Sunday, March 11, 2007

CINDYBIN THE "YAHOO TROLL" STORY

FOR THE RECORD: Regarding "The Cindybin Project: My Adventures on Yahoo and Beyond", I want to state publicly that Love-is-a-Verb a.k.a. Pixie apologized after reading my story, and we were friendly again. However, after posting that story in April 2006 and hesitatingly returning to the boards, many Yahoo bullies became even more vicious, taking things so far that I don't dare post it here, and I was eventually forced to leave the old headline forums for good in early May 2006. Yahoo discontinued those boards the end of 2006.

Yahoo Trolling Story

The following is an article about Yahoo’s former headline boards, written the end of 2006. I came across this piece one day and found it well-written and accurate, even the part about my role in those forums. I am not sure who wrote it; I believe it is the same person who ran the now defunct Cindybin fansite and forums (which I did NOT take part in). But I wanted to include it here because it does a good job of summing up the whole Yahoo experience I went through, described in more detail in my story “The Cindybin Project: My Adventures of Yahoo and Beyond”. It started out so fun, all the banter and debate on those boards, and ended so horribly, what with the abuse, death threats and threats of bodily harm, people threatening to call their lawyer or the cops on me (because I tried to get them to apologize for hurting me), and other acts of meanness I cannot even go into here. I feel I will never be the same. Not just from Yahoo, but from the lowcarb site as well, also mentioned in my story. I also find it hard to believe that it all happened, that people thought someone like me couldn’t be real, etc. I always felt my values and beliefs were much like anybody else’s. I never thought my posts would cause so much hoopla. I was just trying to be genuine and sincere. In any case, the following article is from 365articles.com, a “high quality article database.” I hope you enjoy it.

THE STORY OF THE BIGGEST TROLLING PHENOMENON THE INTERNET HAS EVER SEEN

Yahoo is the one most visited site in the world. It gets over 240 million visitors each month. And not too long ago, within two clicks from Yahoo’s homepage, you could get into Yahoo’s message boards. And on these message boards, lies some of the most vulgar and disgusting messages you will ever read. Trolling used to be a past time for people who frequent these message boards. What is trolling? Trolling is when a person posts something online that is meant to generate shock or anger readers. Basically, it’s a way to get attention in any way possible, and usually posting something obscene is the best way to do it. Yahoo message boards allowed a reader to “recommend” a message, but trolling became so popular on these boards that vulgar messages would get numerous recommendations from other trolls.

No moderators equals chaos

The difference between a Yahoo message board and other online forums was that there were no moderators on Yahoo. People could post whatever they felt and usually what they felt was something mean or nasty. When the Yahoo message boards came online in the late 90’s, almost all the messages back then were civilized and as related to the subject matter at hand. But users started to realize that there was no one watching over them. They could curse and get away with it. They could insult another person’s beliefs or even their family and there would be no consequences. No moderators and being anonymous meant anything goes. People began going on Yahoo message boards not to discuss a certain story, but to troll the message boards and get a high from pissing off or disgusting others. Some have suggested that Yahoo didn’t moderate their message boards because they wanted to get as much page views as possible to generate ad revenue, while others say that Yahoo had way too many message boards and moderating wouldn’t have done any good.

Trolls competing against each other

Only after a couple of years, nearly half of all messages on Yahoo’s message boards were junk and was troll material written by trolls. This caused a problem for some trolls. Being a troll meant receiving as much attention as possible, but it was hard when you have a whole lot of other trolls competing for the same spotlight. So trolls began getting nastier and wittier with their messages. A troll who had posted a gem would receive several or more recommendations from the trolling community and their message would most likely be copied and pasted by other trolls on other message boards and their post would live on, while a failed attempt to be funny or disgusting would result in zero recommendations and their message would fade to obscurity and never be read again.

