Month: October 2009

Zermati’s raisin

RaisinFriday was my Zermati day. Fourth appointment and not the least interesting.

We first discussed this experiment around the three hungers, small, medium and big. I shared my observations and conclusion:  before it’s time it’s too early but when the moment is passed, it’s passed. Answer from the doc: “we suspected that the medium hunger was the best, the important part is to now have the proof”

Afterwards we talked about the breathing question, and then, I admitted that if my body and I we start to be on the same wavelength with hunger, especially the right one, the one that makes you eat with pleasure but without stuffing yourself, on the other hand the “mindfulness” moments as he calls them, meh.

Basically, I couldn’t find the time. Unless I was lacking willpower. In fact, anyway, I must have done the exercise maximum twice without really feeling any benefit.

“It’s fine”, doctor Z reassured me, “You must know that mindfulness is the most difficult. It will take time for you to get there”

This is what I appreciate the most with this doctor. There are no reproach, no goals to reach, no weight control at each appointment. I was so used to remonstrance or reward sessions (in my opinion it’s the same actually) with previous nutritionists that I can’t get over the fact that I’m not in a perpetual exam taking mode anymore. It’s not about progression or successfully overcoming each stage otherwise you put on weight again immediately. And it’s, in my opinion, the central point of this therapy.  No figure to reach, no slimness promises, no speech on willpower or control, not forbidden food, no more or less 60 grams of bread per day. No red or yellow points, no nutrition lessons nor theories on proteins which make you lose fat but gain muscle.

Back to our subject.

So, for the breathing, I’ll have to persevere. Actually, we’ll put it aside to focus on a similar exercise which is savoring. To explain it to me the doctor asked me to close my eyes and relax. Then he put in my hand a small foodstuff of which I could appreciate the touch, then the sound it made when I rolled it in my hand, then the smell. Afterwards I could bring what proved to be a raisin to my mouth, roll it around my tongue and finally cut it with my teeth, extract its pulp to end up chewing and swallowing it.

All this without opening my eyes and trying to concentrate only on my olfactory, auditive and gustatory sensations.

“So, what happened?” asked doctor Z once the tiny raisin was eaten.

What happened? I wouldn’t really be able to explain it, an explosion of taste in my month which I couldn’t have felt if I hadn’t been so focused on it. The impression of having eaten more than only one raisin. The pleasure of pulp acidity on my taste buds.

That’s it, for the next two weeks the watchword is try to start each meal with three minutes of minduflness. It can be also during coffee, pay attention to the cup’s temperature, the drink’s exhalation, the warmth of the first sip. Let me tell you it’s not that easy. But for sure it saves you from rushing to food and triggers a process of salivation and savoring.

Otherwise, except this, I mentioned my difficulty to identify satiety, my tendency to stop ‘because I must’ rather than because I’m not hungry anymore. He confirmed that ‘because I must’ is no good because of control which is not perennial. But for now it’s fine too, we are not there yet, we haven’t started the work on emotions, everything in its own time. I’ve also asked if skipping diner after a big business lunch was a good or a bad thing. He answered that eating must be seeing like charging your phone. “Does charging your phone when its battery is not empty come to your mind? No. You usually wait for the indicator to blink. Your indicator is hunger. If don’t feel any symptoms, you don’t need to eat. Duly noted.”

That’s all for now.

Goldilocks and the three hungers

Boucle d'or My appointment with doctor Z. is in three days. And of course, it’s slightly chaotic when it comes to the exercises I was supposed to do for the past two weeks.

As a matter of fact, it’s chaotic when it comes to writing down my impressions. Because otherwise, I’m Madam Jourdain[1] of Zermatage, sort of.   For the record, I was supposed to experiment a big hunger, a medium hunger and a small hunger and draw conclusions. In fact, without really doing it on purpose, I’ve been drawn to knowing the three situations over the days. One day, a big hunger as a consequence of a very small breakfast and a lunch taken at 16h, thanks to news emergency which couldn’t wait. Another day, a medium hunger (lunch taken at 14h) and finally, a small hunger (a snack taken two hours after a light lunch).

No one will be surprised, in terms of price/quality ratio, the medium hunger was the most satisfying. What I mean is annoyances of a medium hunger are bearable (gurgling belly, light weakness) and the meal pleasure is real. Satiety comes relatively quickly and hunger signals disappear while you’re at it.

