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How Starving Myself Taught Me the Key to a Healthy Body


I spent many years hating my body. It all began in my late teens. At that time a certain modeling school was all the rage. I won’t name names but let’s call it Carbizon. I decided to become a world famous model, and enrolling in this school would be my first step.

I soon found out their popular tagline translates to, “Be a model or just look as if you’ve wasted a boatload of money learning how to apply lipstick and walk a straight line.”

But I digress.


The article, How An Eating Disorder Taught Me the #1 Rule For Achieving a Healthy Body, originally appeared on

The Carbizon modeling instructors told me I needed to weigh 105 pounds at the most if I ever wanted a shot at modeling stardom. (I don’t remember my weight at the time, but I was healthy and did not need to lose weight.) They conveniently left out the part where I would also need to add at least six inches to my little ol’ 5’4-1/2” self and, oh yeah, a couple yards of legs would be nice, too.

But hey, I could lose weight, right? I dropped the weight fairly easily. After all, I was 17. Then a weird thing happened: I couldn’t stop. I became obsessed.

I’ll spare you all the gruesome details, but let’s just say I was anorexic before it was even in fashion. I only wish I was a trendsetter in other ways. At 89 pounds I looked emaciated, felt miserable and I couldn’t sleep because I was literally starving. I would wake up in the middle of the night and raid my parents’ candy dish.

Since no one recognized I had an eating disorder (remember, eating disorders were not a thing yet), it took me years – YEARS – to get to a healthy weight. It eventually happened from the sheer exhaustion of trying to live on 300 calories a day. The extreme deprivation and obsession lasted well into my 30s, although to a lesser extreme. For the longest time I felt I was too fat if I hit 105 pounds. Craziness beyond belief, which I recognize now.

I’m telling you this story for a reason: The news has been abuzz lately with stories about body acceptance and loving yourself just as you are, no matter what your size.

After spending the past 40+ years trying to do just that I am certainly a huge fan of learning to love yourself. Huge fan.

But as much as I want every woman to love herself and her body, this trend has at times been misinterpreted.

Here’s why: There’s a fine line between self-acceptance and giving up. 

If you live a sedentary lifestyle, eat pizza for dinner three times a week and don’t make an effort to in any way towards a healthy body, that’s not self-acceptance. That’s throwing in the towel.

Here’s my #1 healthy body rule to live by:

Self-acceptance and loving yourself involves doing the best you can to create a healthy and happy body and mind.

Notice I didn’t say thin. It’s not all about weight. However, if you do all the right things, your weight will naturally fall to a healthy number. It happened to me, even though it took many years.

Your weight may be a little higher than your ideal goal, but once you get there it will be relatively effortless to stay there.

You simply keep up the good work.

(In case you missed it, check out my post on 3 Big, Bald-faced Fitness Lies in an earlier blog.)

This is one reason the tagline of my new book, Break Up With Your Fat After 50: a step-by-step guide to an ageless body, isn’t about being thin or even fit, but ageless. A healthy body is an ageless body because life is too short to try to be anything other than your own unique and wonderful self!

Along these same lines, one of the worst things you can do is “fat talk,” a term used to describe a trend where women bond through complaining about their bodies. It’s more common among college-age women but I hear it from women our age, too. It’s when you complain about your belly or other body part and others chime in. Even as a personal trainer I’d sometimes catch myself from adding to the conversation when a client rattled off her complaints.

Even if you don’t say it out loud, it’s not healthy to even think these thoughts in your own head. It’s destructive and hurtful, especially when it comes from your own gorgeous self.

It’s not easy. I still catch myself focusing on something I want to change and have to consciously tell myself to “stop it!”

If you’re not happy with your weight focus on your striking eyes or shiny hair or long legs (which I only wish I had! See? I did it again…). Play down the parts you’d like to change and bring out your good points. And, as I said, keep up the good work and you’ll see changes, trust me!

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Linda Melone

Linda Melone, 55, is a writer, fitness pro and an expert on helping women over 50 create an ageless body. Her byline appears on many sites including NextAvenue, Shape, Prevention, Health and many more. Visit her website,, for tons of great health and fitness info and sign up for her free weekly newsletter. Her freshly minted eBook, Break Up With Your Fat After 50, is due out any day and can be pre-ordered here.

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