Heavy-handed weight loss


I see where the weight loss centers have begun their traditional spring barrage of guilt-trip advertising.

Essentially their pitch goes like this: "Look at you. Go ahead, take a good, long look in the mirror. My God, you . . . why, you're the fattest thing anyone's ever seen! Don't you realize that summer is just around the corner? That people will be repulsed by the sight of you in a bathing suit?

"C'mon, tubby. Waddle over to the phone. Call us. Before it's too late."

Accompanying the ads are the standard "Before" and "After" shots the industry loves to trot out.

In the "Before" photo, we see a huge, frowsy woman wearing short shorts and a billowy "Ed's Sunoco" softball shirt reclining in a sagging lawn chair.

In the "After" photo, the same woman has magically been transformed into a size 6 temptress in a slinky cocktail dress, complete with stylish new hairdo and expensive make-over.

"Mrs. Rose N. Guarino of Newton, Mass., lost 72 pounds!" gushes the text. "You can too!"

Well, I . . . I guess so. Except whenever I see these kinds of ads, two thoughts immediately come to mind.

First, why would anyone with a severe weight problem appear in public wearing short shorts and a billowy "Ed's Sunoco" softball shirt?

And secondly, if the woman in the photo had only put on a little makeup and jazzed up her wardrobe and gotten a new haircut in the first place, she wouldn't have had to lose so much weight to look good.

Of course in real life, the next time you see Mrs. Rose N. Guarino of Newton, Mass., she'll go about 275 pounds and be elbowing people away from the eclair rack at the bakery.

Or she'll be camped at one end of the buffet table at a party, building a three-story-high sandwich and shotgunning a six-pack Schlitz tall boys.

The point is (if there is a point to all this) that anyone can lose weight.

But very few people have the self-discipline to keep the weight off once they stop drinking the chalky gruel or eating the sparrow-sized portions of bland diet food these places recommend.

In other words, once they go back to real food -- Whoppers with cheese, Twinkies, that sort of thing -- they're soon cutting the same trim figure in their clothes as, say, Raymond Burr.

Of course, when you walk into one of these weight loss centers and mention this to the humanoids who run the place, their reaction is always the same.

First they flash one of those eerie, Vincent-Price-on-Quaaludes smiles that's designed to reassure you, but serves only to make you even more jittery.

Then their eyes glaze over and they begin droning their familiar old mantra: "To lose weight, you must change your eating habits . . . To lose weight, you must change your eating habits. . . ."

Whew. It's at this point that anyone with any common sense immediately bolts for the nearest exit.

Unfortunately, the exits at these places are generally blocked by huge power lifters, who will drag you kicking and screaming back to your seat, at which time the rest of the "orientation talk" is delivered.

In clipped, emotionless tones, the humanoid will drone on and on about reducing fat content in your diet, controlling cravings, working with certified instructors, blah, blah, blah.

I have actually seen people grow drowsy and pitch forward out of their seats during these numbing harangues.

But all that happens then is, they splash a bucket of cold water on you and drag you back to your seat.

Once the talk is over, potential customers are then forced to watch a dreary propaganda video extolling the virtues of that particular weight loss program.

Suddenly, the lights will snap back on and a frenzied Mary Kay-wannabe with 10 cups of coffee under her belt will try to sell you some motivational tapes ("You HATE pepperoni pizza!") and a bunch of other junk you don't need.

This is followed by your official weigh-in, at which point your "personalized instructor" will note helpfully that you have accumulated about the same mass as a stand-up freezer.

Dazed and reeling, you're forced to pose for one of those "Before" Polaroid snapshots -- which, in the unlikely event you actually lose a significant amount of weight, can be used to ensnare other dupes into the program.

Look, you do what you want to do. But if you want my advice, I'd find a way to get the hell out of there pronto.

Bang your head against the all, punch a Bic pen into one of your veins, launch into a hysterical crying jag, threaten to tell the cops . . . the details are up to you.

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