Richard Simmons. For most people today, the image of a flamboyant man running around in hot pants screaming and throwing his hands around comes to mind. One minute he screams and the next he cries. He dances to old Ray Charles songs, and I believe he might be the only person alive who STILL makes VHS workout tapes.
Yet, he was my hero as a kid.
Years ago there were no weight loss reality shows. Weight Watchers was for old women. In fact, none of my friends were fat. Just me. At least, that is what it seemed like.
Today everywhere you turn there are celebrity trainers and motivators, but back then there were very few. Jane Fonda and Suzanne Somers made workout videos. Tony Little made workout equipment. Susan Powter made everyone "Stop The Insanity" by eating a ton of potatoes...
And Richard Simmons wanted you to find every bit of confidence in yourself to lose weight.
I was a television watcher. I watched all the talk shows then; Oprah, Sally Jesse Rafael, and Phil Donahue. Richard was on all of them. He would run out and scream and then sit next to someone he could help. He would bring them up instead of tear them down. He would tell them they were worth it; they just had to find the courage to lose weight.
Richard Simmons gave me hope.
Unlike most teenagers who looked at him as a joke that only moms loved, I listened to him. I listened to him when he told me to believe in myself. That I could do it. That losing weight was possible.
He always cried. Every person he brought on stage cried. I do not remember many interviews that he did not cry. I guess looking back, I should have felt sorry for those people. But I did not...
I was envious that my guru was helping them. Why was he not helping me? Why was he not telling me that I could do it?
He made workout videos that a short 200-pound boy could do. There were people in his videos that looked like me -- even guys. That is so rare now.
It was a different time. Weight loss was for women. Guys worked out. Guys needed to handle their food. Guys didn't have problems.
I remember my first diet at 14 -- 900 calories a day that I made up. I had a paperback calorie counter book. I would look up everything I could and guesstimate. I never ate school food. I really tried to eat food that I knew the nutritional information for. By that, I mean the calories. This was before Pizza Hut and McDonald's were in all schools.
I wrote to Richard Simmons many times. He wrote me back every time. It was the coolest thing ever. It amazed me how much he truly cared about overweight people. How much he still does to this day. Some people he helped gained back the weight. We all do.
Wow though, what a magnificent life.
We live in a different time now. Nutritional information is everywhere. Weight loss gurus are trainers. People like to hug you AFTER you lose weight, not before or during the process. They push diet pills. They blame you for everything.
Richard Simmons never did that.
He is a little outdated now. He still wears those pants. He never changed with the times.
But he still cares about weight loss and people.
I wish more of the gurus would take a lesson from him.