Sunday, February 20, 2011

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl by Amy Parham

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl: Living with Less of You and More of Life by Amy Parham
Copyright 2010
Harvest House Publishers - Healthy Living
189 pages

Amy Parham, the author of 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl, was a contestant on The Biggest Loser. I've never seen the show, since I very seldom watch television, and I'm not even sure I knew she was a contestant on The Biggest Loser when I signed up to review the book. I was just interested in reading about the principles that helped one person lose weight and keep it off.

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl isn't specifically about her experience on the television show; it's about how she had to face up to some misconceptions about weight that she'd lived with all her life and change her way of looking at food and exercise. She does so from the perspective of a Christian, peppering the text with Bible verses about health and emotions and how the "fat girl" inside must alter the way she thinks about food in order to bring out the "fit girl".

When you say things about your lack of control over certain foods, you are practically admitting defeat before you even begin to wage war on the battle of the bulge. The Bible tells us, "For whatever is in your heart determines what you say" (Matthew 12:34 NLT). What you really believe in your heart will come out of your mouth!

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. --Voltaire

--p. 34

She talks about the fact that we all have a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts that some people try to fill with food or other obsessions and makes suggestions for filling your life with living (particularly in a Godly manner) rather than focusing on what and when you're going to eat, emphasizing that God wants us to be healthy.

In 3 John 1:2 (NKJV), John tells us, "Beloved I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." Our health is important to God. He wants to help you in your fight against the fat girl.

--p. 45

Mostly, though, the book is about learning to change the way you think about food and change your habits by finding alternatives. The author gives some great examples but I was most fascinated by her way of winding down at night. After work, she would relax in front of the TV and munch on a bag of chips. She'd had this same nightly ritual for so many years that it was particularly difficult when she returned home from the isolated ranch where The Biggest Loser is shot and there was that couch. Sofa, TV, chips. They went together for Amy Parham.

Now back at work, she had to find ways to incorporate what she'd learned during her intense training into her real life. And, the couch was one of her problem areas. She discovered that exercising before spending time in front of the TV helped to change both her thought process and her craving. After exercising, she loses her appetite for a while.

There were other occasions she found needed a great deal of work because they were tangled up in either emotion or tradition.

God created us with a soul, which consists of our mind, will, and emotions. Therefore, we feel things like guilt, sadness, happiness, and fear. While we don't have control over an initial feeling, we can control how we manage our emotions. . . . The difference between being a fit girl and a fat girl is how you deal with your emotions.

--p. 66

Going home for the holidays was one example. The author has a mother who spends days cooking and baking before major holidays and she makes quite a few sugary treats. The author talks about healthy alternatives and how to kindly decline certain foods and fight the expectations as well as the envy of others after losing weight.

Obviously, that portion of the book is best to hold and reread after one has lost weight, but it doesn't hurt to read it in advance. I've actually been through similar when I lost a great deal of weight running, about 10 years ago. Suddenly, people who have always ignored you look at you with approval and those who knew you as an unattractive chubby girl may react in unexpected ways, snubbing you or trying to sabotage your efforts to keep the weight off. Many people will even sabotage their own success by eating out of guilt.

What I Loved about 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl:

I think the author does an excellent job of hitting many aspects of the mental process that leads people to gain weight and then keep it on. She really delves into emotions and how to remove emotion from concept of nourishing the body. She nicely backs up her principles with well-chosen scripture. There are some additional little tidbits I liked, such as this bit:

7 Stress-Busting Foods (the value of which the author elaborates upon in the book, pp. 86-87:

Oatmeal, oranges, salmon, spinach, almonds/pistachios/walnuts, avocados, skim milk

I just love having a list of foods that are good for you to tack up on the refrigerator as a reminder. There are lots of questions to ponder and space to write your thoughts. I've mentioned before that I tend to not want to do the work in books like this, but this time I thought, "I want to go back and do the work after I've done a read-through."

