Lisa Romeo follows the instructions, albeit with low hopes. I half-expect her to bail on the program. But she blows me away with her persistence, constancy, and courage. In her daily e-mails from the front, Lisa articulates that in many relationships where she's been longing for nourishment, she actually needs to assume leadership. She ultimately gets a new faculty mentor more in sync with her goals. She stops taking undue responsibility for her children's feelings and becomes a calmer mother.
"It's going so well, I'm scared," she confesses. "I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"So become the Watcher," I say. "Be kind toward your anxious self."
Several weeks into our program, Lisa's ailing father passes away. Under this massive stress, any dieter could be forgiven for falling off the wagon. Instead, after her father's funeral, she writes, "I've discovered it's impossible to overeat while you're having a good cry." She's able to observe herself so kindly that hurricanes can blow through her life without driving her to compulsive eating. I'm awestruck.
Lisa Kogan, funny, brave and tough, writes me an e-mail saying she has new empathy for members of the cannibalistic Donner party, and another confessing, "I have just eaten my own arm." As much fun as she is, I'm worried: There's a germ of truth in every joke, and Lisa K. is still trying to live on energy she alone produces. I'm concerned that she's too hungry and almost cruelly indifferent to her own needs.
Then something good happens: Lisa K. contracts a virus that usually affects only children. Why is that good? I'm not glad she's ill, but I suspect being physically sick enough to absolutely need rest and TLC could be a great gift, teaching Lisa to receive more nurturing. When she gets that right, her craving brain can heal, and she'll be able to lead her innocent animal self in dropping excess weight—forever. The body is a persistent teacher, and though many of us greet its lessons with anger and resistance, the thing it's always trying to teach us is acceptance: of our bodies, our emotions, our situations.
Getting past rebound dieting means choosing kind perceptiveness when our reflexive responses—and those taught by most diet advisers—are to resist and control. Paradoxically, effective change begins with acceptance of everything that makes up our lives at any present moment. It's really true: Love, in the form of kindness to ourselves, is what never fails. It's working for the Lisas—to the extent that they're allowing it—and it will work for you. Persist in compassionately observing any scared, crazy, overeating vestige of yourself, and the miserable feeding frenzies that may have dominated your life, as they did the Lisas, really will give way to peace.