I got on the scale this morning, and saw the lowest number I have seen in many years. Now to be fair, some of those years I didn’t own a scale, and didn’t weigh myself. So I’ll just arbitrarily pick a date that makes the number look good: it was the lowest number since the summer of 2012, when I quit my job as a project manager to make a career move into science education.
That summer I also joined a gym that was close to my house in Belmont. I didn’t stay with that gym, for reasons I write about here in this sermon, but I do remember the first meeting with the director. I had to get on a scale, which at the time I didn’t do except at the doctor’s office, and I was horrified at what I saw. I tried to justify it in my mind all kinds of ways: I was wearing clothes when I was weighed. I didn’t look that fat! It even crossed my mind that maybe the gym director had loaded the scale somehow to convince me that I needed to sign up RIGHT NOW for their pricey 6-month weight-loss package. I was really annoyed with this woman and willing to believe the worst about her, although she was probably just trying to do her job. Because I really didn’t want to have to think about weight loss. I just wanted a place to exercise.
I’m aware that I’m privileged in being able to have this attitude toward weight loss–the attitude that as a blog topic, it’s boring; that as something to care about in life it ranks far below things like health and family and freedom from disease and persecution; that owning a scale and weighing myself was a chore and a drag on my psychological well being that I just didn’t need; and that weight-loss goals were for other people but not me. I know many people working on weight loss are fighting the good fight for their health and against cultural fat-shaming, especially of women. If you’re fighting that fight, I salute you, stand with you, and wish you well. That’s not where my head was. Rather, I felt like I, a woman who was basically happy with her body already, was being told to climb aboard a bandwagon I wanted no part of. I felt like I was being shamed for not sharing an already unhealthy cultural obsession with weight loss.
But the fact remained that one of the major reasons I had retired from that job was that I was not coping very well with its stresses. I went out for lunches and drinks with co-workers and I ordered liberally from menus. I also kept bags of trail mix at my desk that I would polish off in an afternoon. Even now I feel a familiar feeling rise up when I’m sitting at my desk and some unwelcome interruption or anxiety-provoking change of plans occurs, and I want to reach for something to put in my mouth to distract me from that feeling, or to put that feeling away. These days I know that that feeling is probably fleeting, and if not, can be equally well assuaged by some tea or sparkling water as by half a bag of Trader Joe’s Tempting Trail Mix or a glass of Pinot Grigio, but back then, I didn’t know that, didn’t believe it.
It has been 3 years and more than 3000 miles. I still miss the coworkers I had lunch and wine with, but I don’t miss the constant scheduling and rescheduling challenges, the almost-but-not-quite-missed deadlines, and the anxiety and stress all that created. When I quit the gym after my 6-week trial period was up, I told the director that following the program felt like a stressful job. I had just left a situation with goals and deadlines, and I didn’t want to jump back into more of the same. Some people thrive on that type of lifestyle. Some people need it. I’m not one of those people. I’ve already written a little about my kind of exercise. I don’t live at that apartment complex with a pool anymore, and I haven’t been swimming for about a month now. My left eye, especially, seems happy to be away from the goggles and chlorinated water. I have started walking in my new neighborhood instead. I walk around and look for landscaping ideas (flamingoes, anyone?) and listen to orchestra music on my phone.
If my little bathroom scale that I bought at Target is to be believed, I now weigh about 17 pounds less than I did at that gym session 3 years ago. Losing 6 pounds a year isn’t going to get me any book contracts or transformation testimonials, but it is an encouraging trend. I’ll be 50 this year, and at my age people tend to be talking about a few extra pounds creeping up on them every year, rather than the opposite. If I lost another 6 pounds I’d be at an ideal weight for my height and body type. Weight loss can be slow and steady and so subtle you hardly notice it unless you make it a point of doing so. It doesn’t have to be this big scary annoying stressful thing.