The 3 Fat Chicks' Secrets To The Dieting World

When you hear about a web site called 3 Fat Chicks your first inclination is that this must be some sort of crude frat boy joke. In a world where being politically correct often overrules common sense, a title like 3 Fat Chicks seems like the stuff of which public apologies are made. However Suzanne, Jennifer, and Amy Barnett—three sisters from Tennessee—have turned conventional wisdom on its ear. With the launch of 3FatChicks.com and its accompanying book, the aptly named 3 Fat Chicks, the sisters Barnett have created an oasis for women of all types to share their weight loss experiences, both the good and the bad. In the process, their combination of reality with a dash of humor has accomplished the seemingly impossible task of turning the phrase “3 Fat Chicks” into something cool. The Diet Channel recently chatted with the Barnett sisters—Suzanne, Jennifer, and Amy—about the world of dieting as they see it.

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3 Fat Chicks has gone from nothing to something seemingly overnight. How has this popularity explosion affected you?
Suzanne: Actually it's felt more like a pot of boiling water to us. We've been getting warmer and warmer over the years. We began our website in 1997, and our community has grown by the tens of thousands over the past few years. But it was the release of the book that made the non-Internet world take notice. On a personal level, the popularity has made us more self-conscious of what we put in our shopping carts these days because we don’t know who’s going to notice!

Of the three of you, who has had the most success in dieting?
Jennifer: We've all been very successful in our own ways, at our own times. Of course we should be the Duncan sisters instead of the Barnett sisters because we're notorious yo-yo dieters. We've lost and gained more weight than Oprah, but most people don't know that. That may be because she is a famous billionaire and we're the chicks next door with the second mortgage.

Of all the diets you have tried, which ones do you like best?
Jennifer: We prefer the diets that don't restrict too many foods. If a certain food is taboo, it's more seductive…and then we want it more than sex.

Tell us about the most ridiculous diet you have ever tried:
Amy: I tried the “Whopper a Day Diet”. I figured that it had my meat, grains, dairy, and vegetables all in one meal, and it was around 800 calories, so how could I not lose weight? It seemed brilliant at the time!

Eating out has become a mainstay of American culture. Which restaurants make the best effort to cater to the waistline conscious customer?
Jennifer: Your best bet is to stay away from full service chain restaurants. It's a dog eat dog world, and they're all looking to be the best value and the tastiest food. This might mean 5 portions of pasta with a thousand calories of toppings. If you do have to choose a chain, check their website before you go, or look at their menu before you ask for a table. Some restaurants give nutritional info for a select amount of dishes. Hint: Marketing firms develop the menus. There may be a good reason the nutritional info isn't listed!

If you've got the opportunity, go to a smaller, more personal restaurant. Aim for something a little more on the fancy side, versus a diner atmosphere. These places are more likely to employ people whose passion it is to cook and create a wonderful dish just for you. In many cases, they will be happy to work with your needs, and being a non-corporate atmosphere, they will have more freedom to shake things up and offer something more personal.

3FatChicks.com has a flock of chicks (bad pun intended) who share their diet experiences. What is the best success story you have encountered?
Suzanne & Jennifer: Our favorite story is our own Amy. (She'd didn't pay us to say that, really!) Amy was nearly 150 pounds overweight. She also had a cyst on her ovary that needed to come out. There's this uniform code of shame when it comes to fat women and gynecology appointments. Amy was no different, and she avoided her appointments until she lost some weight. She lost weight with gastric bypass quite rapidly, and she needed a tummy tuck when it was over. She arranged to have her tummy tuck and ovary removed at the same time. After surgery she found out that she had a rare form of cancer in her ovary. Had she not lost the weight, there is no telling how long she would have put off her appointments, and she might not have found the cancer until it was too late. Fortunately she was in early stages, and is expected to remain cancer free.