The most famous troll of all time

The most famous Yahoo troll of all time was a middle-aged housewife that turned into an accidental troll. She had quite a few hobbies such as making cakes and collecting dolls on eBay. But what turned her into such a celebrity in the trolling community was that she was absolutely against smoking weed and pre-marital sex…and she wasn’t trolling. She actually meant it and those were her true beliefs. Around 2004-2005, Cindybin appeared on the Yahoo message boards and whenever the subject of marijuana or pre-marital sex came up, she was always around to preach what she felt was the right thing, that marijuana was bad and pre-marital sex was wrong. The regulars who frequent Yahoo message boards came to realize that she wasn’t trolling when they saw she put in a lot of effort when arguing against drugs and talked like a person who worked at a rehab center. Now a regular troll would have been for drugs, alcohol and pre-marital sex, but Cindybin was against those very things and this made her the focus of a lot of people on Yahoo’s message boards. Being such an anti-troll has turned Cindybin into one. Other trolls began harassing her or try to become friends with her. Whenever Cindybin posted a message, there would be many replies, turning the whole message board into a discussion about her. Cindybin posted pictures of herself on her profile and on her homepage, thus giving her a face to go along with her messages. Perverted trolls would ask her for sexual favors or comment on how she looked. Cindybin’s fame grew to the point where it spawned many imitators trying to copy her name. Cartoons were made about her and she got her own fansite created by a fan. Eventually around the summer of 2006, the group of trolls called the Dana Crew angered Cindybin so much that she left the boards and has never been seen on Yahoo again. But ask any Yahoo message board reader who the most memorable troll was, and most of them will tell you it’s a woman named Cindybin.

The end of an era

On December 19, 2006, the Yahoo Headline message boards where most Yahoo trolls called home closed down and no one knows when or if they would be up again. The original Yahoo message boards were some of the oldest forums on the Internet, being around for more than eight years. Some former Yahoo trolls migrated over to the Cindybin forums while others went over to Google Groups. The golden age of trolling has most likely come to an end, and there’s a chance we might never see anything like it again.

ODE TO CINDYBIN2001: THE FOOD ABUSER

ODE TO CINDYBIN2001: THE FOOD ABUSER

It was Wednesday morning, March 7, 2007 that I checked my Yahoo email. “Ah, I got paid for an auction,” I said, and went off to the post office to mail the item. When I got home I later signed on again. But I couldn’t open my mailbox! “Oh no, don’t tell me I need to change my password again,” I thought. This had happened about a year earlier, where I mysteriously couldn’t get into my account, but after checking the help section and going through a procedure where I changed my password, everything worked again.

But this time was different. My attempt at changing passwords only got me to a screen which said something about how this account had been flagged by Yahoo and was not recoverable. What did they mean by that? How was I going to check my email? There were important things in there! I relied on that ID for eBay notifications, letters from friends and groups and all sorts of things. I started to panic. I thought about all those emails in my mailbox that were just sitting there, many unopened but which I had saved to read later. Many were from the past which I saved just to have, all neatly sorted into folders. There were entries in my notepad, lists of addresses and phone numbers and birthdays. Memories of the past five years or so, all tied up in that little mailbox. And I couldn’t get to it! What’s more, my little weight loss homepage and Yahoo profile were gone. And I was no longer a member of any of the Yahoo groups I had been in, and one group of which I was the sole owner disappeared completely. It was as if cindybin2001 did not exist!

“This can’t be true,” I thought. “It must be some kind of glitch.” I looked through some of the help sections at Yahoo, and saw something about how they will freeze your account for safety precautions if their system senses multiple attempts to enter your password. Maybe that was it, I thought. This was only temporary, and I would get back all my information in a matter of hours. I just had to be patient, I told myself. But it didn’t happen. I could not retrieve my mailbox or anything associated with that ID. The powers that be at Yahoo did take it away. The infamous cindybin2001 at Yahoo is no more.

After a runaround with Yahoo Customer Care (“Why did you delete me?? What did I DO???”), all I have received are form letters from their “food abuse” department saying that I violated their TOS (terms of service). I thought back to the last few days, how I had posted on a few boards at their new food section on the main page. Yahoo now had quite a selection of food and health related stories, and asked for comments which one could enter in a little box that were then posted in a list for others to read. All I could remember participating in were three topics: alcohol, tea, and diet tips. On some of the wine stories, in their “cheers” section, I stated facts from studies which say alcohol is unhealthy, and said that I disagreed with Yahoo running stories which promote and glorify it. I have strong opinions about this subject and felt compelled to speak up. On another story, a piece running on the front page which raved about the benefits of tea, I stated that there are studies which say that tea is unhealthy, and that it is also against some people’s religion to drink it, including mine. On a diet board, I tried to dispel some misconceptions about fat and calories, explaining that rather than fat and calories, it is sugar and refined carbs which cause weight gain, because they can raise your insulin level causing fat to be stored. These were subjects I knew about, which I had experience with, and I had merely been taking an opportunity to present a different point of view, to help others realize that there are many who do not agree with what was said in those articles and that there may be a better way of thinking about things. I did not use bad language or “harass” anyone or put anyone down. I didn’t even respond to others’ posts! I was basically just talking to myself, expressing my own opinion. I did see a couple of posts on one of the wine articles directed at me, where one person called me “sad” and another said to “get a life.” I didn’t read the rest of their messages because I did not want to get upset or start an argument. So I just ignored their nasty comments and stated my own thoughts and feelings. But they were allowed to hurt and insult me. Did they get banned? On one of the diet tips boards, I saw a post by a woman who actually agreed with me and who said something like, “Leave it to the Yahoo idiots to post a story like this.” I did not call Yahoo “idiots” or any other names, and certainly didn’t call any other posters names or say anything rude to anyone. I just couldn’t understand what I said or did that could cause them to yank my ID without warning.

