The year I stopped chasing skinny

by JL Fields on January 2, 2012

2011. The  year I did not diet.

Last January I pronounced that I bought bigger clothes, instead of going on a diet.

January 1, 2011

It was a liberating year!  The first full year in which I did not diet, since 2003!

It was also a little humbling.  I’m over 45.  My metabolism is slower and my hypothyroidism kicked up a notch this year.  I reduced my exercise dramatically (take a look at the past six years of fitness; I didn’t race once in 2011).  It was pretty awesome to sleep in the morning instead of getting up at 4:30 a.m. to train before work.

So, I stopped chasing skinny in 2011 and I’m beginning 2012 with …

December 31, 2011

and these new friends.

I’m sharing these pictures for a couple of reasons. One is simply to say that yes, if I eat what I want and don’t exercise much, I’m going to gain weight.  The good news is that I usually want to eat kale— and only occasionally do I want a soy curl burrito (and when I want it, I have it).  The other reason is because it was hard for me to see the pictures, in comparison to last year’s photo — and that is part of the process.  The process of moving past the image of what I’ve always felt I should look like.  The tinier (and hungrier!) woman.

I like this new woman I see.

January 2, 2012

This satisfied, solid, empowered woman.  I want to fall in love with her.  And I’m working on it.

2012. The year I will, once again, not diet.

I will, however, pick up the exercise a bit. Not to lose weight. I need regular movement because I want strong bones and a healthy heart as I approach the age of 50.  I want to live until a ripe, old age and I want to be walking, talking and thriving until I take my last breath.  My motivation isn’t skinny–my motivation is health. (Read more on this on The Vegan RD:  Should You Go Vegan to Get Skinny?)

This year I remain committed to three words:

Stop Chasing Skinny

And equally committed to these three words:

Do Pursue Health.


And you?

In January all posts on the community blog Stop Chasing Skinny are about NOT dieting during a month in which TV commercials, print ads and blogs–lots and lots of blogs– tell you to get “skinny” in 2012.  If you’re not dieting in January, share your story!

 Cross posted on JL goes Vegan and Stop Chasing Skinny

  • Thanks, JL! So refreshing. I’m also planning to up the exercise for strength and health and decrease the sugar intake (I’ve turned into a sugar junky over the holidays!)–not to chase skinny, but to chase STRONG and HEALTHY! 🙂

    • JL

      Katie, strong and healthy = YES! 

  • Beth

    You rock. 🙂

    • JL

      As do you, dear, as do you.

  • Ginny Messina

    Great post and wonderful photos, JL. I hope you’ll fall in love with that satisfied, solid and empowered woman as quickly as the rest of us have!

    • JL

      Ginny, thank you! I loved the timing of YOUR awesome post.  This time of year I really think we all need to be hearing positive messages about healthy, not judgmental ones about looks!

  • Carrie (Carrie on Vegan)

    Hey JL, you know how much I respect you, but, I gotta say, I’ve always had an issue with your proposal to be comfortable at a heavier weight. I do realize that that isn’t exactly your point, but that seems to have been the outcome of your experiment this past year. The science says that extra fat not health-promoting, so why sacrifice health for the sake of not being on a “diet”? That being said, I do think there is a clear distinction between wanting to be thin for thin’s sake and for health’s sake. I hate the idea of losing weight or watching what I eat because I’m chasing some unachievable ideal, but I’m perfectly happy not eating foods that don’t support my mission to be disease-proof, energetic and vibrant. My hope is that we as women can love our bodies even if they aren’t “perfect,” but we can at the same time make it a priority to cherish and fuel our bodies to be as strong and healthy as possible.

    • JL

      Hi Carrie. I respect you, too!

      I think you’re second sentence nails it. You are missing the point. My goal wasn’t to get heavy (and, frankly, I don’t think I am “heavy”; I am, however, bigger). My goal was to experience no food deprivation and no extreme exercise (after six years of “no, thank you, I don’t eat carbs” and training for multiple half and full marathons) while eating a basically balanced and healthy diet. The result? I’m bigger. No doubt that will make some people uncomfortable.

