While I’d love a face-to-face interview with my favorite Aussie-turned-Scot, Shauna Reid (not to mention a photo op with that lovely face and svelte tush of hers), I’m very happy to have the second best thing, a Q&A here Lynn’s Weigh as she promotes the U.S. release of her book, “The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl,” a highly recommended read whether you’re losing, maintaining or just looking for a feel-good, hero-wins-in-the-end kind of story.
I “met” Shauna last year after she posted a comment on one of my blog entries. When I clicked on the link in her name which led me to her Dietgirl blog, my life got a jolt of fun and I’ve been a devoted reader ever since. I may not have known Dietgirl as I was going down the scale, but I’m glad to have found her in maintenance because Shauna’s the kind of “real” you need when you’re at goal and looking around thinking, “What next?”
Keeping it real here with me today: Dietgirl, Shauna Reid.
Lynn: You began DietGirl.org in 2001 when blogging/Internet journaling was still quite new. How many personal weight-loss blogs were you reading at the time and how have things changed in 8 years regarding personal weight-loss blogs, i.e. the quantity and the quality? Do you see any trends?
Shauna: The first weight loss journal I ever found was called Getting2Goal. There was a photo of a woman standing inside her old fat pants, holding out the waistband in the traditional weight loss pose. I was so amazed that there was a normal, everyday person who had achieved what I needed to do that I burst into big snotty tears o' joy. I felt hope for the first time. Ahhhh.
Back then I read about half a dozen journals. There's been a massive explosion in numbers as the technology has made it easier to get started. I usually find quality blogs via comments - on my own blog or someone else's. If there's wit I click :)
As for trends, I've noticed a heartening shift away from traditional dieting talk (deprivation, short-term fixes, on/off wagon speak) and a greater interest in long term change, mindful eating, positive thinking and not torturing ourselves!
Lynn: In your book you said you hated change. You’ve made many changes in your life since you started losing weight. What was it that spurred you on to make changes even though you were afraid or reluctant?
Shauna: I think I just got a real taste for it! Once I had a bank of small triumphs it started to tip the balance away from my history of perceived failures. If I could change my eating habits maybe I could learn to exercise... if I could get bold enough to join a gym, perhaps I could be bold enough to find a better job... then get bold enough to start travelling... etc. The momentum started to build along with my self-belief.
Lynn: Your readers are fiercely loyal. Were you supported by fellow bloggers and/or your readers when making changes? Did you ever discuss your reluctances with your readers?
Shauna: Bloggers and readers have been fantastic. Even back in 2001 when comments weren't yet invented, I'd get encouraging messages in the guestbook. I had zero confidence back then, so the more I wrote about my escapades and knew that people were cheering me on, the more I felt compelled to hang in there with the big changes.
I still tend to write like it's 2001 and I'm chitty chatting to the same half dozen people. There's more readers now but I see it as a cozy retreat. I've blabbed on about my problems as they were happening, such as my visa/wedding woes and a knee injury that dragged on forever, which leaves you open for unsolicited advice and/or criticism. But I've had 99 percent positive experiences and found many ideas and tricks that I'd never have discovered on my own.
Lynn: Regarding body image, you said you’ve been to hell and back in your body and finally appreciate what it can do. Is this an attitude you’ve settled into over the years or do you still have to remind yourself sometimes that you love your body? Also, do you still find yourself automatically wanting to make an excuse for your body as you did so many times in your book?
Shauna: I like my body most days, especially when I take good care of it with healthy food and regular exercise. But if I'm in a crappy mood then try on a dress in a shop and it looks awful, it's all easy to poke an accusing finger into my belly. I said in another interview recently that my fat is a state of mind, so I try to do the work to keep the endorphins flowing!
As for excuses, I get annoyed that I can't pull the I'm Too Fat card when I'm struggling with a fancy move at kickboxing or slogging up a Scottish hill with my husband. It's my brain holding me back, not my body, and it's hard to admit, "Wow... I really do whine a lot."