On the old headline forums on Yahoo’s main page, one could say virtually anything. And I do mean ANYTHING. People said the crudest and most disgusting things imaginable. I had first discovered those boards in 2004, chatting with other posters there in order to dispel misconceptions people had about lowcarb eating, as well as chastise those who made rude comments directed at overweight people. I was appalled at the offensive posts there, and took advantage of the essentially unmoderated format to exercise my freedom of speech and stand up to some of the bullies. I spoke up against things like marijuana and casual use of profanity. People got into heated debates and arguments on all kinds of subjects, complete with name-calling, threats and every naughty word known to man. Within a short time, I became a very popular and well-known poster there, which surprised me because I always felt I was only being myself, not saying anything outrageous. I had fun and made friends, and tried to not take anything too seriously. But eventually things turned ugly when the bullies, those who mistook my comments as being self-righteous, began making fun of and cutting me down for everything they could think of. I was cussed out, threatened with death and bodily harm, abused and insulted more times than I can count. They really did go too far, saying and doing things that I don’t dare mention here. I eventually left in tears, unable to take the abuse anymore. Yahoo did have a TOS on those boards, but rarely did anyone abide by it, and even if you reported offensive posters, Yahoo usually sent a form letter suggesting you use the “ignore” option on them which prevented you from seeing their posts. If it was really bad, they might send the offenders an email warning. But very few people were banished altogether. I myself lost my temper after months of abuse, and said things out of hurt and rage that I would never normally say in real life. But I never lost my cindybin2001 account. I never even received a warning.

That’s why I was so shocked when Yahoo obliterated my account without so much as a “Please don’t say something like that again or we may have to take action” note. And I still don’t even know what I said that made them so mad—if it was the wine, the tea, or the diet tips! If it was alcohol-related, do they realize that if I told my non-drinking friends about these wine articles, that they might very well want to post their feelings against alcohol as well? All I would have to do is mention these boards to my church congregation, and they could come along and post the same opinions that I do, about both alcohol and tea. Would Yahoo ban them? And my lowcarb friends agree with what I said about fat and calories. If they all came along and posted what I did, would Yahoo revoke their ID, too?

I had had my Cindybin2001 account for years—since, well, since 2001! In 2002, after having had great success on a controlled-carb plan, I made a nice little weight loss website at geocities through that ID. I joined Yahoo groups, set up my eBay and PayPal accounts with it, used it on almost every other message board or site I had ever registered on. Most everyone knew me by that name. When I made that ID all those years ago, I never dreamed I would ever lose it. Why would I? I never did bad things! All I talked about was lowcarb and dolls! What could possibly happen where I would lose my ID and everything connected to it? All those unopened emails in my mailbox, letters and things that I had not wanted to read at the time but was saving for “someday”, they are gone forever. It may be a pain, but I can replace my website, hunt down and rejoin the groups, change email addresses, etc. But everything in my mailbox and all the information in any groups where I was the sole owner are gone forever. You think this stuff is yours, but it really is at the hands of Yahoo officials to take away as they please.

When I joined the old headline forums, I may have been run off in tears, but at least it was of my own accord and not by some faceless person in the Yahoo Empire. As horrible as those old forums could be, I think the new ones are worse, if my experience is indicative of what may happen to someone expressing a different point of view. I had barely posted anywhere for months after the headline forums fiasco, and then I finally decide to participate a bit on some innocent food articles where I thought I was safe, and my precious ID is taken away! How ironic that in 2004 Cindybin first went to the headline boards to speak up about food and health related issues, and three years later she is killed off for “food abuse.” This is crazy! If I knew that others were being banned willy-nilly, I wouldn’t feel so bad. But I can’t believe that these new boards have a policy where if you don’t rave about wine or tea or agree with their articles, the Food Police will come along and send your ID to that big Internet in the sky. How will I ever even be able to LOOK at those food boards again, knowing that if I speak my mind or disagree, it may be the last time I use that ID? It will be so frustrating I won’t be able to stand it. I suppose if I ever do go back, I will make an ID just for posting on those boards, a “throwaway” one where if it gets axed it won’t be the end of the world.

