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Dieting: America's Favorite Pastime?

I can hear you now: "But Richard, dieting is not a hobby!" Well, if you're taking into account the classic definition of the word "hobby," you're probably right. But that's really not my point.
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So, do you have a hobby? Oh, let me tell you, we Americans just love our hobbies. Let's see, some people like to knit or needlepoint. Here in Southern California, surfers rule the waves with their water-hobby. I have a friend who never misses the New York Times crossword puzzle and of course, some people can't do without their Sudoku puzzle fix every day.

If you need more evidence of how hobby-crazy we are, whole stores are dedicated to the world of hobbies. But let me ask you something. Which would you think is America's favorite hobby? Okay, take your time, I want you to think about this one for a minute. (I'll play the theme from "Jeopardy!" in my head while I wait for your answer.) Times up! The correct response... What is DIETING. (Whoops, that answer was in the form of a question. Looks like I've still got "Jeopardy!" on the brain!)

I can hear you now: "But Richard, dieting is not a hobby!" Well, if you're taking into account the classic definition of the word "hobby," you're probably right. But that's really not my point. My point is that so many Americans have just about turned dieting into a hobby.

You'd be amazed at how many people I know who've been dieting off-and-on for all of their lives. (And then again, maybe you wouldn't.) Do I even have to tell you how obsessed some teenage girls and boys are about their weight? See, the dieting hobby starts when we're young. There's so much pressure these days on young people to have a figure like one of the characters they see on "Jersey Shore." They take up dieting in high school, and the bad news is that 20 years from now they may very well still be dieting. And by the way, I receive email from girls as young as 12 years old who are worried about their weight. But here's the problem. People who "diet" often don't finish the job.

It's like a person whose hobby is jigsaw puzzles. They get this 1,000-piece puzzle of Monet's Water Lilies, spread the pieces out on their dining room table and go to work. Each night they finish a little more. Hey, I see where this piece goes! But after a while, they end up frustrated and put the whole puzzle away. I'm tired of this, some of the pieces must be missing! Oh-oh, another unfinished bit of business headed for the attic.

Well, people who make dieting their hobby do the same thing. They start out so gung-ho, watching those calories and exercising every day of the week. But after a while, they run out of steam and put the "puzzle" away. Only in this case, the work of art they were piecing together was not a painting by some famous European artist. That finished work of art was going to be their beautiful, healthier new bodies. Oh, what a shame!

And what do they do? Simple. Within a couple of months, another new weight-loss diet plan comes along. And oh boy, this sounds like "the one!" So they dive right back into their dieting hobby, lose a little weight, get bored, quit and sit back waiting for the next weight-loss fad to come along. Oh, won't we ever learn? All of those diet schemes that come down the pike don't work. Sure, they promise quick and easy results. But every single time, it's a promise those diets don't keep. And one more time, off to the attic, off our minds, the new diet goes. Come on, America!

Back in the 1980s, the very first book I wrote was called "Richard Simmons Never Say Diet Book." In it, I took the word "diet" and broke it down into two syllables, as in DIE-IT. Get it? Losing weight is about living. It's about making life-changing lifestyle choices that will stay with you. Losing weight is not something you do for a season or until you get bored. Losing weight and keeping it off takes a change in the way you live for the good of your life and... for the rest of your life.

And hey, I'm not letting myself off the hook here. Seems dieting was one of my own hobbies during the earlier years of my life. I'd go through my mother's magazines looking for the perfect answer to my own weight-loss woes. I tried the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Hard-Boiled Egg Diet, even the Vinegar Diet, to name a few. And let me tell you, the only thing I ended up with, besides a bad case of gas or indigestion was... disappointment.

Look, hobbies are great and provide a healthy outlet for your sense of creativity and maybe even your sense of adventure. But reaching your weight-loss goals should never become a "hobby" for you. Losing weight and maintaining your good health is a 24/7, 365-day a year job that you have to be totally committed to. One more time, this has to become a way of life for you, not a hobby.

I'm telling you, losing weight should never be thought of as a hobby, so don't turn it into one. But you shouldn't make it into some chore or something to dread, either. In fact, I like to think of losing weight as more of an adventure. Think about it. You're going to be working hard creating a brand new healthier, happier life for yourself. You're going to be creating a brand new you! And hey, that's the completed puzzle I know you want to see.