Susie Orbach Tells It Like It is About Women and Beauty

Woman Is the Nigger of the World~John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Weren’t they the best at getting our attention?  The words are appropriate because today is March 8th, International Women’s Day, a day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, they get the day off.

In honor of the celebration, Susie Orbach, psychoanalyst, author and feminist (mentioned in my blog, My Intuitive Eating “Aha” Moment) delivered a speech, “Body Image in the Media: Using Education to Challenge Stereotypes,” to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City last week. Susie compared the self-starvation, surgical cosmetic procedures and the use of appetite suppressing pharmacological agents to all forms of violence practiced against girls and women in the rest of the world. You can read the transcript of her speech at, Susie Orbach Speaks at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She explains that beauty’s tyrannical hold zaps females of their energy, dollars, and sense of self.  In her speech, Susie Orbach says,

“The beauty companies, the fashion houses, the diet companies, the food conglomerates who also of course own the diet companies, the exercise and fitness industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the cosmetic surgery industry combine together, perhaps not purposefully or conspiratorially, to create a climate in which girls and women come to feel that their bodies are not ok. They do this through the promotion of celebrity culture, through advertising on every possible outlet from billboards to magazines to our electronic screens, through the funding of media outlets which can only exist because of their economic support.”

Don’t you love it?  All people, women and men, have a responsibility to rally against using the female body as a profit center. It’s especially important this year as basic rights like birth control are being challenged. We need the energy spent on beauty to protect our rights!

Your thoughts: How much beauty-time is too much? Do you share Susie views?

My Intuitive Eating “Aha” Moment

On LinkedIn, I am a member of the Intuitive Eating Professionals Group, where Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, group founder, asks us to “share something…that is not included in your profile, perhaps an “aha” moment in your career.”  I am inspired to share my “aha” moment after attending the BEDA (Binge Eating Disorder Association) national conference on Saturday, where I learned that, treatment-wise, not much has changed over the years.

In 1985, I worked in a large gastroenterology practice affiliated with a teaching hospital. I saw lots of eating disordered patients because one of the docs did medical evaluations of patients with bulimia and AN. At the same time, another gastroenterologist performed a procedure with a device called the Garren-Edwards Gastric Bubble. A deflated ‘bubble’ made of stretchable plastic (like a pool toy) was placed by endoscopy in the stomach of a severely overweight patient.  With the pull of a cannula, the bubble was inflated and left in place to fill the stomach while the patient followed a low-calorie diet. That’s where I came in. The bubble was developed by a team at Johns Hopkins. It was all above the board. The hospital asked us to do the procedure, but we stopped after a patient got a small bowel obstruction from the bubble. Those were interesting days. My patients’ eating patterns were all over the map.

But my “aha’ moment came by way of a patient referred by an internist for a simple weight loss diet.  She was a favorite patient, a young woman of my age, overweight but far from obese, with my mother’s maiden name. We were doing the balanced, flexible diet thing with a focus on behaviors when one day, she looked at me and said, “Mary, you don’t understand. I peek behind the curtain, and when my husband drives away, I make a batch of scalloped potatoes, and I eat the whole thing.” Aha! I thought, “they didn’t teach us this in school.” And then I thought, “this is really real.”

I was lucky because psychologists who specialized in EDs would stop into  the office. They turned me on to Susie Orbach, Fat Is a Feminist Issue (1978); Geneen Roth, Feeding the Hungry Heart (1982) and Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating (1986) and, of course, Hilde Bruch. Evelyn’s book, Intuitive Eating (1995), wasn’t published yet and there was no Gurze catalogue. But, I read and read and saw lots of patients, and attended Geneen’s workshops,  consulted with therapists, and taught others how to do it. And now it’s wonderful to see so many dietitians espouse the non-diet approach. But, after all those years, the pills, shakes, meals, stomach stapling (but not swallowing pool toys) are all still here.

Your thoughts: Why don’t more people give up dieting and follow a non-diet approach?

Tweet What You Intuitively Eat

There are people who “Tweet what they eat.”  I follow one, and I saw an entry on his/her Twitter stream that bothered me. To me it said that, despite losing 90 pounds, I’m at risk for weight regain because I do not think like an Intuitive Eater. The Tweet (not the actual words) was “three donuts with a mea culpa.”  My tip off was the apology. An Intuitive Eater has no reason to apologize.