Moral of the story: Remember that you are just a number to Yahoo. They don’t care about you or how long you have had your ID, how much important stuff is in your mailbox or groups, or how hard you have worked to maintain your reputation. Your good name and all that goes with it can disappear in a heartbeat. Have backup accounts and mailboxes. Print out your address list, print up a list of all your groups if you are in many, join your groups under at least two names, if you are sole owner of a group, join under another name and make yourself owner, otherwise the group disappears. Or at least make sure you have a co-owner who will let you back in again and crown you. Don’t save emails thinking they are safe forever. If it is important to you, forward it to another backup email box or print it up or save it to CD or hard drive. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Oh, and don’t speak up against alcohol or tea!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

LYRICS PAGE

I love you (Zombies)
I love you, I love you, I love you, yes I do But the words won’t come & I don’t know what to say I should tell you, I love you, I do My words should explain, but my words won’t come I shouldn’t hide my love deep inside My words should explain, but my words won’t come I should tell you just how I feel, & I keep tryin’ But something holds me back when I try to tell you CHORUS: I love you, I love you, I love you, yes I do I love you, I love you, I love you, yes I do But the words won’t come & I don’t know what to say If I can find the words in my mind The words could explain, but the words won’t come If you can see what you mean to me My words should explain, but my words won’t come & oh how hard I try to tell you I love you But something holds me back when I try to tell you (chorus) (instrumental) & I don’t know what to say & oh how hard I try to tell you I love you But something holds me back when I try to tell you...

ZUCCINI PIE FROM NANCY LARSON EXERCISE LADY


ZUCCHINI PIE

This is a recipe from an old exercise show from the early 1980's called "Shape Up With Nancy Larson", which ran every day on the local Christian channel. Nancy was very slender, and preached about how sugar is bad for you. She often gave recipes using full-fat cheese, eggs, butter, etc. I remember her saying that this recipe leaves out the crust so it won't cause weight gain. So Nancy was Somersizing and didn't even know it! (Also, read my feature article about Nancy posted in April 2012)

The ingredients are: three medium zucchini (do not peel, 3 tablespoons butter, 1/2 clove garlic (or garlic pepper), 1/4 teaspoon dill weed, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, 2 eggs (beaten), 1 cup (or more) Monterey Jack cheese (cubed). Slice zucchini into 1/4" pieces. Pour into butter 9" pie pan. Mix spices into the eggs, and pour over zucchini. Top with cheese. Bake at 325 degrees until cheese is slightly browned and bubbly (cooking times vary; check after 20 minutes or so). Serve hot, with fresh-ground natural sea salt on top. Store any leftovers in refrigerator.

DEEP DISH PIZZA
This recipe was submitted by a Somersizer on Suzanne's web site. It's the first Somersized recipe I ever made, and is delicious. Recipe: Four ounces cream cheese; 2 eggs; 1/3 cup cream; 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese; 1/2 t. oregano; 1/4 t. garlic powder; 2 cups mixed shredded pizza cheese; Pizza toppings of choice. Beat together cream cheese and eggs till smooth. Add cream, parmesan cheese and spices and mix again. Spay oblong casserole dish with PAM. Sprinkle 2 cups cheese into dish and pour egg mixture over it. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Let stand five minutes. Spread on pizza sauce, cheese and toppings. Bake till bubbly and browning. Let stand ten minutes.

Note: There are more easy low-carb and controlled-carb recipes on my weight loss site and blog (links above). There are also rants about how hard it is to find healthy cereal, and how Yahoo and so many others perpetuate the myth that fat makes you fat, etc. Just keep scrolling back and you will find all this good stuff. My weight loss story is repeated there, too.

