Greetings, TNB readers and Book Club members!

This month’s TNB Book Club selection is Diana Spechler’s second novel, Skinny.


There are some etiquette issues that they just never prepare you for.  Case in point: My trainer needed to go on a diet.  To be honest, I was never fully impressed with her body, but she had toned arms and her butt was very high, so I sort of figured she was fit enough to train the likes of me.  Six weeks into our relationship and I began to see results. I was leaner and stronger and in the right lighting (i.e. dim) comfortable in a bikini.  Okay, so she wasn’t Cindy Crawford, she knew how to work out and she knew how to teach me.  I decided somewhere around week nine that I was in it for the long haul. But then she went on vacation, where I can only presume (based on her visibly distended belly) she ate herself silly while lying in a prone position.  I’m talking four months pregnant belly, and I know whereof I speak;  I’ve had two kids, and the last time my gut was that big I was sporting a fetal sidekick.

But what is the proper etiquette between trainer and trainee?  Was I obliged to facilitate an intervention of sorts?  Because I couldn’t see how she was engendering any confidence in her clients with that tummy hanging out of her adorable OliveU tank.  As we continued our workouts, I gently steered the conversation into this core area.  I would ask about best tips for weight loss, or if a particular exercise could target a specific area. At one point I asked openly what one could do to lose unsightly bulge in the tummy area, to which she sighed, and muttered, “It really all boils down to diet.”

Which isn’t exactly the answer I wanted to hear because if it all boiled down to diet, why the hell was I doing lunges until my glutes exploded?!

In an effort to get a second opinion I asked a few other trainers who were looking rather fit.

“It’s all aerobic,” said one.

“You have to do the weights,” said another.

“It boils down to metabolic burn which can’t be achieved without both aerobic and weight bearing exercise.”

“What about diet? Does it all boil down to diet?” I asked.

“Well, only if you’re eating everything in sight.”

I had my answer.

The next day I returned to my gym prepared to give my trainer a piece of my mind.  I was paying top dollar and for that I expected her to be chiseled perfection.  Her job was to show me the ultimate body that I could only dream of achieving. She was the proverbial dangling carrot in front of the treadmill.  But when I entered the gym she was lying on the sofa eating yogurt covered pretzels out of a feedbag.  I turned and saw my reflection in a nearby mirror and realized all at once, that I had become more fit than my trainer. It was a scary realization. She was no longer a dangling carrot.  She was a cautionary tale.

I considered searching for a new trainer, but the truth was, the more she ate the better I looked. I had to wonder if her weight gain was part of some larger karmic scheme to get me over my last plateau (which occurred right around the time of her vacation). Maybe she got fat in order to inspire me, because as a result of her excess tonnage, I am now weighing my food and training for a 5K.  I’ve also bumped up my sessions to five times a week.  I guess in the end it has been worth it.  I’ve never looked better and she is quiet literally becoming a cash cow.

A few weeks ago, a prominent newspaper ran an article with the headline: “Women Who Drink Gain Less Weight.” I suspect I was not the only woman who resolved to hit the bottle at once, inspired by promises of alcohol-assisted svelteness. I would be buzzed and beautiful. Liquored up and lithe. Snockered and skinny. I would lose my unloved love handles. The close relationship my thighs had with one another would yield to a passing acquaintanceship. I resolved to buy the big bottle of Maker’s at Costco asap.

Beneath the encouraging declaration was a picture of icy cocktails in slim wineglasses. My girlfriends and I would order extra rounds, tightening our belts as our evenings progressed. We would not be those girls. The ones who drink for the wrong reasons. Men would love us – yes – but they would love us for our steadfast resolve. The investment would be sort of like paying for a gym membership.

I envisioned the Holy Grail: Smaller jeans. I would look great sipping scotch in smaller jeans.

I had not read the article. The (dormant) attorney in me kicked in. The headline did not promise weight loss. It did, however, quite clearly declare that drinkers would gain less weight. I adjusted my enthusiasm accordingly. My jeans size was ok. I would save money on new clothes, both smaller and bigger.

