Dr Sister Outlaw, sullying the food blog with an open thread on … (whisper) dieting

I am prepared to admit this is not appropriate talk for a food blog, because, like most contributors and commenters here, I believe Prog Dinner Party is about celebrating food, not restricting it.

However, in recent weeks a friend and I have put ourselves on diets, as we prepare for a wedding and try to fit into the frocks we’ve chosen (the bride, btw, is a tiny elegant little thing who has to work to keep weight on).

My weight loss method is loosely based around the CSIRO diet, which is a great sort of boot camp on how to cook with less fat, even if I can’t afford to buy all that meat and I don’t eat pork. My version is to follow the formula of two or three small serves of carbs a day, loads of veges and salad and some fruit and low fat dairy and oodles of lean red meat, chicken and fish (up to 350 grammes a day!). Of course I also restrict fats (not much of a problem as I’m not really into cheese or chocolate) and I cut down on carbs and (sob) alcohol. Let you know how it works in a few weeks. 

But, in the mean time, I thought it might be interesting to ask PDP readers what they give up when they are faced with the choice of either losing weight or buying a whole new wardrobe. Conversely, if you have the opposite problem, of unwanted skinniness, you might want to reveal what you eat to gain weight. Folks, it’s time to share …

65 comments ↓

#1 Dame Mint Pattie on 06.10.09 at 5:59 pm

I know your pain. A few years ago, I had to make a few dietary changes to deal with nascent health issues. I learned that meat isn’t the only protein, vegies fill you and fruit doesn’t taste bad – especially if it’s in a glass. Seriously, cutting back on the wine is the worst bit – I’ve come to savour meat for the taste, not the heft. And for someone who actively disliked seafood a decade ago, it’s now an increasingly important (and enjoyable) part of my diet.

#2 Dr Sister Outlaw on 06.10.09 at 6:14 pm

I reckon retraining the palate to accept a wider variety of foods gives you as much of a new lease of life as shedding kilos! I can’t imagine NOT eating seafood (especially as it goes so nicely with white wines).

#3 jude on 06.10.09 at 6:47 pm

Along the lines of your CSIRO theme…snap. Works well as maintenance, ie low carbs/fat, high protein. Protein is THE answer to appetite suppression. I do recommend at least 2 AFDs (alc-free day) a week, which is FAR FROM EASY…..but think of the liver as well as the weight. As for actaully LOSING weight, all of the above, but very small portions at evening meal. A final point….no pain no gain, enjoy small meals and eat slowly!

#4 Anthony on 06.10.09 at 7:55 pm

“I believe Prog Dinner Party is about celebrating food, not restricting it.”

Should the two be mutually exclusive? Gay Bilson refers to Blanche D’Alpuget’s “Turtle Beach” where someone says “The Indian impulse is to fast, the Chinese to gourmandise….famine was the historical stimulus for both races, but the Chinese response is straightforward and optimistic, while the Indians’ is subtle and pessimistic”. That is, fasting and the restriction of food is central to the emrgence of the world’s great cuisines.

Anthropologist Carole Counihan’s work in rural Sardinia revealed an interesting dynamic: “An iron clad ethic and practice of consumption: daily consumption took place within the family and was parsimonious; festive consumption took place within society at large and was prodigal” and she goes on to refer to the “rhythmic oscillation” between these two modes.

In short, in “celebrating food” as it is found in traditional cuisines, we are often celebrating foodways that do have an intimate and dialectic relationship with famine or fasting or dieting, although so few cookbooks acknowledge this explicitly – an exception would be Patience Gray’s idiosyncratic “Honey From a Weed”

Anyhow, my body shape seems to have remained unchanged since my late teens, no matter what my diet. Now in my mid-forties, I could go one of two ways: my older brother developed a potbelly at this age, but on the other hand I laid my father to rest aged 77 as lean and mean as he ever was. It is almost slightly disempowering to think that my dietary choices have little or no influence over my actual body shape.

#5 yellow on 06.10.09 at 8:29 pm

It saddens me to say it, but in my experience the ditching of alcohol goes a loooong way.

#6 Dr Sister Outlaw on 06.10.09 at 9:58 pm

Am working on the ditching of alcohol – it certainly contributes to tummy spread.

Interesting points Anthony, which raise all sorts of questions about the way we view food in our culture of plenty. We all eat treat and festival food ALL of the time. Diets should be viewed as putting us back on the straight and narrow but instead we resent them and view them as deprivation.

But as for being naturally lean, I acknowledge that some folks are just busy all the time, whether with sport or fidgeting or manual labour or housework. However, thinner types generally eat quite a lot less than bigger types, irrespective of activity levels.

#7 Francis Xavier Holden on 06.10.09 at 11:55 pm

I’d venture to say that vodka or even whisky might be slimming compared to wine and beer. All may not be lost.

Anyway your public wants pics of you all frocked up – no pics = it didn’t exist.

Before and after pics – as in New Idea – “Sista Outlaws New Diet” – pics shopping for frock, sealed section of trying on frock etc etc.

Me I’m pretty much ectomorph although I did notice one stint when I worked in the city that 3 or 4 full milk lattes a day forced me to let the belt notches out a bit.

