Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanks to IFPE!

It was my great pleasure to attend the IFPE (International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education) Annual Interdisciplinary Conference this month in Philadelphia.  As a first-timer, I was thrilled and inspired by the wide-ranging and substantive approach to the topic of “Vulnerability and its Discontents.”  A very few of the highlights that touched upon my particular interests included:
Deborah Britzman, winner of an IFPE award and Distinguished Research Professor at York University of Toronto.  Her book, entitled “A Psychoanalyst in the Classroom:  Education as Human Condition,” strikes me as a must-read.   

Julie Cake, a practicing health counselor from Seattle who wrote a lovely, brave account of an early experience in therapy.  “Please do write more.  Writing is such a safe place,” I confided after her presentation.  “Nobody can mess with you there!” 

Elizabeth Crim, a Torrance, California psychologist who brings mindfulness through breath, posture, and movement into her clinical work.  She is founder of the Moonstone Center, devoted to psychotherapy, wellness and professional development.

Inna Rosensvit, a New York neurologist and neurorehabilitation specialist whose presentation on the brain illuminated my work as writing coach to an award-winning author in recovery from serious brain injury.  

Janet Sullivan, my dear friend and fellow-singer who practices in New York as the only dual-licensed Music Therapist and Psychoanalyst in the state. Her exquisite premise: “I have always understood that the voice is one of the most tender, the most potentially revealing, the most vulnerable organs of communication.”  

Thanks, in addition to Lois Ehrlich who brilliantly “stage managed” the conference and permitted me to help with registration, and to Farrell Silverberg and Judith Vida (Board of Directors) who were so very welcoming to me.    

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Disappointing Study, but – Carry On!

“Mind What You Eat: Can ‘intuitive eating’ be as effective as calorie counting?" (Gretchen Reynolds for The New York Times Magazine, 11/22/15) got me all excited.    Reynolds cites a study conducted by Judith C. Anglin and published in Nutrition and Health that compared weight loss success between subjects who cut calories and subjects who ”practiced intuitive eating – a program, according to, guided by 10 principles like ‘Reject the diet mentality,’ ‘Honor your hunger,’ and ‘Make peace with food.’”  At last!  I thought, and read eagerly, until Anglin’s blunt conclusion that sensitivity to internal cues alone will not keep weight off for the long haul. She says: “Calories matter.”

I beg to disagree.  Of course weight loss can be achieved without counting mathematical abstractions.  I published a book about this in 1971.  I completely revised and republished “The Anti-Diet: learning to be in the moment with food after forty five years of maintaining a desirable weight just by listening to my gut.  
What’s wrong with Anglin’s study and others like it?  Well, for one thing, it was much, much too short.  It spanned just 6 weeks (with a follow-up at 9).  That’s hardly time enough to re-wire the brain for a discipline of focus rather than restraint, to undo years of ingrained guilt, to send the mental clutter of misinformation about what is good or bad for you to the recycle bin. It took me a good 6 months to make a turnaround back in 1967.  Fine-tuning awareness in eating (or any important human function) is a lifelong process.  It doesn’t follow a straight line, and it differs for every individual.
Anglin’s study was designed around Tribole and Resch’s well-respected program that systematizes many of the fundamentals I discovered on my own.  But, programs must be “followed,” and studies are inherently “controlled.” I can’t imagine doing the kind of thorough, quirky, and intensely individual work I did to revitalize my relationship with food while being scrutinized, interviewed, and weighed on a weekly basis.  You have to really want to give mindfulness a wholehearted try. It’s an inside job, an enormous lesson in self-trust and “letting go.” Signing up 16 distractible college students for 6 weeks (and maybe paying them a small stipend) is a set-up for negative results.  It couldn’t begin to measure the effectiveness of intuitive eating, as I understand it.
The results of my own, successful 45-year “study” strongly suggest that our innate capacity to know when, what, and how much we want to eat is actually sufficient, probably for most of us.  Hasty conclusions to the contrary only benefit the quick fix gurus and hucksters of often dangerous remedies that put overeaters even further out of touch.  They perpetuate learned habits of eating that are also promoted and reinforced by institutions we like to think of as reliable.
To understand how medical research, the food industry, and the government have contributed to mindless eating on a national scale, may I recommend NinaTeicholz’s “The Big Fat Surprise.” There is a link between this important book and the stubborn resistance to alternatives to conventional dieting like the ones Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (of and I offer.  And, while we wait for widespread acceptance of the simplest, most natural, most logical way to lose weight and keep it lost, enjoy Karen Wexler’s delightful book, “Having My Cake.”  Our day will come. 
Lynn Donovan McCann


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Going Back To Class" Honoring Mary Anthony

Going Back to Class

Honoring Mary Anthony

Flashback to July, 2013

            Housebound in a heat wave, I go to bed early – and dream:       

I approach Mary Anthony’s original dance studio on Fourth Avenue and climb the long flight of stairs. The place is exactly as it was back in 1961 – right down to a rattling eye hook securing the door to the tiny john in the back.  Students chat in the living/waiting room on the street side before taking their places for class. Mary enters briskly as ever from her living quarters at the other end of the studio.  Her long skirt settles around her ankles as she greets the dancers with a determined smile and a twinkle in her eye.  We begin the floor routine.  While she works with others, I slip into form easily and know exactly what to do.  I’m ready to pick up where I left off.  Why didn’t I come back to class sooner?  How silly of me to wait so long!  Mary, moving back to the low bench in front of the mirror, reaches out to touch my hand.  She remembers me!   

            Birds are chattering into the dawn when I awaken very early from this dream and wonder if Mary is still with us.  What is this gentle poke I received in the night?

