- Gilda Radner was the first person I heard talk about having an eating disorder
- The 2018 documentary Love Gilda is narrated by Gilda
- Love Gilda teaches us about a common weight-loss mistake
Love Gilda? Everybody loves Gilda!
Gilda Radner was one of the original cast members on Saturday Night Live.
Gilda’s 1989 autobiography It’s Always Something is a best seller.
Gilda’s Club is in Canada and the USA and connects people living with cancer.
Now we have the chance to meet Gilda Radner again, in the documentary Love Gilda.
Documentary Love Gilda
When I ordered tickets for Love Gilda at Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival, I knew 2 things were certain; I’d need waterproof mascara and a box of tissues.
During high school my friend Lyndsay lent me her mom’s copy of It’s Always Something. Sadly I never read until everything else is done. But everything else is never done! There’s always something else to do. So Gilda’s autobiography sat on the back burner.A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies... The man who never reads lives only one— George R.R. Martin, novelist
When I finally cracked it open I could not put it down.
It’s Always Something is beautiful, sad, funny and true. It’s also inspiring.
Reading is essential.
I read Gilda’s autobiography in 1998. Nearly a decade after she died. By then I’d been preoccupied by trying to lose weight for around 9 years.
Gilda’s book was my first encounter with someone who was open about having an eating disorder. Seeing Gilda be ok with her story helped me loosen my grip on mine.
Documentary Love Gilda was made with Gilda’s diaries
I love documentaries. For close to a decade I’ve been a member of Hot Docs Cinema.
She got laughs out of charm. She got laughs out of honesty. She got laughs out of a certain connection to her own vulnerability— Alan Zweibel, writer/producer
Love Gilda is one of those films that you know will be special as soon as it starts.
Director Lisa D’Apolito was able to convince Gilda’s brother to share boxes full of Gilda’s personal items that had been in storage for years.
Audiotapes were amongst Gilda’s treasures. D’Apolito soon discovered that Gilda had created her autobiography by recounting stories onto cassette. This book-writing method allowed Gilda to narrate her own documentary almost 30 years after her death.
While rare footage, photos, artifacts and the accompanying audio makes the documentary Love Gilda fresh, the bit that surprised me the most was a question from the audience during the Q & A.
Documentary Love Gilda shares her eating disorders
When you look for white cars, you see white cars. If you focus on the best parts of people, you see the best. Due to my food-related struggles, they’re high on my radar. So it never occur to me that others weren’t aware of Gilda’s disordered eating.
When an audience member asked if Gilda had been open about her preoccupation with weight, I realized that Gilda is still creating awareness.
Can dieters learn from the Documentary Love Gilda?
The documentary Love Gilda teaches us NOT to diet.
In other words, don’t make dramatic change.
The following quote is from Gilda’s autobiography. It’s also in the documentary Love Gilda:
I coped with stress by having every possible eating disorder from the time I was nine years old. I have weighed as much as 160 pounds and as little as 93. When I was a kid, I overate constantly. My weight distressed my mother and she took me to a doctor who put me on Dexedrine diet pills when I was ten years old.
– Gilda Radner, comedian
I remember reading that quote years ago, but I forgot how young Gilda was when she was prescribed diet pills.
In the documentary Love Gilda, she explains that she ate tons of junk food between meals. Then her first step to losing weight was taking diet pills. It’s no wonder this introduction to weight loss lead to a complicated relationship with food.
If you think about it, Gilda’s weight-loss experience isn’t that different from most people. Anybody who’s been on a diet has tried to make dramatic change. Have you ever told yourself “Tomorrow will be different”?
Please learn from my mistakes! I didn’t lose weight until I stopped trying to make midnight a magic moment.
How to stop making dramatic change
It’s important to understand what healthy eating and exercise look like.
Most of us don’t realize we have the wrong information. For instance, Gilda drank TaB (a diet soft drink) and I drank Diet Coke. Gilda thought avoiding fat helps you lose weight. So she made choices like only eating the white of an egg. I only ate the white of an egg for the same reason. I’m sure the parallels go on and on.
What I’m getting at is that we both thought we were making good food choices. We both worked bloody hard to eat what we thought was healthy! But the reality is neither of us knew what healthy actually looks like.
