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I haven’t done a book review on this site before, but I just finished reading 703: How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life.

In her memoir, Nancy Makin describes what life was like for her as a 703 pound woman. Besides the intense physical trauma that her body suffered from holding that weight, the emotional trauma that she endured was tremendous. She was ostracized by the people in her building, and teased and taunted by complete strangers. As she became heavier, she isolated more and more. Eventually, she became a shut-in and stayed that way for more than a decade. Of course it was painful to go out into the world because of the reactions of others, but physically, movement was barely possible. She lived on disability in subsidized housing. If she had to leave her home, she  needed the help of her friends or family as well as a double wide wheelchair just to go to the doctor. She slept sitting up, and showered sitting down, and would only leave her house at night when she was less likely to see encounter other people. She does not go into detail about what she was eating or how much she was eating. However, she does a great job of evoking the emotions involved, the loneliness she felt, and how she used food to cope with her feelings that seemed intolerable.

What I loved about the book is that she never discusses dieting, weight loss regimens, or what she did or did not eat. She never even specifically tells the reader exactly how much weight she lost (more than 500 pounds, we know that). That’s because the weight and the numbers were unimportant. This isn’t a book about weight loss, it’s journey to find self love and discover a sense of worth.  Nancy never planned on losing weight. She was almost committing psychic suicide, by letting herself be taken over by her food issues. Randomly, her sister brought her over a computer with internet access. She started  connecting with people in chat rooms, and as she became more active, she began to feel a sense of connection. People looked to her for support and guidance and as she gave that help to people through chats, emails, and personal insights, she began to feel a sense of purpose. She began to find her worth and her value in the world. When she began to have purpose,  food became less important to her. It wasn’t her world any longer. She was spending so much time nurturing these relationships and receiving nurturing, that she stopped using food to take care of herself with. She noticed one day that she was losing weight. As the weight came off and she started feeling better about herself, not just physically, but really liking herself as a person,  she realized that she wanted to be out in the world. She wanted to live, she chose life and love and self love. In this, she began to make choices that were healthier for her. She does not directly go into what kind of choices she made or what she actually did to lose weight. It’s not a “how to” book, but it’s more about the experience of discovering what was good about her, rather than focusing on what was not.  So many people focus on what’s wrong with them when they are trying to lose weight, that they lose sight of what’s amazing about them. What she discovers is that self love is what made weight loss possible. Not self hatred. Not self criticism. When she criticized herself and restricted her food, she wound up bingeing more. When she felt that she had a purpose (beyond being on a diet and losing weight) food held less of a hold on her, it was less important. She was able to focus on her and that is what helped her to find health.

So many people are  afraid that if  they choose to love and accept themselves as they are, they will gain weight or give up on trying to lose weight. They believe that self love and self acceptance are a recipe for disaster. I think it’s the opposite. When you choose to love and accept yourself, it gives you more space to care and nurture yourself. Nancy really makes that apparent in her book. It’s not about numbers on scale or numbers of calories in a piece of toast. It’s about choosing you. When you choose you you choose health, life and self love.

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Most recent quote from community member: "Unbelievable progress. I had a slice of cake, wasn't that fussed about it and moved on. Cake is just cake! I never thought I'd get to this place. I keep thinking back to an earlier meditation when all the negative energy left down through my feet. That was really powerful. I'm planning to play it again. I've also drawn up a weekly meal plan of healthy balanced meals. This just helps to give me a bit of guidance and planning and eliminates any need for impulsive decisions when I often feel stressed after work. Amazing, thank you so much. I always hoped for hope, but n ow I feel like I'm living hope! I'm so grateful Leora. Thank you."
  • Nancy Makin

    Hi Leora!

