Ask Dana Carpender – Fear of

Dear Dana,

I have successfully kept off my 40 lb weight loss (a size 4 from a size 14) for over three years now through a combination of daily workouts (90 min on the elliptical and stairmaster) and not eating what I call the “white” foods: flour, sugar and salt. I eat a large bowl of high fiber cereals daily (combo of Kashi Go Lean, Nature’s Path Flax Plus, All Bran Bran Buds and Spoon Size Shredded Wheat and Bran) with unsweetened almond milk (40 cal a cup yahoo!). Then I have nuts and fruits for lunch and some fish and salad for dinner or just one of those low sodium boxed soups from Trader Joes with some spinach and mushrooms on top. I find that my weight zooms up immediately if I eat anything with salt. (I weigh myself daily)

Yes, I do look great and my husband admires me all the time. But I have become very reclusive and avoid social obligations out of the fear (terror?) that I will be “forced” to eat something not in my diet and fall off the wagon. I realize such fatalistic thinking is wrong. But any time a social occasion comes out, I try to get out of it, since it will then “cut into” my workout time. At this very second, my husband has gone to breakfast with our daughter – for pancakes. I had to go home, because after all, I need my stupid cereal that I have been eating straight for the past 3 years. I am even grateful that it was my husband who just accompanied my daughter’s class on a trip to Europe – England and France. What I heck would I eat in a land of croissants, high fat cheeses and salty meats?!?!?

I need to be living life fully, but I’m escaping. I also have essentially stopped cooking for the family because I don’t know what to make any more for everyone. I have 2 sons ages 19 and 17 and a 14 yr old daughter (she weighs 20 lbs more than me and I worry about her weight) Any thoughts or suggestions?

I realize that my cereal is not part of a low carb diet, but I don’t like red meat much and have always hated bacon because of its fat and sodium content. Anyway, this breakfast seems to be working for me in terms of keeping my weight under control.

Thank you,

Maria Casey

P.S. I have several of your books and have enjoyed reading them all.

Dear Maria:
Thank you for buying my books! I’m glad you like them.

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to answer your question. Honestly, I struggled with it. I mean, I’ve tried how many different recipes over the past ten years or so? Clearly my mind set is very different from yours.

Reading your email over several times, the thing that jumps out at me is fear. You’re afraid – afraid  of food, afraid of getting out of control. And your way of containing that fear is to wall yourself off with your safe and familiar foods, to stay home, to stick to a single routine. It’s become a ritual of protection.

From your list of what you eat, it appears to me you are not getting sufficient protein, by the way. Really, you seem to be following a low fat diet far more than a low carb one. You’ve read my books, but have you read Dr. Atkins? Protein Power?

You weigh yourself every day, so it seems to me you can try things safely. You say your weight “zooms up” if you eat things that are high in sodium, but of course you know that’s water weight, not fat, right? You might consider one of the new scales that measures not only weight, but body fat percentage, water content, and bone density. It would give you a clearer idea, if you’re up a pound or two, of what exactly that weight consists of. (Please tell me you don’t freak over a single pound!) Then you can try variations in your pattern, slowly and carefully, while keeping track of what happens, keeping stuff like your monthly cycle in mind.

You might also talk to a good trainer about varying your workout. From what you write, you’re doing all cardio, and I’m betting there are more efficient – ie, less time-consuming – ways to get the results you’re after. In particular, a combination of weight training and sprints might give you greater results in less time. I’m currently interested in kettlebells, which combine resistance with cardio. I also find Phil Campbell’s Sprint 8 program very helpful, and in very little time. A more efficient exercise program will free up time for other activities.

Finally, I really think you need to talk to someone about your fear that you’ll be “forced” to eat something you don’t want to. Take it from a World’s Champion Refuser, you can say “no, thanks” and still have friends. You can also find options most everywhere, if you’re willing to choose them. I go out with my Toastmasters club most Thursday nights, usually to a Mexican restaurant. They order tacos and flautas and nachos and chimichangas. I order the grilled chicken salad, which is quite tasty, by the way.

Too, not everything that isn’t cereal is red meat! You could have a smoothie with vanilla whey protein powder and a handful of strawberries in it, or a couple of boiled eggs, or some cottage cheese with diced cantaloupe. No matter what diet paradigm you embrace – low carb, low fat, low calorie – your diet is needlessly narrow.

Which suggests to me that you’re afraid of more than gaining weight. Often weight control becomes symbolic of control over other, scarier aspects of our lives – relationships, random fate, general health, etc. I gently suggest that a look at what other things may be scaring you is in order.

© Copyright 2009 by Dana Carpender. Used by kind permission of the author.


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