Archive for the 'Stories' Category


Final Updates

I didn’t write to everyone whom I interviewed, and not everyone I wrote to responded to my query about what’s happened since we talked.  I’m so relieved that I’m doing this project outside the parameters of my graduate program — it’s a relief to just allow people to respond as they feel moved.

Carol, who worked through her chiropractor to find a solution to her weight, wrote back to me in response to my question about what she’s learned about food and weight since we talked:

I have learned that I like food and I missed some things that were not on my diet.  I have learned to eat more in moderation and to look at the labels on the packages and try to eat a “serving”size rather than the whole thing.  I think this has helped me to maintain the weight loss and to go back to some of the foods I was missing without feeling like I will put all the weight back on. I use some of my favorite foods as “treats” once a week or once a month so I still have them but not every day. (Like ice cream with chocolate syrup or chips and dip) I enjoy them more that way. I have continued to eat a larger amount of veggies than I had eaten before the diet and I like that too. I am trying new veggies now and then too like Brussels sprouts and Kale. Both I would eat but probably not buy myself.  I have learned to add olive oil to everything and sea salt. I have gained about 8 lb. back but I think I look good and I am still getting comments that make me feel good so I will keep it off.

I also asked Carol what she wanted to underline about her experience, and she wrote back:

I think I would encourage people to eat what they want, in moderation and in portion size. Keep all the new stuff that helps and add a few of the old favorites back in periodically.

Chris wrote to me as well when I sent her some questions.

I just love Jennifer’s attitude and journey….to me that’s absolutely it!!!   To me, that is what I aspire to…….learning to be that in sync with my body and know what she particularly needs/wants, what is going to help her feel good!  The Reset really helped me do that, but it’s even more than that.

Interestingly, many women I know have put on quite a bit of weight after doing the reset……..never all of it, I’m actually the only one I know who has stabilized where I ended up.  I think it’s because they do say in the “diet” you’ll be able to “eat what you want” after, which isn’t really true…………if you actually are tuned into what your body wants, yes, but if you are eating the way you ate before, no…………   Whereas someone who lost weight more consciously like thru Weight Watchers or what Jennifer is doing, would be more connected the whole way.

As my sister points out, I have totally changed my eating habits, I graze more instead of letting myself get hungry.  I don’t eat after dinner at all.  I eat what my body needs: protein/ veggies, fruit, and use a bit of carbs as the dessert…….

I am joining a gym to do yoga and Nia, and some machines.  This spring a guy rejected dating me because I wasn’t active enough…………I was pissed and disappointed, but understood.

But the thing I’ve found now is *I* DO want to be more active, I have always enjoyed moving and being in my body.   I haven’t been able to for so long, that I got to worry about whether it would set me back, exhaust me……..

But now I’m finding it just makes me happy.  So, I’m psyched!!

That’s it on the updates from people I’ve interviewed.  I’ll write a bit more about my own experience and wrap up in another post.


More Updates from the field

Here’s Part 2 of comments from people whom I’ve interviewed.

Carrie, who found radiance in Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous wrote me in response to one of my questions, “What have you learned about food and weight since we talked?”:

In regards to weight. I have found a certain sweet spot with my weight. It feels so good, so right, so natural to be at; for me that is 111 pounds (far from the top weight I saw on the scale…220). I love that I can maintain  that weight within 1-2 pounds without any “effort” today. Being in a “right sized” body is one of the best feelings in the world. But it has not been the guarantee for a “good life” that I once thought it would be. I have realized being in a thin, healthy body is a gift on loan based on my spiritual fitness, I never take it for granted.

I am see how my life & food parallel’s many spiritual  principles. For example…that if I “keep my food simple”, my life stays more simple. I am learning  to let go of  drama, entitlement, and  attachment to  food (fat free, sugar free, gluten free, spicy foods, food allergies, name brand foods). This surrender and letting go… not only gives me freedom from food obsession, but it also frees up my life so that more spirit can come in. This is a truly mystical experience and the result is more peace and clarity then I can be present, productive and useful. Everyone benefits!!

I am still amazed, looking back, how much I was missing out on life by being trapped in the vicious cycle of trying to get the “food right”.  Today, I get to grow more and more into an abundant, spiritual and full life because my food is now in the right place.  It’s  fuel and therefore, life presents in technicolor and in ways I imagined and dreamed of but never saw the road and how I would be able to experience those dreams.

She also wrote a response to my question, “What about your own process do you want to underline in any wrap-up posts that I do?”

I continue to learn so much about my self and could speak/write volumes about this process. At this point, I owe great credit to my program FA, the people who have gone before me on this journey who are dedicated to service. And the power of the 12 steps. I love how simple a program it is and how much “surrender to win” works in my life today. That no matter what comes up in my life… ,overwhelm, joy, loneliness, sadness, fear, anger… all these things are true emotions that I can feel. I don’t have to eat to escape any of them. They are just feelings and will pass. I love the comfort of knowing this from my own experience and seeing how much presence and clarity I get since for today I am not struggling in the bondage of food obsession.

