Session 2: February 13

Fourteen days later, the group reconvenes. Well, half the group—Taryn is unable to make it, and Pat joins in for a bit by speakerphone. Jim reminds them to think about the nutritional content of their meals—"More veggies!"—and to drink more water.

As the meeting breaks up, Jim checks in with their aspirations.

"My goal is 115," says Cindy, whose current weight is 124. "But I'd love to be 112."

"We could get there if you're up for it," Jim offers.

Cindy's eyes widen. "Really? I'd be the happiest girl in the world."

"Sure, but I want you to drink more water. You didn't pee during this meeting."

"I have to go," Cindy says.

"I do, too," says Jim.

Session 3: March 6

Gayle, Cindy, and Taryn meet with Jim. Pat is stuck at work. Gayle is snacking on an apple; in five weeks, she's dropped almost ten pounds. "I am ready," she says cheerfully as Jim pulls out the measuring tape.

"My hips are the same," Cindy says, "but I've gone down a size in pants." She pulls at her waistband, showing the gap. "These used to be tight." Taryn sits with her arms folded tight against her chest. "I've barely gone down. It's the Tasti D-Lites," she figures, blaming the low-fat frozen dessert she's been eating. Or maybe it's the cocktails with friends or the eating out.

Jim praises the women's workouts. "All of you have been consistent with exercise except Pat," he says. They'll be using heavier weights and tighter bands soon, he promises.

"My weights are going up," Taryn says. "It's scary. I feel like a man. I see bones up here [pointing to her collarbones]. That's my positive. But I'm gonna end up in the man's part of the gym. I feel like She-Ra."

Jim promises she'll never look like a weight lifter, and the other women in the room ooh and ah when she flexes her arm.

"What's your satisfaction rating with the program at this point," Jim asks. "On a scale of 1 to 10?"

Gayle says 6 or 7. Cindy says 5 or 6. Taryn says 3 or 4.

"I think you're being gracious," Jim says to Taryn.

"Thank you," she responds, with her first smile of the day.

Session 4: April 3

The food diary e-mails have been bouncing back and forth. The logs are alternately proud (on good days) and apologetic (on bad). Jim's feedback instructs while offering praise. "Watch out for the apple juice, but you know that.... Great day. Was the muffin big?"

At the meeting, Gayle confesses that she strayed, dietetically, during her family vacation. "I didn't just fall off the wagon, I fell into the river and was paddling without a lifeboat! But even with all the eating, I doubled my exercise program—and the minute I returned, I got right back on the diet. I think there's something to this program."

Cindy feels like she's doing well and is thrilled with the way her body shape is changing. Taryn says the calorie restrictions are killing her, but she's also noticing a transformation. "The shape of my body seems to be changing—I'm not losing any weight, I'm not losing any inches, but I feel like I look different."

About two weeks after the meeting, Pat e-mails a status report. "I am finding it very difficult to schedule in the necessary exercise time, be conscious of the amount of calories I am taking in, and generally do all the things necessary to ensure a successful outcome to this project. Intellectually, I know that I have to pay attention to myself. However, I put my work schedule, house schedule, and family obligations before myself."

Jim writes back that he's sure she's doing her best. He encourages her to keep at it, even though he's thinking that this program isn't working for her. Most of the people Jim meets who want to lose weight or get fit aren't able to make the necessary life changes. You have to be psychologically ready to "flip the switch," he says. "I always tell women, 'If you're not ready to do this yet, don't do it. Don't beat yourself up over it—let yourself off the hook until you're ready.'"

Next: See Gayle's transformation


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