The big hunger is more complicated to manage. First of all, personally, after a while I get dizzy, sick and it’s hard for me to concentrate. Spread the word, I would have coped only half a day in the maquis and I have no future as hunger striker. Most of all, when I start my meal, I don’t really know what I want anymore, I eat from necessity more than pleasure and struggle to feel full. As for the impression of weakness, it lasts long after the meal, as if my body couldn’t restart the engine.

The small hunger, I admit I struggled to identify it, so I did as the doctor advised, namely I’ve eaten my lunch, normally, and I had a dessert two hours later. Yeah, so so, not very convincing let’s say I didn’t really appreciate the lemon tart in question since I’m now so used, for the past month, to allowing myself this kind of pleasure only on an empty stomach and when complaining of hunger.

I don’t know if these teachings are in the right direction, but I guess they are since, in my opinion, with food as with anything else, sobriety is good. Basically, waiting for hunger, yes, starving, no.

However the new age breathing exercises before the meals are a total failure, I never find the time. Helmut eats right before us, then we have to prevent her from having diner again with the rest of the family, after asking the twins twelve time to set the table, I’m finally stuck doing it myself and all this between  19h45 – time when I arrive – and 20h17 or so.

In short, relaxation, I couldn’t find a way to squeeze it in. Furthermore, just try to close your eyes to follow your breathing when you’re the happy owner of a fourteen months child very keen on taking advantage of the smallest inattention moment to a) dash to the stairs which she can climb up but not down, b) rework the living room electricity circuit, c) set the table on behalf of her older siblings, d) eat the hand sanitizer which is supposed to protect us from flue, e) reboot our Internet router.

Here you go, since I’ve started this therapy, I’ve lost a bit more than four kilos while eating a croissant in the morning and dessert at lunch. Better, during a party on Saturday evening, I didn’t get any urge towards roasted almonds and managed to eat only two gougeres – when my friend’s Audrey’s gougeres rock big time. Even better – yes it’s possible – I left without tasting the dessert nor giving a hard time to pistachios.

OK, when it comes to champagne I slightly drifted.

Sometimes, on Wednesday afternoons I have cravings. Sometimes, on Saturdays too. I feel that the battle is not won, serenity is only half settled in my plate. But let’s say I feel I’m on the right track. For now.

Edit: nothing to do with the subject but NEP – alias Nulle en Pseudos –‘s baby was born on Thursday. It’s weird because we don’t know each other in real life but I’m sincerely, truly sincerely happy for you, dear dear NEP. The best part? For the next season of Pop Star, you’ll be able to drink beers with us  Welcome on board, little Dou…


[1] TN: Character in the play ‘Le bourgeois gentilhomme’ by Moliere

Zermati and me, third episode


Friday was my third visit to Dr. Z.

Zermati for close friends.

For a start, I arrived without my notebook in which I was supposed to write down my impressions after my four days of half fasting.

You can say I accidently did it on purpose, except that, pardon me, but I had done my home work.

Luckily, this good doctor Z., not only doesn’t weight you every two weeks but also is not the kind who moans at you if you’ve forgotten his notebook. New gold star.

Anyway, I thus voiced my observations. They were the following

On the first day, I heroically held for two hours without my daily breakfast. Not without being very very scared to die. Then I had two croissants, aware that the second one was too much. However, I then waiting until 16h, until I was hungry again, to eat a tiny little gougère and a Madeleine. In the evening, a soup and straight to bed, around 22h.

Ok, I’m being told in my earpiece that I’ve lost about a hundred readers, my food diary being interesting only for me.

In short, without going into details, on the following days I postponed a bit more the time of my first meal and I settled for smaller snacks. I had confirmation that indeed when you are hungry, you don’t put on weight, as I didn’t deny myself what I wanted. I’ve also understood that you might as well not start your food day with a glass of wine, even less with people you barely know, it sucks.

I’ve also noticed that you stuff yourself less when you eat with the munchies, I couldn’t explain it, maybe simply because you physically feel satiety effects, because you were aware of being hungry.

Another teaching: I can live with half the calories intake I usually have.

Most of all, and it seems doctor Z considers it’s the most important, I enjoyed eating. I mean a pleasure not spoiled by culpability.

Conclusion, when you are hungry, you don’t blame yourself for eating. Thus you don’t put on weight.

