Loving and Losing
And like her website FlyLady.net, she's speaking in a tone that isn't preachy, harsh or judgmental. She's focusing on the positives of what is an extension of her life's philosophy of reducing clutter.
Co-authored with nutrition counselor Leanne Ely (whose website Savingdinner.com does for sit-down home cooked meals what FlyLady does for getting organized), Body Clutter is a book whose subtitle "Love Your Body, Love Yourself" encompasses their joint approach in a single phrase.
Weight Loss as Self Care
"Taking care of your clutter is part of taking care of yourself," Cilley observes. She sees it as just another part of the larger whole. "If we can get out the clutter that's in your head, we can get it out of your house, your backside, your calendar. What do we do when we go on a diet? We try to do too much at once."
And that, she knows, is a recipe for failure. So she's applied the FlyLady technique of incorporating change slowly. "Take one habit, practice that one habit," she advises. "Simple little changes in your habit and your moving will create lifelong changes. We try to teach people to take BabySteps in their food and moving, and their whole attitude changes."
She uses the term "body clutter" deliberately, knowing many of her readers may hate the labels associated with other loaded words. And she realizes that for many, the issue of weight is inextricably linked to issues of self-esteem, childhood abuse, and vulnerability. She explains, "I did a radio show the other day and a lady called and said, 'When I lose weight and men notice me, I gain it back again. What can I do to stop this from happening?'"
Cilley's answer: "We need to love ourselves and not be afraid of other people. You have to come to grips with your fear, focus on it, and know when it happens, so that you don't use fear to push away those feelings. I did a survey one time of our ladies. Although it wasn't scientific, the survey pretty much showed that 60-70% of the women who responded had experienced some form of abuse."
Cilley's compassion for their pain is rooted in her own knowledge of the issue. Both she and co-author Ely dug deep to pull out some difficult memories - of previous relationships and from childhood - to speak candidly and openly about their struggles with weight.
Toward the end of the book, Cilley confesses that at age 12 she felt the need to protect her sisters from some of the men who came in and out of her divorced mother's life - men who were predators. She writes, "Years ago I thought that the deep, dark secret within me was my messy house, but now I see that I was always protecting that little girl inside me from being hurt again - that was really my dirty little secret."
Sabotage and Self-WorthShe suggests that the heart of the struggle is the belief that we aren't worthy of being loved. Set up for failure, we respond to the pain by using food to comfort ourselves, just as we've always done. Thus our own behavior magnifies the abuse when we eat to insulate ourselves from our emotions. It adds to the body clutter and hurts us even more.
The first baby step in dealing with body clutter is to give yourself permission to look at what's hurting you and making you afraid. By doing so, you begin to FLY - finally love yourself.
Beauty of AcceptanceThe self-love is necessary for success because Body Clutter isn't about being perfect, she says, but about being yourself and accepting who you are. She talks about a health scare that propelled her on her own path of removing body clutter. "My size doesn't bother me. I want to be healthy."
And that sense of acceptance may be why the book hit the New York Times bestseller list, and why she has legions of fans and followers. There's something remarkably appealing about a woman who accepts herself and loves herself for who she is.
"What They Notice About Me"That sense of self-worth is now rooted so firmly that Cilley didn't even flinch when she first saw her virtual personal trainer, Jonathan Roche, face-to-face in Denver after working with him through email exchanges. "When we met, I wasn't what Jonathan had expected. He said, 'You look like a million bucks.' I said it's because I feel like a million bucks. It starts from the inside. People don't notice my weight through my smile. They see my sparkling eyes and my smile and that's what they notice about me."
What readers of her books and websites also notice is that her alter ego, the FlyLady cartoon, is also unapologetically proud of who she is. In the book, Cilley takes to task one email letter from a woman who criticizes the "obviously obese FlyLady picture" and calls the writer out on the prejudice that lies behind "the attitude that thin is more pleasing than fat, that fat people are stupid, uncoordinated, and somehow can't FLY." She acknowledges that some people still have much work to do in reversing their attitudes about weight, but perceptions are changing.