I have to admit that Grandma was right all along. She told me if I wanted to lose weight I should just put smaller amounts on my plate and not take seconds. And, she added, stay out of her candy drawer. If I had taken Grandma's advice and never started my first diet, there's a good chance I wouldn't have had a weight problem. My demise was meeting Nurse Marsha.
My friend, Joy, was as obsessed as I was about getting thin. I saw an ad in the paper for The Weight Loss Clinic. It offered a discount if you signed up by June 15th and promised that you'd be skinny by summer's end. I called up Joy.
She was skeptical and worried about the cost. "Joy, how much would you pay to be skinny?" She said $75 tops. The next day we drove the 25 miles to sign up to get skinny. At The Clinic, we were greeted and then taken into a room, put on a scale, and weighed. Nurse Marsha would be our diet counselor. She asked me what I wanted to weigh. I said 137. She looked at a weight chart. "Hmmm, for your height you should weigh 123." Was she serious? She was. "See here look at the chart." The bottom number was 123. I told her I didn't think that it was possible for me to weigh that. She wrote 125 down as my goal.
Joy got the same question. Joy thought she should weigh about 130. Nurse Marsha wrote down 113. Joy said, "I've never weighed that even when I was sick and about dead." Marsha changed the goal to 116.
The Clinic charged for how many pounds you had to lose. Marsha said my cost was $280--two weeks' pay working on my dad's farm. Joy's was over $300. Joy leaned over and hissed, "See, I told you!" Marsha intercepted and asked, "Joy, how much do you really want to be thin?" We asked if they took payments.
Marsha put us on the "accelerated plan." (At 500-800 calories, it should have been called The Fast Track to Emaciation.) The Plan's pamplet detailed how much we could eat under each food group. Everything was low calorie, nonfat, sugar-free, and skinless. For the bread group, we could have melba toast. For vegetables, Marsha emphasized "no peas, no corn." Bananas and grapes were crossed out from the fruit group. Too many calories. Marsh gave us each a bottle of purple vitamins. I guess those were to fill in the gaps so our hair wouldn't fall out.
Marsha instructed us to measure and weigh our food. We were to come in daily to be weighed and to pee in a cup. Marsha would stick a piece of paper in it and look at the color. It was never clear what the color meant; I guess to see how close we were to death. We asked about exercise. Marsha said there was no need; we'd lose without moving. Joy and I signed up and then left to buy melba toast and a food scale.
I followed The Plan religiously. I didn't visit The Clinic every day though. My dad was already a bit steamed that I was driving 50 miles roundtrip, let alone spending what should have gone towards my college tuition. I spent the summer feeling hollow, dizzy and thinking about what I could do with plain yogurt and melba toast. But by summer's end, I was elated to have reached 137. I weighed that for exactly five minutes (and, incidentally, never since). Marsha wanted to sign me up again so that I could get to 125. I declined.
Joy gained. Marsha accused her of eating grapes, bananas, peas and corn. After a few weeks, Joy quit going and stopped making payments. The Clinic threatened to turn her into a collection agency. Joy's dad threatened to sue. The Clinic stopped harrassing her and went out of business.
The Plan set me up. Everyone says diets don't work--but they do, for a time. I was only successful in losing weight when I returned to The Plan, or a variation of it.
Over the years I did other plans: Weight Watchers, better than The Plan, it still had me thinking about food every single waking moment. Susan Powter's Stop the Insanity, which proclaimed that calories didn’t matter. "FAT IS WHAT MAKES YOU FAT!" bald, scary Susan screamed. Eat all you want as long as there's no fat. I gained 20 pounds eating whole pizzas without cheese. Other plans that eliminated entire food groups: Atkins which said carbs were the culprit. After three days on the Atkins, the inside of my mouth felt like it was coated with butter and I would have killed for an apple. I did South Beach; The Cleansing Diet (don't ask); The Cabbage Diet, which made me very--well, you know; and a bunch more.
I was done with any plan, program, or book telling me how to eat. Grandma was right. I just had to get a grip on my voracious appetite, eat real food (something that was alive at one time and not made in a lab somewhere), and work up a sweat every day. It took me awhile to get there, but I can honestly say food is no longer an issue for me. I don't count calories, keep track of fat grams or write in a food journal. I can pass up a woman's magazine claiming "Lose 24 pounds in 30 days!" And, I refuse to eat melba toast.
For those following my blog, I really am going to get around to explaining how I accomplished this. Check out my next post: Gnawing My Arm Off
P.S. Joy lost all of her weight shortly after that summer and hasn't gained it back, even after having three kids. No thanks to Nurse Marsha (who I seriously doubt was a nurse).