Not long ago, during a 3-day headache during which I was certain that I'd somehow accidentally swallowed some skull-eating parasite that was attempting to burrow out of my skull over the course of a long weekend, I wandered across the street to an urgent care facility to see if they could check out my parasite theory.
Urgent care offices occupy that space in the American healthcare system that's between the "Our next appointment is in 14 months on a Tuesday at 2:15am. And if that doesn't work for you, we've got something right around Armageddon, and that one's at lunch. Whichever one works for you. Just make sure you get here 2 months early to fill out paperwork, or you can fill it out online in about 5 minutes, and we'll make sure to lose it by the time you get here so you'll have to fill it out again using a dried out Sharpie one of our staff brought in from home after she pulled it out of her kid's nose," that you get when trying to make an appointment with your regular doctor and the "Come see us anytime, but if you're able to come in under your own power, then you're clearly healthy enough to sit out in our waiting room/KOA campground for the next couple of weeks or so," you get when you to go an emergency room.
I've been waiting since the Carter administration.
After getting my insurance information, a copy of my ID, my employer's name and telephone number, my social security number, my date of birth, and implanting a GPS tracker in my neck to make sure their billing agents could locate me in the event that I was one of those socialists that believes that healthcare should be a basic right and who wouldn't pay my bill, they sent me back to an exam room with a medical assistant.
On the way back to the exam room, though, she stopped me at a scale and said, "Let's get your weight." I said, "Oh, yeah, I've got all of it with me. You can have as much as you like. You have a 50 gallon drum or something you want me to dump it into?"
She eyeballed me and with one authoritative finger pushed me onto the scale. Modern scales in medical offices are all digital, so there's none of that anticipation and build-up you get with the old style scales with the sliding weights. I liked those, because whether the result was good or bad, it was like watching a game show. "C'mon, 150, 150, 150, no 200! Alright, 150! Now gimme 10, 10, 10, no 20...Aww, 17. Damn. 167. Not bad. We'll play again in a few weeks, see if I win that 4-night 3-day stay at the Pismo Beach Marriott."
The digital scale is cold, calculating, inhuman. 236.7 pounds.
That's not a number I made up for narrative purposes. That was my actual weight. 236.7 pounds. The MA dutifully wrote it down. "Well, I've got my shoes on, and I've got two cell phones and my wallet and keys, and I'm wearing jeans, which are well known throughout the western world for being the heaviest of pants. Also, I've got a some skull monster that moved in and I'm sure that thing's gotta weigh like 10-20 pounds. So, maybe write down like 199 or something. Maybe like 205 if you need, but lemme try again."
She did not let me try again. And I think the 10-20 pound skull-eating parasite wasn't real. And it wasn't the 90's, so I didn't have 10 pounds of cell phones to carry around. Shoes are lighter than ever before, and I don't even know if jeans are really the heaviest pants.
When I poke myself in the belly, I watch the ripples spread like one of those earthquake animations they show on the news. The epicenter is my left kidney and the aftershocks of the blubberquake are enough to totally flatten my spleen.
It wasn't always this way. This is me in 2000, traveling in Tunisia.
This is me today, traveling between the sofa and the fridge.
In 2000, I played soccer all the time and resisted the urge to classify a quart of ice cream as a single serving, so I was not only about 80 pounds lighter than I am in the bottom photo, I was actually able to walk, hike, run, bike and do things that I like to do without falling over and having strangers walk up to me and ask things like, "Hey buddy, are you OK? Do you need an ambulance or some pizza?" or starting to rifle through my pockets on the premise that I'm already dead, so someone might as well go claim their free slice of pizza from Pizza Schmizza with my loyalty card.
Now, I've been aware that my problem wasn't that all my 32-inch waist jeans shrank. After all, the legs stayed the same length. And because of the aforementioned interlopers offering medical assistance and/or stealing my stuff while they think I'm dead, I've been aware that my sedentary lifestyle has left me lacking my former athleticism.
Seeing the effects of the last 15 years of laziness quantified on a scale at a medical office, where I can't tell myself that maybe they haven't had it calibrated in the last decade and it probably weighs about 70 pounds heavy, gave me the hard (or soft and squishy) data I've been avoiding knowing for so long.
In addition to just not enjoying being as inactive and globular as I am these days, I've also recently set a wedding date with my fiancee: July 23, 2016. It's going to be a great day, and I don't want photos of me on my wedding day to be confused with old timey photos of a zeppelin.
I made it to the church on time.1
So, I've got a date, and I've got a goal. At my most fit as an adult, I was about 150 pounds. I don't know that I'm going to get there, but I'm aiming for the 160 range. I'm not sure yet exactly how I'm going to yet there, but what I've done so far, which involves some running and wheezing (How many calories does post-running wheezing burn? And are dry heaves a good core exercise? They certainly feel like it.), and generally not treating my day-to-day life as a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos, I've dropped down right below the 230 mark. It's 229.5, but right now I'll take that .5.