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 third installment of five.


When I first decided in late 2000 to quit dieting once and for all, I was chronically ill with what I thought at the time was lupus (and have since learned was probably sub-clinical hypothyroidism). For the most part, these symptoms were chronic but not debilitating on a daily basis. I had flare-ups but had settled into routines that seemed to work. I had some sort of pain almost daily but usually dull pain and with regular exercise and eating good food and getting plenty of rest, I felt generally healthy.

I spent the first couple of years re-learning my hunger and satiation cues. I had dieted so much that I literally did not know when I was hungry or what my hunger felt like. In the past, I depended on outside cues to tell me when to eat and how much to eat. This was a process of mindful eating and, frankly, trial and error. I often waited too long at first, feeling ravenous when I finally sat down to eat and then finding I ate so fast that I was full long before I realized it. I slowed down my eating, learned to savor food and learned how to identify hunger before it was starvation.

In December 2002, I got pneumonia and became very weak. It was months before I could walk without gasping for air. I found a great program that started me working out in water with paddles and eventually I was doing 20 minutes on the treadmill and weight training in the gym. I became stronger and my metabolic health was excellent (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, pulse rate, etc.). AND I didn't lose weight or gain weight.

By the Spring of 2004, I felt the healthiest I had in years. I was still dealing with arthritic symptoms and flare-ups but not as often and not as severe. When we went on the road in The Ample Traveler, I felt good and maintained that feeling for some time. I turned 47 that summer.

It was easy to believe in Health at Every Size℠ under those conditions. When I wrote Taking Up Space with Carl, I was confident and had no doubt that this was a better way of living than the 30 years I spent fighting my body's natural tendency to be bigger.

I sprang my foot in 2004 and had nerve damage that left me walking with a cane, but even that didn't slow me down or shake my confidence. I had so much experience with chronic conditions at that point, that it became just one more thing to care for with my body--an annoyance, but my view of health had long since changed into an understanding of relative health rather than a set criteria. So I felt I was the healthiest I could be with chronic conditions.

Then I turned 50 and the "other biological clock" for women started. I became menopausal, I started having metabolic problems and I went through a rough period with Health at Every Size℠.

The same conditions that are supposedly connected to fatness are connected to aging, especially in women going through "the change." I began to doubt my choice to not diet and spent many days thinking through the whole process. I felt alone in some ways because I had fat-acceptance friends who were talking about how healthy they were and I knew I was not healthy. In fact, it felt like at the time that I was turning into the poster child for all the conditions that they were bragging they didn't have. For a while I kept quiet. I didn't write here and I didn't reach out. I didn't diet, but my reason for not trying to lose weight was that I was thoroughly convinced that it would not work, that I wouldn't lose any weight. I had been down that road and it made me sick and I didn't want to get any sicker. But I wasn't sure about the new road and whether I'd feel better.

I did reach out to some private groups eventually and I began to see that fat women who were going through menopause and who had type 2 diabetes and other metabolic problems were using HAES℠ to help them deal with their conditions. I started reading about these conditions and discovered that there were strong indications that the dieting I had done for 30 years as well as the aging process probably contributed to those conditions.

Let me be clear about another aspect of this. It didn't help that I had little access to health care due to no insurance and it didn't help that I am an underpaid teacher who has to work several jobs to supplement my income in order to be able to teach. Stress doesn't help. Stigma doesn't help. Fear doesn't help. Isolation doesn't help.

So about 2 years ago, upon realizing that many of my health problems, including the chronic conditions that started in 1997, were probably from hypothyroidism,I had another epiphany like the one I had in 2000. I had been misdiagnosed because of the societal and cultural attitudes about fat. In 1997, when I first got sick, I had chronic fatigue. I couldn't sleep well. I caught one infection after another. I was oversensitive to light and had rashes from exposure. I had an abnormal ANA count. I felt like I had the flu all the time with my joints and muscles aching. It wasn't hard to understand why the doctor thought it was arthritic and sent me to a rheumatologist, who, like most specialists, diagnosed me within her paradigm. Thus, lupus.

Except there was one symptom that I ignored and my doctors ignored: I gained 90 pounds in about 6 months. At the time, my paradigm and my doctors' paradigm was calories in/calories burned. I was eating less because I was too sick to eat much, but I went from someone who rode a bicycle everywhere she went (lived 3 miles from school, so at least 6 miles on school days, probably about 30 miles a week total) to someone who was bed-ridden. It seemed obvious that was the reason for the weight gain.

However, rapid weight gain is a symptom of hypothyroidism and no one even explored the possibility at the time. Hypothyroidism mimics lots of other conditions, especially so-called "check-box" conditions like lupus (positive diagnosis for lupus comes from presence of 4 out of 11 symptoms plus elimination of other possibilities).

So as I face an aging body, I've come to realize that my aging process is affected by several factors: hysterectomy (not ovaries) at age 38, untreated hypothyroidism, and years of yo-yo weight gain and pushing my metabolism and immune system to its limits.

In the past year, armed with this new understanding of HAES℠, one that doesn't depend upon me being perfectly healthy to demonstrate its effectiveness, I have become more pro-active in my health care.

First, I bought a wrist cuff to monitor my blood pressure. This has resulted in a significant reduction of my blood pressure meds and a personal realization that my blood pressure and pulse are heightened when I go to the doctor. I take my basal temperature in the morning to monitor the hypothyroidism. I check my blood sugar often. I am faithful in taking my medications and supplements, including menopausal support. I use assistive devices without hesitation because they improve my stamina and overall health.

And most importantly, I continue to practice intuitive eating and try to move my body as best I can. I do not diet. I do not weigh. I do not worry about my body size. The truth is that under thyroid treatment I think I may have lost a little weight (judging from how my clothes fit), but that is an effect of taking care of my thyroid and not intentional.

I am not the spring chicken I once was and I am angry that much of my health was taken from me by cultural standards and socialization that has made my aging more difficult. But the answer cannot lie in now buying into that thinking. I believe with all my heart that if I tried to lose weight now, I would make matters worse. I believe with all my heart that dieting is not good for the health. I believe with all my heart that I dieted my way into disability and early aging.

I believe with all my heart that if I had known and practiced Health at Every Size℠ when I was younger I would be a much healthier 50+ woman.

I tell my story often because I hope it serves as a lesson for others. I told Sarah on the podcast this week that I was excited to see so many young people involved with fat acceptance because they might be spared the years of dieting and the effects of that dieting.

I think that history will look back on this period as barbaric when it comes to dieting and weight loss. We have abundance and resources and instead of celebrating and sharing that abundance, we have created generations of people afraid of food, afraid of our own bodies.

I have come to realize how strong my body is. I have abused this body and fought this body for years and it perseveres and even improves with love and care. As I have researched what dieting does to a body, I have come to realize that I could be dead now from many of the things I did in the name of "getting more healthy."

So let me affirm, right here and right now, that I may not be the usual poster-girl for HAES℠, I should be, because HAES℠ has saved my life and has made me stronger. Health is relative and has a multitude of factors contributing to one's daily constitutions. But given what I've had to fight and what barriers I've faced and what damage I've staved off, I am healthy at my size.