Secrets of a Former Fat Girl

BOOK: Secrets of a Former Fat Girl
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


, an award-winning magazine writer and editor, has spent the majority of her journalism career covering diet, fitness, nutrition, and health for women��s consumer magazines. The former executive editor of
magazine, Lisa has written for
Men's Health, Cooking Light
, and
Reader's Digest
. She is currently the Senior Health Producer for the media properties of One Economy Corporation, a global non-profit organization that focuses on bringing life-changing information to low-income individuals. Lisa and her family live in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Delaney proves that change is possible, and that it's never too late to improve the quality of your life. An inspiring story of one woman's weight-loss journey—one that I know many women will identify with.”

—Kathy Kaehler,
Today Show
fitness expert; author,
Fit and Sexy for Life

“Writing with humor, compassion, and the kind of insights only someone who has been there can have, Delaney helps you stop envying what you see in others, and discover the healthier, happier person who resides in you. Her message of self-discovery and emancipation from the habits that conspire against your waistline, and your self-esteem, is at once forceful and forgiving. Thank goodness that instead of keeping her empowering secrets to herself, Lisa is willing to share them!”

—David L. Katz, MD, MPH, Director, Prevention
Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine;
nutrition columnist,
O: The Oprah Magazine

“Delaney mixes optimism and realism in such manageable proportions, she may give readers just the boost they need.”

Publishers Weekly

“Working in an industry that is obsessed with size, it is refreshing to read a witty, true story about weight loss and managing a healthy lifestyle. Real beauty comes from your soul, and Lisa Delaney translates this point eloquently.”

—Nigel Barker, fashion photographer and judge from
the hit show
America's Next Top Model

“This is it—
book which can actually help you lose weight by using the most powerful ally you have: your own mind. Unlike most diet and weight-loss experts, Delaney has truly been there, tried that…A brutally honest look at her personal battle and ultimate victory over obesity, and she generously shares all the wisdom she learned along the way.”

—Alice Domar, Executive Director,
Domar Center for Complementary Health Care,
and Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School

“Delaney offers proven strategies and concrete advice for real weight loss.
Secrets of a Former Fat Girl
is essential for every woman who wants to look and feel her best.”

—Miriam Nelson, PhD, author,
Strong Women Stay Slim

Secrets of a Former Fat Girl

How to Lose Two, Four (or More!) Dress Sizes—and Find Yourself Along the Way

Lisa Delaney


Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India • Penguin Books (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, • Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Previously published in a Hudson Street Press edition.

Copyright © Lisa Delaney, 2007
All rights reserved


   The Library of Congress has catalogued the Hudson Street Press edition as follows:
Delaney, Lisa.
    Secrets of a former fat girl: how to lose, two four (or more!) dress sizes, and find yourself along the way/Lisa Delaney.
      p. cm.
1. Weight loss—Anecdotes. 2. Weight loss—Humor. 3. Delaney, Lisa. I. Title
RM222.2.D456 2007


Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

For Rick and Johnny
and Mom and Dad


ou don't know me, but you probably hate me.

I'm the girl in the size 2 jeans with the ten marathon medals hanging on the wall, the girl who cracks the joke that gets the whole room laughing, the girl who never goes without her daily chocolate fix and looks as if she doesn't know the meaning of the word

You don't know me, but I know you. I know you because I
you. Because, despite my tight butt and bikini-worthy abs, I am a Former Fat Girl.

I was a chubby kid who became an even chubbier teen and then just a plain fat adult. I can still feel the stings of my childhood. There was the time in third grade when Mary Ann—the one girl I thought was bigger than me—said that according to her mom
was the fattest in the class. There was the shame I felt at the discovery of the goodies I stashed under my bed, in my closet, in my underwear drawer to feed my insatiable sweet tooth. There were the humiliating battles over clothes shopping with my mom, who gently tried to steer me away from the hip-huggers and peasant tops I desperately wanted to wear but that, with my bloated belly, made me look as if I was about to be shipped off to a home for unwed mothers.

I would sneak sweets whenever and wherever I could. On weekdays after school, as my brothers and I gathered around the TV for some mind-numbing cartoons, I'd announce that I was heading to the pantry for “a couple of saltines,” or “a handful of Cheez Nips.” Casually lingering, I would rummage around for the Chips Ahoy or Oreos or whatever sweet I could lay my hands on, and slip as many into my pocket or up my sleeve as I could without creating an obvious bulge (as if anyone would have noticed another one). Then I'd steal away to my room or even the bathroom where I could lock out my nosy brothers and wolf down my stash. I was like a bulimic who just never got around to the purging part.

