Can a twenty-five dollar wager change your life? You bet it can.
I've been struggling with my weight ever since I took a desk job five years ago. I was just about to give up when my co-worker Brenda, a reality show junkie, suggested doing our own version of the Biggest Loser.
Weigh in would be every Friday for two months and whoever scored the three highest percentages of weight loss would win and split the twenty-five dollar buy-in. Twelve people took the challenge. Actual weights were kept confidential by Teri, who was pregnant and couldn't participate. We swore her to secrecy with an curse she would never lose her pregnancy weight if she talked.
Before the contest officially started I had already mentally spent my winnings on a new handbag I've had my eye on. My other eye was on Ben, a recent hire in accounting, who'd joined the friendly competition. Ben's soulful green eyes and curly brown hair captured my interest immediately. He had a little baggage around the middle, but hey, so did I. Around the middle, around the thighs, and well, you get the picture.
Day one arrived and all communal office candy, cakes, and chips were banished making sticking to the diet during the workday a breeze. At home, all alone, it's a different story. The twenty-four hour corner store calls to me. I turn up the television.
The first weigh-in left me discouraged. A lousy half a pound. It seemed I wasn't alone in my disappointment when Brenda suggested walking on our lunch breaks. The first few times were tough. There's a large hill by our office and I would have to stop on the way up to catch my breath. Ben patiently waited for me while the others zipped ahead.
"You can go on," I said.
"No, I need a breather, too."
"That's too bad. I was kind of hoping you'd bring your car around and drive me back."
Ben laughed. His smile filled me with the energy I needed to go on. That and his encouraging words. "Come on, you can do it."
By the end of the following week I could climb up the hill without stopping and lost a total of six pounds. Ben began to stop at my cubicle to share a recipe or a diet tip.
"Weekends are the hardest," I admitted.
"I walk at the park on Saturdays. Want to join me?"
Surprised, I hesitated. Could he possibly want something more? Was an office romance a good idea?
"Like weekend walking buddies," he added.
"Buddies?" Just great. I had plenty of male 'buddies', but none of them liked to walk. "Sounds great."
On Saturday I drove to the park looking forward to some new scenery and to see Ben. He was waiting for me by the fountain. Next to him sat a German shepherd.
"I hope you don't mind me bringing Shep."
"No, not at all," I said.
"Give Marcy your paw and say hello."
I reached out for Shep's paw and shook. "He's very well behaved."
Ben leaned in and whispered, "So am I."
"Are you housebroken too?"
Rewarded with his deep laughter, I felt like a puppy who'd just performed a new trick.
The walk around the lake clocked in at three miles, but I barely even noticed as Ben was full of questions about me. He brought us two waters from a vendor and we sat down at a bench by the fountain to continue the conversation. This time I was full of questions, which distracted me from the whiff of hot dogs drifting through the wind. A grilled chicken salad waited for me at home, but I was in no rush to get there. My heart warmed as Ben cupped his hand and poured some water in it for Shep to lap up.
"That's so sweet," I blurted.
"Me or the dog?"
"The dog," I lied.
We made plans to hike the following Saturday, but when it rained we walked the mall instead. The food court smells almost did me in, but then we strolled past the store where my purse awaited me. I stepped up the pace a little more.
The last weigh in arrived. Another two pounds! However, I wasn't in the top three. But I was twenty pounds lighter, dropped a dress size, and could walk up a flight of stairs without keeling over. I decided to buy that handbag after all.
With the contest over and Ben reaching his goal weight, I wondered if we would still walk on the weekends and at lunch. I would miss our talks, which made the miles go by, like I wasn't even exercising.
After work Ben ran up to me before I could get in my car. "Hey, I've got a hundred bucks burning a hole in my pocket." Ben had placed third in the competition.
"What did you have in mind?"
"Dinner and a movie."
"That sounds like a date," I said hopefully.
"What good is it dropping off this weight if I can't have a hot babe on my arm?"
Hot babe? Well, if he says so. "Dinner out means an extra walking workout," I said.
So what if I wasn't the biggest loser in the battle of the bulge? I gained so much more.
About the Author: Liz likes to describe herself as a mild manner accountant by day and romance writer by night. She is 23 years married and is a VPM (very proud mom) of one son, who at the age of 22 has graduated from college and is working as a news producer. She got the idea for this story from her own failed attempt at a Biggest Loser competition her day job held. She missed third place by a lousy half-a- pound, but lost a total of 12 pounds. Check out her new blog http://taoofliz.blogspot.com