            A photo from the 50s – on my bookshelf – shows Mary Anthony moving serenely through space on an inevitable curve.  It all looks easy, the upward gesture of the arms, the slight bend in the knees around which a pale costume swirls.  But the very picture seems to breathe.  Behold a world of technique behind such eloquence.  

            That technique was hard won by me.  When Mary taught at Bennington, I was muscle-bound from early training that had emphasized a particular kind of strength in the legs at the expense of alignment, her specialty.  Mary took me apart and put me back together after I came to New York.  I can still feel her hand placed firmly on the curve in my lower back where the vertebrae should suspend lightly, she would say, with space in between them, like properly strung pearls.  I can still hear her address the class as I mastered a combination that involved reversing in place from a plunging arabesque to an upward leg extension:

            “Watch how Lynn is doing it!  That’s what you want.”

            This was the beginning of a productive period in which she mentored the choreography I did for a successful TV show.  I was privileged to perform in “Songs” and other work as a member of Mary’s company.  Eventually, I moved on.

            I find her Facebook page.  At 96, Mary looks uncannily like my mother did at that age.  My favorite picture of her is there, too, and YouTube excerpts from a film about her life in which my name rolls past quickly in the final credits.  


Cut to June, 2014

            A knee problem that developed last spring – before the dream about Mary Anthony – has been dealt with successfully through excellent physical therapy and regular use of a foam roller to untangle fascia deep in the hips and thighs.  I do daily exercises with a big, wide rubber band around my knees, demi-pliĆ©s and less attractive squats.  Humiliated by my first effort to stand unsupported on one foot, I take on balance – which was once an asset – and rediscover my dancing core.  Working out at home to a CD of Brahms intermezzi, I experience total recall at the cellular level.  Of course, I can’t do what I used to do, but I can still feel it.

            I can’t stop thinking about Mary Anthony.  Maybe I should go back to class!  

            The idea makes me laugh out loud.  It’s not as if I just skipped a week or two because of the flu or a badly stubbed toe.   But that’s what you say, and that’s what you do.  You go back to where you belong.  To square one, always a beautiful place to be.  Mary’s website is still up, and the studio on Broadway which I have never seen still seems to be humming.  Am I crazy to be thinking this? 

            “Hello, Mary,” I imagine calling the phone number that hasn’t changed in nearly 60 years. 

            I would testify to something far more enduring. 

            “You have no idea how much of what I learned from you has stayed with me.  The lesson is powerful and pervasive, even when I am not aware of how much it informs how I move, think, feel, and create.”

            There is more I want to say.  How I feel like I channel her when I teach, kind of dance my way through a grammar lesson – how poetry has become part of my regular diet – how I have come to understand her passion for text (and I don’t mean on a cell phone).  

            Maybe I will call.  Maybe I could manage, with the tender amusement I am sure she would bestow upon my effort, not to fall apart.  Maybe she would be proud of me and give herself some credit for it.    

            I unfold the New York Times on the morning of June 5th.   The obit is in section A with a photo of Mary facing her class, her tiny figure reflected in the mirror behind her, the perennial dance skirt falling simply from her waist.  Her arms and her eyes float heavenward on a breath that ascends from her feet.

            Mary Anthony always had it right, and she generously gave it away to me. 
 *   *   *

NY TIMES: Mary Anthony, Choreographer and Teacher of Modern Dance, Dies at 97

VIDEO: Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance Excerpts from the video documentary

Friday, October 4, 2013

Amazon Customer Book Review

"In this book, Lynn provides the reader with the tools to look inward towards what fuels the desire behind not only eating, but habitual responses to all internal and external signals. The book begins by asking a few simple questions, allowing the reader to relax & begin answering truthfully within." 

To read the full review, please click on the following link -

Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting In Touch with KenKen

I've always been a crossword person, even if I couldn't finish the Sunday (or even the Friday) one in the New York Times. Since I got teased as a fifth grader for using big words in the schoolyard, language has always been the most inviting area of the playground, the place to develop mental strength and agility.  Numbers were my nemesis.  Growing up in the days long before calculators, I learned to be arithmetically reliable the hard way.  I still use my fingers, refer to deeply memorized multiplication tables, and add columns two or three times (in different directions). 

How peculiar, then, that I have become addicted to the KenKen puzzles along with my morning coffee.  It happened a while back – couldn't say exactly when – and I found myself trying to figure out what was expected of me in the easy version, just four squares across.  Cute!  Not too hard.  Very satisfying when after a few obvious clues were solved, the answers tumbled into place.  I began working on the daily six-square puzzle and could successfully complete Monday through Wednesday after a few weeks of practice.  Then I moved up to the big league, seven-squares on Sunday.

My style, as with the crossword, is to work in pen, lightly filling in the possibilities until they are certain.  In those tiny, unforgiving squares, it is sometimes necessary to use white out – or even to copy the whole grid on lined paper after a really a messy start.  How embarrassing.  Let’s not even discuss the nearly pathological compulsion that has driven me to work a Sunday KenKen puzzle until the Magazine Section appears on the stoop with next Saturday’s paper.  But it calms me, settles my mind, and kind of clears the decks for other issues and problems I need to sort through. 

What profound life change has made me a numbers person after all?  I ponder this while figuring out in which square the last “5” can reside, or what combinations can be eliminated to fill in the third row down.  What am I doing?  Testing a double “3” and a “7” to make “63X” resolves the connecting horizontal and vertical, and I experience a pleasurable tingle in the brain.

My neural fibers crave this activity.  I need this exercise – now.  I don’t need to be told that “Mental Stimulation Staves Off Dementia,” although I’m pleased as punch they’re doing studies to confirm what my mind and body are already whispering in my ear.  All I have to do is listen.  I’m sure that’s always the best place to start.