I’m Finally Thin — But Is Living In A Crazymaking Food Prison Really Worth It?



I am not fat. At just over 5 feet tall and 101 pounds, I’m actually closer to thin. It shocks me to even write this, but after a zaftig childhood and a curvy-bordering-on-chunky early adulthood, I find myself, in middle age, after two kids, to have reached my “ideal” weight.

But lately I wonder if it’s really worth it.

From the outside, thin is surely better. Other moms tell me I look great. I can consider bikinis. I appear far younger than my actual age and, with a perky, teen-sounding BMI of 19.9, I fit in my daughter’s Forever 21 tops.

But peek inside my brain: it’s alarming.

(Rachel Zimmerman/WBUR)

(Rachel Zimmerman/WBUR)

I spend an inordinate, and frankly embarrassing amount of time thinking about food, planning meals and strategizing about how to control my weight. It’s on my mind pretty much every waking hour of every day and the details are painfully banal: how many pumpkin seeds in my nonfat yogurt; will a green smoothie pack on an extra ounce or two; can I eat dinner early so my weight the next morning will be optimally low?

If I don’t exercise (Every. Single. Day.) I get depressed. If I stray from my short list of accepted foods, I can spiral out of control. My life is bound by a strict system of controls and rigid rules (maintained with a pack-a-day gum-chewing habit) that keep my weight in line. These include daily digital scale checks that set my mood each morning: 102.9 is bad news; 100.4 gets me high. Trivial? Yes. A shamefully first-world problem? Absolutely. But, sadly, true.

And widespread. A new report on women and body image conducted by eating disorder experts at the University of North Carolina makes clear the scope of the problem: a mere 12 percent of middle-aged women are “satisfied” with their body size. (An earlier study put the number at 11 percent.) What’s worse, perhaps, is that even those relatively content ladies are troubled by specific body parts: 56 percent, for instance, don’t like their stomachs. Many dislike their skin (79 percent unsatisfied) or faces (54 percent unsatisfied) or any other parts that suggest, in Nora-Ephron-neck-hating-fashion, they are aging.

The author as a not-quite-svelte child, in an undated photo from the 1970s.

The author as a not-quite-svelte child, in an undated photo from the 1970s.

The very first sentence of the study, published in the highly un-sexily titled Journal of Women and Aging, makes clear that women who are happy in their own skin are a rare, exotic breed; specimen worthy of study by a crack team of anthropologists. The report begins:

We know strikingly little about the intriguing minority of women who are satisfied with their body size. Defined as having a current body size equal to their ideal size, body satisfaction is endorsed by only about 11% of adult American women aged 45–74 years.

If you dig a little deeper into the study you’ll find that this “body satisfaction” is fragile. Women were asked if they’d remain satisfied if they gained five pounds. The answer (duh): “No.”

And these so-called “satisfied” women seem to spend a huge amount of energy maintaining. They remain vigilant and work hard to keep themselves at what they consider to be an acceptable shape, says study author Cristin D. Runfola, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor and Global Foundation for Eating Disorders scholar at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.

The study, which looked at a sample of 1,789 women across the U.S. age 50 and older, found:

Intriguingly, satisfied women appeared to exert considerable effort in achieving and maintaining their satisfaction — a sizable number of satisfied women engaged in weight monitoring, weight-management behaviors, and reported that their self-evaluation was moderately or strongly influenced by weight and shape status. Thus, in contrast to effortless satisfaction, achieving body size satisfaction appeared to be an effortful endeavor that included some of the same behaviors seen in body dissatisfied women.

“It’s disheartening to see that for these women, it was so important to be a specific size and shape,” Runfola said. “Are they satisfied just because they’re fitting this mold that looks good to society? Ideally, we would like people to base their satisfaction on who they are, what they do and not so much what they look like.”

She’s right, but it’s a rare middle-aged woman who delights in her own body. (An aside: Runfola said this research began because so many middle-aged women were showing up at the clinic with eating disorders; the stereotype is that such problems afflict only younger women and girls, but Runfola said about 50 percent of her clinic patients are women 30 and older.  Of course, some men have body issues too, but let’s face it, these are mainly female troubles.)

For so many of us, just when we should be out there enjoying the lives we’ve created over decades, we’re obsessing over our hips and skin and post-childbirth bellies. Personally, I think about how twisted my own priorities can get sometimes: instead of enjoying my great good luck — two smart daughters who sing and climb and do math puzzles, a job I love, a spouse who has never in 11 years of marriage said anything negative about my body — I’m hunkered down counting out my allotment of pepitas for the day.

But maybe this is just the cost of staying thin. We know from research that people who tend to lose a lot of weight and keep it off generally remain vigilant to the point of obsessive; they’re always on guard. In her sweeping 2011 New York Times Magazine story, “The Fat Trap,” Tara Parker-Pope quotes Kelly Brownell, a food policy and obesity expert at Yale, about a small cadre of successful weight-losers tracked in the National Weight Control Registry:

“You find these people are incredibly vigilant about maintaining their weight,” Brownell told Parker-Pope. “Years later they are paying attention to every calorie, spending an hour a day on exercise. They never don’t think about their weight.”

Janice Bridge, a registry member who has successfully maintained a 135-pound weight loss for about five years, is a perfect example. “It’s one of the hardest things there is,” she says. “It’s something that has to be focused on every minute. I’m not always thinking about food, but I am always aware of food.”

Can such intense vigilance endure without taking an enormous psychic toll? Must we continue our un-ending competition over who has the best mom abs?

Some think not. The latest trend in addressing many of these entrenched questions of weight and body image hinges on relinquishing such white-knuckle “will power” in favor of self-compassion.

Jean Fain, a Boston-area psychotherapist affiliated with Harvard Medical School and author of the book “The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness,” makes the excellent point that “this is America and the perfectionistic standards are unreachable.” She says that no one is ever fully happy with everything — feelings naturally wax and wane and “to think body satisfaction is an achievable and sustainable state is unrealistic.” Body realities are different at age 20 and 30, 50 and 80. The key, she says, is to not let all of these little body imperfections rule our lives, but rather to notice them, allow yourself to feel them even if they’re painful and then get back out there and live a “meaningful, deliberate life.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done; these food prison shackles have been in place a long time.

In the 1970s, my mom and I did the grapefruit diet together; she took me to a fat-farm in upstate New York where we fasted for a week; mornings, in the dark, I jogged with her at a track in Red Hook, Brooklyn, when practically no one else jogged (I’m pretty sure we wore Keds). My early desire to be a dancer didn’t help matters; nor did my summer choreography course at Harvard where I learned how effective vomiting and laxatives can be for weight control. Even now, when my mother comes to visit, she tiptoes into my bathroom each morning and asks: “Is your scale right?” She’s in her 70s; it never ends.

For me now, approaching 50, I’m trying to imagine a softer-edged life; less brittle rigidity and more juiciness. Recently, I’ve been troubled by my self-imposed food prison — an existence that I’d never, ever wish upon my daughters. I’ve sought help to change. But weaning myself off my daily scale addiction hasn’t been easy, nor has introducing new types of foods into my day: yogurt with fat and plump avocados, a fresh, warm blueberry scone now and then, and maybe a few walnuts.

Emily Sandoz, a Ph.D. clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, studies what she calls “body image inflexibility” and has endured her own struggles with weight and bad body image. Her forthcoming book: “Living with Your Body and Other Things You Hate,” details a fairly new approach that’s gaining traction called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The theory behind ACT is that only by actually working through  our anxiety and deep anguish and body hatred will we be able to focus on the much more important business of living meaningful, vital and psychologically flexible lives.

