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Anne Lamott on Turning “Help Thanks Wow” Into “Hips Thighs Waist”

Anne LamottBeloved author Anne Lamott recently wrote a Facebook post about diet books and self-esteem that resonated so strongly with her fans — of which there are more than 98,000 (that’s just on her Facebook page, which you should “like” because it gives you little nuggets of her wisdom on a regular basis). I am thrilled beyond words that she turned it into an exclusive post for me — to which I can only say “thanks” and “wow.”


This is true:

Last night, Riverhead got the New York Times bestseller list for Sunday, February 3. My book, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, was number nine again on the Advice, How-to and Miscellaneous list, which I’m so, so happy about. But the first eight books are diet books, number 10 is the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe book, and numbers 11-15 also are diet books.

I mean, isn’t that crazy? I know everyone’s New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, but EVERYONE knows how to lose weight. And EVERYONE knows that diets make you fat and crazy, that 95% of people who lose weight gain it back – plus 5 pounds – then hate themselves.

So people – mostly women and girls – are being preyed on with these books, which make up thirteen of the top fifteen Advice, How-to and Miscellaneous bestsellers. There IS no new secret. But the industry is able to make a fortune on our fear that we are disgusting the way we are, and that IF we all lose some weight, we will magically have great self-esteem and health. Plus, we will keep it off this time, because ONE of the authors of the thirteen books has broken the elusive code and so 95% of people won’t gain it back.

This is a WMD. It is the great palace lie, such an attack on our spirits and souls. We have to stop pushing the snooze alarm and wake up – together.

I could change the title of Help Thanks Wow to Hips Thighs Waist: Three Essential Diet Tips for Emaciation and Wealth, and claim it contained the secret launch codes. (1. Eat a little less. 2. Walk a little more. 3. And an extra glass of water or two a day won’t kill you.)

I could make a fortune.

The only other things that will help you with your weight and body image are radical self-care and help with the struggle. You are deserving of help and healthy food. You get to start your new, more user-friendly way of life as soon as you remember that you do. WILD.

Walking a little every day, if you can, will improve your life by approximately 78%. A lot of us have a TINY problem with sugar, but we all know how to get off it, and that if we do, the cravings and obsession will disappear. So one day at a time, eat protein and whole grains, veggies and a little fruit.

I don’t love water – it’s so watery. But I like it more since yesterday, when I was toweling my grandson off after a bath and told him how delicious he smelled. He said, “Do I smell like water?”

I got help from Connie at beyondsugarshock.com ONLY because she coincidentally came to my church for a benefit the week that I hit a terrible, crazy bottom with sugar. (I had been on a book tour for Hips Thighs Waist – I mean, the other HTW  — for a month: i.e., room service.) There’s free advice at that website, and all over the web, if sugar is an addiction for you as it is for me. I haven’t had it in weeks — one day at a time — because I was sick and tired of feeling as sick and tired as a sugar-based life made me feel. I am stable (ish), healthy, and rarely think about food now unless I’m very hungry. Then I eat protein, whole grains, veggies, fruit. If your problem is with salty savories, it’s the same thing: There is free advice all over the web. Don’t buy into the diet lie machine.

Maybe somehow you can help each other right here.

Read Lois’ interview with Anne here and watch the video conversation between Anne and Cheryl Strayed here (and, while you’re at it, read Lois’ interview with Cheryl here!)

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.


  1. Jessica Keener says:

    Wonderful. Sensible. Smart. (WSS) Thank you!

  2. Mary Anne says:

    Wow she is so right! How lucky are y’all to get this interview too-tres jealous. Anne’s right – I’ve always wanted to write a book called Eat Less Move More. It would have blank pages in it cuz that’s all you do!

  3. Yes, Anne is so right here… It’s so much more of self-esteem question than a “diet” question. I decided to love myself more and do something about my obesity and I did.

  4. I always wonder about those diet books – how many of the people who buy them end up losing weight by following the plans? They all boil down to the same thing – eat less, move more. Anne Lamott is a goddess.

  5. I think my diet obsession is a product of my Mother passing on her obsession. I’m so glad I didn’t pass it to mine. Great post, lucky girl. Virginia FirstClassWoman

  6. Hollye Dexter says:

    Wonderful advice from an author I adore! I do hike several times a week and although it hasn’t changed my figure, it makes me feel healthy and strong, which I think makes me stand a little taller and generally feel better. I’m also a huge yoga advocate- it keeps my joints working.