    What a lovely surprise to have found the link to your review of my book in the mailbox today! I am honored that you found something valuable to recommend in what I shared with my readers! Thanks so much! And may I say…. You SO “get” the import of what my journey has meant for me, Leora. “703” is the furthest thing from a “diet” manual. There are plenty of those on the shelves as it is! You apprehended exactly that; it was never what I was eating, or even the amounts of food consumed which were important for the reader to absorb, it was the “why” I felt compelled to eat more than good health dictated that bore investigating! I felt driven to share what I’d discovered, and uncovered quite by accident, with others who are at war with themselves in this crippling way.
    People who overeat for emotional reasons don’t suffer a lack of “willpower;” they have lost more weight and have done so more often than most people. The question should be, what is it that keeps these folks from retaining their weight loss? I’ve found the answer to be this: We cannot apply cosmetic remedies to internal dilemmas and expect anything more than temporary and surface results! It is in the “struggling,” untold number of attempts to grapple with the physical symptom of the heavy person’s internal dis-ease, that is the cause of so many only feeling worse, less able, more disheartened than before they made the initial attempt. And so feeling defeated, we return to the poor coping mechanism we know as solace for those feelings of unworthiness…… food.
    Our world today places an inordinate amount of emphasis on the physical being; youth, beauty and, yes, thinness. So many are in an eternal quest for physical “perfection,” and think very little about the fundamental needs of their core; of the spirit, the internal dynamo by which all healthy change evolves. Looking, feeling our best physically, will only come to us permanently when we truly believe in our own innate value, just as we find ourselves this very day. We are each of so much more value than our physical shell might seem to denote.
    You were also spot-on in pointing out that I don’t highlight a particular number on the scale, Leora. This was not in an attempt to mask the number or out of shame. It is unimportant. No one should be judged by a number or any other assignation (success vs failure) other than by how they treat others along their life’s path. I suppose you could call a specific number’s exclusion as my attempt to change the conversation and focus from what most find pivotal and what I think of as incidental, even detrimental to gleaning what’s really important. I am healthy, so happy and now able to live a full life. THAT is my scale of measurement, Leora! I am now “perfect;” perfectly Nancy!
    What a liberating, wondrous revelation to know that I’ve finally reached my own personal best…. That new perspective leaves me free to expand my reach and create each day anew as my restored sense of self and purpose leads me. I wish that same feeling for others; those who can only see obstacles in their path. And that is why I wrote my book. We need to change our perception, not just the individual’s view, but that held in the wider society. I am doing my tiny part…… Thank you, Leora, for doing what YOU do by helping wounded people find their own truth; their authentic best selves.

    With peace, gratitude and hope….

    Nancy

    • Leora Fulvio

      Nancy, Thank you so much for the extensive comment. I find such inspiration in your words. We are all, unfortunately, battling with so much external pressure to find perfection in our physical being through diet, plastic surgery, etc, that we forget that we are perfect the way we are. Once we remember that, we can settle down a bit. Looking for perfect on the outside is an exhausting feat of Sisyphean proportions that will never be completed. We are always aging (hopefully) and changing. One person’s perfect is never another person’s perfect. It’s subjective and floundering. Bellbottoms one week, skinny jeans the next. I find that when I spend more time “inside” myself (usually through meditation or writing), I feel more peaceful and at ease.

      • Nancy Makin

        Had to smile when reading one line of your response in particular, Leora! “Bellbottoms one week, skinny jeans the next.” Ha! So true…. I was standing at the check-out counter in a book store recently. The under-twenty female clerk commented that she loved my peasant-style blouse…. “Where DID you get it!?” I told her that I bought it at a shop called “The Bullock Cart.” She furrowed her brow…. “Where IS that shop located?” I told her it had closed down well-before she was a twinkle in her daddy’s eye!
        And so it goes, Leora…. alas! I am only “in vogue” about once every twenty-five years! The fashion wheel is ever-spinning! I know what I like, what looks and feels like “me,” and so adorn myself with these things as an expression of who I am. Our clothing, like the decor of our homes are but reflections of our core; our spirit… the unique beauty within.
        Being (the dreaded term) “fashion-forward” or trendy never occurs to me. Being yourself is a very comfortable place to be if you like your own company. There are regrettably armies of 50-year+ women out there struggling in vain to appear to be the 19 year-olds they once were. Once were. Aging, natural changes can be a wonderful adventure if you embrace the evolution with grace and a sense of surety…. good humor helps, too! Attempting to “be” something you’re not is in my opinion a sure sign that you’ve not yet arrived in that comfortable sanctuary of self. To finally BE, just BE comfortable in your own skin, creased or unlined…. is an irreplaceable commodity. We cannot buy that off the rack at Bloomingdale’s.

        Thanks again, Leora, for some great food for thought!

        Nancy aka Auntie Mame

        • Leora Fulvio

          Thanks for that comment Nancy. Something we all need to remember. It’s a relief (but a long journey) to realize that it’s okay to be comfortable in yourself.