Is Everyone Losing Weight Without Me?

I’ve always loved books, but for a number of years–okay, for a lot of years–my reading choices have tended toward the serious. And yet few things are more enjoyable for me than curling up with some really funny reading material. And so I picked up this book at the library yesterday and finished it this morning, laughing loudly and inappropriately in the library (I started reading it before I even left the building), in the doctor’s waiting room, and while reading in bed.

I love laughing out loud while reading. It has a hint of hedonism mixed with a dab of Crazy Lady.

What surprised me about the book is how many times Mindy Kaling (perhaps better known as the actress/writer/director who plays Kelly Kapoor on The Office (which, I’m sorry, I don’t really like*) references her weight.

Really? This woman feels like she needs to explain her weight or her looks?

Yes, yes, she does, because Hollywood’s obsession with unearthly skinniness makes normal women unwelcome.

I thought this passage was particularly incisive (as my favorite kind of comedy writing is)–

“Since I am not model skinny, but also not super fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall in that nebulous “normal American woman” size that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size eight (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size, because I think, to them, it shows that I lack the discipline to be an ascetic or the confident sassy abandon to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like: pick a lane! Just be so enormous that you need to be buried in a piano, and dress accordingly.”

And this one, too–

“My mom’s a doctor but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids…Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is?”

And then her chapter on ‘Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who are not Real’–


“I am speaking of the gorgeous and skinny heroine who is also a disgusting pig when it comes to food. And everyone [...] is constantly telling her to stop eating and being such a glutton. And this actress, this poor skinny actress who so clearly lost weight to play the likeable lead, has to say things like, ‘Shut up you guys! I love cheesecake!’”

It’s great how Mindy lampoons the ridiculous and double minded nature of weight and bodies and dieting in our culture while recognizing that she is enmeshed in that culture too. Because aren’t we all?

*it probably speaks to the quality of the book that I didn’t really have to know much about Mindy Kaling or The Office to find the book hilarious and enjoyable*

Oh. And Happy Groundhog Day!

{I really should tell you about the time Tim and I were stranded with a broken car in Punxsutawney (in Februrary, no less) eating popcorn at the car repair place where they told us it would take 2 days to fix the car, so why didn’t we find a place to stay? We jury-rigged the car ourselves and drove it back to Chicago and then to California, and it never did need to be properly fixed again.}

A Year Of…

…okay, so are you sick of the “year of…” meme yet? (I asked back in November, but I’m asking again, okay?)

You know, all those blogs and books and people who do a year of strange experiments on themselves like a year living ‘Biblically’ or a year of local eating or a year with no plastic or no purchasing or whatever.

I’m not!

I kind of like these year-long experiments. It’s fun to see what antics people think up for themselves to try for a year.

And–you guessed it–I think I just may have a bit of an experiment that I’d like to try this year.

I want to try as many Christian faith-based diet and exercise programs as possible.

oh yeah. you know you're headed right to to pick this one up...

(But not for every day of this whole year–mercy, no!–I couldn’t do it. My family couldn’t take a year of Rachel eating joylessly. One day of that is potentially bad enough. And don’t worry–I don’t plan for this project to overtake the blog–I might post on this from time to time, but Eat With will retain its distinctive eclecticism.)

Here’s where I need your help, though, with two things:

1. Help me make my list of diet and exercise programs!

I’m especially keen on finding residential programs/retreats that make some claim to Christian faith and that focus on diet or exercise.

I’ve already got the following DVDs:

Getting Fit With Faith (Walk at Home)


Stretch and Pray

Wholy Fit

and some books. I’d love to add some more titles to my list!

2. Help me find people!

One aspect of this project involves hearing the stories of people who’ve pursued faith-based diet and exercise programs in earnest (not merely as a part of an experiment, like I’m doing.) I want to hear these stories because I want to hear more about how people see faith-based dieting and exercising relating to their spiritual well-being–how they see flesh and spirit intersecting. Mostly I just want to hear what people who’ve done faith-based diet or exercise want to tell me!

Do you have a story? I’d love to hear it!

Leave a comment, or feel free to email me!

On Being (or wanting to be) ‘Skinny Pregnant’

Twice in the last week I’ve been asked how I went from disordered in my eating and body image to joyfully (if occasionally) consuming pie for breakfast. And while I’m never quite sure how to answer the question–because no one, simple answer could really suffice and because I’m afraid of boring everyone by going into too much detail, for example:

(“and then there was the time I thought my shorts felt tight so I cut them into shreds with fabric scissors, and I realized ‘I may have a problem,’ which reminds me of the time I tried to live entirely off of Sugar-Free Jell-O, which made me think, ‘THIS can’t be good!’ which reminds me of how I was too chicken to use REAL laxatives so I just ate a LOT of prunes…”)

See? No one wants to go there. Not even me!

But there is one thing that I can point to for sure. Wait, two things, actually:Yeah, I know. Cliche, right?

In Waiting for Birdy, Catherine Newman talks about how pregnancy and parenthood brought forth all kinds of true and applicable cliches from her, such that she considered making pitches to Hallmark. I think that is kind of true for me, too. Eating disorders can be very, very isolating. If I was going to refuse to feed myself adequately, the person I would hurt worst was myself.

