Another disjointed article I’m afraid, not much time lately for long speeches, I think it will be better once I’m done with that big case I’m working on and which is an hassle, I’ve done about thirty interviews I need to now “log”, in other words decipher (literally, over the years my hand writing is closer and closer to hieroglyph). Then comes the worst part, writing, with my comings and goings from the couch to the balcony, without a fag on top of that, until I miraculously find this fucking first sentence, without which nothing is possible. My mind is thus a bit foggy, but here is some information I didn’t want you to miss.
1 – I think that with paleo diets we’ve finally hit (painted) rock bottom. I’m talking about this trend consisting in roughly eating only what our Australopithecus ancestors could find as hunter-gatherers. Raw if possible, of course (actually except for chicken curiously). I mean alright, it’s good, the whole locavore thing, it’s fine to come back to the essentials, etc. Personally I use as little ready made products as possible, I eat only seasonal vegetables and fruits – at the risk of not being able to stand cabbages anymore in April and fantasizing, yes FANTASIZING, about a tomato – and I try not to have to many exotic foods which use liters of kerosene before reaching my plate. But now raving about Paleolithic and excluding everything you couldn’t harvest at the time of the quest for fire, honestly, count me out. Especially that, in the end, it’s just another diet, with forbidden and authorized food, very strict instructions that are difficult to bear on the long run and thus generating an unavoidable yoyo effect.
Generally speaking, I find it very cute, this rallying for a world with less hyper-consumption. But I can’t help finding this fantasy about caves worrying, this delusion of a before that was so much better. May I remind that despite progress’ harmful effects, life expectancy is longer every year. I know we need to find solutions in order to save the planet from our foolishness and I’m prepared to some sacrifices. But I can’t believe our salvation lies only in such a regress, can I?
2 –Since we’re talking about food, I’m regularly asked where my plates come from, I admit I’m extremely proud of them, they are more or less the only thing I’d save in case of fire, indeed the rest is merely a gathering of student furniture and totally worn carpets. A reason behind this no decorating sense? Probably first of all the fact that we are not really interested, but also our will to move one day to something bigger and mostly something we own. So, we are not moving a muscle in the meantime. But given the property market in Paris, there are good chances that ten years from now we’ll still be living with our pieces of junk, sincerely convinced that when we’ll find something… in short, the change for us is not now, except for plates, thanks to my mother who thus orders them for me from this site, my Ali Baba’s cave, “Le panier d’Eglantine”. My two favorite brands are: PiP Studio and GreenGate.
3 – It’s currently ‘crazy’ days onMonshowroom until the 9th of May with up to 50% discount. If, by chance, you’d feel like putting an outfit on before going hunting, I have selected the following
Edit: A huge thank you for your votes from yesterday for “Ascendanse“, they sky rocketed in the rankings thanks to you, feel free to go if you haven’t already, or to buy tickets for the shows, in particular for Claire Moineau’s, my daughter’s teacher who’s an incredible dancer.
It’s been a while since I last mentioned Zermati, mindfulness and all the things that have helped me stop considering food as my best enemy. I’ve stopped the therapy three years ago now. I’ve been stable for three years, fluctuating sometimes by two or three kilos, without it being a source of absolute anxiety, without old obsessions relapse, promising myself I would fast for three days, banishing chocolate for life or daily lashing on the mode “I’m just a cow with no willpower”. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not happy when my trousers get too tight and I’m still terrified by idea of putting on again one day that weight I’ve lost. But this thought is rather far, it doesn’t obsess me like before and doesn’t prevent me from going to the restaurant, enjoying a homemade cake or a finger diner. In short, I’m not sure I’m “cured”, but let’s say remission has lasted long enough for me to be relatively serene.
Now that this little preamble is finished, I thought it could be interesting to share with you Gérard Apfeldorfer’s point of view. He is a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist, and Jean-Philippe Zermati’s associate. At the occasion of the GROS’ congress this week, he gave me an interview in which he reminds us the basic principles of the method he and Zermati have established. Be aware that, next Saturday, there will be a session open to the public. The theme will be “Mangez en faim” and you can attend for free, register here. Knowing that it takes place in Cordeliers faculty of medicine, a place dear to my heart since it’s where my brother presented his thesis. A wonderful place with lots of history, if I weren’t myself on a business trip this week I would have gone for sure. I never have enough of listening to GROS’ speeches, as they turned my life upside down…
Gérard Apfeldorfer: The research group on obesity and overweight is an organization registered as a non-profit association in accordance with the French law passed in 1901 created fourteen year ago. The initial objective was essentially to gather health professionals who were dealing with obesity issues. We had in common being fed up with diets, which we considered as toxic and ineffective. The idea was to explain that weight issues don’t come only under dietetics. Originally, we were rather marginal. Little by little, numerous scientific studies that were showing mid and long term ineffectiveness of diets and their nuisances, namely ascending yoyo effect, eating disorders, self-esteem loss and depression, have ended up convincing the medical world, or least recognized specialist. So now the troop agrees with us! The association evolved in parallel developing alternative method to provide care for obesity and associated eating disorders. Now, we have something to offer.
