From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

Thin! Nine Years . . . and Counting!

I’m not overweight. I’m just nine inches too short.


There were no fat shirts available to hide the 200-plus pounds overloading my 5’1” frame. Life had happened— pregnancy, middle age, bagels and burritos. Everyone said I carried it well, but it’s impossible to carry 100 excess pounds “well.”

I knew the weight had to go. My health was not good, and it was time for commitment. I had tried every weight-loss program known to womankind, plus a few I invented myself. Clothing-covered relics hid in my basement— workout machines promising miracles, all unfulfilled.

I had everything to lose—100 pounds, literally! A friend was losing weight on a low-carb plan, so I headed to my local bookstore, settled into one of their comfy chairs and read everything I could find about low-carb dieting. It was time for action!

At the grocery store, I became a compulsive label reader, taking notes and memorizing the carb counts of my favorite foods. I was astounded to find that I was regularly eating in excess of 300 grams of carbohydrates per day! No wonder there was too much me! Following the plan’s guidelines, I tabulated how many grams of carbohydrate I could eat in a day and made my food choices, being careful to include as many food groups as possible. The more I learned, the more food choices I included, loading up on veggies and low-carb fruits. About a month into this adventure, the comments began, “You’re losing weight! Congratulations!”

I was on the way to a much thinner, healthier and happier me, but I did not become overweight overnight and could not expect to become thin quickly. It took over two years to lose 100 pounds. However, nine years into this lifestyle, the weight has not returned. My weight varies three to five pounds, one way or the other, and I wear size 6–8–10, depending on the cut of the clothing. Size 22–24 is gone forever! At a youthful fifty-four, I look like I did in my twenties, plus a few wrinkles!

This is a lifestyle change, nothing less. Lifelong weight loss requires long-term decision making. To succeed, I had to change how, what and why I ate. I had to decide what was more important—improved long-term physical and emotional health or indulging my craving for cherry pie. Instant gratification and emotional eating were contributory factors to my largesse. I finally decided I was more important than what I ate.

I approached this life change one day at a time, one meal at a time, one bite at a time, keeping in my mind’s eye a thinner, healthier me. By breaking the process into small, manageable decisions, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the enormity of losing 100 pounds. All I had to decide was what to do with this one bite. I plannedmy eating, especially in the early stages. I wrote down everything I ate, which brought awareness of the actual amount I ate, and I was shocked.

When eating out, I have a choice of two or three meals. I eat chicken frequently. I also love pork and fish. These foods, accompanied by a salad and veggies, are low-carb, delicious and I don’t feel deprived. Because the protein I eat keeps me satisfied, portion control is managed well, and I rarely eat a complete meal. The three hot wings remaining on my plate will be a snack later. I never count calories, as I automatically eat less. I eat breakfast and often find it is midafternoon before I am hungry.

During my transformation I realized that the social aspects of eating are just as, or more, important than what I am eating. When my friends and I eat together, we laugh and share our lives. Mashed potatoes and gravy have taken a back seat to enjoying my friendships.

Those late-night cravings still strike, but I have predetermined foods ready to eat. Sugar-free chocolate pudding made with half-and-half, covered with whipped topping, is especially yummy at 10:00 PM. So is low-carb yogurt on low-carb cereal. Not only is this delicious, it is crunchy. You can snack—you just have to plan ahead.

When shopping, I don’t stray from my route. I buy what I can eat and leave. Not only is my shopping accomplished quickly, there is very little impulse buying. On the perimeter of the store I find my dairy, veggies, fruit and meat. My only forays into the aisles are for salad dressings, sugar-free puddings, some Jell-O, or tea and coffee.

I’ve learned being patient with myself is vital to my success, as is having achievable expectations. It took more than forty-five years to reach my highest weight, and I had to be realistic about how long it would take to reach my goal. I also had to accept how I would look when my goal was reached. I have a medium bone structure—I will never be as small as my best friend, who is very small-boned. Sharman is the right size for her bones, and I am the right size for mine. Some things we have no control over. We keep each other on track and have made a lifelong commitment to this plan and promised to encourage, as well as chastise, each other, when necessary. We exercise together frequently, walking and sharing where we are with our eating and exercise. Accountability is a good thing.

I also give myself an occasional treat. About once a month I have a toasted bagel with cream cheese, or on my son’s birthday, I have a very small slice of his rhubarb pie. The next day I go right back on the plan. Special-occasion foods and small, planned indulgences keep us emotionally satisfied and moving forward.

Lifelong weight loss is a life choice. I know if I return to my former eating habits, the weight will return. I know how my body works. These principles apply to many weight-loss plans. Low-carb is the one that worked for me.

Nine years into my lifestyle change, I am healthier than ever, have more energy and my vision for the future is boundless! Accomplishing my goal has done wonders for my life view. Previously, life was shadowed by the oft-quoted phrase that inside me was a thin person screaming to get out. Well, she is out! To stay!

Linda Sago

Reprinted by permission of Mark Parisi.

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