Read an Excerpt
Against All Odds
How I Made the Journey Downscale
The Question I Get Asked Most: How Did You Lose the Weight?
HINT: It’s Not About the Diet!
For years I had turned up my nose at the mere thought of a diet. I was, without question, the most unmotivated person on the planet. Once in a while, though, life has a strange way of giving you a well-placed kick. Mine came in the form of an angiogram.
The day I sat in a wheelchair, in a bleak foyer outside the operating room suite, I was forced to face the consequences of a lifetime of neglect. I was barefoot and my thin hospital gown was barely covered by a threadbare hospital-issue blanket.
My forty-year-young heart just couldn’t be clogged. True, it had been broken once or twice many years before, but clogged arteries? The doctor I hadn’t seen in three years had obviously thought I was doomed. I had been getting “arm squeezes”—pressure that started in my left arm and radiated into my chest. I was finding it hard to walk, go up steps, and exert myself at all. One day the pressure got extreme and I went to the doctor. He gave me an aspirin and checked me into the NYU Emergency Room. He thought I might be having a heart attack.
OK, so I’m a workaholic. I see myself more as a “precision-timed juggler,” keeping my three children, my busy public relations business, my radio show, my writing, my then husband, and all the other flora and fauna of a late baby boomer’s life somehow in sync—at least most of the time. Time for myself rarely enters the picture. When I do find a moment to rest, I usually remember something I forgot to do, like go to the bathroom. Taking long walks in the woods? That’s for narcissists! I could never be so ridiculously indulgent! Exercise class? Another time-waster. Or so I thought then.
Until the angiogram, I always ate on the run, grabbing whatever was easiest—french fries, pizza, pasta, any kind of bagel, cake, or muffin. Salad took way too much time to shop for and even more time to prepare. And it tasted yucky. I watched the scale topping out at 220+ pounds, but I didn’t much care because I never even had time to look in the mirror. And when I did, I never saw myself as fat!
But now I was seated on a gurney in the Emergency Room of the hospital, and a cardiologist pulled the privacy drapes around me. “If you let me out of here now, I swear I’ll never eat another french fry,” I pleaded, not quite sure I could ever make good on that promise. “I’ll even give up chocolate.”
“Heavens, you will not give up chocolate!” he laughed. “You can still have chocolate—just not a whole lot of it!”
So here I was, awaiting an angiogram and wondering how the outcome would affect my life. And how many Valrhona chocolates were left in my future.
“Don’t you have slippers?” The nurse looked at my bare feet.
“I came straight from work.” I shrugged.
She found me some paper booties, and I shuffled from the gurney into what looked like an operating room and felt like a meat locker. I began to shake from the cold. She helped me onto an even colder table and barely covered me with the thin blanket. In spite of the blindingly bright lights, I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. Another nurse wrapped a tourniquet around my arm, tying it shut with the snapping of rubber against rubber.
“This will pinch a bit,” she warned as she stuck me with an IV needle.
“Dang,” she swore as she missed the vein. She maneuvered the needle around, causing shards of pain to course through my arm. I jumped as someone clipped a pulse monitor to my toe and as someone else began lowering the blanket from my groin. A short and chubby nurse leaned over the table nonchalantly.
“I have to shave you,” she said, brandishing the razor.
There I was—control fiend, workaholic, and nurturer—prostrate on an uncomfortable table, completely dependent on doctors and nurses who were giving me a free “Brazilian.” Dean Koontz and Stephen King combined couldn’t come up with a more horrific scenario.
The first nurse had given up on the initial vein she had chosen and was hunting for another, this time in my forearm. “I used to be real good at this,” she muttered, as I tried not to squirm. Finally she gave up and asked the doctor to try his hand at it.
“You have one last chance,” I warned him. “And then I’m outta here. I’m not a pincushion, you know.”
