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3 Fat Chicks on a Diet: Because We're All in It Together

3 Fat Chicks on a Diet: Because We're All in It Together

by Suzanne Barnett, Jennifer Barnett Lesman, Amy Barnett Buchanan, Bev West

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Filled with the sassy attitude and sage advice of three lovable sisters from the South who have been fighting the battle of the bulge for most of their lives, 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet tells everyone who has ever wanted to lose a few pounds how to find dieting success. Because every dieter will try most of the popular diets at some point in a weight-loss


Filled with the sassy attitude and sage advice of three lovable sisters from the South who have been fighting the battle of the bulge for most of their lives, 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet tells everyone who has ever wanted to lose a few pounds how to find dieting success. Because every dieter will try most of the popular diets at some point in a weight-loss struggle, the sisters give you the real scoop—as well as anecdotes and wisdom from scores of their online community of women—on the favorites, from South Beach to the Mediterranean Diet, Atkins to the Zone, and celebrity-driven weight-loss programs to Ediets.

You'll get so much more than just coffee-klatch gossip:

* The pros and cons of each diet
* Guilt-free ways to snack and still stay with the program
* Straight talk for making the diets work for every meal of the day
* Menu suggestions when dining out
* Delicious recipes to try at home
* And much more!

Best of all, the book offers a fool-proof support system of love and encouragement from women just like you who are trying to win the war with their waistlines.

Just when you think you're bogged down by calorie counting, the 3 Fat Chicks diet community takes you on a humorous romp through their battles with everything from slimming slippers and fat-away soap to cabbage soup and grapefruit diets. Get the real-world facts that you need to embark on your personal journey to change your weight and your life.

Editorial Reviews

Written with wry "been there, done that" insight and leavened with lots of gentle, self-deprecating humor, here's an entertaining and inspiring guide to weight loss compiled by three sisters who -- by their own admission -- "have started more diets than Richard Petty has started races." In addition to their own stories, Suzanne, Jennifer, and Amy Bartnett share anecdotes from legions of faithful fans who log on to the popular 3fatchicks.com web site. What separates this book from the rest of the pack is the coauthors' infectious sense of camaraderie. To paraphrase the book's subtitle, "We're all in it together!"
Library Journal
Barnett is joined by sisters Jennifer and Amy in a frank discussion of keeping off the pounds. With a seven-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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St. Martin's Press
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Chapter One

Welcome to the Hen House

When you're contemplating a climb up the slippery slope of weight loss toward your personal fitness peak, it's best not to spend too much time looking up at the steep trail ahead. When you look too far up the path in front of you, it's very easy to get winded just thinking about the climb, then turn around and go back to the lodge for a hot chocolate topped with a double scoop of "I'll start my diet tomorrow." But we did find it enormously helpful, when we started on our personal weight-loss journeys, to take in a quick view from the summit, through the eyes of somebody who has been there, to give ourselves the inspiration and the confidence to set out for the top.

The three of us have started more diets than Richard Petty has started races. We are sisters trying to drop over a hundred pounds apiece who don't have chefs, daily visits from our personal trainer, or elaborate home gyms. We understand what it's like to go it alone, without paid staff or even, in some cases, much support from our family and friends. And perhaps most important we've learned that very few of us go on a diet and just lose weight. We also have to shed a lot of excess emotional baggage.

Most successful weight loss usually involves taking a long look at ourselves, making decisions to change the way we feel about ourselves and our eating habits, and discovering what success really means to us as individuals. This can be a very lonely experience at times, and for us, the help, support, and encouragement we got from each other and from our 3FC family made all the difference over the long haul. Hearing from women like us, who knew that learning how to just say no to a Big Mac can feel like nothing short of a religious conversion, made things easier. It really helped to know that we weren't alone, that there were women up on the trail ahead of us, who had found a way to climb beyond the world of pizza and popcorn and mac-and-cheese cravings and achieve their goal weight.