      • I hope you guys don’t mind me butting in 🙂 I respect you both!

        I think that Carrie raises a good point in that it’s not necessarily helpful to glorify body acceptance at the price of good health: that is, if a person is dangerously overweight and celebrating his/her body regardless, it would seem that self-love has outweighed a sensible approach to health/wellness. I admire your commitment to good diet and health, Carrie.

        At the same time, I think there is a difference between the scenario I just mentioned and what JL is talking about. If JL were dangerously overweight and saying that she preferred it to being a healthy weight, that would be one thing, but she’s not: she’s saying she prefers one healthy weight to another, lower, healthy weight. And in that regard, I think she’s saying something deeply important, because we’re all socially programmed to believe that thinner must always equal healthier. What I find writing my blog is that many people are healthier at the weight that is about 5-10 lbs above the weight they’ve always pursued, because their “goal weight” is actually too low, and that their bodies will never maintain that weight without dietary stringency that borders on disordered eating and excessive exercise.

        What I take away from JL’s posts is that she spent a long time at a “healthy” weight that she could not sustain without a fair amount of effort and restriction; now, she’s still a healthy weight, but she no longer needs to limit her calories excessively to get there. It’s a far cry from saying that she’s happy to be unhealthy; in fact, since restrictive diets often become dangerous, it’s most likely a good deal healthier than what she was up to before, and a mark of personal growth.

        • JL

          Gena, glad you butted in. Between blog posts and IRL conversations you definitely do understand my intent and I’m glad you chimed in to help others who may not.  Much appreciated!

      • Carrie (Carrie on Vegan)

        I hear what you are saying and I agree with 95% of it. Gena clarified my point that self-acceptance shouldnt come at the price of health which I know was never your intention, but sometimes it comes across that way. Keep up the good work, I’m on the same journey as most women, trying to balance being healthy with the demands of real life. Sometimes I see black and white without seeing all the shades of gray, but I love learning from your story and others, JL.

        • This whole argument is crazy and has taken this post completely out of context. JL has been good enough to post pictures of herself in which any reader can see that she is a very healthy weight and looks great!! She isn’t an overweight person so why shouldn’t she accept and enjoy her body the way it is. New research has shown that people who constantly go on “diets” are less healthy than people who are obese, so opinions like this which constantly encourage women to diet in order to be “healthier” could be influencing women to jeopardise their health to adhere to this constant pressure. 

  • I love it and I love that you shared not only your pictures, but also the natural insecurity that comes along with that. My theory has always been that I judge myself based on how I feel, not on how I look. If I feel crappy, I know I need to change something for my health, not my looks. You are inspiring, and I also plan on continuing my journey to chase health in 2012!

    • JL

      Thank you, Abby!  I love that you gauge how you *feel*. Such an important distinction from how one looks!

  • I have so much admiration for you right now! I love that you put everything out there for us to see – the good and the not-as-good. After a year of struggling to find a balance in my diet as a new vegan, I’m going to spend 2012 eating foods that make me feel good (and make me healthy) without focusing on how many calories I’m eating.

    • JL

      Your 2012 goal sounds great, Ashley!

  • Anonymous

    JL-I’m curious, if health is your goal, why not cut out the processed oils? It doesn’t have to be about skinny, it just might be a great choice for your health!

    • JL

      Because I like oil, Wendy.  🙂  I use coconut, avocado and olive oil in my cooking and enjoy it immensely! That, and I don’t believe that to be healthy you must shun oil. 

      • I can totally buy that as long as I know that you have read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Esselstyn. If you say you have, and you reject it, I will shut up.

        • Oooh, I have, I have!

          I think Dr. Esselstyn (whose work I admire) makes a fantastic case against cheap olive oils and vegetable oils. But I think that the competing evidence in favor of high quality, cold pressed flax, hemp, and avocado oil — and frankly, even some olive oil — is equally legitimate and compelling, and more robust. I think it’s also important to remember that Dr. Esselstyn is also writing about extreme cases of disease reversal, and not necessarily writing about how, say, a flax/hemp oil blend can benefit the average person.