My brothers still bring up one particularly painful incident. I was in junior high, which is painful enough in itself, and even more so for us Fat Girls, and we were vacationing at a beach house. A rental with shabby mismatched furniture obviously discarded from the owner's landlocked home, it was the perfect place for our family of seven, including four teenagers and a toddler who couldn't help but rough up the place. Dessert was a layer cake with chocolate butter cream, and not the kind from the can, mind you. (I don't think they even made the stuff back then.) I had finished my piece, scraping the plate to get every last smudge of the gooey frosting. Just out of reach in the center of the table was the remaining quarter of the cake. My mom and my brothers had started clearing the table, and Dad had risen to go out for a smoke. I saw my chance: I rose, deftly swiped my finger through the frosting at the base of the cake, and was bringing it to my lips when one of my brothers saw me and yelled,
“Lisa's picking at the cake!”
Startled and completely shamed, I plopped back down in my chair, and the damn thing broke. I mean
. The legs gave way, the seat blew out, and I landed in a lump on the floor. What happened was devastating enough, but then I had to endure the laughter that such a pratfall like that just begged for. I wanted to scuttle away into a hole like one of the sand crabs we had spent the day stalking.

And that's kind of what I did. Even before the Summer of the Broken Chair, I had gotten good at hiding. I hid physically, literally, holing up in my room, listening to James Taylor and Elton John albums and writing bad poetry. During high school and college, when I actually had some friends and something of a social life, my hiding was more emotional. Anytime I had something to say, I either kept my mouth shut or muttered the quip under my breath on the off chance that someone around me might hear. I couldn't step out there and risk a joke falling flat, like I fell flat with that flimsy dining room chair. I couldn't even let loose enough to laugh out loud, and when I smiled, I covered my mouth with my hand.

And all the while, on some level, I was hiding under the layers of fat that I allowed to engulf me like a cocoon of comfort.

I might have covered my mouth to stifle a smile, but nothing could stand between it and a morsel of food. Oh, I tried. I swore off chocolate and swore at the scale at every weigh-in when that damn needle refused to budge—or, worse, when it inched up. I tried to exercise and was fairly successful for a brief time in high school when I would run under cover of darkness with my little mutt, Daisy. I even ventured onto a tennis court every once in a while with a couple of friends. (Those were the Chris Evert/Billy Jean King years of tennis when there was this kind of fairy-tale fascination with the sport. But I believe my somewhat pitiful efforts were due to the dreams I had of marrying John McEnroe.)

Gluttony won over love and exercise when I got to college—and I don't use the word
lightly. One of our regular haunts was a place that served $5 pitchers of vile but extremely potent Long Island Iced Tea on Wednesday nights. The real draw for me, though, were the nachos; a platter of chips piled a foot high, topped with neon orange cheese sauce and studded with jalapeños. We'd work away at the pile until the sauce was gone, and then we'd ask the server to top it off with more. They always did—at least once, maybe more.

The all-time best example of pigging out, though, came during my freshman year. I was friends with a group of sophomores who shared a suite down the hall. One of the girls, Kathy, worked at a McDonald's up the road. On the nights when she covered the late shift and closed up shop, she and her coworkers were allowed to split any leftover burgers and fries, and take them home. My roommate and I would ask to be woken up when Kathy got home—usually between one and two in the morning—to get in on the booty. We'd stumble down to her suite and then sit bleary-eyed, shoving Big Macs or Filet-O-Fishes into our mouths. On nights when there wasn't enough for each of us to have our own, we'd pass the cold, rubbery excuses for food from person to person, taking a bite and handing it on, the way you'd pass a joint at a party. But it wasn't like a party at all. There was no music, no conversation. Only the sound of chewing, like a herd of cows grazing in a pasture.

We all laughed about those midnight munchies sessions, but they just added to the secret shame that continued to build as I piled on the pounds. I was ashamed of my thighs, my hips, my body. I was ashamed of my appetite, my driving need to stuff myself with anything and everything. But even more than that, I was ashamed of the powerlessness that kept me from saying “enough,” that held me back from fully revealing the person I was inside and from reaching for the life I really wanted for myself. More than longing for the body of a supermodel, I longed to live out loud—to feel free enough to liberate the woman hiding under all those layers of fleshy protective armor.

Yes, I know what it's like to feel trapped in your body and by your circumstances. To both love and hate the comfortable place you're in. I know how it is to be part of the scenery, to stand by, unseen, as all the things you want in life swirl around you, there for the taking, but you're too heavy to move. I know how it feels to want and hope, but be too afraid to act.

I know how it feels to be in the place you're in now. And I know the way out, too.

