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The lottery doesn’t work either

After college I took a job doing phone surveys to help pay the bills before I was able to find a “real” job. It wasn’t telemarketing. I doubt I would have lasted an hour as a telemarketer before hanging up my headset and searching under the desk to find my lost soul. The company I worked for conducted focus groups about new products and needed to find people in a certain demographic to get their input on whatever out clients were testing. We called, asked people questions, and if they fit the parameters we invited them to the group.

I learned a lot about people. Some people were willing to lie to try to get into the group so they could get paid the participation fee. I went through about 3 pages of a diaper survey with a woman before I asked her what cartoon character was on the side of the brand name diapers she had supposedly bought, but she couldn’t give me the correct answer. Then I had to go back through 3 pages of answers and erase all the pencil marks circling her responses. Yeah, we were so low tech we didn’t even have computers. I was grateful we didn’t have rotary phones. When I did a grocery shopping survey I learned almost everyone bought cookies and typically at least once a week, which made me feel a lot less guilty about my then crappy eating habits.

By far the easiest survey I did was for the Indiana Lottery. Almost everyone I called played the lottery. Some people spent at least $100 a month on tickets. I was gobsmacked. If these people were to take that $100 a month and sock it away in an IRA or invest it wisely they actually would be millionaires in 30-40 years. But instead they were tossing away a lot of money each month in the hopes of getting rich quick.

When I read the overly hyped study recently that most diets don’t work, I thought about all those Midwesterners who pay their money to the state lottery every month. They’re looking for a quick fix to their financial situation with minimal work and cost, but in the long run they’d be better off doing something different with their money. The “dieting” referred to in the study is the same type of temporary fix, going on a plan for a little while and then going off of it so all the weight comes back. Most of these people would be better off if they applied their efforts and concentration to a sustainable long-term solution and not a quick and fast reward that is unlikely to give them a good return on their work.

But people still play the lottery and people still diet and they probably always will. Maybe this is just the way the human brain works. And sometimes people do win the lottery, though I hear it’s just as likely to screw up your life as make it better. I sometimes wonder if everyone who becomes thin finds it to be just as fabulous as they imagined or if they’re surprised that they still have everyday problems. You don’t get to blame things that go wrong on your fat anymore. Playing the lottery can be a fun diversion, but it seems unwise to stake your financial future on it. Sure, I’d still love to win the lottery and I’d always chose to be thin over fat. Just don’t expect to see me playing the scratch off games at Kroger anytime soon. I’ll be too busy analyzing the distribution of funds in my IRA.

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Karen • April 26, 2007 at 10:25 am

You look amazing! Keep up the great/hard work!


bazu • April 26, 2007 at 11:20 am

Hear, hear. I stand, as ever, in awe of your wisdom. {in a Jewish grandmother’s voice} and such a young girl, no less!{/end voice}


Debbie • April 26, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Mea culpa on the lottery. But I agree with your diet comments. You do need to have a long-term sustainable plan. I still think that’s a diet, though. It’s just one that makes sense.


Amy • April 26, 2007 at 2:05 pm

i used to sell keno, serious memory regression here, and it was awful. desperate people who couldn’t see the futility of what they were doing. it sadly reminds me of some dieters, crash dieters who lick grapefruit for a week and expect it to change their whole lives. it’s really heartbreaking how the cycles of poverty and obesity flatten people under their spokes.


Rah • April 26, 2007 at 5:19 pm

Well said, as always, PQ. Your throughts are so encouraging to those of us still working toward a personal “sustainable long-term solution.” Thank you.


Marla • April 26, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Dude, no way! I am TOTALLY going to win the lottery!

But wow, $100 a month? That’s scary. I think I spend a maximum of $4 a month.

