Archive for the 'Tapestry' Category



One of the things that I think the people in these stories did so well was find something that fit them.  Rather like going to a store and trying on clothes, they found (or created) an eating program that really worked for them.

Marc David, who runs the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, says that one of our big myths around eating and weight loss is that “if it worked for her, it’ll work for me.”  When I went to one of his workshops a few years ago, he said that myth doesn’t even hold up for ourselves from day to day.  We are dynamic beings, and our metabolism changes daily, so what works for us one day doesn’t necessarily work for us the next.

Rather than be discouraged by this idea, I think there’s some fundamental insight that’s worth harvesting in it.  If we can be deeply connected to ourselves, it almost doesn’t matter what we’re doing as long as we’re (as Geneen Roth says) acting on our behalf.

That’s one of my strongest insights from this blog:  the energy that these people used to approach their food was more important than the structure that they used.  If they approached their eating program with compassion and dignity, that’s what they got back.  If they used a factual, scientific approach, that’s what was delivered to them.

Midway through my interviews, my friend Annie got serious with me one day when I was freaking out about whether sugar is addictive or not.  She got real quiet and then in a warm, compassionate voice, she said to me, “Maggie, when you are ready, you KNOW what to do.”  And that’s true for everyone.  We know, deeply, how to change our weight.  It’s a matter of applying what we already know.

The essential question now is, “What is the energy that we want to use in creating our approach to food?”

To me, that’s the defining variable.  Much more than which approach people take.

Brad said, “What works for me won’t necessarily work for the next person.”

Lorrie said, “): I’m an INFP [in the Myers-Briggs typing] so a formal structure like Weight Watchers doesn’t appeal to me
at all.”

There’s no secret answer here in this blog.  There are wonderful stories from ordinary and amazing people.  People who made a decision, either when they couldn’t tie their own shoes at their shoe store or when they looked retirement in the face or when they just decided that they would create the day that they waited for all their lives.

They made a decision, they adapted or created a program to suit their personal needs, and they got into action.

It really is that simple.

If you want it crystalized into a bulleted list, here you go:

  • use what you already know
  • look at the long term (think tortoise, not hare)
  • ask for help (who are your allies? who roots for you? access those people!)
  • live in action (remember the FA mantra that Carrie recited:  Thoughts are thoughts, and feelings are feelings, but actions are what really matter)
  • be kind to yourself (Lorrie gave me the phase “gentle self-talk,” and that’s worth keeping)

That’s it.  My last post on this blog.

Farewell.  Thanks for journeying with me!


Start with honoring yourself

When I was talking on the phone a few weeks ago about my blog to a friend, she asked me for some insight into what I’d learned while interviewing people.  My top strengths in the StrengthsFinder test is Individualization, which leads me “to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.”  I can readily see where each specific person found her (or his) way to moving beyond yoyo diets.  But generalizing that into steps for the rest of us:  haven’t figured that out yet.  Working on it, though.

And in that moment (well, actually after I hung up the phone…delayed reaction…sigh), I realized the first step, the one that really seems to swing people across the great chasm from teeth gritting and white knuckling diets to sustainably eating in harmony with their bodies:  it’s honoring themselves.

It’s making change from a place of reverence for their lives and for who they are.  It’s deep, deep caring for themselves.

It’s not shame. 

It’s not berating themselves. 

It’s not urgency or worry or anxiety or threats from doctors.  

It’s kindness. 

For self.



I love Michelle Obama.  She’s one of my true modern day heroes.  And after I read a few sister bloggers, I realized why I have a beef with her anti-childhood obesity campaign.  

Harriet Brown says it very well in The Huffington Post when she talks about the potential backlash from Michelle Obama’s work:  

I worry that emphasizing weight rather than health will make life harder for all children, fat and thin, in our already appearance-obsessed culture.  

Painfully aware of how a culture that values thinness can have devastating effects (due to her daughter’s battle with anorexia), Ms. Brown urges a focus on health rather than size.   

By focusing exclusively on childhood obesity, we’re not just putting kids in danger; we’re missing a rare opportunity to shape both public policy and cultural attitudes. And we’re missing the chance to convey to all children, no matter what their BMI, the real meaning of health: It’s about feeling good — body, mind, and spirit. It’s about feeling good in and about yourself. And it’s way bigger and more important than a number on the scale.  

