Google’s im2calories: A Good Idea With Costly Execution

By Laura Moncur @ 7:12 am — Filed under:

Long, long ago, in December of 2005, I wrote a review of My Food Phone, which was a paid service that allowed you to take pictures of the food you ate and a nutritionist sent you a video of what you should be eating instead. Back then, I called it a good idea with costly execution.

Unfortunately, Google hasn’t learned from My Food Phone’s mistakes. They are creating a program, called im2calories, that can calculate the calories you have eaten based on a picture of your food. You can read more about it here.

That sounds like a lot of computing power to not solve a problem. Knowing the calories in my food was never the problem. NOT eating the food was the problem. Somehow we got sidetracked. Doctors and nutritionists and even AI computer scientists are under the mistaken impression that if we just knew how many calories are in our food, then we wouldn’t eat so much. They seem to think that our obesity is caused by lack of information.

It’s not. It is SO not.

Our obesity is caused by a dopamine response in our brains. We feel bad, either emotionally or physically, and we use food to make our brains make us feel better. It’s the same as drug addiction. Drug addicts know that drugs will kill them and burn through their brain cells, but they keep using because they can’t stop. It’s the same with food. It’s not like we don’t know that overeating will kill us. It’s that we can’t stop.

Sorry, Google. It sounds like you’re spending a lot of R&D funds on something that is irrelevant. Knowing the calories in our food doesn’t stop us from eating it. Thanks to you, we already HAVE that data. At any time, I can pull out my phone and Google nutrition facts for every restaurant in the city. Knowing the calories never stopped me from eating them.

Obesity is NOT an education issue. It’s a brain chemistry issue and until medical science solves that problem, the best we have is Overeater’s Anonymous.

Overeater’s Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog. I speak only of my personal experience and not for OA as a whole.


The Twinkie Diet: Four Years Later

By Laura Moncur @ 8:55 am — Filed under:

Four years ago, a nutrition professor at the University of Kansas, Mark Haub, went on what was called The Twinkie Diet. He ate most of his calories from processed foods like Twinkies and Doritos for 10 weeks and lost 27 pounds. Here is a news clip from that time.

At that time, nutritionist, Paleo enthusiasts and everyone else lost their minds. This little article from a magazine shows the mindset.

Twinkie Diet from Starling Fitness

The experts weighed in and said,

This diet – if you want to call it that – sends a dangerous message. I am particularly worried about still-growing teens who might try it because it sound “cool.” Losing weight is not just about calories. It is about choosing healthy foods which are rich in nutrients including fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Twinkies contain sugar and unhealthy fat, as do other junk foods. So if that’s all you eat, you’re sending your body into shock. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to learn how to eat healthy. This kind of short-term fad isn’t the answer.

You want to know what else isn’t the answer, Dr. Lisa Young? Vilifying food. It is four years later and we are no closer to solving the obesity epidemic than we were back then. Making junk food the bad guys just makes people want to eat them more. It’s called “Forbidden Fruit” for a reason. Putting it off limits makes it MORE desirable, not less.

I was a big proponent of low carb and high fat eating. The only problem with that concept is that an entire set of foods become forbidden. It would work for a while, but in the end, I always wanted to go back to what I couldn’t eat.

Tell me I can’t eat broccoli and I will obsess about eating broccoli all day. It’s how humans work.

So, what DOES work?

For the last year, I have given myself permission to eat whatever I want as long as it fits within my daily caloric intake. That includes my former binge foods, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I am allowed to eat them whenever I want.

Ironically, I haven’t had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for over a year and a half. I can have one any time I want. They are in almost EVERY store I step into, even Home Depot and the bookstore. If I ever want one, they are right there and I can get one. But I don’t need one right now, and I haven’t felt like I needed one for a long time.

In fact, the last time I felt like I needed one, I really needed to do some meditation and have a good talk with a my sponsor. Then I didn’t feel like I needed one anymore.

It’s NEVER about the food. It’s ALWAYS about why you want to eat the food.

So, what about the Twinkie Diet? The Twinkie Diet PROVED that it doesn’t matter what kind of calories you eat. As long as you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Stop beating yourself up if you eat a Twinkie. Just count the calories and adjust your day accordingly.

