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