Jenny Craig made me fat. OK, to be fair, Jenny Craig did not force food down my throat. But if it hadn’t been for Jenny Craig, I’d probably still be about six pounds lighter than I am right now. And it’s not just Jenny Craig – although that was my personal bad experience.
This is the time of year when weight-loss commercials swing into high gear. It seems like every other commercial on t.v. is for some weight-loss program or another. Dr. Phil has a new weight loss book out. Marie Osmond is hawking Nutri-System. I’ve seen commercials for Medi-fast. Jenny Craig. All those snake oil pills that promise that you won’t have to diet or exercise and you’ll lose weight like magic. Oh, and today I saw an advertisement for a medical clinic that promises to help you lose weight safely with lots of medications and natural hormones (seriously?! Natural hormones?! So, um, steroids, then!) – it MUST be safe because a physician is going to prescribe it for you, right? OHMYLORD give me a break!
All of these commercials have some sort of emotional appeal. Marie Osmond tells us that her mother warned her to lose weight or she’d end up just like her (her mother), but that she (Marie) didn’t take her seriously until she lost her mother. Presumably from being fat. Wow. So now we’re supposed to believe that Nutri-System just wants us to be healthy and not die from being….gasp….fat! Wow. Thank you, Nutri-System.
On another commercial, a woman tells us that she got motivated to lose weight after her husband expressed concern for her….health. Yeah, that’s it, her health. She’d gotten so big and he was concerned for her. So she finally did something about it. In general, I believe in working out relationships, but when someone starts telling you that you’re not good enough, there’s a quick and easy way to lose weight. It involves becoming single. You lose the equivalent of an entire person overnight.
There’s nothing wrong with losing weight. If you want to lose weight. For yourself. Or if, for medical reasons, you do actually need to lose weight. Like you have a weight-related condition and you need to lose weight to correct or improve that condition. That’s fine. Lose weight for yourself. But if you want to do that, do it responsibly. Don’t starve yourself.
This is what happened when I starved myself. Maybe 20 years ago, I decided that I was WAY too overweight and I needed to lose 20 pounds. At that time, I was about six pounds lighter than I am right now. Right now today. I decided to join Jenny Craig. I’m 5’4″ and I’ve always been petite. Jenny Craig put me on a 1000-calorie/day diet.
Let me just put that in perspective for you. One thousand calories per day. The prisoners in Auschwitz were given 900 calories/day. Of course I lost weight. A pekinese would have lost weight. I was ALWAYS hungry. When I say I was always hungry, I mean, I would finish my pre-packaged Jenny Craig meal, and I would still be very hungry. Not a little bit peckish. Not, “gee, I could still eat.” Genuinely hungry.
Once I hit my goal, I got upgraded to 1200 calories/day. That was supposed to be my maintenance diet. News flash – 1200 calories/day is still a weight-loss diet. For anyone over the age of, like, two. So I got down to my goal weight. Then I started eating regular food again. And of course, I gained all the weight back again. Plus more.
And I foolishly went BACK on Jenny Craig again. Once again, I lost the weight. Once again, once I finished losing the weight, I started eating like a human being again, and all the weight, plus the new weight came back on, plus even more. I went up to about 180 pounds. Did I mention I’m 5’4″?
Well, I definitely wasn’t happy at 180. And when I say I wasn’t happy, I mean that I was physically uncomfortable. I didn’t feel well. That’s a legitimate reason to lose weight. That’s actually when I started running. I started training for my first marathon when I was at my heaviest. I didn’t lose much weight (three pounds), but I did get in shape, and that felt good. I like being in shape.
Being in shape is something people often confuse with being slender. These things are not one-and-the-same. There are plenty of out-of-shape skinny people in the world, and there are plenty of folks who don’t fit the Madison Ave. image of slender athletes. But I digress. A bit.
Anyway, I was getting in shape, it felt good, and then I became motivated to try to lose weight again. I reasoned that if I weighed less running might be a bit easier (I was right). This time I decided to do it sensibly. I lost about 25 pounds on The South Beach Diet, but being a runner, I really missed the carbs. Eventually, I joined Weight Watchers. I lost more weight, and for the most part, kept it off. Because Weight Watchers is about making changes for life, not about being a fad diet.
Lately, due to some health concerns, I’ve been required to lose some weight. So I have been (with the help of a nutritionist – since I have to be on a specific diet these days – again due to health concerns). I’m not losing weight because a man wanted me to lose weight for him. I’m not losing weight because I feel like it will make me more attractive. I’m doing this because I need to in order to be healthy. And I have to say, I miss cheese. (I don’t get to eat much cheese anymore).
It’s not a resolution. Every day is a new year from the year before. This is a lifetime change. It doesn’t work to say “New year, new [fill in the blank].” It’s long-term, and those things are slower. So I’m taking my time. And that’s fine.
But I can’t help reflecting that if I hadn’t been in such a tizzy about those 20 pounds 20 years ago, I might not even need to be losing any weight now. I might still be the 140 pounds I was back then. Oh sure, more than my college weight. So what?
It’s taken me until middle age, but I realize that I like myself as I am. Do I need to tweak things from time-to-time? Oh sure. I mean, I like myself, but if I want to read things, I need my reading glasses. I like myself, but I still want to grow. I’ve learned that the good things take time – and I’m ok with that. And I’ve learned that I can start things any time – it doesn’t have to be in January.
I’m not going to starve myself anymore. I hope you don’t either. Happy new year. Enjoy all of it. And if you feel the need to make a resolution – well, you can do that at any time.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.