It’s the guilt and the forbiddance of the Twinkie that makes you fat, not the Twinkie. Without the guilt, there is no “Oh I’ve Blown It” Binge. Without the forbidden aspect, there is no “I’m Never Going To Eat These Again, So I’m Going To Eat A Whole Box” Binge. Without the guilt and forbiddance, it’s just a Twinkie. It’s merely a simple 135-calorie snack in the middle of your day. You log it and continue with the rest of your day. Once you can stop vilifying food, it’s as simple as that.


Mrs. Fields Cookies: That First High

By Laura Moncur @ 7:59 am — Filed under:

Mrs Fields Cookies: That First High from Starling FitnessWhen I was a teenager, I loved Mrs. Field’s Cookies. The walnut milk chocolate chip cookies were my favorite. I loved going to Valley Fair Mall in West Valley to eat them with my binge-buddy.

Lately, though, the cookies haven’t tasted the same. They just don’t taste as good as they did when I was a teenager. I kept eating them, trying to get that same flavor. I blamed the frozen cookie dough, so I tried making them on my own with the recipes I found that said they tasted “just like” Mrs. Fields, but they didn’t taste right either.

What I was looking for is that first high.

We addicts will NEVER again experience that first high from food that we used to feel when we ate. It just takes more and more food or richer food to get even close to how it used to make us feel. Just like heroine addicts, we are searching for a high that we can NEVER get again. Unlike heroine addicts, it’s very difficult to OD on food. We just end up getting fatter and fatter and eating ALL day long.

Knowing that food will never again make me feel like it used to make me feel really depressed me, but it has also helped me to prevent binges. My binge foods don’t have as much attraction to me because I know that my brain is broken. I know they won’t taste as good as they used to. I’m sad about that, but at the same time, accepting it is my only option if I don’t want to eat myself into oblivion.

Two months ago, when we went to Cottonwood, AZ to camp, we passed through the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. There was a little shop there that sold cookies (and had gas and a bathroom). Mike asked if I wanted a bite of his cookie and I said yes. It tasted just like a Mrs. Fields Cookie used to taste and I KNEW that I couldn’t eat any more or I’d have a binge. Ironically, it was some insane “loaded” cookie with a THICK layer of chocolate in the middle. Probably THREE times the sugar and fat that was in those original Mrs. Fields Cookies.

THAT’S what it now takes to get me to that first high: a diabetic coma in a cookie.

The only thing that ever helped me was Overeater’s Anonymous. If it is taking more and more food to feel the same as you did when you were younger, you might have the same problem as I do. Get yourself to an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting, tell the truth, get a sponsor and DO WHAT THEY SAY. There IS hope. It’s just not in the form of a diet, workout or pill.

Overeater’s Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog. I speak only of my personal experience and not for OA as a whole.

Image via:


M&Ms and Artificial Scarcity

By Laura Moncur @ 11:33 am — Filed under:

I saw this ad for M&Ms a while ago. It was before I had started OA, so it was QUITE a while ago. When I saw it, I immediately wanted to go out and buy M&Ms.

M and Ms Artificial Scarcity from Starling Fitness

Somehow that ad had triggered my desire for them and I didn’t know why. I took a screen shot of the ad, which was, ironically, in a health and fitness magazine, and didn’t think about it again until today.

I looked through my folder of ideas to write about Starling Fitness and saw this ad. I was going to write about how advertising triggers cravings, but I now know it goes further than that. This advertisement triggers the Artificial Scarcity craving. We want it because it won’t always be around. We want it because we think it’s scarce.

Do those M&Ms taste any different than normal M&MS? No.

Do I even like regular M&Ms? Not particularly.

Because those M&Ms are in special “Fall” colors, they won’t be around for long. This is a limited time product, so I better act now. They do the same thing at Christmas, Easter and even Independence Day. The same M&Ms, only in red and green, pastels and pink, or the old red, white and blue. They are desirable because we can’t get them all the time.

