3 Fat Chicks On A Diet: Because We're All In It Together - Excerpt

  Introduction: Meet the Fat Chicks xi
1 Welcome to the Henhouse 1
2 Fat Chicks on the Beach: The South Beach Diet 15
3 Low-Carb Chicks: The Atkins Diet 41
4 Chicks Who Count: LA Weight Loss, Jenny Craig, eDiets 75
5 Chicks by the Pound: LA Weight Loss, Jenny Craig, eDiets 103
6 Fit Chicks: 8 Minutes in the Morning, Body for Life, Curves 133
7 Chicks in the Zone: The Zone Diet 179
8 Grand Ole Oprah Chicks: Bob Greene, Oprah's Boot Camp, Dr. Phil 195
9 Mediterranean Chicks Don't Get Fat: The Mediterranean Diet 221
10 Radical Chicks: Weight Loss Surgery 239
11 Laying the Golden Egg 259

INTRODUCTION: Meet the Fat Chicks

Hi, we’re the 3 Fat Chicks, Suzanne, Jennifer, and Amy, three sisters of the South who have eaten enough empty calories among us in our lifetimes to drive old Dixie down. But not anymore. Because we're on a diet-again!

The truth is, we've been on a diet for most of our lives. We've tried them all, from Atkins to Weight Watchers, from the Ice Cream diet to Cabbage Soup, and everything in between. We've busted sugar, cut carbs, flushed fat, counted calories, and gorged on grapefruit. Se­cretly we dreamed of a diet that consisted exclusively of pecan pie, which we know was a little nutty, but hey, we're southerners and we be­lieve in the miraculous potential molasses and nutmeats.

Needless to say, we were somewhat less than successful in those early battles of the bulge, but now something has changed and that has made all the difference. That something is 3fatchicks.com.

We started 3fatchicks.com as a way for the three of us to track our own weight-loss progress. It introduced a little bit of accountability into our secret wars with our waistlines and gave us an opportunity to support and encourage one another, even when we were all alone in our own homes, with a bag of chips singing sweetly to us from the kitchen, daring us to eat just one!

The idea was that we would log our progress for better or worse, keep a written journal of our ups and downs, and post our favorite recipes and tips to help each other over the difficult moments, to help us just say no to the all-you-can-eat buffets of our former fat lives.

Imagine our surprise then, when our picture wound up in USA To­day alongside the address to our Web site! Suddenly our secret sup­port group wasn't such a secret anymore. We had been "outted" as fat chicks, coast to coast!

At first we were mortified. Well, in our picture we were standing in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet sign, which is not exactly a flattering backdrop for three women in muumuus and maternity shorts who weren't expecting anything but a third trip to the buffet table. But our embarrassment soon turned to enthusiasm as other fellow soldiers fighting the battle of the bulge began flooding our site. They offered their thoughts and feelings, successes and failures, hints and horror stories, all in the hopes of helping us win the war with our weight. And suddenly we began to feel a little bit better about, well, just about everything. We realized that we weren't alone. Our unexpected spirit squad cheered us on when we lost weight, and when we gained an inch or two, they cheered even louder! Suddenly we had more sup­port than we ever dreamed of, and we began to lose weight and keep it off, with a little help from our on-line friends.

3 Fat Chicks on a Diet takes our Web site one step further. We have rounded up former and current fat chicks from across the nation—­everyone from stay-at-home moms to biker chicks to sweet sixteens to high-powered executives—and asked them to share their ideas about the ups and downs of the total dieting experience, not only calorically but emotionally and psychologically.

The women represented in this real-women's guide to dieting are short, tall, young, old, single, married, separated, and divorced, but they all have one thing in common: they want to be thinner. We have organized their straight talk and ours into a no-holds-barred book about what it's really like to wage a war over our own impulses and lose weight.

In this book you'll find the information that other diet books and the celebrity gurus won't tell you. Here are helpful pointers about the little things that the big diet books forget to mention and honest as­sessments of the most popular diets on the planet from the women who have really tried to follow them. The questions and answers in this book are all based on our own 3fatchicks.com forum discussions as well as a survey that was conducted with thousands of our visitors and members.

Best of all, this isn't a book that requires that you go from the first page to the last page. You can weave in and out and flip around to the section you like, just as at an all-you-can-eat buffet, only you won't have to loosen your pants when you're through! Now that's something to cluck about! We hope you enjoy our book and the fun—yes, fun­—of dieting together.