Lorrie, who taught me about gentle self-talk, wrote as well:

This spring has been crazy for me.  I had my gall bladder removed, and I’ve been having trouble with my feet which makes it hard to exercise.  That, in turn, makes it more difficult to keep my weight under control.  On the other hand, I just got some new T-shirts that are a size small (instead of M that I usually buy now and 1X when I was really heavy), so that is a good motivation for me.  The thing I keep telling myself is that weight control is a long-term project that will never be done, so just do the best I can every day.  I still weigh every day and keep my 125 pound limit in mind.  We went out to eat last night, so I’m up over that limit (salty food causing water weight gain of a couple of pounds).  I’ll work on my exercise and food more seriously this week, because I really don’t want to start on the weight-gain path.  Just a little attention every day – it’s easier for me that way.

It was fun to talk to you, and it helped me to think through what my goals and approaches to weight control really are.  Sometimes I think it is too easy to just let things happen rather than intentionally making decisions.  I get into trouble with my weight when I go the first route and do much better when I make conscious decisions about what it is I really want.

There are still a few more updates, so stay tuned.


Updates from the field

When I decided to wrap up this blog, I wrote to a few people whom I had interviewed and I asked for updates.  Now, several months have gone by since they originally sent their responses.  Still, I want to include what they’ve written because it feels important to me to tie up these threads of the tapestry that their stories have woven here.

Pat wrote to me about continuing to move ahead with her body releasing weight at its own comfort rate.  She has her own blog, and she directed me to a post she wrote called Moving on from Fat.

Janice, who shared her story about developing and recovering from bulimia in her 30s, wrote some thoughtful responses to some questions I sent:

I’ve thinking hard about how to respond to your thoughtful questions.  My knee-jerk response would be, “I am the last person whom you should ask!”  It’s been a tough year, especially the last few months.  EDs are such a process, which is really not what a perfectionist wants to hear or is in the least bit interested in pursuing!  Currently, I’m in the process of trying to lose (again) ~30 lbs, and what can I say?  When I last talked to you, it was ~10 lbs!  Things aren’t going in the right direction, needless to say, but all I can do is try.  It’s hard to get out of my own way sometimes.

If there is anything I’ve learned about food/weight speaking only for myself, it’s that I can never take my eye off the ball.  It really is my drug of choice, and left to my own devices, I will self-medicate.  At the same time, paradoxically (and troublingly), moving through/past an ED means learning not to obsess about these things (because that only leads to more ED-type behaviours, etc.).  It’s a real catch-22 at times and, thus, difficult.

In terms of my own process, what I’ve learned is that, it IS a process.  I’m not sure I know how to live this concept yet, but I know (intellectually) that is.  I just have to learn to integrate my emotions with my intellect.  And, on that note, perhaps the biggest thing one has to learn is … acceptance.  Accepting that one has an issue, a disorder, whatever.  That one has to grapple with it.  That it is what it is.  That it’s not going away.  That there are no ‘fixes’ only ongoing management.

Anne, who took a path of mindfulness and yoga, weaving in some of Geneen Roth’s teachings, wrote about some of her updates, too:

When we talked, my weight loss was relatively recent.  It has been about 9 months now of maintaining a 45 lb. weight loss.  I thought I was still in the midst of the weight loss when we talked.  I thought I’d continue to lose the 15 – 20 lbs. I have left to lose.  There have been moments when I’ve thought I would like to go on a diet to have this process be over but then I realized that being on a diet would only solve the weight problem and probably only solve it temporarily.

Those 45 lbs. I lost felt like a side-effect of the process of coming to inhabit my body in a more loving way and being open to my experience.  Being embodied and being open to the depth of my experience, rather than numbing myself with food, has been profoundly transformative.  My body has been transformed along with my soul and my psyche.  I realize there are still some issues that I am struggling with and that I have not been completely ready to give up overeating as my way of numbing out rather than feeling what arises in relation to those issues.  The overeating is obviously not with the frequency or volume of the past, as I’ve maintained the weight loss, but it just not completely gone either.  Its humbling.  I have moments when inquiry into the pull to overeat brings me to some of the most profoundly spiritual experiences I’ve ever had and in those moments I think about how overeating could have robbed me of the experience.  I think I’ll never want to overeat again and consciously, I don’t want to overeat.  But the very deep pattern of using food to numb myself is not an easy one to break.  I’m sticking with it, though.

I went on a retreat in March and came out of it with renewed energy to stay present, to remain close to myself.  I have been much more aware of the way that overeating is a way of abandoning my dear sweet self.  I feel the pain of the abandonment when I’ve overeaten.  Its Holy Week and Passover and so the images of moving from slavery into freedom, from death into resurrection, have had a particular poignancy in relation to my body and overeating and staying close to myself.  I’ve felt that this process around food and my body is leading me out of the slavery and deadly/deadening of being numb, being stuck in the pattern of overeating, the pattern of abandoning myself.  But I don’t exactly know what is next – there is a lot of unknown, a lot of dark open starry skies in the desert, times that feel somewhere between death and resurrection, loss and gain.

I’m going on the retreat with Geneen Roth in May.  Feeling excited and anxious all at the same time.

I’ve begun working with people around these issues of food and weight in my psychology practice.  I love this work and feel so passionate about it.  I’m hoping to expand further into the field.

There’s more that others wrote, but I want to pace out their responses because I’ve learned to keep blog posts short to match the time that most people allocate to them.  More soon.


Cindy: Weight Loss is an Inside Job

Over a year ago, Cindy read the first story that I posted on this blog, and she dramatically changed the way she lives and eats.  Cindy’s story is the last one that I’ll publish on this blog.  I have some more posts that tie up the threads that run through the stories, but there’s a beautiful symmetry in including Cindy’s story as the last one on this blog.  With gratitude to Cindy for sharing her story here, M.G.

