Because I love memoirs and because I’m interested in weight loss stories, I was excited to read Jan Bono’s book Back from Obesity: My 252-pound Weight-loss Journey, Jan started at out at nearly 400 pounds and has lost…yes that’s correct…252 pounds. That’s one whole other person! Or two thin people!! Or four third graders!! You get the idea – she lost a bunch of weight. Her story begins with her childhood and winds its way through her teenage years to adulthood. Her story is relate-able on so many levels yet the thing that stood out to me was how resilient she is. She just kept getting back up any time she faltered and eventually she reached her goal. It was an interesting and inspiring read, but I had some questions/comments for the author and she graciously agreed to answer them (even while in the midst of a personal issue – thank you Jan!). Here’s what she had to say:
Jan: Oh, I’m pretty sure that EVERYTHING in my childhood contributed to my later weight issues in one way or another! That’s why I wrote an entire chapter on the subject! Unlimited access to “sugar,” in the form of candy, ice cream, or bakery goods, and an insistence by my mother to become a charter member of the “Clean Plate Clubbers” because, after all, there are children starving in Africa! And no, I’m not blaming my mother, who was a product of some very lean post-depression years. I’m just saying that without some kind of internal “you’re not really hungry button,” I learned to cope with life by trying to shove down my feelings with food, and it carried over into adulthood—big time!
Jill: There’s a scene in the book where you have a friend come down for the weekend and you two end up being intimate. You talk about the initial body insecurity you had in this situation. You describe so well how it felt to be insecure at first…how did his acceptance help you change how you saw yourself?
Jan: Once you’ve been “morbidly obese” for literally decades, it takes much more than a single positive sexual encounter to turn that ship around! Nevertheless, his words still ring in my ears to this day, and I use them to help gulp down that nauseating fear that a new partner will see me naked and immediately run for the door. But I guess that’s where soft colored lightbulbs and candlelight come in. EVERY BODY is better looking in candlelight!
Jill: I love the story of the Eskimo!! Do you think you would have had the same success without all of your “Eskimos”?
Jan: My “Eskimos” mean the world to me. Those are the people who showed up at just the right time with just the right information/help to boost me along in my weight loss journey. I sincerely believe “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” My success in losing 252 pounds was a good example of “it takes a village,” but if it hadn’t been just these people, there would have been others once I became WILLING to listen and ACCEPT the helping hands everyone so graciously extended.
Jill: Do you feel that maintenance has gotten easier as time has passed or do you struggle with staying motivated?
Jan: Easier? Surely you jest! For me, maintenance is much harder than losing or gaining weight. Finding a healthy balance is the trickiest thing ever! When I overeat, as I occasionally do when I eat out or am celebrating or something, it’s still tempting to want to compensate by starving myself the next day. My mantra now is the same as it’s always been: STAY THE COURSE. The next day I eat sensibly, and keep on eating sensibly. One never, ever “has it made” with the insidious disease of compulsive overeating.
Jill: Last question! What advice do you have to offer someone who has been struggling with weight loss issues?
Jan: The book is full of advice, but here’s a few things I’d like to pass on right here. 1) Do whatever works for you, and keep doing it. My plan was, and is, to feed the person I wanted to be… I wanted to be 145 pounds, so I ate an average of 1450 calories a day of anything I wanted. I balanced food groups, and took supplements, and got exercise, but day in, day out, I kept my eye firmly on the goal. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the weight that matches the amount you’re eating, and when you do, you don’t have to change a thing to stay there! 2) Enlist the support of friends by creating your own cheer squad, and lean on them when you need a little extra support. 3) If you “slip,” start again. I keep from slipping by keeping myself honest. I write down everything I eat in a food diary, NO MATTER WHAT.