I talked about this before here:

Back then, I said:

The problem is PERCEIVED SCARCITY. We could cook a turkey any time, but we only have them at Thanksgiving. We could buy that Torani Pumpkin Pie Sugar Free Syrup for our coffee at any time, but Starbucks has somehow convinced us that it is only available in the fall. None of these things are actually scarce. The food manufacturers use marketing and self-imposed limits to make them scarce and even create hoarding.


M&Ms in Autumn Colors. Don’t Fall for it…


The Cake Is A Lie

By Laura Moncur @ 8:21 am — Filed under:

I was looking through my saved images in a folder called “Starling Fitness Ideas,” and I found this one:

The Cake Is A Lie Diet from Starling Fitness

It reads:

The Cake Is A Lie Diet: Lose 17 pounds a week by changing your diet with this one simple tip!

Awarded for: “Watch an inspirational video on YouTube or TED.”

I have a vague memory of an app that I played with that gave me awards and kudos for doing good things in my life, but I cannot for the life of me remember where this came from or even why I saved it.

“The Cake Is A Lie” is a meme that came from the game Portal. In that game, the computer voice kept promising me that if I completed the tasks, that there would be cake at the end. About halfway through the game, you come to this creepy hallway and the phrase, “The cake is a lie,” is scrawled over and over on the wall.

The Cake is a Lie image via Project Reroll

At the end of the game, you realize that there is no cake and you have been doing all these things for nothing. The phrase “The Cake Is A Lie” has come to mean that a promised gift is being used to motivate you without any intent of delivering it. For a while there, I couldn’t log onto Facebook without seeing this image it was so popular.

The Cake is a Lie Meme from Starling Fitness

The truth of the matter is, the cake IS a lie. Every time I eat cake, I am trying to recreate that intense feeling of ecstasy that I had the first time I ever ate cake. I am trying to get that same hit of dopamine that I got when I first had cake. The problem is that the more cake I eat, the less of a dopamine hit I get until I need to eat cake all day long EVERY day to just feel normal. The promise of the cake is a lie.

Then again, the promise of the “fit” life is a lie, too. I remember being at 150 pounds and being so close to goal and STILL feeling miserable. I had told myself that when I got skinny, I would be happy. I had told myself that when I lost the weight, I would love myself. That was a lie just as much as the cake was.

Eating the cake was a lie. Not eating the cake was a lie.

THAT is the sense of hopelessness I had when I stepped into my first Overeater’s Anonymous meeting. I hated myself when I was fat. I hated myself when I was thin. I couldn’t stop eating and I didn’t want to eat anymore. I was in a No-Win situation and I had no idea what to do. That’s why I got a sponsor. That’s why I did EVERYTHING she told me to do. That’s why I cleared the wreckage of my past and started fresh. That’s why I was willing to meditate every day and make a “God Box.”

I knew the cake was a lie and I knew that I couldn’t stop eating it.

Overeater’s Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog. I speak only of my personal experience and not for OA as a whole.


Ali Vincent: Believe It, Be It

By Laura Moncur @ 11:30 am — Filed under:

I wrote about Ali Vincent winning the Biggest Loser back in 2008.

Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life at Amazon.comThe weird thing is that I read her book, Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life, and I never talked about it here, despite LOVING it. I find it so strange when there is something that has really helped me and I somehow forgot to mention it on this blog. This book is one of those things.

Ali Vincent is still very active and has her own website here:

I remembered her and that inspiring book because her quote from it came up on the random Quotations Page:

When you have the courage to tell the truth about what youre really afraid of fear doesnt have control over your life. Ali Vincent from The Quotations Page

It reads:

When you have the courage to tell the truth about what you’re really afraid of, fear doesn’t have control over your life.

  • Ali Vincent, Believe It, Be It: How Being the Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life, 2009

I really liked her book when I read it and there are TONS of quotes from that book that are inspiring:

If you are feeling uninspired, give her book a chance and read it.


Eating Anything You Want To

By Laura Moncur @ 7:34 am — Filed under:

This quote from Tom Hanks is pure genius:

Eating everything you want is not that much fun. When you live a life with no boundaries theres less joy. If you can eat anything you want to whats the fun in eating anything you want to Tom Hanks from The Quotations Page

It reads:

Eating everything you want is not that much fun. When you live a life with no boundaries, there’s less joy. If you can eat anything you want to, what’s the fun in eating anything you want to?