What I disliked about 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl:

While I understand that the entire concept is based on changing a thought process in this book, I really get weary of repetition and the "fat girl" vs. "fit girl" concept was a bit annoying. I had to pep-talk myself a bit to not allow that to frustrate me and it worked. It's really about how those who eat out of emotion due to specific triggers and/or to fill something missing in their lives think -- that's the "fat girl" thought process -- contrasted with that of the way "fit" people think. It may be repetitive, but it would take a lot longer to describe it any other way.

Like any book in which an author talks about his or her own journey to fitness, there are things that simply don't apply. I don't associate television with food, for example, and I kind of hate holidays that are centered around eating because I've never felt any need to stuff myself for the sake of celebration. In other words, the reader will have to ponder what will best work for him or her (the book is directed at women, but I think men might also enjoy the book if they can tolerate the fat girl/fit girl references) and what areas of his or her life need attention.

The author does not tell you what to eat, although she mentions a few foods that she's substituted in her own life, what she eats for breakfast and why many small meals are better than skipped meals followed by a large meal eaten out of fierce hunger.

The bottom line:

Definitely recommended. A solid book that helps those who need to lose weight dig deep into their thought process in order to alter it and lose the weight, then keep it off. Very spiritual, with lots of Bible verses and references to God, yet I think non-Christians can definitely benefit from reading the principles and delving into their emotions to figure out where change is needed.

Total change of topic:

I had the coolest dream, last night. You can skip this part if you hate reading about dreams. You know how some make sense when you describe them but others are just come out as complete nonsense when you try to share them with people? Well, last week I had what is known as a lucid dream. I was aware I was dreaming, so when someone in my dream said something that was total nonsense, I actually woke myself up and wrote it down. It reminded me of the reporter whose temporary aphasia, brought on by a "complex migraine" aura, was broadcast on the night of the Grammys. Here's what the person in my dream said:

"They're not playing swift down is number 2 cuckoo."

I woke up, wrote it down, laughed and went back to sleep. But, that's an aside. Last night, I had one of those exciting dreams in which there were spies and people pursuing me for no apparent reason -- a movie-like dream involving airplanes and car chases, which ended with a final run down a neighborhood alley. The person chasing me claimed to be on "my side" (whatever that means) but then when we reached our destination, he pulled out a huge knife.

At that point, I slipped back into lucid dreaming. I don't like scary nightmares and it's not unusual for me to recognize them and either alter my dreams or wake myself. In this case, I decided to make something materialize. I told the person with the knife that if he was going to kill me, he ought to use a gun so it would be a little less painful. The bad guy replied, "I don't have one," and I said, "Well, I do." I'd created a gun in my pocket after the dream wasn't headed in a direction I liked.

I'm still replaying some of my favorite scenes from that dream. The airplane chase and the cocktail party that ended in a dash out the door and a car chase are my favorites. Do you ever have lucid dreams or simply dreams so vivid that when you awaken you feel as if you've had a fun night at the movies? I find dreams utterly fascinating. And, in fact, I believe the airplane bits came from my reading of a scene in Cutting for Stone, just before I fell asleep.

Okay, back to the housework. Our weather has been darn near perfect and that's keeping me busy, indoors and out. The fat girl side of me would rather sit and read but my fit girl side enjoyed cleaning the garage! :)

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Ooohhh... See, I saw you mention the book but I had absolutely no idea who the author was. I thought I was missing something, but I don't really watch TV, either. It does sound interesting, but I am not sure if I will ever read it or not. Good review, though!

  2. Kelly,

    I'm glad you dropped by; I completely forgot I owe you an email! I didn't know who the author was, but I do like reading a variety of books on health and fitness and it appealed to me because it was written from the perspective of someone who got fit and stayed that way (so far).

    The problem with that kind of book is that what works for one person won't necessarily work for another. I think she does a pretty good job of getting you to think through your emotions, though, so you can figure out what works for you. It's one of the better books of its type that I've read in recent years. Thanks!

  3. Huh...I have watched every season of "The Biggest Loser" except for two, and I don't remember her..she must be from one of my missed seasons. She looks great, though.

    I think the thing about food becoming a ritual is really important. Most people feel that having dessert is just what people do and it is so ingrained in our minds and our culture that no one stops to think about it. Why do we need to eat a high sugar, high fat food directly after eating the largest meal of our day? We aren't hungry at that's just a habit.

