Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Original Anti-Diet: Celebrating 2013

This New Year marks an important 50-year milestone for The Anti-Diet. In January  of 1963, I was cast in a 2-character play, a little showcase, and before the rehearsals  began, I crash dieted down to 118 lbs. After the play closed, my weight soon spiked to 133. This was the last straw, the moment when I decided to stop dieting for good. And it certainly was one of the best decisions I made in my life. Within six or eight months I had ended a war with food and self-image that had raged since my teens. A few years later, I began to write about what I had learned and eventually published the first edition of the book.  

Here’s a little more of the personal back story, a reminiscence I share, in part to acknowledge this anniversary, and in part because I think it still rings true today.  

In those days, I was a dancer uncertain where to put her feet. My training was in  modern dance, a field that could hardly be called a profession. The brilliant and transcendent modern dancers of that time were admired for their asceticism, even if  they “made it.” Most starved until they married well, or capitulated and went to teach in the suburbs. Some of my friends defected to show business, a career move that involved technical re-tooling, months of rigorous ballet and jazz training to prepare for auditions. With a lot of hard work and luck there might be income-producing work as a chorus gypsy on Broadway. I could not decide whether choosing this path would brand me as an artistic sellout, or qualify me at last for the world of adults.  

This was by no means my only area of confusion in those days. The city I was so determined to make my home terrified me. Streets were a menace; solitude was suffocating. I spent days so paralyzed with depression I was barely able to leave  my apartment to get to class. I clung to an amusingly mismatched relationship with someone I have since described as my baby-sitter. 

My college classmates moved on to marriages and children and careers while I tried to make sense of a cold and incomprehensible society of others who seemed to know what they were doing but had no desire to do it with me. Remembering the utter loneliness and fear I felt in my first few years in New York is like revisiting a hometown that was wasted by natural disaster, or the sickening flashbacks of a wounded veteran years after the war. It’s easy now to understand why I tried to medicate this state with food.  

There were brief periods of relief, usually associated with some dance performance or commercial work I often got through my boyfriend’s connections in film and TV. I  always expected to fail at these things, was chilled with anxiety until they were over, and then disbelieving of my solid if un-extraordinary success.  

A few years ago I visited the Museum of TV and radio with my sister-in-law who’d also done some acting work. We thought it would be fun to dig up old kinescopes from our early days trying to make it in the theatre. We found one in which I’d been a “dancing  extra” in a live (meaning real-time) production for TV of Silas Marner, starring Julie Harris. She was fantastic! At the climax of the drama, a cleverly shot snow scene,  Harris flopped down with her co-star, Sterling Hayden, on a wooden sled and crashed  to her death, her little high-booted feet in the air, a thin scream of exhilaration turning to  sudden recognition of her fate. The vintage kinescope that we replayed in the museum barely does justice to the wonder of watching Harris rehearse this and other intimate scenes with a quiet intensity that commanded the attention of everyone on the set.  

I had been hired for a party scene in the show to square dance and socialize around a table of punch and cookies. There were only a few background shots of me in black and white, so very young and dressed to look even younger. But, even on the little screen in the museum I saw an actor focused, relaxed and alive every second on camera.  I suddenly recalled the quick choices I’d made for the scene: to examine the spread on the table completely before filling my plate, to allow my sweaty and over-attentive partner to cause me to recoil before throwing myself into the dance. I saw exactly the sort of incidental player I love watching today. Back then, I didn't know that I knew what  to do.  

Discovering that – learning to trust myself and respect my process – that’s what discovering and writing about The Anti-Diet was all about. It still is. Happy 2013!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Ant-Diet: First Reviews

Someone close to me who does not “do” Facebook emailed me the following comment:
“The Anti-Diet requires that people take responsibility for themselves. Other
diet ‘experts’ require people to make them the authority, pay them lots of money and
follow their program of torture which is unsustainable.”

Someone else who is close to me – and who does “do” Facebook – posted about the
Anti-Diet: “For all of us control freaks who can’t control what we put in our mouths, this
is a most empowering book.”

I feel like I am getting through. The message is all about trusting yourself and owning
whatever lies within your power to change.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Anti-Diet: I'm Launched

For a second informal book signing at my local gym, expectations are low. It’s 9:00AM when classes of ladies are jumping and spinning in the big, glassed-in studio at the back of the place. My morning coffee has barely kicked in. This time, I set up right on the floor where the desk makes a big U-turn and a computer is available for patrons wishing to check email. I’ve signed on to to create another visual presence and a reason to strike up conversation. After ten minutes of standing before my display, feeling utterly invisible, I decide that for me this marketing approach ranks right up there with having root canal work done.