How to Approach Donuts from an Intuitive Eating Mindset

The Tweeter sees donuts, and asks “Am I hungry?”
If YES:  “Do I want donuts now?
-> YES: Eat donuts, enjoy, stop when satisfied, skip ‘my bad’
-> NO:   Eat different food, enjoy, stop when satisfied, skip ‘my bad’
If NO:  “Do I want donuts now?
-> NO:   Walk away; enjoy, skip ‘my bad’
-> YES:  Ask, “What am I feeling?”  Walk away, soul-search, process feelings.
Ask again, “Do I want donuts now?
-> NO:   Walk away; enjoy, skip ‘my bad’
-> YES: Eat donuts, enjoy, stop when satisfied; skip ‘my bad’

There are lots of tricky questions: Am I hungry? Am I satisfied? What do I feel? Why do I feel bad? What do I want?  Also worth noting is that (1) formerly starved people – through natural circumstances or intentional dieting – tend to hoard food, (2) really hungry people usually prefer wholesome food, and (3) emotionally healthy people – who have the knowledge and have not dieted – tend to value nutritious food and learn to prefer it.

Your thoughts: Does this make sense?

Dr. Oz + Raspberry Ketones = TV Hype

Gee whiz, I just dissed Dr. Oz as TV hype in an article today, Dr. Oz’s Raspberry Ketones Dismissed by Dietitian as TV Hype. (I’m the dietitian.) It’s an opinion piece for Diets In Review about a product Dr. Oz endorsed, raspberry ketones, a ‘fat blaster you’ve never heard of.’  I called Dr. Oz more showman than doctor. Read my article and see if you agree. But, hey, he’s in the medical info-tainment field. ‘Nuf said.

Show Time

In 2009 when Dr. Oz was first on the air, I went to a show. In New York City, the studio was close to where I worked in the windowless office, and I just had to get away.  On that show, he talked about zinc deficiency, a problem that most Americans do not have. That’s when I saw that Dr. Oz (or rather, his staff) liked food-and-nutrition games. The segment was presented as a game in which three audience members each picked a box, small, medium or large, that contained a high-zinc food and, in one, a special gift. In the small box, the contestant found beef liver with 4.45 mg of zinc in a 3-ounce serving (adults need 8-11 mg of zinc/day), and in the medium box, was 1 cup of sauerkraut, with only 0.27 mg of zinc. (What’s up with that?)  But in the large box, there was a huge pile of king crab with 6.48 mg per 3-ounce serving – along with a cruise to Alaska. The first two contestants had doubly bad luck because Dr. Oz made them eat their selections. Incidentally, oysters have the most zinc with 76.3 mg per 3-ounce serving.

Three years later, Dr. Oz is still playing games. In the segment reviewed, Revolutionary Metabolism Boosters that Blast Fat, ‘fat’ contestants ‘blast’ through a paper curtain to introduce a new product that may or may not work. That’s how info-tainment happens here in New York City.  Perhaps if I’m outrageous enough, I can get on the show.

Your thoughts: What do you think of Dr.Oz and raspberry ketones? 

Bless Your Throat. Bless Your Food.

Tomorrow morning, February 3rd , I’m heading over to the Catholic Church to celebrate the feast of Saint Blaise. Back in St. Patrick’s School, that was the day we lined up to get our throats blessed. The priest came to classroom (while the nuns went teeheehee), carrying a cross of two large candles tied with red ribbon. The priest held the candle cross up to each of our throats and, in Latin, said, “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, may God preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil.”  I loved the quaint the little ceremony and the story of St. Blaise who saved a boy with a fish bone stuck in his throat.  A kid just like me!  Nowadays, I like being saved from “every other evil” thing.

Keep on Blessing

Forever, I’ve believed that blessing food is the way to go. It’s especially important when practicing a new way of eating. Blessings confer holiness and strong wishes for happiness; they are inherently good. I just don’t think you’re likely to lose control on blessed food. When done sincerely, the blessing brings in a state of mindfulness, gratitude and peace. And so it stands to reason (to me anyway) that blessed food will be eaten with intention and joy.  A lit candle is also nice for casting out dark confusing thoughts. I mean, why not give it a try?  Bless your food.