Kindly sum up the method advocated by GROS. Do you have a way to prove its effectiveness?
Gérard Apfeldorfer: I think it must be made very clear that today there is no method that guarantee lasting weight loss. Research of all kind, genetic, neuro-hormonal, on intestinal microbiota, for example, are in progress but we can’t expect anything immediately. There is no miracle pill! The medical corps is globally resourceless, when the weight loss demand has never been so high. In this context, we have worked on an approach that allows us to help people differently, keeping in mind that we can’t promise results in every instance and that “success” of the therapy requires patients’ involvement, acceptance of spread over time work.
Our method is based on three lines.
The first one is about eating behavior and hunger and satiety sensations identification. These sensations are often totally disturbed by repeated diets and the cognitive restriction they’ve led to. In other words, by always controlling themselves, overweight people have absolutely no idea if they are hungry, what they feel like and when they must stop eating. Forcing yourself to follow dietary rules is contrary to the organism’ physiologic functioning. Several exercises enable our patients to start listening to their eating sensations, to stop demonizing food, including the most calorific, to discover their body’s wisdom as soon as they listen to it instead of brutalizing it. Often, they confess feeling liberated.
Second line, emotions. Eating doesn’t fulfill only physiological needs, but helps, also, with calming emotions, whether it is anxiety, boredom, anger, etc. This is part of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. We use tools like cognitive therapy and mindfulness, which are very effective and powerful. The idea is not to fight emotions, they are part of us, but learn to accept them without them triggering desires to eat.
Finally, the third line is body. Overweight people often have a very negative perception of their body. It is the target enemy, the one that doesn’t want to obey or function as it should. It results in an internal fight between yourself and your body. Often it ends in an unconscious will to not feel this body, leaving it as still as possible. When you don’t move you don’t “feel” your body. To help with reconciliation, we use, here too, mindfulness techniques like “body scan”, that consist in visualizing each part of your body, to experience this body from within and really inhabit it. Then we encourage patients to start moving again, not with a weight loss purpose (sport doesn’t make you lose weight, at best it helps stabilizing your weight) but in order to be “gentle” with their body. I’m used to comparing this with a pet dog, which, if it always stays in a flat, becomes sad. If you take it to the park, plays with it in the open air, it is happy. The body needs this too. It can imply a bit of efforts, especially in the beginning, but without pointless suffering. The principle being that positive sensations prevail over everything else. It can also be achieved through massages, yoga, tai-chi, very soft exercises.
Is this method the one you use on Linecoaching, which you’ve created with Doctor Jean-Philippe Zermati? Do you have enough perspective to evaluate the results of this online method?
Gérard Apfeldorfer: Yes, on Linecoaching we use the same principles as in our doctor’s rooms. We have started a study together with two hospitals to try to analyse the results, but it’s still too early to draw conclusions. What we notice on Linecoaching is that people who take part in forums are more involved and show a real increase in well-being. Whether for face to face therapy or on Linecoaching, once again, this method requires patient’s involvement, it is not a recipe where the latter is made irresponsible.
Can we really expect personalized care from an online therapy?
Gérard Apfeldorfer: Yes! Studies show that online therapies are equal to similar therapies directly with a professional. Members of Linecoaching receive support from coaches, by email or on the phone. Jean-Philippe Zermati and I often organize chats to answer questions. Being able to participate in many online discussions on forums helps a lot as well. On these forums, people who went through the program already can support and advise newbies. The objective is to promote exchanges and dialogue to fight against the isolation overweight people can feel.
GROS’ yearly conference’s theme is ‘fears’ this year. What are these fears, how do they have an effect on weight and eating behavior?
Gérard Apfeldorfer: We indeed wanted to discuss the different fears that interact with our eating behaviors. They are more and more intense and numerous. There’s the fear to put on weight, of course, which results in general in weight gain, because it triggers restriction mechanisms that themselves result in compulsions. There is the fear to lack, very real for overweight people who anticipate and eat while they are not hungry. There’s finally the fear to eat incorrectly which leads to orthorexia (being obsessed by eating healthy), more present with people consulting nutritionists than in the rest of the population, but it is a widespread trend. We are afraid of poisoning ourselves, afraid of the effect our food choices will have in twenty or thirty years on our organism. Eating is not a restorative act anymore but a source of anxiety.
Is this fear justified, according to you?
Gérard Apfeldorfer : One thing is certain, it is less dangerous to eat now than one century ago, when intoxication risk was high because of toxic additives, dangerous cooking method, bad food conservation or bacteria that are almost inexistent today. I think that behind all current precautions, there’s this belief of being able to fight aging, even death, by only eating ultra healthy food. It’s a slightly useless youth quest, especially when it turns into obsession, and it wastes our present to protect us from the future.
