That’s how much weight I have lost since November.  The first 12 or so seemed to make no impact on my bod that I could see.  Maybe I was starting, subtly, to look more like a woman and less like a refrigerator.  But in the last week or two I cautiously tried on some of my shorts from summer-before-last, and they fit.  They even fit right out of the dryer.

This is huge for a few reasons.  #1, no diet has worked for me for about 8 years.  And even then, I think weight fell off because I was insanely exercising many hours a day by working a manual labor job.  #2 This is also huge because I am not dieting.

I’m the sort of messed up food freak of a person for whom not dieting is just so crazy, it might work.

Last summer I decided I could not diet again, ever, especially since I don’t even lose on diets anyway, and I started intuitive eating. I did what that book, and the books of Geneen Roth suggested, which was to make all foods “legal.”  I ate a lot of cake.  I gained 9 pounds.  It was a little bit scary.  But even as my weight went up, I could tell that my ability to escape with food was slipping away.

I realized that I had rarely dieted, or eaten healthily, from my own choice.  It was always that I was fat, and fat is terrible, and it’s obviously my duty to myself and the world to get rid of my fat as soon as possible.  I didn’t want to eat an apple when I wanted cake, but I told myself that being fat meant that I didn’t have choices anymore.  I was being punished, in some kind of food time-out that would never end.

I work out with a trainer and she was horrified that I gained so much weight after I started working with her.  I tried to tell her that even as my weight went up, I was finding peace and clarity about food.  Every bite of cake eaten under the new regime had a purpose, because it wasn’t sneaked or gobbled.  It was a gift freely given from me to me, and without the guilt and the defiance and the heavy weight of constant censure, I could finally taste the cake, and notice that one piece was plenty.

I tried to tell my trainer also that it had to go on until I knew when to eat cake and when not to, when I was full and when I wasn’t, and what I really wanted my body to look like.

Because that was another choice that had already been made for me.  I had always been fascinated by women who were fat and didn’t seem to care.  They just “put on a flowered dress and got on with it,” as my gay ex-husband used to say.  Thank God for those women, particularly those from other cultures where everyone is not as freaked out about fat as we American-Caucasians are.  Those women provided  me with an alternative narrative about how bigger isn’t ugly, and thinner isn’t always better, and the men who think bigger can be sexy are the majority, not deviants or gay.

I was not raised with that choice.  I was taught that fat is terrible, fat is shameful, fat means you will drop dead from a heart attack any day now, and above all: no man wants to date or marry fat.

Yeesh.  Obviously I had tons of reprogramming to do, and I’m certainly not there yet.  But gradually, as last fall rolled into Christmas, I just couldn’t put away as many cookies or pieces of cake.  I started noticing how nice it felt to be less than full, or even empty.

Underneath the fat and the suffering all those years was a terrible cycle.  I felt fat, and as you know, “feeling fat” might have nothing to do with actually being fat.  Since I felt fat, I decided to diet.  Dieting was supposed to transform me, and my life, and solve all of my problems.  Dieting usually failed right away, and then I would overeat more than I had been before as a response to the deprivation, and there I’d be, fat.  Again.

This was a trap for me.  The dieting phase was just as unhealthy and self-hating as the fat phase.  Dieting ate away at my sense of being okay, just as I am, at least in the eyes of God and my loved ones.  Dieting reinforces the idea that I am always fixable, always not quite acceptable, and it made me feel like I could be God in my life and have control.

Not surprising that it didn’t work.

Over the last few months, as I have let myself eat cake from time to time, I have been sure I was or would soon be gaining weight again.  But occasional cake wasn’t what put weight on me; it was every day, every meal, eating more than I needed or wanted.  Once that surplus was gone, the weight started coming off.

Now all the crap people always say about a “lifestyle change” and “diets don’t work” is starting to make sense.  Of course, half the time someone is saying “diets don’t work,” they are actually a corporation trying to sell you a diet.  And the “lifestyle change” is similarly something you see on the back of a cereal box more often than not.

But this thing, “Intuitive Eating,” is a lifestyle change predicated on a heart change.  And the funny, healthy, frustrating part is that it’s slow, and it mostly happens in the background.  If I just think about something else, and try to live my life, food is no longer center stage and I don’t eat as much.  But if I notice that I’ve lost, sometimes I decide I want to lose MORE RIGHT NOW and the next thing I know I’m overeating because I starved myself the last two days.

It’s like my body has finally kicked me out of the control booth, and is telling me that it, not my wounded and deceitful heart, is now in charge of what and how much I eat.  These days I have odd cravings for strawberries or corn or fish or an apple.  Humble simple foods, that may have called my name before, but there was so much noise in my head I couldn’t hear.

I’m sad that so many women like me are preyed on so easily by the diet industry and the magazines and each other.  The philosophy of dieting and “body sculpting” and makeovers is not empowering.  Each time we are told that some part of us, from our wrinkles to our cellulite, can be “fixed,” the message is not just that we can fix things – it’s that we should.

Like teeth.  Remember when it was okay for teeth to be a normal, ivory – yellowish white teeth color?  Not anymore – now everyone is whitening, and if we don’t achieve the same freaky bluish whiteness, our normal teeth suddenly aren’t good enough.

It’s ridiculous.  Yet I sometimes believe it.

The fifteen pounds helps with all this, so much.  I can now feel in my body, and soon people will be able to see, that loving me and being kind to me is also a beauty regimen that actually works.