“Many years ago, I heard that people could become addicted to carbohydrates,” recalls Cindy.  “At the time, I had to look up the meaning of the word ‘carbohydrates.’ I didn’t know what it was.  I sat with the idea for a while, but I bet it was 10 years that I was addicted to carbs before I got into action to change it.”

Cindy before she released her weight.

Cindy used countless weight loss programs: Weight Watchers, Atkins, Body for Life, Nutrisystem.  “Pretty much everything that was commercially available, I tried.  I never tried a cleanse, and thankfully, I never got into bingeing, or purging,” says Cindy.  “I did try exercise.  I did three triathlons, and three or four bike tours.  I walked a bijillion miles, but it never worked.  I began to realize that weight loss for me would be a combination of food and exercise.”

“Then I read the first story on your blog about Lee’s experience with Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, and I thought, ‘This is what I need.’”

Cindy immediately went online and found a meeting near her home.  “I’d never heard of FA before.  I’d heard of OA but not FA.  I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll give it a whirl.  I was the highest weight I’d been outside of pregnancy, 186 pounds.  I was miserable, starting to wear size 18 clothes.  I felt lousy.”

Cindy, now 62, was in a relationship ten years ago that had a long-term effect.   “One of the reasons the relationship ended was he blamed me because I was overweight and no longer attractive.  I took that really hard and carried it with me for  a long time.”

After that first meeting, Cindy went to three FA meetings each week.  She was impressed with the women who spoke at meetings.  “You had to be abstinent of flour and sugar for 90 days before could speak at a meeting.  There were women who had lost 20-50 pounds in 30 days, gone on to lose 100s of pounds.  They had powerful stories, and what I started to hear was that finding support, not just following a diet, but having someone who walked the walk and would hold your hand the whole way. There was accountability AND support.  It was a room full of success stories. “

Cindy called her FA sponsor every day and committed her food for the day.  She also gave herself 30 minutes of quiet time each morning.  This meant getting up at 6 am, and for someone who is not a morning person, it was an entirely new habit. 

Cindy’s food plan, which she still keeps to this day, was yogurt, fruit and fiber in the morning, and for lunch and dinner a protein, hot vegetables, and a salad.  She weighed and measured every single bite, and she agreed to eat nothing between meals.

“I did really well,” Cindy says.  “The weight came off quickly.  I was really motivated.  I lost 15 pounds in the first month.  Within four and a half months, I had lost 45 pounds. ”  

“I was determined.  Through the process, I began to see that I needed the support.  I needed the accountability and the camaraderie of the others in the program who had lost weight and kept it off.  I needed the community of success.”

After two months, Cindy’s sponsor suggested that she take a 12-step class, which was a year-long commitment to a one-hour weekly phone call working a 12 step program.  Cindy went to sign up for the class, and she was surprised to find out that she couldn’t participate because she was taking an anti-depressant. 

“I was devastated.  I got really angry,” she remembers.  “They told me I had to wait and join a nontraditional group.  I heard about others who were in my situation, and while I recognized that no weight loss program – no matter how effective – had any business what went on between me and my doctor, others had more difficult outcomes.”

Cindy started the nontraditional 12-step class, and she was joined by over 125 people on the first few calls.  “They took roll at the beginning, and if you missed more than two weeks in a row, you were out, no questions asked.”

“I’ve always been a good student, and I didn’t want to fail or get thrown out,” Cindy says.  “But I started having trouble with the second step, which says I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.  As someone who is trained in the mental health field, I had rarely labeled anyone insane, let alone myself.  I really began to question the rigidity of the program.”

One of the areas where Cindy felt the rigidity most was with her work travel.  “I had to pack all my own food, food scale and measuring tools and it was really cumbersome.”

“The rules seemed to get more rigid,” Cindy remembers.  “I understood the value of that structure in the beginning, but they never let up.”

“I knew I needed and wanted something like this program, so I visited an OA meeting.  I found it was much more amenable to my needs.  It gave me the community that I sought inside of a 12-step program, but without the rigidness.”   

“OA became the community for me.  I see FA as the treatment center portion of my journey, but FA didn’t seem to want people out of the treatment center.”

A recent photo of Cindy.

Cindy is now more relaxed in the maintenance phase of her journey.  She calls her OA sponsor on weekdays, and if she has a conflict, she skips the call.  She calls at 7 am now instead of the 6 am FA call to her sponsor.  She still reads daily, For Today, which is an OA book, but she also draws from other inspirational books.  She also sits in meditation for about 20 minutes, write for 10 minutes, and gets on her treadmill for 30 minutes each morning.

Cindy still weighs and measures her food, although when she goes to friends’ homes for lunch or dinner, she doesn’t bring her scale.  Her food plan of today differs very little from her original FA program:

  • Breakfast is 8 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt, 6 ounces of fruit (usually berries), one ounce of oatmeal or Fiber One or a high fiber grain, and coffee
  • Lunch is 4 ounces of protein, 6 ounces of hot vegetable, and a 6 ounce salad
  • Dinner is a repeat of lunch’s menu.

