How could seven words, said in 1990, ignite an improbable SHAPE Program journey for two families? You’re about to find out. What follows is a story of promise, failure, success, loyalty, serendipity, and self-discovery. And the best part? It’s still going.
First Stop: Brunswick Lanes
To boys, there are few things as sacred as an adolescent crush. The further that girl is out of your league, the deeper the impression. For me, it ran no deeper than Jennifer Siess, the gorgeous older sister of one of my baseball teammates. Besides her stunning beauty, she was a star athlete, gifted student and notoriously tough. In my mind, she was the total package. The total, unattainable package.
Jennifer was a hot 17-year old woman. I was a fat 13-year old kid. We didn’t even go to the same school. To be honest, we didn’t exactly know each other. We only crossed paths on the rare occasions when her parents made her drive our group of boys somewhere.
It turns out one such ride changed me forever.
It was the summer of 1990, and some guys and I planned a night out at the bowling alley. Jennifer was our chauffeur. When I heard two honks from the Siess’s full-size van, I peeked through the blinds and saw her sitting in the driver’s seat. My heart started to race. I headed outside with my brother but stared at the ground because I didn’t have the power to look at her.
We got in and the rest of our friends were already inside. Like me, they also had massive crushes on Jennifer and often used these car rides as an impromptu audition for her attention. Perhaps to demonstrate their coolness or dominance, they started in on some textbook pre-teen bullying. I was the youngest of the group, a step above a tag-along little brother, and my weight was the go-to target. My brother usually started the teasing, and the other boys were always happy to join in.
Only Jennifer was not impressed.
With a loud and aggressive tone, she jumped to my defense and shut it down immediately. “Leave him alone. I think he’s cute.” These are the exact words she said, before proceeding to address each boy individually and itemize their worst shortcomings. It was a vicious monologue, all for me, but I didn’t hear a single thing past, “he’s cute.” Nothing else bothered me the rest of that night, and I saw myself differently from that day forward. A hot high school girl thought I was attractive! And not just any high school girl, but “The Great One” (my family’s nickname for Jennifer).
My chubby body hadn’t changed, but when I looked in the mirror in the months that followed, I had confidence. I heard Jennifer’s voice, “I think he’s cute.” It gave me hope. I believed I’d lose weight and things were going to change.
She opened the door to a new version of me, and there was no turning back.
I didn’t see Jennifer much after that. Maybe one or two more times. I stopped hanging out with that group and she went off to college.
In the years that followed, I lost weight and grew into a totally different person. Though she was a distant memory, I’ve always seen that moment as the turning point to all the good that followed.
I didn’t think I’d ever get to thank her or repay her, but I was eternally grateful for what she’d done.
Some nine years later, I was living and working in New York. My brother and I had mended fences and began talking a bit more regularly. During one call, he mentioned that he ran into Jennifer’s family at a wedding and that her younger sister, Cynthia, would be in New York for three months that coming summer.
I’d known the Siess family since I was five years old. Jennifer’s dad was one of my baseball coaches. In all that time, I don’t recall knowing that there was another sister, or that she was about my age. Despite living a half-mile from each other, we went to different schools and never knowingly crossed paths.
Learning this, as a single 22-year-old man, I had only one thing on my mind: my company softball team.
I mean it. I played in a hyper-competitive co-ed softball league and though we dominated, we were always the runner-up. All the Siess kids were incredible athletes, so I imagined that this “Cynthia” must be, too. Maybe she could be the missing piece that finally wins us the championship. So, I got her contact information and made a deal with her: If she’d bring her glove and cleats, then I’d show her all the parts of New York that tourists never get to see.
Against the odds and our intentions, we were a perfect pair and fell in love. Cynthia and I moved back to St. Louis and started dating.
Improbably, a new chapter began for the Kirkpatrick and Siess families.
Due to past connections, it was a little strange at first, but the family accepted me. Jennifer was living in Colorado then, and only vaguely remembered that I existed. “Oh, was he kind of a chubby kid?” she asked when she first heard the news.
I’m sure she meant cute chubby kid.