He didn’t look too worried. He knew I wouldn’t get far. In one swift motion, he threaded the IV into my vein. Pay dirt. I don’t know what was in the IV, but I soon stopped shivering. My relief was short-lived, as the chubby nurse poked a syringe into my IV tube and squeezed. An instant, blood-chilling sting suffused my arm.
“Benadryl.” She shrugged as I yelped.
“If you say ‘I told you so!’ we’re history,” I had said as I glared at my husband. The last thing I wanted to do was give this husband of mine—the one who preferred salad to his own birthday cake—the satisfaction of being right.
He had shrugged helplessly before he was asked to leave the ER And now, here I lay on the table in the freezing cold cath lab as two doctors, dressed in matching turquoise scrub suits, huddled over my pelvis. She was blonde and blue-eyed. He was tall and slim. They looked like Dr. Barbie and nuclear cardiologist Ken, getting ready for a heart-stopping adventure in my femoral artery.
“This is the only part you’ll feel,” Dr. Ken promised. Pain spread through my pelvis as he injected me with a local anesthetic.
Then I felt the sickening sensation of blood dripping down my hip and over my inner thigh. The doctors were studying the screens as they threaded the catheter up toward my heart. They talked to each other in hushed tones. I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. I would have liked to know more about the procedure and what they were looking at, but I didn’t want to sound the way my kids do when we go on a road trip.
“Hey, Docs, are we there yet?”
I felt like a live cadaver as Barbie and her friend whispered to one another. My feelings of helplessness awakened my worst fears, and my fertile imagination began to work overtime. I imagined their hushed conversation.
“The stupid fool has obviously been eating french fries more than once a week.” Dr. Barbie wrinkles her nose in disgust. I’m shaken out of my reverie by the real sound of Dr. Barbie’s voice.
“In a few seconds you’re going to feel a burning sensation in your chest. That’s the dye we’re injecting. It will spread to the rest of your body after it goes through your heart.”
Burning? Try searing, flaming, incandescent, ablaze—those words more aptly describe the sensation of the dye going through my system. My heart was afire and the rest of me wasn’t far behind. The fire spread to my groin and feet and arms. Then my heart started skipping beats. Am I dying? Is this the “big one”? I’m choked with fear and I think of my children. I’m never going to see them again. I’m going to expire here in the cath lab.
“That’s going to stop soon,” Dr. Barbie assured me. How did she know my heart was doing those things? “How do you know it’ll stop?” I asked her.
“We’ve got it under control,” she responded.
Was this a hospital or a medieval torture chamber? What’s next, the rack?
I must have accidentally voiced my thoughts aloud because she replied, “Wait, you haven’t even seen the recovery room.”
“Good news, though,” she assured me. “Your heart is just fine. There’s no blockage in any of your arteries.”
Thank you, God! I was a death-row inmate receiving a presidential pardon. I thought about the saucy Chinese food, eggplant-topped pizza, enormous kosher deli sandwiches, mounds and mounds of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby-Hubby ice cream, french fries, french fries, and more french fries I had been desecrating my body with. I didn’t deserve a second chance, but somehow I’d gotten one.
I didn’t even wince when the nurse pushed more Benadryl through my IV tube.
For me, suffering through the angiogram was like peering through a window into my future. If I continued the way I’d been going, I was bound to end up back in the cath lab someday. Maybe it would take twenty years, or maybe forty, but somehow I knew I’d be back and that next time I may not get to go back to work the next day.
It was at that precise moment that I invented the “I Never Want Another Angiogram (as long as I live) Diet.” It’s simple and easy to follow. There are no gimmicks, pills, or magic potions. Eat healthy, eat right, and when you’re tempted by Junior’s Cheesecake, crispy french fries, or mouthwatering Belgian truffles, reread this chapter and visualize the cath lab. Imagine just for one moment the feeling of hot dye burning through your veins. That was me, but it could just as easily have been you. No diet works without a powerful motivator, and I for one am not likely to forget that angiogram anytime soon.