    If people would just change that ONE habit, they would start to lose weight. So, the author of this book has that absolutely correct.

  4. Kookie,

    I've never seen The Biggest Loser so I can't tell you much except that she and her husband were in it together. Must be a season you missed.

    So true. Back in my skinny days, I followed a few basic habits to keep myself that way. One was go straight to the bathroom and brush your teeth immediately after a meal. That way, even if you're tempted to eat dessert it'll taste so disgusting you'll probably eat a bite and walk away. I need to get back to that, obviously.

    We do become conditioned to eat certain things at certain times and it's just silly. She had a really good point that it's often even harder to explain to people why you don't do what they do anymore than it is to change in the first place.

  5. I had not heard of this book before, or the author, but it sounds like it would be a rather helpful and cool book for me at this time in my life. I have sort of revamped my attitudes about books that deal with Christian issues, and this review finds me at the perfect time. Thanks for being so in-depth in your review and for including such great quotes. I appreciated reading this and will probably try to pick this one up. Great review!

  6. Zibilee,

    I doubt I'd have heard of this book if it hadn't been offered up for touring. It's really one of my favorites of the "healthy living" books I've read in recent years. Another is Alain Braux's healthy French cookbook. I can't remember the title off the top of my head (I'm very tired at the moment).

    I hope you do end up reading the book. I've now got two books I want to reread and take notes on -- this one and The Procrastination Equation. I'm going to be a very busy girl. :) I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did!!

  7. I've seen you at Bellezza's, and came here from her blog tonight. I'm so glad I did.

    I've put on twenty pounds that need to come off NOW, and it's clear to me that it's emotional eating. I care for my 93 year old mother, who's still in her own home but who is needing increasing care because of memory loss and so on. Physically she's in great shape for someone in her 90s, but the mind thing is getting frustrating.

    I finally have figured out that I'm eating because it's something pleasurable I can do - now that I'm pretty much stuck here at home being a caretaker. I don't travel any more, etc.

    Clearly, I need to rethink a lot of things, and it sounds like this is a book that would help me get through that process. If I can turn things around now I'll be fine. In another year, I'll be a candidate for The Biggest Loser!

    Thanks for a useful review.

  8. I've always found dreams utterly fascinating...I don't dream lucidly very often, but when I do it's always such a neat experience. I just love what our minds are capable of creating! Have you seen Inception?? If not, you must Nancy!!!!

  9. Shoreacres,

    I'm glad you dropped by at the right time to see my review about this book. I've been where you're at, right now, as caretaker to my mother when she was dying of bone cancer. It's extremely stressful. I gained quite a bit of weight during that time (actually, I haven't yet lost it).

    My solace was an hour at the pizza store, alone, since I had to move into my sister's home to do the caregiving and she wasn't happy to have me there. I guess the trick is to find other ways to de-stress, like taking long walks or going for a bike ride if you can summon the energy. I did have a lot of trouble with that.

    *hugs* to you. It's hard being a caregiver but you won't regret it.

  10. Chris,

    Aren't lucid dreams the coolest? I don't have them very often, either. I guess this was just my week for lucid dreaming!

    Yes, I've seen Inception 3 times! I think it's such a fun movie. Love the gravity-free fight scenes.

  11. Your dreams made me laugh! I have those nonsense conversation dreams occasionally, and sometimes, I pretend to understand other times, part of me does understand, but doesn't understand how! I love exciting adventure dreams, but only if I feel in control.

  12. You and your dreams! :)

    Love your new header!!!! Springtime is near!!!!!!!!!! :)

  13. Jenclair,

    I have very, very vivid dreams and sometimes they're a hoot. At times, I feel like I've had an evening of stepping into James Bond's shoes, which is always awfully fun. I get chased a lot and I don't mind that if my chase dreams are fun rather than scary, which most are. :)


    LOL Yeah, I know. :)

    Thanks! That's an old pic -- I haven't uploaded my new daffodil photos, yet, but spring is definitely here. We have another cool spell coming but I doubt it'll be anything to holler about. 50s, I think. Darn. I was having such fun with winter. We've all been sneezy, this week, since it hit the 70s.


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