The Amazing Adventures of Diane Carbonell

Diane Carbonell

Diane Carbonell

Fourteen years ago Diane Carbonell lost 150 pounds and she's kept it off ever since.

That's a sentence that intrigues my pants off, as someone bamboozled by the keeping it off part! Diane's story at Fit To The Finish fascinates me being such a large weight loss sustained over a very long time… and she seems to be so serene about it, all with seven children, no less!

When I learned she had a book coming out I asked if she'd minding sending a review copy, and she kindly agreed. 150 Pounds Gone Forever is more an instructional book than memoir. Normally I'm more interested in the Why rather than the How, loving when an author spills their guts all over the page in juicy detail. But since this topic (mega maintenance!) is personally interesting, and I'm now down with my Whys and have moved on to the new Hows, I appreciated her straightforward and practical approach.

I was teary at times reading Diane's story, as her success made me see all over again where and why I faltered. She really did have that essential "this is not a diet, it's a plan for life" mindshift. She figured out a common sense and mindful way of living that suited her. She was not distracted by trends or what others were doing or thinking, she just quietly, consistently followed her plan. And she kept it simple and sustainable. For example, on Day One of her plan she decided walking was the exercise she could do for the rest of her life, and decided she would move every single day. So she did, and she still does. 

I felt a real calmness after reading the book. Diane reminded me that you don't have to get crazy or complicated, you just need to be consistent.

I asked Diane a few questions about her book…

Continue reading

The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part II

Today we continue my chat with the Amazing Jilanna and she spills the beans on her maintenance tactics. If you missed Part I you can check it out right here!

7. On New Years Day 2012 you ran a 5K race in honour of your late Uncle Brian and made me blub on the Up & Running with the tale of this big day. Can you summarise the story and what it meant to you?


Jilanna with her Uncle Brian, on her wedding day

My Uncle Brian died very suddenly at the end of July 2011. He had been the picture of health, retired from the military but still very active as a trainer and stuntman. One morning, he got up for a cup of tea and that was it.

We eventually learned that his heart was not as healthy as outward appearances had everyone believe, and that his fitness likely extended his life considerably. After the memorial, my sisters and I talked about what we could do to further celebrate his life. I knew it was time to commit to an exercise program and together we decided to run a 5K on January 1. Up & Running was already on my radar so I signed up for the Fall 5K course.

My previous experience with running was limited to merrily chasing my friends around the yard when I was little and loathing physical education classes throughout school. As an adult, I dreamed about running but I really couldn’t imagine that (a) it would ever be fun, or (b) I would feel good about it. I was convinced that I would be terrible, that I would never be able to run 5K, but I decided it would be good for me to try something new anyway.

For a long time, I thought Brian’s expectations around fitness were too high. He tried to push me outside my comfort zone and I thought he expected everyone else to be as fit as he was. Since changing my eating habits and my life overall, I can see that he was just trying to encourage us to be better tomorrow than we are today. I didn't have a chance to share this realization with him, nor was I really able to celebrate my changes with him in person. Running is / was another opportunity to push myself into uncomfortable territory and learn something new about myself. It’s also a chance to feel close to Brian.

On January 1, I ran 5K. The weather was cool, right around zero celcius and there was a crowd of about 400 runners. My husband saw me off and I started out with a former classmate. I soon found my pace, though, and got comfortable in the crowd. I was on my way down a hill when I spotted my Mum, sisters and nieces waiting at the bottom. They clapped and cheered and I waved and hollered as I ran by.

I felt a bit emotional at that point. The girls had elected not to do the run but they were there cheering for me! And so was Mum! And my nieces! I saw them all again after rounding the same loop and then, around the corner from the finish, I saw one of my sisters and one of my nieces on the sidewalk. I ran toward them, ready to give them a big high-five but they surprised me and jumped in to run the rest of the way with me.

My husband was waiting at the finish and so were the others. It was WONDERFUL to be there with all of them! Mum gave me a big hug and congratulated me on “the first of many!”. I’m sure Uncle Brian was there too.

