Once upon a time, there was a reducing school. It wasn’t by any means subtraction or division. At what age do you qualify? Mother enrolled me at thirteen. The same year she had my hair bleached. Oy!

What I want to forget is how i felt. If mother arranged this, I didn’t dare feel, I functioned. I tried every machine and submitted to the steam box.

Teachers taught through body torture. Rollers, vibrating belts, steam cabinets. Exercise machines did all the work. The roller massager was a quack weight loss device designed to “roll” away fat, same as the ridiculous waist belt massager.

It was never about food. But in those days in the 1950s no one was too fat. MacDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts didn’t exist neither did Starbucks. Mom sent me to the bakery up the street to buy rye bread with no seeds and seven-layer cake. Or you baked it yourself using creative energy.

There were no frozen meals with high carbs, too many saturated fats, and enough sodium to wash away your dreams. You cooked your meals with 4-6 oz of protein, 2/3 veggies filling your plate, and carbohydrates like a small baked potato, or a half-cup of brown rice, or maybe one cup of pasta if you loved those noodles. Maybe a cookie for dessert. Beverage, 8oz of water.

Mom tried hard to make both of us glamorous. I didn’t learn anything either. I thought all those machines would work. They did not! I didn’t even lose weight doing hours on the tennis courts or running, but my muscles were strong. I lost a few inches on my thighs walking to work in New York every day. But no weight loss.

My last do or die trying to reduce inches via vibration was to own a belt machine and use it often. Failure after failure of zero inches vibrating away. It ended up in storage. I threw it in the dumpster when emptying my storage unit in 1993, and Tom helped lift it into the dumpster. No more reducing school. Lies, it’s all lies—bottom line is money. Someone had a sneaky idea and cashed in. Lots of victims paid high prices for lies. Mom and I got caught in those lies.

In 1999 my clever scientist husband explained what my body does with food. I lost lots of pounds, around 35, and kept it off, lost another ten recently to accommodate the loss of two inches of height. I’m getting wiser, but shorter. Interesting that exercise is good for fitness, and less food is good for weight loss. The weight loss happened cutting back on my food, journaling, counting carbs and fats. Maintaining the same way. The moral of the story is, marry someone smart!

Gail Ingis is an artist, author, and designer. gailingis.com
She is currently working on her memoir A Girl Grows in Brooklyn.
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The Memorable Mrs. Dempsey and The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin.

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