Read an Excerpt
Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Weight Loss
Important Facts, Inspiring Stories
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Andrew Larson
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
I Learned It from My Dog
Answers can come from unexpected places: I learned how to overcome my weight problem from my dog.
It was nearly thirty years ago. Brett was an Irish setter–Doberman mix, and she was bright, high-spirited and willful—the sort of temperament that, unfortunately, made her a poor choice in pets for a teenager whose understanding of dog training was based primarily on the Irish Red books. Brett was nearly impossible to control. Whether it was climbing on forbidden furniture, refusing to come when called or barking her head off when a doorbell rang, no lesson I tried to teach her seemed to catch on. My attempts at discipline were met with constant failure. I loved the dog. She was my best friend. But her wildness infuriated and exhausted me.
Then one night, I had a dream.... But I'll come back to that in a minute.
First, my weight.
I'd been thin as a kid. But somewhere between age sixteen and nineteen, I started to put on the extra pounds. In retrospect, I know I fell into an all-too-common trap.
It started when I became convinced I had an ugly body. The biggest problem was my chest. It was way too small. Night after night I'd study my profile in a full-length mirror, hoping my shape would suddenly appear more shapely. No such luck. I stopped growing somewhere shy of a full B cup and that was that.
It seemed like such an awful fate. Surely, if I were only bigger, my life would be heaven. The boys I liked would like me back. I'd be invited to the really cool parties. I'd be the envy of the most popular kids in the school.
Mirrors are delusive things. Stare at yourself too long and features that are perfectly normal shift and swell. They appear suddenly disproportionate and exaggerated. That's exactly what my mirror-staring did to me: it began to look as if part of the problem was that my stomach stuck out too much. Suck my stomach in, I noticed, and my bust looked bigger.
A flatter stomach, that's what I needed! The trap was sprung. I decided to diet.
My diet was typical for the 1970s. I counted calories. But I found myself woefully devoid of willpower. One day I'd do great, keeping my intake to 1,000 calories or less. But the next day, off the deep end I'd go. I'd binge like a starving person. Boxes of cookies, huge dishes of ice cream (my favorite trick was to pour mounds of bittersweet chocolate chips over three or four scoops of vanilla ice cream), bags of Doritos. I'd often eat so much rich food that I'd feel nauseous afterward—yet I seemed powerless to stop myself. No matter how much I hated the part of me that gorged on those forbidden treats, no matter how much I scolded myself, no matter what promises I made, I couldn't stop. It was like I was two people. And when the one that wanted to binge took over, the dieter was shoved off in a corner where she couldn't utter a peep. My frustration was agonizing. I began to suspect I wanted to be fat. That same perverse psychological phenomenon was running—and ruining—my life.
My worst fears began to come true. In a few short years, I went from about 115 pounds to over 145. None of which, by the way, settled on my bust!
It was then that I had the dream about my dog.
In the dream Brett—who in real life had a beautiful red-brown coat—was not brown at all. Instead, she kept changing back and forth from white to black and back to white. And her color, in the dream, depended entirely on me. When I scolded her, calling her a bad dog, she turned black. When I called her a good dog and praised her, she became white.
The next morning I thought about the dream, and quickly realized what it was trying to tellme. My style of discipline wasn't working, because instead of preventing my dog's "bad" behavior, I was reinforcing it. I expected a bad dog, treated her as if she were a bad dog, and so—she was a bad dog.
I immediately began handling Brett differently. I started ignoring her when she did something I didn't like. Then, when she did the "right" thing— when she came when I called, for example— I praised her with complete love and enthusiasm.
The transformation was stunning. Suddenly, my dog was "obeying" me. Oh, she was still often a handful—excitable, restless and a bit too intelligent to ever really settle down completely—but we found ourselves getting along much better. It turns out, you see, that most of the time she really wanted to please me. I just needed to nurture her good behavior. The rest took care of itself.
Then, one day, I realized I'd been treating myself as poorly as I had once treated my pet. I was beating myself up every time I ate something "fattening." I was calling myself undisciplined, fat, a failure. I was reinforcing, on a daily basis, the exact image I most feared and disliked. Suddenly, I understood why I binged—I was simply being the person I constantly told myself I was. Weak. An overeater. Out of control.
From that day, I never punished myself again about a single morsel of food. Instead, I began noticing how often I ate good, nutritious meals. I began getting excited about how eating right made me feel great. I began taking pleasure in learning about whole foods. I indulged in my interest in cooking and began to collect recipes and cookbooks.