I try to look beautiful, happy, animated (and thin, of course) but nothing happens. It’s nearly 10:15 and I’m feeling less squirmy. Just resigned. A young woman walks up, fresh from her workout. She fingers a copy of my book.

“It’s different,” I say, “not like any other diet book you’ve ever seen.”

Her pretty and clearly very intelligent face turns to mine.

“Why?” Her directness engages me.

“No rules, no quick fixes, just tuning in to the very excellent equipment we all have to tell us what we want and need.”

We have a grown-up conversation that lasts about ten minutes and I’d love to get to know her better. She likes me on Facebook on the spot. She buys the book, the very first copy sold from my own hands to a complete stranger. As I sign it, I know I’m really launched.

Thanks, Jessie!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Anti-Diet: Love For Sale

I’m dressed for a workout, but this time I’ve splashed on a little make-up and done my hair. My usual tunnel vision at the gym is replaced with a panoramic view of The Rock patrons pedaling, treading, lifting, and grabbing tootsie-rolled towels when they check in or dropping their limp remains in a hamper on the way to the shower. I sit at a round table near the desk where my husband has fanned a dozen or so copies of my book before a plastic display frame with my picture in it and a bunch of cards in the pocket. The book cover looks really beautiful. I open one and admire the design, then close it so I can attend to business. What business?

“It feels like doing a trade show,” my husband muses, recalling a familiar blend of adrenalin and lethargy.

There is absolutely no action at my first book signing event. I muse that one of the most powerful spiritual postures for any new undertaking is to assume “nothing may happen.” I know this is supposed to feel weird, and it really does. I’m a 76-year-old woman in black Under Amour trying to drum up interest in passersby: a curious 3-year-old on her way to the supervised playroom, a new mom on her first day trying to get back in shape, a 70-year-old Bangladeshi marathon runner with a torn cartilage in his knee, and – the most promising – a guy in a do-rag who exclaims: “Wow! I know you work out here – it must work!” I give a card to the Latina who tidies the ladies dressing room and always greets me warmly, and tell her “I’d love to translate it into Spanish.”

Finally, three young hunks gather near the door and one balls up his towel, tosses it at the hamper, misses, and looks embarrassed when it rolls to my feet. He dives, apologizing.

“No problem,” I soothe, “but it’s a heck of a way to make a pass at a girl.” The three guys crack up.

Ah, well. As Cole Porter would write it: “Love . . . for sale.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Original Anti-Diet: At Last, Folks - It's HERE!

Wednesday the 14th of November was a double birthday.  "The Anti-Diet" book was officially launched, and it’s the day I turned 76 years young – yikes! There’s so much to celebrate. The book looks beautiful, the website spectacular, and I keep visiting my Facebook page to see who’s there. The possibilities of connecting with readers through social media are thrilling and, I must confess, a little scary. Who could have anticipated all this when my book came out in 1971?

I put 13 candles on a cake, the sum of 7 and 6, because that’s about how old I feel right now. Kind of giddy, adolescent, taking a deep breath to blow them out and wishing . . . Please “like” me here!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Anti-Diet: SLEEP...An Anti-Guru Rant

Nobody has to tell me that insomnia is a miserable affliction.  I adore sleep, and I know it’s good for me.  But I really hate feeling guilty – as well as dog-tired – if I don’t get the amount of it I’ve been told a woman of my age needs.  Tossing and turning all night is bad enough without feeling like there’s something wrong with me if all the clever cures the sleep gurus offer (no computer, no TV, bedroom blackout, meditation) are ineffective. 

But the experts keep nagging about the importance of a solid 8 hours.  They say that bad sleeping habits in our workaholic and digitally driven lives set us up for serious illnesses from cancer and heart disease to diabetes and even (gasp!) overweight.  Their warnings to get our act together sleep-wise are backed up with hard science.  The Washington Post cited a study suggesting that rampant obesity in the U.S. is linked to people sleeping less, due perhaps to disruption of the hormones that regulate appetite. “The analysis of a nationally representative sample of nearly 10,000 adults found that those between the ages of 32 and 49 who sleep less than seven hours a night are significantly more likely to be obese,” Rob Stein reported (10/09/05). 

