Shauna is a gifted writer. When I picked up her book and read the introduction describing her size 26 underpants that "billowed in the sticky summer breeze, curved and enormous like the sails of the Sidney Opera House," I knew I was going to enjoy this read. Not because I like reading about underpants in particular, but because I like the honesty and transparency that this kind of writing entails. This book isn't fake. It doesn't hide the bits of ugliness about being fat. We all know how it feels to have that moment of utter shame and disgust where we just HAVE to do something about our weight. Shauna had that moment: "But in the end it's just me under the clothesline, shocked and humiliated by the sight of my monster underpants." And she did something about it, as you can see in this picture:
(Shauna and her husband in her old "fat jeans." She lost even MORE weight after that!)
Today I want to share a few passages from the book with you, along the questions that swirled in my head as I read them. And the best part... Shauna's answers! (quoted parts are from the Dietgirl book; my questions follow).
Quote: "Do you ever feel you're so eager to be skinny and tap into the sexy clothes and supple flesh, but part of you is afraid of missing out on something if you don't stay fat?"
Lyn: How do you feel about this now? Are you missing out on anything by not being fat?
Shauna: I don't think feel like I am missing out on anything so much as I miss my most convenient excuse. I used my weight as a reason not to confront things or people, to not try new things and to hide away from the world. I may have lost some pounds but I've still got the same personality. Sometimes I just can't be bothered going out or doing something, but I can longer trot out my trusty excuses: "Well I won't fit into those chairs" or "everyone will stare at me" or "I haven't got anything to wear". I saw my fat as a valid reason to hold back. Without that, I have to get down to the real issue - fear, pride, laziness, and sometimes I just don't wanna get down to the real issue! :) There's also a tiny, destructive part of my personality that sometimes misses the way I used to eat. But when I am depressed or angry or whatever, sometimes I miss the oblivion I found from bingeing. I miss the planning of what I'm going to eat, hunting it down at the shops; the total escape as I ate the food. I think it was the not caring... that screw you world feeling as I sat down with a tub of ice cream that was all for me. Of course I don't miss the instant remorse and how it didn't solve anything at all... but I think it's the ritual that I miss sometimes. I hope you all don't think I'm a weirdo now. Please read on!
Lyn: You're *totally* not a weirdo, Shauna! I have had those same exact feelings while I am on plan... wishing I could just forget it all and plop down with all my old 'friends.'
Quote: "Weight loss isn't about willpower or motivation; it's just the cumulative effect of tiny actions over time. Putting down the chocolate bars, putting on the running shoes. You just have to keep picking yourself up when you fall, over and over again, for however long it takes."
Lyn: What about maintenance? Is maintaining your weight also *not* about willpower/motivation? How is maintenance different... or is it the same mindset as losing weight?
Shauna: It's taken me two years of maintenance to admit this to myself - weight loss and maintenance are pretty much the same. When I was in weight loss mode, I hated when people said, "Weight loss is SO easy! Just wait to you start maintaining little missy - that's where the real work begins!" Grrrr! Neither of them are easy. They both can be really, really sucky sometimes. I've discovered I need the same basic, never-say-die mindset as I did for weight loss. Things like taking one day at a time, setting goals, trying to make the healthiest decisions I can, focusing on my positive actions and not beating myself up for the crappy ones, and most importantly, just never giving up!
Quote, with commentary: After losing 160 pounds, Shauna wrote: "Am I still a helpless blob... or am I just as Gareth sees me, a normal, healthy chick...?" She wondered if people were looking at her and thinking, "Who's this big lump, thinking she knows all about health and fitness?" Even after such a large weight loss Shauna still imagined herself as "a huge blubbery pile." I think lots of us struggle with body image in this same way. It's hard to let go of that Fat Chick mentality, and as Shauna put it, "I don't quite know who I want to be lately. I feel so desperate to escape from the Old Shauna, but part of me doesn't want to let her go."
Lyn: I have this same problem. I just do not *see* the weight loss in myself. Do you still feel fat sometimes? How has your body image changed? Have you finally "let the Old Shauna go?"
