Because that will lead to frustration. You expect pasta or heavy cream, you're not going to be happy when you taste konnyaku/shiritaki or shredded cabbage with dashi and mirin.

One of the things that I am dead set against is faux food. I do not believe that substituting a food to "pretend" to be another one will be any help in learning a new way of eating. Using soy products in a meal is fine. Shaping and flavoring them to act like meat is ridiculous and never successful.

I think a better way to look at it is not to "substitute" one thing for another, but rather, just "choose to eat something else." 

So when I put ragu over marinated shredded cabbage instead of pasta or rice, I find it filling and tasty-crunchy. Does it taste like pasta? Of course not and it shouldn't. But I do now crave something like that crunchiness more often. 

I think it does take some conditioning to start craving new things. But that's not a bad thing. I see it as a another form of training, really.

Take beverages. 26 years ago, I switched to diet soda, because even then, I knew I was probably not being healthy. And soon enough, I found non-diet soda to be too sweet. Moving to Japan, I couldn't find a diet cola that WASN'T really sweet (That old chestnut that the Japanese don't like sweets is a load of sugary BS), so I switched to just unsweetened coffee, tea and water. Now I find even diet sodas to taste funny, so when I moved back to the US, I have continued to avoid them. I find them almost salty, oddly enough.

And this comes back to finding a substitute for sweetness. Loading up on chemicals just to badly emulate sugar is not for me. But even if I stay away from the "substitute" sugars, studies do show that non-caloric consumption is on the rise. Not that the study showed people were thinner from using them. And there is the discussion that consumption of these overly sweet foods can increase your desire for sweet foods. Although one study suggests that "the phenomenon may be attributable, more generally, to oral exposure to a palatable stimulus in the absence of an energy load." In other words, your brain thinks it getting something badly yummy, but with no calories actually coming in, it gets more confused and makes you crave more. And then there's just the concern what the hell all this artificial crap does to your body otherwise.

But I am not the food or diet police. I'm just saying that I have realized that trying to substitute food as a diet is like trying to substitute something else for exercise: it don't really work without doing the real deal.

So, what DO I eat? Here's a little something that's healthy(er), and makes a nice change of pace from the usual meal part at dinner or breakfast. It's even gluten-free, if that stuff is really important to you (but that's an entire other topic). I'm talking about socca (or farinata), the chickpea flour crepe.

Usually this is made with a 1:1 cup ratio of chickpea flour and water, which according to, has about 350 calories (before adding oil). Often for breakfast, I half the recipe.

The beauty (or work) of this is you mix the batter and let it sit for anywhere between 30 minutes and 12 hours. I often mix a batch up before I leave for work so I can eat it with dinner, or mix it before I go to bed, so I can make it after the gym and before work.

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
2 tbs oil (I use olive or peanut)
salt and pepper to taste
optional herbs & spices (some combinations include turmeric, cumin, oregano, rosemary, cayenne....whatever grabs you)
Other optional add-ins (I've used onions, dried fruit, cheese)
  • In a bowl, mix flour, salt, pepper, optional herbs & spices, water and 1 tbs oil. whisk until smooth and well blended.
  • Cover and let stand (30 min to 12 hours).
  • Heat oven to Broil. Place oven proof pan or cast iron skillet in broiler until hot.
  • Remove pan and place remaining tbs of oil in it and swirl around.
  • Pour batter into pan (with any optional add-ins) and place under broiler for 3-5 minutes until top is brown in spots.
  • Remove from pan and eat while warm.
Fresh out of the broiler. I added some slices of onion for crunch and taste.
Serving it with two spoonfuls of non-fat Skyr and some prunes. (It is breakfast after all!)

Filling, tasty and a nice break from whole grain toast or oatmeal. Not a sub, but something better!

I guess what I'm saying is I don't find ways to deny myself food, but rather find ways to enjoy it differently. Drop the "special" diets and find a way to just eat what's there. In a smarter way.


