I've seen Fire and I've seen Rain

Bryan lets his inner warrior, Ethel, speak for him this week (and she's got a lot to say).

Dear friends,

I really wanted to write this week's blog, however Jackie decided to introduce us to our inner warriors on Monday, and my inner warrior, Ethel, felt compelled to write this week's entry, so please do not hold me accountable for her words. Love, Bryan

"I've seen Fire and I've seen Rain." By Ethel (Bryan's Inner Warrior)

This week was like visiting the island of the misfit toys, and as much as Jackie is trying to play Santa, something is NOT quite working. Nikki refused to run in the rain and got an umbrella, Joe's foot gave out, Shay busted her knee, Jeana forgot that Jackie is always watching, Stacy missed a fieldtrip, and last but not least, there was Bryan and his dramatic episode at the fire station. Embarrassment, party of 6, your table is ready. 

This week's basic training, which normally happens in the gym, was held outside. I love a good challenge and a three-mile jog is what I eat for breakfast. It's child's play. So, suck it up everyone, including you Bryan! You are all lucky enough to live in Los Angeles where the weather is beautiful 99.9% of the time so excuse Mother Nature if she feels like having a day off, she is allowed, but unfortunately you are not! Quit complaining! I agree that being fat and running in the rain is not fun. I was surprised Hayden Panettiere didn't show up and try to roll one of you whiney sea creatures back into the ocean. It also seems that some of the natives are starting to get annoyed with Nikki during the workouts, but Bryan finds it amusing that she quits whenever she feels like it. Jeana, on the other hand, was killing me with her HILARIOUS outdoor mall-walking routine. I'm guessing Jeana's inner warrior got stuck window-shopping at Neiman's. Nikki and Bryan got a much-needed massage after the workout, Bryan for pain and recovery, Nikki I think was just killing time before happy hour. They laughed quite a bit and god bless those poor massage therapists, because Bryan and Nikki are a handful (literally and figuratively).

The grocery excursion the next day was interesting. It was like watching a group of children run around a candy store. Of course Bryan knew that putting fruits and vegetables and protein in his basket was the smart, healthy way to go. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. The group has been doing the program for four weeks now, so one has to be slightly off to think that sweet potato fries are a smart choice (Not naming names, but one of you is enrolled in college. Please use your noggin next time). Yet, even I, Ethel, will admit to being surprised at a few things in the grocery store that I always assumed were healthy, like yogurt. I never realized how much sugar it contained. Take that off Bryan's list. Nikki and Bryan had fun trying to plant terrible choices in other peoples baskets while their backs were turned. It was pretty funny. Also, for those who care to know, the itching has finally stopped, thanks for asking. Bryan seemed highly uncomfortable putting Vagisil in his basket, (that came out wrong) but it really was for me. 

The fireman workout was intensely HOT in so many ways. First there were actual flames that needed to be put out…and I'm not talking about Craig or Bryan. Then we had some very attractive men dressed in fireman gear, which was the WHOLE reason I made Bryan fake that injury, I mean, HELLO?? Needless to say, I am the smartest inner warrior of the bunch (I know Bryan has a beautiful partner, blah blah blah, but a warrior still has her needs). Actually, here is what happened. During one of the exercises, Bryan felt an incredibly sharp pain in his chest. Even I could feel it and I made him step away for a second, to regain his composure, which was a BIG mistake. Lesson number one, NEVER, NEVER mention the words "Ouch," "My Chest," or "It Hurts" unless the lights are out and it's prom night. Everyone but Stacy's grandma came rushing out of the woodwork, hooking Bryan up to all sorts of machines with wires and oxygen masks. An ambulance was called, paramedics dispatched, and obviously there were fire trucks -- it was like a circus and Bryan was the main attraction. Now I know how Lindsay must feel, except Bryan doesn't have to wear an ankle bracelet or pee in a cup every week. I should introduce Lindsay to my warrior cousin Bertha. She'd whip her into shape, all right. Got to jot that down somewhere. 

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, all of that chaos for a tiny little sharp pain. Now sure, I was concerned and a little scared, as was Bryan, but after a while, the pain subsided. I'm sure Bryan appreciated all the concern and attention he was receiving from all those men, I know I was, but after 10 minutes of recovery he and I were back in the saddle and ready to finish the workout, however NO ONE was going to allow that to happen. Needless to say I WAS pissed! I was really bummed because I knew that Bryan would have won the challenge that day and that I would have finally been able to get my hands all over some fireman's hose. Ok, that went to far, I'll admit it. It's been a very long time. I'm sorry. Anyway, Bryan and I got kicked out of the workout and one of the producers drove us home. As soon as she dropped us off, we wished her farewell, spoke to Miguel on the phone, and then we headed out the door. We literally ran to the gym and finished our workout. Although, I will admit that some of the bigwigs did call Bryan and begged him not to workout. Sorry, you can blame me for that one. Ethel is a no nonsense, hardcore, fighting warrior.