CINDYBIN'S SOMERSIZE LOWCARB WEIGHT LOSS STORY

HOW I LOST WEIGHT BY EATING GREAT FOOD
By Cindy

There it was again, the familiar growl deep inside my stomach. A quick glance at the clock told me it wasn't time yet. It seemed like I had just finished what I thought was a healthy breakfast of cereal and skim milk, a banana and orange juice, hoping it would last me awhile. But I was hungry already! How could I wait another hour to eat my late morning snack? It just didn't seem right to start eating cookies so early. "Oh well," I thought. "I'll get everything ready and mix some of the ingredients, so that by the time the cookies are out of the oven it will be closer to a respectable hour." I pulled out the mixing bowl, the margarine, flour, sugar and chocolate chips. Didn't I just finish a batch of these two days ago? But I had to make them again, because, well, what else was I going to eat all day? I told myself I would exercise later in the day to work it off, and eat something healthy, like carrot sticks.

This scenario was happening all too often as I got older, especially after hitting my forties. Ironically, as a teenager I stuffed myself trying to gain weight and always got mad when people called me skinny. At 5'2", I weighed 93 pounds as a college freshman. Shortly after getting married in 1979, at age 22, I was thrilled to put on ten pounds. During my twenties I had two babies, gaining 35 pounds with each, but the weight came off effortlessly. At one point I was up to 130, which I thought was huge, but always returned to 120 or so without even trying. At my checkup at about age 31, I think I weighed 111 and my cholesterol was 169. I was the picture of health.

But then, over one winter, at approximately age 32, I started putting on weight. There were bumps on my thighs that weren't there before. The scale was climbing past 130. Throughout the rest of my 30s and up to age 44, the more I tried to lose weight, the more I gained. My first step to battle the bulge was using skim milk rather than whole. This would have been unheard of in the past. But with all the milk I drank with my cookies, brownies, cake and other goodies, I thought cutting out the fat in the milk would make a huge difference. It didn't.

The next step was buying fat-free or reduced-fat products such as salad dressings, cheese, cookies and chocolate cake. This was a big deal, buying a fat-free cake. It just HAD to make the pounds drop off. But I kept getting bigger. I used margarine instead of butter. In place of ice cream I often ate chocolate frozen yogurt. Sometimes as a bedtime snack I ate sugary cereal, which I thought was okay because it was fat-free. I tried a new recipe for brownies in which you replaced the oil with fat-free yogurt. I stepped up the exercise. My weight would go up and down, and exercise helped me tone up, but I still was nowhere near what I wanted to be. I believed my body chemistry had changed due to getting older, and that it was impossible ever to be anywhere near 130 again. I even threw out our scale, finding it too depressing to stand on.

Plus, the more I ate low-fat or fat-free food, the more I craved my sweets. I would be "good" for awhile, but it could only last so long before I was making a big batch of cookies. I continued doing intense aerobics to a workout video, the only thing that stopped my cravings for any length of time. Afterwards, I would go as long as possible without eating. I had to take advantage of this one time of day I wasn't hungry. When my appetite returned, I would eat something healthy, like an apple. But soon after, I was starving. So I'd have some low-fat cereal and skim milk. Then I'd be even hungrier. Here I was trying to eat healthy, but how could I ever lose weight when I was starving all the time? I used to eat whenever I wanted. I didn't eat low-fat foods. I ate cookies, making them whenever I had a craving. But now it was getting so that I didn't know when I wanted cookies (or brownies or cake). It was like I had lost my "regulating mechanism". I wanted them all the time! Exercise was just masking the problem, only keeping me from eating cookies for a couple of hours, not curing my addiction. But at least it was something. I would get so upset when anything interfered with my workout routine, like if I hadn't had enough sleep, or had something else to do. Then I knew I would be a slave to the cookies and sweets. Sure, it was great eating sweets. I kept telling myself I always ate cookies before, and never gained weight. So I could still do it, couldn't I? Well, maybe not. Just this one last time, and then I'll stop, or at least cut down. But I couldn't.

In the fall of 2000 I was sick with a virus and fever for quite a long time, and couldn't work out. But I could still eat! I was weighed at the doctor's office but asked the nurse to not tell me what the scale read. I also got my cholesterol checked about this time. The nurse called back with the results, saying it was borderline high and that the doctor wanted me to treat it by eating fruits and vegetables. Great. The more someone tells me to eat healthier, the more I crave the cookies. I tried to eat healthy, but didn't get very far.