Amen, sistah!  


Michelle Obama has enormous power and influence, and with that power comes responsibility.  I know I’m on a rant, and Lesley Kinzel’s blog post on Fatshionista hit me in the gut, too.  

Call it a campaign against childhood couch-sitting. Call it a drive to get kids to go outside and play, in the grand tradition of the many hours I spent doing the same as a (fat) kid. Call it a movement to educate children on basic nutrition and how their amazing growing bodies work for them. But don’t single out the fat kids. Their burden is already heavy enough. And if I am any indication, doing this will only ensure that this generation will be fatter than ever, dragging behind them huge heaps of food issues and low self-esteem as a bonus. Not all of them will be as strong-willed, independently-thinking, and plain old determined as I have been, and as many of you have been, who were able to shed the fat-based self-loathing and begin that crazy adventure towards self-acceptance. Many of them will struggle with body hatred for the rest of their lives.  

These savvy women make a great point.  I’m on board!  

And I’m including this post here because I believe the roots of struggles with weight start very, very early.  When I interviewed Ella, she and I dreamed about a curriculum for kids that teaches them to cue off their own bodies, to develop the muscle of checking in with their own bodies about their food choices, to learn self-affirmation and self-care right there alongside math and spelling.  I suggested starting around third grade.  “Kindergarten,” said Ella.  Yep, that would be the place to start.


what is the bigger yes?

A few years ago, I co-led a class on healing from emotional eating with my friend, Pamela Mattsson.  During one of the sessions, Pamela asked a question that has stayed with me:  What is the bigger yes?  I’m fuzzy on context, but it was around wanting to say “yes” to food and then looking higher than that to what we each deeply want.  What do you want more than a particular food, both in the moment and in the long run? 

Geneen Roth talked about this same idea on this past week’s teleclass on her book, Women Food and God.  She said that we make choices that reinforce a larger question over and over, several times a day, and she suggested that we ask ourselves the question, “What do I want more than anything?”   She acknowledged that there’s some discomfort in asking the question, and it asking it again and again.  And we already live in some degree of discomfort so since we’re going to be uncomfortable anyway, why not have a higher connection to ourselves? 

It occurs to me that many of the people profiled on this blog have reached for their bigger yeses.  They have identified what they want more than meeting a specific craving in a particular moment.  They are tolerating some level of discomfort for the sake of something bigger in their lives. 

I love the phrase "coming home to myself."



I’m wondering if there needs to be a tight infrastructure to bring people success in moving beyond yoyo diets. 

As I reflect on the people whom I’ve interviewed, a high percentage had fairly tight structure:  12-step meetings and guidelines, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Chris’s guidance from her nutritionist. 

A few people (Rachel, Pat and Brad come to mind) created their own structure.  Ella did, too, although she followed the guidance of the anti-candida literature that she read. 

Is there enough data here to suggest that people need at least some structure (in whatever form suits them)?  Or can people simply follow something as simple as Michael Pollan‘s advice, “Eat food.  Not a lot. Mostly plants.”

I suspect it comes down to an individual match between people and their preferences/needs.  I tend to chafe at things that hold me too tightly, and I flip into rebellion mode when I sense that rules are too strict. 

I’m curious about what allows people to step into structure and use it rather than rebel against it.  Is it a right place/right time/right fit and alchemy?  Is it a personality type fit neatly into a puzzle piece of just the right structure? 

Yes, I’ve got more questions here than answers.  I’m hoping that some people are noticing threads through these stories, things that I’m not catching.  If you do notice something that strikes you, please chime in.


We’re all royalty

Marc David, who founded the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, was interviewed recently for Nexus magazine. He has some insightful things to say about emotional eating.  I’m especially interested in what he says about princesses and queens:

The princess part in a woman is about “me.” “How do I look? Do you love me? Am I okay?” It’s a necessary archetypal stage young women go through. They need to be the princess, they need to have it be about “me.” But sometime around 30 years old, that starts to shift, as women step into a different level of adulthood and a different stage of emotional and psychic development. They need to be evoking the queen. The same goes for men: we need to be evoking the king.