Naming her emotions is helpful to Cindy.  She uses the HALT acronym often.  HALT=Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.  “I would add S to that acronym for stress.  Feeling lonely or experiencing stress are big triggers for me to eat.  I carry a journal around in my purse, and when I want to eat, I tell myself that I have to write three pages in my book, and if I still want the food when I’m done, I’ll let myself have it.  I’ve never eaten after writing.”

“I have had a couple of breaks, when I eat food that’s not on my plan, but I’ve realized that food doesn’t solve the problem and that I feel worse afterwards.  I generally turn to my journal because it’s more than just eating the food.  I also tell my sponsor when it happens.  Losing weight is an inside job, it just shows up on the outside.  That’s a new learning for me.  It’s what’s in your head, not necessarily what you put in your body.  It’s what goes on in your head and that shows up on your body.”

“For me, coming from a sexually abusive background, I used fat to protect myself.  I used it as a shield so people wouldn’t get close to me, and it worked for a while.  It worked ‘til it didn’t work anymore, and then it felt terrible, and that’s when the yoyo dieting began.  It began after the birth of my second son 30 years ago.  At that point, I shared my story, and that’s when I started putting the weight on. So, for me, losing the weight has also been a continued part of my own recovery from sexual abuse.”

“I did the triathlons to reclaim my body as my own.  No one was ever going to hurt me again.  It was almost another decade before I realized that my own self sabotage with the food was hurting me, and I’ve done the healing around that piece as well.  I don’t have to hide anymore, and I don’t want to.”

“I used to say I was the mighty oak, now I’m the willow or the aspen.  I can bend with the wind, I can bend where things changes, it’s the flexibility, the strength of being really grounded of being who I am and how I want to show up in the world.  Now I move in the world in a way that is flexible.”

“In my career it was easy to me to be the voice for those whose voices had been taken.  I’ve spent my entire working life in human service organizations.  Give me your hungry, your lonely… it was easy to be in that role. I could meet my need to help others in my work, but it’s taken me the journey to look at my own eating and my own body to find a voice for myself.”

When people ask Cindy for advice about weight loss, she says, “Put only good food in your house. Don’t bring the junk into your house.  You’re going to get plenty of it elsewhere.” 

When the subject of the scale comes up, Cindy says, “I still only weigh myself once every month.  It sends me into a downward spiral if I do it more often.  I would get so despondent over a number that I thought, ‘Why do this to myself? Forget that!’  The scale that weighed my body was not my friend.  The scale that I used to weigh my food was my friend.  I used to have so much judgment, self criticism and self flagellation when that number wasn’t what I wanted it to be.”

“I want to keep wearing my size 6 and 8 clothes.  I got rid of all the clothes that were in the bigger sizes, my intention is never, ever to have to wear those sizes again.”

Cindy has replaced her entire wardrobe.  “I didn’t have to buy new socks, but I bought new underwear, bras, I even dropped a shoe size.  I have one size of clothes in my closet now, and it’s actually fun to go clothes shopping.

After losing a total of 47 pounds, Cindy notes, “I’ve got so much more energy, I’m willing to try new things.  I sleep better, and I don’t have heartburn anymore.  I don’t use sleep aids any longer, my insomnia is gone, and I don’t wake up in a fog in the morn.  My alarm goes off, I have a good stretch, and I’m up, and I want to be up!

“Someone called me recently and asked me to be her sponsor.  ‘I watched you get thinner and thinner, and I want what you have,’ she said. ‘And I’ve watched you smile, you smile so much more.’  That’s because I’m happy.”

“It’s been a great journey, and I’m liking where my life is now.  I’m not going back.  My goal is to go to my grave weighing 140 pounds.”

After we corresponded to finalize this blog post, Cindy asked me to include this paragraph as an addendum:  I’ve discovered that it is true, “I am what I eat.”  If I’m eating junk, there’s some junk going on somewhere in my life.  If I continue to eat junk, I’ll continue to have junk going on in my life.  For me, it’s the strongest clue that there is something I need to look at more closely.  Just recently I noticed I was wanting to eat sweets – they were screaming my name.  The upshot was that I wasn’t taking time for me.  My life had become so full (with all good stuff), but I’d forgotten about taking time just for me.  Once I added my me time, the screaming became more of a whisper that I could ignore.  This was a major breakthrough for me.  Hope it helps someone else along the way. 


Jennifer: Embracing Compassion and Self Acceptance

About three years ago, Jennifer stood expectantly on her bathroom scale, hopeful that her latest diet would show results.  She had exercised every day, limited her food intake, and she was ready to see her payoff in the number on the scale.  As she stared at the number on the scale, she was pissed.  The number had gone up.

Jennifer got off the scale and went to her room where she sat on her bed.  “I can remember very clearly every detail of that moment, the sunshine peering the curtains.  I thought, ‘I can’t keep doing this, restricting and punishing myself for who I am.  Maybe this is my life’s path.  I can’t live in this struggle any longer.  I am not withholding my life until I reach a size whatever.’ At that moment, I said, ‘Enough of this shit.  I am who I am and if people have a problem with that, it’s their problem.’”

Now, in retrospect, Jennifer sees this defining moment as one of complete self-acceptance.  It was when she put down the sword and went out into the world to live her life with her physical body regardless of its size.

With dieting solidly in her past, Jennifer turned her attention to things she had put off until she lost weight.  Always curious about yoga, Jennifer fired up her computer and Googled yoga in her community. 

