The why? I suppose there's an element of vanity in it. I have not been happy with what I see when I happen to glance into a mirror--that growing protrusion below the rib cage. I have caught myself looking at men of my age, or younger, and wondering whether they are doing better in this department, or worse than I. I have taken heart when I judge them to be girthier than myself, thinking, well, I'm not yet that bad. I have envied those who do not seem to share my problem at all, whose bellies are flat and whose shirts fit tightly over them.
Then there's the comfort factor. It's measured in part by the way I fit--or sometimes no longer fit--into my clothes. The pants are noticeably tighter at the waist. I have a row of perfectly good shirts in my closet that I no longer wear because they button too tight around the middle. More important, though, is the discomfort I register when I wake up in the morning and feel weighted down by those extra, unneeded pounds; or, walking--my favorite exercise--with the heavy awareness that I'm stressing my body with the addition of one of those ten pound weights I toy with in the gym. Even when I sit in meditation, I am aware of the downward pull of gravity, and it distracts me with self-deprecating thoughts.
Besides appearance and comfort, there's the health consideration. I do not think of myself as obese. Far from it. I have always presented as a rather lean man, and have thought of myself as such. The weight has accumulated very gradually, pound by pound, over twenty years without my being motivated to do much about it. It has crept up on me. Now, as I approach my seventy-fifth birthday next week, I can ignore it no longer. If I wish to live in reasonably good health for my latter years, however many--or few!--they be, it behooves me to cast off some of this heavy burden. I have done well these past couple of weeks, and am motivated to continue the good work.
The how? No special "diet." I have been consciously eating less. I have been limiting my bread intake to one item per day--an English muffin or a single slice. I have been avoiding such things as potatoes and pasta. I have avoided wine: a glass of the stuff seems to add immediately to the bloat. (An evening shot of vodka does not seem to have the same effect.) Most of all, however, it's simple consciousness. I think about what I eat before I eat it, as I eat it, and again after. I make better choices. Last night, for example, with Ellie out of town (she's working with artists up in Portland, Oregon) George and I went out to a local restaurant--one where I could find a table outside so that George could sit with me--and I studied the menu much more carefully than I might have done before. I chose a tabouleh salad with grilled salmon on the side and, as a treat, a glass of chardonnay.
I left feeling virtuous. My bill was $14.14, and my step was light as I walked back to the car. And was rewarded, this morning when I stepped on the scale, with another pound swept away.