So for all of you chicks down there in the base camp getting ready for your final ascent, we'd like to share our three stories and the experiences of some very inspirational women, as well as the five most important steps we've identified that can prepare you for a successful climb. We hope our stories will fuel your motivation and your imagination, inspiring you to keep on going and never, never, never give up.

Jennifer 3FC

I've had weight issues almost all my life. I was probably a chubby fetus. My dieting experience started early. When I was eight years old, my doctor said I needed to lose weight, and he told my mother to water down my milk. Great idea! I went home and had a glass of watered-down milk with a Little Debbie cake!

Chubby girls aren't usually the most popular kids in school. I had only a few friends, but I made up for that with new friends, like Mr. Goodbar, Ronald McDonald, and Her Majesty the Dairy Queen. I was lonely, but that was okay, because it gave me plenty of time to snack.

Then hormones hit and I discovered boys, pimples, and PMS. My weight evened out. I sprouted boobs and a few curves. However, most of the other girls still had boyish figures, and I was fooled into thinking I was fat. As a gullible teenager, I tried every diet that was hot. I tried cabbage soup diets, grapefruit diets, fasting diets, negative calorie diets, and a tasty vinegar-water and kelp diet that I can still taste when I think about it.

When I moved out of my parents' house, I could no longer afford fancy luxury foods like fruits and vegetables. I lived on rice, noodles, bread, and whatever fatty meat I could find in the death row section of the meat department. I steadily gained up until pregnancy. Now I was knocked up, and so was my appetite, and I ballooned.

Finally, when my sisters and I started Three Fat Chicks on a Diet, I began to make some real changes in my lifestyle and my attitude toward food and health. I've spent years playing tag with my metabolism. Now I've caught up to myself, and most important, I've developed reasonable expectations. I don't want to be a skinny chick. I don't want to be a fat chick. I want to be a curvy chick. I just want to be me, and for the first time since I was eight years old, I finally feel like that's okay.

Amy 3FC

There is something about me in a kitchen that just spells trouble. I could write the textbook for Cooking Disasters 101. I almost caught my house on fire while broiling a steak. I didn't realize there was something called a broiler pan. Who knew? Then I was evicted from an apartment after forgetting about a pan of boiling eggs that exploded all over the ceiling. Experiences like these led me to develop a close relationship with my local pizza delivery boy. He was always punctual, he required nothing of me besides a tip, cleanup was a breeze, ordering out saved me a load of time, and most important, nothing ever ignited. Unfortunately, my cooking alternative was also addictive and extremely fattening.

I did try to lose weight, and my choice of diets was as quick and easy as the dinners that got me there in the first place. I devised the "nothing but one Whopper a day" diet. I went on a laxative diet and a five-hundred-calorie a day diet. I mixed Slim-Fast with water instead of milk to save calories. My quick weight-loss schemes destroyed my metabolism quicker than one of those exploding eggs destroyed my ceiling. The more I dieted, the slower I lost weight. How's that for frustrating?

After I remarried, I found myself in the middle of a southern-fried Brady Bunch episode. I was a newlywed and my husband delighted me daily with feasts big enough for a family of seven. Then suddenly that honeymoon was over, and that's when I developed a relationship with the Chinese buffet restaurant in town, and my weight blossomed faster than a magnolia grove in springtime. Finally, though, my quick fixes began to seriously impact my health.

I began to collect illnesses quicker than I did two-for-one pizza coupons, and I finally admitted that I'd lost control and I had to do something drastic. At nearly three hundred pounds I bit the bullet and had gastric bypass surgery. For the first time in more than twenty years, I am in control, I'm healthy, I'm confident. I've lost my delivery boys' phone numbers, and most miraculous of all, I've learned how to work a broiler pan!

Suzanne 3FC

My transition from a skinny kid to a fat chick was painless. I moved into my first apartment when I was eighteen years old, and for the first time I could eat anything I wanted to eat, whenever I felt like it. And I did! Breakfast was frosting on a spoon, lunch was chips and dip, and dinners always concluded with an Oreo-thon that went on late into the night. Sure, I got pudgy, but I was enjoying every white, creamy middle and chocolate cookie outside along the way.