#8 Dr Sister Outlaw on 07.10.09 at 8:51 am

FXH, this thread is an abstract, not visual exercise! … but seriously, the amount I’m hoping to lose isn’t going to be that visible (and I already own the frock).

#9 dylwah on 07.10.09 at 10:32 am

i changed my asthma medication last year and have lost about eight kilos that i didn’t know that i needed to lose. i did wonder about my weight gain from 96 – 07, about ten kilos, but put it down to the muscle mass needed for all that rock climbing, poor deluded fool that i am. turns out it was prob the steriod in the old asthma puffer.

I am not back down to uni weight yet, but have started a program of fryups, five days a week at the mo, to maintain my weight. I had a blood test a few weeks ago and have to go back to the gp to get the news re my colesterol news, shudder. running around after the Hbomb and Sherbet are the only exercise that i get right now.

Good luck dso

#10 elsewhere on 07.10.09 at 11:54 am

I have heard good things about the CSIRO diet from friends on it, except they seemed to be doing a lot of meal preparation and there is some risk of bowel cancer from eating too much red meat.

I started eating more protein when I came to Alice because I was getting light-headed in the desert. I swapped a can of tuna for a sandwich at lunch: it worked.

Could I possibly recommend mountainbiking? Prob any exercise where you use a lot of muscle groups.

#11 Cristy on 07.10.09 at 12:47 pm

A few months ago I really needed to gain weight and so I started adding protein powder to my smoothies and baking more cinnamon scrolls. Now I’d like to halt the upward climb that has started (since Lily started feeding less) and plan to cut back on white flour and walk a bit more. Not the world’s most tricky approach, but it tends to work for me.

#12 Dr Sista Outlaw on 07.10.09 at 12:49 pm

Going swimming right now. Sadly, I am averse to mountain bikes after losing most of the side of my face and fracturing my cheek and arm about 12 years ago.

Food preparation seems to be as much a part of the retraining aspects of dieting as anything else. Lucky this week am on hols so boy child and I are happily making cleansing salads from cucumber, radishes and tinned fish. We had one with tuna that was lush, but today’s version with crab, coriander and carrot and a touch of mirin, sesame and soy was the absolute business.

Tonight it’s Japanese food, which fits into CSIRO diet quite well, if you stick to sashimi and daikon. Edamame and sake though …

#13 Uppercase Kate on 07.10.09 at 12:58 pm

I’m not necessarily successful in this – and I am currently at the top of my comfortable weight range after winter, overseas holidays etc – but for me it is all about eating smaller bits of everything.

I also have the sort of psychology where any sort of deprivation tends to make me resist and start lusting after chocolate biscuits. So just cutting out stuff is not the answer, though I am pretty strict about not drinking booze on weeknights.

As an aside, while I generally try to resist the “thin is the only thing” mantra, coming from a family where diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are rampant and being shaped more like an apple than a pear means I do have to think about it beyond just vanity.

#14 kazari on 07.10.09 at 2:16 pm

I may get shot for even discussing dieting right now (at 6 months pregnant I’m not supposed to do it) two things have worked really well for me.
1st, don’t worry about what you’re eating too much of. Worry about what you should eat MORE of. I find that trying to stuff 6 serves of veggies into my day squeezes out a lot of the bad stuff.
2. Check out the superfoods diet. Again, this is about adding rather than subtracting. But if you follow it’s suggestions, you’ll add lots of yummy stuff (oats, blue berries, salmon, broccoli, tomatoes) and not have room in your tummy for the junk. And you’ll feel specially virtuous : )
Mind you, at present I’m managing to eat all the good stuff, and still find room for icecream and chocolate and other bad things…
i blame the baby.

#15 Dr Sista Outlaw on 07.10.09 at 3:29 pm

Soon you won’t fit much in at all, so don’t worry about that!

Must look at superfoods diet, and I do think principle of squeezing out bad stuff by stuffing in teh good stuff makes much sense! Unless your overeating is driven by mind factors, which mine isn’t.

I know I would be thinner if not for my stupid sedentary life sucking job.

#16 Dame Mint Pattie on 07.10.09 at 7:20 pm

I can’t attest to its value as a diet book (I don’t use it for that), but I can recommend using Trudy Williams’ This = That book to get a good handle on what a serve of a particular food looks like. It’s one of the reasons I decided to embrace seafood – you get to eat so much more for the same amount of calories.

#17 fxh on 07.10.09 at 8:56 pm

elsewhere – there is a weakish correlation, not causation, with red meat and bowel cancer but there are many confounding variables making it even less straightforward.

Family history (or genetics) is a more straightforward link – if there is a family history then have a do it at home test and then a colonoscopy if any doubt. Bowel/colon cancer is a good candidate for early intervention fixing much of it up.

#18 fxh on 07.10.09 at 8:58 pm

oops sorry sista – got a bit carried away there with my lecture. perhaps not the best on a food diet thread. scrub it if you like.

anyway she started it but

#19 fxh on 07.10.09 at 9:05 pm

i don’t think of it as a diet but i do change eating habits once winter finishes. Less slow roast pork belly every sunday and more salads – etc etc.

and now i’m back on the bike more and lifting weights everyday – my weight doesn’t seem to change much – but i never weigh myself so i’m not sure – as muscles building up weigh a fair bit i’m told – but general podginess goes down especially around belly

#20 Pavlov's Cat on 07.10.09 at 11:52 pm

Re good stuff : bad stuff ratio, it was recently pointed out to me by a dietitian that if you eat the correct amount of good stuff and are therefore properly nourished, your body is better equipped to metabolise whatever bad stuff you eat.

