Here’s the introduction from my new book, Body Beliefs – Women, Weight Loss, and Happiness. I hope you love it!
Jenny was 6 when she learned that fat was bad. She was pretending to be a kitty, crawling on all fours and meowing as she made her way into her parents’ room, where she found her mother standing in front of the mirror with a disgusted look on her face and both hands pinching the fat on her belly.
“What are you doing, Mommy?” Jenny asked. “Nothing, sweetie,” her mother said with a sigh. “Mommy is just fat.”
Jenny was confused. Her mother was the most beautiful woman she knew, but apparently there was something wrong with being able to pinch your stomach. Jenny pinched her own stomach and wondered if there was something wrong with her, too, but she mostly just felt proud to be like her mom.
As Jenny got older, she was always aware that her mother was not happy in her own skin. The lesson Jenny took from her mother’s poor body image was that women should always worry about how they look, and especially about the number they see on their bathroom scale. Jenny would occasionally stand on her mother’s scale, but she had no frame of reference or any reason to feel bad about herself, so she didn’t put a lot of stock in what she was doing. She just wanted to be a big girl, and big girls weighed themselves and talked about their weight a lot.
Then it happened. One day when Jenny was 11, she wore a brand new black-and-white dress to school. She felt so proud of the way she looked, and she beamed when one of her friends noticed her dress and gave her a compliment. Seeing the exchange, a boy named Joseph saw a chance, as kids often do, to get some attention by taking a jab at a classmate. “You actually like Jenny’s dress?!” he yelled. “She looks like a fat dairy cow!” Jenny was mortified as Joseph ran off laughing with two other boys. Decades later, she would still remember every detail of that moment, right down to the smell of the fresh-cut grass on the playground.
Two years later, Jenny was 13 and cute as a button, but she wasn’t a tiny girl. In fact, she was the “biggest” of her two best friends, but that was only because they were exceptionally small. When puberty arrived, it brought with it an interest in boys and an acute awareness of the bodies around her. Sadly, Jenny’s mom had taught her that size matters—a lot. Jenny compared her body with those of her friends on a daily basis and almost always felt worse each time.
Jenny’s father was a good man who loved her mother deeply, but his opinions never seemed to matter when it came to her mom’s body image. He had been beaten down by the slow realization that, regardless of how much he fawned over her, his wife would always hate her body. By the time Jenny was old enough to notice such things, he was beyond trying and wasn’t setting a great example of male attraction anymore. To make matters worse, he was a typical male and, although he never meant an ounce of harm, he wasn’t always as sensitive as daughters sometimes need dads to be. Comments like “Maybe you shouldn’t eat so much, honey” would stick in Jenny’s mind forever.
Jumping ahead to her senior year in high school, Jenny was carrying what she estimated to be an extra 15 pounds of fat. It was actually more like 8 extra pounds, but she wanted so badly to be one of the “skinny girls.” She hadn’t yet had a serious boyfriend, and she was positive that this was because she was fat.
In her second year of college, Jenny let her guard down and dated a jackass named Jeff. When she caught Jeff cheating on her, he did what most scumbags do and tried to hurt her on his way out the door in an attempt to justify his behavior and convince himself that he hadn’t just lost a wonderful girl. “You’re fat and I always knew I could do better than you!” He screamed it loud enough for Jenny’s neighbors to hear. She cried for two weeks while she starved herself so she could “make him eat those words!”
After a few more bad picks, Jenny finally found herself married to a wonderful guy named Scott who regularly told her she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Each time he said it, Jenny would think, “He’s too kind to tell me that I’m fat, but I’m sure he thinks it.” Her insecurities drained her husband the same way her mother’s insecurities drained her father. Scott eventually became frustrated with her and the casual way she disregarded his opinions, but Jenny misinterpreted his frustration as dissatisfaction with her body and proof that she had been right all along.
With each failed weight-loss attempt, the temporary losses would be undone by slightly more weight regained than what she had lost in the first place. Each “failure” would mar her psyche and whittle away a little more of her self-worth and confidence.
When she looks around her world now, Jenny sees mountains of evidence clearly indicating that she would finally be happy if she could only make her body look good. From Jenny’s vantage point, everyone else clearly dislikes the way she looks, and the good looking people are clearly happier than she is.
Thus unfolds the all-too-common life of a perpetual dieter. Jenny’s body is her enemy. She hates it for how it looks. She hates it for not doing what she wants it to do each time she tries a new weight-loss trick. She hates it for being the reason she has never been truly happy. And she hates it for constantly occupying her thoughts. What has she done to deserve this?
Jenny’s story is a loose representation of what an uncountable number of women are living out each day in the Western world. The details come in lots of flavors—abusive parents, siblings who torture for fun, and eating disorders, just to name a few—but the results are the same. It may seem hard to believe right now, but it is most definitely psychology and perspective, not the step-by-step process of fat loss, that keeps women from achieving the goals they set for themselves in an effort to change their bodies for the better.
