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Diet Pills Don’t Work [Learn from my mistakes]

Posted Jun 07 2011 11:22pm

Well now THAT’S just ridiculous.

Old habits die hard for anyone but for those of us with OCD tendencies, old habits need a wooden stake to the heart, a silver bullet, a clove of garlic and a whole a whole cart full of Wal-Mart clothing to die. (What? Apparently nothing slays Hollywood vampires like bad fashion.) Which is how I found myself surfing the website for a diet “supplement” (I suppose “pill” sounds too after-school special?) being flogged to death by a local radio show I listen to in the mornings. One of the hosts of the show claims to have lost over 100 pounds by taking these pills. Somehow these magic beans not only took Jack to the giant but also got Jack his personal training certification and the giant to embrace eating beans instead of Jack.

For months I resisted the lure but the other day I caved and went and looked at the site. I just had to see it – I told myself that my natural cynicism would spot all the problems right away but in reality it’s because I have a serious weakness for The Testimonial. Sure I love my research but for some reason anecdotal evidence is oddly compelling for me, especially when I “know” the person. But I didn’t buy the pills, even with all the amazing testimonials from “Jen C.” and “Abby F.” and “Other Generic Name followed by Random Letter”. Not even the evidence from “Hot Dr. Who Got His License in Dentistry from Correspondence School in Yemen” swayed me. You know why?

1. Because diet pills don’t work for other people. The short – and oft repeated – maxim of diet pills don’t work because if they did, we’d all be skinny pretty much sums it up. Do you think that if there was a single pill, prescription or otherwise that really made people permanently lose weight that Kirstie Alley or Oprah would still be on tabloid covers?

2. Because diet pills don’t work for me. Of course I’ve taken these. You know I have. Ever since “mini-thins” enticed me in high school with their over-18 purchasing policy (that they sold at the gas station across the street from a high school), I have been in the thrall of diet pills. In college I was poor so I mostly took straight-up caffeine pills along with some other random diet aids that friends and roommates would give me. (Thank heavens Adderall didn’t exist back then because I probably would have taken it.) These uppers gave me energy and had the added bonus of suppressing my appetite so I could go about my disordered eating habits without having to eat toilet paper.

The first time I overdosed on these I was in high school and my family went out of town to a family reunion that I managed to talk my way out of by saying I had to study, which was true. It was also true that there were a bunch of college parties happening that I was dying to go. Wanting to make the most of my freedom but still uber-responsible I decided the best way to hit all the parties, work 40 hours a week at my waitressing job and still study for finals was to not sleep and just pop pills. Brilliant! I went for 3.5 days with no sleep. I remember showing up at work for the lunch rush and shaking so badly that my boss told me to forget it and just go home. I threw up on his feet. I don’t remember much after that. He told me later I was hallucinating. And yet I didn’t give up the pills. Old habits, see.

The next overdose happened my freshman year of college. I don’t remember why I felt the need to take fistfuls of these pills this time – probably something to do with the fact that I have the perfectionism sickness – but I do remember my heart doing funny skips and thinking I was going to die. I called my boyfriend at the time to tell him good-bye and he immediately rushed over. I threw up on his feet. He made a big show of pushing me up against a wall and yelling at me that if he ever caught me harming myself again he’d… (What? Hurt me?). Sobbing, I watched him flush my pills down the toilet. I was Jessie “I’m So Excited!” Spano on Saved By the Bell, now with more sturm and drang! But I still kept the pills. Old habits, sigh.

After that, while there were still incidences with The Pills, I didn’t have any more dramatic episodes of this nature. Until, as you may recall, my Great Puke Race of 2010 . Wanting to run a PR at that distance (which in and of itself was stupid since that was the first time I’d ever officially raced 10 miles so anything would have been a PR, duh), I accepted some pills from a friend right before the race started. But instead of feeling energized, I went way past that and into a manic run that left me feeling the worst I’ve felt – outside of childbirth, that pain practically gave me PTSD – in 10 years. I threw up on my own feet. Some of you questioned at the time what I was thinking taking unknown “energy pills” (would a diet pill by any other name smell as phony?). I wasn’t thinking at all! It came so naturally to me because I’ve been doing it my whole life.  Old habits suck.

I learned my lesson that time. Partly it was because I’m a grown-up and responsible for 4 little people who deserve so much better than that in their mother. Partly it was because of my readers, you guys deserve so much better than that in your friend. And, I’m not going to lie, partly because two doctors e-mailed me to tell me how very easily I could have killed myself and that scared the crap out of me. I haven’t touched a pill since. But the urge is still there, especially when the siren song of the testimonial calls.

The funny thing is, the whole point of taking the pills is to lose weight right? And yet every time I’ve taken them while I may have lost a handful of pounds initially (all that puking on feet, you know) it has never once resulted in long-term weight loss. In fact, after a week or two on them I most often saw a rebound effect where I’d end up gaining weight to where I weighed more than when I started them! The other problem is how quickly I’d become accustomed to them – to get the same energy I’d need twice as many, then three times as many, and then usually at about this point I’d burn out my money and my adrenals and end up back where I started but poorer and heavier and with a major headache. It’s a vicious cycle. But habits are breakable and this is what I’m showing myself every day.

Sometimes I just need to remind myself of what I already know.

Have any of you ever taken diet pills? Anyone else a total sucker for testimonials? Anyone else seen like every episode of Saved By The Bell?

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