As the years went on, my menus were dictated less by impulse than budget. When things were good, I experimented with recipes from Gourmet magazine. When things were tough, I lived on mac and cheese. Rich or poor, I was always loaded with calories, which obviously resulted in weight gain. When I became a single parent, with a stressful job, my life was made easier by the help of a personal chef who always wore red and yellow and never forgot to ask if I wanted to super-size it. By the time I reached my early thirties, I was a full-fledged fat chick, but for some reason I did not consider dieting. I just ignored the situation. When the day finally came that I felt the urge to double-check the load capacity of an elevator before stepping in with my sisters, I realized that I needed to do something drastic---like go on a diet. Since then, I have fired my personal chef, learned to cook healthy and delicious meals, and taken back control of my health---all because I finally stopped ignoring my problems.

Strutting Our Stuff

The Chicks Sound Off on Their Personal Last Straws

We asked some of our chicks about their memories of the last straw that finally convinced them to change their lives forever. As you read through these snapshots, ask yourself what the first day of the rest of your life might be like. Maybe it's today!

I got really out of breath trying to tie my tennis shoes and realized that I wasn't even forty years old and if I can't breathe to tie my shoes now, what's it going to be like ten years from now? ---Char

My mom came out for an extended visit from California a few years ago. It started off with me pretending, while my mom was visiting, that I don't usually eat like a pig. It ended with me realizing that I had dropped a few pounds while she was here and that the choice was mine whether to continue or not. It was a turning point, and at the time I didn't fully appreciate the magnitude of my power of choice. Now I can't help but wonder: what if I had chosen a different path? That thought alone is enough to make me put my fork down when I should, or go exercise when I really don't feel like it, and maintain my accomplishment. ---Beverly

I had to go to a funeral. I had two pairs of black pants, a size 8 and a size 12. I didn't even consider the 8s. The 12s were the kind that button inside the pockets. I had already moved the buttons once, but that day they didn't even reach the holes anymore. I had to loop an elastic band through the buttonhole and around the last button and keep my coat on through the whole funeral. That day at the funeral buffet, I had a black decaf. By the end of the month I was walking every day. The rest is history. ---Susan

On the way back from a three-week trip to England, I couldn't zip my size 18 jeans for the return flight, and I felt dreadful for the entire time. Ten hours flying in coach in jeans two sizes too small changed my life forever. ---Mel

The Five Essential Steps to Long-Term Weight Loss

1. Find a Support System

No chick is an island. You can't lose weight without a shoulder to lean on, so put a support system in place before taking the big leap. If you're not getting support from your family, find a new family. Seriously, there are options even if your family is less than enthusiastic about the bunless burgers that have begun to appear on the dinner table. Consider joining Weight Watchers, or look for a local support group at a hospital or church. Find walking buddies in the neighborhood, arrange your budget to accommodate gym fees, join an on-line support group, or visit 3fatchicks.com!

Howie and Kimberley are partners in diet and marriage. Between them, they've lost more than 250 pounds. Kimberley has lost 50 pounds, and Howie has lost 202 pounds, and they each have about 50 pounds to go. They have found that embarking on this journey together has helped them get through the tough times. The way they applaud and encourage each other is truly an inspiration to us all, and the perfect example of the kind of solid support system you'll want to try to develop. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a partner to succeed with, but having anybody in life who's there to pick you up when you stumble is a tremendous help. Here's what Kimberley and Howie had to say about the importance of their mutual support system.


Howie and I have dieted together off and on over the course of our marriage. The fact that he's my best friend helps a lot, and we can be either our own worst enemies or our own best coaches when it comes to weight loss. Having a partner, be it a spouse, friend, or another family member, really helps. Having 3FC and friends here helps us to stay accountable too. I have realized through this process that it isn't just my weight that's important, but my health. I love life, I love my husband, and I want to be healthy.


