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On a Positive Note - Online Newsletter! )
 September 29, 2003 September 2003 
In this Issue
Dear Reader,

Welcome to Largely Positive's online newsletter, "On a Positive Note." The newsletter that promotes health and self-esteem for people of all shapes and sizes. The newsletter will regularly feature:

  • The latest research on size and weight.
  • Opinion column by Carol Johnson, author of the book Self-Esteem Comes In All Sizes.
  • Style tips from plus-size fashion consultant Susan Weber, www.grandstyle.com.
  • Size esteem advice from Karen Stimson, founder of the Largesse organization www.largesse.net.
  • Plus-size fitness tips. "Non-diet" nutrition advice.
  • Latest news from the weight discrimination battle front.
  • Answers to your questions on weight management, self- esteem, body image, and relationships.
  • And how you can "live large" in a society that "thinks small!"


Thanks again for signing up for the free "On a Positive Note" newsletter. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us. Now "on with the show!"

Positively Yours,

Carol Johnson, President
Largely Positive Inc.

Privacy is important to us; therefore, we will not sell, rent, or give away your name or address to anyone. At any point, you can select the link at the bottom of every email to unsubscribe, or to receive less or more information.

The Big Picture

By Carol Johnson


Some of us were looking at our high school yearbook pictures recently and we all agreed, "We weren't fat!" Why did we think we were? We were pretty, healthy, active girls - and thinner than we are today. And yet I remember how I felt. At perhaps 30 pounds over what the charts said I should weigh, I was hardly a candidate for the circus fat lady. Without realizing it, I was probably at my "setpoint" weight - the weight my particular body wanted to be. But we didn't know about setpoints back then, and we didn't know about the physiological factors that cause some people to be larger than others - even though some of the research already existed. We were told we were "overweight" because we ate too much, lacked self-discipline and had little regard for our appearance and our health.

  These are not good things to believe about yourself at a young age. Feeling this way erodes your self-confidence and lowers your self-esteem. You end up with a poor self-concept that, unbeknownst to you, has been fashioned from inaccurate information. And a self-concept, once formed, is mighty tough to rearrange. Women in this society can spend years getting these tightly tied knots out of their self- esteem. Wouldn't it be better if they had never been put there in the first place. But looking back now, there was nothing wrong with our bodies. And that's exactly what they were - they were OUR bodies, products of our unique genetic recipes. But the diversity went unappreciated, and we struggled to achieve a weight that fell somewhere within the acceptable range.

  In retrospect, we wish our bodies had been explained to us more along the lines of: "Yes, your body may be larger than many of the other girls, but people are meant to come in all shapes and sizes. Your body wants to settle at a weight it can maintain without too much effort. It doesn't want to be forced down to a size that can only be maintained through deprivation. This doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility to do things that will keep your body healthy like eating right and exercising. The main thing to remember is that you're fine just the way you are." I like Billy Joel's words from one of his songs: "Don't go changing to try to please me. I love you just the way you are."

  We all agreed we could probably have handled the advice, "Why not just try to stabilize you weight (after we were fully grown, of course)?" The challenge would have been to allow our bodies to settle in at their "setpoints" and not gain any more weight. We feel that would have been doable. We would not have focused on losing weight, but on keeping our bodies healthy. Instead, we were put on diets, fed pills and told we had "such a pretty face."

  Is the same thing happening today? I'm pretty sure it is. New diets are trotted out, diet pills are making a comeback, and we are told that the new look for fall is "taller, slimmer, sexier and smarter" (apparently you can't be sexy or smart without being taller and slimmer). Do you know a young girl who's trying to cope with all this? The biggest favor you could do for her is to give her the advice we wish we had been given when we were that age. Explain the physiology to her. Emphasize it's not here fault. Assure her she's fine just the way she is. Tell her she has "such a pretty face AND such a lovely body." Tell her that if she does healthy things, her body will find the weight it can maintain. Tell her that yes, discrimination does exist, but it's based on ignorance and intolerance - and that it will change when she and others like her join forces to end it. Yes, we were fine back then - if only we had known it at the time. But we know it now!

Book: Self-Esteem Comes In All Sizes!

Self-Esteem 101

  We certainly hear a lot about it, but what exactly is self-esteem? According to Nathaniel Branden, who has written extensively on the subject and could be considered the "guru of self-esteem," it is "the sum of self-confidence and self-respect. It reflects your implicit judgment of your ability to cope with the challenges of your life (to understand and master your problems) and of your right to be happy (to respect and stand up for your interests and needs)." Healthy self-esteem, says Branden, is based on six practices:

  1. Living consciously: respect for facts, being open to information, seeking to understand both the world outside as well as our inner world.

