Posted by Pattie on 1/03/2011 09:05:00 AM

This month, I am participating in a ReVolution! -- Every Monday in January I plan to write a blog post here about my life and how Health at Every Size℠ has changed my life for better. This is the first installment of five.


For the majority of my life, Mondays were the start day. Every diet, exercise or personal improvement kick I tried started on a Monday. Monday was a day of atonement for the weekend.

Don't get me wrong. I was not someone who blew the diet on most weekends. No, when I put my mind to it, I stuck to the project. If I had never regained the weight I've lost on diets, I would have disappeared several times over by now. My problem was never "will-power." Almost every weight loss effort I did ended with illness. I would be working hard and losing weight and then I would come down with a kidney infection or low potassium or pneumonia. OR I would get very close to the goal weight and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't lose the last little bit.

So with each successive attempt, I got more dysfunctional. I tried laxatives, diuretics and diet pills to help with the last little bit. My body would rebel and start gaining. I've gained weight eating nothing but celery and grapefruit.

I get a kick out of stupid projects like Super Size Me where the person tries to prove that eating nothing but fill-in-the-blank will lead to all sorts of symptoms. I ate so many lemons in a 4 week period one time that my face turned bright red and I had to take cortisone shots to get the inflammation down. I ate so many carrots one time that my finger and toe nails turned orange.

Then I turned 40 and nothing I did made me lose weight. My last few diet attempts were extremely discouraging because I was starving myself and over-exercising and not losing weight. I had yo-yo'd so many times that my survivor abilities were honed to perfection. I could subsist on virtually no food at all.

I suspect my story is not that unusual. I suspect that this is the plight of someone like me whose genetic make-up is determined to survive. My non-smoking older relatives have all been fat and have all lived well into their 80s and beyond. My great-grandfather weighed 300 pounds when he died. He was 99-years-old.

I'm what my husband calls "farm-fat," hard working-salt-of-the-earth fat people who need the extra muscle/fat mass because they work hard at daily chores. I suspect that if I had lived in a fat neutral world I would have accepted this early on and I would be a lot healthier today. Probably not as fat, but still fatter than the average.

But I didn't grow up in that world. I grew up in a world that demanded I lose weight from the time I was eleven years old. With puberty, I put on 20 pounds and that is when the panic began. I attended Weight Watchers at age 12. My yo-yo dieting started early and went on for nearly 30 years.

My message, which I tried to convey in our book, is that I dieted my way into disability.


I think this is important to say because the prevailing message is that dieting will spare you from disability and chronic illness. But my metabolic problems occurred first and then the weight came on. (see next week's entry for a discussion of cause and effect).

Health at Every Size℠ is an approach that emphasizes health not weight. Weight or BMI is a poor indicator of health with little medical or scientific support. At the beginning of this century, I consciously gave up dieting and weighing myself. I threw out the scale and have only allowed myself to be weight 3 times in the past 10 years and only paid attention to what I weighed once. I started on a journey to eat when I was hungry and stop eating when I was full (some times called "intuitive eating"). I started moving for the fun of it rather than to lose weight. Judging from my clothes, I have not gained or lost significant weight during that time.

The biggest benefit has been the time I have for other things. During the past 10 years, I have finished my Ph.D., wrote a memoir, made several films, co-produced a radio show, ran 3 different companies and taught at a Community College. Mondays are a renewal day for me still, but it is a day when I look back on things I accomplished the week before and things I want to do this week. NOT a day of regrets or self-loathing.

Am I healthier? Yes and no. It turns out I've done a lot of damage. I got sick in 1997 with what I thought was lupus and what I now believe was hypothyroidism. Before HAES℠ I had good days and bad days. After HAES℠ I also have good days and bad days. Turning 50 was not a good time for me. I got all the fun menopausal, hormonal, post-50 metabolic pain-in-the-butt challenges outlined in the textbook and, of course, had to re-work through all the issues of weight and comfort-in-my-own-skin.

But this I believe with all my heart: If I had not found HAES℠, I would be dead by now.

Because of HAES℠,I have approached my health problems as health problems, not "lifestyle, self-blame" problems and they are slowly getting solved. And I remind myself that many thinner counterparts who are over 50 experience the same challenges I do. It is called aging.

So, I may not be the poster girl for HAES℠, but I am a believer. And I hope that anyone reading this will consider this way of life instead of the yo-yo life I've lived. I suspect I won't live to be 99 years old like my great-grandfather because of the ways in which I fell prey to societal beliefs about weight and health. I grieve this often and have a lot of anger about it. But I do know this. I will live longer for having given up those beliefs.

I wish you long-life and health. Stay tuned next week for more on my Life with HAES℠.


Anna Guest-Jelley said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It's a bittersweet read for me because I can so relate. I've also developed and/or overlooked health problems because of my fixation on dieting. I've also had doctors who have done the same. But once I discovered HAES, I realized that didn't have to be case. That was a very liberating notion; it wasn't one that I took to completely right away, but over time I have been able to incorporate it into my life slowly but surely.

JeninCanada said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. <3

Sleepydumpling said...

Thank you for sharing your story, I have a lot of similar occurrences in mine.

I firmly believe that the worst illnesses and health issues I have had across my life were brought on by dieting and my eating disorder. I was so weakened by starvation diets and bizarre combinations of food and exercise that I would literally run myself into illness.

HAES is the one thing that seems to make me stronger and more balanced, both bodily and emotionally. It's not a smooth road, but it is a road that is taking me there nonetheless.

Great post, off to share it now.