Pretend To Be Thin!

         Several years ago a very kind friend loaned me a copy of  Gwen Shamblin’sThe Weigh Down Diet” – a Biblical approach to weigh loss. Being a student and follower of Jesus, I was anxious to read it. I didn’t have a dramatic weight loss at the time but I did gain a few great concepts from Gwen’s experience that would later serve me well. One of those I would like to share with you now.

     Gwen relays a story of observing a thin friend for “research purposes”.  This is the excerpt from the book.

     I began to think back on my own experiences with “thin” friends. My weight battle is not a new one. I lost 70 lbs as a young teen. This weight loss began as a result of “pretending” and I kept that weight off until the battle with thyroid cancer in my 20’s.

     I attended a summer camp where most of my roommates wer very thin. Some of these girls had modeling backgrounds, others were athletes, such as gymnasts and dancers. I was, by far, the heaviest in the group. I didn’t want these girls to think that I was heavy because I over ate, so I ate like a skinny person for those two weeks. I would eat a bowl of Cheerios with skim milk for breakfast. For lunch I would eat a main dish only, like a hamburger with no condiments or stir-fried meat with veggies and no bread or dessert. It was extremely hot that summer – 104 degrees average temp during that two-week period so by dinner time, after having walked all over campus and having done calisthenics, I had no appetite. I would usually have only a beverage or a beverage and fruit for dinner. I was not setting out to lose weight, but I was active and eating like I thought these skinny girls would think I should. By the end of the two weeks this overweight teen had lost enough weight that her shorts wouldn’t stay up without a belt. After the two weeks I found that I like the feeling of being thinner and the attention  I received from loosing weight.  The attention and sense of accomplishment filled the same “void” the food had previously filled. I wanted to be thin. I wanted to prove that I had control over the food and my body. In a few months time I went from a size 14 to a size 7 by “pretending to be thin”. I simply ate very few calories and moved A LOT.

     As time went on I maintained a low weight, but I worked for it. I would eat 1000 calories a day or less and exercise in obscene amounts. One weekend while spending the night with my best friend, a naturally thin size 3 track star, I began to realize how different her habits were from mine. I measured my foods and ate at planned times. I moved by design. Not her.

Pre weight loss 8th grade homecoming pics of my naturally thin best friend and I.

     After dinner, over the course of the evening, I watched her go to the fridge several times. Each time I refused sustenance. Once she pulled out a jar of spaghetti. She ate a few bites and feeling satisfied returned it to the fridge. Hours later she made a sandwich, ate about half and threw the other half away. In a few more hours she whipped a bowl of whipping cream, ate a few spoons full and washed the rest down the sink. She talked of running. She ran for fun or when stressed or when she wanted to find alone time. Her activity was motivated by the activity itself, not the weight.

After the weight loss - Best friend Vicki and I with our dates at our Junior Prom.

     Now as a middle-aged woman I look back on these examples and I think how much I have to gain from emulating the examples of the thin people I know. I have a weight issue and need to be aware of it, but these naturally think folks have some real tricks up their sleeves without even knowing it. They eat when they are hungry or craving food and believe it is ok to eat only what they want. They don’t fear “wasting” and apparently aren’t members of the “clean your plate club”. They are in tune enough with their bodies to recognize satisfaction from a taste or from having “enough”. They understand “enough” instead of believing they are thru only when they simply can’t hold anymore.  They often eat slowly, enjoying each bite. They experience their food as opposed to inhaling their food. They may sometimes eat foods that aren’t good for them, but these are often in small amounts.

     If you aren’t in a skinny frame of mind yet, it’s ok. Just pretend. This week you are an actor or actress studying for a very important role. You are getting ready to portray “thin, healthy person”. Try to imagine how “Ideal You” at your ideal weight would eat and impersonate her. Try eating healthy whole foods. Enjoy lots of veggies and whole grains. Add lean meats and low-fat dairy. Enjoy dessert of fresh fruit. Indulge occasionally, but only enough to be satisfied. It’s ok to pretend. You might just be amazed how far it will take you.

     Take Gwyn’s suggestion. Spend some time this week watching a naturally thin friend’s behaviors. Learn how people who are thin fill themselves physically. Then imitate those behaviors.