#21 Dr Sista Outlaw on 08.10.09 at 10:06 am

That makes sense, I guess it also stops you stuffing yourself with quick fixes like bread and (my secret vice) Bakers’ Delight feta and spinach scones.

FXH, is slow roast pork belly just has to be bad for your heart, if not your midriff! Which I suppose leads me to another point – we curvy ones let it all hang out but naturally thinner folks may not be healthy on the inside.

#22 Dr Sista Outlaw on 08.10.09 at 10:07 am

or maybe that’s just my natural desire for schadenfreude …

#23 FDB on 08.10.09 at 10:07 am

Enough alcohol bashing. Where are you DD?

I find that alcohol in lieue of food works just fine as a slimming programme.

#24 Cristy on 08.10.09 at 10:45 am

Ha! Paul was just talking about his love for the word ‘schadenfreude’ over the weekend. I had never heard of it before.

I like to talk about ‘the fat dimension’ – a place somewhere in the future where people’s ‘food sins’ go to wait for them. Men often suddenly encounter this place in middle-age, when after years of eating whatever they wanted to they suddenly find their mid-drift expanding.

Mine seems to have been waiting for me to start weaning Lily…

#25 Cristy on 08.10.09 at 10:46 am

BTW: Who is DD?

#26 Cristy on 08.10.09 at 10:47 am

Oh and… (can you tell I’m procrastinating?) re: PC and other’s comments about driving out the bad with the good, this theory doesn’t take the concept of a ‘desert stomach’ into account.

Just sayin’

#27 Cristy on 08.10.09 at 10:48 am

Or dessert stomach for that matter…

(What you’ve never heard of a sandy stomach?)

#28 The Devil Drink on 08.10.09 at 10:55 am

[Appears with a flash and a cloud of slightly sulphurous potsmoke]
Be careful when you summon Me, FDB, you might regret the results.
For the record I thoroughly endorse Anthony’s #4 comment. Alcohol like food might be an individual need but it’s a social thing.
FXH, regarding slimming vodka and scotch, there’s only one way to find out.
Dr Sista, cutting down on the booze in preparation for a wedding sounds to me counterintuitive. You don’t want to be in deprivation: you want to be in training.
Cristy, to paraphrase Biz Markie: y’all know me, I’m the Devil D, I rock your alcohol most de-fi-nite-ly…

#29 Anthony on 08.10.09 at 11:02 am

Yes, I had a friend who went on a total fat free diet, and spirituous liquor was her one consolation

#30 Dr Sista Outlaw on 08.10.09 at 11:15 am

Lo, the Devil Drink emerges with words of much wisdom! You are right about training for the wedding – as I have to sing there is much at stake if I have lost my alcohol tolerance – don’t want to go all skinny trashed Mischa Barton on my friend’s special day!

I’m pleased to say that despite completely gorging on sashimi, nigiri, edamame, sake and red bean ice cream I still lost weight yesterday. Of course I feel a little woolly from the sake, but that’s another problem altogether, and counts as wedding training. I consider the ice cream was a serve of dairy and avoided the rice (except for that which was in the sake).

Cristy, I like the fat dimension idea. But, pray tell, what’s a dessert stomach? I’m intrigued. Is it like what Rosemary Stanton says about feeding kids, which is if they’ll only eat custard, feed them custard and don’t worry?

#31 Cristy on 08.10.09 at 11:40 am

DD – Of course! I feel quite ashamed. I guess I had just never thought of you as an acronym before…

Dr Sister Outlaw, the dessert stomach is that area of the stomach that is not too full for ice cream despite not being able to finish one’s dinner. Children are the masters of keeping it quite separate, but I often claim to possess one…

#32 another outspoken female on 08.10.09 at 7:06 pm

I eat the good stuff, in the right amounts too..it’s just the other side to the equation ie: exercise is a tad (ok a lot lacking).

Two biggest weight loss tips – give dairy foods a rest and only drink 1-2 standard drinks, 1-2 times a week. Even if you change nothing else in your diet/lifestyle most people kick start their weight loss.

Alcohol and fat have an interesting relationship – fats consumed with alcohol get laid down as fat versus burned for fuel (according to some fascinating scientist on the ABC’s Health Report a couple of years ago).

#33 our man in Canberra on 08.10.09 at 9:06 pm

I meant to chime in earlier with a few random thoughts about the changing role of food in modern society, drinking culture and the use of potsmoke as an appetite stimulant, but it looks like they’ve all been covered.

So here are some colourful notes of food related thoughts from the NYT instead.

#34 Dr Sister Outlaw on 09.10.09 at 9:42 pm

I think the CSIRO book says that you are better off to drink after a meal than before or during (I say think because I am too lardy to get up and actually check it, what does that say?)