How ominous! Carbs, calories and fats threaten, and now we have to worry about sleep too?  The research raises my hackles.  Surely, other factors contributed to this particular age group’s overweight, like lack of exercise. Last I heard, sleep won’t fix that.  Maybe the pre-middle-agers in the study lay awake at night because they were overweight and miserable about it.   

In another finding – here’s a quote from the same article – "’Melatonin can prevent tumor cells from growing – it's cancer-protective,’ said Eva S. Schernhammer of Harvard Medical School, who has conducted a series of studies on volunteers in sleep laboratories. ‘The theory is, if you are exposed to light at night, on average you will produce less melatonin, increasing your cancer risk.’"

Now, this logic is really a stretch.  To paraphrase:  there is some possibility that, all other issues notwithstanding, melatonin (which we do not entirely understand yet) limits to some unknown degree the development of cancer cells of one variety or another.  Thus, a preventative benefit from melatonin production in indeterminate amounts could possibly be implied.  And therefore, the inhibition of this production, to some un-established degree, could be seen as having a possibly negative effect. 

Oh, just turn out the lights at night and save electricity!

What is “enough” sleep, anyway?   Who says 8 consecutive hours of slumber is best for everybody?  Beyond being basically diurnal creatures, there must be broad latitude for individuality with sleep, as with everything else.  A recent piece in the New York Times Sunday Review section (09/23/12) offers a refreshing perspective:  “Rather than helping us get more rest, the tyranny of the eight-hour block reinforces a narrow conception of sleep and how we should approach it.”  In Rethinking Sleep, David K. Randall contends that our idea of a good night’s sleep is a relatively modern affectation.  In olden days, people habitually dozed off for a few hours after sunset and awoke after what was called a “first sleep” to putter, ponder or read by lamplight.  

Aha!  Reason rules.  Here’s validation for my often very productive wee hours and freedom from “sleep anxiety” and what Randall terms “needlessly rigid and possibly outmoded ideas of what constitutes a good night’s sleep.”  There are lots of ways to get your zzzzzzzs and perform at your mental best.   
Sleep is just one more basic human activity to reclaim from experts who love to measure, standardize and pontificate. Why are we always looking for people to tell us “the right way” to sleep, to eat, to exercise, to raise a child or find a lover, to save our money or organize our closets?  Why are we such suckers for expert opinions, scientific credentials, and folks who have figured it all out, only to become irritable or outright rebellious when the answers they offer just don’t fit?  Life is messy and complex.  Gurus and experts can’t tidy it up for us.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Q&A with The Ant-Diet Author Lynn Donovan McCann

Why did you rewrite The Anti-Diet?

This question posed by friends and strangers can be “bookended” by two articles from the New York Times. The first one appeared Sunday, April 12, 1992, authored by Molly O’Neill, and was titled: “A Growing Movement Fights Diets Instead of Fat.” The story hailed a new “anti-diet” movement and featured Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol S. Munter as founders of a group called “Overcoming Overeating.” O’Neill focused on the failure of dieting, the dangers of “yo-yo” dieting (including its very own addiction), and our cultural bias against weight. She referred throughout to a new, “anti-diet movement.” I devoured the piece hoping to find my name mentioned in it somewhere – but no such luck. The news pages (now yellowed) got filed away, but I knew I had to do something.

“Food for Thought,” by Jeff Gordinier appeared on February 8, 2012. I seized gleefully on his subtitle: Could relishing food more be a way to eat less? Damn straight, I thought, and read on. Gordinier related the new, mindful eating approach to roots in Buddhism and quoted Dr. Jan Chozen Buys: “This is anti-diet.” His article made me feel like my moment had finally arrived, but still no mention. So I emailed him, introduced myself and attached the manuscript of the new edition I had already begun working on. He was very gracious and encouraging.

Eternal thanks for that! A mere seven months later, the all-new Anti-Diet is on sale and I’ve joined an important conversation that began as a monologue 40 years ago.

Please click HERE to learn more about "The Anti-Diet" by Lynn Donovan McCann

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You Really Got a Hold On Me. I Don’t Want You, But I Need You…

Can this be? Is my passion for dark chocolate cooling? What’s that half-eaten bar of 80% cacao doing on the shelf? Do I really think a date – I mean the fruit – would do as well? I’d prefer a baked apple? What’s happening to me? This feels like a major life change. There’s a ripple of something like grief! “Oh, Lynn,” I scold myself, “you’re so dramatic. Cut it out!” But, no. There’s a little lesson here worth teasing out. The lecture to myself continues. “You assume that you’re forever bonded to dark chocolate and that no day is complete without it. You’re so convinced of this that it’s become automatic to reach for the after dinner treat. You probably don’t even taste it anymore. As in the case of all great loves, my dear, your relationship with chocolate is changing. And as in the case of all lifelong relationships, you may need a little distance, a rest to permit re-flowering.” It does not take very long.

