It’s no secret: I struggle with my weight. I’ve never been completely sedentary, but the facts are that I love to eat and I do not like to move. This is a bad combination. Despite semi-regular racketballing with my roommate and resisting third helpings in the school cafeteria, I gained nearly 50 fifty pounds when I was in college. Then I got married, and the weight gain slowed, but in the course of four years, I managed to accrue an additional 20 pounds. That’s 70 pounds in seven years, and to be honest, it’s shocking to see these numbers on the screen in front of me. Continuing at this rate, I’d be a blimp before too long.
About two years ago, my doctor urged me to seriously consider losing a "few" pounds. I decided then to make a concerted effort towards this end. My initial progress was slow, but steady. Watson and I began going on more frequent and longer walks together, and walking on the treadmill became a more regular activity. I resisted after-dinner snacks and packed healthier lunches. I even, to my wife’s disgust, drank V8. In the course of one and a half years, I lost 15 pounds, slow and steady.
Before yesterday, my most recent visit to the doctor was in the spring of 2007. At this appointment, he told me that he thought I should be making more rapid progress. He said that he’d like to see me again in six months and that he hoped I would have lost a certain amount of weight by then. He encouraged me to eat less still and to push myself to exercise a little more. I told him I’d try.
I didn’t. Life took over… searching for a job and planning our future, family vacations, illness and death in the family, holidays, preparing to graduate, must-see tv, blogging… I allowed one thing after another to take center stage in my life and neglected my commitment to improved health. I know that these are all excuses and that there will always be excuses to avoid transforming my personal health habits. And yet, I allowed these circumstances to consume me to the extent that I let slip most of the habits I had been developing which allowed me to lose the 15 pounds over the previous 500 days. I ate more and treadmilled less, and soon into this season, I realized that I wasn’t making progress in weight loss and began to mentally deny that I was even trying to lose weight. I ceased stepping on the scale and became willingly oblivious to any fluctuations in girthiness or poundage. The only healthy lifestyle change that persisted was my daily walks with Watson.
Yesterday, I returned to the doctor for a scheduled follow-up appointment. I had not weighed myself in several months, so I did not know what to expect when I stepped on the scale. I feared the worse: that I had regained the weight I had fought to lose in the previous 18 months.
“Please step on the scale,” the nurse checking me in requested. In order to register the lowest possible weight, I had taken care to use the restroom an hour before my appointment, I was sure to wear as light-weight clothing as the weather permitted, and I did not have any needless items in my pockets (like keys, wallet, loose change, pens, post-it notes, pocket fuzz) weighing me down.
I stepped on the scale, anticipating the worst.
Fortunately, this scale had a digital readout, so there was none of the excruciating shifting of the bars on the manual models (pictured, right). Either I carry my weight well or nurses are routinely flattering, because whenever I’m weighed on one of the manual scales, the nurses always presuppose a weight far too low and have to keep shifting the sliding bars upwards; I usually end up grabbing the blocks myself to set them in the ballpark range to hasten the conclusion of the painful carnival guess-my-weight procedure. I digress. More on the pros and cons of different styles of physician scales in a future titillating post.
My eyes were closed when I mounted the scale (which, considering my track record for coordination, was probably not such a great idea). Having avoided even stepping near a scale (much less on one) for the past 150 or so days, I was sure that I had gained forty pounds. When I opened my eyes, I was pleasantly surprised to see the result on the LED screen: my weight had not changed since my last visit six months ago. My tonnage was exactly the same as it had been the previous time I stood on the scale. Given my pre-weigh-in glass-half-empty predictions, I accepted this as a major victory: I hadn’t gained any weight!
My doctor did not see these results in the same glorious light. He was concerned with my stagnated weight-loss progress. “Why haven’t we lost any more weight?” he asked me (as if he (a veritable beanpole) and I (a veritable bundle of beanpoles) were part of some fat-burning team).
“Ummm,” I began. “I guess I’ve been under a lot of stress” (clearly not enough stress to keep me from blogging). I added, pathetically, “But at least I didn’t gain any weight.”
He was not pleased with the status quo. “What are we going to do?” he asked.
My enthusiasm drained. I stared and shrugged. “I dunno.”
“I’d like to prescribe a weight-loss medication,” he told me.
“Diet pills?” I asked. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Commercials for Dexatrim and Trimspa flashed through my mind: this was an institution which I had no desire to buy into or endorse.
My doctor eased my mind. He explained that this was a short-term intervention to stimulate weight loss that needed to be accompanied by a serious attempt at diet and exercise. The medication would increase my metabolic rate and curb my appetite. “We’d see you lose maybe ten pounds in a month,” he added. Ten pounds in a single month!? Suddenly, the unpleasant images of over-the-counter diet pills, improved diet, and an expanded exercise regimen were replaced by images of a svelte, slimmer yajeev.
I accepted his encouragement* to give this medication a short-term try. He wrote the script, and I drove home to tell my wife about the great news: “Honey, I haven’t gained any weight, and my doctor prescribed diet pills!” I paused. “So, what’s for dinner?”
We ate dinner. To celebrate my upcoming guaranteed weight loss, I had an extra helping of spaghetti. I was filled with a new enthusiasm and hunger (for life). I was going to lose weight. After dinner, I ate a cookie, and a couple hours later, I ate a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (the box says they’re good for my heart!).
Before we went to sleep, my wife and I watched an episode of 24 on DVD on my computer in bed. My wife had made homemade banana chips and brought a few to munch on while we watched the show. Fresh out of the oven, they smelled and looked delicious. Watson agreed. While the wife popped banana chips into her mouth, she told a pathetically longing, sad-eyed Watson: “No, honey. These are too hot for you.”
I mentioned that I would like a banana chip. She repeated herself, this time to me, “No, honey. These are too hot for you.” I, of course, assumed she was joking. I waited for her to hand me a warm, delicious, homemade banana chip.
When no banana chip my way came, I turned to her and said, “Really, I’d like a banana chip, please.”
“I ate them all,” she told me.
“I ate them.”
“But I said that I wanted one.”
“I’m just helping you out. You’re going on a diet.”
“I am not going on a diet,” I emphasized. “I’m going on diet pills.”
She set me straight, reminding me that successful weight loss would involve diet pills in conjunction with diet and exercise. She’s right. I committed to watch my diet. Already this morning on my way to work, I watched myself eat a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel from McDonalds.
I’m a pound-shedding success story weighting to happen.
* In truth, I have not yet decided whether or not to use the weight-loss medication.
Doctor's scale imaged accessed at here.