Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Never-Changing Scale

So there I am, eagerly anticipating the scale readout. This does not happen often and I am relishing the moment because I’m about to see the payoff from my past month of exercising every day, giving up all alcohol, and carefully monitoring what I eat.

The analog gives me the three dashes and then . . . the same number as a month ago.

At first I am dumbfounded. I try again and . . . the same number as a month ago.

Let us leave this sad, deflating snippet of my life for a moment for a little background information.

As I approach my 50th birthday in June, this is, by my rough calculations, the 35th diet attempt, not counting the countless three-day false starts. I am what nutritionists, dieticians and doctors call a “yo-yo dieter.”

My dieting pathology follows a predictable course and one time I thought I had actually mastered it until I realized I was living on next to nothing but still gaining weight. By way of throwing a temper tantrum, I went back to eating everything in sight. It wasn’t until I’d regained all 50 pounds I’d lost, and then some, that I found out it was a medical condition, which would have been diagnosed and taken care of easily if only I’d overcome my opinion that “only sick people go to the doctor and I am not a sick person.”

As an aside, once medication took hold, I had that blissful – albeit brief – experience that dieters pray for: fat “melting” away. Unfortunately, only 20 of the total poundage melted and the rest kind sat back and got comfortable where it was, which was mostly on my bottom half, making me look like those toy punching clowns, though I doubt if you deck me one I’d pop back up quite so happily.

Normally my dieting goes like this: I carefully watch what I eat all week, lighten up a little on weekends. For exercise, I grab whatever dog is closest to the door and we keep walking for 15 to 20 minutes, turn around and walk back.

The first week I lose 5 pounds. This is water weight. I know this because when I went on my first diet at age six, my mother told me so. She repeated this when I started my diet at ages 10 and 13. Same diet every time, a diet she got out of a paperback with a lady in a bathing suit in a pear on the cover. It was 500 calories a day, all boiled vegetables. And what kid doesn’t love boiled vegetables?

Though at 13, she found a doctor who agreed to add to my daily allowance a special pill that not only would curb my appetite, but made me shake so much my braces sparked. I ended up pretending to take it, then flushing it down the toilet, at least until it floated back up once and my mother found it. There aren’t many teenagers who get yelled at for not taking their speed.

When I was in charge of my diets, though, I was vastly more sensible. After the initial 5 pounds, I know I’m in for real weight loss which, while not as dramatic, is much more visible. Every seven or eight pounds drops me a clothing size. I thought this was torture.

The point is, I thought I knew what to expect of my body and now it’s turned on me. We had an agreement: I eat totally unpalatable food and work it till it hurts to sneeze and it gets smaller and, by way of a bonus, sleeker. It’s not supposed to ignore my efforts and it certainly isn’t supposed to start sagging.

Okay, I will admit I had one moment of indiscretion. But I feel completely justified in my decision to ignore all dietary restriction: Dirtman went to Little Italy in Baltimore and brought me home cannoli from Vaccaro’s Bakery. Vaccaro’s cannoli cream is a gift from God Himself and I would be an ungrateful believer indeed should I pass up this opportunity which does not come often in one’s lifetime (not that it can’t, since they do mail order. And, no, I am in no way related to the Vaccaro family, though I’m sure previous purchases have put not a few of their grandkids through college).

So I’m rethinking my goals. Yes, I feel a lot better after exercising every day and have more energy. My clothes fit better and I think – I think – I can tie my shoes tighter.

For now, I suppose, I’ll have to be happy with that – an energetic 50-year-old with skinny feet.


Jane said...

"...but made me shake so much my braces sparked."




AdriftAtSea said...


It could be that you've converted flab to muscle... and since muscle is denser, you could be skinnier...but not have actually lost weight.

John said...

I have read a lot about dieting, and consequently and much smarter and no less motivated (and no less fat).

My Sunday Seven is on this topic.

benning said...

adrift at sea is right! If your clothes fit better then you have lost fat/flab. That's a good thing! And us guys like a woman with some muscle tone! Yowzah!

Hubbah, hubbah!


Hick said...

This sounds like my life all over again...except I was 8 when I first thought I was fat. Your story is painful to read, although funny.

I was very thin for a while in my late teens and 20's and then the fat came with the children. I then began my yo-yoing and continue to this day.

I had to give up my quest for that thin body last year when my daughter became anorexic and I felt responsible.I felt a little better when I learned that eating disorders have a biological component to them along with a strong OCD tendency (and yes, I alphabetize my spice drawer). Apparently my mom was anorexic when she was a teen and she passed it to me who then passed it down to my daughter. Lucky us.

Anyway...sensible exercise and moderate eating is always a good thing. That's my aim.