At the same time, there are surely some sad and troubling stories you encounter from people who have seemingly lost hope. How do you handle it when you encounter someone in a really tough spot?
Jennifer: This is the bittersweet part of being in 3FC (and who but Fat Chicks can describe hopelessness with chocolate terminology?). We know what it’s like to have a hard time losing weight, or to regain and feel embarrassed. We've had the rug ripped out from under us, as well. On the upside, it makes it easier to relate to these people, and they know it.

Let’s play a little word association. Since you have been through them all, tell us what you think about the following diets:

Suzanne, Jennifer, & Amy:

  1. Weight WatchersOur own survey of more than 4,000 dieters revealed this to be the most popular diet plan. We think it’s great because it’s all about portion control – not taboo foods, so it’s livable.
  2. Jenny CraigJenny offers a one-day trial so you can see what’s in store for you if you join. We think that’s a great idea because one day was enough for us.
  3. AtkinsIf weight loss is your only goal and you love meat and hate veggies, then Atkins may be for you. But if you are more interested in long term health along with weight loss, then you might want to look at another plan.
  4. South BeachGOOD carbs. We get so sick of seeing the South Beach Diet referred to as a low carb diet, when it’s all about choosing between good carbs and bad carbs. Whether you agree with the good/bad carb approach, it’s still a great diet for making us pay more attention to the types of foods we eat, and getting the junk out of our diets.
  5. The ZonePerfect for mathematicians. The food choices are healthy, but who wants to bother planning their meals in fat blocks and protein blocks? We think most people pass up the Zone because they want a more casual and less calculated approach to their meals. It’s just food – don't make it more complicated than it needs to be.
  6. Sonoma Diet - If we were to design the perfect diet plan, it would be a lot like the Sonoma Diet. They have taken all of the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and structured it into a calorie-controlled plan for weight loss. The food tastes great, and weight loss is just a fringe benefit. You can even have a glass of wine each day in the main part of the plan. And a glass of wine a day doesn't mean a bottle on Saturday night. It's all about moderation.
  7. Shangri-LaWe haven’t tried it. The thought of drinking olive oil as an appetite suppressant isn’t very appetizing, lol. But we suppose that's the whole point. The diet will work, just like any other diet that gets you to eat less. We prefer something less gimmicky.
  8. Mediterranean - This is more of a way of eating and living and isn’t necessarily a weight loss diet. But, any weight loss diet can be modified to be Mediterranean. Eat more plant based protein, olive oil and fruits. These meals are even better shared with a hunky Mediterranean guy.

What are your thoughts on the dramatic surge in people seeking weight loss surgery as a solution to their obesity problem?
Amy: This is both sad and scary. The media has presented weight loss surgery in a way that makes it look like a quick fix. They show the glossy before and after pictures of celebrities that did it, and they fail to mention the serious dangers and complications. Plus they never tell you that it’s harder than losing through diet and exercise. I know, because I had gastric bypass surgery a few years ago. I lost the weight, but it didn’t solve my problems and I regained most of what I lost. Now I’m turning to diet and exercise to lose it again.

To what degree are food companies responsible for the “obesity epidemic”?
Suzanne: I think the food industry has contributed to the obesity problem because they often mislead consumers through advertising and labeling. They advertise foods as being low fat or low carb, but fail to tell you that they contain the same number of calories as the regular versions. Then there’s the portion distortion in prepackaged foods. You might think you’re doing well when you have a slice of cheese for a snack. Then you find out that a serving is only 2/3 of a slice, so you’ve eaten enough cheese for 1 ½ people. When the food companies feed us enough food for 1 ½ people, we end up weighing as much as 1 ½ people!

Fill in the blank:
The best part of being one of the “3 Fat Chicks” is __________

Suzanne, Jennifer, & Amy: Having an iron clad support system. We know that we're never in this alone because we have each other. We share everything that we can. We used to share cans of frosting and matching spoons. Now we share motivation. Supporting each other is what it's all about.