"How I Lost The Weight, And Why You Shouldn't Admire Me For It" - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

“How I Lost The Weight, And Why You Shouldn’t Admire Me For It”

The scale...the devil.

This article appeared in Slate a few weeks ago, and I found myself deep, down in my feelings about it. The essay is long, and I’m sure you’ll read it on your own time, but there are a couple of parts that I thought should be shared:

I once weighed 352 pounds.

Or 356. The trouble is I don’t really know my starting weight. When you cross over from merely obese to morbidly obese, it’s hard to find a scale in the bath part of Bed Bath & Beyond to accommodate your girth. Even many doctors’ offices don’t carry a scale large enough for the truly fat. This usually ends in a nurse whispering, “Well, how much do you think you weigh?” as if you, the nonmedical professional, were a better judge of this than anyone else—despite the fact that according to many medical professionals, you are lazy, unattractive, stupid, and stubbornly unwilling to comply with treatment.

[...]…I haven’t quite reached my goal weight. When I do, I can imagine the praise that will come in. In MyFitnessPal Internet speak, “WTG!!!!11!!” In co-worker speak: “OMG, what’s your secret?” or “Congratulations on your achievement,” like I’ve just delivered a really superb Nobel laureate address. A quick scan of Amazon or the international reach of The Biggest Loser tells us that we revere people who manage to drop obscene amounts of weight, and the more housebound and disgusting to begin with, the better. These are tales of midnight binges and food combinations (Twinkies wrapped in bacon and dipped in guacamole) to make even the strongest stomach twist, and the grosser they are, the greater the moral redemption at the end.

Harmless encouragement, perhaps, but there’s a darker underside. If obese people who drop their excess poundage are to be commended and given book deals, those who can’t manage it—well, let’s regard them as the child rapists and five-pack-a-day self-destructive hedonists that they are. We need someone to hate, and smokers are a dying breed. Obesity, as every reputable news source has been reminding us for the last 25 years, is the new normal. Except that it’s still OK to hate the obese. In a perverse way, people like me make it harder for every fat person out there. If Formerly Fat X can do it, why can’t my morbidly obese sister-in-law?

This despite the fact that every shred of evidence available to medical science indicates that it’s nearly impossible to take off large amounts of weight and keep it off. That was largely the point of Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times Magazine article from earlier this year, from which the main takeaway was that even a more than typically well-informed healthy eater and marathoner like Parker-Pope is 60 pounds overweight. And her experience is not unusual. Of the statistically minuscule number of people who ever manage to take off serious poundage in the first place, an even tinier number manage to keep it off in the long term. The article describes the complexity of metabolic changes that occur in dieting obese patients that seem to effectively convince their bodies that they are perpetually starving and should conserve every calorie consumed and burn fewer calories than most people would easily shed through normal activity or exercise. “A sobering reality,” writes Parker-Pope, “[is that] once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will remain fat.”

Parker-Pope personalizes that point through the story of Janice Bridge, one of the statistically small number of people qualified to join the National Weight Loss Registry, which tracks 10,000 people who have permanently lost a lot of weight. Bridge weighs her lettuce, eats 500 fewer calories per day than every means of medical measurement says she should be able to eat, and burns off another 500 calories in exercise. Medically speaking, she is nearly starving to death. In reality, she’s maintaining at a number that indicates that she is still overweight.

This is the story of my adult life. Bridge initially lost most of her weight by following what is technically termed a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), or fewer than 800 calories per day, usually in liquid form. These diets are poorly studied beyond their implications for patients, say, with diabetes (the diabetes usually goes away), but anecdotally, they seem to work for a lot of obese patients who haven’t seen weight loss with other eating plans.

The blandness of that pronouncement can’t possibly describe the reality of actually being on a VLCD. Mine wasn’t medically supervised or liquid, and perhaps this made it harder than usual. Every morning I ate a packet of raspberries—an officially low-glycemic, low-calorie food—and drank three cups of coffee, because caffeine staved off my appetite. Then I’d go home at the end of the workday and eat exactly half of my dinner so that my husband wouldn’t realize what I was doing to myself and intervene. I knew that if anyone told me it was a bad idea, I would stop. Eating 800 calories a day and burning up about 400 of them on the treadmill at lunch doesn’t leave you with much will to resist. Brain function slows. Your entire life becomes about a set of numbers on a page. Was it only 758 today? Excellent work, but you’re still a fat pig. 811? You fat loser, you.

