Despite my fondness for gadgetry — I am, after all, a person of the male persuasion — it has never occurred to me to buy a bathroom scale. This lapse in acquisitiveness is easily explained, however: the scales I grew up with gave up at 250 pounds, most contemporary models top out at 300, and I am generally disinclined to pay for a device which I'm going to max out every single time I use it. If I really have to know the exact numbers, I rely on the medical profession, which has precise instruments and which doesn't suffer from the "I really don't want to know" syndrome the way I do.

That said, this year I am getting smaller. I didn't pay much attention to it until coworkers started bringing up the topic: "Are you losing weight?" And evidently I was; not only did I cast a slightly narrower shadow shambling down the hallway, but the belts that used to be just a hair too tight on the third hole are now just a hair too loose on the fifth. Pressed for an estimate — in this diet-crazed era, everyone wants to know the particulars to the third significant digit — I reckoned that I'd dropped off thirty-five pounds.

When I checked into surgery two weeks ago, I made sure I got the official reading, and it was down, by gum, thirty-seven pounds. This is not an inconsiderable amount of bulk to have discarded, and I was somewhat surprised to see my off-the-cuff guesstimate verified and then some. The real surprise, though, is how little effort I put into achieving this particular goal.

There are, say the experts, only two ways to pull this off: work out more and eat less. And during my years in the Crappy Flat™ I lived a life that alternated between sedentary and downright inert. Today at Surlywood, I have to do a lot more, and a lot of that is labor on the outside of the house; this afternoon, one of those rare Fridays when I didn't have to work late, I went after some shrubs in the back yard with a pair of manual shears. And even the automated tasks require some work: it takes a lot of pushing to move a mower twenty-two inches wide over an area of six thousand square feet. (That's the back yard; the front is about half that.)

Somehow, the other side of that equation seems to have taken care of itself. Even if I don't do anything out there but lie on a blanket for half an hour and watch the birds, I wind up fixing less for dinner; my average portions seem to have dropped by a third or so. This hasn't quite resulted in great savings at the supermarket, but it has meant that a lot of things I buy in bulk aren't having to be replenished quite as often.

I'm not quite sure what to make of all this. If nothing else, it pretty much settles the question of whether middle-aged spread is inexorable and irreversible: obviously the answer is No. Whether this has actually added any years to my life, I'm not sure — though if forty years from now I find my 90-year-old self working on Vent #2326, I'll have to assume it did.

The Vent

  24 September 2004

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 Copyright © 2004 by Charles G. Hill