The Thinker at the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia.

The Thinker at the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia.

What Changes Lives?

Lately I have been thinking about what it means when someone says, “It changed my life”.  I can think of many people who changed my life.  Events surely have changed me as well,  but can inanimate objects be life-changers?

Do you think that intellectual property –  a book or a painting or a song or a film can change a life?

For me, yes, and what follows is one of my own examples.  I would love to gather other examples.  What has changed your life?  Think about it.

Image from imbd.com

Image from imbd.com
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In 1986 I went to see a funny movie called “Ruthless People”.  It changed my life.  It may have saved my life.

The movie is about the kidnapping of a chubby, wealthy  wife named Barbara Stone (perfectly portrayed by Bette Midler).  Her husband, Sam Stone (played by Danny De Vito at his best), hates her and was planning to kill her for the inheritance right before she was  kidnapped.  So, he gleefully refuses the kidnappers’ demands, hoping they will do away with her and save him the trouble.

While she is being held by the kidnappers, Barbara watches workout shows on television and begins to exercise.  By the end of the film she is slim and fit and ecstatic.

Ruthless People inspired me. I wasn’t particularly overweight right then but I was the most unathletic person I knew.  I’d been the worst kid in gym class my whole life, but Barbara Stone made getting into shape seem do-able.  The morning after I saw the movie, I turned on ESPN (this was the 80’s – ESPN was different then) and tried to keep up with a cute guy named Gilad as he and his ripped companions worked out on the beach in Hawaii.


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At first, I could only do Gil’s seven minute warm-up routines, but I tuned in every day until his half hour show became fun and easy to do.  I was astonished to find that I was getting pretty dang fit in the comfort of my brother’s apartment – just like Barbara Stone!

I stuck with Gil until they took him off ESPN and then I slacked off entirely, but I’d learned profound lessons – that I could get myself into shape and that I actually enjoyed  exercise  when I wasn’t in a gym with other people.

How do I know that the film changed my life?

Fast-forward twenty one years to when I had become a fat zotz, subsisting on candy and these donuts:


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Faced with the health risks of being sedentary and overweight, I bit the bullet and went to Weight Watchers (another life changer).  The leader told us that we could lose weight without “activity” (WW’s calls exercise “activity”) but that it was virtually impossible to keep the lost weight from coming back unless we were “active”.  The leader also told us that we should make “activity” a habit, like brushing our teeth.  He said that if you do something every day for a week, it will become a habit.  I resolved to be “‘active” every day.

Guess what?  I found Gilad again!  He is still on television and he’s still handsome!  Now he has a website and a retail empire.  I tried Gil again for a while, but he does too much kick-boxing for my taste, so I looked around and WOW!

There are an infinity of workouts on Youtube!  Wonderful videos for everyone from the fittest curl-bros to people who must workout in chairs, from toddlers to the ancient, in every language you can imagine.  Working out is a pleasure now because there’s something new to try every morning!

I lost a boatload (40 pounds) of weight and have been exercising an hour every day for almost six years now and  I owe it all to Ruthless People and its inspiring idea of shaping up with electronic trainers.  I can’t prove that it has saved my life, but I sure do feel better.

Have you thought of something that changed your life?    I’d love to know!


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