A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow last Thursday I found myself talking trash to my family about how their mother and I were going to kick their collective backsides in the First Annual Walker Family Biggest Losers Couples Contest.

I mean, seriously.  Who knows more about being a big loser than I do?

Then it was explained to me that this would be a contest to see which of the five married – or soon-to-be-married – couples in our family could lose the most combined weight between now and Nov. 1.

Weight loss?

OK, I can do that.  As long as I don’t have to . . . you know . . . diet.  Or exercise.

Anita, my wife and Big Loser partner, explained that I wouldn’t have to change my lifestyle much.  All I really needed to do was cut out seconds at dinner.  And thirds.  And snacks after 9 p.m.  And limit my Diet Dr Pepper intake (she suggested I go cold turkey – I suggested that turkeys AND pigs would both need to take flight first, so we settled on “limit”).  And – shudder! – I would need to exercise five times a week.

It isn’t that I’m opposed to exercise, exactly.  I come from a long line of exercisers.  Some of my best friends exercise regularly.  It’s just that after decades spent primarily sitting in front of a word processor (with “sitting” being the operative word here), my legs and lungs aren’t used to being asked to do much beyond bending and breathing.  Occasionally.

But my competitive spirit was aroused when our children suggested that it might be too much for their parents to participate in this contest – or, as Joe Jr. wrote in one “tender” e-mail: “Please remember that at your respective ages a sudden and dramatic change in lifestyle can often have a deleterious effect on your health.”  Such concern is touching – and infuriating.  How could we NOT accept the challenge, and the opportunity to prove to our children once and for all what incredible losers their parents are?

So the contest started Monday, which meant that we had from Thursday until Monday to plot our strategy for how we would win.  And that’s just what Anita did: she figured out her exercise regimen and she thought through menus.  On Saturday she went shopping for food that would help us with our diet.  I think she even figured out what new clothes she would buy as part of her soon-to-be skinny wardrobe.

For my part, I ate like crazy from Thursday until Monday.  The way I saw it, the more pounds I put on BEFORE the contest, the more I could take off DURING the contest, and the better our chances of being the biggest losers. So I had a great weekend of laying around and eating chips and dips and mac and cheese and pizza and soda.  I went out for the biggest, greasiest hamburger I could find just before we weighed in on Monday.  And then I finished up the night with one last round of chips and bean dip.  At that point, I figured, what can it hurt?

The next day Anita got up ready and anxious and excited for the challenge.  I barely got up.  I was groggy and bloated and feeling out of sorts.  Somehow I don’t think an excessive eating-fest was the best way to prepare for 90 days of disciplined living.  Last Thursday I was full of competitive fire; today, I’m full of heartburn.  More than anything else, I think my attitude is all wrong.  I’m not focused on the good things this friendly competition is going to do for me.  All I can think about is that polish sausage at the convenience store around the corner and how much better it would taste than the apple on my desk.

Turns out that, as with almost everything else in life, dieting is all about attitude.  You get the attitude right, and the rest will follow.  But if you bring the wrong attitude to the table, so to speak, you’re a loser before you even start.

And probably NOT the Biggest Loser.

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— © Joseph Walker

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Christmas on Mill Street” - An All New Holiday Novel!

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"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen?  Home Remedies for an Ailing World."