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Point of No Return: The Phantom Diet

Category: Misc./General Career News
Article Date: July 17, 2006 | Publication: The Washington Post | Author: Marty Rhodes Figley

Posted by: admin

Maybe All a Woman Needs To Lose Weight Is a Healthy Operatic Fantasy

It all started when I deluded myself into thinking that the dress I wore as mother of the bride made my bottom look luscious and ample -- kind of like Jennifer Lopez's famous derriere.

The problem was that all of me was ample. I had been a good mom, but whenever I worried about my kids, I ate. I could only fantasize about being a size 10. In spite of this, my husband of 35 years said I was fetching, and I agreed with him.

Then, bam! Our son and daughter both became engaged the same year, and the quest for a dress was on.

For the first wedding, I found a flattering lilac sheath with a matching jacket that flared in just the right place.

Plans for our daughter's wedding were more intense. As my husband mumbled over the checkbook, I thought about finding the next perfect dress. The more I thought about it, the more I ate. I tried on the old purple dress. Maybe no one would remember it. Alas, it now hugged my body like a sausage casing. I limped from one store to the next. Everything was too tight, too big, too frowsy or revealing.

Two weeks before the wedding, I ordered an aquamarine two-piece ensemble from a catalogue -- in both medium and large. When the package arrived, I ripped it open. The medium fit like a glove. A latex glove. But there was still the large. It slid over my body, kind of. The skirt clung to my hips and made me look curvy. I checked out the back and decided that I was a J-Lo look-alike! I was set, as long as I abstained from peanut clusters.

The second wedding was as lovely as the first. I liked the initial photos, especially the group shots of the blended families. My outfit looked great.

Then my daughter e-mailed a Web address that contained pictures one of her co-workers took. There, for all to see, were several "rear view" shots of me. The jacquard skirt didn't accentuate my mature curves; it stretched painfully across my broad expanse. I clicked off the computer.

My kids were gone forever, and I had bottomed out.

That was when the Phantom spirit began calling me.

When my fabulous mother-in-law, Louise, visited for the holidays the December between the weddings, we saw the movie "Phantom of the Opera" starring hunky Gerard Butler. We both loved it. Louise said the Phantom was a nice-looking young man -- he just had a little skin problem.

Looking forward to her visit for the May nuptials, I purchased the DVD so we could relive our "Phantom" experience. When several cousins and Louise and I sat in my family room drooling over Gerard, one of them pronounced prophetically, "This could become a habit."

I am a children's author who works at home, but Phantom-watching, Phantom-dreaming and Gerard Butler Web-surfing were permeating my writing hours. The Phantom was living in his dungeon of black despair, hiding his face. Just like the post-wedding me. The Phantom wasn't physically perfect. Neither was I.

This Phantom/Gerard guy was so lonely. All he needed was a wise, mature, voluptuous woman. I could save him from his solitude, his dark fate. The Phantom wouldn't care if I were a mother-in-law and a few years older than he.

I often check out the Internet Movie Database after seeing an appealing film. But, as my obsession grew, the IMDb wasn't enough. I began haunting the Gerard Butler fan sites. I found out that the man, who prefers to be called Gerry, was nice. After appearances he spent time schmoozing with his adoring minions, who seemed to follow him everywhere. Pasted all over the Internet are pictures of Gerry hugging and kissing average-looking women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Why not me?

This went on for more than a month, although I did manage to keep writing. When word came that in several weeks our daughter and her new husband were coming for a visit, I finally took control of myself. I didn't want her to see a sad post-wedding mother with chocolate-stained fingers. Wasn't all this angst really about the empty nest and feeling old? Why not start by getting rid of those excess pounds that had only added to my wedding jitters?

Numerous diets were in my past. Numerous diet books occupied my bookcase. I usually ended up hating whatever diet I was on because after a while it became boring and punitive.

This diet was going to be fun .

I decided to use the Phantom obsession to my advantage. Visualization would be the weapon of choice. I fantasized that I had to lose weight so I could meet Gerry Butler for one momentous lunch.

We would dine on salad. It would be an unparalleled delight. I imagined feeling attractive and comfortable in my clothes as I gazed into Gerry's mesmerizing eyes.

To reinforce the image, I had a salad three times a week for dinner. On those nights the soundtrack from "Phantom" provided an inspiring backdrop.

To fill my empty nest I acquired a feisty Airedale terrier that demands exercise. I named her Scarlett in honor of another Butler -- Rhett. Scarlett pulls me at least three miles around our neighborhood every day.

As a result of salad dinners, the dog and my imagination, I shed a few pounds on the Gerard Butler diet. It was the sexiest weight I ever lost.

It's now been a year since that last wedding. I've kept most of that weight off and have settled into trying to be a good mother-in-law.

It's another type of diet that involves keeping your mouth shut.


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