The good news is that since the start of the year I have lost about twenty pounds. The bad news is that I need to lose at least another ten pounds. Ideally, I should lose an additional ten pounds. If so perhaps I could again wear the same suit that I wore at my wedding.
My likelihood of my success? I hate to handicap my own odds but I will feel very fortunate if I can get down to a body mass index (BMI) where technically I no longer fall under the stigma of being overweight.
These days I feel good and think I look good too. I can slip into size 36 jeans again without effort. I get regular and sustained exercise. I eat better. In addition, with some effort, I am maintaining my weight. Depending on whose BMI scale you use, I may be on the high end of having a healthy BMI.
My daughter tells me of a saying at her high school about those brainiacs who managed to go to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. This is a state chartered school in Alexandria, Virginia for the region’s most promising high school students. “School, friends or sleep. Pick two of the three.” This is similar to being a middle age adult with low metabolism working at a sedentary job. “Job, exercise or personal/family time. Pick two out of three.” So far, I have been picking three out of three. Maybe this explains why my weight loss has plateaued.
I continue to bike to work. This time of year, I drive the three miles to work more often than bike them. Part of it is explained that I take the car to get to the gym after work. Afternoon thunderstorms in the summer are more likely than not, which makes even getting home in the evening chancy. Over the last few weeks, aided by rampant global warming, the temperatures have predictably been on the extreme side. The stagnant hot air usually means bad air quality. Biking to work may actually make me less healthy. Now that we are in August, the weather slowly becoming more bearable. I still go to the gym three to four days a week after work. The routine consists of 30-60 minutes of aerobics, usually on an elliptical machine, followed by a half hour or so of weight training.
Thursday at the gym one of many personal trainers wandering around accosted me. He talked me into coming in for an assessment yesterday. I had a good idea of where he was going: he would want to sell me personal training sessions. Steve made a logical case. He told me that I had to continually break down different muscle sets. This way my muscles would be continuously rebuilding and I would continually build muscle mass too. As a side effect, even at rest I would have a higher metabolism and burn more calories. Moreover, I would feel better, have higher self-esteem, be attractive to babes and maybe get a pony. We went through a sample workout together. I have to admit he definitely stretched muscles I did not even know existed. Nevertheless, I was not sure I wanted to cough up $400 a month for meeting with a personal trainer four times a week.
Steve asked how serious I was about fitness. Well Steve, it was you who solicited me out, not the other way around. I said I was six on a scale of ten. My goal is not to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, at least when he was still lifting weights. (Poor Arnold has let most of it turn to flab. See what getting married does to a man?) My goal was to maintain a healthy weight level and good muscle tone. Steve could not promise me I would end up weighing less, just that I would add muscle weight and lose body fat. There was nothing wrong with the goal, but essentially, it meant I would have to turn into a body-obsessed exercise machine. I would need to commit to spending more time at the gym and endlessly worrying about toning various kinds of muscle groups.
Then there was the usual advice to eat less, or at least differently. I have already tried all sorts of variants. What I have discovered is that these helpful suggestions just do not work for me. I cannot remember to eat when I am not hungry nor do I particularly want to remember. I actually prefer to feel hunger pangs before eating. Nor can I remember to keep guzzling from a water bottle all day long. I am sure I do need more water, but I have weak enough kidneys as it is. Must I be shuffling off to the restroom every hour on the hour?
I would rather have two larger meals a day than four or five small meals. I would like a strategy where I can eat smaller portions of things I enjoy at times that seem natural to me. Instead, to lose weight and maintain optimal health I must constantly think about food, water and exercise until it becomes all-consuming. What kind of life is that? For me this exacerbates the problem by making it a larger problem in my life than I feel it deserves.
I have gotten lots of advice on weight loss and exercise over the years. I have talked to doctors, dieticians, personal trainers, psychologists, relatives, friends, and coworkers. Maybe soon I will turn to mystics and gurus. Each has snippets of insight, but there is no one size fits all solution to weight loss and health. It amounts to what you are willing to do with the limited time you have available. It certainly does help if you have more willpower than the average person does. In addition, it does not hurt to have a support group. For most of us who have not grown up being physically active, all this sensible advice amounts to cajoling yourself to work at variance to your body’s natural patterns every day for the rest of your life.
It means smaller meals when your body wants larger meals. It means exercise on days even when you simply want a day for rest and peace and quiet. It means telling yourself that yes it really is more important to spend a couple hours in the gym rather than sort through the family finances, which also has to get done. It amounts to willpower: your ability to force yourself to do things you do not want to do.
I will measure success in the short term my maintaining my twenty-pound weight loss. I keep measuring my weight every Sunday morning and try to fine-tune my eating and exercise based on what the scale reveals. Then I hope I can summon the energy to go further. I know what it will take and it is guaranteed not be easy. I will need to coax my body into eating less than what I need to maintain my weight. Moreover, I will have to push myself to do even more exercise on a more regular basis.
For now, I take some pride and sense of accomplishment from dropping twenty pounds in eight months and keeping it there. This was, in fact, one of the strategies recommended by Heather. She is the dietician I saw during the spring. Time will tell whether her advice was better than all the others out there selling me health solutions.