On Sunday morning, the boot campers leave the resort for a field trip—a tour of a local grocery store. As they navigate the aisles, Janis delivers tips on what to pick up and what to skip. Lesson one: Not all produce is created equal. Some items are particularly supercharged, such as vitamin D–enriched mushrooms ("Three ounces will provide nearly all your daily D requirement") and BroccoSprouts ("They're loaded with sulforaphane, a well-known cancer-fighting compound"). More lessons: Don't shy away from frozen veggies; because they retain vitamins and minerals during transit, they can be healthier than fresh produce. Avoid products labeled "unbleached wheat flour," "enriched wheat flour," or just "wheat" ("Look for the word whole"). Instead of ice cream for dessert, pick up creamy, rich nonfat Greek yogurt and add a little honey and some fruit. And just because something is labeled "natural" or "healthy" doesn't mean it is. Janis picks up a cereal bar near the checkout line: "Eating this is like eating a cookie," she says.
"I have three in my purse!" Yolanda blurts out, laughing.
That afternoon the women seem like old friends, joking about Spanx (as in, the miracle of) while they wait for their next session to begin. Ann is going to coach them on healthier relationships back home—the kinds of social connections that will nurture them as they make over their lives.
Ann starts by explaining that one of the most difficult things to learn is how to speak up: "You have to really believe that it's okay to ask for what you want." Not stating your needs, she says, is almost always a barrier to weight loss. For example, an emotional eater will turn to food for comfort when she doesn't get the affection she craves from her spouse. A woman who can't admit to her boss that she's overloaded may consistently sacrifice her gym time to get her work done.
To see how well Kerri, Yolanda, and Amy stand up for themselves, Ann has them sit in a circle around an eight-by-ten piece of paper. Then she tells them to reach for the paper with a level of intensity that represents how they typically pursue what they want in life. After a few seconds of pulling, they have ripped the page into three sections of varying sizes.
Yolanda, her face framed by dangling heart-shaped earrings, looks upset. She got only a small scrap. Amy got a third of the sheet, and Kerri got the largest piece.
"I feel guilty," Kerri says.
Ann says it's common for women to feel shame about being assertive. "We're raised to care for others before we consider ourselves," she says. "As little girls, we watch as strong women are labeled 'selfish' and 'demanding' while assertive men are perceived as powerful and effective."
Yolanda says she has been struggling with this breed of guilt for a long time. "All my life, I've given more than I get. But it's never enough. Sometimes I feel like I'm being taken for granted."
Ann has the women repeat the exercise, and this time, in less than a second, Yolanda has the whole page in her hands. She holds it over her head, beaming. Amy gives a little cheer and Kerri grins. Still, Yolanda says it didn't feel so good to win when winning meant Amy and Kerri had to lose.
"Challenge, for a moment, the belief that asking for what you want is selfish," Ann says. "Instead, think of it as self-preservation. You can't take care of others unless you are taken care of, too. Otherwise you feel, as you said, taken for granted. In the long run, speaking up for yourself leads to more supportive, longer-lasting relationships."
Yolanda nods. She takes a deep breath and looks around the circle. "I really have to be more vocal about my priorities," she says.
"At first, not everyone will be happy when you speak up," Ann says, "but they will adjust." She cautions that some people may not make any concessions at all, and if that's the case, it's time to sever your connections with them: "Only make time for those who are kind to you back."