In ACT, patients are encouraged to face all those waves of body-hating awfulness — “I am fat,” “I’m disgusting,” “I don’t deserve to eat” — head on.  The research suggests that fully wading into this cesspool of distress allows the feelings, over time, to dissipate and lose emotional power.  Studies have found that “ACT is [not only] effective at decreasing symptoms like depression, overeating, or chronic pain,” Sandoz says, “but also that improvement happens by increasing flexibility.”

I wish I could end here by reporting that I’ve just wrapped my scale up in plastic and hidden it in my basement, that I’ve now joined the ranks of the “intriguing 11 or 12 percent” who are satisfied with their bodies. But I’m afraid I’m not quite there yet. What if I’m not willing to let go of thin? What if embracing self-compassion means gaining 10 pounds? Am I trapped in food prison forever?

Sandoz offers this open-hearted response to my kvetching:

“You’re never trapped. You have the keys to the prison! But sometimes having a choice is scarier than not having a choice. Sometimes the food prison is cozier than the big, wide world where I could bulge or break out or wrinkle at any moment. The question…is this: what is it worth, to you, letting yourself out of the prison? What matters more than that high? What matters more than thin? What do you want people to remember about the life you lived?

Will you gain weight or lose weight? Yes. Will I gain weight or lose weight? Yup. Will we hate our bodies or love them? Sure. I just hope, for both of us, that we are doing things that matter while we’re looking however we look and feeling however we feel.

And then she tells me a story:

“Writing this book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Because the struggle I wrote about was mine. I wanted to map out this path toward a life free of the struggles of hating our bodies. But I had to walk it first. I wrote my last two books in 15 months. This one took 35…And just about the time I finished it, I had this day where I was doing yoga and I glimpsed my leg. I suddenly became aware that it was holding all of my weight and that the muscle was doing exactly what it should be doing and my shin and my thigh came together at my knee exactly as it has to to work in a way that carries me around my world. And I felt appreciation. Just a moment of appreciation for the strength I have in my left leg. And I sat down and cried.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Fishcicle

    I think I first met you when I visited your brother Claude at your home in the Pittsburgh area more than 40 years ago. I remember you as being a chubby girl then, but not obese. A few years ago I ran into at Olney Friends School, and was at least mildly shocked to see how thin you were. I certainly can’t give you advice in this area, only my impression that your thinness was too extreme. I hope this impression doesn’t dismay you, as I don’t intend you any harm. I’m sorry that this whole area has been such a struggle for you and many others.

  • Bridgitt Lee

    Some people have something known as a food addiction or sugar addiction and have to be vigilant, it’s like telling someone who is an alcoholic to practice moderation. It doesn’t work, maybe on the food that doesn’t give them problems, yes, but on the other stuff no.

  • http://www.rethinkingfood.net/ Martha McGinnis

    This is a great article, thank you. Having maintained a 45+ pound weight loss for over 25 years WITHOUT DIETING, I encourage everyone to try Intuitive Eating. It’s simple, requires no will power, allows you to eat whatever foods you choose in the amounts you choose… The magic is in getting back in touch with your body and paying attention to it with compassion and appreciation, not self-criticism. Your choices change naturally to match your body’s needs. It works, and people who practice Intuitive Eating behaviors have lower BMI’s on average than people who restrict calories, and lower blood pressure too.

  • macbev

    The kind of diet available to the average American is unhealthy and addictive. If you gave a kid cocaine every day for desert, would you be surprised if he/she was addicted? Recent research showed that rats chose oreo cookies over cocaine!! (and they ate the white middle first, too). Read books like The Pleasure Trap, Eat to Live, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, The China Study. A plant based diet is not addictive and can be very delicious and satisfying – but only after you break the addictions to the SAD – Standard American Diet – loaded with sugars, oils, and salt. You won’t have to count calories.

  • erica

    you have an eating disorder. seek help.

  • Molly K

    Kind of hard to read all of the harsh and critical comments being made in the replies. I feel it was a well written article and she is looking for helpful advice and trying to quit judging herself and others. Women, be kind to each other

  • Lynn Harthorne

    go vegan! I eat plant based whole grain no oil and eat as much food as I want. every day. No more obsessing. Lost 20 pounds in two months without any difficulties and it stays off. check out Engine 2 diet as a way of life.

  • healthygirlskitchen

    Thank you for writing this article. I’m so glad that I happened upon it! As someone whose weight has yo-yo’ed my entire life, it was absolutely eye opening to get an insight into what it would really take to maintain my lowest weights. I don’t want to live it that kind of hell. You raise extremely important questions. I think I am going to be referencing your article frequently and writing about my thoughts on my blog as well. Wow. Just wow.

  • CW

    I’m 60

  • CW

    This way of thinking sounds exhausting. In September 2011 I watched The Last heart Attack on CNN then Forks over Knives and then read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I adopted a “Plant Strong” way of eating. I lost 47 pounds and went off my blood pressure and cholesterol medicine. I had been overweight since my third child was born. It took a couple of weeks to lose my cravings and for me to finally experience how food really taste . I eat as much as I want. I don’t count calories. I’m always satisfied and love everything I eat. My weight fluctuates 5-7 pounds naturally. My clothes fit. My health is great. I have tremendous energy which is a good thing since I have watched my two busy grandchildren during this time. What exercise I did was some easy strength exercises and walking on a treadmill 30 minutes twice a week. Instead of being in a prison of being overweight and unhealthy I am free at last. What I think about is how lucky I have been to pointed in the right direction. I know I won’t be a burden to others with heart disease, cancer or diabetes. What I think about is sharing this easy way of life so others won’t have to suffer. The family and friends I have shared this with and adopted this had the same results. That’s a lot of pounds lost and medicine gone.

  • mmconnor

    Unfortunately, people focus on the wrong things to try to be happy. We focus inward when perhaps we should focus outward, on the great things that we can do for other people, other living creatures, the world. The first world is mired in narcissism. There are people in the world that are obsessed with food because they may not live to see another day if they cannot obtain more. They may witness their children and loved ones starve. Let’s focus on that food problem. I’m sorry but our body image/weight issues pale in comparison to these problems. Take 3 months and do volunteer work in a third world country. Eat what they eat. That may change perspective.
    Be beautiful because of what you do, not what you look like.

  • Julie

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Ashley

    People need to start worrying about what’s going on inside your body and not outside. Being thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy. If you cut out food like products and start eating real food your body will heal itself. Meats from healthy sources(not CAFO) lots of vegetables and fruits (organic when possible), nuts and seeds. Get rid anything processed that requires nutrition label. Its WAY easier than people think. Some creativity is required but in the end you get one body, take care of it. Ive lost over 20 pounds in the last few months without even trying or counting a calorie. After a month or two you won’t even crave the baked goods or candies. Our frozen meals are just things like small portions of big batches of previous meals. Its not a big deal to cook 10 portions instead of 2 ( for things like soups , casseroles) and freeze the rest. Then you have 4 more meals that don’t require cooking!

