Before looking through old pictures, prepare yourself for what you might find.  My daughter-in-law is preparing a memory book for my husband's parents so I dug through thousands of old pictures yesterday, selecting some for scanning.  In the process, I found a rather svelte woman with a face that looks rather like the one I imagine I still have.  Why did that younger self always see herself as fat?

I remember being a teenager and seeing the unfathomable weight of 118 pounds come up on the bathroom scale.  I was horrified!  So fat so young.  From time to time, I would self-administer Ex-lax chocolate squares to drop a couple of pounds before a special occasion.  Kind of embarrassed to even admit that.  Later, after having children, my weight ballooned to 125.  Since we tend to overdo the photography on little kids, that's the me in most of those photos. (To be clear, I left 125 behind long ago.)

So what do women do when we feel fat?  Well, many stop eating or eat less than is humanly required.  Some try the fad diet-of-the-moment, as seen in whatever checkout counter magazine.  Some join the gym or launch into an aggressive exercise program (I say "or" since joining and exercising are not always the same). 

I don't diet, haven't since my teen years.  I try to get some exercise but am typically inconsistent.  I refuse to eat "diet foods" like artificial sweeteners, fats or whatever miracle food this year will burn up my fat.  You might say "and see, because you don't do those things, you're fat."  Well, you're too nice to say that.  But you might be thinking it.  Yet how does that work for those who do those things?  Most of the people I know who drink diet sodas with their much-lauded zero calories are overweight.  All of the people I know who obsessively diet have gotten handsomely slender after conscientious and very trying effort, only to quickly bounce back to their old weight--or more.  The exercisers are doing well; that I'll admit.

I wouldn't mind looking like that skinny version in the photos I just scanned.  But I don't believe that any of the popular methods will get me there and keep me there.  Besides, just how cute is skinny with stretchmarks and wrinkles?  I think I'm old enough now to focus more on health than on vanity.  I said "more"; vanity isn't completely buried.

So if you want to take a fat woman's advice for healthy weight maintenance, here it is:
  1. Stop trying to LOSE weight.  Focus instead on not GAINING any more.
  2. Set a goal to eat 10 servings every day of fruits, vegetables and protein.  Don't focus on what you can't have but instead on what you must have.  Come dinner time, you'll realize you need 5 more servings and will have to succumb to salad.  For me, salad and smoothie are my catch-up foods.  Remember, don't go to bed until you've met the goal.
  3. Avoid anything artificial.  No fake sugars, fake flavors, preservatives -- follow Michael Pollan's advice and just eat real foods.  If you must have ice cream, Haagen Daz' "Fives" or home made are good choices.
  4. Move around.  If you can't do regular aerobic exercise, just force yourself to walk further across the parking lot, up and down stairs many times a day, around the yard deadheading flowers--anything but sitting.  Don't drive if you can walk or ride a bike.
Those are my rules.  They won't make you skinny.  But I think Rules #2-4 will help you meet Rule #1.   One more thing to keep from obsessing about your weight, don't let anyone take candid photos of you.  Give yourself time to suck in that gut, straighten those shoulders, hide the arm flaps and raise the double chin.  Some pictures were not only unscannable, no one will ever see them again.