Jean Fain, 55, of Concord, Mass., is a longtime friend and colleague, though it is coincidental that we both ended up professionally concerned and active in the fight against obesity. When we met, we were working at the Boston Globe.
Though I beat her to the presses by a month or two, Jean is a whirlwind of activity. In addition to her book “The Self-Compassion Diet, A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness,” Jean is a psychotherapist in private practice and a teaching associate at the Cambridge (Mass.) Health Alliance.
I recently asked her to engage in an interview form I enjoy, in which the questions, and answers, are 10 words or less. Please note: it’s not a strict rule, and I’ve done some editing as well.
Did you ever struggle with your weight? “In my late teens, I gained I don’t know how much, but it was such a miserable experience to lose it and keep it off that I never wanted to feel that miserable again.”
What was your highest? “Probably 125 or 130, which doesn’t sound God-awful. I’m currently a little underweight because I’ve been working like a dog. I’m about 100. About 105 or 110 is a healthy weight for me; I’m 5-foot-2.”
Is this your first book? “It’s my first published book. I wrote a comedic psycho-thriller called ‘Sexually Dangerous.’ It was quite funny, and it’s sitting in a drawer at my house.”
What’s “The Self-Compassion Diet” about? “A kinder, gentler, more effective way to lose weight without dieting. Rather than counting calories, carbs or points, this shows you how to lose weight and gain health and happiness by treating yourself kindly.”
But wouldn’t a lot of people say that eating whatever they want is kind? “Yes, but the definition of self-compassion is more technical. It’s not just about indulging; it’s about eating with awareness and with as little judgment and as much self-acceptance as you can muster.”
What’s a common bar to keeping weight off? “It’s the mindset that weight loss is jaunt, instead of a journey. Many people think they diet, they lose the weight, and they’re all set. They think they don’t have to worry about keeping it off, so they don’t.”
Tell me something people don’t understand. “They expect to be self-disciplined, to kick themselves into shape. But what that does, more often than not, is trap themselves in a vicious cycle of undereating and overindulging.”
What’s the most hopeful sign you see for the obesity problem? “Oprah, ditching her scale and embracing mindful eating.”
Discouraging? “The ongoing popularity of these unsustainable diets like ‘South Beach’ and 'Atkins.’”
Do you consider food addiction a valid concept? “I believe that any concept that helps people find their way to sustainable weight loss is valid. I don’t think every person is ready to embrace the concept, but those who do, like you, have not only lost weight, but they’ve transformed their lives.”
Is there such a thing as a “bad” food? “Not in my humble opinion.”