    No more diet books!

  7. Thanks for being so beautifully authentic~

  8. Brava. And congrats on the book!
    Years ago, when everyone seemed to be doing Atkins, I toyed with the idea of writing a diet book. I would have called it something like, “It’s not the Carbs, It’s the Car.” I have no background in nutrition or food science, but it seems obvious that any prescription for weight loss other than eat less, move more is doomed to failure.
    I couldn’t bring myself to write it, both because my program felt too obvious, and because I share your disgust with the predatory diet book industry.

  9. I was loving this right up until the end, where…um…how is Beyond Sugar Shock NOT another diet book, one claiming that kicking sugar is the key to everything wonderful? How is THAT better self-esteem? And how is that better than, say, Weight Watchers, which (to me) is more way-of-eating/living than diet, but which would be lumped in with the “diet lie machine” concept. Don’t get me wrong: I agree that WW is a diet, and I won’t argue that sugar addiction isn’t an issue for people, but if the point of all this is to love yourself and believe that you have the right to be healthy and happy–and that wherever on the scale you are healthy and happy is the right number for you, regardless of what society says–then how does following up with “except you should probably completely cut sugar out of your life and they you’ll be (from the book’s subtitle) ‘slimmer, sexier & sweeter'” fit into that?

  10. My sister and I always talked about writing a best selling weight loss book. It would be called “The Secret to Losing Weight!” and it would essentially be a blank book with one sentence on the first page – “Just pay attention.”
    Because honestly, who among us doesn’t know what we should eat and how much we should be eating, and how getting a bit of exercise every day helps? When we pay attention, and do what we already know, we can make our bodies healthy.
    So Anne, when you’re ready to team up and write a diet book, look me up. My sister and I think we have a best seller idea on our hands. 🙂
    Judy Berna (and Mary Porter)

  11. I’m just about to embark on my first extended book tour during which I will doubtless meet large numbers of skinny bloggers; I am so wildly riddled with self-doubt and angst (just this morning I was meeting another author for breakfast at a very hot NYC restaurant and they conveniently “lost” my reservation. I assumed because I’m carrying an extra 15 pounds) that it’s become debilitating. Every time I look in the mirror, I see my grandmother staring back at me. Anne Lamott, as always, makes me feel better…..

  12. Tricia van Dockum says:

    What a salty & genuine person Anne Lamott is. Thank you, Lois, for this post. It’s a shot in the arm of sensible thinking. : )

  13. Spot on! Have been eating my emotions for the past months…yesterday embraced a new thought !

  14. I read something recently on body acceptance that I thought summed it up well: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/02/ten-rules-for-fat-girls/

  15. Please please love yourself. When you do you will see a whole different gorgeous person in the mirror. And if you have a sugar addiction please please pay attention to it. Take care with love.

  16. Anne shared the concept of radical self love in one of her books many years ago, a great teaching!

  17. Robin Fitzhugh says:

    Huge Annie fan! Just beating myself up after spending time with a dear friend who just lost 35 pounds and looks amazing while it is such a slow, daily process for me. Thanks for the reminder of what really matters!

  18. Loved this post. Yes. How much more could we be and do for ourselves and others if we spent less time reading about how to be skinny once and for all.

    I think, too, that giving up sugar if you have an addictive relationship to it is not the same as dieting. Dieting is about looking slimmer. Giving up sugar because you see you use it to “sweeten” the things that are hard in life, because you rely on Tootsie Roll pops instead of work and integrity to make you feel better in a pinch? That’s healthy and shows real self-care and isn’t dieting.

  19. Amen, Anne … and how well you say it! I do think there is a lot of room in the “help with the struggle” category. Until we learn how to let go of the lies and the ridiculous expectations that have torpedoed our self esteem, we do need someone reminding us that we are glorious, powerful beings capable of magnificent things.

    That’s why I’ve created The JOY Weigh … a cheerleader for those of us who are ready to do the simple things that are sometimes not so easy. http://thejoyweigh.blogspot.com.

