“Guilt feelings, regimentation, and deprivation have no place in our method. We will show you how permanent weight loss can take place in an atmosphere of freedom.” Dr. Leonard Pearson and Lilian Pearson The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet
The Diet Book That Changed My Life
By the time I entered nursing school I had been on every popular diet and counted every calorie, blossoming to a heaping 138 pounds by the end of freshman year. For a 5 foot 2 inch frame this was not a healthy weight. Exercise and sports were not appealing as a teenager, so once I stopped the childhood play—-climbing trees, playing tag or kick the can, or just walking to friend’s houses and school, my body typified the chubby teen. I also smoked cigarettes when I was 16 and generally was clueless about taking care of myself. Often I felt like I was on survival mode, living from one day to the next, getting through school with a plan to become a nurse and support myself.
I remember feeling depressed when I felt fat and feeling elated when I saw the pounds come off, but generally, this was a yo-yo routine without lasting results.
It was when I met my future husband that things began to change. First of all, he was into exercise, so I started jogging. Adding exercise in my life did allow me to lose some weight and enjoy food more. Then, one day I found the book that changed my life. The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet–Wow! This was intriguing. Up to this point I had counted every calorie ,and felt like my mind went from craving or rejecting food and cigarettes. I had no idea what it would be like to really enjoy eating without feeling guilt or deprivation.
This book promised that when you finished reading it, you would be able to:
- Eat your favorite foods.
- Realize there are no taboo or forbidden foods.
- Free yourself from the tyranny of food.
- Get rid of your scales and daily weighing routine.
- Quit counting calories and stop dieting.
- Forget about proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and other old diet standbys.
Dr. Leonard Pearson, a clinical psychologist and his wife, Lillian Pearson, a social worker, applied their knowledge and practice of humanistic psychology and their work with Dr. Carl Rogers, to develop a weight loss program that would not only change how one looks but also what one thinks when it comes to diet and weight management.
They felt that “overeating is complex with many causes.” One of the basic principles of the book is that people do not eat what their body is calling them to eat. Often a weight loss program cuts out foods that you love. Calorie counting becomes regimented, and there is little pleasure or satisfaction at mealtimes.
For me, my mind was always thinking about what I was going to eat and how many calories I was going to consume. These thoughts would often control my mind, and I felt like I almost needed a brain overhaul to get rid of this awful way of thinking and living.
This book offered a set of exercises to increase food awareness and develop more intuitive approaches to choosing what you were going to eat from one meal to the next.
I learned to get in touch with what my favorite foods were and why I enjoyed them. I also learned that when we crave something we have to eat it. The Pearsons also defined beckoning as those foods that call you after seeing them in a window or smelling the aroma of the food from a store, home or restaurant.
Part II of the book offered “Exercises for Food and Drink Awareness and Sensuous Eating.” This would be fun!
I remember the “chip eating exercise” and sitting on our bathroom vanity with a bag of cheese covered Doritos and watching myself eat them. The idea was to chew the chip and watch your mouth chew, while also experiencing the taste of the chip and getting a feel for what it is about the chip that you like—is it the crunch? The salt? The cheese flavor? And in that case, the recommendation was to lick the cheese off the chip and throw the chip away and see if the craving was satisfied. I found that was the case for me. What I liked about the cheese flavored Doritos was the topping. So I would sit on the vanity watching myself eat the chip and lick off the cheese and throw the chip in the wastebasket. Of course, my roommates thought this was nuts, but hey—it was nursing school, and we all had our idiosyncrasies.
The purpose of the exercises was to become aware of why we eat, what we crave, what our body really wants, what is truly satisfying in the eating experience and essentially renew our joy of food.
Chocolate chip cookies were another experience. What is it about the cookie I liked? It was partially the crunch, definitely the chocolate, and a bit about the sugar. What I found with chocolate chip cookies is that I was satisfied if I simply picked the chocolate chip out of the cookie. With chocolate walnut brownies, what I loved was the walnut covered with brownie so I would pick the walnut out of the brownie and throw the rest away or give the crumbs to someone who liked the taste of plain brownie without the chocolate chips.
