Over the next 30 minutes Linda, who was thin and perky to the point of annoying, showed us The Plan. It was a three-legged plan to include diet, exercise, and a buddy system.
Linda paced the stage and made eye contact with each and every single one of us, nodding to her won words, and hypnotizing us with her energy and optimism. “Ladies let’s talk about diet. We aaalll know that food can be a comfort. Food can be a habit. Food can be healthy. And food can be unhealthy. But for most of us, food is a problem! No longer! We have designed a special meal program!” She smiled and nodded her head and we were compelled to applaud. “You will be given prepared meals. No more work! All you have to do is heat and eat!” More applause. “Each meal is 500 calories. You get three per day. No over-eating!” More applause.
Casey leaned toward me and talked out of the side of her mouth, “Is this a cult?”
“Shhhh!” I said.
“Now, we all know that if we eat, we have to exercise,” Linda nodded. “We have to use those calories to be active. Am I right?” She nodded and glided across the stage. She cupped her hand around her ear and said, “I can’t hear you!” And thundering applause and whoots arose from the crowd. “Our new exercise program is easy and quick. Only 20 minutes of exercise done in your own home. Three times a day! You will all be given our special exercise mat and easy travel stretchy bands.”
“How much does the food and exercise stuff cost?” Casey asked.
“The third part of our plan is a buddy system.” Linda placed her hands on her heart and lowered her volume. “We all need encouragement. We all need to be built up. We all need to be heard and valued.”
Casey and I looked at each other and smiled. We had our buddy. I could count on Casey and she could count on me. We’d seen each other through a lot in our years of friendship.
“You will all be paired up with a buddy from our very own professional team! Our Buddies are certified and available to you 24 hours a day. The best part is that you don’t have to call them. They will reach out to you every day.” Linda spoke with a quiver of sincerity in her voice. Out of her pocket she pulled out a watch-looking device and held it up and spoke with enthusiasm, “You will all be given this Right Byte wristband!” The nodding and enthusiasm returned. “Your buddy can track your progress and reach out to you to give you support! Isn’t that great?” Applause again.
“And what does that cost?” Casey asked pointing at Linda.
“Shhhhh,” I answered. The reality was that I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with The Plan. Something just didn’t feel right.
“Our meetings will be every week in order to provide you with the most support possible. We will weigh in every week. Your buddies will be here to help you account for your week. And we will work through our steps. Together!”
Casey looked at me with wide eyes, “Are you sure this isn’t a cult? Someone is going to ‘account for me’ and I have ‘steps’?”
“This is different from what I remember. But hey, what can it hurt? I need to lose weight and even though you’re thin, your diet and life-style is a disaster.” I tried to paint a chipper picture of what I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with.
“Let’s all stand and start our first of twelve steps,” Linda did the let’s rise move with her arms. The scraping of chairs and shuffling of feet settled and she began. “Repeat after me. We admit we are powerless over food – that our lives have become unmanageable.”
Casey rolled her eyes at me and mouthed, “AA.”
After a few more minutes we reached the front of the line heading out. There were several thin perky women signing us out and handing us a small box with three meal boxes inside.
“Where’s the rest of the food?” I asked.
“Your buddy will bring it to you tomorrow. Hold out your left arm please.” I did and Perky Girl placed my Right Byte on my wrist securing it with a rivet and a smile.
“How do I get this off?”
“You don’t. Next?”
Casey approached me outside holding out her left arm. “Cult,” she said.
To be continued…..