The 3 Fat Chicks, Suzanne, Jennifer, and Amy

CHAPTER 1: Welcome to the Henhouse

When you’re contemplating a climb up the slippery slope of weight loss toward your personal fitness peak, it's best not to spend too much time looking up at the steep trail ahead. When you look too far up the path in front of you, it's very easy to get winded just thinking about the climb, then turn around and go back to the lodge for a hot chocolate topped with a double scoop of "I'll start my diet tomorrow." But we did find it enormously helpful, when we started on our personal weight-loss journeys, to take in a quick view from the summit, through the eyes of somebody who has been there, to give ourselves the inspiration and the confidence to set out for the top.

The three of us have started more diets than Richard Petty has started races. We are sisters trying to drop over a hundred pounds apiece who don't have chefs, daily visits from our personal trainer, or elaborate home gyms. We understand what it's like to go it alone, without paid staff or even, in some cases, much support from our fam­ily and friends. And perhaps most important, we've learned that very few of us go on a diet and just lose weight. We also have to shed a lot of excess emotional baggage.

Most successful weight loss usually involves taking a long look at ourselves, making decisions to change the way we feel about ourselves and our eating habits, and discovering what success really means to us as individuals. This can be a very lonely experience at times, and for us, the help, support, and encouragement we got from each other and from our 3FC family made all the difference over the long haul. Hearing from women like us, who knew that learning how to just say no to a Big Mac can feel like nothing short of a religious conversion, made things easier. It really helped to know that we weren't alone, that there were women upon the trail ahead of us, who had found a way to climb beyond the world of pizza and popcorn and mac-and­-cheese cravings and achieve their goal weight.

So for all of you chicks down there in the base camp getting ready for your final ascent, we'd like to share our three stories and the expe­riences of some very inspirational women, as well as the five most im­portant steps we've identified that can prepare you for a successful climb. We hope our stories will fuel your motivation and your imagina­tion, inspiring you to keep on going and never, never, never give up.

Jennifer 3FC
I've had weight issues almost all my life. I was probably a chubby fetus. My dieting experience started early. "When I was eight years old, my doctor said I needed to lose weight, and he told my mother to water down my milk. Great idea! I went home and had a glass of watered-down milk with a Lit­tle Debbie cake!

Chubby girls aren't usually the most popular kids in school. I had only a few friends, but I made up for that with new friends, like Mr. Goodbar, Ronald McDonald, and Her Majesty the Dairy Queen. I was lonely, but that was okay, because it gave me plenty of time to snack.

Then hormones hit and I discovered boys, pimples, and PMS. My weight evened out. I sprouted boobs and a few curves. However, most of the other girls still had boyish figures, and I was fooled into thinking I was fat. As a gullible teenager, I tried every diet that was hot. I tried cabbage soup diets, grapefruit diets, fasting diets, negative calorie diets, and a tasty vinegar-water and kelp diet that I can still taste when I think about it.

When I moved out of my parents' house, I could no longer afford fancy luxury foods like fruits and vegetables. I lived on rice, noodles, bread, and whatever fatty meat I could find in the death row section of the meat department. I steadily gained up until pregnancy. Now I was knocked up, and so was my appetite, and I ballooned.

Finally, when my sisters and I started 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet, I began to make some real changes in my lifestyle and my attitude toward food and health. I've spent years playing tag with my metabolism. Now I've caught up to myself, and most important, I've developed reasonable expectations. I don't want to be a skinny chick. I don't want to be a fat chick. I want to be a curvy chick. I just want to be me, and for the first time since I was eight years old, I finally feel like that's okay.

Amy 3FC
There is something about me in a kitchen that just spells trouble. I could write the textbook for Cooking Disasters 101. I almost caught my house on fire while broiling a steak. I didn't realize there was something called a broiler pan. Who knew? Then I was evicted from an apartment after forget­ting about a pan of boiling eggs that exploded all over the ceiling. Experiences like these led me to develop a close relationship with my local pizza delivery boy. He was always punctual, he required nothing of me besides a tip, cleanup was a breeze, ordering out saved me a load of time, and most important, nothing ever ignited. Unfortunately, my cooking alternative was also addictive and extremely fattening.

