Struggling with diets amid sweet temptations leads a woman to seek special help.

By Lorna Brand

“We all have a self-destruct button hidden within us but some are more obvious than others. A quick trigger-temper, laziness, low motivation, they all have the same result. You don’t achieve your goal, your potential; you end up stuck, not going any further. You literally stop yourself from doing the best you can.”

Heather listened intently to the charismatic speaker. She had only come along as a favour to her friend who went to these ‘life coach’ talks as often as she could, but these words resonated within Heather as they left the theatre.

“Do you know what your button is?” She asked her friend curiously.

“Not sure, I haven’t thought about it. I like to focus on the positive, not the negative.” Sharon shrugged.

“But wasn’t the point of this talk to work out the negative and to turn it in to a positive?” Heather queried.

“Yeah, but I don’t have any buttons. I haven’t got what I want because of other people, not myself.” Sharon blurted out as if she had spent the last two hours listening to something completely different from her companion.

As the next few weeks rolled by, Heather still couldn’t shake the words she had heard. She knew what her ‘button’ was as soon as she heard the charming speaker give his speech. Food!

She was an emotional eater and had been ever since she became a single mum some years before. Eating is a hard thing to fix, especially if you don’t want to. Every good memory involves food, every celebration, birthday, wedding, Christmas, fair or festival. In fact, any time people get together to be happy or sad there always has to be a good spread.

Heather wasn’t a huge lady but she had gone from a petite size ten to a full size sixteen and she hated it. Every diet and gimmick you can think of to do with weight loss, Heather had felt obliged to try. She only ate diet meals and snacks, putting the facade of effort up, but eating a whole packet of diet snack bars a day was still going to put weight on. The idea that all the food she ate was low calorie was just Heather’s justification but she wasn’t fooling anyone.

Now the time had come to fix the problem for real. Heather had decided she was going to take the advice she had heard during that influential talk that made her finally realise what she had been doing to herself. One of the techniques Heather had remembered involved pinging an elastic band every time she was hungry, but this just annoyed her. Instead of deterring her, it just made her want to reach for the low calorie crisps. There were a few more fruitless exercises she tried, meditation and mantras to name a couple but none of them worked.

As it turned out, just because she knew what the problem was doesn’t mean it was going to be easy to solve. This process took many weeks until Heather came up with a plan; she was going to track down the life coach and go to his next lecture. Maybe she had missed something in his speech or he might reveal some new ways to help.

Heather got to the talk early and took up residence in the front row waiting for her guru to appear. She came armed with a pen and paper to take down every detail; Heather wasn’t going to leave it to chance that she would remember everything. Sitting in the uncomfortable, narrow lecture theatre chairs, Heather was reminded of why she was there thus giving her a new wave of determination.

It wasn’t long before the theatre started to fill up and the spot lights came on highlighting the man Heather had been waiting for. His presence filled the whole room as Heather hung on his every word and copied down all the points and ‘coping mechanisms’.

As the talk went on, Heather started to become less in awe of her would-be saviour and more frustrated. He hadn’t said anything new; in fact everything he said she had tried. By the time the show came to an end, Heather was extremely annoyed with herself and with the false hope she felt she had been given.

The auditorium emptied and Heather found herself at the end of a long line waiting to give this charlatan a piece of her mind.

“Hi there.” His velvet voice warmly welcomed her.

“Mr Dewier, I am extremely disappointed with your so-called help.” Heather scolded, much to her target’s amusement.

“Please call me Jacob, Ms?” He smiled.

“Oh sorry, my name is Heather,” she said feeling much meeker. “It’s just that, well, you see, I tried everything you said.”

For some reason the piercing blue eyes of this man staring at her was unnerving, making her doubt her own thoughts.

“I see, and you want an apology?” Jacob asked in a firm manner.

“Yes, I mean, no. I just wanted to know if you had another way. One that you might not have already mentioned.” Heather started to blush as she realised it was only the two of them left in the big empty space.

