Diet Advice to a Friend

I have a friend (distant family member, really) whose weight and eating have led to morbid obesity. She’s a normal woman. With a normal job. And a normal life. But a VERY abnormal weight. She and I have worked together in the past to help her find her way to weight loss and vitality. (This is not an ad. I don’t do consulting. Nothing I say anywhere on this blog should be used as medical advice. I know you know that. NOT medical advice. My friend Annie is under the care of her own physician for overall health.) She did awesome. She rocked health and wellness and could have been a poster woman. Everyone was so proud of her. Then, life kicked her butt with some uninvited and completely undeserved huge life stressors, and eating right and being active fell down the ladder of importance. She and I had to stop corresponding and working on her health and weight due to lifestyle constraints beyond our control, but she knew I cared a lot. Discouragingly, she gained lots of weight back, and embarrassment and shame about her eating and her weight pursued her and closed in for the kill. But I was so happy when she contacted me the other day to see how we can get back to getting her on track again.


Since I’ve been busy trying to research select alternative treatments of traumatic brain injury and pancreatic cancer, I haven’t been able to put anything up on the blog. So I asked my friend if I could share some of what we write back and forth as encouragement to others too. She agreed, and my response to her request for my help is below. (Her name has been changed.) If it feels right, I’ll occasionally post snippets of our conversation to hopefully encourage others. She and I both want people to succeed.


My dearest Annie,

You can never let me down. I promise. This isn’t about me at all. It’s all about you! This whole thing is a million times over more than being about food and weight, and through it you will transform your food, your life, your inner spirit. That’s what it will take.

A couple of years ago, you moved forward in health and vitality. You’ve fallen down and you’re skinned up. Okay. But now, it’s time to move forward again. I believe the hard times and the face plants come to show us, to help us learn, to carve more deeply into ourselves and what our lives mean to us. What we want them to mean to ourselves and others. I see our bodies as a reflection of our inner state. In your letter, I heard shame, disappointment, and guilt. You’ve had a rough time of it all year. There’s NO doubt! And your eating simply reflected that inner (and outer) chaos.

That’s what we’ll do here. We’ll prioritize, organize, take action, and then frequently regroup to assess needs. Here’s some of your list. [I’ve worked with Annie before so I know how she successfully lost weight before. The questions I ask her below wouldn’t apply to everyone, they’re specifically tailored for Annie based on our prior work.]
You’ve got this! Let’s start working now and develop some goals for the next month, months, and next year. You do very well with directed goals.
With love,

17 thoughts on “Diet Advice to a Friend

  1. Tim Steele

    Really great advice! Your last point about keeping a food log is very valuable. People who track and are held accountable usually out-perform others on the same diet.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Tim! Happy summer! My reply is not necessarily directed to you but for anyone reading who is trying to make these changes:

      Yes, here’s a link to read about that if someone reading comments needs some motivation:

      Keeping A Food Diary Doubles Diet Weight Loss, Study Suggests, link:

      Some people buck at logging, but I tell people it’s super important on so many levels (food sensitivities, nutrient content, observation of microbiome support foods, calories, quantity, and so on). And I tell them it’s not forever. I did it when we changed how we eat. I do it when my symptoms flare up and I’m not sure why. My husband does it when he gets on the heavy side of his weight. There are many reasons to do it. For Annie and her eating and obesity, it is absolutely a necessity for her to learn and work with this problem that has developed. How long to record? Well, Annie did it originally about a year in the past, and then tapered off successfully until life got really bad (and it truly was not her fault, just a really bad situation). Then, I just don’t think we had all the pieces of the machine in place for her to fly solo.

      Anyhow, when I logged, I just did a spiral bound tablet on my kitchen counter. It was not fancy. Some people like those computer trackers. I can’t make time for that. So I just tell people to find what works. But when a change is needed, logging and tracking are crucial!

  2. Shlomit

    This is great!
    I am going to share it with my mama!!

    My problem these days is the opposite. Working out is the way I make a living. So I spend 2-7 hours a day dancing and moving (super diduper endorphins) but don’t eat much…I have lost weight but feel drainer. So I need to create a diet for extra movers and minimal eatters.

