September 30, 2011

There are no magic wands

When people I’ve recently met find out I’ve taken off over 250 pounds in excess weight and kept it off for over a decade, they excitedly ask me how I did it. Sadly, nothing brings disappointment to their faces faster than me answering, “Eating less and exercising more – along with drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep.”

Peoples’ usual responses to my revelation are, “Oh,” – as if I’ve popped their balloon or accidentally stepped on a kitten.

I understand their disappointment. Who wouldn’t want me to answer with, “I found this magic wand and lost all the weight in a day’s time. Here – you can have my magic wand, if you’d like.” After all, we’re all looking for shortcuts in life. So why wouldn’t we want a shortcut to losing weight and getting healthier?

But the fact is, there is no magic wand – and by ‘magic wand,’ I include pills, surgeries, fad diets and other farfetched means that people use in order to try and take off the pounds as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

Because of the dieter’s quest for a magic wand, individuals and companies have taken to selling products backed up by often spurious claims that tell us these items might finally solve the dieter’s lifelong effort to take off excess weight. This activity seems quite criminal to me – all conjured up to rob the dieter of his or her hard earned money by playing on their weaknesses and fears as well as their desires for permanent change.

This practice has come to national attention in the last couple of days, now that the Federal Trade Commission has clamped down on Reebok for making what it refers to as “false claims” about Reebok’s popular selling “toning” shoes.

I have to admit that when I first saw these shoes being advertised (by “celebrity” spokesmodels including Kim Kardashian no less), I rolled my eyes. Imagine my surprise when one of my closest friends, who is very athletic, bought a pair, wanting to tone up a bit more. I couldn’t believe my friend was taken in by the claims (not to mention by anything promoted via Twitter by Kim Kardashian).

According to news reports, the FTC has settled a class action lawsuit regarding Reebok’s claims in product ads that its’ Easy Tone and Runtone shoes “strengthen and tone key leg and buttock muscles” [more than regular shoes might]. Reebok is having to pay a $25 million fine while also having to offer refunds to customers (even though reportedly standing behind its technology).

Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise, has also weighed in on this issue, stating, “The take home message is that whether you walk in normal running shoes or you go out and purchase and make the investment in these toning shoes, you’re going to get similar results and effects.”

My big question is, why wouldn’t any of this be common sense to the consumer – much less the dieter, who surely has tried these ‘magic wand’-type of products before and likely only gained weight?

Sadly, this is just one example of the kind of “magical thinking” we want to believe might set us free from our excess weight. I know people who have ordered horse tranquilizers from Canada, believing claims that they were a celebrity secret for losing and keeping off unwanted weight without dieting. If this seems crazy to you, consider a popular diet pill that’s available at most stores here in the United States, with instructions that warn the user to wear dark underwear due to the risk of “anal leakage.”

Like it or not, much of the blame for products like these being on the market rests with us, the dieting audience. There’s a reason that the dieting business has become a multi billion-dollar a year industry. It’s because we are suckers. And we’re often unwilling to face the hard fact that we are responsible for our excess weight and, therefore, we are responsible for taking it off.

Horse tranquilizers? Anal leakage? Shoes that tone our bodies without extra work from us? Why not just have a salad and go for a power walk instead?

But don’t lose all hope. In truth, ‘eating less and exercising more’ can be a real magic wand of sorts.

Once I stopped trying to trick my body (No carbs! Only grapefruit! Cabbage Soup!) and started eating right and moving more, the excess weight literally melted off within a year’s time. Now, I’m not claiming that you’ll have the exact same results. I had a lot of weight to lose, so the weight came off quickly for me. Everyone has different metabolisms and their bodies will respond differently. But ask any doctor – even someone with a Thyroid condition will lose weight if they eat more sensibly and add working out to their daily routines. No ‘magic wand’ required.

Less tricks. More common sense and self-responsibility. Try it. The results just might be magical.

