Apropos of nothing, I find myself inching back into writing. It’s good. It feels right to get up, drink some coffee, and start putting down words. In February, I had several excellent days of feeling my way forward on a new project. It’s not the volume of writing I’m used to, but a few hundred words a day is nothing to sneeze at. And it’s far better than the zero words per day I’d been averaging since November 3rd.

Fuck you, American election system, and particularly the fascist piece of shit wannabe who pushed a ginormous lie and encouraged his lick spittlers to topple our government through violence.

Ahem. I digress.

In unrelated news, I’ve now lost 40 pounds since July 8th of last year (a bit less than three stones, hence the title). Yes, it was a conscious effort to reduce my weight. And yes, I know how difficult this is for many, many people. So I haven’t tweeted about it out of respect for the challenge it poses to others, and the messed up relationship our culture has with body imagery, but I did want to take a moment to celebrate the accomplishment. We all need to be better about celebrating our successes.

I’d put on some weight since meeting Jennifer. That’s normal, and I think that it’s the sign of a healthy relationship (to me anyway). You stop worrying about whether or not your attractive when you are happy and in love and simply enjoy yourself. I’d been stable at twenty pounds heavier than when we’d met for a few years. I felt comfortable there and it never bothered me.

Then came 2020. The pandemic and lock downs hit everyone hard.

March and April become the Spring of So Much Baking. Lots of cookies, many pies. So much good food. We tried many new things, and we ate so damned well (at home, socially distanced). I could tell by my face in the mirror – not to mention my growing waistline – I’d been packing on the pounds, but I grew a beard and tried to ignore it. My pants revealed the truth, though, as they grew tighter. Finally, on July 7th, I decided to step on a scale.

I’d gained thirty pounds since the beginning of the pandemic. In only four months.

Weight in our culture is a messy, uncomfortable business. We are obsessed with body image and body size. Magazines spend hours digitally manipulating pictures to make people seem more attractive. They promote a frame of reference as ideal, casting aside anything that doesn’t meet their standards. As such, the media has wielded an outsized influence in pushing these toxic views to the forefront, their glossy, unrealistic idea of perfection. And it ultimately impacts women far more than men. Witness, for example, all the television shows featuring an overweight schlep married to a trim, attractive woman. The message we take is clear: fat men are fine; fat women are not.

I could diverge here into any number of topics. Standards of beauty and ableism; the negative influence of media on our self-worth; misogyny and the constant way it is subtly reinforced by the choices society makes. But there are far better article writers than me who speak about those topics – Elsa Sjunneson is a great starting point for you on topics about albeism, for example – so I’ll leave those thoughts at this point. Please do keep them in mind on your own, though. Talk amongst yourselves.

For me, the calculation was simple: not “do I mind being a jolly old fat guy,” but “do I REALLY want to go shopping for new clothing?”

Hell no.

Buying things online is hit or miss, with sizes all over the place these days. Shopping for new clothes requires a trip to the store, at least for me. With pandemic concerns still high on the list of worries, I preferred to avoid that. Not to mention that, as an introvert, I find mingling with hundreds of customers and staff a drain on my mental capacities. It’s not like I’m talking to them or interacting, but being in a crowd tires me. No idea why. Maybe someone else can explain it. I have to mentally prep days in advance for a shopping trip, and I find myself exhausted when I get home.

We decided to make some changes to the way we eat instead. I’d see if I could lose weight without having to exercise four hours a day or some other damn stupid thing. There would be no fad diets; no shakes for breakfast; no slimfast or weight watchers. Just healthier food, and a conscious effort to eat less.

Portion control was high on the list. No more seconds on dinners, no matter how much I enjoyed the pork chops. Extra food could be sealed and refrigerated for left overs later in the week, we didn’t need to finish everything. We cooked smaller meals as well. You grow used to cooking for four or six people, but with the kids gone we no longer needed to do so. We bought small bowls to use for breakfast cereal and other things. I think smaller meals made a huge difference.

But we made other changes, too. We switched to more salads for dinner. Big heaps of lettuce, chopped carrots, and a little bit of steak or chicken turned out to be more than filling. I gave up my sweets as well. Every day, usually twice a day, I’d eat those wonderful snack cakes for desert after a meal. Little Debbie, Hostess, Drake… that was my jam. Those things are high in calories and sugar and oh so delicious. I switched them out for small containers of jello and applesauce. After a few weeks, I found I didn’t really miss them much. (Note: we won’t even go into my love of candies, like circus peanuts or orange slices or spiced gum drops… yeah, I gave that up, too, though I ate those less often).

Working from home, my lunches became more varied. Less frozen microwave lunches. More cheese and crackers, or an apple with a little peanut butter. Handfuls of cashews or walnuts for a snack in between meals if I felt a little hungry. A banana mid-morning. Oatmeal for breakfast is very filling and you don’t need much. We tried to eat foods that were healthier, tasty, but also filled you up readily.

The weight fell off relatively easily, with a bit of a plateau around the holidays. But the truth is, I’m very lucky. Lucky to have a metabolism that responded to simple changes. Despite being in my fifties, minor dietary changes worked to help me shed the weight I wanted. Not many people can say that at my age. Weight sticks. The older you get, the more it clings to you like a barnacle. My wife has lost some weight, but not had the success I’ve had so far, despite adding work outs to her mornings. So yes, I must acknowledge a huge amount of genetic lottery win for this accomplishment.

I’m aiming to drop another ten and get back to the weight I was when Jennifer and I met. I think I’ve hit another plateau, though, and this might be a more permanent one. Without making myself feel hungry all the time, or working out an hour every morning, my body may have reached equilibrium between daily caloric input and output. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m writing again. Remember the Washington landed in Clarkesworld last month, and it even got a shout out from C. C. Finlay on twitter, which was truly awesome. I’m planning to self publish “Shadow of a Doubt” later this year, and talking to a marketing expert and an artist for the cover. I feel pretty good about things.

Although I really hope this pandemic ends soon. I absolutely need to go see a dentist. I can get rid of weight easily it appears, but not so much the cavities that decades of having a sweet tooth has caused.

““Candy, Candy, Candy I can’t let you go! All my life you’re haunting me; I loved you so…”

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