    • 5kids4me

      I’ve practiced this way of eating. It did make me feel physically better, but I ended up binge eating more frequently when I ate this way because I felt deprived and that made me depressed. I am a naturally skilled baker and seeing people enjoy my baked goods brings me joy. When I cut that out, it was like cutting off a source of light in my life. I took most of my old recipes and made substitutions here and there and made most of my recipes healthier, but I’m not giving up my baked goods(I still craved them after 6 months of not eating them, so it worked for you which was great, but it doesn’t work for everyone). I feel that if it brings you joy, don’t cut it out of your life. Real joy, though, not the false kind I get from binging where I feel great while I’m doing it, but not so great later. I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to maintain my weight if my diet is not as restrictive as this, less emotional stress from always trying to eat so perfectly. My point is that while your solutions work for you, they may not and probably won’t work for everyone, especially those in a much different situation than yours. Let’s face it, organic is expensive and most people can’t afford to switch to even one organic product, most people have no idea what you’re talking about with CAFO, and it’s kind of confusing to most when you say get rid of anything processed that needs a nutrition label because ALOT of things that are very good for you need some processing and labeling(like the nuts and seeds you are touting, which are expensive to boot at twice the price of your average steak per lb, can you blame people for thinking they’re getting a better deal spending $4 a lb on meat instead of $10 a lb on walnuts? Especially when you figure in the dismal nutritional education we have in this country?) I thought your post came off as preachy and smug, but the information you are trying to impart is very important so don’t give up trying to get it out there. Just please try to understand the “it’s so easy and healthy, everyone should be doing it” line of reasoning can be very offensive to people who have been there, done that, and found it didn’t work for them.

  • Karen Chenausky

    I heard the author’s interview on WBUR earlier this week, and was a little surprised to hear that the discussion there was about how many women have distorted body images. Because when I heard the author speak, I thought: Now there’s a woman who’s figured out what it takes to keep her body at a healthy weight for her, and who’s willing to do it. And guess what? It’s hard. It’s so hard, in fact, that I personally decided NOT to do it. As a result , I’m fat. I respect her choice — deciding for looking and weighing a certain amount at the price of constant vigilance on the one hand, and against effortless obesity.

    In terms of the oft-heard saying “you’re beautiful at any weight”, I respectfully disagree. Some people who are technically overweight are attractive, but I don’t think that my athletic friends think I’m attractive. I don’t think that the average person on the street thinks I’m particularly attractive, either. I certainly don’t get those little interested glances that I used to, even though I have a nice face and dress well. I also definitely have other positive qualities that are apparent once you interact with me for a moment or two, but really: I’m not all that pretty any more, and it’s OK. It’s my choice, just like constant figuring calories in and calories out is Ms Zimmerman’s. I miss being physically attractive, but I’m not willing to put in the work — so, more power to her and others who do make the constant effort to maintain a healthy weight and a good figure when it’s not in their genetic makeup.

    People who maintain youthful figures into middle age and beyond work hard at it. They deserve some respect for making a difficult choice and for putting their money where their mouths are in terms of accepting the responsibility for all that work. Ms Zimmerman isn’t blaming society or her upbringing (though those are certainly factors in her choice, as they are in mine), and she’s not saying I oughta get off my fat ass and work out (although I probably should).

    In summary, a person’s weight isn’t a moral issue, in either direction. It’s more like hair color — and, by the way, I don’t dye my hair, either. Luckily, gray hair isn’t associated with adverse health effects, or I’d probably be writing a piece about why I decided to trade possible health risks for salt-and-pepper hair.

    • http://www.rethinkingfood.net/ Martha McGinnis

      There’s a no-diet, no food-restriction, no-will power way to lose weight. Intuitive Eating works! And you’ve made the first important step–giving up the goal of weight loss. Focusing on how you feel inside, and feeling good about yourself is the best measure…not pounds on the scale. I’m 57, at my ideal weight, and I haven’t dieted in over 25 years. The common wisdom that calorie restriction and food-choice restriction are the only way is just plain wrong.

  • Lisa Lewtan

    I recently wrote an article about this same subject called “How I ditched my inner skinny bitch”. I think you will enjoy it :)


  • Lisa Borden

    Great post. I so relate. Unless you’ve been there, and I mean actually in her shoes, you cannot relate. Thanks for tremendous insight.

    • BozToz

      It’s odd how weight-loss eating is called “dieting” but nobody remembers that what you eat is called your “diet,” don’t you think?

      When I said that to an obese member of my family, she actually starting crying, not because I was being mean (I wasn’t) but because she had never thought about food as, well, food. Food was always illegal in her life, always evil and tempting and the reward for getting through the day, always something she had to pretend about and lie about; it was the first time she thought about food differently.

      • Lisa Borden

        Yes, I remember that from reading Geneen Roth: no food is evil. I related to the fear of keeping the scale at 100. It’s no way to live. Only some will understand this as I see many write about having “all the answers.” I can only speak for myself in that, while being a ballroom dancer and eating every 4th day was my method of keeping my weight “ideal.” Insanity. Anorexia. This was my understanding of the author’s message: once you’ve made it, it’s really hard and obsessive to stay there. I got it. For me I had to accept that self-care included proper nutrition and eating.

  • lifeisshort

    Life is too short to live that way. Who is going to be on their death bed and think thank god my BMI is under 20? Low BMIs are predictors of increased mortality by the way. Wouldn’t it be better to weight 10 pounds more (or whatever_ and enjoy your kids birthday cake them or a lovely dinner out with the spouse or whatever? I am not saying it’s ok to gorge yourself on whatever, but balance and moderation. Exercise to be healthy, eat enough food to fuel your body properly and enjoy the one life we have to live on this earth. My mom spent her whole life restricting and obsessing about the scale and food and died at 55 of a brain tumor. Such a waste of energy that could been spent on things that brought her joy.

    • joy2b

      It drives me crazy when people judge an individual weight by bmi, because it is not accurate on this scale. BMI is intended to be a rough gauge of the health of a large population, without getting into more complicated numbers.

      Individual health can and should be judged in a lot more complicated ways. Is your heart healthy? Are you strong enough to carry around a 80lb ladder, or a sick child? Are you breathing easily at night? Do you have the stamina to finish a race? Is your immune system working normally? Are you in pain? Are you often dehydrated, and seeing lower numbers on the scales because of that? The answers to these questions may all be different.

      Anyone who wants to build muscle tone seriously has to be very careful about paying attention to BMI and weight, because progress can and does look like a bad thing on these scales. People will often stop hydrating, lift less weight, or give up if this is their measure of success.

    • Betty

      “balance and moderation”-easier said than done, for many of us.

      • Flojo

        So true! Would love to be the one glass of wine, one slice of pizza woman, but not happening.

    • Flojo

      You are so right! Several years back I had a really bad time with ED and today weigh a normal still on slim side, weight. Being honest though, it for me is a daily struggle. That said, I just don’t care as much about being that skinny and I indulge myself a lot and fear getting obese now. Being middle aged, it is just so hard. I still try and eat diet and light, healthy foods and find myself hungry and wanting to have what I used to restrict from so harshly.

  • Mary
  • Deborah

    If counting calories is “food prison,” is saving for retirement “financial prison” and calculating your GPA “homework prison?”

    • Clareita

      It’s hard to believe that this is what you took away from this thought provoking article.

    • Jane Fox

      As well, Deborah, one shouldn’t take her blood pressure either because its BP prison. All I hear is I want to lose weight but I don’t want to be in a calorie counting prison. Well, guess what? That is the only way you’ll lose weight!

  • Anne Johnson

    Any kind of lifestyle that is a “prison” is a matter of mind and not of body. There are plenty of ways to maintain a healthy weight without obsessing over the minute details.

    • beenwiser

      First, you do realize that the mind is a bodily organ, right?