  20. I’ve long been a fan of Anne and I totally agree with what she says about the diet books. Unfortunately, I have been caught up in that craziness too many times to even count. I’m also a sugar lover and carb junkie (i.e., pasta, etc.). That was fine for a while, but now that I’m older it has caught up with me. I have insulin resistance and high blood pressure and no insurance company will insure me because of it. Now I’ve been reading a book called Wheat Belly because of health issues and because I have a close cousin with celiac disease. I’ve been off wheat since the first of January and my heartburn has diminished and my blood pressure is in the normal range without medication. I’m just wondering how all this fits in with the recommendation to eat more healthy whole grains? I’m totally confused as to what to eat these days, and, Wheat Belly is but another one of these diet books, going against the grain (no pun intended) of the official government recommendation for what constitutes a healthy diet. Only thing is, I can’t deny the results I’ve had after going off wheat.

  21. Marina McIntire says:

    Thanks, Lori, for your valid questions re: the diet book about sugar. Anne Lamott, I love you deeply and I own hardback copies of ALL your books. Have been reading your stuff since my own lads were young and so was I! Please don’t sell us and yourself short by endorsing another diet book.

  22. Georgianna says:

    Anne, I love your books and I really liked this article. Except the part about the diet book. I have tried so many things…diets,etc. that I just think it is a waste of time. I am to the point now where my doctor has told me to stop worrying about the weight and focus more on the other numbers. She means cholesterol, blood pressure and things like that. I have lost some from dropping fast food, red meat and soda. I think she was trying to tell me that learning to live with myself, no matter what size I am is important. So learning to love me and doing the things that make me happy have helped a great deal. We don’t have to diet to do that!

  23. Jamie Cat Callan says:

    I love this, Anne! Thank you so much for everything you do. I met you at Squaw Valley in 1991 and knew even back then, that I was in the presence of an angel. Love, Jamie

  24. Good, good stuff.

  25. Jeanne Dill says:

    Anne I’ve been following you since bird by bird keep on writing thosesimple truth just not so simple sometimes I would love to get your newsletter

  26. So true about the popularity of diet books. As a society we are obsessed with our weight and yet the obesity epidemic keeps growing. Diets don’t work in the long run; everyone knows it’s the healthy lifestyle that does work. I think a big part of the problem is the over-consumption of sugar and salt, both addictive substances.

  27. Jane Davis says:

    ANNE, You totally resonate with my soul..really need to find HTW, since I already have your other books. Reading you makes me happy with who I am. So glad I found you on FB…as I`ve also learned a new language: OMG…BFF…LOL..

  28. Indeed, “Don’t buy into the diet lie machine”… Or the beauty lie machine… Thanks for the important remember and perspective.

  29. Susan o'Neill says:

    The best words are ” radical self care and help with the struggle”

    I am beginning to make caring for myself my top priority. My next priority is to surround myself with people who know how to help each other with the struggle. Thanks for your earthy, human words of wisdom. And by the way, I did enjoy HTW.

  30. Why is this article that supposedly rejects dieting all about dieting and self-loathing (Hips, Thighs, Waist)? c’mon, Lamott, you’re singing the same old tune! Isn’t there more serious thing for women to think about?

  31. But she’s promoting a DIET BOOK!

  32. Joann H. Sapp says:

    Anne Lamott is my favorite author. I quote her more often than anyone. Especially love “It’s enough to make you drink whiskey out of the cat dish!”

  33. Carolyn Caffrey says:

    Y’know, this is Anne’s page. You’re not paying for therapy here. She’s not selling a diet book here. She copped to having trouble with sugar. She reported on a book and a site that has helped her with her ADDICTION. She’s not a guru. She cops to things about her life, her attitudes, her doubts that most of us don’t have the courage to…but may…eventually, partly because she has the courage to not only say them out loud…but write them out loud…for everyone to see!

    “..I got help from Connie at beyondsugarshock.com ONLY because she coincidentally came to my church for a benefit the week that I hit a terrible, crazy bottom with sugar….There’s free advice at that website, and all over the web, if sugar is an addiction for you as it is for me.”

    Thank you Anne for your candor, your wicked good sense of humor, your courage…which gives me a weeee bit more…your honesty about stumbling through life and faith, making it up as you go. You are a treasure. Your faith community sounds a lot like mine, diverse, inclusive, supportive, in love with music, with room enough for every crazy cousin to boot. Walk on, sister! And if you ever get to Austin, come visit us a St. James Episcopal. I’ll peel you a grape!

  34. Melody Jo Mountz says:

    Love your writings!

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