          Eliminating fat from the diet of a person whose cholesterol and triglycerides are high will certainly have a good result (any fat reduction would), but is that the same as saying that very moderate amounts of flax/avocado oil are deleterious for a person who is healthy? I would say that the many studies of the impact of polyunsaturated fat on diet would suggest that some high quality oil is acceptable, and even healthy for those who are not suffering from acute health conditions.

          • JL

            Thanks again, Gena, for jumping in!  I’ve also read that some doctors believe that using oil also helps one feel satiated (which curbs over-eating).

          • Carrieonvegan

            I’ll jump in here, too. I’m in the same camp as Wendy in that I think the majority of our fat intake should come from whole foods sources and not oils. The idea is to get all of the nutrients from the fat source and not just the oil. This is definitely one of the finer points of the health argument. If you follow people like Dr. Fuhrman (which I do), then you strive to get as many phytonutrients from your diet which then help you prevent and reverse disease.

          • I’ll jump back in, just to say that, Carrie, I agree that whole sources of fat are almost always preferable. But the question isn’t so much “which is better, avocado/nuts/seeds or oil,” but rather “is all oil inherently deleterious to every person’s health?” I prefer whole food fats, too, but don’t believe that all oils are inherently dangerous (I think that quality matters tremendously) and agree firmly with Ginny that the latest research and findings actually support that. 

        • JL

          Nope, Wendy, I have not.  And I still reject it. 🙂

          I have taken cooking classes with integrative healthy instructors who have convinced me that I can enjoy healthy oils in my diet, in moderation.

          I have blood work regularly (for thyroid and B-12 issues) and my doctor continues to say that I should keep doing whatever I’m doing because everything else is excellent.  By the way, I am weighed at every single visit to the doc and never, once, has my doctor expressed concern about my increased weight. I brought it up once (embarrassed) and she simply said “you are at a healthy range, I am not concerned.”

          • Ginny Messina

            Thank you, JL, for bringing some balance to the whole oil discussion.  As a health professional, I have to go with what the research shows, not the bestselling diet books! And the “no added-oil” rule is a kind of “stuck in the 80s” approach to nutrition that ignores more current findings. There is no evidence that moderate amounts of healthy oils in the diet raise risk for heart disease or anything else. We’ve got to stop making vegan diets harder than they need to be!

          • I do have a question since you brought up thyroid stuff, JL. Do you worry about consuming too much soy? Not that I think you are, but have you wondered if that had an impact on the thyroid? I often wonder about such things as I love the goitrogens like sweet potato, kale, etc.

          • JL

            GREAT question!  I learned of my hypothyroidism years ago, when I was vegetarian.  That was a question I had for my doctor. Her belief was there wasn’t enough evidence, conclusively, to avoid soy and simply suggested that I consume it, in moderation (moderation sure is a theme, isn’t it?) So that’s what I do . I rarely use soy milk so that I can get my soy in through tofu, soy sauces, etc.  So far so good!

          • My ND said that too after I told her how much kale I eat. But I still worry. I moderate too.

  • Yay JL! I love this, what a great message to start the year with. Let’s pursue health in 2012!

    • JL

      To health, Jane!

  • Nicole

    You are amazing, JL.

    • JL

      Nicole, YOU are amazing. And your posts for Stop Chasing Skinny demonstrates just one of the hundreds of ways in which you are.

  • Joanna DeVoe

    Good for you! & sooo GREAT for the other women (& men) reading this. Here’s to a fabulous 2012 filled with tons of self-LOVE -xo

    p.s. I think you look fantastic.

    • JL

      Joanna, thank you!  So glad you mentioned “and men”  I have at least two posts from men for the January no diet series on Stop Chasing Skinny!

  • <3 <3 <3

  • I so appreciate this post on so many levels. First, you address healthy weight on a continuum rather than the fixed “skinny” point and second because you emphasize being satisfied as part of your healthy weight.  Third, and this is on a personal level – after years of ED and food allergy/intolerance issues, I am finally at the point where I can actually build muscle and feel strong (this never happened before because I had a lot of malabsorption issues) and work out and not be tired all the time and it is so helpful to have role models such as you who embrace strong and satisfied as part of their height weight, as opposed to thin and I don’t eat carbs. So thank you. 🙂

    • JL

      Thank you so much for your comment. I love how you have phrased it — “strong and satisfied.”  Can you imagine two better words for a woman?  I love it!

