Threat of horrible pain can make you skinny

Mar. 01, 2014 @ 05:11 PM

Those of you who have wandered with me over the years through every diet plan, opinion, advice, success, failure, misery and raison d’etre (that’s right, I am waxing lyrical, mostly because I’m hungry) will be thrilled (or skeptical, or possibly bored) to know that I have finally found my answer. No, it will not be the answer for all of you -- not the vegetarians or vegans or fruitarians, and especially not those who don’t need to lose weight because they “have the metabolism of a hummingbird and can eat just anything I want and it NEVER affects me (giggle)!” And, to that last group, I would say firmly: Turn the page, close the computer, go out into the world and spread your joy -- we will never be friends.

Meanwhile, the answer, for the rest of you, does not lie completely in a certain diet. No, the answer lies mostly squeezed inside and behind a threat of horrible pain. What’s that, you ask? A threat? Is a terrorist forcing you to diet against your will?
On one hand, I would welcome a terrorist into my home if his entire agenda is to force me to diet. Who wouldn’t want all that anguishing choice-making in someone else’s hands? It was the most positive thing to come out of every time I’ve been hospitalized.
(On the other hand, if I really wanted a warm, freshly-made Krispy Kreme doughnut or a six-layer homemade caramel cake ... well, there is no terrorist in this world who could stop me, aside from shooting me, and even then I know that in my personal heaven there are 77 untouched caramel cakes waiting for me!)
So what was my particular threat? It was when a doctor said to me, “Vicki, you are going to need a knee replacement.” 
At first, I thought, “You are flat out of your mind and obviously graduated from the Cliff’s Notes School of Medicine, if you think a simple thing like not being able to straighten or bend your knee all the way means you need a knee replacement! I want a second opinion. And a third. And one from a surgeon who seriously knows his stuff. Well, fine, obviously a surgeon is going to want to cut something, who listens to a surgeon when it comes to surgery!”
So, the surgeon smiled kindly, gave me a DVD to take home that tells all about knee replacement operations, and told me that none of the other procedures you hear about all the time would work for me; that I could try physical therapy, which couldn’t hurt, especially for helping in my recovery; and that he was “going to cause you a lot of pain, so we want to be sure it’s worth it.”
Hello? I said thank you, goodbye, and headed for the door, never intending to see him again -- in this life or in my own personal heaven. 
The next day, I made an appointment at Athletic Advantage Physical Therapy, with a therapist named Hannah Smith. On my first visit, Hannah -- who is young, adorable, athletic and in incredible, enviable physical shape -- assessed my knee and its issues very carefully, and then said, “Yeah, I think we can make significant progress with physical therapy.”
(I almost assault-hugged her, which could have put a crimp in our relationship, but luckily, I was just able to hold myself back.) 
Naturally, she said that the success of my PT would also depend upon my commitment to it, and to the degree of function that I demanded. The commitment wasn’t an issue. I am committed to avoiding pain by any means, including witchcraft-like ceremonies. And, the degree of function? Well, let’s just say I wasn’t even THINKING about going to Sochi, at least not this year. Getting down the driveway is about as high as my aspirations go right now. 
We scheduled something like nine more appointments that day. And, four days later, on Nov. 1, 2013, I began to lose weight. 
Why am I doing it? Well, I had reasoned that losing weight would take pressure off my knee, duh, but also would help me do my PT exercises, thus making Hannah proud, which was HUGE -- she was saving me from “a lot of pain,” after all. I also reasoned that if, God forbid, the PT didn’t work, or the witchcraft fell flat, or Hannah moved away, and I did have to have a knee replacement, then I’d probably recover faster if I were in better shape. Again, duh.
How am I doing it?  Oh, dear, look how long this column is already ... I’d better not go into that now. Those of you who’d like the answer should check in next week. You vegan-freakin’ hummingbirds can take next Sunday off!

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at, or by visiting her website at