Gardner, Christopher, Judith Wylie-Rosett, Samuel S. Gidding, Lyn M. Steffen, Rachel K. Johnson, Diane Reader, and Alice H. Lichtenstein. “Nonnutritive Sweeteners: Current Use and Health Perspectives A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.” Diabetes Care 35, no. 8 (August 1, 2012): 1798–1808. doi:10.2337/dc12-9002.
Mattes, Richard D., and Barry M. Popkin. “Nonnutritive Sweetener Consumption in Humans: Effects on Appetite and Food Intake and Their Putative Mechanisms.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 1–14. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26792.
Schiffman, Susan S. “Rationale for Further Medical and Health Research on High-Potency Sweeteners.” Chemical Senses 37, no. 8 (October 1, 2012): 671–679. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjs053.
Sylvetsky, Allison C., Jean A. Welsh, Rebecca J. Brown, and Miriam B. Vos. “Low-calorie Sweetener Consumption Is Increasing in the United States.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 96, no. 3 (September 1, 2012): 640–646. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.034751.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bullied for fatness?

15 or so years ago, back in Retro Ska Librarian days, I wrote a few posts which included tales of my family and childhood, which upset some family members. While there's part of me that thought "it's my site, let me do what I want," the eternal life of the internet has made me realize that dirty laundry never gets cleaned and put away once you post it. So, I'm always a little wary about posting family or work stuff.

But this new Streamlined blog has already had some rather raw confessions on it. And although I do keep planning on posting some more light-hearted entries with recipes, various weight-related articles keep popping up and I feel I have to write about them, because they relate to me. Which means they may also relate to my family. I look at this as "no one is perfect" but perhaps it can be an object lesson for all of us.

Last week the NY Times posted a piece on their Well Blog about children feeling bullied about their weight by their parents. What got to me more was all the comments, with many folks chiming in on their own childhood interactions with parent and their weight. 

It certainly struck a nerve with me. I was a chunky kid and had been told by everyone that I was too fat. I think my mom put me on my first diet at age 5 or 6. I know they thought it was a good idea, but it certainly is a shaming and a mind-f*ck thing to do to a kid. Especially when neither one's siblings nor one's parent are put on this diet, but rather they can eat what they want. So, I did what any kid would do...I hid food and ate it in secret. I began the still addictive practice of eating bad stuff alone, knowing it was wrong but filling up those feelings. And thus began a very unhealthy relationship with food, and most likely it helped lead to my binge eating.

I never liked photos of myself because I believed I was an obese child. The thing is, the extreme overweight Ska Librarian didn't really begin until my college years. My childhood weight was not incredibly big, so it seems. Check out this picture I found of myself through the magic of facebook. I'm the one in the middle:

This certainly gives a new meaning  to the phrase  "happy campers!"

I'm 8 years old in this picture. A good head or more bigger than the other kids, but I don't look incredibly heavier than anyone else. Having two very skinny siblings probably didn't help comparisons at home. 

Seeing this picture now makes me pretty angry. Maybe if I wasn't constantly harped on about my weight as a child, I wouldn't have had such a hard time of it later on in life. 

My weight continued to be an acceptable discussion and criticism in the family until the age of 30 when I explicitly asked that it stop.

What I find interesting is that the NY Times article and the report on which it based explicitly refer to this as bullying. And that 37% of children responding to this survey said bullying about their weight was done by their parents.

I'm not sure I agree with this. To me, "bullying" strikes me as intentional attacks to hurt someone. In some cases with parents, that might be true. But I think this is probably more of a misguided attempt to help one's children and doing it in an exceptionally bad way. It's not intentional bullying but it is a real straight attempt to destroy a child's self-worth, especially if they're singled out in the family. 

And what is bullying is the tacit approval of letting other people bully your children over their obesity, because there is always an acceptable stigma about fat people. Sadder still, a 2012 study shows that formerly obese people still face that same stigma.

You can see why a parent may fret over an overweight child, for both health and social issues, because it sounds like the child will never escape that fate. But why then single the child out for that? An entire family deciding to eat healthier is a better alternative. A recent study by the NYS Dept. of Health showed that families that received a more healthier WIC food package (with fruits and vegetables and whole grains) resulted in a decrease in childhood obesity levels. But these foods weren't just for the kids. The entire family is on this new eating lifestyle.

Forcing only your child to "diet" is just creating lifelong problems. I do not believe my parents bullied me. But I will say they did help along my body issues. 

