I'll admit I came to Green Mountain at Fox Run in Ludlow, Vermont, hoping to lose weight, and fast. And I've found out that this is not the place to come for that. You probably will lose weight, especially if you come for its core four-week program. But the scale can be misleading.
One woman who came here a year ago said she lost five pounds in a month. That wouldn't make it on "The Biggest Loser". But she came down dramatically in inches. That's because she lost fat, and gained muscle, which weighs more. A year later she is down four dresses sizes. "It was a life-changing experience," she told me. That's because the changes you make to your eating habits here are sustainable.
Green Mountain is where you come when you want to let go of yo-yo dieting and begin to heal your relationship with food. This is where you come to let go of the "good food/bad food," diet and deprivation model. And in the process, you develop a healthier relationship with food that makes you healthier.
In fact, I've been surprised at good and plentiful the food is. We have three meals a day where they are teaching us how to follow "the plate model" -- half of an eight inch plate filled with green vegetables, one-quarter for your starch, and one quarter for your protein. (This is an eating tool that Green Mountain has been using since the early nineties, and which Michelle Obama just introduced to the nation.) Plus we get two snacks, if we want them.
My daily diet is generally healthy at home, but I've realized that I need more structure, more variety, more flavor and more regular "treats" like dessert a few times a week. Since I don't build that in to my regular routine, then when it's available -- at a restaurant, a party, or leftovers from a dinner party -- I go overboard. And feel "fat".
"Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and enjoyment is good medicine," said Marsha Hudnall, a registered dietician who is the program director. "Eat what feels good." That doesn't mean down a gallon of ice cream, but to start paying attention to what you really love, and what makes you feel satisfied, and build a diet that accommodates that. They're trying to teach us to learn how to enjoy really good food in moderation, and build the foods you love into your diet so you don't feel deprived. Because if you feel deprived, you're going to go running back to them and overeat....which doesn't feel good.
Even more important, they're teaching us that it's not just about losing weight. It's about feeling good, eating well, and being active. I've never really been anywhere that targeted these issues about women and food, health and body image, exercise and vitality, so compassionately or effectively. I feel like some huge weight is being lifted -- even if it's not 10 pounds in a week.