When I became pregnant, that was no longer true. I’m ashamed to say that at first, with my first pregnancy, I really didn’t want to gain weight. I didn’t even realize that “skinny pregnant” was a thing.

(I do remember reading this article about pregnant New Yorkers who worked out like crazy and counted every ounce and learning of this exercise program aimed at preventing and reversing the “mummy tummy.” And I learned of the oddly titled Pregnancy Without Poundsall of which taught me that “skinny pregnant” WAS a thing.)

Anyway, I was one of those pregnant women who get nauseous from breathing air and as it turned out, it was hard for me to put on weight at all. Apparently, I take after both grandmas, whose pregnant bodies were of the basketball-under-the-shirt variety, like so:

{Hey! That basketball is my mom!}

Even though I’m pretty sure this grandma, at least, stayed skinny partly because she was doing plenty of this throughout her pregnancies:{I know smoking is bad for you and all, but she sure made it look glam, no?}

Nonetheless, I fretted about getting a belly (will it ever go away?) and confessed to my husband that I “just didn’t want to gain weight.”

“If you don’t gain weight, Aidan will die.”

Well. That was painful.

And so I did the best I could. I ate. (And managed not to puke it all up.) I got bigger. And I had a really, really beautiful baby, whom I nursed. And as I nursed him, I felt a powerfully strong sense of our connection. To feed him, I had to feed myself. I wanted him to get bigger and stronger. I had a context for seeing feeding and weight gain as unquestioned positives. From there, I felt like exploring how my eating connected me to other people–to my son and my husband, to my neighbors and to the people who grew my food.

Having my baby showed me my unmistakeable connectedness.

I think that’s the thing that’s scary about the obsession with pregnancy skinniness, which I see reinforced everywhere–on Facebook, in conversations, and (certainly) among the tabloids, which seem always to be screaming about how skinny this or that celebrity just X number of weeks after having a baby. The obsession misses the point, which is that women’s bodies are capable of making room for, carrying, and bringing forth a new life.

{Grandma was so ridiculously beautiful.}

That is–or can be–a powerful, miraculous, transforming thing. It was for me. And it had nothing to do with being (or not being) “skinny pregnant.”

For once, it had very little to do with me at all. (And that was a good thing.)

And now for some more pie.

“It wasn’t a very spiritual thought–we’re all FAT.”

That’s what went through Pastor Rick Warren’s mind when he was nearing the end of an 800+ person baptismal service last year.

Recently, one of the New York Times‘ blogs had an interesting piece on the ‘Daniel Plan,’ the small-group based health program at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California.

The Daniel Plan–named, of course, for the Biblical Daniel who rejected the king’s rich food and drink for a diet of vegetables and water–involves three medical celebrities: brain expert and Saddleback member Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the heart surgeon, author and TV doctor, who attended Daniel Plan rallies and made videos.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Daniel Plan, but it looks to be mostly in the tradition of “healthy eating is a spiritual discipline” and emphasizes a mostly vegan, whole-foods diet and moderate exercise. The distinctive feature of the Daniel Plan is the fact that participation in small groups–whether online or in person–is the first step of the program.

While I must admit that a program that speaks the discourse of “health” in a narrow way never appeals to me, I’m not surprised at all by the successes of the Daniel Plan thus far. As I’ve suggested elsewhere on this blog–eating together is powerful stuff, and it seems to be just as powerful for those struggling with obesity as those struggling with anorexia and everything in between. I just wonder if The Daniel Plan is really capable of creating a new but lasting food culture. As with all plans that are so health-focused in their understanding of eating–food is to bring health, full stop–I’m doubtful it is. And its ‘Biblical’ basis is flimsy indeed.

But I wish them well.


The Pregnancy Pee-Pee Diet

{This ISN’T mine.}

It seems like I have been seeing zillions of ads for something called the hCG diet. Now, anyone who’s ever obsessively read the instructions that come with the pregnancy test sticks knows that hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin–a hormone that’s produced very early on in a pregnancy.

I love pregnancy tests, and obsessively took test after test WAY TOO EARLY each time I was pregnant. And a few times I was not. Anyway, it’s the hCG in pregnant urine (pee pee) that makes the pregnancy test “positive.”

hCG is thought by some to be the hormone responsible–at least partly–for the nausea that pregnant women often experience in the early weeks. Both my pregnancies were heavy on the nausea–as in weeks of moaning and gagging on the couch and being unable to open the refrigerator.

So what’s this hCG diet thing? Apparently, a doctor named Albert Simeons first tried using hCG injections–plus a starvation diet of 500 daily calories–in 1954. And recently, thanks to aggressive Internet promotion, the diet has been making the rounds as a ‘miracle’ weight loss tool with astonishing claims of weight loss of a pound a day or more.

But there are a few things to consider:

1. hCG used in this way is NOT approved by the FDA–in responsible clinical trials, there was no evidence that hCG actually aids in weight loss.

2. 500 calories a day is next to nothing–easily only one-third or one-fourth what most of us actually need in a day. The potential for nutritional deficiency is very, very high.

3. Weight loss from such an extreme diet pretty much never lasts.

4. hCG comes from urine. Eee-yuck!

My take: stay away!