Monday, March 19, 2007

the Potato Pancake Diet

I just got back from a visit with the rest of the Angry Fat Girlz team in New York City. We stayed at Frances's apartment in Brooklyn Heights. The neighborhood has wonderful shops, coffee houses, shoe stores, and restaurants. My favorite was Teresa's, where we ended up having breakfast every morning while I was there. I highly recommend the potato pancakes, which are crisp and golden and not at all greasy.

I had anticipated trying to eat very cleanly on this trip, especially considering that all four of us were in the process of losing weight. I thought that if I wanted something "bad," like a real New York City bagel, I'd need to sneak out and get it when I was alone. I didn't want to tempt anyone else and I was also worried that I'd have 3 sets of eyes appraising everything I ate and calculating calorie contents.

It didn't quite turn out that way. First of all, the four of us fell in together like old friends right away, and I didn't feel a sense of judgement or competition between us. We were all in this together. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted on this trip. I wrote everything down but didn't count my points. But we traveled a lot on foot, and there was also just too much to do for me to be searching out cookies and ice cream. I ate when I was hungry, didn't snack, stopped eating when I was satisfied, but chose whatever food sounded most appealing to me, including potato pancakes. I ate, in short, like a normal person who isn't obsessed with food. I didn't ever order dessert, not because I was afraid of looking bad, but because I really didn't want it.

Oddly enough, this is all completely in line with The Four Day Win by Martha Beck, a book I read about in Oprah's magazine and wanted to bring with me on the plane. I finally found a copy when I got home. The premise of the book is that attempts to strictly control our overeating by willpower and denial set up weight loss as a battle between our inner Dictator (rational mind) and our inner Wild Child (animal instincts) and only prompt more overeating when the Wild Child inevitably wins. Instead, to effectively lose weight for good, we have to befriend our bodies and reconnect with the world beyond our dinner plate.
Forcing your rational self's imperatives on your physiology in this way sends a clear message to your body that you don't understand it, don't like it, and fully intend to hurt and deprive it. How could any animal respond to this without panicky resistance? Your instincts fight back by "forgetting" you're on a diet, sneaking Skittles out of the candy bowl on your secretary's desk, ordering secret pizzas...When we're locked in the war between our Dictator and Wild Child selves, the prevailing mental state is anxiety...In biological terms, the opposite of getting fat is getting connected, and the antidote to being out of control isn't being in control, but being in love -- or, if you want to emphasize the mystical aspect of it, Being in Love, abiding in pure compassion.
A lot of this will sound very familiar to those in Twelve Step programs, especially the idea that willpower doesn't work.

Beck also suggests that a four-day variation from our routine can be enough to jumpstart weight loss. I came home from my trip feeling thinner, and my bathroom scale confirmed it this morning with an unofficial weight of 159.0. I will have to see if the Weight Watchers scale backs that up, but I know I lost a little bit on this trip, which with my weather delay lasted, oddly enough, exactly four days.

There is a story on the Oprah website about using the philosophies in The Four Day Win for weight loss if you'd like a little more of a preview. I know we've all been innundated with diet books, but this one feels a little different to me. It doesn't propose a plan, just strategies for how to stay on any healthy plan (Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, South Beach, The Potato Pancake Diet, etc.) that you choose. After all, we all know that the secret to losing weight is, say it with me, "Eat Less and Move More." But this book actually tells us how we might get to a place where we can actually follow that deceptively simple advice.


  1. "Beck also suggests that a four-day variation from our routine can be enough to jumpstart weight loss."

    Wow. That's what happened to me, as well, when I missed four days of running last week. Veddddddy interesting.

    It's been so fun reading all the NYC stories. So glad you had a good time!

  2. I just finally got "Thin For Life," and now here's another book I'm going to have to put on my wish list! Thanks for the info.

    By the way, I was looking at Anne's Flickr pictures of the trip, and I must say you are really very pretty! You girls looked like you had such a good time -- I have to admit I'm a little envious!

  3. i'm very excited about reading this book - i'm a fan of her articles in oprah and have read several other blogger reviews... i'm really trying to focus my attention on the nuts/bolts of my eating, and not just how many points everything has... i felt like i was being consumed by numbers! i hope it can provide some insight and if anything, a different perspective...

    congrats on the loss - nyc walking can be such a good thing, i miss it... i used to live in williamsburg and then greenpoint... :o)

  4. This book sounds interesting, thanks for the information....I'm adding it to my 'must read' list!

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07