I have now lost over two hundred pounds from my heaviest. What a feeling! It is so much easier doing this with my best friend. She gives me strength to go on when I'm feeling weak. I am so proud of her for the weight she has lost and I know she will follow through with this to the end. I can't wait to see what we feel like when we lose "another person."

I really admire Kimberley for sticking to this even though the weight has been coming off really slowly for her. She is doing so well and is such a help to me. It makes it a lot easier when you have someone to make this trip with.

2. Load Up on Self-Esteem

A lack of self-esteem can wreck any chance you have at weight loss. Hating yourself really doesn't help the pounds come off. And remember, confidence doesn't have any calories. Before undertaking a serious weight-loss program, you need to heal yourself emotionally. Imagine if you were responsible for giving first aid to two people---one you hated and one you loved. Who would get the better care? Give that same care to yourself.

This means accepting yourself as you are, not as you wish you were. You're overweight: get over it. Everybody knows you're overweight, so there's no sense in trying to hide it. Accept who you are, and enjoy the fact that this will help you in your weight loss. Jessica, also known on our forum as Goddess Jessica, gives us some golden ways to learn how to love yourself.


I had such a skewed idea of my body, so I took some examples from anorexic therapy books. See, anorexics think they are way bigger than they are. (Remind you of anybody?) Therapy includes a ton of very helpful exercises. Here are some things I do:

Get in front of the camera. A lot! Post pictures of yourself around areas of low self esteem, such as the scale, the closet. I had this idea that I was so big that Geraldo was going to have to pry my walls off to get me out of the house. That is such a crock.

Find some positive things to look at in the mirror. I had a huge problem getting out of the shower and feeling bad about myself. Now I wiggle and jiggle in front of the mirror, practicing my bedroom eyes and such. But also look at those areas you hate to look at. Quit imagining how bad they are and look. Yep, I'm fat, but I've got the nicest hourglass figure anyone could ask for.

Finally, get out and do something you shouldn't do for a "woman of your size." I took belly dancing classes. Heck, I have a belly, shouldn't I use it? Gain some confidence for doing something you didn't think you'd enjoy doing. Then do it again!

I'm lucky. I had a bad mental image of myself but lots of confidence. Now I'm reconciling the two.

3. Find a Less-Fattening Form of Comfort

We all have different reasons for needing an emotional rescue, but when we're on a diet, our answers can't be cream-filled or dipped in glaze anymore. Jane, one of the 3FC moderators, decided to get serious about her weight loss in January 2004. She is just fifteen pounds away from her goal weight and has maintained her diet because she learned how to reward herself without indulging in the comfort of empty calories. Here's what Jane had to say about combating her head hunger.


In order to finally lose the weight and keep it off, I had to find out what I personally got as a reward from staying overweight. For me, it was the comfort of eating. I used food to calm my nerves, soothe my bruised feelings, and also to celebrate. The way these foods made me feel was my payoff, so I had to find a different way to get the same satisfaction. My answer was limiting my portions, or finding a different kind of reward system, like an hour of junk TV instead of junk food, or going for long walks, or taking some time to tend to my garden when I needed a little comfort. The next thing I did was to enlist the support of my family. Also I got all the junk food out of my house. Yes, I can, and do, have treats, but a steady supply of them is just too tempting.

I have noticed in the past that when I lose for a specific event, such as a wedding, a reunion, or a vacation, I always gain the weight right back after the event is over. So this time I am losing for the rest of my life. Until the day I die, I will be doing Weight Watchers, because I want to!