To learn more about The Ant-Diet by Lynn Donovan McCann, please click HERE

Monday, November 5, 2012

Original Anti-Diet: How Do I Cook Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.

One of my favorite food writers, Mark Bittman, regularly offers 16 (or more) ways to fix one great ingredient in its season, like pears, or corn. I rip out the recipe page and tape it to my kitchen cabinet until I've tried at least 3 of his ways and discovered 2 of my own. Bittman’s improvisational approach to cooking allures me, invites me to imagine and savor in my mind. I‘m not a careful measurer, and frequently add or substitute this or that even when trying a recipe for the first time. This keeps me attentive to the dish as I prepare it. 

I don’t want to cook on autopilot. I bypass the overly cerebral and scientific cooking shows. Perfection chills me. Give me Mike Colameco at his most visceral. Give me Lidia Bastianich on a messy day. Preparing food should be a pleasurable, playful activity that centers you in the moment, just as eating should be.

The Original Anti-Diet

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Original Anti-Diet: Toggling Between Pollan and McCann


The all-new Anti-Diet (ebook format) is now cuddled on my Kindle close to one of my food heroes, Michael Pollan.  I can toggle between Food Rules and my book to places where the man who coined “edible foodlike substances” (Pollan, loc 180) and I are on precisely the same page.  He’s referring to camera-ready products with a binge baked into them, the so-called foods that make your body long for the real thing and keep on eating even if you’re full.  I say that besides perpetuating cravings, they desensitize and render you numb to your needs (McCann, loc 216).

Pollan declares that he is “not antiscience.” He has “made good use of science,” and only wishes remind us how successfully humans have managed to nourish themselves “for millennia before nutritional science came along to tell us how to do it” (Pollan, loc 164).    

I love Pollan for that!  Pop over to my Introduction, where I encourage readers to trust the “fantastic equipment” we are born with, a “complex biological, neurological and psychological system” that has kept most of us healthy “since we rose up on two feet” (McCann, loc 37).  And while I call my book, The Anti-Diet, I confess to an ingrained awareness of caloric intake.  I too read food labels for content and seek the most bang for my nutritional buck. 

Yes!  I prefer to “eat foods that will eventually rot” (Pollan, loc 313).

Yes!  I “avoid food products with the wordoid ‘lite’ or the terms ‘low-fat’ or ‘non-fat’ in their names” (Pollan, loc 202).  Indeed, I stand in the aisle and laugh out loud at the fat free labels on strawberry jam that has never harbored so much as a nano-gram of any oil or butter in all its days. 

Pollan’s Food Rules is a pleasure to read and his simple admonition to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” (Pollan, loc 155) is a model to live by – exactly what I hope my book will grow up to be. 

My “rules” take a few more words, but are just as flexible: “Eat everything you want. Eat nothing you don’t want. Eat only when you are hungry. Eat only what you really want. Stop when you are full” (McCann, loc 952).
OMG, this is fun!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Original Anti-Diet: Are you secretive about eating? Do you always clean your plate or never skip meals? What do you forbid yourself?

Try not to judge; just observe.

“I watched other women pick at their dainty portion while I loaded up my fork, and wondered why the standard four ounces never satisfied me.  Standard schmandard!  Stomachs, like other parts of our anatomy, come in different sizes.  I still tend to eat big meals but no longer eat to excess.  Please don’t urge me to eat when I don’t feel like it!  I don’t care if it’s “time” or if it’s “good for me.”  My afternoon snack may become dinner.  I may graze in one major food group for a whole day.  Some people might think my current eating habits are a bit strange.  So what!” 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Your Desires Are the True Representatives Of Your Needs

Your appetite is there to tell you when and what to eat.    

When you ignore it, deny it, mess with it, you have no choice but to eat compulsively. This contributes to the dulling of your inner signals, the most important tools you’ve got!  Desensitized and feeling guilty, you cannot really taste and relish anything you eat, on or off the diet, but continue to seek satisfaction – eating more and enjoying it less.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Anti-Diet: Let Go, Eat Everything You Want and Look Great

Imagine how good it would feel to let go, eat everything you want, and look great – to have your cake and eat it, too.      

