Perpetual Shrinkage (But Not in a Seinfeld Way)

Losing weight runs in my family. By that, I mean that for as long as I can remember, someone close to me has been trying to get thin, whether it was me, a relative, or a beloved pet. Only after shedding those unwanted pounds, the reasoning goes, will everything in life be bright and shiny again. It’s simple, really.

Gaining weight also runs in my family. It’s a proud tradition that goes back as far as I can remember. Family gatherings presented opportunities to compare the newest fad diets, exercise regimens, and other modes of self-punishment. Those who had lost weight since the last get-together shared their secrets, while everyone else feigned enthusiasm and secretly longed for the day the thinnies would shut up and get back to their God-ordained weights.

During the times in my life when I’ve lost significant amounts of weight, I’ve never been a Weight-Loss Gloater. He’s the guy who suddenly acts as if he’s been initiated into a secret club of thin people and given access to all their fat-busting secrets. He now thinks his new purpose in life is to give inspiration to depressed heavy people. “You can be like me,” he promises. “But only if you cut out all your carbs, wear spandex, and learn to plank for an hour.”

The Weight-Loss Gloater is a lot like the zealous ex-smoker or the new religious convert. Energized by endorphins and happy thoughts, he sets out to recast the world in his image, only to scurry into hiding once he returns to his former ways. “What ever happened to him?” folks ask. “Didn’t he get thin, quit smoking, and join a cult?” No one knows, because the gloater has now disappeared out of embarrassment. Don’t worry, though. You’ll see him again when he joins a pyramid scheme through his church.

Mostly, it’s been my love of food that’s kept me in the market for more spacious trousers. Saying I love food seems insufficient, in fact, like saying I sort of like my wife. The truth is, I’m happy when I’m eating, and when I’m not eating, I’m wishing I were eating. When I travel, I plan my trips around food, and delicious meals are the things I remember most when I get home. If we still lived in the age of compulsory family slideshows, I’d be the guy who forced his loved ones to sit through a presentation of the best taco stands from The Great California Trip of Summer 2016.

Some foodies argue about the top contenders in certain categories, but I can usually find love in my heart for whatever’s in front of me, whether it’s Indian, Thai, Mexican, German, barbecue, pizza, burgers and fries, or a fried bologna sandwich. My favorite is usually the one I’m about to eat. I’ve never forgotten to eat, either. In fact, when I hear someone say mealtime slipped their mind, I wonder what other things don’t merit their attention. Do they have a hard time remembering to shower or sleep? Have they ever walked out in public without pants?

I wasn’t born overweight, but I’m sure I started working on it as soon as possible, probably on the way home from the hospital with my parents. Actually, I was normal-sized as a kid, but around twelve or thirteen, I was initiated into the divine rites of the midnight snack. That was about the time I also began to appreciate the feel of loose clothing and the comfort it offered.

Since then, I’ve been up and down. During navy boot camp, I came the closest I’ve ever been to my recommended adult weight, the one specified by those BMI charts that only seem to apply to elvish folk. Never one to rest on my laurels, as soon as I reached the fleet, with its five full meals a day and no place to exercise, I made my way back up the scale. Fifteen years ago, I lost about forty pounds, only to regain it over the following two years. And so on.

All this brings me to right now. During the last six months, I’ve dropped around thirty pounds, mostly due to exercise and slightly altered eating habits. I feel good, and I’d like to think it’s a permanent change. Sure, it’s nice to be able to wear more than just a quarter of the clothes I own, but I try not to get too excited about the whole thing.

Diets don’t work, binge exercising doesn’t work, deprivation doesn’t work. They may be useful in the short run, but the problem is they rarely last. One of the finest nuggets of wisdom I ever read about behavior went along the lines of “No matter what life changes you make, eventually, you’ll always tend to be you.” The advice wasn’t as pessimistic as it might sound, by the way. The point was, essentially, that it’s unreasonable to expect large life alterations to be easy.

Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I think it also means a newly shrunken person should never gloat about his shrinkage, just in case, somewhere down the road, he finds himself wearing larger pants once again.