The desperation that drove me to such an extreme diet was a long time coming. Like Dara-Lynn Weiss’s daughter in the now infamous Vogue article, I was a tween dieter. I went on my first diet at 8 or 9: 1,500 calories and 20 fat grams and a lot of Healthy Choice hot dogs, which are truly and technically the worst food on the planet. When I was in middle school, my mother and I went on Jenny Craig together. She quickly got to her goal weight; I languished after about 6 pounds, lied to her about how much I was losing, and was eventually caught and ended up even more humiliated than if I’d just admitted the truth in the first place. No matter how long or faithfully I ate Jenny Craig food, I couldn’t lose the weight, and I was distractingly hungry every minute.

Weight Watchers was next because my mother thought it might offer more flexibility, but I clashed with our local strip-mall location’s staff, who found me to be belligerent and ill-suited to a group weight-loss support environment. I was 14, and I questioned everything. Why points? Why not just calories? Why calories instead of carbs? Why carbs instead of protein? Above all, why—despite playing organized sports and walking the dog 2 miles every morning before school and consuming my exact point tally—could I not lose weight? Why didn’t I get to bask in the warm collective and reinforcing praise of the Monday night meeting?

Throughout college, I tried all of the trendy plans to little or no avail. My bookshelves are littered with South Beach, Atkins, and Zone manuals, Protein Power handbooks, and every form of the lie that the sensation of hunger is really just dehydration. (One month, I drank 5 liters of water every day. This must go on the record as my least favorite of any of the diet plans I tried.) Every time, the same pattern: about 10 pounds of initial loss, very quickly, great joy throughout the land, and then … nothing. Although I’d made no changes to my eating plan or introduced any new food, I would stagnate. I followed every rule to the letter but always got stuck.

And then, slowly, the pounds would begin to creep back on.

When I finally turned to the raspberries and coffee diet, I did it for less-than-stellar reasons. I was trying to flee a job I disliked for a competitive graduate school program just as it was becoming clear that a recession was a’coming. I felt out of control, and, like other anorexics, sought complete dominion over something clear and measurable. Five months later, I was still obese, but I wasn’t seriously worrying about fitting in an airplane seat anymore.

I (mostly) kept it off by staying on what other people would call a “diet” but what is just maintenance for me (1,500 calories per day, at least five days per week of heart-rate-raising exercise). But my ridiculous low-calorie diet had made some of my hair fall out, turned my skin dull, and rendered my life miserable. And, predictably, my weight plateaued again. So I tried vegetarianism for a year. Then I tried low-carb. Three years later, I finally began to consider surgery.

[...]

The fact of the matter is: I don’t know anything about weight loss. Neither does anyone else. What is emerging from the best research is that the old nutritional mantra—burn fewer calories than you consume—is correct in the thermodynamic sense but useless on the individual level. You and I don’t have a clear idea of how many calories we’re actually burning up. Gary Taubes tells us that some calories count more than others. Michael Pollan says mostly vegetables. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks that putting our soda in two cups instead of one is the magic ticket. The federal government is so swollen with corn-industry money that I can’t even look at the food pyramid—old or new—without laughing. Absent these precise measurements or solutions, how can you look at someone who is obese and hold them personally responsible for each pound? Or personally virtuous for each pound lost?

Let’s say you had to starve yourself daily for bare maintenance of your health and physical appearance. Could you do it? Forever? And would you be happy? I doubt very much that you would. But still, it’s what I have to do.

As someone who has actually lost what can be considered an “obscene amount of weight” and managed to keep it off, I felt angered by this essay. I won’t lie. I really and truly had to check myself, because I couldn’t help but wonder why her failure to do what I did should mean that no one should be congratulated on the hard work that is, in fact, losing weight and changing the habits that may have resulted in it being put on in the first place. I felt frustrated that someone would write something like this that begs for the comments section to be littered with “the plural of anecdote is not data.” Most of all, I felt this sense of annoyance wash over me – someone tried every marketed and marketable system out there and, when those systems failed her (as they always inevitably do), she reached for surgery and now thinks no one should be congratulated for their efforts.

