38. Instant Willpower

38. Instant Willpower

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Instant Willpower

A deadline is negative inspiration.
Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.
 ~Rita Mae Brown

“This is for you,” Al said. My husband handed me a thick envelope. I lifted the flap and discovered two tickets inside for a Western Caribbean seven-day cruise.

“Happy 30th anniversary,” Al said.

“Wow! Thank you.” I kissed him. “But, isn’t our anniversary six months away?”

“Well, the travel agent said you have to reserve these trips far in advance.”

We had cruised two years earlier, and visions of midnight buffet tables made my stomach rumble. I had gained 10 pounds in five days and never lost them.

The following weekend, when we were babysitting my four-year-old granddaughter she asked, “Grandma, why are you fat?” I gasped.

“Grandma likes her goodies,” I replied and faked a smile.

Monday morning, I examined my body in front of the full-length mirror. Oh, no. When did that potbelly arrive? Checking the side view, I saw fat jiggle on my butt, thighs, and arms. Parts of me sagged. I studied my plump face; a double chin reflected back at me. Stepping on my scale, I watched the number rise higher than ever before. My scale refused to lie. I’d gained a total of 45 pounds. My self-image took a nosedive.

The mirror told the truth. At fifty-eight, I had ballooned out of shape. No wonder most of my clothes didn’t fit. Menopause had seized my body and layered it in fat.

One afternoon I saw a magazine cover at the grocery store: “Instant Willpower. Are you always hungry but can’t lose weight?” Yes, I whispered. Beneath the eye-catching statement, a pretty, thin brunette stood next to her “before” picture. She touted a 50-pound weight loss. Skeptical, I purchased the issue anyway.

At bedtime, I read and reread the article. The thin woman based her willpower theory on a meditation plan. Many years ago, I had meditated for stress and it worked for me. I devoured her dieting tricks, but still had my doubts. My looming anniversary cruise forced me to make a decision. Could I summon up the strength to shed the weight? I drifted off to sleep thinking positive, reaffirming thoughts.

The next day, I retrieved a brand new four-subject notebook from my desk. I labeled the first tab as my food journal. The second, I dedicated to fitness workouts, the third for logging weekly weight loss. In the last section I scribbled my reasons for obtaining this goal and then listed my reward. As a deterrent, I cut out the thin model and the words “Instant Willpower” and stuck them on my refrigerator.

Motivated, I meditated for 15 minutes and repeated my mantra, Instant Willpower. Each time I had a food craving, I shoved a piece of sugar-free gum into my mouth. My love affair with carbohydrates had made me an addict. The first couple of weeks were tough.

The article also recommended getting fit and suggested personal trainers, but I couldn’t afford one. So I searched the Internet for examples of training plans. A free trainer website offered a regular exercise regime and the number of calories burned. I grabbed my notebook and entered a column for each: walking, jogging, bike riding and swimming. I couldn’t remember the last time I did any physical activity.

I shopped at thrift stores and purchased a used bicycle, a jump rope and a pedometer. Before dinner, I walked two miles at a regular pace. An aroma coming from a neighbor’s barbecue conjured up a mental image of hamburgers, potato salad and baked beans. I could almost taste the meal. I grabbed a stick of mint gum and chewed away the craving. I pictured myself sunning on a deck chair, alongside my husband, wearing a new bathing suit. It worked.

After the first month, I walked in the mornings. I mixed walking a block and jogging the next and gradually increased my distance to four miles. The temperature was cooler and the odors different. I inhaled the scent of fresh-cut grass. Alone with my thoughts, I meditated, repeating my mantra over and over in my mind. The hunger pains disappeared. I biked an hour each evening and the ride invigorated me. Instead of considering exercise a chore, I incorporated the activity into my new lifestyle. Four months later, the scale showed a 30-pound weight loss. I entered the number in my log, a wide grin on my face. Only 15 more pounds to reach my goal.

I stuck to the magazine’s rigid diet and recipes, although at times I found myself standing and staring at the fridge. I’d recite my mantra and study the thin smiling model. I reaffirmed my goal by writing my feelings in my notebook and then brushed my teeth. A well-known diet trick, but it kept me from cheating.

One night my husband said, “You’re looking good.” The compliment made me blush. I continued eating fruits, veggies, chicken and grains, but nothing white. Carbohydrates were the enemy. At night, I swore off television and enjoyed catching up on my reading pile. I heard the less food you see, the less hungry you are. It worked for me.

As the pounds dropped off, I had more energy. In the afternoon, I swam laps at our clubhouse pool or jumped rope in my backyard. For the first time in years, I experienced the childhood thrill of simple pleasures. Five months and three weeks passed. I had lost 45 pounds and met my goal. As promised, I splurged and shopped for a new wardrobe for our cruise.

Our anniversary arrived and together we boarded the ship. A cameraman stopped us for a boarding photograph. My husband beamed and slipped his arm around my thin waist. Once we settled inside our cabin, he smiled and said, “Wow, you look even better than the day we got married. Happy 30th anniversary; think of this as our second honeymoon.” We hugged and kissed.

My heart pounded faster. I remembered doubting that magazine headline, Instant Willpower, now my mantra forever. I opened my suitcase holding the new size-6 cruise wear. The first thing I unpacked was my four-subject notebook.

~Suzanne Baginskie

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