Edit: I might not be very available this week, I’ll be in Lyon from tomorrow for a conference. Generally, it has been a bit crazy lately with work, it explains the slow pace on these pages, I sincerely hope it will slow down!
 TN: the literal meaning is “Eat with hunger” but it’s also a play on word with “Manger enfin” which sounds the same when pronounced and can mean “Eat at last” or “Finally eat”.
I think, originally, it’s one of you who told me about Mademoiselle Caroline and her blog. Intrigued by the homonymy, I confess, I had a look. And I loved it, her drawings, her humor, the way she tells her life of a city-dweller now expatriate in the mountains, her family and romantic anecdotes, etc. And then one day, Mademoiselle Caroline sent me an email to suggest sending me her comic book entitled « Je commence lundi, le régime anti-régime ».
Inevitably, I agreed. And I didn’t regret it, as this story, hers, is universal (in any case it’s mine too and it’s a good start for universality). Caroline is 29 years old too (or almost), she started to find herself fat from a very young age even though she wasn’t, she went on so many totally dumb diets, felt like killing someone after three days of protein diet with great many poo flavored pancakes or vomit and chalk omelets. Like me, she went through fascists nutritionists, like me she has lost many friends by always asking them if salad sauce will come “on the side” before accepting their invite.
And then one day, Caroline met Amandine, her own Zermati. That’s when our stories differ slightly because this dietician’s method, if it has points of agreement with Zermati’s – regulation, eating when you’re hungry, no taboo food -, is not exactly the same – on a few points I find precepts that don’t suit me, like “eating two or three light stuff before a feast, in order not to get there with the munchies = exactly the opposite of what I’ve now learnt to do” or else “never skip a meal”. But as no one holds THE truth, I’ll be careful not to express reservations, clearly with Caroline, in any case, it worked. Most of all, the book is not limited to this, needless to say, what’s delightful in these slices of life are all these anecdotes that any diets regular knows: the mega slim girl who, when she learns you’re on a diet since two months (and you’ve indeed shed 7 kilos), asks you if “it works” (urge to bite). The other girl, also a rake since her birth, who lectures you on life and undermines at the same time the little faith you have in the future: “oh but Caro, it’s all fun and games to slim down, but you know what they say, the hardest part is not to gain again” (in other words, you’ll never make it, you fat cow). Without mentioning the ones who try by all means to make you eat a piece of their chocolate cake while you are in mindfulness from the beginning of the meal not to glance at it. Or, of course, those 234 grams you’ve put on that morning, which are going to wear you down for the day, turn you in an irascible shrew and make you just gobble down the chocolate cake, because “there’s nothing left to lose, right”.
You get me, it spoke to me, made me laugh and also stirred me, because damn, it’s crazy to waste your life that much.
I can only advise you to get it, even to offer it to any person who one day, for the first time, has convinced you that you were too fat.
Personally it was an uncle of mine, whom I loved, and who found smart to repeat – as joke of course – that I looked like an old obese cousin of whom the whole family was making fun. He had even saddled me with her name. I was six or seven. I’m not saying he has been at the root of all the rest, but the fact that thirty years later (I’m lost in my calculations with these questions of age) I remember so precisely and that it still brings tears to my eyes make me think it hasn’t been totally pain-free…
Since the broadcast of the documentary about diets in which I appear briefly, I receive an enormous amount of emails. Touching emails for most of them, from women but also men who are fighting eating compulsions and/or kilos. Problem: answering is difficult. First of all, let’s face it, I don’t have time. I’m really useless for that matters, but now, with around ten per day, let me tell you it’s getting hard. Especially now that I’m in wrap up period for two newspapers and my days consist in back to back interviews over the phone. Yesterday I had interviews planned every hour, at one point I’ve been tempted to go pee while taking notes but something held me back, probably my dignity.
But it’s not only an issue of time. Questions I’m asked, I simply can’t answer them. I’m not a doctor, neither dietician, nor psychologist, I can’t give personalized advice, I can’t diagnose and neither can I give doctor Zermati’s cell phone number. Here is thus an article going over resources that can be useful and trying to answer your questions.
– Contact details of Zermati’s and Apfeldorfer’s offices are in the Yellow Pages. I absolutely can’t book an appointment with them on your behalf or intercede in your favor to obtain an appointment faster.
– GROS’ web site gives information on therapies mentioned during the documentary on France 2 . There is also the GROS’ secretariat’s phone number which you can use to obtain contact details of doctors from your town who have been trained on these therapies. I don’t know if all of them follow the same protocols.
– Apfeldorfer and Zermati have also created their website, Linecoaching. It proposes, for a subscription fee, an online therapy. I don’t know if it is as efficient as a face-to-face one, I haven’t registered on this site and I am not linked to it at all. A while ago, I interviewed Dr. Zermati on that subject; you can read his answers here. In the comments of that note, there are also some feedbacks, positive and negative, you can make up your mind.