It felt so good to have done something positive on January 1. Last year was incredibly difficult and I feel like I started this new year off right. There’s no telling what 2012 will bring but I made myself proud on the very first day! I know that my uncle would be proud of me too.

He would also be proud of my new Up & Running friends who encouraged me and did their own runs on January 1. I was blown away by the support I received from the group and I felt a bit teary each time I read that someone was out there, thinking of Uncle Brian and I as they actively celebrated the arrival of a new year.


Jilanna on New Year's Day

8. So what are your impressions of running so far? How does it make you feel – both mind and body?

Learning to run was just the challenge I needed. It helped me work through some serious grief for both Uncle Brian and one of my best friends. It reminded me that I can change my life for the better; it’s just a matter of doing the work, day by day, to make it happen. With the right support, I really can do anything. I now know that if I can change how I feel about myself and running, I can probably do anything.

Running helps me burn off excess energy and refocus if I’m feeling grumpy or stressed. It helps me feel strong and capable of change and improvement. It isn’t 100% natural yet but each time I exercise my will and actually go, or push myself to run a little farther, I feel awesome. I love feeling strong and capable.

I am connected with the women on the UAR forum and I feel a sense of solidarity with each person I see running around town. I know how good they feel and I am proud of them for getting out there. Fast or slow, getting out there and doing the work is what matters. And that little mantra keeps me connected with Uncle Brian too.

9. What’s next on your agenda?

I’ve signed up for the UAR 10K course. I love a project and a plan. I’ve been looking forward to spring and the course will help me get out there and take full advantage of the weather.The Fredericton Marathon is on May 13 – I plan to run the 10K distance that day, do my best and cheer for local runners.

Big picture, I want to make running a part of my life in the long term. I love what it does for my body and soul.

10. You’re very consistent with your exercise and have been successful at maintaining your goal weight. What things are essential to you staying on track? How do you keep your desire strong to eat healthy and move your butt?

Throughout my adventure, I have had great support at home and at work. My husband continues to cheer for me, encourages and celebrates every success with me, and continues to remind me when I need help focusing on my plan. He is my partner in this venture and has never complained about the ways it has changed his life too.

My family and friends have been outstanding, asking how they can help and listening to a whole lot of thinking aloud, providing healthy alternatives to my favourite snacks and helping me clean out my closet and learn to dress my new body. Colleagues still check in after every weigh-in, tracking my progress on my whiteboard and putting up with my stash of veggies in the freezer. Long distance and online buddies have also been great about checking in. I am grateful to each person who has cheered me on.

Here are a few of the things I do every day to make it easier to stay on track:

  • I keep at least one good snack in my purse at all times and my desk drawer is full of snacks, tea and cereal.I keep milk in the fridge and veggies in the freezer at work. I pack a lot of snacks when I travel. As long as I’m traveling within Canada, I carry fruit in my carry on and I pick up milk and a few other essentials as soon as I get to my destination.
  • I eat something healthy every couple of hours and try not to let myself get too hungry. It’s much easier to make good decisions when I’m not out of my mind with hunger.
  • I don’t worry about being perfect. I try to make the best choices I can and keep things in perspective. Today’s version of a bad day is still far and away better than a good day used to be.
  • At the end of every day, I write down what I’ve eaten and add a note about how I feel about my choices.If I’ve had a particularly good day, I give myself a little star or add a note like “More VEGS!” if I think I need to refocus the next day. If I’m traveling or go out to lunch with someone, I jot that down too.
  • I read about nutrition and healthy living almost every day, and I love to read stories about people who have overcome significant obstacles. When I feel discouraged, I remember their stories and carry on.

It’s not always easy but it is worth the effort to eat right and move a little more. I know I have improved the quality of my life and – as much as possible – I have added days to my life. If I keep it up, I will be a healthy mother someday and, in the meantime, I’m setting a good example for my nieces and others in my life. And that feels good.

11. Could you sum up your Healthy Living “Formula” in ten words or less?

Work hard every day to become a stronger, smarter, healthier you.

It’s worth it. I promise.

