Local author offers a weighty message

Johanne Gauthier is a large woman. And she’s OK with it. But the financial planner wasn’t always comfortable with her size.

Johanne Gauthier is a large woman.

And she’s OK with it.

But the financial planner wasn’t always comfortable with her size.

“Every women who’s struggled with her weight a lot has tried different plans — low-fat plans, or fit for life,” said Gauthier.

“And it’s hard because when you don’t see the result, you feel badly about yourself and think, ‘Oh, I can’t do it again.’”

Gauthier was overweight at 13.

For the next five years, the teen tried to eat only three pieces of fruit a day.

But it didn’t seem to help.

By the time she was 27, Gauthier was “quite large.”

“I struggled with my weight for decades,” she said, sipping a black coffee at the Java Connection Tuesday morning.

During her battle, Gauthier read lots of diet books and realized that most lacked chapters on motivation.

“They all have specific eating plans and promise you’ll lose x-amount of weight,” she said.

“But I wanted a book that covered size-acceptance and didn’t focus on weight loss.”

When Gauthier couldn’t find this type of book, she decided to write one.

Problem was, she didn’t have any writing experience.

“I had this idea in the back of my head,” she said.

“But I didn’t want to write it, so I asked someone else to write it for me.”

When this fell through, Gauthier tried writing it herself, but didn’t get anywhere.

However, the idea continued to rattle around, and after having her first child, Gauthier found herself jotting down ideas at three in the morning.

“It was more journal writing,” she said.

“And I was really enjoying it.”

Running her own financial planning business, writing in the wee hours and nursing a newborn took its toll, but Gauthier persisted.

And after receiving some advice from Susan Mayse, a visiting Whitehorse Public Library writer-in-residence, the book took off.

Even after Mayse returned to BC, Gauthier sent her drafts.

“She would send them back and say, ‘Good, fix this,’ and I would fix it and think it was done and then she’d send it back and say ‘Good, now fix this,’” said Gauthier with a laugh.

“I had a lot to learn.”

And, once she started pitching her book to publishers, Gauthier’s background got in the way.

“I had a background in financial planning, not weight management,” she said.

Self-publishing began to seem like the only option, but a small publisher in the US decided to pick up the book.

Called Why Weight to Live Your Life, Gauthier’s debut paperback is designed as a practical week-to-week guide for overweight women.

“It doesn’t focus on how to lose weight,” said Gauthier.

“It’s a change of focus.”

The book offers women 52 ways to change how they feel about themselves, their choice of foods and examines motives for eating.

It also offers some practical alternatives — instead of eating a chocolate bar as a treat, fill a room with fresh flowers, learn how to have great sex, or get rid of clothes that that make you feel ugly.

“The one thing women can take away from this is that, right today, you have the opportunity of feeling good where you’re at and just accepting yourself,” said Gauthier.

“So even if you don’t lose 50 pounds right away, just start feeling good about where you’re at and being the best you can be.”

In North America, 65 per cent of women wear size 12 or larger, she said.

And although Gauthier attributes much of this to a growing junk food industry and inactive lifestyles, she does not rule out internal, emotional factors.

While writing the book, Gauthier interviewed many overweight women, and found several had masters degrees and ran successful businesses.

 “So I really don’t think all these overweight women are just lazy and undisciplined,” she said.

Often excessive weight is the symptom of a larger problem, said Gauthier.

Sometimes women just feel they can’t lose the weight and sabotage themselves, she said.

Gauthier also talked with women who left unhappy marriages and found their extra weight just dropped off.

“Maybe you just don’t have an environment that supports you,” she said.

“My book is about accepting circumstances, but also saying, ‘OK, how can I manage my circumstances better.’”

Often large women feel their weight gain is just a “temporary blip,” said Gauthier.

So they keep all their nice, smaller-sized clothes at the back of the closet and don’t invest much money in new, larger clothing.

“But if you dress crappy, you feel crappy. And if you don’t take care of yourself psychologically, how can you deal with eating well?” she said.

Gauthier’s launching her upbeat book at noon, Friday at Mac’s Fireweed Books.