A penny for your thoughts…


A Reading List for Yo-Yo Dieters and Emotional Eaters

I am happy to report that my online nutrition counseling practice is taking off. And the best part is that I get to work with my favorite patients/clients/customers: yo-yo dieters and emotional eaters. They are the folks that don’t feel good about their weight and the way they eat. A history of traditional diets knocked them off their natural course and, for many, childhood trauma had a role. Their weights cycle up and down because, unfortunately, diets make you fat. My job is to help them get off the wobbly track and back into the groove. It doesn’t matter if they have a medical condition; everyone has a personal best. When they stop dieting and their weight no longer cycles, better health always returns.

My Favorite “How To” Books for Intuitive Eating

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two registered dietitians, wrote the 1995 classic, Intuitive Eating, that gave a useful name to the “non-diet” approach. The approach uses physical and emotional feelings (and knowledge) to guide intake and rebuild pleasure in eating. The mindset can be learned, especially with the help of a skillful teacher, and so to understand the ins-and-outs of intuitive eating, I always ask my yo-yo dieters to read at least one of these excellent books:

When I asked the LinkedIn Group of Intuitive Eating Professionals to recommend their favorite books, they also suggested books that address self-acceptance, self-care and spirituality, essential issues of breaking free. Here are some of the books for emotional eaters that they recommend:

Your thoughts: Which books help you to a healthy life and eat with joy?

Talking About “What Not to Do” on the BQE

What not to do on the BQE, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Interstate 278, is drive on it if you can help it. It is an ancient highway, constantly under construction, with crazy route number changes, tolls, and traffic. That’s why, to pass the time while driving back to Brooklyn from Rhode Island with my lifelong dietitian friend, Barbara, and her adult daughter, Emily, I asked for help with an assignment for Diets in Review. My task was to write about “Everything That’s Wrong with Your Diet” and the article should “serve as an opportunity to educate readers without coming across as accusatory.”  In January, I might add, the word “diet” means losing weight; it is not about the food that a person habitually eats.

Making a List

Over the years, Barbara and I have seen it all and Emily has too. Our daughters have grown up knowing what and how to eat, taking it in by osmosis. For instance, as a young nanny, Emily told a toddler’s mother, “He’s not getting enough protein from that rice milk,” and I’ve already shown you the contents of my daughter’s cupboard. Suffice it to say, we had no trouble coming up with a list of 20 things people fail to do: not drinking enough water, drinking too much juice, not bothering to cook, eating in restaurants way too often, eating fast food, not expanding their vegetable repertoire, yada yada. You’ve heard them all. (The list is now in the landfill.)

The Finished Product

To fit the word limit, I whittled the list down to five things I commonly see people do – with the best intentions – but not doing themselves any favors. To my surprise, the article resonated with readers and other dietitians too. Perhaps you will like it. Anyway, here it is: 5 Things That are Wrong With Your Diet. Please share!

Your thoughts: What would you tell the public if asked, “What’s wrong with your diet?”

How Diets Make You Fat

I’m going to let you in on a secret about losing weight: eat the number of calories you need to maintain your ideal weight. What am I saying? Restrictive diets are the reason why people don’t lose weight. Dieting causes binging. It’s as simple as that.

This truth was shown back in the 1940s in Ancel Keys’ Minnesota Starvation Experiment.  The esteemed Dr. Keys conducted a thorough scientific study of calorie restriction to gain insight into the physical and psychological effects of starving war victims and how to best refeed them after the war. The results were published in the Biology of Human Starvation (University of Minneapolis, 1950).

For the study, well-adjusted conscientious objectors to World War II volunteered to be placed on a diet with about 1,600 calories a day for 3 months. The men lost 25 percent of their natural body weight at a rate of about 2.5 pounds a week. As they lost weight, they experienced depression, irritability, impatience, and apathy. Food became an obsession: the men talked, read and dreamed about food. During the refeeding phase, they hoarded food and stuffed themselves until they became sick.

Dieting is Crazymaking

The body cannot tell the difference between intentional calorie restriction (dieting) and true starvation. That 1600 calorie diet is no different from what people do every day.  And who hasn’t met a cranky dieter who constantly talks about food and then goes on to binge?  Binging causes weight gain and the cycle starts all over again. The process makes me cringe.

And so everyone, regardless of weight, should simply eat the amount of food they need to maintain ideal weight. Overweight folks should use Body Mass Index (BMI) 24 as a reference point. This calorie calculator from the American Cancer Society shows how many calories you need and, to plan a healthy diet, read this article I wrote for Calorie Count  – or make an appointment with me!

Your thoughts:  Has dieting ever led you astray?