But, as I am learning to do, I tried to parse out what angered me so much first, and try to understand where she’s coming from with her story second. Then, I can determine whether or not my anger really makes sense within context.

I saw Tara Parker Pope’s article for NYT, and the entire thing made me cringe. I purposefully didn’t write about it, because when I read stories of nothing but failure and tales of people who dieted themselves down to 100lbs, don’t exercise, only eat 800 calories a day… it erases my victory.

Yes. Victory.

I’m a recovering emotional eater. I’m a former 330lb dynamo. I’m a survivor of trauma. I get up – not always daily, but considerably often – and I make time for myself. I changed my habits. I learned how to cook. I learned myself.

All those verbs…. recover…survive…change…learn. The hard work isn’t just shedding the weight. The hard work is lifting and removing the barriers that, for many of us, are in the way. And denying the reality that they exist, they are real, they are important and they can and often do result in weight loss – while simultaneously propping up South Beach/Atkins/Grapefruit/Mashed Potato diets as the key to weight loss, or allowing them to prop themselves up unchallenged – makes it far more difficult for people who want to change their lives (or, really, need to change their lives) to get access to the real help they need.

And when people do do that work, they deserve praise. They deserve love. They deserve support.

And this is where I dovetail with Chamberlain, the author – it seems like people are only granted that kind of praise or virtue when they’re seen as actually shrinking… and that’s wrong. (And weird.) That love, support and praise shouldn’t be heaped on just because you are skinnier. It should be heaped on because people see you committing to yourself in ways that are generally discouraged. Think about it – how often do people say, “Wow, you work out, and you have children?” as if to imply that, as a mom, your time is beholden to those kids and nothing else… and heaven forbid your children be young, lest you really be in for a good trashing behind your back. Our jobs have the audacity to outfit us with “work Blackberries” and “work laptops” so that we can work from home… during hours that should be designated for us, our families, our loved ones… our sanity. What in the world do we look like taking time away from work for ourselves?

I remember when I first really started putting in the effort to lose weight. I wasn’t changing how I ate, but I was consistent in the gym, an hour and a half every night after my daughter was fast asleep. That was hard for me, but I was doing it… and though I wasn’t making much headway, people saw me committing to myself and they praised me for that. Changing how you live, every day, to accommodate an additional responsibility is hard. This society can’t even support people who choose to commit to another person… let alone encourage commitment to yourself. Making that commitment… is hard, and it deserves praise regardless of what size you are. For that, you can be held personally virtuous. That’s not a marketable component of a diet, though.

Doing the emotional work of therapy, understanding my emotional eating habits, learning my triggers, learning how to be vulnerable in a way that negates the cultural “strong Black woman” meme that hangs over my head like a newborn funnel cloud… that is hard. And, if I know someone has that work to do, and I see them doing it, I’m going to praise them for it.

If I see someone every day at lunch time, and I see their lunches getting healthier, I’m going to give them their props. I’m going to ask them all about their resources, and if there’s anything good they’d like to share… because I like good, healthy food. I’m greedy. Sue me.

Something that often appears in the comments, here – if you find ways to enjoy healthy, fresh food, on a limited budget or even in a desolate area… that deserves praise. You might not care whether or not anyone praises you for it, but it deserves to be upheld as a doable thing.

And this… is why I really had to check my anger with Chamberlain’s essay. There’s all this marketing about how the XYZ diet is all people need to do in order to lose the weight for good, and then when all the diets fail… people are left fighting the idea that they’re damaged or broken because they couldn’t succeed at starving themselves. They are failures and wastes of flesh because they didn’t do this thing that everyone says is so easy. I expect the people who can admit their rough and unsuccessful journey with weight loss to challenge the idea that something is wrong with them because they were unsuccessful… and I expect them to challenge the converse: that something is right or even virtuous about being able to succeed at it.