That angiogram started me on a program of self- realization, and the self-realization led to a drastic lifestyle change. I realized that losing weight is not about food at all. The key is changing your attitude—hearing the wake-up call and deciding “enough is enough.” I was ready to be thin. No more excuses for gaining weight or staying unhappily static. I took responsibility for my nutrition, my fitness, my overall health, and my life as a whole.
The new me is a lot like my ex-husband. I cut carbs, refuse sugar, embrace exercise, and make very careful choices. It’s been ten years since I started the diet, and I’ve lost over ninety pounds since my angiogram. I’ve reclaimed my life. No french fry can compare with the joy of an easy zip on a size 8 pair of jeans, especially when I once was a size 22 with an elastic waistband. And I have learned to find pleasure in things other than food. Walks in the woods are not frivolous at all, and exercise makes me feel good, healthy, and sexy, so I make time for it each day. I’m worth it!
There was a casualty back in that hospital. Martyr mom, the victimized woman who did everything for everyone but very little for herself, died that day on the angiogram table. The new me is a victim no more.
There are so many different diets and methods of losing weight these days, from surgical procedures to Overeaters Anonymous to the tried-and-true Weight Watchers. It doesn’t really matter how you lose it. Simply put, calories in should not exceed calories out. That is the hallmark of every good diet. But anyone who has ever had a weight problem knows that this is easier said than done. When presented with bread to nibble on at a restaurant or running past a donut stand after skipping breakfast, most people will find themselves mindlessly munching. Is there really such a thing as mindless munching? There shouldn’t be.
And there isn’t for me anymore. Sugar is a four-letter word in my household. In purging much of it from my cupboard, my life, and my body, I have succeeded in quelling cravings that used to haunt me, whether the sugar perpetrator was a bag of baby carrots or a Snickers bar. There are some foods that will never be welcome in my body. I accept and embrace that aesthetic fact. It’s OK. I no longer miss it.
I don’t diet. Diet means inherently counting calories, points, measuring foods. Instead, I feed my body what it needs when it needs it. It doesn’t need or want a candy bar or piece of mousse cake. Ever. So I don’t bother with empty calories. I have learned that life holds delights far more lasting and enjoyable than the fleeting pleasure of sugar melting on my tongue. And in fact, the “sugar high” is accompanied by energy and mood surges that affect my overall mood, usually in a colossal end “crash.”
According to Harold Schulman, a medical doctor and professor at the State University of New York–Stony Brook, the food-mood connection is not a fluke, and balance is the key to maintaining even moods. He explains that we start out life with the perfect food—mother’s milk. It has 45 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent protein, and the rest fat. A balanced meal. What happens next is that nature turns to nurture—for example, mother and the media take over. The milk becomes secondary and the basic message of carbohydrate, protein, and fat balance is lost. Taste becomes the driving force.
Tip Stay balanced. We need carbohydrates. They are our best source of energy, and the brain uses only carbs to function. But balance your carb intake with adequate protein to avoid sugar surges.
Which Comes First? The Food or The Mood?
According to Dr. Schulman, the two valuable research areas for food and mood are serotonins and carbohydrates. We know that serotonin is a brain messenger that signals when we are full or satisfied. In the 1990s, there was a drug called fenfluramine, part of a combo fen-phen that was the most powerful and effective pill ever found for losing weight. Millions of people saw their excess weight melt away. The pill diminished their hunger; they felt full sooner, were happier, and gained energy. Unfortunately for some people the increases in serotonin affected the heart and lungs. Fen-phen was promptly taken off the market.
There are two building blocks for making serotonin: protein and carbohydrate. In the protein, there has to be an amino acid called tryptophan. The tryptophan piggybacks onto the carbohydrate and provides the essential ingredients for making serotonin. Oftentimes at the end of a meal we crave something sweet. According to Dr. Schulman, this could be habit or your body asking for an ingredient like a little carbohydrate to boost the serotonin production. Because our appetite brain center is near the energy and mood centers, food is a natural means for boosting mood, and it is done through the balance of protein and carbs.
