Diets don’t work. I’m Living Proof.

I'm in gray behind the adorable white bunny. I thought I was so fat. Ridiculous.

I’m in gray behind the adorable white bunny. I thought I was so fat. Ridiculous.

We often hear people say that diets don’t work, and there are a lot of articles and research out there that explain why this is true, for example this, this, and this. And yet, so many people continue to believe that if you have a fat body, then you can make ‘choices’ which will result in you having a body that is less fat. In other words, despite the research, we continue to believe that diets do work. I am hear to tell you otherwise, but not in some scientific way. I’m here to tell you that diets didn’t work for me. And I had every opportunity…

I am lucky enough to have been born to a loving upper middle class family. They are amazing.  And because they loved me they spared no expense when it came to trying to help me get thin. I could attend any weight-loss program or participate in any exercise regime.  The culture taught my family that thin was necessary for happiness and success so they genuinely believed that weightloss was the best possible option and they supported any and all attempts I made to lose weight. In response, I spent the first 30+ years of my life trying not to be fat.

When I was six my mother took me to the diet center. I remember sitting in the waiting room. I remember the fabric on the chairs. It was maroon, but not much else. I remember eating rice cakes. I can’t tell you if I lost weight, I don’t remember. I do remember wanting to lose weight and understanding that my mother brought me to the diet center because they could “help” me.

a thin year

A thin year – but not thin enough. I was drinking only liquids and eating meal replacement bars.

Sometime around 10 I went to fat camp. At camp they provided us with portioned meals and we exercised at least six hours a day. During the summer three girls tried to commit suicide. I know that sounds outrageous but it’s true. I don’t know for sure why these girls tried to take their lives but I remember the communal feelings of desperation. I was very popular at camp because when you removed the stigma of fatness – by creating an all fat environment – people who are funny, smart and savvy can shine. I remember the pictures from the end of the summer – a thin me in a green striped top – I remember these pictures  because this is one on the first times I remember feeling adorable in photos.

When I was 12 I went to another weight-loss center called 40 Carrots.  Again, I went with my mom, who has always been thin – by anyone’s standard – but she has also always dieted. I remember standing in the kitchen with her weighing out 4oz of chicken, seasoning it with vinegar, dijon mustard and pepper, chopping carrots and pouring water. I remember being hungry. I also remember losing like 20lbs. I got new clothes and felt beautiful. I remember walking into French class and having a boy I’d know since kindergarten asking me when I’d changed so much.

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It was a beautiful day – I adore my husband.

When I was 14, I went to Jenny Craig. I lost 20lbs eating food made by nestle that quite literally has no nutritional value. I remember daydreaming about getting to the Jenny Craig “maintenance program,”  where I would learn to stay thin. Instead, I gained the 20lbs  I lost plus 10 more.

During my later high school years, I tried weight watchers, slim fast, atkins, nutrisystem and plain old starvation. I always lost weight and I always gained more than I lost.

I broke up with my high school boyfriend in my freshman year of college and got thin again – this time I think it was 45lbs. I don’t remember a particular program, but I remember buying a skin tight brightly colored paisley dress and wearing it so he would see what he was missing. I was fat again by sophomore year.

I was  happy in college – I had great friends. But I still felt body conscious and I weighed 200lbs for the first time. For graduation I asked my parents to send me to Structure House – which is like fat camp for grown ups. At Structure House I lost 50 lbs.  I gained it back .

In grad school I watch a newscast about some soap opera star who lost weight on a liquid diet – Optifast. I lost 60lbs doing this – three times –  between the ages of 23 and 30.

At 30 I followed a program called Dr. Bernstein and worked out like crazy to get ready for my wedding. When I walked down the aisle I weighed 172 pounds. I look thin in the pictures but I had wanted thinner. I wasted time on my wedding day thinking about how I could have looked prettier.

Do you see a pattern? It’s not like I wasn’t committed.

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We are so cool.

When I think about my childhood, I remember crying a lot about my body. I remember feeling like a failure and not understanding why I wasn’t thin like my friends. I would have given anything to be thin, and I tried everything to be thin. I’m not going to lie to you. I have always loved food, but honestly I wanted thin way more than I ever wanted food. Each time I was thinner I loved being thinner, and I desperately wanted to stay thinner but as soon as I stopped starving and started eating normally I gained the weight back. Thin was/is not in the cards for me.