     I encourage you to read “The Weigh Down Diet” and learn more about the “missing key” Gwyn references above. In truth overeating is often the result of trying  to fill an emptiness that is often misinterpreted as hunger, but lies much deeper. We each have an empty space in our hearts that only God can fill for us. Allowing him to fill it instead of trying to stuff it full of other things is the key to permanent weight loss for many of us. If you feel an emptiness that you aren’t sure how to fill, I encourage you to pursue Him. Read “The Weigh Down Diet” to really understand how God can change us from the inside out.

Skip The Salad?


     Yesterday I went over my calorie goal for the first time since the new year. 29 days of successfully limiting my calorie intake to under 1600 a day and yesterday I went over by almost 40o calories? How did this happen? I blame it on the salads.

     I hosted a women’s meeting potluck event at my church last night and I ate just a bite or two each of several salads and a small piece of Weight Watcher’s Peanutbutter Pie. When I got home I looked these salads up on the web and did my best to estimate their caloric intake. The pie was only 120 calories but some of the salad were as much as 270 calories for a 1/2 cup serving. I sabatoged myself with the salad.

     I love Salad. I especially love salad with no lettuce, lots of cucumbers, carrots, onions, cheese, beets, ham, bacon, and ranch dressing. Needless to say, my favorite salad isn’t very healthy for me. So, more often than not, I skip the salad.

     Salads, done right, can be healthy, flavorful, and low-cal options – but only if done right and more often than not they are not. Early in my dieting days I would often choose a salad as my dinner when eating out. It sounded right. You always hear people talk about eating salad when on a diet. I thought it must be the low calorie option and I wasn’t alone in this misconception. An April 2011 Time Heartland article intitled “When Is A Salad Not A Salad” discusses this problem. 

     “Over time, dieters learn to focus on simply avoiding foods that they recognize as forbidden based on product name,” said authors, Caglar Irmak, assistant professor of marketing at University of South Carolina; Beth Vallen, assistant professor of marketing at Loyola University Maryland; and Stefanie Rosen Robinson, a graduate student at University of South Carolina, in a statement [PDF]. “Thus, dieters are likely to assume that an item assigned an unhealthy name (for example, pasta) is less healthy than an item assigned a healthy name (for example, salad), and they do not spend time considering other product information that might impact their product evaluations.”In a series of experiments, the researchers asked participants — some who were dieting, some who weren’t — to evaluate the relative healthfulness and tastiness of foods, and measured those ratings against how much people consumed. In one experiment, people were asked to imagine ordering from a lunch menu and to gauge how healthy either the “daily salad special” or the “daily pasta special” was. They were given ingredient lists and photos of the entrees, which were actually exactly the same — both contained romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions, red peppers, pasta shells, salami, mozzarella cheese and a savory herb vinaigrette. Both totaled 900 calories, with 60 grams of fat. The only difference was that one was called a salad, and the other, pasta.

     The label alone was enough to influence the dieters’ — but not the nondieters’ — ratings. When the product was called pasta, the dieters rated it as significantly less healthy than non-dieters did. Interestingly, however, when it was given the “healthy” name, salad, it led to no difference in rating between the two groups. (But, overall, dieters believed the same dish, when called salad, was healthier.)

     As I began to count calories for myself, this truth became aparent. Often a “salad” offered at a resturant would have double the calories and fat grams of a similarly priced and more hunger satisfying meal option. For example, an Applebee’s Bruchetta Chicken Salad sounds healthy but is over 1100 calories while their entire Roasted Sirloin Dinner with portabella mushrooms and creamed spinach is under 550 calories. Is the salad really the better option?

     Clearly some salads are better options than others. The WebMD article Myth or Truth: Salad Is The Best Diet Food compares a couple of resturant salad’s and points out that the “fixins” make the diffrence.


     “Consider: A chicken Caesar salad at Chili’s (loaded with salad dressing, croutons, cheese, and chicken) will set you back 1,010 calories and 76 grams of fat. On the other hand, a Chick-fil-A chargrilled chicken garden salad with fat-free honey mustard dressing has only 230 calories and 6 grams fat.”

     Some of the salad’s I experimented with last night seemed harmless. One was bok choy with a clear dressing, some almonds, and a little bit of ramen noodles. It looke harmless but turned out to be over 500 calories a serving. It was awfully yummy but not filling enough to make an entire meal on.