When I did eat something "fattening," I enjoyed it as I ate, then put it quickly out of my mind. If I caught myself later regretting that slice of cake or ice-cream bar, I told myself firmly to just let it go.
And guess what happened? Food and eating gradually lost that intense emotional charge they'd once had. When I ate, more and more it was because I was hungry and something appealed to me. I began to trust my body's signals. I quit counting calories, I quit weighing myself (to this day, I don't keep a scale in the house; I know I'm "thin" but I couldn't tell you how much I weigh).
I didn't lose the extra pounds overnight. In fact, it took several years. But by my mid-twenties, the new self I'd created—the one that eats for the right reasons, in the right quantities—had become my "real" self.
There are many variations among people's physiologies and body chemistries. There may not be any "one size fits all" diet everyone can use to reach their ideal weight. But my experience taught me one thing for certain: anybody can create a weight problem, or make a weight problem worse, if the only feedback they give themselves is negative.
Instead, we have to treat ourselves with love and compassion. We have to nourish the good, not waste all our energy trying to stamp out the bad.
So, here's to the memory of my old friend, Brett. What a lifelong gift she turned out to be!
* Kirsten Mortensen
You Can Do It!
You may have tried to lose weight many times before. If you've tried dieting, you may even have lost weight, only to gain it right back again. Whether this is your first time or your tenth time trying to lose weight, here's the good news: You CAN lose weight permanently. You don't have to starve yourself or exercise for hours on end every day. By making just a few healthy, lasting changes in the way you live your life, you can start looking and feeling better right away. You can lose weight and keep the pounds off for a lifetime.
Improve Your Health
There are plenty of reasons to lose weight, but the most important is to improve your health. If you are even slightly overweight, you're more likely to develop all sorts of serious health problems such as:
cancer (such as colon cancer, endometrial cancer, and postmenopausal breast cancer)
sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep)
osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints)
Take it from a doctor with years of clinical experience. Obesity makes almost any disease more difficult to treat. Operations take longer and anesthesia is much more risky when you are overweight.
The good news is even a very modest amount of weight loss—10 to 15 pounds—offers significant health benefits. Some people with Type II diabetes are cured by losing only a small amount of weight. It doesn't take much to make a big difference so far as your health is concerned. Lose weight for your health first!
Lowering Your Cholesterol Level and Blood Pressure
Don't let appearances deceive you. You don't even have to be overweight to suffer from many of the medical conditions that can be improved by the lifestyle advice in this book. For example, you can be thin and still have a high cholesterol level or high blood pressure. In this case, in order to protect your heart, you'll most definitely want to follow the advice in this book about eating healthfully and exercising properly. Some people are able to lower their cholesterol level and blood pressure sufficiently through lifestyle changes alone. Talk with your doctor about it—medicine is not always necessary.
It Can Be Done!
The National Weight Control Registry is a research study that has proven it is possible to achieve significant, long-term weight loss. The registry has identified more than 4,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have maintained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for one year or longer. The registry researchers report that:
* Nearly every participant used diet and exercise to initially lose weight and maintain their weight loss.
* Weight loss led to significant improvements in self-confidence, mood, and physical health.
* About half of registry members initially lost weight on their own; the rest used a formal weight-loss program or help from a health-care professional.
* Once you've successfully maintained your new weight for several years, the chances increase that you'll maintain that weight.
* Eating breakfast is a characteristic common to successful weight loss and may be a factor in success.
* People who stick to their new eating plan throughout the week are 150 percent more likely to maintain their weight over the subsequent year than people who diet mostly on weekdays.
Think about ... why I want to lose weight
The reasons I want to lose weight are:
* To feel better
* To have more energy
* To lower my cholesterol
* To reduce my risk of diabetes
* To reduce my risk of a heart attack
* To look better
* To live longer
Don't Give Up, Don't Ever Give Up
Lucille, after reviewing your lab results, you have a condition known as fatty liver. What this means is that your liver is turning to fat. I have good news and bad news. We'll start with the bad news. If you do not do anything about this, your liver will continue to turn to fat, you will develop cirrhosis of the liver, and you will die of liver failure. The good news is that this condition is completely reversible. The liver is a very resilient organ, and it has a great ability to heal itself. There is only one way to reverse this condition. You must lose 30 pounds."