In the spring of 2001, after getting back to working out, I was feeling a little thinner. I knew I was nowhere near what I used to be in my younger days, but figured I was somewhere in the 140s. In March I went back to the doctor for something else, and happened to see the number on the scale. It was 158. I could not believe it. I had weighed 155 back in my 20s, but gave birth shortly after! And if I weighed this much now, how much had I weighed a few months ago when I put on all that weight when I was sick? I told the doctor that I was pretty upset that I just kept getting bigger and bigger. He looked at my chart and said I was down a couple pounds from my last visit. I guess that meant I had been hovering around 160. He asked if I watched my saturated fat, calories, etc. I said yes. I mean, I really was trying! (I thought it was a big deal to drink skim milk, not put margarine on my white rice, and go an hour without a cookie!) I added that I worked out almost every day. "I don't know what else I can do, other than cutting out cookies completely," I said. "I don't expect you to cut out cookies completely," he replied. (Ha--that's like telling an alcoholic they can still drink.) He seemed puzzled, saying that it didn't make sense that I would keep getting bigger and bigger while watching what I ate. "You could have your thyroid tested," he said. "That's a common problem in women your age." I agreed to his suggestion, planning to undergo this test at my next cholesterol check.

"Maybe that was the cause for my weight gain after all," I thought later at home as I sprawled on the couch nibbling strawberry licorice sticks. "Maybe all it would take was some medication, and I would be back down to normal." Then I went to get some skim milk and cookies, followed by potato chips. But inside, I knew I didn't have a thyroid problem. So I decided to cut back even more. I ate salads with fat-free cheese (which tasted more like cardboard) and fat-free dressing. I ate fruit and boring, plain vegetables. I exercised more. This only lasted so long until I couldn't stand it anymore and made another batch of chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmm, cookies.

I started noticing that I was getting thick around the middle. I mean really thick. I had no waistline! I thought about stepping up the aerobics even more, but then realized I couldn't do them 24 hours a day. I was feeling hopeless and depressed. At one point I cleaned out my closet and donated 90 percent of my clothes to charity, keeping a few favorites as souvenirs of how I used to be. My feet were so sore when I got out of bed in the morning, I'd hobble to the bathroom like an old woman. I was using antacids more and more. I kept remembering how I much I weighed a few months ago at the doctor's office. I checked the Internet and found some charts which said that 160 is almost obese for my height. Yes, the girl that everyone made fun of because she was too skinny was now considered almost obese.

One day I was watching Suzanne Somers on the Home Shopping Network. I knew she had written three best-selling books on her eating plan, called Somersizing. Ironically, several years ago I had skimmed through her first book at the library, and remembered that Somersizing is basically a well-balanced, fairly low-carb plan, with no portion control, no counting fat grams or calories. Somersizing also focuses on food-combining, keeping carbohydrates separate from protein and fat, with low-starch vegetables eaten anytime and fruits on an empty stomach. She had learned of this eating method years ago while visiting friends in France, wondering how Europeans eat such rich food and still stay thin. It made sense, how proteins and carbs digest at different rates. When they are eaten together, Suzanne explains, the enzymes cancel each other out, creating a halt in your digestion and causing the meal to be potentially stored as fat. Her plan called for the elimination of sugar, refined foods and foods high in starch (which your body accepts as sugar) like potatoes, white rice and white bread. I remembered having read Suzanne's sample menu of what she eats in a day. While it was filled with lots of good, healthy food, I thought, "Where are the cookies?" Giving them up then just was not an option. About all I followed with any regularity was eating fruit on an empty stomach.

On TV, Suzanne mentioned that she had a website and a chat room. Soon afterwards, I checked it out. The people seemed like such a fun, dedicated group. Most all of them had great success with the program. But I still wasn't ready to start myself. There was just no way I could give up my cookies. And eat a hamburger or hotdog without a bun? Forget it. But I kept visiting. It was so interesting, even though I thought that some people were a bit fanatical. I mean, I once mentioned that I was eating up some Flintstones chewable vitamins that I had bought for my son when he couldn't yet swallow pills, and was surprised when someone warned me about the sugar. The amount in that vitamin was miniscule compared to what I ate every day! But these people were not eating any sugar, and losing lots of weight. I was soon getting it into my head that we shouldn't eat anything to raise our insulin level. As Suzanne says in her books, many doctors now are beginning to understand that unbalanced hormones cause weight gain, not fat and calories. Insulin must be present for fat to be stored. The USDA Food Pyramid has way too many unneeded carbohydrates. We must eat protein and fat (real fat, like butter and olive oil, not margarine) to regulate the constant rebuilding that takes place in our bodies. As Suzanne says, fat is our friend, and sugar is the body's greatest enemy.