Before long, Jennifer was back in St. Louis and married. Cynthia and I followed soon after. We have three beautiful children, and Jennifer has four. Jennifer’s husband travels frequently, so she and her kids will often spend the weekend with us to hang out and give her a break. In the process, we’ve all formed strong bonds and have become extremely close.
“I’m Broken”: Jennifer’s Journey Begins
It’s safe to say that Jennifer’s life didn’t turn out quite as any of us expected. Her many gifts were tragically under-utilized, and a barrage of other difficulties continued to come her way. In 2005, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She’s also struggled with weight, health and confidence issues.
Due to her husband’s travel schedule, she’s alone for long stretches and is solely responsible for all household activities. The burden of that schedule eventually forced her to abandon a career and focus on the home. In doing so, she lost her sense of self. She once had the promise of true greatness but felt like she fell far short of her potential. She couldn’t even pinpoint how it happened. Now it seemed too late, and the shame and guilt began to swallow her up.
I’ve always loved to help people and be the listening ear when they need it. Over the years, I often found myself in this role with Jennifer. She stood up for me when she had no reason to, and she helped me see the light in the darkness of my shortcomings. I will never stop trying to return that favor.
In 2016 we had an Easter gathering at my house. Later in the day, Jennifer came out to the garage with me to grab a beer. Coming off the birth of her fourth child, she was as heavy as I’d ever seen her, drinking more than usual and she just seemed lost. I asked her if everything was ok.
In an instant, she went from jovial to despondent. She fought back an avalanche of tears and gripped me with a tight hug.
“I’m broken,” she said with no exaggeration, “I don’t know what to do, and I really need help.”
It was a scary moment. I could feel how close she was to an ominous point of no return. I took a breath, put on a happy face and told her not to worry. I owed her one, after all, and this would be a problem we could solve together.
Advanced Problem Solving: People Edition
With her myriad of health, personal and confidence problems, we didn’t know where to begin. Losing weight was critical, but with her husband’s travel and kid’s activities, it would be almost impossible to find time for a sustained effort on diet, sleep and exercise.
Instead, we took small baby steps in various directions until a path cleared for a focus on a new career. With her youngest now going to pre-school, Jennifer could begin working again. She wanted a flexible schedule that would pay a decent wage. I work as a freelance video producer and I saw that as a possible place for her to start. Since she had a degree in communication and radio production, I knew I could train her to use my gear to make videos. It would allow her to create her own schedule and make good money right out of the gate.
I set up some meetings with my network and found an opportunity to pilot our concept. We connected with a marketing company looking for a producer to help create educational videos for medical practitioners. I had extensive experience in this domain, so it seemed like an ideal project. I knew exactly how to proceed, which would allow Jennifer to shadow me at every stage and get comfortable with the process.
We set an introductory meeting with a marketing firm. They needed to produce a series of videos for their client, SHAPE ReClaimed. They told us about the program, that it helps people reduce inflammation and often has a dramatic impact on weight. I looked at Jennifer in disbelief. The first project we take on happens to be for something she desperately needs?
We signed on immediately and met with SHAPE ReClaimed’s co-founder, Linda Frisch. She told us all about the SHAPE Program and how it’s transformed thousands of people’s lives since its birth in 2010 and that the changes extend beyond waistlines. She told us that patients are happier, healthier, more confident and have increased energy.
With each word, Linda appeared to be speaking directly to Jennifer about her laundry list of obstacles. It seemed like fate that we were put in that room that day. Both Jennifer and I felt it. She started the SHAPE Program right away.
It was April of 2018 when Jennifer connected with a practitioner near her home. She experienced immediate success, both with how she felt and on the scale. But her victory was short-lived. Her personal struggles and schedule became too much to bear, and she shut down. She stopped doing the SHAPE Program and even stopped helping me with the videos. Her kids would soon be home for the summer, and she felt overwhelmed by everything on her plate.
Soon, Jennifer was right back to square one. She felt like she let everyone down and sank even deeper into a hole of guilt and despair.
Enter the Linchpin to it All
Around this time, my brother’s wife was going to great lengths to lose weight. As a dancer, she was always lean and fit, but she couldn’t quite recapture the chiseled physique she desired. She was eating very clean and working out with a personal trainer, but it wasn’t making a difference with those last few very stubborn pounds.
