One day in 1996, I was literally living Gloria Steinem’s quote: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” I was in the “pissed off” stage.
I was sitting in a medical school library, having just read a great deal of research I didn’t want to believe.
At that point in my life, I had been dieting for 30 years, and always wound up fatter with every effort. Despite extreme deprivation, fasting, starving, and suffering, every time I lost weight, I regained it. And fast.
At first, I reasoned that I had chosen the wrong diet. Maybe the Vegetable Soup Diet wasn’t the one! Maybe eating nothing but protein wasn’t healthy. Perhaps Fasting, especially if it left you ready to eat the linoleum floor, wasn’t the answer!
After years of this (and making great effort at every major diet), I decided I must be stupid. Forget the two bachelor’s degrees and the master’s degree I had earned.
I mean, who couldn’t do this one simple thing?
Finally, I entertained the idea that I was simply defective.
That’s the thing about repeated failure. It wears away confidence. And weight is so personal that failing to discard excess fat had begun to feel like personal failure. That extra fat felt like ME. Somewhere, in the battle, I’d lost myself completely, and lost perspective on my accomplishments, talents and gifts.
Fat had conquered me. I was living my life like fat was all that mattered.
What I discovered, through my research in the library that day, was this: practically NO ONE was losing weight and keeping it off long-term. In fact, the medical profession defined permanent weight loss as losing more than 25 pounds and keeping it off 5 years or more, and research in study after study showed that occurred one percent of the time.
I didn’t know whether to be really happy or really sad.
Here was proof that I wasn’t defective, and I wasn’t the only one who led this frustrating life. Those before and after pictures needed “after-the-after” pictures taken a year later. No one ever shows those!
So, I was both happy I wasn’t defective… and also sad. Sad that I had put so much time and effort into something that never had the possibility of getting me what I wanted. Sad I had wasted time, money, energy and emotion on this roller-coaster of weight loss.
When I began to understand the money game taking advantage of the fallacy of weight loss in our culture—the diet industry earned $60 billion dollars in 2015 with ZERO long-term result—I finally got mad.
After working my way through my anger, I found myself possessed by two seemingly opposing thoughts: practically no one achieved what I wanted AND I still wanted it.
I often wondered where it came from, this extra 100 pounds. Now, I knew. It came from dieting.
I didn’t feel quite right in a larger body. It didn’t look like me. It didn’t feel like me.
I knew I was hiding behind my fat, behind the excuse it so obviously afforded me. I wondered if I was in there, inside my accumulated shame, grief and fat.
At that point, it became less about the number on the scale and more about finding myself.
So, I decided to be one of the one percent who lose weight and don’t gain it back.
Today, I have lost 92 pounds and sustained that loss for over 17 years. It took more courage that I knew existed. My mantra through my entire journey was “never go back” and I haven’t.
In order to accomplish permanent weight loss, I had to stand up to the “Diet World,” honor my own values, get a life, and stop paying attention to what “they” say.
First, I had to ditch the Diet World along with their hawking of diets, products, supplements, programs, and wild fads.
I had to be okay with fat loss instead of weight loss. Fat loss is slow because the body seeks to protect itself. It took me 3 years to lose 74 pounds, and it was only about 10 years later that I lost another 18 pounds. I learned that I can’t mess with mother nature, and the body is mother nature.
Next, I realized we all have unique values, and mine are different than others.
For instance, I discovered my “Cowgirl” value. I’m originally from Texas and was raised to be an individualistic, out-of-the-box thinker. My mantra might as well be “nobody’s going to tell me what to do.”
Up until that day in the library, I had dieted repeatedly and Cowgirl had rebelled repeatedly, failing utterly. I suddenly that saw rebellion could be a good thing, if I directed it at the negative influences in my life.
After that day, I used my inner Cowgirl to rebel against every diet and quick fix known to mankind.
I realized I had to change ME, not the number on the scale. I had to let go of resentments, limiting beliefs, and some really old ideas about who I was.
Some of the limiting beliefs I discovered and changed were:
- There’s something wrong with me. (I am defective.)
- Thin = happy.
- Others know better.
- You’re not good enough.
- You don’t deserve to be thin/happy/run your own life
I found that these limiting beliefs ran deep, like the blood in my veins. Most of them were from childhood, and they needed some real introspection and willful destruction. They reverberated back at the oddest times, tempting me to believe them all over again. I lost 74 pounds and stayed there for ten years, until I recognized a deep belief that needed changing: what I thought I deserved.
And what about “they”?
There always seems to be a “they” telling people what to do: society, culture, families, institutions, authority figures, entire industries of “experts.” When I stopped caring what “they” thought of me, my life became my own. It was powerful.
I’ve had people tell me that I’m a terrible mother, that my methods would make other people who used them anorexic(!), and that I’m still too fat to be a weight loss coach. But I truly don’t care what “they” think. They are not living my life, or paying my bills, so to hell with their judgments!
The truth I discovered was that weight loss was less about what I was eating and more about how I was living. Weight loss is less about extremes, and more about balance. Once my body began to trust that I could feed it with care, and would respond to its needs, it began to feel safe and release the excess weight.
The lessons I learned turned out to be as important as the weight loss I achieved. From the sustained weight loss, I’ve been able to nurture remarkable health. From living close to my values, I’ve made my life feel authentic and meaningful, as well as full of connection and vitality.