OMIC, we didn’t talk about pot smoke. This is a polite blog. And munchies is what we are trying to avoid!! But I do like those food rules. Most of them.

#35 FDB on 10.10.09 at 8:49 pm

But if you get yourself sufficiently addicted to weed, you can only eat when stoned, so you can gain a measure of control over appetite.

#36 Dr Sister Outlaw on 10.10.09 at 9:11 pm

isn’t that expensive?

#37 The Devil Drink on 10.10.09 at 9:39 pm

Compare it to a Fitness First membership and the costs of all the assorted circuits and classes, and make your decision with full information.

#38 dogpossum on 11.10.09 at 12:43 pm

Sorry this comment is so long. Sorry.

I avoided a ‘diet’ for a long time, mostly from politics. But, I think, from a deeply hidden stubbornness. I like eating and I think I saw dieting as a way of restricting something I like. Giving something up. Punishing myself. Taking something away. This is how ‘dieting’ tends to be discussed in our culture, and this is how I think even I – badass femnistah – thought of dieting. Now I think of ‘diet’ as simply a list of foods and nutritional elements. Thinking about eating is important. It’s been important for me to start thinking about food and eating in terms other than ‘fat’ and ‘right and wrong’. I think about food in terms of ‘fuel’ and ‘nutritional elements’.
I used to simply assume I ate well and that my generous bodily proportions were a matter of my choosing to say ‘fuck you!’ to bullshit body image discourse. But I think that I was actually ignoring some of my less healthy attitudes to food and relationships to _eating_.

My partner and I started on the CSIRO diet about a year ago, after my parents had good luck with it and I decided I needed to get fitter and lose some weight so I could cope with faster dancing. This became more important to me after I injured my foot – carrying less weight (and being fitter) means less stress on my poor joints. The CSIRO diet is useful because it emphasis diet AND exercise. I found it most useful because it made me actually sit down and record, accurately, what I ate and when. And to keep track of nutrition, rather than just _assuming_. It also avoids lots of bullshitty talk about what you _look_ like; its emphasis is on fitness and health.

Both of us lost weight on the CSIRO diet immediately (lots of it) and both of us quite like that. Partly because we like the way we look (and why is it so difficult to write that, as a feminist? That I get pleasure from the way I look? That I like being slimmer and healthier? Why do I feel guilty about admitting that?), but more importantly because it made dancing and cycling and all the other exercise we do much, much easier. Less puffing and panting. Greater stamina. Greater flexibility and range of movement. Fewer injuries and less muscle and joint strain.

We found the CSIRO diet challenging at first because:
a) you have to eat a LOT of meat, and we didn’t eat a lot of meat;
b) you’re supposed to eat a lot of RED meat, and we didn’t eat a lot of red meat;
c) the recipes are largely designed for the Womens Weekly demographic*, and the herbs and combinations of foods are a bit tame for people who used to cook a lot of hot, spicy, interesting food;
d) no rice! We ate rice every day, and we really missed eating it;
e) no carbs after lunch time left us feeling very hungry at first;
f) no sweeties! This killed me;
g) no beer! This didn’t bother me as I don’t drink, but the Squeeze found after-works drinks (an essential part of work related networking, especially as a new person in a new job in a new city) challenging;
h) the CSIRO diet doesn’t account for seasonal food – too many recipes requiring tarragon, too little emphasis on eating in season when food is at its freshest and best. This meant that the diet could be unnecessarily expensive;
i) we didn’t eat enough dairy products! No way! Wai! It’s a struggle to eat as much milk, cheese, yoghurt, etc as the plan requires. Really;

But we acclimatised quite quickly. We found the structure of the diet revealed some interesting things about our eating/life style:

a) we ate in front of the television a lot. The CSIRO meat-and-three-veg type meals required a table where rice-in-bowl did not. We stopped with the television and found we talked more about our day and generally spent more time enjoying each other’s company. We also ate more slowly and paid more attention to what we were eating. And we stopped when we were full, not when the program ended;

b) I found I craved and ate sweeties when I was feeling stressed or needed a ‘reward’. It disturbed me to find out exactly how important food was in my managing stress. Or not-managing. I became aware of how I ate in stressful situations and stopped bingeing. It worried me to discover that I _was_ bingeing on sweet, fatty foods – I didn’t think I did that sort of thing. But I did. Now I might eat one biscuit rather than a packet; one small cake rather than an entire one. This issue still sticks in my mind: how important is cooking fancy, fewdy meals to my sense of self worth or happiness? Surprisingly important. I’ve found that it’s helped to branch out and discover other ways of being creative without a big binge at the end of the process. The CSIRO diet says: have a sweety every week; have a beer. Just don’t binge or have _too much_. I found this the most useful lesson of all;

c) we already ate a heap of veggies, but the CSIRO diet made us aware of how much starch/carb we had in our diets. Simply cutting down on carbs made a massive difference. We were also reminded of the importance of fruit;

d) we stopped eating out or eating take away as much as we did. As fewdies we really enjoyed eating out at restaurants and discovering new foods. But take away and restaurant meals tend to be richer and heavier than we need. We’ve become aware of how much we ate ‘out’ and have cut back on this a lot. It saved us HEAPS of money (we were surprised by how much). We also tend to really appreciate a meal out and to choose carefully – we choose good restaurants and new restaurants rather than the nearest favourite;

e) we began to really enjoy not going to bed stuffed after a big dinner of carbs;

f) with planned meals, we wasted far less food than we did before – vegetables don’t go bad in the bottom of the fridge. We have also shifted to buying veggies more often during the week, rather than doing one big shop once a week. This means we eat more fresh food rather than older, wilting stuff.

