First thing each morning I'd step on and hold my breath, as though this might somehow cause a smaller number to appear on the counter between my big toes. And each morning was a test: anything below a certain number was acceptable; anything above and I had failed, and my day was off to a shit start.
|sunset over Milford Lake|
Right now it's probably important to mention that, in a coldly rational sense, I know I'm nowhere near overweight; in fact, I'm in the "healthy" body mass index range for my height and size. My appearance has always been important to me, so I've always watched my weight and have never had much of a problem with it.
But earlier this year I was rejected from every MFA program to which I applied (eight total), and I saw my already tenuous acceptance of myself as a "writer" slip further away from reality. I was appalled by how little control I had over the situation - my admittance was based largely on vague, subjective criteria, i.e., did they "like" my writing, or was I a "good fit" with their program (turns out they didn't, and I wasn't).
More or less, with my life seemingly stagnating while my friends bought houses, got married and produced offspring, I needed to have absolute control over something, and the most obvious option was my weight. I bought the fucking Health-o-meter and allowed it, from its nook by the bathroom sink, to mock me when I ate a bag of salt and vinegar chips for lunch or allowed myself guacamole at Chipotle. I worked out five days a week and weighed myself upwards of five times a day, cursing myself for gains and praising losses, and within a few months I'd dropped nearly ten pounds.
In a phrase, FUCK YEAH.
But this new measure of control carried its own self-imposed misery. Nobody set my weight loss standard; I set it for myself, which made it all the more private and unrelatable. In fact, sharing it with anyone invariably got the same response: "You're already skinny; you have nothing to worry about." But it was about more than just being skinny. It was about getting a grip.
Then last weekend I went camping at Milford State Park in the Flint Hills. Along with waiting out a torrential downpour in a little tent by the lake and biking along rows of trees and prairie grass, I also didn't worry about my weight for the first time in months. I scooped mounds of french onion dip onto potato chips; I scarfed s'mores; I chugged Miller High Life. And on the last day, when I was taking a shower along with about 15 spiders and a small toad (seriously), I caught sight of myself in the mirror - not scrutinizing as usual, just looking - and I realized, hey, I look good.
When I got home, I stared down the dreaded Health-o-meter and stepped on. Moments later I was greeted by the largest number I've seen in some time. But instead of beating myself up, I picked up the cursed gadget and tossed it unceremoniously in the garbage. This morning the trash man picked it up at the curb, and for the first time this year, a week before my 28th birthday, I left my apartment lighter.