After this short assessment, I still asked the doctor Z. “Tell me”, so I said looking like I’m no fool. “It’s all fun and games but I know myself. Right now, I manage to contain myself. No urges and when I get some I control myself. What will happen in one month? Or two? When all this will not be new anymore? Because I’m champion at stopping diaries after 10 days, keeping resolutions for one month only and sorting documents until I buy an archive box. In short isn’t your method too behavior based? (Meaning, when do we talk about my mother and how all this is her fault?)*”

Then, the doctor looked at me, not really duped, suspecting I barely know what behavior based methods are and someone must have prompted me this question.

And he replied, that indeed it’s only the beginning of the trip. To understand the urges, you must first identify them. To identify them, you must know when they come. And to know when they come, you must be able to differentiate from moment when you are really hungry. And thus, working on the concept of hunger is a start. But don’t panic, we’ll work on my emotions. I will not avoid it, even so.

When the word “emotion” is spoken, bam, it stings my eyes again.

It sounds promising.

Then, we went on to a new exercise, slightly new age. We will learn how to breathe, so he told me. And there he is, putting on my ear a sort of plier connected to a wire plugged to a computer.

Believe me or no, I and my big mouth – mainly in the corridor, the big mouth – I didn’t ask what it was for, I supposed I was enabling him to read my thoughts or something.

He asked me to close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing. To make it simple, I would say it looked terribly like a relaxation exercise, the ones who have gone through child birth preparation or practiced yoga will know what I mean.  As usual during this kind of ritual, he asked me to choose an enjoyable image while concentration of my breathing.

Then, huge panic, just like every time in such a case. Impossible to stick to only one enjoyable image. A bit like when you see a shooting start and you have some many wishes to make you end up not choosing and thus, phew, the star is already dead since thirty millions years and you are still hesitating  between winning the lottery, finding the love of your life or finding a vaccine against AIDS.

In short, finding my enjoyable image kept me busy. Initially I was in a calm sea in Corsica, then on a ski lift above immaculate slopes, then in my lover’s arms. And finally, I settled for Helmut’s face when she came out of my belly.

And bam, stingy eyes.

Right when the exercise is over.

“Are you OK ?” he asked with the voice of an health professional who can see you’re not so good.

“Perfect, it’s just the light burning my eyes”. Liar.

Hard work is needed around emotions, definitely.

Right, I’m going to cut it short because I’m beating records with this article, basically, this exercise of “full awareness”, is used to see how interferences pollute your attention which is supposed to focus on one single object. In that case breathing, but it could have been a pen.

Or maybe a dish with sausages and lentils.

Basically – but it’s not yet very clear for me, I’ll ask for an explanation next time, thank you staircase wit – , I think the idea is to manage to focus on your body and its sensations. Anyway, the instruction is to grant myself with three minutes of “relaxation – breathing” before meals. Let’s see if I manage. He added I could use it during anxiety moments.

Anxiety, anxiety, do I look like anxiety?

That’s it, he then gave me more home work, namely during the next two weeks experimenting a small hunger, a medium hunger and a big hunger. Take note of the impressions, annoyances and sensations during the meal. The goal being to find the “right” hunger, the one that combines small annoyances and satisfactions when you end it.

Because, thus, the goal, Doctor Z repeated, is not to get sick. He also added that a big hunger is often not easy to satisfy. When the moment has passed, it has passed and the body makes up for it.

That’s all folks for today

Edit: At the end of the consultation, I took my courage in my hands and explained I have a blog in which I sometimes talk about him. I added that if he has a problem with it, I would remove his name. He answered he is fine with it, given the time and energy he dedicates to defend his point of view, he isn’t going to deny himself the pleasure. I gave him the address, telling him it’s up to him, as I don’t mind him reading what I write about him, after all it’s the least I can do. He had that qualm to fear it would hold back my spontaneity. I pleaded that I’m talking here about things I would have never considered making the world wide web aware of. Even less my mother. In short, do as you please doctor.

Edit2: I’ve created a “Zermati and me” section so that you can find the articles easily, I don’t know if you were missing it, but in doubt…

Edit3: The enjoyable image I’ve put here is a picture taken clumsily by my kids on the day of our wedding, just before the party started. I like the end of day heat mist and its serenity. I like seeing my parents’ garden decorated for the occasion as best as we could. I like the memory of those perfect flowers, pampered by my mother for weeks so that they bloom exactly on the D day. Here is my enjoyable image, next I will not hesitate.

* Mum, I know it’s not all your fault, it just that a therapy during which you don’t criticize your mother is not really a therapy isn’t it?