Once you know what healthy eating and exercise looks like, you need a strategy to reach that goal.
Work smarter, not harder! Gilda and I, and millions of other people, have used self-defeating weight-loss strategies. We tried to lose weight by changing everything overnight.
Not only should you not change everything all at once, you simply don’t have to change everything you’re doing to lose weight.
I hear people talk with this dramatic change mindset all the time. It sounds like this:
I said these same words for 10 years.
Then we change everything we eat and some people introduce intense, time-consuming and often expensive exercise routines.
We’re so impatient!
The desire for immediate change sets us up to fail.
Recently I was walking my dog and saw these lyrics framed on someone’s porch.
The Queen song “I want it all” captures a weight-loss approach that works against us.
Big changes shock your body and mind.
What is a healthy weight-loss strategy?
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight comes from making small changes to what you’re already doing. Baby steps give you the chance to get used to each change. Then you’re less likely to be preoccupied by wanting things you used to eat.
In short: Transitioning unhealthy habits to healthy habits makes new choices more natural and lasting.
For instance, had Gilda’s doctor suggested she trade one sugary snack for some fresh food, Gilda could have slowly learned to love healthier choices.
My extreme change experience
When I wanted to lose weight I went from eating meals and snacks to having only fruit for breakfast, a salad with low-fat dressing for lunch and eating as little as I could get away with for dinner; I took wild stabs in the dark, guessing what and how much I should eat. All the while I ran up to 17 kilometers a day with my cross country team after school. And still I was around 30 pounds over weight.
I LOVED the idea of dramatic change. It was intoxicating. We’re raised on stories like Cinderella! And I’m not a princess-kind of person. I just loved thinking you can turn your life around by working hard.
I didn’t know that giving 100% is about understanding. I needed to learn what healthy habit look like and recognize that you need to respect your body and mind by making small adjustments. At the time I wasn’t aware of the fact that major changes jerk your body around and confuse it. Then you feel hungry, preoccupied and your body goes into survival mode which makes it easier to gain weight.
Knowledge is power.
It took 10 years for me to understand and accept that dramatic change is short-lived.
Now I know you can’t survive on so little food for long and you don’t need to do extreme exercise (unless you’re training for a sport, like I was). Additionally, these major changes never allowed me to discover what worked for me and turn it into a habit.
Making slow and steady modifications to your everyday choices helps you to carve out a healthy lifestyle that works for you.
In hindsight just a few tweaks to what I was already doing would have made a big difference. Just a few changes would have allowed me to build a healthier lifestyle and thus, reach and more importantly maintain a healthy weight.
Even if you go on a healthier food plan than I did (described above) food choices that are different from what you normally eat are hard to maintain.
Documentary Love Gilda is part of Radner’s legacy
Gilda Radner will forever be a comedian, writer, actress, lover, sister, daughter, de-stigmatizer of eating disorders, inspiration for Gilda’s Club and optimist. Gilda was determined to live to the fullest despite having a string of misdiagnosis, cancer and the difficult chemo and radiation treatments she received.
Gilda’s life changed comedy and many other corners of the world.Of the three female cast members (SNL), Gilda Radner made the deepest impact. There is hardly a female sketch comic today who does not claim Radner as an inspiration for her comedy career— Yael Kohen, author
Gilda’s death helped raise awareness for early detection of ovarian cancer and the importance of taking family history into account when diagnosing patients. (Gilda’s grandmother, aunt and cousin all died of ovarian cancer.)
The documentary Love Gilda is a beautiful portrait of an incredible person. It also teaches us why we should STOP trying to lose weight with the flick of a switch.
Build healthy habits by taking baby steps.
The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is that the days that you have had you will have lived.
-Gilda Radner, 1946 – 1989
Life is short. Make today count. Make one healthy adjustment to something you presently do. Take a moment to feel good about yourself for choosing an effective weight-loss strategy. Then focus on your real goals.
Build healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.
Ready to adjust something you’re already doing? Sign up for my newsletter below and you’ll receive a worksheet that helps you apply this weight-loss strategy to your present choices.
Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it