By Mort Laitner
In the morning light, I stood naked in front of the mirror and screamed, “How did I let this happen?” Staring at my gut, my hands grasping the fat, I nodded in disbelief mouthing the words “What a catastrophe! Quelle horreur!”
I avoided studying my midsection for decades. Avoidance led to denial and denial led to extra large clothing. What I saw was not a pretty picture. Every year I let the inches grow. I refused to stand on scales, look in mirrors or do anything that would unmask my girth. In my head, I did not have a fat belly…A gordito, yes. But not a gordo. I watched “The Biggest Loser” but that was not me.
Friends gently voiced their disgust. “Mort, lose some pounds or you’ll get sick…heart attack, diabetes, cancer.”
Even my gutless surgeon, after fixing my hernia, spoke up about my dilemma. He sent a blunt message through my family, “Tell him to lose that fat!” He had a right to be angry because my girth got in the way of his surgery.
Covering my nakedness and shame with a towel plastered with pictures of pilsner, pretzels and pizza, I realized that today was weigh-in day at my weight loss center. It was time to strategize. I needed to drink decaf coffee to make sure I go to the bathroom. I must dress in my weigh-in uniform: short-sleeve shirt, shorts and sandals.
While shaving and watching the stubble wash down the drain, I remembered a high school wrestling buddy. He taught me to lighten up before a wrestling match. He’d say, “You’re too close to your weight limit. Before you get on the ref’s scale, shave off some of your body hair. You’ll lose a few ounces.”
As I drove, I felt the rush of heading toward the scale. This anticipatory ritual has become simultaneously fun and nerve-racking. Weight-loss success tastes sweeter than charoset… failure as bitter as maror.
Parking my car in the space furthest from the center, I enjoyed speed-walking every extra step.
Entering the center, I scanned two banners attached to the wall. The large one read, “Don’t sit when you can stand; don’t stand when you can walk; and don’t walk when you can run.” I wondered why the center had neglected to put a few stationary bikes in their waiting room. The smaller banner read, “Diets are temporary, lifestyle changes are forever.”
I stood and reread three photo-testimonials splattered on the wall:
I wanted to feel like a new person;
My energy level went up and my blood pressure went down
I never felt hungry.
These biggest loser photographs are segregated on walls of men, women, or loving couples (program partners). These lovers’ eyes sent messages of adoration. They hold hands…their arms wrapped around each other. Weight loss has brought love back into their lives. The camera’s lens captured their mutual sexual attraction.
I turned from the pictures and glanced around the waiting room: a fiftyish mom with her twentyish-year-old disabled daughter, a three-hundred pound young male drinking a super-sized soda, and two women who were maybe ten pounds over weight. A counselor entered and yelled, “Sue, so good to see you. How many pounds have you lost so far?”
Sue’s mom replied, “Fifty –two.” The room explodes in applause. The three-hundred pounder, who had not yet paid his initiation fee, was hooked. I rewarded the counselor with a “you-sly-devil” stare.
My name was called. I jumped to attention, headed to the scale, and stripped off my suspenders and glasses. I emptied my pockets of Blackberry, wallet and keys. I patted myself down, like a cop frisking a derelict. I climbed, prayed and watched the numbers fly by my eyes. My counselor smiled, “Good job. You lost three pounds this week.”
I sighed relief and answered, “Thanks for the encouragement, but I have miles to go before I reach my goal.”
The next morning, standing in front of the mirror, I studied my naked contour. Rain clouds obscured the light entering the room and a tear welled in my eye as I asked my mirror, “Will I ever lose this fat belly?”