– Other than these two doctors, I’ve interviewed other practitioners whose approach seemed interesting. I’m thinking especially of Lysiane Panighini, psycho-practitioner. Ariane Grumbach, dietician, is also a follower of GROS and from what I could perceive a very nice person. Lastly, Laurence Haurat, who also has a blog, is as well a pioneer in her approach. I name these three because I think they have a site on Internet, which will enable you get more information.
– I’ve told my sessions with Zermati in at least twenty articles, all listed under the same category. The best is to read them from the oldest to the newest, I think, to get an idea of my journey.
– Recently, I summed up this journey in an article published in Psychologies Magazine which is now available online. It can give you an overview. I’ve written a few columns on this subject for the same newspaper,here they are.
There you go, I think it’s about everything. Don’t be mistaken, I wish I could help you more than that. If I’ve written that much about my experience it’s mainly for this purpose. Not only, rest assured. I did it also for myself, because it was doing me good, it was enabling me to “digest” the sessions and simply I was interested in putting words on all this.
But I can’t go further. It would be dishonest from me and probably dangerous, we are talking health here and illegal exercise of medicine is severely punished (and believe me I regret it, I belong to those people who wish they had a white coat and the sex-appeal that goes with it).
I hope anyway that this recap will be useful.
Have a nice day.
Edit: This Saint Honore is a killer and is sold in a bakery of my block only on Sundays. I’ve been drooling over them for years, telling the Churros I’d love to taste them. Last Sunday, he bought five. Knowing that an entire village can be fed with half of one. I think I’ll advise him to read this article AND call one of the doctors named above.
 TN : GROS (Groupe de recherche sur l’obésité et le surpoids) is a group of professionals from different fields who take charge of people having difficulties with their weight and eating behavior. The group aims to bring reflection, exchanges and training to the table.
So yesterday, the documentary « Régimes, la vérité qui dérange » was broadcasted on France 2, as part of Infrarouge . Saying I went through this – late, thank god – exposure serenely would be a lie. Actually for the past two days I had a knot in my stomach just thinking about it. So typically me, I act first and then think. Forget even, incidentally, because the shooting happened late September – beginning of October. It gave me time to bury this deep in my denial zone. Except that – note for future reference – what you bury always ends up coming back to the surface (I’ve started watching Dexter, I’m learning a lot). After watching the documentary, phew, no drama, first of all, the intention is true to the promise I was made, it is about denouncing wicked effects of diets. If the slightly too “Live my life” style did not transport me completely, I enjoyed the polished images and the kind way directors followed Ingrid and Sandra, two touching women. However, I wish there were more sequences with professor Lecerf and doctor Zermati, because their views speak to me and they are still rare in the medical community. I wish it wouldn’t conclude with children being taught that they must eat that much rye bread, that many fruits and so on. I wish it went further, I wish the 5 fruits and vegetables a day recommendations had been denounced. But by and large, I’m rather happy to have participated in this attempt to change popular beliefs. When it comes to my performance in itself, it’s not up to me to qualify it, anyway I hate to see myself but I believe it’s a feeling shared by lots of people. The lunch with Sandra lasted for while and at the end there’s nothing much left of it on the screen, it’s always frustrating but that’s life. I wish there weren’t this “before-after” aspect based on picture, but apparently it’s more meaningful this way. That said, I think it’s the first and last time I lend myself to such an exercise. Not being filmed as such, I’m not allergic to it, and I even, after the first stressful moments, find it funny. But I don’t think I want to embody the ex-fat girl until I’m sick of it. Not because I disown this period when weight was a real issue for me, but maybe just because of this. It’s too much pressure, I know too well it’s also possible to go down the kilos path again. And for me, pressure gives me chocolate cravings. Most of all, I believe I’m not limited to this. During the last years, I’ve done many things on top of slimming down. And my biggest satisfactions are professional rather than dietetic. Of course, it’s great on a day to day basis, of course, I don’t deny myself the pleasure of being freed from food, my best enemy. But now going to TV sets and displaying my weight loss as a banner, no thanks. I will continue to write here and there articles on the subject, because it captivates me. Maybe one day, I’ll even write a book about it, it’s a project I’ve had in mind for a while, but I need to find the right style first. But I will not turn into a professional weight loss witness, rest assured. Even though, your nice comments were heart-warming, here or on twitter. And when I receive emails from young women who explain that my writings about my therapy with doctor Zermati have helped them to let go of stupid diets, I’m extremely proud. In short, I don’t disown anything, but I think I want to leave the “curvy girl” alone for a while, she deserves to rest. It explains why the new version of the blog, which is imminent, has a little surprise for you (the only one actually, because design will stay the same or almost, there will simply be less bugs in the comments and an easier browsing). Have a nice day Edit: The necklace is a Shourouk, it belongs to Marie, I like the idea of phoenix, etc. (I tried to steal it but not very discreet). Edit2: the documentary is available here.