Lynn: I know many people who are losing weight or want to lose weight believe that when someone gets to goal, all their worries are gone. I’m two years into maintenance and like you, often wonder if I am “one chocolate bar away from being” 300 pounds. What do you tell yourself in that moment to talk yourself down from that ledge?
Shauna: I remind myself that I've had setbacks many, many times before and managed to bounce back! There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to me and my weight shenanigans, so if confronted with an empty chocolate wrapper or nasty scale number I quite literally say to myself, The universe is not collapsing. You've been here before! You know what to do!
Lynn: When your book originally came out, you were “outed,” so to speak, as the “diet lady.” You said you felt exposed. How have you coped with your popularity and how have you prepared yourself, if at all, for an American audience?
Shauna: I try not think about how many people are reading otherwise I'd be too self-conscious to ever say a word! Like I said above, in my head I still treat the blog like a bitching session with friends over coffee. That said, I can't help worrying sometimes about who's lurking and how my words might be interpreted. I'm careful not write anything I wouldn't be comfortable telling my mum or my work colleagues; that's my acid test!
In terms of coping with popularity, I've felt guilty for not being able to keep up with reader emails. I remember how I felt when I started out and wanted to talk to someone who understood. I didn't deal well with this when the book came out in the UK last year, so now with the US release I'm trying to be more prepared with FAQs and more useful links on my blog so I can be helpful without going bonkers!
Lynn: In that vein, you said that you have a “strong tendency to hide from the world when things get scary.” It’s pretty hard to hide when you have a blog and a book. What kinds of things do you do for yourself to temper that need to hide?
Shauna: Despite having so many words in the public domain, I only write about 2 percent of what happens in my life so I don't really feel the need to freak out and run away. I've set clear boundaries about what's bloggable! I also have a policy of "write when you have something to say and go play outside when you don't" which means if I'm feeling a bit exposed I just won't write for a wee while. It's when I force myself to churn out a blog entry I end up saying something I regret :)
Lynn: I think you really hit on the biggest obstacle people find in maintenance when after losing 144 pounds you said: “You know what’s funny about losing a stack of weight? Nothing really changes. All that happens is that you lose the thing upon which you used to hang all your neuroses. Fat has shape and substance; you can poke it with a stick. It’s a scapegoat and a handy excuse. Once you start to lose it, you realize you’re stuck with the same moronic core.” For many people who get to a “goal weight,” they feel lost in this unfamiliar territory and find comfort in old eating habits. What clicked for you? How did you accept that you were “stuck with the same moronic core” and move into this new territory without reverting back to old habits?
Shauna: I've learned to accept my "moronic core" in the same way I learned to accept my stretch marks and wobbly butt. I was strangely pleased to realise that I really am lazy; that it wasn't just the fat cliché. So I bought some 20-minute workout DVDs and stashed dumbbells under the bed so I can work out without having to leave the house. Once I made my peace with even the most dodgy aspects of my personality they became easier to deal with.
Lynn: About that massage you talked about at the end of your book (fabulous ending, by the way). Are there other “body discoveries” you have left to tackle?
Shauna: The full body massage was pretty huge! I think the only thing that could confront the body image demons more than that would be a Brazilian (no thanks) or running naked through the village where I live. I think I'll go for more genteel discoveries, like seeing how I cope with skis or roller skates, or perhaps horse riding. I always fancied that but worried I would hurt the horse.
Lynn: What’s next for Diet Girl? Will her adventures continue or will eventually go into superhero retirement?
Shauna: I'll keep Dietgirl going for as long as I still feel the need to write. Right now I'm still stumbling along with maintenance so being part of this blogging community is still very important to me. That said, in 2009 I want to make more effort to write and do non-fat things - explore Scotland, get better at taking photos, learn to make a soufflé - all those little things I've kind of put off the past few book-crazy years :)
To read a guest post by Shauna in which she discusses her thoughts on weight maintenance, head over to my other blog, Refuse To Regain and read “After the Happy Ending.”
Cheers, Shauna! Thanks for making Lynn’s Weigh (and Refuse To Regain) part of your Worldwide Web tour.