Why is it always such a struggle? I am sitting in the early morning light drinking coffee and wondering why I am fighting with my body, once again. Every morning I weigh myself before I come downstairs. Often it is an eye-opening moment – a true wake-up call if you will. Like standing before the authorities and getting your sentence handed down to you based on what you’ve done the day before. Gambling on how bad that sentence will be is what I have been doing lately. My bathroom scale, in reality, is a simple slot machine offering much reward on rare occasions but, all too frequently, out to destroy my hopes with just a metallic clunk and not one plaintive beep of apology.
I sleep in light night clothes and can quickly take off my shorts and t-shirt before stepping nude onto my draconian scale. Lately, I noticed I have been feeling my stomach first, looking at it in the mirror to quickly assess how “pudgy” it appears that day, and, in knowing what I know of my eating history over the previous twenty-four hours and my calorie-burning activities (and, all too often, lack thereof) from the day before, I find I am forced to estimate in a discourse with the scale the impact of my sins before actually climbing onto the guillotine stand and letting the blade drop.
I want a new scale, one in which I can tweak it to make adjustments. I should be able to press a lever, for instance, with my toe and have it re-calibrate its settings to fit my needs that morning. Do I want the “cold hard truth” every time? No, I think not. My scale should give me the degree of truth I prefer on any given morning — why can’t I press “little white lie” or “complete fiction” now and then and have my results adjusted accordingly? For example, “Feel good about yourself” should be an option that is available everyday on every scale in America, especially for those difficult days when you really need a comforting feeling to get started. Certainly, it would be better than the “you just fucked up, you asshole” setting — which, as luck would have it, is the calibration to which my scale has been set.
Hmmm…. now I’m thinking I should check the bottom of my scale and see if there is something I can adjust to take a pound or two away — just for “special occasions,” mind you.
Which reminds me of the “special occasion” of going to my doctor’s office for a physical earlier this month. A special occasion, indeed; it had been three years since my last visit. I literally used “the special occasion” switch on my scale mentally and was feeling good about myself and my current weight, whether real or imagined, when I walked into my doctor’s office.
Now, I have to tell you, I chose my doctor a number of years back simply because she listed herself as specializing in sports medicine on her paragraph-long bio within a list of doctors approved by my medical insurance plan, and, though the very thought of “sports” now calls forth comforting images of my television set, I actually believed for a brief period in my life that I was in a “sportsmanlike” state of being. A doctor who could handle my aches and pains as well as the after-effects of my brief but vigorous “sporting” life would be a wise choice when there was no other discernible reason for choosing among the practitioners listed.
This “sports medicine” decision I embraced with my new doctor was not based on any high school athletic performance (god forbid) or from kicking into gear in college, say, as a result of the guys in my house playing flag football as a team (stoned to the max) in intramural competition, or even afterward, in my twenties, when my years, looking back, were a confusing blur of bad jobs, horrible apartments, and, oh yeah, graduate school. No, it was in my thirties, after I had eaten my way to a Masters degree and a decent job, when my wife thought she was married to a late blooming, monster child and wanted signed assurances I wouldn’t squash her in bed, it was then that I consciously determined to lose some of the “joyous life” I had accumulated and still held dear (to my waist and soul) from all those years.
So, in my thirties I started “running” in a local neighborhood park next to our apartment back when we lived in DC and, somehow, over time, managed to leave a small gift of my girth there as well as later in New York and finally here in North Carolina. Like sweaty scraps of wispy white trash, my caloric-contributions were dropped everywhere I could manage during that period. Later, still in my thirties, I realized I was running just as much to keep the lost weight from finding me, like scattered fillings to a magnet, as to experience a body and lifestyle I never knew.
I remember hanging out at 5k and 10K races with the local “in-shape ones,” with the athletes who were just like me except that, unlike me, they made the “right” decisions throughout their lives, resulting in their being fit and in shape and having the ability to wear skin-tight, running clothes that showed off their muscular midriffs and tiny butts. The new me appeared to fit right in — that is, as long as you didn’t look under my shirt at my pudginess and as long as no one asked me any questions about my authenticity, my history of athletic prowess, or my worthiness to stand next to them in their ASIC gel-max running shoes, or rub against them in their Nike stay-dry tops and bottoms, or, even, smell their talcum powdered air.
Before the big races, I would walk along the edge of thousands of runners, heading to the back of the field, trying to decide with what group I should stand. Rather than clustered with runners who ran at, say, a seven-minute pace, or a nine-minute pace, or whatever pace was being touted on various shiny placards (what the hell is “pace” anyway?), I would search for that special cluster of people like me, the group that naturally gravitated to the peeling sign for “former fat people” who, it implied by default, would be discovered for who they were shortly after the race began. When other clusters were given power bars and sport drinks, ours was given bagged lunches and sweet tea. We were the ones caught haggling over our sandwiches and exchanging our apples for Doritos not realizing the gun gone off and the race had begun. We were the ones who arrived at water stops long after the road had been swept clean of discarded cups and most of the volunteers had gone home for dinner.
