By Laird Harrison
I weigh myself too much. The scale sits there in the bathroom, and I stand on it when I get up in the morning. After I work out. Before going to bed. Just because I noticed it when I was passing by.
I know this constant monitoring does me no good. Bathroom scales aren’t all that accurate. Any significant change over the course of a day probably results from a loss or gain in water rather than fat. And new research shows that we should focus on our waistlines more.
But it’s the quickest, easiest way to put a number on my well-being. So I can’t resist. How am I doing today? 150.1 pounds? Fantastic. That’s so much better than last night when I was 152.3!
I Ignore the Scale
There was a time when I pretty much ignored scales. I arrived at college weighing 150. After I got an apartment and started cooking for myself, my weight dropped to 145 where it stayed monotonously steady throughout my 20’s.
I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted in those days. Often that meant three bowls of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and piece of fruit for lunch, then two or three huge helpings of whatever I whipped up for dinner. Normal restaurant portions struck me as meager. “Just stop when you feel full,” I said, proud of my self-discipline. When I had to stop biking to work, I easily handled the changed by cutting back to one bowl of cereal.
My Metabolism Shifts
I was around 40 when I noticed that something had changed. A scale in a doctor’s office read 155. I had gained a pound a year for the past decade. Somewhere along the line my metabolism had shifted into second gear.
Miffed, I launched into the first diet of my life. I adopted a new motto: “Food is not your enemy. But hunger is your friend.” The feeling I used to define as “full” I now defined as “over stuffed.” I stopped returning to the stove top for seconds, cut down to one bowl of cereal and made time to exercise every day. The pounds dropped away. My weight dipped briefly to 139. I was in control!
And Shifts Some More
But whatever shift takes place in middle age had not finished with me yet. By age 50, I tipped the scale at 159. My doctor felt compelled to mention that my BMI, 24, was verging toward overweight. I was pumping some iron at that point and tried to convince myself that I’d put the pounds there on purpose. I said I needed a little extra flesh to survive the ravages of age. But deep down, I was alarmed.
Then I got a treadmill desk. Since January, I’ve been trudging away while I type. On a typical day, I burn an extra 300 calories just getting my work done. I’m much hungrier now, but I’ve resisted the temptation to eat more. I’ve lost about a pound a month this year.
I Finally Shift It Back
And for the first time in my life, I’ve trimmed an inch around the waist. My yoga teacher commented that I seemed “leaner.” Half my pants look like I’m into gangsta styles. Last month I even headed over to Zara with my 16-year-old to pick out skinny jeans.
It all makes sense. As I writer, I was spending way too much time sitting still. Research going back many years shows, that’s almost as bad as smoking. Other studies show fat around the gut is the worst kind, so losing it there is particularly encouraging.
I still keep visiting my friend on the bathroom floor. But once again I can shrug off a pound here and there. I feel I’ve improved my health in a more profound way than any of my previous attempts could achieve.
Now I just have to figure out what to do when I hit 60.
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Featured image “The biggest loser” by Allan Foster. Some rights reserved.