We’ve not been strict about being on the ‘lifestyle’ (as the Squeeze calls it – we were both self conscious about saying ‘we’re on a diet’, and we wanted to emphasise the way we’d shifted our entire approach to food and cooking) recently. I have found my weight has stopped dropping. I find I prefer the way I felt less bloated when on the ‘lifestyle’. We don’t eat carbs after lunch, but I find I eat sweeties every other day (though not in massive quantities any more). The Squeeze cycles 100k a week in his commute and is getting leaner and leaner. But he finds he can’t quite cope without a good, solid range of foods. I think I’d like to get strict about the ‘lifestyle’ again and monitor exactly what I’m eating – what’s changed, what hasn’t.

We substituted fish for red meat on the CSIRO diet quite often – neither of us could hack those huge dinners of red meat. We still eat a lot of fish and vegetables for dinner rather than red meat. We also developed more interesting variations on the recipes once we understood the basic rules – there aren’t enough herbs and spices in their recipes. And we found we needed more vegetarian options, so we developed them.

But, far and away, exercise is _the_ most important part of a good, healthy lifestyle. Eating well is important, but exercise is more important. It helps your organs work properly, it helps manage anxiety and depression, it stimulates appetite (in the right way), it just feels _good_. If you’re interested in weight loss, it reduces your girth, but also helps develop muscle tone.

And we all need good muscle tone – we need it for good posture, for walking and moving efficiently, for avoiding injury doing ordinary things (like walking or getting out of bed). I find women are most reluctant to talk about gaining muscle tone – they worry they’ll get ‘too buff’ or ‘too manly’ – but good muscle tone is really good for posture.

It’s also important to do a range of exercises – walking (talking, catching up, taking the long way home), stretching (yoga!, meditation, introspection and self-awareness), high-impact cardio (running, soccer, dancing, chasey in the park, etc) – to best care for our bodies and to keep things interesting.

I also find having a physically smaller body is really helpful for dancing – I can bend further, I am less impeded by my physical mass. This is exciting as it allows me to experiment with new types of movement. And I can’t help but wonder: if I find a small weight loss so liberating, how _impeding_ is obesity?

Again, this is where I have feminist issues. On the one hand, I’m utterly opposed to a culture of obsessive dieting and bullshit body images (esp for women). But I simply can’t accept having a large, unfit body carrying lots of weight as a good or feminist thing. I know there are plenty of arguments about this stuff, but I’m just not convinced. Far too many health problems are directly caused or exaserbated by carrying too much weight: diabetes, high blood pressure, muscle strains and pains, shortness of breath, etc etc etc.
I want to aim for a body – a me – that’s healthy and strong and capable. I like being fit and able to move and experiment with physical movement. I think that being unfit and eating a poor diet restricts my ability to _be_ a badass sistah, kicking arse and taking names. I like the way physical health keeps me independent and gives me options – I can choose to walk or ride my bike rather than driving or catching a cab. I also find that exercise makes me feel confident about taking physical risks – even if it’s just running and jumping or climbing up a fence.

Exercise + eating well = teh orsm.

The second CSIRO diet took that on with greater emphasis – it was interesting to see how the books carefully introduced exercise.

I also liked the way the CSIRO diet was all about eating a LOT. We found we ate a couple of large meals a day; the diet requires almost constant eating. More vegetables. More fruit. More dairy. EAT! This was a nice alternative to the ‘restrict, deny, punish!’ approach of fasting-type diets. It also forced us to be creative about meals – gotta keep those veggies interesting.

I think, ultimately, it’s important for feminists (like me) to find a way to talk about food and diet and exercise that’s both empowering and useful. And, (I can’t believe I’m saying this), it’s important to de-politicise food. I found that I had to step back and say ‘my body is an engine. It’s a delicate system. It needs certain elements to work properly. This is not politics; this is science. My body is not simply a vehicle for my brain; my body _is_ me and I need to get concrete’. Sure, organic is better, vegetarianism is ethically and environmentally sustainable, refined sugars are crappy fuel and economically dodgy, etc etc. On that front, food and eating is political. But, at the end of the day, it turned out to be more useful for me to think about food as minerals and essential elements. I had to say ‘stop thinking about what this collection of plant and animal products means. Start thinking about them as building blocks, as useful, powerful and important in their own right.’ Sometimes an apple has to be _just_ an apple.

I think that it was important for me to find a way, as a feminist, to talk about my body and the way it made me feel. Without worrying (or feeling guilty about the possibility) that I was buying into some bullshit beauty myth. Or, conversely, buying into some bullshit about how eating or body size is unimportant. I think this is in some ways tied into ideas about women and physical activity.

That’s not to say that food and eating can’t also be about pleasure and sociability and shared tables and all that good stuff. It can and should. But it should also be about much more than aesthetics.