And now that I am in my Streamlined way, do my friends and peers think I'm bullying them? I do have take a step back sometimes and think, "How would I feel if I approached the Retro me and talked about weight maintenance and lifestyle changes?" I would probably feel the same way as when my mom hid cookies and posted my weekly weight on my wall, or made me roller skate for 30 minutes one afternoon so our family portraits wouldn't include my "belly." (Is that how we think effective weight loss happens? In one 30 minute enforced guilt trip?)

That's the real issue. Unless one has that "clickable" moment and does it for no one but themselves, it won't work. I want to be available for those that want help, but I can't be a busybody, telling folks how to live. 

All I can say is, I've been there and I'm around if needed.

Chiasson, M. A., S.e. Findley, J.p. Sekhobo, R. Scheinmann, L.s. Edmunds, A.s. Faly, and N.j. McLeod. “Changing WIC Changes What Children Eat.” Obesity (2012): n/a–n/a. doi:10.1002/oby.20295.
Latner, Janet D, Daria S Ebneter, and Kerry S O’Brien. “Residual Obesity Stigma: An Experimental Investigation of Bias Against Obese and Lean Targets Differing in Weight-loss History.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) 20, no. 10 (October 2012): 2035–2038. doi:10.1038/oby.2012.55.
Puhl, Rebecca M., Jamie Lee Peterson, and Joerg Luedicke. “Weight-Based Victimization: Bullying Experiences of Weight Loss Treatment–Seeking Youth.” Pediatrics (December 24, 2012). doi:10.1542/peds.2012-1106.
“Feeling Bullied by Parents About Weight.” Well. Accessed January 14, 2013.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I Have Become THAT Guy

While the diet is important and I think that's what weighs most on people's minds (yes, pun intended...again), it can only work if calorie deficit is achieved. Had I just been restricting calories to a small daily amount, I don't think I could have kept this life change going. But in order to be able to eat a certain amount of food, I had to commit to an aggressive amount of movement.

Hit it, Wonderama!

Egads, even seeing this decades later reminds me of how this part of the show made me so very uncomfortable. Then again look how thin all these 1970's NYC kids were!

Even as a child, I've never been a big formal exercise person. Oh sure, later I was in mosh pits every week and sweating to various bands, but I was never good at organized sports. And I think a later post may address the vicious cycle of children unprepared for sports. My parents were not big sports nuts so I entered into school years not really being able to play football or baseball. Yet gym teachers never bother to teach you how to play, but rather just relegate you to the "can't play" section.  And there you stay, hating gym class and never being able to catch up.

And that feeling of inadequacy is pretty much prevalent when one first goes to the gym. You're surrounded by folks who seems to know what they're doing and they are all in much better shape than you. It compounds any inadequacy you may have about yourself, your abilities and your body. It's disheartening and it has a name: Social Physique Anxiety. It certainly affects one's attitude's about hitting the gym. There's been enough research about it, although it doesn't seem to be addressed a lot in the trade magazines.

And yet we know that exercise is important to losing weight and maintaining that loss. A UK study showed that "research to date suggests that the addition of exercise programmes to dietary restriction can promote more favourable changes in body composition than diet or physical activity on its own." That's basically a "no duh" bit of research.

I had been a member of gyms in the past, but mainly stuck to cardio and very minimal weight machines. I tended to go late at night, as it was less crowded and less full of the preeners. But like many things, I didn't know what I didn't know and I couldn't manage to do enough proper exercise. I was already doing Pilates for a hip injury, but once a week doesn't really count as hard caloric burn.

And that's what I had realized. I need to be pushed. I need someone to tell me that I can and will do one more set at a higher weight. That I will squat farther down on my bum knee. That it's not supposed to actually get easier in that sense.

I was lucky in both my trainers. My first one, Bob Slota, concentrated on the weight loss. Our workouts included multiple reps at a lower weight with only 30 second rest periods in between. His goal was for me to never sit down. I was sad to see Bob leave the gym and did not feel too welcoming to break in a new trainer. I had already developed a certain set of rules that I knew had to be taken into account:

  • Do not ever try to sell me supplements or any special promotional things.
  • I can and intend to do cardio on my own time, so do not waste the hour I'm paying you to watch me use the treadmill for 20 minutes. 
  • You don't have to try to make small talk, but pay attention and push me hard.

