Like too many patients, Jenny was looking for a way to lose weight that was fast and easy. Whenever I mentioned my standard advice about exercising and eating more fruits and vegetables instead of fast-food burgers and microwave meals, her eyes glazed over. “You always tell me that, but I know it won’t work for me,” was her standard reply. “I hate vegetables, and exercise is boring.”
That was usually the end of the discussion. A few months later, Jenny would return to my office with more health issues related to her weight, such as sore knees and ankles, circulatory problems, sleep apnea, and fatigue. Over the years, I had seen her go from a plumpish 150 pounds to more than 200 pounds on a small, 5’ 3” frame.
Finally, we had our showdown. Jenny came into the office for a physical before having gastric bypass surgery. I started explaining the reasons why that was a terrible idea, including malnutrition, the possibility of life-threatening complications, as well as the fact that there is no guarantee she would be able to maintain weight loss even with the surgery. She burst into tears and accused me of not wanting to help her. “You don’t understand how hard it is for me to diet,” she sobbed. “I’ve tried everything, and look at me! I just get bigger and bigger.”
Actually, the one thing she hadn’t tried was good old common sense — eat fewer calories than your body burns in a day. So we sat down and took a long look at the foods she liked and the activities she enjoyed, and we came up with a plan. Jenny agreed to give up soda and fried foods, and she promised to eat a large salad (with the few veggies she liked) every day. I explained the importance of drinking the right amount of water for her as well as the benefits of walking for at least ten minutes every day. We agreed that she would do this for one month and then come back for a recheck. She even signed a “contract” stipulating that she would postpone the gastric bypass surgery for at least a month to give my plan a chance to work.
Thirty days later, Jenny returned to my office. “I’ve lost only six pounds,” she complained. “At this rate, it’s going to take forever to lose 60 more!”
“When did you gain the weight?” I asked her.
“Starting when I left high school, about 20 years ago,” she replied.
“So if you keep losing six pounds a month, it’ll take you less than one year to reach your goal of 135. That’s not even one-twentieth of the time it took to gain the weight.”
Jenny had to admit my math was correct. She also admitted that she felt better than she had in years. “And that’s just from losing six pounds!” I reminded her. “Think of how good you’ll feel when you get to 135.”
The little pep talk worked. Jenny checked in with me six months later. She had dropped 40 more pounds and was on target to hit 135 pounds in a little over three months. On top of it all, her blood tests showed that she was in excellent health. “All my friends want to know what my secret is,” she confided. “I tell them what you told me — eat less, exercise more, and stay away from sugar, fast food, and crash diets. It’s not that hard once you get on the right track.”
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: August 27, 2012