Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with 5 comments

Eat meat and pee on a stick. Willingly put your body into ketosis and watch the pounds fade away.

Drink at least eight glasses of water a day — more if possible — and cancel all your social life that does not include immediate access to indoor plumbing. This diet of all protein and nothing else but water was amazing. The weight came off rapidly, not only because I stuck to it religiously, but because I had no life outside the diet.

There was a simple enough reason — if you eat nothing but meat you’ll a smell like the chief lioness of the pride with the breath to match. Thus I had little outside temptation, seeing that people were giving me a wide berth so as not to be knocked over should I talk to them. Fun.

Then there was the no-carbohydrates-diet: no bread, no pasta, no rice. Watch the pounds melt away until that fateful day when a maple-glazed Tim Horton’s cruller called my name right out loud as I was driving by.

Some diet theories will have you eating only food that takes more effort to consume than it adds to your ass — celery, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber. Pretend the gas explosions caused by this food group are coming from the person standing next to you in the mall. Better yet, don’t go to the mall.

Eat no food at all, just drink Metrecal. That was in 1979. (Does it even exist any more?)

Okay, eat one balanced meal a day and drink Slim-Fast, advertised to control the food cravings for up to four hours. Hah! There’s not a fat person in the world who couldn’t control a craving for four hours. But at four hours and five minutes, don’t get anywhere near the frig door.

One weight-loss method involved taking drugs (no longer prescribed by doctors) and waiting until you think hair is growing out from between your fingers. When that happens, eat your weight in chocolate.

Okay, so the last paragraph was mostly — but not completely — made up. The part about the drugs, about a million years before anyone figured out that speed was dangerous, wasn’t fiction. Neither was the part about the notion that hair was growing between my fingers. It wasn’t, but that experience cured me completely of the doctor-prescribed drug route.

Of course, today you could spend hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on Jenny Craig or LA Weight Loss Clinic and pretend this regimen is possible for the rest of your life. I’ve yet to figure out, if you’re a woman feeding a family, what everyone else eats while you’re buying your mandated meals. And while I’ve never truckled with Jenny or Los Angeles, I’ve probably been on every diet ever invented.

They all work. Let me repeat that: They all work. Every one works. Of course, some could kill you. Most won’t because your body rebels against harsh treatment. And unless you have an eating disorder or more will power than the irresistible force of your metabolism, the same body you are trying to remake into some image you believe possible to maintain will force you to feed it what it lacks.

Naturally, chocolate and peanut butter are at the top of my personal list of foods my body craves and when Hershey’s Milk Chocolate met Harry Reese’s peanut butter, a little slice of heaven was created about 80 years ago. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups no longer cost a penny a piece, but neither does penny candy. (Even those wonderful licorice babies no longer cost a penny each.)

Dieting is a billion-dollar industry. (Google the word and within a seconds you can pull up more than eight million sites devoted to dieting.) Every gimmick has been promoted and I’ve likely tried most of them. Every single one was successful — as long as I was on the prescribed diet.

So, if every diet works, why is dieting still a billion-dollar industry? Certainly there are not millions more newly fat people around who want to shed the pounds to keep all these industries working overtime. Sadly, it’s all of us repeaters who keep coming back to try another tactic that keep the diet hucksters thriving.

Ah, but that the secret to the industry’s success: something like 95 percent of the people who go on diets gain all the weight back and then some. (You may all now line up behind me and we’ll form a conga line long enough and large enough to circle the world. While we do so, would somebody please start the hearty laughter that should accompany us because we really, really need a good laugh at our own expense?)

It’s not that we weren’t trying — nobody, but nobody has the will that fat people can muster. Naturally slender people just don’t get it. They don’t understand and they will occasionally curl their lip if they see you daring to have a butterscotch sundae. It’s just that you can’t live on lettuce, just like you can’t live on love. You can’t live your life on most diets, particularly the fad ones, and the ones that characterize food as “good” or “bad” are fads.