     Many resturant salads also sound like a nutritious choice but then are loaded with topping like croutons, bacon bits, and high fat dressings. When unhealthy main dish meats like deep fried chicken and processed deli meats are poured over lettuce and presented as a “healthy option” you should opt out.  Think before you order. Weigh the options. If possible pre-plan your ordering looking at calorie count online ahead of time.

A personal favorite that I think is filling and every bit worth the 560 calories, Wendy's Apple Pecan Grilled Chicken Salad.

     I don’t want to discourage you from eating flavorful raw veggies in great combinations. Salads can be a healthy, yummy, low-cal choice but watch out for the “add ons”. If you decide you want a delicious salad stick to one that is mostly veggies with lean meat, egg, low-fat cheese, or other healthy options topping it. Choose a low-fat, low-cal dressing or skip the dressing and opt for salsa (available at most resturants and often as little as 10 calories for 1/4 cup) or sprinkle your salad with a little salt and pepper. If you love a creamy dressing and feel it’s a must, order it on the side and dip the tines of your fork in the dressing before picking up the salad. This way you get some of the flavor on every bite, with fewer calories than drowning the whole plate.

     Do you think you can pick a healthy salad option? Click on the picture below to take the Slick Salad Quiz at to check your diet IQ.


A for Effort


     As we go into the first official “Weigh In Wednesday” tomorrow I want us to all stay mindful that though the scales can help us see how we are progressing toward our goal they should not be the only, or even the most important, measure of daily success.

     Weigh-ins are often very encouraging at the beginning of a weight loss effort. After a day or two of dieting and exercise the scales can drop by pounds in a day. However, this rate of change is temporary. If you have tried loosing weight before, you have probably noticed that often the pounds come off more quickly in the first days or weeks and then the rate slows considerably. Why is that?

     Part of the reason is that “water weight” or bloating begins to drop off as we begin to eat in a healthier way and exercise. The water can be lost rapidly. Fat burning, however, is not a quick process. It takes effort and time.  3000 calories must be burned to lose each pound of fat. 1 hour of Zumba or skating burns about 600 calories and even if you cut your daily calorie intake by several hundred calories, losses of a pound a day are unrealistic. In addition, if you have gone from a somewhat stagnant lifestyle to an active lifestyle, you will begin to build muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. Building muscle is a good thing. Keep this up! A muscular body burns more calories, runs more efficiently, and looks much better in a bathing suit.(wink)

     The above is not said to discourage. Quite the opposite. If you have seen weight loss be pleased! Celebrate! …but be mindful that as the rate of loss tapers off, that doesn’t mean you are doing something “wrong” or are “failing”.

     I want to encourage you this week to use a tape measure to take body measurements, if you haven’t already done so. Measure neck, bust, waist, hips, and thigh. As you go through the weight loss process and build a leaner body these measurements may prove to be a more effective means of noting your true progress.

     More importantly, I want you to shift your emphasis. Though you will continue to weigh and measure, I want your focus to be not on your perceived progress but on your efforts.

     The body can be unpredictable. Hormones, sodium intake, illness, and many other factors play into what the number on the scale reads. As long as you are eating a healthy reduced calorie diet and exercising at increased rates or frequency, you will lose weight. Start to measure your success not in pounds but in minutes, miles, and calories. Go back to your action steps. Review your journaling of calories or points or carbs or whatever you are using to measure your food intake. Take a look at what activities you finished from the blog suggestions. Did you write down what exercise you did?

     Each day that you met a goal give your self an A+! Seriously! Really! Right Now! Go to your journal and use a red pen or marker to give yourself an A.  Did you not meet the goal entirely? Give yourself a comment. “Good try!” “Getting Closer!” “Lots of effort!” Did you at least mark your results? Give yourself credit for that, too!

     When my kids were little I began to purchase stickers to encourage them in their chores. I liked the stickers, they were fun! I bought more for all sorts of reasons. I put them on envelopes, packages, in school lunches. I still have a bunch of those stickers. I have gone back thru my journal and have added stickers to celebrate success! Stickers that say things like! Awesome! Way to Go! You did it! I even have gold stars for extra special efforts!

     Got stickers? No. Got $1? Pick some up at Dollar Tree or Walmart. Learn to celebrate yourself, to give yourself credit for your efforts! Consistent effort IS an accomplishment and will lead to success!

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