    You are amazing dear Terri!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Extra movers and minimal eaters (and I also happen to know that Shlomit is also minimal meat). That diet, I think, would include hemp seed and coconut oil in a combination such that it could travel with me throughout the day (energy, good fats including omega-3, iron, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium).

      However, how to get the benefits of the “green/colorful vegetables” (kale, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, carrots, etc.) in someone who isn’t home to cook/prep. That is tougher. That may require a green smoothie then put in a thermos to sip on later in the day. You could make one and freeze it into cubes, then blend it up as needed…????

      My belief is that we are an accumulation of all the good in all we meet, if we allow it in. Thanks for coming through our lives and sharing your good with my family and me! We are better for it and we try to pass it on! Miss you!

  3. EmilyMaine

    What a wonderful friend you are.

    “I see our bodies as a reflection of our inner state”

    This one really resonated for me in my moment. Thx for sharing you wisdom and I hope life is good for the family. How old is your “baby” now??? Xx

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      You know, we are really good here! The baby is going to be 3 in July! She is so cute, but I’m holding out for age 4. All the kids above age 4 is a sweet spot! Right now, I’ve got red paint on beige carpet, pencil marks on newly-painted walls, tantrums on the floor, and an unpredictable sleep pattern! But so cute. Yesterday, she was really needing a nap, and she said, “I need some energy.” Oh, baby, you need a nap!

      I’ve been kind of following a line in my head lately: “Think psychologically, not physically.” This is from a medical doctor, Dr. Sarno, who suggested when we have a physical complaint, we should explore anything that’s been going on inside. I don’t know. I’ve been trying it out, encouraging my husband to try it out for me, and my kids too. Nobody else will tolerate me talking like that in my family and circle of friends. 🙂 There’s actually some science behind it, and one day, I’ll write it up. Years from now though! 🙂

      Take care. Are you heading into winter now? How old are your little ones? Thinking of you!

      1. EmilyMaine

        I’d be so interested to read about that. I’m thinking of going back to study and doing some sort of neuro thing. The brain is FASCINATING. Little people are almost 8 in Sept and just 3 in June. I’m thinking of one more!!!!! Time flies.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Time DOES fly! I wrote “years from now [I’ll write about that topic…] and it has already been years! I hope your little family is thriving and happy! Good luck with your decision on one more!

  4. Lesq

    Hey girl!! I have been worried about u–hoping you and your family were okay. Such a heart warming, lovely written post. Miss you. We all go through busy seasons of our lives. Seems like you are in one now. As long as all is well and good with you!!! Love to you my special blog friend. Happy summer

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thank you so much, Lesq. I appreciate that. We ARE doing well here and I keep playing with a way to make more writing time. The toddler has been moved to a big girl bed and is changing her sleep pattern. So my morning writing time has been usurped. Afternoons are busy with activities, and I won’t often do anything on the computer after about 8 pm because it messes very badly with my sleep. (I need sleep. :-)) The topics I’m working on right now (“alternative treatments” for brain injury and pancreatic cancer) are big topics and I want to be as scientific as I can without undermining potential. Well, sorry to talk out loud (takes one brain to know another, 🙂 ). I’m finding a way. Our family and myself are very happy, but I do want to write more. We’re working on it. We’ll get her done. Not in the time frame I would choose, but something all the same.

      I hope your family is great. Yoga is wonderful. Summer is refreshing! Talk later!

  5. Lesq

    We have a very dear friend who is one of the fabulous statistics that has lived with pancreatic cancer for over 20 years. He has a family, a very busy career and a wonderful happy disposition. A set back for him is only one moment in time and he gets past it and on he goes!!! Always happy and cheery just how I am. Also, my dad years ago had a severe bike accident and had a traumatic head injury. He fought it and recovered fully. He was so badly hurt they had pronounced him dead at first, but he wasn’t and he pushed through it. Wow, that was all heavy stuff so next, good for you–you are doing yoga. I do it diligently every weekday morning for two hours. Your family sounds wonderful–busy, noisy, active and happy and you as the conductor as the mother m always is–what more could you ask for in terms of accomplishment. Your research sounds fascinating.