      Second, you ever heard the phrase “Your mileage may vary”? Well that is exactly the deal with weight. There are so many variables, both nature and nurture. If you think that anyone who does what you do will achieve the same results you did, you really don’t understand how random the world really is.

  • Chris

    One thing people often forget to mention about the obsession with weight is how boring it can be. All of the hours people spend thinking about what they ate, what they will eat, what they should eat, etc., could be spent thinking about an interesting book, enjoying the sunlight, or listening to some beautiful music. I hate that thoughts of weight dominate so many women’s thoughts.

  • in the 11%

    I think I’m in the 11%, but I do trick myself by setting my scale to kg. I don’t have preconceived ideas about how much I should weigh except that the average physics professor in textbooks is 75kg. As long as I’m less than that, I feel pretty good.

  • Liz

    You sound like you have an eating disorder yourself. I urge you to talk to a therapist.

  • Elle

    You totally erase the struggles of men facing eating disorders in this article by saying “face it, these are mainly female troubles.” Millions–MILLIONS–of men suffer from eating disorders (NEDA.org) and the reason EDs feel like “mainly female troubles” are people like you who erase their existence. There is only one ED clinic designed entirely for men in the whole country and men aren’t even seeking the help they need thanks to the stigma and feminine association of EDs.

  • Ana
  • Kat Kerley

    I was a purging anorexic when I was a teenager and 15 years later I still obsessively think about food. I am 12 pounds heavier than I was in college and it drives me crazy! My number on the scale and how my clothes fit definitely effect how I feel about myself that day.

    • BozToz

      That must be a hard way to live, Kat Kerley. There can be other things in your life that can affect how you feel about yourself on any given day, healthier, more life-embracing things. Hope you find those things.

  • pc

    Consider what you would choose to look like if you lived alone on a desert island without influence of others opinions. Fantasy, of course, but worth a ponder.

    • Jane Fox

      I would still control my weight for the health benefits.

  • alexafleckensteinmd

    It’s not about beauty, it’s about health! The beauty is just a side-effect. But being slim is not a life, not a religion, not a profession! What do you want to do with your life when you are healthier and have more energy? – That’s the question!

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician, author.

  • WorkSafety

    Overeater’s Anonymous can help with the mental obsession with food. It is a program of recovery based on the 12 steps and principles of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. Food addiction is a very real problem that is growing in incidence. Food manufacturer’s are very sly with their research and know what ingredient combinations are most addictive to the human pallet.

  • Dan

    Nothing tastes as good as thin feels. Poverty is the best diet ever. I don’t read labels and I’m not concerned with warnings about all of the foods I can’t afford anyway. I’ve lost twenty pounds and I’m approaching the weight statistically I’m supposed to be and walk through a supermarket with a whole new appreciation for what a dollar actually buys. Three small rawhide chewies for my pits OR some GOYA cookies. I’m splurging now but hey, it’s SATURDAY NIGHT!

  • fun bobby

    she should stop eating packaged food and then the handy calorie count on the side would be a moot point

    • Clareita

      If you think that the only people who count calories are those who eat packaged food, you are mistaken.

      • fun bobby

        I am not suggesting that. I am suggesting if you eat a diet of only whole food and no prepackaged junk there is no need to do so to maintain a healthy weight

  • Reebeezee

    I was heavy when I was younger and lost the weight with Weight Watchers’ typical low-fat diet. I had to be pretty vigilant over the years to maintain my wait and it felt like prison sometimes. More recently I’ve discovered traditional nutrition (Weston A. Price) and that a high-fat, low-carb dirt leads to effortless (if you don’t count preparing a lot of your own foods) weight maintenance. In the context of the world of sweet, junky foods that I used to consider myself entitled to, this diet can sometimes feel limiting, but mostly I just feel good. And I don’t obsess about the scale anymore.

  • R from MA

    Is it OK for a guy to chime in here?

    Weight influences my health and self-image. I was chubby as a kid and not very happy about it. As a teenager my weight improved, but it’s not been effortless since then. I don’t think I obsess about weight and I eat with relative abandon – but not complete abandon. I drink only water, coffee (no sugar), a little juice and on very rare occasion a light beer.

    I am in my late 60′s, 5’10″ and weigh 170 lbs, which is about ten pounds over where I’d like to be, but my health and appearance are good. (I can do 150 pushups in 120 seconds and my pants size is a 33 waist). If I were 10 pounds lighter – which I have to admit I would like to be – I still would not be heading for Hollywood or a 30 year old girlfriend, so I can live with my body image.

    What works for me? I exercise at home for 15 minutes EVERY morning. I don’t have the discipline or interest to go to a gym. I avoid elevators, walk when time and weather permit, and never watch television (although my work is sedentary, lots of computer time).

    If my weight starts creeping up I do the Ramadan , which is no food (but lots of fluids) during daylight hours. Amazingly, when you don’t eat you don’t get hungry – no will power or self-deprivation involved!

  • Just one of us

    I received the message my entire life “you would look so great if you just lost 10lbs” “you have such a pretty face” “you are just big boned” all th same message! Even my favorite “it’s better if you meet a man when you are your regular 10-15lb too heavy) so they don’t go away once ina relationship and you return to your normal size! Ouch! Finally, almost 50, hormones balanced with BHRT, taking anti-oxiants, weight under control, not super skinny but feel pretty darn good! I don’t count calories but try to follow medaterrian diet, protien in the morning, lots of greek yogurt (love chobani) avocados, colorful green and small portions. Try to never eat until I fell full….have retrained myself that is a bad feeling, exercise moderately…get a dog an an iPod, they always say yes to a walk or run…recently realized I am wearing a size six, am 5’6″, was a 10/12 forever! Chocolate is still an occasional treat but only high quality and limited quanity, don’t drink your calories! Yes, my scales still waits for my daily morning visit, it keeps me in check. Food plays a weird role in the lifes of women, we grow up where it is provided for comfort, we provide it to others as comfort and in celebration! Yet, it bcomes our enemy when we are a “good eater” as an adult! Put yourself first in this department ladies! Know what works for you and stay at least in the ball park, don’t let anyone sabotage your life, your weight and most of alll your confidence and love of yourself!!

  • Momo3

    I wonder how many women in theses studies are women of color?

  • Nancy Lockhart

    This essay is absurd. I am 52 and have to work hard to maintain an ideal body weight. I engage in many of the “food prison” behaviors that the author speaks of, but I’m not in prison, rather, I do it with joy. Sometimes its work, but mostly its ok. but I don’t do it for the same reasons. I spend a lot of time planning and preparing meals so that I can remain healthy. That is why. I come from a family of fat women. Its in my genes. Most of the ladies in my family were obese by my age. I am not. I work hard it. As a payoff, unlike my beloved grandma and aunts, I DON’T have diabetes, high blood pressure, weak joints from little exercise and weak muscles due to an abnormal load on my joints, and I don’t have a host of other ailments they were saddled with because of overweight. – Bottom line for me…. I spend a lot of time trying to maintain my weight.. and fighting genetic odds to do so… but the payoff is great. Health; energy, and… oh, yeah.. I’m told I look great for my age. That last is an aside. Its not the main dish….