Recently, some of you have asked me where I stand now with regard to food, what I’ve kept from the principles I inherited during my therapy with Zermati, etc. It’s difficult for me to answer this question as, to tell the truth, I now feel all this has become rather natural. In terms of weight, I might have gained 2/3 kilos in two years. It didn’t surprise me because I had lost too much, my set-point clearly is my current weight and it suits me. It’s not a model’s one, neither a bombshell’s, but I can wear what I want and I’m not out of breath after the smallest set of stairs and I feel in tune with myself. Most of all, it’s the weight I can keep while eating chocolate every day, partying once in a while (I’m a party girl, I won’t change, 29 years old, that’s who I am) and NEVER wondering if what I’ve prepared for the meal is healthy. It’s a weight that withstands hard blows – and there has been a sizeable one during the last year to say the least -, that gibes at boredom, main source of my eating compulsions, at writer’s block, at rows, at slumps and at appendicitis that picks you up with no warning, In short, all is rather fine and mainly, I don’t feel “suspended” anymore. After three years of near-stability, I allow myself to take a breather. I’ve thus stopped my therapy with doctor Zermati, more or less two years ago. I still regularly discuss with him, at the whim of my interviewing him. I like these moments. I take advantage to bring myself up to speed but also, I confess, to get a small session on the side, discreetly (I think he is not duped). Last time, doctor Zermati suggested talking about a new approach he now uses during his consultations. Pursuing tirelessly his quest of a parry to emotional eating, he indeed looked into a technique named ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy), logical consequence of cognitive and behavioral therapies, more centered on emotions. The aim is to support patients with emotions acceptance and also help them to “defuse from” their negative thoughts which accompany them, even precede them. Like “I’m useless, anyway, I’m useless”, or else “I’ll never make it, I’ll never succeed in this job/ in taking this test / in writing this article (and if that’s how it is, I’ll have another Twix, or two)”. Having indeed noticed that however hard he tried to demonstrate step by step to his patients that these recurrent thoughts are groundless, it didn’t work, Jean-Philippe Zermati has decided to attack them on another front, trying to make them question, not the truth of these thoughts but their utility. In other words, do these sentences, which disturb our mind despite ourselves, help us pursuing our dreams (whatever they are, romantic, professional, parenting, etc.)? If the answer is no (and it’s often the case, predicting a failure never helped anyone), the idea is to try to make them meaningless. How? Still using mindfulness techniques, but also with methods that could seem a bit naive, doctor Zermati admits, “but tremendously effective”. It can consist in repeating the sentence in question with different tones, in singing it at the top of your voice, for example. But also in writing it on a computer screen and changing the size and style of the font. Until these words are only strings of letters that have lost their meaning. You know, just like when you look at a word, detach its syllables, comprehend it without associating a meaning? All of a sudden it seems to be coming out of nowhere, doesn’t it? In parallel, the work still consists in trying to accept your emotions, especially by observing them as well as their physical consequences. “You realize that the discomfort resulting from boredom, anxiety, sadness, is rather mild, at least less than a migraine, tooth ache or any other ache you can sometimes feel”, explains doctor Zermati. By resolving to accept the knot in your stomach before an exam, pins and needles in your hands when you’re angry, the slight nausea caused by sadness or you name it, you end up moving away from eating desires. Because, Jean-Philippe Zermati reminded me – he looked like he thought I had forgotten my lesson – “Annoyances don’t trigger compulsion but our attempt to get rid of them does”. Ok, ok, ok… In short, as the good doctor Z admitted outspokenly, “we know the goal to reach but we haven’t found all the tools to get there yet”. But he added, while he was at it, “We progress every day and are starting to see more clearly”. Personally, even though I feel I’ve left on the side of the road a few cumbersome luggage, I continue thinking about all this and I’m not convince there’s an end to this journey. But, apparently, it’s not the destination that counts but the journey. Then what if we tried to travel lighter? Edit: This discussion follows a bit the previous one, which you can find here. Doctor Zermati was mentioning the chocolate pump, a diagram of it is displayed on Linecoaching, the online therapy web site he created with doctor Apfledorfer. Edit 2: It happens that this week, I tell my life story in Psychologies Magazine, thus the picture opening this column (it’s not the only picture of the article, there is one especially, full page, that I don’t love (euphemism). These pictures were taken two days after my daughter’s surgery, I couldn’t cancel and so I looked… like shit) (and it shows). Edit3: It happens also that I’ve written an article for l’Express Style about diets and how highly I think of them. With the help of two experts, whom I met on this blog: Ariane Grumbach and Lysiane Panighini. Thank you to them.
No doubt you didn’t miss it but doctors Zermati and Apfeldorfer finally settle old scores with Dukan. Not on a ring, no, but in a small book “Mensonges, régime Dukan et balivernes”, which I’ve personally found exhilarating, as it manages to expose the ridiculous – and nevertheless terrifying – aspect of the protein diet pope’s views.