This explains why empty calories used to make me sluggish: They sapped my energy. Excess sugar in my system created a high and then a crash that would frequently leave me depressed and exhausted—too exhausted to move around much. The technical term for this condition, according to J. Shah, a physician board-certified in the field of bariatric (weight-loss) medicine, is “food coma” or “sugar crash.” There really is a food-mood connection—the drowsiness and lethargy induced by eating too much or eating foods that aren’t nutritionally balanced.
Dr. Shah says that “zoned out” feeling can come from a high-glycemic load, insulin resistance, inadequate sleep patterns or sleep apnea, or low testosterone levels, specifically during andropause or menopause. The antidote, he suggests, is eating small and frequent meals that are composed of proteins and complex low-glycemic carbohydrates and to correct any underlying medical problems.
I didn’t know it back then. The food was controlling my moods and energy levels. Now when I’m facing down a delicious-looking cake, I ask myself, “How will it make me feel?” I am clear on the answer: It will taste heavenly going down but will make me feel downright icky, depressed, and bogged down afterward! I don’t ever want to feel that way again. The Pavlovian desire to feel good and energetic makes it impossible for me to eat the way I used to.
This is extreme, but it works. I carry around a “before” picture to show people while they chow down on the bread and I sip my mineral water and eat a salad with cheese or walnuts. My circle of friends has changed, too. The people in my life tend to think more like me. There aren’t a lot of us out there, but if you look hard enough, you can see past the “donut eaters.”
I have been to Overeaters Anonymous and Weight Watchers, and I have tried everything from the grapefruit diet to Atkins to shed weight. All diets seem to work for a bit. And then comes the moment when you are tempted and you have “just one” cookie or brownie, one taste of whatever . . . and then just one more. Anyone who has dieted endlessly knows the scene. I realized that, for me, “moderation” was not an option. I had to take a hard line. Small doses of anything sugary would set me off.
And support, while it was comforting, was not something I could sustain. Real life didn’t give me the luxury of taking time for bitch sessions. I didn’t need to confess my indiscretions of the week or commiserate with others. I found that, for me, exercising in my spare time was a lot more productive.
It’s All About Energy
My “diet,” if you will, was an evolution. I read up on supplements. I spoke to nutritionists, doctors, nurses, and personal trainers. I began with a few supplements. What a pain in the neck to remember to take pills each day! But I made it routine and slipped into the mode. Supplements didn’t kick in right away, but eventually they seemed to take effect. My cravings were less intense. That was step one. Then I removed sugar from my diet. It’s astonishing how much sugar the average American eats without even realizing it! In doing so, I boosted my energy, which enabled me to work out more. In turn, this helped me lose weight and look better. The cycle is fueled by energy; the energy is fueled by what I ingest. Calcium and glucosamine keep my bones and joints strong so I can stay in motion and use that energy, maximizing my physical potential. The omegas appear to boost my mood.
Figuring out what to take and in what doses was a trial-and-error process for me. I tried many formulations that gave me headaches and didn’t work for me. I spent a lot of money on pills that didn’t seem to work. But I am a believer in learning and trying and in taking responsibility for my own health. Eventually a routine was born.
My supplement regimen is not about a magic weight- loss pill, but rather, it is designed to tone my mind. I have found that once I am feeling energetic and happy, my body tends to follow suit. Energy leads to strength and keeps me from falling into “couch potato” mode.
Nowadays, I travel with pills and potions. My day begins with supplements. Lots of them. But before I share my experiences, I would like to qualify them because I am not interested in pushing pills or potions. I can only share anecdotally what has worked for me and give you the theory behind why it may be working. I am no expert in nutrition, just someone who stumbled onto something that appears to work for me.