The Amazing Adventures of Jilanna – Part I

As someone who's been "maintenance challenged" I love to pick the brains of folk who are keeping the pounds off without going batty. Today I've pounced on the lovely Jilanna from Canada for my next The Amazing Adventures of… interview. Jilanna talked to me about her 70 pound weight loss, her healthy living tactics, and how the sudden death of her beloved uncle inspired her to become a runner.


Jilanna – Then & Now


1. Name, age, location?

My name is Jilanna. I’m thirty five and I live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

2. Can you remember how/when you started reading Dietgirl?

I don’t remember exactly when or how, but I know it was quite soon after the big move to Scotland and I've been a regular reader ever since. Your blog and book gave me hope that someday I would get my act together.

3. To set the scene for the statistics lovers out there, can you tell us your before and current weight?

 In March 2010, I set out to lose 60 pounds. I had been holding steady at the same weight for three or four years (about twenty pounds below my all-time highest weight), confident and relatively content, but it was time to make a change.  When I reached -60 lbs, I realized I wanted to go a little further. I have been maintaining a total loss of 70 pounds since January 2011. I now weigh myself every four weeks and my weight fluctuates by about a pound up or down each month.

4. What prompted you to decide to lose weight? Had there been previous attempts?

 Over the years, I made a few half-hearted attempts to lose weight.  I tried different things, like Weight Watchers or going to the gym, but I never took more than a single baby step in the right direction.

Until March 2010, I lived on beige food, believed life was too short to eat vegetables and preferred to eat my favourite, decadent treats at every opportunity. I was on continuous feed, eating while working, celebrating, grieving, cooking and watching TV or reading. I couldn’t see my way free of my habits and although I knew what should be done, I couldn’t wrap my head around actually doing it.

When I started on The Plan (as I like to call it; in my mind, diets have deadlines, plans have a timeline and focus) in 2010, I was ready to change. I had what I would now describe as a clear sense of motivation and I had identified tangible goals. I recognized that although I was self-confident, secure in my relationships and not experiencing any health issues, I would not have the long and healthy life I wanted if I continued to eat in the same way. I was newly married and hoping to be a mother someday. I did not want to teach anyone else to eat the way I did. And I was going to be thirty five before we even thought about babies. I couldn’t do anything about the risks that came with age, but I could do something about my weight.

5. What tools/methods did you use for your weight loss? How did you decide on the particular method?

 A couple of colleagues had tried Simply for Life, a program that teaches clients the basics, provided detailed meal plans and recipes for real food, one-on-one support and strategies for coping with change. I asked them a lot of questions and eventually made an appointment with a consultant. I talked to Jillian about my fears and my hopes for the future. We discussed the number of pounds I hoped to lose, but she never once suggested a number. We agreed to meet weekly and work together to reach my goals and adjust our focus as needed.

It was a big adjustment but I felt better almost immediately. Before long, I was sure I had made one of the best decisions of my life. My energy was up, I was better able to handle stress and my moods didn’t change with the ebb and flow of sugar in my system. I could feel myself getting stronger and healthier. I was shocked by the improvements and I felt empowered by the changes I was making.

Now that I’ve reached my goal, I still meet with Jillian once a month to check-in and confirm my plan. I’m doing the work on my own, choosing everything I eat and building on what I have learned.  We’ve made some adjustments in the past year, particularly as I have taken up running, to ensure I continue to get the right kind of fuel when I need it. My appointments with Jillian help keep me accountable and ensure that I celebrate my progress.

6. How did you get started with exercise?  Have you always been into fitness or has this developed during your weight loss journey?

As a kid, I played outside, swam, rode my bike and walked all over the village. Exercise was a torment reserved for gym class and I was never particularly happy to participate (big understatement). When I was a teenager, I lived with my uncle and his family for a couple of summers.  Uncle Brian was a lifelong runner and taught physical fitness in the air force.  I did cardio and strength training while I lived with them and I got a lot out of it.  I just didn’t keep it up when I came home. In my twenties and very early thirties I tried going to the gym on my own at different points and I did Pilates with friends… but, much like my plans to lose weight, it didn’t take.