  • Amy

    This is a wonderful, admirable, and inspirational post. You know how to find the proper balance between food and exercise that works for you and makes you happy, and that’s what matters most. Self love is so difficult, and your honest approach to achieving it is awesome.

    • JL

      Amy, thank you!  I do need to find a better balance with exercise but it’s a process and I feel confident I will find it!

  • Sherry

    You look fantastic! You’re smart, sassy and write a mean blog.
    Those are just a few reasons why you need to fall in love with yourself 🙂
    I plan on Adding in more exercise for the same reason. I want to live to chase after my grandchildren and maybe even great grandchildren. My son is only 15, so I have many years to go.
    I think yoga is where I’ll begin.
    Happy New Year!

    • JL

      Happy New Year, Sherry! Thank you for your kind words!

  • What a great post! I feel like I am right there with you. For such a long time, I restricted, didn’t enjoy things, and I was skinny. And then I started discovering how much I love food and wine and the experience they bring. And I am not going back.
    I think we spend far too much time trying to fit into being that woman we think we should be instead of fitting who we actually are.
    I too want to move more this year though. Working from home has made me pretty sedentary which can just feel icky, make my back ache, etc.

    • JL

      “I think we spend far too much time trying to fit into being that woman
      we think we should be instead of fitting who we actually are.”

      YES!  Thank you for jumping in. 

      And yes on the exercise, too.  I blog in the morning and night and I’m at a desk at work all day. This 46 year old is way too young for a stiff neck 🙂  Moving is a priority!

  • I think you look fantastic, but what’s really important is that YOU like the person you see. I think that just like veganism, losing or gaining weight is a personal journey that’s different for each person. I was overweight my entire life. Now that I’ve achieved and maintained my goal weight (which is not skinny…it’s pretty much exactly in the middle of my healthy weight range), it’s changed my life for the better in so many ways. Fortunately, I don’t have to restrict my diet to maintain it. I just try to eat smartly (that is, no emotional or stress eating, which is why I originally gained weight) and eat well. I do exercise a lot, but for me it’s a hobby and passion–I’ve always exercised a lot even when I was overweight. My personal journey will also be to pursue health; for me that means being sure I give my body enough rest, recovery, and restorative activities so that I can continue to pursue the fitness I love to do. Here’s to a healthful 2012!

    • JL

      Jennifer, I’m so glad you jumped in. I admire you so much and think your journey to health has been extraordinary.  Here’s to health in 2012!

  • What a refreshing attitude. I have to tell you… I’ve tried to work on that a couple of years running – it takes SO much effort to keep off the 15 pounds between “lookin’ good” and “kinda chunky.” It’s hard to be strong, though, and be OK with that extra weight. Good for you! I have a lot of respect for your attitude. 

    • JL

      Rivki, I totally hear you.  It’s just about exactly 15 pounds for me too.  What I love most about “kinda chunky” is that I feel full (emotionally and physically), sexy and I’m not obsessed about what I can’t eat.

  • Anonymous

    JL I think you are beautiful inside and out. And per your earlier remark to me I am glad to be on this journey with you. Here is to good health, positive body image and love of self!

    • JL

      Lee, thank you!  I’ve loved being on this journey with you. You’re so my sister from another mother!

  • Elisa Camahort Page

    Bravo, JL 🙂

    • JL

      Thank you, friend. Thank you.

  • Hi JL, I wish I’d found my way to your blog sooner. I ought to have known I’d be a quick fan of anyone Gena recommends so highly. I think you look fabulous! There’s nothing more attractive than a woman who’s comfortable in her own skin, whatever her weight. (Well, up to a point …) I agree with you that chasing skinny is so. not. worth it. Truthfully, I’m almost never tempted to lose weight, but when it happens (as it did when I was doing a Bikram yoga trial a few years ago – something about staring at myself in the mirror in a room full of half naked 20-somethings) I quickly remind myself that to be that thin I’d have to eat a lot less and exercise a lot more and I’m like, “no thank you.” 

