I could tell that Judy harbored serious doubts about the severity of my hypoglycemia, the existence of which, I was forced to admit, had never been clinically proved. But she graciously turned her attention to writing the response cards—such as "If I want to lose weight, I have to do things I don't want to do"—that were supposed to counter my negative thoughts. My homework was to read the cards before each meal, as well as commit to a food plan every night for the following day, then fax it to her. We agreed to touch base by phone in one week.
When I called at the appointed time, I was feeling proud of myself—"giving myself credit" in Judyspeak. I'd dropped a pound and a half and had been fanatical about staying within the points allotted me by Weight Watchers. But I didn't get the You go, girl reaction I was expecting.
"Eventually, it will be fine to substitute foods as long as they're the same number of points or calories," Judy told me, referring to the fact that I'd eaten broccoli instead of the artichoke I'd committed to in writing. "But for now I'd like you to follow your plan exactly."
I felt deflated. What was the big deal? Wasn't one green vegetable as good as the next?
"You won't have to plan every meal for the rest of your life, but for now I'd like you to master the skill of 'no choice,' so that in the future when you start to slide, you'll know how to get back on track."
"I get it," I said, "but I don't like it."
"I know I'm being a hard-ass," Judy conceded. "But 90 percent of people who lose weight gain it back, which is what happened to you." Then she had me write out a new response card: "Unless I get really good at following my plan, I'll be at risk for regaining the weight I lose. Rigidity is essential right now, but it's only temporary."
Though I felt like a chastened schoolgirl when I hung up the phone, in subsequent weeks something strange occurred: My inner rebel put down her dukes, and I grew to enjoy planning my meals. It made me feel safe and in control—and saved me on my birthday, Thanksgiving, and at several holiday parties. The proof showed up on the scale. By the time I went to see Judy a month after our initial meeting, I had dropped seven pounds.
Judy warmly congratulated me on my progress and my shift in attitude. She even told me I could be more flexible in my eating and stop planning every meal—something I was not yet ready to do. She also issued a sober warning. "It's a fallacy to think you'll continue losing weight at this rate. There'll be weeks when you won't lose anything and other weeks when the scale will go up a pound or two. That's normal. You have to take the long view; otherwise you could become demoralized and abandon your diet the way you did in the past." Then she leaned back in her chair and smiled. "It would be good—in fact it's 100 percent necessary—for you not to be afraid of hunger so you can maintain your weight loss your whole life."