My brother’s wife happened to run into Jennifer and noticed that she’d lost weight. Jennifer told her about the SHAPE Program and what it had done for her. My brother asked me for more details, and we discovered that his wife’s chiropractor was already a SHAPE practitioner. She started the program shortly thereafter and saw instant results, releasing those stubborn pounds and then some. She looks like a 20-year-old fitness model. (Ironically, my brother would deny that the SHAPE Program was a factor in her transformation!)
Her extreme results, which were inspired by Jennifer’s short-term results, inspired several others in the family to give the SHAPE Program a try.
Curiosity Got the Better of Me
Without Jennifer, I was now on the hook to complete an extensive video library for SHAPE ReClaimed. In all, I spent about 150 hours shooting and editing videos, becoming more immersed in the SHAPE ReClaimed philosophy with each passing frame. I knew exactly why it worked, how to be successful with it, and the many other personal benefits SHAPE Warriors have experienced. My curiosity was at an all-time high, and I knew I had to try the program.
Though shedding weight was not my priority, I wanted to see what would change if I, too, started the SHAPE Program. My wife, Cynthia, was in the same boat. She works long hours at an intense job and had gained a few pounds over the years. She didn’t like how she looked and was hoping that this would help her feel better about herself. Seeing the transformation of my brother’s wife, who continued to look and feel better than she had in over a decade made Cynthia believe this was the real deal.
Together we decided to start the SHAPE Program when we returned from our 4th of July holiday. Jennifer’s family joined us on the vacation, and she had committed to giving the program a second try.
Three SHAPE Journeys, Three Distinct Outcomes
Due to our unique work schedules, Jennifer, Cynthia and I each worked with a different practitioner. But, it was as if each one was a perfect fit for our needs. I wanted someone to address my health issues and goals beyond weight, Cynthia needed someone who was straight-forward and Jennifer needed a fresh introduction to the program.
JJ: I’ve always struggled to lose weight and progress started very slow for me. I was not seeing the massive results everyone else had. Then, after an adjustment on a topical medication, everything changed. I stayed with the program and at 41, I look and feel better than I have my entire life. I can’t believe what the SHAPE Program has changed for me. I’m in Phase III, and I still follow the Phase I and II meal plans because I love the way it makes me feel.
Cynthia: Deep down, Cynthia had her doubts about reaching her goal, but she decided to go all-in and see what would happen. To her shock and amazement, everything I promised her came true. At 40, she is lighter, leaner and fitter than either of us had ever seen or thought possible. Her previously tight clothes now hang on her and she looks like the picture of good health. She’s also in Phase III and loves what the program has changed for her. Happiness, stress management and confidence are the real outcomes she got from the SHAPE Program.
Jennifer: When Jennifer started, she had no expectation or hope that she would reach her original goal and was resigned to living life at a larger size. But, she was also ready to fight for what she wanted. She restarted her SHAPE Program journey with full commitment to the process. To everyone’s surprise, she reached her goal in just two and a half months. She even surpassed it on her 45th birthday and is still going strong. She marked the milestone with a photo shoot of her new, ReClaimed self. It was a coming out part for her true self. She is not “broken” anymore, and she did it despite the same mountain of obstacles in her way! SHAPE ReClaimed has changed her life.
What We Really Gained
There are now four people in our family network that have followed the SHAPE Program. All four of us committed fully, and all four of us experienced results well beyond our wildest expectations.
The truth is that we each started the SHAPE Program because we were interested in releasing weight. It’s a concrete outcome that you can see. What you can’t understand or predict is how much better you’ll feel mentally and physically.
The luster of releasing weight fades quickly, like the excitement of getting a new car. What remains is the happiness and confidence you feel after you achieve such an elusive goal. You now know you have the discipline to follow a strict process all the way through to the finish line.
This confidence and method can apply to any new goal: personal, professional, financial, relationship, or otherwise. Using your SHAPE Program success to advance in other areas helps you live a more meaningful life. And the good news is, it often happens subconsciously.