    Why do we have to work so hard at it? Look around at our lifestyles and the processed food that bombards us every day. Our ancestors didn’t have to work so hard to maintain their weight. The author makes a case that somehow all this time spent in “obsessing” over weight is abnormal. Well, yeah, it is, in a way. Our forebears worked hard physically all day, didn’t sit as much as we did, they ate more whole foods, grew their own fresh veges… and generally didn’t have to work hard to maintain weight as we do with our processed foods loaded with sodium, nutrient and fiber deprived white flours, corn syrup in just about everything. – So….. the author’s question of “is it worth it” I would answer with a resounding NO if you’re doing it to please society’s notion of what you should like…. but YES if you’re doing it to be healthy, feel good, increase energy, and stave off common diseases associated with our post-modern diet.- By the way, I’m not insensitive to the body image thing. I raised a girl and helped her through dealing with the muddle of negative images about female bodies in the media.-

    • Jane Fox

      Nancy, YES YES YES!!!

    • beenwiser

      Yeah you seem like you’re focused on health and nutrition, which is awesome. The author I think described herself as focusing on weight and dieting, which is really not nearly as awesome. I guess thats your point though?

      “I … have to work hard to maintain an ideal body weight” is accurate but kind of accidentally reinforcing some unhealthy cultural trends. Sorry if I’m being a semantic jerk about this but maybe you meant “I have to work hard if I want to stay healthy”.

      Weight =/= Health

      Dieting =/= Nutrition

  • M.Cartwright

    The study states of body satisfaction, “Defined as having a current body size equal to their ideal size, body satisfaction is endorsed by only about 11% of adult American women aged 45–74 years.” I see your problem there, Doc. Try defining body satisfaction as not establishing an ideal size nor comparing ourselves to it, and you’ll find a different set of women. It’s a more radical, and more liberating way to view (or not spend all your time viewing) body size.

  • Sarah

    There is a fabulous resource available to get us out of food prison, called Overeaters Anonymous. Hating our bodies, and ourselves, happens in within the emotional, physical and spiritual realm, and it can be addressed with compassionate support from others who have been there. There is recovery from compulsive eating, bingeing, anorexia and bulimia. Please consider looking for an OA meeting near you and reaching out. Your fellows will walk with you.

  • KMG

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V58ROb-vHcA Julie Ann Kibe has got it right! It is amazing – she understands that the body and mind can work together – and that we need to eat the way our bodies want us to eat not according to our cravings or a govt food pyramid Americans are eating improperly – our bodies are responding to the processed and chemically altered food – that is why we are fat and diabetic

  • Picky

    Forget the weight issue, fix those nasty toenails!

  • guest

    I have said this countless times but the only thing that is important is to understand that your diet needs to be 80% alkaline and 20% acid with low carbs. I’m in my 60s and I am almost at a perfect weight. 5’5″ and 128-ish. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 40 years and my blood work is perfect. There is NO fight here…just balance.

    • Lawrence

      Great inspiration. But there is just one more ingredient needed. Willpower/self-control.

      • guest

        Thanks, Lawrence. I would think that a MIRROR should be a motivating factor for anyone who is fat or obese.

        Actually, you stated the real problem…will power and self-control.

  • hjc24

    You mention your mother’s obsession with weight, but I don’t think you give it enough credit for your own obsession. As animals we are programmed to instinctually learn behaviors from our parents, and when the parents’ behavior is disordered, the disorder is passed on to us. That kind of learned behavior is extremely hard to unlearn as an adult. We took on this obsession with weight and appearance that our mothers burdened themselves with as young women, but we have the opportunity to recognize the problem and not pass it on to our own daughters.

    • Betty

      my mother was a drunk. as a child, I couldnt get drunk so I turned to food to soothe me. Its created a lifelong battle with my relationship with food (and everything else) I agree with your comment. every person is unique and individual in their reasons/history for having issues with food. giving blanket holier than thou advice and lectures to people who struggle and saying how “easy” it is, does not help nor seem empathetic. Im happy for those of you who do not have issues with food and dont have to pay attention to everything you put in your mouth. But dont presume to know how others should or can be successful.

  • jenna234

    My mother is obsessed with weight. One of the first things I did after I got married was start a diet. Years of poor health and yoyo-ing weight has caused me to wonder if it’s still worth it. I’m interested in reading this book and learning to love myself.

  • Jemimah Stambaugh

    As I write, I’m eating candy corn, having just finished a big salad with chunks of delicious mozzarella and a good-sized slab of bread and butter. Last time I weighed myself, the scales tipped at 180. That was in 1974. Now, in my mid-fifties, I don’t know what I weigh, nor do I care. I’m 5’8″ and while most say “skinny,” I’d say I”m slim. Though I hate my aging skin, I have to say I’m happy enough with my bod to (gasp) still rock a bikini. Sure, I wish my legs were longer and my boobs were bigger—but if they were, they’d probably be saggy by now! I’ve been this way for, oh, 28 years: EVER SINCE I STOPPED WORRYING ABOUT IT! The “secret” to getting this way and staying this way is ridiculously simple. Eat whatever you want, and enough of it to be satisfied but not as much of it as you could, and stay active. And don’t use the excuse that you don’t have time. I don’t belong to a gym, I just do crunches, stretches, pushups, lift some weights at home! Yes, it takes discipline, but so does depriving yourself of things you like to eat. Which would you prefer??
    Walk when you can, take the stairs rather than the elevator, do a few exercises while you listen to your favorite NPR show. It adds up. Yes, when I was younger I went through that phase of thinking if I didn’t run 5-6 days a week, I’d be in trouble. But when I had a stretch when I couldn’t, I was fine! I AM just fine.
    Late winter, I always gain a few pounds and while I don’t like it because my clothes don’t fit as loosely as I like, I remind myself that it’s winter and I’m a mammal. Come the sunshine, and a better mood, the pounds disappear.
    Lest I give the impression that I don’t think about my weight, let me tell you that I do. I just don’t obssess about it. I eat whatever I like, but I’m cognizant of portions and what else I’ve eaten that day. That’s just common sense! And I found early on that if I didn’t eat things that were satisfying, I ate more of everything else.
    Ladies, we have to contend every day with images of gorgeous YOUNG models who are boney and airbrushed. Honestly, they look kind of gross. It’s the clothes they’re wearing and their makeup that draws us in. The big questions are, knowing this, why, oh why do we still think of that as the ideal? And why do so many women think that depriving themselves of things they like will make them feel and look better?

    • http://claudiaputnam.com ClaudiaPutnam

      I don’t know if this is a good secret. This worked for me for about 2 years for some reason and then it stopped. So it’s YOUR secret. It doesn’t work for everyone. After a while I started wanting more of that candy corn type stuff and wanting to exercise less. Everything started requiring more effort and I also felt more tired. So it isn’t that effortless after all. Sometimes you have to deny yourself and push yourself.

    • BozToz

      Nice that you’ve got it all figured out, that you are perfectly happy with who you are and where you are, and that you’ve never struggled with anything…

    • GM

      You’d be a great contributor to happyeaters.net. It’s a group of people trying to figure out how to do exactly that!