We’re praising the wrong things. Just like, when people ask me “What did you do?!” and I tell them “Nuts and berries and mad running,” they basically walk off mid-sentence. People want easy, fast, effortless. We all do. We’re just shifting, as a culture, away from appreciating the hard work. “Hard work,” as a product, doesn’t have a lobbying firm. “Hard work” doesn’t have an association marketing its usefulness in your life. And, if “hard work” can also look like a fat person, when apparently no one wants to be fat, then hard work isn’t “hard enough work.”

And this is where I begin to understand what Chamberlain is saying… only with a caveat: components of changing how you live should be praised, and they should be praised regardless of whether or not they resulted in a svelte size 6 shape. If someone in your life is doing that hard work, just tell them “I really admire how committed you are to X.”

There are many other issues in here – a 9 year old being put on a marketed diet instead of learning how to eat from her parents, weight loss groups that don’t answer the questions of teens who have to learn so that they don’t struggle as adults with teenaged problems – but I’m curious as to what y’all think about this. I cut out huge chunks of it, but the entire thing is worth reading.

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

28 Comments

  1. BalancingJane

    November 27, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    I really liked both Chamberlain’s essay and your response. Skinniness (and really, even health) is not a moral imperative. We are not required to be thin to be worthy, yet the messages we receive everywhere–from billboards to co-workers to well-meaning aunts–tell us otherwise. If you are thin, you are worthy (regardless of how you got there) and if you are not thin, you are not worthy (regardless of the work you may be doing).

    I’m most interested in your point that people walk away when they hear how you lost weight because they want a quick fix. I don’t know that the value of hard work as a cultural norm is slipping, but I do think that when it comes to weight people can’t see any middle ground. They are either thin (and worthy) or not-thin (and not worthy). The idea of having to exist in any middle realm (either because they are actively losing weight during all of that hard and long-lasting work or because they are going to remain bigger than society says is acceptable regardless of how much work they are doing) just doesn’t seem worth it.

    Chamberlain points to this in her essay when she says she’s now thin enough to just be fat instead of invisible. To her, getting called a “fat bitch” when she’s on a bike is a sign that she’s lost enough weight to exist in the world, but to a lot of people the idea of going from fat enough to be invisible to only fat enough to get called names in public is going to keep them from being willing to lose weight at all. If there isn’t a quick fix, it’s better to just be fat than someone who tried to be not-fat and failed.

    If we could shift the conversation so that we were focused on the work (all those verbs, as you say) as the place that deserves value, we’d be a lot healthier, happier, and willing to put the work in. That, though, wouldn’t be very profitable for the companies that are getting rich off our insecurities.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      November 27, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      “I don’t know that the value of hard work as a cultural norm is slipping…”

      I guess that depends on whether or not you viewed it as high before, or if times have changed at all in your eyes. I’m also willing to admit that that’s a bit of an “out there” statement, even for me, but I just have a certain corporation that treats its employees like trash on the brain right now, I’m sorry to say. LOL

  2. Olivia

    November 27, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    I read her article (both the one on slate and the times) a few weeks ago and I sympathized with the authors. I didn’t feel that she was saying nobody who loses weight deserves praise-she’s saying that she herself shouldn’t be praised because she knows she went about it unhealthily. She starves herself every day in order to be “thin”. “Dieting” doesn’t make her happy-to her is a job. Could you imagine not looking forward to what you are eating that day-just eating to survive? Erika, losing weight for you was difficult yes because you had emotional issues and a lifetime of bad habits to change. Imagine having all of that PLUS physical issues (such as hormonal) making it even more difficult for you to lose and keep weight off. The author was (barely) living off of 800 calories a day!
    I don’t think I can articulate accurately how sad and hurt for her I feel when I read her article. On some level I understand her pain-sometimes trying to lose weight really can make you scared to eat and become obsessed with calorie counting. And yes our society really doesn’t think of a “fat but changing” person as a success. You are only a success when you are thin and until the author changes her mindset about weight loss and her relationship with food she is never going to be happy no matter how thin she gets.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      November 29, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      “I didn’t feel that she was saying nobody who loses weight deserves praise-she’s saying that she herself shouldn’t be praised because she knows she went about it unhealthily.”