I could see the look of terror on Lucille's face. I have found one of the hardest parts of being a doctor is to tell someone they must lose weight, not for their outer appearance or self-esteem, but for their health. There is no magic pill to take away the symptoms or the reality of this condition. Losing weight is a matter of will from within. As a doctor, you cannot just write a prescription and send the patient out the door and off to the pharmacy. You must become their life coach.
"Doctor, I've tried to lose weight for over three years. I've tried every plan out there. I lose a little, and then I gain it all back. There must be something else I can do," Lucille explained with a slight hint of panic in her voice.
I rolled my chair over to Lucille's chair, with our knees almost touching, and looked deeply into her eyes. "Have you really wanted to lose weight?" Lucille broke our gaze as she turned her attention down towards the floor. There was silence. She slowly began to lift her head and I noticed a tear forming in her left eye.
"I ... I have never had a reason to lose weight. I am unattractive; my husband and I divorced over ten years ago; no one pays any attention to me...."
Lucille's tears began to flow. "Doctor, are you telling me I am going to die?" I grabbed Lucille's hand. "No, Lucille. You are going to lose weight." Lucille looked up from the floor. She looked at me as if I was the only person in years to have faith in her. I even noticed a slight smile forming on her lips. "How do I do it? Do you have a special diet plan?"
"It is not another diet that you need. You have tried them already. They worked for a while, but they were unsustainable. Our job is to discover why they were unsustainable and then develop strategies to overcome the pitfalls. We are going to develop lifelong habits, not only eating and exercise habits, but habits that make you feel whole and healthy as a person. This isn't going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it.
"But before we begin we must both, you and I, agree to a motto on this new life journey of yours. The motto has been a favorite of mine since spoken by former North Carolina State coach Jimmy Valvano as he was dying of cancer. 'Don't give up, don't ever give up.'"
Lucille and I saw each other every month for the next two years. I even received phone calls from her at odd hours of the day and night. By the end of two years, Lucille had gone from 205 pounds to 170. She had exceeded our goal of 30 pounds and she wasn't slowing down. She was determined that she was going to reach a weight that made her feel healthy and whole.
At our two-year visit as Lucille stood on the scale, she reached over and grabbed my left hand with her right. "Thank you for believing in me so I could believe in myself. You are making a difference."
As she walked out the door that day, she turned, looked over her shoulder and recaptured the gaze we had shared many times over the past two years. "Don't give up," she said. "Don't ever give up." I don't know if she was talking to herself or to me.
* Amy Westlake, N.D.
Think about ... my weight-loss goals
What is my ideal weight?
What is my weight-loss goal per week?
How long do I think it will take me to get down to my ideal weight?
What do I plan to do to get there?
Am I willing to eat more fruits and vegetables?
Am I willing to exercise more every week?
Am I willing to talk about my weight-loss goals with friends and loved ones?
My Thoughts ___________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________
My Feelings ___________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________
My Facts ______________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________
My Support ____________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________
Setting the right goals can make all the difference in your success or failure, so always:
Set goals for changing your lifestyle, rather than losing a specific number of pounds. If you eat healthfully and exercise, you will improve your life in a number of ways, not just by losing pounds.
Make your lifestyle goals specific. It's easy to say, "I'll eat more fruits and vegetables," but you're more likely to stick to the plan when your goal is, "I'll have a fruit salad with my lunch every day this week."
Make your goals measurable. Instead of saying, "I want to be more fit," say, "I want to be able to walk for an hour without getting winded."
Choose a realistic way of reaching your goal. If you eventually want to exercise for an hour a day, start with a goal of twenty minutes three times a week, and work up to an hour slowly.
Don't make your goals too rigid. Who could possibly stick to a goal of "I'll never eat sweets again"? Instead, say, "I'll start by substituting a piece of fruit for that vending-machine candy bar I've gotten into the habit of eating at work."
Set a time limit for achieving your goals, or you may never get around to them.
Pick a reward for meeting your goals, such as, "If I meet my exercise goal for this week, I'll treat myself to a movie on Saturday night."
Some of you have a goal in mind. Before reading further, let's make sure your goal is medically appropriate and realistic. One way of getting a handle on what your weight should be is to use the doctor's preferred tool, the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart for adults. Measure your weight and height, then see where you fall on the chart following.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Weight Loss by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Andrew Larson. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.