    • Ooooooooh, I love seeing women I love connecting in the comments section. Goddess Durga, meet JL. JL is irreverent and funny and wise. JL, meet Elizabeth. She has been a mentor to me since I started blogging, and a friend. She is cultured, whip smart, and full of “jouissance,” as the French would say.

      • JL

        Gena, thank you for connecting me with Goddess Durga!  xo

    • JL

      I’m so glad to “meet you” here! Your Bikram comment — YES!  I started taking Bikram and 2003 and switched to solitary running shortly after. I had dieted and got very skinny, but damn, looking in the mirror, it just didn’t feel like it was enough! 

      ” I quickly remind myself that to be that thin I’d have to eat a lot less
      and exercise a lot more and I’m like, “no thank you.” ”

      Yep, that’s it exactly it, in a nutshell. Yes, I could absolutely be thinner.  But I simply do not WANT to eat less and exercise more and, frankly, I think I’m thriving as a result.

  • Kariwadd

    Love you, girl!  I want you to know that, inspired by you, I did NOT get on the scale on January 1st, and I have to say that for once at the beginning of the year, I am not depressed!  I am POSITIVE that if I had succumbed to the urge to weigh myself, I would be starting the year unhappy.  After 6 weeks of too much sugar, too much of everything, I don’t need to guess how far off my “happy weight” I would be.  Instead, this month, I WILL focus on resetting my palate away from sugar and salty snack foods.  I WILL work on getting enough sleep so that I can wake up energized and make good decisions around food.  I WILL exercise, sometimes hard, sometimes easy, because I want to feel good.  And I WILL NOT let my mood be dictated by the number on a scale.  I think it’s gonna be a great year!

    • JL

      Oh, Kari, you make my heart soar! You will have a wonderful year, my friend, focusing on your awesome athletic prowess (Dave has been plans for your racing season!)  and ignoring the scale. Your body is such a machine and it tells you what you need. The scale lies to you.  🙂

  • What a great post, you look fantastic in both photos! I think the approach for aiming to be healthy over skinny is something that everyone could learn a lesson from. I’ve had to accept that there’s a difference between being a truly healthy weight, and being thinner for my vanity’s sake. Last year I consciously gained weight to bring myself to a healthier weight for me even though that was a very difficult process. I even think that this year may be the year I finally ditch the scales altogether. Thanks for being such an inspiration!

    • JL

      Laura, your story is amazing! Thank you for sharing it here.  I have to say, ditching the scale improved my daily outlook immensely. For years and years I knew exactly how much I weighed every single day. That tidbit of knowledge often influenced my mood for the day — I am free from that now.

  • In all of my responses to others yesterday, I forgot to leave a personal message!

    THANK YOU for this post. It is so refreshing to see a message that is focused on both self-acceptance *and* health, and which acknowledges that health is not defined as the smallest number on a scale. It’s a lesson that I wish I had learned years ago, so that my focus might have been more on maximizing my own pleasure and vibrancy, and less on exercising and dieting. It has been dismaying to see how many blogs are focused on weight loss and shaping up right now, so it means a lot to me that yours is focused on health and happiness as a whole phenomenon, and not an extension of stringent weight surveillance.

    • JL

      Gena, thank YOU for being a leader and mentor.  Your post about empty goals and resolutions really resonated with me — it’s too easy to put a time frame around an effort (“tighter butt in just 12 days!”).

      I choose to look at health and happiness as an ongoing, joyful process vs. one of punishment and deprivation. 

  • Lori

    I actually think you look great. Looking at the pictures, I don’t see where you even need to diet. I love your attitude though. I don’t need to lose weight, as I already have just by going vegan. But I do need to up the exercise. You are such an inspiration and I also love your work with the animals!!

    • JL

      Thank so much for your kind comment, Lori! My mind agrees with you (re: no need to diet) but, you know, it’s a process 😉

      I love, love, love lending a hand with the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. It’s my privilege to serve the animals!