    • DT

      Excellent! Love hearing this – depriving yourself for days, months, years, is only sustainable if you’re willing to be in a prison for ever! Love your comments Jemimah….. EAT THE FOOD and lift some weight and CARRY ON! :)

  • penelope cake

    I think that the author of this article has opened up the most secret, the most painful and the most vulnerable parts of herself and I have deep respect and appreciation for her willingness to explore these issues with her readers through the lens of her own experience. But this is not only a personal struggle, it is a cultural and political one. “Fat is a Feminist Issue,” was published by Susie Orbach way back in the 1980′s. And we are STILL subjected to the demand that our success in life is judged almost entirely by how we look. As a result of this pressure, some of us develop eating disorders while others of us just always feel like we need to lose more weight, no matter how thin or fat we are. In Naomi Wolf’s book, “The Beauty Myth / How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women” she quotes a 1984 Glamour magazine article in which women responded that they would rather lose 10 -15 lbs. as their most desired goal above any success that they could achieve in work or love. And I bet the numbers have changed since then – women probably want to lose even more weight and consider it more important in their lives than even their overall physical and mental health. And we go hungry all the time, which leaves us feeling physically and emotionally weak. Our ability to defend ourselves or even see how repressed we have become is too difficult because we are so hungry and are spending most of our time thinking about food instead of living our lives. Most of us are thinking, “When I finally get thin, then my life will begin.” But there is so much more to say about this issue and so many stories to tell. Let’s continue the dialogue which this author has so bravely and elegantly undertaken.

  • Guest

    As I write, I’m eating candy corn, having just finished a big salad with chunks of delicious mozzarella and a good-sized slab of bread and butter. Last time I weighed myself, the scales tipped at 180. That was in 1974. Now, in my mid-fifties, I don’t know what I weigh, nor do I care. I’m 5’8″ and slim and though I hate my skin, but for the most part, love my bod. Sure, I wish my legs were longer and my boobs were bigger—but if they were, they’d probably be sggy by now! I’ve been this way for, oh, 28 years.

  • MITBeta

    Put down the low fat junk! My experience is that when I stopped eating processed foods, including most grains, and limited my sugar (and therefore carb) intake, my weight dropped effortlessly. There is sugar in EVERYTHING. Learn to avoid sugar and you will never have to count or weigh another ort again. Embrace good quality fats as a necessary part of good nutrition. You’ll be amazed at how your appetite regulates itself.

    Check out any of Gary Taubes’ books, like Why We Get Fat or Good Calories, Bad Calories. Start eating the way your grandmother ate. It doesn’t have to be so hard.

    • LL

      My grandmother’s specialty was homemade bread with honey. All things in moderation. One doesn’t have to eliminate entire food groups to be healthy. If it makes you feel better, awesome, but it isn’t the answer for everyone.

  • Gan

    Having lost over 50 pounds in my early 20s and never gaining back an ounce, I can relate to much of what you’re going through although I haven’t experienced it to the degree you describe. I think one of the best things you can do to let go of your rigid routine is to throw away your scale. Manage your weight by the way your clothes fit; believe me, you’ll know if you’ve gained or lost! As a woman, I’m sure you know that weight fluctuates throughout the month. And you’ll weigh more at night than you will in the morning. You don’t have time to stress about 1-3 pound swings. The same goes for exact portions on your pepitas or what have you – ballpark a healthy portion size and let live. Counting and quantifying easily become obsessive. You’re already well-grounded in what it takes to eat well and stay active; gently wean yourself from keeping perfect track of everything and simply…do it. It’ll feel much better!

    • Betty

      Oh boy. I dont believe its as much about portion sizes when it comes to health. its about what we eat, not how much. if I watched my portion sizes as you suggest and continue to eat standard american food AND exercise, Id walk around hungry all day.

  • fun bobby

    I wonder how diverse the samples were in these studies

  • Cherie

    This article reminds me why I vowed to never diet again. I refuse to remain a soldier in the cult of thinness that keeps women oppressed in a scale/food prison. This is very much a feminist issue. My body is a beautiful, complex creation that is going to be allowed to be whatever size it naturally wants to be. I do not obsess about food, I enjoy it. I haven’t weighed myself in over five years and I wear exactly the the same size. I rarely ever give it a thought. I am free.

    • Betty

      I wish I could do that (ie: not care). I think its different for women who have or have had significant weight problems. I myself have always yo-yo’d up and down @ 40-50 lbs since having kids. my weight never stays the same. its either going up or going down. its a horrible struggle. personally, my “obsession” comes from wanting to be more healthy and energized, to be more fit and feel more comfortable in my clothes (ie: not bulging out everywhere). So I don’t think its ALL about appearances. Being a normal weight is just all around healthier.

      • beenwiser

        The conventional wisdom about is this –
        a) you can assess the healthiness of a person’s weight by simply comparing it to their height
        b) being overweight causes diabetes / heart disease / etc
        Neither of these beliefs has really been “proven” through rigorous scientific investigation.

        Weight-to-height ratio is actually a terrible way to measure people’s health (it penalizes muscle mass for chrissake). Science has only proven that obesity *correlates* with certain diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Drinking 5 cups of coffee a day also correlates with an increased risk of dying from a car crash, but we don’t hang signs on the highway reminding people to limit their coffee to 4 cups or less. All of these supposed fat people diseases also occur in skinny people, and no scientific investigation has ever demonstrated that counting calories or restricting your fat intake can cure any disease. Weight loss is not the same thing as nutrition or health.

        On the other hand, Yo-yo dieting HAS been scientifically demonstrated to damage your health. And dieting has been scientifically proven ineffective in most cases- the vast majority of dieters simply gain the weight back within a couple years. A minority of dieters keep the weight off, but most of them do so using a stressful regimen of calorie counting and exercise. And guess what else has been scientifically proven to damage your health? thats right, stress

        • Betty

          I know when Im at a healthy weight /feeling healthy and when Im not, so whatever dude. go preach elsewhere. I know for a fact that I have heart disease and diabetes because of lifestyle choices, especially the ones on my plate. I have always lost weight by eating healthily not by restricting calories/portions. and if those lifestyle diseases happen in skinny people its because they also consume the standard american diet-which is basically poison. Loosing weight is a RESULT of eating healthfully, I know this for a fact. Some people dont gain weight, no matter what they eat, I also understand that. You don’t know anything about me and yet you presume to know and lecture me on this or that. whatever. save your opinions for someone else. Im sick of it.

          • beenwiser

            I’m just saying the conventional wisdom about weight and calories doesn’t match the science regarding health and nutrition. I wasn’t commenting on you personally, not trying to moralize about your choices

          • katrina smith

            Betty, I promise you, I’m not judging you or preaching. I have personally found the “health at every size” movement emotionally and physically relevant. I would suggest it to anyone.

          • betty

            I wish the reality was all rainbows and unicorns but I have done much research on health and nutrition and the facts seem to support the “true health by consuming fewer, nutrient dense calories and as a result, being thin” I don’t think its possible to be truly healthy AND overweight, at least not long term. Believe me, I wish it weren’t so. (of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule-ie: you got lucky genes)

  • Lindsay Noll

    This article and the comments resonate with me so much! I feel like I have experienced so much the same thing. I am trying something different now. I was on weight watchers for about two years and I gained and lost a few pounds here and there, but nothing really changed. Now I’m trying mindfulness. So, I have done what you fear: I gained ten pounds. But for most of the time I have felt better than ever before about my body. I do freak out now and then, but I just remember how ineffective “dieting” was. What else can I do?

  • Lawrence

    Since childhood we are bombarded with messages that soda, fast-food, processed foods are fun and what is the norm in our society.

    Maybe less time will be spent on thinking about controlling weight if we just make the right choices.

    When I gave up all processed foods, ( I only drink water ) I don’t crave them at all.

    Change diet and stop obsessing about weight.

