The Money Diet, week 20: The camera doesn't lie

Last week, I got some great news and some terrible news.

The great news? I was asked if I wanted to be interviewed on CNN, to discuss a book that I recently co-authored.

The terrible news? I was asked if I wanted to be interviewed on CNN, to discuss a book that I recently co-authored.

It was terrible, stomach-churning, ill-inducing news because all I could think was, If a TV camera really adds 10 pounds, that's the last thing I need right now...As anyone who regularly reads this column knows, I've been on a quest since January 1 to lose weight. Since nothing else I'd tried over the years had worked, I thought I'd try something I call "The Money Diet," where I add up how much money I'm saving when I don't buy junk food or snacks. It worked pretty well for awhile; I lost 20 pounds over two or three months. But for the past several weeks, I've pretty much stalled out...although maybe that will change soon, having recently had what I'll call "seeing yourself on national television shock treatment."

Yeah, when you need to lose weight, there's nothing quite like seeing yourself on national television.

I know this from experience. About 17 years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I was living in Los Angeles, polishing off my dinner while watching an episode of The Love Connection. As people my age or older will remember, this was a kind of cheesy but fun pseudo-reality game show where a guest would get to choose among three members of the opposite sex and go out on a date with one of them. Then romance or ruin ensued. The guest and his or her date then returned to the show to discuss how things went.

I was new to the city, and had been having a pretty bad run of luck with dating in high school and college. When, at the end of the program, an announcer invited anyone watching the show to come and audition, I logically thought that going on national TV to find Miss Right was a great idea.

To cut to the chase, the date didn't go well and my date trashed me on national TV. However, I could barely focus on what anyone was saying when I saw the episode air. All I saw was this tub of lard, sitting next to affable host Chuck Woolery. Sickened by what I saw, I started going to a gym every day, began dieting, then later, after losing 25 pounds, I even wrote about the experience for Weight Watchers Magazine, which happened to be the first national magazine to publish an article of mine. So in many ways, seeing my then-over-sized self on television was a great experience.

But what's ironic is that I was horrified by my weight at the time, which was 187, and that's considerably lighter than what I am now. So, yes, I not only gained those 25 pounds back, I wound up gaining quite a bit more over the years.

So when I got the invitation to be on CNN, I immediately began to panic. I wasn't particularly worried about the topic -- bad credit, the subject of my book, was something I could talk about in my sleep. I just kept wondering how I'd look on camera, and if I'd hear the director call for a wide shot. I kept cursing my luck. I have a very photogenic co-author who has a ton of TV experience, a co-author who, for reasons too laborious to get into, couldn't do the interview.

I'd been told I was going to be interviewed by Fredricka Whitfield, who seems as nice as could be, but in my daydreams, I kept imagining how the conversation was going to go.

Me: ...and so I think anyone with bad credit should--
Fredricka: --Hey, do you need a sandwich? You look kind of hungry.
Me: Er, no. Why would you think --?
Fredricka: Look, if you need to grab one, I can wait. We could go to a commercial while you grab a bite to eat.


I got the news about the interview last Thursday evening. On Friday and Saturday, I probably ate healthier than I have all year -- fiber-laden cereal, apples as a snack and salads for meals were my mainstays. I spent much of Saturday running around with my daughters at two parks. Every chance I got to grab some exercise, I seized. But, of course, it's pretty hard to lose 50 pounds in two days, and by Sunday morning, the scale showed my weight at 245 pounds, which, if anything, was half a pound more than it had been the week before.

Actually, this is probably a good spot to put down, as I do every week, my weight.

My weight when I began: 264
My weight last week: 244.5
My weight this week: 245

Usually, I also list what I saved by not spending money on snacks and junk food, but I think this week, in the interest of your reading time, I'll skip that. But I suspect I probably saved about $12 this week, in terms of what I was tempted to buy but ultimately didn't.

My total saved this week: $12
Total saved this year so far: $408.12

Meanwhile, Sunday morning, just hours away from my 2:30 p.m. interview, I was starting to wonder how the interview would go despite my weight issues. I started picturing all sorts of things going wrong, from my falling off my chair to the microphone shorting out, and then I wondered if the pressure would get to me. Maybe I'd just snap, and I'd start spouting out nonsense during the interview.

Me: ...and so that's why it's never a good idea to have bad credit. By the way, I had a guinea pig when I was a kid.
Fredricka: Er, what? Did I miss something? Does that have something to do with bad credit?
Me: I like cheese.
Fredricka (mumbling to herself): Why doesn't this ever happen to Wolf or Larry?


Realizing I wasn't going to lose any more weight before the big interview -- and getting pretty nervous about what was ahead -- I abandoned the diet and had a bacon, cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch, figuring the protein, if nothing else, would do me some good. I then somehow pushed my daydreams and weight worries out of my mind, drove out to a Cincinnati TV station and did the interview.

As for my reaction when I saw the interview on my computer a few days later? I was oddly fascinated and kind of relieved at what I saw, even though there's no question that I'm a big man. I look in the mirror, and I don't see that, but then I see myself in photos and now on TV, it's irrefutable. But while at age 40 I'm apparently more comfortable with my girth than I was when I was 23 and considerably lighter, I recognize that there are a ton of health issues that could come sooner or later if I don't manage to bring the numbers on my scale down.

So one way or another, I'm more committed than ever to changing the way I eat ando exercise, even though, admittedly, it's getting harder. Even as I write this, in fact, I'm two hours away from dinner and already feeling peckish. Of course, maybe I should just watch my interview again, just to remind myself why I need to cut back.

For those of you who are thinking about trying to lose weight but wondering if you should, I can definitely recommend viewing yourself on national television, or at least starring in a home video and looking at it later to determine whether you should go on a diet. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

Although maybe that's a poor choice of words...

Geoff Williams is a regular WalletPop contributor. He is also the co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit. And if you're curious, you can check out the CNN interview at this link, the publisher's web site.

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