      Quote:

      “The fact of the matter is: I don’t know anything about weight loss. Neither does anyone else. [...] Absent these precise measurements or solutions, how can you look at someone who is obese and hold them personally responsible for each pound? Or personally virtuous for each pound lost?”

      That’s a simple response to the question of who “deserves praise.”

      “Imagine having all of that PLUS physical issues (such as hormonal) making it even more difficult for you to lose and keep weight off. The author was (barely) living off of 800 calories a day!
      I don’t think I can articulate accurately how sad and hurt for her I feel when I read her article.”

      I don’t know that she’s looking for my pity (which would require a level of judging I’m not willing to engage in), merely maybe my understanding… and I’m not going to front like I don’t understand. Of course I do. The article, in its entirety, is painful as hell to read.

  3. Storm Cullen

    November 27, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    As someone who is still trying to form a habit of working out and eating right & has tried many diets, I can say she’s probably LYING. For her to have tried all these diets and followed every instruction, there’s no way she shouldn’t have lost the weight. And every over weight person can attest that she was probably cheating like the rest of us do. As so many other people have said, when you are trying to lose this weight you need to seek out some therapy. Not because your’e crazy, but because usually the things that were making you eat when you were 16 are the same things that are making you eat now. Unless these things are address, they will make you keep eating and you wont lose as much or any weight.
    Now everyone is familiar with the term a HATER, so lets just say that is what she is. How DARE you not congratulate someone who has made a change in their lifestyle to better themselves? What gives you the right to say when praise is given when you aren’t even at their level yet? 1lb deserves praise because that’s 1lb less, 20 lb deserves praise because you stuck with it, 100< lb is excellent because you are a new and improved you!
    Never let ANYONE tell you you aren't awesome when you know you are!!!

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      November 27, 2012 at 6:06 PM

      I tried to limit my critique of her essay to what she said, not what might’ve happened with her along her journey because there isn’t enough information to decipher what’s what…and, quite frankly, it’s a dangerous risk to write something like this, telling your story and opting to be publicly vulnerable in this way. I don’t think it’s fair, or welcome, to pinpoint holes in what she did or why the desired outcome didn’t… well, come out.

      People “cheat” on diets because your ass isn’t supposed to be dieting. ROFL And I’m very familiar with the research surrounding restriction, self-honesty and self-reporting…I just don’t know that I’m willing to be one of the people heaping that kind of unsolicited advice on her. She runs a tumblr titled “Do fat people have souls?” So I’m certain she gets tons of those kinds of comments already. :(

    • BalancingJane

      November 27, 2012 at 8:32 PM

      “How DARE you not congratulate someone who has made a change in their lifestyle to better themselves? What gives you the right to say when praise is given when you aren’t even at their level yet? 1lb deserves praise because that’s 1lb less, 20 lb deserves praise because you stuck with it, 100< lb is excellent because you are a new and improved you!"

      I completely agree that people deserve praise for the hard work they do to better themselves and that we should give more of it as a culture. However, I think the author of this article is pointing out that just losing the pounds doesn't necessarily mean "bettering yourself." She says that when people were praising her weight loss, they were often reinforcing very unhealthy habits (like disordered eating). If we focus on the pounds lost instead of the habits used, we could be hurting people more than helping them. If we focus on healthy habits (even if they don't result in weight loss), we really do promote people bettering themselves.

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        November 27, 2012 at 8:39 PM

        “…we really do promote people bettering themselves.”

        The REAL end of this sentence looks more like “…we really do promote people bettering themselves regardless of whether or not they are thin at that moment,” and I think that really frightens people.

        • BalancingJane

          November 28, 2012 at 10:08 AM

          Yes! It upsets our neat little binary of fat=lazy=unhealthy thin=hard work=healthy. If we realize people can be bettering themselves and still be fat, we have to rethink the way we talk about health and body image.

  4. niksmit

    November 27, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    I agree with your hard work point about our social ills.