Shauna: My fat seems to be a state of mind. When I started out at 351, I thought I'd loathe my body until the magic moment I got to goal. But my body image started to change much earlier, thank goodness. I've felt svelte and sexy at 300 pounds and miserably lardy at 175, it all depends on how well I'm taking care of myself. I had some darker periods last year when life got very overwhelming, and even though my weight was the same and I was wearing the same clothes, I felt enormous. My body image is great when I do a minimum of things that help me feel good in my skin - eating well, a decent amount of exercise, and taking the time to wear clothes that fit me well and make me feel good and not slob around in baggy things. But when I don't do these things, my moods tend to plummet and my body image suffers. I can feel like the Old Shauna again. But I've learned how to pull myself out of that feeling; I'm only ever one day away from feeling good again. It's impossible to feel bad about my body when it's just survived a crazy kickboxing class - endorphins rule!
Lyn: When Shauna's story and photos were published in Grazia magazine, it brought up new fears:
Quote: "What if somebody I knew read the story? What would they think of my secret lardy past? What if they read all my self-indulgent rantings on the Internet? What would they think of me then?"
Lyn: How have people responded to you when they read about your past? Has everyone been supportive? Has anyone been critical? How has this affected you?
Shauna: I initally kept my blog secret from everyone in my real life because I didn't want them seeing just how miserable and neurotic I was about my weight issues. I felt quite ashamed of it, and I didn't want to burden anyone. When I finally "came out" everyone was supportive and encouraging and not at all critical. Many were surprised and quite upset that I didn't let them know how unhappy I was. In hindsight I feel terrible that I didn't open up to my friends, but back then I saw everything through my fat goggles - I was so convinced my weight issues were a shameful secret, that's why I whispered about them anonymously on the web. It's nice to have it in the open now. Sadly it caused caused strain on a couple of friendships but for the most part the book and blog brought me closer to friends and family and even general accquaintances. Even if they have no weight issues, most people have some kinda issues and being open about mine has encouraged them to share too.
Lyn: Are there foods that are still a problem for you? Foods that tempt you to eat far more of them than you reasonably should? How do you deal with cravings? And do you ever fear that you will regain the weight?
Shauna: Again it all depends on my emotional state! I can go for months or years and not think about a certain food then all of a sudden, POW! It's on my mind. I just accept now that I'm always going to have issues with food, but I'm more aware now of what triggers those issues so I can be on the lookout!
Ice cream is the one thing I prefer to keep out of the house. Plain old vanilla is my weakness. Once the tub has been cracked open it just calls my name and I start daydreaming of all the things I could mix into it! So I find it easier to buy a single serving, like a really great gelato cone every now and then, and savour the hell out of it.
If I have a craving, the first thing I do is ask myself if I really want it or am I just cranky, bored, etc. If the answer is still yes, I zoom right down to specifically what it is I want. Like not just "chocolate", it's a brand, a flavour. I buy a small individual serving then try to wait for a quiet moment - no TV, no one yapping in ear - and sit down, eat it slowly and enjoy every bite. I eat so much less food if I just take the time to pay attention!
As for regaining the weight, I don't fear it anymore. I accept that I'm going to have crappy periods when I regain some weight - 5, 10, 20 pounds or more. This has happened to me already in both the weight loss and maintenance phases. And who knows how pounds I'd gain if I ever have a kid. But I know how to deal with that without panicking and letting it spiral out of control. To regain all 175 pounds and go back to eating half-gallons of ice cream in one sitting... that would take a complete personality transplant. Even when I have rough periods and eat more than usual, in the back of my mind I'm already pondering my Getting Back On Track strategies.
Lyn: Thanks SO much for the lovely interview, Shauna! I know lots of people will benefit from your wisdom and your story.
If you'd like to win a free copy of Shauna's book, just leave a comment telling me one thing you are going to do today to make YOUR life better. And then go and do it! The contest is open only to readers in the USA (sorry, publisher's rules!) and you must leave a link or email address where you can be reached if you're the winner. If you can't wait, head on over to amazon where you can purchase the book today.