Today, I work out regularly and eat healthy but I don’t lose weight. At least I think I don’t lose weight because at this point in my life I never get on a scale and my clothes seem to fit.   I genuinely believe that constant  dieting made me fatter. I think that if I had accepted my body rather than diet I might have been a bit bigger than others but I never would have been as big as I am now. Diets failed me. They haunted me – they filled my life with failure because no matter how many times I dieted, I never stayed thin.

People say things like, “It’s not about dieting – It’s a lifestyle change.” Well, I’ve made a lifestyle change. I’ve decided not to diet because diets don’t work.

Plus, I’m fabulous – just the way I am.

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Dear Narrow Minded Yoga Dude and Other Fat-shamers at the Gym, You Suck

Me Doing Yoga circa 2002

Me Doing Yoga circa 2002

Recently, I took a private yoga class with my family – mom, uncle, husband, father – we were all there. I haven’t taken a whole lot of private yoga instruction in my life but I have been practicing yoga on and off for a number of year, so private instruction sounded like a good time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Basically, this yoga dude showed up to our hotel room, stripped down to his skivvies and proceeded to tell us that most people practice yoga for all the wrong reasons – which in all honestly is probably true – but his presentation of these ideas was off putting and a little pretentious – mostly because he presented himself as a yoga genius and treated us like idiots. Because of his belief in a universally flawed perception of yoga – this dude would not lead us through a series of asanas. Instead, we had to start from scratch and re-learn the poses we already knew with him as our guide. Fine.

My Bulging Tricep

My Bulging Tricep

After a few rounds of sun salutations, which honestly felt the same as all the other times I’ve preformed sun salutations, we moved on to warrior pose and the yoga dude explained that the first sign of aging is the flabby wings that we get under our arms (<— not true), and that obviously, we all fear this flab (<— not true x 2). His “solution” for this flab was flexing one’s palms towards the floor so as to tighten the triceps – he explained that he practiced by pressing against the shower soap dish for years and now his arms aren’t flabby. In response to this explanation he asked us all to flex our arms and he went around touching our triceps, proving that “horrible flab” was easily eliminated.

Eliminating the flab under my arms, which by the way is unnecessary, cannot be accomplished by flexing my triceps. In family – I am the fattest; I am also the most fit. I work out all the time – I train 3 times a week for an hour and I do cardio on the other days. I am super strong and while they are covered in fat I have huge bulging triceps, which regularly sling stuff around. When the jerk-faced yoga dude got to my tricep – he pinched the fat under my arm and said “I don’t think there is a tricep in here.” Fat-shaming douch-bag.

News flash: Fat people work out too. Just becasue I’m fat doesn’t mean I lack muscle tone or that I don’t go to the gym to work on my health. (Check out these awesome images of fit fatties!) My health is mine to define. Fat can be fit or maybe it isn’t but either way another person’s arm flab or level of fitness clearly none of yo’ business. Furthermore, shaming me in from of my family or shaming others wherever isn’t doing any good. It’s clynically proven that fat-shaming does not encourage this fat person to become less fat.

Fat Gym Rat

Fat Gym Rat

Clearly, this yoga dude – is just one jerk but this is not the first person to give me a hard time about being fat and wanting to exercise my body. Regularly at my gym strangers come up to me to express their joy that I’m working out. “Good For you,” they say – which really means “Good Job Fattie – proud to see you trying to overcome your fat.” Another comment I hear frequently, is “You really work hard” expressed with a startled awe. Whether they know it or not these beasties are expressing their hard held beliefs that if your fat you must be a lazy, un-fit slob who sits around and stuff your face all day. This is fat-hate and their comments are fat-shaming because they believe that a fat person is only valuable when trying to get thin. To be clear – I’m not trying to get thin. I’m trying to stay fit. I go to the gym because it makes me feel good. I go because I know that pursuing fitness will help me live the life I want to live. Despite this choice that I make for myself – no one should tell you how to care for your fat body. It’s yours to do with as you please.