“I clicked on the first person who came up in the search, and she was someone who identified as having a round body.  As someone who was wearing  a size 6X pants, I was intimidated about going to a yoga studio, but she seemed very welcoming.  I feel now that the universe provided her as a gift for me.”

“I can remember my first yoga class.  Tears streamed down my face during shavasana.  I had never felt so good,” Jennifer remembers. “For the first time in a long time, I could feel my body.  That’s a concept that may be hard for people who are well integrated to understand, but when you’re disconnected from your body, yoga can be an incredibly profound experience.  I was instantly hooked!”

Jennifer began taking yoga twice a week, and she continued for almost two years before she decided to become a yoga teacher herself. 

“I believe the style of yoga that I learned [and now teach] was pivotal.  Kripalu is the yoga of compassion.  It’s non-competitive, and it’s as much about the spirit and the mind as the body.  The physical postures are just one part of the practice,” Jennifer says.

The shift that Jennifer experienced as a result of practicing yoga and reconnecting with her body led to become mindful of other areas of her life.  She started to notice how certain foods affected her physically and emotionally, and she began to keep a journal.  Jennifer’s attention was completely on the feelings she experienced.  She didn’t record her food amounts and she didn’t restrict her food either.

“I started noticing patterns, all kinds of different physical symptoms, issues that had become my normal.”  Her laundry list included rashes, hives, serious stomach and digestive problems, migraine headaches with auras, congestion, and a ravenous appetite.

“My food and feelings journal wasn’t anything sophisticated,” Jennifer describes.  “I made three columns in a notebook, and I wrote down what I ate, how I felt, physically and emotionally.  With a highlighter and a pen, I looked for patterns.  Sometimes, I would get symptoms a day or two later so I would look back.  It became very clear where I was having problems.”

Jennifer’s first attempt to get help about her physical symptoms came with her physician.  After describing her experiences, including some episodes where she had trouble breathing, she didn’t find relief or substantial help from her doctor. 

“I value my health.  Overweight or not, I deserve to be healthy,” Jennifer thought at the time.  She switched physicians, and this new doctor gave her extensive blood tests, flagging a thyroid problem.  Jennifer also went to a naturopath, seeking a food intolerance test.

“I knew things I was eating were making me sick,” Jennifer recalls.  “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  Using the Carroll food intolerance test, Jennifer learned that she was intolerant to refined sugars and dairy.

Jennifer gave up foods in both categories, and while she had a few relapses, for almost two years, she has been completely sugar and dairy free.

“Certainly, it was a change to my lifestyle and an adjustment process,” says Jennifer.  Rather than trying to replace these foods, Jennifer gave them up.  While she is able to eat honey and maple syrup, she rarely chooses foods with these ingredients, knowing that they can lead to some ravenous feelings for her.  “For some people, replacing works well,” Jennifer says, “But it doesn’t work that well for me. “

She felt so much better without the dairy and sugar that “it was crystal clear to me that this was what my body needed, this type of lifestyle, and I felt so well that I could never imagine going back to eating the foods that made me sick and tired ever again.”

After about a year without dairy or sugar, Jennifer had two episodes where she had severe reactions to wheat.  Once again, Jennifer completely eliminated another food from her diet:  gluten went out the door.

“I felt so much better, like I had a new lease on life.  I absolutely know in my heart, I will never change the way I eat.  I have figured out what my body needs.  I think now that eating those foods caused problems that all along my body told me it didn’t like.  I just wasn’t hearing it.  It contributed to such a significant weight gain over time.”

Through the changes in recognizing the foods that her body thrives on and with the yoga, Jennifer has let go of 140 pounds.  “I don’t punish or restrict myself anymore,” Jennifer says.

“I don’t believe that people need to give up foods in order to go through the same process that I went through.  It’s worth finding out intolerances and sensitivities – they are different for everyone.  I think reconnecting with my body, honoring my spirit and being aware of the effects of food on how I felt gave me the insight that I needed.”

“Personally, I could not have made these changes without yoga.  It gave me a chance to connect with myself, it gave me time and space to just be.  For some people, they get the same things walking or being in nature or running.  For me, it really was the yoga.  Being in such a large body, I couldn’t run when I started yoga.  I could walk, but not for a very long.  When I first started yoga, I had to use a chair, and I needed help getting on and off the floor.”

“I am still refining the way I eat,” says Jennifer.  “I am constantly learning, and I’m being kind and patient with myself.”

“I am still undeniably curvy.  When I think about a sustainable size for myself, I am not worried about getting there.  I don’t pressure myself.”

Jennifer has started sharing her experience with others, launching a web site and sharing her experiences with others.  Her mission is to “help people redefine their relationship with food.”  “I want to make my experiences and services accessible to people,” says Jennifer.  “I’m excited to work with people who are ready to take responsibility for their health, who know that they are done with dieting.  I help people redefine their relationship with food using the same mind/body/spirit approach I went through.  You can be free from dieting and an obsession with weight.  Everyone deserves that!”

On the brink of age 35, Jennifer can look back at her life and see that she carried extra weight for her “entire adulthood.” 

“I had the perception of myself as the fat kid, but I’m quite tall and while I was usually the biggest girl in my class, it wasn’t until I was in my second year of university that I started gaining a lot of  weight.  There were emotional and physical reasons for that weight gain, combined with my sensitivity to certain foods.  I believe that obesity is a complex social and health condition, with personal and societal factors involved. ”

“When I was in a period of pretty rapid weight gain, I lived from the shoulders up, in my head” Jennifer says.  “I can certainly see that now.  I also know that it wasn’t a lack of will or desire that prevented me from losing the weight during those years.”