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10 Responses to “There are no magic wands”

  1. Teresa Fischer says:

    Thanks for the inspiration today. I have yo-yo’ed throughout the years and am slowly taking off pounds with a combo of WW points on-line (can’t handle the meetings – those people irritate me!) and therapy. It has been truly amazing to learn “why” I eat and how to be mindful of being physically full. Took a 10-day vacation recently – two days in New Orleans, seven day cruise and another day in New Orleans. Now with all that fabulous food around, I still managed to lose half a pound. I never felt deprived. I ate some high fat stuff but stopped when I was full. I did a lot of walking and hiking and climbing and never felt better. I was feeling a little “oh, I’m not really getting this weight off fast enough” today but your post helped me realize that we put it on and take it off at our own speed. The goal is to keep tracking and keep taking care of myself. I’ve lost 20 pound since June 19. Have a long road ahead of me but I think I’ll keep checking into your blog for more inspiration and tips. So proud of what you’ve accomplished. Sending lots of HUGS and Thank Yous! Always, your Dulcinea…

  2. Gregg says:

    What amazing commentary, Teresa. Thanks so much for sharing. By doing so, you’re not only providing inspiration to me (which I still need daily), but also to a bunch of others. We’re all in this together! Please, please keep me posted on your progress. (And that’s what it is, btw — no matter the speed, no matter how many pounds or even ounces — PROGRESS!)

  3. cheryl says:

    I totally agree with you – it takes work to take off weight and keep it OFF. That being said, I bought a pair of fit flops several years ago, I was skeptical, but and this is the big BUT I didn’t buy them to replace my work outs, I used them on my running around days to shop, walk around town etc. A. they are the most comportable “flops” I’ve owned. I live in FLA and I have several flops but always put the fit flops on, yes comfort matters. b. They do use muscles – after working around all day in them I feel it. No not like doing lunges or squats.

    One think I did notice from people who use these and never excercise they feel “sore”, it’s because they are stretching a muscle they normally don’t use, that is where they need to know it’s not going to help you loose weight or get muscle.

    The false advertising is that if you just use the sneakers your will have a firmer whatever. No way. but wearing them while waling around all day definetly will kick start you.

  4. Gregg says:

    Great insights, Cheryl. I appreciate your comments very much. Thank you for sharing! (P.S. As a California boy, I’m addicted to my flip-flops, too!)

  5. Nicole says:

    I just bought the Reebok Tone Ups not because I thought they would do more for me then I could do for myself by doing squats and leg lifts, but because they are super comfortable. Not many sneaker manufacturers make sneakers that I can wear, as I have severe Plantar Facitis and Heel Spurs in both feet. I need a very cusioney but supportive sneaker and its hard to find. My condition also makes it difficult to walk or run for cardiovascular exercise, as a result I am really overweight now. I feel embarrassed and I am constantly hoping that people arent judging me for being overweight and saying to themselves why doesn’t that woman just exercise and lose her weight. If only people could feel for a second the pain in my feet that I feel everyday by just walking around. I agree that people shouldnt be taken in by diet fads and claims of fast weight loss. But sometimes the only thing I have control of is my diet, and its easy to be tempted by a more extreme diet since just cutting calories doesn’t seem to work for me, perhaps because I can’t combine it with exercise. If there is a cardiovascular exercise anyone can think of that doesnt involve stress on the feet, please let me know! (Except for biking-but for some reason I dont seem to be able to burn fat doing it)

  6. Gregg says:

    Love your post, Nicole. And I’m glad the Reeboks feel good to your feet. You’re facing a lot of issues and I totally feel for you. Have you tried spin classes? That biking will burn fat. You would just need to explain to the instructor what you’re dealing with (medically) and he or she could help you adjust. Another exercise to check out is swimming. Although you won’t burn fat necessarily, you will be strengthening and toning and that WILL help your weight loss efforts significantly. It takes more calories to support muscle than fat. So it can help your metabolism. Please, please keep us posted, okay? There are a lot of people facing what you face — and your comments are helping them, I’m sure. You are a brave chica and a true inspiration!

  7. Eve says:

    I’m going for a walk now instead of waiting for my fairy godmother (or father) to show up. I hope you’re happy! Common sense over fairy tale magic, how totally unfair!

  8. Gregg says:

    Please, Eve. Don’t shoot the messenger!

  9. Nicole says:

    Thanks for the kind words Gregg : ) I actually took your advice and have taken up biking again, and its slow but is helping! I love swimming too, and am working on finding a pool nearby.

    Another thing–I am trying to remove all hits on my name on Google –is there anyway you can either remove my post or just remove my last name from it?

  10. Gregg says:

    Congrats on getting back to biking, Nicole — and good luck on the pool search. (I love swimming, too — and find along with great exercise, it also offers a great meditation-like quality for the mind.) Please keep me posted. You are a true inspiration, my dear!

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