Last night, I hosted a wonderful Happier Hour salon at my home with nutritionist/author Lauren Slayton. It's hard to believe, but I've known Lauren for fourteen years now. I met her the summer between college and law school when I had just gotten back from a fabulous and fabulously caloric vacation to Europe with my family. I had two weeks before starting at Columbia and wanted to lose some weight. Enter Lauren. She was kind, thoughtful, asked the right questions, scribbled notes on a single piece of paper, handed it to me at the end of our session. I followed her instructions and lost the weight.
Over the years, I've been back to see her here and there, mainly to collect prenatal wisdom during my three pregnancies. I've also asked her about cancer prevention. Losing Dad to stomach cancer is something that affects me and has me thinking about my own long-term health. I've also recommended Lauren to several friends and family members and they've all had a great experience - and great results - working with her.
A while back, when Lauren told me she was writing a book, and then that she'd secured an agent and a book deal, I was thrilled. And here we are. Her book, The Little Book of Thin, is out in the world and deservedly thriving and I cannot say enough good things about it. As I said last night, the book itself is cute and thin, but it is heavy on practical wisdom. I have read the book twice now and despite cheating and having a Coke Zero at the movies last weekend, I have been quite dutiful about following her nutrition mandates over the last two-plus weeks. It's not a surprise that I'm feeling SO much better (and leaner) than I was a few weeks back when I was lost in a post-holiday sugar-and-starch haze.
All of this is a very ADR-esque, rambling way of getting to my point, which is that it was an immense privilege to have Lauren (and members of her incomparable Foodtrainers team!) at my home last night. The conversation was lively and rich and the questions, as always, fantastic. I took away so much, but I will share ten things I learned last night.
1. Thin Is Not a Dirty Word.
The word 'thin' can be, and feel, controversial, but Lauren argued that it need not be a four-letter word. Ditto 'diet.' These are just words after all and perhaps they are sometimes the right words. Is there anything wrong with desiring a certain aesthetic, a certain size, as long as we are operating within the bounds of good health? Is there anything wrong with going on a diet (or embarking upon a temporary lifestyle change - semantics) to shed weight and feel better? Maybe not. A point Lauren emphasized last night: healthy and thin are not mutually exclusive. Very often these things go together. We do not need to choose between preventing cancer and losing weight. On a related note, as I mentioned last night, fourteen years ago when I first met Lauren, my nutritional goals were entirely superficial. I wanted to look good when meeting new classmates. These days, my interest in health is more nuanced. I am a mother now and concerned about energy and wellness and disease-prevention. I still care about the superficial stuff though. Ultimately, does it matter why we are being healthy if we are being healthy?
2. It is Not All-Or-Nothing.
Someone asked a great question about how to handle the "nutritional noise" in society today. One day, it seems that eating all protein is en vogue and then the next day we are implored to be vegan. How are we supposed to know what studies and science to trust? Isn't it all very confusing? Lauren agreed that it is confusing and that we need to figure out what works for us. There is no reason we need to be 100% of anything... We can be mostly vegan, but have good-quality fish twice a week, etc. Also, we need to realize that we are human and we will sometimes slip in our efforts. If we are amazing about being healthy and then have a cookie, we need to forgive ourselves and get back on track without berating ourselves. Perfection in these things, as in all things, should not be the goal.
3. Thin People Plan.
The premise of Lauren's book is that we must plan if we want to be thin and feel good, that winging it in the context of busy modern life can be a recipe for disaster. We must think ahead about meals, about challenges. We must carry with us healthy snacks, have the fridge stocked with real food, etc, etc.
4. Pay Attention to Containers Too.
Something I hadn't considered before reading Lauren's book was the containers in which our food comes. Like many parents, I have been careful about BPA in plastics for my kids, but I have not put the same thought into my own patterns. There have been sinister studies about plastics in particular, about chemicals that can leach into our food and water. Since reading her book, I have purchased all new glass Tupperware and have tried to stop drinking out of plastic water bottles.
5. The Scale Is Good for Some.
For some of us, the scale is a good, objective tool to gauge where we are. For some, stepping on the scale is a neutral proposition, neither here nor there, and it doesn't affect mood. For others of us, the scale becomes the determinant of that day's attitude. For those of us who are too preoccupied with the number on the scale, the scale is not necessarily a good thing and should be used sparingly, if at all. I only started weighing myself once I had kids. Interestingly, this behavior coincided with me being at my lowest weight. These days, I step on the scale maybe every week or two. I find it to be a distraction.
6. Get Your Hands on Sea Buckthorn.
Before last night, I had never heard of this Superfood. Per Lauren, doing a shot of Sea Buckthorn (a tart-tasting berry) can have wonderful effects on our skin and hair. Count me in!
7. Choose One of Four, Not More.
I loved this rule. When we are out to dinner, we must pick one of four (booze, bread, carb with dinner, or dessert) and not more. Our choice might depend on the nature of the evening. If it is a birthday gathering where there is a special cake, we might opt for dessert that time.
8. Pay Attention to Sleep... & Screens.
Sleep matters tremendously with regard to weight as well as health in general. Those of us who are not sleeping well should pay attention to caffeine intake (cut it off at midday) and also be wary of screen use in the pre-bedtime hours. Apparently, the light from our devices affects our body/mind rhythms and makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. I know that when I try to write at night, I don't sleep as well.
9. Eat Protein Within Two Hours of Waking Up.
When we sleep, our blood sugar drops and it continues to drop in the first hours of the day. Lauren argues that we should absolutely not skip breakfast and that ideally we should consume something with protein within the first two hours of waking up. I've been doing this (usually having a 2% Greek yogurt or two organic Omega-3 eggs) every morning and it's had an enormous effect on my energy levels.
10. Watch Your Sugar.
Sugar is not good. Plain and simple. Natural sugar (found in fruit) is obviously better than other sugars, but we must still watch intake. Lauren argues that sweet begets sweet, that even if we eat a healthy fruit it will make us want more sugar. We should absolutely stay away from artificial sweeteners and it is possible to retrain our palates by having one Savory Day a week wherein we eliminate all sugar (including sweet vinegars, etc).
Okay, so those were ten of the many more things we all learned last night. If you find these tips as interesting as I do, I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of Lauren's book. Also, check out my post from Tuesday where Lauren answers oodles of your great nutrition questions. Speaking of that post, Gale is the lucky winner of the free copy of LBT. Congrats, Gale!
Thanks again, Lauren, for joining us in the yellow living room!