I’m curious about whether age makes a difference in shifting weight.  Do we have to reach a certain level of maturity (become a queen or king, Marc David’s terms) before we can make a real shift?  Is it cognitively possible for kids to make this shift and get really, really clear and outside themselves enough to create a paradigm shift in their worlds?

My original title for this blog was 40 Cubed:  40 people who are 40 or older who have let go of 40 or more pounds.  I’m letting go of that age requirement.  I want to know if age matters, so I’m interviewing some younger people in the coming weeks. 

I’d love to hear what you think about emotional maturity and how it factors into sustainable weight change.  My sense is that it’s a key component — I just haven’t figured out a question to include in my interviews that captures the essence of this quality.  I think emotional maturity — that queen or king voice — comes through in the interviews with these fine folk on this blog.  If you have a questions to suggest, send it to me so that I can include this piece of the puzzle.


raising the next generation of eaters

I’ve noticed that most of the people I have interviewed for this project did not need to navigate around their children as they made their changes.  A few of them did have kids at home when they made dramatic shifts, and because my kids are 9 and 12, I’m pretty curious about what success looks like around kids.  So, of course, I asked.

I asked everyone I interviewed, whether they have kids or not, “What’s the best way to approach kids around food?”  I could write a whole ‘nother blog on this topic (and I’m considering it) because there’s a lot of content here.  Here’s a summary of what I learned:

  • “The best gift that I can give [my middle school age daughter] is my example,” Lee says. “I am open about my struggles and I share insights. I eat lots of healthy food and I respect her choices as choices. One thing, specifically, that I had a hard time with was passing on my connection between emotions and food: She was disappointed. ‘Awww, let’s go get ice cream.’  A happy occasion. ‘Let’s go out to eat.’ Tired at the end of the afternoon. ‘Have a cookie, that will perk you up!’”
  • For Carol, her girls were teens when she participated in the On the Move program that helped her accept herself at any size.  “I hope some of that rubbed off on them.  I hope they learned to be happy with themselves at any size and I hope they learned not to deprive themselves.”
  • Kids naturally slide into their parents’ bad habits, Ella notices.  “They don’t understand that we all carry our own weaknesses, and I tell my son, ‘This is not the place where I am strong.  Don’t follow me here. Let’s research this together and figure out new habits.’”
  • An educator and the mother of teens, Rachel has a clear philosophy about kids and food.  “Leave them alone,” she says. “I provide healthy meals at home and if my girls have junk food when they’re out, it’s not a big deal. I don’t have any food rules for them, and pretty much let them eat whatever the want; but, it’s really important to me that they are armed with knowledge. So, even if they choose to eat something that is unhealthy, as long as they know this, then I figure eventually they will eventually outgrow the tendency as I did. Interestingly, if I stock the fridge with fresh fruit, they almost always prefer it to sweets or junk food. So, in my home, it’s really just a matter of making the healthy options readily available as much as possible.”

An outdated (but favorite) picture of my kids.

I would love to hear what other people think because this topic, perhaps even more than adult success, fascinates me.  My kids’ ages are at the age where the roots begin.  They are ripe for influence, and I want to parent them in a positive and healthy way.


handling sabotage

I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but watching how sabotage shows up for people who have made positive food changes can get me there.  There’s almost an evil side to people that comes out in the face of others’ progress.  The treats at work, the meals at friends’ homes, celebrations and special occasions.  It can make for some tough times for these people that I’ve interviewed.

Carol has had people push food on her.  “They say things like, ‘You don’t need to lose weight, you don’t need to diet.’”

I asked her how she responds.  “I usually tell them, ‘I’m working on my cholesterol,’ because they can’t argue with that.”

Charlotte has the same problem with people insisting that she’s not eating enough.  “They take offense and they say things like, ‘Why aren’t you eating? What’s wrong?’ Social events are permeated with eating and drinking.  Not everyone can handle that.” 

Charlotte has learned that most people speak from the intended purpose of generosity and hospitality.  When one of her distant relatives started to tell her the story of an unsuccessful gastric bypass surgery, she realized he was doing it as an expression of concern about her own surgery, and she took it in that light rather than becoming offended or hurt.