  • eva @VegucatingMyKid

    oh this is a great post!…how liberating!…i still owe you my story for stop chasing skinny…i don’t diet–i just eat right…like you said, more often than not, i am craving veggies more than i crave something not nutritious…this marks year 3 for me of a changed way of eating….and because i changed my focus to wanting foods that nourished my body, instead of wanting to lose weight–guess what? the weight came off without me really trying…so a virtual high five to you! you’ve inspired me really to get going on my blog–i’ve been talking about it for a while now, but i really want to find time for it….

    • JL

      Eva, please do submit your story!  Your message is important!

  • Twallin36

    You look WONDERFUL and I don’t see a big butt, hips and tummy!!

    I recently had a doctor visit to go over a couple things, and when I left I received a printout that read: “Health Issue: OVERWEIGHT” And yes, it was in all caps!. I’m 5-7 and 166lbs so according to their chart, I’m FAT. I’ve continued to gain weight and it’s been a concern for me since I’m a long distance runner and I adopted a Vegan diet in April 2011 (more like 95% Vegan but I’m getting there!!). I told my doctor that as much as I would like to “weigh less” my goal is to be HEALTHY, so maybe he should be more concerned about why I’ve continued to gain weight and do the proper blood tests!!!

    • JL

      Thank you 🙂   Good for you for being assertive with your doctor.  You’re letting him you care about your health and he needs to work with you and get to KNOW you!

  • So brave of you to post, and I love that this is not a typical before and after at all! It’s a then and now and I’m ok with it. Wow so refreshing. I have found the years that I did not spend tons of energy on exercise (even before I was unable to do much due to disability) I was spending so much energy learning other things and bettering myself in other ways, as it seems you have through learning about veganism and educating others. Sometimes the pendulum can swing too far in one direction at least for me then I have to pull back and reflect and balance things out again. I am pursuing some dietary changes that didn’t start in January but are for health reasons only. I have changed my diet around with primary goals of my symptoms getting better and sometimes I gain or lose weight as a result. I don’t primarily focus on that because I think better health is way more important than a difference of 10 pounds.

    • JL

      Bitt, you are such a great example of working hard to find a healthy, healing diet.  You and Gena were huge influences on my decision to try to eat higher raw.  I’m so grateful that you have shared your experience.

  • Anonymous

    What a wonderful and healthy attitude. Good for you! Btw…you look great. A confident woman is a beautiful woman.

    • JL

      Thank you so much for your extremely kind words!

  • JL, you are a strong, courageous, gorgeous woman and such an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing these photos and your amazing attitude!

    • JL

      Thank you, dear.  Your support means so much!

  • Lou

    This is great…. and YOU look AMAZING anyhow.  Love the message you are sending with this post – I find all the New Year’s loose weight/detox/diet rubbish on TV and in the magazines so frustrating. No wonder most of the population has body image issues when this is what the media bombards us with.  Eat and exercise for HEALTH and to feel ALIVE… hooray!

    • JL

      “Eat and exercise for HEALTH and to feel ALIVE… hooray!”

      Indeed!  Here’s to our health!

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  • Tobi Rachel Smith

    This is exactly the way it should be!  Thank you thank you thank you!

    • JL

      Tobi, thank YOU for your enthusiasm!

  • JL! You are still in amazing shape, I think that any woman would be happy to be as healthy and vibrant as you no matter what shape they were in, much less the one you actually embrace! Kudos for championing such a positive attitude. Happy New Year!

    • JL

      Thank you!

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  • ali

    Amazing and empowering.  This post gives us all permission to do the same, and that is the best things in the world.  If we all learned to love ourselves, and to treat our bodies with respect, I think the world would be a much different, and much better place for it.  Thank you.

    • JL

      Ali, I love the use of the word respect when it comes to our bodies. Love it.

  • I love you. 

  • Haley O

    JL – thank you so much for sharing your story!!!! You bring a much needed perspective to the discussion of body image and I enjoy both of your blogs immensely!

    • JL

      Haley, thank you for your kind words!

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    • JL


  • Great to read! You look fabulous in those photos!

    • JL

      Thank you so much!  It was intimidating to “expose” myself but I blog about reality! 🙂 

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