Lifting The Scales
It’s just that I’m easily entertained by anniversaries. I like looking at the calendar.
And when it occurred to me that Sept. 24 was coming up, and that it had been 10 years since the original Sept. 24, when I started down this road in 2007…what’s an anniversary-lovin’ guy to do?
So even though I’m already second-guessing what felt like a natural inclination to share some of my story—as if I’ve never shared it before—I’m all in, I guess. This will be Fitness Week, then. I have my reasons.
It’s been so long. The people I see most often these days, I didn’t even know 10 years ago. The people I knew then? Not so much. A little on Facebook, but mostly poof, gone, that time is past.
But 10 years ago, after I’d somehow lopped 80 or so pounds off and apparently looked so different that old friends actually walked by me in the store, unaware, I had a few conversations. And a few of them went like this:
Q: How did you lose all that weight? And so fast?
A: I just kept track of everything, and adjusted. Calories, mostly.
Q: Did that work?
I mean, I get it. Totally.
It’s just so personal. Maybe we’ve been battling the bulge since elementary school. Maybe it’s a surprise, organic treason by bodies we used to trust, sudden pounds and fat glops slapped all over us, in awkward places. Old, faithful clothing becomes stubborn and just mean, really, in its reluctance to fit.
Either way, it’s really about us, not them. However our weight-gain stories have unspooled, it feels specific, not universal and certainly not shared. How can you understand my life? Pass the pie.
But really, who needs to hear about somebody else? There are extenuating circumstances, there always are, and how can my story possibly help you and yours?
I ask myself. A lot.
My go-to snack is dark chocolate. I actually think dark is unnecessary (yes, I’m one of those people), as it’s the only chocolate in my book, but I do love a little. And a little is what I eat.
Once a day, occasionally more often, I eat some dark chocolate chips, my favorite way to get a little cacao goodness in a snack format. And before I eat those chips, I weigh them.
Right? Good grief. I’m pretty self-conscious just writing those words. It was supposed to be a secret.
This is a good part of why I’ve been dubious about this whole share-my-success idea. I’m reluctant to embarrass myself and open up the weirdo closet. I weigh my food.
This is the conundrum, then. I’m a lean guy. I probably look, to strangers, like I’m just one of those lean people. Probably always been that way. No fair, but some people get lucky breaks. Well, you’ll be a nice, fit-looking corpse anyway people have said, hahaha, and your last thought will be, I could have been eating ice cream.
So, to be clear: I eat a lot of ice cream.
And I weigh it.
The conundrum here, of course, is that, being a lean guy, if you see me weighing my 20 grams of chocolate chips before popping them in my mouth, your first thought might be, hmmm. Someone has issues.
Maybe. I dunno. A slim dude, pouring chocolate chips into a measuring cup? Might be a little excess vanity going on there, you think? Especially a dude pushing 60? C’mon, man. Life’s too short.
I’m not constructing straw men here. I’ve had these conversations.
I haven’t had a drink in over 11 years. I think about that every day. Every day. I do little things, things that have become so common and ordinary that I rarely notice, but I keep doing them. Because I want to stay sober, live sober, be sober; the alternative is real bad. And I think most people would grasp this easily. Just like they’d understand if a person who had a heart attack in his 40s continues to watch his cholesterol and exercise regularly. Sometimes you have to keep looking backwards in order to keep from heading in that direction.
That’s it, then. I’m not in danger of gaining weight, a little or a lot. I can do it, easily. I can not do it, also easily. Whether I should be focusing on it is another question, a good question, but if that’s what floats my boat, it’s working fine. I get a little sheepish, sue me. I try not to weigh food in public.
Even now, I can’t seem to find a way to explain how normal this feels, how completely unremarkable. It takes no time. I don’t fuss if it’s 22 grams. I pour, I note the weight, I eat. I make an entry on an app and forget about it.
So, it’s perspective. If you see a lean man write down “Chocolate: 93 calories” and you ask why, you have an answer, maybe. Hey. I’m standing right in front of you.
Empirical is the word. That’s the word, the secret, the technique, the system. The story. More later, as they say.
And I’ll stop for today by just pointing out the enemy and naming it: There’s too much food. We are lost in a world of calories, sneaky calories, and as a guy who has 10 spreadsheets on his hard drive (probably several hard drives), one for each year of this, I can tell you that eternal vigilance is a holding action only; those calories will get in, or some of them.
Without getting into the weeds, I’ve learned that, even as careful and methodical as I am about this, I’m always going to, eventually, be wrong. Estimating the calories I eat (erring on the high side) and the energy I expend (likewise, on the low side) will, plugged into the standard equation, also estimate whether on a given day I gain a little or lose a little, or stay put. And this will always, again eventually, be wrong.
And it will be wrong in the wrong direction. As careful as I am, every few weeks I’ll be a couple of pounds heavier than my intake and output suggest I should be. I adjust, I tweak, and I wait another few weeks, when those two pounds do their thing again.
It’s the same two pounds. In case I wasn’t clear. The math just gets off, and always upwardly off.
So even with this strange, relentless data mining, I have to stick with the basics. I have to do the one, single thing that has made all the difference.
Hint: It also involves a scale.