My Turning Point

After living the first twenty-five years or so of my life with the label Fat Girl, my weight peaked at around 185. I'm just under five feet four, so let's just say I didn't carry it well. It was back in the day when designer jeans had just come on the scene: Everybody, including me, wanted to get into some Calvins or Jordache or the cigarette-leg Guess jeans that were so impossibly tight they had zippers at the ankles so you could shimmy them over your feet. I was aching to trade in the double-pleated khakis that, rather than hiding my stomach and hips, made me look even more like one of Willy Wonka's Oompah Loompahs. I held on to that hope, only to find that even the largest size of Calvins (size 16) was too small for my ample butt.

By that time I had suffered so many defeats that I began to wonder why I dared to try anymore. Why take the jeans into the dressing room at all? I'd only end up back at the rack of “comfort-waist,” “relaxed-fit” pants. Why pull out the dumbbell set collecting dust in the back of the closet? It would only remind me how physically and mentally weak I was as it sat there unused yet again. Why pass up my favorite bacon cheeseburger for a scantily dressed salad? The calories I'd save wouldn't make a dent in my weight. It was if I was trying to chip away at the U.S. deficit, one ten-cents-off coupon at a time.

I had so much to lose—and I'm not just talking about the weight. I stood to lose the life I knew, a life I wasn't happy in but one that was safe and comfortable. And yet I hated it. I hated always being the good girl, the giver, the one everyone could count on to pick up the slack, to get things done, but who was somehow always invisible. I hated how I constantly ignored my own needs and my own dreams, focusing instead on pleasing everyone around me, like a panting puppy just aching for a pat on the head. At the same time I was too afraid to let this life go. Deep down I knew that if I truly committed to changing, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. My legs were too heavy with fear to take the first step off that solid familiar platform onto the rickety makeshift bridge of “what if.” I was afraid it would buckle under my weight, and I'd go crashing through to the hard ground beneath, unable to get back up again. But I was just as afraid I would manage to teeter and tiptoe to the other side—because I didn't know what awaited me there. For all my daydreaming, I simply couldn't imagine who I would be if I wasn't a Fat Girl anymore.

But one day something happened that made me want to find out.

The whole thing started with a half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I polished off the last third of the container, which I'd opened only the day before, straight from the carton.

As I shoveled the last of the ice cream into my mouth, though, my body decided it had had enough. A wave of nausea hit me, and I scrambled for the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet. At one point, mid-retch, I caught sight of myself in the mirror: bloated, pale, weak. Finally, I saw myself as I really was: powerless, full of shame, out of control, a victim of my appetite. And I vowed to do something about it.

I didn't quite believe that I could, but the reality of what I saw in the mirror that day gave me the strength to commit to trying. And that was the beginning of a journey that over the next three to five years revealed to me the body I was meant to have, and helped me discover the person I was meant to be.

Through lots of trial and lots of error, I finally managed to get my weight down to somewhere around 117, where I've kept it for the last twenty years or so. Along the way I reclaimed, recovered, and revealed the powerful, confident woman I am inside.

I was able to do what the so-called experts say is nearly impossible—what you no doubt think is impossible. I've been there. I know how it is to hear those success stories and think, “Good for you, girl. But I'm different. Just because
did it doesn't mean

That's the way I used to think—that I was destined to be a Fat Girl, that I was “big boned.” I thought the girls I saw in the “before” and “after” shots were either fakes or had some kind of special willpower gene I wasn't born with.

But I'm no fake, no genetic mutant, and I'm not all that special, either. I just happened to stumble upon the solutions I needed as someone whose very identity was wrapped up in being a Fat Girl—someone whose specific needs weren't being addressed by the big-shot best seller diet gurus out there. While they were yammering about the details, such as how many carbs are too many carbs, whether dairy puts pounds on or takes them off, or which is better, low fat or low cal, they were completely ignoring the real issue. The real issue was not “How do I lose weight?” It was “How do I begin to think about myself as someone who
lose weight?”

Through my experience I'm convinced that being a Former Fat Girl is more about changing how you think about yourself and how you carry yourself in the world than what diet plan you're on or whose workout you follow. And that has implications far beyond the size of jeans you wear. It means that you are building the confidence that will allow you to be a success story in every aspect of your life, not just on the scale.

The measure of a Former Fat Girl isn't how many pounds you've lost, it's how you go for what you want in your life—how you take risks, speak up, and don't let fear or doubt rule you. It's how you walk through life with your chin up; how you look people in the eye when you speak.

The shift from wannabe Former Fat Girl to actual Former Fat Girl is about changing your life from the inside out, about going from seeing yourself as a victim of schoolyard nicknames and plus-size labels to a confident, secure, self-celebrating—and, yes, self-accepting—woman. It is about coming out of hiding and shedding the layers, both literally and figuratively, that prevent you from getting what you want out of life. Most of all, it is about identifying the obstacles in your way and finally having the support and resources to make the transition once and for all.

Your Starting Point

BOOK: Secrets of a Former Fat Girl
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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