On one occasion, I decided to start a race at the very front of the runners. I got on the front line under the sign for elite runners and no one stopped me. Some officials looked confused at me and then at the sign to see if it said anything about former fat people, but no one took my arm and pulled me aside and, most importantly, none of the runners grabbed my shorts and yanked them down to my socks. I guess I was accepted and finally could relax. I was standing there looking at everyone and how anorexic they appeared when suddenly the gun went off. Wow! Normally I would have had a few minutes to retie my shoes, adjust my shorts, smooth my shirt over my belly, but not here. Did you know, they expect you to run when the gun goes off? Hey, wait a minute, does anyone want my apple?
I think they must have thought I was a street vendor caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Quickly runners were stumbling around me, pushing me to the side, crushing my tuna sandwich. I decided, in turn, I better run on the sidewalk to avoid the river of humanity trying to get around me. If it wasn’t for my runner’s bid, saying I wa a runner, I would have fit right in with the cheering crowd. Several emergency medical assistants caught up with me shortly thereafter and asked if my foot hurt, if I was experiencing a heart attack, or if I was suffering delusions, but I put on a brave face and brushed them all aside. This was my race and I was in it for nothing but the glory.
Interestingly enough, I achieved my best time running in that race. I can remember stumbling across the finish line and nearly fainting from the pace. Thousands had crossed the line before me, but no one from my cluster was anywhere near me. Yeaaaa! I went to the hillside across the way and puked my guts out. I decided right then and there, no more Doritos before a race!
Actually, looking back, I thought I would be zapped at the finish line, like a wayward fly, for failing to stay with my group. Like the computer would throw away my time as a mistake, as a false reading, as an error in the system. Fortunately, it never did. I deceived them all! As a result, my time was my trophy and the one I touted time and time again. As it turns out, it was also the last time I ran in a race until more than twenty years later.
My weight, like a demon, found me on that hillside bent over on my knees, retching from the run, and it convinced me to stop this craziness, promising it wouldn’t come back all at once but would spread itself over my forties and fifties, and I would feel good throughout and it would feel right. My body still believes this though I know it is a lie.
My doctor with her sports medicine background is a runner. She looks to be in her late-thirties, she’s thin like a runner, and very pretty. I had forgotten how pretty she was until I showed up at her office earlier this month for my physical. She was wearing a turtleneck sweater and a short skirt under an open white lab coat, with stylish boots that went up to her knees. She told me she runs marathons once or twice a year and has done so since she was a kid. I immediately decided I loved runners who make the right decisions all of their lives.
Amazingly, she noticed I had lost weight. When we met three years earlier for my checkup, she suggested I lose ten pounds as a goal. She didn’t know that, instead, I added more than twenty pounds and, one year later, was the heaviest I have ever been. Now nearly two years after that, I am more than fifty pounds lighter and heading to new personal records in my ongoing weight-loss.
“Let’s get you up on the scale and see how well you’ve done,” she said, her face brightening to show a gorgeous smile. Oh my god!
I remember, growing up, my doctor was an old geezer who used to give me physicals for school. He never failed to stick his hands in my pants to search out my scrotum. “Cough, son,” he would say. Suddenly, nearing sixty, I yearned for such a complete physical, once again. (Please, oh please! Let me cough for you!)
“Sounds good,” I said to my marathon-runner-of-a-doctor with her sexy brown boots that ran up her thighs. “Should I take off my clothes?”
“No you can keep your clothes on,” she said, looking down at her chart on me. “In fact,” she added, “you can get on the scale just as you are, sweater and shoes and all.” What? Ugh! No way! Not completely dressed! I want to be totally, totally naked, just like I am each morning when I humble myself before the scale-god in my bathroom, and, besides, doesn’t it say somewhere that later you’re supposed to check my scrotum?
Ignoring how pretty she was and those boots that lapped her loins, I mumbled to myself, secretly, as I walked over to her scale, ‘You damn well have got to be kidding me (!), and I’m wearing my “feel good about myself” body too. Ugh!’
Just like that my “feel good” attitude popped and hissed like a slithering snake out of the room. In the act of walking over to the scale, I could feel my depression mounting. I gained an extra four pounds in just those three steps alone. The doctor’s reading of the scale, with me dying, standing there fully dressed, added another five pounds, and, when I left her office, I was no longer in love with the quack, but, rather, nearly ten pounds heavier and ready to commit suicide.
I went directly home to my own scale and quickly turned it over. I twirled the setting past “naked truth” and stopped it abruptly on “complete deception in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” This is exactly where I needed it to be and, amazingly, when I got on the scale, I had not only re-lost the nine pounds she said I still was carrying, but I even dropped another twenty pounds besides. Yahoo!
All of which brings me to this morning and the ongoing fight I am having with my body. Sure enough, I awoke having gained another pound and a half from yesterday, and yesterday I gained a pound and a half from the day before. What’s this all about? My body is clearly in rebellion. It was only last week at this time that I was a pound away from reaching the sixty-pound milestone. Now I’m five pounds away and looking ahead to a week of covering the same ground I covered last week, or worse…
The pudge is winning. Ounce for ounce, more is entering my body than leaving on any given day. Screw this! I have got to get my act together, once and for all! Stay tuned.