People tell you that you look good when you lose weight, but they rarely remind you that you're getting heavier. And they absolutely never say, "You're fat."
As a boy, people called me husky. Eventually I figured out that I weighed too much, and I began a lifelong roller-coaster ride from 170 to 240 pounds and back again.
Finally, after my 60th birthday, I met my new internist. Dr. Jasper is a skinny little woman who goes to restaurants where they serve tiny portions arranged in culinary sculptures. She confronted me honestly.
"You're just too fat" she told me. My blood pressure was high, my cholesterol was high and on the weight chart I was over the red line into obese. I whined like a five-year-old caught with cookie crumbs on his chin. I explained how long I'd wrestled with my weight. But she insisted.
So I counted calories and calculated grams of fat. I gave up ice cream and cheeseburgers. It worked. Five weeks later, I entered Dr. Jasper's office six pounds lighter. She told me to keep it up. Since then I've maneuvered the traditional dietary minefields of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now I pull my belt in an extra notch.
But I wonder what my friends were thinking all those years. Why were they so polite? Friends tell friends not to drive drunk. Lovers insist on safe sex. Coworkers send smokers off to puff amid dumpsters in the rain. Sometimes I imagine Americans urging their government to undertake a War on Fat, like the War on Drugs. Federal agents would raid fast food outlets. Ronald MacDonald would do a handcuffed perp-walk on his way to court.
Silly speculations, of course. I have to take care of myself. But now that my weight is down, people are again telling me how great I look. I smile, squirm and change the subject.
Right now my bathroom scale is my real friend. And each morning, I emerge from the shower and take a hard look in the mirror. What I see is not a pretty, but it's honest.
With a Perspective, I'm Paul Dalmas.
Paul Dalmas is a retired English teacher. He lives in Berkeley.