Before you take supplements, you should research them, ask lots of questions, and consult a physician. You should also find out which companies are known to have pure assays and better products. And you may want to investigate the inert ingredients in case you are allergic to some of the additives. Unlike pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals are not closely monitored as medications but, rather, as foods. I do not endorse any one product over another. Having worked behind the scenes as a publicist for many nutraceutical companies, I have found that there is a strong caveat emptor factor in deciding which product to use. Many are repackaged and most are marked up outrageously. Learn about the nutraceuticals. Learn about the companies selling them. Ask about the purity of the particular formulation that you think might benefit you. Find out just what you are ingesting before you buy any over-the-counter nutraceuticals. Nutraceuticals are costly and generally not reimbursable by insurance companies. Don’t believe outrageous claims, but do look at the research that has been done. Research interactions and contraindications to medications you take. Then make your choices, give them enough time to take effect, and if something isn’t working, throw it away!
That said, I have found that these formulations work for me.
•L-Carnitine and Co-Enzyme Q10 (a.m.) L-Carnitine is a compound said to be critical in transporting fatty acids into the cell mitochondria for energy production. It has been researched in the areas of cardiovascular diseases, physical performance enhancement, kidney function, and Alzheimer’s disease and age-related senility. CoQ10 also improves energy production and acts as an antioxidant. Its effects are said to address prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease and cancer. As an antioxidant, it specifically targets lipid peroxidation (yep, that means it affects fat cells). It preserves the activity of vitamin E and helps prevent damage to lipid membranes and plasma lipids. CoQ10 works in concert with L-Carnitine.
•Calcium with Magnesium (a.m. and before bedtime, too) An adequate intake of daily dietary calcium is said to help control heart rate, blood clotting, muscle contraction, and more. Magnesium is said to help facilitate enzymatic reactions in the human body, contributing to the production of cardiovascular functions and the production and synthesis of energy. It also enhances the absorption of calcium and works hand in hand with calcium to contract muscles and relax them, as well as relax and calm nerves.
•Glucosamine with Chondroitin Sulfate (also in the a.m. and p.m.) Glucosamine is said to be an elemental building block required for biosynthesis of connective tissue, such as the cartilage found in joints. Chondroitin sulfate has been shown to be effective in the repair and restoration of cartilaginous tissue.
•Slimmin’ Up (a.m.) This nutrient-rich herbal formula is said to reduce hunger and increase one’s sense of energy.
•Reneu (a.m.) Designed to help cleanse and detoxify the intestinal system. A cleaner intestinal system helps enhance the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts, thereby optimizing weight management.
•Omega-3 Fish Oil Pills and Ground Flaxseed (a.m.) This combination of essential fatty acids is said to address conditions ranging from immune disorders, neural imbalances, joint problems, cancer, inflammation, kidney function, AIDS, and cardiovascular disease. They function as components of nerve cells, cell membranes, and hormone-like substances called prostaglandins.
•Green Tea—As much as I can chug all day.
I start each day with a shake—a breakfast protein drink comprising isolated soy proteins and whey. The one I choose is part of the Body FX program, made with fructose so it starts me in the right direction, not spiking my sugar. I’ve experimented with a lot of breakfasts, but since I try to spend some time after breakfast doing a cardio workout, I need something that will give me energy without the sluggish feeling that sugars and carbs seem to produce. I add ground flaxseed and sometimes a grain packaged as Salba to boost the omega-3s in the shake.
I have tried eating carbs before workouts, but it slows me down and makes me less energetic while I exercise. Protein is what my body craves while I am working to burn calories.
Test the waters. Become more aware of how food influences your mood and energy level. Keep a “food-mood diary” and note how you feel after eating various foods. You may begin to see correlations between high-protein or high-carb meals and your own energy level. Adjust your food balance and note changes (if any) before and after exercise.