Filling the Void

Here are some tips from our chicks on how they overcame emotional eating:

Keep a journal and write down every bite that passes through your lips, and why you ate it. Even if you're pissed at the world, you're not likely to let that list get filled with unhealthy foods. ---Maria, Vermont

I go to bed each night before I get too tired. I find that when I get sleepy, that is when I nibble, trying to stay alert to read or watch TV. I'm less likely to eat bags of popcorn and frozen pizza at 7 a.m.! ---Julia, Texas

I stay busy when my husband is away. I tend to nibble on bad things that I'd never dream of eating in front of him. I make sure when he is going to be away that I plan a project to keep my hands busy or go out with friends. ---Donna, Virginia

4. Discover Something You Love and Stick with It

When you're feeling deprived on a diet, try thinking about the things that you are adding to your life, rather than the things that you are subtracting, like pecan pie and pizza. Change can be hard to get used to. By focusing on the positive, you'll find yourself feeling better about saying no to those empty calories, and success will come a lot easier. Rubia, one of our forum members, has taught us that successful weight loss is not about giving things up but about finding new and healthier ways to excite your passion for living.


I'm five seven and since my teens I've always weighed around 160 pounds. When I went away to college I gained 35 pounds in nine months. I was a mess. My clothes didn't fit; I was depressed and looked like a whole different person. One day I watched a step aerobics class and decided to give it a shot. I absolutely loved it! I've been addicted to step ever since. I lost that 35-pound weight gain, then I went on vacation and somehow lost 10 more pounds! I realized I didn't always have to be 160 pounds. I was looking better, clothes were fitting me better, and I felt great! When people ask me for advice, I always say find something you love to do, and then do it as often as you can. There is something out there for all of us.

5. Try Gradual Change Instead of Going Cold Turkey

Weight loss isn't easy, but it can seem harder than it really is. We all know someone who has quit smoking cold turkey, but dieting is rarely that simple. If you are used to a certain kind of food, or lack of activity, it can seem daunting to change your habits and dive into a new diet and fitness program.

Change can be hard to get used to, so it's sometimes better to start off with small changes, rather than beating yourself up because you can't do it all at once. Focus on one meal a day and make that meal healthier. Wear a pedometer and try to add a few hundred more steps each day. By focusing on the small changes, you'll find yourself feeling better about yourself, and the rest will come a lot easier!

Jennifer, one of our forum members, has taught us that successful weight loss doesn't have to be instant, or an all-or-nothing venture. She decided it would be easier to concentrate on one small change at a time. Jennifer made little changes that would improve her health, such as adding a new vegetable to her diet or replacing white rice with brown. Jennifer even took her weight-loss goals slowly, making small goals of ten pounds at a time. These gradual changes helped make losing weight, and getting healthier, virtually painless. She soon realized there was nothing to stop her from reaching her goals.


I made "rules for myself" for weight loss. One of the top rules is that there will be no radical, unsustainable changes. When I first decided I wanted to change my eating habits to be stronger and healthier, I knew I needed something I could stick with forever. I couldn't radically change how I eat: there's no way to maintain that long term. With my boyfriend's support, we started changing foods one at a time to get used to our new, healthier eating habits. I am also making small changes toward exercise, which I do not like! I've taken the first baby steps by joining a gym.

Since I originally started, I got a tattoo to help me stay focused and committed. The tattoo is a Chinese proverb that means, "Dripping water can eat through stone," to help me remember it's every tiny step that leads to success. It is very meaningful to me: it represents all the hard work I've done this year. I have never given up, not for one second. I kept making changes, both big and little, to be the healthiest person I can be.

How Not to Diet

We totally understand the lure of easy weight loss. What chick isn't blinded by the sentence "Lose ten pounds in three days"? Amazing weight-loss claims are a sure sign that a diet isn't healthy or that it doesn't promote fat loss. If you really want to know if a product works, ask your doctor---not the savvy marketers who wrote the testimonials and product claims. Remember, if diet pills, gadgets, and miracle diets worked like they claimed, our doctors and insurance companies would be pushing them on us. We'd hear about them on CNN, not infomercials and e-mail spam. And America wouldn't be the most obese country on the planet.

