“Write it!” They said it nearly in unison, these two guys, both writers and newspaper guys, as we shared a long overdue hour at Starbuck’s yesterday.
I’d just tossed out a subject that had been on my mind, and how I was tempted to write about it. They obviously agreed.
That’s not all they said, though.
The operative word was “gaunt.” As in, “You look gaunt.” Let’s just allow that to sit for a bit.
It’s a tricky thing, talking about weight and fat and body image and so on, and particularly if you’re a guy. Dudes aren’t supposed to have body image issues, although of course they do. We just get a cultural hall pass. A woman, at least someone younger than 80, is given some leeway as she ages in terms of weight. I mean, good grief. There are enough changes; one more shouldn’t be unexpected.
My very own wife, one of those annoying people who seem to be supercharged, could eat like a horse and hope one day to gain a few pounds so she could top 110. Seriously. At 5’5, too.
And then around age 50 she started gaining a little. Nothing serious, and when it started to annoy her, particularly in terms of clothes, she changed a few things in her diet and has been slowly dropping those extra pounds. About 15 or so by now, in fact, which is pretty impressive considering she was really at a perfectly acceptable weight. You know. Clothes matter.
But she probably knows, even if she doesn’t particularly care in her personal case, that this leeway of which I speak is kind of small. Like, 5 pounds. Gain 5 pounds if you’re a woman, and you’re over, say, 40, and our culture will give you a break. After that, it becomes a “She’s starting to let herself go” scenario.
And the leeway for men is about 50 pounds. So, advantage us.
Look: Not only, given the above, is it sort of obnoxious for an aging man to gripe about weight, but I’ve done it forever. When I was younger, it was obviously vanity. As I got into my 30s, though, suddenly (relatively, but really only 2-3 years) I gained 80 pounds. Dunno. I had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, apparently.
The rest of the story has been told endlessly, so no. Went on a mission when I was 49, dropped a bunch of weight, kept it off. A few years later, it crept up under a stressful situation that lasted the better part of 2011. Not in a big way. About 10 pounds, really.
But they hung on, because who really cares? I was fit, I exercised every day, my cholesterol and blood sugar and liver functions and all other lab values were just fine, if not extra fine. Not a big deal. I could live hanging around 195 pounds for the rest of my life. Even a bit higher. What’s a little flab on the old obliques when everything else is old, too?
And then my wife changed her eating ways, and of course my grandson and his strict diabetic diet were always on my mind, so I tried to limit my sugar and tone down what sweet tooth I had. I also tended to stay away from those stray carbs that I love, like pizza and breaded chicken. Just cut back a little. If I lost 10 pounds, cool. But I was just trying to eat better. As I said, nothing wrong with 195. Which is where I was in June.
Sure, if I hit what I imagined my ideal weight, 175 pounds, that would be great. But it wasn’t really a goal. The willingness wasn’t exactly there.
The weight dropped anyway, though, because I couldn’t figure out what to replace all those undesirable calories with. Lots of them in ice cream, for example. Haven’t had ice cream in a long time.
And last week was stressful, trouble sleeping, lots of work stuff, and still I stepped on the scale every day. And every day it hung right around 157 or 158 pounds.
If you’re 40 pounds overweight, then dropping it slowly, a pound or so a week on average, sounds like a positive thing. If you’re maybe 10 pounds overweight – and that’s questionable and only a statistic, not real life – then an additional 30 might raise some questions.
Might even involve the word “gaunt.”
So I took it seriously.
I was relieved, when I asked around, that no one else thought I was gaunt. Only my daughter said, mmm, maybe marginal. If I were a marathoner, no question. But really, I’m just a guy who doesn’t eat enough. Who doesn’t want to be gaunt.
I took the week off, then. I found some favorite foods (well, no ice cream; too sweet now) and indulged. I took it easy, not much exercise. I relaxed, slept great, and feel fantastic. I got a tune-up, maybe.
We all have weight issues, don’t we? Male or female, and particularly as we age. We’re Americans, and we live in a country where calories grow on the shelves of every store. Even hardware stores. It’s crazy.
So you don’t want to hear this. I don’t really want to write it, except for the strangeness of having to watch my weight carefully, having crept close to 300 pounds nearly a decade ago. I want to avoid problems. Vanity is still there, but it’s mostly comfort now, and clothes. Nice to have clothes that fit.
And if gaunt is a problem, I can fix that. Which is probably the most obnoxious thing I could write, out of all of this. Unless you’re one of those chronically lean people that we all secretly hate, you don’t want to hear about a guy who needs to gain some weight.
I gotta tell you, though. It beats the alternative.
And that thing they wanted me to write? It’s coming. Nothing about weight.