You see, when you crave food, you definitely are wanting a taste, a texture or an experience. You must satisfy that craving, or you will eat everything in sight until you get what it is you really want.
I used the principles of these books in my later years in my wellness presentations about diet and exercise. Let’s say you crave a Graeter’s turtle sundae — think about it— scoops of pure vanilla ice-cream topped with caramel sauce, chocolate, and pecans. Graeter’s chocolate sundae has about 1200 calories-that’s almost a whole day’s allotment of calories, but, if you must have it you must have it- make that your breakfast and lunch for the day or lunch and dinner and eat well the rest of the day. Truly your body will not suffer if the one day you crave a turtle sundae you indulge.
On the other hand, let’s say you wouldn’t dare. So you have the craving, and you deny yourself the experience. Instead, you have a chocolate cookie. If you want that taste or texture or flavor or experience, you will probably eat several chocolate cookies just trying to do the same thing. Or let’s say you eat the carrot sticks you have in the refrigerator for when you have to eat something but don’t want to ruin your diet, and you want to “be good.” You’ll eat every carrot you have just to satisfy some sort of sweet tooth, or in frustration, keep noshing or grazing only to realize that you are trying to meet your body’s need for a turtle sundae in an impossible way.
The better and lower calorie way would be to buy a turtle chocolate candy or two. If you need the taste of the ice cream, get some frozen low-fat yogurt. Now at least you get the chocolate, the caramel, the pecans, and the feeling of cold vanilla flavored creamy dessert cooling your mouth and flowing down the esophagus to a more satisfied stomach. Here you probably ate about 300 calories tops, but you satisfied the craving.
Do you get it? You can’t ignore your cravings, or you will not feel satisfied physically or emotionally.
So I learned what foods were calling me. What was I really in the mood for? What taste was I dreaming of? What would I really enjoy? I learned to close my eyes and get in touch with my true needs nutritionally and mindfully. Before opening a menu, I would get in touch with what I had a taste for and look for that item or a combination of items that would satisfy my craving. Most of the time I ate less because I knew that I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it as long as I was clear and honest about what I needed.
During my learning and experimental days with this new way of not dieting, I did have a negative experience it is only fair to share with you. Before classes in nursing school, we would sometimes meet in the cafeteria for breakfast. On this new not diet, I would go through the line and look at the food and only take what was really calling me to eat. One morning I had such a craving for the big gooey pecan roll. Instead of just getting one with maybe some yogurt or milk to balance it off, I decided to take two pecan rolls, with the idea that at lunch I would choose something lighter because I would be satisfied and full from this breakfast. Well as I got up from our table, fully satisfied and content with my consumption of this gooey treat, I fainted right there and fell on the floor of the cafeteria. I was quickly rushed next door to the emergency department where I was diagnosed with severe hypoglycemia. My blood sugar had dropped to 40 (normal being 80-100). I was quickly given an IV solution of glucagon, the glucose substance used for diabetics who have an insulin reaction.
Well — this too was a good experience, because what I learned is that we cannot live by bread or carbohydrates alone. We do need to balance our food and have some protein at every meal. I would have been okay had I eaten one pecan roll and some yogurt or even a small glass of milk.
But this was all part of the experiment. I learned how to eat in a way that was fun, guilt-free, and allowed me to experience life and food in a whole new way. For the first time in my life, I was free of the diet mindset. I thought about food, but without having to imagine depriving myself of my favorite foods. Nothing was off-limits anymore. Also, I only ate when I was actually hungry, andvstopped eating when I felt satisfied. I knew that I could eat anything I wanted whenever I craved it, and I did not have to raid the refrigerator and eat everything in sight to get there.
I truly learned to enjoy my food, and I do believe that since food is so essential and eating is such an integral part of daily life-not just to nourish the body, but also to nourish the soul and meet social needs, we must not just eat to live but live to eat.
If more people enjoyed the eating experience and the vast array of wonderful food without the guilt associated with indulgence, we would have less obesity in this world.
To this day, I truly eat what I am in the mood for and what calls me. Gradually I did give up my taste for red meat and most high-fat foods. I have grown to savor fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, fish and nuts. I allow myself to eat dessert or candy to satisfy my sweet tooth, but my body has learned to enjoy fresh and healthy food.