INTRODUCTION

From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

Introduction

I have to confess, I’m not a dieter. I’m one of the lucky ones who got to eat anything she wanted and be relatively inactive all of my life—until I found myself a few years away from celebrating the big “50,” weighing in at thirty pounds heavier and buying my third new size in jeans since my salad days. I had no stamina, energy, muscle tone or strength. My asthma and my immune system seemed to be in overdrive, making me highly reactive and allergic to dozens of things around me. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to count points or calories, analyze food labels, or deny myself my comfort food.

Something had to change. For me the turning point was 9/11. After seeing so many lives senselessly wasted, I wanted to be healthy and strong—to not take the gift of life and a healthy body for granted any longer. I embraced exercise and made a commitment to eating healthier. So, although I don’t consider myself a dieting veteran, I have made the journey to reclaim my health and vitality, which is what dieting is all about—or should be.

Working on this book has been an enlightening experience. Certainly, I’d heard all the news—we’re fatter than ever and our children are destined for lives filled with heart disease and diabetes unless we make some major changes in our lifestyles. I knew from other work I’ve done that we are a culture obsessed with unattainable standards of beauty and body image issues, whether real or perceived. But I had no idea how many people suffered lifelong with their weight, dieting repeatedly, hoping for the fix (it’s never quick) to be permanent (it’s usually temporary.)

I sifted through hundreds of stories, and a pattern emerged. The success stories were those in which people realized their attitude had to change on a deeper level to create permanent change in their daily lives. Millions succeed to some degree or other with the popular programs and supplements that fuel a multi-billion-dollar dieting industry. But universally, more important than which program or plan dieters followed was the fact that they had finally reconciled their hearts and minds to changing their relationship to food. Success began when they chose to eat to live, not live to eat.

The "simple" truth is that we must eat a diet of nutrient-rich, balanced food groups, in smaller portions, more frequently, and we must get daily exercise. It takes effort, as you’ll see from Guy Burdick’s piece, “Running from a Diabetic Coma to the Marine Corps Marathon,” but it can be fun, as Greg Faherty shows us in “Gone to the Dogs.” Trying to go it alone can be a daunting prospect, so finding a partner or making it a family affair is a great way to stay on track. Tricia Finch learned some solid tips from her “trainer,” which she shares in “Weight-Loss Wisdom from a Toddler,” and Peggy Frezon dealt with her empty-nest syndrome and got some exercise at the same time in “Phone Friend.”

Why we eat seems to be as important as what we eat, and we have several pieces that get to the core of the issue of emotional eating. Jacquelyn B. Fletcher shares her experiences with food and feelings in “The Road to Self-Worth,” while Georgia A. Hubley’s transformation described in “MondayMorning Blues” is a blueprint for dieting success.

For some, our early environment or our genes stack the odds against us. When all else fails, surgery is a viable option. Marilyn Eudaly describes how she chose gastric bypass in “The Secret.” In “Whatever I Want,” Perry P. Perkins tells us how growing up in poverty dictated his relationship with food. Anyone considering bariatric surgery needs to read Perry’s story.

Exercise is the second, but equally essential, part of the weight management equation. Harriet Cooper met the challenge head-on and shares her insight in three pieces, “Where Money Meets Resolutions,” “The Exchange Rate” and “Couch Meets Table.” You may see a glimpse of yourself and have a good laugh when you read “The Exercise Bike” from Ann Morrow. And Charmi Schroeder, one of the former “stars” of a Richard Simmons’s Sweatin’ to the Oldies video, returns for an encore in an inspiring piece, “Stroke of Inspiration.”

Throughout Chicken Soup for the Dieter’s Soul you’ll find delicious recipes anyone can enjoy, taken from cookbooks authored by two physicians with a special interest in diet and health. Diana Schwarzbein, a California endocrinologist and internist, developed The Schwarzbein Principle in the early 1990s and has since helped thousands of type 2 diabetics and insulin-resistant clients reclaim their health and take control of their well-being. Andrew Larson, a specialist in bariatric surgery, teamed up with his wife, Ivy Ingram Larson, a fitness and nutrition expert, to create a diet and exercise program after Ivy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her twenties. The Gold Coast Cure is a life-saving program for anyone living with autoimmune or inflammatory diseases. In addition to stories, we’ve included a resource section to help you maximize the effectiveness of your weight-management program.

Although dieting is a solitary, personal process, we offer you Chicken Soup for the Dieter’s Soul as a source of companionship, motivation, insight and inspiration, empathy and encouragement. And we wish you—no matter what the number on that scale may be—a healthy, strong and vibrant life, lived to the fullest.

Theresa Peluso

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