If the idea of abandoning restraint fills you with horror, it suggests that you do not trust yourself in regard to this fundamental human need.  So, you accept restrictions in many forms, almost anybody else’s idea of what’s good for you.   Minimum daily requirements, high protein, high energy, high fiber, low carb, low fat, low calorie, and a balanced diet (which no one can agree on) – you feel you must stick to standards and guidelines set by others without stopping to consider first of all:  do I want it now?  Will it taste good to me?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Original Anti-Diet: Sneak Peek at a Book Excerpt!

Way – way  – back in the late 1960s, I wrote a book called The Anti-Diet: the new “pleasure power” way  to lose weight. The good friend who provided a sounding board for my project called it a manual for living disguised as an innocent little diet book. When The Anti-Diet was published in 1971, it didn’t change the world, but I began to get thank-you letters from  all over the U.S., England and Canada. People said my idea worked for them where other weight loss solutions had failed. 

The Anti-Diet proposed that the wonderful apparatus we all have to nourish ourselves and maintain appropriate weight might work better than any diet. It said:
* A fundamental reason why we overeat is lack of awareness about when we are hungry, when we are satisfied, what we really want to eat, when, and how much. 

* Rules, restrictions and other interventions put us further out of touch with our needs and desires. They tend to make the problem worse. 

* You can lose weight and keep it off through self-awareness rather than self-control. Pleasure is your greatest ally in this process.

The Anti-Diet also introduced an unconventional how-to format for its time: no rules, no measurements, no menus or recipes. No impressive degrees or credentials appeared on the cover. The author, then in her late twenties, offered only the personal experience of a chronic overeater and dieter who learned, literally, to trust her gut.

I am now a slender, vibrant septuagenarian – did I really say that? This fully revised edition of my book draws on nearly half a century of following and developing its principles. It retains much of the original text with its youthful perspective, but speaks to a far wider audience than originally envisioned. I promised no miracles then and promise none now; however, I’m living proof that The Anti-Diet works. I’m not the most willing, consistent, determined, or sane person in the world.  But, I have what it takes. We all do.  We are born with fantastic equipment to deal with the elemental need for food. This complex biological, neurological and psychological system is sturdy, adaptable, and has withstood the test of survival since we rose up on two feet. The hardware is built in and the software innate. I discovered, with a little experimentation and thinking outside the box, that the whole thing runs elegantly, given half a chance.  

Click HERE for more information about The Anti-Diet by Lynn Donovan McCann

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When You Feel Guilty, You Don't Process The Food

I print out the Anti-Diet for final proofreading. As I’m swiping my credit card at Staples,
a pretty woman eyes the manuscript on the counter. She couldn't be a day over 25. I
wonder what she’s thinking.

“How interesting . . .” she points to the title.

Here’s an opening I’d be crazy to ignore. I’m supposed to be networking!

“Have a look.”

My tone is casual and I linger at the register. By the time the receipt has been tucked
away, she’s on page 5.

“This is true!” Her voice expresses personal conviction. “When you feel guilty, you don’t
process the food.”

It took me years to figure that out and she already knows it. I feel a surge of hope that
young people today are really going to get what I have to say.

I add a name to my mailing list, and expect to see her. at a book signing event in my

Friday, August 10, 2012

Anti-Diet Author Lynn Donovan McCann

Born before the boomer generation, Lynn Donovan survived mid-1950s adolescence, graduated from Bennington College with a major in Dance, and settled in New York City, for good.  Her early career included work for stage, TV and film.  In the late 1960s, she took a day job, and her star rose as a copywriter at the ad agency that helped launch Ms. Magazine.  Shortly after publication of the original Anti-Diet (1971), Lynn earned an M.S.W. degree and for several years maintained a private practice as a counselor/editor for writers whose projects were stalled en route to deadline.  She won several editorial awards for her contributions to a medical publication.  To support an abiding passion for theatre, she trained as a COBOL programmer and consulted for 25 years in the banking and brokerage industry. This enabled Lynn to devote considerable time and energy to an off-off-Broadway theatre repertory company.  Recently, she’s appeared in Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Ensler.  An accomplished singer, Lynn continues to perform at a weekly workshop among her peers.  In addition to this fully revised edition of The Anti-Diet, other books-in-progress reflect this author’s diverse creative, professional, and personal journey.  Married at age 56, still a freelance editor, and currently teaching writing at a small, urban college, Lynn McCann considers herself a late bloomer. There will be no unused portion to return to the manufacturer.