I know it’s a bold statement, but if you give me a fair chance, this book will change the way you look at your body and weight loss forever. I’m not promising that I can magically make you happy in your own skin, but I truly believe that I can set you on that path. This is not the typical self-help cheerleading drivel that is guaranteed to make you feel good for a minute while never eliciting any real change in you. We’re going to talk about a lot of things that you’ve probably never considered before, and some of those things are going to sting a bit. It will certainly never be my intention to hurt your feelings, but I can’t candy-coat this stuff for you. Sometimes tough love will be my only option. Please stay with me. I really want to help you.
“Who does he think he is?”
It’s true, I’m a man. Some women will say, “Why in the hell would I ever let a man tell me how I should think about my body? No man knows what it’s like to be a woman!”
I can’t contest that statement, but I hope you’ll at least allow me to explain how I came to be where I am today and how I acquired my unique knowledge and perspective. I honestly believe I can help you, as I have already helped so many, and I think you’ll find that my motives are pure.
First and foremost, I’m a devoted husband to my wonderful wife, Sheryl, and a father to three little girls, Liesel, Capri, and Daphne. Those little ladies are the reason my world turns, and I will do anything and everything in my power to help them escape the path that Jenny took.
Second, I’m a fat-loss coach. I teach proper nutrition, fitness, sleep, and stress management in my gym, in the other books I’ve written, in my online communities, and through consulting. My clients and followers are approximately 90 percent female, and most are frustrated yo-yo dieters who have done lots of desperate things to try to lose weight and find some level of happiness with their bodies. It was quite a few years ago when I realized that the overwhelming majority of my job was about heads, not bodies. In recent years, I’ve found what I believe to be indisputable proof of this.
After a couple of decades of learning, I created a fat-loss diet called AltShift, and I felt like all my dreams had come true. I finally had something that worked. I mean really worked! Everyone we tested AltShift on got amazing results, and once we released it to the public, even more amazing stories than I ever could have imagined began to pour in. We were getting people the results they wanted, and we were doing it without ever detracting from overall health or starving anyone, which meant we were producing sustainable results.
Wait! Hold on there! Don’t go running off to find AltShift just yet.
Despite the fact that AltShift was doing everything I ever hoped a diet would do, people were also failing in droves. Many would get amazing results while telling us how easy everything was for them, only to quit and disappear for a while. Some of these people would come back later and tell us how they had no idea why they stopped. Others would say they sabotaged themselves and just couldn’t get back on the wagon. Nobody said it was because AltShift was too hard to maintain.
Many other people would see all the results we were producing and hear the people in our communities talking about how easy their results were coming, but they would never really be able to get fully within compliance. Every few days, or maybe every few weeks, they would stumble and ruin all their hard work with a bunch of junk food. We could hear their frustration in their complaints and pleas for support as they redoubled their efforts to try again, but the cycle would almost always repeat itself.
Another fraction would rationalize that if they applied partial effort, they should see partial results. When I explained that health and fat loss are all about adaptation to a new lifestyle and new health inputs, and that adaptation doesn’t happen to bodies that are receiving mixed signals, these people would usually quit trying. Going all in was simply more than they could handle.
There are plenty of other similar scenarios, but as you can see, these are problems of psychology and perspective. Body image, self-efficacy, extrinsic motivations, external loci of control, and so many other mental factors that we’ll discuss in this book were the real culprits.
I found myself surrounded by women like Jenny who were saying to me, “I don’t like myself very much. I don’t have a lot of self-worth or self-confidence. I turn away every time I see myself in a mirror. I believe that I’m not like those other women who have great bodies. I’m always suspicious of compliments. I don’t truly believe that I have the power to change. When I meet new people, I always assume that they think I’m fat. The real reason I want to change the way I look is so that other people will like me more. Now: Help me solve all these problems by telling me how many carbs I should eat each day!”
When I break it down like this, I’m hoping you can see how silly it is for someone with this perspective to expect long-term success. It’s just not going to happen. Even with a protocol that might be perfect in an emotional and psychological vacuum, this woman cannot succeed because she will always get in her own way.
So, after what I learned from AltShift, this book became a mandatory project for me. I have already figured out how to help people lose weight; now I need to help them get to the starting line with real potential to finish the race. I’ve been beating this drum for years, but I’ve never taken the time to put everything I know about proper fat loss perspective in one place until now. This book is all about beliefs: the false assumptions you’re probably making about your body, weight loss, attraction, and so many other related subjects, as well as all the things you’ll need to believe wholeheartedly in order to stop yo-yo dieting and create sustainable results that you can keep for a lifetime. I’m going to show you all those things—the good, bad, and the ugly—and I’m going to do everything I can to help you truly believe them so that you can truly implement them.
One last point before we begin. My message is not “Just love yourself the way you are.” I honestly believe that’s a pipe dream that spawns from apathy. My message is and will always be “Love yourself enough to change for the right reasons.”
Let’s get started, shall we?