  • Scott Levine

    The entire attitude expressed in this post is more unhealthy than gaining a few pounds could ever be. Thin is not a goal. Healthy is a goal. Strive to have a healthy, capable body that will support you through live. You don’t need to be a triathlete, but it is good to be able to get up the stairs comfortably and not ache when you get out of bed. Ironically this outlook also leads to….thinner people. Obsessing about food makes you fat. Food is a celebration. Enjoy it. Eat until you are full, but not more than that, and eat food thats made out of food, and you will be fine.

    • Gan

      The point, I think, is that the author understands that her attitude is unhealthy. It’s a reality she’s working to change for herself.

    • Sarah Jane Smith

      Yea, but healthy ain’t necessarily sexy. Healthy is a difficult sale. Selling sexy is much easier.

    • Betty

      Im sorry but I hate lecturey posts like this. The solutions may be simple, but sticking to them is not. If it were that easy, many of us would not have problems with our weight and many of our health problems would simply disapear. It may be this easy for people like you, but for those of us who struggle with our relationship with food, it is just NOT.

  • sisyphus26

    I’m not in the age range described here (24 y/o), but I am someone who used to struggle with eating disorders and body image issues. What changed everything for me was practicing yoga. Just like the doctor describes in the last paragraph, it gives you a newfound appreciation for your body and everything it does for you. It also helps that it builds strength and has greatly increased my confidence in that way. From a regular yoga practice over the past 3 years I’ve watched my body slowly coming to look the way I want it to through no additional effort (no counting calories or restricting eating). I think a combination of the calmness and internal satisfaction that yoga gives me and the real, practical results that I can see in my body have allowed me to finally let go of this mental burden (and move on to others).

    • Jane Fox

      I have a friend who practices Bikram yoga and does it 5 times a week (they say you should do it 7 times a week) for 1 1/2. That’s obsession!

  • Ola

    Here’s a thought that might help…..do you wish this same kind of attitude for your daughters.? What messages do our obsessions with being teen-aged thin send to our daughters about health, value, and meaning?

    • http://claudiaputnam.com ClaudiaPutnam

      She said she didn’t wish this on her daughters.

  • Patryk1098

    Since this is a superficial article and while I understand it’s childish, I can’t help but say it; those toes look busted.

    • Sarah Morison

      Now that’s superficial!

    • Daniela

      I have the worst feet EVER (two surgeries later and still awful), but your message just made me laugh out loud!

      • Patryk1098

        Thanks for taking it as intended! ;)

    • Lacatarina
  • old woman

    i think that weight obsession is like religion: imposed by society to oppress huge segments of the population. it snuffs out your intellect and personal power very effectively, replacing them with myths of redemption. the weight obsessed are almost in a kind of cult, one of self abnegation and suffering, offering no opportunity to glimpse other ways of being. i was anorexic in my youth (nearly died) and have, in the 30 years since, focused the mental energy i once devoted to food & weight into understanding the culture that inspires such madness. this awareness has saved my life. look at the messages that are coming at you, understand their goal, remember that we live in an overwhelmingly consumer-based culture where nearly all social messages can be traced to profit motive (gyms, diets, diet foods, diet magazines, the fashion industry, etc.), and understand our society’s sicknesses while knowing that you are, in any shape, well and wonderful.

    • Eric

      Your points are completely valid, but there is also the other side of the coin: rampant obesity. So while we have a culture that pushes crazy unhealthy ideal bodies with support of companies cashing in on that culture craze, we also have a need to push for people to be healthier before they shorten their lives and cost our health system tons of money. This call for stopping obesity only furthers the cycle of weight obsessed people who take the criticism to heart when in reality they’re underweight.

      • joy2b

        It’s far easier to address population issues as a whole by addressing issues with our food supply.

        Whole grain foods are slowly becoming more available again, as they’ve gotten popular, which should help a little (the fiber is what makes us feel full, not the calories). Farmers markets are getting popular again, allowing more people access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

        Sugar is still massively price controlled in the US, and corn syrup is subsidized. Cheap sweeteners and fats are generously added to most foods by the manufacturers, to make them taste just a bit better. US farmers are strongly encouraged to keep churning out more wheat and corn than we should be eating.

        Perhaps we should just stop paying for a surplus of unhealthy food?

        • beenwiser

          Totally! We LOVE to blame individuals for the results of systemic changes in this country

  • PaulS

    Controlling your weight mean that you are controlling your blood sugar and that means that you will dramatically reduce your odds of cancer, heat disease and cognitive decline. What is not to like?

    • beenwiser

      Weight =/= Health
      Dieting =/= Nutrition

      Good nutrition is part of good overall health, but hard dieting is rarely synonymous with good nutrition. Many people are focused on restricting their calories, and the result is low blood sugar levels. That does nothing for cognitive function, it causes stress, and it makes exercise pretty unappealing too. Is that healthy?

  • Norah James

    I count my calories and I don’t feel like a prisoner. Quite the opposite, actually. I count my calories, making sure not to go over my daily minute, and make sure to get at least an hour of exercise a day. Over the last 35 days, I’ve lost a total of 14 lbs. My health has improved in numerous ways, aside from weight loss: I’m sleeping better, have more energy during the day, and my husband can see a difference and confidence in my behavior. He thinks I’m glowing, I’m so happy. All I know is I’m feeling good and I’m happier than I was than before and looking forward to what lies ahead of me in the future.

    • Sarah Morison

      I think there’s a difference between working towards a healthy weight (which is probably what you’re trying to achieve) and obsessively maintaining a relatively low weight because of body image issues, that requires lifelong deprivation.

    • Jane Fox

      Norah, thank you for that. I also count my calories to keep within my daily allotment. On the days when I do not count my calories, my brain tricks me into thinking that I did. A few days of not counting and brain tricking, my weight starts to go up. Eventually, I’ve put on 10, 15 lbs.

      What I’m saying is that logging what I eat, overrides the brain tricks and allows me to not think about food every minute of the day. Logging my calories is the key to the prison. I love being thin, my blood pressure loves me thin, my cholesterol loves me thin and I will NEVER give that up!

    • lydia pease

      I went on the flat belly diet, a sensible, healthy 30-day diet, and took three months to lose ten pounds. Just by limiting myself to eating more healthy foods, I avoided medication for my thyroid! I exercise four days a week and love my body now! I am thrilled with the way I look! At the age of 76, I work part-time as gardener for a local twp, maintaining beds at three locations. Thank goodness for a strong and slim body! Sure I miss the donuts and the candy, but when I feel my strength and my leanness, I am thrilled!

    • Betty

      I dont mean to be a buzzkill but its kinda easy to loose weight, but much much harder to keep it off and stay at that weight long term. Ive read that people who loose a significant amount of weight MUST stay hyper-vigilant or else they will easily gain it back. because it is so much easier to gain weight that youve lost, than it is to gain new weight (because the fats cells don’t go away, they stay in your body just wanting to expand after that next cheeseburger) In any case, congrats on feeling better. I am happy for you :-)

  • Joan LaRowe

    I hate to say it but this article seems terribly self absorbed. I want to say “Get over yourself” but that would be rude… Instead I’ll say “Cut yourself some slack, lighten up (your mood, not your weight) and get a grip.” Today I weigh what I did when I got married 49 years ago – 111 lbs. I’ve pretty much maintained this weight my entire adult life – except during my 30′s when I got carried away with running and I dropped to 95 lbs. Looking at photos of myself from those years, I was gaunt. I look better today, less emaciated. I am a wife, mother of two, grandmother of three, happily retired after a rewarding career. What matters in the long run is health and well being, living a good and purposeful life. Embrace your life, your family and friends. Being focused so much on yourself you are losing out on the richness of life that is out there. Good luck.