For me, the road to The Thin Club began with discipline and substitutions. I substituted sugar-free sweets, nuts, or high-fiber, low-sugar fruits (in careful moderation) when I needed a snack. Instead of sitting in front of the television, I found things to do that kept me active. I loathed being a participant and not a spectator. These days, if I do choose to watch TV, I exercise at the same time. My stability ball has become my ottoman. A Body Wedge stands in my living room, as do some free weights, reminding me that even relaxation and downtime don’t have to be an excuse to vegetate. Even my children will pick up the free weights while they are watching television. It sure beats leaving a bowl of chips in the center of the table for them.
Just as the supplements gave me energy, as I began to eat more protein and less starchy carbs, I developed more energy. It was a self-perpetuating cycle. Less sugar meant more energy, which translated into the desire for more activity, which of course meant better results in weight loss and a more toned body. And looking in the mirror and seeing sleek muscle tone makes me want to continue eating healthy.
These days I confine myself to a mere bite of dessert if I really hanker to taste something special, but I’m more likely to treat myself to a side order of spinach or an extra helping of fish. Food is no longer a reward—it is fuel. It’s fuel that my body needs to give me the energy to get through my day, to care for my children, to do my work. It’s food that, if taken in the wrong amounts or comprising the wrong ingredients, will now give me a headache, a bloaty feeling, and a dry mouth at night.
Whereas my days used to be centered on what to eat, what to make for dinner, which bakery in my neighborhood to go to for the best chocolate pudding pie or cream cake (and I would drive miles for the right cream cake), now I just grab a protein bar or shake; I’d rather get my work done so I can hit the gym.
Tip Focus on the “good” carbs like nuts and berries and avoid the sugar fixes. Sugar is the culprit in obesity. For some reason nature made the taste of sugar seductive. Even too much fruit can cause an overabundance of sugar and can drag you into low energy and a lack- luster mood.
While support groups did not work for me, many find that working with buddies is beneficial. As you will see in Chapter 8 on “Friends and Foes,” not all weight-loss buddies are going to have your best interests at heart. Weight-loss programs are frequently in business to make money, and the way they make money is by repeat (translated to yo-yo) business. Keeping someone in The Thin Club is certainly not going to fill their coffers. This paradox turned me off to many of the popular diet groups that I tried over the years.
My transition has been largely in my mind. Life is no longer all about food. And I’m not the only one who has lost weight and got trim in the process. My chil- dren are reaping the benefits of diet and exercise, too. Dinner for them is frequently salad, fish or chicken, and a sweet potato or sushi made with brown rice or whole wheat pasta (they can have more of that since they are able to process the sugar and carbs; I limit my carb portions).
Can anyone do what I’ve done? I totally believe they can. In fact, as you read my story, you will understand why I became heavy and why food became such a focus for me. My life was more extreme than many, but everyone has challenges. And, yes, it is possible for anyone to seize control of her or his life and care for herself or himself, no matter how dysfunctional things are.
The key to success is self-analysis, self-actualization, putting food in its proper perspective, finding exercise that thrills you and makes you look forward to it, changing your cupboard and refrigerator, but most of all, changing your mindset. So many of us are victims by nature. We are victims of our circumstances, our lifestyle, body type, intelligence level, career or lack of career. But nobody should ever be the victim of a candy bar or supersize french fries. Being a victim is largely a function of perception. And stepping out of victim mode is the secret to succeeding, not just in weight loss but also in life, in the workplace—you name it! Victim mentality is something that we can and should control. And once you learn to control that, you may be surprised at how other things fall into place as well.
On the Way Down
You are getting sleeeeeepy! No, hypnosis won’t make you cluck like a chicken. Rosie Schulman, Dr. Harold Schulman’s wife and a registered nurse, helped me jump-start my diet with it. Rosie was the person who looked at me even when I was still a good sixty pounds overweight and said I was an athlete. An athlete? Since my athletic activities until that point had been confined to opening and shutting the refrigerator door, I thought she was crazy. Now as I hop to and from Pilates, kickboxing, and jujitsu in my spandex yoga clothes, Rosie and I laugh at my late-blooming athletic prowess. She was right, and perhaps the very suggestion, hypnotic or not, was what helped set my course.