Charlotte has also learned to say things like, “I don’t want to talk about it.”  Or she might say, “I am not here to be a subject of conversation.”  And she sometimes just avoids people who are negative or who push her to eat.

Both Charlotte and Carol have learned that they have to speak up for themselves and set limits for other people in this arena.  “You have to learn to be in charge of your own eating and to listen to your own body,” says Charlotte.

Ella describes herself as “try to be direct and kind.”  She’ll say things like, “I appreciate you offering me food, but I’ll appreciate you even more when you stop offering it.”

Here’s another thread that seems to run through these successful women:  they have learned to speak up for themselves and set healthy boundaries.


what does support look like?

Almost universally, the people I’ve talked to about moving beyond yoyo diets say that their success hinged on the people they lived with when they embarked on their changes. 

“My husband has been supportive of whatever I’ve done,” says Carol.  “He’s loved me at every size.”  

When Carol differentiated between preaching and support, I asked her for examples.  Support is NOT, “You’re right, you really should lose weight.”  It’s not, “You’re gonna have THAT to eat?!” or “You’re going to have seconds?!”  Support, says Carol, is “being okay with not having ice cream in the house, it’s eating the same things that I’m eating, making salads, being creative with food, trying new foods.”  Carol laughed, “I make black bean brownies, and my husband eats them.”

Carol mentioned that this topic comes up often at her Weight Watchers meetings.  “I’m lucky,” says Carol, “because my kids are out of the house, and it’s just my husband and me there.  I don’t have to negotiate with very many people.  In my Weight Watchers group, some people put food in the basement for their kids so it’s out of their sight.”

Ella emphasizes that support means something different for each person.  “I do not feel it is necessary for the entire household to consume the same foods, but if your partner is willing to live and eat within the guidelines you have set for yourself and to be respectful of your attempts at health (i.e. not bringing home tempting foods/treats), it does greatly support success. I also would agree that feeling unconditional love, regardless of physical appearance helps people move from the usually unsuccessful ‘trying to lose for the love of another’ approach, to the much healthier ‘losing for the love of Self.’

Rachel’s support has come through many of the trainers and fellow members at her gym.  “We talk body and nutrition every chance we get.  I love to swap trade secrets. My daughters are also really on board with offering positive feedback; although, they still eat more junk food than I endorse.”

What does support look like for you?


giving up perfect

Perfectionism is a thread that runs through yoyo diets.  We’ve got to get it RIGHT!  Follow the rules.  Be good.      

I’ve had some poignant conversations this week about giving up perfectionism for the sake of healing, for the sake of finding what’s underneath (our own souls), for the sake of being real.      

I’ll use Oprah’s famous “what I know for sure” lead-in here:  I know for sure that perfectionism rots the insides.  It chews us up and spits us out.  There’s no surviving it.  It’s gotta go.     

To move beyond yoyo dieting, we have to declare perfectionism dead.       

And many of the women profiled her have done just that.  Sometimes they’ve done it with grace, and sometimes they’ve done it kicking and screaming so that their fingernails got ripped off when they tried to grip the perfectionism really, really hard.  But they did it.  They learned to forgive themselves.  They learned to dust themselves off and get back up and be themselves again.  They learned to take the long-range view and hold solidly to who they know themselves to be.       


Anna Quindlen, a supreme writer!

Anna Quindlen wasn’t talking about food and eating when she wrote her powerful commencement speech for Mount Holyoke College in 1999 (link here for the text — it’s well worth the read — it was later adapted to become a book called Being Perfect, one of my favorite books of all time!).  Here’s a quote that I treasure:    

But nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.     

I forget this idea all the time.  Mercifully, these fine people whom I’ve interviewed remind me of it.     

A yummy blend of story, politics, and personal philosophy.

This blog is not currently active, but it's got some extraordinary content so I keep it going with a very occasional post. It's a series of stories from people who have successfully let go of 40 or more pounds using lots of different approaches. The stories are all here along with my editorials about the threads that run between them (click on the Stories and Tapestry tabs). Enjoy!

Margaret Graham, NCC, CPCC

Photo of Maggie Graham

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