    • Sarah Morison

      You sound like one of the luckier ones, who is naturally thin. Gauntness is not the problem most of us are dealing with. There’s not too many women who can say they weigh the same as they did 50 years ago. Pregnancy and childbearing often take a toll, as they did with me. I hate to say it, but your comment sounds a little “braggy”.

      • Joan LaRowe

        I apologize if I sounded braggy. I don’t have anything to brag about. This is the first time I’ve ever commented on an article and I realized how smug I sounded after I sent the comment but it was too late. I’m sorry. I think what I was trying to say to Rachel is don’t be so hard on yourself. Exercising every single day, diligently counting calories, you are working so hard to achieve perfection. I have only respect and admiration for your discipline but – you feel like you are in prison. I think with your obvious intelligence you will find a more balanced life. I wish you the best – and thank you for writing this thought provoking article.

        • Jane Fox

          But that’s just it, working out every day (or 4 -5 times a week) and counting calories is living a healthy lifestyle not living in a prison.

          • beenwiser

            Cmon, Jane. Many women are constantly focused on eating the right amounts of the right foods, and doing enough of the right kinds of exercise. Very few of those women are enjoying it, and very few of them are “succeeding” in their efforts. Whether you label it a “healthy lifestyle” or a “prison” doesn’t change the facts of the matter. Over the course of millenia, humans evolved to maximize our caloric intake and conserve energy. Obsessing about the number of calories we take in or burn off really isn’t a natural state of being for a human

          • Jane Fox

            OMG, you are so wrong. When I’m “heavy” I HATE it. When I’m the weight I should be, it feels like the universe is at my feet. Literally! When I watch my weight I know I’m doing what my body wants.

            I take my BP every week and when its high I don’t like it and start drinking more water. I wonder if that’s living in a prison and maybe I should throw away my BP monitor? What do you think?

        • DT

          that was a serious brag – and good for you for not having to worry about YOUR weight Joan. The author is hardly the self absorbed one here.

          • Daniela

            It cut like a knife to think oh wow…I’ve been married for 6 years and can’t get off the 20 lbs from my 50 lb difficult pregnancy at age 38. Oh well, guess she is a better person than me to maintain 111…I was 111 before baby…I wish people would focus more on what is INSIDE than all of this weight obsession…

    • CAP1985

      I don’t think it sounds so self-absorbed as it does a disorder…this goes beyond normal levels of vanity (and I don’t think this article has much to do with vanity in general.) It’s not a question of just embracing life – that’s a part of the solution, but the real solution is digging into the underlying issues and treating the disordered eating and mindset. Which is MUCH easier said than done.

      • 5kids4me

        I think your point is a great one. A lot of people like to talk about moderation and think that fat people just don’t have enough willpower. I thought that I must be overweight because I just didn’t have enough willpower and that logging everything would give me that willpower that I, and society, was sure I was missing. After a year of intense study and personal assessments during which I lost 50 lbs in 8 months only to gain 35 back in 3, I learned that I had developed a binge eating disorder to help me deal with my emotional issues and personal sense of failure. In the ensuing 3 years I’ve had to work very hard to combat it, learn what my triggers are(they are not food, binging is a symptom for me), how to deal with situational triggers without eating, how to deal with my own emotions, and most importantly, how to see the positive in my life and appreciate what I actually am instead of being upset over how I’m not what/where I wish/have wished to be. There is almost no emotional education in this country(this world?), so those of us who are not given a good emotional education, like myself, tend to flounder. Since food is such a socially acceptable “drug”(if you take stock, you’d be surprised how many “food pushers” you have in your life), I was happy to become addicted to it’s “healing” properties, but not so happy at the result of this particular way of dealing with my emotions. Finding the real cause of why I was gaining ended up being more important to me than losing weight. I’m maintaining right now and although I would like to go down a bit more(I am about 60 lbs from where doc would like me to be) I am more focused on my emotional health now than hitting a target number. Ever since that has become my focus I’ve felt a lot better about myself, all of my relationships have improved, especially the one I have with myself, and I struggle a lot less with feelings of physical inadequacy. I can finally hear my husband when he tells me I am beautiful and believe he means it, instead of automatically discounting it because I believe I am too fat to deserve it. Thank you for bringing up the very important point that some people need to do much harder work to lose weight than just monitor their food and exercise.

        • Betty

          please tell me how you accomplished all this, because Im 50 and still floundering. back and forth btwn eating healthily (and as a side effect loosing weight) and then going nuts and giving into temptation again. do you have any recommendations etc? reading, therapies etc? thank you. I am inspired to hear from SOMEONE who seems to be in my situation talk about actually recovering from this.

    • living with myself

      And yet you must tell us FIRST that you weigh the same 111 lbs as you did 49 years ago, before mentioning your full life. Why mention your weight at all, if your message is truly “cut yourself some slack?”

      • Joan LaRowe

        You are right. I should not have mentioned my weight. Full disclosure, I also should have mentioned I’ve lost 2 inches of height over the years so at age 71 my pounds per inch ratio is not as good as when I was 22. However, at this point in life, I’m just very grateful to be alive and in good health. Rachel’s amazing self discipline is admirable but she feels like she’s in prison. I was just trying to help her gain some perspective but obviously I was not effective. I apologize for sounding smug. It was not intended.

        • Daniela

          Your pounds per inch ratio…you’re clearly kidding yourself if you do not think you have issues with weight.

    • Just Jane

      You sound like a lifelong closet anorexic

      • Tara

        You just sound bitter. Joan made her point, and there is nothing wrong with mentioning her weight, since that was the topic of the article. Just like a woman who is heavy shouldn’t feel ashamed, why should she have kept that part quiet, so it didn’t bother you? Gosh Get over yourself. Joan, I did not consider your comment braggy or rude, and you are a very big person (even if you are skinny lol) to be so willing to apologize to strangers who have the audacity to judge your remark out of bitterness and jealousy. Go Joan! You are a good example of longevity and health. I hope to be as healthy and insightful as you at that age. And before you all start bashing me, I am 21, 5’5″ and 185 pounds, so no I am no anorexic, nor am I defending my fellow skinny person. I am not skinny but I am happy with my little boys and my life and I know eventually I will get back to the size I was before I had them. You all need to stop judging others by their weight/size, stop judging yourselves as well, and just enjoy what you have. Oh, and 111 can be perfectly healthy on some people, just like my goal and healthy weight is more like 140. PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT. Get over it. :)

        • Betty

          When I was heavier than normal and young (and eating standard american diet), it wasnt so urgent or important to me either. Until I got diabetes and heart disease in my 40′s.

        • beenwiser

          I agree we need to stop judging people by weight/size. Why then did you include precise measurements of your weight and size in your post?

      • Jane Fox

        No I don’t think she does at all.

    • Daniela

      Sorry but it did sound braggy…kudos for you for being a thin 111 after 2 kids and 49 years…sounds like perhaps you did have some struggles of your own with getting “carried away with running” and dropping to 95 lbs.

  • BozToz

    Thinking about weight is never compassionate, never loving. Thinking about health, and working towards strength and grace and ease, is. It’s a tough thing, switching from one thought process to the other, but for me it has (almost ) completely changed my relationship with my body. I don’t “love” my body yet, but I value it way more than I used to.

    Best of luck to all those mid-something women out there who have this struggle.

    • beenwiser

      low weight =/= health
      dieting =/= nutrition