The lies we tell ourselves about our weight

When I was growing up, an adult gave me this advice: “Watch where you step. You may step on something unpleasant.” This is so true. I got a big shock during the first weeks of the Covid pandemic when I stepped on a scale. 

We had owned the scale for several years, but I hardly ever stepped on it. It sat in our kitchen as a source of amusement. I found it quite amusing to watch my wife step on it twice a day and groan each time.  

Then one day, I stepped on the scale and was shocked to find that I weighed 206 pounds (93 kg)—the highest I’ve ever weighed. Though I’m 6-foot-2, I’m a small-boned guy and should probably weigh no more than 180 pounds (82 kg). But for the last decade or so, I’ve considered myself slightly overweight and haven’t been too concerned about that, except once a year when I visit the doctor for a checkup. I want the doctor to say, “Wow, you are in GREAT shape.” But instead the doctor says, “I’m not going to lie to you.” 

Doctors do not like to lie to us, because they know that we already hear enough lies. A large proportion of those lies come from the people who love us the most: our family members. They tell us what we want to hear — that we don’t really have much weight to lose, that we’re actually quite skinny. 

“Look at you—you’re a stick,” my wife says to me. (What she doesn’t tell me is that I’m a stick of butter.) 

Yes, family members lie to us, but not as much as we lie to ourselves. Here are just a few of the lies we tell ourselves: 

1. “I’m still in pretty good shape.” This statement is usually not true, unless we expand it slightly and say something like this: “I’m still in pretty good shape compared to a 1970 VW Beetle.” 

2. “The scale must be inaccurate.” This is what I told myself. I was almost ready to toss it away. But then I decided to test its accuracy using some dumbbells. I found that it was fairly accurate, which meant that I was fairly fat. Well, perhaps not fat, but in the general neighborhood. I was three blocks away—and approaching slowly in my 1970 VW Beetle. 

3. “It’s natural for men to have protruding bellies as they age.” Sure, movie stars like Ben Affleck and Aamir Khan can have flat stomachs, but ordinary guys just don’t have the money to hire personal trainers for their body doubles.   

These are just a few of the lies we tell ourselves as we try our best to evade the truth. But then we step on the scale, like I did, and get a shock. It was a good shock for me, because I told myself that I needed to lose a few pounds immediately. And that’s what I did: I took my wallet and phone out of my pockets. But it didn’t work — I still weighed too much. 

I made up my mind to start walking and running every day, and cutting back drastically on the amount of food I ate. Though I didn’t count calories strictly, I managed to lower my food intake by about one-third. It wasn’t easy to do, but the scale gave me the incentive. Every time I stepped on it, I wanted to see lower numbers, even if I had to balance on one leg. 

In 2020, I ran more than I’ve ever run before. And in 2021, I joined a gym and started weight training. I was surprised how much strength I had lost over the years, despite my daily regimen of lifting about 200 pounds off the couch. 

I’ve lost more than 20 pounds (almost 11 kg) so far, and in the process, I’ve discovered another lie I’ve been telling myself — that I only needed to lose a little weight to get in shape. Judging by the size of my stomach, I can still stand to lose at least half a football. 

I’m going to keep weighing myself several times a day, even if my wife finds it quite amusing when I groan. 

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