(The following is a mostly fictitious account of actual events that have occurred over a pretty lengthy time. However, in my mind, this is how I have restructured those events to convince me that I need to get real serious, right now, about my weight loss.)
I went to see my doctor, and the news he had to deliver wasn’t given to me like it is always done in the movies. Usually, there’s a little piano music in the background as the lights dim, and the camera zooms in on the doctor’s stiff upper lip, maybe a tear swelling in (but never falling from) his left eye. He says your name. Touches your shoulder with a gentle squeeze, and breaks the news.
Not my doc. There was no music, no close up, no welling of tears (he did sneeze twice, though).
He didn’t even say my name or stiffen his upper lip. He just smiled, shook his head, and blurted it out.
“If you don’t change your life right now, you’re going to be dead in five years.”
I trembled. “What is it? Heart disease? Diabetes? Cancer?”
He smiled again as he scribbled something on my file. When he answered, he never stopped writing, and his eyes never met mine.
“None of the above. At least not now. It’s like those hurricanes that haven’t happened yet but we know they’re coming. Some guy on CNN said they’re all lined up like batters before a baseball game. We know they’re coming at us. It’s just a matter of time.”
He looked up. “You don’t smoke. That’s good.”
“What do hurricanes have to do with me?” I asked.
He did that whole shake-the-head thing again and resumed his Last Supper masterpiece on my records. “You know how they name hurricanes? Bob? Dean? Flossie? Yours are called Heart Attack, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Cancer. Conditions are perfect for any one of these–” he looks up. “–Or all of them–” he smiles and returns to the file. “to hit you like a category five in the next few years.”
“I’m doing everything you told me, though,” I argued. “I’ve cut back on my food intake, and I’ve worked out 20 of the last 25 days at the gym.”
“You should have worked out all 25.”
“But I’m a happy guy,” I retorted. “I like to have fun, and I have a great attitude.”
“That’s great,” he said. “I’ll be happy to tell everybody at your funeral, just in case they didn’t know that side of you.”
He scribbled more intently on his clipboard, and I looked around the room. Everything around me–the walls, the trays with shiny metal objects on them, even the counters lined with glass jars and various implements of destruction inside each–were just like the movies and the soaps and the sitcoms. Maybe that’s why I kept wanting to believe that none of this was real.
But it was.
I didn’t know whether to be depressed or angry, frustrated or inspired. I had really worked hard in the last month to make some changes and knock off a chunk of my weight with what I thought was a strategic mix of aerobic exercise and managed meals. But after 30 days, all I’ve noticed is that it takes less time to go 2 miles on the elliptical trainer.
“What else can I do?”
He looked up with a more serious expression, thought for a moment, then grabbed a stool and rolled over to me. He set the clipboard on the white counter and began.
“I see this all the time. So many of my patients walk out of my office thinking that they always have more time than they actually do, simply because they haven’t been given a documented condition that requires 12 prescriptions and lifelong instructions for “beating” death. Most of my cancer and heart patients have a better chance of living longer simply because they have something they can fight. They can battle. They can defeat–or at least they believe they can. But you? You don’t have any of those problems yet. You keep waiting for a do-or-die situation that is much more dramatic than making a lifestyle change with working out and eating better.”
“But I’m already doing those things. I told you I am.”
“That’s not enough anymore at your age. I wish you and so many others could understand that obesity is just as bad as cancer or diabetes. You need to shift your whole way of thinking. Just like chemotherapy or insulin shots are required for some patients who will most likely die without them, you need to see exercise as your chemo, your diet as your insulin shots. Every day. Every meal. Every workout. The time has run out for rationalizations and excuses. Cancer patients can’t say that they don’t feel like chemo this week, so they’re just going to skip it. And Diabetes patients who are insulin-dependent can’t turn off the pumps for the summer because they want a little more freedom.
“You can’t say that you deserve a Three Musketeers after a week of good eating. You can’t miss a workout or two because you walked through a park or rode your bike. You can’t do any of those things. Your body, your machine that keeps pumping life through you day after day, cannot stand another single drop of extra sugar or fat clogging it up. Because if you keep doing that, even in smaller doses, you’ll never see death’s train when it runs right over you.”
I sat there and thought about what he said. On paper, it seems so easy to say my prescription is exercise and healthy eating. And when my mind doesn’t play around with what I’m giving up, it seems even do-able.
But that’s not my reality. I’m a thinker, a ponderer who dips deeply into the past, and that’s my biggest downfall. I want it to be easy to lose weight like it was 20 years ago. I want to keep eating the things I’ve always enjoyed. Most of all, I want to feel the near-immediate success I had always felt when dieting and working out. Before I turned 35, it never seemed to take more than a week for me to see some results that would then encourage me to work even harder.
These days, I experience none of that. No success, no weight loss, no inspiration.
As if he were reading my mind, he smiled and patted my knee. “You have to stop thinking about this like you are still 20. Give yourself six months, with no expectations before then. But you need to be vigilant about eating and working out. No rationalizations. No excuses. No food rewards. Picture your system as the finest oiled machine ever built. Don’t clog it up with the things that put you in this position for so many years.”
He was right, of course. I stood up, shook his hand, and told him I’d see him in 6 months.
After all, I have everything to lose if I don’t go all out and do as he says. I didn’t walk out of there with any prescriptions or appointments to see other doctors or specialists. It is all on me to stick to my daily treatments, my daily regimen, religiously, for six months.
Like I said: What have I got to lose?