When I started on The Plan in 2010, I focused only on improving my nutrition. Exercise was part of the long-term plan, but I wanted to be sure I understood and built a healthy life with food first. My theory was that no matter what, I would always need to eat.  Illness might interrupt exercise, but food was essential. So I focused on food and experienced great results.  Because my energy went up, I felt better and got out and moved more. I walked more, got more fresh air and I was less likely to hesitate if an activity was suggested. There was no routine, but my fitness improved through a kind of osmosis.

Stay turned for Part II tomorrow, where Jilanna shares how running help her cope with bereavement, plus her tips for staying in a healthy groove.

Headaches and Weight Maintenance

For your aural pleasure!I’ve got a brand spankin’ new episode of Two Fit Chicks And A Microphone for you – Episode 26 – Lynn & The Art of Weight Maintainence. Yep we’ve finally tackled the oft-requested topic of maintaining.

We spoke to the wonderful Lynn Haraldson of Lynn’s Weigh who has maintained a 175lb weight loss for over five years. And she’s been on Oprah, so needless to say we had oodles to chat about! It was quite an emotional interview in many ways. Lynn is very open and honest, so we really got down to the guts of the ups and downs of maintenance, what mindshifts are required to be successful, and what it’s like to write publically about your weight. As someone who seriously flunked out in the maintenance department these past couple of years, it was great to ask her some how the hell do you do it kind of questions.

I’ve also just realised that I negelcted to link to Episode 25 – When Staying Healthy Is A Pain, in which we spoke to Jennette Fulda about her new book Chocolate & Vicodin and her never-ending horrible headache. Jennette is another very open and articulate woman, and in this interview she is so philosophical and brave about living with chronic pain. She is a legend.

So two new episodes that I’m really bloody excited about. If you fancy something new to listen to while you’re slaving away at the gym or bored to tears on a long commute, why not give us a go?

Scott the Strawberry

These past few months have been rather batty. Stuff that is too personal or awkward to write about in real time. Also, stuff that is too personal and bloody tedious to subject you to.

Scott the Strawberry
A healthy eating poster at the local primary school

Basically I took myself off to a shrink. After a year or more of saying I should be able to fix this on my own I thought I'd try talking to an objective person about things.

It was very fruitless to begin with, because I was being very half-arsed about it. There were many conflicting voices:

  • Shame and Fraudulent: I'm wasting her time, I should be able to fix things on my own.
  • Denial: There's nothing wrong with you; harden the f*ck up whinge bag!
  • Hopeless: You've cocked up so badly you're beyond help
  • Blogging Out Loud: telling "hilarious" stories and not being honest about how crappy things were, in case she didn't believe me and/or thought I was pathetic.

It was three expensive months of not much progress and soooooo much denial. I bawled and/or binged and binged and binged after every session. I was tempted to churn out a few of my "I'm doing great now!" blog posts even when I wasn't, because I felt like I should have been doing better.

But slowly, slowly… light bulbs started going off. The energy saving kind that take awhile to warm up, but still, progress.

Recently I got home from work and went to get changed for a workout. I saw my favourite winter coat in the wardrobe and for some reason decided to try it on. It was so tight that I couldn't get it over my shoulders. I looked in the mirror and the bullshit and denial just fell away. I plonked on the bedroom floor and had a cry for twenty minutes.

Then I thought, Righto, ENOUGH. I got up, put on my gym clothes and did a Cathe weights DVD. I started sniffling again halfway through because I couldn't lift as heavy as I used to, but it still felt like a minor triumph over the "you suck, you're doomed!" voice.

"What has changed?" the shrink asked in our next session. What's changed is that I finally accept that I have work to do. I accept that I need to change the way I think and I accept that this takes hard work. I accept I need to communicate properly with my loved ones and not hide or deny problems.

I accept that I need to build a healthy relationship with food that will sustain me for the rest of my life. I had to buy size 18 jeans recently. I want to get back into my 14s but my approach is different now. It can't be about losing weight so I'll fit into a wedding dress, or have an ending for a book, or look acceptable to promote a book, or to live up to the expectations of certain people. It will never stick until deep down, I want to live a healthy life just for me.