I think sometimes people have to go through an escalating series of revelations about how to go about losing weight. We didn’t get from Point A to Point B in one swell foop, we all built up our knowledge and experience bit by bit. Those quick-fix diets might be a stage some people have to go through; the idea of a permanent change in one’s eating and lifestyle can be intimidating at first.


virg • April 26, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Thanks for the great post. I love a quick fix, but was always doomed to return to start for lo these many years. I guess it went something like this in my head about 9 months ago: “Hmmm, AHA! The way I LIVE is making me stay FAT! I have make some fundamental changes in my LIFE if I want to have a healthier body!”


Kimberly • April 26, 2007 at 6:32 pm

I’ve often caught myself about to say, and when I get to such-and-such a weight, I’ll be…err, happy-ER.

Being thin fixes a few problems…like fitting into public bathroom stalls and being able to keep up with your kids. But I think when it comes to your deep down honest to goodness opinion of yourself, your slimness is only a tiny part of the equation.

Thanks for the thought-provoking-osity of that post. =)


Lose Weight With Me • April 26, 2007 at 7:23 pm

I’m afraid we’ve become a nation of people looking for fast fixes, whether it’s for weight loss or the lottery.

You make a great point…we could achieve those things if we just took the small steps we need to take instead of looking for instant gratification.



Helen • April 27, 2007 at 1:35 am

This is so crazy — I’m from Indy (although far from there now) AND I used to work for a market research company there while I was in college! I have to wonder if it’s the same one. :-)


Kate • April 27, 2007 at 4:50 pm

Well, to be fair, they’re not talking about quick fixes or fad diets. They’re talking about diets in general, in the sense of “changing your eating habits to lose weight”. What you’re doing. Most people who diet are like you, they plan to sustain their new exercise and diet habits. Very few people are like you in having lost so much weight and having sustained your diet and exercise program so long.

The question is, why do so many people have problems sustaining diets long-term? I personally don’t buy into the reflexive attribution to laziness, stupidity, or “ingrained food habits returning.” I mean those may play a role, but there also seem to be physical changes with weight loss that increase food cravings, so that’s probably part of the problem. The National Weight Loss Registry is building a database of people who’ve lost large amounts of weight and kept it off for a year or more, so they’re trying to figure out what works too.


PastaQueen • April 27, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Kate – It’s kind of unclear what they mean by “dieting” in the study. I looked to the full text of the study, but couldn’t find it anywhere. My best link was the UCLA press release. That article said “Eating in moderation is a good idea for everybody, and so is regular exercise…That is not what we looked at in this study.” That makes me think that they *were* looking at fad diets. I would describe what I’m doing as eating in moderation and exercising, so I don’t think what I’m doing is not what they’re studying. But I can’t be sure without seeing the actual article which doesn’t appear to be online anywhere.


Kate • April 28, 2007 at 3:18 am

You can find a pdf of the study here: http://mann.bol.ucla.edu/files/Diets_don't_work.pdf

You’re right. They define dieting as:

“The term dieting has been used to refer to a wide range of behaviors, but we use it solely to refer to the specific behavior of severely restricting one’s calorie intake to lose weight.”

I’m still reading the report. After the crap about Medicare rules it’s getting interesting. I’m not sure yet though what the studies they’re looking at actually had patients eat, though.


PastaQueen • April 28, 2007 at 8:30 am

Kate – Thanks for tracking down the study! I’ll have to take a look at it. I think the stuff about Medicare might be the reason they did the study. In the press release it mentioned they wouldn’t recommend that Medicare fund weight loss programs.


the veggie paparazzo • April 29, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Love this post–very apt analogy.


Tamara • September 11, 2009 at 12:28 pm

This is the NUMBER 1 thing I have read from reading your blog. I was seriously about to spend my Christmas Bonus to join an expensive diet center, then after reading your blog I’m like I know what to do, I know how to do it, why should I have to pay someone else to stay on top of me to do it. Its my life I need to take control of it. I would always want to do these drastic things and my Mom would always say just be healthy, and I don’t think it ever really clicked until I ready your story. Nothing is going to make a difference until I change my life for real. Thanks!


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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