The SHAPE Program encourages the development of what experts categorize as “Keystone Habits.” When an individual chooses healthier food options, studies have shown that several unrelated areas of their life also improves (i.e., exercising leads to healthier food choices which can lead to better spending habits, etc.). Add that to the other benefits, like looking and feeling better, ditching costly medications and expanding the activities you can participate in.
To Thanksgiving and Beyond!
As we move closer to Thanksgiving, all four of our family’s SHAPE Program graduates will be together in one room for the first time. We’ve already conspired to create a Phase I-approved buffet line and help others make healthier choices and learn about the program.
As it stands, Jennifer’s husband, Jennifer’s mother, and both of my parents plan to start the SHAPE Program sometime in the future. These family recruits are in addition to several friends we’ve already referred to our triumvirate of trusted practitioners.
The SHAPE ReClaimed legacy will continue to expand in our homes and open new possibilities for everyone, particularly our children and their future health.
It’s important to note that none of this would have happened without those seven words, “Leave him alone, I think he’s cute.”
I had a significant debt to pay, and the universe put me in a position to balance my books.
SHAPE ReClaimed appeared at the exact right time for the exact right people, like magic. There is no other way to explain it.
To the four veterans of the SHAPE Program, looking at the full spread of Thanksgiving food was a battle of willpower. Not in the way you might expect, though.
We were all walking around like convicts granted a last-minute pardon, that had no interest in tempting fate and going back to prison. Even though we’re mostly in Phase III, we each struggled to eat a “cheat” food. Not because we wanted to stay true to the program, but because we didn’t want to go back to the way we were. It was a very unexpected feeling that we each dealt with on some level.
My sister-in-law confessed that she was stressed because she loves to cook and go out to eat, but that she fears getting bigger all over again. I told her the wise words of Linda Frisch, “SHAPE is a lifestyle. The keyword is LIFE. You must live on this program. That includes treats from time to time. Those who get too fanatical, and I’m talking to you, JJ, struggle to succeed in the long run.”
I’m notoriously disciplined with what I eat and drink, and I feared that I may be getting too fanatical. I started the SHAPE Program in July, and have not had one unapproved food since. I decided I was going to prove to myself that I could eat poorly for one day and not blow up the scale. But I couldn’t. I had no interest, and a strong desire not to eat the bad foods. It wasn’t until about 4 o’clock that I finally forced myself to venture into the danger zone.
My daughter brought me a small piece of pumpkin pie, my all-time favorite and insisted I eat it. I did and lived to tell the tale. So I had a bit more, and a sweet potato dish I love. Then the wine began to flow. Again I heard Linda’s words, “Eat the one or two things you really miss and skip the rest. You don’t have to do everything on Thanksgiving, just the things you really enjoy.”
There were plenty of SHAPE-friendly options such as turkey, ham, Linda’s famous chili, fruits, vegetables, and even a Phase I dessert. We stuck mostly to these foods and felt fine. We didn’t feel deprived, and it was proof that we could get past a holiday feast without gaining 100 lbs.
With family and friends over, the foods and drinks we consumed the rest of the weekend veered toward the “living” category, but in moderation. We definitely lived and had a wonderful time in each other’s company. More importantly, it seems this Phase III method works. Despite my indiscretions, I did not go up on the scale.
The four of us that did the SHAPE Program had a special bond, and it was the first time we were all together. The admiration the ladies had for each other, often seeing the other for the first time since they started the program, was gratifying to watch. They all battled an inner conflict and won. None expected success, yet gained more than they would have ever dreamed possible.
Four others in attendance had interest in the SHAPE Program. Many common questions came up:
“What’s in it?”
“Is it safe?”
“Does it really do anything or is it a scam?”
“My doctor hasn’t heard of it but says nothing in it can hurt me. Is that true?”
“How much is it?”
“Do I have to give up ____?”
“How often do I have to exercise?”
“Do you think it could possibly work for me?”
So time will tell if any or all will decide to commit to the program and try it. It’s hard to believe they still doubt it when they see four former skeptics walking around with incredible, unexpected results. It works and works fast for those who go all in.