I finally see how damaging the language of shoulds, musts and have tos has been. I see how needlessly worrying about what other people think has steered my actions. I see how hiding my problems has made them worse. Man, it's really embarrassing to realise how you've let things go to pot. Even more embarrassing to see how powerful the LA LA LA EVERYTHING'S FINE denial has been.

But I am writing this with a dopey grin on my face because I feel alive and clear-headed and unburdened. I've just spewed this entry straight from the guts today and feel like a complete WANKER for all the psychobabbly dullness but thought an update was overdue. It's been a very insular, delicate, roller coaster process that leaves you feeling very raw and haggard at times, so hopefully you can understand why the blogging has been sparse. I hope you're well and dandy and thank you, as always, for sticking around!

Midnight Quickie

Greeting comrades!

  • There was going to be a new post today here today, but I spent ten gazillion hours mucking about with my book tour guest post for Refuse To Regain. Sometimes it's bloody hard to find the right words! The post is called After The Happy Ending and is all about my maintenance adventures – how it was great and then it sucked and then it got okay again. 
  • Amazon and Barnes & are currently out of DG stock. The publishers are printing some more as we speak and they will be ready to ship on Monday! In the meantime try Powell's or this site helps you find a local independent bookseller. 'Mon the indies!
    UPDATE: 11 January – Barnes & now back in stock, woohoo!
  • I'm a guest contributor on today with 10 Blogs To Drool Over When You're On A Diet. Food p0rn ahoy!

After the happy ending

I wrote this guest post for Refuse To Regain as part of the Dietgirl Virtual Book Tour. I've archived it here as I know lots of people stalk their way through the archives and it's a very important entry, explaining where I'm at now in terms of my maintenance struggles adventures! Be sure to stop by at Refuse To Regain - it's a fabulous blog and resource for maintainers.

My first year of maintenance was easy. I think I cruised through on euphoria alone. Every day in my new body was an adventure – I rejoiced in my new clothes, new fitness and new ability to fit inside bathtubs.

Later that year I finished writing a book that charted my six-year, 175-pound weight loss journey. I was still giddy with excitement as I churned out the Epilogue. My body is something to savor and celebrate, I wrote. Every time I put on lipstick and high heels it feels like I'm singing to world about the joy I've found within.

The second year was a different story. Everything was messy and unpredictable. I was simultaneously renovating our apartment, starting a demanding new job and promoting my book in the UK and Ireland. I also took on big fitness challenges, such as training for kickboxing grades and a marathon walk. As the year dragged on there were personal issues and a serious financial scare, then we sold our apartment and moved house.

As a result my maintenance efforts were chaotic. I'd alternate weeks of intense exercise with weeks of nothing at all. I'd buy takeout too often then go crazy with healthy cooking to compensate. I wrestled the same ten pounds all year long, pinging up and down the scale. Instead of high heels and celebrations, it was more brooding on the couch in my sweatpants.

Meanwhile, my inbox was flooded with messages from people who'd read my book. You're such an inspiration! You're living the happy ending! You must be so proud! I didn't feel proud or inspiring. Sure I've lost a few pounds but look at me now! I'm barely holding it together! If those kind readers knew how much I struggled, they'd demand a refund! I felt like a fraud as I answered their email questions about my exercise program, instead of actually doing my exercise program. I made jokes about my woes on my blog, not wanting to alienate readers new and old with too much doom and gloom. But the negativity crept in. I spoke about maintenance with words like "struggle" and "battle" and "never-ending stinkfest".

There were times when I could have cheerfully burned my book. I bugged the heck out of myself with my optimism and irritating self acceptance. I was just plain jealous of Book Shauna, to be honest. I could barely believe that was me who'd lost all that weight and stuck at it for so many years. How did I start wanting change more than chocolate? That determined girl seemed like a stranger and I worried I'd never find her again.

The third year of maintenance was rapidly approaching and I was desperate to make it different. It was a lot like the start of my weight loss mission – I thought someone else must have the secret. I started reading blogs written by fellow maintainers, such as this one. I stalked through their archives, looking for magic solutions. But instead of magic, I read about hard work and persistence; the ability to learn from mistakes and pick yourself back up after a crappy day. Or even a crappy month or year.