Exhilarating also from the sharp style and some turns of phrase that, I have to admit, made me snigger (I’m a budding sniggerer, it must be said, the one who was systematically caught during class for giggling at jokes from funnier than me). Authors should take the credit for it, but Dukan too, whose words, quoted and dissected in the essay are themselves a huge joke. In which we learn that for example one solution to extra kilos but more globally to ill being lies in taking “for life” what “simply is a treat”: the much vaunted three table spoons of oat bran. Obransly!
In which we discover too that Dukan advises beauty industry to “take part in developing the awareness around overweight’s devastating role in the beauty equation, in the thickening of facial features, in eyes expression, etc.” , that he plans to create a “mac-du”, “big mac double” with …bran patties inside, what else… without mentioning “his future international cooking school to fight excess weight”, or a “French anti-overweight cooking Academy”. Bran it on, once again…
I could talk about it in length as some part also moved me – the book is funny through its irony but doesn’t forget to be serious nevertheless – when I’m now familiarized with the two authors’ theories.
Moved me because it appears rather quickly that, beyond Dukan’s cosmic and imperialist delirium, his method is based on stigmatization of people he calls himself “fat”. I hadn’t read his writings and I guessed he often crossed the red line, I didn’t think he played that cruelly with the essence of a fat person: his or her low self-esteem. In their work, Jean-Philippe Zermati and Gérard Apfeldorfer apply themselves to demonstrating this but also to rehabilitating the honor of overweight people.
I could talk about it in length but I’ve preferred asking doctor Zermati to answer a few questions, so, after this long preamble, here are his answers.
Why this book now, why did you go for Dukan as a subject
The number of patients completely destroyed by Dukan’s method we see every day with Gérard Apfeldorfer made us react. We are not talking anymore today about an epiphenomenon, but about millions of followers, as he states himself. All these castaways have devastated us, we couldn’t keep quiet.
So you decided to bury yourself in his work, to understand the phenomenon?
Exactly. Actually, I had never read his writings. I knew his method, I had heard him on TV, but had never immersed myself in his books. And there, what we discovered stupefied us. More than his precepts to slim down, it’s his philosophy that is terrifying. Not only does that man want to get rid of our fat, he wants in all modesty to save France, and then conquer the whole planet. On the premise that “fat people” are so because they react to their emotions with food – an observation that we share – what does he suggest? Nothing less than eradicating misfortune. As crazy as it gets, a dream for a smooth and purified society, with no emotions and occupied by beautiful and happy people because they are slim. A philosophy that bring to mind one of a guru, even the darkest hours of history…
What is, according to you, the most dangerous in Dukan’s diet?
The real danger lies in long terms destruction of eating sensations with, at the end, difficulties to treat eating disorders. Above all, with his permanent stigmatization of overweight people, whom he describes as “dehumanized”, Dukan ends up wiping out all their self-esteem. He has understood very well that the main anxiety of his patients is to be rejected. He plays with this feeling of exclusion by promising to make them more beautiful and thus more loveable. And during a first phase, he indeed makes them slim down. While warning them that if they don’t follow his principles literally, they’ll gain again.
And that it will entirely be their fault…
Of course! It’s the funding principles of his theory and of diets in general. The patient has slimmed down? It’s thanks to the practitioner. He puts on weight again? It’s because he is a loser with no willpower. It’s magical and wonderful because it works every time.
Do you have good hopes to be heard and that these practices end?
I believe there’s currently a realization from health practitioners that diets are inefficient. The ANSES report published in 2010 denouncing the iniquity of diets has been a real trigger, even if it wasn’t a revelation for us who’ve been working for 15 years on alternative methods. But there again, there are misunderstandings. Many wanted to see in this report a comparison between good and bad diets. Yet what this report wants to question, it’s the actual concept of diets. Admittedly, we are able to differentiate Dukan’s purification delirium from the lighter Weight Watcher method for example, but it’s wrong to think that Weight Watcher is not a diet.
We sketch in our work a few trails that are the funding principles of our method: self-listening, respect of eating sensations and work on emotions. There are solutions. But they imply that you accept this initial postulate: everybody has a set point and this set point can’t be changed. The objective of our therapy is to somehow get back to this set point, not to display a spectacular weight loss, even if this happens sometimes, when the patient is just way higher than his or her set point.
Edit: doctors Zermati and Apfeldorfer have put online a petition against diets. Feel free to sign it if you agree with this position. You can also leave your feedback on the site. Besides, you can find the two practitioners on Linecoaching. Very interesting articles are published there, starting with this one(it’s also a portal with paying online therapy).
In a recent, particularly tearful and full of self-pity, article, I was listing my end of holidays sorrows. I had especially confided my slight anxiety of having brought the ‘letting-go’ to its climax and having thus tested its limits. In simpler terms, I was dreading the scale moment, convinced I had gain everywhere a bit, even a lot.
Thus, some of you interrogated me in the comments about this, the difficulty of distinguishing between the letting-go recommended by Zermati and the holiday barbecue big mess.
