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Writer explores women's obsession with weight loss and how to find acceptance

Why are women so tough on themselves about their weight?
/ Source: TODAY

Randy Susan Meyers wrote the recent novel "Waisted" which follows friends hoping to lose weight at a spa, with a reality camera crew filming the entire process. She shared her thoughts with TODAY about how her own struggles with weight influenced the book.

The first line of this book has been rattling around in my head for years: “Everyone hated a fat woman, but none more than she hated herself.” I avoided writing this line because I knew I’d have to address my own feelings about my weight. But I felt compelled to pursue this novel because I kept wondering about certain questions. How far will women go to lose weight? Why do we loathe ourselves when we fail? How do women endure incredible stress and adversity?

In hindsight, Randy Susan Meyers realized she was never as fat as she thought she was. Yet, she spent so much of her life obsessing over her weight. Courtesy of Randy Susan Meyers

In the process of addressing these questions, I examined my experiences being overweight. While it was sometimes painful, it helped me write about my characters in a personal, empathetic way.

Growing up with a thin mother and sister I often heard about how much I weighed. My mom was very critical of how I looked and I internalized these thoughts. The number on the scale became tied to my self-worth.

In hindsight, I was never fat like I thought I was: I was chubby to an average weight. But I felt obsessed. I was always aware of how big I was. Over time, my weight went up and down as I tried diets and quick fixes to obtain a certain look.

As I wrote the book, these thoughts came out. I wondered why women are so tough on themselves about their weight — to an unhealthy point. How much of this judgement was simply me being my harshest critic? How much came from society? How much came from the media? I’m not sure if I got any closer to discovering answers, but I do think I came to a greater understanding about why women obsess about their weight.

Randy Susan Meyers' mother was very critical when she gained weight. Meyers began internalizing a fear of going up a few pounds on the scale. Courtesy of Randy Susan Meyers

But this book isn’t a how-to book. And I’m not expert on weight loss. My journey with weight and acceptance varies greatly from the characters in my book, even though I did feel kinship with them.

Before writing this book, I decided to stop the unhealthy obsession I had with food and my appearances. It took a lot of work, but I am happy where I am now. I had to change the way I think about food. Instead of using it to soothe my emotions, I thought of it as fuel, a way to keep me healthy and active. And, I knew I couldn’t turn to another diet.

Meyers' husband, Jeff (left), is often the only man at her book readings.Courtesy of Randy Susan Meyers

I made small changes such as not having seconds at meals. I make simple tweaks, like no longer keeping heaping platters of food on the table. That way I am not tempted to mindlessly eat. I swapped huge bowls of ice cream for frozen fruit and yogurt. This way of losing weight took a long time. I’m amazed I stuck with it — I am not patient. But it worked not only to help me to lose weight, but also to help me stop obsessing over it.

When I reached a weight where I felt comfortable, I rewarded myself with a modest gift. As long as I stay this weight, I occasionally treat myself to reinforce my behaviors. And, if I gain, I do not punish myself.

Suddenly I realized that there was a joy in living like this. All my life I thought I would hate not being able to turn to food to cope. But there is pleasure in being able to control my eating habits without depriving myself. I found how to manage my weight with pleasure by eating foods I adore.

Since Randy Susan Meyers started thinking about food differently she slowly lost weight and feels comfortable with her body today. This acceptance brings her joy. Courtesy of Randy Susan Meyers

What worked for me won’t work for everyone. But what I’ve learned from my own experience and writing the book is that people must do what feels comfortable and healthy for them and not be defined by what someone else does.

I hope this book helps women understand that they're not alone in feeling unhappy with their weight. But I also want it to change the narrative where women don't feel a number on a scale determines their worth.