Respect for Richard Simmons.

Like Quicken, except even MORE fun.
Starting weight: 230 lbs
Target weight: 185 lbs
Current weight: 220 lbs
De-big-ulation process: 22% complete

I’m motivated by success — if I feel like I’m doing a good job at something, I like to devote more effort to it to see if I can do an even better job. If I’m doing a really good job at something, I try really hard to see if I can do that thing the BEST THAT IT’S EVER BEEN DONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. The converse of this is that I handle setbacks really poorly, so I’m not about to start recording my own series of self-help CDs.

Luckily for me and my motivational style, the weight loss has been going quickly, even though I haven’t been able to run a tithe of the times that I’d like to. My self-appointed (and very much appreciated) coach Will Ronco has examined my workout log and helpfully suggested that I run more, though with my current schedule I’m despairing of success at that, and trying to think of solutions: If each Amtrak car is 90 feet long, times a 12-car train, eight round-trips jogging up and down the center aisle would be a 5K. But think of the bruises from newspaper readers’ elbows.

I promise I’m not starving myself: yesterday I had a burger on the grill for lunch and some salmon salad that Kate made for dinner. I’ve cut out a lot of the ancillary calories during the day: for the last year, I’ve had a slice of pepperoni pizza and a slice of hawaiian pizza for lunch, then as a snack going home a bag of doritos, etc. Oh, and one of those big cafe muffins for breakfast. Which if I entered into WeightWatchers now, the points values would roll over the meter like a seventies gas pump.

For no good reason, I tried the FitDay software last week. The best I can describe it is like Quicken for your food and activities, with a nice, streamlined interface and a real depth of reporting (my “overview” screen is above.) I think I’ll go back to the WeightWatchers web interface for two reasons, though: FitDay’s database of food isn’t quite as deep as WeightWatchers, and it’s a pain in the ass to have to save your wasabi pea wrapper and type in all the info from the food label. Also, I think it’s just a case of too much information. While it’s good to be able to know what percentage of my calories are coming from carbs, and whether or not I’m getting enough niacin to complete my RDA, I’ve got bigger, fatter fish to fry. WeightWatchers does a good job of hiding the complexity.

I’m boring myself (and, probably, you) with this post, so I will now tell a true Richard Simmons story. At age seventeen, I worked at a marketing company in Malvern, Pennsylvania that was one of the pioneers of the infomercial. They sold a countertop water filter, a hands-free phone, and most of all they had filmed “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” as a part of Richard Simmons’ “Deal-a-Meal” package. I worked in the customer service office, opening mail and handling returns. Many of the letters were addressed directly to Richard. Most were normal customer-service stuff, but some were raw outpourings of misery: “Richard, help! I’m so fat I can’t use an escalator!” read one. “Richard, I’m miserable! I can’t fit through the door!” read another. How do you react to that at age seventeen? You laugh, nervously. “Hey, here’s one from someone who can’t use an escalator! Er, ha ha ha! What should I do with it?”

Customer Service manager: “Oh, those? Those go in the ‘Richard’ box.”
Me: “Okay, and what happens then? Do they get thrown away, or something?”
Manager: “No, Richard reads them.”
Me: “…”
Manager: “And he answers them. Every month, Richard picks a letter out of the ‘Richard’ box, and he calls that person every month. For TWO YEARS.”

That was just a showstopper. Far from being a ridiculous joke, Richard Simmons turns out to be, well, a ridiculous AND COMPLETELY GENUINE PERSON. When he was visiting from California, he’d run up and down the halls singing (he really did wear those Dolphin track shorts all the time.) He was out and completely up-front about it, too, though, though he’d tease you mercilessly if he detected that you weren’t comfortable: when driven to the airport by Sweatin’ to the Oldies director Ed Shipley, he fell to the carpet and grabbed Ed’s feet, sobbing hysterically “Don’t LEAVE me, Ed! Don’t LEAVE me!” This just to embarass Ed, who was an ex-Navy pilot and fairly uptight about that sort of thing.

Richard’s energy, fearlessness, and generosity with his time was really inspirational, and made me feel guilty about spending clocked-in customer service hours making eight-hose hookahs out of water filter parts. Here’s to you, Richard! May your ‘fro grow ever larger!

PS. That wasn’t the last time that Richard made a scene in an airport; in 2004, he slapped a steel-cage-wrestling Harley salesman for being snide (the case was later dismissed.) Go get ’em, Richard!


3 responses to “Respect for Richard Simmons.”

  1. I too have discovered that Fitday’s food database lacks compared to Weight Watchers, though the charts and graphs are cool, and it’s free.
    My two cents about running is to increase weekly mileage *slowly*. The 10% rule is hard to follow when you are doing less than 20 miles a week, but increasing mileage too quickly is a ticket to injury. Well, I’ve got pages of running advice, so I’ll just wait until you ask …
    And I too have respect for Richard Simmons. For some reason, despite his cheesy flamboyance, I have always been moved by his genuine concern and compassion for others.


  2. Oh, Anonymous, how many times have I asked you for advice already, only to be told that stump-water removes warts, or that Diet Coke actually contains 90 calories once the tab is opened and the soda is exposed to oxygen?
    Perhaps the Internet is speaking directly to me. I don’t doubt, Internet, that you have pages of running advice, suitable for various (and sometimes hilariously graphic) situations; I hope you don’t mind if I browse with images off first.
    I actually plunked twenty bucks for the downloadable version of FitDay, since the delays using WW’s web interface over a wireless connection were starting to rankle. On the whole, though, I decided I liked the short delays better than having to educate FitDay about “Milk, Fluid, Cow, Whole”. Ick!
    I’m glad we agree about Richard Simmons, too. It would be kind of fun to think that he was actually a scenery-chewing, no-nonsense asshole like Richard Dawson in The Running Man. But I think it’s even better that he’s a scenery-chewing, all-nonsense, totally genuine and compassionate guy, Zen-like in his focus and foolishness. Perhaps I could convince one of the Kitscherati to create a Richard Simmons Buddha?


  3. Sorry, didn’t mean to post as “Anonymous”. My stoopid Mac choked on me last night. And you know I don’t have *actual* pages of running advice but I could definitely go on and on about it if you asked …
    – GZF


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