Over-the-counter diet pills. If you need a diet pill, get it from your doctor, not from a truck stop or flea market stall. Some contain properties that could be harmful to your body---particularly your heart. The fine print always tells you to go on a reduced-calorie diet and exercise program. That's how you lose the weight.

Weight-loss jewelry, clothing, and shoes. We don't care how many women in the ads claim to have kept slim with these products. Believe us, a pinky ring will not make your butt smaller.

Diet patches. These usually contain various herbs that won't help you lose weight and may not even be absorbed through your skin anyway. The only way a diet patch can help you lose weight is if you use it to tape your mouth shut.

Extreme diet schemes. Cabbage soup, grapefruit, water, and juice diets might sound good in theory, but after three days of eating nothing but citrus fruit, it starts to get a little difficult to unpucker, and cabbage, well, let's just say cabbage can be a little windy when eaten in mass quantities. Also, unbalanced meals like these do nothing for you nutritionally. Limiting your foods to only one type can be harmful, not to mention boring, and so can extremely low-calorie diets. Our bodies need protein, carbohydrates, and fat to thrive. The only thing you really wind up losing on these crash diets is your sense of humor.

"Detox" plans. That's just a fancy version of Ex-Lax and a jug of water. There is no scientific evidence that "detoxing" will help you lose weight, but it has been proven in extreme cases to cause coma or even death. Besides, if you were truly toxic, you'd need a trip to the ER, not the health food store. Make water and fiber a part of your healthy diet to keep your system clean. If you are concerned, please ask your doctor for advice.

Diets that claim you'll lose weight effortlessly. That's just not how it works. If it did, we'd all be running around in size 2 bikinis. Weight loss takes a change in lifestyle, through diet and exercise.

Picking the diet that works for you is one of the most important first steps in successful weight loss, but how do you pick from the wide array of plans available today? Before you put all your eggs into one diet basket, take some time to listen to what our chicks have to say about the most popular programs around. In the pages to come, you'll hear from real chicks who have been eating on the beach, dining with Dr. Atkins, or counting their points on Weight Watchers. Their candid thoughts about what worked for them and what didn't, along with answers to their most frequently asked questions, troubleshooting suggestions, helpful hints, and personal stories about the agony and the ecstasy of weight loss, will help you figure out which program is right for you. The questions addressed in these chapters are based on our own forum discussions as well as a survey that was conducted with thousands of our visitors and members. The answers are designed to give you the real-world information, support, and insight that you will need to ride the crest of those crave waves all the way to the shores of better health. Make the diet you choose this time your last.

Copyright © 2006 by The Philip Lief Group, Inc., and Suzanne Barnett, Jennifer Barnett, and Amy Barnett

Meet the Author

Suzanne Barnett, Jennifer Barnett and Amy Barnett are lifelong dieters and founders of the very popular Web site www.3fatchicks.com. The site has been profiled by Forbes, People, Fitness, Woman's World, Prevention, USA Today, and The New York Times, among others. All three live in Tennessee.

Suzanne Barnett is a lifelong dieter and, with Jennifer Barnett and Amy Barnett, is the author of 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet and founder of the very popular Web site 3 Fat Chicks. The site has been profiled by Forbes, People, Fitness, Woman’s World, Prevention, USA Today, and The New York Times, among others. All three live in Tennessee.
Jennifer Barnett Lesman is a lifelong dieter and, with Suzanne Barnett and Amy Barnett, is the founder of the very popular Web site www.3fatchicks.com. The site has been profiled by Forbes, People, Fitness, Woman’s World, Prevention, USA Today, and The New York Times, among others. All three live in Tennessee.
Amy Barnett Buchanan is a lifelong dieter. With Suzanne Barnett and Jennifer Barnett she is the author of 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet and founded the very popular Web site 3 Fat Chicks. The site has been profiled by Forbes, People, Fitness, Woman’s World, Prevention, USA Today, and The New York Times, among others. She lives in Tennessee.
Bev West contributed to 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet from St. Martin's Press.

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