Bryan decided to bring me along to therapy this week. It was crazy town. From out of the blue Joe attacked Nikki, (I just wish those two would do it already and get it over with) and then Stacy lashed out at Jeana. The heat between Stacy and Jeana brought me right back to the fire station. So glad Bryan gets to sit in between them during therapy. It's delicious. Just wish I had some Raisinettes and a tub of popcorn. No I don't…yes, I do. Well, no. I mean, yes. Maybe. Anyway, while all this was happening, sweet Mandy just sat there and smiled. I'm dying to know what is happening in everyone's head during therapy. Sometimes, inner warriors like to play a game and go around the room and just drop into someone else's head. While Bryan babbled on in therapy, I decided to hop on over to Mandy's. All I could hear was Disney music and birds chirping. It was extremely bright and colorful and all of the animals had names and could communicate in English. I could have stayed there all day. It's very soothing and calming. 

Next I hopped on over to Jeana's head -– where Yanni or John Tesh (I can't tell the difference) was playing on constant loop, over and over. It was maddening. It's like being stuck in an elevator for hours. I tried not to overstay my welcome. I next popped into Stacy's head, and it was the exact opposite. It was extremely deafening. Like being in a noisy stadium with voices everywhere. Eventually I noticed that all the voices started to sound the same. Upon further inspection, I realized it was just Stacy's voice, talking over and over again, in a round. Like row, row, row your boat but somehow much more frightening. Occasionally I would hear crying, but mostly it was Stacy having conversations with herself, about herself. Kind of like Sybil, but without being tied to the piano and all. 

I quickly dropped in on Shay, who was like, at the mall and like, talking, on like, her cell phone and standing in line at Cold Stone Creamery in the food court and was like, "Hurry up and whateverrrrrrrrrrr and like, I want in a waffle cone with only three add ins, I mean, like, hello" I quietly and quickly bolted out of her head, and then I jumped into Joe's head -- where he was trying to formulate something pleasant to say about somebody, somewhere, somehow, someday but instead the Nine Inch Nails were turned up way so loud that he got distracted and went back to torturing a box of kittens. 

So I then slipped across the couch and tried to get into Nikki's head, but of course there was a doorman with a list and the line was extremely long. Eventually I got in. There was club music pumping and it was very dark with a faint glow from some lollipop sucking, shirtless guy's neon necklace and the occasional strobe light flickering on and off. Someone was also having a field day with a smoke machine and you could barely see a foot in front of you. It smelled like vomit, gin and an ashtray inside that head. I looked for the nearest emergency exit and ran out the door. 

Next stop Jackie's head where it smelled like patchouli oil and was incredibly damp, like being in a bikram yoga ashram for hours on end with no windows and all that can be heard was the continuous sound of Jackie counting out reps, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! No thanks, I'll pass. 

Last stop, Dr. Ramani's head where Pachelbel's Canon in D major was playing and she was very busy organizing her grocery list. About ten minutes into my game, I heard my name being mentioned by Dr. Ramani asking Bryan how his inner warrior, Ethel (hey that's me) helped him get through this week's workout. I felt the need to be present and listen to what he had to say. He was slightly dismissive for some odd reason. Ingrate! 

Weigh in this week wasn't very good. It was clear that Jackie was getting just as frustrated as I. Bryan was upset with himself that he only lost three pounds. I felt like it was better then none, but he was comparing his numbers from the first two weeks where it seemed like all the work he was putting in was paying off. This week he worked just as hard but didn't get the results he would have liked. Oh well, next week I am stepping up my game. More Ethel! As for everyone else, it seems somewhat clear. Jeana and Nikki, well that one is pretty obvious -- lay off the fried food and the hooch and work out to intensity. Not sure what is up with Joe. I guess his foot is holding him back, but he does look great. Shay has a busted knee, so she seems like she is out for a while. Stacy is busting her ass but that gnarly PCOS is giving her a run for her money, poor thing. Then we have the sweetest woman in the world, Mandy, who is killing it. She looks AMAZING already. I'd be interested to meet her inner warrior. Just for coffee, really. Inner warriors never date. It's just a thing in our community.

I personally learned a lot of valuable tools this week, as did Bryan. Each of these participants really have an inner warrior inside. Finding it at times is challenging and uncomfortable.  But the words comfort and change are rarely used in the same sentence. If you really want to reclaim the best life possible, you have to do the work, both inside and out. It is never easy and there will always be stumbling blocks. Whether it is you holding yourself back or not receiving support from those around you, the trick is to keep on fighting! At the end of the day, no one in this group can turn and say Jackie failed them, because they are only failing themselves. You must show up and do the work. Jackie and Craig are giving everyone the tools, now they just have to continue to put them to use. Making smart food choices and really working out to intensity, that's what it's going to take. Here is some helpful advice; it only takes an hour a day. I have to keep reminding Bryan that, just one hour a day. Get off the couch and go for a walk. Get your heart rate moving. Something. But don't be unrealistic and set yourself up for failure. For instance, if you have been sedentary for the past 12 months don't start training for a marathon tomorrow. Baby steps!