Food is food. Food is fuel. And when the fuel you take in is more than the fuel you need right now, your body stores it up. Hides it away. Makes little fat pads under your arms and on your thighs. Dimples your butt. Stores the fuel away for a long winter’s night, just in case you were planning on going into hibernation for a few months.

And while you’re on a diet, the perfidy of the human body takes over: You’re doing nothing more exotic than trying to shed a few pounds and the alarms go off in your brain that there’s a famine happening. Sound the alarm! Cut the usage! Store the fuel!

Okay, so a nutritionist or a dietician, a doctor or a nurse would put it in more elegant language and give you the reasons all this happens. I am none of those things. But I have one significant advantage over them all — I’ve been there, and I’ve been there more than once. Actually, I’ve been there more than thrice.

There are excellent groups that are metaphorically right on your doorstep ready, willing and wanting to help. They are as close as an Internet search or thumbing through the Yellow Pages. There are groups such as TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) and the University of Calgary’s Trym Gym. But the best of them all, in my opinion, is Weight Watchers.

When Weight Watchers came to the Calgary Herald and started a workplace group, I was the first in line. Not only did I work in the same company as all of these women, but all of us had the same goal. Best of all, Weight Watchers came to us, once a week. All we had to do was give up a lunch hour. Even then, we ate our way through the meetings laughing and sharing and succeeding.

I still have my goal weight pin and my lifetime membership.

And I gained all the weight back and then some.

NEXT: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.”


Written by Catherine Ford

September 18, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. I just finished snacking on a chocolate bar when I read your blog. Having returned from a Mount Royal Board retreat at Ghost River where the food schmecks, is good – and plentiful. Talk about cosmic interventions! I will follow your blog for inspiration, and appreciate you sharing your journey. Looking forward to the next post. . .


    September 19, 2009 at 2:48 pm

  2. I’ve never been able to figure out the secret — but my son keeps me on track. Fortunately, he knows more than I do. I follow his eating plans, and that seems to work. I am thrilled you have a blog; I’ve missed your writing.

    Christine Silverberg

    September 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm

  3. Thanks for sending me this; I`ll enjoy reading about your progress. The whole women-weight-body-diet-diet industry `thing`is pretty crazy. Humour is an essential ingredient, no pun intended.

    I like the bit about breaking the cookie in half. And my take on the ice-cream eaten at the sink issue is that the calories don`t sink in as long as you inwardly repeat, like a mantra, ‘I’m not actually having a serving of ice cream, just a little taste.’ As you have realized, you can eat a whole bucket of ice cream this way, and it doesn’t count. And if by pure chance there is a container of chocolate chips nearby, of course it makes sense to sprinkle them on top of the spoonfuls of ice cream, just to add texture.

    Seriously, though — get a Standard Poodle puppy. It will destroy your house and/or hassle you non-stop unless you take it for long, vigourous walks daily. Regardless of the weather.

    Give my Dad a hug and kiss for me.



    September 20, 2009 at 3:43 pm

  4. OMFG! a real live woman! Catherine, I pray your blog will inspire me to lose the weight that I also have gained back multiple times. You know about those damned skinny men, my goal was always to have an arse smaller than my husbands. I have taken up the gauntlet and have my own reasons for the goals. Too bad I will probably ask you to dinner and drinks to discuss it. Jeff is having and apple, I just finished some poutine! Do you think I have a chance? I am a willing follower/participator. Thanks for the kick in the big arse!


    September 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm

  5. I am so glad you are writing again. The world does indeed need, or at least deserve, your voice. I am on a good roll, ten pounds down since you last saw me, doing the weight watchers thing. It is the best. Hope to see you see you on our cruise!!!
    P.S.- your bio is very impressive but I was disappointed not see the inclusion of something like ‘the proud stepmother of two fabulous girls’! What gives?


    September 21, 2009 at 10:47 am

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