My second trainer, Dan Schwartz, took to that task well. He was there to see me hit my goal weight and then made me go further. He decided it was time to lift heavy and hard. We change up the workouts every six weeks or so. The current plan:

  • Monday: (Morning) Boxing, Abs, Cardio. (Evening) Chest, Back & Triceps
  • Tuesday: High Intensity Interval Training, Biceps. Cardio
  • Wednesday: Boxing, Abs, Cardio
  • Thursday: (Morning) High Intensity Interval Training, Cardio. (Evening) Legs & Shoulders
  • Friday: Chest & Back, Cardio
  • Saturday: Running (8-12K) [In bad weather, it's the gym, usually legs]
  • Sunday: Pilates, Running (5-8K)

(Yes, I sometimes hit the gym twice in a day. Dan convinced me to swtich to mornings but when his schedule changed, I found I much preferred getting this in before the day begins). 

I take about two days off every month, unless there's an injury, which is surprisingly less common than I had imagined. 

The phase into streamlined exercise ska librarian was not quick. I still wake up at 5 AM with no real desire to get out of bed. And no matter how eager I am to go for a run on a nice day, the first 5 minutes I still hear a little voice in my head saying, "That's enough, take a break, you don't need to do this."

But I do need to do this. This is part of maintenance. Having a more smoking bod is just gravy, but I will not starve just so I don't have to exercise. I will be healthier because I am doing this daily. And I know I will be doing it until I'm dead.

And yet I also shock myself by other thoughts, such as walking into a new gym and thinking, "Oh, this is no good, the dumbbells only go up to 80 lbs. and there's no decline bench press." 

Who is that person speaking? How did I become THAT guy? How did I become the one who's always at the gym or running on the Manhattan waterfront? How did I become the one who can talk workouts with other people...and know what I'm saying? How did I get the place where I now belong to two separate gyms, own a pair of boxing gloves and know everyone who works out at the same time as I do, even if only by a nod and a funny nickname? How did I manage to finally get over Social Physique Anxiety after 40+ years? How did I keep this up while I see others drop from their training or workout plans?

I wish there was a simple answer that I could share. I do truly credit my trainers but as they tell me, I am the one who actually does the work. 

And it is work, and a sacrifice and an investment. But I also know that even if it does mean forgoing a few luxuries, I actually FEEL good. I am in a better place. And I know I may never be as large as some of the muscle heads at the gym or run as fast as some of my NY Roadrunner friends, but I'm not doing it for them.

Maybe that's the simple answer. It's not for them. I'm not doing this for anyone else. Screw them. It's for me. And that's why this is finally working.

I guess it never mattered what anyone thought of THAT guy in the gym....


Hausenblas, Heather A., Britton W. Brewer, and Judy L. Van Raalte. “Self-Presentation and Exercise.” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 16, no. 1 (2004): 3–18. doi:10.1080/10413200490260026.

Stiegler, Petra, and Adam Cunliffe. “The Role of Diet and Exercise for the Maintenance of Fat-Free Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate During Weight Loss.” Sports Medicine 36, no. 3 (2006): 239–262.
Strong, Heather A., Kathleen A. Martin Ginis, Diane E. Mack, and Philip M. Wilson. “Examining Self-Presentational Exercise Motives and Social Physique Anxiety in Men and Women1.” Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research 11, no. 3–4 (2006): 209–225. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9861.2007.00006.x.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Manly Man Binging

I don't want to make people think from my previous post that it's all been a hunky-dory ride, food-wise, towards my streamlined self. As I did mention there, I am a binge eater. Not just an overeater, but a binger. At least, I certainly fit the profile at the Mayo Clinic's website:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Eating even when you're full or not hungry
  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Eating until you're uncomfortably full
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  • Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
  • Experiencing depression and anxiety
  • Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
  • Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting

Although I think it's said in a more succinct way at the Debunking Dietitian website:

  • Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances and 
  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that you cannot stop eating or control what or how much you are eating). 

I can think back to Retro Ska Librarian times and realize I used food both as a reward and a salve. Whether I was upset ("What a rough day, I'm gonna treat myself to tapioca pudding and chocolate cake!") or happy ("What a great day! I'm gonna treat myself to tapioca pudding and chocolate cake!"), it usually involved non-stop eating. Obviously there are many psychological issues involved here, and I will say a lot were about self-worth, confidence, etc. But it also became a habit. A total ritual of when I wanted to confront both happiness and sadness. And I usually did it alone. It's eerily like drug addiction. 