*the first ‘CSIRO diet’ recipes were published in WW, were met with massive enthusiasm, and were then followed by a book and then another book.

#39 Dr Sister Outlaw on 11.10.09 at 6:10 pm

Please don’t apologise for that luxurious post – I found it very interesting, particularly as I’ve never myself adopted a political stance towards my body. But I totally embrace the benefits of being fitter, stronger and healthier -you’ve inspired me to resolve I’m walking to work all next week.

I agree with you about the CSIRO diet’s changes in mentality. You do actually eat more on it than I normally ever would, and it is very easy to adapt. Two serves of fat-reduced dairy, two serves of fruit, two tablespoons of good fats (oil, nuts, margarine), 300 grammes of animal protein, two cups of vegetables, no more than 200 grammes of carbohydrate and preferably early in the day AND THAT’S IT. Add as many sauces and chillis as you like.

The biggest revelation for me was what you could count as fruit and vegetables – you feel less guilty about your food choices when olives, tinned tomatoes, fruit juice and tinned fruit all count as a serve. Light custard is part of the diet! It’s very practical and doesn’t rely on stupid foods. But, like you, I missed vegetarian options, and had to substitute some fish for the meat (especially as I don’t eat pork).

Love how being on the ‘lifestyle’ has improved your relationship as well by ensuring you cook together and eat properly. A better lifestyle indeed.

#40 Zoe on 11.10.09 at 7:18 pm

Jaysus, you go away for a week and look what happens.

I will have to foment a proper and serious answer, but for now have only two things to say – firstly, the conversation as above seems to be among people who might want/need/have managed to shift a few kilos, and who have a socially reinforced “comfortable range”. I don’t identify with that, I’m a proper fat lady.

I would also like to thank dogpossum for her serious and intelligent comment – I have been hassling her for a post on the body, eating and fitness changes she’s tweeted and blogged about – which I picked up on from her joy and exhiliarated proselytising of bike riding – but it’s taken DSO’s post to spur her, so huge thanks to Dr Sista for that, too.

Secondly, the only effective weight loss regime I have ever endured was following the end of my first marriage, brought about by the then husband’s taking a new lover as he thought that “honesty was more important than fidelity” - a hint against binaries, that one.

Anyhoo, being deeply sad for a long time and taking the excellent advice of my housemate that perhaps upping the aquarobics and laying off any pot and grog would help speed up the moving through sad had me losing 20 kg in 6 months with no sense of deprivation. And don’t you laugh at the aquarobics unless you’ve toughed out one of Rhonda’s classes in the New Farm hydrotherapy pool, ‘kay.

Edited to add – on second thoughts I’m going to leave it at that.

#41 Anthony on 11.10.09 at 8:23 pm

Dogpossum, a great comment, but it highlights a bit the distinction between body shape (which for perfectly understandable reasons you wanted to diminish) and fitness. The correlation between “overweight”
and/or “obese” women on the one hand and ill health on the other is a bit tenuous, isn’t it? Most health promotion should be promoting the message of “fit whatever the size”. The problem with the current discourse around obesity is that it primarily addresses body shape (via the BMI) rather than actual fitness.

#42 Dr Sister Outlaw on 11.10.09 at 8:26 pm

Welcome back Zoe, please know, I would not dream of laughing at the aquarobics!

#43 fxh on 11.10.09 at 9:24 pm

All the research shows its better to be fit and chubby rather than unfit and skinny

#44 Zoe on 11.10.09 at 9:32 pm

All the research shows that it’s fun to have fun but you have to know how, to borrow a phrase

#45 FDB on 12.10.09 at 7:30 am

That’s fucking awesome Zoe.

The Lady Friend works in community engagement and behaviour change – I’ll give dollars for low-carb doughnuts she’ll use that clip for about a thousand “behaviour change” presentations to come!

#46 Cristy on 12.10.09 at 8:42 am

I tried aquarobics once. The pool was full of women in the 60 & 70s and they basically ‘kicked my butt’. I don’t ever plan to try it again. It was just too damn hard.

#47 Cristy on 12.10.09 at 8:52 am

Actually, on a more serious note (not that aquarobics isn’t serious itself), I was really interested by all of your comment Dogpossum, but particularly by the fact that you have found it helpful to ‘de-politicise food’.

I have found that the opposite applies to me. As a teenager (like many teenage girls) I focused far far too much on the details of my food consumption – both on quantity and quality – and it totally did my head in for a few very unhappy years.

It wasn’t until I became a vegan for completely political reasons that I was able to shift my attention away from my subjective calculations re: food, to something that was far healthier for me (mentally). I must admit that I then became completeky obsessive about the whole vegan thing instead and was ridiculously strict and zealous about the whole thing. But I was 15. You get that in 15 year-olds.

These days I still find it really helpful to think about my food choices in a political context. I also think about the nutritional value of things – particularly for Lily’s sake – but fortunately I have found that my politics and our nutritional needs are pretty complementary. For me it is hugely motivational to think that buying local, organic wholefoods and seasonal produce and cooking them from scratch is better for the world as well as being better for my health. The double benefit motivates me to bother far more than one ever would – and, so far, has stopped me from ever going back to focusing too much on the less healthy aspects of food consumption.

