Author Suggests Larger People Stop Dieting, Start Accepting
Ahmed, Shaheen, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Shaheen Ahmed Daily Herald Correspondent
While a New Year's resolution is a chance to take a good look at our lives, most of us look no further than our waistlines.
The average American tips the scales with an extra eight pounds after the holiday season.
As the new year gets under way, svelte models and enticements from diet centers and fitness clubs spur many into watching the calories and pounding the pavement. For those people who have been struggling a long time to lose weight, however, 1997 will be another year of pain without gain.
Cheri Erdman, who just published her latest book, "Live Large!," offers an alternative to self-denial and physical torture in the new year: "Don't diet. Be happy."
After 33 years of constant dieting, this resolution has been the result of a personal odyssey for the author of "Nothing to Lose."
Erdman, 48, started her first diet at 5 and continued "dieting as a way of eating" until the age of 38. She lost and regained 400 to 500 pounds.
Tired of her struggle for fulfillment, she finally changed her outlook.
"I just decided that I was going to stop doing that craziness to myself and to begin to learn to accept and appreciate the body I already have," she said.
Today, Erdman works as a professor and counselor for the College of DuPage. She leads classes for larger women (defined as those weighing 30 percent more than the height-weight chart norms) and classes for all women. The classes deal with health, self-esteem issues and size acceptance.
"It's not a class about losing weight," she says. "It's a class about learning how to stop dieting."
Getting off the diet treadmill can be a revolutionary task because of economic forces and cultural pressures that work against self-acceptance.
"I think that we live now in a culture that really stresses, especially for women, that physical appearance is everything, fitness is everything, youth is everything," she said. "By doing that, you wind up creating a market to buy goods and services. It's sort of like you promote fear - 'Don't be too fat, don't get old. You can do this, you can do that to change yourself so that you're thin and young forever.' So they market fear and sell you hope."
Women are the main targets of this message. Erdman believes weight is at least a feminine, if not a feminist, issue.
"A woman can be five pounds overweight over what she thinks she should weigh and start feeling the pressure ... whereas a man can be very, very fat before people will say something," she said.
Arguments about what constitutes beauty aside, Erdman tackles the heart of the matter when she addresses the issue of health for larger people. While Erdman stresses the importance of exercise, she discounts the connection between size and health.
"There are people who say 'You can't be heavy and healthy,'" Erdman said. …