I’ve found a great way to lose weight. It’s not Paleo. It’s nothing Gwyneth Paltrow has ever recommended. And I even ate lobster poutine in the process.
I did it by turning into a Clingy Diet Friend, which is kinda like a Clingy Boyfriend, except instead of having sex and sharing a romantic bond, your connection is based on obsessively tracking each other’s caloric intake and exercise.
This past New Year’s Eve, my friend and colleague Jessica Allen and I decided we needed to get back into shape. Since starting to work on The Social in 2013, we had both sacrificed fitness and healthy eating. But after 18 months of feeling like shit—and staring down awards season, which for me is always full of all-nighters—it was time to turn it around, and we thought we’d have better results if we did it together.
We gave ourselves three months. Jess’s objective was to lose 15 pounds; I didn’t really have a number in mind. Instead, I wanted to reintroduce my ass to the items in my wardrobe that had been neglected for the past year and a half. Also, the Oscars were coming up, and it’s important that I feel confident in my dress when I’m presenting live from the red carpet for eTalk. Being in Los Angeles during this time can really f-ck with your head. No one eats—not the celebrities and not the reporters who interview them.
But Jess and I had conditions. We refused to eliminate certain foods. I’m Chinese. I cannot NOT eat rice. And Jess doesn’t want to know a life without cheese. We also refused to follow a name-brand program. Rather, we decided to hold each other to three healthy meals a day—oatmeal, salads, stews—and alternate who was responsible for packing both of our lunches during the week. And we committed to exercising at least five times a week. Jess began doing the New York Times 7-Minute Workout. I started running again and signed up for twice-weekly dance classes. We also allowed ourselves one day (OK, sometimes both days) on weekends to eat whatever we wanted, so long as we were disciplined from Monday to Friday.
The most important part of the plan, however, was communication. We vowed to email each other our food and fitness logs every day and to stay on top of each other via text. Jess was responsible for calorie counting, while my job was to be the enforcer—the harsh bitch who kept us in line.
The first week was great. We messaged consistently. We had energy, and we were motivated. Jess lost two pounds. I found an extra gear, getting up earlier in the morning and not crashing in the afternoon. By the third week though, for every three texts I’d send Jess, she would only send back one (often hours later). She was falling behind on her food logs, and she wasn’t calculating our calories on time. Sometimes I’d send her a jokingly stern text about how she was ignoring me, and she’d get back on track for a day or two, only to slack again. (Now that she knows I’m writing this column, she claims she didn’t think I’d want to be smothered by her. But I did. I really did.)
This was a new dimension in our relationship. Since The Social is Jess’s first foray into television, the other hosts and I often tease her like veterans hazing the rookie. But if I was the big sister, why did I now feel like the little kid slamming doors to make her pay attention?
The less I heard from Jess, the more I wanted her to notice me. I’d run an extra 10 minutes so I could note it in my log and hope she’d pick up on it. I’d eat a smaller dinner after an intense workout, wondering if she’d notice I wasn’t eating enough and admonish me. Sometimes she would. Sometimes she didn’t pay attention at all. Sometimes when she was out for dinner with someone else, I’d wonder: Did she think about me at all when she was there?
When she finally did check in, it felt like a reward. And I’d feel re-inspired to stay focused on the plan. That buzz would last until the next time she ignored me. Then I’d spend my time coming up with new ways to draw her in.
Suddenly I, the caustic baby-hater, the snarky gossip, the bitch on television, became a Stage Five Clinger. Suddenly I was Lonely Boy Dan Humphrey. Edward f-cking Cullen. Viktor Krum!
Suddenly I had taken three minutes off my 10K time.
Suddenly I was back in my skinniest skinny jeans.
Suddenly my Oscars dress felt loose.
Is this what happens when you’re the one to say “I love you” first?