  2. Self-acceptance: taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions; the virtue of realism applied to oneself.

  3. Self-responsibility: realizing we are the authors of our choices and actions. The question is not "Who's to blame?" but always "What needs to be done?"

  4. Self-assertiveness: Being authentic, refusing to "fake" the reality of who we are or what we value to avoid disapproval.

  5. Living purposefully: Identifying short and long-term goals and how we will attain them - and going back to the drawing board if necessary.

  6. Personal integrity: Living in harmony with what we know, what we profess, and what we do, i.e. telling the truth.

  You can see that these six principles have nothing to do with how much you've accomplished or accumulated, or with how many awards you've won, or how many degrees you have -- or with fitting into a pair of size 6 jeans! Branden cautions that self-esteem is not based on the acclaim of others, nor does it depend on "knowledge, skill, material possessions, marriage, parenthood, charitable endeavors, sexual conquests or face lifts." The root of self-esteem, he says, is not our achievements but those internally generated practices or values that make it possible for us to achieve. It's living your life in a way that allows you to respect yourself and others.

  Self-esteem should be a constant, no matter what your size. It should not yo-yo along with your weight. But this is what our society teaches. You can't get through a day without catching the message from a talk show, a weight loss ad, or a magazine article that extra pounds make you an inferior person. It's difficult, but you must start rejecting these illogical messages. If you really stop and think about it, you have to ask yourself, "Why should my weight have anything to do with my self-esteem?" If it does, then take it to its logical conclusion, and anyone with imperfections of body, lifestyle or character would need to crank down their self-esteem. This, of course, is ridiculous, so let's just stop making our self-esteem dependent on numbers of any kind - numbers on a scale, numbers on a tape measue, or numbers on clothing tags - and make it dependent on the fact that I am a person of value to my friends, my family, my community and myself.

Grand Style by Susan Weber

I Won't Wait Anymore For "Someday"

  I recently came across a wonderful poem called This One's For My Girlfriends. It tells the story of a woman who decides to eat dessert for lunch in lieu of the more traditional menu items -- like sandwiches and salads.

I've never been the kind of woman who avoids certain clothes because they "make me look fat". I figure that its not worth being unhappy to look 10 pounds thinner! In fact, I'm a big believer in developing a style that works for you and wearing what you love to wear.

But, the poem got me thinking of the things that I have always planned to wear "someday" ... things that I have always decided were not quite appropriate for me now. They were either "too young", "too old", "too bright", "too kooky", "too boring, "too sophisticated", "too unsophisticated" . well, you get the idea.

Being a list maker at heart, I grabbed my pen and pad and started jotting down all the items that I had been waiting to wear. I proudly stood back and read though my accomplishment. Then, it hit me. "When will I ever wear these things if I don't wear them now?" What was I waiting for ... to be 90 years old? Did I think that at 90 people would just laugh off my unique apparel choices as the whim of a daffy old lady?

But, the more I thought about it, I would probably be too daffy at 90 to fully enjoy wearing them, let alone to remember where I placed my list! So, like the lady in the poem who ordered pie a-la-mode for lunch, I decided to start wearing my list now. Here's my list and my progress so far:
  • Wear my exercise clothes to the grocery store. I did it! I wore my leggings and oversized tee on a recent grocery run. After all my apprehension, I don't think anyone noticed!
  • Wear my pajamas through the fast food drive through. Wow is this fun! I drove through my local Wendy's to get my favorite salad. The teenage girl at the drive up window seemed to be fascinated with my Power Girls capri jammies.
  • A two piece swimming suit. I should have done this years ago! I bought a matching swim top and shorts from Junonia and took it with me on a recent cruise. It is the best. No more struggling with wet suits on a wet body in the ladies room!
  • Two shoes that don't match. I did this; but, I didn't really plan on it. It happened when I got dressed early one morning without turning on the light. Tip: If you buy your favorite shoe styles in several colors, consider putting out your matching shoes the night before.

Still on my list:

  • A hat with a 24" feather. I'm a big hat wearer; but, a reaaaal long feather just seems soooooo dramatic.
  • A red feather boa. This is the closest I'll ever get to being a cabaret dancer.
  • Fur ear muffs. I want those real big ones that look like dinner plates on your ears.
  • A 6" red paper flower. You know, sort of a Bozo The Clown meets Charro look.
  • A real mink coat. I don't want to sacrifice any animals; but, I'd love to know how real fur feels.
  • A top that doesn't match what I'm wearing on the bottom. You know, plaid with stripes, etc.
  • A plaid kilt. The 1/8 Scot in me wants to get these generous hips into my tartan and march around with a couple of bag pipers.
  • Rings on every finger. I want BIG ONES. You know, the 15 carat fake stones. Sort of Liberace style.
  • A pastel pink twin set with a pearl necklace. This is so not me ... but it would sure make my mother happy.

