What Women Eat When They Think No One's Looking
The Health Upgrade
Face the weight. Although pear shapes like Gaskins are typically better off than apple shapes from a health standpoint—excess abdominal fat being a known risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers—the experts say that she should lose those recently added pounds. Eventually. Weight loss should not be a primary goal. One visit to the studio revealed to Treitler that despite Gaskins's fastidious preparation and strong ambitions, her radio show doesn't reflect the scope of her talents and intellect. If her work becomes more satisfying and engaging, other successes will follow.
Take a reality check. The coats of many colors and loose-fitting wardrobe are evidence of what Peeke labels shrouding—they're letting Gaskins get used to things that augment her disassociation, allowing her to become comfortable with a larger image of herself. Peeke also talks about overweight people taking care of the "visible protein ends"—hair, teeth, and nails—instead of addressing the real problem ("You don't see your arteries getting clogged. You don't see the fat deep inside your stomach, which raises the risk of heart disease"). This seems to be true of Gaskins, who has a collection of hair accessories and a pirate's bounty of costume jewelry. "She's adorning herself in the easy places," says Peeke. "She needs what I call the clothes-o-meter: a well-fitting outfit that can be a monitor of her behavior. If it's too tight, she cuts back on food and gets more active."
Break the stress-food connection. "She's eating for reasons other than hunger," says Hill, "and she has to find different ways to relieve stress, like taking a walk or calling a friend." One ploy from Peeke is to place signs that read THE ANSWER IS NOT HERE on the refrigerator, the pantry, the wine rack. Other signs saying THE ANSWER IS HERE go on the bathtub, the treadmill, a pair of sneakers, a pile of novels. "I teach people: Whatever decision you make, you wear the next morning," says Peeke. "Celery wears well. Heaps of pasta don't." To get at the root of why she's eating, Gaskins should try to figure out what's causing her stress, then rethink the problems as less potent. A mantra such as "It is what it is" can help. And she can't make it too easy to overeat under stress by being hungry. She might experiment with nibbling on something every three to four hours, including smart snack combos of protein, carbs, and a little fat (like low-fat string cheese and an apple, or hot chocolate made with skim milk and good cocoa powder).
Get fresh with food. The whole team wants to wean her from Costco. A natural foods co-op would be a healthier and still economical idea. Wherever she shops, fresh produce is a better choice than Gaskins's freezer fare. "She possesses tremendous sensuality in her movement and her home environment," says Treitler, "but she's not eating to meet those needs. Getting her back to the physical pleasure of food, which she so obviously relishes, is a goal." And her next purchase should be a table where she can actually sit to eat a meal.
Update the Flintstones. The experts recommend a multivitamin for women over 45 (expiration date in the future, please), plus 1,000 milligrams daily of omega-3 fatty acids (available in fish oil capsules) to help guard against heart disease. She should also take calcium (the RDA for women ages 19 to 50 is 1,000 milligrams) and, to help absorb it, vitamin D (200 IU), "the unsung hero of bone health," says Nelson.
To sleep, perchance to dream. Recent research suggests that sleep deprivation may contribute to weight gain (see "You Need 8 Glasses of Water a Day...," page 208). A study of about 1,000 people published in 2005 in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the more they weighed, the less sleep they got. Other new studies, although small, suggest why. When subjects were deprived of sleep, they showed higher levels of a hormone that increases appetite and lower levels of one that makes you feel full. And earlier research has suggested that sleep deprivation can interfere with the ability to metabolize carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain. Then again, you don't need to be a scientist to know that when you're tired, you're less likely to exercise and more vulnerable to the energy-lifting charms of candy, cookies, and ice cream.
Pull the plug. Everyone urges Gaskins to stop living on the cell phone and to spend more face time with others.
Find a mentor and pay it forward. Nelson suggests that Gaskins call people she admires in the D.C. area and ask if they'll have lunch. And being a mentor to others, perhaps children or older adults, might be grounding. "She's a social person whose beauty and intellect can intimidate people," says Treitler, "and she doesn't suffer fools. But she's a self-starter and a risk-taker, and she needs to be in leadership roles."
Next: Inside the home of Marijane Funess