Love Handles: Chapter Four


By Bob Merrick

Because Amy and I weren't sure what we were getting into, we signed up for two classes. For the first one called 'Live It!' we sat in a circle with a very compassionate (and, unlike his public persona, calm) Richard and the eight women who had greeted us. It was like an AA meeting for one's emotional relationship with food. Finally, my people! It felt good to say that for the first time, in a long time, I was taming my relationship with food. A month and a half in and, aside from my debauchery in Vegas (see my last entry), I have been able to maintain discipline and actually feel good about my choices.

It wasn't until one of the women, whom I had previously judged, announced that she had lost 120 pounds that the seriousness of the situation began to sink in. Each woman around the circle was waging her own war on food and body issues and slowly winning. Suddenly the love for all things 'Dickie,' as Richard's friends call him, became clear. And for the first (and not the last) time that day, I felt bad for having cast pre-judgment on someone else's journey.

After we wrote Valentines to ourselves, where I 'promised to love myself as I deserve to be loved by someone else,' it was time for the 'Sweat!' class to begin. Unlike Krav Maga, where I was terrified of zombies and on the verge of tears within the first three minutes, I couldn't wait to see what Richard had up his tank top (he never wears sleeves and told me he only owns one pair of pants that he wears to funerals). The studio began to fill up and the music began to pump. It was a disco remix of Diana Ross's 'I'm Coming Out.' Oh, yes, I was!

And before my eyes, Richard's energy exploded and he was the overenthusiastic exercise guru that we have spent the last 25 years laughing with'and sometimes at. He didn't use a microphone'he screamed. And when he wanted to get his point across, he would lift the needle off the record, yes, actual vinyl, and make sure that we were smiling as hard as we were sweating. We grapevined, we jazzercised, and more than once, he had us prancing around like ballerinas. It didn't matter because we were having so much fun'and sweating. He accused Amy of having gills since she was used to doing yoga and couldn't stop breathing through her nose.

When we finally stopped to pick up our mats and free weights, I felt like I had just come out of the spin cycle of a washing machine. For our cool down, he had all 40 of us sing along with and act out Better Midler's 'The Rose.' Was it possible that this man I had spent so many years being offended by when people said I reminded them of him, could be my father?

'How much is your belly worth?' he howled, while we laid on our backs with our legs in the air, a position I enjoyed until I learned it can also be used for abdominal exercise. How much was my belly worth? How many expensive meals, excess groceries, and thousands of dollars of cocktails had I consumed to make my belly so large? Surely there are more productive ways to waste my money.

When we were finished, I looked over at Amy's bright red face, which was punctuated with a giant grin. We were sullied and foul and couldn't have been happier. We definitely didn't look like people coming out of a class at Crunch. I don't want to sound too much like Oprah, but I am excited that the key to my current success has been my friend's support and ability to find obscure and fun ways to sweat without a treadmill.

Richard hugged us goodbye making us feel like the most important people and that we were fools if we didn't recognize it in ourselves. He surprised me that day by being magnificent when I was prepared to write him off as a joke. The shoe was on the other foot and I was suddenly back in Arizona ready to play basketball as the straight guys prepared to make fun of the 'silly girl-like' boy.

I am proud that I have lost my first 20 pounds and am down to 275 pounds, still an intimidating number, but a nice milestone on my path. To celebrate, I am going to treat myself to another 'Sweat!' class this weekend, since I can't think of a more fun reward. Well, at least not one that doesn't involve fried food, champagne, or sex!

To read part three click here.

To read part two click here.

To read part one click here.