The reason for the addition of half of those pounds had to do with a vacation my wife and I took a week prior. While we didn’t take a cruise — which have the dubious rep for giving customers extra souvenirs that only their bathroom scales claim — it’s amazing how much a guy can eat when he has an “All Inclusive” bracelet on his wrist. The food just kept coming as if the bracelet was some sort of prime rib and twice-baked potato magnet, and, of course, I felt obliged to partake of the magical magnet’s bounty. When we returned from the trip and the scale spun past the numbers and rested on “Orca,” I knew I had to start a diet again and this time stick with it. It wasn’t just the tight clothes and the dwindling self-confidence. This time, my wife, an RN, preached to me, “You know, the older you get, the harder it is to lose the weight, and the more critical it is to stay in shape, blah, blah, blah, your ankles can’t take the weight, blah, blah, blah, your going to be 50 in December, blah, blah, blah.” She was right, though.
My first day back at Weight Watchers was very different from the times before. Usually, I paid my dues, weighed in, and then, in the spirit of “makin’ that change,” I went somewhere for lunch and ate like a pig. This time, however, I stayed for the pep talk. There was a new leader—a big queen named Sam. Sam is the epitome of empathy. While I get a little uncomfortable when he speaks to the women, as if exchanging “girl talk,” most of the time he’s a great encouragement.
Weight Watchers tries to encourage closeness and camaraderie among its members, but these meetings can sometimes end up like light-hearted bitch sessions, and being one of the few heterosexual men in a banquet room full of women and one or two gay men, I feel a little out of place — and occasionally the target. “My husband can’t figure out why I get mad when he brings home a box of donuts,” which is followed by a chorus of “Yeah!” and “Tell me about it!” I try to be invisible during these sessions, but Sam will occasionally pick me out to comment. The only thing I can do is stab my poor wife in the back and say, “I don’t drive, so my wife does all the shopping.” The first part is true. The second, a bald-face lie.
These weekly sessions only last about thirty minutes. The rest of the time, I am on my own. I sometimes wish I had a sponsor, like what an Alcoholics Anonymous member has. Or, maybe a zealous analyst like the one Burt Lancaster’s character has in the wonderful Local Hero — some guy wrapping on the window at 33rd Street Bistro when I go for the fries I shouldn’t have ordered in the first place. Alas, Weight Watchers groups don’t work that way.
Of course, one of the cornerstones in a reasonable weight loss program is exercise. Weight Watchers does not ignore this requirement like all those diet pill and “lose weight while you watch television” programs do. I have been a member of a health club downtown for many years now. I rarely used the place except for the spa facilities and occasional Argentine Tango lessons, but this latest stab at trimming down has moved me to take my membership seriously.
I now attend the club three days a week — two days lifting weights and (only) one using one of those elliptical contraptions for my cardiovascular workout. (I’m supposed to do these four days a week, but that just ain’t gonna happen — at least, not now. Since I have never taken exercise seriously, I was pleasantly surprised that I don’t really mind doing it — at least the weight training part. However, there is a specter that haunts me every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday when I approach the club: will there be any men that I know from work in the locker room?
The prospect of being naked around men from my work is one of the things that have always bugged me. I probably wouldn’t be hung up about this if the club were not so close to my work. I just don’t like the idea of fellow male workers knowing what I look like under my clothes. A philosophy professor back in my college days once posed the rhetorical question: “Why are we so fascinated with what others look like under their clothes?” I understood his point from a lofty, philosophical vantage, but when the rubber hit the road, I knew exactly why — it had something to do with why I couldn’t stop ogling Lisa, a fellow editor at the college campus newspaper.
I think what bugs me so much about being seen naked by someone I work with is that he will know my secrets. Not that I have a prison tat on the small of my back that reads “Bitch” or some disfiguring mark or burn; it’s just that I don’t want anyone to “know me” beyond what I look like clothed. If I can’t make Calvin Klein look good, I know I will look horrible in my birthday suit. On the other hand, I walk around the locker room, shower, dry, and even piss and crap completely naked among strangers, and that seems okay. I guess I can’t really explain that contradiction.
Working with weights is not new for me. When I was in summer school before my first year in high school, I had a weight training class. I learned a lot about weight training, but most importantly, I learned I didn’t like it. I rarely opted for the weight room when selecting specific activities in P.E. — it only magnified my impotencies. The same is true now, but at 49, at least some of that feeling has subsided.
When I hooked up with one of my club’s personal trainers, she set me up with five different weight machine stations as well as some “core” exercises employing a mat and a “fitness ball.” The core exercises are the most grueling, but at least I felt like I could do them without revealing just how pathetic I am. The weight machine stations are a different matter.
It’s humbling to follow some of the women during routines to find they lift considerably more than I do. Then there are the times I am popping a hemorrhoid at some station, and after (barely) finishing one rep, a woman will come up to me and ask if she can “work-in” her reps with mine. This is especially humiliating when, after she is done with her rep, I have to readjust the weights down, since she lifts 40 pounds more than I do.
When I am not feeling like the club weakling in front of these hard-bodied women, I am dwelling on how some other women mistake this part of the club as a social room, of sorts. One lady in her 40s has a personal trailer that accompanies her to every station of her workout, every day. She picked a young, handsome buck as a trainer, but he doesn’t do anything but listen to her gab. I think she would be an attractive older lady if she didn’t try to look twenty-five. It’s this trainer’s job to look good and say “uh-huh” and “I know what you mean.” I could have chosen a personal trainer that attended all my workouts, but that costs extra. I have no idea how much this lady is paying for the eye candy, but I know it’s not cheap.
Thanks mostly to the three days I workout and less to eating responsibly, I have lost some weight. And even though I am cutting back on my eating, I love food far too much to go on a real, Weight Watchers-approved diet. I have lost about ten pounds, but I am finding the weight beyond that tough to shed.
Back at the Weight Watchers meeting, Sam announces with his booming queen voice, that I have lost ten pounds. The crowd applauses enthusiastically as Sam hands me a gold star sticker — failing to remember that he has celebrated my first 10-pound loss two other times in the last five weeks; I keep gaining and losing two pounds. I know the next step is the toughest one: easy on the starches and fried food, and drop the French-fries. If you ever see me in a burger joint, I’ll be the guy crying in his dinner salad with light vinaigrette dressing!