I did try to lose weight, and my choice of diets was as quick and easy as the dinners that got me there in the first place. I devised the "nothing but one Whopper a day" diet. I went on a laxative diet and a five-hundred­ calorie a day diet. I mixed Slim-Fast with water instead of milk to save calo­ries. My quick weight-loss schemes destroyed my metabolism quicker than one of those exploding eggs destroyed my ceiling. The more I dieted, the slower I lost weight. How's that for frustrating? After I remarried, I found myself in the middle of a southern-fried Brady Bunch episode. I was a newlywed and my husband delighted me daily with feasts big enough for a family of seven. Then suddenly that hon­eymoon was over, and that’s when I developed a relationship with the Chi­nese buffet restaurant in town, and my weight blossomed faster than a magnolia grove in springtime. Finally, though, my quick fixes began to se­riously impact my health.

I began to collect illnesses quicker than I did two-for-one pizza coupons, and I finally admitted that I'd lost control and I had to do something dras­tic. At nearly three hundred pounds I bit the bullet and had gastric bypass surgery. For the first time in more than twenty years, I am in control, I'm healthy, I'm confident. I've lost my delivery boys' phone numbers, and most miraculous of all, I've learned how to work a broiler pan!

Suzanne 3FC
My transition from a skinny kid to a fat chick was painless. I moved into my first apartment when I was eighteen years old, and for the first time I could eat anything I wanted to eat, whenever I felt like it. And I did! Breakfast was frosting on a spoon, lunch was chips and dip, and dinners always concluded with an Oreo-thon that went on late into the night. Sure, I got pudgy, but I was enjoying every white, creamy middle and chocolate cookie outside along the way.

As the years went on, my menus were dictated less by impulse than bud­get. When things were good, I experimented with recipes from Gourmet magazine. When things were tough, I lived on mac-and-cheese. Rich or poor, I was always loaded with calories, which obviously resulted in weight gain. When I became a single parent, with a stressful job, my life was made easier by the help of a personal chef who always wore red and yellow and never forgot to ask if I wanted to super-size it. By the time I reached my early thirties, I was a full-fledged fat chick, but for some reason I did not consider dieting. I just ignored the situation. When the day finally came that I felt the urge to double-check the load capacity of an elevator before stepping in with my sisters, I realized that I needed to do something drastic—like go on a diet. Since then, I have fired my personal chef, learned to cook healthy and delicious meals, and taken back control of my health—all because I fi­nally stopped ignoring my problems.


Strutting Our Stuff:
The Chicks Sound Off on Their
Personal Last Straws

We asked some of our chicks about their memories of the last straw that finally convinced them to change their lives forever. As you read through these snapshots, ask yourself what the first day of the rest of your life might be like. Maybe it's today!

I got really out of breath trying to tie my tennis shoes and realized that I wasn't even forty years old and if I can't breathe to tie my shoes now, what's it going to be like ten years from now?Char

My mom came out for an extended visit from California a few years ago. It started off with me pretending, while my mom was visiting, that I don't usually eat like a pig. It ended with me realizing that I had dropped a few pounds while she was here and that the choice was mine whether to con­tinue or not. It was a turning point, and at the time I didn't fully appre­ciate the magnitude of my power of choice. Now I can't help but wonder: what if I had chosen a different path? That thought alone is enough to make me put my fork down when Ishould, or go exercise when I really don't feel like it, and maintain my accomplishment.Beverly

I had to go to a funeral. I had two pairs of black pants, a size 8 and a size 12. I didn’t even consider the 8s. The 12s were the kind that button inside the pockets. I had already moved the buttons once, but that day they didn't even reach the holes anymore. I had to loop an elastic band through the buttonhole and around the last button and keep my coat on through the whole funeral. That day at the funeral buffet, I had a black decaf. By the end of the month I was walking every day. The rest is history. – Susan

On the way back from a three-week trip to England, I couldn't zip my size 18jeans for the return flight, and I felt dreadful for the entire time. Ten hours flying in coach in jeans two sizes too small changed my life forever.Mel

The Five Essential Steps to Long-Term Weight Loss

1. Find a Support System
No chick is an island. You can't lose weight without a shoulder to lean on, so put a support system in place before taking the big leap. If you're not getting support from your family, find a new family. Seri­ously, there are options even if your family is less than enthusiastic about the bunless burgers that have begun to appear on the dinner table. Consider joining Weight Watchers, or look for a local support group at a hospital or church. Find walking buddies in the neighbor­hood, arrange your budget to accommodate gym fees, join an on-line support group, or visit 3fatchicks.com!