Something else that I found incredibly interesting this week was when Joe called Jackie out for giving Nikki extra attention. I wanted to say to Joe, if you're doing your work, what does it really matter? (But I'm just an inner warrior and can't really speak) Nikki obviously needs the extra help. Losing weight is tough work. It's not just about getting on a treadmill and eating steamed broccoli and chicken 24/7. It's about flipping a switch in your mind. Not everyone is wired the same way and with some it takes a little more work. I commend Jackie for really sticking to her convictions and trying to break through to Nikki. But when all is said and done, Nikki has to really want this for herself. They all have to want it for themselves. It sometimes feels like a never-ending road to travel, but if they can continue to not look back and get caught up in their old destructive behaviors, they might just stand a chance. My motivation from here on in is to show up with Bryan each week, do the work and see the results. He's down 20 pounds and has 40 more to go, which seems almost impossible, but he's lucky to have me along for the ride and we are going to keep on fighting. One hour a day, one step at a time!


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Goodbye and Good Luck!

Dr. Ramani shares her final wishes for the group.


It's time to say goodbye, or as we call it in therapy, "termination." 

As a psychologist, this has been therapy fantasy camp. All psychologists are voyeurs. Under normal circumstances, when you do therapy, you see the world through the client's eyes. You construct images of their partners, homes, parents, friends on the basis of their descriptions, and you almost never get a chance to see the reality. For me to have conducted group therapy, and then after we were done to go back via television and see their husbands, families, and homes has been a sort of secret dream come true –- to see if my "construction" matched the reality.  Thanks, Bravo! This is and will remain one of the most compelling clinical experiences of my career. 

I was on the fence about whether I would be able to do clinical work of any depth under lights and with cameras rolling. Time limits meant you didn't see most of the therapy, which is where these clients did heavy lifting and sweating of a different sort. They learned about why they eat what they eat, when they eat, how they eat, and where they eat. They unearthed old demons, and learned about respecting others and themselves. They learned how to talk about their feelings instead of numbing them. They were called on their BS and made to take ownership. If they sustain these weight changes, it will be because they were willing to do it from the inside out.

Shay revealed that her struggles with weight were more complex than initially thought. There is a frequently held misassumption that ethnic minority women don't get eating disorders. That is patently wrong, and the rates of eating disorders in African American, Latina, and Asian American women are on the rise. Laxative abuse can be done secretly, and many who do it report that the feeling of "emptiness," the "flat stomach," and the sense of "clearing out" following laxative use is gratifying despite being dangerous. They erroneously believe they can eat what they want and then get rid of it. Shay showed us that the psychology of weight goes well beyond ab crunches and protein shakes. These are VERY difficult and complex issues. Her revelation was courageous, and it will take time for her to make these changes.

As we sign off, let's review what we learned about weight loss. It's about respecting your body with healthy food instead of punishing it with junk. It's about pushing your body to new limits, and then finding out you can push your life to new limits. It's about realizing that your history may tell you why you eat what you do, but it doesn't own you, and everyone has the capacity to make these changes. It's about realizing that food is not a substitute for love. It's about accepting yourself, and engaging in the process of weight loss authentically. 

When I end with a client, as they leave the room, I wish a silent wish for them. They have done the ultimate bravery by allowing me into the most private rooms in their hearts and minds, and I am always grateful to have been part of their journeys. 

Here are my wishes for them:

Mandy –- May you stay healthy and be an active part of your family's life. Mothering is about taking care of yourself. I can already see you hiking with the grandchildren that will grace your life someday.

Bryan –- May you stay on the authentic loving path you have been following all your life, despite stumbling a few times. You brought breathtaking commitment to the program, and I hope that you see yourself in the loving and beautiful mirrors offered by the husband, friends, and family around you.

Joe –- Now that you are respecting yourself and others, I hope it leads you to a respectful relationship with a woman. Keep taking care of yourself and learn that a vocabulary of respect, not abs or bad bar banter, will indeed get you the best chick in the bar.

Shay –- You saved your most courageous song for the end, and I wish for you to keep dancing and enjoying your youth and your body. You are stronger than you think, and when you reflect on being there for your mom, and now being there for yourself, realize that you can do this on your own.

Jeana -– I want you to stay in touch with your feelings. Your vulnerability sits right under the surface, and as you trust your feelings and learn to express them, I hope they are met with respect and warmth from those around you. 

Nikki –- You get it even when you pretend you don't. I wish for you to stay "fabulous" without the snarkiness and the cocktails, you don't need them. Dig deeper and see what you find. 

Stacy -– I hope you keep laughing and keep others laughing and stop laughing at yourself. You had the biggest odds against you, and you never said die. I wish for you to persist, no matter what is put in front of you. 

So as we say goodbye, I thank Bravo and Jackie Warner for the opportunity to sit alongside you and for your recognition that psychotherapy is as integral to weight loss as diet or exercise. 

We all have inside of us a warrior, a leader, and a vulnerable child. Nurture them all. 


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