I finally had my DUH moment. Maintenance was really no different from weight loss. Sometimes it is fabulous and sometimes it sucks. And that's okay.

I think part of me thought that writing THE END on my manuscript would mean The End of the struggle and The End of learning stuff. Surely after six ridiculous years of lard-busting I'd have figured out my Issues for good? But life doesn't stop when you close a book. The story plows on, the character keeps evolving. Holding on to that happy ending is hard work.

A few months on I'm starting to feel more at peace with the realities of maintenance. I'm starting to live and breathe that happy ending again, albeit without the delirium of the first year. Life is still stupidly busy, but I remembered the best thing I learned in the weight loss phase – the journey is easier when you make it enjoyable. Last year I was falling back into the arms of my old dieter's mindset – all or nothing thinking, expecting perfection, dwelling on mistakes and not savouring the good stuff. But now I want to celebrate how far I've come, instead of feeling overwhelmed by it or taking it for granted. Maintenance doesn't seem like such a drag when I take time out to find the joy in the little things. The peacefulness of a Pilates stretch. The gleeful clobbering of my kickboxing class. The wholesome smugness of a healthy day's eating. I'm ready to dust off those high heels and lipsticks.

Don’t Stop Moving

One of my favourite blogs this year has been Jen's Perfect In Our Imperfections. Sometimes you get lucky and find someone on the other side of the world who seems to be working through the same issues as you and is articulating thoughts you didn't even know you were thinking. In this case, it's been the JOY of maintenance. I enjoyed her take on That Oprah Article today:

"The thing that we both forgot, that most of us don't realize, is that we can't just grab onto the new set of circumstances and hold on for dear life. We have to keep moving forward, keep letting go, keep rolling with new circumstances. That's why weight maintenance is so hard, I think. It's easier to take risks to move toward a big exciting goal and an imagined better life. It's harder to keep living in the present when you realize it's not just one big shining moment where you feel great all the time. You can't 'conquer this battle once and for all,' you can just keep living and working through your new stuff."

. . .

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, if you're Christmasly inclined! If not, hope your December 25th was generally ace.

Holiday Hangover

On Saturday night we went to a beer festival. It was all for charity, as they reminded us in the programme:

(the next bit of that sentence was "…of Dunfermline Rugby Club.")

You get a glass on arrival then you get stuck right in to your choice of 77 different ales. I reckon the best strategy is to go for the one’s with the funniest names, such as Enter the Flagon, Sheepshagger’s Gold, Old Fecker and Laughing Gravy.

Only problem is I can’t stand beer in any strength or shade, so I sampled the ciders instead. I’m not much good with cider either but the words of the programme haunted me:

"I know this is difficult but please keep fighting those drinks down, as every pint is more money for the lifesaving work of The Anthony Nolan Trust…"

ShitfacedSo in this photie I am absolutely shitfaced from a wimpy pair of pints, right before the dancing began and I knocked Gareth’s glass of Farmer’s Pale Ale all over his head with my stylish moves.

No alcohol-related hangover on Sunday, just one of those reality hangovers. I did really well in New York with my food – the now tried-and-true tactic of being choosy then savouring the goods. But when we got home it was a week of back to school blues – we both picked up rotten colds so moped around having a Who’s The Most Unwell contest with multiple takeaways and minimal vegetables. On Friday I ate cake for breakfast on the premise that I’d forgotten to bring a spoon to work for my yogurt and muesli… ignoring the seventy spoons in the office kitchen… hmm hmm.

I made a Comeback Curry last night – packed with spinach, butternut squash and black beans – with the aim of starting the new week as I mean to go on. I’m still barking and snottery so had to bail on kickboxing tonight, but I’m determined to have a healthier week. It’s taken a long, long time to accept that this maintenance lark means that you will go through unsettled periods. The only way to prevent them would be to live like a robot – never going anywhere or doing anything or interacting with the humans. That doesn’t sound very good, so I’ll dust off the dumbells and veggies and get back to it.