Howie and Kimberley are partners in diet and marriage. Between them, they've lost more than 250 pounds. Kimberley has lost 50 pounds, and Howie has lost 202 pounds, and they each have about 50 pounds to go. They have found that embarking on this journey to­gether has helped them get through the tough times. The way they applaud and encourage each other is truly an inspiration to us all, and the perfect example of the kind of solid support system you'll want to try to develop. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a partner to suc­ceed with, but having anybody in life who's there to pick you up when you stumble is a tremendous help. Here's what Kimberley and Howie had to say about the importance of their mutual support system.

Howie and I have dieted together off and on over the course of our mar­riage. The fact that he's my best friend helps a lot, and we can be either our own worst enemies or our own best coaches when it comes to weight loss. Having a partner, be it a spouse, friend, or another family member, really helps. Having 3FC and friends here helps us to stay accountable too. I have realized through this process that it isn't just my weight that's impor­tant, but my health. I love life, I love my husband, and I want to be healthy.

I have now lost over two hundred pounds from my heaviest. What a feel­ing! It is so much easier doing this with my best friend. She gives me strength to go on when I'm feeling weak. I am so proud of her for the weight she has lost and I know she will follow through with this to the end. I can't wait to see what we feel like when we lose "another person. "

I really admire Kimberley for sticking to this even though the weight has been coming off really slowly for her. She is doing so well and is such a help to me. It makes it a lot easier when you have someone to make this trip with.

2. Load Up on Self-Esteem
A lack of self-esteem can wreck any chance you have at weight loss. Hating yourself really doesn't help the pounds come off. And remem­ber, confidence doesn't have any calories. Before undertaking a seri­ous weight-loss program, you need to heal yourself emotionally. Imagine if you were responsible for giving first aid to two people—­one you hated and one you loved. Who would get the better care? Give that same care to yourself.

This means accepting yourself as you are, not as you wish you were. You're overweight: get over it. Everybody knows you're overweight, so there's no sense in trying to hide it. Accept who you are, and enjoy the fact that this will help you in your weight loss. Jessica, also known on our forum as Goddess Jessica, gives us some golden ways to learn how to love yourself.

I had such a skewed idea of my body, so I took some examples from anorexic therapy books. See, anorexics think they are way bigger than they are. (Remind you of anybody?) Therapy includes a ton of very helpful exercises. Here are some things I do:

  • Get in front of the camera. A lot! Post pictures of yourself around areas of low self-esteem, such as the scale, the closet. I had this idea that I was so big that Gerald was going to have to pry my walls off to get me out of the house. That is such a crock.
  • Find some positive things to look at in the mirror. I had a huge problem getting out of the shower and feeling bad about myself. Now I wiggle and jiggle in front of the mirror, practicing my bedroom eyes and such. But also look at those areas you hate to look at. Quit imagining how bad they are and look. Yep, I’m fat, but I’ve got the nicest hourglass figure anyone could ask for.
  • Finally, get out and do something you shouldn’t do for a “woman of your size.” I took belly dancing classes. Heck, I have a belly, shouldn’t I use it? Gain some confidence for doing something you didn’t think you’d enjoy doing. Then do it again!

I’m lucky. I had a bad mental image of myself but lots of confidence. Now I’m reconciling the two.

3. Find a Less-Fattening Form of Comfort
We all have different reasons for needing an emotional rescue, but when we’re on a diet, our answers can’t be cream-filled or dipped in glaze anymore. Jane, one of the 3FC moderators, decided to get serious about her weight loss in January 2004. She is just fifteen pounds away from her goal weight and has maintained her diet because she learned how to reward herself without indulging in the comfort of empty calories. Here’s what Jane had to say about combating her head hunger.

In order to finally lose the weight and keep it off, I had to find out what I personally got as a reward from staying overweight. For me, it was the comfort of eating. I used food to calm my nerves, soothe my bruised feelings, and also to celebrate. The way these foods made me feel was my payoff, so I had to find a different way to get the same satisfaction. My answer was limiting my portions, or finding a different kind of reward system, like an hour of junk TV instead of junk food, or going for long walks, or taking some times to tend to my garden when I needed a little comfort. The next thing I did was to enlist the support of my family. Also I got all the junk food out of my house. Yes, I can, and do, have treats, but a steady supply of them is just too tempting.

I have noticed in the past that when I lose for a specific even, such as a wedding, a reunion, or a vacation, I always gain the weight right back after the event is over. So this time I am losing for the rest of my life. Until the day I die, I will be doing Weight Watchers, because I want to!


From 3 FAT CHICKS ON A DIET by Suzanne Barnett, Jennifer Barnett, and Amy Barnett with Bev West. Copyright (c) 2006 by the authors and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC. Now available wherever books are sold.