“I see you have taken notes, Heather.”  Jacob quizzed.

“Yes, bu…”

“You are not satisfied.” He interrupted before Heather could explain.

“Erm,” Heather felt small and pathetic hearing this strong man’s reaction.

“I think we should go somewhere a bit more comfortable to talk about this, don’t you? There’s a tea room around the corner.” Jacob didn’t give Heather a chance to answer as he placed an arm behind her, guiding the way.

Jacob was an intimidating man, not because he came across as unkind but his mannerisms and presence seamed to command attention. He clearly took care of his appearance since he was in fact his own ‘brand’ that people had to buy in to.

Across from him, Heather sat in silence looking into her dark tea and waiting for him to speak.

“Heather, I do enough talking for the both of us but this is your turn. I want you to tell me all about you. Every detail. I want to know what your problem is and then I will have a better idea as to whether or not I have any more advice I can give to you.”

Jacob didn’t take his eyes off Heather as she started to tell him everything. She had never spoken so truthfully about her thoughts and fears, and how food had taken over her life. She felt oddly secure and safe talking to this complete stranger in a way she couldn’t with anyone else. Jacob only spoke to ask another question until his curiosity was quenched.

“OK Heather, you have to take control over your whole life. Yes, this one issue has dominated but it won’t do forever. I think you need help with your focus and motivation so that you can feel confident in your goal and get out of this rut. I have an elite group of clients that attend a special class just once a week, although I am always on hand for a little tap in the right direction.” Jacob said with a twinkle in his eye.

“But I don’t have a lot of spare money to spend on classes.” Heather said, running her finger around the rim of her empty cup.

“Heather, this is an offer. Now the class is for help with a wide rage of things, but there are a couple of ladies with the same goal as you. It’s a mixed class of only ten and I have a couple of coaches.”

“You would help me? Thank you,  that’s amazing.” Heather blubbered.

“No, Heather! You will help yourself. I am just giving you a hand, a tool to use. But my little group is very strict. The coaches will not spare your feelings. They are there to motivate you to be the best you can be. They won’t be satisfied with lame excuses.” Jacob said, burning into her with his intense stare.

“It’s just what I need. Someone to push me a bit. I will try really hard.” Heather jumped in.

“Heather, please, you might not be so keen once you have been. There will be one or two forms to fill out first which I will talk you through on the first night.”

Jacob left Heather with directions and instructions for dress. It was all very detailed.

The night came to start Jacob’s elite life couching class, and Heather was standing outside what looked like a summer house at the end of a beautifully lit path within the back garden of Jacob’s large home. She was wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt as instructed. Taking a deep breath, she readied herself and reached for the handle.

“Aha! Heather, you are bang on time,” said a voice from behind her.

“Jacob! Hi, I didn’t want to be late but I am not sure if what I am wearing is OK.” Heather said, pulling at her dark shorts pressed tight to her milky white thighs.

“You are wearing just what I asked. Perfect!” Jacob smiled. “But next time put your hair up.”

“Oh, I just forgot.” Heather said, pulling the elastic band from her wrist and running her hands through her blond hair which she then tightly gathered into a pony tail.

“Much better,” grinned Jacob, “Shall we go in now? The others will be under way by now, but we will only have missed roll call.”

As they entered the big wooden clad room, Heather first saw a row of people wearing shorts and standing with their hands behind their backs while the coaches called each one in turn to assess their progress.

“Why don’t we go over this way and get the forms filled out while the class find out how they have done this week?” Jacob said, taking Heather over to a desk in the far corner.

Most of the forms were straightforward; name, address, that sort of thing, but the last two raised an eyebrow.

“This says ‘consent form’. For, enforcement?” Heather queried.

“Yes, Heather, it does. Do you remember the rubber band technique I talked about? Well, this is a sort of bigger scale idea. We help to motivate and show support, but if your goal for that week is not met then there are sanctions.

“Sanctions?” Heather asked doubtfully. “What sanctions?”

