Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Maginot line

In my weight loss journey, I haven’t much counted things. Even given my history as a financial journalist and my role as the family banker, tax preparer and investment manager, my interest in numbers as applied to weight loss has been approximately nil.

I balance my meals between proteins, carbs and fats. I estimate the caloric content of my snacks. I eyeball portion sizes. Despite an upbringing that forbade card games, I can tell you when a piece of chicken is the size of a pack of cards. I watch the clock when I exercise, but I don’t own a heart rate monitor. My blood pressure is trending downward, but I don’t know from day to day how it’s doing. Nothing about the numbers has been exact.

But this might all change. Just recently, I discovered how motivating numbers can be.

A few days ago, I stepped on the scale, something I do only sparingly. I don’t own a scale, but once in a while, when I’m feeling brave, or think I might need to bring myself into line, I step on the digital scale at the gym.

I dread scales, having long suffered their unforgiving stubbornness. For years, I’ve battled my own personal Maginot Line—the nearly unbreachable line of defense that bars me from the 120s. I did breach the line last year, getting down to 128, but a hamstring injury over the winter put me back into the 130s.

When I stepped on the scale this time, the digital readout wavered, the number beyond the decimal point blinked back and forth. And finally—it settled. At 129.8. I had broken through again!

Granted, 0.2 is not a significant number. You can gain or drop that amount just reading the paper. But instantly, I became motivated to claim that weight. To make it solidly mine, to bully my weight down one tenth of a point at a time. I vowed to do whatever it takes—count calories, fat grams, vegetable and fruit servings, the minutes I can stand to be hungry and not reach for food, one extra lap in the pool, one more minute on the clock.

I regret now that I didn’t put the numbers to work for me from the start. It might not have taken me four long years, and thousands of laps, to drop three dress sizes. Many people already know this. I'm betting you do.


  1. nope, i didn't know that... i've always done what you've done. eyeballed, guesstimated, etc... etc... the thought of counting scares me. i think... will i become obsessed? will i berate myself for going over? can i handle what the scale tells me??? numbers=fear

    i want to find that magical balance where i desire only healthy, nutritious foods. that place where i stop eating just before feeling full. the place where my body thrives on its own.

    yet, i'm coming to realize that i have a better chance of meeting a fairy godmother and having a prince chase me around town with a shoe... lol!

    perhaps it's time i start paying attention, keeping track, and counting. it's as easy as 1,2,3... right?! :)

  2. I once asked my sister about the amount she used of a particular ingredient in a recipe. I wanted an exact number. She told me, "I've never been precise about anything in my life!" That made me laugh. But she's a carefree and happy soul, so I can see the beauty in that.

    Let me know when the prince shows up at your door, shoe in hand. Send him over to my house next!