  • Tom Hanks, Esquire, June 2006

It’s true. There is less joy when I let myself eat anything I want, especially since it devolves into depression and constant eating very quickly. Paradoxically, limiting my food makes me HAPPIER. It makes no sense, but it does work.


A Fruit Stand: How The Heroine Ate Her Way Through Cruises

By Laura Moncur @ 1:38 pm — Filed under:

The only reason I know that this fruit stand was in a foreign country is because the newspaper the fruit is sitting on is in Spanish.

Fruit Stand How The Heroine Ate Her Way Through Cruises from Starling Fitness

I believe I took this photo while we were on an excursion on a cruise. I vaguely remember eating fruit out of a plastic cup.

The funny thing is, when I remember all the cruises I’ve been on, I can hardly remember this glorious fruit stand. In fact, I remember very little of the food from the cruises. I ate constantly while I was on them, but the memories of the food are hazy and vague.

What I DO remember from the cruises was playing trivia and winning a trophy for it. I remember sitting on the balcony off our room, relaxing, reading and talking with my family. I remember swimming with manta rays in Cozumel.

I remember seeing whales in Cabo San Lucas.

I easily gained ten pounds on each cruise I went on, but I don’t remember the food at all. I’m going to learn from this. I’m going to remember ONE thing about eating on cruises: I’m not going to remember it, so I might as well eat as little as possible.


Glutton: A Restaurant and a Sign

By Laura Moncur @ 3:47 pm — Filed under:

When I was doing the Color Run in Las Vegas last weekend, I ran right past it. “Glutton” the sign read:

Glutton Restaurant from Starling Fitness

I had no idea that they made a restaurant dedicated to my eating disorder. This is not a restaurant review and I’m sure they are a lovely restaurant with delicious food. That wasn’t the point.

The point was the sign. It said, “Glutton.”

Despite all my work in Overeater’s Anonymous, I still have the disease. I know this because I had been planning the binge I was going to go on after the run. I was literally thinking about which Las Vegas Buffet I was going to eat at when I saw that sign. Glutton? Why, yes. Yes, I am.

The truth of the matter is that whenever I do intense exercise like a 5K run, it makes me crave food. Intense exercise makes me want to binge. I know it’s good for me every once and a while, but I really think that I do better with walking, weight training and yoga. They just don’t seem to inspire fantasies about food the way an intense run does.

Am I still doing the Color Run in Salt Lake City? You betcha! Am I still training for it? Only once a week instead of 3-4 times a week. Am I going to eat at Glutton Restaurant? I don’t think I can. It just hits a little too close to home and the reality of my situation.

Overeater’s Anonymous does not endorse anything on this entry or blog. I speak only of my personal experience and not for OA as a whole.


Beautiful Food

By Laura Moncur @ 9:27 am — Filed under:

I was looking through my photos from a trip to Vegas a while ago and I found a picture of some beautiful desserts. I made them into a poster:

Beautiful food isn't for eating. It's for looking at. Don't get drawn into the trap! from Starling Fitness

It reads:

Beautiful food isn’t for eating. It’s for looking at. Don’t get drawn into the trap!

I didn’t eat any of those desserts. I remember that trip and I was WAY too broke to spend eight dollars on a tiny dessert, so I just snapped a photo and went on my way. I remember feeling deprived at the time, but right now, I couldn’t care less. I wouldn’t have been able to remember how that dessert tasted if I could have afforded it, but I certainly would be regretting the extra fat it would have put on my body.

If I can remember this, it will help me the next time I feel deprived. There have been MANY times when I could afford the expensive dessert and I can’t remember what they tasted like. I don’t remember having a better time when I could afford the dessert than the time when I couldn’t.

Good times aren’t about the food I ate. They are about the people I spend them with.

Those desserts were beautiful, but beautiful food isn’t for eating. It’s for attracting customers… attracting consumers. The next time you’re tempted by some beautiful food in a glass case, remember that it’s not food for eating. It’s food for looking at.

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