“This would involve a paddling on your first offence and a caning if more than two targets are missed. That is why one of the forms is about confidentiality.”

Heather sat open-mouthed as she started to giggle.

“It’s a joke! Gosh, I thought you were being serious.”

“I am!” Jacob stated firmly. “I think you will benefit from my class but if not you can leave at any time. That is up to you.”

Heather was even more nervous now but thought she had nothing to lose. She signed every page and handed them back to Jacob.

“Why don’t we go and join the class?” Jacob escorted Heather to the end of the line and introduced her to the others.

A very stern, tall, thin-looking woman then called out: “Sanction time,” with some glee.

Meanwhile, the young male coach looked up and down the line. He gave Jacob a list.

“So, only two sanctions this week. Well done to you all for achieving your goals this week.” He addressed the class. “But Jill and Mary, you have not done so well.”

“OK, ladies, you know the drill, same as before.” Commanded the young coach.

Without a word, two women broke ranks and walked sullenly towards two marks on the floor by the far side wall. The first woman was sobbing before she even reached her destination.

“Now then, Mary, this will be over quickly. You can go first so you don’t have to wait,” said Jacob compassionately. “You only have five swats of the paddle to take, but you don’t want to be back here next week or you will be getting the cane like Jill here.”

Mary stood on the white line in front of the wall and leaned over, placing her hands flat against the wall. The action made her shorts tighten against her out-turned bottom.

Heather stood watching intently as her heart raced and thumped in her chest. Her eyes were firmly fixed upon the sobbing girl. The lady coach approached Mary holding a wooden paddle in one hand which she slapped against the palm of the other.

“It’s your lucky day, ladies. Today is my turn to dish out the sanctions.” Her bellowing voice caused her first target to cry openly as if she was somehow worse than anyone else.

“Keep your hands on the wall, Mary, or you will end up with more strikes,” the coach warned as she took aim.

The whole room was silent as everyone focused completely on the action.

The first stroke came thundering down onto Mary’s tight navy shorts, making Mary take a deep breath in and Heather squeal with surprise.

As the coach turned to glimpse the newcomer who had dared to make a noise, Mary wriggled her feet to regain her balance and composure. The paddle seamed to cover most of her pert bottom as she took blow after blow. The coach made sure to cover her bottom methodically with two blows directed to each cheek and just one to go.

“OK, Mary, last one,” said Jacob’s velvet voice.

Heather held her breath as she watched the paddle make its final decent, hitting poor Mary bordering on the edge of her shorts. It struck with such force that Mary stumbled forward. Crying steadily, Mary turned to the coach, thanked her for her punishment and assured her she wouldn’t miss her goal next week.

“Well done, Mary. I am sure you will achieve what you need to this week but if you are slipping, remember this moment. Hopefully, you will have a little reminder for a few days.” Jacob said while caringly rubbing her arm.

“OK Jill, you are on your third week of sanctions which means you will receive six strokes of the cane.” Jacob said with a little knowing grin.

Jill was already in place and showing no distress at all. In fact she seemed quite calm and resigned to the idea of having her butt striped by the cane.

“Ready when you are,” Jill said cheekily, much to the displeasure of the forceful coach standing behind her.

The coach gave a few swishes of the straight yellow cane, making it crack in the air and causing Heather to jump. This looked much more intimidating and Heather wasn’t sure she could watch. As she glanced down the line, she noticed a few people screwing up their eyes.

Without warning, the first stroke hit the ample target, the delayed reaction kicked in and Jill let out a ear piercing screech. Jill seemed to stiffen her body all over trying to stop it from shaking as the coach worked her way down her victim’s bottom.

Heather didn’t particularly want to watch but she had little choice. Her fascination caused her to watch the cane bounce off the target, the whipping noise echoing around the walls and the screeches from the disgraced lady all caused a stirring within Heather; a mixture of excitement and fear. As the final stroke was delivered, and the last assault on her senses was felt, Heather was sure she would be back but unsure whether or not she would meet her goal.

The End

© Lorna Brand 2015