I don’t have all the answers, but I can nevertheless tell you about the way I handle, since three years now, the periods when I’m not in my daily rythm. With, as a preamble, this clarification: I actually didn’t gain one gram during my holidays, I guess this impression of being swollen was 50% psychological and 50% hormonal. Or the other way round.
In short, during holidays or week-end with friends for example, I try to remember the exchanges I had with doctor Zermati. Who advised to, first of all, trust myself. You wouldn’t think but when you’ve been completely robbed of your instinct and common sense by years of stupid diets, trusting yourself is in itself a huge challenge.
Trust, thus, your hunger, your satiety sensation but mainly in this case REGULATION. The natural mechanism that will do so that, after two or three copious meals, exceeding by far the famous satiety threshold, the body will spontaneously want to go easy. For this purpose, guilt and anxiety of putting on weight must be banned and it’s certainly the most difficult, conditioned that we are to regret the smallest deviation.
Even though deviations, as mister Z often repeated, are somehow proofs of your balance. No one can keep, day after day, the same way of eating perfect quantities in due time. And even, those who manage to do so are maybe even more neurotic than the Pringles compulsive like us (like me at least).
In short, buoyed by this advice, I’ve made a point to keep them in mind and I’ve deprived myself of nothing during the holidays (that said, neither do I deprive myself during the rest of the year). That doesn’t mean I stuffed myself either. But I’ve eaten cherry cake every two days, chestnut/chocolate cake or pizzas to die for from our fetish restaurant. The rest of the time, it was homemade ratatouille (around 234 ratatouilles have been cooked during these holidays, my children are about, I think, to murder me with a courgette if I cook some more before June next year), tabbouleh or tomatoes salad.
At the end, thus, my weight is identical (less 500 grams actually).
I deduct from this that it’s possible, it’s not a scoop but I think it has been the first summer when I’ve really switched on the “instinct” mode, without restriction or almost (it’s a long way, right…)
I also notice that during these holidays, even more than during the previous ones and in general during the rest of the year too, except for children’s snacks, I’ve bought only few ‘readymade products’. I indeed opt for, and this with no effort, raw food which I cook, even in a very basic way. I mean that I never buy anymore readymade toasted sandwiches, frozen lasagnas, vacuum packed cottage pies or yogurts like Danette or La laitière (these are yogurt in name only).
My mother noticed that, even on holidays, I was baking lot of cakes. That is true, outside of holidays time too, I love baking, it’s my thing when I’m out of ideas or you name it, cooking clears my mind. But, I told her, the children almost don’t eat industrial cakes or pseudo dairy produces packed with sugar and fat anymore. At the end, I believe it’s for the best.
Don’t worry, I’m not becoming an organic fundamentalist or a fierce locavore. But I think it‘s part of a global process, trusting yourself is about listening to your desires and your body rarely request a Savanne or Twix, especially if it knows it can have much better instead.
Here is the fruit of my reflection, I’d add a damper to all this: I still eat industrial, milk chocolate and I could kill the one who finishes my slab of Nestle almond/nougatine.
Edit: I believe it’s one of the biggest misunderstandings about ‘zermatism’, some translate a bit too quickly “trust yourself” and “eat your fill” by “if you eat with pleasure, it doesn’t make you gain”. That is obviously wrong. The notion of pleasure is important. But when you eat compulsively, there’s pleasure but it makes you gain. In short, Zermati never advises to stuff yourself, let’s be clear!
Edit: The picture it’s because initially I wanted to write an article about my denim skirt, my summer basic, worn in every situation and again this morning. And then when looking at it closely, I told myself it was taken on the day I felt it was too tight and that indeed it shows a bit. And a thought leading to the other… Who knows, maybe tomorrow…
I don’t know how it happened, but I’ve let go. Not the weight or the fear to gain again one day, on this point I’m afraid I still have a long way to go. But everything else. Rolls on my belly when I’m wearing a bikini on the beach, the idea of my jelly bum which I can’t see but others can or my breasts that seem to feel like making a sand castle when I’m topless.
For that matter, I’m always topless here where only regulars come next to my towel and don’t give a damn if my D cup has collapsed and since when. It’s not the first time, but on the other hand it’s rather new that at the end of the day, with my neighbor who has become over the years a good friend, I do abs and butt exercises wearing only my panties for the enjoyment of passer-bys. I believe if you had told me I would agree to do the dog peeing on a fire hydrant, bare boobs, in a public place, I would have burst out laughing with my coarse laugh which has already made a name for itself.
You’ll tell me that when you don’t care about all this, you don’t do abs and butt exercises instead of eating an ice-cream. Well it’s just the perversity of the whole thing I guess. Just as the guy comes to the single girl right when she’s not expecting him anymore (or the other way round), maybe, exercise imposes itself on the lazybones the day she hopes nothing more than the well-being it gives afterwards.