Still, I did not read. I considered less attractive reasons for drunken weight stability. Do women who drink more gain less weight because they pass out before making late-night runs through the Jack in the Box drive-thru for curly fries? Does the cost of alcohol deplete their food budgets?

I’m not a big drinker. Two drinks over the course of an evening does me fine. Maybe three if it’s a very long evening. How much more would I need to drink? Would I need to invest in a flask from which to nip throughout the day? Where does one buy a flask? Are they expensive? Because I would want a really nice one.

I read. The dormant attorney in me was pissed. And not in the way she planned to be.

The article describes a study that does not endorse the promising declaration of the headline.  It ends with the caveat that the study’s findings do not mean that women should drink to lose weight; rather they suggest that women with weight problems are probably not getting their extra calories through alcohol consumption.

It seems I was not the only one peeved with the writer. I did not read all 356 comments, but a number of physicians dismissed the writer’s reasoning as simplistic and chastised her for giving women false hope and potentially harmful advice. Quite a few “fattie” and “drunkard” bashers chimed in. Some provided thoughtful commentary about whether the results of the study were meaningful, in that they did not take into account lifestyle choices, such as drinking sugary sodas or smoking.

A particularly sage commenter agreed that the study was missing an essential component: Wealthy men. By marrying one, she has been able to maintain her petite bottom by going to the gym before hitting the expensive wine with her rich girlfriends or personal trainer.

Her observation is compelling in its simplicity. Though anecdotal, it is difficult to argue with her logic. Longitudinal studies are unnecessary. I am disappointed in myself for not having pursued this avenue.

Upcoming headline: The Sugar Daddy Diet: The Bigger His Wallet, the Smaller Your Jeans.


A friend of mine said something to me the other day:

“A man would rather date a smoker than a woman who is overweight.”

Another friend of mine confessed that she dislikes overweight people. “Not just the usual chubby that we all get to be from time to time,” she said, “but really fat people. “ She told me just couldn’t find anything to relate to. Felt nothing but disdain and disappointment and from the sounds of it, actual contempt.

And both of these women are people that I consider to be kind, understanding, generous, humanitarians. People who care about people. Give-you-the-shirt-off-their-back types.

I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. As someone who has struggled my whole life with weight issues, I have been plagued by these two conversations ever since.

* * * * *

My own eating disorder started way back in the days when my devout parents would celebrate Lent; a time when ‘Good’ Catholics deny themselves simple pleasures to commemorate Christ’s time spent in the desert wrestling with Satan before his eventual crucifixion and consequent resurrection.

During those six weeks, my family and I would strike “Alleluia” from our Lenten lexicon, we’d double-up on our cake-walk confessionals (I lied to my mom, I cussed at my brother), we’d get contact-highs from the incense overload, and we’d don our purple dresses and palm fronds for the live-action parade on Palm Sunday, complete with ugly shouts from the crowd and a live donkey.

But the biggest thing I remember, other than switching our Friday night McDonald’s orders to Filet-O-Fish Happy Meals (hardly representational of Christ’s forty-day fast-a-thon), was the easy opportunity to lose weight without the embarrassing admission of being on a diet.

I would sacrifice chocolate (or candy, or French fries, or BBQ potato chips) not because eating it was so hedonistic and giving it up was cause for canonization, but because maybe I would feel more Christ-like if my ribcage stuck out from my bathing suit bikini top – akin to skeletal representations as painted by Goya or Caravaggio.

I would be a better Catholic (person) if I were a thinner Catholic (person).

* * * * *

When one uses the words “eating” and “disorder” together, the phrase often invokes images of either Karen Carpenter** or Mo’Nique.

I was neither.

I was the girl who ate her problems.

I would use food to mask the agony of being imperfect.

When I was twelve years old, and I couldn’t lift my body in some sort of “simple” contortion that should have required hydraulics vs. mere under-developed ‘tween arms, my gymnastics coach, tired of heaving me onto the uneven parallel bars, said: “If you want to win, you have to lose weight.”

And thus, a lifetime of chronic fasting began.

I blame Mary Lou Retton.

* * * * *

That, my friends, is not just an eating disorder, it’s a billion-dollar industry.

