Kim, a 335-pound binge eater, could exercise, but she couldn't stick to a diet. (The keys to lasting weight loss, according to researchers at the National Weight Control Registry, a database of more than 4,000 people who've kept off 30-plus pounds at least one year, include lowering dietary fat to a quarter of daily calories and working up to moderate physical activity-brisk walking, bicycling-60 to 90 minutes a day.) Years earlier, weight lifting had started this 30-year-old teen counselor losing weight, though how much she lost she couldn't say; standard scales don't accommodate people of Kim's size.

For Kim pumping iron was easy compared with counting calories. She could only follow a diet for a while until she ended up bingeing on Twinkies or other high-fat treats. Kim's eyes brightened when I told her about Breaking Out of Food Jail, Jean Antonello's antidiet book that urges readers to eat until they feel satisfied. This all-you-can-comfortably-eat approach to weight loss isn't for everyone, but it worked for Kim. She started shifting to "I can" shortly after reading the paperback and investing in a lunch bag and healthy snacks (dried figs, oat bran pretzels). Other standard weight loss techniques helped, especially keeping a food journal. But whenever she needed a motivational boost, she'd reread Food Jail.

Twenty pounds lighter, Kim never expected to revisit "I can't." But life circumstances change, for better or worse, and sometimes the allure of old habits proves irresistible. For Kim it was the double stress of getting married and buying a house that brought back bingeing and ten pounds. She realized she needed group support. Not any group (she'd found Overeaters Anonymous restrictive and judgmental), but something flexible and supportive. Kim discovered just the group at her neighborhood health center and quickly got back to "I can." Six months after joining this weight loss program, she's lost another 50 pounds.

Next: Rediscovering passion


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