Wait, I’m speaking here of 15 minutes, at the very most, per day which are not resulting in aches, and, according to the Churros, is not a good sign. But he also told me with his legendary wisdom: “to do abs, you need to have some, that’s it, only rich people get a loan and it doesn’t work only for banks” (I’m wondering if love doesn’t last fifteen years only). Yet, damn we swear a lot when we do it, I can’t tell you but all our foremothers end up associated to the F word, a lot.
But now, there you go, the point was not to announce that I’m planning to succeed Veronique or Davina or that I will soon give you hints on best fitness centers in New-York. No because I know myself well enough to know that this fad won’t last long and that once back in Paris I’ll forget that my butt even exists (it actually always haughtily ignored me so it shouldn’t be affected that much)
The aim was to say that I’ve let go, that this body, weighted by two pregnancies, and which has never done sport except during very small intermittences hasn’t been anymore for me, this summer, the object of a frustrating shame, which was forcing me day after day to find a new way to go directly from standing to lying on the back.
I believe it’s maturity, it’s the fact, without contest, that I’ve lost weight (but as this photo taken in Grau du Roi by violette shows, we are far from an irreproachable figure) (there I wasn’t topless, don’t ask too much from me, I was then the only person on the whole beach owning a size 12 swimsuit) and also maybe it’s because I’ve been living almost naked for three weeks. I believe that in self acceptation therapy, you must go through moment when you don’t hide from yourself. By dint of seeing my reflection in the house like this, I ended up liking it a little bit, maybe. Liking it, or even better, detaching myself from it. Without meaning to make a mountain out of a molehill (it’s not my style), it’s like all of a sudden I just got rid of an enormous drag. And if growing old is about that too, then Ok, I’m in.
There you go, apart from that, we’re starting our last week here and I guess no one will feel sorry for me but my heart bleeds already.
There was this young lady at the supermarket, in the chocolate section. She was with her daughter, four or five years old I’d say. When I was looking for the object of my latest addiction – Nestle almond and nougatine milk chocolate, I DIE-, she went for two slabs of dark Cote D’Or. While lusting conspicuously for the milk ones, taking one and then putting it back.
“Mom, I don’t like dark chocolate, why do you always buy dark chocolate?” pointed out the little girl. “Because that’s what we must eat”, her mother replied, without any hesitation. And there she was listing all the health arguments, on why dark chocolate “builds muscles”, “gives a nice silhouette” (you could feel she wanted to avoid saying the F word, whatever you do don’t say milk chocolate makes you fat, but do everything to explain it anyways).
Simply put, she looked like me three years ago.
The mother torn between her own tastes which obviously fall on other types of treats than the ones she put in her trolley and her number one preoccupation: not be the mum of a fat little girl.
Who, by the way, didn’t show any obesity forerunners.
I bit my tongue not to intervene (not only don’t I want to become one of those embarrassing women who speak to everyone in the supermarket but it happens that I would surely take badly that an stranger – even an influential blogger – comes and lectures me on how to feed my children). I managed, thus, not to put my two cents in this conversation which lasted between this mum who was trying to convince her daughter “that by eating some you’ll end up liking dark chocolate” and a kid ending up saying with a sob that she didn’t like any of the snacks her mum was preparing for her “because there’s only dull things in them”. As a matter of fact, the rest of the trolley was overflowing with all those organic biscuits with bran and stewed fruits with no added sugar which, if they don’t taste great, have the merit of reassuring parents: they won’t be reproached for having stuffed their offspring.
If I hadn’t suppressed myself, I would have told this young woman that milk, white and dark chocolate have exactly the same energy content. That no one has demonstrated that dark chocolate “build muscles” while milk chocolate gives cellulite. That you’re certainly better of having two pieces of a chocolate you enjoy than five of one you eat with no pleasure. That when you think about it, it’s strange to end up saying you “must eat” chocolate, even dark.
That there are good chances that her daughter, frustrated by this interdiction, begs, during snack time, Kinder Pingui or other very dangerous for muscles junk food and appreciates them all the more as, at home, all Ferrero products are considered hard drug by-product.
Don’t be mistaken, there no judgment from my side on this story, I don’t have the key of what mothers should to do to educate their children and even less of this precise subject of food. I’m not saying either that people who eat dark chocolate are Nutella frustrated. Personally I prefer milk chocolate but my oldest daughter swears only by 70% cocoa. But while I find nice to allow children to taste a bit of everything, I’m convinced that deciding of their behalf what is good for them – even if they find it disgusting – will not encourage them to like it.
No one wants to have children who are ‘too’ fat. But it could be useful sometimes to ask yourself why you want them to be slim. Other than to fix a narcissistic wound, whatever it is (it’s not only women who are or were curvy who fear that their children are too big, the narcissistic wound can be physical but not only). I try, every day, to fight this temptation of make my children an extension of myself. Not to make them carry the weight of my failures in any domain and to make them understand that whatever their future waistline, I’ll love them all the same.