Thinking I would morph to the shape of whatever skinny spokesmodel was hawking it, I spent years and years following one fad diet after another, each time with moderate results and the consequent return of the lost pounds, plus five.

When I was thirty-three, the same age as Christ as he hung on his cross, I was a scale-tipping 188 lbs at 5’-5”: well beyond most physicians’ recommended limit.

It was then I decided to stop the cycle.

I had to break the fast.

Just like I had lost the weight of Religion (note the capital “R”) so many years before, I had to lose the literal and figurative weight of constant dieting by — can you believe it? — eating.

However.

I had to gain control over what I was eating. How I was eating. When I was eating. Rather than stuff my face, I had to face my stuff.  Talk myself through emotional difficulties. Claim responsibility for my actions. Release myself from pressures that weren’t mine to take on. Forgive myself when I felt like a failure. Forgive others when they failed me.

Turned out, food had very little to do with my eating.

I had to ‘Let Go and Let God’ (as it were).

So NOT dieting became my new religion (note the small “r”). Never again would I categorize food as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. Nor would I blame my problems on a hapless pork chop. I would not be afraid to admit that I wasn’t perfect to other people, OR to myself. I would not judge others based on their appearance. I would not judge myself based upon my reflection.

I would stop repeating my daily mantra: “If I could, I would liposuction my entire body.”

I would finally allow myself to fail; but in that permission, I found success.

It took 18 long months, much more than 40 days, to find that kind of self-acceptance.

I still struggle with it every single day.

It’s my cross to bear.

Comparably, my own effort may seem small next to Christ’s temptations in the desert, but I feel like wrestling with the demon of self-acceptance is a hell of a lot closer to what Christ did for forty days than what I used to do by selfishly giving up M&Ms or French fries.

I’ll happily down a Filet Mignon (4 oz, sans bacon) on Fridays since I know that I’ve long-suffered for self-acceptance.

In fact, I’ll follow it with a decadent, dark chocolate-covered strawberry, injected with Grand Marnier.

But only one though.

The fast may be over, but so is the feast.

* * * * *

**That link is to SUPERSTAR, quite possibly the most brilliant Todd Haynes film, ever. When you have 43 spare minutes, WATCH IT!!!**

SACRAMENTO, CA

Have you been feeling like there’s no hope in finding a thinner you?

Are you tired of eating rabbit food in an effort to feel better about yourself?

Do you work out daily, but find that your pants are still fitting tight?

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If you answered yes to any of these questions, and even if you didn’t, I have the answer for you.

Sure, there are thousands of diet schemes out there promising you results, but this one is a sure-fire solution for all people, regardless of their shape or size.

In just one day, with little effort, no dieting and no exercise on your part, you can look and feel better!

Don’t believe me? Well, just look at the pictures below. Both were taken of me today!


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That’s right I went from feeling like I’d never lose these extra twenty pounds to feeling like it doesn’t matter because I look good anyway.

No longer do I look in my closet and cry because none of my clothes fit me. The days of feeling fat and hopeless are over and all it took was one simple step.

And I’m going to share that secret with you today folks.

Are you ready for it?

Do you think you can handle it?

I think you can. And I think you’ll thank me.

So, without further ado, here it is:

WEAR CLOTHES THAT FIT YOU!

It’s as simple as that folks. If you look at these two pictures again, you’ll see that I’m wearing two different pairs of pants. One pair is a size 6, and is about four years old. The other pair is a size 10 and are brand spankin’ new!

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No, I’m not holding in my gut. There are no camera tricks at work here. What I’ve done is as easy for everyone as it was for me. Just go down to your local shopping mall and buy a couple of t-shirts and jeans in a slightly larger size and I guarantee you’ll see results. And you’ll feel better when you look in the mirror!

So get out there and buy some clothes that fit today. Say “Goodbye” to your muffin top and “Hello” to the new gorgeous you!

Rebecca Adler is a freelance journalist and photographer, living in Sacramento, Calif. After tiring of feeling overweight and ugly she thought about exercising and eating right. Instead, she finally broke down and bought new jeans, forever shirking her size 4 for a more suitable size 10, and she feels fab! She can be reached on myspace or on the comment board.