News & Politics

The Weight-Loss Diaries: A Tale of Binges, Guilt, Fat Days, New-Me Shopping Sprees, Exercise, More Binges, and How I Learned to Deal With My Lifelong Weight-Loss Struggle

A memoir about “the long, relentless learning process” of dieting, recounted “in a voice that’s often sarcastic and self-deprecating but always sincere.”

 “Get a Bikini-Ready Body in Two Weeks!” “Lose Weight and Eat Anything You Want!”

 Ever snapped up a women’s magazine because of a headline like that—and felt cheated when you got another rehash of mostly useless diet tricks? Rubin’s memoir is the flip side to a magazine cover’s worth of promises. There are no quick cure-alls here; nowhere does it say that if you buy this book, everything will fall into place.

 She writes bravely and honestly about what it’s like to try to lose a lot of weight. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen in two weeks. The Weight-Loss Diaries chronicles a two-year period when Rubin—who has fought weight for most of her life—wrote a popular diary-style column for Shape magazine. Her assignment: “to become the ‘after’ picture.”

 When the book picks up, Rubin is 23, a successful journalist surrounded by a galaxy of friends. But she’s not so successful when it comes to self-esteem, body image, and taking care of herself.

 She writes about the minefields a dieter faces: buffets, dinners with friends (especially when they pick the restaurant), a competitive twin sister who tries to thwart her. Once Rubin cheats on a diet, it’s overwhelmingly hard for her to control her eating, much less get back on track. Often, the pressure to succeed for Shape is so stressful she finds herself caught in a binge cycle, unable to stop it on her own.

 And there’s the stinging unkindness of strangers. When she reluctantly poses in the Dupont Circle fountain for a Shape photo shoot, a man yells out: “What do you think you are, a model? Girl, you’re no model.”

 It’s a long, relentless learning process, and Rubin—a former Washingtonian senior writer—recounts it in a voice that’s often sarcastic and self-deprecating but always sincere. She conveys a powerful message: “Losing weight—and accepting yourself—doesn’t happen in that nice, linear way you read about in magazines and books.”

 Nothing does, and that’s a lesson everyone needs to be reminded of once in a while.

Courtney Rubin



Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.