So my employer has decided to up the ante on its wellness program by holding an eleven-week weight loss contest this summer.
Now, when I hear the term “weight loss,” I generally run the other way. Well, maybe not run. I am far too out of shape for that. Turn my back and shamble away would be more like it.
I am what the doctors refer to as “morbidly obese,” as well as a couch potato and more than a bit of a food snob. So a weight loss contest is way out of my league, to say the least.
I think about all the food programs my mother tried to put me on when I was growing up. “I’m gonna put you on a starvation diet!” my mother would yell when we returned home from an appointment with the pediatrician, appalled and embarrassed at the numbers that appeared on the scale. He had handed us a printed diet that included caloric values for foods with strange sounding names like kale and kohlrabi. The sole item listed under “desserts” was 5-calorie gelatin.
I thought “diet” was merely a variant of the word “die” and that “exercise” was a dirtier word than the things my classmates scratched into the stall walls in the boys’ bathroom. I wanted nothing to do with physical activity; I wanted to curl up in a corner with a book. Nevertheless, I would be sent outside with a handball to bat against the garage doors. Then there was the time with the punching bag and the time with the set of barbells and dumbells and the time my mother browbeat my father into hitting tennis balls with me.
My religious elementary school sent us out to play but really didn’t care whether I ran the baseball diamond or just sat under the apple tree. Guess which one I did? Junior high and high school phys ed was pure misery that I’d prefer not to relive by detailed description. Being forced to assist my father with the yardwork was one of the low points of my life. I got good at hiding and devised all types of devious methods of sneaking ice cream and cookies. I blush to admit that at least one of those involved outright stealing. Sigh.
Perhaps I can convey a bit of the idea of how prominent a role food played in my early life by pointing out that the gift I most begged my parents for at the age of six was a soda machine.
Considering the above, it should be no surprise to anyone that I’ve been massively overweight from toddlerhood until today, as I stand on the brink of senior citizenship. Now, everyone knows how dangerous extra weight is to one’s health. Obesity brings on a litany of diseases and drugs, most of which have come a-callin’ and then decided to take up residence like so many houseguests of questionable character who I cannot bear to throw out into the street despite the fact they have long since overstayed their welcomes.
Just take this weight-loss contest as an opportunity and a blessing, I tell myself, while in my heart I convinced that the whole thing is nothing more than an insufferable pain in the ass.
The Human Resources Department is calling the contest “The Biggest Loser,” named after the TV show. Although we must have weekly weigh-ins like on the show (hopefully without the corny beep-beep-beep sound effects), I am happy to say that there are no five-mile jogs, treadmills or stationary bicycles involved.
Interested employees are to form teams of three to ten. Success is judged not by the number of pounds lost, but by the percentage of body weight lost. This means that I will need to lose somewhere between ten and twenty pounds for every pound that some of my already skinny coworkers lose. Just when I curse the unfairness of it all, I am reminded that it will probably be more difficult for them to lose one pound than it will be for me to lose twenty. Okay, point taken.
My employer has more than a dozen locations, so there are bound to be a lot of teams. This means there will be a lot of competition. I started asking around as to which of my nine team members wish to participate. Seven of them said yes. Seven! Well, six plus me. The rules say that now we have to come up with a team name. I vote that we dub ourselves The Magnificent Seven.
I got the group together informally on Friday afternoon and promised them that I would not let them down. I gave them the rah-rah talk about how we’re already good at teamwork and how this going to be a piece of cake. Er, a celery stick and a carrot, I mean. We might have to compete with ten or twenty other teams, but with a little determination, I think we have a very good shot at beating them all.
I still can’t believe I agreed to do this. The easy way out would have been to just ignore this contest and smile weakly when I walk by coworkers’ desks and hear them regaling each other with stories of their successes.
There is something about being a supervisor, however. You can’t just say “you do your thing, I’ll do mine.” You have to be a leader, even (especially) when it’s not too convenient to do so.
And who knows? Maybe this time I’ll finally keep the weight off and turn my life around.