Slowly but surely I was coming around. I knew this wasn't a fad, it wasn't a gimmick. Suzanne did not invent this way of eating, but she presented it in a clear, understandable manner, and she wanted to share the message because it had worked so well for her. This was the way humans are supposed to eat, enjoying wholesome, nutritious, real food. Not packaged foods loaded with chemicals and preservatives. But could I give up my cookies? I honestly didn't know. I kept looking at the "decadent chocolate cake" recipe in one of her books, a "Level Two" dish made with a small amount of real sugar that you could have after you'd lost all you wanted. I knew that Somersizing wouldn't mean I'd never be able to have a cookie again. I just had stay on Level One and get all the sugar out of my cells and repair my metabolism first. Then I could incorporate some sweets and see how it went. Could I live that long without them, though? I had to give it a try. And so, at the beginning of June 2001, I became an official Somersizer.

I started out by making the "deep dish pizza" recipe submitted by a Somersizer on Suzanne's site. Traditional pizza combines a carb crust with protein toppings, but this dish was legal because it had a crust like a quiche, made with eggs, cheese and cream. I also made a cauliflower dish, using full-fat sour cream. Both were delicious, and I ate much more cauliflower this way than I would have had it been plain. From there, I learned more new recipes, a whole new way of cooking and eating. I started noticing a difference in myself right away. At first I just felt "lighter". Then my rings were getting loose. My double chin disappeared. I had to keep readjusting the little attached belt on the skirt I wore to church every week. Soon that skirt was too big, and I was wearing many of those old clothes I had kept as souvenirs. Even my shoes were looser. I still did not have a scale, so I never knew how much I actually lost. But I knew the program was working.

What's more, I didn't crave cookies. How could anyone want cookies when there is so much other good food to eat? I was enjoying meats, vegetables with butter, delicious salads with full-fat dressing, cheese, eggs, fruit, whole-grain toast and cereal (all in the proper combinations, of course). And I was getting thinner all the time. I waited six weeks before making any desserts, just to prove to myself that I could live without them. Then I started making "legal" desserts such as fudge, no-crust cheesecake, and chocolate mousse, all made with only proteins, fats and natural sweetener that does not raise your insulin level. The desserts were great, but they were no longer what I lived for. I was satisfied and having too much fun eating everything else.

Suzanne lists "funky foods" to avoid because they are bad combinations of protein and carbohydrate, or carbohydrate and fat, etc. Other foods, like corn, popcorn and bananas, are funky because they are very starchy and high on the glycemic index. Alcohol and caffeine, which raise insulin levels, also are to be avoided. Throughout the summer I learned more new recipes, organizing my kitchen and getting rid of the junk and funky food--anything with sugar or that was a bad combination, even including things like canned soup, seasonings and salad dressings. Somersizing almost became a full-time job for me. I was running to the store every few days, stocking up on fresh food. I spent time reading labels to make sure to buy only brands with no added sugar. It is everywhere, disguised as different names. I made my own salad dressing. I chopped more vegetables in a week than I had in my entire life. Our refrigerator was always so full, it became a challenge trying to wedge things in. Meanwhile, our large pantry was collecting cobwebs.

I learned that preparation was the key. I always tried to have legal food on hand so I didn't even have to think of what to eat. I would bring along a small cooler whenever I was out for any length of time so that I wouldn't find myself succumbing to French fries. My husband and I even skipped going to our favorite restaurant we always went to on our anniversary, because their specialty is freshly baked white bread with cheese spread that they bring you first thing. I continued to exercise most days, and drank lots of water. But I no longer was exercising just to keep myself from pigging out. My weight loss was due to what I was eating, not how much I was moving. I also visited Suzanne's chat room almost daily, sometimes for hours at a time. It became such a support group. There were the regulars as well as "newbies" who came in for help. I made many new online friends, one whose doctor put her on the plan, saying that if she didn't lose weight she wouldn't be around to see her kids grow up. She is quite a way from reaching her goal, but lost 92 pounds in her first six months.