Well, are you ready to make your list? Or, are you going to let that little bird continue to sit on your shoulder and say "Don't wear that now"? Go for it. Don't wait to do what you want. You may be too daffy to enjoy it!

P.S. Anybody know where I can find a 24" feather?


Go Ahead and Exercise - Just for the "health" of It!

  Moderate exercise can significantly lower the risk of heart disease in overweight and mildly obese adults, even if the physical activity does not lead to weight loss, according to a pilot study conducted at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Study participants saw a reduction in low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol-the so called "bad" cholesterol-and an increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol-"good" cholesterol-after 3 months of a controlled exercise program. They also saw a decrease in percent of body fat, even as their weight remained unchanged.

  The pilot study, led by Duke cardiologist William Kraus, M.D., showed that exercise alone can significantly improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease. "We now have the data for physicians who can tell their patients that they shouldn't focus so much on the scale," Dr. Kraus said. "These patients should not become discouraged and give up exercising, because our study shows that these patients are getting healthier even if they don't lose any weight.",

  "This pilot study was a first attempt to isolate the effects of exercise from weight loss in a controlled fashion," Dr. Kraus said. "We designed the trial such that we can attribute all the beneficial effects to exercise alone."


 (Holly was just recently crowned 2003 Global America Classic Woman and is a past All American Woman Plus and Ms. Plus National Achiever. She is currently Associate Producer of the Miss Ohio Scholarship Program and is working on a motivational seminar "Plus Size Women - Attitude, Authority and Attributes." She also writes for the online magazine Plus Size Living, and will be featured in the upcoming book "Look Like A Queen," published under the Random House umbrella).

 Today's plus size woman is living in the best of times. I work in a large retirement community where my being a plus size woman isn't an issue. Senior citizens don't care what size you are as long as you treat them with dignity and respect. It hasn't always been that way. In the 60's and 70's a woman had to be rail thin to be considered attractive. Plump wasn't even an idea in the head of designers! That didn't come about until the early 90's. While growing up I wasn't a plus size. I was a 10-12, although to a 16 year old that was just down right fat. It never stopped me. I was a cheerleader, on kick-line and did whatever I set my mind to.

  Then came college. Forget it. All self- confidence I had went right out the window. Not knowing anyone and being in a strange town could definitely add to the freshman 15 (pounds). However, with me it worked just the opposite. I lost 30 pounds, almost too thin. I gained it and lost it -- well, you know the routine. By the time I left college I had probably tried 200 different diets. That is not the epitome of health. Twenty one years have passed since then, and I have realized that no matter what your size is, you have to love what's on the inside before you can love what's on the outside.   If you can't love yourself at a size 18 or 20 then you could never love yourself at a size 3. You are still the same on the inside. So I've learned to love from the inside out. Only you can start the cycle. If you're in a relationship that doesn't allow you to love yourself, then get out now. Anything is better than not being able to love who you are, without reservation. When you can stand in front of a mirror and say, "I love me" without any buts, or ifs, you have taken the first step to better self-esteem.

  I let someone take some of my self-esteem away about 15 years ago. I decided that I was the only person who could take it back. I did and I felt it come back. So did the other person and I gained their respect. It changed my life. Now, I hope that I can help others who are looking for the self-esteem they lost. It feels great to have it back. But it doesn't happen overnight. Nothing does that is worthwhile. Take my word for it. I speak from experience. I'm now 42 years old and finally I have met the inner child inside me and we get along wonderfully. Once you find and meet yours, you'll be surprised, you'll actually become friends. No matter what, believe in yourself!

Global America Classic Woman

Where Do I Send My Check? By Carol Johnson

 I keep hearing about how much I'm costing society, as a larger person. The most recent figure I could find is about $99 billion annually. Is this to make me feel guilty? Figure out my share and pay it back? According to my calculator, this amounts to about $1,053 per larger person, given the contention that one-third of the population is overweight (some estimates go as high as one-half the population in which case my share would be less). The U.S. population currently stands at about 281 million. I would be happy to send a check if the "fat police" would agree to quit bugging me -- and if I knew where to send it.