“Anyone can redefine their relationship with food, just as I have done,” says Jennifer.  “Allow yourself the space and time to really reflect on who you are, where you are and how you’re feeling.  I have a very full, busy lifestyle and pretty much from the point where I started gaining the weight, my life was ‘go-go-go.’  I never allowed myself to slow down and think about things.”

If she’s pressed for advice for people who want to release weight, Jennifer points to yoga.  “Even if you are resistant to it, try it a few times.  Try different styles.  If it doesn’t work on the first try, find another teacher.  I highly recommend the Kripalu style of yoga.  If yoga doesn’t work for you, find some sort of practice that allows you to begin to live mindfully.”

Jennifer also points to her food/feelings journal as pivotal to her success.  “You may not be intolerant or sensitive to specific foods, but everyone has foods that when they eat those foods, they don’t feel good.  You have to get real with yourself and you have to love yourself and accept who you are and your life journey that got your to the point where you gained this weight.  Carl Jung says that we cannot change anything until we accept it.  For me, acceptance was absolutely the first step in this transformational process.  It wasn’t just lip service.  I truly believed, wholeheartedly, that I accepted my body, and I fully expected to stay in those 6X pants.  It was okay with me.  I couldn’t keep punishing myself and doubting myself.”

“My body was screaming at me for 10+ years.  I had to get quiet enough to hear it, to hear that I wasn’t being my true self.  You can have great support from family and friends, but what matters most is the relationship you have with yourself.”


Mitchell: Raw Foods Enthusiast

Four years ago, Mitchell was in pain due to the extra weight he carried on his body.  At over 280 pounds on his 5’11” frame, he was constantly out of breath just from walking, going up a set of stairs “sucked” and one day when he went to the zoo, he eyed the electric wheelchairs that the zoo provides for visitors with accessibility needs.  “I actually thought about using it,” he remembers.  “I was so depressed, I even considered suicide.”

Mitchell’s mom introduced him to raw foods, and in October 2007, he decided to try it.  He began with a master cleanse.   Mitchell followed the guidelines (without the laxative tea) to hydrate with a blend of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper but otherwise abstain from food.  “For the first three days, I was so toxic, I was bedridden with vomiting and diarrhea, but I told myself, ‘The grass is greener on the other side, stick to it.’” 

Mitchell got through 10 days of the cleanse and then “I became really mindful about what I was putting in my body.”  He eliminated processed foods, stuck with fresh fruits and veggies, and he visited the raw foods restaurant near his home to get ideas.  Having grown up in a family that ran restaurants, Mitchell already knew a lot about food and loved being in the kitchen making food.  He read some raw foods books (one that he recommends is Natalia Rose’s Raw Food Life Force Energy: Enter a Totally New Stratosphere of Weight Loss, Beauty and Health and looked at going raw as “a whole new way of preparing food, a place where I could get as creative as I wanted.”

“The weight literally started falling off,” Mitchell remembers.  “The results were phenomenal.”  In five months, he lost about 45 pounds. 

In the beginning, “I was so big, I couldn’t do much cardio.”  He would go to the gym and get on a treadmill, put it on an incline and set it at level 3.  “I would walk really slow, but I would go for an hour with a whole sweat suit on sweat it out.  After a while, I added weights.”  Mitchell also started doing yoga about three times/week (he now teaches yoga).

Mitchell plateaued at about 220.  “I was eating about 80-90% raw foods then, but at night, I would eat a snack.  It was usually a cereal that I bought at Whole Foods and some almond milk from Whole Foods.  I figured since it was organic and since it was from Whole Foods, it was pretty good.”  But with his weight plateaued, Mitchell re-evaluated, and replaced that nighttime snack with a frozen strawberry sorbet that he made himself.  “It was less caloric, less processed, and it didn’t have refined sugar.”  He started to lose more weight immediately after he made that change. 

In fact, his weight loss was so significant after that small change, “It was like a punch in the face,” he remembers.  “I didn’t realize how impactful these foods were.  Even if it comes from Whole Foods, it’s still processed, it still refined, it’s still junk.”  Mitchell now makes his own almond milk, “and it’s 10 times better than Whole Foods’.”

Mitchell prepared this graphic to illustrate the dramatic difference that raw foods have had on him.

After that experience, Mitchell decided to see how deeply he could go with the raw foods diet.  He started monitoring his heart rate and recording his workouts.  “I had a caloric deficit of about 3,000 calories then.  I was probably eating 45% fruit, 45% vegetables, and 10% nuts and seeds, and when I combined that with my workouts, I was in amazing shape.”  Mitchell estimates that his body fat went down to about 8%. 

“It got to be too much work.  I was sort of OCD monitoring my calories.  Right now, I live a comfortable life.  As long as I eat mostly raw, if my diet is 80-90% raw, the other 10% doesn’t matter.”  Mitchell goes to restaurants with his girlfriend and he’ll sometimes eat pizza or Indian food or something else processed, but “it doesn’t necessarily matter, it’s like a treat.”  The next day, Mitchell goes back to eating raw, and he’s back on track.