    I have a question about the comparison thing that’s going on in this piece (and everywhere). I know stuff gets debunked everyday, but I vaguely recall something about starvation and metabolism. This came up in the comments on Chamberlain’s piece. Can someone who started starving themselves before they became a completely developed human being ever be compared to someone who made a lifestyle change as a fully developed adult? Isn’t the metabolism of someone who grew up on messed up diets or living with a restrictive eating disorder totally jacked up? They’re not starting from the same place physically. Just like an emotional eater is not starting from the same place mentally as someone who just has bad habits. I am curious if that’s totally off-base or not?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      November 27, 2012 at 6:51 PM

      “Isn’t the metabolism of someone who grew up on messed up diets or living with a restrictive eating disorder totally jacked up?”

      Totally, not quite… but they’re definitely not starting from the same position as someone without the bodily trauma… and that’s why this sucks SO UNBELIEVABLY BAD for anyone that has ever been put, is currently being put and probably will wind up in this position. :/

  5. kami

    November 27, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    When looking at weight loss people do want fast results but people must mentally prepare for their weight loss journey. Weight loss is very emotional for me. I have suffered from disordered eating and trying several diets starting from 16 up until 24 years old to reach a healthy weight. During my childhood to adult years I was in competitive dance school. My dance teacher would ridicule me for having large breast size 34f and taunt me. I suffered from body image issue. I been told I was meant to be fat and stuck in my body. Then I also dealt with sexual abuse when i got older. A My mother never cooked that much or shown me how to eat healthy or helped me portion food. When I was hungry, my mom told me to live off my body fat. Now that I have decided to go to therapy I decided to stop turning to food and finally learn normal eating habits. Sigh. Now at 25 years old I will begin with the mindset off a healthy lifestyle. I take time to exercise while building my core and getting physical therapy to help with lower back pain. I am determined to get to a healthy weight without dieting or disordered eating. It is hard but when I achieve at least I know how I got there. I just hope to let me people know that it is possible and takes hard work and dedication without eating 800 calories.

  6. Tia

    November 27, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    “That love, support and praise shouldn’t be heaped on just because you are skinnier.”

    This right here is the kicker. The entire culture of “health and wellness” in our country, at least, is centered around the idea that success=thin.

    I would venture to say that, if morbidly obese people were able to cure diseases, feel better about themselves and extend their life expectancy through clean eating and active lifestyle, but did not lose one ounce…there would be no TV shows, books, media frenzy etc.

    You may be truly exceptional by noticing and complimenting people for taking care of themselves, which I find crucially important for us to begin lifting up in the Black community. Self Care. Regardless of our waistline size. But for many, the achievement to celebrate is simply the shrinking down to a more societally acceptable size. No more, no less. I have heard many people say “You look great!” when I have lost weight. Seldom few comments are “way to eat those steel cut oats, they are high in fiber and contribute to your heart health, girl.” Just sayin.

  7. CurvyCEO

    November 27, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    “Hard work,” as a product, doesn’t have a lobbying firm

    I beg to differ. It does. YOU.

    I have more thoughts but no time to write. So in the meantime I just say THANK YOU and share some (((hugs)))

  8. Shawn

    November 27, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    I loved this piece. I need help. I have been dieting since I was 8 and have lost and regained weight with the birth of my children. Now, I am stuck. Despite working out and watching EVERY bite, the scale won’t move. Over Thanksgiving, I gave myself permission to “enjoy.” I gained 8 lbs. I didn’t each much more than anyone else. My body is done with weight loss I think, and I am ready to give up.

  9. BeautyMystified

    November 27, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    I totally agree with you on the whole “Everyone wants a quick fix” notion. I can’t begin to tell you how many people I have come in contact with, who have health and fitness goals but don’t want to put in the effort. As my Sensei would put it “Everyone is waiting on that magical pill and I have right here!” He then points to his head and says “Dedication, determination and discipline.” I know that there will always be exceptions but exceptions are not the norm. People are so quick to pop a dinner in the microwave instead of cooking something healthy.

  10. Lee

    November 28, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    Wow. I’m not really sure how to respond to her post actually. Especially since people have commented on my “slimming down” lately. She sounds downright angry about something she isn’t quite sharing in her blog. In a way she reminds me of someone I knew who lost a lot of weight, but still wasn’t happy with herself.
    Hm. Maybe if I read this again when I’m more awake her blog won’t seem so…what’s the word I am looking for? *shrug*
    I do, sort of, see what she means about the praise. I guess what’s different with me is that even before my small weight loss I felt/feel love from those around me. I keep very positive people around me who love me regardless of my size. They encourage me when I am down and celebrate with me in positive times. Maybe she doesn’t have that support group around her that loves you no matter what. Hm..