Nowadays, I do try to stay away from "trigger" foods and assess "trigger" events as they happen, so if I do desperately want a  cookie or a tapioca, I will buy a small individual serving. Because if I bring a bag of cookies or a tub of pudding home, I will eat it. In one sitting. Not even registering that I am eating. And then I usually don't stop after whatever I have in my hands is finished.

But having this one item and then having no access to more often lets me realize just how unsatisfying it was. That's not to say that once in a while a great baked good doesn't appear which is worth it, but 99.9% of the time it's not. And I use that as a lesson learned. Although it's doesn't always stick.

"Is it worth it to be eating this right now?"

Even in this new lifestyle, my binge eating happens. What's even odder is that I have started binging on things I never touched or craved before. I have found myself buying tubs of frosting and just finishing them off in my living room, followed by something salty and then perhaps a second tub of frosting. A lot of websites talk about letting your body have what it craves, but you also have to stop and ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? Do I REALLY want this?" 

Do I feel good or satiated after this? No. And the irony that a good cook like myself seems to crave a 1600 calorie tub of vegetable shortening with HFCS and colorings is not lost on me.  I still don't know why these tubs call me. They never did before.

However, I also know that a binge doesn't mean I have lost permanent control. I accept that I slipped and I try to doubly ensure that I am aware of my eating and cravings the next time. Stopping an upward climb is what maintenance is about. Not letting it get so out of control you can't ever stop is the issue. 

"Isn't there something else I should be doing?"

These binges don't happen as often, but they still do. I'm definitely becoming more aware of intuitive eating combined with my awareness of calorie intake, and that helps.

And again, turning to support groups, online forums and the like, one finds the people there are almost always women. Indeed, much of the research published on binge eating relates only to women. Which is why I was very interested when this NY Times article addressed men and binge eating. And it touches upon not only how men see this as a "women's disease," but that men who do seek help have difficulty finding it in a female-oriented program. 

And studies (including the one they cite in the article), show that an equal amount of men as women suffer from this, although it seems the reporting percentage of women is higher (and again, that's usually self-selected). It also states that "more women than men with binge eating reported feeling
stressed and anxious, likely again reflecting higher base rates of these concerns in women compared with men." In other words, it's not seen among men as a problem if we scarf down food, but women, who are force fed dieting from an early age, will admit that this is an issue. 

So where does this leave us men bingers? I admit that I do not like reading self-help books or any "feel good inside, hug yourself!" type of affirmations. Not that I can't learn from others who are not the same as I am, but never seeing yourself in others actions and deeds can make it hard to forge a path.

I want to see more "manly schlubs" like myself write about this stuff. So maybe this post can help one other binger dude like me.

Put down the frosting and walk away!


“Binge Eating Among Men Steps Out of the Shadows.” NYT. Well. Accessed January 7, 2013.

Striegel, Ruth H, Richard Bedrosian, Chun Wang, and Steven Schwartz. “Why Men Should Be Included in Research on Binge Eating: Results from a Comparison of Psychosocial Impairment in Men and Women.” The International Journal of Eating Disorders 45, no. 2 (March 2012): 233–240. doi:10.1002/eat.20962.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie

My "clickable" moment to finally take this path seriously was inspired the same way as many things have inspired my life: from a comic book.

One my long time favorite artist/illustrators is Carol Lay. Her comics, strips and graphic novels are always entertaining; funny with an odd sense of darkness. But a few years back, I picked up her book, The Big Skinny, which turned out not to be a collection of strips, but rather a memoir of Lay's own weight loss journey. It wasn't necessarily that Lay said anything new or different from other weight loss books or websites. But it seemed to hold my attention. Maybe it was the right time.  The moments leading up to the divorce proceedings had begun, the job was not as excellent as it could have been, and I found myself medicating my feelings with lots and lots of cake. I did not like what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

Years ago, my doctor sent me to a nutritionist to address my weight and cholesterol. He gave me a book called Volumetrics, on energy dense and calorie dense foods. It was a diet. I gave it a pass. 

