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Sorry to Pander to Our Weight Obsession, But

Friday, April 12, 2013
Shaving my head would be one way to lose weight.
  ...I have lost ten pounds since March 11. Ten pounds in a month doesn't sound unhealthy, does it?  That's about two pounds a week, which various calorie-counting sites assure me is safe and healthy, especially as these sites, like a certain National Health Service nurse, don't like my BMI.

Since this site is for women, I feel a bit guilty writing about weight at all. It's something many of us worry about too much. However, it's something others worry about too little.

My American friend Lily once said that the only time in her life she ever gained a lot of weight was when she moved to the UK for the year. She thinks the very air contains fat. All you need to do to gain weight, she says, is breathe.

Well, that's not quite true. What is true is that Britain's ancient daily eating schedule has been blown to smithereens with the introduction of snacking between meals without a corresponding rejection of beer and high calorie foods. The most easily found, bought and eaten food in Edinburgh is the meat pie. Edinburgh runs on meat pie, fish and chips and beer. When you are running around Edinburgh and feel a wee bit peckish, it is the easiest thing in the world to pop into Gregg's and get a chicken lattice pastry. Cost: about £1. Calories: 426. That's a lot of calories for a snack.

Meanwhile, the Toon is awash with drink. A social gathering without a drink is almost unthinkable. The only social events in Scotland where drink would be inappropriate are AA meetings. Even at children's birthday parties, the mothers are in the kitchen drinking Chardonnay.  And, personally, I like this native custom. I'm just sorry there are 175 calories in a big gin and tonic.

Then there's the marriage factor. One of the health risks of getting married is that you gain weight. First, you no longer need to leave the house to get company, so you stay in, often watching TV. Second, some people get complacent because they don't think they need to worry about staying in shape now that they have landed a life-long companion. Third, women tend to eat portions the same size as those their husbands eat. (This is a very bad idea, as women do not need as many calories as men do.) Fourth, you are not necessarily in charge of what you eat anymore. If your husband loves to cook, as mine does, he might give you twice as much to eat for supper as you or your mother did.

British food plus British drinking habits plus the married lifestyle = weight gain for your poor Auntie. So after a few false starts, I slashed my calorie consumption to the lowest healthy level for women my height and started going to the gym five times a week. And I kept leaving food on my plate until B.A. got the message and stopped giving me so much.

I'd love to tell you I am making this heroic effort because I have been seriously moved by the warnings of the National Health Service, which blames death not on the Fall of our first parents from Grace but on body fat, booze and cigs.  It would be nice to claim that I merely followed the dictates of Reason and the NHS.

But the truth is that my friend A takes photos at almost every Sunday Lunch, and I didn't like how I looked in them.

Hitherto I have carried fat well, which is to say it tends to hide in secret places--like around major organs, probably--so my friend L was shocked when I popped on her scale two or three months ago and she and A and I all gazed at the hideous number. But, really, those photos. Blah.

Photos are great motivators, I must say. When I was 27 and 117 lbs (I'm a medium-boned 5'2"), I had two photos of Demi Moore in her post-G.I. Jane incarnation, gently torn from a magazine, on my wall. (Yes, she had grown her hair again.) One was a back view, actually, because I wanted my back to look like her back. It wasn't quite there yet. (Seraphic smothers a sigh.) She really looked like a living Greek statue.

Fifteen pounds to go. I'm not dropping more than that because I am not just losing fat, I am getting muscle back and (all together now!) muscle weighs more than fat.