  11. Jen

    November 28, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    “We’re praising the wrong things”. This in particular hit home with me. Such a simple concept and statement and so powerful. It takes a little longer and utilizes more brain cells, but so worth it!

  12. Sophia

    November 28, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    When I read Chamberlain’s quotes you give us, I don’t pity her, but I feel deeply sad for her. It maybe just me, but I feel a sense of sadness of what she is saying. It is almost like she has given up on wanting to put in that hard work…or maybe she doesn’t realize that it takes hard work and constant dedication to one self’s to achieve having a healthy mentality.

    I have to disagree with her on many levels. When I was getting fitter and healthier, people did compliment me on the PROCESS more than me LOSING the weight. Even though I might not have seen two pounds being dropped initially every week, when I look back, I look at the process of how much work and dedication I put into committing to myself…a better health mentality compared to a physical one.

    When I look back, I remember in my own blog/journal/diary writings, telling myself that it is not about looking good on the outside…that will come, what this is about is establishing good habits because I want to be healthy and positive on the inside.

    However, what I discovered is a more valuable lesson than that. The lesson I learned is that it is all all about how you wake and feel in the morning. As someone who lost ten pounds and a few sizes earlier this year, I don’t try to harp on how I looked, but I try to harp on more how I felt. Now, I am 5’2” and 165…and I was getting close to 150 lbs…to a 15lbs weight loss. Yes, I’ve gained the weight back…and it has been really difficult for me to get motivated. However, what keeps me strong is the mentality. I have to keep telling myself that I will get back on track…and I will be healthy…and I will be strong and feel better. It is the high of feeling better about myself internally that made me realize that living a healthy life is just more about the physical…it is about the spiritual. It is about the soul. What also keeps me motivated is reading blogs like yours, health magazines, and success stories of how people got up and got the will power to take care of their SOULS.

    Chamberlain seems to me to definitely not have reached that point in her life. To me, it sounds like she is bashing herself for not losing the weight…and feeling sorry for herself that she is kind of having displaced feelings on how people are praising her. However, I could be wrong how I am interpreting this. I just feel as if she thinks that she has to go through extreme measures to achieve what she wants…but obviously, it is not working. I remember Oprah admitting on one of her television episodes about how she put her fit self on the cover in past…and her overweight self next to her fit self…and well, she had Geneen Roth on another episode…and Roth was telling her how people will sometimes punish themselves for being fat…and it doesn’t really help them…and Oprah had a moment when she said…I did that…publicly. I humiliated myself…punishing myself for gaining all that weight back…if a person does this, he/she is disencouraging themselves…and the cycle goes on…if you keep thinking that you should be punished for having setbacks especially when you think about how you physically look when you were thinner, well, then, you won’t ever be fully healthy because that’s a mental issue. What I mean by it is a mental issue is that the majority of us who struggle with self-esteem issues…internal issues…it is a foundation of understanding why we sometimes have disorders or such that we have. So, if we can’t help aid our mental processes (which is so much harder than actually losing weight in a sense because if you are mentally there with the game, you aren’t going to be successful in learning to play the game…and trying to win the game), then, we are going to be successful in all the areas in life that we can.

    Also, I am not condoning weight loss surgery. There are some people who need that type of restriction to “lose weight.” However, even if I was really overweight or obese, I still wouldn’t want to resort to that. I see it like this…I am someone who was taught to be independent…and I believe that if I cannot gather up the resources and change my philosophy and outlook on how I am going to get healthy all around, what good will it do in my success?

    Even if I was a celebrity, I still wouldn’t hire a personal trainer, either. I guess I am just old school like that in the way I am confident that…well, if I cannot do it myself and prove to myself I am able to do it, then I am never going to feel that existential freedom…

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      November 28, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      “Even if I was a celebrity, I still wouldn’t hire a personal trainer, either.”

      To be fair, personal trainers aren’t supposed to be synonymous with “weight loss coach.” They’re only trained to work you out without incurring injury, and teach you how to do the same on your own. Any trainer guaranteeing weight loss on the strength of being a trainer ALONE… gets the side-eye from me.