Needless to say, I never needed my thyroid tested. I found the answer to my weight problem through Somersizing. I have come to find out that a thick waistline is a sign of insulin resistance. It means every cell in your body is about as full of sugar as it's going to get, and from then on everything you eat will be stored as fat--even a carrot, which is very high in carbohydrate, or natural sugar. I can eat a piece of full-fat cheese and it completely wipes away my desire for sweets. What I used to eat just set me up for craving carbs and sugar even more. Fat-free and reduced-fat products replace the fat with sugars, starches and chemicals. No wonder I ended up gaining weight rather than losing! Most of us on this eating plan have a carbohydrate addiction. We're hungry soon after eating carbs, even natural ones like fruit. After my carb breakfast, it's all I can do to hold out until lunchtime. But as soon as I can switch to proteins, I'm fine. I feel so much healthier and my digestion is fantastic.

Suzanne recommends we eat only one carb meal per day, and preferably in the morning, when we have more time to work it off throughout the day. So I eat fruit on an empty stomach, wait at least 20 minutes and then have whole grain cereal like oatmeal. For lunch I often have a "Somersized" taco salad: shredded chicken in a tomato and onion sauce, served on a bed of romaine lettuce, topped with shredded cheese, onions, tomatoes, sour cream and lots of sugar-free salsa. Dinner might be pork roast smothered in sauted onions, and lots of vegetables with butter or olive oil. I snack on things like celery and cheese, deviled eggs, and "legal" desserts. I think part of my problem before was that I just didn't know what to eat. We hear that everything is bad for us, that meat and eggs are high in cholesterol, that fat will make us fat. So when I tried to eat what is considered healthy, it just made me crave cookies all the more. But now, thanks to Suzanne's books and website, I have so many recipes it is hard to find time to try a fraction of them.

As I mentioned, there are two levels to Somersizing. You stay on Level One until you are satisfied with your weight, when all the sugar has been released from your cells and your metabolism has been reprogrammed. Then you can go to Level Two, where you are allowed occasional "cheats." But once you gain a pound or two, you just go back to Level One. That's what is so great about this plan is that it's something you stay on for the rest of your life. On a low-fat diet, you are actually losing more muscle and bone mass than fat, and your body will go into "survival mode" and slow down your metabolism. Once you go off a diet, you gain all the weight back and then some. With Somersizing, it's a healthy loss with no "gaunt" look, because you're getting everything your body needs for it to melt into its natural shape.

Also, your cholesterol should go down. Raised insulin levels, not fat, cause high cholesterol. Fat alone does not cause an insulin response. But combine it with a carb, as in cookies or donuts, and the pounds will pack on. Suzanne's books contain medical validation from leading endocrinologist Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., who warns that almost entirely eliminating foods containing cholesterol and fat from your diet can accelerate metabolic aging. If you don't eat enough cholesterol, your body will produce it. The less fat you eat, the higher the rate of cholesterol production in the liver.

Many doctors like to recommend programs that restrict calories and involve portion control. All I know is that I would starve. Counting points is no way to live. You also are allowed treats on these kinds of programs, so that you won't feel deprived. Well, my ideal treat would be a chocolate chip cookie. But who can stop at just one? I would make a batch and gorge for two days. Eating foods like that just sets you up for cravings. I also have heard recommendations for weight-loss shakes and drinks. But how can doctors advocate replacing a meal with a can of sugar? I'll eat real food any day.

On October 26, 2001, the big weigh-in arrived. I went out and bought three new pairs of pants (size 6!) AND bought a scale. I was nervous just thinking about stepping on it. I felt and looked so much thinner. Even my wedding rings, which I had had enlarged twice since my marriage, fell off when I shook my hand. Still, I was prepared to be somewhere in my 130s, what I used to consider "huge". Maybe I really was destined to never be what I was back in my 20s or early 30s. But I was wrong. The scale read 122! I was thrilled!

On November 21, 2001 I finally reached the teens! I was 119.5 pounds! And to think last year at this time I was 160. It would be nice to lose a few more pounds, but not to go below 110. And I expect the weight loss to go more slowly as I get closer to goal. But that's okay, because I'm certainly not suffering eating this way! I am so thankful for Somersizing. I know it is something I can stay on for life. As Suzanne says, Somersizing is a lifestyle, not a diet. You stabilize your blood sugar levels and train you body to use your fat reserves as an energy source. "Above all," she says, "YOU are in control of what you eat...there are no calories to count, so you can eat abundant portions of food and still lose weight." And it's so true! I finally do feel in control!

[By the end of September 2002 I had reached goal weight of 110 pounds]

[To read my Somersize Ten-Year Anniversary story, check out my blog from December 2011!]