When he eats outside the raw diet, “It’s like alcohol, I feel the effects.  The toxins hit me.  People who eat that way all the time don’t notice it and it doesn’t affect them, but once you cleanse your system, the next day, it really hits you.  You see how toxic those foods really are.”

Mitchell now recognizes how impactful the raw foods diet could be, not just on individuals and their health, but on our planet.  “It ties in so much with nature.  It connects you to the earth.”  Mitchell recognizes the harmful politics of food.  “All of these major staples of the American diet are subsidized by the government.  If we fed the cow’s milk that we drink to baby cows, those calves would die.  We are malnourished, but we look full.  The diseases that affect us come from this food.  If we could all eat raw, it would be a happier and healthier way of living for everybody.” 

Mitchell now sees that the chemicals in food are addictive.  “It’s almost like cocaine.  It’s amazing.  If I eat too much nonraw food, I have to reset my taste buds with a two-day cleanse.  I see people who eat the typical American diet, and their taste buds are out of whack.  When my body is clean with raw foods, all foods are more flavorful.”

Now 32, Mitchell has some seasonal fluctuation in his weight.  “It’s cold in the winter in Chicago!” he says of his 190, which goes down to about 180 in the summer.  “I don’t obsess about it.  I was probably down to 170 when I was working hard at it, and I looked like that surfer movie star who is always on the beach without his shirt (Matthew McConaughey).  Before I got to that weight, I was always visualizing that I would look like him.  I knew what I was missing because I was fit before I was fat.”

Mitchell doesn’t worry about getting enough protein on his diet because he gets small amounts from the food he eats.  “In its raw form, it’s more absorbable by the body on a cellular level than in chicken or fish.  I look at people who are on the Atkins diet, and all of that meat never gets processed.  It just sits in your gut and rots and weighs you down.”

In the summer, Mitchell carries a cooler with him with apples, dates, seeds, and “stuff that I’ve made.”  In the winter, he uses a powder that’s vegan, raw, and gluten-free:  Warrior Food made by HealthForce Nutritionals.  Mitchell gave some of it to his brother for Christmas.  “He’s a weight lifter, but he doesn’t eat just raw foods.  Two weeks after Christmas, he called me and said, ‘I’m keeping this stuff!’ He normally uses a whey protein powder, but he’s already thinner, and his muscles are leaner with more definition.”

When people ask Mitchell about his lifestyle, he talks about how people can’t gain weight on raw foods.  “The caloric density of my food is so much lower than the usual American diet.  You can eat as much as you want.”

He notices so many other effects of his diet.  “You feel so much better.  My energy is through the roof.  I sleep better.  My skin is better.  My sex drive.  My smell.  Before I reeked.  I can smell people who eat meat and dairy.  If you tell them, they don’t believe it.  I remember years ago, I was listening to a radio show and one of the guests on the show said she would tell a meat or dairy eater just from the way a person smelled.  I didn’t believe it then, but I now I totally get it.  My energy is much cleaner, more receptive.  I used to be in such a coma of toxic energy and toxic foods, but now I can see the world for the truth it really holds.”

His advice to people who want to go raw?  Start with a cleanse.  Get going on a moderate workout.  Maybe yoga and meditation because “breath work is important.” 

Mitchell also says that it’s okay to “give yourself one day like on Sunday where you eat the foods you miss like pancakes or pizza, but then on Monday, go back to the raw foods.  Gradually, you’ll see you feel so much better on raw foods, and you’ll see that the outcome of having those treats aren’t worth the fallout.”

Some raw foods resources that Mitchell recommends include David Wolfe, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Living Light Culinary Institute, and

Mitchell shares his journey with raw foods in many forums, working in some health clubs, as a personal chef, and also through presentations like A Night of Bliss where he’ll teach yoga and prepare a raw meal for attendees, ending with a meditation.  The menu for his latest Night of Bliss (he’s held six of them so far) included pizza (made from sprouted kamut and flax seeds, fresh herbs, and a cashew nut cheese), stuffed mushrooms, tomato ravioli, chocolate cheesecake (with cashew and maple syrup and agave).  All of his events are listed on his Facebook page, The Raw Yogi, and he anticipates hosting another Night of Bliss on April 30, 2011.  Mitchell’s putting together his web site to promote his one-on-one coaching in the kitchen and lifestyle consulting.

Fully committed to this lifestyle after several years on it, Mitchell pulses with health.  That day at the zoo when he looked at the wheelchairs?  It’s a distant memory.  Now, he puts in powerful workouts, prepares banquets of raw foods as a business, and enjoys his abundant energy.


Kathleen: An Example of What’s Possible

Kathleen had a long friendship with Tiffany Wright, a “Skinny Coach,” before she decided to work with Tiffany to lose weight. 

“I’ve known her for years because our kids were friends.  I knew about her work, and one day she told me, ‘You should go on it. You’d like it.’”  Kathleen admits that when, a few days later, she decided to try it, she didn’t expect it to work.  “I wasn’t able to lose anymore.  It didn’t work for me to cut calories.  It would take an excruciatingly long time, and it was hard to stay with anything.”  But at 250 pounds, Kathleen had hit bottom.

“I’m somebody who always struggled with my weight.  When I was younger, I wasn’t really fat, but I was ‘bigger.’  I had a perception of myself as being heavy, even though I was probably the right size for my body type. I was generally healthy,” recalls Kathleen.

Kathleen, before she started working with Tiffany.