  There is a not-so-subtle message contained in these figures that fat people are an economic burden on society. Even if this were true, what are we supposed to do about it? Scientists admit that obesity is a complex problem, a problem not well understood. They also acknowledge that a permanent cure has not yet been discovered. What then is the purpose of continually throwing these cost figures at us? Don't we already have enough to deal with? We don't look good, we are presumed lazy and weak-willed, and now we get a bill for how much we are costing everyone.

 In fairness, I uncovered the annual cost for some additional health conditions:

Alcohol and drug abuse (1995 estimate): $276 billion. 
Tobacco: Greater than $100 billion per year. 
Cancer: $180 billion. 
Motor vehicle crashes (1994 estimate): $150.5 billion. 
Occupational injuries: $140 billion. 
Insomnia (yes, insomnia): $35 billion.

  You can see that the economic impact of most of these is more than that of obesity, and yet we rarely hear about how much they are costing the country. The point I am trying to make is that we are all human, all imperfect in some way, and all costing something to exist on this planet. Larger people are not intentionally trying to rack up bills for the country to pay, and neither are people involved in auto and workplace accidents or who suffer from cancer or other diseases. None of us has made a conscious decision to add to the national debt. I suppose at some level we need to know the financial impact of certain diseases and injuries, but not surrounded by an element of "blame." Instead of pointing out how much obesity costs, can't we put more time and effort into providing accurate information and fighting discrimination - and into research that may someday find an answer.

Research Round-Up

 Giving overweight people an extra dose of a hormone that tells the brain when to stop eating appears to curb their appetites by nearly a third, pointing to a potential new treatment for obesity. Scientists have discovered that giving overweight patients a small dose of a hormone can help tell their brain to stop eating. PYY is vital to keeping a normal weight, and it turns out that many overweight people have depleted amounts of this natural hormone. Researcher Dr. Steven Bloom discovered that PYY specifically targets the parts of the brain that deal with appetite. This, he says, is very different from existing appetite suppressant drugs which affect the whole brain and can cause side effects. "This hormone, being a natural substance, just affects the parts of the brain that deal with appetite," Dr. Bloom said. "And nothing else." Scientists are working to develop a chemical copy of PYY that can be turned into pill form, which might be difficult because it must be infused -- much like insulin -- and the body tends to destroy it. Still, PYY has huge potential. One of the important findings is that PYY infusions are maintained in overweight people. One of the biggest obstacles to treating obesity with hormones is a practical, business issue. Hormones are natural and can't be patented. And without patent protection, there is little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop such new therapies. (Source: New England Journal of Medicine, September 4, 2003)

 There is no "junk food" -- only a "junky diet." Many nutrition professionals increasingly feel that occasional high-fat, high-sugar items can fit perfectly well into an overall healthful eating plan without all the negative, guilt-ridden connotations that the word "junk" carries. Once a healthful high-nutrient, high-fiber eating pattern is in place, the occasional full-fat, full-sugar treat isn't a problem, and taste preferences can replace health concerns for our highly palatable, highly pleasurable goodies. (Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, September 2003)

 To the surprise of federal health officials, diabetes in the United States rose only slightly in the 1990s, despite a sharp increase in obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that diabetes rates crept up from an estimated 8.2% of adults from 1988 to 1994 to 8.6% from 1999 to 2000, an increase of less than 5%. The CDC expected a larger increase because obesity, which has been linked to diabetes, has been rising quickly, climbing 61% during the 1990s. Health officials wondered if maybe lifestyle changes, including healthier eating and more exercise, may explain why some high- risk adults have not developed diabetes. (Source: CDC, 2003)

 Is sugar addictive? No. With an addiction, the body requires increasingly more of the substance to which it is addicted. When the craving is not satisfied, the body then experiences the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. While you (and many others) may have a strong desire for sweets, it is unlikely that you require ever-larger portions to meet your needs or that you experience true physical withdrawal if you abstain. Note, too, that your body can't distingush the sugar in, say, a piece of fruit or a potato from the sugar in a cookie. Yet few, if any people, would report feeling addicted to, or even experiencing an intense craving for, the likes of an apple or boiled potato. (Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, July 2001)

Teen Alert!

Know a plus-size teen?

Thank heavens manufacturers and retailers are catching on
to the fact that teens of all sizes want cool clothes.

Here are some resources:


PCOS Conference

  Frustrated by...Unexplained weight gain? Irregular periods? Infertility? Acne? Excessive Hair Growth? All are symptom of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a complex hormonal disorder that is related to diabetes and affects millions of women worldwide. Join the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association for our 6th annual conference, "Keys to Living with PCOS", October 16 - 19, 2003 at the Marriott Perimeter Center in Atlanta. For more information or to register visit www.pcosupport.org or call (877) 775-PCOS.

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