From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

The Bargain

Do not wait for ideal circumstances, nor the best opportunities; they will never come.

Janet E. Stuart

I’ve always liked a bargain, so when my doctor sent me to a nutritionist after telling me that losing just five pounds of my excess weight could take thirty pounds of pressure off my aching knees, a deal was struck. I could easily lose a measly five pounds—I was sure of it.

The nutritionist, Nicole, laughed with me when I explained the bargain as she picked up my hand and seriously informed me that it was my best nutritional measure. Using my hand to illustrate proper portion sizes, my palm became the meat portion, my thumb, the fat portion, my fist the cooked vegetables (or fruit) and two fists for raw vegetables or salad.

I was shocked to realize that one can eat too much of a good thing, and that I’d been consuming vegetables sufficient for four or more people! Testing had revealed allergies to several grains, so I eliminated them for a time, later adding grains up to the size of my palm. It was very easy now to “eyeball” the right amount of food, even when we ate out. I would immediately push aside anything over that amount and save it for the “doggie bag” and the next day’s portions. Then came the “E” word.

I love exercise—when I’m done. But starting is difficult, so in keeping with the five-pound bargain theme, motion was added to my day—five minutes at a time.

First, and most difficult, was the morning—five minutes of stretching. Rather than fight the urge to stay abed, I did several stretches IN bed! Stretching out one leg at a time, pressing each heel toward the end of the bed and holding for several seconds felt great, and I was comfortable repeating each side five times. Then raising each leg toward the ceiling, clasping my hands around the thigh, I pulled it toward me while holding a few seconds, again repeating each side five times, took half the five minutes. This wasn’t as hard as I thought!

Second was choosing to park the car in the farthest spot from the building in the lot, forcing a five-minute walk to and from my vehicle. Still energized in the morning from the stay-in-bed “exercise,” I practically crowed on the way in, and the walk out in the evening gave me a bit of time to review the upcoming evening or to plan dinner. Two of the three more times of motion were easily slipped into the workday—by climbing stairs the first five minutes of morning break and walking five minutes before lunch. The last segment of motion was saved for presleep stretching, or if I knew I had a long evening of appointments, I would increase both break and lunch segments by a few minutes and not worry about the evening.

Either way, I’d managed to painlessly add motion to every day! All this energy from five minutes here and there—what a bargain!

The last trick to the bargain was increasing water consumption. I’d playfully dubbed a friend the “water buffalo” for constantly carrying a half-gallon container of water, hiding secret thoughts of shame that I probably should, but never could, do that. My mistake, Nicole told me, was inviting failure by attempting to jump from barely finishing one to two eight-ounce glasses a day to eight full glasses. Instead, we planned for—yep, you guessed it— five smaller glasses. On arising, I chose warm water with a teaspoon of lemon juice, then another small glass of cold water before lunch and dinner, and one small glass of water or cup of tea with lunch and dinner. The juice-glass size relieved guilty feelings of defeat I got when I couldn’t consume the entire contents of a large glass of water, and if I was still thirsty, having a second small glass became another tiny victory.

My goal for the bargain had been to lose one pound a week for five weeks, but that first week I lost the entire five pounds! I paid myself, putting the money I would have paid a weight management program for the week into a jar, and I planned to continue to pay myself weekly until I’d lost the other twenty pounds and had a fair amount of cash to purchase some new (smaller!) clothes. Perhaps the thought of smaller or better-fitting clothes is what motivated me to “up the ante” in consecutive weeks, as I knew it was unrealistic to expect that initial five-pound loss to repeat every week.

Breaking boredom was easy—but it was not without risk. Slipping a few minutes of exercise in as I waited in the copy room for the prints to roll out did gather a few smirks, raised eyebrows and outright laughter on occasion when someone unexpectedly entered the room while I was doing a squat or performing inhaling and exhaling Oxycise breathing exercises, which startled coworkers thought resembled Lamaze breathing for giving birth!

Bargaining is fun no matter what area of life I apply it to. It may have been mind over matter that made the difference as I battled and bargained five pounds at a time rather than holding up the entire goal, but I love bargains, and who wouldn’t rather have five bargains for the “price” of one—no special equipment required!

Delores Christian Liesner

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