Fast forward to the Streamlined Ska Librarian beginning: I rejoined a gym and I dropped about 15 lbs. immediately from just moving around more. But I knew I would stall if I didn't really work out a plan. I signed up with a trainer who came up with a plan to lose one pound a week. At first I actually gained weight since I was still scarfing down pints of ice cream and such after each workout. That's when I realized if I wanted to take this seriously (and I was paying for training sessions), I needed to be more aware of what I was eating. And that's where Lay's book came in.

While Lay does go on about other things, some which touched on my life (binge eating, ritualized eating) many of which didn't (her desire to be vegan, her family story, some of her recipes), the main gist of her plan was to count calories. And perhaps it was her hand drawn appendices, but I found her calorie charts a lot more approachable than most websites or diet books. 

Listening to my trainer again, we worked on an actual calorie counting plan. All research and websites show (as did my trainer) that you need to expend 3500 calories more than you take in per week to lose one pound. So, with the promise to actually  be more aggressive in exercise, we worked out that I could intake 2700 calories a day if I burned 3200 calories. This immediately seemed better than most weight loss plans I saw which said you should eat between only 1600-2000 calories. I wasn't in a hurry to lose weight. I just wanted to make sure it would work. 2700 calories seemed like less of a "diet."

I took a page from Lay's piece and kept track of the calories in a little scrap book, at least for a few months. It was a good eye opener to see how much one can really eat in a day and how much I was eating. Right now, I pretty much eyeball the food amounts, but if in doubt, I check with Lay's book or online with CalorieKing. What I like about both of them is that give generic nutritional information, as opposed to certain brand name food I wouldn't ever buy. And I bought a kitchen scale, which was also a real eye opener:

So that's what a single serving of soba looks like!

Now, there was also the idea not only of portion control but also what exactly I was portioning into my meals. I knew I had find healthier food, but not to entirely forgo the sometimes treat, lest I binge out in a frenzy later. And, even if 2700 calories seemed like a lot, there were days it went very quickly. And that brought me back to Volumetrics. So choices were made for more energy dense foods, such as leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains, etc. Various studies (and these are only two of hundreds) address the positive effects of energy density foods with exercise on weight loss AND weight maintenance. It's one of the few weight loss/maintenance research subjects where most everyone is on the same page.

Interestingly enough, while I was pretty strict at first recording calories taken in, I didn't track how I expended calories. I just knew I had to do a minimum of 5 days of intense workouts (both cardio and weight training), as well as just moving around a lot more during every day. It was a lifestyle change for both input and output of calories.

One thing I did NOT do was use any supplements or follow special types of diet. No food was bought at health food stores, no "diet foods" or points, no special rules as to when and what I could eat, nothing that wasn't my regular cooking. I DID cut out a lot of the regular intake of pasta and desserts. But this really was a basic calorie counting procedure. Very old fashioned.

And this worked. For me. And I still have to do it, but now it really is second nature.

Does this mean I can't have a wings night with the guys or maybe enjoy that piece of chocolate cake? On occasion, just not all the time. There can't be the "I deserve a treat" thought process anymore. It's now "If you do this, just remember how you'll feel later and is it worth it?"

But here's something that shows me it is: My body, my health, my clothes, my attitude.

Calories in. Calories out. An oldie but a goodie even for the streamlined set. 


        Lay, Carol. The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude. 
            Villard Books, 2008.

        Rolls, Barbara and Robert Barnett. Volumetrics: Feel Full on Fewer                     Calories. Harper, 1998.

Ledikwe, Jenny H., Heidi M. Blanck, Laura Kettel Khan, Mary K. Serdula, Jennifer D. Seymour, Beth C. Tohill, and Barbara J. Rolls. “Dietary Energy Density Is Associated with Energy Intake and Weight Status in US Adults.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83, no. 6 (June 1, 2006): 1362–1368.

Raynor, Hollie A, Emily L Van Walleghen, Jessica L Bachman, Shannon M Looney, Suzanne Phelan, and Rena R Wing. “Dietary Energy Density and Successful Weight Loss Maintenance.” Eating Behaviors 12, no. 2 (April 2011): 119–125. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2011.01.008.