Help! It's bathing suit season and thousands of us are wondering how to lose ten pounds before vacation. We know the official guidance -- two pounds a week, a balanced diet, additional exercise, behavior change, just say no, blah blah. Everybody knows all that. Although no one talks about it, the real truth about weight control can be boiled down to ten terrible truths. These truths prevent two-thirds of all Americans from having a healthy body mass index:
- Skinny people just don't eat that much. Sorry, but that's the bottom line. When you ask skinny people what they ate for lunch, one might say with a wry smile, "I was so busy I forgot to eat." What? In what time zone do hunger pains disappear? Skinny people with extra time on their hands might say something like: "A handful of pretzels." Come on. A handful of pretzels? For lunch? Worse yet, these are the same folks who'll admit they skip breakfast. Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Shame on them.
- Skinny people who eat a lot are simply weight-loss sociopaths. The rules don't apply to them. We all have at least one skinny friend who can help herself to a big serving of pasta followed by a slice of pecan pie -- and then reach over with a flagrant sense of entitlement to grab her husband's abandoned dessert. But isn't it kind of reassuring to think that they're the freaks of nature, not us?
- Exercise is difficult, but it's harder if you watch the Food Network while on the treadmill. Okay, I say this like it's obvious, but until last week, I've exercised on my elliptical training machine while watching such shows as, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," (maple bacon donuts anyone?) and Paula Deen, y'all. Naturally, I was hungry when I finished my workout. But I've changed my ways. The classic movie channel seems to have far fewer calories.
- The subconscious mind is like a powerful poltergeist, haunting and hunting us down. Let's say you're driving down the highway and see a billboard for a DQ fudge sundae, all twisty-cold and chocolate covered in a waffle bowl. You want one so bad that you eat an apple when you get home. But that doesn't work, does it? So you eat a chocolate cookie but that doesn't do the trick either. Maybe a chocolate cookie covered in chocolate sauce? Let's face it, the only thing that's going to calm your troubled mind is to open the freezer and dish out the ice cream.
- Any weight-loss regimen we begin will come up against a holiday within a six-week period. It's true! New Years' overindulgence, Valentine's Day candy, St. Patty's Day beer fest, then Easter baskets. Then picnics for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, followed by Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and the mother lode of food extravagance -- Christmas. What? Columbus Day isn't a food holiday? Right! That means the only good time to start a weight-loss regiment is right after Labor Day, and by then we've stopped caring because bathing suit season is over.
- Weight control is counter-culture. In this second decade of the 21st century, we're all about the right here, right now. I once heard that the sign of maturity is how well we can delay gratification. If we're the kind of people who save the best bite for last, then supposedly we're mature enough for a job, family and a long-term relationship. Probably even a long-term weight management program. But if we're the type that eats the cherries first, then naturally we're going to have a little trouble focusing on a life-long weight control goal.
- People don't resent change. We resent being changed. A friend of mine said, when suggesting that I begin a weight-loss program, that I should do it without telling anyone. (She was right but I won't tell her that.) Let's face it--weight loss has to be our own idea. Having anyone tell us that extra weight is unhealthy or unflattering can just make us mad enough to eat a whole chocolate cake.
- Weight loss would be easier if we didn't have to eat. We can remove some temptations like alcohol or cigarettes by removing them from our homes, but we can't do that with food, especially if we have kids or a partner. We still have to eat, and ideally more than once a day, so it's a constant challenge to make good, mature choices even when we're not feeling particularly good or mature. (Note to self: save the cherries for last.)
- Everyone knows that the camera puts ten pounds on us. We don't really look "that" bad, right? In reality, "that" bad is all a matter of degree. And how many photos get taken. In this age of pocket-sized telephone cameras, our digital legacy may be that we do, in fact, look "that" bad often enough that it becomes true. The only way to manage this is to keep one of those bad photos on our own phones to view along with the dessert menu.
- Starting a weight-loss regimen is really easy. So easy that I've done it a hundred times. Need I say more?
Janice M. Van Dyck is an award-winning novelist and freelance writer. Her novel, The O'Malley Trilogy, explores the nature of being a woman in all its forms--daughter, mother, partner, friend--through the eyes of five generations of women.