      GOOD fitness professionals should be educators, too… they shouldn’t just be taking your money, leaving you with little, and bouncing out the door. That being said, if you NEED that knowledge to help you get that “existential freedom,” a good trainer can help you acquire it.

      • Sophia

        November 28, 2012 at 7:58 PM

        Hi, Erika:

        Thanks for the clarification and giving me that information. I appreciate it.

        To clarify, I shouldn’t have left it open ended as such and should have been more clearer what I was trying to express.

        As you pointed out, I think when I think about celebrities use personal trainers, most of them use someone to get them motivated to exercise. However, you are right. There are some celebrities who either are not using the correct terms when it comes to personal trainers and life coaches.

        And you are also right–a trainer at a gym or work out facility or even personally will show you how to exercise and correct forms to do. When I used to go to the gym in college, I would see trainers instruct the students and whoever was working out on what you said.

        As for correct form and such, I’ve actually learned those techniques on my own by working out to good workout videos with instructions. If I ever go back to the gym and need assistance, I would definitely check out some of the trainers for that.

        I suppose that I am stubborn and like to learn things on my own first or try before I get some help.

  13. MoreAndAgain

    January 13, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    Chamberlain’s piece made me mad, too. And, Erika, you basically hit the nail on the head. I felt like she was trying to erase what I’ve accomplished (a lifestyle change, an education about food, a new philosophy . . . and, yes, 50 lbs that I lost and kept off). And, not that I ever needed someone to congratulate me for it (I am, after all, an introvert.lol), but to say that it’s impossible? She lost me.

    Everyone has their own battles when it comes to improving their lives. And, while I get her point, I wish she would’ve made it without basically discouraging people from trying to do the hard work. If it’s “impossible” why bother, right?

  14. Anggie

    May 11, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    I read the excerpt provided… All efforts to be healthier should be lauded. Notice, healthier not thinner. Healthy and fit may not be “thin”, nor does it need to be. Great cardio and flexibility can be found in a range of sizes. Just as some “thin” people aren’t healthy….can’t run, flex, or don’t have glowing skin or good posture.

    As I have become more healthy over the last 14 months (ridding myself of 90 lbs)…quite a few people were surprised a bit by the speed…but also by the fact that I was still energetic, I had a healthy glow, and I was so happy.

    I’m not saying every change was easy…but why should people seem to expect that you’re suffering or always sacrificing as in -depriving yourself in order to be healthy. We’re making choices every day, every meal, every activity…to be better to our selves for ourselves and others….why shouldn’t we enjoy it and enjoy the rewards from it? Whether from ourselves or others who acknowledge the improvements.

  15. Laura

    May 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    Whew! Same emotional reaction. Valuing the journey, the work, the personal growth… that’s what gets you through the plateaus and the lapses of judgment and the temptation to take shortcuts. Even now that I’m maintaining my weight loss instead of pursuing it, the knowledge that I was capable of taking that journey in a responsible and methodical and ENJOYABLE way continues to fuel my discipline and sense of possibility in other areas of my life (“If I can get healthier, then I can do this, too!”). To me, it is about taking back control and recognizing the strength required to do it. My locus of control is within me, now, and it wasn’t when I was knocking back massive tuna melts for lunch every day. That is something worth celebrating.

  16. Staci

    February 21, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    After reading this your response to her article, I see both your points. I am actively changing my eating and exercise habits for the better and slowly but surely I am seeing results. I love that I feel better about myself. And even though I haven’t lost a great deal of weight, I can see the results in activities that once had me winded and tired are no easier for me to do. I see myself getting stronger. And Friends and family that know I am changing encourage me, compliment me, and praise me. But the world in general doesn’t. I haven’t reached that “thin” status that equals success. Many times when we see people that have lost weight, people say “you look great.” Not really caring how they reached that goal. And I think that is the point of her article. They dont really care how she lost or looses it, just that she looks thinner. So even though you could be doing really unhealthy things to loose weight, the world compliments you on that fact that you lost it. Most people compliment the Results they see, and not the journey it took to get there.

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