Not sure if that all made sense… Hope it did though.

#48 Cristy on 12.10.09 at 8:55 am

Oh, and Zoe! That youtube video finally loaded for me. I LOVE IT.

#49 Dr Sister Outlaw on 12.10.09 at 3:57 pm

I love the fun theory too and the gorgeous piano stairs … was reminded of it when little boy and I were sauntering through Camperdown’s old velodrome site, and there’s a massive rope tower which we both just had to climb. All those little things we’ve squashed out of our silly office bound lives! Oops, there I go, whining about work AGAIN

#50 Pamela Faye on 13.10.09 at 6:46 pm

Shame on you, Dr Sister, for sullying the blog with such matters as dieting! I adore your contributions, but to be frank it would be at this point in a real dinner party that my attention would start to wander and I would slip out the back for a quick fag. And I suspect a few others might want to join me.

Seriously, how is it that so many fine posts on a vast array of magnificent food and wine go virtually uncommented on, and yet all you have to do is whisper the word “dieting” and we are flooded with anecdotes and advice? If I wanted advice on dieting I would hope that PCP would be the last place I would find it.

For gad’s sake, people, can ‘t we keep this blissfully hedonistic blog hedonisticly focussed on our mutual passion, FOOD, and leave the worrying about our BODIES for other more narcisstic forums?!?

[BTW Zoe, does my bum look too big in this?]

#51 Dr Sister Outlaw on 13.10.09 at 7:28 pm

Oh noes Pamela Faye, be not offended! … but OTOH, I shan’t apologise, for this conversation has resulted in many eloquent observations about the sense of dieting as deprivation, when it really just ought to be about good sense and not eating more than you need to, and particularly about thinking about what you eat to help form and function, rather than aesthetics.

I am not bowed! Nay!

But does it help if I tell you I’m cooking a great big tagine, from Claudia Roden, and a pannacotta dessert for my gluttonous friends tomorrow night? There will be honey, and sugar, and cream … and bread … and wine …

#52 Pamela Faye on 14.10.09 at 8:05 am

Right you are, Dr Sister, not to recant. What is a dinner party without a bit of robust conversation? But if you don’t mind I will just pop out the back for that fag (I’ll be back in time for the pannacotta and desert wine…)

May the gods of all things delicious heap blessings on your tagine.

#53 Dr Sister Outlaw on 14.10.09 at 8:19 am

Thanks Pamela Faye, looking good so far. I was cooking until 11, then cleaning up until midnight! I’ll save a pannacotta for you

#54 Zoe on 14.10.09 at 1:18 pm

this conversation has resulted in many eloquent observations about the sense of dieting as deprivation, when it really just ought to be about good sense and not eating more than you need to, and particularly about thinking about what you eat to help form and function, rather than aesthetics

I can’t agree, that’s why there’s a whole “fat-o-sphere” and “fat acceptance movement”. Like I said before, for many people in or near the socially normal/BMI approved range your description might be accurate. But you can’t reduce even western, developed economy, middle class human interaction with food and weight down to that.

#55 Dr Sister Outlaw on 15.10.09 at 9:55 am

please elucidate?

#56 Pamela Faye on 15.10.09 at 11:05 am

If I may: what has been lost in the above (otherwise insightful) discussion is the sociality of eating and all the implications of this on how we use food.

For example, in my childhood home refusing food was tantamount to refusing love. Not having an excess of food on the table was considered inhospitable. The ultimate rudeness was to visit someone else’s table and refuse food. These values persist into my adult life and influence the degree to which I am prepared to enforce my personal dietary preferences.

Don’t think I haven’t been there, sitting at someone’s dinner table having to say, “sorry, I won’t have any potatoes, I’m not eating carbs for a month”. But having been there I don’t want to go there again.

The most inspiring example I have witnessed of someone honoring the idea of accepting food as a form of social respect occurred when a few years ago a good friend and I were visiting my elderly grandmother for lunch. My friend had recently decided to take on vegetarianism. My grandmother had laboured all morning to make us spaghetti bol, which had little in it except mince meat. Instead of refusing, my darling friend said nothing and ate my grandmother’s care and love with enthusiasm.

My mantra, lighten up about it all and eat with passion with those you love.

#57 Zoe on 15.10.09 at 8:37 pm

DSO, it’s not surprising that people have responded with a sense of restriction and deprivation when you framed this from the beginning by asking “what [you] give up when [you] are faced with the choice of either losing weight or buying a whole new wardrobe“.

To be frank, I also can’t get my head around your comment at #30 that you “still lost weight yesterday“, when you must know that a daily variation in what the scales says is meaningless.

I don’t think diets work, and I don’t think they make anyone healthier. I think exercising makes you feel good, and that eating a very wide variety of fresh, seasonal, unprocessed and where possible organic food does too.

If anyone is interested in the “Health at Every Size” movement that Anthony mentioned and the “fat acceptance” movement that I mentioned, a good place to start is the FAQ at Shapley Prose, which bills itself as “home of the mordantly obese”.