At 5’6”, Kathleen “would bounce a little around 150 and 170, lose some, and then go back up. I would yo-yo quite a bit.”  But that was before she had children. Her weight started going up as she was having her four children. “I could still lose a little weight when I was in my 30s, but then as I approached 40, my metabolism stalled.” 

By the time Kathleen started working with Tiffany, in 2007, “I had literally tried everything.”  Kathleen knew that Tiffany’s program included no flour and no sugar and that was one thing that kept her away from it..  “Before,  I thought, ‘No, I’m never going to give up flour and sugar.  That’s craziness.’”

Once Kathleen started using Tiffany’s plan, she was surprised by her ability to stay on track.  “On most diets, I could be ‘good’ for a brief period of time, but then I would get overwhelmed with my life or hunger or frustration and then I would go off it. This one was different, though. I could stay on it.”

Perhaps the lack of physical cravings helped Kathleen stick with it.  “I don’t feel the cravings.  I may have psychological cravings, but they don’t come with the same level of intensity.  I can tell when I’ve gone off it unintentionally.”  Kathleen remembers eating vegetables at a friend’s house.  “This doesn’t have any sugar on it, does it?” Kathleen had asked before eating the dish.  After getting assurances that it didn’t, Kathleen started eating and noticed the sweetness.  She asked again about the sugar.  “Well, we did put on some brown sugar and honey,” her friend said.  It’s incidents that like that one that expose Kathleen inadvertently to sugar now, and she will immediately notice the difference in her body.

Now 43, Kathleen weighs around 165.  In the last three years since she’s been working with Tiffany, her lowest was 158.  “I don’t feel like I’m yo-yo’ing so much as settling in to where my body should be.  There’s a chance I may try to go lower.  I’m not sure. I just know it’s nice to go to a store and pick out a size 8 instead of a size 20.”

“My father died very young of diabetes.  He was morbidly obese, and I just know that if I went back to eating the way I used it, I would have trouble.  I’d rather give up sugar than be heavy.  To me, it’s worth it.  Not that I think being heavy is the worst thing in the world, but it’s nice not to be.  It’s nice to be able to run (I ran a marathon last year); it’s nice to be able to keep up with my kids.  My husband’s much happier with me at this weight.  I weigh less than I did when we got married.”

Kathleen’s husband and four children (ranging in age from 7 through 15), eat bread, pasta, and sugar.  “My kids are fairly fit and thin, and they can handle eating a wider range of food than I can.  I usually prepare my meals, and they’ll just add on to my meals with rolls or bread or dessert.”

Initially, Kathleen invested more time in planning and preparing her meals, but “now I just know what works for me.” She’s been on the plan so long that it’s second nature.

The program that Tiffany gives her clients is expensive, but she also offers a lifetime of support.  It starts with a brochure that outlines the food options.  In the beginning, Kathleen saw her pretty regularly and weighed herself once a month.  Kathleen also meets with others who contract with Tiffany, and there’s a Yahoo group where subscribers share tips, particularly about topics like travelling and eating out.

Kathleen weighs her food.  “When I heard about people doing that on other diets, I thought, ‘That seems uptight.  That’s not my style.’ But it’s helpful to me.”

Kathleen started a blog when she had lost 70 pounds.  The blog wasn’t designed to help her with her motivation; it is more to allow her to discuss the results of her weight loss.  “What was shocking for me was that I had to deal with things I didn’t have to deal with when I was heavy, like attention from men other than my husband.  That threw me.  You’re invisible when you’re fat.  People look through you and when you lose weight, that suddenly changes.  There’s not a lot of focus on that among weight loss information, and it was hard for me.  The blog helped me work through those things.”

Kathleen recently went to an exercise class, and she noticed the instructor had the same energy that Kathleen remembers having when she started to lose weight.  “You feel so darn good that you move in a way that sort of shows how good you feel.  That’s one of the reasons why the way people treat you changes.  Basically, I’ve been in about the same place for two years so I’m more settled into it.  I don’t have that ‘look at me’ energy that I did unconsciously before.”

When people ask Kathleen for advice about losing weight, she says, “I think it depends on the individual about whether hiring someone to help is worth it.  It’s like having a doula when you give birth.  That works for some people and it doesn’t work for others.” 

A recent photo of Kathleen.

“I don’t think everyone needs to give up wheat, flour and sugar to succeed, but it can be worth trying.  People talk about food addiction.  I was in complete denial.  I never said, ‘I am a food addict.’  I went on a diet that is very similar to the one that food addicts use, and I didn’t do any of the emotional work that often goes along with food-addiction programs.  That work happens anyway.  When you’re not stuffing your emotions with food, you have to deal with them.  Getting on plan, getting control of my eating helped me come to those places.”

“I’m not as nice as I was when I was fat.  I’m more assertive.  Some of the diet helps with that. I have to go to a restaurant and say, ‘I’d like an ice tea without any sweetener,’ and when it comes with sugar, I have to say, ‘I can’t drink this.’  That’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t necessarily have done when I was heavy, that’s some of the emotional work that happens.”

Kathleen tells people that it is possible to lose significant weight.  “I didn’t believe I could do it, but I did.  It’s possible.  It’s not a futile situation.”

 Full disclosure: Kathleen received complimentary “Skinny coaching,” from Tiffany, who is a close friend.

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

Bookmark this Site

Click here to bookmark this page.