As I began to lose weight, issues started to crop up— issues that I realized, if not addressed, could impede or, worse, affect my overall success. I didn’t try hypnosis to lose weight but, rather, to address some of these issues and to learn to isolate and combat the messages that came from years of reinforced negative behavior patterns. An early problem for me was the issue of strength and power.
As I proceeded downscale, I realized that I had a history of power struggles, beginning with my parents and later with my husband, and even with work colleagues and my own children. I recognized that I found myself frequently feeling victimized by these negative feelings. Power and weight seemed somehow related. My excess weight was insulation—protection; in some ways it made me feel safe, but in other ways I felt helpless. I needed strength. I told Rosie. We talked about the issues of safety, power, and strength and then she put me under. Putting me in a state of total relaxation, she helped me get in touch with the negative feelings that were crippling me and keeping me from achieving my goals—both on the scale and off of it. An hour later I felt strong, ready to face down any cream pie, extra helping, lazy-bones inclination that was keeping me from the gym, as well as being an impediment to my success. I left with a surge of energy, and the energy got stronger with time.
A few months later I found the strength to leave my marriage—one that had been riddled with physical and emotional abuse for twenty-two years. I reclaimed my children, boosted my business to support my family, moved out of my home, and became a powerful new person. Hypnosis certainly wasn’t the only factor, but it was a large piece of the puzzle that helped me piece my life back together.
My Journey Downscale
The First Fifteen Pounds
Everyone starts a diet with a new sense of resolve and a little trepidation. I certainly did. I remember going to the doctor after my angiogram and telling him that I had resolved to lose weight. “What should I do?” I asked him.
He looked at me, clueless. “You’ve been on diets before,” he said. “You know the drill . . . lots of cottage cheese and walk around a lot. Or try Weight Watchers.” I tried Weight Watchers. I used their online journaling system. And it helped for a while. The first fifteen pounds were the most important to me. They were the pounds that propelled me into my initial excitement phase. They were also the ones that “detoxed” my body from the things that made me fat. Initially, I went on a regular program. It worked. I lost weight. Once a week I would reward myself with some sugary treat. It made me feel like I was cheating, but I still lost weight.
While the psychological motivation was loud and clear during this phase, I had trouble with cravings. My body wanted to go back to status quo—and the foods I craved were precisely the ones I needed to cut out completely from my diet. My diet buddies were very important to me at this stage of the game. I found myself on the phone with them constantly, feeling attacked by Girl Scout cookies, bread, pasta—you name it. It seemed that these seducers were everywhere.
I began my diet with a motivational shopping trip at Catherine’s, a large-size clothing store. Yes, I shopped before I even lost a single pound, and if you are in the beginning phase of a weight loss, so should you! I bought myself a few items and tried to avoid my bulging reflection in the dressing-room mirror. It made me want to run to the nearest Carvel for a double-size hot fudge sundae! Thanks to my cell phone and a little help (OK, a lot of help) from my friends, I managed to resist the temptations.
The Latent Phase
After I was fifteen pounds down, the scale was getting a tad closer to 200 pounds. Would I ever get below that number? I was hopeful, but I still felt like a tank. This phase is when the diet becomes more challenging and when people typically start losing their motivation. Even though my clothes were starting to get a bit looser, I was still over a size 20 and knew I was a long way from ever seeing my way out of the plus-size shops.
I watched the pounds go up and down in a typical weight-loss pattern. Sometimes I gained a pound or two, then the next week I’d lose three. I tried to stick to my diet. The scale was a depressing reminder. Just as I would wake up feeling “extra-skinny,” I’d hop on the scale and realize that I had actually gained a pound! Now, what was that all about? Why bother with this stupid diet?
From the Trade Paperback edition.