  6. Mary

    Teri- Your posts are always just what I need. This one spoke to me on a new level as I am coming off a diet (read: eating better for my well-being) slump/burnout. Re-focusing is usually very difficult even when I KNOW I have succeeded before. Time seems to so often be the enemy for success for me. It takes a lot of time to prepare ahead so as not to fall off course.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Mary,

      I’m glad this post hit a spot. If you know it makes a difference, then I beseech you to rally the forces and start the forever journey. It’s a forever journey, and you can do it. Despite being a forever journey, it is spotted with periods of valleys and mires where we learn even more how to succeed. I have times where I try to come off my diet (I eat this way because gluten, dairy, too much sugar, eggs mess with me, both my gut and my head.) because I want to eat “more normal.” So far, I’ve always had to return. My advice to my friend is the same advice I live when it seems overwhelming.

      By the way, she’s doing really well since we started two weeks ago! You can too! Wilber had some nice tips above too about having an escape hatch and on monitoring those negative thoughts that I asked my friend to observe. How to frame them and such.

      You can do it. I believe in you.


  7. Wilbur

    Terri –

    I’m glad to hear all is well! I was a bit worried, but it seems that I needn’t have been.

    I love your advice. I think I used every bit of it in my quest for health, albeit I did not “know” you then!

    Although I do not know your friend, I’d like to suggest a couple of things that worked for me. Some of it I learned after the fact.

    Your advice about noticing the thoughts is spot on. What am I thinking right now? Harder – What was was I thinking prior to this? Even harder – What will my next thought be? This is Mindfulness 101. But don’t judge. Not “I’m stupid for thinking I’m stupid,” but “I seem to think I’m stupid.” The former induces guilt; the latter (to me) suggests a bit of levity. It makes me smile a bit. Joy.

    Related:You suggest walking. Maybe think about audio books ( Whatever genre makes your friend motivated. But lately I’ve been into the Zen/Buddhist stuff. Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” adds to your idea. Neither the past nor the future exist. Only the now exists. Observe your now. And saying “I seem to think I’m stupid” is being present in the now. The diet failures in the past do not matter. They are gone. The imagined future interactions with family/friends are just that: imagined. Nothing like the real thing that takes place among loved ones.

    And finally: escape hatch. I seem to have noticed that many successful dieters have escape hatches. Mine is/was Indus Turkish Figs. I love them! They are like Fig Newtons, except good. I have a rule. “Whenever I feel like eating uncontrollably, I will eat Indus Figs until I’m satisfied.” I can only eat 4-5 figs! My thought is that if I get fat eating figs, then so be it.

    I think this post captures the idea.

    Peanuts/figs, it all works!

    Anyway, good luck to your friend. I hope she realizes that she can do it. It’s hers to claim.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Wilber,

      I like that: “I seem to think I’m being [insert word].” It allows an observational status rather than a judgment status, too. “I am …” versus “I seem to be…”

      I have never formulated it into words, but I have an escape hatch too. I never thought of it that way quite. Just “I know I need to eat a lot of something sweet and melty, and I’m going to eat dates.” It’s dates. And I’ve thought exactly the same thing. “If my new junk food is dates instead of chocolate chip cookies, I’m golden.” I wonder if lots of us who keep the road for the long haul do that, have a good escape hatch. I’m going to run that by her today. She’s heading on a trip and those can be really hard.

      I’ll go read the post really quick you linked to.

      Thanks for your help. I appreciate it. Happy summer!


    2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      That was a great little article! I think it fits well with so many diet plans, only it can be summarized in one sentence such that any person can do it! I’m adding this to my brain. I like the way he says it. It goes along in a way with obesity researcher Guyenet who describes that people won’t overeat bland foods. Protein, really, is pretty darn bland food. As the author points out, eventually, the other stuff comes trailing back in (fruits, veggies) to make the food more appealing in one way or another, but those foods are fine (great) foods. Of course, there are a lot of things we could point out health-wise, and this would not be the best for problems like autoimmune disease (which I really think needs all the colorful stuff) or cancer, but for weight loss initiation and those times of weight loss struggle, this seems pretty good to go running back to.

  8. Pingback: More Diet Advice to a Friend | The HSD

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