#58 Dr Sister Outlaw on 15.10.09 at 9:03 pm

I really didn’t mean to piss anyone off, and apologise if I have. The way people view their bodies and their food consumption is deeply personal. Yes, you need to eat good food to feel good and yes, I do believe in health at every size AND the sociability of eating so, in the interests of maintaining that sociability with people I love muchly (such as Zoe, for instance), I’m a gonna shut up.

#59 Cristy on 16.10.09 at 10:47 am

I’ll tread carefully here because I don’t want to offend anyone either and I like the fact that this blog is generally such a pleasant conversational space… However, I do wonder what is objectively wrong with “restriction and deprivation”? Do we always need to have exactly what we want? Is it actually a beneficial thing?

Of course, I do think that there are many many very negative reasons for restricting your diet or depriving yourself. AND I think that there are lots of foods that are generally not worth restricting or depriving yourself of. But, to me that doesn’t mean that the concept is entirely bad.

I have two reasons for this.

First: health, and I really don’t mean weight. Paul and I once went on an anti-candida diet. We had both been diagnosed with candida and it was making us feel like complete crap (for want of a better description). The worst part about the anti-candida diet was that we had to take grapeseed extract in the morning (that stuff is vile). But a close second was the first few days where we had to cut out everything except vegetables, and then gradually reintroduce only wholegrains and vegetable-based protein (no yeast, no flour, no sugar, no FRUIT, etc.). It was hard. It was deprivation for sure. But the effect on my health was amazing. I had been feeling like sh*t for months and months and suddenly I felt great. Plus, after a few months, when it was clear that the evil candida in our system had died, we reintroduced everything and GOD it tasted good. That part was pretty cool too.

My second reason for defending restriction and deprivation goes back to the political nature of food. I think that sometimes it is justifiable to “deprive” yourself in order to consume in a manner that it consistent with your ethics.

Of course, that does bring back the issue of showing love through food and food consumption and in my strict vegan days this was definitely an issue. I hated telling my relatives that I couldn’t eat their food when it was made and presented with love. Pamela is right (although I wouldn’t go as far as eating flesh) one of the reasons that I have eased up on the strict vegan thing is that I hate turning down people’s hospitality (oh, and I love cake).

In fact, even when I was “strict” I found myself faced with the classic dilemma: I was in a refuge camp and was given lunch by my hosts – noodles with eggs and meat. I haven’t eaten meat since I was 5 but I really did try to get it down with a smile. These people were living on food aid! However, several mouthfuls in, my host took one look at me and said “You’re a vegetarian! Why didn’t you say something?” Her husband then happily consumed the meal while I was given some fruit…

#60 dylwah on 29.10.09 at 8:12 am

i thought Cristy’s comment was a goodplace to leave this thread. After all who wants to read about Hanoi Jane’s liberal feminist anti corperatist exercise and healthy food crusade of the early eighties. “Germ, nuts, grains,seeds, we don’t want your corperate greed”.

However in the interests of not leaving false impressions, i must correct the comment i made above, not because any of it was wrong, but there is new info. it appears that my fryups may have elevated my cholesterol. Well Duh! As the great God Homer would say.

So i for one welcome our new overlords of poached chicken and steamed fish.

#61 Emica on 25.02.11 at 6:04 am

I rediscovered this post and lively comment exchange because me and The Man recently started the CSIRO diet. Him because he’d porked up on our travels + homecoming beers and me cos I’m up the duff and want to make sure I get enough nutrients. I’ve never previously bothered with diets or assessing nutrients and never had a major ideological/ body image relationship with food. I just like it!

I’d second Dogpossum’s excellent commentary. The CSIRO is more work – a lot more planning, shopping & cooking. I feel like I’m buying fresh food every day. This is fine as I’m not working at the mo but it may get a bit tricky when I start. However, because it’s a lot more planned, it means all the food in the fridge is used and not just for the same old-same old set of recipes I used to rely on during a working week.

The Man has found he’s been hungry at times, mostly just before bed. He also gets a bit twitchy eating just one plate of dinner, like someone giving up cigs, because he’s used to going for seconds.

It is hard to eat as much red meat protein and dairy as they prescribe. I literally can’t eat that much in one sitting, especially as there’s less room in my tum as the bub’s taken up residence.

Tracking what we eat shows that we don’t eat nearly enough veggies, which is a shock, hardly any dairy and too much bread.

Interestingly, it’s shown how reliant I am on carb heavy meals to keep The Man fed, but switching to protein/veg hasn’t starved him. Who knew 100g dry pasta makes plenty for 2 adults?! It has, however, increased our food bill! That is the blunt reason why most of the world relies on carbs – protein rich diets are more work (one off individually plated meals) and more expensive.

Some new faves are:
thin egg omelette with hot sauce and tortilla for brekkie
Pho
Herbs in/ on/ with everything – thank goodness for cheap coriander in Ashfield!

Thank you all for a fascinating discussion.

#62 Dr Sister Outlaw on 27.02.11 at 6:05 pm

Congratulations on your embiggening state Em!

I have a similar response to the CSIRO diet, as in I just can’t afford that much meat, or even eat that much. But I think it’s great for blokes who love the proteiny foods so much they would pale at the thought of going without them even for a minute. It does train one to think about hidden fats and the different fat contents of various cuts of meat. And probably if you ate a lot of processed food at the start you would not notice the cost so much?

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